Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

Founders Day

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

Workers protesting outside the University of London’s Senate House where Founders Day is being celebrated has become something of a tradition, and the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) were there again this November.

Banners and placards make the workers’ demands clear. They work for the university, keeping it running, and demand to be employed by the university, and not, as at present, by contracting companies that offer rock-bottom conditions of service and wages. They work in the university under conditions so poor that the university itself would not dream of being seen to impose – but is happy to turn its back when soemone else does it on the university’s behalf. There is no moral justification for London University’s position.

This is a dispute that has been going on for some years, both in various constituents of London University and in the central university administration, based on the Senate House, which is responsible for the Senate House, Halls of Residence and other aspects of the university. Among the workers who work for them but are employed by other are cleaners, catering staff, porters, receptionists and security staff.

It took over ten years of campaigning by SOAS Unison, along with staff at all levels and students, under the banner ‘One Workplace, One workforce’ to get the cleaners at SOAS University, next to the Senate House to be brought back in house. The campaign at the LSE, led there by the United Voices of the World was much shorter, and more recently, staff and Kings College (also in Unison) have also gained victory and are being brought in-house.

Even the University of London sees that it current position is untenable, but “continues to drag its feet over bringing workers into direct employment. They have announced that although recommending that workers be brought in-house this will be subject to “in-house comparator bids” and that it will not happen until 2020 or 2021. As the IWGB point out this is in great contrast to the response of Kings College and the LSE who have agreed to take their workers back in house.”

The IWGB brought with them a very long red banner – just a roll of red cloth – which they stretched out in front of the heavily guarded entrance to the Senate House. Police ensured it was possible for guests to walk around behind it to enter, but some iinsisted on a more direct route. There was a little pushing and shoving by security and police, with a little resistance by the protesters, but generally the atmosphere remained fairly calm.

But it was extremely noisy, with a sound system, and rather variable amounts of light, but always fairly low. After a handful of exposures at ISO3200, I change both Nikons to work at ISO 6400. Though this was reasonably satisfactory, with both lenses at full aperture and shutter speeds from 1/20s to 1/80s and mainly around 1/30th, quite a few images were blurred by subject movement even though most of the protest was fairly static. I made sure I took enough to get a reasonable number sharp. But I had to switched to flash when people began to try and get past the red banner and things became a little more active. I kept the camera at ISO6400, working with the camera set at 1/60s and still at full aperture to get a reasonable exposure of the background where the flash didn’t reach.

More at IWGB at London University Founders Day.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images



Monday, January 21st, 2019

Recently I published the image above of the Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) I took in 1981 on Facebook, one of a series of posts I’ve been making most days over the past year or so from my early days of photographing London, and as usual wrote a few sentences about it – as follows:

Grand Union Canal, Willesden, 1981
26w-63: canal, bridge, reflection, towpath

The building at left is I think still there beside the canal, set some way back from Hythe Road in an area now all occupied by Cargiant, “officially the world’s largest used car dealership”. The bridge in the distance is Mitre Bridge, also known as Scrubs Lane Bridge, which carries the Overground line from Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction, as well as goods traffic onto the main West Coast line. The bridge gets its name from the angle at which it crosses the canal.

Just beyond the bridge on the north bank is now a small memorial garden to Mary Seacole, where I’ve sat to eat my lunch in the sun on several occasions, though it wasn’t there when I took this picture, as it was only opened around 2003.

Over the long wall to the right of the canal is a vast area of railway land to the north of Wormwood Scrubs.

I couldn’t at the time remember when I had been to that garden, but by coincidence I found out when thinking about writing a post here.  Checking through recent posts on some other photography sites, a new (and silly) comment to a post by A D Coleman led me to read a piece he had posted on the death of John Berger in 2017, On John Berger on Photography, earlier printed in Hotshoe in 2012. In it Coleman reveals how Finnish photographer Pentti Sammallahti managed to get dogs where he wanted them in his remarkable photographs.

