Archive for the ‘My Own Work’ Category

Down River

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

This was the River Hull from Drypool Bridge back in 1977, in what was known as the Old Harbour, in use from before Hull had docks, and still in use in 1977. Those barges in the foreground were moored in front of Rank’s Clarence Mill, one of Hull’s great landmarks,  rebuilt after being almost completely destroyed in the war.

That same waterfront, seen looking upriver towards where I took the earlier picture in February this year is rather different. There are only two vessels moored and one of those is the museum ship Artic Corsair, Hull’s last surviving sidewinder trawler, bought by the council in 1993 and now occasionally opened to the public. The other at right is the Dovedale, built as an inland tanker in 1962 that has clearly seen better days.

There are three new bridges across the Hull, two of them footbridges and the other carrying the heavy traffic of the A63, including much going to and from Hull’s King George V dock, as well as a tidal barrier.

And past the tidal barrier at the mouth of the river is of course now The Deep, a major visitor attraction.  The message on the side of the Tidal Barrier was an art installation which enabled people to put up their slowly scrolling messages on it. Hull has always suffered from flooding, with much of the area being very close to sea level and reclaimed from marshland. The tidal barrier keeps out tidal flooding, but the dramatic floods in the summer of 2007 in which almost 8,000 homes were flooded and 1300 businesses effected came from heavy inland rainfall converging on the area and swamping the rivers and drains.

A day later I joined around twenty other  people for a ride on the most recent bridge, the footbridge at Scale Lane, which was designed to allow people to be on it while it swings around through about 90 degrees to leave the river clear.

Of course with little or no river traffic, there is seldom a real need for the bridge to open,  but it still has to be able to open – along with the other bridges across the River Hull – if a vessel requests passage.  Last week in an art event as part of Hull2017, all 13 bridges between East and West Hull were opened together for a minute at the Autumn Equinox (or technically around 45 minutes before it), splitting the city in two. There is considerable rivalry between the two halves and some Hull residents would like the opening to be permanent – and one listed bridge has been open permanently since 1994.

The bridge rotates around an axis close to the west bank of the river, where a curved walkway remains in contact with the land, but the other end swings out across the river, with gates on the approach and on the bridge itself being closed seconds before the bridge begins to open. It then moves slowly and steadily, fully opening in a minute or so before moving back and into position again. It isn’t exactly a thrilling ride, but interesting and free  and once or twice a week (times on the Hull corporation web site) makes sure that the bridge will still work.

More pictures
River Hull
A Ride on Scale Lane Bridge

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Finsbury Park Again

Monday, September 25th, 2017

I walked past the New River on what seemed a long march on Saturday, against the London Borough of Haringey’s intention to give away a couple of billion pounds of public property to a rather doubtful Australian property developer. It’s a course of action that should be criminal, but unfortunately our laws are seldom written to protect the rights of ordinary people, many of whom will lose their homes as a result.

Haringey’s plan, being pushed through by a small group of Labour councillors and officials is unusual only in its scale; one poster being carried on the march listed over a hundred council estates in London that Labour councils either have or intend to hand over to private developers (who now include housing associations) with an almost complete loss of truly affordable social housing, a process they call ‘regeneration’ but which is more accurately described as social cleansing. It’s really long past time the Labour party put it’s house and its housing policies in order.

Of course local government in the UK has always been rife with corruption, a curious mixture of public service and private gain, with the private interests of councillors and their relatives often profiting from public decisions. It was doubtless so in the Victorian era, though at least then it was tempered by a great deal of municipal pride which provided some fine public buildings – and more recently at least in some areas by the building of flagship council estates, like the Heygate in Southwark and Central Hill in Lambeth which I’ve written about here in the past.

And back then there was perhaps some satisfaction for those people thrown out of their homes with nowhere to go in the feeling that those responsible might eventually get their just reward in the fires of Hell, whereas nowadays they are more likely to end up on hefty expenses in the House of Lords.

