Archive for December, 2010

UK Uncut Pay Day

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Saturday December 18th is ‘Pay Day‘, UK Uncut‘s second day of demonstrations around the country against tax dodgers, once again targeting Vodafone and Sir Philip Green, on one of the busiest shopping days, just a week before Christmas.

I’m at a meeting and then travelling across the country (snow allowing) and so won’t be photographing this event, but I have just put more pictures from their first day of action in Oxford St on December 4 on to My London Diary.

We had snow then too, and my train took an extra 25 minutes to get in to London and although I ran up and down the escalators on the Underground I still was not there in time to get inside Topshop for the start of the protest (though since I was carrying a camera bag the security there would probably have ejected me in any case.)

This was a protest that caught the attention of the media, and as well as a crowd of press and freelance photographers, there were also many others there with cameras, crowding around the door and the line of security men and police across it.

I’m not particularly tall either, which doesn’t help when you are in a crowd. The protesters were at the back of the store and I couldn’t get a good view of them. There were a lot of shoppers still inside the store at that point taking pictures of what was happening on their phones and compact cameras, and they were better placed than us.

Later it was still a huge crush whenever there was anything happening in the doorway of the shop or even on the pavement outside. But I did get some pictures that I rather liked, and in particular a whole series of one young woman.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

My difficulty was that I was really too close, having to work with a wide-angle lens and sometimes getting a little more distortion than I wanted. I couldn’t move to either left or right, being pushed from both sides and from behind, as well as ignoring a policewoman who kept telling me to move back.

Later I photographed the same woman protesting outside BHS, and there both protesters and photographers had a little more room.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

In some ways it’s a better picture, with some well-placed text on the two placards, but I find the upper one stronger, partly because of the closer approach (and the distortion that comes with that), partly because of the tauter expression which gives it a greater urgency. But it also works better because of the radiating light fittings above the head, and, perhaps most importantly because the text in the image is more importantly placed and also ‘TOPSHOP tax dodgers’ is rather more central to the protest than the more political slogans of the lower image.

Having arrived late and perhaps missed what might have been the most interesting part of the protest I was pleased to find that at least one of my images did appear in the press.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

It was that pointing finger, accusing Sir Philip that made this the picture to be used, and this was the ninth of a dozen frames I took of her pointing, some including more people. Three frames used a similar framing to this image, but in the other two the finger stands out less as rather than being over the red background, it is over the face of the man behind.

For this I was using the D300 with the 28-105 Nikon at 57mm focal length. The top image was on the D700, 16-35mm Nikon at 26mm, and the middle picture the D300 at 67mm. All at ISO 800 to give me decently fast shutter speeds.  It was an overcast day but but not too gloomy and I didn’t use flash in any of the pictures, though I have opened up the shadows and brought down some of the highlights  in the processing in Lightroom.

Students – Day 2

Friday, December 17th, 2010

 © 2010, Peter Marshall
Students burn placards on the plinth below Nelson in Trafalgar Square

The second of the series of student demonstrations organised by the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts took place on November 30th, and they had a further demonstration on December 9th, which I also photographed and posted about a few days ago.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Students go up Regent Street having come up Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner

The next big student demonstration will be towards the end of January,  because Parliament has a longish break over Christmas, as do many students. But another person or group, rumoured to have links with the EDL, has set up a Facebook page for a ‘fake’ demonstration on Monday 20 Dec, presumably with the intention of in some way discrediting students, perhaps hoping for some kind of violence. It’s one I won’t photograph even though some people may turn up.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
A police medic holds a protester with his left hand and takes a swing at him with his right while friends try to pull him away

The second day of action started in Trafalgar Square but did not develop as expected. Rather than a short march down Whitehall to Parliament Square and then on for a further protest outside the Lib-Dem  headquarters, over half of the demonstrators decided to head off early, were blocked by the police and then commenced a ten mile fast march around much of central London, before returning to Trafalgar Square.

It was a peaceful march by the students though I witnessed one small attack by a police officer on an individual student and another use of what seemed rather unnecessary force to stop a group of the marchers taking a short cut.  There were a couple of fireworks thrown – one exploding at my feet, and a few snowballs mainly aimed at the police.

