Homage or appropriation?

December 6th, 2019

As so often A D Coleman got me thinking with his look at The Waters of Our Time in his post Three Weeks in Bookworm Heaven (3), one of a short series about his recent 3 week residency on a Teti Photography Fellowship at the Institute of Art and Design at New England College in Manchester, NH, USA.

The book by photographer Thomas Roma and his writer and musician son Giancarlo T. Roma is very clearly based in its concept and design on the ground-breaking 1955 publication The Sweet Flypaper of Life in which photographs by Roy DeCarava were accompanied with a fictional text inspired by the images written by the poet Langston Hughes, who edited a larger selection to fit his writing. This was the first monograph by a Black photographer, and the publisher had been reluctant to publish it simply as a book of photographs but accepted the work with the much better-known poet’s name as co-author.

If you don’t have a copy of The Sweet Flypaper of Life you can get an idea of the book in another page turning video which shows not the original but the 1984 Howard University Press edition, and even the music is rather better and more appropriate than the Roma book linked above.

Not that Richie Havens version of the Jerry Merrick song “Follow” which accompanies that page-through is bad; it’s a great song but pacing the view of the book to it just doesn’t work, and the words are an unfortunate intrusion into the viewing of the pictures. Sentences from Merrick’s lyrics are also quoted at intervals in the text of the book – which accounts for the pacing of the video which more or less keeps up with there use. It’s quite hard to keep up with the pace reading the rest of the text, and I had to pause the video a few times both to look at the pictures and to read it.

Unfortunately, although there are some interesting images, too many fail to have much interest to me, and the juxtaposition with the images seldom seems to really make sense. Even the layout of the images and text, a feature of the original work, seems shoe-horned into an inappropriate format. Coleman has clearly studied the work at greater length and depth than I and in book form rather than the video, and it is hard to disagree with his conclusions.

Fortunately for those of us who lacked the foresight to buy the 1955 original of The Sweet Flypaper of Life, a near-facsimile edition with an afterword came out in 2018 and can still be bought new as well as second-hand.

You can also watch several short clips about De Carava on You Tube as well as a lengthy panel discussion of ‘The Sweet Flypaper of Life’ moderated by Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem -has an introduction to the book at around 19’12”, after which each of the panel, including A D Coleman, talks about their favourite image from the book. There is a set of his images on NPR, along with some links.


Hackney XR March

December 5th, 2019

On Friday I’d had to leave the Extinction Rebellion ‘The Air That We Grieve’ march as it reached the Hackney border to go to a protest at Senate House, but on Saturday afternoon there was another march as a part of the ‘East London Uprising weekend, walking through the centre of Hackney from Hackney Fields and on to the centre of the event in London Fields.

Before the march in Hackney Fields there were a couple of things taking place, a dance performance which I found less than exciting visually and some kind of meditation thing which was frankly off-putting. There is an odd-ball new age side to XR that I think works very strongly against it appealing to the great majority of people and which certainly turns me off.

But there were the people, the giant bees and the skeletons to photograph, so I stayed and took pictures, and of course I wanted to photograph the march. But it did make me think that perhaps this was a part of the reason why of the several million East Londoners only a couple of hundred were with us for this march. XR has had a remarkable success, but only with some sections of the community and I think rather more in small towns and rural areas than in working class urban communities.

Looking through the many pictures I made on the march it doesn’t really look like a Hackney event, though I’m sure many or most of those taking part were from the area. Official figures show that “around 40% of the population come from Black and Minority Ethnic groups” but these were severely under-represented.

This isn’t a criticism of those that did take part, and I think the XR has been important in raising awareness of the urgency of the enviromental crisis we are now facing. It has performed a vital service and we see its efforts represented to some extent in the manifestos of all the political parties in the current general election – though so far there has been little real commitment by our government – or those of most other countries.

It was a hot day and I’d been on my feet for several hours and I needed a rest by the time the protest passed Hackney Town Hall. I had intended to continue to the festival taking place on London Fields, but couldn’t bring myself to walk any further, and after a brief rest made my way to Hackney Central to begin my journey home.

More pictures at East London Extinction Rebellion March.


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.


Fuji or Olympus?

December 4th, 2019

This is the question I’ve been asking myself for some weeks or months. For a year or so I’ve been finding a camera bag full of Nikon gear too heavy to carry for the length of time needed to cover events in London. It’s mainly standing around that I find a problem so far as my health is concerned, and I have to remember to either sit down or to keep moving to stop my ageing veins becoming inflamed. Walking is a little better, though I do get tired much more quickly, and while I used to walk for the length of a working day and perhaps cover ten or a dozen miles, now I get tired and give up in half the time.

