Archive for July, 2009

London Protest Against Calais Clearances

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

The demonstration at the French Embassy on Monday was perhaps most interesting for the curiously mixed actions of the police, both toward the demonstrators and the press.

The Embassy is on the corner of Knightbridge and Albert Gate, with its entrance a few yards down Albert Gate. Police wanted the demonstrators to stand in a pen on the other side of Knightsbridge a few yards to the west, where they could only see the Embassy across 4 lanes of traffic. They decided not to comply as it was too far away for their protest to be effective – those in the Embassy would probably not be able to see or hear much of the demonstration, and the protest continued for around an hour and a half in Albert Gate.

One officer came and told a couple of demonstrators standing on the pavement in the centre of the road with a large banner they had to move because they were causing an obstruction. Clearly they were carefully positioned out of the way of anyone, but in the end they decided to move and asked her where they could stand and not cause an obstruction. She then told them they would be OK to stand on the roadway right in front of the embassy entrance  porch,  much to the consternation of the police who were standing there.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

The same woman officer also took one of the demonstrators to the door of the embassy and arranged for one of the diplomats to come out and talk to her as she wanted to hand the leaflet in to the embassy.  He came out and they stood for five minutes or so talking on the embassy steps.

At one point while I was photographing the two of them one of the officers standing on the steps deliberately came and stood in front of my lens. I moved to one side and he moved to keep my view blocked. We went back and forth perhaps a dozen times, he obviously thinking it was a fun game. Since his reactions were a little slow I was still able to get some pictures, but this isn’t the kind of cooperation the police are expected to give the press.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
He hasn’t yet noticed I’ve moved to the right…

I should have made a complaint to the senior officer present, but by that time I would have missed the pictures, so having got a few from that position I moved elsewhere to continue taking pictures.

Another curious incident came when I was talking to another photographer in the middle of the road, and he noticed the police photographer who had been hiding behind a police van come out and point his telephoto lens directly at us rather than the protesters. We went across to him and asked him why he was taking pictures of the press and he denied strongly that he was, saying he had no interest in us at all.  I suppose it’s some kind of progress. Other than these two incidents, so far as I’m aware, photographers had no issues at all with police behaviour.

A few minutes before the demonstration, which had been entirely peaceful throughout, was due to finish at 2pm, a van load or two of  police dressed in blue overalls and some carrying tasers arrived and began to look at the demonstrators in a very menacing way.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

One masked protester who had been annoying the police photographer was then warned under Section 14 of the 1986 Public Order act and then arrested. The other demonstrators were then warned under the same act that they would also be arrested if they didn’t move across the road to the pen, and eventually decided to go. Once they reached the other side of the road they decided that since they had been demonstrating for over an hour and a half it was time to leave.

More about Calais and this demonstration – and of course more pictures – on My London Diary.

Sex Workers Masked Parade

Friday, July 24th, 2009

© 2009 Peter Marshall

There isn’t a great deal I can say about sex workers from personal experience. I’d suggest than its worth reading the preliminary report of a project, Migrant Workers in the UK Sex Industry from the Economic and Social Research Council of London Metropolitan University which appeared recently.  Of course not all sex workers are migrant workers, but many are, and current government thinking on making laws in this area are very much based on the need to take action against the trafficking of women for sex.

There are nine bullet points in the initial report which says that most migrant sex workers were not forced or trafficked, but take up sex work because other work they can get is very poorly paid. The main problems they face are their stigmatisation as sex workers and the lack of official documentation that opens them to abuse and violence. They report that most of their contacts with clients involve mutual respect and consent.

In Soho, many women work from their own or shared flats, and Westminster Council has been trying to get rid of these. The local community association – the Soho Society – and local people, including the rector of St Anne’s, Soho, have supported the women. Working from a flat is much safer than working on the street and also creates less nuisance.

The parade was in part to thank the people of Soho for their support, but also to oppose the  Policing & Crime Bill currently going through parliament which will criminalise clients and also make it easier for the police to persecute sex workers. It was organised by the ‘Soho Working Girls‘ and the ‘English Collective of Prostitutes‘, who state “We are mothers, daughters, sisters, grannies, aunties struggling to support ourselves and our families, just like other women.”