I remember still how, when I first found this out (probably from reading the Hotshoe article, though I
have a memory of it happening when talking about the pictures hung in a corner of Paris Photo, and someone mentioning the two words “sardine oil”, perhaps someone else who had read Coleman rather than the photographer. It doesn’t of course change the photographs, but what had before seemed some magical power did become rather more prosaic.

Double-click to open the image twice the size – backspace to return

I thought of writing a post about this, but couldn’t remember if I had mentioned it before, so searched my posts for the word ‘sardine’, and got as the only result the post ‘Up Willesden Junction‘, written about a walk in February 2014, in which I wrote:

I sat on a bench to eat my sandwiches in the sun (it was surprisingly mild for London in February) in a small memorial park to Mary Seacole, a remarkable Jamaican woman who used the profits from her general store and boarding house in Jamaica to nurse wounded British soldiers in the Crimean war, as well as medical work in Jamaica, Cuba and Panama. The memorial park was created around the time of the bicentenary of her birth a few years ago here, close to where she was buried in St Mary’s Catholic cemetery in 1881. She has become a controversial figure in the debates over the construction and teaching of British history, with many feeling she was largely sidelined because she was black.

The picture above shows the Mary Seacole Garden, and there are more in the linked article on My London Diary, including this one:

The sardines weren’t in my sandwiches – unlike Sammallahti I stick mainly to cheese – Stilton, Camembert, Jarlsburg, Cheddar, sometimes with a little pickle or chutney, often with raw onions and always with tomato, with just occasionally ham or other cold meat we have in the house, and all I’ve ever managed to attract has been pigeons.

Sardines came into my post only about travelling on rush-hour trains, something I now try hard to avoid as my ageing legs obect painfully to standing, and the trains on my line have got even more packed, less reliable and the fares more expensive. Though the service from Richmond to Willesden Junction has improved greatly since it was taken from private operator Silverlink and became a part of London Overground in 2010.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images


Sodden London

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

Monday 19th November was a night when rain almost stopped play, at least for me. I’ve seldom been as cold and wet when taking pictures.  Although rain had been forecast it came earlier than expected and was  heavier as I stood with a small group of protesters on a poorly lit central London street.

We were outside an office building which houses the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange where former Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales now works and was speaking at a housing conference. I was with half a dozen supporters of Focus E15, the Newham-based housing protest group which waged a long battle with the Mayor and his housing policies.

What began with his decision to stop supporting a hostel for single mothers and children, forcing the housing association to give them notice of eviction, when they decided to stand together and fight to get themselves rehoused in London rather than dispersed to far-flung areas of the country in private lettings later turned into a much more widespread campaign for an end to social cleansing and decent treatment for those in social housing and others needing it.

Their fight gained national attention, newpaper articles were written about it, plays were written around it and the young women who led it invited to speak at conferences. The campaign continues, though now with a new Mayor in place and some slight changes in council policy, with its street stall every week in the centre of Stratford, a small community centre for meetings, films etc and occasional protests such as this, along with support for those with housing problems or threatened, as they were, with eviction.

As the pictures show, the protesters looked pretty bedraggled, and like them I was getting wet and cold. For once I put up my umbrella for some of the time while taking pictures, though it really needs a third hand. Though I now rely on autofocus almost all of the time, altering the focal length using the zoom ring really does need two hands and perhaps my framing was a little less good than usual. Because I was able to work close to the protesters, I didn’t feel any need to use a longer lens than the 18-35mm which I had on the D750, and all the pictures were taken with this. It’s also a lot easier to keep one camera dry than two. AL pictures were taken at ISO 6400.

It really was too dark to work without extra lighting, mainly supplied by using my cheap LED light, a 216 LED Neewer unit. It seems to now have a rather lower light output than it should and the AA batteries seem to lose power very fast. I’m wondering whether it just needs a better set of batteries or I should look at a more expensive replacement unit. It’s more flexible than the flash in that I hold it in one hand (on this occasion I had to put the umbrella down to do so) and so have some limited control over the light direction. Flash was more convenient as the Nikon SB800 fits into the hot shoe and I could keep the umbrella up. But it isn’t a great idea to use flash in the rain as it is at its most powerful on raindrops falling close to the camera, and some frames were unusable. About half the pictures were made using the LED and the rest with flash.

