Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

Stop Bush National Demonstration – 2003

Monday, November 20th, 2023

Stop Bush National Demonstration – It seems so long ago; on Thursday 20th November 2003, 20 years ago today, I photographed the protest against then US President George Bush in London.

Stop Bush National Demonstration

The protest came just 8 months after the US under Bush had led the invasion of Iraq, aided by Tony Blair who had lied to Parliament and presented a fake dossier to take Britain to war as well.

Stop Bush National Demonstration

The US had claimed their action was necessary to “disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free Iraqi people”. It wasn’t long before it became clear that those who had always said there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were proved correct, and although Saddam was killed the invasion encouraged support for terrorists across much of the world, and rather than becoming free the people of Iraq were subjected to still continuing years of misery.

Stop Bush National Demonstration

A 2023 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute comments that the invasion “ushered in years of chaos and civil war, as a variety of armed groups vied for power and territory and targeted coalition forces and the fledgling post-Ba’athist Iraqi Army. A period of relative calm in the early 2010s was broken by the rise of the extremist Islamic State group, which occupied large parts of the country from 2014 until it was largely defeated by Iraqi forces with the support of a US-led international coalition in 2017.”

Stop Bush National Demonstration

It goes on to say that the country is now in 2023 at its most stable since the invasion, but “Armed violence persists in different forms, but it is sporadic, fragmented and localized. However, the country remains fragile and divided, and its people face an array of deepening challenges that the state is struggling to address.

Twenty years ago I was just beginning to work using a digital camera. The Nikon D100 was one of the first affordable generation of digital SLRs, released in the USA at around the same time as the Canon EOS D60, both with a price tag of just under $2000, though I forget what I paid for it here in the UK.

It was still a rather primitive beast, with a 6Mp sensor roughly half the size of a 35mm film frame in what Nikon dubbed DX format. It’s viewfinder was small and dim, making working with it rather more difficult than the film cameras – both SLR and rangefinder – that I had been using.

And having spent so much on a camera, I also had to buy a lens. I’d long been using Olympus SLRs along with Leica and other cameras with the Leica-M mount and had a full range of lenses for these, but nothing with a Nikon mount. So along with the camera I’d bought what was the cheapest zoom in their range, a 24-85mm with a maximum aperture of around f3.5. On the D100 that worked as a 36-127mm equivalent.

It was a useful lens, and a very decent performer, but still rather limiting, with no real wide-angle capability. So alongside the D100 I would also be working most of the time with two other cameras, one loaded with colour negative film and the other black and white.

But there was a huge advantage with digital, in that I could send off files to an agency within hours of taking them, while with the black and white it was probably a day or two before I made prints to take or send. Publishing too had largely moved to colour and colour images were now wanted rather than black and white.

Although I developed and at least contact printed the films I took then, I think I’ve made very few if any prints from this or other events at the time. And any I have made since will have been printed digitally from scans of the negatives.

Digital gave an immediacy, but there were still problems with handling the files. Software to process the RAW images that were needed to get the most out of the digital files was still rather primitive by current standards, and most of the images I processed back then have a slightly muddy look. Nikon’s colour rendering was I think more to my taste than Canon, but still not up to that from film, though now we get far more accurate colour from digital. When Adobe introduced Lightroom in 2007 it was a little of a step backwards, but since then it has improved dramatically.

Those early sensors also were not too great with high contrast subjects and for some years I worked much of the time with fill-in flash on sunny days. Fortunately this was something that digital camera and modern flash systems made a simple routine.

On My London Diary I was still experimenting in how to present digital work on the web, and the thumbnail pages I created here were not the best of ideas. But the 80 images presented there – around a third of the exposures I made – perhaps give a good idea of how I worked. Clicking on any of them gives a page with slightly larger views of several of them.

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No Third Runway at Heathrow – 2016

Tuesday, May 30th, 2023

No Third Runway at Heathrow

No Third Runway at Heathrow: Heathrow Airport celebrated its 70th anniversary on Monday 30th May 2016. and local residents marked the occasion with a protest on the village green at Harmondsworth against the plans to build a third runway which would destroy over 750 local homes.

