Archive for June, 2011

Odo Yakuza Tokyo

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Last November Anton Kusters was in London to talk about his project on the Yakuza, the Japanese crime family that runs the streets of Kabukicho, the red-light district in the heart of Tokyo. He had won the 2010  Blurb Photography Book Now Editorial Prize for 893 magazine, a report on his progress on the project every six months.  I was impressed by his photography and his approach to the project, and wrote about it here on >Re-PHOTO, also linking to his blog on the project.

I’m not quite clear what the difference between a magazine and a book is – and there is a long history in photography in volumes that bridge that gap, with for example some issues of Aperture magazine have also been sold as books. But clearly Kusters saw 893 as a part of the process of which his first book, Odo Yakuza Tokyo, is a finished product. He writes about the difference here.

Like many photobooks, this is a fairly small edition, with a print run of 500 copies and is being sold through burn magazine, the web site stated by him and Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey in 2008 to encourage and support emerging photographers, and for which Kusters is creative director, as well as running his own web and interactive design agency based in Brussels.  In the interview with Kusters, published on June 17, Harvey predicts the book will sell out in 2 weeks and he is probably not far off, so if you want a copy of something that will most likely become a collector’s item, load up the web page and hit the ‘Buy Now’ button without delay.

At 50 Euros it is not a huge expense, but enough to deter me from adding it to my already too extensive collection of photography books. Although some are now relatively valuable I decided long ago I was not interested in buying books (or anything else) as an investment, but tried to limit myself to those I felt would be important working tools.  Perhaps I’m too old for this to be so. You can see 36 images from the book on the web page, and read more about the project on the web. It may well be something you want to buy, and almost certainly a good investment.

This whole project is actually one that makes me feel the photographic book is no longer as important as it was. Although Kusters would very much disagree, I think it is the magazines and web content that are actually important and the book at the end is really almost superfluous or perhaps attempting the impossible in trying to be a summation of the work, possibly ending up almost relegated to the function of a full stop at the end of a sentence. Which we could at least sometimes do without

Although I’ve not seen the book, I also get the feeling that it might for me be a little of a disappointment after the experience of seeing the photographer giving a live presentation of an incredible project. At the time I felt very strongly that it was and would make a fine audiovisual presentation, a DVD rather than print.

The Liberator of Parliament Square

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

© 2006 Peter Marshall.
Brian Haw – Liberator of Parliament Square  (1949-2011)

I suppose as someone who has long felt that the main qualifications for being a Conservative MP were to be ignorant and opinionated I should have felt vindicated at the tasteless blatherings of one such lunatic on Radio 4 on the morning following the announcement of Brian Haw’s death.

Instead I was sickened, although a contribution from Bruce Kent about Brian did a lot to restore my faith in humanity. But what really got up my nose was the Tory twit going on about how Parliament Square should be for everyone to make use of and not just for one person to make a protest.

I wonder if he had ever actually set foot in Parliament Square or does he arrive at the House of Commons blindfolded in a limousine?  Certainly he had absolutely no grasp of what has been happening on the ground there over the last ten or so years.

© 2006, Peter Marshall
Police hand out SOCPA Section 132 Notices to bystanders and press in Parliament Square warning them they are liable to arrest if they remain

One of Brian’s great achievements has been the liberation of Parliament Square. Before his protest started the square was a black hole in the centre of our capital, surrounded on all sides by traffic with no pedestrian crossings from the surrounding streets which were and are still thronged by tourists. Ten years ago it was rare to see anyone at all making there way to what was essentially a large traffic island. Most of the tourists on its periphery probably thought it was a banned area, and the authorities clearly intended it to be what the police like to call a ‘sterile zone‘.

Tourists, already fazed by London’s traffic coming at them on the wrong side of the road, stood little chance of making it to the middle of the square, and even few Londoners chanced the risky and rather unpredictable crossing.

© 2006, Peter Marshall

Over the 10 years of his occupation, Brian and his friends and later other protesters have effected a great transformation – one that Ken Livingstone as Mayor failed to do – in opening up the square to people. Many came to see Brian, others to mount their own protests and yet more to sit and picnic on the grass – before Mayor Boris – for reasons political under a minor horticultural smokescreen – fenced it off.

Thanks largely to Brian, we’ve seen a remarkable change in London and a movement of the centre of political protest in the capital, a movement away from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall to Parliament Square, where it is a little harder for it to go unnoticed by both parliament and the media.