But more of that in a later post, after I’ve put the picture from the march onto My London Diary, currently stuck somewhere in early August.  But walking along the street I suddenly remembered I’d been here before.

Back in 2002, I was busy with my Hasselblad X-Pan in and around FInsbury Park, having recently acquired the 30mm lens which changed it from a panoramic format camera into a true panoramic camera. There seemed to me to be little point in using the camera with the standard lens, although the larger negative (24mm high and 65 mm wide) did produce medium format quality on 35mm film. The 30mm f5.6 gives a horizontal angle of view of 94 degrees, about the maximum that makes sense with a rectilinear perspective, with any larger angle of view the elongation of subjects at the image edges becomes unbearable.

If you are wondering, the 45mm is roughly equivalent ot a 25mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera, while the 30mm equates to 16.7mm. And while I’ve used wider full-frame lenses, including the remarkable Sigma 12-24mm zoom, anything less than 16mm is almost always better done with a fisheye.

Most of the 36 images on the Finsbury Park mini-site were taken using the 30mm lens, which came with its own viewfinder, and a filter to even out exposure across the frame. Although the centre of the film when focused at infinity (as all these pictures probably were) was only 30mm from the film, the extreme edges are almost 44mm away, and receive slightly over a stop less light, though lens design probably makes the difference even greater. With colour negative film the centre spot filter was essential, though you could use the camera for black and white without and compensate in the darkroom.

One of the images from this set, of the New River, won a small competition and now hangs on my bedroom wall, though it wasn’t my personal favourite of the set. On Saturday I didn’t quite make the march as far as Finsbury Park. Photographing a march is considerably more physically tiring than simply walking, involving a lot of hurrying to and fro, a little climbing on walls and too much walking backwards, and I also find it mentally tiring, and buy the time we reached Manor Park I needed to rest.

More panoramas from Finsbury Park though the print prices are rather out of date.

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Hull at Night

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Most nights Hull goes home early, and much of the centre seems deserted. Presumably at closing time people stagger out of the pubs, but until then the streets are eerily empty. Certainly on a Thursday evening when I was taking these pictures, though things liven up a little at the weekend.

There is one car in my picture of North Bridge, though I think about the only one we saw as we crossed it, and that solitary figure appears in several of my pictures as she was walking around with me.

You can see her again in Humber St, the centre of Hull’s ‘Fruitmarket’ area, which no longer sells fruit but is touted as “Hull’s modern, vibrant & unique cultural quarter, open all day every day“. It may be open all day, but it was pretty deserted at night in February.

You can see her too reading the plaque under King Billy. And in the background there is a single cyclist and just a few distant cars. The square in front of Holy Trinity was deserted (though there was a regiment of orange barriers) as was Prince St and Posterngate, and it was only as we came to Trinity House Lane that we saw the first pedestrian, scurrying quickly away.

Whitefriargate was empty too, with just one or two people around Monument Bridge, and I didn’t have to wait to get pictures of Queen Victoria Square without people – I didn’t particularly want to have the square empty, but it was, apart from some large object that had been left across it.

This wasn’t taken in the early hours of the morning – when I was fast asleep in bed. This was early evening, around 7pm. Where was everybody? You can see a few more pictures from this walk, and see these larger – at Night in the Old Town, though you won’t find many more people.

Obviously, these are panoramic images, though the format isn’t extreme, quite a good fit to my wide-screen monitor with just a small empty strip at top and bottom. I don’t much like extreme panoramic formats, though I do like panoramic images. These use the same cylindrical perspective that I’ve used since I bought my first swing-lens camera in 1990 – an expensive Japanese model.  And although I’ve admired some of the more extreme angles of view used in some images, I’ve seldom wanted to use them myself. These pictures have a horizontal angle of view of around 145 degrees, a little greater than my old Widelux.

Despite being taken at night, I didn’t use a tripod – all are handheld. Tripods are quite useful with panoramas; you need them not to hold the camera steady, but to hold it absolutely level. Even small deviations can make some images unusable. But I’m an impatient man and like to keep things as simple as possible, concentrating on the image rather than technicalities. So though I own several tripods of widely varying size and utility I seldom disturb the dust on them; worthwhile tripods are always too heavy to carry.