The people in the office took pity on us, and a man came out with a tray of hot tea, though a couple of the protesters refused on principle to accept any gifts from them, but I found it very welcome.

Focus E15 protest former Newham Mayor

As I left the protesters and made my way the short distance to Downing St the rain eased off, and photographing the Stop Brexit protest there was considerably more pleasant. There was also rather more light, and I was able to take some pictures without any additional lighting uysing the D810.

For the staged performance by Boris impersonator Drew Galdron and EU Supergirl Madelina Kay and a three person chorus, I mainly worked without flash, though subject movement and slow shutter speeds meant rather many were too blurred. I did make just a few exposures with flash to be sure of getting a sharp image, but felt a lot of flashing would have been rather annoying for both audience and performers.

The performance came to an abrupt end when we were told that people were about to leave Downing St after partying about Brexit with Theresa May, and everyone rushed across to protest. It was rather darker in front of the gates, so nearly all the pictures I made there were taken with flash as I rather liked the way it isolated the EU flags and berets against a darker background.

No10 Vigil says stop Brexit

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images


Notable women in photography

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

I have a couple of small reservations about the article by Australian photographer and writer Megan Kennedy, “9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History” which makes an interesting contribution, particularly in introducing several photographers whose work deserves to be known more widely.

The first is about the phrase “shaped photographic history“, which I think is rather undervalued by its use here. How would photographic history have been different if it were not for the work of some of these women, interesting though it was? While it would be straightforward to make a case for some of the nine, I think it would be something of a problem for others. Of course all of us who publish or work or show it to others in some small way are a part of photographic history, but I think relatively few are pioneers who really shape it.

Putting that to one side, there are I think five in the list that over the years I have written about (unfortunately mainly in articles no longer available for contractual reasons), and about whom there is considerable information both on-line and in print, and the article would have been considerably more useful had it included links to some of these. It was after all published by the Digital Photography School which should be more encouraging to its students to dig further.

Of course for most of them resources are not hard to find (though the quality of some links highly ranked by Google is often poor), but here I’ll give just one link to each of them on Wikipedia which seems generally a good starting point:

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879)
Mary Steen (1856 – 1939)
Imogen Cunningham (1883 – 1976)
Gertrude Fehr (1895 – 1996)
Trude Fleischmann (1895 – 1990)
Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965)
Grete Stern (1904 – 1999)
Ylla (1911 – 1955)
Olive Cotton (1911 – 2003)

As a minor caveat I might perhaps question the choice of these particular nine women, when a good case could be made for so many others. But as Kennedy finishes her article:

“It’s impossible to cover the sheer number of women that have embodied the tenacity and creativity of a photographer’s spirit in a single article. With this piece, however, I hope to have encapsulated some of the resolves of the generations of women who have shaped photographic history. And although we aren’t all the way to achieving equality yet, thanks to the female photographers of the past and present, we’re a lot closer than we used to be.”

When I put together on line a ‘Directory of Notable Photographers‘ around 20 years ago (and highly debatable guide to those for whom further information was then available on the web) it included the following women photographers:

Abbott, Berenice
Arbus, Diane
Becher, Hilla
Bourke-White, Margaret
Cameron, Julia Margaret
Connor, Linda
Cunningham, Imogen
Dahl-Wolfe, Louise
Dater, Judy
Ewald, Wendy
Franck, Martine
Freedman, Jill
Gilpin, Laura
Goldin, Nan
Groover, Jan
Hahn, Betty
Henri, Florence
Heyman, Abigail
Iturbide, Graciela
Jacobi, Lotte
Kasebier, Gertrude
Kruger, Barbara
Lange, Dorothea
Levitt, Helen
Lestido, Adriana
Mann, Sally
Mark, Mary Ellen
Meiselas, Susan
Metzner, Sheila
Miller, Lee
Model, Lisette
Modotti, Tina
Moholy-Nagy, Lucia
Orkin, Ruth
Parker, Olivia
Post Wolcott, Marion
Rheims, Bettina
Sherman, Cindy
Spence, Jo
Stern, Grete
Tenneson, Joyce
Ulmann, Doris

