Archive for July, 2012

No To Torture

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

It was a good idea as a way to mark the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment coming into force  on 26 June 1987 with a line of protesters in Trafalgar Square carrying placards saying ‘NO TO TORTURE’ in as many different languages as possible, but perhaps – as is so often the case – not one that leads itself to making memorable photographs.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Somewhere around around eight people standing in line is around the limit that will easily fit the frame, although of course you can work from one side of a longer line.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I could have set up something rather more interesting, but that isn’t the way I like to work, though another photographer did do a little arranging the results were still far too sterile for my taste. It would perhaps have been nice to use the wide set of steps coming down from the North Terrace where these pictures were taken to the square itself, but the square’s private police force (so-called ‘Heritage Wardens) tend to strictly enforce the Mayor’s by-laws against protests in the square. It is one of these apparently public areas that is in private hands, and even if those private hands are actually ours, still results in laws that restrict our freedoms. Even in a square that is a traditional home to dissent we are told we cannot protest without prior permission.

There were around 40 different languages on the placards – including English, which had been forgotten and was hastily written at the last minute – which is why it is rather weaker than the rest in the top picture. It wasn’t meant as some kind of political comment on the rather shaky record of the British and US governments over recent years, though there were protesters present to remind us of Guantanamo and call for the release of British resident Shaker Aamer, still held there because his release would embarrass both our governments, and others about the attempts of the US government to extradite a number of British citizens who face locking up for life in solitary confinement in US prisons – several of whom have already been held in prison here without trial for longer times than a UK court would have thought appropriate for any crimes they are alleged to have committed. And there were certainly well-written signs in the languages of countries with an even shakier human rights record.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

But the better pictures that I made on this occasion were not of those signs in the different languages, or only partly so. In the end it is always people I’d drawn to rather than anything else. And although it was an evening I took no particularly memorable images, there are a few I was reasonably happy with – including these two.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall

You can see more in  No to Torture Vigil on My London Diary.  This was also the first time I took out my new camera, a Nikon D800E, which I’ll write more about in a later piece. It felt instantly familiar.

________________________________________________________

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

________________________________________________________


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Views of Deptford

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

© 2005, Peter Marshall

While I was on holiday around the beginning of last month, I watched the first part of a BBC Two series ‘The Secret History of Our Streets.’ It was an interesting programme, but as I watched it there were some aspects that didn’t quite ring true, as well as a few silly gaffes. Like many TV programmes it concentrated on ‘characters’, and one of those, a local politician, it quite obviously had set out to pillory. But many things, not least the dates when things happened didn’t add up and rather than the villain the programme was determined to make him, he has probably done more to preserve the positive features of the area than anyone else. Without his efforts it would be a very different and a very worse place.

Deptford has seen its ups and downs over the years, and like much of East London near the Thames one of the really big changes in the post war era has been the complete loss of the docks and wharves, once the defining industry of the area. Over the years I’ve photographed much of the area, including new and old housing, the Pepys Estate and Albury Street, and been aware – as the programme makers obviously were not – of some of the planning issues and politics involved both locally and also nationally.

It’s always easy to demonise planners and architects, but back the the sixties when estates like Pepys and Evelyn were being built it was planners and architects who were among the strongest critics of such developments. While the programme very much implied that Nicholas Taylor was responsible for this kind of development, he was actually a leader in the fight against it, and in 1971, after these schemes had been built, stood for the council and after Labour regained power, fought hard and largely successfully for  “a more humane, low density and low-rise approach to inner city housing” which he had argued the case for in his book ‘The Village in the City.’

© 2005, Peter Marshall

© 2005, Peter Marshall

© 2005, Peter Marshall

The programme has aroused some controversy on its blog, although apparently a number of critical comments have been removed, those who know the area and what happened in the 1970s and since have largely been appalled by the treatment of Taylor. One of his sons along with some friends have set up a web site, Deptford: Putting the Record Straight and distributed a leaflet in the neighbourhood about the bias of the programme.

