Archive for November, 2011

Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

One of the dozen youngish photographers selected for this year’s World Press Photo‘s Joop Swart Masterclass was Anastasia Taylor-Lind, a graduate of the Newport photography course, currently based in Lebanon. She has produced some remarkable photographs of ‘ordinary’ women in conflict zones around the world which you can see on her own web site. There is also a Radio Wales interview with her about her work which is well worth listening to.

There is a story and video about her project ‘The National Womb’ produced for the masterclass which had the theme of ‘Respect’ on the Canon Professional site, and this, the web site and radio interview are the source for almost all I know about her.

I looked at the Taylor-Lind image on the front page of the WPP web site immediately after writing about the $4.3m sale of Andreas Gursky’s ‘Rhein II’ and my immediate thought was how much more her picture was worth than anything from his plastic universe.  Although I’d think the same about the work of many other fine photographers too.

Taylor-Lind also has an unusual story to tell about her home background, which seems to have been in many ways an ideal preparation for her work. Her Swedish mother gave up a career as a ballet dancer to travel the world after meeting her British father, following the hippy trail before returning to the UK, where Anastasia’s early years were spent travelling around in a gypsy wagon. The family settled in Devon when she was nine and she was able to go to school for the first time. Her father often told her that the worst thing you can do is to be ordinary, but at that age she desperately wanted to be like the other people, with a house, car and modern conveniences.

In their home they had no TV and didn’t take newspapers; almost the only early contact she had with the media came from an uncle who every year gave her parents an annual subscription to National Geographic as a Christmas present, and this was perhaps the main place where she saw good photography in her early years. It was a story that struck a chord with me, as when I was small I also grew up among piles of National Geographic magazines, though in my case they were issues from twenty years earlier, again donated to us from a wealthy relative.

She went on to study A level photography at East Devon College, but still didn’t have much idea what photography was about until one day at college she opened a book of Don McCullin’s work and immediately decided that was the kind of thing she wanted to do. Fortunately her tutor had the sense to tell her that if she wanted to take pictures like that she should go and take the course at Newport. There her tutor was Clive Landen, who she says not only taught her the basics about photography but that it would have an effect on her whole life, and this certainly has been true.

In her third year of study Taylor-Lind went to Turkey to photograph Kurdish guerillas, one third of them are women and you can see her pictures of some of them in ‘No Friends But the Mountains’ on her web site.  Her upbringing was certainly a great preparation for the kind of travelling that this involved, and for getting on with the people that she met.

One of the other projects on her web site is on cider makers from Devon. She told her Radio Wales interviewer that she feels more at home in unusual, alternative communities – ” I like crazy people” and that she is the opposite of those photographers who like to disappear into the background as she likes talking too much and “my pictures speak as much about my relationship with the people I’m photographing as anything else.” But really the whole of the interview, video and web site are worth a careful look.

Taylor-Lind’s The National Womb is one of the 12 projects from the Joop Swart Masterclass featured in the book Next #01 published by WPP:

·  Eunice Adorno, Mexico, There Is No Such Place
·  Antonio Bolfo, USA, Survival in Cité Soleil
·  Kitra Cahana, Canada, Nomadia: Young American Nomads
·  Alinka Echeverria, Mexico/UK, Becoming South Sudan
·  Alessandro Imbriaco, Italy, Angela’s Garden
·  Kuba Kaminski, Poland, The Whisperers
·  Sebastian Liste, Spain, On This Side of the Mountain
·  Leo Maguire, UK, Dark Strangers
·  Ivor Prickett, Ireland, Free Libya
·  Mohammed Salem, Palestinian Territories, In Honor of Death
·  Dimitri Stefanov, Bulgaria, Collapse
·  Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Sweden/UK, The National Womb

There are several in the list whose work I’ve seen elsewhere, and doubtless all are worth following up, and there are links to ther web sites on the WPP page.

It’s a volume that seems interesting and at a fairly reasonable price, although unless I get offered a review copy I can’t tell you more.

