Archive for December, 2012

2012 – My Own Favourites – August

Monday, December 31st, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Unlike many in the UK I didn’t get enthusiastic about the Olympics. I’ve never had much interest in sport as a spectator, though I used to enjoy taking part in it as a not particularly outstanding runner and player. I even got a medal for playing football when I was eleven, and shattered my borough’s record for the quarter-mile in my mid-teens (the two timekeepers were right to doubt the evidence of their stop-watches when my time was close to the British record –  rather assisted by the tape having been stretched across at the wrong markers!)

I was also still upset at the inappropriate developments being made to an area of London I’d photographed and had grown to like, and the way that some of those who had worked in the area had been poorly treated, with often inadequate compensation and promises that in some cases were already broken, and which are almost certain to be forgotten in the ‘legacy’. The London Olympics was built on lies, and the lies got worse as time went on. It was obvious from the start that whatever was said about regeneration in the Olympic bid, holding an event of this sort was not an appropriate way to go about it.

So I didn’t bother to get accreditation for the events taking place around London, but I did go to various protests related to it, including Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation, where War on Want staged some games and handed out leaflets highlighting the fact that Adida, the official sportswear partner of London 2012, sells clothing made by workers who get poverty wages are not allowed to form unions and have little or no job security. The picture shows two ‘athletes’ struggling to get over the hurdles of a 90 hour week, poverty wages and union busting on Oxford St outside Adidas, and I think shows the protest very clearly with the placards and shop signs.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I’ve photographed Hizb ut-Tahrir events for some years and often have felt rather uneasy about them. I don’t like the way they usually seem to keep women away from the centre, in their own bloc sometimes almost out of sight, and in this protest they were around 50 yards down the road from where the speeches were taking place – and all the speakers were men.

So although I was pleased to find Hizb ut-Tahrir Supports Rohingya showing solidarity for the Muslims in Burma who are being persecuted both in Burma and when they take refuge in Bangladesh, I didn’t feel easy with the feel of this event, and in particular with what seems like fanaticism by some of the speakers. Of course some of the speeches were not in English, and it can be difficult to judge the tone and the body language. But I think that this picture very much reflects the unease I feel.

But at least Hizb ut-Tahrir were giving the Rohingya support, were providing some publicity for them. Their cause is one that our politicians and media almost entirely ignore.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

On the other hand, it’s perhaps a shame that Julian Assange gets quite so much coverage in the media. If he had a lower profile, our Foreign Secretary would not have made such an ass of himself and there would not have been the huge media circus after Assange had taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. The police too would have avoided making themselves look rather silly when they got huge coverage when they surrounded the embassy and seemed about to storm it.

I’d walked past the embassy a few times since Assange had holed up in there, but hadn’t seen anything of interest – a handful of protesters and press or just a few abandoned placards, but dropped by again the day after he had been granted political asylum – and William Hague had made clear not only that he would not be allowed free passage out of the UK, but had more or less threatened we might storm the embassy to arrest him and the police charade had followed.

There were still around 50 police in the immediate area – when one or two would have been plenty – and more media people – reporters, photographers, TV crews – than I could be bothered to count, and sitting around in a few small groups on nearby steps, about a dozen protesters. One of whom, shown above, did a little dance for the media while I was there. I took a few pictures and left, thankful that I didn’t have to hang around there for days while nothing much happened.

I couldn’t photograph Assange (though I have done before) but the picture shows him, as well as the police guarding the door to the embassy, and someone inside looking out, as well as the supporter making an inevitable ‘Victory’ sign.  You can see a few more pictures I took in Ecuador’s Embassy & John Massey.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Pussy Riot 1

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Pussy Riot 2

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Pussy Riot 3

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Pussy Riot 4

Pussy Riot from the start have very cleverly set out to exploit the media, and have really created an incredible amount of interest in the West for their protests in Russia. Their highly colour hoods lend themselves to very photogenic protests.

I took quite a few pictures at the Free Pussy Riot protest opposite the Russian Embassy in mid-August, and can’t quite bring myself to chose a favourite from the four above. Perhaps readers would like to comment and possibly pick one?

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I don’t often travel out of London for protests, but Chelmsford is only a short rail journey, and when I heard that the English Defence League were planning to march through there I decided to make the journey. I’m certainly no supporter of the EDL, but can understand much of the frustration they feel while finding their response to it repugnant, and certainly they represent at least a small section of working class opinion, and one that should be reported accurately and fairly.  But they don’t always welcome being brought out into the open.

I would rather have been elsewhere doing something more pleasant, but was pleased to be able to report accurately EDL Outnumbered in Chelmsford, and to have some decent pictures to go with the story despite just a little hassle in getting them.  The counter-protest, a bit over three times as large, was much more pleasant to photograph – no abuse, no threats, people co-operating and talking intelligently, but was visually somewhat duller.