I can still run when I need to, though not quite as far or as fast as when young. Last Saturday when I saw a march going down Whitehall from in front of the National Gallery I ran to catch up with the front of it, around 600 yards in the fastest time I’ve done for some years. But still slow compared to my youth, when before smoking took its toll I recorded some decent but not outstanding times. I once won a quarter mile at the local youth sports in a world record time and at least fifty yards ahead of the next runner. The timekeepers ran up to me pointing at the time on their watches, and in a perhaps stupid fit of honesty I told them that the race officials had put the finishing tape in the wrong place. I was very annoyed as the conditions had been perfect and I would surely have recorded a personal best on the day over the full distance.

But no I feel a great need to cut down the weight I carry, and the Nikons are only for special occasions (the D810 is now my slide scanner – more about that one day in another post.)

For some years my holiday cameras have been Fujis. I started with the fixed lens Fuji X100, then went on to an X-E2, followed before too long by an X-E3. I swapped my Leica M8 with a friend for an X-Pro1 because I wanted to work in colour without all the fuss that the M8 needed. All of these Fujis were good in their way – and if I could be satisfied with just a say 28, 35 and 50mm equivalent lenses I would have been happy with the X Pro1. But I really got serious with Fuji with the X-T1.

I tried working with the X-T1 and one of the Nikons. It was still a fairly heavy combination, but the X-T1 was pretty good (if occasionally mystifying.) Its 10-24mm wideangle zoom was an improvement optically than the Nikon 18-35mm that I’d bought when the 16-36mm gave up the ghost (it remains on my desk with an equally almost certainly beyond economic repair D700 as an expensive paperweight) though sometimes a little slow to focus. It was good to have the extra wide angle that its 15-36mm equivalent provided – I sometimes found the Nikon’s 18mm not quite wide enough.

But things were still too heavy. And when I saw an Olympus OMD M5 II selling new for just over £400, Micro Four Thirds seemed to be the answer (as one of my colleagues had been telling me whenever we met.) Along with the body I bought the absurdly small and light Olympus 18- 150mm, also going cheap. Just over 3 inches long and only 10 oz. I don’t own the Nikon equivalent, but it is half as long again, weighs almost three times as much and costs over twice what I paid for the OM lens.

And using the M5 II usually turned out to be a great experience, except for a few quirks – the most serious of which was perhaps the ease with which the main control dial could be inadvertantly moved. Working in shutter priority it is far too easy to find yourself taking pictures at 1/8th rather than the 1/250th you have consciously selected. Though with its effective in-camera stabilisation the pictures were still usually sharp unless anyone moved.

I don’t make a great deal of use of long lenses, but this August I spent some time testing the Nikon telephotos I do have, an elderly 70-300 and a couple of shorter zooms (one a DX) against the Olympus. Despite the much smaller 4/3 sensor, this gave the sharpest images and I could see no difference in the amount of detail.

For the past months I’ve been working almost all the time with the Fuji X-T1 and the Olympus M5 II. I’ve bought an expensive Panasonic Leica wide angle zoom for the Olympus, and can chose either camera for wide-angle or telephoto use, and can’t quite decide which I prefer. Both cameras have their quirks and neither is as straightforward to use as the Nikons. And winter weather and working in poor light have made some limitations felt, particularly with the noise in Olympus images at ISO over 3200. The D750 gives noticeably better results at ISO 6400 and focuses better in low light.

Of course the X-T1 is quite an old model by now – and the M5 II is now being updated as the M5 III. It would be easier to work with two cameras from the same marque, and I’ve been wondering which way to go. The M5 III seems only a minor upgrade on the II, and annoyingly takes slightly different batteries. I’ve been thinking of getting a second M5 II instead of waiting for the III, and the price is now even slightly lower. The X-T30 looks much more of an upgrade on the XT1, and is even lighter than the Olympus, but is not weatherproof, and I have more Fuji lenses… With some special offers and rebates the difference in cost isn’t great…


Two Parades

December 3rd, 2019

I can’t now remember why I was walking up Whitehall on a Saturday morning in July, but I think I must have gone to photograph a protest that had been advertised to take place in Parliament Square that didn’t happen. That would not be too unusual, as it is very easy to create an event on Facebook, but actually getting people to turn up is often harder. And although quite a few people may click to say they are interested or going they may well not actually turn up.

