Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60

Friday, April 1st, 2022

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60 – Twice in the last ten years, on 1st April 2013 and 1st of April 2018 I’ve got on my bike and cycled to Aldermaston to take part in protests by CND around the UK’s Aldermaston nuclear bomb factory, 12 miles west of Reading.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

I wasn’t there for the first big Aldermaston March in 1958, though one of my older brothers went, and I remember him coming back rather tired and muddy but please he had managed the whole 4 day march. CND had then just been formed and supported the march organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War and the next year they began a series of annual marches, marching from Aldermaston to a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

The annual marches continued until 1963, and in 1964 there was just a one-day march in London which I think I may have taken part in, though by then I was a student and I don’t recall well which of many demonstrations I took part in during the sixties. I didn’t keep a diary and couldn’t afford to take photographs then. There was a shorter march in 1965 from High Wycombe and the march in the original direction to Aldermaston was revived in 1972 but with fewer marchers taking part. And a number of marches and rallies in London since then which I did photograph.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

The next revival of the march I think took place in 2004, and on that occasion I photographed the rally in Trafalgar Square at the start of the march on Friday 9th April and marched with around 2,300 to Hyde Park but left the around 430 of who set off to spend the night in Reading. I got on my bike on the Sunday to meet them again at Maidenhead, walking with them to their lunch stop at Knowl Hill, from where I walked back into Maidenhead to pick up my bike and ride home.

Kate Hudson, Natalie Bennett and Pat Arrowsmith, Aldermaston, 2013

On the Monday I was up early to catch a train to Reading where the final leg was starting with my wife and elder son. I didn’t feel I could walk the 12 miles with my usual heavy camera bag so took along just my Canon Digital Ixus 400, (aka PowerShot S400), an ultra-compact and light camera with a 36-108mm equivalent lens giving remarkably sharp 3.9Mp images, although the autofocus wasn’t always precise. You can view a large number of pictures from 2004 on My London Diary

The pictures on this post come from two more recent events, the Nuclear Fool’s Day – Scrap Trident rally at Aldermaston on Easter Monday, 1st April 2013 and CND At 60 at Aldermaston on Sunday 1st April 2018. On both occasions I cycled from Reading station the 12 miles there carrying my normal camera equipment. I think I was a little tired when I got there on both occasions, and perhaps not working at my best. The ride back was a little easier as it is downhill much of the way.

Aldermaston, 2018

In 2013 there were protests all around the extensive site and the bike enabled me to get around and take pictures of the protesters at each of half a dozen gates around the over 5 miles of the site perimeter, as well as of people walking around and attaching messages and banners to the tall security fence.

Aldermaston, 2018

The speakers were also travelling from gate to gate, but in a couple of cars and a lorry and among those I heard and photographed were CND Vice-Chairs Jeremy Corbyn MP and Bruce Kent, CND General Secretary Kate Hudson, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett and South East Green MEP Keith Taylor, Stop the War’s Chris Nineham and CND founding member Pat Arrowsmith and another veteran Walter Wolfgang, as well as US activist Linda Pentz Gunter, the founder of ‘Beyond Nuclear’.

Rebecca Johnson holds up a copy of the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons

The 60th anniversary event in 2018 was easier to cover as it took place mainly in the Atomic Weaopons Establishment Car Park close to the Main Gate and on the fence close by, so I didn’t need to ride around the area, parts of which are rather hilly. As well as 60 years of campaigning by CND it celebrated the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, finalised last year and signed by 122 nations, for which ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, of which CND is a part was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Something that went almost unnoticed in the British media.

