August 2015 complete

October 6th, 2015

Class War protest against Ripper sick tourist attraction in East End – 12th August

Only just over a month behind time! Includes my holiday pictures from one of England’s smallest designated AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) a designation that adds to those larger areas of outstanding landscapes which are National Parks, and is rather more specific. Arnside & Silverdale AONB is only 75 sq km and includes “almost 100km of well-maintained footpaths and narrow lanes and byways” most of which we walked in our week there.  And the walking was more important for me than the photography, though there are a few half-decent snaps, all made with considerably lighter Fuji-X cameras & lenses rather than my usual Nikon gear.

It was good to get the news that after another 48 days of strike action the dispute at the National Gallery appears to have been resolved and that PCS rep Candy Udwin shown in my picture below has been reinstated.

Aug 2015

Morecambe Bay with Heysham Nuclear Power Station at left from Arnside Knott
Silverdale Holiday
Stanwell Moor Walk

Zita Holbourne and Lee Jasper of BARAC
BlackoutLDN solidarity with Black US victims

Protesters call for the reinstatement of Barbara and Percy, sacked for protesting for better conditions
United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2
16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest
Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs
Kashimiris Independence Day call for freedom
Sikhs call for release of political prisoners
Equalitate at Tate Modern
London Views

Candy Udwin, sacked by the National Gallery for her trade union activities as PCS rep
National Gallery 61st day of Strike
Marikana Mine Murders protest at Investec
Class War protest Ripper ‘museum’ again

Asylum prisoners in Yarl’s Wood greet protesters from behind a tall fence. Windows only open an inch or two.
Close Down Yarl’s Wood

Jeremy Corbyn sings – ‘Don’t you hear the H bombs thunder’ rather than the National Anthem!
Hiroshima Remembered 70 Years On

Feminists say ‘We have better stories’ with images of the suffragettes and other women in East London.
Class War at Jack the Ripper ‘Museum’

A placard with Arundhati Roy’s message to Vedanta ‘Take your goddamn refinery and leave’.
Foil Vedanta at mining giant’s AGM
Nitrous Oxide – ‘My Mind, My choice!’

Safia & friends from Focus E15 with a message for ‘Robin the Poor’ Wales, Mayor of Newham.
Focus E15 & Boleyn Ground campaign together
Boleyn ground fight for Social Housing

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Cable Street Ripper Horror

October 4th, 2015

Cable St 70th anniversary, October 2006

I wasn’t at Cable Street in 1936, but was expecting to be there today, 79 years to the day after the ‘battle‘, but yesterday Class War cancelled their planned protest against the Jack the Ripper Museum there. It isn’t really a museum of course, although the owner pretended it would be, getting planning permission to open a museum celebrating the history of women in London’s East End.

That would have made an interesting museum, but would have been unlikely to make the kind of money the owner was obviously after in setting up the tacky tourist attraction that has now opened. Several protests have taken place there, and there is now little doubt what most people in the area think about it – and if anyone still has any doubts about its nature they should read the review by Fern Riddell on Storify or the article based on that in the Independent newspaper.

Fern Riddell is a historian who specialises in the period and in the area, and a consultant on the BBC’s Ripper Street series, so someone whose opinion is of value. Her conclusion: ” it’s not a museum. It’s a poorly executed shock attraction.”

Earlier in their planning, before the change of purpose, the Museum had consulted a friend of mine formerly from the Museum of London who was shocked to hear her name being used to attempt to give the ‘museum’ credibility and made it very clear to the owner that this was entirely unacceptable, getting an undertaking from him not to do so – which he has now broken.

I photographed protests by Class War outside the ‘museum’ on August 5th and 12th, and filed my pictures in the usual way. There was no interest in the protests from the media and none of my pictures were used at the time. Both protests were relatively peaceful, though one small pane of glass was cracked. The protesters held up the traffic on a minor road for some minutes, made a lot of noise, and on the second occasion let off a few flares.

Lisa McKenzie at protest against the Ripper ‘museum’

In the last week, one of my pictures taken at the protest on August 5th has  appeared in several newspapers, some of them more than once. The reason is that some of the same people who organised the ‘Ripper’ protests also organised an anti-gentrification street party in Shoreditch a week ago on Saturday night.