A tripod would have enabled me to use a lower ISO and reduce the noise in the images, but I quite like a bit of noise in night pictures, it adds to the mood.

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Hull Promenade

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

If you read my posts here or on Facebook regularly you will certainly be aware that 2017 is Hull’s year as UK City of Culture. And that as my personal contribution to the year that I’ve been posting another picture every day to my newest web site, Hull Photos, also known as ‘Still Occupied – A View of Hull‘, the title of a show I had in the city in 1983 in which around 148 of the pictures appeared.


Half Tide Basin and entrance locks, Victoria Dock, 1982

So far I’ve added 406 pictures to the site, rather more than the days of the year so far, as I put pm quite a few pictures before the start of 2017. But every day, usually more or less straight after breakfast, I sit down at my computer, write the code (I have to alter 4 files) and then FTP the day’s new image into place. It’s become a daily ritual, sometimes something of a challenge, especially when I’m away from home, but a little bit of structure I’m sure I will miss when we get to 2018. The latest picture is always shown on this page, as well as on its final resting place in the site, but it’s best to follow the year on Facebook as I usually post some text about it there – and you can comment.


Half Tide Basin form the entrance locks, Victoria Dock, 2017

But of course I had to visit Hull during this special year, and although I’d hoped to find time to go several times, so far I’ve only managed 5 days in February. We had an eventful journey to Hull, parts of which I’m probably not allowed to tell you much about, which involved me traveling alone from Kings Cross to Hull with an empty reserved seat next to me, with my wife taking a later train which was diverted via Selby while the train I was on was kept standing at Kirk Sandall while several rail staff on board argued with a young man who had run across the track to board the service and appeared not to have a ticket. Finally we moved on to Hatfield & Stainforth where a police officer was waiting on the platform, and, over an hour late we finally arrived at Hull, around 20 minutes after Linda got there.

We’d sold Linda’s parental home to pay for her mother’s upkeep in an old people’s home back around 2000, and our old friend with a stately home in the north of the city we were always welcome at died a few years ago, so this year we were staying in digs in the Victoria Dock estate, comfortable enough and only a very short walk from the Old Town thanks to the recent Scale Lane footbridge. We got there, dumped our cases and went out for a walk.

I’d not been to Victoria Dock for over 25 years and it was something of a shock to se what had been a largely open and derelict area turned into a suburban estate, if one with some reminders of its previous life, with the dock entrance and Half Tide Basin retained as a feature.

And while the old Hull had a number of piers, it now has a Promendade, and it was one we had virtually to ourselves on a glorious dramatic winter afternoon.

Siemens, whose ‘blade’ was then dominating Queen Victoria Square in the city cwntre have taken over Alexandra Dock, providing welcome employment, and I suppose the loss of the public footpath on the edge of the Humber there is a small price to pay, but it was a disappointment to find our path blocked there, with a long diversion. Instead we turned back towards the city centre. past The Deep and across the footbridge there to the Minerva for a pub meal.

More pictures: Victoria Dock Promenade
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Culture Calls

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Looking back at around 15 years of My London Diary I’m very much aware that the main focus of my photographic work has shifted from a broader cultural perspective towards the more narrowly political. In part the reasons for this have to do with changes in society and the outside pressures and the great increase in grass roots political activity over those years, and in part they reflect changes in my own political perceptions.

First there was the increasing frustration with the failure of a Labour government to put forward Labour policies, continuing basically Thatcherite policies under Blair and then Brown. Then we had the remorseless austerity of the coalition and and Cameron years, before the national interest was sacrificed to Tory in-fighting with the Brexit referendum. Now we see a weak and failing adminstration dedicated to following not the will but the whim of the British people who voted on the promise of the unobtainable .