The picture above, taken at 93mm (equiv) through the procession from the opposite side of the road is perhaps just a little too tightly cropped, and I immediately zoomed a little wider and took a second fairly similar frame. But although the composition in this is in some ways better, minor details have changed – you don’t really get a second chance with things like this – and it loses a little immediacy.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

At the end of the month came the Paralympic Games, and disabled groups seized the opportunity to stage a week of events and protests, with mock opening and closing ceremonies as well as an occupation of the Department of  Work & Pensions. But on the Wednesday of the week they held a more serious and solemn event, covered in Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims with a short service outside the Atos Offices, as a part of which an empty coffin was brought in by a group of four people in wheelchairs and flowers were then laid on it.

It was one of those times where I managed to be in the right place and occasionally to get the flash exposure right and to catch more or less the right moment. Taken with the 16-35mm at 19mm I was pretty close to the coffin and with my back against the wall behind. The ambient light was very low- the surroundings are a little underexposed at 1/60 f6.3 ISO 1600. The people laying the flowers weren’t posing for photographers – they didn’t hold them for a second or so but simply threw them onto the pile. These two make the best of the pictures I took partly from their gestures but also because of the placard the woman is wearing around her neck which lists some of the more ridiculous ‘fit to work’ judgements made by ATOS. Probably most viewers won’t recognise the t-shirt her companion is wearing – from the 1990s Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN.)


2012 – My Own Favourites – July

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Amnesty International group at WorldPride 2012

Pride ain’t what it used to be, for sure. But this year, with a ban on vehicles forcing everyone onto the streets perhaps took it back a little towards the kind of event it used to be and less of the slickly commercial festival parade it has been becoming. This was also an important anniversary, WorldPride London marked 25 years since the first Pride in London, with some of those who came out on the street then marching proudly at the front of the event. Their protest – and it was then both a personal and a political protest – was one of the forces that have led to a profound change in attitudes in the past 25 years, making it almost impossible to understand how things were back then.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Stonewall group at WorldPride 2012

Of course I photograph many of the more eccentric and flamboyant dressers that give the event much of its character, but the pictures that tend to be of more interest to me are on the more political end. The first two pictures both centre around an individual in a crowd, in both cases seeming a little distanced from all that is happening around them.  Both also emphasize a single message repeated across the frame, ‘Love is a Human Right’ and ‘Some people are gay – get over it’. And it is really the other things that are happening in the frame that make them appeal to me, the different expressions of the people, the couple kissing, the giant and the child and so on.

These were both taken as the march formed up on Baker St, where the people are much closer together than during the actual march, and either standing around or moving slowly.  In both I’ve used flash, and with the wide angle – at 16mm in the top image and zoomed out a little to 22mm  in the lower one, I’m very close to the people I’m photographing. Many of the people in them are aware that I am photographing them because I’ve already taken several frames, and of course there are many other people around also taking pictures.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Queer Resistance at WorldPride 2012

Later in the day I came back to the march as it neared its end and took a few more pictures on Whitehall, including several of the small group of gay anarchists. I was attracted by the directness of the message held up by this young man, carrying one end of the ‘Queer Resistance’ banner and out to ‘smash the church, the state and patriarchy’ and took several pictures walking backwards a short distance in front of him as he pushed the message out towards me.

Nelson on his column in Trafalgar Square rising above his hand seemed somehow appropriate, certainly representing London and perhaps also the state and the system he was intent on smashing. It also strikes me as a rather phallic monument, and perhaps appropriate for that reason also.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Cleaners protest inside John Lewis on Oxford St

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Cleaners protest outside John Lewis on Oxford St

I’ve spent quite a lot of time this year photographing the efforts of the cleaners to get decent conditions, to be treated fairly and with respect by their management and to get a living wage.  The series of protests at John Lewis – I photographed three in July, Cleaners Strike at John Lewis, John Lewis cleaners step up protest and Cleaners Continue Fight at John Lewis – highlighted their case, with John Lewis, in some respects at least a model company with its ‘partnership’ structure getting its dirty work done on the cheap by outsourcing it to a company that paid them as little as it could and treated them like dirt.

The protests by cleaners, backed by their union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW – later in the year they formed their own group, the IWGB) are loud, colourful and very public and have proved effective, embarrassing managements and forcing them to negotiate. Larger and better-known unions could learn a lot from them and the way that the IWW/IWGB have made the workers more central to disputes and united them in the actions at the workplace.

I think that these pictures show something of the spirit of the cleaners, their solidarity and their determination – which has been rewarded by some notable successes, although there are still far too many workplaces in London where cleaners are underpaid, overworked and subjected to management abuse, and the struggle continues

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Photocall at Marble Arch for ‘Spare the Bears’

PETA ‘Spare the Bears’ March against the use of animal fur in ornamental military headgear was one I almost missed. I’d gone to its start point only to find a handful of people standing around in rather heavy rain and nothing happening at the time I’d been told it would start. I went off to photograph something else, but when I’d done that tried to find them on their way. I’d pretty well given up completely by the time the actually arrived for the final photocall at Marble Arch, where this picture was taken. I took several pictures with this woman holding her bear at the front of the group, mainly in portrait format, which are perhaps better, but this is the one I come back to, with just the head of the pale cream bear peeping over the black arm and purple glove.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
First communicants waiting to take part in the procession

Another event that I’ve photographed many times over the years is the annual procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel from the Italian church in Clerkenwell.  As so often its a picture about the different gestures and expressions of the people in the picture, but also one that makes clear what and where it is. Another picture close to the main figures with the 16mm and tightly framed.


