Archive for September, 2008

Good Neighbour on Trial?

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Protester outside BA’s Waterside HQ near Heathrow

Ayodeji Omatode, an IT consultant living in Kent, boarded a British Airways flight at Heathrow on March 27, 2008, going home to Lagos for his brother’s wedding. Along with other passengers he was appalled at the  maltreatment of a Nigerian man being forcibly deported on the flight and he made his views clear.

BA employees called the police to deal with Mr Omatode, and more than 20 officers boarded the plane and dragged him off; he was handled roughly, thrown against a wall and then into a police van, arrested and held for eight hours. BA banned him from flying with them, didn’t return his fare and only gave him his luggage back a week later – damaged.

Over 130 Nigerians and some other nationals were ordered off Flight BA075 to allow a single man to be deported against his will to Nigeria, surely making it one of the most expensive operations of its kind. According to a report in ‘The Guardian‘, the Nigerian government has received an apology about the incident from the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, with a promise that the British government would ensure such an event did not happen again.

Despite this, the CPS have decided to go ahead with the prosecution of Mr Omotade on a charge of threatening behaviour towards a member of the aircraft crew. The case was due to be heard at Uxbridge Magistrates Court on 18 September, but has now been postponed.

The Respect Nigerians Coalition has demanded that they make a full apology to the 134 Nigerian passengers who were offloaded, and give an apology and appropriate compensation to Mr Omatode. They also ask BA to withdraw the statements made by their employees to the police about him, and to remove the ban on him flying with BA. Finally they have asked for an undertaking that BA will improve its attitude to customers and stop practices that make it appear “arrogant, uncaring and discriminatory.”

Protesters arrive at Waterside

The Respect Nigerians Coalition have called on “all decent people everywhere” to join them in a boycott of BA until the company meets these demands. They got considerable publicity when the picketed the BA AGM earlier this year and a small group of protesters came to the Harmondsworth HQ of BA at lunchtime on Wednesday 17 Sept. They were not allowed on to the BA site at Waterside but set up on the main road just outside the offices.

It looks to me like time for BA to withdraw with as much grace as they can scrape together, but so far they have failed to do so.

Our government has let the right-wing press dictate our immigration policy. Most of the time it’s sheet inhumanity and the misery, suffering and illtreatment it causes are hidden, happening out of mind and sight in places few of us go. When they see it happening, decent people are rightly appalled. Those who act as good neighbours should and protest should be applauded, not persecuted.

More pictures on My London Diary.

Merchants of Death

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Last Saturday I went on a ‘Merchants of Death‘ walking tour led by members of the London branch of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) which visited the offices of companies involved in selling arms and providing mercenaries.  It isn’t surprising, given the nature of their businesses and the close relationship that they have with the government and various ministries that many arms companies choose to have the corporate offices within easy reach of parliament and the government offices clustered around Westminster.   Although as you can see from the map   which includes the sites that we visited, there are more scattered around the London area.

Its perhaps also not surprising that the vast majority of those who walk past these buildings would have no inkling of what goes on inside them – in many cases there was no indication at all of what went on there. Others did have their name small to label one of the several bells, but nowhere was there anything that would reveal their secrets to the casual passer-by. It was as if they were ashamed of what they are doing (but not ashamed enough to stop them making massive profits from wars and unrest.)

Our first call was at the UK Corporate HQ of Lockheed Martin in Manning House, 22 Carlisle Place.  They are the largest arms manufacturer in the world and apparently the senior partner in the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, who will make huge profits from the replacement for Trident.

Manning House, Carlyle Place

There was no indication about the organisations that work here on the building, which for around 25 years at the end of the nineteenth century was the house of Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster.  It’s rather a nice building and gets a few lines in Pevsner‘s Westminster volume.

Manning House, Carlyle Place 2
The bells just say ‘Night’ and ‘Day’. No mention of arms, devastation and hell.