The marchers got lost in the maze of back streets around St Bartholomew’s hospital in the City – and there wasn’t even a policeman there too ask the way, as the City of London police either hadn’t noticed the demonstration or had decided to stay out of its way, at least of the half hour in spent on their patch before I gave up and caught a bus.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Marchers going past the Stock Exchange with no police in sight

The protesters were convinced the police were trying to kettle them, but so far as I could see they made no effort to do so until very much later in the day, following a certain amount of pushing and shoving in Trafalgar Square when most of the protesters had already gone home – and I too left before they imposed a kettle.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Just beyond the banner some students were trying to push through the police line. Others were simply walking out one of the the other entrances to the square which was still open.

It was a chaotic event, and the accounts on sites of some of the left-wing organisations differ dramatically from mine. I think you do get a fairly good idea of what went on from my description and pictures on My London Diary, though of course it wasn’t possible for me to be everywhere and see everything.

Climate Change

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Yesterday I went to Shepperton for a carol service in the shade of the reservoir next to the studios, and then on to dinner a few yards down the road. Several times during the evening I thought of Shepperton’s most famous twentieth century resident, the late J G Ballard, and wondering how his dystopian vision could fit into this rather cosy corner of suburbia.

I particularly thought of his vision of a flooded world, and of the perils of global warming and the failure of will of almost every nation around the world to get to grips with the issue at Cancun. The notable exception was Bolivia, and at the annual Campaign Against Climate Change march and rally a few days earlier I had photographed Maria Souviron, the Bolivian Ambassador to the UK, speaking.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Maria Souviron, the Bolivian Ambassador to the UK

At Cancun we saw an agreement, but it was very much an agreement for the richer countries to continue more or less business as normal, and one that even were its best hopes realised would still produce an unacceptable climate warming. It was an agreement to lift the foot off the accelerator slightly when what is urgently needed is a change to reverse gear.

De-growth isn’t really a word in English, and certainly not an idea in conventional economic thinking, but an idea that we need to embrace for our civilisation to have more than a very limited future.

© 2002 Peter Marshall.
Bush in bed with the Esso tiger in March 2002  – the wheels fell off on Westminster Bridge

I’ve photographed these annual marches and other demonstrations by the Campaign Against Climate Change since they began – and then I was still using film and mainly black and white. And although I could very much sympathise with Caroline Lucas when she said she hoped we wouldn’t need to be here again next year, I also felt it was both highly unlikely that our Lib-Con government was going to completely change its spots and make our protest unnecessary – and that it is an event I’m always keen to photograph.

I was glad I wasn’t the official photographer in Hyde Park, perched up in a cherry picker what seemed a very long way above the crowd lining the numbers 2030 in Hyde Park – the date that the protest was calling for Britain to be a zero carbon country. There is a long history of such overhead shots, and they do still sometimes attract the attention of the media, though personally I find them very boring. It looked very chilly up there and I don’t have a great head for heights, and would have  been shaking from both fright and cold.

I’m pleased too that I can’t see myself in the official photo, though I was certainly there somewhere, taking pictures while standing in one of the lines while the others were waving towards the camera.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

You can just make out a pink pixel where these guys were jumping up, and though you can see the white suits of the group below, the pants don’t appear to be visible.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Of course there were also more – and often rather better opportunities for pictures while the march was forming up and also during the march, and you could actually read the text on the banners and placards.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

© 2010, Peter Marshall

And while it was just possible to recognize from some of the distant buildings on the horizon that the ‘2030’ image was taken in London, it was just a little more obvious in some of the pictures I took later!

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Climate Rush in the march at Parliament Square

And although Caroline Lucas was apparently not well, she spoke as powerfully as ever and if anything looked healthier than usual while she did so.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

It was a cold and overcast day, and I was generally able to work without flash, but by the time it came for the rally at the end of the march it was beginning to get a little dark, and I needed to use flash. I was standing fairly close to the speakers who were a couple of feet higher on a platform, which was covered with a fairly white roof. The struts you can see are a little ugly, but otherwise it wasn’t a bad background, and I was able to get some bounce from the front of it by aiming the SB800 flash on camera up at 45 degrees.