Although the BBC is supposedly a responsible public corporation, there really does seem to be little control over it, and certainly little chance of effective public redress when – as in this case – programme makers really get things so wrong.  Really there should be an extra programme added to the series to correct the errors and give the corrections the same level of publicity as the misrepresentations, but I think that extremely unlikely.  And it’s worrying that the reputation of the BBC is used to promote such shoddily researched material.

The pictures here are a few of those that I’ve taken in Deptford in the past ten years, which has seen a change in the area that the BBC programme hardly noticed, with much tidying up and the growth of a large artistic community. The Laban Dance Centre is a major recent cultural  hub on Deptford Creek, and not far away is one of England’s finest baroque churches. We did get a quick glimpse of  Albury St, (though it was incorrectly described.) Formerly called Union St, it was named after the union of England and Scotland in 1707 and the terrace on the north side dates from around then.

________________________________________________________

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

________________________________________________________


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First Photo on the Web

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

A post by Abraham Riesman on the Motherboard blog, Crossdressing, Compression and Colliders: The First Photo on the Web, reveals that unsurprisingly it was put on by Tim Berners-Lee on July 18th, 1992, 2o years ago last week. The subject matter, the four young women of Les Horribles Cernettes, a “comedy singing group” of “administrative assistants and significant others of scientists” working in the CERN laboratories leaning towards the photographer in their low-cut dresses was indeed a harbinger of things to come. The Motherboard post includes the image, along with the original photograph it was produced from using the original version of Photoshop, as well as links to videos of the group’s performances of songs written by the group’s photographer and manager, which perhaps you need to be a particle physicist to appreciate.

It was some years before images on the web really took off, not least because early web brower software was text only. Mosaic, released in 1993 for XWindows and ported to Windows and Mac in September that year, was the first web browser that displayed images together with text on a web page, and  led to a rapid growth in images on the web.

In 1995 I bought my first scanner, a black and white only flatbed, and started to scan some of my prints.  One of the computer magazines was offering free web space – I think as much as 50Kb, and with the help of my two computer-savvy sons wrote and uploaded my first web site, Family Pictures, with 17 black and white images in December. The site is still online, though in a new location. In 1996 we moved the site to a US ISP that had a more generous free space allocation and let us use a rather less convoluted URL, and it stayed there for a few months until I bought space elsewhere in 1996-7 for a rather larger web presence – and it became a slightly odd part of the ‘Buildings of London‘.

© 1978, Peter Marshall
Linda, 1978

Although called Family Pictures, and including pictures of my own family, it was a project which I had photographed with a wider audience in mind. The picture above was among a fairly disparate collection of work that I took to the first photographic workshop I attended, and one of several that Ray Moore picked out from the pile and encouraged me to work with. The pictures are mainly of my own family but also those of relatives and friends and were taken in 1976 -1981. By the end of the 1980s work like this had become both fashionable among photographers and controversial with the general public. It really is a loss that many parents no longer feel able to document the early years of their children in the way that I did.

© 1981, Peter Marshall

By March 1996 I  had learnt to use the scanner a little better and decided on slightly larger images, and made the first major update, and in 2002 I rewrote the code to use CSS, but it has otherwise changed little. I could make rather better scans now, but I think they still serve their purpose despite a rather curious speckle, and the image file sizes – between 34 Kb and 60 kB – are handy for anyone still on a slow dial-up connection. Back then images this size could take 10 or 20 seconds to load and keeping them small was essential.

We had a small trick to get over this when people went through the pictures as a slide show, which I removed in 2002 as no longer necessary. At the end of the caption was what looked like a full stop, but was actually the next image but displayed very small – I think 2×2 pixels. If people looked at the image on a page for long enough  for the next image to download it would then appear instantly at proper size when they clicked for ‘next’, which was quite a surprise at the time.

© 1995, Peter Marshall

One of the more curious features of the site is the ‘i’ with an eye over it.  Not a great bit of artwork, but originally the site was called  I-Scape Gallery (or even at times I-Photo.)  Apple brought out the iMac a couple of years later in 1998 (and iPhoto in 2002), and I suspect had I continued with the names I would have got a “cease and desist” letter from their legal vultures – which had I been a billionaire I would have been able to fight and possibly win a fortune from them.