Busy Saturday

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

 © 2012, Peter Marshall
58/87mm f5.3 ISO 800

December started with a busy day for me. I’ve photographed most of the events organised by the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) since it began, and their annual climate march at the start of December is a fixture in my diary, and I’d also been asked personally to take pictures.

So I was there at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square for the start at noon, though it was disappointingly rather a slow start. But eventually things got going with a decent number for a rally and then the construction of a pipeline along the whole length of the square – around 250 metres – held up by activists, running between the embassies of the USA (the world’s leading polluter and the country that has done most to prevent any effective action over climate change) and Canada (currently raising the stakes over dirty energy with its tar sands.)  Like all too many media stunts which seem a good idea to those promoting them, it was virtually impossible to photograph in any sensible way – though I did my best. The picture above only included a single length of pipe, though I did manage one that worked with slightly more.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
16mm f4 ISO 800

Finally, almost half an hour later than planned, the Climate March set off to Westminster, and I left them a few hundred yards down the road to go elsewhere.

By now it was 2pm and I rushed up to Oxford St,  where I found a rather smaller group of activists than I had expected starting to get ready to protest outside Adidas against the company’s failure to pay the redundancy due to some of those who had produced goods for them in Indonesia.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
18/27mm f4.5 ISO  800

It took a little while for them to get organised and for a few late-comers to arrive, but then it was fairly straightforward to take some pictures before jumping on a 73 bus for the short journey to South Street and the Egyptian Embassy to photograph the protest there against the decree by President Morsi. There were rather fewer there than I expected too, although the protest had been timed to start around 45 minutes earlier and the Egyptians sometimes seem to turn up rather late, so perhaps some were still on their way. A very small bonus was that this turned out to be two protests, with 4 or 5 supporters of the President holding their own protest against the main one – which was perhaps ten or twenty times larger.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
26mm f4.5 ISO 800

It wasn’t too easy to follow what was happening, as most of the placards and all of the speeches were not in English, and I had to spend a few minutes talking with protesters as well as taking pictures, but it wasn’t long before I had done enough and was on my way to Green Park station.  But I was already late, and had to hurry, running a little to get there faster.  Getting off the train at Westminster, the marchers had beaten me, but I arrived at Old Palace Yard a little out of breath but in time to photograph the raising of the mock fracking derrick there. It was another stunt which sounded rather better as an idea than producing good pictures.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
16mm f6.3 ISO 1600

I took quite a few, but couldn’t really get anything that worked well.

Earlier in the day there had also been another protest I’d photographed in Grosvenor Square, by West Papuans outside the Indonesian Embassy on the anniversary of their short-lived independence. It was a protest by a small group, but visually more effective than many with the flags and face-paint.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
75/112mm f8 ISO 800


Climate March Says ‘NO’ to Fracking
Morsi’s Dicatatorial Decree
Free West Papua Independence Day
Adidas ‘Pay Your Workers’

As usual, I’d planned my day the previous night, working out which events I could cover and the timings and how I could get from one place to another. For once, despite some things running a little late, which made me change things a little, my plans more or less worked out.


2012 – My Own Favourites – June

Friday, December 28th, 2012

June was a shorter than usual month for me, as I spent a week, welcomely coincidental with the royal shenanigans,  away in the wilds of rural Devon. Though they are not very wild and were very wet, so I took relatively few pictures, and none that made my favourites list.

But I was pleased to be in London for the annual Naked Bike Ride, a rather curious and somewhat vaguely ecological protest that gives a great deal of interest and amusement to riders and spectators alike. One of the challenges for the photographer is in finding images that are widely publishable with so much flesh on display, and I’ve always been fairly cautious in the images that I have put on the web, although I know that there will still be some that offend a few people.

Personally I can’t find nudity offensive, although I think there are good reasons for most of us to keep most of our bodies covered up most of the time, not least our British weather. Since Genesis tells us that God created man and woman in his own image I find the objections of some extremist Christians blasphemous, but making a cult of nudity and body worship is equally disturbing, with its echoes of the Third Reich (when “Mensch und Sonne” was official party literature.)

I’ve deliberately not put the picture from the Naked Bike Ride at the top of this page, and if anyone is likely to be upset in any way by looking at pictures of people without clothes they had better not scroll down. But I like this picture because it shows a whole group of people taking part in the event, standing with or sitting on their bikes, mostly more or less naked (the only absolute clothing rule is that you have to wear something on your feet.)

They are taking a breather on Westminster Bridge, with the Houses of Parliament behind them, making obvious that this is taking place in the centre of London. Cycling for me – and I learnt to ride a two-wheeler when I was six – has always been about freedom, and I like the sense of freedom in this image. People are together but doing their own different things, including drinking water, taking pictures, being photographed; only four of the twenty or so are wearing cycle helmets, a couple have sun hats and another two are in wigs.