Of course there were many other women I wrote about then and since,;  an updated list would include many more.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images


Late Autumn

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Back in the days of film I used to lock away (if only metaphorically, as the key to the cupboard is even longer lost) colour film in the Autumn months to ensure I didn’t waste it as the leaves changed colour. Though I plead guilty ot have taken pictures of autumn leaves, there didn’t seem to be any good reason to repeat the offence as it was a message I’d already stated.

Film cost money, soemthing which, back then, was usually in short supply, but while the marginal cost per frame of 35mm film was perhaps around 10p, for digital it is virtually zero. We pay up front in terms of camera, computer & software, and almost the only cost per digital image is for the storage medium, and with hard drives now at a few pence per gigabyte that is almost too small to calculate. Of course the total cost has to take into account the hardware and software, but each extra exposure you make reduces the cost per exposure.

Film – except in a few very specialised cases – is now simply an affectation, though people tell me it is making a resurgence. But if people want to waste time and money why should I stand in their way. You are welcome – but just don’t try to tell me there are any advantages. Its a hair shirt I’m happy for you to wear.

So when I went with some of my family to Burnham Beeches there was no real reason not to take pictures (though I certainly didn’t take any film.) Except perhaps that I didn’t find the subject matter particularly inspring in the way that walking down a city street might well be. Though to be honest I did manage to get myself fairly wrapped up in it, so that I didn’t notice the rest of my family wandering off and getting lost while I was taking the first of these pictures.

I’d told them that we needed to go the way I was going, but when I took my eye away from the viewfinder and looked around they had disappeared. I’d photographed the map at the infromation centre as we started our walk, so I knew exactly where I was, but they insisted on following a printed map for a walk that started elsewhere.

I wasn’t worried about them, or about meeting up again, as I knew they would eventually have to find their way back to where the car we had come in was parked, though it would take them rather longer than it would take me. I did try to phone them, but wherever they had gone there was no signal, and it was only half an hour later that we managed to get back in touch – and to go and find a pub for a meal.

There is a little more about the walk and a couple more pictures on My London Diary:
Burnham Beeches

Saturday didn’t start well…

Monday, January 14th, 2019

Saturday 10th November didn’t start well. I arrived on time for the start of what should have been a large protest to find nobody there. Of course protests are quite often planned and advertised on social media but never take place, some people get an idea it would be a good idea to have a protest, put up an event but give up when they find nobody shares their enthusiasm; others are cancelled at the last minute when I’m already on the way to them, and others were never really intended to take place. But this was different, a protest by a large group, so something was very clearly wrong.

Fortunately I’d remembered to bring my phone – quite often I come out without it, as I did this morning, though I realised when I was only a few yards down the street and rushed back to  pick it up. But other days I only think about it when my train is approaching the platform, or even when I’m actually at an event in London and put my hand into my pocket to phone someone and find the pocket is empty. But for once I’d remembered it, so took it out and began searching on Facebook for the event. I couldn’t find it.

Clearly something was wrong, and by then I had an idea what it might be. I did another search and found that I had put the event in my diary for the wrong week and was standing there waiting for something not due to happen for another 7 days.  This meant I had an hour and a half to wait for the next event I was hoping to cover (and I checked that this really was on the correct date.)

There were a number of possibilities. I was rather near one of my favourite pubs and it was tempting, but drinking early in the day when I wanted to cover more protests would not be a good idea. I could have gone to one of London’s museums or art galleries – and I often do visit one when I have a little time to spare, but I had long enough to do something else. I did a quick search on my phone for anything else  of interest happening and drew a blank, so instead I decided to go and look for a protest in those London places where protests often occur.