Those taking part in the parade were masked (although I saw many of them before they put their masks on) but otherwise they seemed very little different to any group of women one might meet on the streets of London, as this statement suggests. Although it’s a story that has attracted a great deal of interest because of the subject matter, in fact there was very little titillating about the event, though the masks and costumes made it fun to watch and photograph.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

You can read more about it and see many more pictures as usual on My London Diary.

A Poet, a Queen, Whores and Artists

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I’d come to Brockwell Park for the annual Lambeth Country Show with Dave; its an event we’ve both photographed in the past, although its more than ten years since I really did much there. And walking briefly through it, neither could summon up much enthusiasm, except for a cup of tea at the café in Brockwell House on the top of the Hill. So, no pics of the Country Show.

It’s a nice house, built in 1811-13 for the wealthy city glass maker John Blades, who was then Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1812–13 and had a good view of most of it from there, although I think the trees have been allowed to grow rather too much since. A public campaign to establish a park in Brixton at first concentrated on the site of Raleigh House on Brixton Hill, but the money raised was then diverted towards the much larger estate of Brockwell Park, which was bought as a Metropolitan Open Space in 1892, largely thanks to the work of Norwood MP Thomas Bristowe, who unfortunately collapsed and died from a heart attack during the opening ceremony.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

We walked down from the house towards some of the gardens. Unfortunately the community garden was closed, but we were able to visit the Old English Walled Garden, converted from the houses kitchen garden by J.J. Sexby, the Chief Officer of Parks of the LCC, who also added lakes, waterfalls and a swimming pool – as well as establishing the first tea rooms in the hall.

It’s hard to imagine, sitting in or walking around the garden that you are in Brixton, hard to think of anything further from the public image of Brixton, and good to see that people were enjoying its peace.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Dave’s lived in the area all his life, and grew up on the Tulse Hill estate we came to next, a typical LCC estate started in 1939, built with an access from the park, solid well-spaced blocks completed after the war. Dave went to the same local boys school, Tulse Hill School, as Ken Livingstone, redeveloped as affordable housing where Jean Charles de Menezes was living in 2005 (the girls school, which overlooked Brockwell Park, was replaced by a luxury gated private development.)

Through the estate we walked along and up to Josephine Avenue, where the annual outdoor Urban Art fair was taking place, London’s largest such event. The late nineteenth century development of this road, formerly a part of Rush Common was governed by Lambeth Manor Inclosure Act of 1806 which prohibited building within 150 ft of the road. Houses on both sides are set back by this distance, with a wide path designed for carriages immediately in front of them and then an area now largely divided into individual gardens between that and the road, with an iron fence. The street side of this is covered with paintings, prints and drawings – and a few photographs – as pitches for the artists taking part in the fair.

These often neglected gardens made the street notorious in the recent past, with kerb crawlers and prostitutes taking advantage of its relative isolation from the houses – and some carrying out their trade alfresco in its bushes. An active residents group has done much to clean up the area – including the organising of the Urban Art fair and more recently, a small community garden adjoining the ‘Poet’s Tree‘.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Local legend that Queen Elizabeth I came up the Rvier Effra by boat to meet with Sir Walter Raleigh here under this ancient oak is almost certainly without any foundation, as the Effra was almost certainly not navigable to this point, although in the centre of Brixton some accounts say it was 6 ft deep.  Henry Hastings, the first Baron Loughborough, who leased the manor of Lambeth Wick got an Act of Parliament to make the Effra navigable from Brixton Causeway to the Thames years later in 1664, but died before he could do so. (It was no consolation to him to get a Junction station some two hundred years later.) And although there was a Raleigh House nearby on Brixton Hill (where Raleigh Gardens is now) there appears to be no provable connection between the man and Brixton. But he certainly was a poet – as well as a courtier, explorer and pirate.

More or less this same text with rather more pictures is on My London Diary.


