Archive for June, 2012

Hospital Visit

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Sometimes there are pictures which appeal to me but which are unlikely to be used and I think the above image is one of them. Although I like it as an image, I think it doesn’t really tell the story. Looking at it there are clues about the event, but nothing that makes it clear.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I think this is probably the one I chose as the lead image for the story, because the text on the banner makes it clear what the protest – by cleaners  at one of London’s leading hospitals – was about.  Or perhaps I might have chosen something like this one:

© 2012, Peter Marshall

It felt strange to be back at St George’s Hospital, where nine years ago I spent some time in a bed waiting for an operation which finally put me back on my feet again, although the actual building I was in – typically Victorian with the kind of long wards where Florence Nightingale would not have looked out of place – was due for demolition a few weeks after I left, and not before time.

One thing that impressed me in 2003 about St George’s was the quality of the cleaning. It was the third hospital I’d been in; the first with cleaning out to a contract was largely filthy, and in one of the wards I found discarded needles and dressings under my bed, though the intensive care ward I’d gone in to on entry was well looked after. But basically whenever the nursing staff wanted the place cleaning there were no cleaners to be found. The second hospital was so crowded with beds I don’t think you could see under them.

At St George’s the ward staff made sure the cleaners did a good job, and although the plumbing was falling to bits and parts of the walls were crumbling the floor shone. I don’t know how well the place is cleaned under Ocean who now employ the cleaners, but if as they are trying to they manage to cut the hours the cleaners are given, standards will suffer, both because the staff have less time to clean, but also because of the loss of morale that a cut in their overall pay will undoubtedly bring.

The dispute at St George’s is also about union recognition. The cleaners – all except one – belong to the IWW which now has many of London’s cleaners in its branch here. They have lost faith in unions such as Unite who they feel have failed to press their demands with management, neglecting them in order to get a better deal for more highly paid members. But the management recognise Unite but not the IWW, perhaps because they know they will not be pressed as hard.  There were plenty of opportunities to show the IWW was fighting for the cleaners, and those red flags are IWW flags, but in other pictures I tried hard to make their involvement more obvious.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Although I think I did a decent job overall – and you can judge for yourselves at Hospital Cleaners Protest on My London Diary – and certainly the cleaners were pleased with the pictures and article published on Demotix, I wasn’t entirely happy, as there was no single picture in which I really managed to put all the elements together. Some days it’s really difficult to find what you want.

My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Afghan Photographers

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Last week I read an interesting Aljazeera feature Afghan photographers shoot to glory, which as well as starting me on a search to see more of the work of the Afghan photographers featured, also sent me looking at the work of Reza who toegether with his brother Manoocher Deghati founded the Aina (mirror in Farsi) media and photography school, where most of these photographers studied, in Kabul in 2001.

Reza is well known for his work around the world for the National Geographic Magazine, which is perhaps why I’ve not really looked much at his work before. There is something about the whole NatGeo look and approach – at least in modern times – that I often find too slick and glossy – and I rather like photographs that are a rather more down and dirty – perhaps rather more like the world itself. NatGeo tends to be a little too American and too coffee-table for my taste, though of course that is being unfair on photographers such as Reza, born in Iran and, like his brother, an Iranian-French photojournalist. He’s won major awards in photography for his work and been honoured by France and UNICEF, and looking at his work you can see why.

After studying film-making in Rome, Manoocher returned to Iran to photograph the revolution and worked for around ten years for the agency SIPA, founded by the legendary Turkish photojournalist Göksin Sipahioglu (one day I must find and resurrect the article I wrote about him) in 1973 in Iran and later in the USA, then mainly for AFP before going to Kabul to found Aina, and is now Middle East Regional Photo Editor for the Associated Press (AP), based in Cairo.

There are some pictures in the Aljazeera feature, but you can find more of their work on the web. The is a portfolio on AFP for Massoud Hossaini as well as his work at World Press PhotoFarzana Wahidy who is his wife and another fine photographer also appears in a feature
Shooting Stars: Reza presents Farzana Wahidy, where his introduction ends with the words “Farzana is telling the story of Afghanistan from the inside.” This is something that is important and true about all these photographers. Fardin Waezi, has his own blog which makes the same point in its title, Though Afghan Eyes. He learnt his photography starting at the age of 7 in his father’s photography studio in Kabul.

