Archive for June, 2007

World Naked Bike Ride – News Values

Friday, June 15th, 2007

If we are honest, after reading this heading, probably half of us are at this point hoping for titillation. Or I could shorten that last word considerably. Put crudely, ‘News Values’ demand tits.

10,000 marching for Palestine. Perhaps 3,000 Orangemen and women. A thousand or so naked or near naked cyclists. No contest, not even for the BBC. When I switched on Radio 4 for the 10 o’clock news there was only one London event. And there was no one there wearing a burkha.

Naked Bike Ride
We are a culture with a problem. A fixation on TV and in at least the red-top press with sleaze and sexiness. Not of course anything too explicit. I picked up a so-called newspaper on the train on my way home from photographing. Page after page of gossipy snippets about celebrities and their trivial behaviours, the ‘sexy’ dresses they wore or fell out of, their affairs. Not only claiming to be about actual people, although few of them have much relation to their media images, but even about the characters some play in TV shows. It all made such dreary reading.

After that came pages of adverts for so-called adult services, none of which I’ve ever dreamed of paying for, despite being considerably over 21. It was almost a relief to come to the sports pages, where massage probably did mean massage.

Somewhere hidden away in the corner of a page I did find some more real news. Around 50 words on the latest from Iraq. Ditto Iran. Drugs. A judge accused as a flasher.

Papers like that employ journalists to write the crap. Pay photographers to photograph it. Nobody needs to go there, its surely not that hard to earn an honest crust?

One organization working for proper news values is Media Workers Against the War, set up at the time of the first Gulf War, but now covering wider issues, though of course with a special interest in Iraq. It’s a site worth keeping an eye on, and supporting.

More about the Naked Bike Ride, and some of the problems I have with it in a later note.

London, Ireland – 200 Years of Marching

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Unless you belong to one of the many Loyal Orange Lodges, last Saturday’s celebration of 200 years of marches by Irish protestants will probably have passed unnoticed, unless it literally passed you by (that literally really means literally, rather than its now more standard usage to mean metaphorically!) If you weren’t on the right street at the right time it will metaphorically have passed you by as it literally didn’t!

Orange March 1

So what are such marches about? Obviously about proclaiming identity. About celebrating protestant ascendancy. Community solidarity. Marking out your territory. And if it intimidates some of the Papes, that’s certainly no bad thing. Why else drumming as a martial art and all those piercing flutes?

Actually, I’m a Prod too. If extremely lapsed*. The thunderings of Paisley resonated (even on occasion literally) in the local chapel where most of my wider family worshipped if my immediate branch favoured the more intellectual Congregationalists. More middle-class, they had a better quality of church teas too.

Twenty five years ago I went to visit one of my aging aunts, then in sheltered accommodation. My eye fell on a headline on a newsletter on the sideboard, ‘Mixed Marriages’. It wasn’t as I first thought, some racist literature that had been pushed through her letterbox by the National Front, but from a supposedly Bible-based organization defending the Protestant faithful against the devious wiles of the Catholic opposite sex and their sin-dripping priests.

Even King James never authorized that, such religious venom isn’t in any bible I know. The snake in Genesis didn’t even bite, and the apple into which Eve sank her teeth and persuaded Adam to follow suit is notoriously indiscriminatory (or there would be little provocation for the article.)

Maybe now the Orange Lodge is just a social club bringing together like-minded men (and women in the women’s lodges) of the true protestant faith. Perhaps, given the Thatcher-accelerated end of manufacture there aren’t now the jobs for which membership used to be a sine qua non.

Park Lane in London is a long way from Portadown in 1807, where members of Loyal Orange Lodge No.1 took to the streets on 1 March that year. For anyone who either isn’t English or studied history after the Tories brought in the National Curriculum, King William III, then just Prince of Orange to us, successfully invaded england in 1688, and the first Orange association was formed a few days after he landed when he reached Exeter. As to exactly what our ‘Glorious Revolution’ acheived, and in particular the ‘Bill of Rights’ which followed, it’s still a matter of discussion. (10 marks) (Ans: Stuffing the Catholics (5 marks), Limited toleration of non-conformists (2 marks), Ridiculous Authority for Church of England (3 marks.))

