Archive for September, 2010

A Busy Day (Part 1)

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Last Saturday I had a busy day in London, starting outside the French Embassy:

© 2010, Peter Marshall

I wasn’t sure how welcome male photographers would be at an all-women demonstration, but although one or two women turned away or hid behind their placards when they saw I was taking their pictures there were no problems.

More pictures of this demonstration by Hizb ut-Tahrir against the French decision to make wearing full-face masks on the street an offence – and some of my thoughts about it –  on My London Diary.

As I left I walked back and got on a bus to get another view of the protest, and found myself stuck in a traffic jam. Unfortunately having moved very slowly until reaching the protest, the bus then moved past it fairly rapidly, giving me little chance to take pictures – and none were worth using. It didn’t help that half of the protest was taking place below some scaffolding. Of course the bus got stuck in traffic again before the next stop, but fortunately the driver let me off through the front door and I hurried along to take the tube to Covent Garden. I like travelling by bus – particularly on double deckers where you get such a good view from the top deck – but the slightest problem can lead to long hold ups, and in central London at least the tube is often much quicker and generally more reliable.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Outside the Ahava shop on Monmouth St, close to Seven Dails, there were two demonstrations taking place. Ahava sells beauty products produced by Israeli settlers in the illegally occupied West Bank. Supporters of the Palestinian cause  call for the government to stop the illegal trade and for people to boycott the shop, while the Zionist Federation and the right wing English Defence League were opposing the boycott – and handing out leaflets which compared those calling for a boycott to the Nazis.

Although the boycott demonstration was scheduled to take place from 12-2pm, things were pretty quiet when I was there shortly before 2pm  and it apparently only really got going around an hour after I had left.  More pictures.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

A short walk from Covent Garden took me past Aldwych station, which had reopened for a special event as a part of the celebrations of the Blitz, 70 years ago. There were tours (they sold out rapidly) inside the station, where many sheltered from the bombing, and an old London bus parked outside, with a Picture Post advert on its front. Aldwych, a short branch down from Holborn on the Piccadilly line closed as a station years ago, but was kept for staff training and to hire for film use. I took a few pictures inside on a visit there back in 2002. But what really caught my eye was the advert on the front of the bus for ‘Picture Post’, showing two large eyes. Getty Images, now the owners of the Hulton picture collection, organised  an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of its demise in 2007, and you can see some of the images from it on the ‘Time’ site.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

The ‘Life 4 A Life‘ march calling for increasing sentences for murder was gathering at Temple,  but one of the groups taking part asked to to go with them and photograph them in front of the Royal Courts of Justice, a short walk away.

Most of those taking part were the families and friends of murder victims, and it was impossible not to feel for their grief. And there were certainly some cases where it seemed that the legal system had failed – as with Danny Barber whose friends are in the picture above.

But in general harsher sentences would not help at all, and have no deterrent effect. We already have a very high prison population and clearly the system isn’t working properly, but rather than keep digging we need to change direction and find ways that work. We need to change the whole way that we police communities – and it isn’t something that can be left to the police. It calls for a cultural shift involving the mass media as well as attitudes throughout society – perhaps something that the ‘Big Society’ should really be about. More pictures

To be continued shortly in Part 2.

A Country Walk

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

And now for something completely different. Landscape. That green stuff you find away from cities. Though as you’ll see from what I’ve written on My London Diary, I mainly went for the beer.

It was really a day out with a few members of my family, all except my wife older than me, so we don’t walk very far, unlike the kind of route marches I sometimes get dragged on with my wife and one or two of my sons. On those I keep finding myself trotting behind them trying hard to keep up, especially after stopping to take a photograph.

Anyway, I’ve put up a few pictures on My London Diary.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

As you can see it wasn’t the real country but more a rather diluted suburbia. Many people who live here will commute to the city, perhaps catching a train from Bourne End or driving along the M4. At least there are a few browns among the greens.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

And also some greys. I find it sad that horses – which when my father was young were a major form of power and transport – are now just playthings for the rich.

Eventually we reached our goal:

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Which was actually where we started from. I couldn’t resist making that hand look even more flesh-like than the original. Nor a pint or two of beer, though we sat inside and I had some rather nice (but overpriced) sausages and mash and ate the cucumber and chips the others didn’t want from their salads.  It had been rather a nice morning, but I really wanted to get back to work.