Brian and the other protests in the square became a tourist attraction, with group leaders umbrellas raised bringing their charges across the traffic lights and it was very much an advertisement for British democracy – though given the repeated attempts by politicians to get rid of him rather an unmerited one. Truly it was more an index of Brian’s doggedness, as well as the support he received from many, including the occasional judge or magistrate who remembered the freedoms our law is supposed to protect – if unfortunately it seldom does when the obviously more important vested interests of the rich and powerful are involved.

And as for Speaker’s Corner, mentioned by that Tory ignoramus, it was long ago abandoned to religious bigots and eccentrics, a minor tourist attraction rather than a site with any meaningful politics, and a happy hunting ground for photographers of the meaningless gesture.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Barbara Tucker, April 2011

But although Brian’s example may have liberated Parliament Square, the battle is still taking place to take it away from the people and keep it back under tight wraps. We need to support those who are continuing to protest there, in particular Babs, Barbara Tucker, who has been with Brian there for so long and is continuing his battle. Read more on where there is also a link to the “tastless threat” on the Today programme.

NUJ Photoshop Shock

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Video still by Jason N Parkinson;    Photoshop by A N Incompetent?

I can’t imagine the reason for the latest bit of crude manipulation of images to come to my attention, found rather surprisingly in the latest Freelance, the newsletter of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists.

There I am, standing at the left of the picture – from a video still by Jason N Parkinson, wearing a jacket and with two Nikons around my neck, but with my head apparently swathed in bandages. I really didn’t think I was so ugly I had to be photoshopped out.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I was there and taking pictures and was making no secret about it – writing about it here on my blog and even getting quoted in ‘Amateur Photography’ so there was certainly no need for anonymity. It seems purely a gratuitous example of the very kind of manipulation that we regard as unethical. Given its crudity it might of course even have been simply the result of a careless mouse gesture.

You can read more about the protest in Photographers City Hall Flashmob on  My London Diary.

A week ago I went to the London launch of the booklet* about the successful  ‘I’m a Photographer, Not A Terrorist’  campaign that the World Press Freedom Day flashmob at City Hall was a part of.

And here, completely unretouched, are a couple of pictures I took at the launch event. And no, I wasn’t wearing bandages around my head that night either.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

© 2011, Peter Marshall

and outside on the pavement after the speeches:

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Thanks to whoever took this in the gloom on my Fuji X100

Though shortly after the unadorned picture of me was taken I could have done with some bandages as I turned around suddenly and went flying as my shin contacted bloodily with the sharpened concrete edge of a street flower container. Probably I should sue.

*copies free if you send an A5 SAE with 2 stamps on it to :

Photographer Not a Terrorist
308-312 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8DP

Brian Haw RIP

Monday, June 20th, 2011

© 2007, Peter Marshall
Brian Haw: Find Your Courage; Share Your Vision; Change Your World. (T-shirt from Dan Wilkins, The Nth Degree.) Brian and Dan were both very pleased to have copies of the picture.

The news of Brian Haw’s death in a German hospital came as no surprise to me after his long illness, but it still was a shock and a feeling that the nation has lost a figure of importance, a man who almost single-handedly reminded us of the need for a national conscience and who dedicated his life to the cause of peace in ten years of protest in Parliament Square.

I have to admit I was slow to recognise the seriousness of his protest, and although I had photographed him earlier, on black and white film, the earliest picture I posted on My London Diary was only in October 2004, by which time, according to the notice, he had been in place for 1219 days.

© 20045 Peter Marshall

At first I’d been put off by his concentration in the early days of his protest on the single issue of the suffering of children due to the sanctions, as well as by his fundamentalist Christian views. But his protest became more general about peace and I got to know him just a little and began to appreciate his sincerity and persistence, becoming a fairly regular visitor to Parliament Square, as well as photographing him in nearby protests.

© 20045 Peter Marshall
Police drag demonstrator away as peace protestor Brian Haw holds a placard “War Kills the Innocent” in front of Cenotaph and Code Pink wreath, “How Many Will Die in Iraq Today?”. Whitehall, 7 Nov, 2004.
© 2005 Peter Marshall
Serious organised crime and police bill: Haw addresses the Houses of Parliament

I began to drop in for a visit whenever I had a few minutes to spare and was in Central London, only bothering to take pictures if anything special was happening. And although like almost everyone else who visited I occasionally got on the wrong side of Brian’s temper, I kept on going, unlike many others. There were times when I didn’t agree with him, but I still felt it was important to support him and the continuing protest against the war, even or perhaps especially when many former supporters appeared to desert or turn against him. And I feel it was an honour to have known him and perhaps to have captured a little of his spirit in my pictures of him.