No Third Runway at Heathrow

I grew up under the flightpath a couple of miles from touchdown on the main runway used for incoming flights, standing in my back garden and crossing off the registration letters of the planes passing rather close overhead in my spotters book. Those early planes – like the Douglas DC3 and the Vickers Viscount – were small and relatively quiet and gave young boys like me hours of interest with little disruption of normal life, but the generations that followed were very different, larger and ear-shattering. The complaints against their noise grew rapidly – and those easy to read letters on the underside of the wings disappeared so it was harder to identify flights in our complaints.

No Third Runway at Heathrow

Heathrow had been planted on the edge of London’s built up area by deception, beginning as a ‘military’ airport towards the end of the Second World War when it was known it would never be used as such, by people who were determined to make it London’s major civil airport. They did it to get around the objecteons there would have been later to a civil airport here.

No Third Runway at Heathrow
A huge mis-cake’ Heathrow Airport: Celebrating 70 years of unrelenting Aircraft Noise for local communities’

Over the years Heathrow continued to grow and grow. More flights and more terminals. More local traffic and more pollution. Every new development was made with promises that were later broken. T4 was promised to be the last new terminal – but then came the application to build T5. With this came the promise that Heathrow would never ask for another runway – but this was broken even before T5 had opened.

The enquiry into the third runway was said to be final – but while the local community were still celebrating their victory – and David Cameron was saying ” No Ifs, No Buts, No Third Runway”, Heathrow Airport was already plotting the setting up of a new inquiry that would somehow against all the evidence come up with the result they wanted – the Davies Commission.

John Stewart – HACAN – Heathrow want taxpayers to pay for the new roads, tunnels etc needed

In 2016 the threat of the new ‘third runway’ loomed dangerously over the area again, with the Conservative Government backing the proposals. Many of those who came to the event at Harmondsworth feared they would soon lose their homes – and property in the area was blighted as it had been for many years. Others outside the actual development would find their lives made impossible by aircraft noise, with people from almost the whole of West London suffering, particularly from flights in the early morning, with plane after plane passing overhead.

The Heathrow Adobe Hat, with portable air purifier and environmentally biodiverse suitcase

Heathrow’s noise and pollution affect a surprisingly large area of London. Twenty years ago I was in a hospital bed in Tooting in south London, around 12 miles away as the jet flies, awake early in the morning partly by their noise, watching and hearing a whole line of plane after plane in line for touchdown.

Neil Keveren, Chair of Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE)

In our local area we get the pollution from the planes, both from running their engines on the ground and also from takeoff and landing. But more importantly the airport generates huge amounts of road traffic, both on local roads and the motorways serving the area – M3, M4 and M25.

Seven years on it seems increasingly unlikely that there will ever be a third runway built. Even the most jet-headed politicians are beginning to see that we cannot continue with airport expansion and meet the need to cut carbon emissions. Financial constraints increasingly make it less likely too.

My post on My London Diary has the details about the event on Monday 30th May 2016 and of course more pictures, including some of the village itself, including its pubs, church and remarkable Grade I listed tithe barn, said to be the largest wooden structure in the country, dating from 1426. Local campaigners saved that a few years ago and it was bought by English Heritage in 2012 and has been much restored. It lies just outside the area the airport would take over for the new runway and would be at serous danger from vibration – and would almost certainly need to be re-sited.

A church window remembers Ann & Bryan Sobey who led the ‘Right to Sleep’ campaign for restrictions on night flights into Heathrow

Though on the edge of London Harmondsworth still has a village atmosphere, and still seems much like the village I cycled through in my youth. I hope it remains that way.

More at No 3rd Runway Heathrow 70th Birthday.

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Journey to Justice – Drop the Debt 2008

Thursday, May 18th, 2023

Journey to Justice - Drop the Debt 2008

Sunday 18th May 2008, 15 years ago today, was an unusual day for me in two ways. Firstly that I went to Birmingham rather than London, but mainly that I went not primarily as a photographer, but as one of thousands of protesters, though that did not stop me taking photographs as you can see.