Later they added a powerful light low down in front of the speakers, giving them a rather ghoulish appearance as well as some nasty shadows from the microphone and stands. Using flash again helped, as well as providing much better colour rendition than this continuous light.

More on the Students – Day 1

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

I’m at last beginning to catch up with putting my work on My London Diary, though I’ve still got a few things to do. I’ve already posted here about the pictures that I put on Demotix immediately after the days of protest, but you can now see a wider range of the work that I took on My London Diary.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Before the march

On the first of the protests against the cuts on 24 Nov , rather to my surprise (and it was a longer day than I expected too) I took almost 1,500 images, although there are considerably fewer on My London Diary – about 100, or roughly one in 15 of those I took. I don’t normally shoot as many, but there were times when there was a lot of action and I was shooting short bursts of images.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Editing down such a large number of images is a problem, and I’ve been rethinking my workflow a little recently. Lightroom (I’m now using version 3.3)  is a great piece of software and I’ve found out a little more about how to use it.

The way I used to work was to import all my images into Lightroom, before starting to select them in the Library Module, where you can rate them in various ways, giving them 1-5 stars or with one of five colours.  So usually I went through all the pictures and give those I thought worth processing a 2 star rating. Ones that particularly stand out might get 3 stars. Then I reviewed all those with 2 or more stars to select a small sample to process immediately and send off to Demotix or elsewhere, giving them a colour rating. If I’d shot several events on the same day, I used a different colour for each.

I decided a while back, that it was no longer generally worth sending pictures directly to newspapers – the time I spent simply wasn’t justified by the results, and I wasn’t prepared to make the effort and compromises required to get my  pictures there fast enough.

Partly it was a matter of equipment – I seldom take my notebook computer with me when I’m out taking pictures, but more important to me was that I like to select and process my pictures carefully before they are used. I also like to write stories to go with my pictures, and taken together these eliminate my chances of meeting the kind of deadlines papers expect – literally wanting pictures within minutes of being taken (or even seconds with some events.)  My pictures do sometimes get into the papers, but not as urgent news.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Clare Solomons argues unsuccessfully with police to let the march continue along Aldwych

So uploading the whole contents of the memory cards from a particular event into Lightroom isn’t usually a problem, though it can take quite a while. It gives me time to do other things – like research and write a story to go with them, or even have some dinner.

Often while I’m travelling home to do this, I have time to do a quick edit using the screen on the back of the camera, but I find this too small for most purposes. It does enable you to delete the really hopelessly exposed or framed images, and you can zoom in to check for sharpness, but not really a great deal more.

Recently I’ve started  to do a more rigorous selection on the computer before importing the images, reading them while still on the card. The import dialogue in Lightroom enables you to view the images still on the card either as thumbnails in a grid or singly, and to decide whether or not to import each of them. Just as in the Library grid view you can also zoom into the images and check sharpness too. It isn’t perfect – and I’d like it to actually start the import as you are making the decisions rather than do it as a batch when you have completed your review.

There are also quite a few pictures that I’m unsure about because the default jpeg that Lightroom presumably reads from the RAW file isn’t good enough, and which need a certain amount of processing before you can decide if they are worth keeping. It’s actually easier to do the review of these once they have been imported into Lightroom, as the processing in my import preset usually helps, and in any case the Library module allows you to quickly apply some rough processing – such as increasing or decreasing exposure.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Protesters try to stop others falling into a police trap by smashing the van

Lightroom is sometimes just a little slow at viewing them on my computer (which at more than 3 years old is beginning to show its age) but overall I find quite a saving in time if I can drastically cut the number than I import.  It also of course saves storage space – those 1500 images are about 11 Mb each, and would occupy around 16 Gb on the hard disk – or 4 DVDs for a backup. So unlike working on film where everything got files, I’m moving to a more selective approach. Of course had I been using film I would have shot less, worried about running out of film – and I seldom used more than a dozen 36 exposure cassettes – about 450 frames.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
A school student tries to protect the van from further damage

Until now I’ve kept almost every file that I created with the digital camera, worried that I might miss something important. Now, having imported those files that I selected I go back and open the import dialogue again, making sure that I’ve ticked the checkbox not to import duplicates. I can then check through the pictures again, more rapidly as thumbnails in grid view (I use the slider to make the thumbnails as large as possible) and import any that I missed first time, before removing the card and putting it back in the camera. The pictures will stay there just in case I want to find something else from among them until I format the card, usually on my way to the next event.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
The kettle. Police were letting a few people, mainly young girls, leave at this point.

