November 14, 2008-- Artists are warning that something as simple as street photography could die out under the Australia Council's proposed rules for photographing children.
The rules require anyone who takes a picture of a child who is younger than 15 to obtain permission from a parent or guardian and they're intended to protect the children.
But photographers and visual arts groups say the rules would restrict the work of documentary photographers who take spontaneous pictures in public places.
The rules are meant to protect children and artists accept that.
But they worry that the rules will be too restrictive.
Sandy Edwards is a Sydney photographer who's worked with children. SANDY EDWARDS: "In some ways they sound reasonable but in other ways it could be very problematic for photographers. Especially documentary photographers who are photographing in public situations." As well as taking photographs Sandy Edwards has an eye for other's people's work.
She's a curator of one of the many galleries in the eastern Sydney suburb of Paddington.
She suggests that some famous Australian photography might not been possible if the proposed rules applied.
SANDY EDWARDS: "Think of photographers such Max Dupain who has been photographing in the public domain. There are many documentary and photo journalist photographers who work in this way and you have a group of people and in the middle of that group may be there is a naked child or a semi-naked child. It is just unreasonable to expect that once the photographer gets back to the dark room, processes the work or gets back to the computer that that image can actually be OK'd by somebody who is a stranger in the photograph.
"You can't get permission from everybody who is in a photograph of that nature. "
The National Association for the Visual Arts is reviewing the proposed rules with concern too.
Tamara Winikoff is the organisation's chief executive and she also sees problems for documentary photographers.
TAMARA WINIKOFF: "They make the point that if the artist is working with anyone under the age of 15 that they would have to declare to the Australia Council that they had the permission of parents or guardians and while that might seem on the surface of it to be reasonably straight forward, it does mean that in particular kinds of arts practices like documentary photography, it would place quite unreasonable restrictions on the artist." The Australia Council standards have been proposed after a recent controversy involving a planned exhibition by the artist Bill Henson.
The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he was revolted by Henson's images of children.
Still many other people defended the art.
The Australia Council's chief executive Kathy Keele says it's important that artists and organisations working with children be responsible and sensitive.
KATHY KEELE: "Quite a few of these guidelines already exist and artists should be doing them already and a lot of artists aren't aware that they should be." Kathy Keele acknowledges that documentary photography is a difficult area.
KATHY KEELE: "Documentaries are one area that we would probably will spend a little more time thinking about and working through." The Australian Institute of Professional Photographers complains there has not been enough consultation.
Member Ken Duncan says there are already too many rules for photographers.
KEN DUNCAN: "I'm talking about restrictions on beaches, local councils. At three levels - you've got federal restrictions, you've got state restrictions and you've got local restrictions.