Journey to Justice - Drop the Debt 2008

Recent developments in Artificial Intelligence are arousing considerable debate among photographers, partly about redundancy with AI generated imagery already replacing photographers in some areas of marketing and advertising work, but more importantly about authenticity now that you can generate seemingly photographic images of anything whether it actually happened or not.

Journey to Justice - Drop the Debt 2008

Of course it has always been possible to make photographs which are misleading and dishonest, either at the point of exposure or later in the darkroom or more recently and trivially easy on a computer. There have been many historical examples and more recent controversies about faking or altering photographs, especially in some photojournalistic environments.

Journey to Justice - Drop the Debt 2008

Of course in some areas of photography clearly anything goes. We don’t expect a work of art to be a literal interpretation, but when we come to news or photojournalism we expect things to be true to the event or occasion. And the only guarantee of that is the integrity of the reporter.

Journey to Justice - Drop the Debt 2008

Of course as I wrote at the start of my piece on ‘Journey to Justice – Drop the Debt’, “You can’t take photographs without a point of view. Literally and metaphorically so – the rationale for making the picture determines the technical aspects of actually making the exposure. Where you stand isn’t just a matter of where you put your feet.”

I hope that my photographs make my position clear, as do the texts that I write to go with them, though on My London Diary and here I express my opinions as well as stating what appear to me to be the facts which accompany my images sent to the agencies I’ve worked with. I also don’t have to stick within the character limits they impose, typically limiting me to around a 100 words or less. Enough for the who, what, where and when but seldom much about the why, seldom enabling any real analysis of the events.

As my vintage website shows I’d been in Birmingham in May 1998 with some 70,000 others, forming a human chain around the centre of Birmingham, UK where the leaders of the eight richest nations in the G8 were holding a conference.

We were then part of a campaign by Jubilee 2000 to persuade the G8 countries to ‘break the chain of debt‘. Third-world countries were given massive loans in the 1970’s and are now crippled by the repayments, which now mean that a massive amount of money comes from the poor to the rich in repayments.

The noise we made back then made the world leaders come out from their conference room and listen, but then they went back inside and continued with business as usual. As I wrote in 2008, “Our actions in May 1998 had set the ball rolling, but as yet it has only gone one fifth of the way, and 80% of debts remain. All governments, including our own, have been guilty of making many promises that they have not kept on debt relief and aid.

Things overall have changed little since then, although some countries in the global south have become rather more desperate and more vocal particularly as the effects of climate change increasingly hit them.

I wrote at some length about the day and the protest on My London Diary in 2008 and I won’t repeat that here, but hope some at least will click the link to read it.

At the end of that piece I wrote about the problem for those who didn’t have a long ladder in photographing what was an attempt to form and photograph the world’s largest human pie chart. I can’t find the official photograph on the web and I think it may have been little if any better than mine.

2008 Journey to Justice – Drop the Debt
1998 Jubilee 2000 – Birmingham

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Wandsworth Panoramas – March 2014

Friday, March 24th, 2023

As a photographer I’ve long been interested in the difference between how we experience the world around us and how the camera records it. Some of those differences are obvious but others less so, and some we are seldom aware of.

Wandsworth Panoramas - March 2014

The camera records an image produced by its lens which follows strict optical rules which I learnt about long ago in my physics lessons, though real lenses deviate slightly from those ideal and perfect specimens in those science texts.

Wandsworth Panoramas - March 2014

The camera holds a film or sensor to record that image – and again does so following strict physical (and chemical for film) processes which may fail to record significant features and distort others to produce an essentially flat two-dimensional image. It may not even record colours but if it does they always to some extent arbitrary, as too are the tones.