Around a thousand people turned up and took part; I didn’t go although I had been asked to, because I’d had a busy day and its quite a trek from where I live. There was music, masks, dressing up and Class War’s banners; a lot of chanting and shouting, flares, arguments with police who tried to stop it – and some fighting with police when they started pushing people off the road.

I wasn’t there, but many others were with cameras and phones and I’ve seen the videos and heard people’s stories. There were two fairly minor incidents in which two shop fronts were attacked. There was a lot of angry shouting, and the glass of an estate agents window was cracked, and slogans daubed on a hipster-run ‘cereal shop’.

There were a few other nasty incidents recorded on video, including a police attack on a young woman which could have been really serious, and there were a few injuries and some arrests. But it is the cereal shop incident that has apparently enraged the newspapers, causing them to throw as much mud as they can at anyone connected with Class War, whether or not they were around at the time.  Someone even invented a story about the protesters – many of whom also campaign for animal rights – ripping a dog apart with their bare hands for the press. Though there were no real witnesses.

The woman with a megaphone in my picture became one of their chief targets, with some articles that can only be described as vitriolic, although she had left the protest before any trouble occurred. It’s a picture I like because it shows her as a strong and determined woman, and one which I think celebrates her and the working class culture from which she comes.

She left school shortly before she was 16, taking time off school with other women from miner’s families to support their striking men, worked 10 years in a stocking factory, then in shops etc, living in the notorious St Ann’s district of Nottingham. She became a single mother and at 30 took an Access course, going on from there to study at Nottingham University for a first degree and then her Ph.D.

Back in 1970 I bought a book, a Penguin Special, ‘Poverty: The Forgeotten Englishmen‘ by Ken Coates and Richard Silburn, based on their studies in St Ann’s (though the cover photograph by Roger Mayne was I think from North Kensington.) It was this book which inspired Lisa McKenzie to study the area she lived in and knew – and which ended up in her doctorate and the book ‘Getting By‘ that came out earlier this year.*

Ken Loach, Jasmine Stone and Lisa McKenzie, author of ‘Getting By’ talk at the book launch

Hers is really a great story of success, a positive story that my picture I think celebrates, but in the media she is portrayed as the devil, an ‘academic‘, someone who obviously doesn’t know anything about the lives of ordinary people. They suggest she is wealthy and privileged and using the lives of the poor for her advantage, but she is in a job that almost certainly pays less than the average wage and her work is all about supporting working class people and their values.

Once you put work into an agency you lose control over it. I’m sure there are uses for which my agency would not supply pictures, publications they would not supply images to, but these were articles in the mainstream press. Companies which almost any agencies would supply images to in good faith. You can’t vet articles when you are supplying pictures, and nor should you be able to or have to. We should demand higher journalistic standards from the press.

But perhaps all is not lost. I cling to the hope that many readers – even of the gutter press (and more seems to be aiming for the gutter at the moment) will see the picture for what it is – an affirmative image of a strong and obviously working-class woman protesting against the horror of a ‘shock attraction’ that glorifies ‘nameless violence inflicted on nameless women’. And perhaps there will be many, particularly working-class women who are less scared of the idea of a strong working-class woman than newspaper editors.

* Any journalist writing about her who had done even a few seconds of research would have found this information about her in an article in The Guardian: The estate we’re in: how working class people became the ‘problem’. It comes up as the second item when I search for her on Google.

The Palaces of Memory

October 2nd, 2015

If you’ve not yet got a copy of Stuart Freedman‘s The Palaces of Memory, pictures from the Indian Coffee Houses, I suggest you do now. It’s one of the most charming publications I’ve seen for a while, and I was pleased I decided to support the Kickstarter campaign – one of the 157 backers who together pledged the £10,496 that made it possible.

You can see 44 images from the Indian Coffee House project at Panos Pictures, and there are also pictures on the BBC web site and elsewhere. I was fortunate to see the photographer talking about and showing this work around six months ago to a crowded meeting of Photo-forum in London, and it was also featured on Lensculture.

Google will now find you a long list of reviews, articles and interviews about the work, but I’ll pick out just a few: Roads and Kingdoms has a nice interview with Freedman talking to their Director of Photography Pauline Eiferman; Slate’s Photo Blog Behold has a well-illustrated feature, and of course Freedman has his own web site including a blog, Umbra sumus – ‘we are but shadows’…, where his occasional posts are always worth reading.