Barat Ali Batoor grew up as an Afghan refugee in Pakistan and going to his country for the first time in 2001, he taught himself photography in 2002 to “draw the world’s attention to the plight of the Afghan people the problems facing the country.” You can see his remarkable and controversal images of dancing boy entertainers on his site.

Time Travel…

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Thanks to PetaPixel for republishing Time Travel and Ethical Photojournalism by Utah-based photojournalist and chief photographer of the Salt Lake Tribune Trent Nelson, a piece that originally appeared on Nelson’s own web site on June 15th.

This is a discussion which applies a great deal of common sense to the discussions of the ethics of post-processing of photographs, although I think it says little if anything that I and many others haven’t said before, it does so very clearly.

His final sentence: “Remember, reality is the goal.” is perhaps a good summation of both what is and what is not acceptable in terms of image processing (though perhaps I might sometimes put in a word for clarity too.)  Certainly we should not be bound by the limits of what was possible in the not so good old days, and be ready to take advantage of the powerful corrective tools that are now available in software such as Lightroom 4.

It’s worth taking a look at the rest of Nelson’s web site too. How many photographer’s web sites have a section on Polygamy? And as it says there are some Amazing Links.

Finsbury Square Ends

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Occupy Finsbury Square in October 2011

I met a few of the Occupy people from Finsbury Square outside the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday afternoon while the court in closed session was considering if they had grounds to appeal against the eviction order. They seemed to be expecting the case to fail, and when I said to one of them that I hoped the case went the right way was a little surprised when he said it was time for the occupation to end, as it was now just a home for the homeless and vulnerable.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
In November a lecture at the ‘Bank of Ideas’ just down the road
© 2012, Peter Marshall
March 2012

Finsbury Square, occupied on 21 October had become the longest ‘Occupy’ camp anywhere in the world, and had for months organised a programme of events and actions that those concerned can be proud of – but like many organisations had outlived its purpose. Unlike some other city organisations at a similar stage in their life-cycles it had not amassed huge fortunes, and while they can and do sit back comfortably on their assets, OccupyLFS had more or less fallen to pieces and was becoming more and more of a dump. It was still providing a home for a number of people who had been failed by the system, some of whom will now be housed by Islington Council – and their temporary accomodation on site for some months will have saved the council at least some of £60,000 they claim the occupation has cost them.
© 2012, Peter Marshall
There was still a fairly full programme in March

I made only a few visits to Finsbury Square during the occupation, though I met some of the residents at a number of protests elsewhere. Although the camps here and at St Paul’s have both gone, the issues raised by the movement here and world-wide remain.
© 2012, Peter Marshall

The eviction was apparently a fairly quiet affair, taking place as I expected in the middle of the night, with bailiffs arriving around 1am this morning when I was snoring peacefully over 20 miles away. There were relatively few residents present, and the whole thing seems to have happened without any trouble.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Finsbury Square was a little out of my way, but I called in a few times when I was in the City for other things. Most times I took few if any pictures as often there seemed to be very little going on, and put nothing on My London Diary.  The last time I was there was for the start of the march from there to support the protest against a large Olympic facility being erected without proper planning permission on Leyton Marsh.

Occupy Finsbury Square – Oct 2011
Bank of Ideas & Finsbury Square – Nov 2011
Leyton Marsh Olympic Protest – Mar 2012


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Monet at Giverny

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Bernard Plossu is a photographer who perhaps has not been given the appreciation he deserves in the English dominated photographic world (by English I refer of course to the language they speak in America.)  There has always been a philosophical background to his work as with many things French, and doubtless his own minimal almost non-existent website in some way reflects that, though you can see more of his work at Galerie Camera Obscura.

The text on the English version of  La Lettre de la Photographie in the feature Monet at Giverny by Bernard Plossu is not too easy to follow (presumably a machine translation), and if you can read a little French the original makes more sense.

Plossu likes small prints – the colour images are 18x24cm or less and the black and white only 11.4×7.6cm, around 4.5×3 inches, around the size of most people’s family pictures when I was small, representing only roughly a 3x linear enlargement from his 35mm negatives.  There can be a certain exquisite quality to small black and white prints like this but looking at the images in the slide show on screen, I’m not sure that these prints possess it (and looking at the images full-screen I see them rather too large for his aesthetic.) But these are prints by Guillaume Geneste, of La Chambre Noire, one of the best printers in Paris, and not far from my favourite area of the city.