More at:

2004 on My London Diary
Nuclear Fool’s Day – Scrap Trident
CND At 60 at Aldermaston


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Shut Down Racist Yarl’s Wood

Saturday, March 12th, 2022

Shut Down Racist Yarl’s Wood. On Saturday 12th March 2016, six years ago today, I made another visit to the immigration detention centre at Yarl’s Wood where the Movement for Justice (MfJ) had organised another large protest.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Women at the windows – one holds a bible through the narrow window opening

The Home Office no longer uses Yarl’s Wood to house large numbers of women asylum seekers, but unfortunately this does not mean their cruel and racist policies have changed. Women were at first moved out because of Covid, but Priti Patel has set up a new immigration prison, Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre, to hold 80 detainees to replace it, with around 88 women being moved and locked up there for Christmas 2021.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
People march down the road to a footpath leading to Yarl’s Wood

The new centre at Hassockfield is on the site of the notorious Medomsley Detention Centre, where over 1,800 young male detainees were abused in the 1960s to 1980s, and is at at Medomsley Edge, 13 miles NW of Durham, 1.7 miles North of Consett. It has been renamed again as Derwentside, to give it a more friendly image, though the river is around a mile away as the crow flies. Almost certainly the Home Office was fed up with the protests organised by MfJ and others at the already rather remote site at Yarl’s Wood, around 5 miles outside Bedford, and thought it a good idea to move it rather further away from London, where there are many former detainees and activists who came to demonstrations.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Marching along the footpath

But of course people came from all over the country – including from Scotland – to Yarl’s Wood, and protests will continue, with an active ‘No to Hassockfield‘ local group at their centre, although it’s too far away for me to photograph them.

Women have little to protest with and the windows only open an inch or so. They hold messages to the glass and throw out toilet paper

Hassockfield is so remote that the Home Office was unable to find law firms which would give satisfactory tenders to give legal advice there and abandoned the search – with detainees now only able to get advice by phone. Women for Refugee Women are calling for donations to mount a legal challenge over this lack of support. There is a great deal more information about the cruel and racist treatment of asylum seekers with many telling their own stories on their web site.

Yarl’s Wood like almost all of the immigration prisons is privately run for the Home Office, with companies cutting costs for profit

Back on 12th March 2016, my own journey to Yarl’s Wood didn’t go too well, with a train cancellation. But I still got to Bedford Station in a little over two hours and in time for the coach organised by MfJ to the meeting point at Twinwoods Business Park, around a mile walk from the prison. Unfortunately the coach driver didn’t know the way and police had put up large signs stating the road up from the A6 was closed (though in fact they were letting traffic to the protest to go through.) The result was a rather lengthy tour of the Bedfordshire countryside – with another wrong turning, meaning we arrived the best part of an hour late.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Protesters climb up to show placards and balloons to the women

Fortunately the event had started with a rally on the road waiting for people from around the country to arrive, and the mile or so walk to the prison was waiting for us and only just about to begin.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Battering the fence makes a lot of noise

Fortunately it was a fine day for the walk, but there had been heavy rain in previous days and some of the footpath and the field beside the prison where the protest took place was full of mud and some puddles, making it hard to move about and keep my balance. As you can see in some pictures close to the fence it was a sticky mess.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Many of those protesting were former detainees, some of whom spoke at the event

The field has a fairly steep slope up from the 20ft prison fence, which does enable protesters to see over the lower 10ft of thick metal sheeting and to glimpse the women waving, shouting and holding posters at the upper floor windows inside.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Women had written messages on towels and clothing to hang out through the narrow openings.

It is tricky taking pictures through the 10 ft upper section of the fence with its thick wire grid and I don’t have the kind of long and fast lenses for this. I actually declined the invitation from the organisers to photograph the first large MfJ protest here as I knew I didn’t really have the right gear, suggesting they invite a colleague. But for later protests I decided that there were many other pictures I could take and I could at least get some kind of pictures through that fence.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Many reports have confirmed the abuses taking place inside Yarl’s Wood

Many of those at the protest were people who had been locked up inside Yarl’s Wood or other detention centres, and almost all of those who spoke had stories to tell about how their mistreatment – having been physically and sexually assaulted, locked in rooms, denied medical assistance, unable to get proper legal advice and more. Most had come to this country fleeing from violence, often from rape and in dire need of care and understanding and instead were locked up, their stories disbelieved and further subjected to hostile and inhuman treatment.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Detainees are allowed phones and some were able to speak from inside the immigration prison

At the end of the protest people let off a number of coloured flares before the long walk back to the coaches. I was rather caught in the mud and unable to get close to where this was happening. On the path and road back to the coach I tried to scrape the worst of the mud from my boots and trousers on the grass and on the kerb of the road, and found some sticks to help, but Bedfordshire mud proved extremely persistent.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood
Most of the speakers were former detainees and friends inside could hear them

We needed to remove our boots before getting on the coach, and fortunately I had a plastic bag to put them in for the journey, getting back into them where we were dropped off at the station. The journey home was slow but uneventful and I was exhausted and needed a good meal and a bath when I arrived – but at least unlike those detainees I was free.

