Manchester & Rochdale

November 22nd, 2017

Canals and railways at the heart of the industrial revolution

I lived in Manchester for seven years, mainly as a student, though also for two terms as a teacher in nearby Chadderton, only moving away for a further year of study, after which I hoped to return. But I failed to find a job in the area and ended up moving down to Bracknell, where there was work and a housing corporation flat.

Manchester played an important part in my life. Of course there were the lectures and stuff, but more important were the student societies and student politics, and political involvement outside the university and the experience of the city itself. In my first year I walked to college through the slums of Hulme and later watched as they were demolished, leaving empty acres with the occasional church or pub still standing, earth banks around the edges to keep the travellers out – and went with other students to defend those travellers who did get in from eviction. By the time I left I’d been in many of the new modern slums that replaced them, interviewing there and on other council estates for surveys by the social sciences department.

Rochdale Canal, Manchester

Although I didn’t get married in Manchester, it was to a fellow student I met there, and we spent our honeymoon in a Manchester flat, getting out on a couple of day trips to the Lake District and the Derbyshire hills. And, it being the sixties I took part in the occupation of the university offices and various other protests about education, Vietnam and more. A little of which I remember, along with hazy memories of jazz clubs, pubs, concerts, markets and more in the city some fifty years ago.

What I don’t have is photographs, or very few of them. I had a camera, but couldn’t afford to use it scraping by most years on a student grant meant to only last the three short terms; though things got a little easier as a post-grad on around £10 a week. I hadn’t learnt until the year after I left the city how to save money by doing my own developing and printing and loading cassettes from bulk film, and my camera was in a poor state, having never recovered from spending some time at the bottom of the lake at Versailles in 1966 on my first trip abroad.

Rochdale Town Hall
Since then, my visits to Manchester have been short and far between – mainly the occasional conference in the area, with little time to see much of the city. And in May this year we were on our way to a conference too, but travelled early to give ourselves time for an afternoon walk. We went along the canal, dirty and forgotten when we lived in the city, but now a popular recreational area, stopping for a drink at a canalside pub before crossing into Salford to walk back by the Irwell before catching our bus from Shude Hill. The Irwell looks rather different – back in the 60s it always looked as if you could walk on it by the Cathedral, now it seems rather clean and clear. And on our way back down south we stopped off for and hour at the People’s History Museum, though this really needed much longer visit.

Co-operative stamps on foil made at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum

The event we were attending took us to Rochdale on the Saturday morning, and after a short guided tour which took us to the Town Hall and the Toad Lane museum where the Co-operative movement started I had a couple of free hours and walked around following a town trail leaflet on my own – though my walk ended at a pub not mentioned on it.

Bull Brow in the town centre


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Disabled protest Tory hate

November 21st, 2017

One of the problems of the Conservative Party has long been a failure to understand how most people live. Of course there are poor people who vote Tory, and people in the party who have come from working class backgrounds, but their policies are largely made by people who have never known (or long forgotten) what it is like to live in poverty. And those few who started poor often seem to blame those who remain poor, feeling they worked their way out of it so why can’t everyone else?

Austerity was always the wrong policy and it hasn’t worked, but it has led to a great deal of suffering and misery, punishing the poor for crimes of the rich and the failures of successive governments to regulate the activities of the wealthy, allowing huge levels of tax avoidance and encouraging scams such as ‘buy to let’ and the use of housing as an investment vehicle, particularly for foreigners, which, along with a concerted attack on social housing are at the root of our ‘housing crisis’. We don’t really have a housing crisis – there are enough homes to go round, but many are empty part or all of the time and beyond the means of those who need them, while private landlords benefit from high rents made possible only by heavy housing subsidies – and low pay for workers means companies are subsidised by ‘in-work’ benefits while CEOs and other higher management get silly money.

A recent study published by the BMJ concludes that austerity has led to an increase in death rates and suggests that this has led to 120,000 additional deaths since 2010 due to cuts in public expenditure on healthcare and social care. The study’s lead author was quoted in The Independent as saying “It is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits – it is bad economics, but good class politics. This study shows it is also a public health disaster. It is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.” Though those who get their news from the BBC will probably have missed the story.

