Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

Up the Elephant

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

It’s rather a cliche, but I still like it, the one protester and the line of police protecting the status quo, in this case the London College of Communication. But of course it isn’t the whole story and turning my camera around roughly 180 degrees shows a very different picture.

The fight was not so much to save the Elephant & Castle as it currently exists, but to see it developed in the interest of the community who currently live around and use the area, particularly the small market traders, the Latino community and the local residents, rather than a ‘regeneration’ that benefits the developers, the big businesses that will open their shops in the new centre, and the overseas investors who will buy many of the new flats simply as investments rather than for people to live in. And while the University of the Arts will get improved facilities (their current building dates from when the London College of Printing moved here in 1962), the education that working in a vibrant community provides for its students will be lost.

The struggle to improve the plans continues, even though Southwark Council narrowly passed the plans following some minor concessions made by the developers to meet the demands made by the local campaigners. But unfortunately the new shopping centre, though almost certainly more attractive looking than the currently widely despised building, will probably have all of the sterile emptiness of Westfield, though on a smaller scale, attracting people from a wide area rather than serving the locality.

Built in the 1960s, when it opened in March 1965, it was hailed as the first covered shopping mall in Europe and argest and “the most ambitious shopping venture ever to be embarked upon in London”, but was hampered by budget cuts. Although inside it now seems rather small and claustrophobic compared to more recent malls, but is on a more human scale, and has shops that serve local needs, as well as a thriving market that has grown up around it, in particular with over a hundred small Latin-American businesses.

I think everyone agrees that some redevelopment of the centre is necessary, but any local authority that truly represented its residents would have made strenuous attempts to protect the interests of these and other local businesses, insisting that the developer provide a similar amount of low-cost market space in the new development. But all that has been provided, even after the protests are some rather vague promises and a small relocation fund.

The protests have also resulted in a some increase in the number of affordable homes in the development, although only around 12% of the 979 residential units will be at ‘social rents’, and the overall proportion of 35% ‘affordable’ properties is likely to be reduced by fancy accountancy during the construction which will allow the developers to claim this ‘impacts viablity’, reducing their profits below an exorbitant 20%.

Southwark Council has a long history of scandalous so-called ‘regeneration’ projects, selling off the interests of its local population to developers at cut-down prices, including the demolition of the Heygate Estate and the currently continuing demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and other schemes elsewhere in the borough. Unfortunately the Labour dominated council is still dominated by right wing ‘New Labour’.

Protesters Stand Up For The Elephant

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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

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Thieving Artist

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

I’ve written before about Richard Prince and his appropriation of photographs and only return to the case as I’ve just read a post in The Art NewspaperRichard Prince defends reuse of others’ photographs,  by Laura Gilbert which states the defence he is offering to  a federal court in Manhattan about his use for profit of the works of two photographers, Donald Graham‘s photograph, Rastafarian Smoking a Joint, and Eric McNatt’s photograph of the musician and artist Kim Gordon. It is a rather longer statement, apparently 15 pages, than his original (and soon deleted) tweet: “Phony fraud photographers keep mooching me. Why? I changed the game. &their wizardry professorial boredom keeps coughing up a vick’sVAPOrub.”

Prince argues that by taking the images exactly as they were on Instagram, but enlarging them and adding his comment to put them on the gallery wall and sell them at high prices he was somehow producing a new original work of art, commenting on the process of communication involved in using social media – and Instagram in particular. As Gilbert writes, his approach is supported byome pretty serious names in the art world, with statements from  a museum director, curator and well-known art dealer to the court. All of course people who profit in some way or other from artists like Prince.

Prince of course profits from all the publicity this and other court cases give him, with many articles -including this one – in newspapers, magazines and blogs significantly raising his profile as an artist, and thus the prices and sales of his work.

Perhaps the photographers whose work has been stolen might think about reclaiming it by appropriating Prince’s, producing copies of ‘his’ images, perhaps ‘transforming’ them by the addition of their signatures. I rather suspect Prince and his dealers would call foul and run to the courts in what would be a rather fascinating copyright case.