Everyone I saw seemed to be having a good time, and although many of the tourists who stood to watch were likely to have been Catholics I can’t say any looked upset. And even if the drums might have beat louder as the passed Westminster Cathedral, I suspect Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor would have smiled his little apologetic smile at this demonstration of Christian witness.

More pictures from the Orange March on My London Diary

Peter Marshall

*Jesus I can believe, but not the Church.

London Olympics – Green Disaster

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Now it is official. The 2012 London Olympics will NOT be green. Just the same old corporate brownfield concrete Olympics as before.

London 2012 was offered a chance by the Manor Gardens Allotments and it has now finally turned it down. A chance to do something fresh and exciting, to incorporate a green centre into the Olympic site. But from the beginning it was obviously a long shot, something that the kind of large scale business-led planning couldn’t begin to appreciate.

The notice on the Life Island web site is short. “Following the granting of planning permission for the Marsh Lane replacement site on Tuesday evening, and negotiations with the LDA today, it was decided that the Judicial Review would be cancelled. It was to have commenced tomorrow the 14th June.”

I don’t attach any blame to Manor Gardens. They’ve put up a great fight, but with the provision of the Marsh Lane site they’ve obviously lost their major battle. The revised proposals for the site, including the removal and replacement of 880mm (almost 3 feet) of topsoil and the provision of 64 plots, each with its own shed, as well as a communal hut, should mean that allotment holders are back in business later this year, and the impact on the Marsh Lane site has also been slightly lessened. They are also to be allowed limited access to their existing plots to harvest their crops until September, and cash compensation, apparently of £850 each, for the disturbance as well as help with the removal. So there have been some fairly important gains from the plot-holders point of view. There is also a promise to relocate the plots back onto a new site within the Olympic area in 2014, although not on their current site, which I think is more likely to become a prestige housing development.

What we all have lost is an exciting Green vision of garden plots at the centre of the Olympic site. It will now just be the usual boring concrete acres with probably a giant corporate sponsored scoreboard where the allotments were. A desert with no real food – just fast junk from corporate sponsors, and you will be searched as you enter to make sure you bring nothing with you that doesn’t bear the correct sponsor’s logo.

This is Marsh Lane, where the allotments will be relocated:
Marsh Lane
taken in 2005. It isn’t an idyllic rural scene, but is an important area of open space, and one that has been vested in the people in perpetuity.
The allotments are just around the corner, where I photographed the ‘New Lammas Lands Defence Committee’ demonstrating against their loss last December:
Allotment relocation site
You can see more pictures from this event at:

I’ve made several visits to Manor Gardens Allotments. I was at the ‘New Year Feast’ which included the Hackney Wick Olympic Flame, and in March I went for a meeting with the Olympics Delivery Authority, who pulled out at the last minute, and went on to visit the allotments again, and in April I was there for the Spring Party.

Its not really a place that can be summed up in a single picture:
Manor Gardens
and visually it is very rich. No two sheds are the same, each carrying the traces of present and past owners. No two plots are the same.

You can’t really manage history, or at least not in the way that we try to do at the moment – and there is plenty of this attempted in the planning submission. In a way its like gardening. All you can do is plant things and give them the right conditions in which to grow. It isn’t matter of ticking boxes, meeting this and that requirement, detailed plans etc. Those give you something sanitised and lacking in interest.

I’m sad. Sad that as a nation we’ve lost vision, lost flair. Gained regulation, uniformity. No room for people like Major Villiers who endowed the Manor Gardens plots.

At the bottom of the lack of vision in Olympic planning is fear. Or, as they might call it, security. From July 2 the Olympic site will be a total no-go area, with all roads and footpaths closed. The allotments couldn’t stay because they are scared that gardeners will bring in bombs with their gardening tools!

