Archive for October, 2008

Road Trip

Monday, October 20th, 2008

The first work by David Alan Harvey I remember seeing was some of his pictures from Cuba. I still really don’t know how he finds such powerful colour and at times I think he lives in some parallel universe where things are rather less grey than here. Cuba may well be a pretty colourful place, but I think what we see in his pictures owes more to him and his way of seeing than to  the subject matter.

There are over a hundred pictures from his Cuba book on the Magnum web site,  (Harvey joined Magnum in 1993, becoming a full member ub 1997) where you can also see much of his other work and he also has his own site with some interesting work on it, including some by other photographers, as well as information about the workshops he runs. These are not cheap, but I’m sure if you are ready for them could be very much worthwhile.

You can also learn more about his Emerging Photographer Fund, started in 2007, which gave its first annual award of $5000 this year to young British photographer Sean Gallagher to encourage his work on the encroaching desert in China. Gallagher is based in China and has quite a lot from there on his site, as well as some interesting travel photography from other places. Born in 1979, he became a photographer after graduating in Zoology in 2002. He spent a year as a Magnum intern in 2004-5, and his colour work shares some of Harvey’s energy and use of unusual foreground which shows us the subject in a different way. 

But perhaps the most interesting part of Harvey’s site is the blog, Road Trips. Harvey often doesn’t write a great deal on it, but what makes it interesting (and at times infuriating) are the comments.  Not just the odd comment, but literally hundreds of them (and yes, some of these are odd.)

Italy’s Ethnic Cleansing

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

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The problems facing the Roma in Italy were highlighted in July this year when media published pictures of holiday makers sunbathing on a beach near Naples ignoring the bodies of two drowned Roma teenagers.

In May 2008, the right-wing Italian government led by Berlusconi introduced a whole range of repressive measures to deal with what they describe as the “gypsy problem“. The measures remind many of the fascist policies under Mussolini – when Italian Roma were stripped of their citizenship and many died in concentration camps. They include dismantling all Roma camps and fingerprinting all Roma – children as well as adults.  Almost all of the Roma are actually Italian citizens. There have since been more or less daily reports of arrests, evictions and other attacks on the community, both by police and by criminals inspired by the government campaign.

Several camps have been burnt to the ground after Molotov cocktails where thrown into them, and many Roma have been left homeless. Forcible evictions from the camps by police have started and many Roma have been arrested.

There are around 150,000 Roma in Italy, less than 0.3% of the Italian population – a lower proportion than in many other European countries. Most of them live in desperately poor conditions in squatted camps around major cities.

Sentiment against Roma has also been hardened by the Italian population’s confusion between them and the mostly non-Roma Romanian migrants who continue to arrrive in Italy and the Roma are scape-goated for crimes committed by these often desperate Romanian refugees – another problem the rigth-wing government has exacerbated rather than attempting to solve.

Around 20 people, many of them Roma, met at the gates of the Italian Embassy in London at Friday lunchtime (17 Oct) to protest against the human rights abuses in Italy which constitute ethnic cleanisng of the Roma. A deputation of four, including Peter Mercer, MBE, the Chair of the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups were allowed into the Embassy to give their views.

Catherine Beard of the UK Association of Gypsy Women and European Forum delegate had brought back a distinctive ‘Against Ethnic Profiling‘ t-shirt from Europe.

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After the vigil outside the embassy, a number of the protesters went on to a meeting at the House of Lords.

A few more pictures from the event on My London Diary.

Police attack Photographers

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

I wasn’t feeling too well last Wednesday and didn’t feel up to going to Brighton to photograph the Shut ITT! demonstration there, a follow-up to Smash EDO’s ‘Carnival Against the Arms Trade‘ which I photographed last June. Had I made it his time there seems to have been a pretty good chance I would have ended the day with at least minor injuries from police action.

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Police use batons on demonstrators outside EDO in June 2008

In June the policing had got pretty heavy-handed, and apparently even more so after I had left early thinking the demonstration was more or less over, when for some unaccountable reason the protesters were actually let on to the factory site and there was considerable mayhem all round.

This time things were tougher still, and not just for the protesters but also for photographers. On his blog,  Jason Parkinson writes  about the police actions:  “I am sick to death of seeing my work colleagues getting hurt while trying to do their job” and talks about “a continuous pattern of abuse, ignorance, intimidation, harassment, surveillance and violence” directed at journalists, particularly photographers and videographers who need to be very much in the thick of things to get their pictures.