There is of course absolutely no need for any of this. I’ve had my work used by artists – and they have come to me before doing so, explained what they wanted to do and we have negotiated a licence with an appropriate fee, and appropriate attribution. It’s an established way of working that avoids controversy – without misappropriation. But the very idea of stealing other people’s work seems to me to be the basis of Prince’s artistic practice. He’s famous for it.

I don’t of course know what judgement the court will finally make – and Prince has got away with it in earlier copyright cases, though I hope at last it will be one that fully respects the rights of the photographer – and leads to them getting compensation for the use of their work as well as the legal costs of taking the case. Prince would still be the winner, with all the publicity from the case aiding his status and sales. The only losers – in the longer term – will be those who have paid high prices for what are works which will almost certainly be consigned to the dustbin of art history, lacking any real worth or interest.

Busy Tuesday

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

I don’t often photograph three protests on a Tuesday, though one of the three I could have taken pictures of on almost any weekday, and have done a few times before. The anti-Brexit Stand of Defiance European Movement, SODEM, was started by Steven Bray in September 2017 and continue to protest every day that MPs are in session. I went along on this Tuesday as they had announced a a ‘Pies Not Lies’ Remainathon during the parliamentary debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, and there was a little more interest and activity than usual, as you can see from the ten pictures at Stop Brexit ‘Pies Not Lies’

From Old Palace Yard it was a convenient short stroll to the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy on Victoria St, outside which the Unite Restaurant, Catering and Bar Workers Branch and Unite Community, including staff from TGI Fridays were holding a short protest reminding business secretary Greg Clark of his predecessor in office Sajid Javid’s promise to stop employers stealing the tips paid by credit cards from staff.

Among those protesting was one dressed as a giant burger, though I don’t think either Unite or I really made use of this. I’m there to record events, not to direct them. I won’t tell people how to arrange their protests, and rely on them to decide how they want to do things, but this doesn’t always make for good pictures. Our conventional trade unions are often rather lacking in their ideas about protests and photographs of protests, and trade union magazines and web sites arwe often full of rather boring group photos that I dislike making.

Unite TGI Fridays demand Fair Tips & Fair Pay

From Victoria St I wanted to be at SOAS, a little under two miles away. I should have thought ahead and brought my bike with me to London, as there would have been no problem with having it with me at any of these three small static events. For larger protests and marches, having a bicycle tends to be an encumbrance, and leaving a folding bike like my Brompton locked anywhere in London is a gamble I seldom like to take. A relatively high value machine, easily lifted into a car boot or van and readily sold they are effective magnets for theives.

But at all three of these protests I could have locked it to a lamp post or stand within sight of where I was working, and that mile and and three quarters would have been less than a ten minute ride. Bikes don’t get held up much by traffic, while my buses certainly did. It would actually have been slightly faster to walk the whole way (I’m usually quite a fast walker), but you can’t know that when you start your journey, and my legs would have suffered. The journey took 35 minutes, an average speed of just under 3 miles per hour.

Most journeys in central London are faster by tube – and this is certainly more reliable than buses, but this is one which isn’t. TfL’s journey planner does suggest a combination of two tube journeys and walking would be fastest, but tells me it would have taken me 37 minutes, two minutes more than walking the whole way. Sometimes biking is by far the best solution. Of course for the wealthy there are taxis, but freelance photographers can seldom afford these, and they get held up in the traffic too.

At SOAS, students and staff were remembering the shameful events of nine years earlier, when SOAS management called their cleaners to an early morning ‘meeting’ where agents of the UK Border Agency rushed in, handcuffed all of them and held them for questioning. Nine were then deported. The action was a part of the despicable ‘hostile environment’ for migrant workers, begun by the Labour government, but severely ratcheted up by Theresa May as Home Secretary. People at the protest held posters with the names of the nine who were deported.

SOAS management took the action as retaliation over the trade union activities of their cleaners, members of Unison, who had begun to campaign for a living wage and to be directly employed by the university rather than being employed on terrible conditions and low pay through cowboy cleaning firms. They got the living wage – but then nine were deported.

Eventually, ten years later, after a continuing struggle, the management finally agreed to bring them ‘back in house’, though at the time of these pictures the details had not been finalised. They are now directly employed and both SOAS and the employees are better off.

‘SOAS 9’ deported cleaners remembered
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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

________________________________________________________

Memory Card Failures?