Friday, July 24th, 2009

Although I’ve photographed a lot of religious events I still sometimes find them a problem. It has nothing to do with the actual beliefs held by the people I’m photographing, but more about feeling that I am intruding on something private.

It’s something I seem to feel more strongly with Christians, and also it is only with Christians that I’ve had people object to being photographed.   So while I can go into a Gurdwara and be told “photograph anything you like“, in some churches I’ve been told I can only take pictures when the worship is over.

So on Saturday I wasn’t quite sure what reaction I would get when I went to photograph the March of Repentance, but in fact I was made welcome by the stewards running the event.  Even so, I felt the need to work with somewhat more reserve than normal when photographing the groups of people praying – they didn’t object, but I just felt a little uncomfortable at times, and ended up taking considerably more at longer focal lengths than normal for me.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

This was with the 24-70mm at its long end, and I took two versions, one focussed on the closer hand and the second with the woman at right sharp. Both actually work quite well, though I prefer this, with the woman slightly unsharp.

Of course, where longer lenses really come into their own is for pictures like this:

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Using the D300 with the Sigma 70-210 gives a an effective 105-315mm, and this was taken from just outside a small ring of people praying, with an equivalent focal length of 270mm.

As always at events, you need to try and think what is going to happen, as well as concentrating on what is actually happening and thinking how to solve the visual problems involved. The guy standing at the front of the march holding a ram’s horn was obviously at some point going to blow it, so I made sure to be there when he did. What I hadn’t expected was that instead of just sounding the Shofar, he was going to blow it into a megaphone. It’s perhaps something that sounds better in USA-speak when that electrical device is called a bullhorn.

© 2009 Peter Marshall

It isn’t the greatest picture I’ve ever taken (and I think I could do a little dodging and burning to improve it ) but I think it records a key moment, and I was surprised I was the only photographer among several there to be in a suitable position to take it.

More about the event and more pictures on My London Diary.

Pig Party

Friday, July 24th, 2009

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

The trough is at the bottom of the steps to the Royal Exchange in London, at the very centre of the City of London. I’m lying down a couple of steps higher and looking through the viewfinder to take a picture of three guys with pig masks with ‘Miss Piggy’ looking on. In the trough is pig swill, or rather a mix of flour and water and scanned copies of fivers with a pig over the Queen on them.

It’s perhaps a more interesting protest than most, organised by Chris Knight and others from the G20 meltdown team to mark the fact that obscene bonuses have returned to the City of London.  The taxpayers put millions into the banks and now the banks are rewarding the guys responsible for losing millions with silly amounts – for some more than the lifetime earnings of ordinary workers for a year’s gambling on the markets.

Photographically there were a couple of problems. Pig swill did fly around rather, and a number of my shots were ruined by  lumps of it on the front glass.  I kept checking and wiping the lenses, but soon decided to put the Sigma 12-24mm away. I’ve just collected it a couple of days ago from a repair at Fixation (my preferred repair firm, located in Vauxhall) when they replaced the front element that had got damaged over several years of abuse.

The Sigma 12-24mm is a great lens. It isn’t particularly small or light, but despite being so wide has relatively little distortion, at least when used on DX cameras like the Nikon D300. Straight lines stay pretty well straight and unless you are doing architectural work really never need correction. It works well on autofocus, which isn’t always the case for extreme wide-angles, and I’ve come to rely on it for a lot of my work.

But I bought it around five years ago, soon after it first came out, and the one problem with the design is that the bulbous front element made it impossible to fit a protective UV filter.  Over the years that front element got more and more marks and little scratches, and eventually I started to find that pictures taken into the light showed excessive flair.

I asked the guy at Sigma, and he said, no problem – we can replace the front element, so I took it into Fixation. They did the job, though it took over a month for Sigma actually to supply them with the necessary glass, and I collected a shiny as-new lens a couple of weeks ago.

One of the reasons I bought the Sigma rather than the Nikon 12-24 was that it can cover the full 24x36mm frame. Although five years ago Nikon was still saying it would never produce a ‘full-frame’ camera I wasn’t convinced. Although technically it probably wasn’t necessary, I thought that perhaps marketing pressure would push them into it – and I turned out to be right.

