Archive for May, 2009

Pericles Antoniou – Case Dismissed

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Police failed to offer evidence against Greek photographer Pericles Antoniou when the case against him for taking photographs on the tube came up at Westminster magistrates yesterday (18 May) and so the case was dismissed.

Good news for Mr Antoniou – and the Greek Embassy report he is to be compensated for his legal and travel expenses, which is a start. But it would be good to see some investigation of the activities of the Transport Police – in particular over the claim that he was refused the right to see a lawyer, as well as some compensation for what appears to be wrongful arrest and holding overnight.

The Transport Police, according to the report in The Register,  deny this claim, but then they also deny that they failed to submit evidence to the court. It is possible that whatever evidence they did supply was judged by the magistrate to be insufficient – or perhaps just irrelevant. I’m not a lawyer, but it would seem to me that the section of the law under whichMr Antoniou’s  was charged simply does not cover what he was doing – see my earlier post Greek Tourist Arrested for Photography on Tube for the text of the Act.

The Register article also brings up London Underground’s policy on photography on their property.  They want to make money from photographers by insisting on a licence for any professional photography on underground trains and stations. In practice you need – as always – a licence for film crews to work or for commercial shoots, but as it says on the TfL site:

Do I need permission to film or take photographs on the tube?If you are just passing through, you shouldn’t have a problem taking personal snaps, souvenir shots etc, although you must NOT use flash or lights on any of our platforms.

However, if you want to spend more than 10-15 minutes at any one station videoing or taking photos, or if they are for professional use, you MUST have a permit.

Perhaps now they really should add a footnote that if you are Greek you can expect to get a day in jail. And TfL should really amend the advice given in their ‘Guide to Filming’, which they say “should tell you everything you need to know about filming or taking photos on the Tube” but states:

Any individual or film production company wanting to film or take photographs on the Tube must seek prior permission from the London Underground (LU) Film Office.

You can also read more about the photography policy in the staff manual, quoted on the ‘Banditry‘ blog:

10.1 Passengers can take photographs with small cameras for private purposes, provided
* flashlights and/or tripods are not used
* No obstruction or inconvenience is caused to staff and/or passengers.

10.2 Representatives of the media, press or photographic agencies and film companies, and other persons taking photographs for commercial purposes must first get permission from the Press Officer.

It is perhaps unfortunate that the case did not come before the court, as it would have been useful to get a clear decision against the use of the Public Order Act in this way. I hope that the Greek Embassy will pursue the details of the arrest and that the Transport Police will conduct an enquiry and take suitable disciplinary action against the officers concerned, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’m not a landscape photographer

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

 © 2009 Peter Marshall.

But sometimes I have a bash.

Pratt’s Bottom or Pratts Bottom?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I suppose you can understand why the people who live in Pratt’s Bottom seem to prefer it without the apostrophe. It’s a rather nice village on the SE outskirts of London, a mile or two from the nearest station. Last year I’d also gone to photograph the crowning of the Pratts Bottom May Queen (no apostrophe!) and arrived a little late for the procession, running up the longish hill after a longish and damp walk from the station and arriving rather out of breath just as the procession got to the village green.

This year I got up earlier and got a lift from a friend, another photographer, and we arrived early to find an empty windswept field with a few swings in the corner. But a van full of a cadet marching band and one small girl in yellow, escorted by her father and also looking for the procession confirmed we were in the right place. Ten minutes later the rain had started and more girls were beginning to arrive.

© 2009 Peter Marshall. John Mcdonell
Chislehurst May Queen were one of five May Queen groups in the procession

Fortunately by the time the procession was ready to leave the rain had stopped and the sun had come out and it stayed dry as we ran up the hill behind the band, keeping up a fast pace to try and warm themselves up.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
The crowning

The crowning in the arena was a short event and the fete was officially opened and we walked away to go to our second event of the day. Which was a pity, as Pratt’s Bottom has a rather nice pub facing the fete, which I’d retired to to avoid the rain last year, and photographed the Morris Men. But at least this year I hadn’t got wet – and last year my Nikon 18-200 had seriously jammed with nasty grinding noises (repair cost around £100) while this year it continued to work!

© 2008 Peter Marshall

Nigerian Good Neighbour Wins Case

Friday, May 15th, 2009

On 6 May 2009, Ayodeji Omotade appeared in Brent magistrates court more than fourteen months  after he was forcibly removed from a British Airways flight to Nigeria before it took off from Heathrow.

In an earlier post, Good Neighbour on Trial?, I wrote:

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.