Monday, October 8th, 2018

I’ve generally been lucky with memory card failures over the sixteen years I’ve now been using digital cameras, and I don’t think I’ve lost a single image due to them, though writing this is likely to provoke disaster. A few times cards have simply refused to work when I’ve put them into the camera either on first use (and one batch turned out to be very convincing ‘fakes’ for which I got a refund) or after some time when they have worked without problems. Once or twice I’ve had cards fail with pictures on them (or formatted them by mistake in a camera with dual card slots), but so far I’ve always managed to recover the images, though often it has been a lengthy process.

What I have found is that many ‘recovery’ programs have failed to recover any images, and the only one I’ve found to work reliably has been an old version of Rescue Pro, which came free years ago with SanDisk cards but is no longer supported by them. You now have to pay to get a working version, though a free download will show you whether files can be recovered. I didn’t try every other product on the market, but most I did failed. They may work for some causes of card failure, but didn’t help me. An article recommends some cheaper alternatives to Rescue Pro I haven’t tried (and links to more) that are cheaper and might be worth considering, and I’ve also found Recuva useful – and there is a free version.

That old version of Rescue Pro is slow and rather opaque, but it still works on WIndows 7, though I think it was written for Windows XP and may not run when my next computer is on Windows 10 (or 11.)

I began thinking about this after I put the SD card with all my pictures from last weekend into my card reader. Windows gave an error message asking me if I wanted to format the disk. Fortunately after I declined the offer the card read without problems. I do try to remember to always format cards in camera after I’ve copied the pictures from them and before using the card again, which I think is good practice.

Also when I’m away from home for more than a day or taking pictures I try to back up the cards I’m using on to my notebook computer every day, so that at worst I should only use a day’s work.

Catching up on my reading this morning I came across an article on PetaPixel by photographer QT Luong, Lessons from Losing a Week of Photos to Memory Card Failure, in which he recounts his problem with a corrupted SD card. He tried various software recovery programs without luck, and then some commercial recovery services who again were unable to bring back his files by their normal methods, eventually offering to charge large sums for further detailed examination of the card with no guarantee they could recover any data. At which point Luong decided it was simply not worth continuing.

It is an interesting article and very much a warning to the rest of us not to be complacent about the problem, as well as suggesting some strategies. In particular it might be a good idea to back-up while working using both card slots on dual slot cameras, even though this may slow down the rate at which the camera will work.

As Luong states, not all cameras have dual slots, and when Nikon and Canon recently announced mirrorless cameras with only a single card slot (like the Fuji cameras I sometimes use), there were many comments from photographers that this made them unsuitable for professional use. I’m more inclined to think that way after reading Luong’s article, though I do still wonder how many of those making the complaint actually currently use the second slot in their cameras for back-up.

Luong also quotes some statistics, looking at the star ratings given to several UHS-II cards in Amazon reviews. Although overall ratings are generally high, there were an alarming number of 1-star reviews for some cards from top brands, as high as 17% for the Lexar 2000x, while others were a more reassuring 3%.

Of course people who buy a card that fails are far more likely to contribute a review than those whose cards just keep on working without problems. I don’t think I’ve ever submitted a star rating for any of the cards I’ve used. But these 1-star ratings almost certainly give a good comparative rating of the reliability of the different products.

It also seems likely that the faster the card and the more complex the higher the failure rate is likely to be. My good luck so far may well be because I’ve never bought the fastest cards and I don’t think I have any UHS-II cards.

I’ll keep using that card that gave an error message as I suspect it was itself an error, as it was not repeated when I re-inserted the card into the reader. And I’ll make sure to format the card before next use. It might too be worth carefully cleaning the contacts on the card in case they have picked up some dirt or corrosion.

Archives for the Future

Friday, September 28th, 2018

this afternoon I went to an interesting presentation, Radical Archives for the future: networks and collaboration  organised by Four Corners in Bethnal Green. Four Corners, which began as an independent film workshop in 1973, inherited the archives of Camerawork (and the Half Moon Photography workship), which published one of the most interesting photographic magazines of the 1970s, devoted to radical left practice in photography and including the work of people like Paul Trevor and Jo Spence. And you can find out more at their recently set up archive.