Eastway and Ruckholt Road will continue to go through the site, possibly too the Greenway and Lea Navigation towpath, though these are subject to closures on the developers whim. If you want to see the Lower Lea before its destruction (aka regeneration) you only have a few days left before the lock-down.

You can see quite a few images from around 1980 to the present on my unfinished River Lea site and also, particularly more recent work on My London Diary; most of my visits to the Olympic site are listed under Newham, although some parts are in Hackney, and small areas in Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
Peter Marshall

Cry for Palestine

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Last Saturday I photographed the start of the march from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the rally in Trafalgar Square, part of the international day of action to mark the 40th anniversary of the Middle East War (aka 6 Day War) under the slogan: “The World Says No to Israeli Occupation“.

Palestine demo The unfortunate truth is that much of the world has generally failed to say no, or at best has only whispered it, while America keeps shovelling support to Israel. At the very start, during the war, it was Russia that failed the Arabs (and in particular the Palestinians), their failure to respond scuppering any effective UN action.

I’ve considerable sympathy and support for Israel, but not in this respect. As kids we thrilled to the story of David and Goliath, the small boy taking on the powerful giant with his sling and smooth stones and winning. Thousands of years later, many here welcomed the new state of Israel, and certainly we acknowledge its right to a peaceful existence. But now the bulldozers and tanks are driven by Israeli soldiers and the small Palestinian boys throw the stones with generally negligible effect.

Of course there are attacks on Israel, particularly by suicide bombers and the largely random firing of rockets. Israel publicy blames the Palestinian government while knowing that it has destroyed any ability they might have to prevent such things happening, and uses this impotent failure as an excuse for disproportionate retaliation. The current near civil war could not have happened without years of this misguided Israeli policy of undermining successive Palestinian governments in every way they can – when obviously making a peace settlement needed a strong Palestinian leadership.

Recently I’ve been reading the reports of a friend in occupied Palestine as a human rights observer. Deacon Dave is now back here and was on this march. His reports tell of the everyday and almost incessant harassment of Palestinians by the army. Dave himself was attacked, fortunately only receiving relatively minor injuries, and he ducked just in time as he saw a soldier about to open fire. Later, there were apologies from some officers, but it was very much a case of too little, too late.

As well as the army, there were also regular attacks on Palestinians and observers by settlers, but he also told of the efforts by Israeli groups such as ‘Rabbis for Human Rights’ to stop the arbitrary demolitions of houses.

Wars, though sometimes justified, seldom if ever solve problems; usually they simply prolong them. In the end there has to be the difficult process of learning to live together, peace and reconciliation, something that has been put off far too long in the Middle East, perhaps largely because it simply is something that few Americans appear to realise as a possibility let alone a necessity.

Arwa sings

Last month I heard Arwa Abu Haikal, a long unpaid government employee of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Hebron talk movingly about life under the occupation, and in particular the problems of living near settlers, who though often settling and acting illegally are seldom bothered by the Israeli Army. The picture shows her later that day, singing a lullaby from Palestine.

I was pleased to hear that the NUJ in April had called for support for a consumer boycott of Israeli goods. It didn’t surprise me when some members suggested it called into question the impartiality of our reporting of the issues and others made allegations of anti-semitism, although I don’t beleive either comment is justified. Although it has caused considerable outcry, and there are some problems with the way the issue was handled at the ADM, I hope that it will be confirmed at next year’s meeting. The Palestinian people need and deserve our support – as too do the Israeli people, but not their current government policies. Of course the eventual settlement in the area must enable the two peoples to live together.

More of my pictures from the Palestine march at
My London Diary

Peter Marshall

June comes in late

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

June has finally dawned at My London Diary, with work online at

Apologies to those people who I know were waiting to see themselves online, but its been a busy month so far, especially as I’ve had to be away for several days in Hull for family reasons. Here is a list of the main events (all in London) covered so far this month. You’ll find links to them at the top left of the main June page.

