Archive for March, 2014

Before the Garden City

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Western Cross Pit, 2000

One of the latest UK Coalition government pseudo-announcements which caught my attention was of a new ‘garden city’ to be built at Ebbsfleet in North Kent. It’s hardly new, since development in the huge former chalk quarry south of Swanscombe has been talked about at least since 2002, with the main planning application submitted in 2003 for around 6000 homes and related facilities. And it will be hardly a city – perhaps more like several villages. But there were certainly plenty of trees on parts of the site back in 2000-1.

View from Alkerden Lane, 2000

In 2000 I went to photograph Bluewater in the former quarry immediately to the west across the B255. As an afterthought I walked across the road to see what was on the other side, and found I could see a view across and extremely large quarry.  Much of it was hidden by bushes, and in previous years when I’d tried to photograph this chalk pit from the north side, I’d given up as the area around it was too overgrown to get a proper view. Although parts of the fence were rusty and would have been easy to go through, there was a very large drop and it was clearly not safe to trespass.  But a month or so earlier I’d managed to get the view above.

Alkerden Lane, 2000

This ‘Eastern Quarry’, covering much of the area between Alkerden Lane and the A2 was impressively large. Most of the chalk from this site – the Western Cross Pit – was taken to the Swanscombe works by rail, but there was also a conveyor belt taking it to the Northfleet works. I was around the area again a few months later and made another photograph from a very similar viewpoint – there was a fairly limited area where you could see over the fence and the lip of the pit.

Western Cross Pit, 2001

Working on the pit seems to have started some time in the 1930s when the earlier quarries closer to Swanscombe were largely worked out. It certainly continued into the 1970s a perhaps later. The chalk here was around 50 foot below the surface and considerable overburden had to be removed, much of it being used to fill some of the earlier workings. There was then almost a hundred foot of pure chalk to be removed – leaving a very large hole.

A little further east in the same redevelopment site, close to the A2 there were also clay pits, providing another vital material for cement manufacture, though this was worked out before the Second World War, Clay was also brought in from Cliffe marshes and across the Thames from Essex in barges. The river also allowed the shipping in of coal, initially from the Durham coalfields, to fuel the process. Later this was replace by oil, also coming by river. The river was also used to ship out cement. The works at Northfleet were close to the deepwater channel and could handle sizeable ships, while those further upstream were more restricted. Cement production was later consolidated there, and it was the only cement works still in production I photographed in 1985.

Derelict cement works at Swanscombe, 1985

When I first photographed the area around the mid 1980s, the cement industry was still going strong at Northfleet. I went back in 2003, mainly to photograph around the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which passes just to the East of the ‘Garden City’ with a Ebbsfleet International station close by, but also the new housing that was by then being built in various places around the area. My last visit was a little over a year ago, and things have changed even more, with the hug factory at Northfleet entirely disappeared.

When cement was at its height, this was one of the most polluted areas of the country, and even ten years ago there was still plenty of dust in evidence. Although signs of the industry remain – and there are industries in some of the former quarries as well as housing estates, it is a much cleaner place now.

You can see these images at twice the size by right-clicking and choosing ‘View image’. The panoramas were taken on 35mm Fuji film using a Horizon 220 camera which has a lens that swings through an arc to take a picture with a horizontal angle of view of around 120 degrees. The camera gives negatives approximately 56x24mm, and although a cheap camera, gives excellent results.  The negatives are the same width as 6×6 medium format negatives, while the height is that of 35mm. The black and white image was taken on an Olympus OM camera, almost certainly with a 35mm shift lens to keep the verticals upright.



Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Although I’ve not been to the Ukraine, I did photograph Ukrainians in London holding a protest and a remembrance service for those killed in the protests.

I’d been told that they would be marching from a cultural centre in Notting Hill a few hundred yards from the Russian Embassy, but when I approached at the time for the protest, the street was empty. I thought that perhaps I had missed them, and a man came up to me, obviously going to the protest asked for directions to the Russian embassy. He spoke very little English, (and I zero Ukrainian) but I gathered – wrongly as it turned out – that the march had already left, so I hurried towards the embassy too.

Not that you can actually protest at the embassy, which is at the other end of the still guarded private street which also houses the Israeli embassy. As there, protests are on the other side of the main road close to the street opening. Though at least here there is a building with a Russian flag – the consulate – actually opposite behind a tall fence.