________________________________________________________

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

________________________________________________________

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Postcards from the Past

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

I’ve just been reading John Szarkowski‘s “Evening Lecture at Wellesley College” which he gave in 1977 and is reproduced along with pertinent illustrations on American Suburb X (ASX) a site so stuffed with interest that I hardly dare visit it for fear of spending far too long there.

As always, Szarkowski is a delight to read, even if I sometimes feel his felicity with words can sometimes run away with him. His starting point is the assertion that “the function of the photographer is to decide what his subject is. I mean that this is his only function.”

What follows is an examination of this through the work of some fairly disparate photographers – Frith, Lange, Winogrand, some largely anonymous newspaper photography and on of course to Atget, who he starts by calling “perhaps simply the best of all photographers” and then reminding us that although widely regarded as a ‘primitive’, the pictures suggest he was “a man who understood that photography could be a precise, critical tool, a system with which an artist could define exactly what he thought to be true.”

Finally he goes on to consider the work of Bill Dane, then “a young California painter” who a few years earlier had begun to send unsolicited postcards of images taken on his travels to a group of around a hundred influential critics etc in photography. This was long before the era of the world wide web when everyone has a blog (even if most have few readers) or puts image after image on Flikr. Having to pay for the postcard printing paper (then you could buy special postcard size heavyweight photographic paper with backs already printed for the purpose),to go into the darkroom and expose and process his cards one by one and then to pay postage created a natural limitation on his output – often I wish for for a similar throttle on photo-sharing sites.

Szarkowski suggests that most of the recipients were more taken by the novelty of the project (some things never change) and that he was unusual in taking an interest in the images – leading to Unfamiliar Places: A Message from Bill Dane being shown at MoMA in 1973-4 (you can view the press release.)  Bill Dane, on his web site, dedicates his ‘Volume 1‘ to Szarkowski. You can also see many of his later images in volumes 2-14, although I enjoyed the early work most. His biography on the site sums up his work well:  ‘If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.’

Bill Dane is also on Flikr, and has a blog and he makes a great offer of his work which I think is very much in the spirit of our medium:

Everything is for sale.

$99.

Choose any picture from my Website or Flickr.
Decide the exact size of your picture.
Pay for the production costs.

No more limited editions – just reasonably priced archival pigment inkjet prints more or less any size you want.

This Year Not Going to Arles Turned Out Well

Monday, July 9th, 2012

I’ve always made excuses about not going to Arles, not least that I can’t really afford it. Probably the time I would have found it most worthwhile I was still teaching in FE, and my term always seemed to end just after the week of Arles. But really I think I’ve been scared to go.  Events like this are great if you know a lot of people and go with a group of friends, but I think could be difficult if you don’t know that many people who attend. Several years I’ve tried to persuade some of my photographic friends to go with me, but somehow it has never happened, and this year for once I’m glad I didn’t make the effort.

Back when I wrote about photography for About.com, Arles was something I felt I had to cover, and I did, but writing from London and using the festival web site and the various reports in blogs and elsewhere, as well as what I knew about the photographers concerned etc. I don’t think I ever pretended to be at Arles, but there were times when I didn’t mention I wasn’t actually there.

I have been to Arles, but just not when it was full of photographers. I spent a day there as a tourist, very much on a Van Gogh trail, though back in the early 1970s it was rather less commercialised than I imagine it will be now. Earlier in that same week I’d visited Cezanne’s house and some of the places he painted, and climbed most of the way up Mte Ste Victoire before falling ill.

This year, according to Jean-Jacques Naudet writing in Le Journal de la Photographie, Arles with its major theme ‘a French school’ based on the “talents of the photographers, historians, and curators trained at the École Nationale Supérieure de Photographie (ENSP)”  was a failure. Perhaps some would hardly be surprised that it would be “boring to death.”

It’s worth reading what he says about it, and that the only redeeming features were the “mad creativity of Dorothée Smith” and the ” magic that could only be provided … by those two legendary old men: Joseph Koudelka and Elliot Erwitt.” Both of course Magnum members – and on the new Magnum web site.

