Archive for August, 2011

Blogs & Copyright

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

Two weeks ago I wrote a post Arbus: 40 Years Gone which was prompted by a post by another blogger, James Pomerantz, who blogs as ‘A Photo Student‘, and I started that post by mentioning this fact, then went on to say something about its content, which included a reproduction of the obit written for Village Voice by A D Coleman. And in the rest of the post I mentioned and commented briefly on a recent feature by Coleman himself on his blog.

I hadn’t expected the post to cause any particular controversy, but my piece brought Pomerantz’s post to the attention of Coleman, who had previously been unaware of the use of his work in this way. Naturally he took objection and demanded the removal of his piece from Pomerantz’s pages, as well as posting a comment on the blog there.  You can read the rest of the story in Coleman’s own words in Night of the Living Infringers and a follow-up in Dog Days: News & Notes.

Copyright is vital to both photographers and writers and we should all take care to respect it, especially at a time when our government is making proposals that may damage it (see for example this article on the BJP site.

Regular readers of this blog will doubtless have realised that almost all of the pictures I post here were taken by me. On the few occasions I have posted images by others, I think I have always had at least their verbal permission to do so.  Similar considerations apply to the use of text, although I often quote from other articles on the web or in print I always try to be careful to only quote small portions of them and to give a link to the original. I still follow the very clear rules which applied to me working for a major publishing organisation writing ‘About Photography’, which were both editorial policy and also accorded with my own respect for the intellectual property rights of others.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to share my work. Everyone is welcome to view the more than 50,000 images I’ve put on line and to read the millions of words I’ve written.  You can even print them out for your own personal, private use if you want. But if you want to publish them in any way – electronic or otherwise – and thus distribute them to others you need my permission, and certainly if you are being paid to do so or you or anyone else is in any way profiting from that publication then I would normally expect my fair share of that profit. Because it is my work you are using.

‘Fair Use’ is often cited by bloggers, but it has very strict limits, both geographical and in what it allows. I should make it clear that I’m not a lawyer,  but there is a very clear discussion of the US law on this on Wikipedia.  In the UK, as Wikipedia also states, the concept is known as ‘fair dealing’, and is limited “research and private study (both must be non-commercial), criticism, review, and news reporting.”  Most educational establishments pay licences which allow their students and staff to copy work in ways that fall outside these restrictions for images in books and magazines, and like most photographers I submit a ‘Payback’ claim every year to DACS stating the number of my works that have been published, and receive an annual payment for this use. If you haven’t done a return yet, this year’s Payback deadline is Friday 9 September 2011.

Bloggers have to respect copyright just like anyone else. Failing to do so is unfair to the creators of the work and also unfair to other bloggers who play by the rules. Back when I blogged and posted for a living I often had e-mail from readers asking why I didn’t always display the images I was writing about in my posts rather than simply linking to somewhere where they could be viewed.  Just like many other web sites did without permission.

Covering Tottenham

Friday, August 12th, 2011

An article by Jason N. Parkinson and Jess Hurd, No Refuge Between Bricks and Batons, on the DART website gives a real insight into what it was like to be there (and why I’m glad I wasn’t.)  Don’t miss the link to Jason’s video on the Guardian site, and also Jess’s pictures which I mentioned a couple of days ago in my piece about why I wasn’t there. The Guardian also ran a piece about covering the events on Tuesday, London riots: photographers targeted by looters, by Lisa O’Carroll and Caroline Davies.

Our Prime Minister, spurred on by mad Liberal Democrat MP for Wells Tessa Munt, is calling for the press and TV to hand over their images to the police. Neil Young in Keeping photographers and reporters safe in riots on the Up To Speed Journalism site clearly makes the case both on the grounds of the safety of journalists but perhaps more importantly on the safety of democracy for keeping to the procedures established by parliament in the 1984 Police & Criminal Evidence Act, (PACE) which defined our pictures and reports as “special procedure material” which to access police need to go to court and show is necessary for a specific case involving a serious crime.  It truly is a valuable defence of a free society against our becoming a police state.

