Another Grenfell protest

November 13th, 2019

It seems increasingly unlikely that we are ever going to see justice for the victims of Grenfell as the establishment use all the tricks in their book to protect those responsible.

Perhaps in the end after years of purposefully drawn out inquiry by police and judges a few small companies will be found guilty of failing to follow some aspects of building regulations and be given insignificant fines, though I doubt even that. But the real culprits seem almost certain to escape scot-free.

THe RCG have a fine banner by Andrew Cooper

So far we have only seen the first stage of the official  Grenfell Tower Inquiry which appears to have been a travesty, with the judge shifting blame on those responsible for fighting the fire and coming to a conclusion that not only flies in the face of what experienced fire-fighters say, including those who were there on the night, but could well lead to more deaths in other high-rise fires. People are almost certain given the publicity by the report to die in some future fires because they try to escape rather than staying safe in their homes. And quite clearly had the idiotic Jacob Rees Mogg lived in Grenfell he and his family would have died there.

These blocks – Grenfell included – only got approval on the basis that any fire would be contained within a flat and would be expected to be able to burn itself out even if fire-fighters did not attend. Building regulations made sure that this was the case, and the towers were built to enable any firest that did occur to be safely fought from within the building. The flats were essentially small self-contained concrete units, isolated from each other, with dry risers to supply water on the landings when needed and smoke traps.

Simon Elmer of ASH who produced a report on Grenfell

The blame for Grenfell lies squarely with the government ministers who altered the regulations and allowed building owners to make their own fire inspections, with owners who saved money by arranging inadequate inspections and employing contractors to add unsuitable cladding and otherwise compromise the building safety. Contractors too bear some resposiblity for agreeing to install unsafe cladding and for doing so in a way which removed the gaps essential for safety.

Another small left-wing group declined the offer to join the RCG protest

Kensington & Chelsea Council and its TMO must bear the main responsibility for this particular building, with councillors and others taking the decisions which made the building a fire-trap. They were more than incompetent, bullying those who informed them of some of the problems.

The council too failed to properly deal with the survivors, despite some extravagant promises made in the early days after the fire by Theresa May and others. A full year after the fire only 41% of the households from Grenfell Tower and adjoining Grenfell walk had been permanently re-housed. Of those in the wider affected area, 29% had been able to return to their homes and 1% – one family – permanently rehoused. The other 70% (90 families) were still in some form of temporary accomodation. This despite Kensington & Chelsea being one of the wealthiest boroughs in the country.

Many of those most closely involved are still suffering intensely from trauma and both initial relief and counselling were other areas where the council and other official response are felt by many to have been inadequate – and put to shame by the community response. As an outsider I don’t feel entitled to comment, though I’ve certainly heard the pain expressed by some of the community.

People pose on the council steps at the end of the RCG protest

Various groups formed after the fire, some with more support among the victims and wider community than others. Although all have I think taken part in the monthly silent walks which aim to keep the memory of the events alive, there have been arguments with some groups urging a more radical stance is needed to get action.

Two of these groups, both relatively small, had come to protest at the Kensington & Chelsea town hall outside the council meeting. I had gone to photograph the protest by the Revolutionary Communist Group who have run street stalls on Ladbroke Grove close to Grenfell and organised other protests in the area as well as taking part in the silent walks. As well as their own speakers they had invited others to talk, and as main speaker Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing, whose report and film produced within a few weeks of the fire remains the most authorative account of the reasons why Grenfell was a tragedy waiting to happen.

More at No Justice for Grenfell


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Don’t attack Iran!

November 12th, 2019

For a few days it really looked as if Trump was about to launch an attack on Iran and he was really being urged to do so by some of his hard-line advisers.

Trump had called off a planned air strike at the last minute which was planned in retaliation for the shooting down of an unmanned US reconaissance drone by Iranian forces. Iran had said it had strayed into Iranian air space while the US claimed it was in international air space.

Despite the US official claim it seems almost certain that the drone was attacked in Iranian air space, when it and an armed Boeing P-8 Poseidon US navy surveillance aircraft with a crew of 35 flying close to the drone had strayed into it over the Gulf or Hormuz.