Arms Unfair 4

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

The published timetable for the day of action against the DSEi arms fair had ended with the protest outside BAE Systems, and I’d really spent long enough on my feet and was looking forward to going home and having dinner – as well as working on the many pictures I’d already taken.  So I wasn’t too pleased when I was given the information that there would be another protest outside the National Gallery, and if it hadn’t been on my route home I might have decided enough was enough.

Although we were told to keep it quiet, I got the impression that the police already knew about it, and there were quite a few around as the protesters tried to enter the gallery. I was just behind the first group to go in the main entrance but hesitated about whether to go in.  It is often a tricky decision, and I have no right to enter premises just because I’m carrying a camera and a press card when the staff are clearly trying to keep people out, although some photographers just rush in.

The gallery was just closing to the public, and I would have had to have joined the protesters in trying to push past the security staff to follow them. I think a few may have made it, but were fairly rapidly ejected. I decided instead to try to photograph the larger number of protesters who were still on the steps, ignoring the security men telling them to go down.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

They were trying to put up banners, and so were right against the balustrade at the front, making it difficult to get a suitable angle. I took a few pictures, leaning out and even holding my camera further out, then decided to go down and photograph from in front of the building on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The protest developed, with a struggle going on with police to clear the steps, for some minutes by persuasion and then, after reinforcements had arrived, by force, which was more effective. There were some angry scenes as one or two protesters were dragged away to police vans from the steps, while others staged another die-in on the pavement and I ran back and forth trying to record both.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Then more officers still arrived, and one or two of them, including a senior officer, started to get very physical.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

It is the kind of situation where to see anything you have to be very close (or very tall, which I’m not.) And very close in a crowd the 10.5mm can work well. Here I’m holding it up in the air at arms length to get pictures; with experience and checking on the rear screen it is possible to frame things with some accuracy, although there is still an element of chance. I wanted to put Nelson in the top right corner, and in this frame at least I more or less got him there. But the 10.5mm is a rather vulnerable lens, as it cannot take a filter, so does need a little care.

Most of the time I was photographing this fracas I was working with the 16-35mm, a nicely solid (but over-large) professional lens, which can take quite a bit of rough handling (and I’ve been through several filters on it.) It’s main weak point is the lens hood, and frankly the Nikon lens hoods are all pretty useless, flimsily made with an under-engineered bayonet mounting.  One small tap and they either fall off completely or move around, producing vignetting at the corners. So of course it happened in that crowd, and I didn’t notice it until too late, working very much in the heat of the moment. I’ve cropped most of the pictures to remove as much of the vignette as I can, but you can still see it on some of the images.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

If you should lose or break your Nikon lens hood, don’t pay the arm and a leg Nikon ask for these few pence worth of plastic. The cheap replacements available on eBay are in my experience slightly better made and look as good. Of course they still suffer from the same Nikon fixing problem.

More on the event and more pictures at Arms Fair Fracas At National Gallery.

Arms Unfair 3

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

The 10.5mm again came to my aid at the next protest venue in the continuing ‘day of action’ against the DSEi arms fair organised by the  ‘Stop the Arms Fair Coalition‘,  outside the offices of BAE Systems in Carlton House Terrace, a very posh street tucked away above the Mall, and generally rather deserted, with just the odd French tourist coming to view or possibly deface the statue of De Gaulle who had his reduced empire in a large house here during WW2.

After a little fairly disorganised chanting and a few short addresses, the main event here was a mass die-in, with most of the protesters prone on the roadway. There were a few small points of interest:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

and earlier I’d photographed some of the placards, banners and protesters who stood out a little from the rest, such as this guy in rather striking glasses:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

but getting good overall pictures of the event was a little tricky. My two favourites are these:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

© 2011, Peter Marshall

As you can see I’ve chosen not to correct the curvature of the fisheye in either, because it seemed to me to work well and not overpower the images as sometimes happens. In the upper image it enhances the sprawl of the dominant figure at the right. When I was taking it I liked the contrast in shapes with the almost straight yellow road-mark line a little to the left of centre splitting the near-circle the lens produces from the banner and target sheet of the UK Drone protesters.