So I got on the tube and I found one in the first place I looked, Trafalgar Sqaure, though not something I would have have normally gone out of my way to photograph. UK Unity is an extreme right organisation which describes itself as “A genuine Grassroots campaign to Leave the EU then rebuild Britain!” and which states it “is entirely opposed to any hate speech, violence or harassment and we firmly believe in the rule of law.” but which publicises the actions of peole like Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage and is running a petition urging the immediate deportation of all “illegal immigrants” wit the claim “Those crossing the channel from France are not ‘refugees’ or ‘asylum seekers’ but unvetted and illegal migrants in our country.

Their protest in Trafalgar Square about the lack of progress in leaving the EU also called for the resignation of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and for policies which “Put British Laws, British Culture and British People first“. There were a number of faces in the crowd familiar from photographing groups such as the EDL and the National Front. They favour simply leaving the EU with no agreement, refusing to make any payments and fail to acknowledge the disastrous consequences that would follow.

I’d soon had enough of being around them, and wandered off down the road to see if anything was happening at Downing St, or outside Parliament, but there was nothing. However it was now time to get on the District Line from Westminster to Aldgate East and the next event in my diary, a rally by the UK branch of the National Committee to Protect Oil Gas & Mineral Resources, Bangladesh, supported by others including Fossil Free Newham. This was a part of a global day of protest to save the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was taking place in Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel.

There are some protests which don’t take a great deal of time to photograph, with relatively little happening at least visually. People standing in a line with posters , placards and banners. The odd tiger. Losts of speeches, a few in English. So I was soon leaving and making my way to the pub where I hoped to meet Class War. They were a little late so I had time to drink a pint without rushing.

It wasn’t really a full-scale protest by Class War, just a short visit to remind the ‘Jack The Rippe’r tourist venue in Cable St, with its macabre displays profiting from the gory deaths of a few working class women, that it disgusts many and should close.

Police were waiting just around the corner when they arrived and came to harass the protesters, with one women constable making threats about arresting them for their bad language – who had the law pointed out to her. After a short protest Class War rolled up their banner and went in search of another pub. They almost got there when they were diverted into yet another on the way…

Clas War are very much a group misunderstood in various ways by different people and often deliberately, but whose actions often attract far more publicity than many other groups – and their intention is to provoke. I don’t always share their views – though on the Ripper obscenity I’m 100% with them – but their activities are always interesting. Protest is definitely more fun with Class War, and they do very much raise the profile of important issues.

Where I differ from Class War is that I’m more of a pragmatist and I don’t think the chances of getting revolution on anarchist lines is too probable in the foreseeable future. So while I share many of their opinions about the Labour Party, and in particular about criminal London Labour councils which are demolishing council estates, handing over public assets to private developers and failing to provide council housing for current residents and others who can’t afford high market house prices or rents who Class War are very rightly castigating, I’d like to support those in the party who are campaigning for socialists to take control of the local parties, which could bring about a real change. And while I don’t have particularly high hopes of what a Corbyn government might be able to acheive, I’m convinced that there would be some advantages over the Tories, who have shown themselves cruel, unthinking and quite simply evil beyond previous administrations. Though under our current system, my vote inone of the country’s safer Tory seats is entirely a worthless gesture.

More on all these protests at:
Leave Voters say Leave Now!
Global Day to save the Sunderbans
Class War picket the Ripper ‘Museum’


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images


Darkest London

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Class War had come to support the protesters

Another protest about London Councils and housing took place in Deptford, one of the literally and metaphorically darkest areas of the capital on that Tuesday evening. Lewisham Council had turned the Old Tidemill Garden, a community garden, into a fortress, surrounded by fences and ringed by security guards 24 hours a day, at considerable cost to the local council tax payers.

After discussions with the council had failed to acheive any meaningful communication, local residents had occupied the garden around the end of August, but two months later were very forcefully evicted at the end of October in a scandalous and illegal action by a large force of bailiffs, while police stood back and watched.

The campaigners set up a camp on an area of open ground just to the east of the garden and in front of Reginald House, council flats that are also to be demolished under the council’s plans, along with a disused school. Campaigners have put forward alternative proposals which would allow the same number of new homes – though with more social housing – on the site but retain the garden and allow all current residents to remain in the area, but the council and developers Peabody have refused to give them any serious consideration.