Shut Down Racist Yarl's Wood

More at Shut Down Yarl’s Wood on My London Diary, where you can also find accounts of other protests at Yarl’s Wood as well as other immigration prisons at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook using the site search.


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Stop Trident, Troops out of Iraq – 2007

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Stop Trident, Troops out of Iraq – 2007. On Saturday 24th February 15 years ago I spent a long afternoon photographing around 50,000 protesters marching through London calling for an end to Britain’s nuclear weapons and for our troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

The march was organised by Stop The War, the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament and the British Muslim Initiative, and on My London Diary – back then still only in lower case – I made clear my support for the marchers:

i’ve for many years been opposed to the so-called independent british nuclear weapons. even at the height of the cold war they were never credible as an independent deterrent. if they have ever had any justification it was that they made the usa feel less guilty, although american guilt at its huge nuclear arsenal and at being the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons has always been an incredibly stunted growth.

i was also firmly against the invasion of iraq. it was always clear to those who didn’t want to be deluded that the so-called ‘intelligence’ on weapons of mass destruction was laughable. blair was either a liar or a fool as he misled a minority of the british people and a majority of their mps. or most probably both. (saddam may also have been deluded and certainly was an evil dictator, but we had long failed those who tried to oppose him.) the invasion was criminal, but the lack of planning for the occupation that inevitably followed even more so.

My London Diary – Feb 2007

My account also points out the ridiculously low estimate of the numbers taking part given by the police of 4,000 – though I think they were eventually forced to increase this somewhat – and gives my own method of assessing numbers on such large demonstrations as this. The marchers took 90 minutes to pass me as I photographed them in Park Lane. My usual rule of thumb was to double the police estimate, but on this occasion they surpassed themselves, being an order of magnitude out.

There certainly is always a policy by our establishment, backed up by the BBC and the press, except on rare occasions to minimise dissent, particularly left-wing dissent, in this country while often exaggerating any protests against left-wing governments abroad. It’s a bias which has been very obvious in the coverage of events in Latin-American countries such as Venezuela.

Tony Benn

The BBC and some of our newspapers have some excellent reporters and correspondents, and it is more in the selection of what they are asked to report on and the editing of their reports and the context in which they are placed that the bias occurs. Some things are just not ‘news’, while others, often trivial or flippant, get major attention.

Fortunately there are other sources with different biases, including the almost invisibly small left-wing press in the UK (the two daily papers – the Communist Morning Star and Workers Revolutionary Party’s The News Line together have a circulation probably well under 10,000), but more importantly large news organisations such as the Russian-funded RT International and the Qatari Al Jazeera English – the latter particularly interesting about current events in the Ukraine.

Every journalist has a point of view and while we may strive to be factual I don’t think there is such a thing as objectivity. Our reporting is always subjective, based on what we feel and what we think is of importance. Every photograph I take involves choice – and the rejection of other things I don’t photograph – even at times things I think would make eye-catching images but would misrepresent people or the event. Further choices come in the selection of which images to send to an agency, and also which I choose to put on My London Diary.

On this occasion I chose rather too many to put on-line, with 17 pages of pictures, though this reflects the typical internet speeds of 15 years ago, when pages with more than ten small images were too slow to load even though I compressed the images as lower quality jpegs than I would now. But the number of pictures also reflected my intention to tell the story of the event as fully as possible rather than creating a single image for the event that might appeal to a picture editor.