There were a few Ukrainians already there, along with another small group of Syrians and Syrian Peace Protest supporters, several of whom I recognised. Having greeted them, I went to talk to the Ukrainians, and found that the march had not arrived. I took a few pictures and then decided to go and look for it, meeting it a couple of hundred yards down the street. I think there had been a last-minute change of plan, and they had started from elsewhere.

There were still nothing like as many as I had been told to expect, but slowly more arrived and the protest grew. Many wore or carried Ukrainian flags and there were enough placards to make it clear what the protest was about, although not all were in English. A few protesters carried flowers, and some came with candles. Fortunately they got on well with the Syrians, joining together as both protested against Russian interference in their countries.

One image I saw in my viewfinder did give me something of a shock. It wasn’t quite the picture below, but a slightly wider view of the same person.

The woman was holding a bunch of daffodils with a blue ribbon tied around them in her left hand, which also held one corner of a Ukrainian flag. With her right she grasped another corner of the flag, and what seemed be a large knife. It was only on looking more closely I realised it was in fact only an unlit black candle, outlined against the white of a placard behind. Framing more tightly as above made the wick more visible, and moving it away from the text on the placard cuts down the illusion a little too, but there is still something slightly chilling, at least for me. The angle of the candle (or blade) and the intense expression remain powerful.

The plans changed again. It had been intended to march to the Ukrainian embassy a short distance away, and then on to the statue of St Volodomyr a short distance away on Holland Park Avenue. I’d called in there on my way to the protest and took a few pictures as it was surrounded by candles and a few photographs of those killed in the protests. But they had decided there wasn’t time for the embassy visit, and, after singing their national anthem, hands held on hearts, they set off for there.

At St Volodymyr, things were pretty crowded, with Ukrainians adding and lighting candles and adding more photographs of the dead to the display. Many of the candles in the jars had gone out and needed re-lighting. It was a pretty cramped area, and with quite a few photographers trying to get pictures, things were a little difficult. As usual I was working mainly with wide-angles, both the wide end of the 16-35mm and the wider still 16mm full-frame fisheye. Inevitably along with the Ukrainians and the candles there were also other photographers in the image. It’s something I usually try to avoid unless I want to make a point of it; usually photographers are there to record the event not to be it.

I make a point of dressing in fairly dull clothes when covering events. Dark blues, dull russets, greys, blacks. I don’t have a great deal of bright saturated colour clothing in any case, but I don’t wear it when I go out to take pictures. There are times and places where high-viz is essential, but this certainly wasn’t one of them, and I found myself cursing a photographer who had chosen to wear a bright red wool hat, though not to his face.

But it did really spoil a number of my pictures. And it led me commit at least a minor photographic sin. That hat the photographer close to the centre of the image was wearing was really about the same colour but rather brighter than the one the woman on the left below was wearing. I’ve not removed anything, but I think applied excessive burning in and a little desaturation, probably beyond what Reuters would approve of. I shouldn’t have done it, but it really was a sore thumb, and I succumbed to temptation on this one frame.

I’d actually taken off my hat in any case. It was decidedly warm for February but it was also something of a religious reflex. In the tradition in which I was raised, at a time when men almost all wore hats or more often caps, but always removed them when entering church – or indeed for open air services such as was being prepared for here.

I don’t know whether this is a part of Ukrainian Orthodoxy as well, but I did notice that all of the men in the large congregation gathered around the statue were bare-headed. But perhaps our English winters are too mild to merit any head-covering.

But during the ceremony itself there were another couple of photographers whose behaviour was I felt unsuitable, really intruding on what was happening, moving around and rather getting in the way.  I felt a more reverent attitude was appropriate. I feel it is a privilege to be allowed to photograph events such as these, and holding a camera isn’t a licence for bad behaviour.

Story and more pictures: Ukrainians Protest, Celebrate and Mourn


Ukraine Images

Monday, March 17th, 2014

As I sit at home writing this post, people are going to the poll or not in the Crimea, voting on whether to go for greater autonomy inside Ukraine or to return to Russia, which they were part of before Kruschev gave them away in 1954. Or not, because some people are said to be boycotting the vote as neither of the two alternatives represents their wish to remain in the present arrangement.