Iran issued a statement that both aircraft were in their airspace and that they had twice warned the US before deciding to attack the drone, but had decided not to attack the manned aircraft, stating “we could have shot it down, but we did not .”

It was perhaps this statement that caused Trump to call off the US attacks at the last minute, saying he had been told 150 Iranians would be killed, and that this would be disproportionate.

Trump also stated; ” There was a plane with 38 people yesterday, did you see that? I think that’s a big story. They had it in their sights and they didn’t shoot it down. I think they were very wise not to do that. And we appreciate that they didn’t do that. I think that was a very wise decision.

But the US threat remains, with Trump in a later tweet promising “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.

Because of the high and continuing threat level of war against Iran, Stop The War had called an emergency protest to demand our government to make it clear to Trump that it did not want and would not support a war against Iran. They protested opposite Downing St and tried to deliver an urgent letter to the Prime Minister, but were refused admission to Downing St by an apologetic police office on the gate as they had not arranged permission some days beforehand.

I had thought that MPs were allowed entry without prior arrangement, but Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington, was refused entry. The protesters were told to put the letter in the post.

More pictures: Don’t Attack Iran


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Elsewhere

November 11th, 2019

Two recent articles I’ve read on other sites that I think you might be interested in, both with some fine photographs as illustrations.

In Can Photojournalists Be Entirely Objective? on Artsy, Kelsey Ables looks at the problem that photographers have in “today’s social media–oriented political landscape “of following the NPPA Code of Ethics instructions to “recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work” and to “resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.”

If you are a regular reader you will know what I think of photo-ops. A few years ago I was involved in a NUJ attempt to produce a code of ethic and came to very much appreciate the problems involved.

The second piece is more entertaining, and is a feature on Aperture advertising an Aperture/Magnum print sale, now over. 15 Photographers Reveal What’s Hidden in Their Work and the pictures were among the over 120 included with roughly postcard size (6×6 inches) prints selling for $100 a piece with an undisclosed percentage going to Aperture.

I’m not quite sure what makes a postcard size print “museum quality” though these are “signed or estate-stamped“, and quite frankly I think a waste of money.

If you’ve a a spare $100 and want to support Aperture take out a magazine subscription, which will get you many more images printed high quality and mainly rather larger. I subscribed for many years but recently gave it up partly because I already have far too many books and magazines around the house, but also because frankly it just isn’t as interesting as it used to be.

The pictures are accompanied by short comments by the photographers (quotations from previous writing by those who are no longer with us.) There are a few of the 15 I’d hang on my own wall if I had a rather larger than postcard copy.

Dairy Scary?

November 10th, 2019

I don’t know how much of our milk and cheese actually comes from industrial dairy farms like that shown in the picture above.

According to the RSPCA only around 8% of UK milk comes from cows “housed all year round regardless of milk yield, time of calving and so on”. The RSPCA has a lengthy document for farmers setting the RSPCA Welfare Standards for Dairy Cattle, and a shorter and less technical  The welfare of dairy cows information sheet – February 2017 (PDF 654KB) which very much reflects their concern for animal welfare.

Of course these documents are only advisory and again I’m not sure what proportion of our milk and diary products come from farms which follow them, though I suspect it is fairly high. It is very much in farmer’s interests to look after thier animals, and those farmers that I have know personally are very much concerned and involved with them.

I’d like to see welfare standards such as this being legally enforced rather than simply advisory. But to label the whole dairy industry as ‘Scary Dairy’ seems to me misleading. Some of the claims that Viva! and other vegans make simply make no sense; no cow produces enough calves to need the 14,000 pints of milk the average dairy cow provides each year, and there are certainly no calves starving from lack of milk.

Of course farm animals are slaughtered at some point. It is the nature of the beast; farmers breed them only for economic reasons, not to gratify animal lovers (except for those very few kept as pets. They only exist because they produce food and other animal products that farmers can sell. Of course we should have strict laws that eliminate unnecessary suffering governing how animals are killed and ensure that they are enforced.