Julie Felix

Looking at the report now I feel there are rather too many images particularly of some of the well-known faces I photographed at the rally. Perhaps also I made too many of the marchers, some of which might be of far more interest to the people shown in them than the general public. But if people make an effort to make an interesting placard or banner I think it deserves a little recognition.

You can read more of my report of the event and see another 160 or so pictures on My London Diary, beginning on the February 2007 page, though you will need to scroll a long way down the page to reach this march and rally.


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The Future of the Photographic Magazine

Thursday, February 10th, 2022

I seldom these days think or write much about contemporary photography or the future of photography, though it was something that was a part of my remit as a working journalist for some years a while back. Nowadays I seem to be too busy with my own work – both current and past – to think or write much about anything else.

But I’ve recently been intrigued by a Twitter thread by John Macpherson, better known as duckrabbit, a photographer and author of one of the few photography blogs I read regularly and admire greatly for the principled stance he has taken in recent controversies over Magnum and Child Abuse and other issues.

I have to admit I don’t actually take any real part in Twitter, never having found out how to sort the wheat from the incredible volume of chaff. I post (when I remember) tweets linking to pictures from current protests and events which I’ve posted in Facebook albums, but that’s about all. So the link to duckrabbit’s thread came to me by a ‘Your Highlights‘ e-mail from Twitter.

The thread is difficult to follow, but it seems that the British Journal of Photography has been sold or is in process of being sold and its Twitter account with 250,000 followers has been asset stripped from the company.

The sale appears to be to a company engaged in the promotion of NFTs, and BJP appears to be morphing into ART3A brand new platform bringing the best lens-based art to the metaverse” offering these as rather intangible Non-fungible tokens for sale through an outlet, OpenSea.

Having read and tried to understand what an NFT is, I still have no idea why anyone would want to own one. Certainly it is something far more to do with the art market than with photography. It’s worth reading the thoughts of Jack Lowe on them in his ‘Are Aspiring Photographers Being Used to Prop Up the Grave New World of NFTs?’

Magazines have played an important role throughout the history of photograph up until now. The BJP can trace its ancestry back to the 1854 Liverpool Photographic Journal, though it only became the BJP in 1860, but it wasn’t the UK’s first as the Journal of the Photographic Society (now the RPS Journal) has been publishing continuously since 1853.

Probably the most influential of all was Camera Work, published by Alfred Stieglitz from 1903-1917, which set new standards for photographic publishing and helped bring photography into the galleries and museums. Established firmly in the era of pictorial photography and promoting Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession, its two final issues launched the new Modernist photography of Paul Strand which was to become dominant in the following decades. The US-based Aperture magazine later became the most prestigious of all photographic magazines, though its book publishing is arguably even more important.

Here in the UK, several magazines have been important in our photographic history, including the illustrated magazines around the Second World War, notably Picture Post, which although based on photographs were not aimed at a photographic audience but a mass one. More narrowly when I came into photography at the start of the 1970s, Creative Camera was the Bible for many young photographers, introducing us to a new way of seeing, particularly from American photographers.

There were other influential British magazines too, including Camerawork, obviously named from the earlier US publication but with a very different approach, and many others, but for many years BJP remained at the centre of British Photography.

Part of BJP’s appeal was that it covered all areas of photography except amateur photography, being a trade journal, publishing exhibition listings and reviews, news items about new equipment, materials and services etc. Its reviews of cameras were always by professionals who actually used them rather than re-hashing the spec sheets and PR releases and while not greatly embellished by detailed charts or test results gave a very practical view. Many of the articles commissioned, particularly under the editorship of Geoffrey Crawley (1967-87) were by leading experts in their respective fields, and his example was largely followed by Chris Dickie and Reuel Golden.

For many of us working in photography it was essential reading to keep in touch with photography in the UK every week (from 1864 to 2010.) Like most other magazines mentioned above it then underwent a dramatic change, becoming a very different publication, appearing monthly and largely devoted to portfolios of images from the fine art fringe of photography. I didn’t bother to renew my subscription as I already had subs to several other magazines which did similar things but usually better.