The colour images, printed by the Fresson process I think I like less. It’s a pigment process which uses four exposures with colour separated negatives onto a rather granular pigmented gelatine made light sensitive with a dichromate, with the unhardened material being washed or even abraded off the paper with a sawdust slurry, although the details are a trade secret.

The earliest monochrome prints made in this way used finely divided carbon particles as the pigment, often ‘lamp black’ made by cooling smoke on a cold surface, and were called carbon prints, and the image hardens from the top surface which was exposed to sunlight (or other UV source) down. Because of this the process became known as carbon printing.  In traditional carbon printing the exposed layer is covered by a sticker gelatine coated paper and adhered to this before being washed to remove the original porous paper backing and unhardened gelatin that was left below the hardened image.

The Fresson process was one method that eliminated the need for transfer, enabling the print to be produced directly on the coated material – a direct carbon process. Probably the secret relied on thinner coatings with paper with a good ‘tooth’ and perhaps a certain ‘graininess’ in the coating producing a kind of crude half-tone.

They call the process for colour printing ‘quadrichromie’ and it was developed from the original single colour process first exhibited in 1899 by Théodore-Henri Fresson (which took his name) and marketed by the family. A two year research project by his son and grandson resulted in the first charcoal colour print in 1952, and the process provided by their family firm became popular with advertising and fine art photographers in the 1960s and 70s.

The effect is similar to a tri-colour gum bichromate print, and gives a very painterly effect with the texture of the paper and a usually subdued rather pastel colour. Although some Fresson prints I’ve seen have been very nice as objects, the process with its characteristic palette often seems to overwhelm the subject matter, and I think it may do so here, though it’s obviously unfair to judge from the web images.

Somehow too the Fresson doesn’t quite for me sing the right tune for Monet, and I think it lacks the kind of clarity I see in his works. Though I’ve never been to Giverny I have spent some considerable time with his works in our splendid National Gallery. Often when photographing protests in Whitehall or Trafalgar Square I’ve had a few minutes to spare and have slipped into it to stand in front of works such as his The Waterlily Pond painted in 1899 at Giverny.

I wonder if Plossu might have been better to make use of modern technology to achieve similar but purer effects, processing with Photoshop (I’m not entirely convinced by this example) and printing with pigment inks on suitably textured watercolour paper.  It’s a thought that will be heresy to many.

There are a small number of Plossu’s earlier Fresson images on the  Camera Obscura site, some of which I think are more suited to the process, but it is his black and white work that interests me more.

The show is at the Musée des impressionnismes Giverny across the summer, until 31 October and perhaps this will be the year when I finally get to Giverny. It would certainly be more pleasant than watching the Olympics.

Jubilee Traces

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

There was still a little bunting down our street as we came back home after six days, away, the windswept and bedraggled remnants of a celebration that had largely passed us by. As I’ve said before, I’d rather be a citizen than a subject.

We’d been staying in a moderately remote Devon valley with a group of friends where we had no mobile signal without climbing further up the hill, and not a single union jack was visible. Of course when one of our party made the mistake of turning on the TV, that was all that was on apart from tennis, but I didn’t have to stay and watch it.

I’m not anti-Jubilee. I think it would be a very good thing if we followed the model set down in Leviticus and every 49 (or 50) years returned the land to God, rather than our current ridiculous system of land ownership which entrenches inequality and class differences. Bring it on, let’s have a real Jubilee!

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Distant Jubilee bonfire and car headlights, 3s exposure without a tripod…

But although in the valley where we were staying there was little actual sight of the recent event – we did glimpse a bonfire on a distant hill-top and we did actually leave the site and make our way to various villages, towns and the city of Exeter, where it was sometimes impossible to avoid the signs of the times.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I spent some time waiting for friends on an Exeter Street on a bench I was informed was a favourite haunt of the city’s drug dealers and I photographed the shop more or less opposite, one of many thousands around the country decorated for the Jubilee.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Later that day I walked past the Nobody Inn bus stop, and although there was nobody in (and no buses for four days) it had been decorated for the celebrations, along with a nearby tree.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

The following day we visited Topsham, the former port of Exeter and although we had missed the main festivities there, the bunting was still up and there were clearly other celebrations taking place.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

On the Salutation Inn there was an enviably catholic selection of flags, including I think an old sun-free Argentine flag which owes its origin to General Belgrano, the Red Banner of the former Soviet Union and a Dutch flag sharing place of honour with the Union Flag and St George’s Cross. It was also good to see yellow and green adding variety to the bunting alongside the red white and blue. Topsham does of course have strong historical links with the Dutch, with many of the bricks in its Dutch style houses having come across as ballast from Holland.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

And on the bowling green they were having a Jubilee event.