I remain irredeemably ‘speciesist’. We are in so many respects different from all other species although of course we have much in common, including a high proportion of our DNA, having evolved over thousands and millions of years from other species (which have also evolved, but differently.)

I did my best to photograph the Viva! protest and to caption the images that I filed to represent their views, reporting as objectively as I could. Mostly I chose to photograph things that I view positively, but while I support better animal welfare I think that the approach taken in this campaign is highly emotional and both dishonest and disingenuous.

  There are a few more pictures at Viva! protest Coca-Cola Dairy Farm.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Parliament Square

November 9th, 2019

While I used to think of Trafalgar Square as being the centre of protests in London, and it still is a place where protests take place, over the years there does seem to have been a shift towards Parliament Square (and the nearby Old Palace Yard), largely I think after the years of vigil there by Brian Haw and supporters. And often when I’m in the area for one or two events I’ll come across others that I’d not known about it advance.

Of course Steve Bray and his SODEM campaigners against Brexit are always around when Parliament is sitting, day in day out – and even during the recent recess they only moved as far as the Cabinet Office. But today was a special day for them, marking the number 50. Not the number of years they have been protesting, but the fiftieth birthday of their founder.

There was so much else going on that I managed to miss the peak of the celebrations, arriving back just as they were finishing. But though I try, you just can’t be everywhere all of the time. I should have asked them when I walked past earlier about their plans, but I was in a hurry to get elsewhere.

And that elsewhere was in front of the gates to Parliament, where Operation Shutdown , a group of families and friends bereaved by knife crimes were calling for urgent action by government over knife crimes. I don’t share their faith that a meeting of the government’s emergency  response committee COBRA would do much to help – or that tougher sentences for carrying and using knives and guns would have any real impact on knife crime, but there is clearly a need for action.

Clearly a starting point should be to reverse the government cuts to youth services and family support and to look at programmes to work with young people. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has come in for a great deal of criticism, but has set some reasonable policies in this area, but it really needs a reversal of the harmful policies imposed on local councils by the Coalition and Tory governments. So Operation Shutdown were clearly demonstrating in the right place, and of course their pain and grief is only too clear. Though they were I’m afraid talking to a government with little idea of how most people live and close to zero concern so long as they and their friends are getting richer.

Sometimes I have a problem with cropping. Often there is a tension between making an image visually strong and the text which locates and explains what the picture is about, and perhaps this image is a good example, where I think I have cropped just slightly too tightly. It’s often a good idea to give the reader some slight puzzle, but it’s hard to know if most people on seeing this will actually decipher ‘Stop the Mass Slaughter Of a Generation Now!’ Another inch or two at the left would have helped.

On the Olympus camera which has now become a part of my standard outfit, I work with the camera set on RAW and the aspect ratio as 3:2. But when working with raw images, the camera actually always records the whole sensor, with a roughly 4:3 ratio, which includes a small strip on top and below the 3:2 frame. When editing the pictures I do sometimes find that including some or all of this improves the images. Just a pity that there isn’t any similar leeway at the picture edges!

Just across the street, on the pavement in front of the grassed centre area, there was another protest, by the UK Chapter of the Free Balochistan Movement. It was the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and they were calling for an end to the large-scale disappearances, arrests and torture of anyone suspected of having links to the Baloch nationalist movement by Pakistan military forces and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

My day which had begun with the mass lobby, hadn’t ended, and I returned just a little too late to SODEM, before going on to photograph two other protests, to which I’ll refer in a later post.

More pictures from these three protests at:

SODEM Steve’s 50th Birthday
Operation Shutdown against Knife Crime
End torture in Balochistan


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.




The Time Is Now

November 8th, 2019

Lobbies of Parliament are generally not the most exciting things to photograph, but at least ‘The Time is NOW for Climate Justice‘ began with a kind of march, and had at least one very recognisable face in ROwan Williams.