The pictures here are just a few of mine from the day that I don’t think have been used anywhere other than in my own story, now on My London Diary, with a fairly large set of images including these.


Sunday, December 12th, 2010

My ‘Paris Supplement‘ with pictures from my six days in Paris last month is now finally on line on the November page of ‘My London Diary‘. Alternatively, here are the links that appear there to the individual items.

The posts above are more or less in chronological order, and I’ve already written something about most of these, although there is a little more about some on My London Diary, but in most cases there are significantly more pictures.  The posts on My London Diary should have links to the corresponding posts here, and I’ll add the list of links to all my previous Paris Photo posts here. As well as my own pictures of Paris, these include some more installation views of the many shows I visited. I had intended to keep a count, but in the end there were just too many (if you include those that I looked at through the windows and decided not to go in, probably rather more than a hundred), and I’ve really only written about those that interested me more.

There really was so much to see and do, and six days really was not enough, especially as many things are closed on some days of the week (and almost everything closes on Mondays.) There were quite a few things I was sorry to miss, but it is a ‘month of photography’ and there is really a limit to how much of a month you can fit into under a week, though I tried hard!

What a shame London doesn’t have a similar festival (though the East London photomonth tries hard, it isn’t London-wide and lacks the breadth.)  The month in Paris only happens in even-numbered years, and it would be good to have something here in the alternate ones, the odds. But I fear the odds are very much stacked against it happening.

Students Protest Fees Rise

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

© 2010, Peter Marshall

I’ve been a little busy over the past few days, with little time to post here, though I have put some work on Demotix from my day out with the student protests on Thursday.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

There, along with the pictures you can read my view of the protest, which was a huge and very spread out affair, both in terms of time and territory. Its obviously not possible for a single person to be everywhere and see everything and every photographer there has to make choices about where they go and what they photograph. So both my story and my pictures reflect this.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Colour coding:Green=protester, blue=police, red=photographer

Some of those are made on the spur of the moment, dictated by events. When I saw the ‘Book Bloc’, protesters carrying large and thick placards with the names of well-known works such as ‘Brave New World’, ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, ‘One Dimensional Man’ and even Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’ trying to use these as shields and push their way through the barriers and riot police, naturally I tried (though with not a great deal of success) to photograph this, and again when I saw flames and a huge cloud of black smoke, along with everyone else I went to take pictures.

But there are other choices that are more basic. Some hinge on equipment. I seldom use long lenses – the longest in my current camera bag is an 18-125mm on my D300 (equivalent to around 175mm on the FX format.) I like to be in there, close to people when I photograph them, which isn’t always healthy when protests get a little heated. I used to have a 55-200mm, but lost it during a scrum in one of last month’s demos, and can’t quite decide whether to replace it – and if so with what.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Some photographers like me still wear woolly hats

Over the past few years, many of my colleagues who cover protests have begun to carry protective helmets, dangling from their backpacks – and on their heads when needed. It’s something no well-dressed photojournalist is without these days, but I decided against doing so. There are fortunately relatively few occasions here in the UK where they are really needed, and then mainly as protection against police batons. But there have been a couple of times in recent weeks when I’ve felt rather exposed without one, or have decided to keep a little out of the firing line.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

It’s also a matter of philosophy. I go to events wanting to tell the story rather than aiming to capture spectacular or saleable images. It isn’t generally how the press works – as we’ve seen in the last few days with page after page devoted to a minor incident involving two royals in a car deliberately escorted into an area full of wandering protesters. Like most other photographers I was miles away at the time. Or a huge amount of coverage given to one probably rather drunk young man who decided to swing on a flag at the Cenotaph – rather than the many thousands throughout the day who had treated this monument with respect.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Young students protest in Parliament Square