UK Customs

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I won’t comment on the Brighton show by seven-year-old Carmen Soth (with a little help from her dad, Alec) , because I’ve not seen it. Part of the Brighton Photo Biennial, (BPB) it goes  on show at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery from Oct 2nd – Nov 14th 2010 and  you can read rather more about it in The Guardian. I first heard about it on Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom blog, where you can see Carmen’s shooting list.

Soth came to the UK around the end of March this year with his family to work on a commission for Brighton, but on arrival was told by an immigration official that as he didn’t have a work visa he could not do so. The official threatened him with immediate deportation, but finally let him stay for a holiday with his family, warning him that if he took any pictures he could get two years in jail.

So he went around with Carmen, who had his digital camera and took the pictures with a little help and advice from Dad. But I guess if she comes back to the UK she’ll be facing those two years banged up in Holloway.

It’s a story that illustrates the mess we are in over immigration, where government and opposition have for years been engaging in a bidding war to see who can look toughest for the right wing press.  But it also threatens the right of all journalists to report on events in other countries –  or at least on those from other countries to report on what is happening in the UK.

Frankly I’m amazed that neither those running the BPB nor Magnum of which Soth is a member had the right connections to get an incandescent Tessa Jowell on the line from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and a few heads bashed together at the UK Border Agency, the decision reversed and the official concerned given a rather stiff reprimand.

Practically we now seem to be one of those countries for which you need a second passport that does not mention your profession as a journalist or photographer and which you need to enter as a tourist in order to carry out your job.

Actually I think the show may well be worth a visit. Years ago I gave my son, then around the same age, a cheap plastic ‘Russian’ camera when he would sometimes accompany me taking pictures. I think he produced some more interesting results then than he sometimes does now.

I wrote an article to go with some of his pictures and submitted it to the Amateur Photographer, with some silly title like ‘Easy, Peasy, Shutter Squeezy‘. It was the only piece I sent them that they didn’t publish, the editor telling me that they felt their readers might feel insulted by seeing that a seven-year-old could do better than them.

Agence France Presse v Daniel Morel

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Like many photographers I have a very clear view about the unauthorised use by AFP of Daniel Morel‘s images from Haiti.

Pure and simple theft.

It’s hard to see that AFP have any legal leg to stand on, having taken Morel’s images without permission from Twitpic and distributed them, in clear defiance of the copyright terms. The only way for them – and others who have used these images without permission – to restore any credibility with photographers is for them to issue a fulsome apology and pay up. With any luck the Southern District Court in New York will come to much the same conclusion before too long.

You can read more about the case in a summary in the BJP 1854 blog which also discusses the more than curious interventions of Visa Pour l’Image photojournalism festival founder Jean-François Leroy, which it would be over-polite to call total nonsense.

You can read more about that on Duckrabbit, which has made a sensible response to his comments and has printed his reply to that.

Leroy argues that his response is similar to that of an insurance company. Perhaps so, but if so it is the kind of insurance company that goes to incredible lengths to find something in the small print that enables  it to wriggle out of its clear moral responsibilities.

It’s hard to see why a previously well-respected  figure like Leroy should take the stand that he has, supporting what seems a very clear breach of the law, and certainly actions which prejudice the rights of photographers and their ability to properly recompensed for their efforts.

Theft is theft. Really all there is to this case.

Getty Images became a sponsor of Visa Pour l’Image in 2008.  Getty is one of the few companies that have sided with AFP in refusing to compensate Morel.  Many are making the connection between Leroy’s position and the interests of his sponsor, and he needs to do something positive in the interests of the future of the festival – even if it might mean losing sponsorship.

Surely it’s time for Leroy too to throw up his hands and say sorry, I hadn’t really understood what the case was about, and I got it wrong.  If not before, I hope the court’s decision will be clear and will persuade him to do so.

Apprentice Boys in London

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I’ve photographed various Protestant marches London over the years including the Apprentice Boys of Derry London Campsie Branch Club Annual Parade which takes place in late September. This year it just happened to coincide with the Pope’s visit, and to allow the protest against that to have a rally in Whitehall, the Apprentice Boys had to make an early start.