© 2008, Peter Marshall
Visitors to Brian on the 7th anniversary of his protest.

© 2006, Peter Marshall
Brian and some friends, Parliament Sq, 14 May 2006.

© 2008, Peter Marshall
Police laughed at Brian Haw as he tried to make a complaint after an officer had pushed his camera into his face making it bleed.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Police arrest Brian and push him into back of a police van – he was released the following day after an extremely brief court appearance – the arrest was simply harassment by the police. 30 Oct 2009

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Brian with a t-shirt with the front page of The Independent after the protest at the state opening of Parliament

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Brian and Babs on the 9th anniversary of his protest, June 2010

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Just after I took the portrait,police arrived to serve a warrant on Babs for using a megaphone – their idea of a 9th anniversary present.

I’d watched Brian’s health obviously deteriorating over the years, worn out by the continuous strain and hardships of his protest, and in particular by the harassment of the police and others – including at times gangs of army-trained thugs the police were somehow blind to see as they attacked the peace camp in the middle of the night. The pressure and also the periods of boredom in the square also meant that he was smoking heavily. It came as little surprise to find that he had been admitted to hospital in September 2010 with breathing problems and that a tumour had been found. Although he was certainly a man who would put up a hard fight – he’d always lived that way – the years in Parliament Square had taken a heavy toll on his general health. It’s true to say that Brian lived and died for peace.

All photographs on this site are copyright and may not be used without permission; payment required for all commercial usage.

The Scandal of London’s Largest Ghost

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

© 2011, Peter Marshall
The Heygate estate, 2011

London’s Heygate Estate, 25 acres in a prime position next to the Elephant and Castle in Southwark has had a bad press. Completed in the early 1970s and home for years to more than a thousand families it was a brave and far-sighted attempt to provide high quality social housing in a remarkably green development for its time. Given proper management by the council over the years it would now be seen as perhaps the most successful development of its era. Instead it is a rotting, empty ghost city, waiting to be demolished and replaced by lower quality development which will doubtless make millions if not billions for private developers.  The developers certainly got a bargain, paying only £20 million for a site and the advantage of some £1.5 billion of public funds going into the Elephant redevelopment scheme.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
The Heygate estate, 2011

It had the disadvantage of being built at a time when architecture was passing through a visually brutal phase, and the vast slab blocks that surrounded it to create an oasis inside were on a massive scale. It didn’t look a friendly place from the outside, and in the early years before the many trees that were planted grew it was a little bleak inside.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
The Heygate estate, 2011

Somewhere Southwark Council lost the plot – or perhaps changed to a very different one – and made a concerted and largely successful attempt to change what had been seen as a good place to live into a sink estate, through a lack of maintenance and using it to rehouse “problem families”; coupled with a great deal of bad press and TV documentaries – those walkways made for some great images and it was so handy to get to. The council describe the scheme as ‘failed architecture’ but in reality it was the council that failed it, and the architecture is still in excellent shape – and likely to have been longer-lasting than its proposed replacement.

You can read more of the story of how the Heygate was demonised in the Guardian article from March 2011, The death of a housing ideal and more about its present state at the blog set up by one of the few remaining residents, Adrian Glaspool – a good place to start is here. For more information see the Southwark Notes blog, which has a great deal of information and comment on the council’s actions here and elsewhere in the borough.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
A few properties remain  occupied  on the Heygate estate, 2011

After the decision to demolish and sell off the estate was taken, the council started encouraging tenants to move out in 2007, giving them a six month time limit to find replacement homes (they had stopped giving secure tenancies in 2001, meaning that they had no obligation to rehouse the roughly 30% of tenants who had moved in since then.) Tenants were supposed to find properties through the council’s Homesearch scheme, but very few were on offer. Evictions and compulsory purchase, along with less legal measures, were eventually used to more or less clear the estate, with just a handful of residents now remaining. Labour councillors when in opposition accused the council of “strong-arming and intimidating tenants and leaseholders out of their homes on the Heygate” but little seemed to change after they were voted into power in 2010.