In 2016, the BJP turned to equity crowdfundingto monetise our global digital audience, expand on our competitions and events, and sell access to our unique 160+ year archive.” Many of its subscribers responded and became shareholders in a company that was set up so as to retain control in the hands of its major shareholder. The company was asking for more investments as recently as June 2021, but the latest confidential e-mail tells them that for a total of £1.8 million invested they will only get £50,000 back – which if my calculation is correct is less than 3p for every £1 invested.

Finally, an article by photographer, educator and photographic author Grant Scott on his United Nations of Photography web site written in 2020 is titled IS THERE A FUTURE FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE? His answer after a lengthy look at how photography magazines have worked and his own experience is “Sadly, I don’t think so.” And his final two sentences:
You may agree with me or you may not, but whatever your opinion please answer just one question. When was the last time you bought a photography magazine?”


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Pioneering Women of Photojournalism

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

CNN recently published the article ‘These are the pioneering women of photojournalism‘ a story by Kyle Almond highlighting the website Trailblazers of Light, started by award-winning photojournalist Yunghi Kim who has covered stories all over the world for Contact Press Images and is best known for her story documenting South Korean “comfort women,” sex slaves used by the Japanese military during World War II.

Trailblazers of Light now lists more than 500 women who since the late 19th century have made significant work, reporting from around the world, including in war zones and other dangerous places, breaking their way into what is still – as a 2015 study by World Press Photo, the University of Stirling and Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism confirmed, very much a male dominated world.

The CNN article is illustrated by over 30 photographs of some of these women at work, some familiar names, and others I was not aware of, each with short notes about their careers.

I think there are at least ten of them who had got as a mention when I wrote about photography including the history of photography for a commercial web site, and some I had featured at greater length such as Dorothea Lange and Berenice Abbott. It was clear to me back then that our history of photography has been dominated by men and that there were many women whose work had been sidelined and largely forgotten, and whose work demanded greater attention.

I was also finding many contemporary features by women photographers that greatly impressed me and I could link to on the site. And on the streets where I worked it was also clear to me that although women were much outnumbered by men, their numbers among those whose work I admired were rather more equal, perhaps because women have to work harder to be recognised.

Friern Barnet Celebrates – Feb 5th 2013

Friday, February 5th, 2021

Friern Barnet Library supporters celebrated victory in overturning Barnet Council’s closure decision in a ceremony in which the Occupy squatters who had prevented its sale handed over the library keys to the local community who will now run it.

The victory by local residents, squatters and activists from the Occupy Movement against Barnet Council is not just a local matter, but one of national (and possibly even international) importance. A great example of democracy in action it shows how a combination of campaiging, lobbying, direct action and making use of the law can win against bureacracy and greed.

Today residents and squatters came together to celebrate their victory after Barnet had agreed to lease the building to a community company set up to run it as a library, Friern Barnet Community Library (FBCL).

Friern Barnet Library Victory Celebration

Eight years on, the library is still run by the community and up until closure for Covid lockdown, a thriving centre of community activities. Local residents had set up the ‘Save Friern Barnet Library Group’ when they heard that Barnet Council were proposing to close the library, and organised petitions, lobbied councillors, organised events and got the media involved, but the council wouldn’t listen to them and went ahead and shut it in April 2012. The council saw the site – including the large green space outside as a valuable site for sale to private developers rather than the community asset it was.

In September 2012 community activist squatters, including some who had been part of Occupy London, entered the library and re-opened it, beginning a long occupation. At first some local residents were wary of associating themselves in this direct action, but soon began to work with the squatters to re-establish library services.

The council went to court to regain possession of the building, but in December the judge ruled that they had to try to negotiate some form of licence to keep the library open to preserve proportionality between the rights of protesters and of the council. Eventually they agreed to allow a community company to run it as a library

At the celebration inside the library, the occupiers (at left above) handed over the library keys to the FBCL (at right), and we all cheered before getting down to the serious business of eating the cakes and dancing around the green outside.

But some of the press photographers covering the event weren’t happy with the pictures they had (or rather hadn’t got) of the handover, and later got the two groups to restage it outside the library. It just goes to show that you should never believe what you see in the newspapers. Of course as you can see I photographed it too, but made sure my captions made clear it was staged for the photograph rather than the actual handover. Some photographers don’t see it as important, but for me it crosses a vital line of journalistic integrity – it’s my job to record not to stage events.