The Tories seem to have a special hatred reserved for the disabled. They seem to see them simply as a drag on the economy, taking high levels of benefits without any return to society (though paradoxically they have cut much of the support which did previously enable many to make a positive contribution.) They appear to have thought the disabled would be an easy target and would just go away and die quietly. But although far too many have died, campaigning groups such as DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and MHRN (Mental Health Resistance Network) have been some of the most active protesters against their policies. And on this protest they reflected back a little of the Tory hate with t-shirts that read ‘Who 2 vote 4? Not the f**king Tories’.

In part this comes from desperation, and from clearly seeing that the cuts are life-threatening. But it is also helped by considerable public sympathy – at least once the public are told what is happening. The police find disabled people difficult to deal with, partly out of a genuine sympathy, but also because they realise how badly they might look in the press attacking the disabled – which is one reason why its important that I and other journalists cover their actions. There are also practical difficulties for them in making arrests, needing specially adapted vehicles for those protesters in wheelchairs or on mobility scooters – and police stations also may lack disabled facilities.

Not all disabled people are in wheelchairs, and not all disabilities are visible. One of the groups present at many of these protests is Winvisible, women with visible and invisible disabilities, and of course there are men too. But wheelchairs and scooters have proved very useful in protests, especially for blocking roads, and after protesting outside Parliament on the last day of its sitting before the General Election and then going on to protest outside the Tory HQ nearby, the protest finished by bringing traffic to a halt on busy Victoria St, leaving the road only after final warnings of arrest from the police. Stopping traffic in London, though an annoyance to those blocked, is one of few reliable ways to get any protest noticed.

More at: DPAC against Tory Hate

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October 2017

November 20th, 2017

My pictures from last month – October 2017 –  are now on My London Diary.  Links to the stories are below along with a few of my favourite images  from the month.

My London Diary

Oct 2017

Halloween protest for living wage at HR Owen
Pregnant Then Screwed March of the Mummies
UFFC annual remembrance procession
March for a Safe Uxbridge Road

30th Birthday cake for London City Airport
Grenfell protest celebrates Russian Revolution
Guardians of the Forest – COP23
Safe Passage for the Children of Calais
Stop Robbing the Homeless
Class War levitate the Daily Mail
Class War levitate Kensington Town Hall

March in Solidarity with Catalonia
Floral tributes still on Westminster Bridge
Stay in Europe
BHP AGM Solidarity Demonstration
Zimbabwe vigil celebrates 15 years

Class War return to Ripper “Museum”
Little Social don’t break the cultural boycott

Cyclists Kensington Vigil & Die In
Prime Minister, Please Sentence
Roadblocks against Air Pollution
Stand Up To Racism and the FLA
Football Lads Alliance March
Football Lads Alliance Rally
Silent Vigil for Elephants and Rhinos
Stop Killing Londoners with traffic fumes

London Images

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May Day, May Day

November 19th, 2017

As always, May Day was a busy day in London. For once May Day was actually a Bank Holiday (I suppose it happens on average every 7 years) but this didn’t seem to make much difference to the numbers for the May Day March and other events. When I worked as a full time teacher, around 5 years out of seven I had classes to teach on May Day. Now I always work on May Day, but as well as taking pictures I’m also celebrating International Workers’ Day.

It’s a day when I don’t need to get up too early, as the May Day march only begins to gather at noon:

Class War didn’t actually go on the march, but they had come to Clerkenwell Green to sell copies of their newly launched newspaper – and quite a few people were keen to buy a copy.

They had a new banner too, celebrating Simon Chapman who died earlier this year in his early 40s. He never really recovered from being arrested and imprisoned in Greece where he was fitted up by police who switched his rucsac for one containing petrol bombs in anti-capitalist protest in Thessaloniki, in 2003. Held in terrible conditions in prison he took part in a lengthy hunger strike which had a permanent affect on his health, and eventually due to international protests he and the other ‘Thessaloniki Seven‘  hunger strikers were released and sent home. The Greek government knew the police evidence would not stand international scrutiny they could not afford to create martyrs, though the UK Labour government refused to take any action to protect its citizens. He continued to campaign and protest after his return to the UK – and returned to Greece for a further trial  with three of the seven in 2010, when all of the original charges were thrown out after being completely discredited by  the defence evidence but he and four others were found guilty of the offence of ‘minor defiance of authority’ with Simon getting a suspended six month sentence.