Our next stop, the offices of Aegis Defence Services, was inside the SOCPA zone. The walk organisers had been contacted by police, asking if they would like to apply for permission for a demonstration, but they had declined to do so on the grounds that a walking tour was not a demonstration. As we stood outside the offices of this private military and security company (shared with various others at 39 Victoria St) opposite New Scotland Yard, two police officers rode up on bicycles. They seemed very relieved to be told we were a not a demonstration and jumped back on their bikes and rode away almost before they arrived!

Police on the run

The walk then led up Buckingham Gate, with stops at Rolls Royce (65), QinetiQ (85), Aromor Group (25-28) and General Dynamics (11-12)

QinetiQ produced scandalously huge returns for the Carlyle Group – including George Bush Sr  and James Baker

General Dynamics, the 6th largest defence company in the world started as The Holland Torpedo Boat Company, building the US Navy’s first submarine.

Crossing to go in front of Buckingham Palace, we were stopped by police who objected to the poster being carried at the front of the march. After a short discussion we were allowed to go on so long as this poster was not held up while we were in the park.

Police don't like the placard
You can’t carry placards in the park
unless you keep them down
unless you hold them down

In St James we apparently visited Boeing UK, though their offices at 16 St James St seemed nameless,

The security man just wanted to make sure we kept off the premises

and an equally anonymous Northorp Grumman at 16 Charles II St, before going back to visit BAe Systems at 6 Carlton Gardens

and then finishing at Matra BAe at 11 Strand.

You can find more about the activities of most of these companies at the CAAT web site and also from War on Want, who have a Corporations & Conflict page and you can also download their report on Corporate Mercenaries along with much other relevant material.

More pictures from the event on My London Diary.

Money Running

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Perhaps the saddest thing for me in the whole of the Mayor’s Thames Festival (and there were also a few delights)  last weekend was this structure in Jubilee Gardens, used for a performance by Urban Freeflow, a professional group of ‘freerunners‘.

I first came across this urban sport a few yards away, with groups of young men developing their skills on the buildings of the Shell Centre and the South Bank complex.  It’s a sport that was started in France, in the Paris suburb of Lisses by David Belle and given the name ‘parkour‘, and most of those involved in it seem very much against the kind of competitive aspect that is being brought into it with sponsorship by Barclaycard.

May 2004
Parkours on the Shell Centre, May 2004

There are some spectacular parkour videos on YouTube, many of which feature short sequences from the South Bank, but one I can’t resist sharing with you, although perhaps not the most spectacular is Parkour Generations‘s  City Gents, which gives a rather different perspective on the journey to work!

On his blog, ‘traceur’ Ben Nuttall, a student from Sheffield writes: “I’m totally against competition in parkour, it’s completely wrong in the philosophy of the discipline which is about self-improvement, continual progression at a naturally-defined pace, and the achievement of being better than we were yesterday rather than being better than Fred is today. Competition only causes people to find the need to show off, perform stylish flashy moves, and attempt things they are not physically or mentally prepared for and trained for. Competition is about winning and being better than someone else, which is not why we do parkour, and if it is, then what we are doing is certainly not parkour.”

It isn’t an activity I’ve taken a great personal interest in, having absolutely no head for heights – I often find myself shaking too much to take pictures when standing on even very low fences and walls to get a better viewpoint – but the event in Jubilee Gardens seemed to sum up  something about the way that commercial interests increasingly appropriate aspects of our lives in pursuit of profit.

I’d like to make it clear this isn’t a specifically anti-Boris rant. I’ve enough against him for throwing away public money by cancelling the cheap oil contract with Chavez and back-pedalling on congestion charges while pushing up fares – policies which put public transport in the capital at risk.  Thames Day after all was one of Ken’s ideas and I felt much the same about similar events – including many of those in Trafalgar Square – organised during Ken’s time in office, as well as some of those organised by London Boroughs of various political hue.

south bank

I didn’t stay to watch the performance, though I’m sure it delighted the crowds. I’ve seen plenty of circus acts and there was one around the corner, as I walked across the Jubilee bridge. On the other side I came across another symbol of our declining nation, newly installed turnstiles at the public toilets on the Embankment. For the moment at least, those in Trafalgar Square remain free – as too is our fine National Gallery there. It’s a great collection and I should visit it more often.