I’m sure some of the other faith leaders holding the banner as they march along the pavement in Whitehall will be recognisable to some, and we can probably work out which faith most of them are representing. It was a rather timid march, moving quietly and sticking to the pavement, which isn’t very wide here and has quite a few obstacles as well as tourists to get in the way of both photographers and marchers.

The front of the march halted briefly for photographs in Parliament Square, though the place just isn’t so interesting with Big Ben (and the rest of the Clock Tower) under wraps. As well as to photographers, this is a disappointment to the tourists who I think should get a discount on their trips to London until the covers are lifted. I’ve managed to partly hide the rather ugly sight behind Lloyd George in his Superman costume about to leap off his plinth, though I have to say his is one of my least favourite statures, looking like some nasty plastic toy that might come free in your cornflakes.

I let the leaders move on and walked back to photograph the other walkers straggling along behind, eventually finding some who were enjoying themselves and making a considerably more lively protest.

A few minutes later I met yet more people marching down Whitehall, this time with some dressed in giant condoms, with the message “Don’t Screw With The Planet” and that it’s no use us cutting carbon footprints if we keep increasing the number of feet. 

‘Population Matters’, of course it does, and it’s a message that is far more important for the richest nations, where people typically have ten times the carbon footprint per capita than in poorer countries with high birth rates. The most effective way to curb population growth in poor countries is to increase people’s wealth and security. While it’s good to make effective contraception cheap and widely available, people also have to want to use it.

More pictures at:
Time Is Now Walk of Witness
Condoms Cut Carbon

Underground Photography

November 7th, 2019

Like many photographers who work in London I spend too much of my time underground, travelling around from place to place. Taking the Underground is usually the fastest way to get around London other than riding a bike as traffic congestion so often holds up buses and taxis (which are prohibitive unless you work in advertising or fashion.)

Taking my bike to London is possible, but adds complications like finding a safe place to lock it up (and nowhere in London is really safe from bicycle theives) and, particularly with marches where I may end up taking pictures a mile or more from where I started, having to walk back and find it. So usually I rely on buses when I’m not in any hurry or the tube when I am and the journey is too long to walk.

I decided to photograph on buses.

Back around 1990 I first saw the pictures taken on the Underground by Paul Baldesare, who became a friend and one I’ve shown work together with on numerous occasions. The first was a show at the Museum of London and as Paul already had some fine work on the tube, I decided to make a set of images for it of people on London’s buses. Paul’s early work was in black and white, but later he went on to photograph the tube in colour.

Another photographer who has photographed underground for a long period of time is Bob Mazzer, and you can find several features on his work on Spitalfields Life (there are links at the bottom of that page to the others.) His pictures are more varied than Baldesare’s and are the pictures of a regular daily traveller recording odd moments and unusual scenes.

Published now by Hoxton Mini Press. is a book of the work of photographer Mike Goldwater, London Underground 1970-1980, and you can see a fine selection of pictures on the BBC web site feature Candid moments on the London Underground.

And for a final mention, Stefan Rousseau, whose more recent pictures appeared in a Metro feature, Photographer secretly documents people’s sleepy commutes on London’s underground in April 2019.

Of course there are many other photographers who have photographed on the London Underground, including some well-known names, and several photographers I know whose projects I haven’t mentioned, along with the many thousands who have posted their phone images to Instagram and elsewhere. And of course there are other cities and underground networks. But the examples I’ve linked to are some that have particularly interested me and that I hope readers of this post will enjoy. Apologies to all those not mentioned!


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Dinner of HOPE

November 6th, 2019

One of Extinction Rebellion’s slightly odder events was a picnic billed as the ‘Extinction Rebellion Dinner of HOPE‘ outside the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, which preceded a protest as guests arrived for the annual dinner of the Petroleum Group of the Geological Society.

As XR pointed out, there was a “grotesque irony of this cosy industry dinner taking place surrounded by extinct species” under the blue whale skeleton in the main hall, celebrating an industry that more than any other is contributing to the continuing extinction of species, possibly including our own.