By the time the march was ready to depart the area was pretty crowded, and as the march left, Class War made their way to The Crown Tavern, a pub with an interesting history, where Lenin and Stalin are said to have first met in 1905, and serving some fine local beers.

May Day March Gathers

Stalin and Lenin were of course on the march today, along with Marx, Mao and others including Abdullah Öcalan, the Kurdish leader still languishing in a Turkish island jail; as always there were many from London’s migrant communities taking part. But the best banners are still some from branches of UK trade unions and it is quite a sight to see them, along with all the others, marching along the CLerkenwell Road, and I tried to photograph most of them without walking too far from the start.

May Day March

As the last of the marchers passed me I turned and made my way towards The Crown. If it was good enough for Lenin and Stalin it was good enough for me to have a pint there too. I’d intended to leave after a short break and take the tube to go to Trafalgar Square for the rally there, and some of Class War in the pub were also intending to do the same. Somehow it took us rather a long time to leave, and the tube system is designed to make the journey from Farringdon to Charing Cross difficult.

I think most of the rally was over when we reached the square as John McDonnell was coming to the end of his speech, but I was pleased to be able to photograph Mark Serwotka, who can speak about the NHS form some considerable experience following his heart transplant. I took a few pictures, including some of John McDonnell as well as of Class War with the third edition of their election banner, ‘All F**king Wankers’ featuring Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and some Liberal Democrat and UKIP guy. The police seized one of the earlier versions as evidence – and then lost it; I hope Class War claimed compensation.

May Day Rally

Once the mainly rather boring official rally had finished on the plinth at Trafalgar Square people carried on the celebrations in their own way, but soon I had to leave as the May Day F**k Parade was scheduled to start shortly a few minutes away in Leake St, London’s ‘graffiti central’ in the wide pedestrian underneath Waterloo station.

It really was dark in there, much darker than my pictures suggest. Several photographers came up to ask my advice about taking pictures there as it felt rather edgy, but I told them not to worry too much – and if they were worried to ask. There were quite a few people there that I knew (and more that knew me) and the main problem I had was simply the lack of light. I used flash for a few action pictures of people playing games, but it really didn’t capture the atmosphere there. Except for the flash pictures, the others were taken at ISO 6400 with the lens fully open, quite a few at 1/30s. Unfortunately I hadn’t though to take my LED light, which would have been useful in the darker corners.

May Day F**k Parade Meets

I was please when we left the tunnel and started on a walk around London, though by now I was getting rather tired. There were a few flares set off and the march was accompanied by a large group of police, but wasn’t causing any great problems. As it was a Bank Holiday there was little traffic actually in central London.

On Waterloo Bridge I was standing next to a group of police when one of the protesters set off a flare. An officer shouted to the others ‘Let’s grab him’ and they rushed into the crowd, surrounded him and made the arrest. It was a deliberately provocative act, and looked for a while as if they had started a riot, but most of the protesters were there to enjoy themselves, not to start trouble. It was a parade, not an insurrection, and the police action seemed excessive.

The parade continued, going through Covent Garden and making its way to Leicester Square, going to a recent squat in Soho (though we only knew that later.) But as it made its way out of the square I decided I’d had enough and headed for home.

May Day F**k Parade

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Class War Paper Launch

November 18th, 2017

Way back, soon after Ian Bone moved to London, Class War began to produce a newspaper or magazine, an irregular tabloid size publication, which became notorious for some of its covers, several of which have more recently appeared as posters, such as ‘We have found new homes for the rich’, showing a huge cemetery of crosses. In its early days it was produced in an obscure tower block in North Kensington where Bone was living, which has more recently headlined the news, Grenfell Tower.

When Class War decided to produce a new issue of the newspaper, I was asked if they could use some of my pictures from their events, and I was pleased to let them do so. It was perhaps more serious than the earlier issues, with some substantial articles about Class, Housing, the Women’s Death Brigade etc, as well as some hilarious horoscopes and features on Duncan Disorderly and Potent Whisper.

