“I’m not going down without a fight!” – Ken Duncan

For years, renowned Australia landscape photographer Ken Duncan has been challenging the situation which sees photographers having their rights to shoot freely and unencumbered by excessive bureaucracy and unjustifiable fees.

Duncan’s wish is for New South Wales is to become the arts-friendly capital of Australia before Australia itself is acknowledged in the same vein. The current situation, as far as Duncan is concerned, is “ridiculous”. He asks, “If a photographer has no more access to a location and causes no greater impact than that of a member of the public, then why should they be subject to a fee?” And on the face of it, this seems to be an entirely reasonable question.

It’s a question that Duncan has asked many times over the years, whether through his advocacy work via Art Freedom Australia, the very successful protest in Sydney with hundreds of photographers in attendance, countless meetings with politicians and regulatory bodies, photographic organisations, and social media. The situation for photographers is a minefield, and what Duncan is trying to do is to simplify the process, and free up their ability to take photographs in public spaces.

What’s at stake here are people’s freedoms, and their freedom to capture their history and their world. Duncan is not against permits and fees, if they are justified and reasonable. “We, the people, need to fight,” Duncan says. “Because what unites us is the ability to take photos.” But he questions whether people even know what’s going on.

“I’m not going down without a fight. I’ve fought lots of fights, and I will keep going,” he says. “But we need more people in the industry doing something, and making a noise about the situation. Duncan feels that younger photographers “need to get off their butts because it’s their freedoms that they’re going to lose”. He also wants to know what Australia’s peak body for professional photographers, the AIPP, is doing about the issue.

Two years ago, while taking pictures at Barangaroo, in Sydney, Duncan was interrogated and almost arrested. “I’m sick of feeling like a criminal all the time as a photographer,” Duncan admits. “The reason I’m fighting is so the next generation has the same freedoms as I’ve enjoyed being able to capture my history.”

With the Vivid festival almost upon Sydney, Duncan is calling for photographers to boycott the event. “Once a year, NSW becomes friendly towards photographers, and they have free reign to take pictures of whatever they like around the harbour. The rest of the time, there are laws against what we’re doing.”

Ultimately, Duncan believes that we need to ensure that Australia is a user-friendly arts country. And that we need to see a halt in the declining numbers of tourists visiting Uluru (or “Ulurules”). "If a photographer is not wanting anymore access of creating no more impact on the area than the average person, then there should be no fees or permits required,” Duncan states. 

Recently, Duncan took to Facebook sharing a message with his views on the subject.