As with many events, the most interesting time is usually before they start, when people are usually in more interesting groups and also you can get closer to them and work from wherever you need to without getting in the way.

© 2006 Peter Marshall

So this picture was taken just as they were getting ready to move off in 2006, and I’m standing right in the middle of two lines of men on the street.  And in 2008 I made a whole series of pictures outside the pub where some of them were before the march, as well as others on the opposite side of the street.

© 2008 Peter Marshall

That year I did at one point find myself being pushed away by a very large man with dark glasses suggesting it would be very unhealthy for me to keep taking pictures. But I think I was able to convince him that I wasn’t working for a communist newspaper and that he had mistaken me for someone else – and I didn’t point out the person standing just a few feet away who did fit the bill. But generally I’ve got a more positive reception and often received some appreciative comments from people who’ve seen the pictures on My London Diary.

This year, when I got to the meeting point half an hour or so before the march had been timed to depart there was no sign of anyone. I wondered if I had got the date wrong, but decided I hadn’t.  I got on the tube and went to Westminster station as I knew they were heading for the Cenotaph, and as I came out of the station there were some barriers along the centre of the road so I knew that a march was coming.  It’s hard to run along the streets that are full of randomly moving tourists, but I did my best and got to the Cenotaph just as the laying of wreaths was beginning.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

I was held up slightly by one police officer who insisted I got back on the pavement as I came up Whitehall towards the Cenotaph. It seemed entirely pointless, but I didn’t have time to argue, so went across and then back into the middle of the road a few yards further on to take pictures.

As I got towards the back of the marchers taking a rest on Whitehall I was greeted by one of them with “We wondered where you were!”

I took a few more pictures as they moved off and past Big Ben, but it was hard to get what I wanted, and the scaffolding covering much of side of the Houses of Parliament didn’t help.

More pictures from this year on My London Diary. There are a few I like  but I think 2009 and 2008  were rather better.

Pope Protest

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I was surprised that over 10,000 people turned out in London on 18 September to protest against the state visit by Pope Benedict. It was obviously a pleasant surprise for the organisers too, and too much for the police to take in. They were reported as saying at a briefing before the event that they expected 2,000 and quite a few people published that as the actual turnout.  Too many reports and comments in the press come from people who aren’t actually present at the events they are reporting on.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Photographers have to be there to take pictures. Even when newspapers use stills taken from film or TV coverage, the guys who made those have to be there. To photograph events you have to be in the thick of it, while it’s not unknown for writers to work from a nearby cafe or hotel room.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

But many of the events I photograph are good places to be, where people are enjoying themselves, having some fun together while also making a serious point. Quite a few times there were placards that made me laugh, and some were a reminder that humour can be a powerful weapon.

Several of the speakers at the rally had everyone laughing too, though others were starkly serious. And at times I remembered that the women who were speaking about being abused as children were the ones who had managed to survive and flourish despite what they had suffered, and that there were others whose lives are still in a mess many years afterwards.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Most of the speakers were impressive. Richard Dawkins, who so often seems to comes over as a simplistic and blinkered atheist in radio interviews seemed far more impressive when allowed to develop his thoughts without constant questioning an interruption.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Barbara Blaine spoke powerfully in front of a placard with a picture  of her as a young girl in her white first communion dress with the message ‘Raped at Age 8’.

You can read my account of the march and also see my set of pictures on My London Diary as always.

As often, when I was photographing the protesters before the march,the light was against me, as they were lining up with the sun behind them, though it was usually possible either to keep it out of frame by choice of angle, or to hide it behind a person or placard, but it made fill flash more or less essential. I’d probably have been using it anyway, usually a stop or more down so it has only a slight effect, but does ensure that people notice me. The first frame I take may often catch them unaware (and sometimes I turn the flash off to take several that way) but generally the flash catches their attention.

I was photographing a group of demonstrators protesting against child abuse by Catholic priests, among them a young woman with a placard ‘Where is the Love’ high above her head. I took several frames of the group, then one of another woman in the group with a placard ‘Your Taxes Paying For His Bigotry’ and then moved towards her, trying to work out if I could make a picture with her head and her placard a couple of feet above. Instead I got this picture:

© 2010, Peter Marshall

She pulled down her top more or less immediately but a had time to take a couple of frames before we both more or less collapsed in giggles. I had no time to adjust the camera settings, so although she was very much exposed, the picture was a little underexposed thanks to the light pouring in from the bright sky.