The protest outside the White Cube Gallery had been planned earlier as a protest against gentrification, following on from earlier protests there  in December 2015 –  Class War at Gilbert & George ‘Banners’ and January: Class War Footy at White Cube. As with many Class War events, in started in a nearby pub, where copies of the newly printed newspaper were read.

Eventually people walked down the street to the yard in front of the gallery:

And people posed for a group photograph with copies,

before playing a little football, something which isn’t usually allowed on the yard, empty space in a crowded inner city with astronomical land prices, seen by Class War as akin to burning £50 notes under the noses of the working class population of the area, still present in the Peabody and council flats despite the increasing hipster invasion.

But the real treats of the afternoon were at a higher cultural level, though not appreciated by the gallery staff hiding behind police and security with the gallery locked for the afternoon. First Potent Whisper performed his latest spoken word piece on the housing crisis, Estate of War, followed up by speeches by Simon Elmer from Archtiects for Social Housing (ASH), Ian Bone and another well-known anarchist, Martin Wright, then songs from ‘one-man anarcho-folk-punk-hiphop phenomenon’ Cosmo, more from Potent Whisper and then a truly incredible new improvised performance from Adam Clifford and his guitarist (unfortunately not recorded for YouTube), after which Jane Nicholl performed her introduction to   Adam’s performance of ‘The Finest F**king Family in the Land‘.

Adam ended his performance in his usual style:

and the event was still continuing with other musical performances when I had to leave.  It had been, as I wrote at the time, a legendary performance, rather eclipsing anything the White Cube has had to offer at their site, and I felt privileged to have witnessed it.

Class War at White Cube

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Hull Photos: 13/10/17 – 19/10/17

November 17th, 2017

Another weekly digest of the pictures I’m putting up every day on my Hull Photos web site where you can see a new picture every day. I also post them on my Facebook page, along with the short texts shown here, which are not yet included on the web site.

Comments and corrections are welcome either here or on Facebook, and will help me to get the finished texts which will eventually go on Hull Photos. Hull photos is divided into a number of sections, and the picture captions end with the name of the section that image has been placed in. Clicking any of the images will take you to it in that section of the site where you may find related images.

12th October 2017

A young man smiles as I take a picture of him sitting on his horse-drawn cart on Bridlington Avenue in front of the works of Rose Downs and Thompson Ltd.

I’ve written earlier about Rose Downs and Thompson Ltd, iron-founders and manufacturers of oil mill and hydraulic machinery, and their pioneering work in the UK building their listed 1900 factory extension (not in this picture) and the bridge on Cleveland St using the Hennebique ‘ferro-concrete’ system.

85-5i-21: Rag and Bone man, Bridlington Av, 1985 – Beverley Rd

13th October 2017

Shakespeare TV and Electronics was the place to go to buy a reconditioned TV, or for repairs, and they advertised their shop at 177 Springbank with the front of a TV on the fascia board.

This and the adjoining shop had some fancy decoration around their first floor windows, though a redundant strip of angle iron didn’t add to the effect. The shop is now a multicultral food store.

85-5i-41: Shakespeare TV and Electronics, Springbank, 1985 – Springbank

14th October 2017

Myrtle Villas, off Springbank roughly opposite Stanley St, was surely one of Hull’s shortest terraces, with only two houses on each side. But it did have its own Hull telephone box.

The houses across the end were being demolished when I took this picture, and the terrace now looks less enclosed and leads to further properties. The discount store on the right is now ‘Grab A Bargain’ and on the left is ‘Urban Trendz’. There is still a phone box, though I might have to wait a long time to see anyone using it, while back in the 1980s queues were not unusual.

85-5i-42: Myrtle Villas, Springbank, 1985 – Springbank

15th October 2017

Demolition was happening on a large scale in the area between Springbank and Beverley Rd and I took seven pictures. This image is unusual in that the demolition has cut through a long stretch of tightly packed houses and has left what appears to be a massive pile of bricks – and at bottom left a pile of old newspapers with the ‘Property Guide’ at the top.