© 2008 Peter Marshall
Protester outside BA’s Waterside HQ near Heathrow

My post came after photographing a demonstration organised by the Respect Nigerians Coalition. They called on BA to apologise and compensate Mr Omatode, to withdraw their allegations and their ban on him flying and improve its attitude to customers and stop practices that make it appear “arrogant, uncaring and discriminatory.” Other UK groups supporting the campaign and call for a boycott of BA flights until these demands were met included the All African Women’s Group and Global Women’s Strike.

Yesterday he was cleared of behaving in a threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly manner towards the crew, and the district judge decided he had made a “forcible but polite complaint” and that there was no evidence he had been threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly towards BA staff.

There were nine witnesses called by BA, including their own staff, police, G4 security and immigration officers, but their evidence contradicted each other. Mr Omatode’s defence was  impeded by BA, who refused to make the passenger list available to his defence lawyer, and he was only able to call two witnesses as well as his own testimony. You can read a fuller account in The Guardian.

Mr Omotade commented:

“It has been a horrific experience for me and my family, going through a year of criminal proceedings in which British Airways, the Metropolitan Police, Immigration security officers, and the Crown Prosecution Service constructed a false and malicious case against me.”

and

“The truth has finally prevailed, and I have been completely vindicated.  I spoke out as I expect anyone would do.  I paid a price because I could not look the other way. I am in the process of putting my life together again.  Justice has been served.  I have been delivered from the claws of British Airways corporate tyranny.”

It was indeed an expensive case for him, as he was refused legal aid, and although the Nigerian High Commission had promised to help they failed to do so.

Mr Omotade is demanding an apology and full compensation for his coast and the brutal treatment he recieved and for his family in Nigeria who had to buy clothes and wedding rings to replace those he was bringing out with him from England.  He also wants to know from the immigration authorities what happened to the man who was being deported.

A BA spokesman stated that they had a legal obligation to carry deportees and therefore any call for an apology should be directed to the police and CPS. Since it was their staff who called for the removal of Mr Omotade and later persisted with the false allegations and ban this appears a ridiculous position.

More pictures from last year’s demo outside BA’s Waterside HQ on My London Diary.

Hugh Van Es (1942-2009)

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Dutch photojournalist Hugh Van Es, best known for his picture of South Vietnamese civilians clambering up a ladder into a US helicopter on the roof of a CIA building as Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops died last Friday in Hong Kong where he had lived for over 35 years. When the North Vietnamese arrived he greeted them wearing a camouflage hat with “Dutch Press” written on it in Vietnamese.

Later he was one of very few photojournalists to get into Kabul when the Soviets invaded, making an escape from the airport where those who had tried to get into the country were being put on a flight out.

In 2005 he was among 60 people who returned for a 30th anniversary media reunion in Saigon.

As well as obituaries in leading newspapers (and here) there is a small gallery of his pictures on the BBC site.

Bill Jay (1940-2009)

Friday, May 15th, 2009

I never got to know Bill Jay, though looking at his site I found one small thing that we had in common; both of us were first published in Practical Photography. I got seriously involved in photography a little after he had given up editing Creative Camera and just after the splendid but short-lived year of issues of his own magazine Album.  He had moved to America, at first to study with Van Deren Coke and Beaumont Newhall at the University of New Mexico, and then going on to Arizona State University where he founded the Photographic Studies program. I heard stories about him (few of which could be repeated in print) and later read many of his essays and several of his fine books on photography, and saw his portraits of photographers.

Bill Jay died peacefully in his sleep last Sunday, in Samara in Costa Rica where he had recently gone to live.  His web site show the great debt we owe him as well as his great generosity, offerening free downloads of his many articles about photography, as well as 11 of the of 12 issues of Album.  I’ve a few of the original issues, but I’ll certainly download the rest to complete my set (or rather almost complete it, as issue 9 is missing,) though they are around 15-20Mb each, so don’t try this on dial-up.

Jay had a great love for photography, and was a decent photographer, as his portraits of photographers and others show, but looking at the portraits of the perhaps 30 of so in his list that I’ve met, there are few that really seem to catch the person for me; his real strength was as a writer. Writing about photography well isn’t easy and many of his articles required a great deal of painstaking research as well as the actual writing. Thanks to him we know a great deal more about some of the less obvious aspects of our medium, but perhaps more importantly his writing has inspired others – photographers included – to think and appreciate the medium more deeply.