More pictures (if some more nudity won’t offend) in Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

A very different event in very different weather just a few days later,  was the Carnival of Dirt, a mock funeral procession to remember the many activists around the world who have been murdered for standing up against the interests of the powerful mining and extraction companies, many of which are based in the City of London, listed on the London Stock Exchange and who trade on the London Metal Exchange. Many of those taking part wore black, and one of the most striking was this woman, with the message ‘Poverty is Filth’ across her face.

I’d talked briefly with her and photographed her a couple of times at the start of the event on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, and its hard to choose the best of several images (which you can see on My London Diary.) But this, taken in fairly heavy rain as we stood for some short speeches outside the Stock Exchange on Newgate St (yet again we were barred from Paternoster Square.)

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I seldom ask people I’m photographing to look at me, although it is often important that eyes are visible, ‘eye contact’ isn’t always important in images, and often detracts. But here is is absolutely essential and unusually intense, large irises with small pupils staring fixedly from the image. I didn’t need to ask, this was obviously someone very aware of the image she had set out to create and the contrasts between black and white in her dress and hair and hat – and of course those bright red lips and the message written across her face.

The inspiration behind this event, and many of the more imaginative protests we have seen in recent years in London was the radical anthropologist Professor Chris Knight, a Marxist sacked from his post at the University of East London in 2009 for his involvement in the political street theatre group ‘The Government of the Dead’.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I’ve photographed him on many occasions at protests, usually in his black suit and hat, but the picture of him speaking through a megaphone at the London Metal Exchange, along with a crowd of protesters with coffins and placards with images of murdered activists is one of my favourites.

I was working with the 10.5mm partly because of the crush of the crowd which made it impossible to stand any distance away, but also because of the wet weather. Both the other lenses I was carrying – the 16-35mm and the 28-105mm Nikkor had become unusable, with condensation steaming up on internal lens elements. Like most zooms that change physical length the 28-105 isn’t good in damp weather as zooming pumps moist air in and out, but the 16-35mm where zoom and focus are both by internal movements is usually much better.

The wide angle has let me bring in so much that is happening around Knight, while the curvature of the image makes everything centre around him and the megaphone and the patch of mud on his face in symbolic solidarity with the people of West Papua where the Indonesian government is carrying out a policy of genocide on behalf of mining interests.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Several Fathers Day Vigils for Custody deaths were held around the country on June 17, and I went to Brixton Police Station, where a number of people over the years have died  – have been killed – under suspicious circumstances. Physically healthy young black men taken in by police dead within hours of arrival. Among them Ricky Bishop and Sean Rigg, killed inside Brixton Police Station on 21 August 2008, and whose inquest had just begun on 11 June 2012, a few days before I took this picture of his two sisters fixing a framed picture of him to the memorial tree outside the police station.

The case of Sean Rigg is just one of several thousand  – in my report on the event I noted:

The official statistics are deliberately (if not criminally) misleading and record only a small fraction of such deaths. A report published by the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody in 2011 states:

‘in total, there were 5,998 deaths recorded for the 11 years from 2000 to 2010. This is an average of 545 deaths per year. Despite the fact there have been 11 unlawful killing verdicts since 1990 there has never been a successful prosecution. ‘

What makes some of these cases stand out – and in particular those of Ricky Bishop whose family organised this event, and of Sean Rigg – has been the determined effort by these families to get justice, not just in the case of their own families but also for others through the United Friends and Families Campaign.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Finally for June I’ve chosen a picture from Sudanese march in London, a protest on the anniversary of the coup by which President Omar el-Bashir came to power in 1989 calling on him to step down, for the release of all political prisoners and for BashiR, the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court in a controversial decision in 2010, to be turned over to the ICC.

The picture, taken at 40mm (60mm) on the 28-105mm I think shows the united crowd calling for change, echoed by a red crowd in a placard behind the central raised fist. The shutter speed of 1/160s has rendered the people at the front of the crowd and their placards fairly sharply but the limited depth of field at f6.3 makes the more central man with the raised fist on whom I focussed stand out with critical sharpness, while the movement of his central fist gives it a very tangible blur.


2012 – My Own Favourites – May

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

May always starts with something of a bang, with various events marking May Day, including the annual march which has celebrated the day in London for around 40 years, but also with other groups organising their own events to mark the day. This year after the march I went to a protest by Campaign4Justice and Merlin Emmanuel outside the offices of the IPCC calling for its abolition for its failure to investigate police actions and then caught up with a group who were roaming central London protesting against shops using free labour with unemployed people given the ‘choice’ of working for nothing or losing their benefits.

Among those taking part in this ‘workfare’ protest were a group from Occupy London, and in the early evening after the police who had been following them all apparently went off shift walked up into the City and finally reached their original objective back in October 2011, the London Stock Exchange. I’d been there back in October 2011 when a general meeting at Westminster at the end of the Block the Bridge NHS Protest had voted to occupy the Stock Exchange, and outside with them the following Saturday when police blocked their access to the private Paternoster Square where is is situated, and on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral when they came to the decision to camp there instead.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Occupy London finally reach the Stock Exchange – 1 May 2012

So I was pleased to be one of the small handful of photographers who was actually with them when a small group finally made their objective and set up tents in the doorway of the London Stock Exchange, even if we all knew it was only a token gesture.  After a few minutes they were made to move a few yards away, and by the time the word got out and more police, photographers and press arrived the moment had gone, although the protesters were kettled in the square for some hours, long after I’d filed my story and gone to bed.