Wandsworth Panoramas - March 2014

Those of us who grew up on film are perhaps more aware of this than the digital generations. We had to be aware of the differences in recording of, for example Ilford’s Pan F and Kodak’s Tri-X, and how these were affected by processing and printing, and of the rather unreal but different colour renditions of Kodachrome, Kodacolor, Ektachrome, Agfa, Ferraniacolor and the other colour film films, each with its own qualities. Though perhaps if we ever used Orwo film quality was not the right word for its purplish nature.

Wandsworth Panoramas - March 2014

Of course there are differences in the way digital cameras record colour, but these are rather smaller, and we can make use of software to make them match more closely or exaggerate the difference. Lightroom and Photoshop can make my Fuji files look very similar in terms of colour rendition to those from Nikon.

But our experience of a scene is very different, combining inputs from all of our senses, and it would be impossible to over-emphasise the subjective aspects. But even just visually it is still very different. While the lens cuts out all but a small rectangle in front of us, our eyes send information to the brain from a much wider field, much of it except from a small central section lacking in sharpness. Most of us have binocular vision, gathering this data from two eyes a short but significant distance apart, enabling us to see in depth. And our view is always dynamic, our eyes moving around, and as we swing our head around or up and down we have the sensation of moving through a static universe. Doing the same with a camera has a very different effect.

A standard lens – around 40 to 50mm on a full frame digital or 35mm film camera gives a similar idea of depth in its flat images to that we normally experience. With longer lens the effect of depth is reduced and by the time we get to really long lenses the images become flat patterns rather than appearing to represent a three dimensional scene. But what interested me more was what happened when the camera tried to represent a much wider angle of view than the standard, when the rectilinear rendering of normal lenses becomes impossible.

On Monday 14th of March I went for a walk with a painter friend who had brought her sketch book to introduce her to an area I thought she might find interesting. And I wanted to further explore some of the different ways of rendering very wide angles of view with digital cameras. I’d brought two Nikons with me, one fitted with a conventional wide-angle zoom which I used mainly at 16mm, close to the limit for such lenses (and I do have a wider lens which demonstrates this) and the other with a 16mm full-frame fisheye which fills the frame with an image which is 180 degrees across the diagonal.

While my friend stopped to make sketches I had time to make a series of images from similar locations. I kept warmer as I was moving around, but she fairly soon got cold, which was a good excuse to visit the pub which appears in some of these pictures, after which I took her back to the station where we had met and went back to take some more pictures on my own.

Back home I uploaded the images. Those from the conventional wide-angle zoom I’ve use as they were taken, with just the normal adjustments in Lightroom. But the fish-eye images I worked on with my panorama stitching software, PtGui, not to join images but to take the raw image data and process it it various different ways to produce cylindrical projections. If the camera was upright when the picture was taken, this will produce straight vertical lines for all upright elements. There are many different approaches to this which produce visually different results, some of which are common in mapping, such as Mercator.

Those I’ve found most useful are the equirectangular, Vedutismo and Transverse Vedutismo projections used in these examples.

More panoramic images from my walk on My London Diary at Wandsworth Panoramas.

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Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Back on Saturday 22nd March 2008 I had a rather varied day in London, meeting protesters cycling to Aldermaston on my way to photograph a march for freedom in Tibet, then going to a protest against the deportation of a gay man to Iran and finally to a pillow fight.

Bikes Not Bombs: London – Aldermaston

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I was on foot and had just come out of Oxford Circus station when I saw the CND Bikes Not Bombs group of cyclists who had begun their ride in Trafalgar Square earlier and were on their way to ride to Aldermaston. Though when I took a few photographs as you can see from the bus they were cycling in exactly the wrong direction, east towards Ilford. Of course they weren’t lost, just trying to attract some attention to the protest, riding with a sound system along London’s busiest shopping street.

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I’d thought briefly about taking part myself in the event, as I’d used a bike to get around since I was six, having graduated then from a first a pedal car and then a tricycle. I did own a car briefly when I was around 21, but soon realised it was impractical in cities, expensive, polluting and environmentally unsound and never made the same mistake again.