Camerawork was a confusing title for a photography magazine, as probably the best-known (and argualbly the most beautiful) publication in the whole history of photography was Camera Work, its 50 issues produced in stunning photogravure from 1903 to 1917, edited by Alfred Stieglitz, with its last two issues dedicated to the then novel modernist approach of Paul Strand. But Camerawork, founded in 1976, was in its early years a powerful influence on many young British photographers, and copies are held in most major libraries with an interest in photography as well in a box on the top of my bookshelves.

Camerawork somewhat lost the plot at the end of the decade (see Paul Trevor’s review of the book, The Camerawork Essays), when photography saw a huge and highly destructive debate over theory and practice, which essentially debilitated UK photography for the next decade or two, though Camerawork struggled on, at least on the Roman Road into the following century, but with little relevance in its later years to current photography. Four Corners then inherited its premises and its archive.

I probably should have written earlier about the  Radical Visions show ending at Four Corners now, which looked at Community photography and in particular the contribution to this of Camerawork, but somehow it is hard for me to take too seriously a show where the great majority of images on the wall are also on the shelves behind me as I write. But of course I do realise that there are generations now unaware of its history.

I was a subscriber to Camerawork from almost the start, with issues from No 2 winging their way to me by post, and these accumulated in my personal archive until I cancelled my subscription when I thought they magazine had abandoned photography. The first issue, which I think I bought in the gallery, seems to have disappeared, but it impressed me enough to subscribe.

Active in photography since around 1971, I have over the years built up a considerable archive or magazines, books and of course photographs, mainly my own, but also by others I worked with in various ways. It’s a not inconsiderable archive, probably around a million physical ‘documents’ (negatives, slides, prints, magazines, books etc), but rather more digital files.

A small amount of this material is now duplicated in more official and more organised archives – such as those of the Museum of London and Bishopsgate Institute – but most is not. A much larger amount, particularly of my own images is much more available to researchers and others with any interest on the web – now approaching a quarter of a million images. Most days I add a batch of perhaps 20 or 100 images to that on-line archive.

The presentation and discussion at Four Corners was largely dominated by professional archivists (along with some unpaid amateurs running archives) whose approach I think is not always helpful. The audience included others involved with archives, and academics, along with a few photographers.

Photography for me is at its very basis a medium that arose from the possibilty of the essentially infinite reproducibility of the photographic image. Why Talbot’s negative-based process was such a great step forward over the in some ways superior Daguerreotype. Later it became the medium for the printed press, enabling the mass production of books and magazines. Many of the most iconic photographs were produce by photographers who were working for the printed page, and the books and magazines, not the photographic print are the true expression of their work in the medium.

Unfortunately, largely by by transference from the art market too many fetishise the photographic print, and in particular the idea of the vintage print. Had photographers like Edward Weston been able to use computers and make prints with the control that these enable I’m sure they would have jumped at the chance. I’ve always felt that – in the past, and beginning with Anna Atkins and W H F Talbot’s ‘Pencil of Nature’ that photographs belong in books – and more recently that their true home is also in digital publication. Certainly I don’t dispute the value of a fine print – I learnt to print from Ansel Adams (though from the first and best edition of his Basic Photo series) and from criticism by Raymond Moore at a time when photographic printing was seldom taken seriously in the UK and ‘soot and whitewash’ was in vogue (and in Vogue.)

It often annoyed me when I taught photography that I had to make students go to study ‘first hand’ at the V& A or exhibitions, when the real authentic experience of a photographer such as Robert Capa or Gene Smith was in magazines such as Life or books which we had in the college library (or my personal collection).

Photographic reproduction in books has improved to the level that it is now often at least as good as that of original prints. Back in the late 1970s I pissed off Lewis Baltz when he was examining the page proofs of ‘Park City’, by giving him my opinion that they were better than his own photographic prints. It was clearly true, but certainly not politic.

I’ve had long arguments over the years with some professionals in the world of archiving who have discounted the use of digital files for archiving. At least one such professional ended up by researching the writing of digital files not as digital files but by printing them out in a binary format using carbon inks on acid-free paper, arguing that only these would be available to generations in the extreme future.