Seeing RED

Monday, September 15th, 2008

You’ve probably heard of the RED ONE video camera if you have any interest at all in making movies. It’s a revolutionary modular camera that can shoot 4096 pixel wide (4K) video at up to 30 frames per second in 12 bit RAW. Two new models, one with a larger image size and one smaller are due next year; the 5K EPIC will make shooting movies on film a thing of the past (already studios are turning to RED ONE.) SCARLET – a 3K camera – promises to be significantly more affordable.

Last month, RED camera’s Jim Jannard posted a comment about a new camera, a “DSMC (Digital Still & Motion Camera)” to compete – or rather revolutionise – the DSLR market. Given the example of RED ONE, it will be worth waiting for – and expect to wait until around 2010 (Jannard’s post says “late 2009“.) It is likely to offer higher resolution, faster image writes, better compression codecs than existing high-end DSLRs as well as significantly under-cutting the prices of the top-level models. It is also likely to be a modular system – even to the extent of allowing sensor upgrades. So far there are 39 forum pages of comments (and a wish list page with more)  if you have a day or two spare to read them; Jannard says he won’t make detailed comments until Jan 1, 2009. And there is a wish list and

For some rather more concise but detailed speculation, take a look at Wired, where they set out their wish list for the camera. One of the nicest thoughts they have is that one manifestation of it might be a camera that would “‘out-Leica’ Leica“, giving us “a digital rangefinder camera that actually works.” I do hope so.

Leica are not quite standing still, although their  official Photokina 2008 product announcements on the Leica User Forum  (you will need to register to see the details there, but doubtless they will soon be available everywhere else) don’t fill me with great excitement. Certainly they don’t live up to some of the rumours that were around.

The Leica M8.2 has the new shutter and hard cover glass previously announced as an upgrade for the M8, along with a snapshot mode, quick override settings and a more robust finish. Nothing of great significance – and certainly nothing that will make the camera live up to it’s pedigree.

The snapshot mode usefully includes auto ISO speed, which can also be used on other settings. Leica seem also to have responded to photographer’s complaint over insufficient detent on the main switch (we get fed up of finding we have the camera on self-timer by mistake) and also claim improved bright line frames. Although their accuracy was a feature of some earlier cameras, on the original M8 only the 35mm outline seems to give acceptable accuracy.

Apart from these minor camera improvements there are some new lenses. The 21mm and 24mm f1.4 lenses seem interesting although are likely to be unaffordable when they become available in December 2008. Doubtless they will be superb performers, although I find the statement that “in the 21 mm lens, distortion is only -2,3%, and only -2.2% for the 24 mm lens, and is therefore hardly visible” rather debatable.

Personally I’d find a 21mm f2.8 with a considerably smaller size and cost very much more interesting. What Leica have still to realise is that with digital it’s better to go for a lower noise sensor than to bother  with very wide apertures – and they also have a new Noctilux 50mm f0.95 to prove they’ve yet to get the point.

The 24mm f3.8, equivalent to 32mm on a full-frame camera, is described by Leica as being “moderate cost.” I suspect that means only around a thousand pounds, but I could be seriously underestimating.

So, rather than wait for Leica to bring out the M9 (or even the M11, given how far they have to go) , I think we are now crossing our fingers for the RED M.

Stop Forced Deportations to Iraq

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Around thirty demonstrators held a lunchtime vigil outside the London Home Office on Thursday 11 Sept, 2008 to oppose the unfair detention and forced removal of Kurdish Iraqi asylum seekers from the UK, which has resulted in an unknown number of deaths.

Kurd's vigil

Some Kurds have accepted voluntary return to Iraq, often forced on them because they are prevented from working in this country and have to rely on charity of friends and a few small groups supporting them.