In the lower picture I used the lens to concentrate on the peace flag and Christian peace banner, but to put them in the overall view. It was tricky to get the exact framing that I wanted as I couldn’t stand on people and wouldn’t on principle ask them to move, but I was fairly happy with the result.

More pictures at DSEi Protest at BAE Systems.

Arms Unfair 2

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

From Parliament I went to St Paul’s and walked across the footbridge towards Tate Modern to see the next anti-DSEi protest, a ‘bubble-mob’ by Dr Zig and his gang from Wales. The bubbles were truly amazing, and a squally wind drove them at speed once they were released. Made from a suitably magic and secret formula, they seemed to be tougher than the average soap bubble and took on some intense interference colours, particularly against the slate black clouds which were advancing.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Capturing the colours in a photograph doesn’t always seem to be easy and they seem usually to record less intensely than we see them, but I was reasonably happy with a few.

I’d arrived shortly before the end of a  bubble session, and while the bubble-makers took a break had time to sit and eat my sandwiches before  the heavens opened.  Perhaps making bubbles is an effective rain-making ceremony. Fortunately there was shelter at hand under the Millennium Bridge, and we all stood it out there until it eased off enough to make more bubbles.

What was more difficult was making some kind of visual connection between the bubbles and the Arms Fair. The protesters had brought a couple of banners, but neither was particularly easy to include with bubbles in the pictures. Here’s a picture where you can just about make out that the banner says ‘Kids need human rights not cluster bombs‘ but most of the time there were too many people in front of it.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Add kids playing with the bubbles and it gets trickier; here are two of my better attempts.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Eventually I gave up – you can see some more of my attempts at Dr Zig’s ‘Bubbles Not Bombs’ Protest.

I took a bus across Southwark Bridge into the City for the next protest on my list, arriving to find only a small group there wondering why nobody else had turned up. After a quarter of an hour I thought to check the times on my printout from the web site and discovered that we were still 45 minutes early – the time we had read was when people were going to leave from Parliament and the protest was due for an hour later.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I took the chance to rush away to see my Gardens show in St John’s Wood which I had last left with the walls being painted and my prints piled on a table, but had been hung at the weekend, and I needed to get some decent installation views. I didn’t quite have time to get there and back and take the pictures, but thought it wouldn’t matter being just a few minutes late. Then on the way back I just missed a train, and the gap until the next one was several times longer than normal, and the interchange at Kings Cross had me walking at least half a mile underground. Fortunately the protest was still going on when I arrived after running from the station.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

It was a very tight location, a narrow pavement with traffic on the road behind me, and I was glad of the 10.5mm which enabled me to include the pavement and the London offices of General Atomics, makers of Predator and Reaper drones.  Things got tighter still when UK Drone set up their tableaux photo-opportunity, with ‘dead bodies’ on a target in front of their banner and a woman with a Playstation controller standing in for the remote RAF and USAF pilots in Nevada killing people in Afghanistan.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Again taken with the fisheye, but you can see that the verticals of the buildings, although at an angle have been straightened. Without this partial correction using the Image Trends Fish-Eye Hemi filter plugin for Photoshop, the woman at the left of the image appears too distorted for my taste.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

More pictures at Down the Drones City Arms Fair Protest.

Arms Unfair 1

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Every two years since 2001 arms dealers and traders from around the world have descended on London’s Docklands for the world’s largest arms fair, DSEi, the euphemistically titled ‘Defence & Security Equipment International’ sponsored by our government where people around the world – including many from dictatorial regimes – come to buy the weapons and systems they will use to kill and repress people around the world.

Of course there are a few concessions made to give it a more positive image, with a few countries being excluded (though others may make deals on their behalf) and some universally banned weapons – such as cluster bombs – usually being kept under the counters rather than on display.