Greek Tourist Arrested for Photography on Tube

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Pericles Antoniou was a tourist from Athens on holiday in London with his wife and 14 year old son, and the first I heard about his him was on the British Journal of Photography web site. Antoniou is a keen photographer and started taking some pictures on the tube around 11.30am on Thursday 17 April, 2009. A woman complained after he took pictures of her young daughter, and he apologised to her, showed her the pictures and deleted them as a courtesy to her.

At the next station, the father of the girl called the police, who arrested Antoniou, locking him up and keeping him in a cell in solitary overnight. They did not allow him to communicate with his family or anyone, and he does not appear to have been given any access to a solicitor. On Friday morning he was brought to the magistrates court, and accused under the Public Order Act 1986 of public harassment that might have caused fear and stress to the people around him.

The relevant section of the Act appears to be section 5:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

And one of the statutory defences is:

(3) The conduct was reasonable.

And certainly I would hold that taking photographs is a reasonable act.  An offence under this section would carry a maximum fine of £1000.

Antoniou pleaded not guilty, and the case was adjourned. The police have kept his camera.

As he says in his letter to the Greek Ambassador (as translated on Facebook where a support group has been set up) :

It is inconceivable for one to think, in the country where Bill Brandt, Martin Parr, Killip were born and their works are based on street photography, that I had to be humiliated and accused of taking photos (!!!) while being in the Metro – subway. It is noted that in the National Portrait Gallery there is a photo exhibition currently which is about photos taken of people in streets!!!” (sic)

Mr Antoniou appears to me to have been wrongfully arrested and to have been denied his legal rights by the police, and unless the  case is thrown out when he appears in court again on May 18 it would set a very worrying precedent threatening the whole future of photography in public in the UK.

I’d also hope that he will be able to make a considerable claim against the police for wrongful arrest.

Sanguinetti wins Grant

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Alessandra Sanguinetti has been awarded this year’s $50,000 National Geographic Magazine Grant for Photography in a competition open to all professional photographers which illustrates the “magazine’s ongoing commitment to documentary photojournalism.”

You can read more about the grant and see portfolios by the two previous recipients of this award, Jonas Bendiksen and  Eugene Richards at the magazine, which doubtless will soon also feature Sanguinetti’s work. But as these names suggest, competition for the award is extremely tough.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the projects on Sanguinetti’s web site is a set of pictures taken from 199-2001 “The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of their Dreams”.  This series in continued in “The Life that Came“,  an exhibition at the Yossi Milo Gallery in 2008. The work follows the life of thse two young women, cousins who grew up on a farm near Buenos Aires, with images inspired both by their inner life and experiences as they move into adulthood.

Sanguinetti joined Magnum Photos as a nominee in 2007 and you can see more of her work on the Magnum site, although I find their overprinted copyright message particularly intrusive on work like hers. Pictures on the site include her work on domestic animals and a series of pictures – mainly portraits – from Palestine.

As PDN quote Susan Smith of National Geographic saying, she “has an original way of seeing that brings freshness to a subject…”

Strangers Into Citizens

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

 © 2009 Peter Marshall.

A packed Trafalgar Square all waving Union Jacks and singing ‘God Save the Queen’ is not my idea of a demonstration, and I turned to the photographer next to me and suggested we compete with a rendition of the ‘Internationale‘ (which later he told me he had as a ringtone.) But ‘Strangers into Citizens‘ is not a typical demonstration and most of the tens of thousands there had started the event in one of seven crowded religious services around the capital, though I’d passed on that and joined the several thousand mainly Latin Americans halfway through their march from the Elephant outside Lambeth North tube.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Perhaps 90% of the crowd filling the square were migrants (or the children of migrants) with representatives from almost every country around the world. Although the march had been lively, the rally was a little turgid at times, with speaker after speaker representing so many different interests – religions, political parties, trades unions, ethnic groups and more – who have all backed this initiative. But it ended with quite a bang, a short but fiery set from Asian Dub Foundation, Bangladeshi drummers and some very lively African dancers.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

‘Strangers into Citizens’ is organised by London Citizens, a new type of popular movement for justice for the poor in our society, combining trade unions with churches and other groups and pressing for improvements in pay and conditions for the lowest paid workers – who include many migrants.

Strangers into Citizens calls for a pathway to give long term irregular migrants a right to earn indefinite leave to stay in this country. Current best estimates are that around 725,000 people are currently living in the UK without a documented right to remain.  They include asylum seekers whose cases have not been determined or who have been refused but have not been removed and those who have stayed on after temporary visas or permission to stay has expired.