Sean O’Hagan’s review in ‘The Observer’ finds some more positive aspects (and some links, though I can’t share his enthusiasms), but again  he concludes that  it was a “festival that momentarily, at least, seems to have lost its way – and its spirit of adventure.

Grot on Royal Protest

Monday, July 9th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I’m not a big fan of rules of composition. My approach has always been rather more pragmatic, like “put the subject where it looks right” or as Minor White* put it rather more elegantly “Let the subject generate its own composition.”  I suppose I might sometimes quibble about terms like subject or argue that everything in the frame is the subject; certainly that photographs are a very democratic space in which all pixels are equal, and that the photographer has to take the same responsibility for every one of them.

So I don’t go big on the “rule of thirds” or even the underlying “golden section” of which it is a crude simplification. But while photographing Climate Siren’s Royal Protest on the gates of Buckingham Palace, the unnoticed presence of a small lump of greasy substance on the filter of my 18-105mm lens in somewhere around that position (and appropriately it had a slightly golden translucence) did manage to make its presence felt in an important location in many of the pictures I took.

Here is an uncorrected short sequence of pictures which might have made a nice little story, when an officer decided to try to climb up and pull part of the banner down. His first try took Prince Charles’s name from a small attachment at the bottom of the the banner and then he got more ambitious:

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall

The final two frames are cropped and the ‘blob’ is larger and closer to the centre of the frame.

Whether bits of much on the front of the lens make a real mess of pictures does seem to very much depend on the subject matter and the aperture at which you are working. I still hadn’t noticed it later in the day when I was photographing another event and its actually hard to find on most of the pictures, taken at a wider aperture with subjects with more random detail. It shows up more in areas of even tone – such as the sky or the largely white banner held by the protesters – or on the regular high contrast black painted gates of the palace against the stone of the building behind.

It was a story I was in a hurry to file, as I’d been one of the first photographers present, having gone to join some of the members of the group at another location earlier. Unfortunately they had arrived at the palace just a few minutes too late for me to catch the start of the event, and there was little for me to take pictures of that wasn’t still happening when more press arrived after I left, as it apparently took around 2 hours before police got the four guys down off the gate. If I’d been able to send the sequence above off straight away it might have got used; not that they are great pictures, but they might make people laugh. Of course I took a few more frames before and after these, and the policeman was unhurt and later joked with me about his fall.

Dirt, or at least translucent dirt like this, diffuses light, and given time you can correct this to some extent in Lightroom with the adjustment brush. I find a combination of around contrast 25 and clarity 20 a good starting point, using a brush with fairly high degree of feathering (now added to my user presets with the title ‘grot-off’.) In suitable areas – as in most of these pictures – a little desaturation could be used to lessen the yellow shift I was getting, and in some images I could use a little of the complementary blue as LR4 enables you to brush with Color. There were one or two pictures where the splodge was in the sky and I could simply clone it out.

Look carefully at some of the images on My London Diary, most of which I’ve tried to correct, and you can see where the blob was, though in others I’ve been considerably more successful in getting rid of it. Every time after something like this happens I get paranoid about checking that my lenses are clean, but after a while without problems the effect wears off and I’ll forget again. Of course most days recently here we’ve had rain or at least showers, and so I’ve been more or less constantly wiping the lenses with a clean absorbent microfibre cloth (or sometimes a handkerchief or my shirt when I can’t find the cloth.)

I do have a standard set of checks on my way to take photographs, either while I’m packing my bag or often when I’m in a rush, on the train to London, although then I can’t do this when the train is crowded and I can’t get a seat.

