Archive for the ‘My Own Work’ Category

Rashan Charles

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Rashan Charles’ father (left) stands beside Edson da Costa’s father as he speaks

Like many I watched in horror as a video on social media showed a young black man being held down on the floor of a shop in Dalston by a police officer, with help from another man not wearing uniform (though some reports said he was also a police officer but others describe him as a ‘member of the public’.) According to the police, Rashan Charles became “ill” and was taken to hospital where he died shortly after, though others say he died on that shop floor.

Dianne Abbott MP

There will be an inquest later this year which will perhaps clarify some of the details, though the two men responsible for his death have already been granted anonymity (though I think their names are known to many.) The Independent Police Complaints Commission advised the Met to suspend the officer involved but they refused. The IPPC (now the Independent Office for Police Conduct – IOPC but otherwise much the same) sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for the police officer to be charged with common assault, but they decided that “the evidential test for a prosecution for common assault is not met. We will therefore not be taking any further action regarding this offence.” Presumably they haven’t seen the video.

Tottenham anti-racist campaigner Stafford Scott speaks for the Charles family

Rashan Charles’ great-uncle Rod Charles, a retired police sergeant with 30 years service with the force and former representative of the Police Federation, has commented that the the force used appears to contravene the official police guidance and described it as “unreasonable, disproportionate, unnecessary and excessive” and that the police failure to explain the purpose for the arrest also appears to be in contravention of the law.

Rashan Charles was one of three young black men who died at the hands of police in the past few weeks, the others being Edson da Costa, who died after arrest in East Ham and Darren Cumberbatch, who died earlier this month after arrest in Nuneaton. People held up pictures of all three men at the protest.

The protest outside Stoke Newington Police Station was organised by Stand Up To Racism, and I was disappointed that no-one from the Movement for Justice who had come in support was allowed to speak, though you can see their large posters in some of my pictures. Also missing was a speaker from the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) which has led the fight for the families or those killed by police and in prisons etc over the last 20 years or so. It seemed a shame that the event represented a sectarian approach rather than uniting the different groups concerned and active in the area. It’s an approach that has also weakened the campaign to get justice for Grenfell Tower.

More at Justice for Rashan Charles.


Atos still kills

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Atos adminster fake tests for PIP – Personal Independence Payments – denying them to many disabled people

DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts – were out yet again the following day, which was the finale of their week of action for the London World Para Athletics Championships, an event which gives the government a great deal of positive media coverage because of their support for the para-athletes while the media fail to cover their attacks on the many more disabled who are not athletes which discriminate and kill.

Moira Drury “was effectively abandoned without support and income by a glacial and bureaucratic benefits system” She was not well enough to attend a work capability assessment and her benefits were stopped. She had no income for the last seven weeks of her life, and stopping her benefits meant she became liable for full council tax and receiving a bill for almost £2000 was the last straw.

DPAC’s target for this action was ATOS, the company whose proven incompetence and bias lost them the contract for Work Capability Assessments, despite which they are still carrying out PIP (Personal Independence Payment) assessments of the disabled for the Dept of Work and Pensions. It is a clear statement that the DWP doesn’t concern itself with the reliability of these assessments but just wants a system that cuts down the number of people it has to make payments to, regardless of their actual needs – and cares nothing about the hardship or even death that this will cause.

DPAC state that Atos use inadequately trained and qualified staff to produce assessments that are “riddled with lies and inaccuracies” and the many cases that are overturned on appeal because of real medical evidence which was available to the assessors but disregarded. They say the assessments should always be carried out by suitably medically qualified staff and that there should be no financial incentives to end or reduce benefit or targets in reducing the claims that assessors are obliged to meet.

An academic study published in BMJ Open last November linked cuts in UK Government spending since 2010 in health and social services to “a substantial mortality gap”, with analysis showing around 120,000 early deaths – a figure they estimate will reach around 150,000 – 170,000 by 2020. As the Independent article states, this is around a 100 extra deaths a day, and Atos must take its share of the blame for carrying out these reprehensible policies with fraudulent zeal.