  • bonkersfest, camberwell
  • the world can’t wait (g8)
  • brian haw – six years of protest
  • sikh federation march
  • end occupation in palestine
  • 200 years of orange marches
  • 2007 world naked bike ride
  • stokefest, stoke newington
  • blockorama, dalston

Comments here welcomed.

Peter Marshall

The New Panopticon

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Photosynth from Microsoft Live Labs is amazing. Currently only available as a free technology preview, it gives a glimpse into a future that could completely re-draw our map of publishing and imaging and perhaps more.

If your system is up to it (Windows XP and Vista only, a fast web connection and decent graphics card), it only takes a few minutes to download and install this 5Mb ActiveX control, and although the preview is currently limited to supplied image collections, it does give some idea of the power of this technology in connecting images into truly “breathtaking multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features that outstrip all expectation.”

Microsoft acquired the technology by buying the Seattle company Seadragon in February. The team have also been working with the BBC for the series ‘How We Built Britain’. You can see some of the work from this country in the Your Britain in Pictures demonstration (which will also install the Photosynth control if it is not already present.) The Trafalgar Square collection is interesting as it includes archive images from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the National Media Museum, although it is perhaps a little short of images to show the full potential of the system.

You can get a better idea of its potential by watching its ‘architect’, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, demonstrating a more advanced version at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), a high-level annual conference sponsored by BMW, which also makes clearer some of the issues involved as well as demonstrating the incredible power of the application.

One image set was produced by searching photo-sharing site Flickr for images of Notre Dame in Paris, aggregating this incredibly disparate set of images (many typical tourist snaps) to produce a detailed highly-zoomable 3D model of the building, which also incorporates any captioning and keywording from the originals. As Blaise remarks at one point, their use of images has severe implications about copyright. Both the small print of photo-sharing sites and also proposed legislation on ‘orphan works’ are perhaps to some extent driven by the possibilities of software such as this.

At one point, Blaise throws the whole of an issue of ‘The Guardian’ on the screen, laid out page by page, then effortlessly scrolls and zooms around it, zooming at one point down to single character level to show the high resolution the system supports. Of course it needn’t just be a picture that already can provide rather superior quality to the printed version as well as being in some respects easier to browse; it would be simple to make it searchable text and to add text hotlinks to the existing image links.

This is a part of technology that can and will change the future of publishing – and lead to the end of print except as a niche fine-art medium. I think it will also change the whole economic and social structure of the industry. Probably not for the better, and almost certainly not for the benefit of those currently working in it.

Among many print journalists there still seems to be something of a head in the sand mentality. Citizen journalism, blogs, interactive web technologies and more are not going to go away. If we don’t learn more about the future we have no chance of influencing it.

At the moment, the Internet is still largely in the ‘Black and Decker’ age, where anyone can set up a site – like this one – and get their ideas out. A click of the mouse takes you from one site to another. Developments like this make the idea of huge and largely if not entirely isolated seamless commercial content conglomerations, rather more likely as the future.

Photosynth is also a glimpse of an Orwellian nightmare, linked to our increasing coverage of security cameras. This week a judge was acquitted in an indecent exposure trial because it could neither be proved nor disproved that he was the person involved. Had the CCTV images from the train been available they could have proved his innocence (or guilt), but apparently the British Transport Police had been too busy to collect them before the storage was overwritten.

The camera on the station, in the carriage, on the platform, the underground passage way, the street corner, in the bus, the workplace entry will doubtless soon all be wifi linked to network storage. Rather than tailing suspects, computers will recognise them by clothing and facial features, pulling out a collection from the giant image base, aggregating it with information from mobile phone locations and conversations. Little need for the house arrest that has got our government into trouble with the judges.

Modern technology enables us to spread Bentham’s Panopticon, with its control over minds by both the actual surveillance of individuals and the fear of the individual that they may be watched to the whole city. Photosynth and related software for handling and processing huge collections of data isn’t just going to revolutionise how we view and use images.