  • Check for any old images on CF cards and format them
  • Set ISO to suitable value for likely light conditions
  • Check quality is RAW (or RAW + JPEG if I need images fast)
  • Check White Balance is Auto
  • Clean Image sensor
  • Check flash setting and flash compensation
  • Check exposure compensation
  • Check lens filter is clean, use Lens Pen if necessary to clean it
  • Set Manual exposure to sensible settings, eg 1/60 f8
  • Restore my standard custom settings

*perhaps the least widely quoted part of Minor White’s text from ‘Three Canons’ central to his major publication ‘ Mirrors Messages Manifestations‘.
 Three Canons

Be still with yourself
Until the object of your attention
Affirms your presence

Let the Subject generate its own Composition

When the image mirrors the man
And the man mirrors the subject
Something might take over

Minor White 1968
________________________________________________________

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

________________________________________________________

Cleaners Not Partners – John Lewis

Monday, July 9th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Cleaners who work at John Lewis in Oxford Street protest noisily outside

Although the cleaners work in the John Lewis store on Oxford St, unlike all the other workers in the shop they are not ‘partners‘. Their work is essential in keeping the place running smoothly, but the company is happy to regard them as second-class workers, somehow not a part of the enterprise.  They get none of the benefits of working for what is usually regarded as an enlightened company, an employee-owned UK partnership with the others who work in the building getting a share of the profits of their labours. Though the cleaners work at John Lewis, they are employed by a separate company, Integrated Management Cleaning, who pay them the minimum wage, are demanding more and more work in the same hours and allegedly treat them like dirt, or worse.

Currently the cleaners in the store are under threat of redundancy, having been told that half of them will be made redundant but that the remaining half will be expected to cover the whole of the work on the same number of hours and no extra pay. John Lewis may still proudly claim they are “Never knowingly undersold” but after the protest on 26 June certainly can’t claim “Never knowingly underpaid” about the workers that clean its store, some of them starting work at 6am and being required to be there up until 10pm.

Widespread realisation that it is impossible to live in London on the minimum wage led to the adoption by the GLA in 2005 of the ‘London Living Wage’, currently at £8.30 an hour compared to the statutory minumum of £6.08 which John Lewis’s cleaners currently get.  One of Mayor Boris’s recent manifesto promises was to “continue to champion the London Living Wage, pushing private and public sector employers to pay at least this level to all of their workers in London”, hoping to more than double the number of employers paying it during this term of office. Around 20% of London workers are still paid below it, so there is plenty of room for improvement.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
John McDonnell MP

It’s hard not to be behind the cleaners and other low-paid workers in London in their campaigns to fight for the London Living Wage, but the support of the traditional unions has sometimes seemed at best muted, perhaps because it might erode the pay differentials between their members. There were disputes in which the cleaners had the support of the other unions, but felt very much let down by the negotiations that took place between union officials and management, and some of them decided to form a London cleaner’s branch of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World.) Formally recognised in the UK as a trade union in 2006, the IWW is an industrial union which seeks to bring together all workers in an industry rather than representing separate trades and is a grass-roots organisation run by its members.

As well as supporting their claim for a living wage, I find the cleaners and their actions are also usually good to photograph, though I keep thinking I need ear protectors as they make sure their protests are noticed by using plastic horns which at the close range needed for taking pictures with a wide-angle are literally deafening. Some of the shouting is also pretty loud, and their protests are always animated and with plenty of waving of red IWW flags, as well as placards and banners. There is also a great deal of spontanaeity and energy on display. Like most of London’s low paid workers the cleaners come largely from first or second generation migrants to this country.

There was a little light rain falling throughout most of the protest, so as usual I worked with a cloth in my hand, holding it balled up to the filter of the lens between taking pictures. The rain was fortunate in a way, because I soon wiped the filter and removed the small blob of greasy muck that had spoilt some of my pictures earlier.

Most of my better pictures were taken with the 18-105mm, partly because there were quite a few other photographers working, and because I also needed to keep out of the way of the shoppers walking pas the protest I was working from a little farther away than I usually like to. But I was working with the DX 18-105mm lens on the D700 body, as the D300 had given up on me more or less completely earlier in the afternoon as I arrived at Buckingham Palace.