What was that about?” her friend asked and she wasn’t entirely sure, but she had intended it as a gesture of liberation against the sexual repression of the Pope and the Catholic Church.

I took a few more pictures of the group, and it was one of those later images that I actually used with my story that evening on Demotix, because I felt its message was clearer. Someone said to me later in the day when I told them the story, it would have been great had I been working for ‘The Sun’. But the bare flesh involved here wasn’t the kind of  empty and gratuitous nudity which they and the Daily Star parade, but a political gesture.

Congratulations Ed!

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

I didn’t have a vote in the UK Labour leadership election, despite currently being a member of two trade unions. I’ve never bothered to re-join the party after they threw all of us Labour students out in the sixties (when I suspect the main attraction for me was getting to know Barbara Castle) and I didn’t vote Labour at the last election.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Ed Miliband meets his critics

In fact I don’t really think it’s sensible to have politicians at all, not in the way that we do – career politicians like all of the current party leaders and I think all of the candidates for the Labour post. I’m not quite sure how my ideal system would work, but it would certainly involve politicians having had lengthy experience of working in the world before being allowed to run the system.

But over the years I’ve been photographing events I’ve met and photographed quite a few politicians, and there are some I’ve admired and others I certainly wouldn’t trust to run a scout troop let alone a country.

Ed Miliband is one who surprised me last year when he came out from his ministry and argued seriously with protesters outside over the government’s energy policy and the choices he had to make. I wrote about it at the time both here on >Re:PHOTO and with more pictures on My London Diary.

I’ve photographed many protests outside government and company offices over the years, and this is the only occasion I can remember where the guy in charge has actually come out, invited questions, listened to them carefully and tried to answer as best he could, giving them around a quarter of an hour of his time, rather obviously to the dismay of his staff.

I didn’t agree with much of what he said, and he didn’t have real answers to many of the problems, but his attitude impressed me. Had I had a vote, he would have been my first choice.

Agrofuels Protest

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

I’m sorry not to be at Portland today, for the national protest organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC)  calling for a stop to Government subsidies for Agrofuels and deforestation.  The protest is at the proposed site of a new palm-oil burning, agrofuel power station at Portland in Dorset.

Part of the reason for my not being there is simply the cost of transport, as living on the edge of London it wasn’t really feasible to join the coach organised from central London, and going to Weymouth (the nearest station) by train from here seems to be very expensive.  But also I’ve got other problems at the moment, as well as there being other events I’d like to cover.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

But although I couldn’t make it to Portland, I did cover the issues in a central London protest by  CACC last week, when they delivered two boxes of postcards to Energy minister Chris Huhne at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) in Whitehall.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Chris Huhne himself didn’t appear, though his face mounted on a stick appears in some of my pictures, but there were a few protesters with placards, and arriving at the end of the lunch-time photo-call, a woman in an orang-utan suit.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

As well as the lunchtime event, there was also a similar early evening demonstration again outside the DECC with a few speeches, and then later a rather larger meeting with more speakers elsewhere which I didn’t stay in London  for.

There were no great problems in taking the photographs, though the lighting was rather uneven, and I think almost everything needed fill flash. I worked the entire press call using the 16-35mm, though at the later rally I needed a longer lens for the speakers and a little light rain didn’t help.

This isn’t as yet a subject the media have found any interest in, and although a press release had gone to all the usual papers and agencies, I was the only photographer to turn up. My story appeared later in the day on Demotix, but wasn’t picked up elsewhere. Even on Demotix, with my usual posts on Facebook and Twitter, the story hasn’t generated a great deal of interests, having only been read so far by around a tenth of the audience who will see this post today. More pictures and text on ‘My London Dairy‘ shortly.