We need to get real about archiving. The rate at which we produce stuff means that only a very limited selection can possibly be save in its original print or poster format for the future. Digitisation enables us to save a rather larger selection, but still requires careful consideration of what is worth saving and makes easier the careful captioning, particularly in metadata, of what is saved. Metadata is vital for the way it enables us to find material, particularly visual material that has litte or no textual element.

Digital archiving has many advantages, enabling the same record to be classified in multiple ways and facilitating both simple and complex searches, particularly on text in captions and metadata, but increasingly on image elements as greater computing power enables matching of faces or other elements.

I have a sneaking suspicion that what will be of most use to future generations and historians will not be the archives we were discussing, but the residues of the internet, and of commercial services such as Facebook and Instagram, – and perhaps even websites like my own, such as My London Diary, London Photos and Still Occupied – A view of Hull. And I’m slowly working through my own output over the years, producing digital images from those negatives and transparencies I feel worth keeping, and thinking of ways to provide those digital images with a future after the photographic materials have decayed or gone to landfill.

Internet wanderings

Monday, September 24th, 2018

I’m often surprised by the Internet, or rather I should say by the World Wide Web, invented by Tim Berners-Lee, whose name though etched in my memory I was unable to recall in a pub quiz last night to my extreme annoyance. Both by what you can find out using it, and sometimes by what you can’t.

Currently, as some will know, most days I post a black and white picture taken in London in 1979 on Facebook, with a usually short comment on the subject matter. All of the pictures are on my London web site, but currently there are only brief captions, as in today’s example:


Disused shop, Hackney, 1979
21l-66: shop,, derelict,

Back in 1979 I took relatively few photographs on often long and protracted walks and kept few records; for me then the photograph was the record, and it was only a few years later that I began to keep something of a diary of my walks and to annotate the contact sheets of my films with street names and grid references.

When I wrote the web page I only had a vague idea about where I made this image – somewhere close to London Fields and not far from Broadway Market. That I now know where it was taken to within a yard or two is thanks largely to Google Street View, and the two buildings in the background, both of which appear in other pictures of mine.

Street View of course has its limitations. Where this shop stood is now simply a brick wall, and Street View only allows limited time travel, usually back to 2008, when the shop was long gone.  Its often impossible to get a view from exactly the place and angle you need, and it doesn’t share my predeliction for alleys and footways, with rare exceptions sticking to where a car can drive. It also has a very annoying habit of jumping inside shops where no-one wants to go, which greatly reduces its utility to the public if enriching Google from the owners of these premises.

But of course Street View is a remarkable asset, and one which has almost rendered some photographic projects unnecessary, as I commented in my 2014  post Bleeding London – re-Inventing Streetview?  It’s a resource I now often use when planning walks and visits to new locations.

The time limitation isn’t just confined to Street View. Most of the material on the web has been put there in the last few years, and there is relatively little information about the times before it existed. Various projects have put considerable efforts into digitising historical material and putting local history research into web sites, but much published material from the last century is still unavailable, either not digitised or hidden behind paywalls. Of course much is still copyright, and will remain so until 70 years after the death of its authors, and as a photographer I welcome that (although I am considering gifting my own work to the public domain on my death.)

The posters across the front of the shop are for a march from Hounslow West Station to protest at Harmondsworth Detention Centre on Saturday 21st July. A calendar on the web for 1979 confirms that the 21st of July that year was a Saturday, so these posters, despite their condition, were fairly fresh when I photographed them, probably on the 22nd or 29th July 1979.  But the small print at the bottom of them cannot be read, and I can find no record on the web about this demonstration.

I was surely interested about it when I took the photograph because I was living just a 20 minute bike ride from the immigration prison (I still live in the same place, but the bike ride takes me a little longer) and also because I grew up spitting distance from the starting point of the march.  But probably taking this photograph would have been the first I had heard about the march. Before the web, this photograph illustrates how information about most protests was shared, by fly-posting. Leaflets were handed out at other protests – as they still are – and in some busy inner London streets and markets, information shared at political and trade union meetings.

Left-wing newspapers were mainly sold at street stalls, again on some busy inner city streets, but often only shared details of the events of their particular faction. There were of couse newsletters of major national organisations such as CND and the Anti-Apartheid Movement and Peace News but most smaller demonstrations I often only found out about after the even when I happened to come across the posters.