There seem to me to be only very limited situations where boycotting a vote can be an effective tactic, though I wouldn’t presume to give the guys in the Crimea any specific advice. Here in the UK, most people don’t bother to vote in most elections, though its rather apathy than boycott that gets the greatest support in almost every poll. But I do think this would be at least a slightly healthier democracy if on every voting paper there was the option ‘none of the above.’

I’ve been glad these last few weeks that I’m not one of those photojournalists who flies out to trouble spots to report on them, though I have been impressed by the work of those who do.  Paris-based photojournalist, Alfred Yaghobzadeh, was on the ground in Kiev documenting the events from the day after things kicked off, and on LensCulture you can see an in-depth showing of his work, with 87 colour images and 105 black and white pictures.

It’s interesting to see the work like this, and there are some fine images. Kiev seems to have brought out a huge number of memorable and spectacular images from a great many photographers, but looking at the work of just one person is in some ways more revealing and gives a greater insight into what things were really like. The same is also true for videos such as Vice New’s Ukraine Burning with camera work mainly by Phil Caller (along with three others who from their names are probably Ukrainian.) Once you have got over the rather annoying interviewer (Vice Magazine seems to revel in the annoying, perhaps it worries it might have to change its name otherwise) it’s an interesting film – and again makes me feel glad not to have been there.

Caller is someone I used to find myself often covering events in London with a few years ago, when he was still working mainly with still images, but starting also to take video. Had I then been at a similar stage in my career to him it is a decision I would quite likely have felt I had to make also, if only to earn a living. Keeping on taking only still pictures – and keeping on putting my stories on Demotix are luxuries I’m in a position to afford after over 40 years of work.

There are things the still image does better, preserving a moment and bringing it to our attention in a way that doesn’t happen in a movie – unless perhaps you introduce a still frame. But that becomes an ‘effect’ in the way that a still image isn’t, and one that alters the nature of a film.

Looking at Yaghobzadeh’s work I found myself wondering why he had chosen to take some of the images as black and white. The square format is great for most of the portraits, but in some of the other images I found myself thinking that they would almost certainly have been better in colour. There are some exceptions, mainly those images with a strong element of design.

Of course many photographers now who present their work as black and white have actually taken these as colour, but I think that Yaghobzadeh was working with film, and from the format of the images, with medium format.  One of the things that attracts me, at least in principle, to working with cameras with an electronic viewfinder – such as the Fuji x-E1 – is that you can work with an monochrome image in the finder, while still if you are saving images in AW, have all the colour information still present should you later decide you would prefer to have a colour picture. But I say in principle, because although I’ve taken a few thousands of images on the camera I’ve yet  to take a single one as monochrome. I’ve still too got a cupboard with a shelf full of black and white film (now all rather outdated) but somehow I feel that photography and I have moved on.

Suffering And Photography

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Although I feel there are relatively few occasions on which we should “look to Susan Sontag for advice“, Lorena O’Neil’s short piece When Suffering And Photography Collide on Ozy – short of Ozymandias.

In case you’ve forgotten, the inscription:

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair

from the plinth of a statue for a long-dead Egyptian tyrant was the inspiration for one of Shelley’s best-known works, a 15 minute sonnet penned in a poetry speed-writing contes that produced certainly one of his best-known works.  Great and all-powerful Osymandias may have been, but all that remained was the shattered ruins of this boastful great work, “two vast and trunkless legs of stone” and “near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage” alone in an empty desert. Or possibly in fact rather less than this.

I’m not any wiser as to why a web site which seems to think of itself as a kind of cultural trendsetter, bringing you “the new and the next“, putting you ahead of the stream, giving you in on the “new people, places, trends, ideas and opinions months before you’re going to hear about it in the mainstream press.”  Perhaps the name just means they are huge braggarts too?

Of course I’m not one of the “Change generation” and so perhaps shouldn’t be reading the site. But enough mocking the meaningless. O’Neil’s piece starts off with a question:

As cell phone cameras proliferate, so do multiple images of violence from around the globe – but is it morally corrupt to look at these pictures and videos?

A good question (though I’m not sure about that ‘morally corrupt’.) But perhaps she passes over to Sontag and her book, Regarding the Pain of Others (which I’ve not read) a little too quickly. I’d want to start by asking why people are recording the kind of videos and take the kind of photographs she is talking about, and perhaps not want to treat them as a homogeneous group. And then to go on to ask why we should want to look at them (and I think generally we should, at least for those made with a serious purpose, though I know we don’t always do so for the best of reasons.)