Fortunately in London though some things may not happen, there are others that take place which I’ve not known about beforehand, and if I have any interest in them I will stop and take a few pictures.

Fourteen years earlier, I’d photographed a Belgian commemoration of victims of the Second World War at the Cenotaph, with some veterans and their widows in attendance. Apparently this annual celebration had started before that war, following the death of King Albert I of Belgium, a keen climber who died after falling down a Belgian mountain in February 1934. Albert’s uncle, King George V, decided to grant them the annual ceremony to honour him and the Belgian contribution to the Great War.

Judging from my photographs the event back in 2005 was very much less formal than this year’s more military event, where barriers kept me off the road and behind the curious tourists lining them. This year I hardly stopped to take pictures as I was on my way along the street, a little annoyed that I couldn’t catch a bus instead of walking to Leicester Square.

The parade from Leicester Square that I was hurrying to, the The Vegan For Life Parade, was described as a fun parade through central London to promote a vegan lifestyle. While not wishing to be anti-vegan – and I certainly think eating less meat and other animal products is a good thing – fun is not a word I associate with vegans, who usually seem to be in hectoring mode, so a ‘fun’ protest seemed a good idea, and probably more effective at converting people to the cause.

And while there was just a little of that self-righteous vegan evangelistic zeal many of the posters and placards were rather more humourous and less confrontational than at other vegan events I’ve photographed.

I couldn’t stay for the march, which started late, as I wanted to go back to Extinction Rebellion’s East London Uprising where an event was about to start on Hackney Fields.

Belgians commemorate Second World War victims (scroll down the page)
Belgian Army Cenotaph Parade

Vegan for Life Parade


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.


IWGB welcomes new Vice Chancellor

December 2nd, 2019

Although Universities like to present themselves as centres of enlightenment, when it comes to their relationship with workers who provide vital services to them, things are rather different. Unions including the IWGB have a long record of fighting and eventually winning battles against intransigent university managements for the London Living Wage and for better terms and conditions of service.

The IWGB, supported by other unions, after a series of protests and strikes in the ‘3 Cosas’ campaign won improved sick pay and holiday pay for outsourced workers at the University of London (Central Administration). But outsourced workers employed by contracting companies to work for the university are still under far worse conditions than those directly employed by the university, and often subject to poor and bullying managers, and a new campaign began in 2017 to bring them into direct employment.

Actions by IWGB members and its supporters – including many university students and staff – forced to the University to make a committment to bring the workers in-house, but a year later this promise was still to be kept, with only 12 receptionists having been brought back to direct employment

This action followed a failure of the newly appointed University Vice-Chancellor Wendy Thomson to reply to the IWGB’s request for a meeting to discuss the issue. Instead of talking with the IWGB union about their demand for all the workers to be taken into direct employment without delay the University has been spending large amounts on buying in extra security staff.

Although the great majority of the staff involved are now IWGB members, the University continues to take advantage of our immoral trade union laws which enable them to ignore the union and instead only officially talk and negotiate with a union which has no or very few members among the workers involved.

To their great shame our larger established trade unions collude with this practice – and even often claim the credit for concessions which have only been won because of the work of the IWGB and other grass roots unions who similarly remain unrecognised by the employers. Workers have a right to choose who should recognise them, and this is something that the unions once fought for but now too often refuse to support.

The 12 receptionists were given new contracts in May 2019, but these were negotiated with another union “behind their backs and behind the back of their chosen trade union, the IWGB“, and 7 of the 12 have brought grievances against the university, some of which involve a breach of transfer of employment (TUPE) regulations.

Since this protest, the University have also set a timetable to bring the  security officers in-house in May 2020 and cleaners in-house in November 2020, but have refused to bring the gardeners also involved back in house.

The IWGB are continuing to demand that the gardeners are also brought back in house and that any new contracts should be made in consultation with the union to which the workers belong and be approved by them.

More about the protest and more pictures at  IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor


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.


March for Clean Air

December 1st, 2019

Extinction Rebellion East London had organised a whole weekend of event , a festival of play, protest and education, the East London Uprising calling for a rapid end to the use of fossil fuels.

