Bill Banned This Photo

Doesn’t that look like the most amazing sandwich you ever saw? Take it from me, it’s an amazing sandwich from an amazing shop. Bill’s in Brighton (there’s a branch in Lewes too but I’ve never been to that one. If you’re ever in the area you ought to pop in, it’s just stunning. It’s an organic deli and cafe rolled into one. But it’s not overly ‘soily’ if that’s a worry for you. Everything is beautiful to the point of art and damn tasty to boot.

OK, that’s where my praise ends. The purpose of this post isn’t to talk about sandwich art, but to talk about ‘banning photography’.

Nik was with me at Bill’s yesterday and as soon as he raised his phone to take a photo of a cake a guy dived in front of the lens like Britney’s bodyguard protecting her from the paps: “we have a no photography policy” he yelled. Same thing happened to me at the Whole Foods Market in New York a couple of weeks ago. (BTW I snuck the photo above a few weeks ago before I knew it was illegal, I didn’t break their rules on purpose, I’m not that much of a rebel!).

I guess that they’re worried about corporate espionage, people stealing the blueprints for their cakes or shop. But it feels a bit like some crazy form of Willy-Wonka-ism. Closing down the factory to prevent spies from stealing chocolate secrets. Next they’ll be making us eat cakes with our eyes closed. And what happens if I buy a cake and take it outside to photograph?

It just seems like a really backward step for companies to take. In a world where image sharing is so widespread. Stopping people from taking images of your amazing things and spreading them around the place is surely curtailing a great form of free advertising. Of course they’re not going to have control over the quality of the images or where they appear, but they need to let go a bit.

I know that in certain areas copyright and IP theft are big issues. So companies have to weigh up the risks of people stealing their designs vs the reward of people talking about them. I think the balance has changed and continues to change in favour of people using photos as a way to share and discuss rather than steal. But I could be wrong, what do you reckon?

As an aside – on the hunt for the names of the spies in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which I didn’t find) I found this great article on real life chocolate espionage and how it touched Roald Dahl.