Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

Yarls Wood 10

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Detainees inside who could get to the windows welcomed the protest

Nothing expresses the racist and and oppressive state of our country more obviously than our immigration detention centres and the whole state apparatus for harassing asylum seekers and refugees. People fleeing violence and persecution, often rape and attacks flee to the UK and are greeting with a Home Office wall of disbelief. While in our legal system you are innocent until proved guilty, for migrants the system works in reverse; the Home Office assumes that they are liars and cheats unless they can produce evidence to prove their claims – and evidence is often impossible to provide.

Detainees in Yarl’s wood are subjected to rape, sexual abus and mental torture

Routinely gay asylum seekers are told they are not gay – and sent back to countries where they will face danger and violence because they are gay, Some have to go into hiding, others commit suicide rather than return or after they arrive home.

Others who came here when young or even may have been born here are told they have no right to be in this country – and are sent to countries they may never have been in and where they have no families or friends, removing them and splitting up families living in the uk.

Increasingly under Theresa May and now Amber Rudd as Home Secretary it has become simply a numbers game, trying in any way possible to cut down the number of migrants without regard to personal circumstances or hardship, using mass deportation charter flights to send people to Nigeria and elsewhere, including many whose asylum claims are still being processed.

People climb up to show placards and balloons and speak to the detainees

Our immigration prisons are now officially called ‘removal centres’, although many who are held in them will have a legitimate right to remain here. The name change reflects the aim to remove them – whether or not they will be able to prove a right to remain, as many still do.

Refugees to the UK are refused their rights in centres such as Yarl’s Wood

The protest on December 3rd was the 10th at this remote centre in Bedfordshire organised by Movement for Justice, and I think the ninth I’ve attended to photograph. It’s a journey of several hours, made easier on the protest days by a coach provided by MfJ from Bedford Station. Most of those held are effectively cut off from their friends and fellow migrants by the length of the journey and its cost – as most migrants live in urban centres and are poor if not destitute. MfJ also organise coaches from London, Birmingham and further afield for the protests and make it possible for refugees and others short of funds to make the journey. Otherwise it means an expensive train journey to Bedford followed by an over five mile taxi ride from the station.

I don’t cover events like this for the money – and seldom make enough to cover my costs from them – but because I think it important to record what is happening in our society and to make people aware of the issues and I want to do what I can to make that happen. I think the same is true for many of the other photographers there taking pictures.

Movement for Justice has led the fight to end immigration detention

Many of those who spoke – and could be heard by those inside the prison – were people who had spent time inside Yarl’s Wood or other detention centres. And a few inside were able to speak from inside using mobile phones – one of the few privileges detainees have over those in our normal prisons. These are prisons in all but name, but with the difference that none of those held knows what will happen to them. Some have been held for weeks, others for years, and many find themselves being taken from them and put on a flight home. Now these are mainly special chartered flights after passengers on regular flights objected to the forcible restraint of detainees on them, at times refusing to let the flights take off, clearly recognising the inhumanity involved.

These detention centres are also a threat hanging over refugees and asylum seekers living in our communities, who have to attend regularly to reporting centres. Every time they go it for these routine appointments they know they may be leaving in transport direct to Yarl’s Wood or another removal centre – sometimes returning from where they have previously been released. Inside these centres, run by private firms such as Serco, they are routinely refused their rights, bullied and poorly treated. Some have died because they have been refused medical treatment, others have been sexually abused.

These centres are a national disgrace, and a quite unnecessary punishment for those who have committed no crime and pose no threat to our society. They make it harder for the claims of those inside to be furthered and justice to be obtained. Any humane government would close them down and offer real help and support to asylum seekers in their place.

I took a great many pictures of the protest, and you can see a selection of them on My London Diary, as well as read a short account of the day in Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 10.

Class War

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

I always like photographing protests by Class War. Although they are a small group (though sometimes quite large numbers join with them them) their protests are often very effective in raising issues, and are often unpredictable. The protests are always interesting, both because many of them have interesting views which they share freely and often amusingly, but also because of a sense of theatre.

Generally too there is some visual interest which a photographer can work with, with some excellent banners and posters. And they believe in having fun with their serious politics.