Again I needed the 16mm, and perhaps something even a little wider would have done the job even better – it could have been better with the whole of the design at top left and more of the second tent and person holding the banner at right.  There were too many people milling around to work from further away. The light was pretty dim and I had to use flash. The banner was only in position for a fairly short time and I was pleased to have managed to get its message and the sign for the London Stock Exchange in the picture above the line of seated protesters and the two tents. More pictures from the event at Stock Exchange Occupied.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Public Sector Pensions Strike and March

On 10 May there was a one-day strike by public sector workers over the raising of the retirement age and worsening of pension provisions as well as cuts in services. Many workers feel the trade unions have been slow to take action against the cuts and the austerity programme, including the attacks on the NHS, and the strength of feeling was shown in votes such as the 94% of Unite’s NHS members who voted for this day of action. This was a picture that I hope shows some of that strength of feeling and unity, with three of those holding the union banner shouting in unison, and the Unite flags flying behind them as they came over Westminster Bridge at the head of the march from St Thomas’s Hospital behind them at right of the picture.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Police March Against Cuts and Restructuring

On the same day the police were also protesting, both against the affect of the 20% cuts in police budgets and the proposed restructuring which will result in a partial privatisation of policing. But although impressively large, the police protest was visually a little on the dull side, and for me the main interest was in the various groups which took advantage of the event to show a little solidarity with them or raise some of the serious issues about policing which the Police Federation would prefer not to have explored or exposed. So near the front of the march, Ian Puddick, who was intimidated, attacked and prosecuted by City of London Terrorism Police and Counter Terrorism Directorate in an operation costing millions carried out on behalf of a giant US security corporation after he discovered his wife had been having an affair with one of her bosses was marching with a placard reading ‘Police Corruption’ and Occupy London were marching with them calling for  “fully, Publicly funded, democratically accountable Police force who’s aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People’s Charter!” 

But my favourite among the fringe demonstrators was a ‘professional protest stall’ manned by the Space Hijackers, with advice on suitable placards and chants for the protest. I wanted to show some of these, along with the police march. Many of the police were obviously amused as they marched past, but the display did offend others, and I was present when police not taking part in the march threatened the Hijackers with arrest, particularly if they displayed a poster with the acronym ACAB on it, which you can also see on the peak of the cap being worn by the masked protester.  Shortly after I took this image, a line of police came and stood between the stall and the march in an attempt to hide it from view.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
The London May Queen as Flora scatters flowers

On 10 of May I photographed a very different kind of event. From 2005 to 2010 I made a series of pictures at various events involving May Queens in London, in particular of the Merrie England and London May Queen Festival. 2012 saw the crowning of the 100th London May Queen and although I felt I had finished the project in 2010 this was something I didn’t want to miss.  I also wanted to show some of the people I had photographed the book I had produced (there is an earlier version with a preview and an i-pad version also available.)

I spent quite a lot of time talking to people and perhaps didn’t concentrate on taking pictures as much as in earlier years, but you can see the other pictures in London Crowns 100th May Queen.

One of the hardest things to photograph is the procession of the May Queen around the arena near the end of the event, when she scatters flowers to the children in the various May Queen realms seated around the outside. The picture captures this, with a rather large bunch of them in mid-air having just left her hand. I was fairly close – again with the lens at 16mm – but of course having to keep out of the way of the flowers and the children seated on the ground who they were being thrown towards. This was taken at 1/800s, fast enough to freeze the action, although the flowers are not quite sharp probably because they are out of focus. I wanted to get all of the procession sharp, and depth of field even on a well stopped-down 16mm has its limits. I’d decided not to use flash even though it would have helped with the nearer figures – as you can see I was working more or less directly into the sun – but to use a little post-processing to lighten these shadow areas. Any useful amount of flash would almost certainly had burnt out the very close flowers.

I’ve chosen two pictures from No To NATO, Troops Out Of Afghanistan in front of the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square on May 19.  One shows a left-wing newspaper seller talking with one of the protesters in the crowd holding placards in front of the embassy. The newspaper looks like the ‘Workers Hammer’ published by the Trotskyist Spartacist League. I don’t know if anyone ever does buy it, and though I’ve on occasion been given a free issue I’ve seldom found much of it worth reading.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Selling the Workers Hammer, No To NATO, Troops Out Of Afghanistan

Like most of my work, this was taken with the 16-35mm, but this at the long end of the zoom. It is I think all about gesture and expression, and about the kind of things that go on in the crowd at demonstrations, although I’m not sure it is all about selling newspapers.

My final selection from May was of one of the speakers at the same event. There were an interminable number of them, and after an hour or so my attention had rather drained away. But this speaker was different, because he came accompanied with flags.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Bahraini speaker and flags, No To NATO, Troops Out Of Afghanistan

The flag at bottom left was fairly static but the one behind the speaker was being waved fairly vigorously on a long pole. There was no wind to make a flag fly, but photographing this speaker and the flag was something of a challenge and I think the result is reasonably striking. Certainly it stands out against the probably 30 or so attempts I made, most of which where more or less immediately deleted .