Looking through the D700 viewfinder with the DX lens attached you see an irregular shaped image with the DX format frame superimposed on it. I’ve not worked much like this before, and it opened my eyes to the possibility, reminding me very much of working with a rangefinder camera where the bright line frame lets you see outside what will appear in your picture. The DX frame is just a little small, but otherwise it was just like going back to a Leica again – except that the frame in the D700 was absolutely accurate, while Leicas are only moderately close under the best of conditions, and generally rather poor with some lenses.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

With the D700, there is a big drawback. The files in DX mode are only 5Mp, which is OK for most press uses, but rather small if you want good large prints. But with a D800, the viewfinder would look more or less the same but the files would be 16Mp. Previously I’d ruled out the D800 because I didn’t want 32Mp files, but now I saw it differently. And just over a week later I was out working not with a D800, but a D800E. But more on that later.

More on the protest at Cleaners at John Lewis on My London Diary. As they left, the cleaners shouted “We’ll be back” and the campaign there will continue until they get decently treated and their contribution to the company is recognised.

________________________________________________________

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

________________________________________________________

Insider, Outsider?

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Should you be in London before July 22 this first show of work in the UK from the ‘Majority World Photo Agency‘ featuring “17 emerging photographers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East” at the Guardian Gallery is worth a visit, although I can’t see any mention of it on their web site. You can read more about it on Shahidul Alam’s blog, and on Friday I went to King’s Place to see it.

The gallery is the space on the ground floor of the Guardian’s offices there, and the first time I went to see a show I walked in and went straight up the escalator and missed it; some of the displays there have seemed rather minimal! This occupies most of the two walls that aren’t glass, with a little on the space under the stairway.

© 2005, Peter Marshall
Shadi Ghadirian talks about the problems of being a photographer in Iran

I met one of the photographers, Shadi Ghadirian, back in 2005 when we were both showing work at the festival in Bielsko-Biala so I’m not too convinced that she is still an “emerging photographer” but perhaps that is a meaningless category in any case.  You can see more of her work on her web site. I have only a vague feeling of seeing the names of someof the other photographers involved before although several like her have an impressive record of publications and exhibitions, and some have won various awards, so I have probably seen more of their work – here’s the full list:

A M Ahad, Bangladesh, Aaron Sosa, Panama/Venezuela, Adolphus Opara, Nigeria, Andrés Lofiego, Argentina, Andrew Esiebo, Nigeria, Daniel Patiño Flor, Ecuador, Dominic Sansoni, Sri Lanka, Fabrice Monteiro, Benin, Farzana Hossen, Bangladesh, Kishor Sharma, Nepal, Màrio Macilau, Mozambique, M Anisul Hoque, Bangladesh, Neo Ntsoma, South Africa, Samar Hazboun, Palestine, Shadi Ghadirian, Iran, Shankar Sarkar, India, Tammy David, Philippines.

In the gallery you can pick up another free newsprint  publication with an introduction by Alam, who is the Chairman,  Co-founder and majority shareholder of Majority World, as well as his rather better-known enterprises based in Bangladesh. Some of the images, particularly one by Lofiego, don’t reproduce too well in newsprint, and look rather better on the web. The publication, which includes a few pictures by other photographers including Alam himself, only gives the address of the Majority World website, which doesn’t as yet appear to have completed the page about its photographers.

Ghadirian’s work is the only staged image in the show, with almost all of the rest falling at least broadly within the photojournalistic. Most photographers are represented by only one or two images, although the accompanying texts do help to put these into some kind of perspective I would have liked to have seen more pictures, perhaps even as a series of small images actually on the wall. There was a display screen in the centre of the show, but unfortunately all it was displaying was error messages that someone had removed the disk  it needed.

The only photographer to be shown in any depth was Kishor Sharma, with a set of black and white images, ‘Living in the Mist – The Last Nomads of Nepal‘.  You can find work by most of the other photographers without much difficulty on the web, for example Adolphus Opara and Andrew Esiebo, both from Nigeria.

Different Perspectives

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall
60mm (equiv) on 18-105mm
© 2012, Peter Marshall
24mm on 16-35mm
© 2012, Peter Marshall
15mm (equiv), 10.5mm fisheye converted to cylindrical perspective

On Father’s Day I went to a vigil, one of a number around the country held to remember men who had died while in the care of the police. Ricky Bishop was killed in Brixton Police Station 0n 21 November 2001 and Sean Rigg 0n 22 August 2008.  They are not the only people to have died in largely unexplained and suspicious circumstances in that building, but their families have both mounted long public campaigns over their deaths.