Their confrontational style also tends to make for good pictures, though at Croydon Box Park this was somewhat mollified by the owner coming down and having a serious talk with them, agreeing with much of what they were saying about the gentrification of Croydon and inviting them to come and have a talk later. Though there was more of a confrontation later when they spotted the BBC developers’ apologist Mark Eaton making his way into a meeting.

The heavy showers also dampened the atmosphere a little, sending us all into a nearby bus shelter. Later the large banner with its quotation from US anarchist Lucy Parsons showed its worth as those holding it carried it held over their heads to keep off some driving rain.

I had my own small confrontation too. As I note in the caption for the picture above, “The only possible response when someone says ‘You can’t photograph me’ is to photograph them.”

A week later I met up with Class War again, this time protesting against architect Patrik Schumaker of Zaha Hadid Architects, who had talked at a conference in Berlin about getting rid of social housing and public space in cities. The posters from Class War carried what was apparently a quotation from his presentation, “We must destroy Affordable Housing and remove the unproductive from the capital to make way for my people who generate value

It was a chilling sentence, with clear similarities to the thinking and actions of the Nazis, and brought condemnation from a wide range of those concerned with human rights and equality, and housing campaigners in particular.

Schumaker’s views were not shared by all architects, and Class War received a message of support from one of those working under Schumaker. Not surprisingly their attempts to make contact with him through the entry phone at the gate and an invitation to come out and discuss the issue were met with no success.  There were extra security guards at the entrances, and even Lisa McKenzie couldn’t charm her way in.

Joining Class War in the protest were others from the London Anarchist Federation and the Revolutionary Communist Group, who also favour a similar kind of direct action and often cooperate at protests.

More text and pictures:

Class War Croydon ‘Snouts in the trough’
Class War protest ‘Fascist Architect’


Down with Arsenal!

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

I hate the idea of Arsenal. I don’t mean the north London football team, which has always seemed to me one of the more acceptable London teams to support, though if I retained any interest in the game I’d more likely go to QPR or Brentford, the latter a team that several of my team mates when I played under-11 football in the cub league ended up at. But I wasn’t one of the stars of the side and even on the good days when we scored 40 or 50 goals in a match I seldom strayed goal-wards but stayed was left back in my own half. Though I was reasonably lethal to the opposing forwards and we seldom if ever let a goal in.

Arsenal, the intelligent camera assistant is a little device that sits on top of your camera and thinks for you, currently on Kickstarter. I watched one of the videos on the site and was appalled.

I don’t think I’m being a Luddite when I say that ‘I hate the idea of Arsenal.’ It represents the apotheosis of all that is wrong with photography on Flikr and other web-sharing photo sites, reducing the medium to a mechanism for making pretty pictures. Decorative wall art.

I’ve nothing against some of the automation that Arsenal offers (though I’m not convinced it will entirely provide.) It would be good to have something that makes it easy to get the right depth of field – something that was easy when we used manual focus and prime lenses with depth of field scales, but the switch to auto-focus and zoom lenses has made largely guesswork.

But when it comes to using a databank of pictures to decide how to come up with the best treatment for a particular scene this seems to be a certain recipe for the kind of dreary uniformity that distinguishes much of those pretty pictures that attract thousands of on-line ‘likes.’ And also occupy a certain section of the art photography market.

I used to confuse students by telling them that ‘photography isn’t about making pictures’, and I think this device illustrates well what I meant it wasn’t. Photography for me is about having something to say and finding a way to say it effectively. And that means trying to say it in a different way, not how other pictures have done it, though that isn’t easy. The pictures that are best have an element of visual surprise and don’t correspond to rules or stereotypes.

Arsenal sits on top of the camera which sits on top of a tripod, which to me is generally a basic mistake in taking photographs. There are some highly specialised areas where a tripod is needed, but only a very small percentage of good photography is make using one. If you want to do time-lapse photography I think ‘Arsenal’ would be a good buy. But if you want to use an 8×10″ – which admittedly is a little tricky hand-held – you won’t find Arsenal able to cope.

Way back in the 1890s, Kodak and art photographers such as Alfred Steiglitz liberated the camera from the tripod in many areas of photography, and advances in materials and equipment in the roughly 120 years since has meant that cumbersome appendage is seldom needed.