One of those who eventually signed to go back was Kalir Salih Abdullah, a former fighter of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who claimed asylum in Britain in 2000, having fled leaving his family of six in Kurdistan.  He spent five years pursuing his claim for asylum without success, before desperate circumstances here led him to sign voluntary return papers, and he was returned at the end of March 2005.

In Feb 2006 he was kidnapped outside his home, apparently by the PUK, and his family have since been unable to find out what has happened to him. His teenage daughter, traumatised by his disappearance, committed suicide.

The protest at the Home Office included members of the families of two men who died this August. The UK tried to send the dying Mohammad Hussain back to Iraq after 8 years here this May,  but his lawyer made a successful challenge to the order, and he died here on 3 August.

Hussein Ali  was forcibly returned to Kurdistan on 7 August this year. Three days later he committed suicide.

Since 2005, this country has forcibly returned around 500 Iraqi asylum seekers to Kurdistan, claiming despite considerable evidence to the contrary that this was a safe area to which people could be returned without risk. Little information is available about what has happened to most of them – and once they have left Britain there is little evidence that our government gives a damn. Even worse, in July this year they started deporting Iraqi asylum seekers to Baghdad. Of course there are people inside the government and the Home Office who want to treat asylum seekers in a humane fashion, but they are fighting – and largely losing – against policies designed to appease the tabloid press. Two people from the Home Office did come out to accept a letter to Jackie Smith and a folder of evidence.

As I went to take photographs, one of the two police officers came to ask who I was saying “We have to know who is coming to these things.” Well, “NO” I thought, “you have no need to know and no right to know as this is a perfectly legal activity” but handed him my press card and watched as he examined it and wrote down the details in his notebook.  It’s easier not to make a fuss – and I know were I to do so I could be asked to give my name and address – and it would be and offence not to comply – and possibly subjected to a “stop and search.”

I think there is also a perhaps more important point. By paying so much attention to trivial things like people photographing protests such as this, the system gets jammed up with irrelevant data, making it much less likely that important things will be spotted.

 pavement piece

Next to us on the pavement, under the feet of the demonstrators is a piece of public art in which people are invited (it is continuing for 25 years from its start in 2006) to write a short statement about what being British means to them. Most of the statements seemed to be about the freedoms that we enjoy – to travel, to work etc.  I’m tempted to send in as my contributionto this work: “Because I am British I keep having to show my ID to the police and am likely to be stopped and searched without good reason while doing my job.” But that might just be seen as critical of the Home Office – one of the things that is explicitly disallowed for this art work.

More information on the Coalition Against Deportations to Iraq web site at  and more of my pictures from the event on My London Diary.


Friday, September 12th, 2008

This morning I’ve been following a little trail that actually started from and item on PDNPulse which they had picked up from the Minnesota Indpendent .

The MI story listed 42 members of the news media who were arrested or detained during the policing of the protests outside the Republican National Convention (RNC) there, and two further names had already been added in comments on their story when I visited the site.

It’s hard to know how many of them were photographers (or videographers) because in many cases only the name of the organisation they were working for is given, but certainly more than the 11 listed by PDN are described as such in the MI story – and the two extra names are also photographers. But all 44 were media workers – and most if not all will have had ID to make that clear.

And of course in these days it’s a fair bet that most of them were carrying and using cameras – like Seth Rowe mentioned below – even if they are not called  ‘photographers.’

Vlad Teichberg of the NY new media art group ‘Glass Bead Collective‘ and two colleagues were detained by Minneapolis police and searched; police confiscated their cameras, computers and notes for several days (perhaps surprisingly for a new media group they even had a camera with film in it, and  apparently the police examined this in daylight but couldn’t see the pictures) but was released without charge.

In a short video clip on MI, Teichberg makes the point that there are just so many cameras around now that we have passed the point where police can actually stop videos of them behaving badly appearing on sites like You-tube, and that their only sensible response now is to keep within the law. It’s a point the police have yet to grasp.