So I can either use the 12-24 on the D700 – where 12mm is really very very wide, or use it on my D300 where it works as an 18-36mm equivalent, a great focal length range and also even better quality as it’s using just the central part of the lens.

Sigma build quality on the EX lenses seems to me to be considerably better than that of the Nikon lenses I’ve used – mainly from the cheaper range. This and the 24-70 HSM – with which the picture above was taken, the 12-24 having been stowed away safely in my bag – feel really solid. The 12-24mm has a built-in fixed petal lens hood, but the 24-70 is removable, but considerably sturdier than the hood on my Nikon 18-200, which seems nasty cheap plastic.

The picture needed a little fill-flash, supplied by a Nikon SB800, quite simply the best flash I’ve ever used, though not quite up to hard usage. I’d only just collected that from Fixation also, having had to have a new flash tube fitted. Labour cost around three times the price of the part, but I’m told that Nikon charge considerably more for the job.

More about the event and more pictures on My London Diary as usual.

Photo-Op Impossible

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

I’m not a fan of ‘photo-ops’, arranged scenes set up for the press to take photos. Of course in a sense almost all the events and protests I photograph are arranged, and often very much with the possibility of press coverage in mind, though sometimes – for example too often with Stop the War events – you find the stewards do their best to frustrate photographers trying to get good pictures. So much so that I remember one time where we all sat down with our cameras on the tarmac in front of a march going down Park Lane.

But photo-ops are well meaning attempts to present what the organisers think will make a good picture.  Usually the problem is that they are just boring, and also many of us like to have a little more chaos and show things how they are.  Of course some of the press photographers are very much to blame – they like having things made easy for them.

There are photographers working for newspapers who like to set everything up. My heart sinks when one such decides to take charge of an event and to “set things up so we can get some good pictures” and procedes to get in the way of all of us and produce some massive cliche.  Of course sometimes you can still continue to take pictures, ignoring their concept and perhaps concentrating on smaller parts of the subject. He may want a wooden image of all 27 bishops present but you can still photograph the one who  is telling his neighbour a risque joke – and the reaction it causes – even bishops don’t respond too well to herding.

Another hate of mine is “Lets all move back boys, and we can all get a good picture”, usually coming from someone who saw a picture opportunity too late to get there. Or perhaps just can’t be bothered to change to a wide-angle lens. It’s always said when if anything I’d like to get in closer. You can be too close to people when photographing them – and when the only possible lens to use is a fisheye you probably are, though I do like my full-frame (on the D300) fisheye.

Yesterday,  a demonstration outside the Ministry of Energy & Climate Change  (from both title and policies its hard to tell whether they are for or against it) came one of those almost impossible to photograph ideas, with protesters getting down on the roadway to try to spell out the words


with their bodies. It was a scene that demanded to be photographed from around 100 ft above, and my feet were firmly on earth.

[Vestas Blades UK  are the only UK manufacturers of wind turbine blades whose owners want to move production to the USA to take advantage of government funding available there – no connection with matches or curries.]

They made quite a wide target, and even with a 12mm ultrawide on the D300 I had to stand well back to get the whole message in.  Although it was obviously hopeless I took a few frames, though with a less wide lens to minimise distortion.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Then I switched to the 10.5mm fisheye and moved in close to the people on the ground. With its 180 degree diagonal view (and 147 degrees horizontal) getting everyone in wasn’t a problem. I got as high as I possibly could by a ‘Hail Mary’, holding the camera at arms length above my head and pointing it down towards them. It still wasn’t high enough, but the best I could do. I could perhaps have gone in a little closer, but I knew that I might need plenty of subject matter around the central scene for the later work.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Then at home it was time for Photoshop, and some perspective correction and cropping and more. I spent far too long trying out various approaches that gave results like this.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Not a great result, but I think the best I could do in the situation.

More about the actual event on My London Diary shortly.

Julius Shulman 1910-2009

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Julius Shulman, born in 1910 in Brooklyn, New York, who became America’s best known architectural photographer, largely for his pictures of the new modern architecture in California, died on 15 July aged 98. You can read obituaries in The Guardian and most other newspapers from around the world.