Leaseholders on the estate were treated in a particularly shabby fashion as the Council carried out a programme of what was essentially forcible removal from the estate. The leaseholder’s action group site states:

“Leaseholders were left to watch as their neighbours were moved out one-by-one, leaving them all alone in blocks infested with vermin. Vacated properties were not cleared before being sealed up, lifts were turned off, the district heating & hot-water system was turned off, estate lighting was turned off, cleaning services and rubbish collections reduced and postal services dropped.”

Also on their site you can find details of the ridiculous undervaluation of properties made by the council:

“Elderly leaseholders or those with language difficulties came off particularly bad, and the council was able to convince some to accept offers as low as £32,000 for a 1-bed flat and £66,500 for a 3-bed maisonette. “

Similar maisonettes in this area cost around £300-400 a week to rent, and the market price is probably in the range £175-250,000.

The blog quotes environmentalist Donnachadh McCarthy, writing in the ‘Southwark News‘ describing the demolition of the Heygate and Aylesbury estates as ‘one of the biggest carbon crimes of the decade by a local authority.’  It has certainly resulted in an enormous waste of public money, and as well as the carbon waste involved in demolition of usable buildings some 40 years before the end of their lifetime and their replacement by new build, the estate is now a considerable urban forest and most of its trees appear certain to be felled.

Like other buildings of its age the estate contains considerable amounts of asbestos, not a great safety hazard unless disturbed, but making the job of demolition of these structurally sound  buildings difficult. For this reason it will be perhaps another four years before the demolition of the larger blocks actually starts although almost all the tenants and leaseholders have been forced out and the estate allowed to become derelict.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
New garden on the Heygate estate, 2011

Recently a fringe area of the estate has been demolished, but work is not timetabled to start on the rest of the estate until late 2014 or early 2015. In April this year, some of the few remaining residents decided to clear the former garden areas and use the space to grow flowers and vegetables, informing the council who at first started legal proceedings for ‘unlawful gardening’ but then entered into talks aimed at authorising and controlling the allotments.

Residents and other interested parties held a day of workshops to try and influence the regeneration of the whole Elephant & Castle area on July 4 which I was unable to attend, but I took these pictures on the following day, along with many more on the Heygate estate, more of which will go on My London Diary shortly.  In particular I made a number of panoramic views of the area which perhaps give a better impression of the estate and in particular its trees, and I’ll post some of these later.

Lewisham Funeral

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

The Lewisham Funeral for the NHS was a little disappointing, mainly because so few people came.  I got off the bus at the hospital and there were  perhaps 30 or 40 people in all gathered there, and both I and the organisers had hoped for rather more. The cuts to the NHS and the reorganisation are important to all of us who live in England, but perhaps a little heat was taken out of the opposition when the government announced they would consult and change the bill.

Not that I have much confidence that this really means a great deal.  Despite the promises from Clegg and Cameron I remain convinced that the plan is still to stitch up the NHS into handy bite-sized packages so that the government’s mates in private provision can pick the easy cherries so that the state run services will necessarily become less and less economic and efficient and before long will cease to exist. Which was more or less the plot of the playlet that the group performed in the market in the centre of Lewisham, and the bonus was the singing of the ‘Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir‘, their name derived from one of William Morris’s most successful textile designs, incorporating thrushes and strawberries (though the actual berries in the pattern look rather more like raspberries to me) first produced at his Merton Abbey works around 1883. Morris was one of the great English socialists, and I think something of a hero for my father (Ruskin was another, but Dad generally kept quiet about his politics as my mother was a staunch Conservative) and like me I think he found ‘News From Nowhere‘ a stimulating utopian work.

But back to Lewisham, where I was finding it difficult to know what to photograph. The group started to march from the hospital into the centre of the town, but it seemed a very disorganised affair. One of the funeral props was a coffin, a little on the small side, white and labelled NHS, but it was being carried by one man on his own, who was staying on the pavement while the rest of the marchers were in the roadway.

There perhaps should be a guide for persons organising demonstrations, which should have an entry such as:

Coffins: These should be black, preferably coffin-shaped and always carried by at least four, preferably six, pall-bearers, dressed in black.  They should be accompanied by suitable placards or banners relating to the subject who has died.