John Morris 1916-2017

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Many words have been written and said about the photo-editor John G Morris who died last Friday, 28th July 2017, and he has obviously played a large role in photography over so many years. Probably the most widely read of the obituaries is by Andy Grunberg in the New York Times, and although excellent in many respects it is a shame it was not more carefully brought up to date after being retrieved from the ‘morgue’ where it had been lying for some years in waiting for Morris’s death.

His was a long career as a photo-editor, working for some of the greatest names in photographic publishing – Life,  Ladies’ Home Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic and Magnum Photos.

His was a career in which he undoubtedly recognised the power of a number of images which subsequently became iconic. Although we now can be sure that the legend that he wove around Capa’s actions on D-Day was almost entirely false, he saw the power of one of the 11 frames that Capa exposed which many editors would probably have rejected out of hand for being unsharp – and it was an image that was only more widely recognised for its expressive potential quite a few years later. Had Morris told the truth about it and given the facts that the investigation by A D Coleman and his team have made clear, the image might have been published and long forgotten.

Again, while working for the New York Times, it was Morris who recognised the power of two of the iconic images from Vietnam, and fought to get Eddie Adam‘s picture of a summary execution of a suspected Vietcong by a Saigon police chief on the front page, and fought the paper’s ‘no-nudity’ policy to get  Huynh Cong (Nick) Ut‘s image of a naked young Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm bombing raid published – again on the front page.

It was Morris too who invited W Eugene Smith to join Magnum following his break-up with Life, and apparently suggested him (after Elliot Erwitt had turned it down) for an assignment to photograph Pittsburg – which almost ruined Magnum financially after Smith turned what had been meant as a three week assignment into a year working on what he believed to be his ‘magnum opus’, though it only really got an adequate publication as ‘Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project‘ in 2001, 23 years after Smith’s death.

A D Coleman in Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (36): John G. Morris Dies (Update) has written about some of the obituaries for Morris, including the New York Times one, pointing out some of their many errors. Its also worth reading the comments on his piece, particularly one by Robert Dannin, who calls the story that Morris made up “nothing more than an unprofessional excuse to conceal his apparent embarrassment at Capa’s work on the Normandy beachhead.”

It’s perhaps a little harsh. I can imagine Morris’s immediate shock on looking at the processed film and seeing only 11 images. And then looking a little more closely and seeing that those eleven were all blurred. A little fabrication to protect his friend’s reputation would be understandable. But to invent such an elaborate story and to keep up the deception for as long as Morris and Capa did was clearly unacceptable – and something of a stain on the reputation of both.

Morris was obviously a man who cared about photography and cared for photographers – and you can read a tribute to him by one of those he helped and was a friend to, Peter Turnley, on The Online Photographer. We can remember him for that and should also put the record straight over Capa’s D-Day pictures.

Another Night

Friday, July 28th, 2017

The following evening I was out again taking pictures of a protest, this time in Westminster at Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament. It’s a gloomy place at night, and even worse it was raining.

At times the rain was light, even almost stopping. Then it would poor down. I felt sorry for the protesters, from Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle, including many in wheelchairs, though I think most had decent waterproof clothing and a number also umbrellas.

Of course I had an umbrella too, but it is seldom practical to use one when taking pictures – unless you have an assistant to hold it – and also I needed to work most of the time in a very restricted area between a ring of wheelchairs and the speakers, much of the time in a kneeling position so as not to impede the view of those sitting in the chairs. Occasionally sitting on the damp paving stones. Working with a micro-fibre cloth held on the lens filter, taking it away to take a picture, then wiping and covering up the lens again.

Most of these were taken with the LED light source, with a couple at the start of the event when there was still some weak light from the sky without any added light. Another photographer was videoing the event, and sometimes his LED video light lit up part or all of the scene for me – though other times it shone directly towards me and made taking pictures more or less impossible. I did take a couple of pictures with flash, but in rain it gets to be pretty useless, lighting up the rain drops and giving odd spots across the picture. With exposures around 1/15s to 1/60s spots of rain don’t show up except sometimes as streaks – which look very much like rain. But with the slow shutter speeds and probably a certain amount of shivering from me quite a few of the exposures were blurred even when there were no raindrops on the lens, and quite a few frames were unusable.

I also discovered one of the problems of the Neewer CN-216 LED light. It doesn’t have a battery cover – or at least mine doesn’t, and at one point after it got a slight knock, all 6 batteries fell out and rolled across the wet paving stones. Fortunately I and some of the other people around managed to pick them up, but now I put a length of masking tape across them and the back of the unit after replacing the batteries.