But where I have a problem is with the Sontag’s conclusion “”If we could do something about what the images show, we might not care as much about these issues,” because now there is almost always something we can do, even if it may not be a huge contribution.  We can make others aware, sign petitions, donate money, lobby our representatives, write letters, tweet, post on Facebook, join organisations, write articles, protest…

O’Neil writes:

“Sontag wants us to engage in a thoughtful debate, be it with others or just ourselves, about pain and violence and war, and our inability to understand something we have not experienced.”

Thoughtful debate seems a good starting point, but unless thought leads to action it is empty.

Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ (which is recommended reading at the bottom of the article) is perhaps one of the most infuriating books on photography I’ve ever read, full of insights mixed with half truths and misunderstandings. My copy ended up with more underlining and marginal scribbles than any other work I’ve ever read, and my notes on some chapters became longer than her contribution and ended up in little magazines. But my review was rather short:

‘Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ is great television.’

A related article you may also like to read, published last December on The Weeklings is On the Blindness of “WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY” by Chloe Pantazi, which discusses Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath, which ended in February.


Notable Lives

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

I photographed Bob Crow, the RMT leader who died last Tuesday, on several occasions, and like others around me who heard it at a trade union protest outside Parliament was shocked by the news.  He was a great inspiration to many in the trade union movement and dedicated his life to his union members. Others too owe him, because the union has fought not just for better working conditions and pay, but also for public safety, particularly on the London Underground.

Of course both during his life and after his death the media was full of lies about him; while he was alive they demonised him, and afterwards there was a sickening rush to publish the fulsome comments from many who never had a good word about him when he was living.

Although I have quite a few pictures of him at various events, I never felt I had taken a really good picture of the man. Perhaps some of the better ones are still buried in my black and white files from pre-digital days.

When on Friday morning I woke to the news that Tony Benn had died, there was little surprise, but a great sense that we had lost a major figure, and one loved by many. He was as many have said a charming man and a great speaker, combining wit and timing with a persuasive and eloquent logic.  He was a man who always sounded reasonable – even to those who opposed his views. At times I was so carried away by his speaking that I forgot I was there to take photographs.

I don’t know how many times I photographed Benn over the years; probably hundreds, and certainly not all of the thousands of images I took were good pictures. Again many of the better images may be in my uncatalogued files.

And of course, so often he was right, something perhaps the media tributes have failed to make clear. Most notably in recent years about Iraq, and also about what we should have done about it. It was a great shame that the Stop the War movement failed to follow his lead and take effective action, too set as they were in the dinosaur left mind-block. His was a mind that was always open to new ideas.


Focus Mums at City Hall

Friday, March 14th, 2014

After their party at East Thames Housing Association in January I was very pleased to be able to photograph the Focus E15 Foyer mums again in February (though it would be rather better if Newham and East Thames lived up to their obligations and started housing local people in their local area and they could end their protests.) I really admire these young women for fighting for their rights against what appears to be a corrupt and complacent local council, more concerned with feathering their own nests than with serving their local community.

If these women had not decided to fight they would by now be living in substandard accommodation scattered around the country miles from the families and friends and from the various organisations that currently offer them some support. They would be in private rented accommodation with no real security of tenure – at best liable to eviction at a couple of months notice. They would be paying high rents (with the landlords enjoying the huge subsidies provided by housing benefits) for squalid rooms, most likely with mould growing on the walls from rising damp or leaking roofs.

Housing, or at least social housing and the less expensive end of the private sector , has deteriorated hugely in my lifetime. When I was the same age as these women there were large stocks of social housing – though never enough. I lived for around six years as a private tenant, enjoying the protection that tenants then had, at a rent that now seems laughable, even allowing for inflation. Even as very cash-strapped students, the rent of the half a house we lived in for the first two years of our marriage was less than one sixth of our combined income.

It wasn’t perfect – insulation then had not been thought of, and it was freezing in winter, with ill-fitting draughty single-glazed windows, and expensive electricity on a coin-in-the slot meter that ate up half-crowns at a huge rate. Most of the wallpaper in the kitchen fell off too. The next private-rented flat we lived in was more expensive, and the bathroom really was below freezing in the cold winter – and I gave up trying to shave and grew a beard.  Later when I started teaching we got a very nice new flat from the local authority, with a low rent that meant that 3 years later we could afford to put down a 25% deposit on a house, taking out a 20 year mortgage for the remaining 75% at what now seems a ludicrously low repayment.  Nowadays in London we would struggle to buy a garden shed.