2012 – My Own Favourites – April

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Grattan Puxon speaking in the Holocaust Memorial Garden

Roma Nation Day is April 8, the date of the first World Roma Congress, held here in London in 1971, and Grattan Puxon was one of its organisers.  At least 500,000 Roma are thought to have been killed in the holocaust, and the German government formally recognised the Roma genocide in 1982. As well as holding a short ceremony at the memorial in Hyde Park, the group also went to protest outside the embassies or cultural centres of some other European nations where the Roma are still being discriminated against, including France, Bulgaria, Italy and Hungary, and ending after I left them, at the offices of our own Department for Communities and Local Government. The Dale Farm evictions were, as Grattan Puxon said, “very much the tip of the iceberg” here.

There was quite a crowd of photographers and videographers at the event, but I’d got to the scene before most and had carefully chosen my position, with the memorial stone at the centre of the image. I couldn’t know exactly how people and things would arrange themselves around it, but things worked out well.  Using the zoom at 16mm Grattan almost exactly filled the frame vertically. It was a dull day and the memorial garden is surrounded by trees, and I used a little flash to make him stand out from the surroundings, and the low viewpoint gives him something of a heroic aspect.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Andy Greene of DPAC in a wheelchair chain blocking the road

Disabled Activists Block Trafalgar Square was the headline for my story, and this was a picture than for me encapsulated the determination and frustration of disabled people who are suffering so badly from the cuts in benefits and cruelly dismissive target-led tests by Atos, and also the dilemma of the police in dealing with their protests.  Again it shows how the wide view of the 16mm is really needed in the kind of media scrum that happens around these events.

It wasn’t easy to take pictures which really showed the chain that locked the wheelchairs in position across the roadway well, but what really makes this picture for me are the expressions, particularly that of Andy Greene in his wheelchair holding up the chain. Less obvious in the small reproduction is the look of concern on the face of the police officer, also holding up the chain, and the concentration of my colleague holding the video camera. The two still cameras at top left and right also help to add a feeling of urgency; usually I try to avoid other photographers in my pictures, but here it was unavoidable anyway and they have become important parts of the scene.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Pussy Riot protester opposite Russian Embassy

The protests over the imprisonment of members of Pussy Riot have produced some interesting pictures, and there are several in my Protest Supports ‘Pussy Riot’ that I might perhaps have chosen. What makes this one stand out for me is of course the face that this woman is making over me taking her picture – again from a close viewpoint although the 16-35mm was racked out to 30mm.  Hers is also a very stylish mask, with its gold edging – rather a contrast to the roughly cut balaclava at the left, and she is also wearing some very stylish knitwear and a fine large black ring. It was a dull day, and even at ISO 1000 and full aperture of f4 the shutter speed was only 1/30 second, and the only truly sharp part of the image are her eyelashes, but I think the slight blur of her lips as she puckers them adds to the image.

It wasn’t the picture I chose to head the story, either on My London Diary or on Demotix, as there were others that were more recognisably part of the Pussy Riot stereotype, but this was my favourite image, and one that somehow seems rather more Russian.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Cyclists and dogs call for Safer Roads

The final picture of my April choice was taken in some of my least favourite working conditions, with many of my pictures being spoilt by rain on the lens filter despite my obsessive wiping. It’s also one of the few pictures that I’ve used significantly cropped – not just the little bits that sometimes need tidying where things have crept in unnoticed or invisible around the edges.

My favourite version of this image – seen above in full frame – crops off a little at the top and bottom and around a fifth of the image at the right -just removing that raised hand. Getting dogs to look the right way for a picture isn’t easy and I couldn’t get the framing right too.

Far too many cyclists get killed on London’s roads, and the Big Ride for Safe Cycling was an attempt to get the mayoral candidates to promise to improve things. And all the main candidates – including the winner – made promises, though so far little has happened. There are many ways in which the infrastructure could be improved, but what is really needed is a change in attitudes particularly by car and other vehicle drivers. But it was perhaps unfortunate that the ride didn’t strongly make the point that helmets are not an answer. Most of those who have been killed in London were wearing them and they offer very little if any protection while encouraging drivers not to give cyclists the room they need.


2012 – My Own Favourites – More from March

Monday, December 24th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall

March 17th was a good day for me, although the weather wasn’t good, and I started taking pictures at Paddington Green in light rain with a heavy grey sky, rather darker than it appears in the image above. It had perhaps brightened a little as the Free Syria march to the embassy finally started, and I took this picture shortly before I left just after they went under the Marylebone flyover which you can see in this image. The building in the background is Paddington Green Police station, where suspected terrorists, now particularly Muslim fundamentalists, are held for questioning in a specially designed custody suite. Perhaps it was in this picture by accident, or just because  I wanted to fill in a little of the rather blank sky, but it also matches the black white and green of the other main elements of the image, though lacking on its exterior any red stars.  Later in the day I rejoined them at the rally outside the embassy, and took more pictures.