As the evening went on the rain worsened. There was quite a long list of speakers, including the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, for whom the heavens opened pretty drastically. Fortunately he had brought fellow Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey with him to hold an umbrella. They and other MPs came out from the debate on government plants for a cut in Employment and Support Allowance, despite a UN report condemning the ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights’ which had resulted from the UK government welfare reforms..

It was really an evening that called for an underwater camera, or at least an underwater housing. I do carry a cheap plastic bag affair in my camera bag, but find it such a pain that I hardly ever use it. Fortunately I managed to keep the cameras under my coat much of the time, though having the front of it open to do this meant I did get rather wet. I was cold too, and very pleased when I could pack up and go home.

I wasn’t particularly happy with my work at this event – and so many of the images were ruined – but under the circumstances I felt I’d done a decent job to get any results at all. You can see more at End Discriminatory Welfare Reforms.

Night Work

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

I don’t often photograph the Tower of London, but it would, I thought, a nice background for a picture, something that says ‘London’, and I went to the protest being held outside the Tower against the European Custody and Detention Summit being held there hoping to use it in my pictures.

Unfortunately the protest was taking place in the early evening and this was November. There were groups at two locations, one on Tower Hill, where there was a view of the Tower behind the protesters, and a second down below Tower Bridge, where there wasn’t really a much of a view of the bridge and the Tower was completely out of sight.

I’d taken two light sources with me, the Nikon SB800 flash, and a cheap LED light, the Neewer CN-216, which has an 18×12 array of small LEDs  – 216 in all, hence the model number. It takes 6 AA cells, which adds considerably to its weight and will just about fit in a large jacket pocket. The flash, with only 5AAs is a little smaller and lighter.

Knowing it would be dark, I’d also packed the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 and the two pictures above were both taken using this on a Nikon D810. I had the camera on shutter priority and both images were taken at 24mm, using the camera in full-frame mode at 1/50s and f2.8  – but there the simiilarities end. One used the flash at ISO 1,800 and the other the LED light at ISO 6400. Though it seems bright, those LEDs don’t really put out that much light.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which was which. The differences are easier to spot on the 7,360 x 4,912 pixel images, but after processing – including noise reduction – in Lightroom was less than I expected, and looking through the whole set at full screen size my guesses as to which used flash and which were LED where often wrong.

Both are relatively small light sources and so suffer similar problems with light falling off at roughly the square of distance, and I worked a little more ‘head on’ to groups than usual when I could to avoid too much having to dodge and burn in Lightroom.  One advantage of the LED was that I was able to hold it at arms length from the camera – much trickier with flash – and see the results of angling it away from closer subjects. The higher ISO I used with the LED meant that ambient lighting contributed more to the LED lit images and probably I would have been better using ISO 6400 with the flash as well. But I was worried about image quality, though it turns out I need not have been.

Increasing the ISO to 3200 for the wider group, taken with flash and using a Nikon 20mm f2.8  at 1/30s, f/2.8 on a Nikon D750 gave a good balance.

Down below Tower Bridge there was a little more light and I used the flash very little, relying on the LEDs for most pictures, though in some areas there was enough light from the street lights to make them the main light source.  The view of Tower Bridge in some of the pictures isn’t instantly recognisable.

I did have a few problems with fiddle fingers, and working in  S – shutter priority – mode does mean you get underexposure when you push the control dial in the direction of higher shutter speeds. With flash too the exposure drops – though with Auto FP High Speed Sync you no longer get just a fraction of the frame exposed. Fortunately Lightroom can cope with considerable underexposure if – as I do – you shoot RAW images.  And ISO settings don’t really have a great deal of meaning.

In low light conditions you also get problems with slow shutter speeds and subject movement, as well as camera shake. None of the lenses I was using has image stabilisation but it would have been of little or no help. But you do need to make a lot of exposures and to have a little luck.

More pictures of this protest by the Reclaim Justice Network which includes prison activists, refugee solidarity groups and anti-arms trade campaigners against this trade fair for  major arms companies, security companies, prison builders, and others profiting from expanding and privatising the criminal justice system at Custody Summit at the Tower.