The inquest into Sean Rigg’s death is currently under way, and is seen by many as an important battle in the fight for justice for all those – almost one case every week since 1990 according to the records kept by the charity ‘Inquest’ – who die in police custody.  But of course the verdict remains to be seen, and although some similar cases have ended in verdicts of ‘unlawful killing’ (and in others inquest juries have been denied the opportunity to reach this verdict) there has not been a single successful prosecution of an officer concerned in the past  40 years.

Vigils such as this are in their nature usually quiet and decorous, with little incident to photograph. People stand with banners or sit or stand in small groups and talk quietly, with perhaps just a few short speeches.  It gives everyone, including photographers, plenty of time to think.

The three pictures above were taken from more or less the same position – within a few feet – but with different lenses. They all show the ‘memorial tree’ outside the police station, adopted by the families to put up candles and photographs and posters of their dead loved ones several years ago. All have the police station in the background.

In the top image, I’ve moved to a position where the poster on the tree more or less lines up with the Metropolitan Police noticeboards outside the police station, linking the two groups visually. The woman in black walking past the notices wasn’t a part of the vigil, but I think adds a little symbolism.  This was taken on my very ailing D300, and I only managed to take a single frame with her in before the mirror stuck and I had to take a few seconds getting it working again.

For the second picture, I moved closer to the tree and a little to the left, to show the ‘Justice for Ricky Bishop’ banner being held by one of his family. The woman on the extreme right of the image is one of Sean Rigg’s sisters. I’ve kept the Metropolitan Police headed notice boards in the picture too, but shown rather more of the tree and the posters, lanterns and flowers on it.

The memorial tree is actually fairly close to the police station, in a small paved area on the corner of the roads that meet there. Using the 10.5mm semi-fisheye lens with its almost 150 degree horizontal angle of view I could stand more or less next to the tree to keep its trunk large in the image and take in the whole frontage of the building where the two men were killed. In this particular image, chosen here to match the others more closely the tree obscures the right hand side of the police station. The fisheye lens works with a spherical perspective which curves all straight lines except those that pass through the centre of the image, and this results in the vertical lines of buildings showing a very pronounced curvature when you approach the edges of the image. In this picture it also made the tree seem to bulge out in the centre of the image, which was a little disturbing and needed correction.

By using a plug-in which converts to a cylindrical perspective the verticals are rendered more or less straight. Horizontal lines (except the line through the centre of the image) remain curved – an effect which increases as you go towards the top and bottom of the frame, but this is generally less disturbing. The tree no longer bulges out but I didn’t quite hold the lens level when I made the image, so the verticals are actually slightly diverging in the corrected image. I could have used Lightroom to correct this, but would have lost some detail .

Despite the very different angle of view, I’ve again been able to make use of a line of  things across the centre to link the posters etc on it to the background, this time including the row of people with the noticeboards and banner.  Although these three images are in some ways very different they have this in common.

Of course I took other (and better) pictures in the hour and a half I was at the vigil and you can see more of them and read more about the event and the deaths on My London Diary, in Fathers Day Vigil.

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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

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Fractured Serbia

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

One of the blogs I regularly follow is Pete Brook’s Raw File (as well as his Prison Photography), and another is DVA Photo, on which “Matt Lutton and M. Scott Brauer share their work and others’“so it’s nice to be able to post something that involves both of these, with Raw File showing Lutton’s portfolio Only Unity , a long-term documentary project about Serbia and the Serbs “in the aftermath of Yugoslavia.

This is a superb project, full of intense and thoughtful images, and a worthy winner of the Burn Magazine Emerging Photography Fund for 2012. At $10,000 it isn’t the biggest prize in photography, but work like Lutton’s certainly makes it one of the most important in photography. Brook interviews Lutton on the blog and that too is worth reading.

Also in the text are some links to some fine work by others, and at the bottom links to the work of the runners up and other finalists. All are worth a look, though my favourite among them is a photographer I’ve written about before, Anastasia Taylor-Lind