Usually I try to stick more or less to photography, but I’m finding much of the political comment about these events sickening. I’m not condoning what happened, certainly not in favour of lawlessness on our streets. But I think it is important to try and understand why it happened, and in particular why it happened now. The most interesting interview of all those I saw was by Darcus Howe on the BBC, notable not just for what he said and his attitude, but also for the ‘establishment’ response from the interviewer, which you can see dissected on a YouTube clip by Cenk Uygur from ‘The Young Turks, ‘the largest online news show in the world.’

These are not the first riots (or insurrections) we have seen in the UK. It’s a matter of record that they have all occurred when the Conservatives are in power and at a time when cuts were being made. Academic research confirms that such policies increase the chances of various events of this type, so ignore the writers and politicians who deny any such link. They are ignorant or lying or in some cases both.

Perhaps the most stupid comment I’ve read was that these events can’t be linked to the cuts, because government spending has actually gone up in the past year. Statistically it is inept, as the overall figure hides the cuts that have already been made because of extra spending in other areas, but surely even these commentators should have noticed the protests that have already taken place. Most important for the current events have been those over the loss of EMA from September for 16-18 year olds in full-time schooling, and over the increases in university fees. The protests at the end of last year were full of young people – and importantly in the earlier demonstrations they were subject to kettling, charges by police horses and often fairly random violence by some police.

I’ve photographed protest on the streets for many years, and in particular worked on the streets of Tottenham, Brixton, Peckham and most of the other areas of London that have been in the news. For what it’s worth (and certainly it’s worth rather more than the ignorant opinions of many of our MPs) the underlying issue is one of justice, or rather injustice.

The flashpoint this time appears to have been riot police attacking a 15 year old girl who asked them questions about justice outside a police station in Tottenham and was answered with batons. Behind that was the shooting of a man in a taxi, who we now know had not fired a shot – as police at the time told the press. Behind that were many, many deaths in police stations, in prisons, in a protest, in a police panic over terrorism and more; hundreds if not thousands of deaths where police and our legal establishment have hidden the truth, stretched out investigation for years and finally failed to deliver justice.

Of course that isn’t all. There are companies who pressure employees to work in hazardous situations or without proper equipment or training, leading to injury and death at work, with seldom any justice. Bankers who have been bailed out by the taxpayers and gone on to get bonuses greater than most of us earn in a lifetime. Property developers with doubtful deals and links to politicians. People getting honours who deserve jail.

Or looking at the other side of things. Silly prosecutions against peaceful protesters – such as those involved in the UK Uncut occupation of Fortnum & Mason. Protesters who get sentences out of all proportion to their minor offences – and now the same thing happening in courts to rioters, with magistrates using remand in custody for minor offences, as well as some ridiculous sentences.

People should be fined, or imprisoned or given appropriate jail sentences on the basis of what crime they have actually committed, not because courts want to make a statement.  There have been some serious crimes – such as the burning of shops – and these deserve serious punishment, but most of the arrests have been for much more minor offences. Young people, particularly when drunk and led on by others in the heat of the moment often do pretty stupid things (like setting fire to cacti) and we should not be over-hard on them.  Justice and not revenge needs to be the basis of how people are dealt with – and what is happening at the moment is likely simply to increase people’s feeling that they live under an unjust system, and to increase the likelihood of another Tottenham.

No Justice, No Peace is a popular chant at some protests, and one which I think we need to take seriously.

These are views that have very much been influenced by the events that I’ve photographed over the past years and the people that I’ve met doing so.   Tomorrow I’ll get back to the photography.

No Sharia Zones

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

People in inner East London boroughs last month began to see bright yellow stickers appearing on lamp posts and other street furniture announcing ‘You are entering a Sharia Controlled Zone – Islamic Rules Enforced’ and a number of symbols banning alcohol, gambling, music concerts, prostitution, drugs and smoking.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The authorities in these areas have been working hard to remove these stickers, posted by a small fringe Muslim group, but many are worried by this attempt to replace our normal British rule of law by an unofficial and illiberal regime which it would be illegal to attempt to enforce.