Hugh Edwards

Friday, June 30th, 2017

As friends including regular readers of these posts will know, I don’t generally have a very high opinion of curators – except for a few that I’ve known and have worked with. Too many have put on shows that server largely to illustrate their lack of knowledge and real interest in the medium and are clearly concerned only with building their own careers. And far too often money that would be better spent on photography and photographers goes into their pockets and into creating fancy displays which might enhance their reputation but often take away attention from the work presented.

But of course there are exceptions. Actually quite a few of them, including the obvious ones like John Szarkowski. Many of the best have been, like him, photographers and have had a real appreciation of the medium.

Thanks to a recent post Hugh Edwards: Unknown Icon by Kenneth Tanaka on The Online Photographer, I have now been made aware of another fine curator. Edwards (1904–1986) was Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he had already worked for 30 years, for his last 12 years there from 1959-70, during which time he organised 75 exhibitions, as well as regularly showing new acquisitions.

This was an important time in the evolution of photography, and one in which Edwards played an major role, giving Robert Frank his first American museum exhibition in 1961 and promoting many emerging photographers as well as building up a fine study collection of work by nineteenth and twentieth century masters. And his contribution is finely and extensively documented in the web site on him and the photography he championed and bought for the Art Institute collection by photography curator Elizabeth Siegel and a team of researchers.

Photography was one of his many interests; David Travis, Curator and Chair of the Department of Photography from two years after Edwards retired until 2008 writes about him at some length and remembers the rare and memorable evenings at his home when he would show his own colour slides made at “a roller skating rink in Harvey, Illinois”. In in a letter to Frank, Edwards wrote “I ran away from ‘culture’ and accelerated education to spend all my evenings in a large skating rink on the outskirts of Chicago for five whole years. There were many wonders there and I used to wish someone would catch them so they could be kept. Then I found your book and saw you had done it.” Travis comments that having seen Frank’s work “published, Mr. Edwards felt his own mission as a photographer could end.”

Those who can make it to Chicago can see the extensive show at the Art Institute also curated by Seigel, The Photographer’s Curator: Hugh Edwards at the Art Institute of Chicago which runs until October 29th 2017. But otherwise the web site is a fine tribute to an amazing curator and his legacy.

D-Day Wrap

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Something which I meant to acknowledge earlier but slipped my mind after I read the post was the announcement by A D Coleman, ‘It’s a Wrap‘ marking the official end of “our team’s deconstruction of the myth of Robert Capa’s D-Day experiences and the subsequent fate of his negatives“.

The end came exactly three years after the investigation began with the publication of photojournalist J. Ross Baughman’s critique of the TIME video celebrating the 70th anniversary of Robert Capa’s D-Day photographs, and included further contributions from Baughman as well as from photo historian Rob McElroy and combat veteran and military historian Charles “Chuck” Herrick as well as Coleman’s own major contribution.

During its course it also referenced the work of others on this and related matters such as Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier’, and included a number of other guest posts, including one by Jim Hughes who in 1986 was the first to publicly challenge the Capa D-Day myth (and his review was quite probably the origin of my own total scepticism about the alleged ‘darkroom disaster’.)

It has been a remarkable series of posts, and quite rightly has received awards and nominations, and has changed entirely our view of one of the best-known events of photographic history, but also shed light on how that history is manufactured and by whom. History isn’t just facts, but a point of view (rather like any photograph) but in this particular case we know also know that much of what was claimed as fact is in fact fiction.

Of course we always knew that Capa was himself an invention, and a great inventor of stories as well as someone who photographed them powerfully. But even when we know more and can dismiss the embroidery the image remains. Of course like all photographers Capa took many weak images, some of which have found their way to gallery walls and books but there certainly remain enough to sustain his reputation.

We will still look at his pictures and be moved by them even when we know that the captions may be unreliable and some events may have been staged. And Capa did certainly put his life at some risk – even if rather less than he made out – on D-Day and probably more so on various other occasions, and of course later paid for the risks with his life, stepping on to a landmine in Indo-China. And his advice “If you’re pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” is still worth remembering.

Although officially the end, it certainly isn’t, and Coleman gives a number of areas that he or others will pursue, both about D-Day and Capa’s other work, and more widely in a critical look at the medium’s institutions, particularly the ICP.