Apart from their huge contribution to our increasing carbon dioxide levels which are leading to unprecedented man-made global heating the will put the future of humanity at risk, the pollution levels already present in London and other cities from coal, petrol and fuel oils which pollute the air with toxic chemicals and particulates is already causing many thousands to suffer from various often serious lung diseases and is estimated to lead to almost 10,000 early deaths in London alone.

The marchers met in a small open space called Paradise Gardens, between the busy Cambridge Heath Road and houses in Paradise Row. It may have seemed like paradise when these houses were built in the late 18th and early 19th century, and doubtless they are now horrifically expensive, but this paradise is now highly polluted.

The march set off from Bethnal Green to Hackney behind a banner ‘The Air That We Grieve’, and included a marching jazz band, and of course plenty of families with children. As well as the jazz band there were samba drummers, and the ‘king of the bottle tops’ and others.

The march attracted considerable interest as it went up the Cambridge Heath Road, with many expressing support. But there was no general uprising and perhaps there are releatively few who are actually changing the way they behave, changing to lower carbon lifestyles as we all need to do. It requires a much greater urgency from a government which is prepared to make statements but not to take on the vested short-term interests of many of its backers by significant green investments and policies that will really impact on personal choices.

More pictures from the event at XR East London marches for clean air


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.


Mayfair Mayhem

November 30th, 2019

I don’t like going to Mayfair. Too much conspicuous consumption on display, too much affluence and waste. It isn’t envy – mostly I wouldn’t want those excessively expensive things you see in shops and through windows, nor the expensive menus etc. I’m largely a man of simple tastes, and happier to share expensive works of art in the National Gallery rather than hang them on my own private wall.

In part its the people. Though I’ve known and liked some who are wealthy there are too many who are obnoxious, who look on the people who work for them as dirt, or just couldn’t give a jot about others. Of course there are poor people who are obnoxious too, but generally in ways that are less obtrusive.

Clubs like LouLou’s with a ‘exclusive’ tag and a membership (in 2017) of £1,800 and described by a fawning article on the Observer website as “the place to be for royals, billionaires, A-list celebrities and socialites” seems to be a magnet for the uncaring and obnoxious, run by the son of Lady Annabel Goldsmith who has given more than £268,000 to Nigel Farage’s UKIP and donated £20,000 to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign.

But despite this huge wealth, LouLou’s pays its kitchen porters a pittance, and the IWGB has been supporting their claim for the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour and for decent terms and conditions of service such as sick pay. Currenly the porters who are mainly migrant workers get only £9 per hour. This was I think their second protest outside the club.

Henry Chango-Lopez, President of the IWGB, said:
“It is unfair that the porters who allow billionaires to wine and dine in luxury and secrecy are left hung out to dry. The porters can see straight through 5 Hertford Street’s bribes and know that outsourcing will only lead to further exploitation. The restaurant needs to give justice to its workers and put them all under the same banner.”

https://iwgb.org.uk/en/post/5cf8f67de9521/iwgb-demands-end-to-poverty

I think it was a genuine accident when police knocked one of the protesters to the ground, an officer walking backward into him. But the whole attitude of the police was deferential to the club owners, their security men and guests but hostile towards the protesters, two of whom were arrested.

More at IWGB demand living wage at LouLou’s .


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.


Robert Frank’s London

November 29th, 2019

I’ve long been an admirer of Robert Frank’s pictures taken in London, and you can see a fine selection of these in the feature Extraordinary Black And White Photographs Of London In The Early 1950s.

There are at least two videos paging through the book London Wales on You Tube, and I recommend that by Алексей Гуменюк only because I think he is a better page-turner, though his commentary and the sound track perhaps add a certain charm – but you can turn the sound off if it annoys you. Of course if you have read my earlier thoughts on the book or otherwise bought it you can turn the pages yourself. It’s better.

Frank’s London is a city (and City) long lost, with men in bowler hats and men carrying sacks of coal, both enshrouded by the pea-soupers which the coal produced (and in the second part of the book, he goes to photograph the men who mined it.)

Thankfully those days of almost solid air in London are long gone, though I can just remember them. But appearances are deceptive and London’s air is still toxic, leading to huge amounts of miserable illness and an estimated almost 10,000 early deaths each year, with levels of pollutants typically well above the EU legal limits in many streets and schoolyards.

The City too has changed, though still equally toxic. We no longer have an Empire – it had already begun to disappear when Frank coughed his way through those streets, but neo-colonialism has replaced colonialism, and many of the world’s most toxic companies – for example in mining – are still London based, and the City is the money laundering capital of the world.