Two other photographers, Marc Vallée and Jonathan Warren have described how they were filmed and questioned before the start of the event, and told they were not allowed to photograph in the area where protesters were arriving.

Later, Vallée was assaulted by police (again!) and another photographer was bitten when a police dog was set on him, requiring medical attention. At least one photographer was pepper sprayed.

In my camera bag I carry a copy of the Guidelines for reporters, photographers and news crews for dealing with police at incidents published by the BPPA, CIoJ and NUJ in association with the Metropolitan Police, which on their reverse carry the Met’s guidelines for officers. As it states, these guidelines “have been agreed at senior levels by all parties.  Please use them in a spirit of mutual professional respect to resolve any problems.”

These guidelines were adopted by all police forces in Britain in April 2007. They lay down general principles that recognise the law, the duty of the media to report from the scene of incidents, and the police duty to help them in doing so where possible.

These guidelines are simply not being followed so far as the policing of protests is concerned. As Jason ends his blog post:  “There is no excuse to baton a photographer, no excuse to pepper spray a photographer and absolutely no excuse to use a dog as an offensive weapon against a photographer.” This isn’t my idea of “mutual professional respect.”

Stratford Marsh & Hackney Wick

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

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The London 2012 Olympic stadium in the middle distance

Another progress report from the Greenway last Thursday (9 Oct 2008). I walked onto Hackney Wick which was more interesting – and you can see more pictures from both on My London Diary.

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Hertford Union Canal at Hackney Wick

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Bank rates

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

I’m not an economist. Nor a rich man, because I’ve never thought it worth my time thinking about money.

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When I grew up we had none. At least that was simple, although my mother kept careful accounts of every penny in a small red bock, balancing her accounts carefully each week to avoid getting into debt. Penny-pinching all the time, making do and mending.  But my early years were years of austerity and rationing for the whole nation, and being poor like we were wasn’t very different from being almost as poor as the rest of the people down the street.

Even on a student grant I was better off, and my first full-time job earned me more than my father ever had but I’ve never got into the habits of spending (except on cameras) and waste that most people seem to take for granted, so I’ve never had to really count the pennies.

Banks have changed dramatically since I opened my first account to handle my student grant cheque. Rather than computers there was a man in the corner sitting with a big black-covered book and when you presented a cheque the cashier would go over to him and check that your account had the funds to pay.

Now it seems they have all been busy trading with borrowed money, betting on bets in ways that no-one had thought to regulate, making huge profits for their shareholders and massive bonuses for themselves in the good times. Which have now come to an end and the taxpayers are having to pick up their massive losses.

The failure of the banks doesn’t give me any pleasure, not least because it also has resulted in a fairly dramatic fall in the value of my own investments towards a pension, which I thought (and had been assured) were reasonably safe. Oh well, its only money.

But I certainly had considerable sympathy for the protesters who organised the March on the City with the slogan ‘We Won’t Bail out the Bankers’. As usual, more details and pictures on My London Diary.

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Climate Rush – Deeds Not Words

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

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Women dressed as suffragettes, including Tamsin Osmond (center left) rush toward the entrance of the Houses of Parliament in London, Oct 13, 2008

Exactly 100 years ago, more than 40 women were arrested in the ‘Suffragete Rush‘ as they attempted to enter The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. To mark this centenary, young women concerned with the lack of political action to tackle climate change organised and led a ‘Climate Rush‘ rally in Parliament Square, calling for “men and women alike” to stand together and support three key demands:

  • No airport expansion.
  • No new coal-fired power stations.
  • The creation of policy in line with the most recent climate science and research.

It turned out – as expected – to be an interesting evening, although unlike 100 years ago none of the women managed to get into parliament and disrupt the proceedings there.  You can read more about it – and see rather a lot of pictures – on My London Diary.

Inside the building, the upper house was debating one of our more repressive pieces of proposed legislation, the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2007-08, and threw out by a large majority to proposal to allow suspects to be detained for 42 days before charge. However this is only one of several extremely suspect provisions, and we can only hope that their Lord and Ladyships will also throw out the proposals for secret inquests and look very carefully at the other provisions of the bill when they return to it in the next few days.