The protest outside Atos’s offices close to the Euston Road was rather smaller than expected, perhaps because a week of campaigning had tired some of the disabled protesters, and also because for many the cost of coming to the protests is difficult to afford on their limited benefits.

Some had transport problems getting to the event, and only turned up as it ended – in the now traditional DPAC way – with a short block of one carriageway of Euston Road.

More at Atos still killing the disabled.


Right to Turn Up and Go

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Back in the 1990s it took direct action by disabled people  – DAN or the Direct Action Network for disabled people to get the 1995 legislation that made it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of disability in the workplace, along with some consumer protection. But realising the difficulty of provision in some areas it allowed for a timetable of up to 25 years over which barriers were to be gradually removed in areas such as transport.

Although there have been some improvements, an enormous amount remains to be done before the intentions of that act and the dreams of those who protested with DAN can be realised. In London, for example, although all buses and taxis are wheelchair accessible, only around half Overground stations and a quarter of Underground stations currently are.

On National Rail, help for disabled passengers is notionally available for any journey, although to work the system requires advance booking, often needing 24 hours notice. And while railway workers generally do their best to help disabled travellers who turn up without arranging their transport – like non-disabled passengers can – there are many stations without staff to assist.

Disabled passengers often need some help from the guard on the train and are particularly worried about plans for one-person operation being pursued by some rail companies and backed by the government. Even where they are able to board or alight from a train without help they may be much slower than the average passenger, and at much greater risk of being trapped by the closure of automatic doors.

Guards on the train are a valuable safety measure for all passengers, and something I’ve been grateful for on various occasions. One was when my train was derailed, and although there were no injuries there was a certain amount of panic, and the guard calmed people, kept us informed and assisted in our de-training and transfer to another train, but the others have involved drunk or otherwise obstreperous passengers.

Buses can manage with just a driver, though I sometimes miss the conductor – and suspect that there would be fewer problems with buggy users refusing to vacate disabled spaces when required. Back in the old days, conductors ensured that all buggies were folded and kept an eye on them and other luggage in the luggage space.

But what works with a smallish vehicle like even a double-decker bus seems entirely inappropriate for the 8, 10 0r 12 car trains which are now common on many routes on Southern and other railways serving London. And surely any vehicle which seats perhaps more than a hundred people will provide sufficient fare income to make paying for a second member of staff of little consequence.

Like DAN, DPAC are a direct action network, protecting the rights of disabled people and still fighting for them to be properly provided. Most of their actions have been directed against the government and the benefit cuts it has introduced which have resulted in great hardship and far too many deaths among disabled people, with policies either deliberately intended to kill or displaying a woeful ignorance of or indifference to their likely effects. This action too was against the government, and in particular the Department of Transport, which has been shown to be pressuring Southern Rail to continue the dispute with the RMT.

Someone only came out from the Dept of Transport to take the petition after the protesters had waited for a very long time and were threatening to keep the entrance blocked until it was taken; it seemed fairly clear that the department were hoping the protesters would go away if they kept them waiting long enough.  They should have learnt by now that DPAC are made of sterner stuff, though I might have left them to it as I had a train to catch.

As the joint protest with the RMT and others ended, DPAC ended their protest in what is now their traditional way, with a road block outside the ministry. After a few minutes police managed to persuade them to move so they only blocked the road in one direction, and the road block was only short.

The DPAC action was one in a whole week of protests to coincide with the London World Para Athletics Championships which DPAC say the government uses to try to show it is highly supportive of the disabled while actually they are highly discriminatory against all those who are not high-performing para-athletes. DPAC are certainly high-performing protesters.

More at DPAC/RMT ‘Right to Ride’ protest.


