I’ve never been a fan of The Sun newspaper, and have never bought a copy, though I have leafed through the occasional copy left on the train or elsewhere. It’s always seemed stuffed full of non-news about so-called celebrities and opinionated views lacking any factual basis with only the occasional actual news story, usually given an impressively shallow treatment. To me it’s always been the kind of newspaper that makes it hard to hold the views I have about the importance of a free press. And of course The Sun isn’t a free press, but a press controlled by the interests of one man, the owner of the giant media corporation which owns it. It isn’t about all the news that’s fit to print, but about all that Murdoch wants printed, news or not.
Why Murdoch should want pictures like those on Page 3 printed was simple when the paper was launched; it was a straight-forward commercial decision that he thought it would increase sales. It reflected and reinforced a particularly insulting view of the male working-class audience he wanted to buy the paper. It’s a decision he is now apparently having second thoughts about, as the world has changed since the first Page 3 appeared in 1970, shortly after Murdoch took over the title. Around 40% of Sun readers are women now, and the No More Page 3 petition has so far attracted over 200,000 signatures.
When I wrote about photography for a living, I used to get fairly frequent approaches from so-called ‘glamour’ studios, asking me to publicise their activities, and sometimes offering me the chance to attend their courses free of charge. Although at times I wrote about photography of the nude (male and female) my response to them was always that I found the photography they promoted of no interest, though perhaps I tried to put it politely. But my objection to ‘Page 3′ is not that it shows part-naked women, but that it trivialises what is something very basic and fundamental to our human condition. Worse than that, I think it is essentially dishonest, telling lies about our humanity.
Frankly too, ‘Page 3′ is boring. That’s not to in any way disrespect the young women involved, but the mould into which they are processed. And in many ways the photographers and others involved in that processing are very professional in what they do. It probably isn’t something I could do – but then I don’t want to. I’d find it hard to live with myself if I did.
Part of the reason why ‘Page 3′ is boring is the near-interchangeability of the models, day after day. Real women are far more varied and more interesting – even if not half-naked – and of course not just, and even to a photographer not largely, for their physical characteristics. Too often women I’m photographing tell me that they “don’t look good in photographs” and I think my pictures of them prove the opposite to the world – if not to their own satisfaction.
One of the photographers had brought a chalk board for people to write their reasons for being at the event and be photographed holding. I took pictures of some of them holding it too and you can see them in No More Page Three on My London Diary, but I was too busy taking photographs to write my own view at the event.
Photographically the main problem I encountered was wind. It wasn’t a bad day, but a chilly breeze was being generated or attracted by the Shard and the News UK towers, and the candles on the cake for the second birthday of the campaign kept blowing out. I was also in danger of over-indulging in the seventies party food!
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