Lytchett Matravers

Monday, October 13th, 2008

I must admit that until last week I had no idea that Lytchett Matravers even existed, let alone where it is. Nor for that matter its neighbouring village, Lytchett Minster.  And I think that is exactly how the people who live in these Dorset villages a few miles from Poole would like to keep it.

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The government has other plans, intending in its Regional Spatial Strategy to include a new town of 2750 houses in the Green belt next to it.  This private development was rejected by the regional authority who drew up the draft plans, the local authorities in the region and bodies including Natural England, the Dorset Wildlife Trust, RSPB and CPRE, but somehow found itself in the final version of the draft currently waiting approval by Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

They had a big demonstration in Bournemouth to oppose the plans, and on Thursday some of them came to London to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister in Downing St.

In my lecture in Brasilia I talked about the need for a Green Belt that came about with the growth of car culture, and you can read a little about this in my post Under the Car which looks at my reaction to car culture. In Green Belt Protest Rally on My London Diary you can see my pictures and thoughts on last Thursday’s demo from Dorset. I wrote about another related event earlier in the year  here in Time Running Out.

Uganda

Monday, October 13th, 2008

I’ve had a busy few days, and they started on October 9 which was the anniversary of Ugandan independence.

For gay Ugandans in particular there is little to celebrate.  Around 50 people met in a demonstration sponsored by the NUS outside the Ugandan Embassy in Trafalgar Square at noon on Ugandan Independence Day, Oct 9, to protest against human rights abuses in Uganda.

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Peter Tatchell of Outrage! and Davis Makyala of Changing Attitudes
You can see more pictures and a longer comment on the event on My London Diary

IJFR – forget jpeg + RAW

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Once I got a camera that would write RAW files, I made up my mind to shoot everything (or almost everything) on RAW.  Despite what one or two loud-mouthed guys on the web say, RAW does enable you to get considerably more out of your pictures – and the only real disadvantge is the extra time involved in processing.

Some cameras do have RAW+Jpeg modes which save both types of file, giving you the potential advantage of speed as well as the higher quality ofRAW – but with the disadvatnage of filling up memory cards with fewer pictures.  But what many photographers fail to realise is that RAW files actually contain a jpeg image as well as the sensor raw data. It’s this jpeg image that you see on the screen on the back of the camera, and also that is used to show the files in your RAW processing software before you process the files, and in other software that displays images direct from RAW files.

A couple of years ago I found (and wrote about) a piece of PC freeware called  Preview Extractor which I use to tell me the total number of exposures I’ve made with my Nikon cameras, but also will rapidly extract theses jpeg preview images from a batch of images.

Recently I’ve come across another free application that can also do this – and is available for both PC and Mac, and is handier to use as it adds itself in your right-click menu. You can right-click on a file or group of files and select it to extract the full size jpegs, or smaller size files. This is a virtually instant process.  Install this small utitlity and you never need to use a Jpeg + RAW mode.

So, thanks to Michael Tapes of RawWorkflow.com and the programmers at Imagenomic for the free Instant JPEG from Raw  and you can read more about it and watch a video showing it in use on Scott Kelby’s blog.

Gilles Perrin – on show in Paris

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

A few days ago I had an e-mail from  Gilles Perrin about his work in two shows in Paris,   Children of the world at the Commercial stock exchange, 2 rue Viarme 75001 Paris from October 29 to November 12, 2008, and Recent works: Africa, Asia…  at bâtiment des Douches, 5 rue Legouve, 75010 Paris October 17 to November 28, 2008.

I was very impressed by Perrin’s work from Tibet and Africa when I met Gilles and Nicole in Birmingham last year. You can see more of his work on at the art-Contemporain site, and in particular his work from Ireland, THE MEN OF THE SEA, which has text in English as well as French.

The web site is easier if you read a little French, but otherwise, chose A l’affiche then click the red triangle to the right of «Les hommes de la mer», Irlande, 2007/2008. On the page that appears are links (red triangles) to the portraits from Cork and also “diptyques et triptyques”  and on these pages you can click on the red rectangles to see the pictures larger.

You can also read (in French) a PDF file about his work from March to September this year in Conflans Sainte Honorine, a historic town in the northwest suburbs of Paris around 15 miles from the city centre, where the River Oise runs into the River Seine. I’m not sure what it says about the town that it is twinned with Ramsgate.

You can find pictures from other exhibitions by going through the expositions link.