Shulman’s Russian parents had met in their teens when both came to New York from Russia, and soon after his birth the family moved to rural Connecticut where his father farmed on around a hundred acres, several miles from the nearest village. It was a close to nature subsistence upbringing, living on an isolated farm with a single farmhand.

In 1990 Shulman recorded an interview with Taina Rikala De Noreiga for the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art – and much of what I know about his life comes from this, which was a major source when I first wrote about him in 2001 for About Photography. Here he says that the farm  “was the beginning of my association with Nature” which remained important throughout his life.

When he was ten the family moved west to California, and his parent ran a dry goods store in Los Angeles, continued by his mother after his father died in 1923. Shulman joined the boy scouts and went hiking and camping and went to a high school that – very unusually for the time – included photography as one of its classes.

He started taking pictures for the class when he was 17, using the family  ‘Eastman Box Camera’, but although his work was good, didn’t consider it as a career.  He had decided to go to university and study electrical engineering, and took a year out before starting at UCLA in 1929 to earn some money and buy his first car, as well as spending as much time as possible in the outdoors.

He soon dropped out of the college course, but continued to hang out around the campus. He was given a Vest Pocket Kodak as a birthday present and began to use it to take pictures on his hikes. When a friend who was a student at Berkeley suggested he move there, he took the camera and began to make a few dollars taking portraits of students there and selling pictures of the older campus buildings through the campus shop.

In 1936 he went back to Los Angeles, where his sister ran a drug store close to architect Richard Neutra’s office. A new young draughtsman who joined Neutra took the spare room in his sister’s house and the two young men became friends. One Sunday afternoon he took Shulman to look around a house Neutra had designed that was almost finished, and Shulman took half a dozen pictures.

His new friend took some 8x10s of these pictures to show his boss who liked them and asked to meet the photographer – and on 5 March 1936 when Netra bought these prints, Shulman’s career as an architectural photographer was launched. Neutra introduced him to the other architects he knew, including Raphael Soriano, Rudolf Schindler and Gregory Ain, and commissioned him to photograph his own new buildings.

In 1937, Shulman was earning enough to buy a view camera, and he also got married.; at that time photography was a fairly easy way to earn a living and left him plenty of time to go walking and camping. The start of the war brought new commissions as new factories were built, but then his career was interrupted when he had to join the army. He worked for two years as a medical photographer on a private’s pay.

His wife kept the business going during his service, getting prints  made and selling these, particularly to the architecture collection of the Museum of Modern Art. The young architects whose work he had recorded were becoming famous, and pictures were in demand.

Shulman’s successful career as an architectural photographer resumed in the post-war years. His pictures very much shared a modernist aesthetic with those architects whose work he famously photographed, and his ‘retirement’ in 1987 was probably as much a matter of changing styles of architecture which he felt little interest in as anything else.

He did in fact continue to take photographs, but was able to choose just the best of the new buildings as his subjects, including Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and Richard Meier’s Getty Center in  Los Angeles. He was the only photographer to be granted  honorary lifetime membership by the American Institute of Architects.

Shulman’s best known image is picture of Pierre Koenig‘s Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, California. made at night in 1960. In it two women are suspended in a glass and steel box apparently floating over the night-time grid of the lights of Hollywood below. It was created on a single sheet of film, combining a long time exposure with a second short flash lit exposure for the interior, and you can read exactly how it was done in a fascinating Taschen feature, The Making of an Icon, which reunited the six people involved in the shot in 2001.

Also worth looking at are L A Obscura, the web site of a 1998 exhibition of his photography at the University of Southern California, and a feature for the 2005/6 show at the Getty. You can also watch a short trailer for the film ‘Visual Acoustics, The Modernism of Julius Shulman‘ which includes a little footage of the man himself.

I’m not sure that Shulman was “the greatest architectural photographer of all time“, but he was certainly a very good one, and the best-known of American architectural photographers of the 20th century.

Wikimedia, Gage and Orphan Works

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Whenever two or three photographers are gathered together issues of copyright are seldom far away, and increasingly they hit the news too.