There is very little support for Dr Anjem Choudary’s Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) in the Muslim Community, and a few minutes research soon reveals that the other organisations that were listed as backing the march for Sharia Zones and the ‘Islamic Emirate Project’ are the same few people under different names.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

It was noticeable as we went through the streets of Leyton and Walthamstow that although many stopped to watch the noisy protest, hardly a single person – Muslim or non-Muslim – showed any expression of support.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Several right-wing groups had been rumoured to be intending to demonstrate against the MAC march, although many on their forums had suggested it made more sense to stay away and ignore it, and there was a strong police presence – certainly involving more police that the 70 or so protesters.  A mile or so from the start two men were sitting on a seat on the opposite side of the road to the march, one holding the old ‘red hand’ Ulster flag still used by Unionists. Two police officers were talking to them, apparently preventing them from making a protest as the march went by.

Another group of people were being held in a pub, the door blocked by several police and a line of officers along both sides of the building. It was not clear to me why police did not allow them to protest outside the building, as there were clearly more than enough police around to prevent any disorder.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

A demonstration was allowed a few yards from the end of the march in Walthamstow, where a thin line of police stood along the roadway as the march went by on the other side. This protest, by the English Nationalist Alliance, led by Bill Baker, had a few placards with lengthy text that the marchers would have needed very good eyesight to read. Their message and tone was rather different to some of the insults and gestures made by the protesters as the Muslim march was passing.

I had few difficulties photographing the event, except for the length of the march, which seemed excessive, partly because it was taken very slowly. There really was not a great deal happening most of the time. I was greeted with a few jibes by the ENA, who accused me of being biased against them. The comment originally came when they confused me with another photographer who had also written an article for Demotix on one of their marches; I had reported the event accurately, but he had not, and Mr Baker quoted from his report but attributed it to me.

I don’t share many of the attitudes of the ENA or other English nationalist groups, but like them I think there is no place for Sharia law in this country. It’s perhaps a shame that other groups such as ‘One Law For All’ which oppose Sharia have not been more active on the streets, and that the great majority of moderate Muslims are also not more visible in their opposition to people like Dr Choudary.

More pictures and text: Muslim Extremists March For Sharia Zones

Photocall and Protest

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

I’m not a great fan of organised photo-calls for several reasons, not least that they are usually rather boring. Of course it’s always useful when people have material that visually represents their protest in some way – so the Murdoch face masks produced by Avaaz were welcome (and for once quite nicely produced, although rather over-saturated, tending to photograph rather too beetroot.)

The people who devise such things, doubtless well trained in PR, seldom seem to have a great visual sensitivity. Their idea of a good  photograph would appear to be something like this one.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

For me it’s the weakest of all those I took, and the challenge is to try and find something just a little different in these occasions.

The banner was a problem, with so much empty monochrome blue space, and it was difficult to crop it and still retain anything of use. So the obvious thing was to avoid it, and I more or less did so throughout the pictures I took.

The sameness imposed on the image by the identical faces and t-shirts was also a problem, and one I tried to lessen in several ways; it was made easier when a rather different and larger Murdoch puppet headed figure joined the protest. But before that I’d tried various other things, such as finding an actual face among the masks:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

adding some wonderful curly blonde hair (and in the background the curly red interloper poster of Rebekah, but I didn’t quite get enough depth of field:)

© 2011, Peter Marshall

and I think most successfully finding a viewpoint and grouping that had a clear caption on a placard at the left of the image and a lively grouping of those Murdochs at different scales.

A couple of hundred yards away a real protest was taking place, and I followed the man with the Rebekah poster (who had not been at all welcome with Avaaz) to this, hoping perhaps to see an opporturnity of a picture on the way, but it didn’t happen.

But as you possibly see form the pictures, I was rather happier in the middle of a real protest,

© 2011, Peter Marshall

and made use of that Rebekah poster a little more legibly there.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Though there too it seemed that the rather more political protesters didn’t much like the sense of humour it showed.