85-5i-46: Demolition, Springbank area, 1985 – Springbank

16th October 2017

The decoration on the side of a former fire-station in Hall St now has a Hull Heritage Blue plaque stating it to have been the home of the Hull Volunteer Fire Brigade. There two wider doorways, slightly differing in size, one perhaps for the fire engine, and the other for the hroses that would have pulled it. That on the left is decorated with three horses heads and the other with images of three fire captains in their helmets, one at each side of the arch and the third on the keystone. The right hand arch also has a decorative pattern in the brickwork of the arch and small windows across the doors.

I made two exposures on this occasion, one showing the whole of the right hand gate and two of the horses heads on the left, and the second moving in closer to show just one of the horses and a man apparently looking up slightly towards it.

There was no plaque when I took my pictures, but it looked as if the building had been recently painted with the decorative figures picked out in white, slightly carelessly as there is some paint on the brickwork around. It looks as if the paintwork was a pale colour when I took these pictures, perhaps cream; later they were painted maroon and in 2008 repainted a dark blue.

85-5i-54: Hull Volunteer Fire Brigade building, Hall St, 1985 – Springbank

17th October 2017

The empty open box on the wall has a hook which probably once held a lifebelt and a cast-iron covered structure projects out over the riverside pathway and overhangs the river above a covered barge. The river seems full of vessels, but the only easily identifiable one is the barge Poem 21.

In the background across the river is Clarence Mill and the former Trinity House buoy shed. On the large heaps of sand at the wharf at right is the tiny figure of a man with a shovel, apparently facing an immense task.

The picture is taken from the end of Bishop Lane Staith and the Grade II listed building here is Ellerman’s Building, 38b High St, converted into flats in 2000. Out of site on the west side of the building is a stone with ‘G G M 1655’ which was retained from a former building on the site when this warehouse was rebuilt around 1800.

85-5j-21: Riverside path and loading bay, Old Harbour, 1985 – River Hull

18th October 2017

Kingston Supply Services was on Lime St on part of the site which is now a 24 hour car park next to L A Hall Roofing Contractors and Merchants. The building was demolished around 2010. The peeling sign once offered – among other indecipherable things – Pullovers, Blouses and Denim.

Some years earlier there had been a board a few yards down the street for Hull Ships Stores and this building may have been a part of this.

85-5j-31: Kingston Supply Services, Lime St, 1985 – River Hull

19th October 2017

At left are the buildings of Associated Tyre Specialists, still present with a frontage to Great Union St, now occupied by Adams Fast Food Supplies. Beyond them the buildings of Clarence Mill; those on this side of Drypool Bridge still standing and occupied by Shotwell, with the larger complex behind with ‘Clarence Flour Mills’ on its side sadly (and insanely) destroyed. The tanks and other objects blocking the riverside path are in front of the Union Dry Dock and at the right of the picture is the entrance to another dry dock, with a large shed of the Yorkshire Dry Dock Company to its right, between it and the former Queen’s dock entrance.

Burcom Sand, named after a sandbank in the Humber estuary between Grimsby and Sunk Island was a grab hopper dredger built in 1954 by Cook, Welton & Gemmell at Beverley which worked extensively for the British Transport Docks Board around the Hull docks in the 1960s and 70s. Later, like the Kenfig I also photographed here, she was owned by Dave Cook of Hull and used for jobs like removing old jetties. She was apparently fixed at the bow to piles at low tide with a wire hawser and pulled them up and out as she rose with the tide. She was broken up across the Humber at New Holland in March 1994.

85-5j-33: Burcom Sand moored above Drypool Bridge, 1985 – River Hull

You can see the new pictures added each day at Hull Photos, and I post them with the short comments above on Facebook.

Comments and corrections to captions are welcome here or on Facebook.
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A Walk in the Park

November 16th, 2017

What do you do if you come to London to photograph an event that finishes around 11am and then want to photograph another that doesn’t start until 3pm? On International Worker’s Memorial Day (April 28th) I decided to go for a walk in the park. The former Olympic Park, now called the QEII Park.