This protest must have been in some of those printed sources, and as well as the posters there will have been flyers. At that time we still had a local press, and almost certainly the Middlesex Chronicle reporter will have been there covering the protest, even if, as today it will have been ignored by the National Press and broadcasters. But none of these sources about that July 21st protest is accessible via the web.

You can find many reports of more recent protests at Harmondsworth – including my own from my first visit there in 2006 (and more later) and also some information about the detention centres and reports from those held inside them. But little of this is from the first ten or fifteen years of the web or covers anything about the last century. It’s so easy to forget what things were like even relatively recently.

I put my first small site on the web back in 1995 (Family Pictures, still available, only slightly adapted to keep it working, but still with its typical mid-90s flatbed print scans), not that long after the first visual web browsers that would display images became widely available. Mosaic, running on Unix, appeared two years after the start of the web in 1993, when most of us were only using the Internet for e-mail and forum systems along with file transfer and rather odd things like ‘Archie’, all text-based.  Windows 3.1, which first really brought Windows to life had come a year earlier (and still seems to be used by parts of our rail network.)

But when I was making a living writing about photography on the web from 1999-2007 my problem at the start was that so little photography was available on the web. By the end of my tenure things where rather different, and the problem was that so much was there it was getting hard to sort the wheat from the tons of chaff.

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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

________________________________________________________

Seeing Red over Universal Credit

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Those t-shirts reading ‘#STOPUNIVERSALCREDIT’ that I’d photographed earlier at Tate Modern were again on display outside Parliament later in the day, though there were some different messages before everyone got sorted out and in order, and I took advantage of this. Of course the full message does also contain a number of three letter words, ‘TOP’, ‘PUN’, and ‘RED’ as well as ‘EDIT’ (and I suppose some might count ‘UNI’.)

But even when it was all sorted out, I didn’t manage to make much of a picture, perhaps partly because there were other photographers crowding round which meant I wasn’t in the optimum place, but more because I didn’t really think there was a decent picture possible.

Red isn’t my favourite colour for photography, and I think is best used more sparingly. It seems somehow less subtle than other colours in its photographic rendition, and often needs a little darkening and ‘de-hazing’ to restore gradation. Fortunately not all those taking part were in red, nor were the banners.

Another problem with ‘#STOPUNIVERSALCREDIT’ for photographers is simply that it is 20 characters long, and the message itself will occupy a rather narrow strip across any picture. Banners are often rather long, and I seldom like to photograph them in their entirety from directly in front, preferring to work fairly close to one or other end, and gaining some interest from the people nearest to the camera.

The march which followed, through Parliament Square to Caxton House was more to my liking in terms of photography, enabling me to hide much of the red and also to concentrated on some of the protesters.

The protest which followed in front of Caxton House was also photographically interesting, though the very limited space and crowding made it hard to work.

Universal Credit is almost universally recognised to be a disaster, causing a great deal of hardship – and even some deaths – among both the working poor and those who are unable to work. Delays in payment and reductions in benefits have led to many being evicted from their homes and a dramatic rise in people needing the support of food banks and the demand on street kitchens. The government are pressing ahead with the programme despite the growing evidence of its terrible consequences, with some ministers clearly gloating over its effects on the poorer members of our community.

Although the aim of simplifying and unifying the benefits system was laudable, Universal Credit was designed and is being implemented by people who simply are incapable of understanding how most ordinary people live with little or no financial resources. No money in the bank (if they have an account), no savings, no wealthy friends or family who can help them out if they are short at the end of the week or month.

It could perhaps have worked, had it been combined with a true living wage and a proper transition that didn’t leave people without money for weeks or months. But that would have needed more money to implement. It would also need a system that didn’t feel so obsessive about over-payment and possible benefit fraud. The rich who avoid or defraud the tax system on a huge scale get away with it most of the time, and the government makes surprisingly little effort to stop this (even admitting that in some cases they haven’t taken action as it would ‘damage the reputation’ of those concerned) and the losses there are hundreds or thousands of times greater than any loss over benefits. We have a benefits system – with excessive use of ‘sanctions’, taking away benefits for up to three years – that is clearly designed to publish the poor, and reports have shown to cause many deaths – according to some estimates one every 33 minutes.