Many of them are working and paying taxes; some are exploited by employers who take advantage of their status to pay wages below the legal minimum and to avoid making proper insurance contributions. Many could make a much greater contribution to our economy if they were able to make proper use of their qualifications.

Strangers into Citizens propose that those who have been here for more than four years should be elegible for a two-year work permit. At the end of this they should, “subject to criteria such as an English language test, a clean criminal record and valid references from an employer and community sponsor” be granted indefinite leave to remain.

These people are with us, many taking a valuable and active part in the communities in which they live. An amnesty for them makes sense on moral, religious, practical and economic grounds – at current removal rates it would take over 30 years and cost around £8bn to forcibly remove them, and they make a positive contribution to our economy.

© 2006 Peter Marshall

I photographed the rally at which Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor launched Strangers in Citizens three years ago in May 2006, as well as later demonstrations, and it has wide suport from churches as well as Jewish and Muslim organisations and the key NGOs in the area. The campaign, led by ‘London Citizens’ has the support of members in all the main political parties – and people from them spoke at the rally. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has also supported it and the Liberal Democrats have adopted it as party policy. Like Green MEP Jean Lambert, one of the speakers at today’s rally, the problem I have with it is that it does not go far enough. Although it might cover 450,000 of those living here without documents, it would still leave some 300,000, many of whom also have a very good case for the regularisation of their position. And although the campaign stresses that this would be a ‘one-off’ amnesty, I see a clear need for a continuing policy to allow those who contribute to the country to attain legal status.

One point made very strongly at the rally was the need to challenge the use of such terms as “illegal immigrant”, a derogatory and inaccurate term used to stigmatise migrant workers and to justify increasingly draconian action against them. People are not illegal, although most of us at times break laws – it is hard not to. Those in this country without proper papers are in general more law-abiding than the rest of the population as it is in their interest not to attract the attention of the authorities. Most want nothing more than to lead a normal life and contribute to the society in which they are living. The French have a rather better term, “sans-papiers”, those without papers, the “undocumented.”

Forced removal of all those without permission to remain – as demanded by the racists –  would be extremely expensive, costing around £8 billion, and with the current resources for enforcement would take over 30 years. Trying to speed it up would be even more expensive. Whatever views people hold on immigration we need a policy that recognises the scale of the situation and takes sensible action. In my view it is also wrong to call it a “problem” – the real problem for us would be if these people were no longer here to do the jobs that nobody else wants to do.

Lightroom Magic Brush?

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

One small discovery in using Lightroom that has really changed things for me.

Ever since the program came out I’ve had problems with the ‘Recovery’ slider which you can use to  ‘recover’ image highlights – areas of the picture that are too bright to fit on the histogram.  If you load any image and slide this slider from 0-100 you will see that although it does shift the highlights down, it also alters all areas of the histogram, and that with higher values you get very dull-looking highlights.

So I try to use only very low values of ‘Recovery’, if any at all, usually reducing the level set by the Auto-tone that’s part of my development preset. This usually leaves large areas marked in red as being overbright (that setting you toggle with the ‘J’ key.)

Sometimes you can get rid of these simply by reducing the Exposure Value, but of course that will usually make the image too dark. But while Auto-tone often seems to over-egg the ‘Recovery’ it generally seems to soft-pedal on ‘Fill Light’, and increasing this can both sort out those blue blocked shadow areas and brighten up the picture . And if necessary you can brighten up a bit more with the ‘Brightness’ slider.

The I had what in retrospect seems a blindingly obvious idea (and it’s probably mentioned in all those books on using Lightroom I’ve never quite got round to buying because I know I’d never get round to reading them.)

Often if the ‘red’ areas are just in the sky or other easy areas I’d simply attack those areas with the selective brush tool, usually using a value of around -40 for exposure. But this sometimes brought the problem of giving obviously visible boundaries, and in skies sometimes some very artificial looking cloud edges and poster-like effects.

The obvious answer was to use a brush set to both decrease Exposure and increase Brightness, and after a little experiment I found that sets of values like -40E, +25B or -50E, +35B did more or less as I wanted, bringing in over-cooked highlights while the rest of the histogram stayed more or less unchanged.  Because it has zero effect except on very light values you don’t need to worry about applying it carefully, and can use a broad brush, applying it several times to the same area (with a K, K to turn it off and on again)  if necessary. It all seems too good to be true.

Of course no kind of magic can get back the really over-exposed, where you have over-saturated the sensor and there is no detail, but I have rescued a few shots which I’d thought were impossible. In more extreme cases it may help to add a little ‘Contrast’ and ‘Saturation’ to the brush as well.