The International Worker’s Memorial Day commemoration in London is one I try to go to every year, though I don’t think it’s a particularly good event to photograph, either financially or artistically. Safety at work is an important issue, and I used at one time to be a safety officer at my workplace. People often joke about health and safety, but we have seen legislation that has made all workplaces safer, though some right-wing politicians want to sweep it away as ‘red tape’, and this and the previous government have sadly greatly weakened the enforcement of regulations. Of course sometimes regulations get misinterpreted and used as a pretext for things that clearly were not intended, but much more often they are flouted because companies know they can get away with it.

It wasn’t my first visit to the park – I’d gone shortly after it was reopened to the public, and made another short visit more recently on my way to a protest in Stratford, and the weather wasn’t ideal for making the kind of wide panoramic images I intended. With such a wide expanse of sky in many of the pictures its often useful to have some interesting clouds in a blue sky; sunlight tends to brighten the mood as well as increase the light levels, but it’s best to have plenty of cloud both to get rid of huge expanses of empty blue sky and also to reduce the local contrast with shadow areas being illuminated from the clouds.

It wasn’t too bad. Although there wasn’t – until I was getting ready to leave – even the smallest patch of blue sky for those sailor’s trousers at least the clouds had some definition – and there was not the problem of avoiding getting the sun in picture, which can be tricky on sunny days with a roughly 145 degree angle of view. And though we mainly see blue skies as a nice even blue, film or sensor is very sensitive to the increase in illumination.

I’d hoped that almost 5 years after the Olympics the park might have matured, and was rather disappointed. It doesn’t really look like it will become much of a park in my lifetime, if ever. And while it was good to find that they are still intending to replace Carpenters Lock, it does seem to be taking rather a long time.

It was my first visit to the northern extremes of the site, and I also made use of the new foot bridge across the Lea Navigation to make my way to Hackney Wick station to catch a train back to Stratford and then the tube into central London to photograph a vigil in solidarity with the over 1500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails taking part in a hunger strike.

Palestinian Prisoners Hunger Strike vigil
Olympic Park Update
International Workers’s Memorial Day

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When Buddha Looks Away

November 14th, 2017

When Buddha Looks Away is a set of powerful photographs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh from Drik Images, the leading photo agency in South Asia, set up in response to the stereotyped portrayals of our world by the western media, a platform for media practitioners in the global south.

“These photographs, powerful as they are, show the visible pain. The torment, the insecurity, the fear, the burning inside, the sense of eternal loss, remain undocumented. “

On and Off Photography

November 13th, 2017

Back in the late 1970s when there seemed to many of us that their was a least a glimmer of a photography culture emerging in the UK that might support serious photographers, thanks to the efforts of Creative Camera, the Arts Council  and a few people in education, particularly in the Midlands, including Paul Hill and Ray Moore, we suffered a huge academic land grab which more or less snuffed out that fledgling. Creative Camera degenerated, the Arts Council altered course and many photographers were relegated to obscurity.

Photography was largely sacrificed on the altar of academic respectability, becoming subservient to the word, being relegated to what many saw as its rightful subservience in our logocentric culture. You want a degree you’ve got to read learn a secret language to read deliberately obscured texts and write pretentious essays, never mind the pictures.

The flagship of this enterprise was a curious work, On Photography by Susan Sontag, which came at the top of every degree course reading list. My own copy of this 1977 best-seller soon got into a sorry state from being thrown down at its more ridiculous sentences, its margins annotated with my explosions at her ignorance and misunderstandings, her half-digested regurgitations from earlier sources.

It did make rather a good television programme, which I had recorded and watched several times, and felt to be far superior to the book, not least because in it her thoughts became tied to actual examples, the particular rather than the generalisation.  And perhaps because of the work of a better editor than at her publisher and the more limited canvas available.

It was a book that spawned more books, but never provoked any photography of significance, that led to a whole school of academia that treats photographs as just an abbreviated list of the objects and events they depict, largely dismissing the aspects that make photography an vital and visual medium.

We no longer simply looked at photographs, no longer experienced them, but in that oh so reductive usage, we ‘read’ them. Not that reading photographs can’t give us valuable insights – and it was always a part of looking at them – but it is only a partial exercise, and the visual, expressive, aesthetic aspects were generally dismissed as unworthy of study.