More pictures at Universal Credit rally & march

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

________________________________________________________

Universal Credit at the Tate

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

Sometimes space in photographs can be very important, and this picture of protesters in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern in London is I think a good example. But it isn’t without its problems, and as this small reproduction shows one of them is that we really can’t read the message on the t-shirts unless the image is used on a rather larger scale.

The picture is one of around a dozen taken of the group of protesters, and actually one of them is missing. In this picture it reads STOPUNIVERSALCREDIT and there should have been a ‘#’ at the left. But the ‘#’ was talking to and delaying the security man who was trying to stop the protest, and a later picture shows running to join the protest with security runinng after him.

I was standing on the bridge across the hall, I think at the same level as the horizontal beam along the wall at the right, and hoping that there were going to be no security officers trying to stop me taking pictures – and fortunately there wasn’t. And I was able to take a series of pictures before the security officer rather got in the way of the message, some of which were more legible in small reproduction.

As well as making the message more legible, the larger scale also makes the reflection on the rear wall stand out more, helped by a little massaging in post-production. I’ve also done a little tweaking to make the inside walls of the building more or less vertical as intended, which is a lot easier on the computer than when we had to tilt the easel holding the paper under the enlarger.

I’d started taking pictures of the group earlier, at the riverside outside Tate Modern, and we had to start with the protesters with their back to us as they didn’t have quite enough people to wear the full set. Then they managed to persuade a person (or was it two) walking by to make up the numbers for a full frontal image by the river and then on the Millenium bridge before a couple of late-comers made it. It needed the 16mm fisheye to get in the whole group on the bridge with the former power stationi behind them.

But I think the pictures I like most from the riverside are those where you can’t read the message at all, or only the odd bit of it – and the tape which says ‘Beware Hostile Environment’.

And there was even a role for that over-zealous security officer when the protesters went to pose on the tarmac outside the building and he came to insist that they go completely off the property. But the logo on his jacket enabled me to take a photograph showing clearly where the protest was taking place. I’ve put the image on the web without cropping, but should really have cropped the group tighter, taking out the woman in blue at the left and a little of the foreground.

Universal Credit is now pretty universally admitted to be a disaster, but the government is refusing to halt its roll-out, creating greater hardship to so many, leading to evictions and suicides as well as a huge degree of deprivation and misery. If we lived in a society that was truly just, Iain Duncan Smith would be in jail and the whole programme scrapped.

The action at Tate modern was a prelude to other protests in London and elsewhere on a day of action against Universal Credit, of which more later. But its also a set of pictures, a little over 30 in all, which show very clearly how I was working that day, about the closest I like to get to studio photography.

Universal Credit protest at Tate Modern

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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

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Emerging Photographers

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

A nice piece in the New York Times, a paper that has used a great deal of good photography over the years, showcases the work of 12 ‘emerging photographers‘.

My own experiences working for the New York Times organisation were considerably less positive, working for an organisation they took over, I got fired from a job writing about photography and photographers because the editors they brought in thought my work was not commercial enough. I’d been hired to write about photography for professionals and collectors of photography some years earlier, but what the new editors wanted was something that appealed to a well off market in the USA that would appeal to advertisers. I had to stop using British spelling, stop writing long pieces, stop writing about foreign photographers, write everything for people who knew nothing about photography but had just bought a camera to photograph their kids, July 4th and thanksgiving… I should assume my readers knew nothing about photography but should convince them that if they bought the latest new camera it would make them a real photographer, up with the greats.

I’d built up a considerable following over the seven or so years I had written the web site, with photographers around the world reading my articles and writing to me. One article on the photographs from 9/11 got around a million hits in 24 hrs, and the audience figures generally weren’t bad – just as well as I only got paid by results. Though it turned out I and the other writers weren’t actually getting paid what we were promised, and a couple of years after I left I got a couple of thousand pounds more from a class action settlement.

All along I had been writing some things specifically for beginners and also for an American audience, but I also wrote and continued writing more serious articles as well. Using US spelling didn’t worry me, but there was too much I wasn’t prepared to compromise and dumb down on so after an uncomfortable few months I got fired. Which is really how this blog started.