Coalition of Resistance Picket Murdoch
Avaaz Protest Murdoch At Parliament

Rev Billy Triumphs

Monday, August 8th, 2011

One of the performances of the year was surely the exorcism of BP in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall by the Reverend Billy and his Church of Earthalujah, and I was pleased to be able to photograph and write about it.

There was quite a lot of light inside the Turbine Hall, and I could have chosen to use a higher shutter speed, but as usual I wanted to work a little on the edge, and most of the pictures were taken at 1/30 to 1/60 despite there being considerable movement. Combining flash with ambient meant that there was a reasonable chance of people closest to the camera getting a sharp flash image, and I used an aperture  around f8 to give me reasonable depth of field.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

This image of Rev Billy advancing on the BP sponsorship logo  is a good example, taken with a very wide angle and tightly framed (it is more or less uncropped)  was one that worked, although as always there were plenty that were just too blurred because of the slow shutter speed. But although it was the image that I selected for the ‘front page’ of my piece on Demotix it was the picture two frames earlier that I actually like most, and is on the front page for Rev Billy’s Tate BP Exorcism on My London Diary. The hands are not quite as good, but I like the radial blur in the background.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Again this is more or less uncropped, and the only thing I’ve done in post-processing is a certain amount of burning in, mainly on the hands and windows, and I think a little ‘dodging’ on those white trousers. The rest of the effect was in camera, where the 16-35mm has a zoom ring that can be conveniently spun during exposure, with not entirely predictable results.  The flash exposure is short, so hardly if at all affected by the zoom.

They are more or less uncropped, but quite a few of the images I took I did crop, because there was another camera which often moved into my frame, and I didn’t want it.  You can see it in quite a few of the rather too many images from this event I’ve put on line.  Usually video cameras don’t come with very wide lenses, but this was someone using a still camera with a very wide lens and shooting video.  I’ve seen a clip of the film that he shot, which also includes some footage from a second camera on the balcony, and it is really very good and I feature rather prominently in it.

The problem with using wide-angles for video is that you need to get really close to the action and to stay there, and that means you are likely to get in the way not just of photographers, but also of the performers and the audience. Ultra-wides are much less of a problem with still photography as you move in, take a few frames and then move out.  Even with just one guy doing it, I felt he was too obtrusive, and if others take it up then we are in danger of never actually seeing an event again except on film. Everything will get to look like those walls of players lining up in front of the guy taking the free kick.

I’d had problems with the D300 taking pictures of swans earlier in the day, and hadn’t sorted out what was going wrong, so I’d left it at home and was working with only one camera, and very much feeling the limitations. Changing lenses is really too slow, and there were points when I would have loved to have had a second camera with the 10.5 fisheye, and others where I just didn’t have time to change to something longer than the 16-35mm.  Here’s an example:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I think it’s a good picture but I found myself reaching down for the D300 which wasn’t there. If it had been I would have made another picture as well, something like this:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Reproduced small it has a big advantage in letting you clearly read the banner on the balcony. Of course you can crop, but I’d much rather have taken what I wanted in camera.

Out Of Touch

Monday, August 8th, 2011

I don’t have a smartphone and I live 20 miles out from the centre of London. I only heard that things were kicking off in Tottenham when there was a short (and it turned out later rather misleading) item on the radio news as I was thinking of bed. By that time my quickest way to get there would have been a couple of hours on my old bike and apart from the fact that it would have exhausted me to ride around 25 miles in the middle of the night, I thought everything would be over even if I did make it.  I was tired,  had drunk a few glasses of wine and bed was the only option.

I’d been sorry to miss the vigil at the police station earlier in the day, but again I’d only found out about it at the last minute. I’ve photographed community demonstrations against the police at Tottenham before. But if I had gone doubtless I would have taken my pictures and gone home after an hour or so, several hours before that peaceful event ended and well before the trouble flared.