Of course there are themes that interest me. The large number of young protesters, many school sixth-formers, some of whom have occupied their schools. The changing nature of demonstrations in this country with a growing anarchist fringe. The growing disconnection between established political parties, trade unions etc and many people – especially students (this wasn’t one demonstration, it was two, with the NUS and others curiously sidelined by their own choice on the Embankment.) The problems of policing demonstrations and of policing the police and so on.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Ministry of Lies

All of these things feed in to what images I choose to make (and not to make) when covering events. There are around 30 images on Demotix, and I’ll put more on My London Diary in a day or two.

Orphans Return

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Earlier this year a number of photographers campaigned succesfully to stop Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill, which, as I wrote at the time “would have made many of our photographs ‘orphan works’ and easy game for commercial publishers wanting a free ride on photographers backs.”

As I said at the time, it would be back, and it is – and there was a good post about it by Jeremy Nicholl on his Russian Photos blog last month.  A few days later The Guardian (who should have known better) published an article by Stephen Edwards, suggesting that the actions of photographers had effectively sealed up the BBC archives “in which photographs either form no part (radio), or in which they are of relatively small importance (television)” and calling for what he describes as “a  simple, fair and equitable solution” by the government re-instating this provision.

Unfortunately he is wrong. Clause 43 was neither fair nor equitable, as it failed to provide recompense for those who had produced the material while it would have enabled commercial organisations (and the BBC as a commercial organisation) to profit from their work.

Photographers aren’t opposed to all change, but they are in favour of changes that recognise and appropriately reward the creators of material. Legislation that did that would be welcome.

And as I recounted in New Thinking on Copyright, the photographers who mounted the campaign that played the largest part in stopping Clause 43 came up with some proposals that could for the basis for a new copyright law, and there have been other suggestions that would also solve the problem in a way that gave proper consideration to creator’s rights.

More recently, Jeremy Nicholl has published another article on his blog,
Exposed: The UK Orphan Works Covert Propagandist which lets us know what The Guardian should have made clear about its author when it published the piece.

Another project that might be worth looking at is  MILE (Metadata Image Library Exploitation) which aims to promote European cultural heritage and make digital art more accessible by improving metadata. On the information page of its Orphan Works site it has a short explanation of orphan works, which makes clear the importance providing income to artists and artists’ estates.

Certainly the last thing that should happen is the kind of rush into inappropriate legislation such as Clause 43 (rumoured to have been dictated to Peter Mandelson by one of his billionaire friends in that villa in Corfu.)

Monday in Paris

Monday, December 6th, 2010

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Most things stay closed on Mondays in Paris, and that includes photographic exhibitions, so we were just going for a walk, as our train wasn’t until after 6pm. We booked out of the hotel, leaving our luggage to collect later (the hotel was close to the Gare du Nord) and set out.

I’d wondered if I could find some of the places that I’d photographed 22 years earlier and where in my Photo Paris book, as I knew I’d photographed some of them when wandering to the east and north of the park at Buttes Chaumont.

We spent the morning going down some likely streets, but didn’t recognise anything, apart from one very changed frontage which was still in the same hands.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Ness Music 1988, from ‘Photo Paris’

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Ness Music 2010 – a few details and the name above the shop the same

We went and took a walk around Buttes Chaumont, an incredible park for an inner-city, and unsurprisingly a favourite of some of the Surrealists, as well as suicides.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

As it got later, we were also looking for somewhere to eat, a good French cafe with a decent, reasonably priced menu, and we found a splendid example, Les Rigoles, on a corner of the Place des Grandes Rigoles. I started with a salad with lardons which was delicious, chunkier rather than elegant and followed that with the most delicious chicken I’ve had for some time. Definitely a place to go again next time I’m around there.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

After a long lunch break we wandered down to the Parc de Belleville, and then slowly down to the Place de Menilmontant, before walking down towards the centre of Pais and then up along by the canal and down the rue des Recollets and making our way across the 10eme to pick up our luggage and go to the station. On the way we stopped to buy some food for the journey, although in the end we weren’t hungry until after we got home and only ate it then.
© 2010, Peter Marshall

Most of the posts from Paris, along with some more about about the few times we weren’t looking at photographs and more pictures from our stay are on My London Diary – see below.