On the Minneapolis Sun, Seth Rowe, community editor of the St. Louis Park Sun-Sailor writes about how he talked to the police chief about the situation and then went there determined to follow police instructions – and found himself arrested for doing just that. He gives a lengthy eye-witness report of his treatment, which suggests that many of the arrests were made simply to boost the pay of the officers concerned.

Another account worth reading comes from AP photographer Matt Rourke and was posted on the MinnPost web site along with the last picture he took before his arrest. Rather curiously the police allowed him to hand his camera over to a colleague when he was arrested.

The story also mentions – though rather unsympathetically – some of the other media workers arrested, with links to a couple of popular videos of their arrests which you may have already seen. If not they are also worth a look.

Press Freedom Under Attack

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

I’ve written a number of times about the increasing harassment that I and other photographers who document protest have been getting from the police over recent years. It’s  got so bad that NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear held a one-man protest outside New Scotland Yard this March, photographed by around 20 of us.

Jeremy Dear at New Scotland Yard

At least on that occasion the police didn’t bother us, although they did refuse to accept a letter from Jeremy Dear at New Scotland Yard, refusing him access to deliver it – he was told to put a stamp on it and post it.

This is a police station - you can't come in!
This is a police station – you can’t come in!

Other recent posts have looked at the repeated searching of photographers covering the Climate Camp (Police States – Hoo and Beijing) and the Smash Edo demonstration in Brighton.  A more general piece looked at the deliberate use of ‘Photography as Intimidation‘  by the police both against the press but also against demonstrators and also – praised by Home Secretary Jackie Smith – against those who police have identified as “persistent offenders” on some problem estates.

Those of us who believe in law in order and order in law feel that persistent offenders should be brought before the courts with proper evidence rather than suffer summary victimisation by  police officers.

At the Trade Union Congress in Brighton, Jeremy Dear moved a motion which called for a rethink of government policies that put journalists at risk of imprisonment just for doing their job which was adopted unanimously. His speech was brief but cited various examples of harassment of journalists, and in it he mentioned a video giving more details. You can read some of his speech and see that video on the NUJ site.

More pictures of me – as at every demo –  this time from a distance

The video, Press Freedom: Collateral Damage, is filmed , written and directed by Jason Parkinson, who I first met when he was held inside a police cordon at  the Colnbrook Detention Centre with police refusing to accept his NUJ card as genuine (it happened to me too at the tank auction at Excel last year- see Bad Press?) The producer of the film was Marc Vallée, who I wrote about when he accepted an out of court settlement earlier this year for a police assault that put him in hospital at the ‘Smash Parliament‘ demo in Parliament Square in 2006. Others involved in making the 9 minute video were Jeremy Dear as Executive Producer, Roy Mincoff for Legal and additional footage by Rikki Blue.

Police Medics treat Marc Vallee

I was taking pictures at most of the events covered by the film (and you will find them on My London Diary as well as often on Indymedia and in picture libraries), and there are fleeting glimpses of me at several points in the film but fortunately no more.

All of us suffer the kind of harassment you see and hear about, although it’s fair to add that there are other officers who apologise to us for the way we are treated by others and  for the orders they have to carry out. And at times some are helpful. One once told me he had been given an official warning for being too friendly to me. So perhaps I shouldn’t mention it.

Although relations between individuals can sometimes be good, we do seem to be increasingly faced with an official policy of restriction and harassment, of trying to prevent us from reporting what is happening.  Jeremy was absolutely right when he called it “a co-ordinated and systematic abuse of media freedom“, and equally right to set it in a wider context of the use by an intolerant government of “blunt instruments” of the Terrorism Act, SOCPA and other restrictions on the personal liberty of all citizens. As he said towards the close of his speech,  “The price is too high. Less liberty does not imply greater security. It never has.

Perpignan Winners

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

You will probably have heard the names of the winners of this year’s Visa d’Or at Perpignan. More interesting for me was Philip Blenkinsop, awarded the Visa d’Or News for his coverage of the coverage of the earthquake in China, not least because of the rather unusual presentation. Pouring rain meant that the awards ceremony was abandoned, and left everyone wondering what was going to happen. Festival director Jean-Francois Leroy combed the town, award in hand searching for Blenkinsop, called him out of a restaurant and made the presentation in the street outside in the centre of a surging crowd of photographers.