Dance in Barclays

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

I had little idea what to expect when I turned up in Golden Square in Soho to meet DANCE, the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement. And I was a little disappointed at first to find there were only nine people taking part in this action against Barclays, where they hold a monthly protest.

But even nine people walking in a silent row with placards and posters create quite a stir in the streets of Soho. Their aim was to challenge the huge amounts – $12billion in the last 3 years – made by Barclays into into coal, oil and gas exploration which will lead to global warming, melting ice caps, bleaching coral reefs, causing forest fires and more intense storms. As well as climate change, these investments cause human rights abuses in Columbian coal mining and elsewhere, and DANCE urge Barclays to invest instead in renewable energy.

While I watched some of the group settling down to sit in silence on the pavement outside the Poccadilly Circus branch of Barclays, I was rather taken by surprise when four of them walked into the branch. But of course I followed them.

Once inside, three of them sat down in the middle of the large expanse of floor space, while the fourth went to explain to the bank staff standing around what they were doing and why.

I hadn’t been prepared for this, and I wasn’t thinking at my photographic best, and didn’t really make the most appropriate adjustments to my camera settings. So though I took quite a few pictures, many were not very usable. I was worried that I would be asked to stop taking pictures and didn’t really stop to think, rather hoping that my camera would take care of the technicalities, as it usually does.

I’m not quite sure why it got it so wrong with the D750. I was working with auto-ISO, and while that works well so long as you have sensible manual settings, on this occasion shutter speed and aperture were way out, the speed too fast and the aperture too small, and even at high ISO some pictures were grossly underexposed. Those dials by the top of the camera in front of and behind the shutter release are just far too easy to push around by accident, and by the time I realised my mistake it was far too late – and I’d discovered some lens apertures smaller than I knew existed on the 18-35mm lens. I’m not quite sure if I joined the f64 group, but it got pretty close, and on small formats like ‘full-frame’ that isn’t good news.

The lighting inside the bank is not particularly low, but it is considerably less than that outdoors on a bright sunny day as this was. So where the large window across the whole front of the bank more or less filled the frame, auto-exposure ensured that the figures in the foreground were more or less in silhouette, which was not at all what I wanted. I needed either to move and take the pictures at a different angle to avoid the window, or to let it overexpose and make the picture at more or less the right exposure for the protesters.

Fortunately I did rather better with the D810, where the aperture was only f8 and the images were far more sensibly exposed. So although I’d messed things up a bit I still had the pictures I needed.

Even with that large window I’d dialled in -0.7 stops of compensation and the results – with considerable burning and dodging – were usable. After taking some pictures I walked outside the bank and covered the protest from the pavement using the 28-200mm for the people inside. Probably I could have got away with using 1/125 rather than the 1/500th, but the results at high ISO are so good that it wasn’t necessary to risk any subject movement or camera shake. Though I’ve now decided to set the upper limit on auto-ISO to 6400 as above this the loss of quality can sometimes become too noticeable, and I’d like to only use higher settings when I’ve made a conscious decision to do so.

On the D810 you can lock both aperture and shutter speed, and I have put this setting onto the personal area of the camera menu. I often keep the aperture locked at f8 as a good general setting, but it is fairly fast and easy to unlock it when I decide I want greater depth of field. Switching the shutter speed to the front dial makes it less prone to fiddling fingers and thumb, and you can in any case hear the difference if you select an unduly slow shutter speed. Apertures work silently.

The D750 is more of a problem as I can see no way to lock either aperture or shutter, and those dials seem to move almost when you look at them. You can reverse the rotation of the dials, which is worth trying, as working at full aperture is generally less of a problem with the wide-angle 18-35mm I usually have on the camera, though it can easily lead to over-exposure. I find it useful to set the rear display to give flashing RGB highlights or to show histograms so this becomes very noticeable if you chimp.

I need not to let myself get carried away and to be far more aware of the camera settings – which are there in the viewfinder, even if not immediately visible on the camera body as in the old days.

Digital controls are far easier to get wrong than those rings and knobs we set on the old film cameras, which were generally pretty hard to change accidentally, and often using ‘P’ setting has made me far less aware of the settings in use. Usually automation works, but sometimes it breeds bad habits.

Barclays Stop Funding Climate Chaos

______________________________________________________

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

________________________________________________________