People went out to dance around the paved area and green spaces in front of the library which are used to hold community events.

The local councillor who had supported the residents then cut a tape to let us all back into the library, where there were some more speeches before getting down to continuing the serious business of celebration.

This was the ‘bookworm cake’ and it took a lot of candles and quite a while to light them all,

but was blown out fairly quickly, and later we all ate some.

Many more pictures at Friern Barnet Library Victory Celebration.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


The Curious Society

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

The Curious Society is an initiative from an idea by Kenneth Jarecke of Contact Press Images to promote photojournalism, which is attempting to develop a different paying model for the genre, outside of commercial publications. Given the problems of photographers working for the current newspapers and magazines around the world I think we should welcome anything that helps photographers involved in serious photojournalism.

The underlining goal of the Curious Society is to preserve the institutional knowledge photographers and editors need to produce great photojournalism. This knowledge was once passed along in the field from old people to young people. today, most of the old folks aren’t working, so there exists a real danger of losing what they know.

https://www.curioussociety.org/faq

The major current problems putting the future of photojournalism under threat are financial and contractual. Often photojournalists now have to sign ‘work for hire’ contracts with magazines etc to get support for their projects, which means signing away their copyrights in their images for a risible ‘day rate’.

The Curious Society hopes to issue four high-quality collectable 256 page print issues a year, and to pay contributing photographers on a ‘space rate’ basis to licence their images, initially at $100 per page, but hoping to increase this as membership grows. It needs an initial 4,000 members to get off the ground for its first year, but hopes to get up to 20,000, which would enable it to increase the rate it pays photographers to $500 per page – the rate magazines like Time used once to pay.

The publications will not ‘technically’ carry any advertising, though they may accept some ‘sponsorship’ and turn it into grants or other things that will directly aid photojournalists, and they make clear that “we’re budgeted to be completely supported by our members, so the sponsors won’t be able to dictate what appears on our pages.” But this means that members have to pay the full cost of production, whereas most publications are largely paid for by advertising, turning them into vehicles to supply readers to the advertisers.

There is a lot more you can read on The Curious Society web site, with some stunning photographs. There is also an Instagram page, which they intend to be their only social media presence. Their publications will be only available to members and there will also be some member-only videos.

Although I welcome this initiative and wish it every success I do have some reservations. With individual membership at $300 per year it clearly isn’t something for me – and there are higher levels of contribution for those wanting to be more involved, as well as a half price student deal and some gift memberships for young aspiring photographers. It’s also a very USA-centric organisation, with an annual meeting in a small to medium sized town in the Rocky Mountain West – the first planned hopefully for September 2021.

Although a positive idea, it’s also one of a limited scale. At $100 per page it is only injecting around $100,000 per year into paying photojournalists, an amount that will not go far around. Welcome though it is, even if successful it will hardly have a huge impact on the industry.

I’m also just a little put off by the web site. Partly because of the kind of images that it presents, all very high impact and newsy, but perhaps sometimes more about the photographer than the subject. And perhaps not in the finest traditions of photojournalism, where the pictures that really tell the story are rather less dramatised. I also wish that the text was not all in CAPITAL LETTERS. I’m averse to being shouted at either in visuals or text.

The Curious Society
https://www.curioussociety.org/

Magnum called out

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

Magnum holds a hugely important place in the history of photography, and many of us grew up with a concept of photojournalism that was largely based on its founding photographers, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, William Vandivert and David “Chim” Seymour (three of whom only heard about it after the meeting in Paris.) From the start it was a co-operative and importantly the photographers retained copyright, and they divided up the world between them.

Magnum of course flourished and grew, but retained its basic structure, owned and administered entirely by it photographer members, employing staff to support them. As well as the full members who are shareholders and vote at its annual meetings, there are also nominees, associates, contributors and correspondents who have no voting rights. A Wikpedia article gives more details, and includes the sentence which is perhaps relevant now, “No member photographer of Magnum has ever been asked to leave.”