Things are very different, thanks largely to various government decisions. Tenants have very little security, most of the social housing has been sold off to tenants (and then sold on) and new developments generally have only token amounts of so-called ‘affordable’ properties, available at rents that only make any sense with large subsidies to landlords (the so-called housing benefit.) Property prices have risen greatly – a house like ours would perhaps sell for 30 times what we paid for it, while salaries have risen rather less, perhaps by a factor of 12 or 15.

I was sorry not to join the mothers in Stratford for their open-top bus ride to City Hall, but that would have meant a very early and very expensive start for me to make my way across London. Instead I met them at their destination, arriving shortly after they did, and while they were still setting up the play tents and banners outside City Hall.

City Hall is a difficult building to photograph, as it usually looks rather wonky. Its a kind of egg shape, and really needs to be seen from a distance, and the protest was right next to it. It curves away and just doesn’t look right close to. However Tower Bridge made a good background that really makes it obviously London.

For some unknown reason I had a problem with the times recorded in these images, which resulted in them being in the wrong order on my web site. I try to keep the images in a story more or less in the order they were taken, though I’ll occasionally alter this a little to fit the page design better, mainly to let me put two portrait images together. Years ago I designed the image pages on My London Diary to a fixed width, with the picture content being in a roughly 900 pixel wide column. The images are all nominally 600×400 pixels (with the D700 this is 600×399) though a few are cropped and panoramas are generally 900 px wide. The column can take one landscape image, 600px wide, either left or right aligned, and two 400px wide portrait images. Towards the bottom of the column the images have to be right aligned to allow for a menu at left (and any portrait format images can’t be doubled up.)

Green Party GLA member Jenny Jones came briefly to talk to the protesters, but I didn’t see any other members. James Ratcliff,  Assistant director of the affordable homes programme in London, came out to meet them and take a letter from them. I didn’t feel he really had much time for the women.

I’d been just slightly worried that there might be problems with security, as the riverside walkway here is not actually public land, but part of the privately owned ‘More London’, and although the public are generally allowed to walk freely across it, at least in theory photography is not allowed. Although there is greater public access than before the redevelopment, there were places along here which were public, and these have now been absorbed into the private estate.

Almost 3 years ago, on World Press Freedom day photographers held a flash mob protest here against the restrictions on photography. But although some photographers have been stopped from photographing in this area, I’ve never had a problem. There were several ‘More London’ security guards watching the protest, but the only thing they stopped was people handing out leaflets.

I took a lot of pictures with the 16mm full-frame fisheye. It seemed a good way to capture the whole scene, with Tower Bridge, the riverside walkway and the protest – and a little of City Hall.

I used it also to photograph three of the mothers with the card (it was a week late for a Valentine) they had written to take in to City Hall for Boris Johnson, with the printed greeting ‘There’s no place like home’ and a longer message about their need for housing in London. I wanted to get in the group with City Hall behind them, and I could get everything in without having to persuade them to walk rather a long way from the building.

It isn’t a very flattering image, either of the women or the building, making it and them look rather too much like Humpty-Dumpty. The Fisheye-Hemi plugin usually does a good job with landscape format images, but can’t really cope with portrait format.  Perhaps I can do better with other software such as the Adaptive WideAngle correction in Photoshop. It didn’t exist in my old version of Photoshop, but I decided recently that although I don’t like the subscription idea it made sense to upgrade to Photoshop CC. More about that in a later post.

It was a little better when I went inside the building with the mothers. As we went in the security man at the gate said “You can’t take pictures in here” but I decided he was talking to Kate who was using a camcorder rather than to me!  The 16mm fisheye was useful inside, and is a rather less conspicuous lens, tiny beside the relatively huge 16-35 zoom.

I left while the mothers were still trying to get in to take their card to Boris, but I think in the end they simply had to leave it at the reception desk for him.

Focus E15 Mums at City Hall for more pictures and text about the event

Getty, Magnum & Free Use

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

I’m not entirely sure what I think of the announcement by Getty Images that they are making 35 million of their images free to embed, un-watermarked, for “non-commercial use”. You can go to their web site for details of how to do this. You can’t just copy and use the images, but they have to be embedded using Getty’s code, which includes their logo and copyright, and the image attribution.