But as I note on My London Diary:

The UK Government’s Human Rights Annual Report for 2010 listed 26 countries where there was considerable concern over human rights violations, and in the same year it approved arms exports to 16 of these including as well as Libya, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Protests against DSEi take place regularly through the year, both outside the ExCel Centre and at the offices and outside other events organised by the owners and organisers of DSEi, Clarion Events, and are led by groups such as East London Against the Arms Fair and CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade.)

During the actual arms fair, police seal off a large area around it, closing off everything between the DLR line and the whole north side of the Royal Victoria Dock, as well as maintaining a strong police presence in the surrounding area. Opportunities for protests within sight or hearing of the event are very limited, and most of the protests this year took place elsewhere in London.

Although protests took place throughout the week of the arms fair, Tuesday 13th September when it opened was the main day of action called by the  ‘Stop the Arms Fair Coalition‘ and I came up to the Houses of Parliament at 10 am for the first event, a mock arms fair in Old Palace Yard.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

It was easy to get some pictures as people queued with supermarket baskets full of arms, and certainly some entered very much into the spirit of the event.

Our Houses of Parliament are fairly recognisable even without Big Ben which is hardly visible from Old Palace Yard where the event was set up. Parliament Square is a better venue for protests, both because that large clock is more visible and also because far more people see the protest, with a far more traffic passing through than at Old Palace Yard. Unfortunately although the permanent peace protest continues on the pavement there, the rest of the square remains fenced off and unavailable either for tourists or protesters. It is a ridiculous and entirely political decision.

Of course the truly iconic view of the Houses of Parliament – which I learnt from the dinner table bottle of HP Sauce – was from across the river, showing in detail its full length from the Victoria Tower at the left to Big Ben at the right. Along with the French text “Cette sauce de haute qualité est un mélange de fruits, d’épices, et de vinaigre pur. Elle ne contient aucune matière colorante ni preservatif ...” it has long been dropped, at first in favour of a vignetted view and now by more of a caricature (and has even disappeared completely on some containers.) The sauce remains only in name, and perhaps typically for something invented in Britain was sold to a French company and then Heinz and is now made to a different recipe (catering for US taste and healthier eating) in Holland.

There was of course no sauce at the SAFC arms fair, but lots of canisters of CS gas to deal with riots as well as some bombs and a few rockets. One of our best-known peace campaigners, Bruce Kent, grinned delightedly as he wore a necklace of bullets while queuing with his full basket of lethal goods.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Bruce Kent stocks up with a good supply of CS Gas

Of course it was a staged event, as my pictures show clearly. Where things go wrong is not when others stage things but when photographers stage things for their pictures and they are used as if this was what was happening spontaneously. So far as  possible I try not to interfere with things, although pointing a camera at them almost always alters what happens, and at this event there were many people with cameras – and it was organised for them.

Photographically there were few problems, except in avoiding other photographers, who I don’t like in my pictures and in return whose way I like to keep out of as much as possible. As usual I worked mainly with the wide angle 16-35mm which means getting in close, but there was plenty of time and opportunity so that this didn’t really get in the way of those who like to stand further back.

I go in, take my pictures and then move back. What really annoys me at some events is when a photographer goes in close, takes some pictures and then continues to stand there in everyone else’s way, often while ‘chimping’.

I took a few pictures with the 10.5mm fisheye, but this really came into its own later in the day.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The 10.5 was the only way I could get the whole of the text ‘THIS IS NOT OK’ that people were holding up, as they were standing close behind the arms queue. I also took a few pictures using the 18-105 (27-157 equivalent on the D300) but there were relatively few images where I wanted to work above 50mm.  Though for Caroline Lucas speaking, a ‘portrait’ focal length worked well.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Green MP Caroline Lucas speaking. 50(75eq)mm – a typical portrait lens focal length

More text and pictures at: Arms Fair Protest At Parliament.

The arms fair day of protest continues in the next post.

Size Matters

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I’ve always liked small photographs. Photography started that way with the Daguerreotype, and they had a privacy and an intimacy that has perhaps never been surpassed, requiring anyone who wished to enjoy them to hold them in their hand, open their case and angle them to the light to reveal their delicately detailed secret.