Sunday morning the news was all over the Internet, with even some decent coverage on Sky, though it took the BBC a while to really catch up with what had happened.  Friends of mine had posted on Facebook in the early morning that they had got home safe (if some were rather bruised) after a busy night, and I saw some of their pictures.

Everyone was expecting further trouble and I wondered vaguely about going to see what was happening. Earlier in the week I’d asked a friend if he’d like to come with me to photograph a couple of events that day, one not far from Tottenham, but he was busy with other things and I’d decided not to go on my own but to do other things. I thought briefly about changing my mind, looked at the weather forecast and decided there were things I could more usefully do at home.

It was almost certainly a sensible decision. When things get a little tricky on the streets you need to be in touch and to be with other photographers.  A smartphone really becomes as essential as a camera, and at times if it can take a halfway decent picture you would be better off using a phone than a camera. Possibly it won’t be too long before DSLRs are relegated to history and the standard kit for photojournalists and press will be a videophone.  And I did get some essential work I’d been putting off for a while completed.

Of course I knew that many of my colleagues – particularly those in the London Photographers Branch of the NUJ would be out there on the streets covering the events which were rightly a matter of great media interest. I’ve always seen my own particular niche on My London Diary as covering the events that don’t make the news, and to try and make them into news, or if not news to write them into our history. One of my pictures from an earlier demonstration against police in that area, when I was one of the few (if not the only) photographers present on a bleak winter’s day became part of a national museum display.

The best set of pictures I’ve yet seen from the events were by the Chair of the NUJ London Photographers’ Branch, Jess Hurd, working for Report Digital, remarkable both for their drama and their clarity.  Apart from everything else they do show the remarkable capability of current DSLRs in low light; phones still have a long way to go.

These pictures came as no surprise, as so often her work does stand out from the crowd (and there are plenty of other good photographers in the crowd.) Until 28 August you can see her show of “10 years of intrepid work”… involved in people’s struggles for dignity and freedom around the world”,   ‘Taking the Streets – Global Protest‘ at the Usurp Art Gallery in Harrow (close to West Harrow Underground, open Thursday to Sunday 2-7 Free admission.)

Upping Again

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

One day a year I allow myself to photograph swans.

Photography is not cute cats, nor nudes, motherhood or arrangements of manufactured products. Under no circumstances it is anything ever anywhere near a beach.  Walker Evans

Had Evans lived in the UK, I’m sure swans would have featured in his list of no-nos (even if, for the moment I can’t remember an Edward Weston picture featuring one.) Back in the years when I used sometimes to have to look at photography displays in schools my heart would sink when I saw a wall heavily laden with these birds. Another staple, cemeteries and gravestones, was somehow far less dispiriting.

But once a year I give myself special licence and go out and shoot the Queen’s birds (and those she graciously allows to the Dyers and Vintners.)  Not literally shoot them of course, it’s probably still a hanging offence and even they don’t shoot them any more. They don’t even eat them or even make nicks in their beaks to mark them. Upping is now more a kind of roving clinic that gives the cygnets a quick MOT and snaps a ring around a leg so they can be identified in later years.

I’m not in favour of royal privilege, and find it ridiculous that the Queen or anyone else should claim rights on these wild birds, but there are some positive aspects to the upping as it is today, both for the health of the birds and also as a more general measure of the health of the environment. On our stretch of the river, despite apparent increases in water quality and banning anglers using lead weights (the latter prompted in part by evidence from the upping) swans are not doing well. They swarm on the river in great herds, but don’t breed, or certainly very much less than they used to only a few years ago.

I’ve photographed the uppers most years since I stopped teaching on Mondays – the day they come more or less past where I live – in 1999. It’s not as good as it used to be, partly because we have less breeding swans now, but also because they no longer have a man on a bike going ahead of the crews and attracting the swan families to handy spots by feeding them biscuits. I got to know Eric who did this, and for a few years rode along with him and could occasionally give him the benefit of a little local knowledge. He was a great help as he almost always managed to get the swans to a good place to photograph on the same side of the river as the towpath – and his and my bicycle. Now the Swan Warden’s outboard dinghy goes ahead, but not very far ahead, and the swans are upped wherever they happen to be.