Getting Shirty

Monday, December 6th, 2010

To me a shirt is a shirt, and there is something obscene about the images of boxes of what are presumably perfectly decent and serviceable garments being burnt, shown in the pictures that Florian Joye submitted in his entry for the  Lacoste Elysée Prize.

His was the work which perhaps most explicitly linked to the product, with some of the other submissions for the prize frankly performing purely linguistic tricks to link their work to the polo shirt concerned, although a few crocodiles – apparently the nickname of the tennis player after whom the brand is named, and its symbol- do make an appearance, along with the odd tennis court.

But in all the competition still left me with what I consider important questions about the shirts unanswered. Perhaps if I searched on the web site I could find out where the shirts are produced, by who and under what conditions?

The 12 entrants for the prize – Ueli Alder (Switzerland), Kristoffer Axén (Sweden), Benjamin Beker (Serbia), Jen Davis (United States), Florian Joye (Switzerland), Kalle Kataila (Finland), Di Liu (China), Richard Mosse (Ireland), Camila Rodrigo Graña (Peru), Geoffrey H Short (New-Zealand), Tereza Vlcková (Czech Republic) and Liu XiaoFang (China) – were chosen from 80 young photographers taking part in the exhibition reGeneration2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today, curated by William A. Ewing and Nathalie Herschdorfer, which was at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne in June-Sept 2010.

Each of the 12 selected was given a scholarship of 3000 Swiss Francs (just under £2000) and 3 months to create 3 pictures with a link to the code name of the apparently famous shirt (which of course I’ve never heard of.) The winner, Di Liu, gets the prize of 20,000 CHF, around £12,900. This was the first of what will be an annual competition.

Although I think his work – like the rest –  is somewhat trivial, I think Di Liu deserves the prize, for being the only one of the twelve with a sense of humour and for not including a crocodile in the three distorted animals – a rhino, rabbit and deer – that he plonked down in urban environments.

You can see the work of all 12 photographers on the official web site, one of those annoying web designs that insists on inappropriately enlarging my browser window to fill the whole screen.

Looking at the work, it seems to me that the concept of the prize has resulted in some rather mediocre work, which in a way I find encouraging. The idea of a huge pool of creative talent being harnessed essentially to market a rather ordinary shirt with a peculiar logo doesn’t fit with my ideas of what art or photography should be concerned with. Perhaps in future years Lacoste can be persuaded to a less stultifying approach, supporting creative photography rather than encouraging a kind of second-rate advertising. Some other commercial organisations that sponsor prizes have done it rather better.

France 14 at the BNF & 40 Years of Women’s Lib

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Bibliothèque nationale de France

Later on Sunday afternoon we went on to the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF),  and spent some time wandering around on the top of this rather ridiculous building trying to find a way in. Even though we’ve been there quite a few times, it still isn’t obvious particularly when you arrive there from a new direction as we did.

The main show there was Raymond Depardon’s France, and there were longish queues waiting to see it. Fortunately I’d decided I’d seen enough of the Depardon work already, and was probably also familiar with much of the other material, so felt no need to pay and join them. What I was interested in was France 14, curated  by Depardon and previously shown at the 2010 Rencontres Internationnal in Arles , with work by 14 youngish photographers (I think all in their 30s and 40s.)

Having gone through the scanner and having being allowed in to the entrance hall, we looked around for any signs of where this could be and could find none, so I got my ‘interpreter’ to enquire of one of the apparently unemployed uniformed men, but he had no idea either.

We wandered down the corridor past the queue for Depardon and found it was on the walls there, each photographer having a large area of wall to themselves with a numbered board with some information about them and their project. You can read more about the show (in French) and see some pictures in the BnF press release, and there is one picture by each photographer in a slide show on Liberation, but otherwise little on the web about the show, although there is also a book.