Even when I first experienced actual photographs well over a hundred years later, they were still small objects, perhaps around 3½” by 2½” kept carefully pasted into albums and largely brought out on special family occasions to pass around.

Much later I began to buy photographic books (first I wrote ‘collect’ but I’ve never really collected books, although I now have several thousand; for me it isn’t a collection but a working tool) and although some books are large and have quite big images, I can’t think of one single example of a truly great photographic book with photographs larger than around 8 x 10″.

In the middle of the 1970s I joined a local photographic club, and then went on another much larger club a few miles away. There I found that serious photographs were expected to be 20×16″ or at least 16×12″. I did make a few prints that size, but then began to rather shock some people by following the advice of Ansel Adam’s ‘The Print’ which had become my darkroom bible and presenting my prints in large neutral white over-mats. 20×16 was around the right size for a 12×8″ which became my standard ‘large’ print size, while smaller images fitted on 16×12. By the time I left the club (more or less by mutual consent) a few years later there were quite a few others following my example.

© 1983 Peter Marshall
Fisher’s Removals, Spring Bank, Hull – from my 1983 show

My first – and really my only – big show in 1983 had around 140 images – I’m not sure now of the exact number, though it amuses me to think of it as 144 – a gross! Most were black and white images and were 160x106mm (approx 6.3×4.2″)  a size I chose as the ideal for photographs from 35mm.  They were shown mounted as pairs behind carefully cut white over-mats, rather like double page spreads in a book (with some pairs combined into a group of four one above the other.)

They were highly detailed prints and I think marked the zenith of my work as a photographic printer – working on such a small scale was tricky compared to making larger prints and they were all produced on Agfa materials which were shortly after replaced by inferior but less toxic materials.

Since then I’ve had a more relaxed attitude to print size, particularly with the advent of digital printing, which has enabled me to get more out of some of those old negatives – and now to even approach the quality of those old prints and even sometimes better it.  For last month’s ‘East of the City’ show the prints I made, again from 35mm, were nominally 360x240mm (ca 14.2×9.4″) and work well, though I think I would prefer them at a slightly smaller size the quality holds up pretty well.

Years ago when I used to take my work to a particular client he would look at my 10×8’s (image size around 9×6″) from 35mm and buy them, but tell me that what he really liked about images taken on large format cameras was that you could take a loupe to the print and see more detail. For some kinds of documentary work that may be important, but for other photography it may be totally irrelevant.

And while I may like small prints you can hold in your hand, they are not necessarily suitable for all occasions. If you are going to hang photographs on walls they probably usually work better at a larger size than the same pictures in books.

Two things got me thinking about size of prints today. The second was writing about Gursky’s 80×140″ images of hugely expensive banality (and being mounted on glass it must also be pretty heavy.)  But more pressing was the delivery here yesterday of the unsold prints from my ‘Secret Gardens of St John’s Wood’ show. I’m still hopeful that a few of them will be sold, but at the moment I have them to look after, and the large carton containing them is taking up too much space in my hall. Usually I keep prints in my loft, but the hatch to enter that isn’t large enough for the carton or even the largest print to go through.

© 2011 Peter Marshall
A 40×30″ print from ‘Secret Gardens of St John’s Wood’

I have one of the two 30×40″ prints that were made for the show and I live in a small house. My wife suggested hanging it on the wall of one of our downstairs rooms, but although it would fit it really is too large and out of scale with the other images already there. There are a couple of the smaller images that will fit nicely where one of my old triptychs fell down last year and I’ve not got around to re-framing it.

Fortunately I’ve managed to find what I think is an ideal space for the large garden image above, facing the landing at the top of the stairs, where it will fit nicely in the currently empty space above some smaller frames. The dark grey surround will I think look good on the rich brown hessian wall-covering and the image will almost be like a window in the wall.

But if someone were to give me the Gursky for Christmas that would have to go in the back yard. I think I’d leave it face to the wall.