It just was not like this, though after a couple of hundred yards there was a short discussion and another of the protesters took over the carrying of the coffin and brought it within the procession, and was soon joined by another man to carry it.  I took a few pictures, but still it wasn’t really working, and I broke one of my rules about photographing events.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I didn’t quite set things up, posing people and telling them to looks this or that way, but I did ask the woman in this picture if she wouldn’t mind walking with the coffin so I could take some pictures, and I took I think 3 frames, of which this was the best:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Not a perfect image or even a great one, but something that was beginning to make sense visually of what was otherwise something of a shamble along the road. After I’d taken the pictures I thanked her and she moved away from the coffin again.  The angle I’d chosen made slightly better use fo the two NHS logos on the coffin, the lighting (mainly the little bit of flash on the figures) was better too.  I was pleased that too that the man at the head of the coffin kept his eyes on the road ahead rather than look as me as the other two people were doing. Although there was a certain amount of arrangement involved it still I think retains the essential authenticity of the occasion.

Of course many protests would benefit from a little more thought about their visual effect – and again this was clear later when there was a short theatrical performance. Obviously a lot of thought had gone into the script, but little or none into the visual aspects, and it was saved for me simply by the performance of one of the women taking part.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Of course protests aren’t arranged for my convenience (something which some photographers seem sometimes to forget), but the kind of things that make some easy for me to photograph are also generally those that help them to communicate more generally and reach their intended audience.

It was a protest where I felt I had to work hard to get pictures, but in the end I found ones that told the story, as I hope you can see in Lewisham Funeral For the NHS.

Fuji FX100 Panoramas

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

One of the features of the Fuji FX100 is the large number of different ‘Drive Modes’ it offers. I suppose it is a good thing, but the way they are implemented definitely isn’t, as it is only too easy to change into the wrong one.

Pressing the main control drive on the rear of the camera even slightly off-centre towards the top brings up the menu which offers as well as the default ‘still image’ the possibilities of ‘movie’, ‘motion panorama’, ‘dynamic range bracket’, ‘film simulation bracket’, ‘ISO bracket’, ‘AE Bracket’ and ‘Top 10’. All of which might have their uses, but if you just want to take pictures, switching away from still image by mistake is all too easy to do and extremely annoying.

So far I’ve taken a few bad movies without intending to, and also tried on perhaps 50 occasions to use the ‘motion panorama’ setting. One of the first did give me a more or less usable panorama (there were slight but hardly noticeable problems), but all my other attempts since have failed miserably, with distinct bands as the exposures failed to match across the image.

I think it may be necessary to select manual exposure to get it to work, although the exposure is supposed to be set by the first frame, but clearly something is happening to stop this feature working as it should. It’s a shame as it would offer a quick and easy way to make a panorama. I’ve actually still found it useful to do a quick test shot before setting up my tripod and D700 to shoot the real thing, giving a good idea of what my final result might be like.

The FX100 offers you a choice of 120 or 180 degree pans, with the camera  in either portrait or landscape mode. A 35mm lens is not quite wide enough for many pans in landscape, but is much better in portrait mode, though I usually prefer a 20mm or even wider, and provides a useful horizon guide line with an arrow showing the direction. Both portrait or landscape mode produce 120 degree pans 5120 pixels wide, but in landscape mode they are only 1440 pixels high while portrait mode gives a more useful 2160 pixel height.

Although I’ve not had great success so far with the ‘motion panorama’ setting, I have found it easy to use the camera to take panoramas simply by setting manual exposure and focus and making a series of exposures, and then using software such as PTGui (or the free open source Hugin) to combine them. I find it particularly easy to hold the camera in portrait mode for this, and the ‘artificial horizon’ feature makes keeping the camera upright easy. The nodal point seems to be pretty close to the centre of the body – and rotating the camera around the tripod screw works well for landscape format pans or around the centre of the end of the body for portrait ones.