The 14 photographers, Jean Christophe Béchet, Philippe Chancel, Julien Chapsal, Cyrus Cornut, Gilles Coulon, Olivier Culmann, Raphaël Dallaporta, Franck Gérard, Laurent Gueneau, Olivier Jobard, Stéphane Lagoutte, Gilles Leimdorfer, Malik Nejmi and Marion Poussier, decided in 2006  to work as an informal group on the project, with each working in their own way on an aspect of the social and geographical representation of French cities and housing estates.

The resulting work was extremely varied, and some of the responses I found much more interesting than others. The Parisian facades by Gilles Leimdorfer, highly detailed and all taken from a direct frontal view, did, despite the text seem to concentrate on the decorative – for example the offices of La France with their sculptural decoraton of the fading advertisements above a Muslim butchers and other shops. While I found the images – like the actuality – fascinating, perhaps the approach was just a little too programmatic for my taste when viewing the whole set of work.

I was disappointed that there were only 3 pictures in Laurent Gueneau‘s ‘Dominante verte‘ but his web site is worth looking at, with a wealth of other images.  Another photographer whose work interested me was Julien Chapsal, and the 15 pictures in his (Où) Suis-je?  – (where) am I? – is very much an investigation of the idea of place (or non-place) in modern suburbia.  You can see for yourself in the images and text on his web site.

Something very different but also enjoyable were the 18 images of Voyage en périphérie by  Cyrus Cornut, images from the new suburbs of the banlieue around Paris. These pictures have an unreal drama, which perhaps matches their typically French architectural flamboyance, although the prints on show at the BnF were slightly less over the top in saturation than those on the web site. Most are seen across sports pictures or with a single sihouetted figure in the background, often at night or dusk.

Perhaps the most intriguing set of work was by Olivier Jobard, who had been sent to Chanteloup-les-Vignes as his first assignment as a young ‘intern’ with the French agency SIPA. A development programme had changed this over a few years from a village of 2,500 people on the Paris outskirts to a small industrial new town with a population of 10,000, including many new immigrants to France, and he was sent to make his report there after an eruption of urban revolt. He states that his work at the time was limited to the habitual clichés of the banlieue – a sick generation, drugs, ghettoism, violence…

Now well known as a photojournalist, particularly for his work in Sudan, he returned to Chanteloup, photographing there again and letting some of the residents tell some of their own stories with his images in ‘Chanteloup. Récits de banlieue‘.

What I did not realise from the BnP show was that he returned there to make a documentary film for the TV channel France 5, along with Fanny Tondre, who was responsible for the video sequences, interviews and text in the programme, which includes many more of Jobard’s still images as freeze frames. It has seven sections; a short introduction is followed be 5 sections, one for each of the people who tell their stories in the project, followed by a brief conclusion. It is worth watching on-line, even if you don’t understand French, with the video sections providing some useful context for a number of fine still images.

The film is a considerably more interesting presentation that looking at the images on the wall at the BnF, not least because it uses so much more of Jobard’s work and the words of the people in his piece – as well as some sensitive filming and commentary by Tondre. What we see on the exhibition wall is little more than a static trailer.

40 Years of Women’s Lib

Finally, before finding (rather by chance) a decent cheap restaurant where we had eaten at on a previous visit just off the rue Mouffetard, we took in another show a short Metro ride and walk away, at FIAP Jean Monnet in the 14e, celebrating 40 years of women’s liberation.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Armand Borlant at FIAP

Many of the pictures were views of some of the more significant demonstrations  in France by women or about women’s issues (there is a chronology of the movement in French here, and a few pictures here, and a more general survey, also in French, here. Google Translate may help.) Although many of the pictures were taken by women, the group that I found the most interesting were by Armand Borlant, who after working as an engineer in the aircraft industry became the photographer for the magazine Libération, and was later represented by Gamma and was one of the founders of Agence VU.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Histoires d’Elles at FIAP

Also on show was some more outstanding work from Dominique Doan, photographer for the pioneering feminist publication Histoires d’Elles. I’m sorry I can’t find more of her work on the web.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Dominique Doan at FIAP

After our meal, we took the Metro again to Montmartre before going back to the hotel for our last night in Paris.  More pictures from our journeys around Paris and from there on My London Diary.