Art & Photography

Monday, November 14th, 2011

The recent record $4.3 million paid by an anonymous buyer for Andreas Gursky‘s bland and featureless view based on a fairly bland and featureless stretch of the Rhine, Rhine II, provides yet more evidence of the art world’s inability to understand photography. But then the art market isn’t about understanding images, but about making money from them, something it does extremely well.

Although Christie’s write (and possibly even think) that this work is “a dramatic and profound reflection on human existence and our relationship with nature on the cusp of the 21st century“, to me it seems profoundly shallow and to almost exactly negate our growing understanding of our place on this planet and how we might possibly attain a sustainable relationship to it. If our civilisation continues into the future I’m confident that it will not be too long before this work will be hidden away in the basement store of some museum never to see the light again. Although at some point doubtless rediscovered by some eager curator keen to make a reputation by re-evaluating and recycling the rubbish of the ages.

Is it worth $4.3 million? Well, of course not, except in the sense that anything is worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. In the short term it might even be a good investment, able to be sold on for even more, though I think in the longer term more likely to become an expensive embarrassment, it’s overblown size at 80 x 140 inches making it very much a green and grey elephant.

I’ve stood in front of many if not most of Gursky’s giant images and remained largely unimpressed. I’ve seldom found their size makes them any better, except in terms of décor. Huge modern offices and public buildings need works on a giant scale, hence the ‘healthy’ sales of giant photographs of very little that sometimes seem to dominate photographic dealer trade shows such Paris Photo (which I’ve just missed), boredom on an industrial scale.

Of course these vast empty walls could be filled more cheaply by painting images direct on them using the kind of techniques used for giant adverts such as those covering the backs of some buses, and there are plenty of out-of-copyright masterpieces that might be suitable for such treatment. But covering walls with expensive artworks isn’t really about the visual experience, more an affirmation of affluence. It’s a slightly more tasteful way of covering your wall with gold bricks or papering it with thousand dollar bills.

Gurksy’s approach to ‘Rhine II’ is essentially anti-photographic, although he starts with a photograph or photographs he then Photoshops out what he considers ‘intrusive features’ – people walking their dogs, cyclists, factory buildings and so on – but what to me are the essential guts of photography. It’s not really possible to know how much of the photograph remains, and what has been cloned or otherwise generated. It’s an image that for me has lost touch with reality, and that relationship with the real which is the essence of our medium.

It reminds me not of a photograph, but rather of some of the entirely computer generated images that many now produce. Drawn a few straight lines across the window, pick some appropriate fills, set randomness close to zero and blandness near infinity and you have your own Gursky. Though possibly also a copyright suit.

Salgado Talks

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Sebastião Salgado now works using a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and you can read a fairly long interview with him on the Canon Professional site. Although I admire much of his work, somehow he isn’t a photographer whose pictures I would go out of my way to see, though I can’t quite justify why not. Perhaps he makes things a bit too neat and pretty for me, things that I feel should be messier and somehow have more life. But it’s hard not to admire the man and his work, including the “epic Genesis project” that this interview is about, though perhaps the description of the work as ‘epic’ is part of what worries me.

In some ways what I found most interesting about the piece was the technical stuff at the end, where we find that he has a specially modified camera to give him the 645 frame format ratio. He also says “I don’t look at the back of the camera after I take a picture. I only look [at the end of a day’s shoot] very quickly to see if there is a problem.” I have to admit that I don’t often look at the camera back, though I like to do so occasionally, not to see if I have got the picture I want, but more to see if I have got a picture at all. I find it only too easy to forget some vital setting which means I get the exposure totally wrong, perhaps forgetting that I had dialled in a couple of stops exposure compensation earlier. It does all appear in the viewfinder display, but I find I don’t usually notice that when I’m really engaged with the subject.

But Salgado really does take things a stage further,  pretending he is still using film and having contact prints made for him of the 10,000 images from each trip to work from and make his “edits with a loop.” The sentence that had me fooled for a moment until I realised that it meant a ‘loupe’.

He says he doesn’t shoot more on digital than he did on film, and on a 645 film camera, those 10,000 images would have ended up well over 600 contact prints. Perhaps he really did shoot that many films, but it seems rather a lot.