But for the reasons I listed on My London Diary – sloth, other events, lousy weather and a dislike of early rising – I didn’t join this official ride, though I did cycle on my own from Reading to Aldermaston and back on the following Monday to join the protesters there.

Bikes Not Bombs: London – Aldermaston

Support Tibet March

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

I was on my way to Park Crescent, a short walk north of the Chinese Embassy where Tibetans and supporters of freedom in Tibet were meeting to march through London on the 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

Bikes Not Bombs, Tibet, Deportation & Pillow Fight

Tibet came under effective control of the Chinese government in 1951, when an agreement had been come to the status of Tibet within the recently established People’s Republic of China. In 1949 Tibetan protesters feared the Chinese were about to arrest the 14th Dalai Lama. Protests were at first peaceful but were brutally repressed by the People’s Liberation Army and there was heavy fighting which also involved Tibetan separatists who had been carrying out guerrilla warfare against Chinese forces.

The Dalai Lama fled the country and set up an independent Tibetan government in India, where he still lives – and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The Tibetan uprising had begun on 10th March 1959 and this day is celebrated each year as Tibetan Uprising Day and Women’s Uprising Day. Since 2009, following protests on 10th March 2008 in Lhasa, the Chinese-controlled authority in Tibet have celebrated the day they fully regained control, 28th March as the national anniversary of Serfs Emancipation Day.

The Tibetan Independence Movement who organise annual protests calling for freedom for Tibet was originally funded and trained by the CIA, but this was withdrawn following Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. And the Dalai Lama who had originally backed it, and who appears as a large photograph carried reverently in the marches, also withdrew support for the independence movement in the 1970s.

It is clear from reports by Amnesty International and others is that there are considerable human rights abuses in Tibet. The 2021 US State Department report listing includes “unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment by the government; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom including site blocking; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; severe restrictions on religious freedom….”

Support Tibet March

Defend Mehdi Kazemi – Downing St

But of course human rights are not always respected in this country, and we currently have a government which is proposing to withdraw from some international human rights conventions and proposing racist anti-immigrant policies which are deliberately in breach of them.

Back in 2008, the Labour government was also riding roughshod over the human rights of some immigrants, setting up a system of large-scale detention of asylum seekers and treating individuals unfairly in a bid to outflank the Tories on cutting immigration through blatantly right-wing policies.

Mehdi Kazemi had come to the UK to study after having been involved in a consensual homosexual relationship in Iran. After his boyfriend was executed for this he became a wanted man in Iran and he went to the Netherlands to apply for political asylum.

This was refused as he had come from the UK and so was not allowed under the 2003 Dublin Agreement. The Uk had refused him permission to stay in Britain and were proposing to deport him to Iran where he would be tried and executed.

His case was just one of many where the Home Office were failing to recognise the need for refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of persecution because of their sexual orientation, and for failing to have accurate and up-to-date information on homophobic persecution in countries to which LGBT asylum seekers might be deported.

Support for Kazemi at this protest and by a number of MPs, MEPs and human rights activists did eventually result in the Home Office agreeing to review his case and he was given leave to remain here in May 2008.

Defend Mehdi Kazemi

Flash Mob Global Pillow Fight – Leicester Square

My day ended in very much lighter mood with a pillow fight in Leicester Square, one of many organised in capitals around the world due to kick off at 15.03PM.

I commented: “Of course its a trivial, silly event, but the idea and the kind of organisation involved I think represents something new and exciting, a kind of ‘Demo 2.0’ which we will surely see more of in the future.”

Perhaps this hasn’t had as much impact here in the UK as I had hoped, but I think may have been more important elsewhere in the world. To some extent it has been outgrown as Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps have become more important and even protests organised months and years in advance make use of them.

But it was interesting if rather tricky to photograph, and I got stuck in without a pillow and at some danger to my health, main not “from impact but suffocation when some pillows split open to fill the air with clouds of feathers and feather-dust. At times I wished I was wearing a mask to protect my lungs; keeping my mouth firmly closed and breathing though my nose only stopped the larger particles.