But March 17th is of course St Patrick’s Day, though the main organised London celebrations now take place on the nearest Sunday, and I think have become steadily less interesting. So from the Syrian march I rushed to get the Bakerloo line to Willesden Green, because in Brent they keep to the traditional day.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Brent has a tradition of celebrating the festivals of many of its ethnic populations, although this is now under threat from the government’s cuts in local authority spending, and a year earlier it seemed likely we were watching their last St Pat’s Day parade. But somehow it managed to continue. though perhaps on a slightly reduced scale than in some previous years. The Brent St Patrick’s Day still has very much the feel of a community event, both in terms of the Irish community in Brent (and in particular around Kilburn) and also with the wider community joining in.

I’d photographed the young Irish dancers before the parade started, and several times on the route of the parade, and this was one of the last pictures I took of them, going in close with the 16-35mm at 16mm and getting rather different reactions from the three closer girls. The one on the right was continuing to dance, and after I took the picture al lof them were laughing – even the one who has shyly covered her face. It is the different reactions, show in in gestures and expressions that appealed to me, and the Irishness of it all.

Sometimes being a photographer is hard, and although I would have liked to stay and enjoy a pint or two of the black stuff and the atmosphere, I rushed off to Belgrave Square, where the Syrian protests were continuing.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

There were two protests separated by a few yards and rather more police. The larger was by the Free Syrians, calling for Asad to go – and one man was carrying a gallows with an effigy of him hanging from it. The crowd was noisy and thickly packed, making it hard to take pictures, and there was a real feeling of a popular movement for freedom.

The pro-Asad protest had a very different feel. Very much more of a PR campaign than a political protest, and plenty of space. Although there was no doubting the sincerity of the Iranians taking part and the strength of their feelings it felt more like people who had done very well out of his regime wanting to keep their comfortable superior position. With all the portraits of Asad it seemed very much a personality cult, and although they made for some interesting pictures, they made me feel uneasy.  This picture is all about eyes, and there are too many of them.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

A few days later it was Budget Day, and various protesters took advantage of the media interest in the event to protest in Westminster. After a protest outside Downing St many went down for a Budget Media Village Protest on the patch of grass opposite the House of Lords where TV stations set up their temporary outside broadcast studios to interview – often live on TV – politicians about the budget.

Since most of these interviews are entirely predictable, turgid and a complete turn-off for at least 90% of their audience, you might think the TV news crews would welcome almost anything else happening. But they didn’t like the protests and seemed determined to avoid giving them any publicity – for them they were just not news. It isn’t a point of view I share.

This picture was one of several I took both with the 16-35mm (at 18mm in this) and also with the 10.5mm working with several shouting heads, the placards and the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster.  Although not as recognisable as ‘Big Ben’ it is actually the tallest of Parliament’s 3 towers, 98.5 metres,  2.2 metres taller than the Clock Tower.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Another gesture, this fist of the speaker close to the front of my zoom at 16mm on the D700 in a protest on Kensington High St opposite the Israeli embassy  on Palestine Land Day in a show of solidarity with the Global March to Jerusalem against the destruction of Palestinian life and culture there by Israeli expansion.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

From Kensington I went on to Bedford Square for a protest against the Harassment At Abortion Clinics by the group ’40 Days for Life’, which had been holding a 40 day picket outside the central London Clinic of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) praying and handing leaflets to women entering and leaving the clinic.  The protest was timed to coincide with a an evening prayer vigil by around a hundred Catholic supporters of the anti-abortion campaign led by Bishop Alan Hopes, who kept himself well hidden in the crowd as he led the service, with a considerably larger crowd calling for an end to harassment.

There were a few protesters separate from the main group, and the man above was one of these. He told me that he was a ‘Pro-Love’ protester, and wanted to see people showing more love for each other – and for the harassment of women going to clinics to stop. This picture is a little unusual for me in that it was taken with a ‘standard’ focal length, using the D300 with the 18-105mm at 34mm, 51mm equivalent.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I’m not quite sure why I chose this last picture as one of my March favourites. I think because the expressions somehow sum up the mood of the people outside the US embassy at the Protest for Trayvon Martin, a  a US teenager shot on his way back home from buying sweets at his local shop simply because he was black and wearing a hoodie. Anger, frustration, sorrow, shock, disbelief; black and white united in condemnation of racist violence. And determined that something must be done.

November 2012

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

As usual, My London Diary is running well behind the calendar but all of my work from November 2012 is now on line. It wasn’t all Paris, though that took up a lot of time. Here are the permalinks to the rest:


© 2012, Peter Marshall
Cold Homes Kill Treasury Protest

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Leveson Comes Out

© 2012, Peter Marshall
3 Cosas – Sick Pay, Holidays and Pensions
Save Carpenters Estate from UCL

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Save A&E at Lewisham Hospital
Solidarity With Gaza, End the Seige Now
Protest against Night Flights

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Students March on Parliament
Save Walthamstow Stadium Fight Continues

Stop Fossil Fuel Dirty Money takeover of US

Truth, Justice and the American way?