Peter Marshall

Kash, Afghanistan and the Threat to Journalists

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

11 Carlton House Terrace is an impressive Nash building from around 1830, designed as a scenic backdrop to St James Park and grand enough to have been home for two prime ministers, Lord Stanley and William Gladstone as well as William Crockford and the Guiness family. Inside it has an impressive double staircase and some formidable public rooms. The Foreign Press Association has been here since 1946, and in 2006 Gabriele ‘Kash’ Torsello was awarded the FPA’s Premier Award, the ‘Dialogue of Cultures’. After his release (see below), Kash was at a low ebb, and this recognition of his work was important in giving him the will to continue with his Afghan project. The interior of the building is hung with large banner prints of some of his powerfully empathetic images, in the first of a series of exhibitions to be announced shortly at the venue. Kash’s show is the launch of a larger exhibition in southern Italy, where as ‘Staramasce’ 30 huge photographs will be hung throughout the summer, one in each of 30 public squares in Lecce province, together with an exhibition of all 30 in the Lamarque Museum.

The balconies of Carlton House terrace overlook The Mall

It was a beautiful evening, an unforgettable venue and there was good Italian wine and very likeable Afghan-style food, and I met and talked with many interesting people – including most of those in the panel of speakers, half of which is shown below.

I first met Kash at an NUJ party last year, unmissable with his beard, dark clothing, warm and intense manner and a battered film Nikon, and talked to him about his work in Kashmir. A few days later, the book he promised to send me, his ‘The Heart of Kashmir’ (2003) arrived; I was impressed and published a short note on him and his work on in July 2006. Heart seemed a very appropriate word, for this was work full of passion by a man whose heart was very much into his photography and his closeness to the people he lived with and photographed. As well as the pictures, its short texts gave a very real insight into the problems of working in such situations.

It came as a shock to read last October of his kidnap in Afghanistan. More so because he was someone who lived among and worked for the people, and worshipped with them as a fellow Muslim. I was pleased to be a small part of the worldwide campaign for his release, both through About Photography and also with links to the note I’d written previously from other sites, including the NUJ.

And of course we were delighted with the news of his release after being held for 23 days. But it’s important to remember that he was only one of many journalists and photographers who has suffered, and many die recording events around the world. According to Reporters Without Borders, one of several organisations that keeps such grim records, 84 journalists were killed in 2006, and halfway through 2007 over 50 journalists and media assistants have been killed, and 130 imprisoned.

Half the panel
From Left: Farid Popal (Afghan Embassy), Leila Blacking (ICRC) Gabrlele Torsello, Nazenin Ansari (FPA President), Abdullah Annas (ex Arab Mujahidden)

The panel of speakers included Leila Blacking of the ICRC, which had the same day released its press release, ‘Afghanistan: Insecurity spreads amid escalating conflict’ giving a bleak view of the situation there. The Red Cross’s view was largely dismissed by Farid Popal of the Afghan Embassy, and an equally complacent view came from the US Embassy representative.

Reporting here from Afghanistan is limited – despite the determined and hazardous efforts of many of our colleagues, including Kash and a number of his friends also at the opening. The ICRC views are based on their 20 years continuous working in the country and note the deteriorating military situation and the problems this creates for development work and the increased need for emergency assistance. Almost two and a half thousand people were detained by Afghan authorities last year in connection with the armed conflict over the past year, and there is a general lack of security in the south of the country leading thousands to abandon their homes in both rural and urban areas.

Blacking spoke impressively and responded openly to questions from the floor as well as in private conversations later. Listening to the diplomats, both very likable men, it was impossible not to remember Sir Henry Wooton’s comment (made in Latin almost 400 years ago) that “an ambassador was an honest man, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Unlike English, Latin allows no ambiguity about the meaning of the phrase.