And I also found the the autofocus on my DSLR was too efficient at focusing on feathers in the air, and until I turned it off and went manual many of my pictures failed to be sharp for the people and pillows behind the screen of feathers.

Later as the pixel count on DSLRs increased and full-frame cameras appeared I found it very useful to work in many situations using just the central ‘DX’ half-frame area of the viewfinder – which would have been very useful to let me see the people and pillows coming for me, but on this occasion I found “chaos really rules taking pictures becomes a press and hope situation. I think some of them do give an idea of what it was like to be there.

Flash Mob Global Pillow Fight

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St Patrick’s Day Celebrations in London

Friday, March 17th, 2023

St Patrick's Day Celebrations in London

It’s now 21 years since St Patrick’s Day was first celebrated on a large scale in London, thanks to then London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who had long been a supporter of Irish republicanism, and MP for Brent East, from 1987 to 2001. His constituency included areas around Kilburn – Brent is the London Borough with the largest Irish population.

St Patrick's Day Celebrations in London

Until forced to drop its policies because of Tory cuts, Brent had a great record of supporting celebrations of a number of festivals for its different communities, and and last year I posted here about the various years I photographed the Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade.

St Patrick's Day Celebrations in London

In 2002, London had its first St Patrick’s Day Parade, from the Catholic Westminster Cathedral to Trafalgar Square, where there were a range of Irish performances and a great deal of singing and drinking to celebrate the event.

Unlike the Brent celebrations which were on the day itself, the official London celebrations which have continued annually since then happen on the day itself. In 2002 St Patrick’s Day was on a Sunday (and in 2013 and 2019) and the parade took place on the day, but in other years it has been celebrated on the nearest Sunday.

I did go back in 2003 to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, when the parade began from Hyde Park, but found it rather less interesting. Somehow I never got around to uploading any of the pictures I took to My London Diary, so these colour images are on-line for the first time.

Irish Piper, 2003
Parade Steward, 2003

These pictures were taken on my first digital camera capable of professional results, a Nikon D100, which was capable of making high quality digital images, although its 6.1Mp now seems meagre. Its small, dim viewfinder was also rather primitive and at the time I only owned a single lens to fit it, a 24-80mm zoom, which on its DX sensor gave the equivalent of a 36-120mm on 35mm film.

I was also working with two film cameras, one with black and white film and the other with colour negative, both I think using wider lenses. The pictures might be better, but I’ve only ever got around to printing one of them. It was coverage of events like these that really made me appreciate the huge advantage of digital, that the results were immediately available. I’ve still not digitised any of the colour pictures from 2002 or 2003.

It was this that really made possible ‘My London Diary’, though I had begun it a little earlier – and there is some earlier colour work taken with consumer-level digital cameras on it among the mainly black and white images which then were scanned from the 8×10″ RC prints I made to give to a picture library.

My London Diary has taken something of a rest recently, though I may go back to it at some later date. The reasons for this are mixed. The pandemic meant there was nothing much to add for rather a long time, just a lot of pictures taken on local walks and bike rides. the software I used to write it doesn’t work on my more recent computer, and I’ve almost reached the limit of the number of files that my web server allows. If I’d kept uploading files I could not have continued with >Re:PHOTO.

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London Street Photography

Friday, February 17th, 2023

Twelve years ago on 17th February 2011 I attended the opening of the show London Street Photography at the Museum of London, and I wrote about the opening here on >Re:PHOTO. Some of the same pictures there are also on My London Diary. The book of the show is long out of print but can be found cheaply secondhand with a little searching.

I was rather surprised to find this particular picture of mine, taken in Whitechapel in 1991 included in the book and show, and also one of the images used to promote the show. Not that I think it’s a bad picture, but to me it was just one of many that could have been chosen. I’ve never really put together a set of what I think are my best street photographs, but here are a few slightly random ones from about the same year.