Coleman states he considers “the basic research complete and the case effectively proven” and is “developing this material into a book, an exhibition, and a multimedia piece” about which he will give occasional progress reports, but apart from this unless there are some unforeseen discoveries or unpredictable surges of interest there will be no further posts in the series. I hope the exhibition will tour to some of the more prestigious institutions both in the USA and Europe and will perhaps help to end the promulgation of the myth.

Coleman concludes his piece with a comment on a New York Times article by Geoff Dyer, a man who writes about photography and who prides himself on not being a photographer; “I don’t just mean that I’m not a professional or serious photographer; I mean I don’t even own a camera” (in ‘The Ongoing Moment’ a book given me by someone who had probably read on the previous page “I suspect, then, that this book will be a source of irritation to many people, especially those who know more about photography than I do.” It was, though I’ve never managed to read to the end, always throwing it down in disgust at some idiocy within minutes of picking it up.)

Dyer’s ignorance clearly extended to never having heard of the doubts about Capa’s D-Day legend (despite a previous feature in the newspaper for which he was writing) and he writes “we know the precise historical moment they depict, what happened before and after, the reasons the pictures are so blurred” a statement untrue in every detail.

As Coleman comments “This uninformed balderdash of Dyer’s exemplifies the lamentable condition of writing about photography today. If you wonder why I have persisted with this investigation, consider Dyer’s elegantly phrased but fact-free nonsense a sufficient answer.”

It’s a Wrap

Cleaners at Mace

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

There are always a number of things on my mind as I photograph protests by low-paid workers such as the cleaners protesting at a workplace. Obviously there are the reasons for the protest  – and if I didn’t feel they were justified I wouldn’t be there. Often, as on this occasion the workers have a number of greivances. They say the employer, Dall Cleaning Services had promised to pay them the London Living Wage,  and then had sacked two cleaners and increased everyone else’s workload  to keep their costs down, and that these sackings had been without notice or proper procedures.

While these sackings could be taken to a tribunal, where in all probabilty the workers would win their case, going to tribunal takes a long time  and has now been made an expensive process, with costs calculated by the Tory government to be high enough to make it virtually impossible for the ordinary worker. One of the advantages of belonging to a trade union is that they can usually afford to take cases like this to tribunals and also supply trained legal support. But the changes in the law have made it much cheaper and faster to try to settle such matters by protests and strike.

Here the workers were also complaining about the Dall’s management, in the workplace , dominated by members of one family, whose members working there were treated better than the other workers. They want an end to nepotism in the workplace. It’s something that should be policed by Dall’s higher management but the cleaners say their complaints are simply ignored.

But I’m also thinking about my legal rights. On the street there are few if any restrictions on photography and on publishing as news coverage. But it seemed likely that the IWGB would manage to enter the foyer of the Mace offices. The position on private property is less clear, but certainly, unless I was specifically asked to stop taking pictures by a person I was convinced represented the owners of the building I intended to photograph the event.

I hang back slightly as the cleaners rush in, but after the first two or three have gone past any security at the entrance, follow in with the others. It certainly is no part of my job to actually force an entrance in any way, but if there is an open door from the street I’ll happily walk through it.

Fortunately no one asked me to stop taking pictures, and knowing that it was likely they would be going inside the building I’d remembered as we went towards it to increase the ISO  setting on both my cameras. Because there would be less light and there was a possibility of some action taking place I’d set both cameras at ISO2000 or ISO2500.

It’s an important advantage of the D810 that it has an ISO button on the dial at the top right of the body, and pressing it displays the ISO in the top panel, where its a simple matter of turning the command dial to alter it, and the same is true of the D700 with which I took all of the pictures I’ve actually used in this post.

With the D750 I now use you need to go into the menu, though I make things easier by putting the ISO on the user menu, along with other items I’m likely to want while working, and making sure to enter the User Menu before starting taking pictures.

I could rely on auto-ISO, which I actually usually have turned on, but for this to be really effective you have to select a fairly high shutter speed as the minimum speed at which the ISO increases. With a lens like the 28-200 zoom there is really no sensible choice. I’d be quite happy with 1/30th at the wide end, but at the long end I’d want 1/250th or faster. It would be nice if Nikon would allow the camera to apply the 1/focal length rule – and better still if it allowed you to choose from various fractions or multiples of this. All of the pictures in this post were made with the 16-35mm f4, though I was also using the 28-200mm.