You can watch the event without getting wet in a video on the PDNPulse web site (you’ll have to sit through an ad to do so.)

As you can read in the Digital Journalist, Blenkinsop chucked in a job as a photographer for an Australian newspaper in 1989 at the age of 21 finding it too shallow, sold his car to buy a Leica, some lenses and a one-way ticket to Bangkok, determined to point his camera at what was real and become a photojournalist.

At first he struggled, as few people wanted to publish pictures as raw as his, but in 1993 he was awarded the Felix H Mann Prize and 3rd place in World Press Photo for his work on the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Thailand. In 1997 he joined Agence VU (and is now with the Amsterdam-based Agency NOOR, launched at last year’s Visa Pour l’Image.) He has deservedly picked up a tremendous series of awards including two earlier Visa d’Or – the 2003 Visa d’Or Magazine for his coverage of the ‘Secret War In Laos’ and the 2005 Visa d’Or News for his work on the tsunami.

At least Brent Stirton won his Visa d’Or Features for his pictures of the slaughter of gorillas in the Congo and not the (uncredited) images he took of of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s twin babes (which apparently made Getty $14 million.) You can also watch a video of him on PDN. Stirton, a senior staff photographer for Getty Images is another highly awarded photographer, but somehow his work sometimes makes me feel a little uncomfortable, perhaps too highly coloured and polished. Sometimes it strikes me as too much technique and perhaps not enough feeling.

Milk and Jim Barron

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

I got a couple of identical e-mails the other day, and the first one that I found rather startled me, as it was addressed not to me, but to a good friend of mine who died six years ago, Jim Barron.

He had a long career in photography, starting with a parrot on his shoulder taking beach snaps and then using flash powder as a scientific photographer in the Civil Service, ending up as head of one of its photographic departments, but also finding time to work occasionally on the side for newspapers etc. Three portraits by him, two of Larry Adler and one of Sir Arthur Bliss, are in the National Portrait Gallery collection. He was also well known as a collector of photographica, and his collection included one of the wooden cameras that Bill Brandt had used for those wide-angle nudes. He lent cameras and acted as a photographic consultant on several films and TV programmes.

I got to know Jim shortly after he retired, when he turned up at a meeting of a small group of photographers that I was part of, and we and most of the others continued to meet regularly to show and discuss our latest work until weeks before his death – in later years at his home in Richmond.

At the time, Jim was taking pictures using a 4×5″ camera, very much in the mould of Edward (or perhaps more Brett) Weston.  He’d walk from his home, perhaps up into Richmond Park, his camera and tripod in a shopping trolley.  Technically they were fine, but I and others tried to tell him that there were other things in photography that were perhaps of more interest.

At the time most of what I was showing was ‘street photography’ and we had long discussions about my pictures and also about some of the great street photographers whose work interested me. I remember going with him to an exhibition of the work of Gary Winogrand, going round it with him and arguing over the pictures.

Perhaps what finally persuaded him to have a go at street photography was not my example – or Winogrand’s work – but a workshop we both went to with Thomas Joshua Cooper, who told Jim rather more directly what I had been trying to say about his large-format work and encouraged him to try something new.

From then on, until shortly before he died, Jim salked the streets of the West end in his wooly hat, lurking with his Leica and usually a 24mm lens.  Ten years ago I wrote a short piece about him for the magazine of London Independent Photography, which by then we had both joined:

Most days it seems, you can find Jim in London. Several times this year I’ve been hurrying to the Photographers’ Gallery or across Soho or down Bond St and in the distance have seen a familiar figure with his Leica and hat.

I haven’t always had time to stop and talk, or even to go over and greet him, as I usually seem to be rushing to a late appointment. Sometimes I’ve realised he is at work waiting patiently for the moment to happen and not wanted to disturb him.