Noisy Demo after Immigration Death

Anonymous March to Parliament

Cleaners Protest at Tower


2012 – My Own Favourites – March

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

I have a problem with March, though it’s a welcome one, with just too many pictures that I like to put in a single post. It was a busy month, with lots of events and more varied than most, and so I’ve decided to split the month into two – and here are the pictures from the first half of March.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Boycott Workfare protesters outside McDonald’s in Oxford St

A good example of why I sometimes like the 16mm end of the 16-35mm, working as I was absolutely jammed into a crowd in front of McDonalds. Perhaps even a millimetre or so wider would have been even better, though I like the tight framing with the hand at top left and another at bottom right cut off – perhaps just a little too dark in the web version, with the arm and the hand holding the microphone at the edge of the frame.  The ‘rogue’s gallery’ in the newspaper along with its captions really sums up what the protest is about – and there’s a placard too, with the message ‘This shop is a scrounger’. The only thing really missing – or rather not prominent enough – is the yellow M on the very recognisable dark green of the shop front – it is there dead centre in the image but rather small, and has lost a little saturation thanks to surface reflections.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Million Women Rise

I think this woman on the march did have a child in the buggy, but I’ve chosen to concentrate on the Unison poster which again says what the event is about, along with the placards held by the women in the background. But it’s the dress, makeup, posture and gaze of the woman leaning on the push-chair that really make the image. Looking at the full size image the others behind her – from the  8th March Women’s Organisation (Iran/Afghanistan) very much add to the interest of the image.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
BMA march against Health & Social Care Bill

Another picture of a woman on a protest, but very different. Taken in low light, with the 16-35mm at 29mm and full f4 aperture, ISO 1250, 1/30s.  The close working distance and fairly wide aperture make her stand out, almost sharp (a little movement blur) against the out of focus background. There’s a great energy in her shouting and gesture, holding a placard up out of  picture, and although her placard isn’t in the image, others tell clearly what she is protesting about. The slight lack of critical sharpness isn’t apparent on the web, but helps in the full size image, and the picture is really ridiculously sharp given that she is shouting and walking forwards and I’m walking backwards a short distance in front of her during the 1/30 of a second.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Dalai Lama portrait at head of Free Tibet march

The man in robes holding the picture of another man in robes with a rather similar hairline and both wearing glasses made a fairly obvious image and one I had several attempts at. This (at least for me) stand out partly because of the framing but also the background, with another framed image held up just to the left. My Tibetan protest photographs do rather tend to be overwhelmed by the yellow, red and blue of the Free Tibet flag, and it’s good to have a picture with it present but not dominating. This was on the D300 at 70mm – equivalent to 105mm on full frame.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Holi celebrations in Twickenham

Another different image of a man’s head which for me caputured some of the colour and confusion of this paint-throwing event. The head stands out well from the background, and again this was with the D300 and at 58 (87m). F7.1 according to the EXIF, which has done a great job in giving just enough depth of field.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Students march against huge fee rises

And finally from the first half of the month, another protester shouting, taken fairly close with the 16-35mm at its long end. Perhaps surprisingly this is the only picture in these half-dozen where I used flash, working very much into the sunlight that was coming past the edge of the building (giving a little flare and ghosting at top left) and giving the strong rim lighting on the main figure – with some very sharp whiskers along the edge of his face. It’s that wide stretched mouth that is the main feature, head thrown back to give that hair, and the beady eye towards the photographer. Flash has lifted his face just a little, and I suspect I’ve had to burn down a little, particularly inside his mouth, though it’s still perhaps a slightly too detailed dental view of his upper set. The red along the bottom of the picture and in the placards.

Christmas Wishes

Friday, December 21st, 2012

© 2003, Peter Marshall

This year I’m just not coping with Christmas. Just a few days ago it seemed to be a long way away, and now its almost upon us. It possibly doesn’t help that I’ve still got November’s calendar up on the wall to the left of my screen, there’s a picture I rather like on it and I’ve not got around to changing it before now, though December’s isn’t bad either.

But I’ve just not managed to send out cards, and it’s probably too late. Fortunately Linda deals with those for relatives and some of our common friends, and on several nights in recent weeks I’ve dragged myself from the computer after falling asleep and gone downstairs to get ready for bed and found her hard at work writing and adressing cards, but I’ve just not had the energy to join her. I managed to make a few badly printed cards for a few friends I met on Monday, but other than that my only contribution to the Christmas effort has been to buy a sheet of Christmas stamps. And that only happened more or less by accident, when I was taking a parcel of my books to the post and the man before me in the queue bought some. As Linda points out, the price of a second class stamp is what she paid for her lunches for a whole week when she was a student, and my pint of bitter and a pork pie or a cheese roll in the union bar would only have added up to a few old pence more for the five days.

So today I decided I’ve have to send something digital to many of my photographic friends, many of whom have in the past received something on paper.  My apologies if you get this message both by e-mail and here on >RE:Photo. I don’t have the time or skill to produce the kind of clever collage that at least one of my friends delights us with, but I have photographed quite a few Santas over the years, and when  I put that word into the search on My London Diary and it came up with 141 results. Here are just a few of my vintage santas from 2003-8.

© 2004, Peter Marshall
© 2005, Peter Marshall
© 2006, Peter Marshall
© 2007, Peter Marshall
© 2008, Peter Marshall

‘Bells Not Bombs’ is a good message any time of the year!

My best wishes for the season to you all.