But perhaps the nicest article I’ve so far found is  on The Delhi Walla; City Moment – People of the Book, Indian Coffee House by Mayank Austen Soofi who took Freedman’s book  to the Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place to the obvious delight of the workers whose pictures and those of their customers appear in it.

Tendance Floue at 25

October 1st, 2015

Today’s e-mail from L’Oeil de la Photographie (available here on the web) is devoted to Tendance Floue, currently celebrating its 25 anniversary. As usual there are links to other features about the photographers on L’Oeil as well as the group and show web sites.

You may never have heard of Tendance Floue, particularly if you are not French, as English media in general seem seldom to pay any great attention to photography in France, or at least photography in France by a post-Magnum generation. With a few exceptions it hasn’t really been taken up by the US dealers and museums that tend to dominate the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ photography world.

Tendance Floue is a collective which has had a remarkably stable membership over the years since they were founded in 1991 by Patrick Tourneboeuf and Mat Jacob. Born in or around the 1960s, all of the twelve photographers involved when I first came across them in 2006 are in the 25th anniversary show, and there is just one addition, Alain Willaume, who rejoined them in 2010; Caty Jan is still featured although she had to give up photography after a stroke in 2003. The Paris show continues until October 17, 2015.

When I wrote about their 20th anniversary shows five years ago, I failed to find the earlier piece I had written about them, and got at least one of my facts from memory wrong. I first met them and their work when I went to an opening which was part of the 2006 Mois de la Photo, and wrote the following short note around 4 months later.

Tendance Floue
One of the shows I visited last November during the ‘Mois de la Photo’ in Paris was that of Tendance Floue (site in French*), a French photographers’ co-operative. Literally ‘Fuzzy Tendancy”, the group, founded in 1991, now has 12 members, Pascal Aimar, Thierry Ardouin, Denis Bourges, Gilles Coulon, Olivier Culmann, Mat Jacob, Caty Jan, Philippe Lopparelli, Bertrand Meunier, Meyer, Flore-Aël Surun and Patrick Tournebœuf. Their 2006 book, Sommes-Nous? has been awarded the 2007 Infinity Award for Publications.

The Paris show was held in one of the more atmospheric venues of the month, former storage cellars in the arched space under a road close to the new Bibliothèque National, in the yard of ‘Les Frigos’, where I also saw the impressive nudes of Chilean Photographer Paz Errazuriz. As well as the images on the wall, there was also a projection, allowing the work to be seen at a large scale. Some of the pictures are indeed rather unsharp, and the group as a whole obviously sets more store on producing powerfully personal statements than on technical correctness. In a group such as this there is bound to be work by some photographers that I found more interesting than others, but it is certainly worth looking at them all on the web site. My installation view was shot handheld in the darkened space and gives some idea of the way the work was hung on the curved brick vault.

*I’m pleased to find that their web site now has a full English version.

I’ve spent some time looking for the original of that installation view – and a few other pictures I took in the show, but with no success (though it is probably still on the old CDs I keep in the loft.) The thumbnail above was with the original post, where it was ‘used by permission’ of the group. But I did come across some of my more interesting pictures from that week in Paris, which perhaps I’ll come back to in another post.

But it came to me as a reminder of how photography has moved on. Without the file I can’t exactly recall the exposure but I do know the lighting was something of a challenge for the Nikon D200 I took it on by available light. I think it would have been rather easier with the D810 at higher ISO and with a greater dynamic range. Black cats in coal cellars are now hardly a problem.

Mooning Around

September 29th, 2015

Seriously bad photographs were splashed all over the Internet yesterday, and Petapixel has a good selection of these moonshots in People Just Found Out How Bad Smartphones Are at Photographing the Moon.

I got as far as struggling out of bed in the middle of the night – not an unusual event at my age, and having emptied my bladder did put on a coat and wander into the garden looking for the moon, eventually finding it over the roof of the house and realising I could have seen it just by looking out of the bedroom window. I wasn’t too impressed although the moon was half eclipsed and looking rather orange in the darker segment, and went back to bed.

An hour or so later I woke again, and rolled out and took the few steps to peer through the curtains at the now fully eclipsed circle for a second or so before returning under the covers to sleep soundly until my radio alarm came on at the normal hour. As I listened the the news of the eclipse with a woman astronomer waxing lyrical about the experience, it did occur to me that I might have found it slightly more spectacular had I bothered to put my glasses on in the middle of the night.