Grenfell Blues

Friday, January 26th, 2018

People watching the Council Leader on a giant screen in July react to her speech

The Grenfell Tower disaster continues to drag on and to appal. Even now, over 7 months after the tragedy the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is failing the victims. At yesterday’s council meeting one of the volunteers who has spent much of her time outside her working hours helping people there was speaking at a council meeting, telling how a woman with a one-year-old daughter who had been rehoused temporarily in a hotel had recently become homeless when the council’s payment to the hotel had been stopped but the social worker involved had made no provision for her to be housed elsewhere. It was a long story of failure and evasion, with the woman and her child only being saved from sleeping on the street by the action of volunteers.

A local speaker holds up some of the flammable cladding that spread the fire rapidly

Hers was only one case among many of a council failing to live up to its obligations and its promises over a huge tragedy that resulted from the actions of the council and its TMO set up to manage its housing. The council didn’t light the fire, but it was their actions, their ignoring of the warnings by residents, their deliberate policy to avoid proper fire inspections, that made Grenfell a firetrap simply waiting for a spark.

Urgent action was promised, both by the council and by national government; little has happened. Money was promised by government, to deal with the problem here and in other areas where similar cladding was found – but it hasn’t been forthcoming. Major charities collected millions – but little of it has reached the victims. There was to be a full inquiry – but those most affected have  been shunned and sidelined.

In July there was a large presence outside the council meeting – and a giant screen outside for those unable or unwilling to go inside – and security kept some out. At yesterday’s meeting there were quite a few inside, but only a handful outside, and apart from myself only one other journalist had turned up – and he decided there was nothing to film, and I could only take a handful of pictures. Grenfell, for all the outcry at the time, is now becoming smothered in the long grass as intended, as are the  other crimes of our establishment. And while there were undoubtedly crimes, there have as now been no arrests, and it seems likely there will be no justice.

It isn’t inevitable. The monthly silent walks continue, but put very little pressure on anyone, taking place as they do in an obscure area of London and getting less and less coverage in the mass media. But other protests are getting smaller and the whole momentum seems to be getting lost.

The protest in July was perhaps a peak, but it was one that was split, actually two protests called by two different groups, both on the left, along with local Latimer/Ladbroke Grove rappers El Nino & CX4  who came with blackened faces and  reminders of the burning cladding and smoke and a banner ‘The Royal Murderers of Kensington & Chelsea‘  to perform their Grenfell Tower’s Burnin Typically the national news media reported them as rioters rather than as performers.

It was a shame that there were two rival areas with speakers, though there were some good speakers at both of them, but it was inevitable when the larger group refused to let the others speak at their microphone, having put together a list of invited speakers they made it clear others were not welcome.  It seems sad that particular sectional interests are weakening the opposition to the council. A few speakers did perform at both, as did the rappers.

Simon Elmer of ASH

One of the more interesting contributions came from Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing, a group which shortly after produced a report about the technical issues involved and were also featured in a video which I watched at the ICA residency in August.

Grenfell survivors tell Council “Resign now!”


Should you work for free?

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

I think I’ve written often enough about my own attitude to providing photographs for free. I share a great deal of my work on Facebook and on the web, where as well as putting current work on My London Diary I also have extensive web sites on Hull, on London, Paris and on the River Lea, as well as several others and a number of smaller sites. I’ve also contributed work to various other sites, including Fixing Shadows, one of the earliest of photography web sites – still on line – and many more.

I’ve also provided photographs free of charge to many groups I’ve photographed for their own use, and generally am prepared to do so for campaigns or organisations that have no paid staff. But groups or organisations that can afford to pay people to work for them I’ve always demanded should pay me for my work as well, particularly if they are making money from publishing it.

With small charities, campaigning groups and educational projects I quote at a considerable discount on my commercial rates, but still feel it important that I’m paid. Not so much because I need the money (though photography is an expensive habit and I couldn’t do all I do without it generating some income) but because giving my work away would be unfair to all my colleagues. It isn’t easy to make a living from photography, and harder still to make one from work which I think worthwhile and important.