The area around the camp where people met was in darkness, and most of the pictures I took there at slow shutter speeds were spoilt by subject movement, a few by camera shake. Closer to the road and the roundabout there was a little more light and my efforts were more succesful.

The march set off down a dimly lit road past the heavily guarded garden, and few of the pictures I took at the start were usable. When it turned onto Deptford High St things became much easier, but after a short walk up there it turned off into another dimily lit road and path, on its way to the New Cross Assembly Meeting where the recently elected Mayor was expected to answer questions from the public.

The side street outside the building where this was to be held was also dark,  and working at high ISO and slow shutter speeds was rather hit and miss. I took a few pictures using my LED light, but this only usefully illuminates a fairly small distance from it and doesn’t give a wide enough spread of light for my wider images.

I took a few pictures using flash,  but was unhappy with the results. With so low ambient light it is hard to get any satisfactory balance between people and things close to the flash and the background, and I abandoned the effort. The flash didn’t seem to be working properly in any case – probably some incorrect setting on camera or flash. The Nikon system is great when it works, but there are quite a few silly little things that can prevent it working properly.  A few of the better pictures were made with the help of headlights from cars, stopped briefly by protesters on the road.

Lit by car headlights

We waited and waited for the Mayor, but he didn’t arrive, though a couple of police did. Messages came through that he had been held up, and after it began to seem unlikely he was coming I and some of the other protesters left. It was cold and I’d been standing around too long and was very pleased to be able to sit on a warm bus to take me to the station for a train on my way home.

Later I heard that the Mayor had finally arrived, and there had been a rather unsatisfactory meeting, with most of the protesters being refused entry and few questions being answered. Later, when the Mayor left, their had been some noisy scenes and at least one arrest. I was sorry to have missed the action, but also felt some relief as I was faily sure I wouldn’t have managed any good pictures.

More text and pictures:
Save Old Tidemill Garden & Reginald House


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images


Labour, Labour Home Snatchers!

Friday, January 11th, 2019

Anarchist Martin Wright leads a protest as a Labour Party activist is called to the microphone

The picture above has an interesting structure with a strong central figure and two planes defined by the poster he is holding and the banners behind, which appeals to me. But it is also a picture in which the text is important, particularly the poster message ‘Labour Leaders in the Social Cleansing of Council Estates in London’, not just because it actually makes  an unfortunately true point, but because it very clearly makes the point which this image is about – a protest by one of London’s leading anarchists over housing, and against the policies pursued by Labour councils in London.

Tanya Murat of Southwark Defend Council Housing and a council tenant in Walworth

When the Labour government brought in the idea of regeneration it was probably for the best of motives, an attempt to improve the housing of many who were living in sub-standard accomodation by providing them with homes that met modern standards. But it was soon being used to do something very different, partly because developers saw it as a huge money-making opportunity, partly because some councillors and officers saw it as a way to develop their careers (and personal fortunes), partly because local authorities lacked the knowledge and experience to deal with the developers, and at least in part because of the demands and limitations imposed by central government on local authorities.

The result has been a culture in  which the needs of the people local authority housing is intended to meet – local residents – have become largely neglected, with councils aiming at realising the values of public assets and some councillors and officials getting treated to extravagant entertainment and getting lucrative jobs. Of course local councils have always suffered from people exploiting their positions for their own interests (and only a very few have been brought to justice.) But the huge redevelopment proposals which came out of thte regeneration process provided rich pickings for some.

Most local government in London is Labour led – with some borough such as Newham having no effective opposition at all. So mostly it is Labour controlled councils that are demolishing estates and handing public assets over to often rather corrupt developers – including some housing associations. Conservative councils are just as bad, but there are few of them. And we expect Conservatives to serve their own interests and those of their wealth friends, while Labour we expect to be ‘for the many not for the few’.