I don’t know how complete the list of members (of all grades) on Wikipedia is, but it names over 130 photographers, many now deceased or withdrawn from Magnum, almost all of the familiar names, and including many of the best-known photojournalists of the last 73 years. Among them is American photographer David Alan Harvey, active since 1993 and a full member since 1997.

Magnum began with five male photographers, though both the Paris and New York office heads were women (Maria Eisner in Paris and Ruth Vandivert in New York) and among those in the members list only around 20 are women. It could be seen as a photographic ‘old boy’s net’ and perhaps its structure and membership have both contributed to the current controversy over both some of the work available in its digital archive and its perhaps sluggish response to allegations of sexual abuse.

As Kristen Chick points out in her special report, Magnum’s moment of reckoning in Columbia Journalism Review, it was only in 2018 that Magnum issued a code of conduct for its members in 2018 while in the same year boasting that it had not received a single complaint against any of its photographers. 

Chick’s article rapidly disposes of that assertion, pointing out that complaints had been made nine years earlier over inappropriate behavior by David Alan Harvey but that no action was taken by Magnum until a scandal broke on the web. In August 2020 Fstoppers reported that Magnum was selling explicit photographs of sexually exploited minors on its website, including pictures taken by Harvey in Bangkok in 1989; this led photojournalist Amanda Mustard to tweet “alleging that sexual misconduct allegations against him were an open secret in the industry.”

Chick’s report goes into some detail about the allegations made by eleven women against Harvey, and also what appears to be a very inadequate response by Magnum. The exploitative photographs were withdrawn from their web site but apparently remain available through other suppliers, and although Harvey was suspended and an inquiry launched into his behaviour, the report demonstrates that it and Magnum have failed or refused to listen to women making complaints.

And perhaps rather surprisingly, although Magnum proudly claimed it had drawn up a code of conduct for members, it refuses to make this public.

Do read the full report at Magnum’s moment of reckoning in Columbia Journalism Review.

Shortly after I wrote this last Tuesday (22nd Dec) Magnum issued a statement that they were “deeply upset to read the allegations about David Alan Harvey that have been reported in the CJR” and that they “will immediately investigate them and consider the appropriate action.”

What this omits is any mention of the several allegations that Magnum failed to investigate earlier that are mentioned in the CJR report, and the apparent shortcomings in the investigation that resulted in his clearly inadequate one year suspension.

According to the report, Harvey’s behaviour over several decades was widely known among other photographers, and Magnum is an organisation run by its photographers; it seems more than likely that at least some of the other members were aware of it – yet nothing was done before the organisation was forced into action by the furore in August 2020.

Walk for Grenfell

Monday, December 14th, 2020

Every 14th of each month, my thoughts return to the terrible tragic events of 14th June 2017. It’s now three and a half years ago, and still none of those responsible for some of the worst crimes in our history which led up to the fire has been brought to justice, and with an inquiry that has seemed to be largely concerned with diverting blame it seems less and less likely that any of the criminals will ever be prosecuted and jailed.

I wrote the piece below back in November 2017, but it was never published, so here it is now, exactly as written.


The fire at Grenfell Tower shocked us all.  There was a huge immediate media response, and I felt that there was little point in my going there and adding to this, yet another photographer.  I felt my presence would do nothing to help the people and might well aggravate their distress.

As more emerged about what had led up to the disaster I felt an increasing anger. Although the council hadn’t actually lit a match, they had clearly created a situation in which what should have been a small and insignificant fire could lead to a major catastrophe by a serious of failures and deliberate acts that each increased the risks to those living in the block, compounded by a government who had seen vital safety legislation as red tape and successive administrations that had failed to set proper standards and to properly enforce those that existed.

Then came Kensington and Chelsea Council’s almost complete failure to properly respond to the disaster, a lack of urgency and lack of competence. Part of their failure that led to the deaths was a failure to listen to the community who had pointed out some of the major problems and they still are not listening – and the official inquiry appears to be taking the same route, making many feel it will be just an empty exercise.