Of course it isn’t only British issues. The UK and London in particular has always provide a stage for protests for and by the world, in part because of the involvement of this country around the world, probably greater than ever in these post-Empire and post-Colonial days thanks to the devious antics of the City and companies based here.

And thinking about some of the events I used to photograph I perhaps feel I’ve said all I have to say about them. Delightful though it is to photograph – for example – Vaisakhi, I rather feel I’ve taken enough pictures and covered enough of what is essentially the same festival every year. But whatever the reasons, these days I seldom cover the religious and other cultural events which once took up much of my time.

I wouldn’t have bothered to cover the Willesden Green Wassail if I hadn’t had a message from the organiser inviting me to do so.  I’d enjoyed photographing it back in 2014,  and had nothing essential in my diary for that day, so decided to make the journey to photograph it another time. And I enjoyed it again.

Willesden is an interesting area, a part of London that seems very happy with being multicultural, with a borough, Brent, which until hit by the cuts was very intent on celebrating the various festivals of its different groups.

It’s also an area served by a great number of small shops, helped by lower rents than in many areas of London – though this is beginning to change as gentrification creeps in, if more slowly here than in much of London.

A couple of days later came a more political event around culture, organised as a part of a week of actions by trade unions and celebrating some of our cultural institutions and those union members who work in them.

Although our culture celebrates the stars – and rewards them with often astronomical salaries for doing usually what they love to do – and a few months later the BBC was forced to reveal how much it pays its highly paid staff, some of whom clearly don’t deserve it – these stars depend on many others who work in the industry, including some on or close to the minimum wage, and in London in particular below the living wage.

Our tour reminded us of some of these, particularly the workers for Picturehouse, and the continuing fight by those at the Ritzy, in Hackney and elsewhere who are still fighting for a living wage in an industry that makes billions and rewards the stars extravagantly. And in our great public galleries staff are increasingly being replaced by out-sourced workers on low pay, minimal conditions of service and little or no job security. Management are pinching pennies from those who can least afford them, while those at the top get fat salaries – and yachts as leaving presents.

Show Culture some Love
Willesden Green Wassail

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Death on the Roads

Sunday, September 17th, 2017


Die-in remembers 3 cyclists and 2 pedestrians killed on London roads in the previous week

Cyclists arouse deep and entirely irrational prejudice among many vocal members of the British public, and I’ve spent some time trying to understand why, though with no great success. And here some of my somewhat random thoughts possibly related to the subject.


Many at the protest wore phoographs of one of the cyclists killed that week

Back in the 1890s there was a bicycling craze here and in the US in particular; the introduction of the ‘safety bicycle’ with its smaller wheels and chain drive and its widespread availability changed the way people lived.

In particular it led to much greater freedom for women, changing the way they dressed and how they behaved – so much so that Susan B Anthony in 1896 said, “the bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” The popularity of bicycles also provided a need for smoother, pothole free roads, and the roads that we now use were largely made for the use of bicycles.

Back in the 1940s and early 1950s, pretty well everyone except the rich rode bicycles. They were (and are) a cheap and reliable form of transport and schools and factories would have large cycle sheds. But times were changing, and as Harold Macmillan said in 1957 “most of our people have never had it so good”; the post-war boom meant the working class was getting more money and it became a part of everyone’s aspiration to get a car. Back at school in the early 1960’s we all envied one of my friend who had a part-time job and could afford to own and run a Morris Minor, not least for its potential in attracting members of the opposite sex.

Bicycle clips became an emblem of failure. Or of extreme crankiness (rather appropriate for cyclists although of course it derives from the Dutch or German for sick.) People on bikes began to be seen inferior beings who should always give way to their motorised superiors. Planners and road engineers (with a few exceptions, particularly in the new towns) almost entirely disregarded the needs of cyclists in the interest of making the movement of motorists faster and reducing congestion.

Attitudes and behaviour towards children have also changed. When I was primary school age my parents were happy for me to go and play with friends out on the streets, to ride around the area on my bike. By the time I was in long trousers – at 11 – I was cycling all over a wide range of outer London, making my way to Box Hill, Virginia Water, Windsor, the Devil’s Punchbowl and more, sometimes with friends, but often on my own.