Several photographer friends did post their moon images on Facebook in the morning, and they were reasonably impressive, certainly standing out among the amateur efforts, some of which were even worse than those featured on Petapixel. But I hadn’t thought it worthwhile trying to photograph the event myself.

Of course I have photographed the moon on various occasions, but it’s always been disappointing. What looks large and bright always comes out small and dull in my photographs. We seem to always see the moon as much larger than it is, due to some curious feat of mental image processing. That tiny speck in one of my holiday pictures above really did seem quite large in the sky, but on an image this size just looks like some nasty little blob.

But here is one I took earlier. During one of last year’s three ‘supermoons’ I went out into the back garden and took this hand-held with my 70-300mm lens on the Nikon D800E. The lens isn’t at its best at 300mm, but I stopped down to f8 to give it a chance. Even at ISO 200 I still only needed a shutter speed of 1/1000.  For sunlit scenes, the ‘Sunny 16’ rule says 1/ASA at f16; 1/200 f16 gives the same exposure as 1/800 f8, pretty well spot on in this case. The sky wasn’t as dark as it is in the picture – but was a sodium orange from all of the street lights around, and I cheated by darkening it in post-processing.

Even at 300mm, the moon isn’t very large on the full frame, but I cropped it drastically for the above image. It’s hardly exciting, but it does show the difference between using a camera and a phone. And if you want it red, you can ask Photoshop:

Of course the interesting photographs of the eclipse show the moon in a landscape or frame of some sort; one friend set up his tripod and tried to track the various phases of the event – and by far the most interesting was as it half disappeared behind the chimneys of the house across the road. I think the more dramatic images were probably taken with lenses in the ultra-long range, perhaps 1000mm, and will often have involved making two exposures, one from the moon and a longer one to get detail in the scene and combining the two. Perhaps you could use the HDR mode that some cameras provide.

But for a rather more interesting ‘moon’ photograph, here’s one I took 15 years ago outside Buckingham Palace, at a protest by the anarchist Movement Against the Monarchy. They had hoped to have a “2000 bum salute” at their Moon Against the Monarchy in June 2000, but a huge police presence intimidated all but a determined half dozen or so into keeping their backsides covered. Shortly after this picture was taken, a group of police rushed into the crowd and arrested an innocent French tourist, who had the misfortune to be wearing the same style of John Lennon glasses as one of those who had dropped his trousers.

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Yet More on Capa

September 28th, 2015

Those few images that Robert Capa managed to take on Omaha Beach in the morning of D-Day continue to attract attention from researchers, with a second guest post in the series on Photocritic International by amateur military historian Charles Herrick (in two parts, Part 1 and Part 2.)

From careful examination of the ten images that we now know were all that Capa took, Herrick shows exactly where on the mile long beach he landed, and is able to pinpoint his position as “just a few yards east of the Roman ruins on Easy Red.” The posts also contain much detail about the military operations which I’m content to leave to military historians, but clearly seems researched in depth.

This was a critical area of the landing, at what Herrick describes as “a seam” in the German defences which enabled the US troops to make rapid advances at this very point. By the time Capa arrived with the second wave of landings they had made considerable progress and the area was only under “light” fire, enabling the engineers that Herrick earlier identified in Capa’s pictures to get on with the work of destroying the beach obstacles.

As Herrick, with the benefit of his 26 years in the US army followed by a career as a defence contractor comments, ‘“Light” is a relative term when describing fire, especially if you are on the receiving end.’ And he goes on to comment “Perhaps we can partially excuse Capa for his elaborations; Omaha was his first opposed assault landing” and states:

Omaha Beach must have come as a shock. In the grip of that shock, he undoubtedly registered false impressions, impressions that easily morphed into the further exaggerations of Slightly Out of Focus.”

Capa’s first reported account of his landing on D-Day morning was an interview three days later which was published in a book rushed out by September 1944 was quoted in an earlier post in the series by A D Coleman and he began it by stating ““It was very unpleasant there [on Omaha Beach] and, having nothing else to do, I start shooting pictures. I shoot for an hour and a half and then my film is all used up.

Herrick comments that by the time Capa brought out his own book , Slightly Out of Focus in 1947, the story had become “far, far bloodier“:

“Capa apparently lifted the carnage that occurred elsewhere on Omaha Beach and superimposed it on his own much less deadly experiences. One only has to take a fresh, unbiased look at his photos for proof.”