Over the months since the fire I realised how many people I knew were in some way involved, some as volunteers, doing the work that councils and other bodies should have done, others in other ways. I still didn’t feel I could commit myself to Grenfell in a way that was truly meaningful, but did feel able to at least do a little on the issues, including covering the monthly ‘Silent Walk for Grenfell’.

I’m wasn’t sure what I felt about the silent walk. Obviously it is important to keep the community together and to keep the memory of Grenfell, but perhaps something more is needed than a event that takes place largely out of sight in the area around the tower, emerging only briefly into the stronger light of Ladbroke Grove.  And a few months later, in February, the walk organisers perhaps agreed, moving the start point to the council offices and beginning the walk along High Street Kensington.

But perhaps it still needs to be more. Their seems to be a great emphasis on the walk not being political – though a number of political groups were taking part. But to be effective I think it has to become much more political and rather more active. Otherwise – as appears to be happening now – Grenfell will soon be largely forgotten, with few if any prosecutions of the guilty parties, little tightening of the regulations, most of the Government promises being history and the safety of other largely working-class communities around the country still at risk. I still hope for something rather more powerful on the anniversary of this terrible event.

Silent Walk for Grenfell Tower

The event was still something of the media circus I had felt it best to stay away from rather than add to, with photographers and TV and video. Most of the march was through dimly lit streets, on the limits of photographic possibility without using my LED light (or flash), with a few areas of strong an contrasty light at crossings. Things got rather easier on Ladbroke Grove and I stayed there until the end of the march passed into the gloom before taking the train home from there rather than go on to the end.

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The Language of Photography

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

Thanks to a tweet by duckrabbit I went to read an article on the blog of London portrait photographer Andy Barnham, From weapon safety to the language of photography. I know little or nothing about weapon safety – and the St. Louis couple who stood outside their home pointing weapons at Black Lives Matter protesters seemed to me appallingly dangerous for their mental attitudes rather than the important points of firearms etiquette that Barnham points out.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey have been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering. They had a card printed using the photograph of themselves taken by UPI photographer William Greenblatt without permission, and he sent them a polite letter asking for a fee of $1500 for the usage. On 6th November they went to court in St Louis asking for ownership of the photo, stating it was taken on their property, claiming damages from Greenblatt and UPI and asking for a ban on the use of the photo by UP and others including a company producing t-shirts and other memorabilia. According to The Hill, the St Louis Post Dispatch (unavailable in the UK except by VPN) “the couple have a long history of suing their neighbours … over small neighborhood issues“. This case seems unlikely to enjoy any success.

But Barnham goes on to think about the language of photography, and in particular the way many talk about ‘shooting’, ‘photo-shoots’ and other related terms when describing photographs and the act of making photographs. He goes on from there to write “at a time when BLM is questioning the country’s historical connection to the slave trade and has seen statues removed, is the termmaster/ slave’ appropriate, especially when the terms have ready alternatives such as primary/ secondary, key/ fill and so on? “

You can read more in his post, and in the various comments on it. Here is the comment I added to those already there.

Now we mainly use wireless flash triggers for multiple flash, the terms ‘master’ and ‘slave’ are in any case redundant. But the terms never referred to the lighting function but to how the units were fired. When I used multiple flash set-ups, the slave was usually the main light, set up to one side, while the master was a subsidiary light used as fill but physically connected to the camera sync socket or hot shoe. Sometimes the master might even be masked to that no light from it reached the subject, but it was still able to trigger the slave or slaves.

I’ve long tried hard to avoid the word ‘shoot’ in my thinking and writing – like Paul Halliday, I’ve always ‘made’ pictures. In similar vein the word ‘capture’ now favoured by some uses of digital cameras also raises my hackles, and I’m not that happy with ‘take’ either – it has that suggestion of ‘stealing souls’.

Back to multiple flash, where one flash is used to trigger another I would suggest the terms ‘lead’ and ‘echo’ are suitably short and clear and perhaps better express the essential difference.

Of course we should still use terms such as ‘main light’, ‘rim light’ and ‘fill’ to talk about what the lights are doing, but ‘master’ and ‘slave’ were never about that.