Inside occupations such as this it is difficult to work sensibly, in part because you never know how long you are likely to get to take pictures. I try not to simply dash off pictures but to get images that have something to say about the particular protest, looking for elements that identify the company concerned or make clear why the workers are protesting.  I also make a conscious effort to vary my viewpoint and angle of view to provide a variety of images.

An element of farce was introduced when the police finally arrived, a single officer who clearly didn’t really know what to do. After failing to get a great deal of attention from Alberto Durango who was leading the protest, he stepped aside and called for help.

As usual the protesters left in an orderly fashion when they felt they had made their point – and that the police might start to arrest them for aggravated trespass should they remain, and the protest then continued on the pavement.

Protests like this, that make clear how badly the cleaners who clean the Mace offices are treated and embarrass them as they would any respectable company, and usually lead to pressure being put onto cleaning contractors, all of whom seem out to give their staff little or nothing more than the bare legal minimum conditions and to employ management who just aren’t up to the job.

In this case I don’t recall the details, but it wasn’t long before  a further protest was called off as a satisfactory settlement had been reached.

You can see more of the pictures I took at this protest by the IWGB (Indpendent Workers of Great Britain) on My London Diary at Cleaners demand ‘End Nepotism’.


Heathrow Again

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

I don’t like airports and air travel. As someone with a sensible level of concern about the environment I try hard not to fly – and managed to avoid doing so until I was sixty. Since then I’ve flown on I think 8 occasions, mainly when I’ve been invited to talk or exhibit photographs overseas, and where there was no real alternative.

I’m obviously not a great traveller, though I have been to quite a few parts of the United Kingdom over the years, but there is still so much that is new here that I’d like to explore. And even in London I occasionally still find parts I’ve not visited.

Airports like Heathrow seem designed to generate the maximum unease amongst those passing through, and are designed largely to sell goods to those passing through rather than to transfer passengers in an efficient manner from entrance to plane and vice-versa. I’ve travelled through a few smaller airports which do just that, where you can get off a plane and be taking a bus or taxi away in just a few minutes – and you can catch one with only a short queue to go through a security check and just a few minutes waiting. No huge shopping areas and extended periods to wait in them.

Reclaim The Power’s #StayGrounded protest made some of the issues clear, though perhaps not to all the travellers passing through Terminal 2, who probably couldn’t see the speech bubbles with things like “I’m one of the 15% who make 70% of all flights” and probably didn’t see or appreciate the ‘Frequent Fliers’ stepping over the ‘dead’ on the ground to get to the ‘High Polluters Club Frequent Flyer VIP Check-in’. And relatively few would have heard the speeches.

Photography – and of course video – is vital in getting the point of protests, particularly onrd like this which have a narrative across to an audience. And to a wider audience than those few members of the public who actually experience it. Of course the highest numbers see them through TV and newspapers, and this protest did make some of them even on the channels which like to ignore or minimise protest, but many too see them through social media. Even web sites and blogs like this have thousands of readers each day.

Air transport – for goods and people – is expensive and essentially wasteful. It creates pollution and wastes resources and is an important factor in climate change. We need to look not at ways to increase it, but ways to cut it. Some of its popularity is because of huge subsidies that currently encourage it, and those need to be removed.

Our recent election in the UK has perhaps served largely to show that we need a better voting system, that more accurately reflects the views of the British public. I welcome too the fact that it has brought out more young people to vote, and that a significant number of voters have begun to see through the media lies about Corbyn. As someone – not a Labour Party member – who had been saying since he became party leader that he represents Labour’s only chance of being elected to govern in 2020 I think the Labour vote shows I was right. Certainly he is the only Labour leader who could win if there is another election soon (and its highly likely.)

And until we do have another election the good news is that the vote needed for the expansion of Heathrow is unlikely to go ahead in this Parliament, which is good news for those of us who live in and around London, for the nation and for world climate.

I had been worried on my way to the protest that airport security might make photography difficult, but I had no problems as they stood back and watched, stopping the protesters from going into the security area and directing passengers in alternative ways to avoid being held up by the protest. The protesters too had obviously decided against any confrontation here, which was, for example why all the plastic champagne glasses of those ‘high polluting frequent flyers’ were filled only with air to abide with the bylaws.

You can see the whole story of the protest – which ended in singing and dancing – at Heathrow flashmob against airport expansion.