I wasn’t going to bother with the swans this year, as I’ve got to the point where I have good pictures of almost everything, enough for a decent book, and really the only thing that would add to it would be some pictures from further up the river. One year when I’m less busy I’ll ask to go on the official press boat again and follow it further, as further upstream a bicycle becomes less useful. Though I may need to borrow a long lens to make it really worthwhile.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

But it turned out to be a nice day, and I thought I could spare a couple of hours in the morning, so I decided to go after all. By the time I’d followed it for a couple of hours and the only cygnets that had been found were up a backwater and on the opposite bank where even after I’d waded through chest high stinging nettles I could only get the poorest of views, I was thinking I should have stayed at home.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Finally they came across a swan with six cygnets just a hundred yards or so short of their lunchtime stop at the Swan Inn in Staines, and there was a decent opportunity to see them at work. Unfortunately the bank where they boats surrounded the swans was a little overgrown, and there wasn’t time to do some gardening, so what would have been the best pictures are seen through rather too many weeds in the foreground, but I made a few that were not too bad. There are just a few parts of the event that are difficult – and usually impossible – to photograph well, for example when the birds are being returned to the water, as you would need to be in the river and in the way to be in the right place.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The upppers didn’t catch the male swan, who had been on the other side of the river, and he swum around a few yards away watching while his mate and offspring were being processed on the bank. There was a touching scene when the female swan was put back into the water and swam out to meet him, and despite my feelings about pictures of swans I had to take some pictures.

I grabbed the D300 which had the Sigma 28-300 attached and took a series of pictures without stopping to check exposure – having previously been using it I knew they wouldn’t be far out.

When I looked at the images after the swans had moved apart, I found that they were all very dark towards one edge. Eventually I worked out that the camera wasn’t working properly at speeds faster than around 1/1500 s. Testing showed the image darkened and blacked out from one edge progressively at speeds above this, unitl the entire image had gone at 1/4000 s, even wide open where it should have been fully exposed.

Fortunately Lightroom with its graduated filter came to my rescue (though I still find it very tricky to use) and the defect it fairly hard to spot in the final result.

It isn’t a fault that will worry me in normal use, where I seldom use fast shutter speeds, and the camera is long out of warranty, so I’ve decided to live with the problem until something really important goes wrong. Perhaps before that happens Nikon will announce a new model that I’ll want to get rather than repairing the D300.

See more pictures (and text) at Swan Upping on My London Diary

d’Agata Interview

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Thanks to Jim Casper at Lens Culture  for his tweet mentioning the interview with Antoine d’Agata at Gomma magazine, which is worth a read. One of the people he mentions is Joan Liftin, who I met some years ago when I attended a Charles Harbutt workshop at the late and lamented Peter Goldfield‘s Duckspool. Joan sent me a copy of her book ‘Drive-Ins‘ which I reviewed on when I was writing for that site, and is unfortunately no longer available.  d’Agata goes on to mention Nan Goldin, who I wrote about at some length for About, and later produced a revised and updated version of my piece on her, Nan Goldin’s Mirror on Life for this site .

One of the last posts that I wrote for About, back in May 2007, was about Gomma Issue 3, when I noted:

there are some good interviews, with Daido Moriyama, Anders Petersen, Boris Mikhailov and Boogie. Along with Lise Sarfati, they also provide some great photographs, and there is plenty of other interesting work in the issue, for example the ambrotypes of Stephen Berkman (I mentioned his work with the Camera Obscura briefly eighteen months ago) and the highly personal black and whites of Danish photographer Jacob Aue Sobol.

Those names were all those of people I’d written about on About, and in the original there were of course links to those pieces, some short, but all linking to other information on the web.  I’m still upset that the New York Times (the owners of, at least when I dismissed) not only took all that resource off line, although without constant upkeep much of it would now be out of date, but more that there is still nothing on line which really replaces what I did. It was more or less a full time job, and I could not continue it without the financial support that provided.