To look at them at least with the trained military eye of Herrick, and also in the light of what the research by Coleman and his colleagues in the Robert Capa D-Day Project has revealed.

Capa was a photographer and not a soldier, and clearly and as Herrick says, understandably, he panicked, reacting to his false impressions of what was happening, and he took the first opportunity to get out, even though he knew he had only taken a few pictures – ten frames. Herrick tells the story of the military surgeon who landed with Capa and had a similar reaction; he was shortly given orders by the regimental commander to follow him up the beach. But as a photographer, Capa was on his own on the shore, with no one to tell him what to do.

Herrick also mentions and links to the similar detective work of another military historian who by studying the pictures has come to similar but not identical conclusions about Capa on D-Day. Coleman also notes that Herrick’s account differs in details about the timings on the day from that advanced previously in the series by him and  J. Ross Baughman, but that all of them conclude that Capa only spent “15-30 minutes at most photographing on Omaha Beach; and made only the ten surviving 35mm negatives while there.”

Although there is still room for minor differences between accounts (and Herrick’s researches throw yet more doubt on the identification of “The Face in the Surf” as Private Huston Riley), the overall picture now appears very clear.

Though not apparently to some French commentators working for Le Monde and Télérama who are apparently still to firmly under the influence of the myth to believe the evidence. It’s perhaps a matter of national pride; although Capa was not French he was adopted by them, spending a great deal of his life in Paris, and Magnum very much is.

Harder to explain is the Wikipedia article on Capa, and the separate wildly inaccurate article on his D-Day images, The Magnificent Eleven, which after recounting the myth as gospel does mention that perhaps there were never more than eleven exposures, managing to give the credit for this suggestion to John Morris, the man who invented the whole now discredited fiction in the first place.

Shaker Aamer to be freed

September 27th, 2015

I’ve never met my DAD. London, Jan 2006
Shaker Aamer’s youngest son, now almost 14 was born a few months after his capture

At last, the news we have waited too many years for. Finally, Shaker Aamer, the last UK prisoner in Guantanamo is to be released.

Joy Hurcombe of the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, June 2015

I’ve long lost count of how many times I’ve photographed and written about protests to free Shaker, including many of the regular protests by the London Guantanamo Campaign and the Free Shaker Aamer campaign.  The first I remember covering was in January 2006, when a protest march called for the release of nine people with British citizenship or right to remain where still held there, Shaker Aamer among them.

Those orange jump suits were soon a familiar sight at protests. London, Jan 2006

Those jump suits caused be no end of photographic problems, which I’ve written about over the years, because they were so bright – and often fluorescent – and in an area of the spectrum which often causes difficulties.

Battersea, Nov 2013

The Free Shaker Aamer campaign has been coming to stand opposite Parliament every week while it is in session for several years, and I’ve photographed them many times, as well as at other protests they have had outside the MI6 headquarters in Vauxhall and in Battersea, close to where his family lives.

Vauxhall, Aug 2013

Amnesty International protest at US Embassy, Jan 2007

Every year since 2007 I think I have photographed events to mark the anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, some outside the US embassy, others elsewhere in London. There have also been protests on the anniversary of Shaker’s illegal rendition to Guantanamo from Bagram, on St Valentines Day, Feb 14th, 2002.

Aisha Maniar, organiser of the London Guantánamo Campaign speaks at Downing St, Feb 2015

It was news that was welcomed by almost everyone, including politicians of all the main political parties who have supported the campaign for his release. Almost everyone, except perhaps someone in the BBC, who invited a spokesperson from the US right wing Henry Jackson Society to come on and spread some unsubstantiated lies about him, telling anonymous rumours that the US authorities were unable to find any evidence for as if they were facts. Had their been any real evidence they would never have cleared him for release, even for Saudi Arabia, as they did first eight years ago in 2007 and again two years later.

One of the many protests by the Free Shaker Aamer campaign every week Parliament was in session. Feb 2015

Its hard to understand why, and it certainly can’t be explained by their usual ideas about balance. Perhaps the only credible explanation is that it was the start of a campaign by MI6 and the US security services to discredit the eye-witness evidence that Shaker may give about torture and their part in it, both at Guantanamo and before that at Bagram. Shaker too when in Guantanamo stood up for the other prisoners; one of few there among detainees and jailers understanding and speaking both English and Arabic, he became both a translator and an advocate. The BBC claims to be above such things, but unfortunately often bows to political pressure, as we have seen in the past week in their failure to cover #piggate.