I took a couple with the camera of the Derwent by the East Mill in Belper the weekend before last. The first, produced from just 3 landscape exposures is a roughly 90 degree horizontal view, and the original file is 7281×2556 pixels. Taken under a tree there was little difficult in lining up the leaves, though I did need to make use of the PTGui masking facility to get a perfect result.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Right Click and select ‘View Image’ for a larger image in Firefox*

The larger pan, a 132.7Mb file, was made with the camera in portrait format, stitched from 6 frames to give a 137 degree view, 22,080 pixels by 4187. If I had a long enough sheet of paper, printing this at 300 dpi would give a six foot long print.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Right Click and select ‘View Image’  for a larger image in Firefox*

The images were shot on RAW and those in each set were processed in Lightroom, adjusting one file and then ‘synching’ the settings to the rest in the set before adding some identical local brushing to the sky area across all of the images. Lightroom also applied a profile to them which reduces chromatic aberration and distortion, presumably making it easier for PTGui to stitch them together.  Later in the weekend I took a similar scene with a wider lens (20mm f2.8) using a Nikon D300. The wider angle of view was an advantage, but the FX100 was easier to use and the results seemed just a little better.

* In other browsers, if there is no way to see images at full size you may need to save the images to see them at larger size – they are 900px wide, twice the width they display on this page.

A Soggy Meringue

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

If you’ve not yet read the article by Simon Crofts on the Hargreaves Copyright Review it is worth reading. A freelance photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland, he studied law at Oxford, so ‘The Hargreaves Copyright Review. It’s a soggy meringue‘,  unlike the Hargreaves Review itself, is written by someone who knows what he is talking about.

Worth sending to your MP too, so that they know what is happening, along of course with your own views. You can read more about the likely effects of adopting the Hargreaves proposals on the Stop43 site.

It was pressure from photographers led by Stop43, but also aided by the many of us who got our MPs to ask some of the right questions about the proposal that prevented it being bumped into law before. E-mail is easy, but paper still gets a lot more attention.  Check their name on the e-mail site if you are not sure, then send your letter to them at:

House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Many MPs, including my own former MP (one of those who got their fingers – and seat –  singed in the expenses scandal) have been keen photographers and last time I wrote I got a surprisingly detailed and interested response, with my MP contacting the minister and shadow minister and putting my (and his) concerns to them.

Protests For Obama

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

When Obama came to London, there were plenty of people who wanted to protest against him and US policies, and unlike some previous occasions, the Met decided to keep within the law and allow protests to take place, while making sure it was fairly unlikely that the president actually got to see or hear them.

Security was high around Buck Palace, which was surrounded on all sides by police, with a ring of officers standing generally every 10 or 20 yards around the whole of its high perimeter wall – which is topped by a fairly impressive fence.  You do get a few glimpses of lawns and trees over the top of the wall from the top deck of buses going past, and there is a rather better view from the top floors of the London Hilton, although there are too many trees for a decent view of the extensive lawns beneath.

Police stopped me walking across the front of the palace, where they were out in force, insisting a take a longer route around – a quarter of a mile to get around a hundred yards, but other than that they were reasonably helpful, allowing those with press passes out between the barriers holding the protesters back and the police lines between these and the roadway to photograph the demonstrations.

The protesters were perhaps 50 metres away from the large motorcade – around 20 vehicles, many with dark glass windows – that drove up the mall and into the palace. I imagine Obama was in one of them, but the windows were tightly shut and I didn’t see him as they drove quickly by and into the palace.

There were quite a few different groups of protesters, along with a few individual protests, including both supporters of the Syrian government and the Syrian protesters, but I saw no trouble, with all the groups shouting in the direction of the palace and apparently ignoring each other.

Photographically the call to Obama to shut down the Guantanamo Bay camp and release Londoner Shaker Aamer presented me with most problems, firstly because the standard Adobe Nikon profile does take issue with bright fluorescent orange suits and for the pictures I was sending in to a picture library I needed to use the  ‘Camera Neutral v3 dcpTool Untwist’ profile I’ve mentioned in a previous post.

More tricky was the long message spelt out on the posters, which were laid out on the ground in front of the row of protesters for the press to photograph, with buck palace in the background.  If you move back to take the whole message in even with the 16mm then they are hard to read as you only see them obliquely. The solution is to get in closer with the 10.5mm, though you have to work quickly as this gets you in everyone else’s shot – and I had to shout back to the guys I’d only be a second. Well, perhaps ten seconds.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

It still isn’t a great image, but they had obviously put in some effort to make the sheets carrying the message and I felt I should take a little trouble to photograph it as best I could.