Today I’ve read two rather different articles about working for free. One in Peta Pixel, by Gil Wizen, Why I Rejected Your Request for Free Photos, and the second, linked in one of the comments to that piece, an opinion piece of Digital Photography Review, What I’ve learned after sharing my photos for free on Unsplash for 4 years by Samuel Zeller.

Wizen’s article is a pretty much straight down the line NO, with an explanation why and some illustrations of unreasonable attitudes, though he does describe one exception to his rule. Zeller’s is more interesting in his discussion of changes in the web landscape as well as of how contributing images to a site which shares them free can contribute to building a career.

A photographer choosing to share some images (as I do on the web) is quite different from other people deciding they would like to use your work for free. Unsplash does seem to offer a significant amount of exposure in a way that few if any of the proposals that people and companies who have hoped to use my pictures for free would have provided. It is a platform on which you can advertise yourself as a photographer, paying for it in pictures rather than cash, and for some photographers and some kinds of work it may be appropriate to do so. Though not I think for me.

Daniele Tamagni (1975-2017)

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

It came as a real shock as I caught up with my reading online today to learn of the death of Daniel Tamagni, someone I still thought of as a young photographer, born in Milan in 1975 and only 42 when he died last month, and who I first heard of and met in 2007 , the year when he won the Canon Young Photographer Award for his series on ‘The Gentlemen of Bacongo‘, African dandies or ‘Sapeurs

I met him first at around that time at a show he had with two others in Peckham, writing about it for this web site, Peckham Rising, where he showed me a newspaper article on his work on Black Churches in the area, one image from which was in the show, and I was sorry to have missed the earlier show he had of that work.

I wrote about him again when his work on the ‘Sapeurs’ was on show at the Michael Hoppen Gallery and my piece Sapology included the picture of him with Araminta De Clermont, whose pictures were also showing in the gallery. The work had by then gained him the 2010 ICP award for Applied Fashion photography, and had been published by Trolley Books (Gentlemen of Bacongo, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-904563-83-9.)  As well as writing a little about the Sapeurs and Tamagni’s pictures of them I was also pleased to be able to photograph one of them in person at the event.

I used that picture again when I wrote another piece, Encore Sapeurs, following on from a post by  Joerg Colberg on his on Conscientious blog which linked to some of Tamagni’s work.

My last meeting with Daniele was at the opening of ‘Global Style Battles‘ at the  ArtEco Gallery in Wandsworth (now the Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery), an enjoyable occasion graced by the presence of a number of leading photographers who live in London, including James Barnor (with him above) born in Ghana and Charlie Phillips, born in Jamaica (below).

It was a memorable night and you can read about it and see a few more pictures at Daniele Tamagni at ArtEco.

You can read a brief obituary of him, as I did, on PDN Pulse, and, in Italian, in Corriere della Sera.

Little Italy Festival

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Back in the middle of the nineteenth century the area of London around the Clkerkenwell Road to the west of Farringdon St was crowded with Italians living and working there, and one day a year it still is, when many return to the area for the annual Processione della Madonna del Carmine – the Procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which has been taking place there (except during the two world wars) every year since the 1880s. Clerkenwell by the end of that century was home to thousands mainly from the south of the Italy, with those from the north settling around Soho.

Apart from among Italians in the UK and people who live in the immediate area the festival still doesn’t seem that well known to Londoners. I’d not heard of it until around 20 years ago I went with a friend of Italian origin to photograph it and the Sagra  – the festival – which accompanies it in the street below St Peter’s Church, which is itself worth a visit, opened it 1863 it is Grade II listed.

Statues for the procession and lined up in front of the church, and floats prepared down the side roads, while people wander in the crowds in the Sagra, buying Italian food and wine.  This is one occasion when I do have a cup or two of Italian red while working.

When the time comes for the procession,crowds line both sides of the Clerkenwell Road to watch as a long stream of biblical tableaux on float, walking groups with banners, the Four Evangelists, at least two Jesuses, one accompanied by Roman soldiers and carrying a cross and another leading first communicants,   people in traditional Italian dress and more make their way past the front of the church and process around the streets of the area.