When those of my generation went to youth clubs or activities we weren’t taken by car (my father didn’t own one, though he had possibly driven when in the RAF and had certainly ridden a motorbike in his younger days, but when I knew him he rode an ancient bike, or when he had heavy loads used a push-cart) but used bike or occasionally bus.

Roads then were even more dangerous than now. In 1960 almost 7,000 people were killed on UK roads; by 2015 that had dropped to 1700, and injuries, particularly serious injuries, were also greatly reduced. Though the kind of side streets that I lived and played on are perhaps more dangerous, partly because there are many more parked cars which obscure vision, but mainly because people drive much faster down them – why more areas are now getting 20mph limits – though nothing is done to enforce them.

The change isn’t driven by safety but by perceptions of danger, and particularly perceptions of ‘stranger danger’ driven by some rather hysterical campaigning. Children have always been at risk from some adults, largely from family members, but also from a few strangers, and I don’t think those risks have increased. We were given simple and straightforward advice. But we were also given a freedom which no longer exists. Parents who behaved like almost all parents did then would now find themselves threatened by social workers – as happened to a family we knew in our area a few years ago.

Owning a car if you live in a city like London isn’t an entirely rational act, but one that the car makers have had to encourage and promote though millions spent on advertising. For longer journeys, except in the outer suburbs where public transport is often poor it’s a slow and generally inconvenient way to get to places, and for shorter journeys a bike is generally much faster. At least some of that motorist hate comes from seeing people on bikes moving much faster than them through traffic queues – and sometimes doing so in slightly unconventional ways.


Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell

Perhaps the greatest boost to cycling in London came from the 2005 terrorist attack, making some reluctant to use tube or bus to get to work. Another factor has certainly been the rise of the Brompton folding bicycle, which many can take on the train and into their workplace to cut the risk of theft. Brompton’s aren’t cheap, though there are also cheaper folders on the streets. And thanks to Ken Livingstone we also have ‘Boris Bikes’.

With more people cycling we have more deaths of cyclists and the protest and die-in outside the Treasury in Parliament Square came at the end of a disastrous week in which 3 cyclists and 2 pedestrians were killed by drivers in London. Most deaths of cyclists come from them being hit by lorries and other large vehicles which have large areas of restricted visibility due to their design – something which has to change.

Serious accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians are rare – the energy involved in such collisions is so much lower. Probably rather more injuries are caused by accidents involving other pedestrians which are common and usually unrecorded. Probably pedestrian hate is more a matter of the visibility of cyclists – and the way some mainly young cyclists ride fast on pavements past people. Usually their fast reactions and control of their bikes avoids collisions but can frighten some. While cyclists and pedestrians can mix safely – as they do on many miles of officially shared pavements – cyclists should certainly do so with appropriate caution, as the movements of pedestrians are often unpredictable.

Cycling has much to contribute to the city, cutting down congestion and pollution, and to our health as a nation suffering from over-consumption and obesity. It should be encouraged by making it easier and making it safer. London needs a giant leap in spending to cut deaths from traffic pollution and poor health, as well as policies that increase public transport and cuts the use of cars and other motor vehicles, both petrol and diesel, moving all those buses, taxis and other necessary vehicles to electric over a relatively short time-frame.

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Shame on May

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

One area that has shown the real inhumane and nasty nature of our current government most clearly has been its treatment of refugees, particularly those fleeing Syria. Theresa May’s response stands in such incredible contrast with that of Angela Merkel. Merkel isn’t a person whose politics generally I have much sympathy with, and certainly not someone I would have regarded as a person of great warmth. But faced with the huge flow of people in distress she made a courageous decision – and one which she will have known was politically dangerous – to help the refugees.

Theresa May in complete contrast has been consistently inhumane – both as Home Secretary and Prime Minister over this and related issues. It isn’t just that she lacks any empathy for her fellow human beings, but it is also cowardice, running scared of the right-wing bigots of her own party.