Later I had an interesting time trying to photograph the Syrian opposition, who were getting pretty excited, with one man getting up on the shoulders of another and a great deal of jumping around and shouting.  It was tricky getting to the right place and the crowd was surging back and forth, and it gave me little or no time to think. In the end there were a couple of images I was reasonably happy with, including this one:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

This was taken with the 16-35  lens wide open, when f4 gives you all the depth of field you are likely to need, though the light at this point was pretty good, and I didn’t really need the 1/8000s shutter speed that ISO500 gave me, though it did avoid camera shake. I was getting pushed around quite a bit as people jumped up in the crowd, so a fast shutter speed was certainly called for, but this was perhaps a little overkill.

I wasn’t in sympathy with all of the protests, and in particular the pro-government Syrians looked rather more like an officially sponsored PR outing than a protest, but their huge images of their president did make for some interesting pictures.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I liked the hands here, but it doesn’t quite fit the format, and this is one of the few of my images that I think looks better for a much squarer crop:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Photographically I think I had a better day than usual and there were a few pictures I was pleased with – you can see them on Obama Told Release Shaker Aamer Now! and Other Protests Against Obama.

Sochi Project

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Catching up with the various blogs I like to look at through their RSS feeds I came across a link on Joerg Colberg’s Conscientious to a video on Rob Hornstra which looks at his practice of ‘slow journalism’ and the Sochi Project with writer Arnold van Bruggen in particular.

Hornstra is a photographer whose work I’ve liked since I saw work he produced for his degree around 8 years ago. His photography is straightforward but avoids the obvious and has a quirkiness that appeals. Talking about a picture he was taking of a singer in a restaurant in Sochi (the venue in Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics) he says that there was a little fan at the side of the stage and a prominent notice for the toilet, so he knew it would be a good picture. The piece starts by him saying that he’s a photographer – or at least that’s what people say about him, but he thinks of himself more as a storyteller.

After graduating Hornstra was working as a bartender, and couldn’t find anyone to publish his book so he thought about self-publishing, but found that to print 250 copies would cost him €7,500 – far more than he could afford. But a work colleague said he would like a copy of the book and would pay in advance and handed him 30 dollars, and that led to a book that was financed by advanced sales – it took just a few weeks to sell enough advance copies to be able to print.The next book sold out in advance in 3 days, and the one after than in hours.

It’s a rather more radical approach than publishing on demand, and one which also gets your work out to more people. Making a book on Blurb only demands that you sell one copy, and I suspect the majority of works produced in that way only ‘sell’ a handful of copies, all or nearly all bought by the person who made the book, although some of us do manage to sell a number to personal friends and others at exhibition openings etc.

250 copies isn’t a sensible print run for a photographic book, and I imagine that Hornstra produced the later works in larger numbers, and the clip shows him sending off around five orders for his self-published works on what is supposed to be a typical day.

Sochi, a five year or more year project on the city that is hosting the winter Olympics with writer van Bruggen, takes the idea further, asking for subscriptions to fund the project as a whole. For a small donation – €10 per year – you will get access to documentation about the project on areas of the web site unavailable to the public, but as ‘Silver’ donor of “€100 per year you will not only receive access to the website. You will also receive all the publications produced by The Sochi Project, including an annual report, exclusively designed by Kummer & Herrman. We will inform you personally of exhibitions, readings and presentations related to The Sochi Project and you are welcome to attend any of these for free.” ‘Gold’ donors – at €1000 per year or more – also get signed prints and articles, and “After five years you could be the owner of a unique collectors’ item.”

I don’t think I have enough spare cash to invest in the offer, although I suspect that it could well be a good investment at either silver or gold level, given the rapid increase in prices that some very ordinary photographic publications have seen over recent years.

Personally too, I don’t see myself finding it easy to attract enough advance orders to publish my next book other than on Blurb, but you never know. Perhaps I should be thinking about taking subscriptions for my planned extensive series on the ‘Buildings of London’, a small sample of which are on one of my early (and badly written) web sites, on-line since 1996, with additions and minor changes in 1998.

© 1996, Peter Marshall
The Hoover building on the front of my Buildings of London web site for 15 years

Currently I’m still thinking about how to proceed in publishing this work, but I think there will be two series, one for the black and white images and the second on the colour work I took at the same time. It would be hard to organise the work any other way than by when I took the pictures, and I’m thinking, at least for the b/w that this might mean around 30 volumes selected from the several hundred thousand images I took over around 20 years. It’s a daunting task – as was my decision in the early 1980s that I would photograph “the whole of London”. I can’t claim to have finished it, but I made a pretty good stab.