I also thought about events of the nineteenth century, and the great images brought back by Baker and Burke as they travelled with the British Army, whose opinion of the campagn there is encapsulated in rhyming slang. To Kipling the Khyber Pass might have been “a sword cut through the mountains“, but the troops saw it differently. Perhaps after some 200 years, ‘The Great Game’ is now coming towards its end game.

Journalists are coming under increasing pressure, and both Afghan and US responses where chilling, with the clear implication that those who went into certain areas were just asking for trouble – and deserved what they got. Why, asked the guy from the US, only slightly more circumspectly, won’t journalists go and write nice success stories from the places in Afghanistan where we would like them to go?

From the ICA
We were joined on the neighbouring balcony by people from the ICA.

How We Are: Twentieth Century Blues

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

Coming back finally to the current Tate Britain show, ‘How We Are’, the first section ‘First Moves’, dealing with the nineteenth century is certainly the most comprehensive and inclusive of all six chronological sections of the exhibition.

Around 120 photographers are listed for the remaining five sections, and they include some fine photographers (as well as some whose inclusion is hard to justify on any grounds.) My own selection of a similar number of photographers would perhaps have included rather under half of those chosen. It was certainly good to see a fair number of those whose work I think deserves to be better known – for example Norah Smyth and Edwin Smith in their very different genres, and obviously pleasing to see a number of photographers I know or have know with work on the wall, as well as to find some of those books on my shelves are now museum pieces. Some people – such as Bill Brandt – could not of course be omitted (although I’m assured that it was initially planned to do so.) Others, quite frankly had little relevance even to the particular view that the curators were presenting, perhaps representing strongly argued cases by some of those called in to review the plans.

In part the titles given to the different eras both indicate and dictate the omission of many fine photographers. ‘Into the Twentieth Century’ may seems pretty vague for the period 1900-1918, but appears to be a pretext for ignoring almost all of the pictorial photography and news photography of the era. As this was the first age in which cheap methods of mass reproduction led to photographically based newspapers, I would have expected more emphasis on how these new media used photography, rather than the rather specialised examples in the show. The photography of the Suffragette movement, with Christina Broom (Christina Livingstone, (1863-1939), Britain’s first woman press freelance photographer) and Norah Smyth, is a highlight of this section, reflecting the curatorial interest perhaps more in that movement than in their photography, which for both was considerably wider than the visitor to this show might conclude. Both of them are also featured in Mike Seaborne’s Photographers’ London: 1839-1994, which, despite its obvious metropolitan bias, succeeds in offering a considerably wider view of this era and others covered by the show.

By defining the period 1918-1945 as ‘New Freedoms in Photography’, the curators again choose particular work from the era rather than cover it more generally. Despite the title, there is perhaps less emphasis on photojournalism that might be expected from the era that saw the growth of the photographically illustrated magazines such as Liliput, Weekly Illustrated and Picture Post.

Again, it seems to me impossible to consider the period 1945-69 adequately as a whole under the title ‘The New Britain’; for most of us it changed radically at some point between the fifties and the sixties.

Equally it seems hard to argue that the seventies and eighties were dominated by ‘The Urge to Document’ or indeed that since then we have been making ‘Reflections on a Strange Country’. These are strange generalisations indeed, and the choices (and missing persons) they lead to make the show unrepresentative.

That isn’t to say that there is not a great deal of work of interest in this show. British photography does have a great deal to offer, and the story of British photography shown here is at time enthralling. But different curators would have made different choices of photographers and images, telling at least an equally valid view of photographing Britain.

So here are just a few names from the 70 or so who would have been on my personal list for 1900-1990 but are missing, in vaguely chronological order. Where I’ve written about them elsewhere and remember I’ll give a link.