Ted Knight (right) argues with Martin Wright

Class War and other anarchist and left groups had come to take part in the protest called by called by ‘Axe the Housing Act’ against the demolition of council estates but neither they nor housing activists they have worked with were given the chance to speak. The final straw for them was when a prominent London Labour Party activist was called to the microphone. It is a long time since Ted Knight was ‘Red Ted’, the leader of a Labour council which planned and built homes on the premise that “nothing was too good for the working class”, was in power, but he remains a member of a party that has been responsible for more than 160 estate demolitions in the capital (though he has been fighting against some of them.)

‘Labour Labour Home Snatchers! Even Worse than Maggie Thatcher’

It wasn’t then suprising that Class War and some other activists erupted at this point, disrupting the meeting by shouting their views. They didn’t stop the meeting, but held it up for some time before things quietened down enough for Knight to speak – and the arguments continued. The banner behind Martin Wright, on which only a few words can be seen (you can read it unobstructed at the right of the picature above ), shows Corbyn reading another Class War poster, listing the names of many of the estates Labour Councils are demolishing, thrust in his face as he went to speak at another protest.

‘The people Ballotless by MendaCity Hall’ – Sadiq Khan rushed through proposals to avoid ballots

Some weeks after this Labour did make a new policy statement on housing, which did include some of the demands activists including Class War and  residents have been making, among them calling for all estate residents to be balloted and to be treated better when councils want to ‘regenerate’ estates. But those proposals are still being largely ignored by London Labour councils, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan rushing through a number of proposals which failed to meet the new standards, and others finding excuses to avoid implementing them.

There have been a few sucesses, notably in Haringey, where a huge level of protests by activists iniside and outwith the Labour Party resulted in the election of Labour councillors opposed to the billion-pound giveaway of council assets involved in the HDV (Haringey Development Vehicle), but elsewhere in London Labour councils dominated by the Labour right (and organisations such as Progress) are still finding ways to continue  the old and discredited policies.

I tried to cover both the main protest and the reaction to it from Class War and others, and separated out the two on My London Diary. There were a number of speakers representing estates currently being demolished or under threat in the main protest, but it did seem a shame that it was not more inclusive.

Class War protest Labour Housing record
No Demolitions Without Permission

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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

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Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

I spent most of last Friday retouching around 50 scans from negatives that I took in 1981, using Photoshop. It’s a rather tedious job, but it does enable me to reclaim images from negatives that have often suffered rather from the ravages of time, poor storage and attacks by gelatine-devouring minute insects. It is the insect damage that is most difficult to correct, with multiple tracks visible sometimes over large areas, particularly noticeable in skies, and also in deep shadow areas. It isn’t always possible to completely remove it, but usually I can at least hide it, sometimes needing to make skies lighter than I would prefer and shadows darker.

There are of course photographers who don’t beleive in retouching in any way – and purists in the digital age who, particularly for news photographs, object even to any burning or dodging. I’m glad I don’t work for an agency like Reuters who have such an extremist view, not least as I think it unjustifiable, though of course there are things we shouldn’t do which some of their photographers have been caught out doing in the past, removing content from pictures.

Fifteen years ago I took many of my pictures using fill-flash, particularly to lighten faces which would otherwise be in shadow; now using cameras with greater dynamic range I do this when necessary mainly in Lightroom or Photoshop to obtain the same effect. Both to my mind equally acceptable photographic techniques. And taking this further, no photograph taken with flash or other added lighting really represents the scene as it was, but is an artifact produced by the photographer. As of course in other ways is every photograph.

The camera never records a scene as we see it. For us, seeing is a far more complex process, which processes the raw data in many ways, seeing more in shadows and highlights, emphasizing the subject against the background and more. We can only produce images that reflect what we saw and felt that made us press the shutter by working on the image after it has been taken – and even then only imperfectly. That we all take many poor photographs is not due to us consciously making bad pictures, but I think largely a matter of the gulf between what we see and how Nikon or Canon’s hardware records.

