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August 29, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:16am

Gay photographer says Pride PR told him ‘you’re not on our side’ over anti-trans protest pics

By Freddy Mayhew

A gay photojournalist has said a public relations officer working for Manchester Pride tried to stop him taking pictures of the festival, at one point telling him: “You’re not on our side.”

Joel Goodman said the PR first attempted to obstruct him from photographing an anti-trans protest by a group of lesbians who “hijacked” the front of the parade on Saturday.

He said he was told “it wasn’t the message they wanted to ‘put out’” for the event, which is a celebration of the LGBT+ community and has its roots in protests against discrimination.

Goodman, who is HIV positive, said the same PR told him to leave a candlelit vigil on Monday held in memory of those killed and affected by HIV and Aids. In both cases he continued to take pictures.

“She said that I was not on their side, that in photographing the protest I was lending [the protesters’] cause support…” he wrote in a blog post.

He said the encounter “was truly shocking and extremely hurtful” given his personal circumstances and “an outrageous attempt to reach into matters that are none of Manchester Pride’s affair”.

The 43-year-old freelance photographer, who works for national newspapers and the Manchester Evening News, told Press Gazette he had not previously made his HIV-positive status public.

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“There was something that didn’t go exactly the way they wanted it to and they got upset,” he said. “The idea that I’m not on your side is actually irrelevant. I may be on your side, but it doesn’t stop me from doing my job.”

He blogged: “My job as a journalist is not to provide PR in exchange for a wristband, it is to cover events as thoroughly as possible, regardless of how they turn out.

“This includes occurrences that might not suit an event’s organisers or be palatable to some members of the public.

“If a thing happens it’s my job to document that thing, not to judge whether it’s worth coverage based on the values and ideals of a specific group.”

The firm responsible for Manchester Pride’s public relations, Down at the Social, has yet to reply to Press Gazette’s repeated requests for comment.

The company also oversaw a total ban on media taking photos or videos of popstar Ariana Grande’s performance at a concert taking place as part of the Pride weekend, an email to press seen by Press Gazette revealed.

Goodman said he defied the ban, taking photographs with a long lens from outside the concert arena, which were picked up by newspapers after approved photographs were slow to be released.

Having covered Manchester Pride for at least five years and worked as a professional news photographer for about eight, Goodman said his experience this year “exposes the ever present danger of the sort of expectations PR operatives have of journalists, in exchange for access”.

The National Union of Journalists warned photographers against “copyright grab” contracts put out by Grande’s team to cover her performance, which it said were “onerous and overreaching”.

Goodman was the photographer who was assaulted by self-styled “Yellow Vest” activist James Goddard at a demo in Manchester in February. Goddard, 29, was fined £300 and given a two-year restraining order.

Picture: Reuters/Peter Powell

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