Horace Nicholls, John H Avery, George Davison Reid, Emil Otto Hoppe, Felix H Man, Margaret Monck, Cyril Arapoff, Kurt Hutton, Thurston Hopkins, Henry Grant, John French, Eric de Mare, Raymond Moore, John Blakemore, Philip Jones Griffiths, Don McCullin, Ian Berry, John Benton-Harris, Jo Spence

Among the foreign visitors who perhaps have a greater claim to be included than most of those actually present are Izis Bidermanas, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Sylvester Jacobs.

The final selection deals with contemporary work, and selection in this area is always going to be a lottery. The 20 or so photographers whose work appears in this section are an almost random cross-section from the several hundred whose work I find of some interest at the present time.

Although there is much to see, How We Are is a show that disappoints, as a missed opportunity. How long will it be after this before Tate Britain once again tries to tell the story of photography in Britain?

Missing Persons: First Moves

Friday, June 8th, 2007

The ‘Missing Persons’ series has provided me with a little amusement although I think the point is basically serious – publicity from Tate Britain suggests that How We Are: Photographing Britain is “The unique story of British photography” when it is just one of many possible stories about British photography.

To adequately tell the story of British photography would need a larger space and a larger budget than the Tate provided. (Budget problems may also explain the rather unusual choice of images for some photographers.) As well as the particular viewpoint of the curators, these factors also helped to shape the show that we see.

This first section, entitled ‘First Moves’, and dealing with the nineteenth century is certainly the most comprehensive and inclusive of all six of the chronological sections of the exhibition. As a history it lacks some major figures, but also fails almost completely to deal with the technical, aesthetic, political and even largely the social changes that helped to change the nature of photography in Britain over the sixty years concerned.

There are of course many others apart from those already mentioned in ‘Missing Persons’ who might well be included in a proper overview of British nineteenth century photography, far too many to devote a whole feature to each one of them. So here are just a few more from the nineteenth century who I would have expected to see in any show claiming it was the story of British photography.

One of the best of the daguerreotypists was Antoine Claudet, and Calvert Richard Jones and John Dillwyn Llewelyn produced some fine work with the calotype and later wet plate process. It is hard to believe that there were no portraits by Lady Clemintina Haywarden in the show (perhaps by some error they left her out of the credits?), but she is not on the list. David Wilkie Wynfield was another of those to whom Julia Margaret Cameron turned for advice, and on who she perhaps based her approach.

A man very much after my own tastes, Henry Dixon produced some splendid records of London streets, showing both the buildings and the people. He also took some early candid street pictures, using a camera obscured by tarpaulin on the back of a cart.

Of course there are so many other interesting photographers of the period who I’ve not mentioned who are an important part of the early history of photographing Britain. What we do get – and is certainly of some interest – is a number of relatively anonymous works by rather ordinary photographers, including the work of commercial studios (some good, some bad) and others.

Viewed on its own, and for what it is – a kind of cross section of Victorian photography, seasoned with a number of choice tidbits from some of the finest photographers of the era – this section has much to recommend it. The coverage of some of the later eras – as I’ll show in later posts – is much less complete and more biased.

Peter Marshall


Friday, June 8th, 2007

Like 1984, but 5 years later. George Orwell wrote his famous book when the date was some 40 years in the future, but I photographed 1989 at the time and wrote about it badly around 17 years later.

(C) 1989, Peter Marshall

Of course there is no real connection with Orwell (though I do have friends who live in his former house in the North-East.) 1989 is just a kind of account of my wanderings in north-east London on a few days in that year, both in straightforward images and rather convoluted text. What is on line is merely chapter one of this fictional work, which has amused some. It does have certain literary influences, but I can blame nothing on Orwell.

(C) 1989, Peter Marshall

It’s perhaps best just to see it as 20 images of the city and not try to read the rather small text. I put this selection of images and the texts together for another web site, which seems to have folded shortly after these went live, though doubtless just by coincidence. On that site the images appeared in reverse order, but I’m not sure it made a great deal of difference.

In some cases the text does reflect at least some of the thoughts that went through the photographer’s mind as he stood in front of the scene and took the picture. Other parts came long after the event.

Peter Marshall