He then has his Paris lab make “a physical negative” from the digital file, and his prints are made from this. The article doesn’t make clear whether he – or his printer – works on the digital file to carry out any necessary ‘dodging’ and ‘burning’ or other corrections, or whether this are left to the final darkroom stage.

I also learn that he has 8 lenses and a 1.4x tele-extender, but perhaps surprisingly nothing wider than 24mm, which I would find rather limiting.  But I certainly applaud his advice to young documentary photographers that they need to have a good understanding “of history, of geopolitics, of sociology and anthropology” rather than technical knowledge being of paramount importance, though I see I have changed his word ‘knowledge’ into ‘understanding.’

Dale Farm

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

It’s now several weeks since police stormed Dale Farm and forced most of the residents along with protesters from the illegal site, but the story is far from over. Many of the travellers are determined to stay in the area, and at the moment many are still livng just a few yards down the road, although Basildon Council is expected to try and get a court order for them to be removed. There may too be further legal actions over the way that the eviciton was carried out, and also on the wider question of discrimation against the travellers, both in this particular instance and more generally over planning matters.

Although the dispute over the site has being going on for around ten years I had not visited Dale Farm before September this year. I seldom cover events outside London – although I admittedly have a slightly elastic definition of what that is, and certainly not not unless they are readily accessible by public transport. But there was another factor in this case, in that before I decided to read up about it, I’d dismissed it as a case about planning issues – which was how our legal system dealt with it.

Once I found out more it became clear that the issue over development on Green Belt was essentially an unimportant pretext, and that the real issue is one of discrimination against a particular community and their way of life.

© 2011 Peter Marshall

I’ve long had an interest in planning issues; it was reflected in my political activities back in the 1960s and later in a number of photographic projects – such as ‘Still Occupied – A View of Hull‘ which I brought out as a Blurb book last year, as well as later work around London which you can see on the urban landscapes site. What I saw when I finally made it to Dale Farm convinced me that this was an appropriate place for the site that it would be unlikely that any unbiased planning process would have refused, particularly given that at least part of the land had been in use for some time as a scrapyard and it was Green Belt only in name.

You can read more of my thoughts on Dale Farm and see pictures from the protest march against the evictions in March Supports Dale Farm Against Evictions on My London Diary.

© 2011 Peter Marshall

I don’t know why the girl in this picture was wearing only one shoe.

Most of the children had taken off their shoes while having a short rest a few minutes earlier on the seat in a bus shelter, and some had not bothered to put them back on to run the few hundred yards along the grass verge to the gates of their school. It was the contrast between the lurid trainer and her bare foot that drew my attention. I thought she had probably rushed to join the photo before having time to put on the second shoe. Certainly she had been wearing it when I photographed her earlier.

But some minutes later I photographed her walking along the road, still wearing just one trainer. So I assume she had either somehow lost it or it had fallen to pieces.

© 2011 Peter Marshall

The protest on September 10 started at Wickford Station rather than Dale Farm, a simple and fairly short journey for me – three trains with easy changes and I was there in around an hour and a half. Of course although the march was to start from the station, it was going to end at the site, around three and a half miles away, and I would then need to get back. Not a great problem, I could always phone for a taxi, and this is the kind of area on the suburban fringes where there were likely to be plenty of taxis.

But I decided seven miles was not a very long way – the kind of distance I often do on an afternoon walk, and it was going to be a nice day for a country walk. So I added the OS map of the area to my bag, and also found that if I got tired I could take a bus back to Wickford once I got to the main road.

© 2011 Peter MarshallAt least I didn’t have a dog to carry

What I’d not taken into consideration was the weight of the camera bag I was carrying – not a huge weight, but around 14 lbs and feeling much heavier after a longish day, as well as the extra effort involved with running around and taking pictures. Walking back turned out to be something of an effort, and my planned route from the map was made longer when one of the minor roads shown on the map turned out to be a private road and I had to detour.