I’d met Elsie Luna back in October 2018, at a #Fridays For the Future protest in Parliament Square, the first in London as a part of #FridaysForFuture taking place in many cities and towns across the world, inspired by the action of the then 15-year old Greta Thunberg, who instead of going back to school at the end of the Summer break in August protested outside the Swedish Parliament, breaking the law to start the School Strike For Climate.

Elsie Luna stood out at that small protest, not just as one of two or three school age children taking part, but also because of the card hanging in a plastic holder around her neck with a picture of the Houses of Parliament and the message “Elsie Luna – Journalist – Hear! Hear! – The political podcast for young people in the UK”. The 8 podcasts are still on line.

Elsie Luna, now 10, opened the party. She had tried to get the museum to cancel the event, calling on the museum to take positive action over the climate and ecological emergency rather than hosting those who are most responsible for creating global extinction. But the Museum failed to listen and the event was taking place.

Extinction Rebellion were not the only group to have issues with the dinner and the oil companies who are the main groups taking part and sponsoring the event. They were joined by protesters against BP’s exploitation of Senegal who came with banners and drums, and whose drummers joined together with XR’s.

More pictures at Extinction Rebellion Dinner of HOPE.

Student Friday

November 5th, 2019

Big Ben (for pedants the Elizabeth Tower or Clock Tower) and the Houses of Parliament are both under wraps, and Portcullis House playing dead with its chimneys like legs up in the air and a police ‘Liasion Officer’ spy in his pale blue waistcoat rubs his eyes as young students link arms sitting and blocking Westminster Bridge call for ‘System Change Not Climate Change’.

There is an infectious energy from these young protesters that gives me hope while our government seems to lack any real appreciation of the urgency of our situation – as well as any concern for those struggling to get by in an increasingly unequal society. Perhaps things will change at least a little if we get a change of government in the coming election. At least Labour sometimes seems to be saying the right things even if some Labour councils are seriously failing, pursuing policies of social cleansing rather than social justice.

You can see more pictures on My London Diary, along with this short text:

Students marched in London again over the climate crisis, blocking Westminster Bridge. They are inspired by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg.

They ask again where the government is, as it fritters away its time over Brexit and internal party squabbles while failing to take the urgent action needed to give life on this planet a future.

Police attempted to clear the roadway, but had little success as students simply moved around.

The students who use the hashtags #YouthStrike4Climate, #GlobalClimateStrike, #ClimateJustice, #FridaysForFuture and SchoolStrike4Climate were still sitting on the bridge when I left to go to an appointment elsewhere. I think at some point they decided to get up and march around London some more.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Stuart Heydinger dies

November 4th, 2019

A few days ago I wrote a post linking to Brian Harris’s blog post about an epic scoop by Stuart Heydinger, then photographing for The Times who apparently not only managed to stage a handshake between Vivian Fuchs and Edmund Hillary at the South Pole in 1958 but get his pictures back days before the other photographers present.

The post by Harris included extensive written comments from Heydinger, who Harris managed to find living in Germany, age 92.

On Saturday evening the Guardian online published a gallery of pictures, The photojournalism of Stuart Heydinger, edited by Greg Whitmore under the text :

The Observer’s chief photographer from 1960-66, has died aged 92. Here we look back at his outstanding photography that captured some of the key moments of 20th century history.

But perhaps the most interesting pictures in the set are not those of great events or famous men or women, but two of French men in Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the 1970s and a girl collecting water in Algeria. It’s also interesting that the set also includes an image of a lonely flooded pylon, one of a set of “eerily beautiful, quiet images which were never published” taken in 1960 during flooding around Lewes in East Sussex.

Along with the photographs is a page from Heydinger’s travel diary for May 1963- August 1964 detailing around 55 journeys by air, sea, rail and road, an exhausting schedule that took him around Europe, to the USA and Borneo as well as to Antartica and the Middle East.

Like others, I’ve long questioned the role of the heavyweight news photographers travelling internationally around the globe, jumping from country to country and story to story, often actually manufacturing rather than simply recording the news. And there are elements in his work that support those criticisms, not of him but of the industry which employed him. There is certainly no doubting that Heydinger was a heavyweight who took up that role and made and reported history.