On Photography is a book that should only appear on reading lists for students with a health warning, and one of the best health warnings is provided by an article recently resurrected by A D Coleman, Susan Sontag: Off Photography, originally written by him in 1979 but not published until 1998. In his introduction to this republication, Coleman notes:

Sontag subsequently acknowledged that photography was not her real subject and had simply served her as a convenient whipping boy, and — in Regarding the Pain of Others (2003) — she eventually retracted most of what she’d had to say in her original diatribe.

Regarding the Pain of Others is certainly a far better book about photography, and the photography of war in particular, but I don’t recall ever seeing it on the reading lists for photography students. Perhaps it should be, replacing her ‘On Photography‘.


LSE sprayed with chalk

November 11th, 2017

The t-shirt for sale in the university shop at the LSE, pointed out to me by Lisa McKenzie, then an academic working at the LSE and who can be seen photographing the shop window, seemed to be a rather too accurate reflection of the current priorities of the institution, with its message ‘£$€‘ , though perhaps these days it should also somehow include ¥ and .

I was at the LSE for a protest by students and workers in the ‘Life Not Money’ campaign  who were calling on the LSE to change from what they say is thirty years of growing neglect, cruelty and outright corporate greed towards workers and staff at the school to something beautiful and life affirming. In particular the contrasted the high salary of the director – said to be around £500,000 a year  – with that of the lowest paid workers such as the cleaners who are paid less than the London Living Wage and have unpaid breaks and are bullied and treated as second-class citizens.

While the cleaners’ trade union, the UVW, has been taking action with a series of demonstrations and strikes, Life Not Money have decided a more effective method is to use more colorful direct action with the deliberate intention to get some of their supporters arrested. It’s an approach that does seem to have worked in other disputes.

I was a little aggrieved that after having been invited to photograph the event I was left photographing what was an action intended to divert the LSE security while the actual direct action of writing and drawing on the wall of one of the university buildings in nearby Houghton St actually took place. Perhaps this was just an oversight, but by the time I got there, the writing was already on the wall:

‘Cut Directors Pay Boost Workers Pay We All Know it Makes Sense’

and those who had done it were sitting quietly having a party and waiting patiently to be arrested.

It wasn’t real paint that had been used, but spray chalk, and there was no actual damage to the wall, just to the image of the LSE and the pride of its security team who had failed to stop it.  The protesters had even brought along damp sponges and offered to remove the writing but security and police were not prepared to allow them to do so.  It’s hard to see that writing on a wall with chalk that can easily be removed with a damp cloth could be seen by a court as ‘criminal damage’ – which the LSE alleged and police arrested the writer for.

Increasingly arrest and a period of often up to 18 hours in police custody – they like to release people in the early hours of the morning when little or no public transport is running – is being used as a minor punishment by police for offences where there would be little chance of securing an actual conviction, and where often no charges are made. And in some cases police release people on bail with conditions intended to prevent further protests, such as banning them from the area where they were arrested, often for several months, though this appears to be unenforceable. And property, sometimes including clothing, may be taken as ‘evidence’ for cases that stand little or no chance of coming to court – and is sometimes lost by police.  It seems to be a little procedural bullying which has no basis in law, and for which some have managed to receive compensation.

In this case the police didn’t seem unduly worried about the apparent crime, and they kept the four perpetrators waiting for over an hour before they arrived to arrest them – and I’d almost given up waiting and gone to catch my train home.

Among the allegations from cleaners employed by Noonan for the LSE on the posters that students posted:

“Women have to sleep with management to get extra hours. The whole thing is corrupt. And supervisors attack the women and are not even disciplined … LSE know about this. And LSE doesn’t give a damn so long as the work is covered and they don’t have to think about it.”

“Worst thing of all is the situation with illegal immigrants working here … half their wages went back to management. They don’t have to pay them the minimum wage and they can’t complain because they are illegals. When there was a check management told all the illegals not to come in on that day.”

These are the crimes that police should be investigating, not protesters chalking on walls.

More at: LSE decorated against inequality & corruption

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