The exact form has changed a little from year to year, but not greatly in the 20 or so years I’ve been going most times.  At some point members of the clergy are handed white doves and release them – and more recently this has happened both around the beginning and end of the procession, and there is also some tinsel fired.

At the end, the clergy who have been watching from the road in front of the church join on the the procession and are followed by a large crowd of the congregation. And as they move off, some of us take the opportunity to return to the Sagra for another cup of wine.

But the pictures tell the story better than I can in words:
Processione della Madonna del Carmine


Barts – NHS vs Serco (and PFI)

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

The rally and march from the Royal London Hospital to Mile End Hospital has a new relevance with the recent collapse of Carillion, which has brought new attention to the problems of PFI and of out-sourcing of facilities that are at the root of the problems at Barts Health Trust. One of the speakers at the rally – seen on the march in the picture above – was Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, whose criticisms of both of these problems have received considerable airing in the last few days, though of course he has been making them for a very long time.

The dispute was between the cleaners and porters of Barts Trust who are members of the Unite Union and had been on strike for five days, demanding an increase of 30p per hour in line with inflation and cost of living increases . The strikers voted 99% in favour of strike action, their militancy because of the actions of Serco, whose first action when they took over the contract was an attempt to take away their paid tea breaks.

Serco were forced to back down over that by concerted action, but the cleaners still accuse Serco of increasing stress and workload with a climate of bullying, intimidation and fear and a failure to set up procedures for reporting problems with facilities. And they say that Serco have acted illegally during the strike by  bringing in agency workers with inadequate training to replace them, resulting in insanitary conditions in the hospital.

I took a number of pictures of Unite’s Gail Cartmel at the event but particularly like this one of her speaking, which shows something of her dynamism. It also includes in the frame some key elements – the Unite flag (and flags are always problematic for photographers, seldom behaving as we want them at the right time so they can be read), the inbuilt caption ‘The Royal London’, and both some of the hospital’s Victorian building at right, as well as at top centre the new PFI-built hospital which has crippled the Bart’s Trust with a huge debt –  £2.4m per week in interest payments – under a disastrous New Labour deal.

It was hard to chose just one of the pictures of the strikers to put in here, and I chose this  particular image partly because it seemed to show something of their determination, but also for the poster which explains what the image and the dispute is about, “30p an Hour – Because They’re Worth It”, and the crowd of placards behind.

And although this dispute involved one of our big unions, some of the most vocal support at the rally and on the march came from other cleaners, particularly in the United Voices of the World. Victor Ramirez, a cleaner from the UVW spoke at the rally and was among the leaders of the march, with his spirited contributions in Spanish being translated by Claudia from the UVW behind him in this picture – and marching behind John McDonnell in the top image.

Barts NHS Cleaners march against Serco


Reclaimed Pride

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

It was back in 1993 that I first photographed Pride – or as it used to be called then, Gay Pride, and I returned to photograph it every year for quite a while – and you can see some of the pictures in ‘Ten Years of Pride‘, the second show of some of that work at the Museum of London.  My going there in 1993 was a part of a general growing awareness that gay rights was not just an issue for the gay community, but an important aspect of human rights.

Over those ten years there was a very clear change in the nature of Pride. What had been a protest clearly of great moment to many of those taking part – and for quite a few it was their first public ‘coming out’ – gradually became more and more corporate, at first mainly a reflection of the growing pink economy and later of the importance of the pink pound in the wider economy. In recent years it has become a huge sponsored parade, dominated by major companies, with large contingents from the armed forces, police and other public services, with just a few groups keeping up the tradition of protest tagged on to the end.

I’d continued to cover it most years, missing out only when I wasn’t in London, and it had become one of the few events for which I’d applied every year for accreditation, as it had become highly organised and this had become necessary.  But I was finding it less and less interesting, and in 2017 had decided not to bother with the actual parade, thinking that perhaps I would just photograph on the streets of Soho where things are more spontaneous and interesting.