I actually made two pictures of the shopkeeper standing outside the shop in Whitechapel, and the woman carrying a child walked across as I was talking to him and preparing to take his picture. I think I was just a little slow to react, and would have liked her to be just a fraction to the left, better outlined against the open doorway and for the child she was carrying to be more visible.

Perhaps important to the show was that most of the others from that era and before were in black and white – as most of photography still was. Only one earlier colour picture was featured, although most more recent work was in colour, including all of those taken in the current century.

Also important was that it reflected the changing population of London with a picture that could almost have been taken on the streets of Bangladesh – but so did some others that I took at the time.

Notting Hill Carnival, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1990, 90c8-03-51

I’ve recently re-digitised this and digitised many other colour and black and white images from my early work and made them available on Flickr, though so far I’ve only worked through all of the colour negatives up to the end of February 1991 and the black and white until the end of the following year.

Street scene, Green St, Upton Park, Newham, 1991, 91-31-31

Although almost all of these pictures were taken on the streets of London I don’t think many are really what I would consider ‘street photography’, though this is a category whose elasticity makes it of little use. But for me ‘street photography’ has to be about capturing fleeting moments, not about pictures that are posed or set up. The second picture without the woman walking by isn’t really street photography.

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Hampton Hill Christmas Lights 2011

Friday, November 25th, 2022

Today’s date reminds me that Christmas is still a month away. Personally I’d like to see a moratorium on any mentions of the forthcoming annual festival banned before December 1st and after January 6th with stiff fines for those who breach the rules. Thirty-seven days is more than a tenth of the year and surely that’s enough?

But perhaps we – and especially photographers – need something to cheer us up ofter the imposed blackout each year at the end of October when the clocks are returned to our archaic Greenwich Mean Time (and usually I forget to change the hour on at least one of my cameras for a week or two.) And at least the event at Hampton Hill was only a month early.

I doubt if there would be a great deal of support for my idea of a time system which came to me in a dream as I was in bed at around 2pm (or was it 3pm) when our clocks were changing, of avoiding the two sudden jumps in time each year by making incremental changes to keep sunrise always at 7am, although it would now be possible when so many timekeeping devices take their time from a distant time-server rather than being altered by pushing around the hands of a clock. But it would be rather better to do as we did for some years to keep to British Summer Time all year, as we did from 1968-71, and perhaps appropriate as our global temperature rises.

I’ve never much liked taking photographs in the dark, and many flash photographs are horrible, with overlit forergrounds and pitch-black backgrounds. Fortunately digital cameras now enable us to get away from this, at least to some extent, by working at much higher ISOs, which enable us to make photographs more readily in low light. Flash systems have also improved tremendously, an Nikon’s iTTL was, at least in 2011, the best of all, though their camera systems were designed to frustrate its best use. I got better at fooling it in later years. And just introduced were cheap handheld LED lighting systems, powerful enough to illuminate subjects a couple of metres away, though not much further. I used both flash and an LED light on different pictures at Hampton Hill as well as making use of available light where I could.

So here is the whole of my introductory text from My London Diary (with a few minor corrections) for the event. You can find more pictures with the original article online along with some picture captions.

Hampton Hill Christmas Lights – Hampton Hill, Middlesex.
Friday 25th November 2011

Crowds filled the High St in Hampton Hill for the 43rd annual Christmas parade last night, along with music, Morris Dancing and many stalls on the street and in the URC church hall making this a real community event

Although Christmas is still a month away, the people of Hampton Hill, just to the west of Bushey Park in the London Borough of Richmond, were out on the streets celebrating last night. Many of the shops along the street were open late, with some holding special events and handing out balloons and sweets.

Santa was kept busy in his grotto seeing groups of children, and quite a few other Santas were out on the street, with a group in the parade accompanying the mayor. Morris Dancers performed in the middle of the road, closed to traffic, and tried to teach some brave young ladies one of their dances. The several pubs along the street were all kept busy, and it was also crowded at times inside the church hall, with several rooms full of stalls, as well as a continuing series of events inside the church itself.