Almost all the pictures on this site are by me. When I wrote and blogged for a commercial site ( for eight years I was required to have explicit written consent for any images used other than those that were unequivocally in the public domain, and its a policy that I’ve stuck to pretty rigidly here. After all, I don’t like others taking my images in vain.

The strength of the Internet is very much in how it links sites together, and takes users on some fascinating journeys. If I want readers to see an image by another photographer, I’d generally prefer to take them to that photographers website, where as well as the image I refer them to they may find other things to interest them. A good link is much more than an image.

Wikimedia and the NPG

Three things about copyright have come to my attention recently. The first hit the national news when the English National Portrait Gallery (NPG) threatened Wikipedia over the uses of images from its collection.

The pictures in the collection are clearly out of copyright, being paintings of considerable age. The dispute is over whether the NPG can claim copyright in its reproductions of these images.

Despite the fact that it takes skill and considerable expense to make accurate photographic reproductios of paintings, it would seem to me to be something that was clearly and deliberately outside the traditional definition of copyright. This clearly stated that it must involve articles of artistic intent rather than those that were a matter of mechanical reproduction.

So far as I’m aware, British courts have never been asked to rule on this specific matter, and although at least one leading UK copyright lawyer has given his opinion that such works are copyright, I’ve heard others express a differing view. In the US, the case of Bridgeman v. Corel gave a clear decision that such works were in the public domain, but still many museums continue to claim copyright.

Phineas Gage

A similar case exists over the privately owned daguerreotype of Phineas P Gage 1823-1860 in the Wilgus collection. I can’t get too worked up over it  –  it isn’t a great example of the daguerreotype art although Gage is mildly interesting – an early victim of an industrial accident, he was a railway builder who had his head pierced through by an iron rod he was using to pack gunpowder which exploded prematurely. Although the rod went in his left cheek and out through the top of his head, he survived for a further 11 years. The photo shows him holding the large rod and with a missing eye.

The dispute here was largely that the image was originally placed on the web site with a visible watermark across Gage. Following a rather furious Internet spat, the owners have re-posted it with the watermark across the case – possibly more interesting than the actual portrait!

Private Ownership and Public Institutions

Both these cases are essentially not so much about copyright as about the business interests of the owners of the original in supplying high res images for reproduction. Owners of public domain images are in general under no obligation to put them on the web and have every right to charge a fee for supplying files, and to impose a suitable licence on their use.

A note on the Gage page states: “High resolution photographs without a watermark are available for reproduction. Contact us for information on usage fees. For several years we have had an informal business supplying images in our collection to publishers, film, and television producers for a modest fee. We often grant permission for educational and non-profit usage, asking only for a credit line and, perhaps, a copy of the publication if it interests us.” I find it hard to find fault with this.

For the National Portrait Gallery, the situation is I think different. It is a publicly funded body, and it’s my and others taxes that have paid for these images and indeed for their reproduction. The pictures belong to us and it is a central part of the NPG’s remit to make them available as widely as possible. Hard to see a better way to meet its obligations than by allowing Google to use them.

The NPG appears to have a poor reputation over its attitude to reproduction of works in the collection. In the comments on the  Wikimedia blog you can read this from someone working for a UK publisher:
I’d just like to say that the National Portrait Gallery is one of the worst offenders in the world in its digital practices. The terms and conditions (quite apart from the cost) associated with getting permission to use one of their images – itself a pretty offensive idea, I know – are so bad that you can’t really afford to do business with them.

This is particularly bad because the NPG often holds the only good image of a historical figure. I’m publishing the only book in some decades about a minor 18th-century writer, for instance, whom the NPG owns the only contemporary painting of. It’s the obvious choice for a cover image. But we can’t afford the money or the legal obstacles, so it’s not on our cover. Instead we’re using an obscure etching of a sketch made towards the exact same painting.

If I had to name one museum or gallery in the UK as the chief villain in this all-too-common story, the NPG would be the one.”