In the end it didn’t turn out like that, and I started on Oxford St where the previous year I had photographed the Migrant Rights & Anti-Racist Pride organised by Movement for Justice for those who wanted to show their opposition to the corporate nature of Pride, with sponsors such as Barclays and BAE systems. In 2016 they marched to Oxford Circus and then joined the back of the official parade with other protest groups.

But for 2017 the organisers had decided on tight security, insisting that no groups who hadn’t signed up and got the official armbands would be allowed to join the parade. But it isn’t easy to stop several hundred determined protesters and the police had the sense not to try as they spilled onto the route at Oxford Circus in front of the official head of the parade.  Police tried to get the parade stewards to allow the protesters past but they refused, and for a while there was a stalemate, with the parade route blocked.

Eventually the main parade was held up and the Migrant Rights & Anti-Racist Pride went along the official route past cheering crowds leading the whole event – though the mainstream media colluded with the organisers to pretend they didn’t exist in their coverage.

There was another hold up at the end of the parade, where some of those who had been on the march from ‘No Pride in War’ decided to lie down and block Whitehall. Pride stewards held up the front of the main parade at Trafalgar Square and tried to clear the road without success, but after a few more minutes the police decided to take action, threatening those still blocking the road with arrest. They decided they had made their point very effectively and got up.

I decided too that I had my story for Pride and it was rather more interesting than most years, and decided it was time to go home. The crowds in Soho would have to wait for another year.

Anti-Racist & Migrant Rights reclaim Pride



Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

I often feel like mounting a one-person protest outside Facebook, which so often seems to be misbehaving in some way or other. It messes up my posts and hides the posts of many of my friends from me, so often I only find out about things too late. Of course it isn’t all Facebook’s fault, and I’d like to see a complete ban on all the automated software that people use to post to Facebook that clutters it up with so much rubbish. Perhaps one of those checks to show your were not a robot on every post would be annoying, but it would make Facebook much more useful for users, if not for marketing.

Men from company that employs the cleaners at Facebook watches me as I photograph them watching the protest

But my frustrations with Facebook are nothing compared to those suffered by some who work in their offices, though the cleaners are not actually employed by Facebook; as I point out on My London Diary:

There are two redundant levels of management at these offices; rather than employing cleaners directly, Facebook uses the property management company JLL who in turn use Peartree cleaning services to employ the cleaners; money which should go to the workers goes to these unnecessary levels of management and profit.

People often talk about the greater efficiency of outsourcing, but it is a myth. It isn’t greater efficiency but a lowering of standards, almost always of the actual services delivered but invariably of the conditions of employment of the people who actually do the work.  Companies that claim to be ethical employees with good conditions of service – pensions, sick pay, holidays etc – seem happy to give contracts to companies that employ for people who work for them, providing services at their workplaces which have minimal concern for their employees and provide only the basic minimum possible under our laws, often combined with poor management practices – bullying, discrimination etc – and a failure to properly engage with trade unions, often attempting to prevent union organisation by victimisation.

Both the Grenfell disaster and the failure of Carillion have exposed some of the problems caused by the contracting out of services – with level after level taking their unfair share and problems in communication. If Facebook employed their cleaners they would know what was happening, would ensure fair processes and conditions and not be able to say it was none of their business, denying responsibility for people who keep their business working.

The protest was organised by the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU) who say managers on site are guilty of racism, bullying and nepotism and who are also demanding to be paid the London Living Wage. At the end of the protest CAIWU organiser Alberto Durango talked briefly with Peartree’s commercial director Stuart Conroy who had been in a group watching the protest and there seemed to be some hope that a dialogue might emerge.

The protest took place in one of London’s now many privately owned public spaces, and I was pleased that the security there actually intervened when a couple of people tried to interfere with the protest.

The CAIWU had agreed with them that the protest would be a short one so as not to interfere greatly with a community event that was taking place. Photographers I know have been stopped when taking photographs in this area, but I and others covering the protest were not approached – nor have I been at other protests in this area.

Cleaners protest at Facebook HQ