The Lord Dubs, formerly for some years Alf Dubs, Labour MP in Battersea, gained widespread support in both houses of Parliament for his amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 which offered unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain and the Tory government was forced to accept it. But they did so grudgingly, and acted in a desultory manner, inventing excuses to avoid implementing it to any great extent, pretending there were no places for the children to go even when many local authorities had offered them, and eventually abandoning the program in February 2017 after only 300 of the 3000 children should have been brought here.

I’m pleased that my own signature was one of the 44,434 on the petition that was taken to 10 Downing St, but angry that this failed to get a response. Though not surprised, as this is only one of a number of occasions on which the Tory government have ignored or flouted the law.

Lord Dubs has of course a particular personal involvement in the issue. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1932, he was one of the almost 700 children saved from the Nazis by the English stockbroker Nicholas Winton and his team of helpers, though it was only in later life that Dubs learnt the details. Among those who spoke at the event was a woman who had been a friend of Winton (who was knighted in 2002, thanks in part to campaigning by Dubs) who reminded us of his motto, ‘If it’s not impossible, there must be a way to do it.‘ Unfortunately, despite wide political support for bringing the children here, May remained unmoved.

More at Dubs Now – Shame on May.
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Derek Ridgers 80’s book launch

Friday, September 15th, 2017

I hadn’t gone to the launch of ‘In The Eighties, the ninth or tenth book by Derek Ridgers intending to take pictures, but to celebrate the occasion and meet up with him again. But I had my camera bag with me, as I’d been in Brixton photographing a protest there against London’s excessive air pollution – it took only 5 days to exceed the annual pollution limit on the Brixton Rd.

But on entering the The Library Space (built in 1910 as the Edwin Tate Library, Grade II listed and now a cultural space hosting workshops, exhibitions etc) I just had to take some pictures of the place and the event – as too did many others of those present.

And I also bought the book – and of course got Derek to sign it – and I photographed him signing for several others.

It’s a book packed with portraits, and with a few pages of introduction, concentrating on the developments in club and youth culture which Derek’s work concentrates on. Although central to much of his work, its an approach that I think rather minimises the value of his work. Yes, he documented the London scene, in the clubs and on the streets, but the strength of his work is not really what he did but the way that he did it, the reflection of his personality and his intent vision.


People look up at Derek’s pictures going around on a strip around the ceiling


And study the book

Of course there is interest in the people he photographed, their clothes, their hair styles, their make-up and their behaviour. But that isn’t what makes this work stand out above much other photography of the era dealing with similar subjects.

In The Eighties by Derek Ridgers, published by Carpet Bombing Culture, ISBN 978-1908211569

Flares at King’s

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Photographing people holding flares is something of a hit or miss thing, with rather a lot of unpredictable behaviour. There are the people holding the flares, and protesters movements are often fairly unpredictable, but smoke is also peculiarly so. And if you actually get in the smoke, camera exposure metering gets pretty unhinged too and it can also be difficult to focus.

Though I usually like to get as close as possible for most of my pictures (though I know it often pays to stand back a little for a wider view) it seldom works to get too close to people holding smoke flares – and can be quite uncomfortable too. The smoke isn’t good for the lungs or the eyes and has an unpleasant smell, and very close contract can result in burns and stains on clothing that are hard to remove.

It isn’t I think illegal to set off smoke flares, although police and government web sites state it is. The relevant law is clear that it is only an offence “if in consequence a user of the highway is injured, interrupted or endangered” and I think that would be hard to show in this case. But of course, I’m not a lawyer.