Deadly Coal & Filthy Lies

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Last week was apparently “End Mountaintop Removal Week Washington DC,” a piece of news that probably wouldn’t have made our media even in a week without the wall-to-wall royal sycophancy, and to be honest something that I would not normally have been aware of. Although strip mining in the UK is something I’ve written briefly about and photographed protests against in London, the environmental problems it causes in Appalachia are not a major issue here.

What brought them to my attention was a Facebook post from the The Shpilman Institute for Photography referring me to an LPV Digest post about the misuse by ‘Big Coal’ of child pornography allegations to prevent Maria Gunnoe, described by Rolling Stone in their feature about the incident as “one of the most effective and celebrated mountaintop removal activists in Appalachia” to prevent her using a picture by photographer Katie Falkenberg showing a young girl in a bath full of what Aaron Brady in The New Inquiry describes as “brown, poisonous water” caused by the mining. The photographer’s caption which he quotes states that the water has a high level of arsenic which the family say is a result of the blasting used in mining which has disrupted the water table and cracked the casing of the well which is their only normal source of water. Although the mining company haven’t admitted they caused the problem, the caption stated “they do supply the family with bottled water for drinking and cooking.”

Mother Jones gives more details of how Gunnoe, who had gone to Washington to testify to a committee of Congress, was  told before she did so that she must remove the picture from her presentation and that after she had given her presentation was questioned for almost an hour by police over allegations that the image was child pornography.

The image had been taken and used with the permission of the child’s parents and Gunnoe also had their permission to use it, but since the police investigations started it and the caption have been removed from Falkenberg’s web site, replaced by the statement: “The family has declined media request to use this photo; it has therefore been removed from the photo essay to honor their wishes.”

Although some other web sites and blogs have removed the picture at the photographer’s request, it remains fairly widely available on the web. You can find more about the U.S. Representative who appears to have been responsible for the removal of the picture and the porn allegations in the Schmuck of the Week feature Doug Lamborn should be thrown out with the bathwater on Denver Westword, and Gunnoe’s testimony (without the disputed image) is also available online.

The publicity surrounding the case has almost certainly caused problems for the family concerned, and they may well have come under considerable pressure to revoke their permission for the picture to be used.  It would be hard to criticise them, and given their request the photographer, for the decision to withdraw the image, but it really it is hardly possible to remove images from the web once they have been released, and it took less than 10 seconds to find a copy.

This perhaps isn’t always a good thing, but when we are talking about censorship by powerful vested interests who are more than prepared to play dirty I think it must be.

Letter To Nikon

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

I’m now back on an internet link and busy catching up with things – as well as covering four demonstrations yesterday which got me event further behind. I’ve run out of time writing what was intended to be my next post, but have just come across something I’d like to pass on to you before I next fall asleep on the keyboard, something I’ve already managed several times this evening.

In the last sentence of Nikon Bows To Extreme Right about Nikon cancelling the show of work by South Korean photographer Ahn Sehong I wrote:

Nikon should certainly be ashamed of their part in this affair, and I hope the photography community worldwide will make its views clear to them.

I’m very pleased that UK photographer Si Barber has  put on line the site ‘I Am Censored‘ with information about the case and an open letter to Mr. Yojiro Yamaguchi, Managing Director of Nikon UK, Nikon Japan and the national and international press, urging Nikon to re-instate Sehong’s funding “and most importantly show his work.”

Photographers of all persuasions, pro or amateur are invited to add their signatures to the document which already has the support of at least one Magnum member and “a number of well known veteran photographers.” I’ve just added my own name to the list and urge you to read the letter and do the same.


Si Barber was previously so incensed by PM David Cameron’s vapid twittering about ‘The Big Society’ that he published his own book ‘The Big Society – Snapshots of 21st Century Britain‘ as a “visual riposte to Cameron’s imagined nation and a critique of the voodoo economics which took Britain to the edge of moral and financial calamity.” Still available for £12 and you can order on-line using Paypal.

Abnormal Service

Friday, June 1st, 2012

 © 2002, Peter Marshall
Mile End, 2002. When things still happened on film
© 2002, Peter Marshall
And were better in black and white.

There will be an unusual hiatus before my next post.

My latest Facebook status put it simply:

Time to go into hibernation for the Jubilee…
A week should do it, see you all then