Gomma too has changed. Here is what it says on the web site:

Gomma Magazine, the printed six-monthly publication, was edited in London, printed in Italy and distributed worldwide through major distribution companies.

Unfortunately the publication of the magazine has been put on hold due to logistic issues, – however a relaunch plan for the magazine is currently being discussed. Also there are talks to create a small publishing house of high quality photography.

The Online platform continue to be a valuable resource for photographers and visual artists. Its use and registration is free, although some new pay-per-entry structure has been installed so to avoid duplicate and flooding of the same info.

Having looked at the site, I’m not too sure what Gomma is, but there is certainly some interesting material there.

Pro-Choice Protest

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

The threat to change the law on abortion brought protesters to protest opposite parliament last month. There were quite a few men present, but it was mainly women, and of all ages and types. Naturally as a photographer I was particularly drawn to those of more dramatic appearance, and in particular one woman who held the main banner reading ‘My Body My Choice‘ but it was largely her bright blue spiky hair that drew my attention, although her tattoos and t-shirt helped.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

So you will see rather too many pictures of her in my work from the day in Pro-Choice Rally at Parliament posted at last on My London Diary.  Of course there were plenty of other people to photograph, and I did so, but it is rather hard to miss someone like this.

For this particular picture I had to get up on tip-toe to photograph over the banner she was holding, very carefully framing to show the face and fist on her t-shirt and also I wanted to get the text ‘Women must decide their fate‘ at the top right of the picture.

There were also plenty of placards of all sizes, and the mini-placard appears to have caught on, as this picture shows:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Something about the message on this one made me laugh, and I think my comment about it made the woman holding it laugh as well. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I think I was glad she had a sense of humour. Another of these minute placards had what was almost certainly the longest caption of any at the protest:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Just in case you’re finding it a little difficult to read, here it is in full:

What Do We Want?

Properly Resourced, Funded and High Quality Sex and Relationships Ed and Sexual and Reproductive  Health Services For All People.

When Do We Want It? Now!

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to really make a good picture of it.

Perhaps the placard that amused me most was this:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

It also has in the background what I felt was perhaps the most important issue in the whole controversy, a call for evidence-based health policies, a point mentioned by several of the speakers, including the only man brave enough to speak, at least while I was there. This was a doctor, the former MP and Liberal Democrat science spokesman Evan Harris. Facing him as he spoke was a woman in a green hat holding up a placard ‘Politicians Make crappy Doctors!’ You can see her in my picture but I couldn’t find a way to really make her stand out as I wanted. Although it had been a fine sunny afternoon, by then a heavy shower had begun and many people had their umbrellas up, and after taking this picture I decided it was time to leave.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

On John Szarkowski

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I’d not read the obituary of John Szarkowski, the man who defined our medium for several decades in his tenure at MoMA in New York from 1962-1991 and whose work remains a strong influence, written for Artforum in 2007 by Maria Morris Hambourg, so it was interesting to see it republished on American Suburb X.

Although I’ve sometimes poked a little fun at some of his writing, his view of the medium was largely one that I subscribed too, based as it was – and as Hambourg makes clear – on the work of Walker Evans, whose ‘American Photographs’ remains one of the truly great photographic works. Among the aspects of Szarkowski’s work that particularly interested me were his promotion of the work of Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand, and also the re-evaluation that he made of the work of Eugene Atget, with his fine series of four books of his work, a project with which Hambourg was involved, and which came out around the time I was also investigating his work in my own ‘Paris Revisited‘, recently revised and republished as In Search of Atget.

Hambourg also mentions his ‘Looking at Photographs‘, still one of the better books which displays some of the joys to be appreciated in photography, although perhaps surprisingly she fails to mention his ‘The Photographer’s Eye‘, arguably the best introduction to how our medium works.

As she says, the “new directorial mode, constructed realities, appropriated pictorial worlds, and borrowed media identities interested him not at all”; like me he felt they had little to offer photography. Hambourg sees this as a weakness, but it came from the strength of his belief in the essential core of the medium and his appreciation of its subtleties and power.