But the article – and this one – is all a part of a long, slow process of building up awareness of the issues.  I had to ask to be reminded about ROCs (Renewable Obligations Certificates) which lie behind these subsidies for unacceptable forms of energy production – as well as promoting proper renewable solutions. The ‘Deforestation Certificate‘ shown in some of the pictures perhaps makes things clearer, and other placards drove home the basic message:

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Agrofuels drive deforestation drives Climate Change.

As I said to the organisers, to get the media interested needs some kind of stunt (or involving celebrities) and perhaps today’s events at Portland will do something to make it more visible. Just being a vital issue that could seriously challenge our future isn’t enough to make any issue “news.”

Autumn Again

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I looked at the weather this morning and was glad that I wasn’t celebrating the Autumn Equinox, as the forecast wasn’t good and it was raining steadily.  But more importantly I had to be a little over 20 miles away, waiting at home for a new gas water heater to be delivered, and it arrived more or less at the time of the annual celebration by The Druid Order at midday on Primrose Hill, while the rain was still falling here. I hope the Druids were luckier.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Autumn Equinox, Sept 22 2009, Primrose Hill

Last year when I took this picture it was a fine day, and there were white clouds in the sky which help to even out the lighting, as well as giving the occasional patches of shade.

© 2009 Peter Marshall

The weather was good too when I photographed the event in 2007, and perhaps made a better job of it.

It isn’t a difficult event to photograph, though it helps to have some idea of what is going on – as with most things. I’ve  photographed The Druid Order a few times and a number of them have liked the pictures which helps, but like all such events you have to show a proper respect.

Although at times I may seem to be on the inside in these pictures I always respect the circle of druids and work from outside using a long lens when necessary. The Nikon 18-200mm (on DX) was very versatile for working here, with the second most useful lens probably being the 10.5 mm semi-fisheye used for the middle picture above.

Nikon do at last seem to be realising that it isn’t enough to produce cameras and bringing out some new lenses, particularly new lenses for the FX format – the 16-35mm and the newly announced  24-120mm f/4G ED VR, 28-300mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR, 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G ED VR, 35mm f/1.4G, 85mm F/1.4G and 200mm f/2G ED VR II. These are lenses that should have been available when Nikon launched back to full frame format, and I think may have come too late.

The big news at Photokina this year came from Fuji, with their sort of range-finder Fuji X100 expected to be available in March 2011 for around $1000. Many of us are already drooling over what looks like a replacement for the beloved Konica Hexar F, and also excited by the thought of an interchangeable lens model to come after this.  But whether or not this emerges, the development by other manufacturers of Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the Panasonic DMC-GH2 is making many of us wonder if we can reduce the load on our shoulders.

When Nikon went digital it said that the DX format could give photographers all they needed, and they were probably right, although marketing and competition meant it was inevitable that they follow Canon along the “full frame” route. But both now may be left behind by the new generation of smaller electronic viewfinder cameras, leaving FX and DX DSLRs looking like those expensive dinosaurs  still emerging as ‘medium format’ digital cameras.  Of course they have their uses, just as 8×10 film cameras do, although most of the things they are used for could be done just as well by smaller lighter and cheaper cameras. Of course these just would not impress clients anything like as much.

Al-Quds Day March

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I’ve photographed the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day march for several years, certainly since 2006, and although the march itself has remained basically the same, it has become much more controversial, with various groups now demonstrating against it.  Al-Quds Day was started by Ayatollah Khomeini soon after he seized power in Iran in 1989, and is organised by the ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission‘, seen by many as financed by and representing the views of the Iranian theocracy.

Of course other groups and individuals are involved in the march, not just the IHRC – and although that apparently receives funding from the Iranian government it does at times seem to produce valuable reports. Its an event that supports the Palestinian cause and I think it would be better if a wider range of organisations adopted it and joined in  – as do for example the Neturei Karta ultra-orthodox Jews.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Jewish woman stops to argue with  Neturei Karta Jews

Sometimes its hard not to see stereotypes – and rather fun to do so.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Prayers before the march

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Neturei Karta leader

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Recitation from the Qur’an at the start of the rally outside the US embassy

But I do try to take something a little different, and was pleased with a few of the images that I made. You can see more of them on My London Diary.

But for most of the photographers present, the main story was not the march itself, but the opposition to it by the English Defence League. Here again I tried to tell a slightly different story, though it wasn’t easy as you can see in my next post.