Two posts on the protests in June:

Magna Carta justice for Shaker Aamer
New MPs Stand with Shaker

And too many more on My London Diary to post them all.

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175th Birthday

September 26th, 2015

In case you missed it, an interesting post by Larry J Schaaf, To the Calotype: Happy 175th Birthday! points out that it was “during this week in 1840 that Henry Talbot made the tremendous breakthrough that was to propel his negative/positive photography into the wider public arena.”

The discovery was that of the latent image, and the calotype process which utilised it was the first practical negative/positive process, the true forerunner of almost all photography that followed, at least up to the advent of digital. Schaaf’s discussion is an interesting one, pointing out that Talbot in that week realised the potential of the latent image, while both he and Herschel had previously seen the phenomenon as an annoying anomaly rather than something to be exploited, and that its significance in the daguerreotype – the mercury from the broken thermometer that revealed the image – had simply been accepted as a part of the process.  It is of course chemically very different, whereas the reaction of gallic acid – a substance that seemed to react in so magical a way that Talbot cut its name from his notebook to keep its secret – is essentially the same as that of metol, hydroquinone, phenidone and the other developers we came to rely on in later photography.

Schaaf also clarifies an issue that still foxes many who write about old photography, making clear that there are no calotype prints. The calotype was a process for making negatives, which where then printed as salt prints. There were good practical reasons for this. Some have to do with appearance, and calotype negatives seldom have the qualities of a good print, generally lacking something in contrast and maximum density as well as seldom having clean highlights, and often the colour is not attractive, but it was also a matter of practicality. Hand coated photographic materials lack the consistency of factory made products and required to be printed by inspection (with experience needed to judge the changes that processing would make.) You cannot inspect a latent image, and test strips are of limited use when one sheet may differ in speed from the next.

It wasn’t long before some factories began making materials in a more controlled fashion and when works were set up to produce prints in quantity the increase in speed made the use of the latent image and print development a great commercial advantage. By 1851, when Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard founded his Imprimerie Photographique in Lille, the albumen paper he made was consistent enough to allow development, enabling them to make several hundred prints in a day from a single negative rather than the handful – perhaps even only two or three – possible through printing out. But these developed prints were a rather cold grey and rather less attractive than those printed out which had finer silver grains which gave a warm brown, often slightly purplish tone. Gold toning improved their appearance somewhat.

It was only around thirty years later that print development came into more general use, with some of the new gelatin coated papers, and many photographers continued to use printing out papers, particularly for proof prints, well into the twentieth century.  They have of course more recently enjoyed something of a renaissance with the rise of interest in ‘alternative processes‘ in the 1970s and 80s, with which I dabbled for some years. But in the end I found photography far more interesting.

The State of News Photography

September 24th, 2015

World Press Photo, the University of Stirling and the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism recently surveyed news photographers around the world and have just published the results of the survey.

There is an clear article on Petapixel giving some of the key findings (based on the report’s ‘Executive Summary’), and it also contains a link to the full report – all 76 pages – released by World Press Photo yesterday, so I won’t go into details of the report here, but simply make a few comments.

The photographers sent the survey were  the over 5000 from around the world who submitted work to the 2015 World Press Photo, and about a third of these responded. There were some problems because many of the submissions are made by agencies and the actual photographers were then less likely to get the survey, and non-English speakers were probably less likely to respond as the survey was in English only, but there were still responses from photographers in over a hundred countries; the largest from any country came from Italy with 143 respondents, and just over half came from Europe, with only a perhaps surprisingly low 142 from North America.

Of course only a particular section of working photographers sends in work to WPP, not least because of our perceptions about the kind of work that is successful in these annual competitions. In North America too there are perhaps other annual competitions which attract greater attention than the European-based WPP.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the report for me was on journalistic ethics, where photographers were asked whether they ever staged, manipulate or enhanced their images.

Perhaps surprisingly, only just over a third of news photographers stated they never stage images, with around half saying they sometimes do. As the report comments “This is certainly contrary to codes of practice at most news organisations and indicates an important gap between the codes and what happens in the field”. Unsurprisingly North American photographers were far less likely to do so (56.5% Never) than their European counterparts (29.4%). My own experience in working for a US company in the past certainly suggested a much greater emphasis on journalistic ethics – and not just in photography – than in the UK.