Another case where laws are often invoked against protesters is for the use of chalk and other easily removed markings on roadways, pavements and walls. Police during this protest talked with and asked for names and addresses of some of those who painted with chalk on the wall of King’s College. It’s had to prove ‘criminal damage’ when a simple wipe of a damp sponge – or even the rain – will remove it, though at least one protester was convicted for this a year or two back at the University of London Senate House – and a specialist cleaning company apparently got paid hundreds of pounds for a few seconds wielding a damp rag.
The organiser of this protest, PhD student Roger Hallam had been suspended for writing “Divest From Oil and Gas Now. Out of Time!” in spray chalk at an earlier protest, and in response at this event there was a great deal of displaying messages by other non-permanent methods, as well as a few who chose to deliberately paint washable coloured dots.

There is so far as I’m aware no law relating to the use of balloons on the public highway, and the protesters took full advantage of this. It was just a little difficult to photograph the long line, and space was limited between the wall and he protesters as they moved to tape them onto it.

The aim of the protest was to persuade King’s College to end its investments in fossil fuels and switch to investments in renewable energy,  part of a London-wide divestment  campaign.

More at King’s College Divest Oil & Gas Now!

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Trump & May

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Mobile phones are a mixed blessing. I don’t like the thought that your every movement can be tracked whenever you carry one, though it was very useful when I left mine on a bus earlier this year – and was able to watch it slowly moving along the map towards the depot, from where a couple of days later I collected it. But as a journalist I don’t like the idea that the police can now track my movements – and would like it even less if I was working in some foreign countries.

And on my recent holiday it was great to be able to see my own position on the OS map I’d bought and downloaded to the phone, something I used far more than the paper copy. This year, rather unusually I didn’t get lost at all.

But being available for people who know your phone number to contact you at any time – or at least when your phone is switched on and has battery – is not always a good thing. Though much of the time when I’m actually working there is too much noise for me to hear (or notice a vibration) from the phone in my pocket.


Dawn Butler MP

At lunchtime on 4th Feb I was more or less at the front of a densely-packed crowd in front of the US embassy, in a good position to photograph the speakers at a rally calling for Trump to end his Muslim ban and for May to withdraw the invitation to a State Visit here. It was at a quiet moment in the proceedings when a refugee poet was reading one of her works that I heard a faint ringing and answered the call.

It was my wife, and she was locked out as the lock on our back door would not open with her key. And she wasn’t well, or I might have stayed to finish the job before making the fairly long trip home, but I began walking to the bus stop as I talked to her, abandoning the protest. An hour and a quarter later I found my key didn’t work either, but fortunately I had the keys to the front entrance which did. More bad news was that we needed a locksmith who came, couldn’t open the lock and had to use a jemmy and then an angle grinder to cut through the lock and fit a new one. It wasn’t cheap.

Fortunately I’d already taken enough pictures to file a decent story, including probably the two most important speakers, Brent Labour MP Dawn Butler, shadow minister for diverse communities before she resigned to vote against the Brexit Bill and NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney, and plenty of the protesters and their placards – it was a protest that brought out wit and obscenities – so I was able to file a decent story, though I had to miss the march to Whitehall and the further rally there.

It’s often the case with marches than the best opportunities for pictures are before they start, when people are often more closely packed and a little less organised. Back when I photographed some carnival processions with a few of my photographer friends we would usually pack up and go the the pub as the procession began. And for many of the longer political marches in London don’t walk the whole way.

Taking photographs means a lot of walking backwards as well forwards, going too and fro, and is considerably more tiring than simply marching. And as I usually want to cover marchers at the back as well as at the front (and those in-between) with large marches I try to find a convenient point to take the tube to the destination.

I often see other photographers standing around talking with each other before a protest starts, and while I like to be sociable (and often we have useful information to exchange) I sometimes feel they are missing opportunities and will leave them and get on with the job. And at some marches there are some photographers who only photograph the people carrying the banner at the front and just walk ahead of this all the way. It’s seldom a place to get the most interesting pictures.

And a small note to event organisers. A red roof to the stage is not a good idea. It really doesn’t provide a good background and it bathes the speakers in red light which isn’t flattering. Please chose a fairly neutral colour, perhaps a light or mid grey.  18% would help with our exposures!

More pictures at: No Muslim Ban, No State Visit.

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