The route I took was pleasant enough, though made slightly trickier at one point where Basildon council’s map had put the path on the wrong side of a fence and they wanted the farmer who owned the land to pay to put their mistake right, as I heard from his father who I had stopped to ask the way. I had intended to put a picture in here, but I find I was so uninspired by the countryside that I didn’t take any.

But I was pleased after half an hour or so walking to arrive at the main road and a bus shelter, even if I had missed the bus I was aiming for and it was over half and hour until the next to take me back to Wickford. Photographers often have to wait around for things, and one of the things in my bag is always a library book, and I settled down on the seat in the shelter to read it until it was time for the bus.

Photomonth Photo-Open 2011

Friday, November 4th, 2011

© 2011 Peter Marshall

Yesterday I went to the opening of the 2011 East London Photomonth Photo-Open at Rich Mix on the Bethnal Green Rd. It was a fairly crowded event, with most of the 80 people who had submitted work there, along with their friends.

© 2011 Peter Marshall
I looked hard for anyone with red shoes but in vain

Photomonth is a uniquely democratic photography festival, and for me that has always been a very good reason to support it, although I’ve never yet entered work for the Photo-Open, preferring to curate group shows including my own work as a part of the festival in which those taking part do so on the basis of a small body of work rather than a single image.

For me the projection of images – though I didn’t stand and watch it all through last night, thinking that I could drop in again while I was passing as the show continues until 26th November and the centre is open daily from 10am to midnight – was in most ways more interesting than the small sample on display as prints, with many of those taking part having several images in the projection – which showed all images submitted.

The prints were printed by theprintspace, who also made the prints for my ‘Secret Gardens of St John’s Wood‘ which closes tomorrow (5 Nov 2011)  and the colour work was certainly excellent. I was not quite convinced that the (relatively few) black and white prints on show were quite at the same level, though they were certainly not bad prints. But black and white printing is still something of a dark art even though we have come out of the darkroom. I’m not convinced that C-types (which I think these were) can ever match the best inkjet prints; as I’ve commented before, “colour printing is a process while black and white is an art.”

© 2011 Peter Marshall

© 2011 Peter Marshall
Concentrating on choosing which image to vote for in the Photomonth Youth Award

© 2011 Peter Marshall
Watching the projection of all the images
Watching the projection did also make me wonder about the selection process involved, and certainly my own choice of images would have differed fairly radically from those on the wall. Among them there were certainly some interesting pictures – my favourite taken in a meat van – but there were also those that I could see little reason for selecting.

I think there was probably a deliberate decision to select work that showed the widest possible range of approaches and subject matter, and perhaps also to show work by people who had not previously shown.

© 2011 Peter Marshall
Watching the projection of all the submitted images

When  I arrived home I started loading the files as usual into Lightroom – I’d been taking pictures both on the Fuji X100 – a great camera for unobtrusive photography in low light, as well as using a Nikon D700 with 16-35mm. The files for the Fuji loaded without problem until the very end when Lightroom reported a problem with its catalogue file.  Some 14 hours later it is still chuntering away on the hard disk with “Catalog Repair in Progress” and I’ve decided to leave well alone until it either finishes or the computer crashes.

The Fuji focussed pretty well in the lowish light – I was working at ISO1600 with the lens wide open at f2 and some slowish shutter speeds – and I think I took some decent pictures, but there were situations where I needed a wider view than the 35mm equivalent.  With the maximum aperture of the Nikon 16-35mm at f4 I needed to use ISO3200, but that isn’t a great issue with the D700. I processed the D700 images on my petite notebook, which doesn’t have enough memory or horsepower to run Lightroom, and has a screen that gives a very different result if I move my head around. On the notebook I have an old copy of ACDSee and its image editor FotoCanvas, which can do some basic corrections, but I’ve done very little on these, other than some slight changes to exposure, watermarking and resizing. The colour balance is exactly as Nikon decided it ought to be.

When that catalogue is repaired – or I give up on it and start a new one – I’ll post some more images from the evening, and perhaps correct and tidy up these.