Though officially retired, Jim seems to be working harder than ever. After a day’s work on the street he goes home to spend the evening in the darkroom printing.

Every LIP meeting sees Jim with a new box of pictures for our delight, with perhaps another 30 or 40 or more 20×16 prints.


This print won second prize in a competition organised by the Evening Standard and Canon and was one of five or six prizewinners displayed in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Despite this success, Jim was robbed as this picture was clearly in a league of its own compared with the other winners.

Another superb example of his street photography, this picture made a fine poster for the Soho Jazz festival. It is hard to imagine how anything or anybody in this peculiar theatre of the street could have been better placed – a moment so precisely caught that could not have been better drafted or choreographed.

I soon realised why I’d got an e-mail for Jim Barron. Both he and I had entered for a competition called ‘M.I.L.K’ in 1999, and as he didn’t do computers, he had got me to send in his entry for him. Now almost ten years on there is a second version of this competition, entitled ‘Fresh M.I.L.K.’ It describes itself as:

“A $125,000 international competition to find photographs that capture spontaneous and humorous moments shared between friends, families and lovers.

We are inviting both professional and gifted amateur photographers from around the world to submit their images now. 150 images will be chosen as finalists and the overall winner, chosen by Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt, will receive $50,000.

This is a chance to have your photograph become part of a world-renowned collection and be published in a prestigious international book.”

For details go to the Fresh M.I.L.K web site. Entry is free and you can submit up to five entries of five pictures each – online submission only. The small print looks pretty reasonable – as you would expect with Erwitt lending his name to it – and the prizes aare certainly worthwhile. We have until 31 Dec 2008 to enter, and the winners will be announced on or before 31 March 2009.

Major A.Villiers Gardening Club

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

I first photographed what we now call the ‘Olympic area‘ in the early 1980s. Then it seemed rather like the back of beyond, a long-neglected backwater of London, which appealed greatly to my imagination.

The pictures I remember well are largely those on one of my least-finished web sites,  ‘The Lea Valley‘ which looks at London’s Second River – The River Lea (or Lee.)  It’s probably 20 years since I went back and looked at the contact sheets for the pictures I made there rather than just the relatively few that made it to a portfolio.

In the past couple of days I’ve been doing just that, and it’s interesting to see how looking at the pictures takes me back and reminds me of things that were previously submerged in the hidden depths of memory as well as some lost completely. I don’t think I’ve found any great work I missed but there are certainly things that stir my interest.

One that I’d forgotten taking was of these gates on Waterden Road:

Gardening Club gates
Waterden Rd, Hackney Wick, 1983 (from a quick scan on my flatbed)

which isn’t a startling composition, but the text on the notice caught my eye. It may be a little small to see clearly, so here it is larger:

Gardening Club gates

Twenty years later not far away, close to Bully Point nature reserve, I took another picture of allotments started by Major Villiers:

and a couple of years further on I played a very small part in the big campaign to keep the Manor Gardens Allotments  as a green centre-piece for the Olympics. As we all know was unsuccessful (their great campaign running up against a total failure of imagination by our Olympic organisers) and they are now in Leyton, struggling to grow crops on damaged land.

My River Lea web site does have quite a lot of work from the area,  including a few of those black and white images from the 1980s, but the vast majority of work on it is taken since 2002 – for example pictures of the Stratford area – such as this:

The site however covers much more than the Olympic area, with pictures that start at the source in Leagrave, near Luton, and go to both Bow Creek where the river enters the Thames and also to the Limehouse Dock entrance, which offered an alternative route to the Thames.

Perhaps one day I will find the time to put more work on that site. Of course it is so much easier to put digital images on line, although there are many on My London Diary that I’ve not yet got around to also putting on the site – most can be found from the site index, though I’ve not quite kept that up to date either.  But it’s even more time-consuming to work with those old pictures from the 80s and 90s on film. In 2005 when I started the River Lea site I wrote “1990s (to follow)” and they are still to follow three years later.