The highlight of the evening was of course the parade, which included some children on ponies and people leading Christmas-decorated dogs behind Santa in a large sled, and a large engine. But it was the energetic kids from local schools and youth groups that really brought the event to life.

Unlike some other Christmas ‘lighting up’ events, Hampton’s seems very much to be one that involves large sections of the local community, which is perhaps why it is still very much alive after 43 years.

More at Hampton Hill Christmas Lights.

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Bill Jay and Album

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

Although I’d had a strong interest in photography since my early years, probably first inspired by magazines such as Picture Post in my childhood, followed by the gift from a middle-class relative of a large stack of pre-war National Geographic magazines. In my early teens I saved for well over a year from my minimal pocket money and Christmas and birthday gifts to buy a Halina 35mm camera – and then spent more years becoming familiar with it before I could afford to buy a film and pay for it to be processed; it was only a dozen or so years later that I had both cash and the opportunity to seriously take up photography.

That was around 1970, and it was at an interesting period in the history of photography in the UK. One of the key things for me at the time was coming across a magazine on the top shelf at a newsagents called ‘Creative Camera‘ which changed my ideas about our medium.

I can’t now remember which was the first issue I bought, and though I’ve kept my copies from back then I also in the following years bought some of the earlier issues to add to my collection, along with some early issues of another and far more short-lived publication, Album. This lasted only for a dozen monthly issues, and I think I came across it at its end and was one of those who responded to a plea to subscribe at the time of what turned out to be its final issue. This was a great disappointment, and it didn’t help not to get my money back despite the promises. You can now read all 12 issues online.

Much later I heard stories from some of the many photographers who had sent in portfolios to Album and had not had them returned (I never heard anyone tell me their work was returned) about their photographs having been sold without their knowledge or consent. At the time I didn’t myself have any work worth sending.

I didn’t at the time know personally any of the people who were behind these two publications and I’ve found it interesting to watch recently the film ‘Do Not Bend‘ about Bill Jay and more recently to listen to the series of podcasts by Grant Scott ‘In Search of Bill Jay‘, still being added to.

During the years concerned I lived in Manchester, Leicester and Bracknell, all well away from where things were happening in London, though I did briefly become a member and go to some photographic events at the ICA, possibly still when Jay was around. But I never go to know any of the small clique at the centre of things then, though I came across some of them later through Creative Camera, the Photographers Gallery, which I belonged to for well over 30 years before giving up my membership in disgust, and elsewhere.

Grant Scott has certainly been thorough with his research and has pointed out in the podcasts a number of errors particularly in the accounts of the early years of both magazines by Gerry Badger. But there is a problem common to all such research in that it largely relies on recordings and publications along with some very fallible memories of those key players still living. There is a very large body of writing and recording of Bill Jay himself, and though Scott has already pointed out some of its inconsistencies, I think he has perhaps not taken full account of a deal of self-aggrandisement within Jay’s talks and writing.

And although London with Album and Creative Camera was certainly the epi-centre of a new life for photography in the UK, things were happening around the country in many ways in the 1970s and though Jay certainly was at its centre at the start he left the country having helped light the fuse.

I came to spend quite a lot of time (and money) at the Creative Camera bookroom in London and did later send my work to that magazine, with several rejections before a small group of pictures appeared in the last of their albums.

Jim Hughes wrote about Bill Jay in a post on ‘The Online Photographer’, Bill Jay’s Vision, in 2012, and he quotes from two speeches by Jay that make interesting reading. I’ll end with two short excerpts from these quotes – but do click and read the rest, including Hughes own comments and those by others at the end of the article:

“I have no desire to be considered a photographer. I got into photography because I loved the medium and I admired the people who became photographers.”

“And my big fear is that the histories of photography in the future will be based on the photographers who were saleable through galleries, not through the best photographers in the medium.

“We need people who understand the history of the medium and have standards, who are saying ‘photography has something extraordinarily important to say about our culture, our society, our political system’—these are the things we should be looking at and caring about.”

Bill Jay – ICP Infinity Award acceptance speech, 2008

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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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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.