It does seem likely that a compromise will be reached in this case also; an NPG spokeswoman is reported by the BBC to have been said that they would be willing to supply medium resolution images of its public domain works to Wikipedia.

Orphan Works

The third thing that I read a month or two ago was a post by Dan Heller on the “odds between the myth and reality of the OWA” (Orphan Works Act.)

What I think this makes clear is that the problem that photographers – or at least 99% of photographers – have is not the likely consequences of the OWA, but with US Copyright Law as it has been since 1976 (at least.) This essentially went against the terms of the Berne Copyright Convention in requiring registration of works at the US Copyright Office for effective copyright protection.

As Heller states, “99% of photographers don’t register their works. So, for them, the OWA is inconsequential.

He goes further to argue that for the 1% who do register the OWA is “a new sales opportunity, one that cannot be compared to any other: the searchable database might allow users to find your works.”

This post in May was Heller’s first in association with PicScout, a partnership that didn’t long survive the posting.  The PicScout bot, used by Getty Images, Corbis and others to discover unauthorised image usage, has aroused some strong feelings on the Internet, for example being described by William Faulkner  as “potentially criminal and certainly unethical.” Faulkner points out – among other things – that it’s behaviour is expressly forbidden in the terms of usage of Getty Images’ own web site.

Emergency Alternative Parliament

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I’ve photographed demonstrations organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change for around ten years, at first of course on film and now on digital. Often they’ve had some nice visual touches that make life easy for photographers – one of the earlier occasions I remember involved a rather attractive female ‘tiger’ being pushed through London on a bed, which was fine until the wheels fell off!

© 2009 Peter Marshall.
Tamsin, banner, greenhouse and Parliament. And a bus

But one thing that’s made life difficult for us in recent years is their trademark globe in a greenhouse. I’ve yet to find a sensible way to really use it in any photograph over the years, though it was less of a problem than usual.  It even sort of fits quite nicely into a few pictures, with the Houses of Parliament behind.

The demonstration was in Old Palace Yard, tucked in behind Westminster Abbey facing Parliament. It’s just a little frustrating that it’s almost impossible to see ‘Big Ben’ (or rather its clocktower)  from there, although I did manage to get the odd picture where it peeps around an edge.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.
Big Ben can just be glimpsed from Old Palace Yard

But at least there were a few things to add visual interest, not least the ‘Green Queen’ who looked suspiciously like a mermaid I’ve often photographed. Tamsin Omand with her ‘Deeds Not Words’ sash and the ‘Speaker’ also added a little, although considerably less once he lost his wig. It’s apparently the most daring constitutional change our current government has yet made.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Of course people are interesting, but it has to be said some more so than others, and trying to produce varied images from a succession of speakers can be hard. Some give photographers a tough time, keeping their eyes closed or looking down. You can see what I made of them – and other pictures from the event on My London Diary, as well as something about the purpose of the event. The banner in the second picture has a pretty good précis!

The lighting was interesting at times, with sunshine and showers, though unfortunately no rainbow in the right place (or anywhere else.) The rain was a bit a a nuisance, but fortunately all three lenses I was using have lens hoods that help a little, and the occasional wipe with a microfibre cloth kept cameras and filter free of drops.

Lensculture Audio

Monday, July 20th, 2009

I’m not generally a huge fan of interviews with photographers which too often fail to illuminate their work, particularly if they are in glossy magazines and supplements. Too often interviewers fail to ask the right questions, and sometimes photographers seem to have little idea of the answers.

But over the years I’ve listened to a number of Jim Casper’s audio conversations on Lensculture with interest, and often linked to them from posts here and elsewhere. So it’s good to have a whole collection of them linked from a single page there, each with a small photograph and a transcript of an excerpt from the audio.

I’m not sure whether it’s that Jim asks the right questions or that he chooses the right photographers – but every one I’ve listened to so far is worth a listen. Or perhaps there are conversations he records that don’t make it to the site.

What I do think  is missing is an index. At the moment there are (I think) 38 photographers and it’s very easy to miss some as you scroll down the very long page, three to a row. Its a problem that can only get worse as Jim talks to more people and adds them to the page.