While over three-quarters of photographers agreed that the addition or subtraction of material content (manipulation) in images was a serious issue, only 9.4% stated in this confidential survey that they never did so, with 28.9% claiming they always did! It certainly suggests that such practices are far more routine than I had every suspected, and I think casts serious doubt on the whole practice of our profession.

The whole report contains much more, with a whole section of quotations from the 300 photographers who replied to the open-ended question “so what is important to you?” making particularly interesting reading. The ‘Conclusions’ at the end of the report also make interesting reading, and deserve greater prominence – they seem a little hidden, starting on page 66 of the report. Don’t stop at the ‘Executive Summary’.

A New Magna Carta?

September 23rd, 2015

A police officer comes to tell protesters they need permission use a megaphone to speak in Parliament Square

On June 15th 1215 King John met the Barons at Runnymede and put his seal on Magna Carta, which several hundred years later began to be touted as the basis for our legal system and the “foundation of our liberties”. John immediately then went off and wrote to the Pope, Innocent III, and got him to declare it “null and void of all validity forever” on the grounds that he had signed it under duress.

There were later versions of Magna Carta that reinstated the important parts of the treaty so far as our law and liberties are concerned, and we might have been better to wait to celebrate until 2017 or 2025, but in perhaps the whole thing is misguided, as the rights and freedoms involved were not novel, but date back certainly to before the Norman conquest; Magna Carta was their reinstatement rather than their genesis.

What we need now is not a celebration of Magna Carta, but a new Magna Carta, to replace the rights and freedoms that we have lost – and which if our current government has its way we will lose more of, with proposals to repeal Human Rights legislation, bring in corporate control under TTIP, further restrict trade union rights, close down freedom of information requests and more.

Of course it isn’t just the current Tory government who are responsible, not just them and the ConDem coalition. The two previous New Labour governments brought in an enormous number of new laws, many of the impinging on our freedom, and of course governments both Tory and Labour before them. But it does seem to have taken on a new impetus since the last election.

Police prevent people coming to celebrate Magna Carta at the Runnymede Eco-Village

It isn’t just laws, but also the way that the state and authorities act, often using the police and security agencies and abusing the laws. And a very clear example of this was over the suppression of the Magna Carta festival planned at the Runnymede Eco-Village, which I’ve written about here earlier. A huge police operation took place to stop just several hundred people celebrating peacefully close to where the charter was signed.

The Eco-Village was evicted and their homes destroyed around a week ago, following a court decision a few days earlier, which privileged the rights of property owners above those which were important in the thirteenth century charters. The villagers were looking after the forest rather better than the owners, and were not in the way of the development at the top of the hill.

On the anniversary of Magna Carta, I began at the Truth & Justice Magna Carta Day Protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice by the Campaign for Truth & Justice. While there were – as my account I think makes clear – some rather odd characters and views among those taking part, it is hard to doubt that there is something rotten at the heart of our society.

From there I went to another rather odd group, Voice for Justice, with whom I felt rather less empathy. It really did seem to me that these people were protesting for the freedom to be a bigot rather than standing up for the kind of values which I feel important. Though some of their placards said ‘Magna Carta – Equal Rights for All’ they seemed firmly opposed to equality laws.

Protesters wore yellow rubber gloves like cleaners might wear

Not far away, the PCS were protesting for a true living wage for all governent workers on the 25th International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards outside the Treasury. Fine I thought, but why just those who work for HMRC. All workers deserve a living wage – something even the government now seem to believe in, though their idea of a living wage is far too low.

Selma James

Back in Parliament Square, another protest was taking place, Close Yarls Wood, End Detention! with the All African Women’s Group leading a rally in the International week against detention centres, calling for the closure of all immigration detention centres to be shut down. And up came a police officer to tell them of the restrictions on protest outside Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn MP

I’m pleased to say that they more or less ignored him, with Selma James and another speaker being followed by 3 MPs, Jeremy Corbyn, Kate Osamor and John McDonnell before the protesters marched to Downing St to deliver a report on rape and sexual abuse in Yarl’s Wood.

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Downing St was convenient for me, because the next event in my diary, Magna Carta justice for Shaker Aamer was taking place on the opposite side of Whitehall. Speakers there again included Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

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