Civilian photography and the Brussels military presence

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Cyclists in Brussels taking photographs

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Caught on his daily ride, this cyclist slipped onto the main throughoughfare in Brussels to take a few images of the city and the military presence.


Photographer’s notes: There is no shortage of images from Brussels, right now.  Some are far better than others. But the idea of citizen photographers is immensely important in Belgium right now.

Military presence on civilian streets is a major development in a city. There are multiple reasons why this may happen, ranging from anti-terrorist action to emergency response.

In today’s society of smartphones and tablets, the opportunity for each and every member of society to be able to document events is all the more present.

Many of the images are personal captures, selfies next to an armoured vehicle, an image with a soldier in the background.

To the credit of the soldiers and police, I have not seen them protest the constant photography. They have accepted it with grace and understanding.

To be clear, as far as I understand the law, police and military (on city streets) can be photographed. There is a specific EU law for this. In that permission is the clarification that the person cannot be identified. The images have to be anonymous when they are simply going about going their business.

The importance of documenting the presence is important today. In our understanding of personal liberties, the role and limit of the military – and there are few challengers to a force than understanding their every action is open to specific documentation.

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