Back in the darkroom days we danced our hands and held shapes on wires and more in the enlarger’s beam to get the image we wanted. Now Photoshop makes these things easier and more controllable – and we only need to do them once and not for every print we make. Many of the vagaries of processing – dust spots, scratches, air bells and more – could only be corrected on prints, using fine pointed brushes and spotting dyes; even worse were dark spots, where delicate scraping with a scalpel was the only recourse. Sometimes we had to retouch a print and then photograph it to make a copy negative for further prints, usually on a larger format.

Back in the earlier days of photography, when large negatives or glass plates were the norm, then these could be retouched, but this was hardly possible with 35mm film, though scratches could be filled with varnish or, in a rather revolting but widespread darkroom practice, a little grease from rubbing a finger on the outside corner of your nose.

I was reminded of the days before my time today by a post on Facebook linking to a couple of articles about retouching in the early years of photography, How Photo Retouching Worked Before Photoshop and The Art of Retouching – Pre-Photoshop, and it is a subject often covered in great detail in early photographic text-books.

Edward Weston was employed as a negative retoucher by a portrait studio in Los Angeles in 1908 before becoming a studio portrait photographer. In the 1920s he came to hate retouching, but it was only in 1929 that he felt able to hang up the sign in his studio window that read “Edward Weston, Photographer, Unretouched Portraits, Prints for Collectors.” Though I very much follow his demand for realism, on the only occasion I’ve seriously considered buying an original Edward Weston print I couldn’t bring myself to do so becuase of the small dark and light dust spots on it which I knew would annoy me every time I saw it on my wall. I think it would, despite these, now be worth roughly a hundred times as much as when I failed to buy it.

Mark Silber has put on-line a rather nice film made with Kim Weston about his grandfather’s darkroom practice, including a little vintage footage of Edward. Kim talks briefly about his re-touching of portraits. But I do wish he’d taken out some of the dust on his later work – as has been done for reproduction, You can watch Richard Boutwell of retouching one of his prints using Photoshop on YouTube, though the sound is missing on the first 5 minutes of the 1 hour video video.

D-Day Anniversary Approaches

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

A D Coleman has broken his unusual 3 month on-line silence to return to the long campaign by him and his colleagues to correct the myths about Robert Capa‘s D-Day pictures (and the related issue of the Falling Soldier), realising that:

“with the 75th anniversary of D-Day coming up on June 6, 2019, I’ve just realized that I’m likely to feel compelled to correct an endless stream of repetitions of the Capa D-Day myth, which has so permeated our culture that this investigation has barely begun to dislodge it.”

This particular post, Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (39), examines a recent article in a Le Monde supplement by Cynthia Young, the curator of the Robert Capa and Cornell Capa Archive at the International Center of Photography in New York, and as such a leading figure in studies of Capa.  Her ‘Les deux icônes de Capa’, published in October 2018 completely ignores all recent evidence which has established beyond any reasonable doubt the true circumstances under which Capa’s  1937 Spanish Civil War ‘Falling Soldier’ and  his 1944 D-Day ‘The Face in the Surf’ were made.

Coleman berates Young for “not just ignoring contrary evidence and doubling down on the myth but actually adding spurious details to it“, pointing out that her activity is “fatal to credible scholarship“, and is extremely damaging to the reputation of one of photography’s major institutions, the ICP.

The post also looks again at John Loengard‘s contibution to the myth in his 1994 book Celebrating the Negative which includes Loengard’s photograph of the hands of Cornell Capa and the 8 surviving negatives above a light-box, along with his commentary which, as Coleman comments, included the myth of the melting negatives that any professional photographer should have dismissed out of hand.  Certainly many of us had.

The post ends with a rather more amusing D-Day story with a picture of the Royal Mail £1.25 stamp from a series “showcasing the ‘Best of British’ “. The picture of allied troops knee-deep in water as they waded ashore from a landing craft  with its caption, ‘D-Day: Allied soldiers and medics wade ashore’ was outed within minutes of its posting on Twitter as showing a US landing on a beach in Dutch New Guinea (now in Indonesia), and the design had to be abandoned.

Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (39)


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images