Merchants of Death

November 28th, 2019

At the end of the month that this protest tour took place, the UK government issued its UK Defence & Security Export Statistics for 2018. These revealed that UK arms sales in 2018 amounted to £14bn, making the UK the world’s second biggest arms exporters, with around half the sales of the USA. Britain had 19% – almost a fifth of global arms sales – well ahead in 2018 of competitors Russia at 14% and France with 9%.

Most UK sales are to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE in particular purchasing large quantities of UK arms. Over the 10 year period covered by the report, the Middle East accounted for 60% of UK arms sales, though in 2018 it was around 77%. One factor in that increase was the war in Yemen.

According to CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade),

The UK has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombing began in March 2015.

The weapon categories include approximately:
£2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
£1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

https://www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/stop-arming-saudi/arms-sales

UK weapons used in Yemen include Typhoon and Tornado aircraft and ALARM missiles from BAE systems, Paveway bombs from Raytheon, PGM500 bombs and Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles from MBDA as well as UK-made cluster bombs which were exported from the UK in the 1980s. There are more details about the companies currently exporting arms to Saudi Arabia on the CAAT site.

As well as protesting, CAAT took the government to court over British-made arms being used in Yemen, and on 20th June 2019 the Court of Appeal ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen was unlawful. The government are fighting this decision, taking it to the Supreme Court but had to apologise in September for “inadvertantly” breaking the ban over two export licences.

I joined the tour late after being held up by overcrowding led to a slow queue to get into the tube station and then down to the platforms due to Pride, and the crowds around Lower Regent Street made it impossible for the tour to visit the offices of Lockheed Martin. But I was present for the visits to G4S, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, as well as for the speeches about Lockheed Martin – with each company being presented with a ‘blue plaque’ for their sins.

The highlight of the tour was the stop outside Buckingham Palace, where the plaque (complete with spelling mistake) was simply for their support of King Hamad in his violent repression of the people of Bahrain. But in the speeches we heard how the Royal Family played an important role with their visits backing arms sales around the world. Prince Andrew has been in the news recently for other reasons, but here was singled out for his services, in arms sales to corrupt regimes. Since it wasn’t possible to approach Buckingham Palace more closely, the blue plaque for the palace was left on the Victoria Monument facing it.

More from the tour at London’s Sinister Arms Trade


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.


Pride should be a Protest

November 27th, 2019

After around 20 years of photographing the annual Pride in London I decided I had had enough. As I’ve written often before, Pride has moved from being a protest for gay rights to becoming a corporate jolly, and this year charging entry fees that have prevented many of the more radical groups from taking part officially.

So this year I didn’t bother to apply for accreditation to cover Pride, something which has become more or less essential in recent years. And later I heard that Pride had tried to refuse accreditation to many press photographers as well as more or less banning those they did accredit from where they would be able to make decent pictures. After a great deal of aggravation and complaints from the NUJ and BPPA there were some compromises, but many colleagues decided to have a day off this year.

Two years ago instead of covering the official march I’d gone with the Migrants Rights and Anti-Racist Bloc who had tried to join in the event and when they were refused had held up Pride and then marched along the route ahead of the official event. And last year I’d gone into the suburbs while Pride was taking place for a march celebrating the 70th anniversary of the NHS and against plans to close acute facilities at Epsom and St Helier Hospitals in south London.

For 2019 I decided that there were two events I wanted to cover, one completely unrelated to Pride, but the other the Queer Liberation March in protest against the increasing corporate nature of Pride which was planning to march at the end of the official parade.

This was meeting in Regent’s Park, where some of those taking part in the official event were also gathering, and at first it was difficult to tell the two groups apart. Gradually as some left to take up their place in Pride things became clearer, and it also became clear that I was in for a very long wait before anything was going to happen as Pride was moving only very slowly.

I’m not good at waiting, and decided to go and join the unrelated event, intending to return later. My journey took me much longer than expected because of the crowds for Pride, and by the time I had finished photographic the second event I was feeling tired and could not be bothered to return to find the group from Regent’s Park.

It was a poor decision, as the Queer Liberation March turned out to be rather interesting. Pride stewards tried to stop them marching along the parade route and there were scuffles with stewards and police, before police decided that they must be allowed to continue. My colleague who had stayed and waited with them got some really interesting pictures and I had missed the fun.

More at Pride is a Protest


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.