Not all Getty images can be embedded, though I think the 35 million is a pretty large chunk – probably over 70% of their images, at least in theory. Though I took a look through some of their images of London, thinking it might be nice to have an example here, clicked the <-> symbol to get the embed code, and was still waiting ten minutes later. I closed the pop-up and tried again on another image with the same result. Third time lucky it worked, and I did get some code. I was going to insert it into this post, but then I thought about it and decided not.

The embed code is an ‘iframe’ and its contents when you load the page would come from Getty – your web browser would sent a message to them giving your internet address and requesting a copy of the image – which would then be sent to your browser. Of course the same thing happens when you go to any web site, but I think there is a difference. You choose to come to this site – or to Google or Facebook – but you didn’t choose to go to Getty. And I’m not sure I should be responsible for giving them any information about you.

This site doesn’t use any of your information except to send you the site content – and of course any comments you choose to make if you have registered (a few get removed as spam but the rest are published.) For the moment at least I’ve decided to keep it that way.

My immediate thought on Getty’s action was that these aren’t really Getty’s images, but Getty photographer’s images, and Getty didn’t even have the courtesy to consult with its photographers before making this move.

However they do at least acknowledge the fact that the images are the photographers’:  in an interview with PDNPulse, Craig Peters from Getty stated . “This is their content, and if we generate any revenue from that content, we not only have the obligation, but we have every intent to share that revenue”.

He was talking about the possibility of using advertising in their embedded frame, which could be targeted on the basis of your IP address and the type of image you were looking at.  But I understand that Getty could actually market the information it gets without actually itself sending adverts, and it isn’t clear that they intend to share that revenue.

Although many photographers were horrified at the thought of images being shared for free, I was not so worried. I’m not so far as I know making any income from the use of my own images on non-commercial web sites, so I don’t feel I have anything to lose.

Getty may lose money, because it currently does a lot of legal bullying aimed at bloggers who use its images without permission  – enough as has been pointed out for there to be several pages on giving some good advice to US bloggers about how to deal with their excessive claims, which with suitable changes apply in principle in other countries)  but few others are so greedy.  (In the PDNPulse interview Peters claims that Getty has “never pursued individuals for non-commercial use of our content” and never even sent them the letters that many appear to have received!)  But it seems clear they will still after anyone who uses their images without payment outside their embed, and when you click on the icon to get the embed code there is a message:

Embed this image
Copy this code to your website or blog. Learn more
Note: Embedded images may not be used for commercial purposes.

Clicking on the Learn more link gets to to a page with more information about the restrictions on using embedded images. I think the process makes it pretty clear to any users that they are not free to do what they like with images – they are ‘free’ in that there is no charge for use but it is clear that they are not free in any other sense.

The Getty approach does mean that embedded images will be attributed (or at least so long as Getty properly attributes them.)  It also provides an easy way for those images to be shared on Twitter or Tumblr or embedded elsewhere (again that didn’t work the only time I tried it.)  There is an article on DVAPhoto, Getty gives away 35 million photos and people don’t like it, which gives links to a number of different articles commenting on their decision.

Magnum are trying a slightly different approach, but are again making their images available more freely for non-commercial use.  In 2011 they decided to remove watermarks from images on their web sites, and have a liberal approach to individuals and bloggers using their images – available at 900 pixels wide – on non-commercial blogs.  Ideastap published the comments of two Magnum members on the issue:

Christopher Anderson: “If you want to download my pictures, please go ahead. As a photographer trying to reach an audience, [if there are lots of] bloggers who are interested in my photographs, that’s great. Do I want Time Magazine online to be using my pictures for free? No, of course not – that I want to control, as a copyright issue.”

Abbas: “At this AGM we decided to sue institutions who use our pictures but we decided collectively that individual blogs or [people] downloading the images for their own use is legitimate.”

On the BJP web site last year was an article Magnum Photos readies paid-for online membership platform, which explained their thinking about such uses. They hope to enrol bloggers who use their images in a  ‘Friends of Magnum’ community with a low annual subscription to legalise their position. Though it appears they are likely only to appeal to them to do so rather than threaten those who don’t with court action. It seems a good way to go about things and I hope it works.

I long ago decided that there was generally no point in going after non-commercial bloggers who used my images without consent – although I have got my images taken down from some unsuitable sites, either simply by complaining to the blog author, or, in a couple of cases by using DMCA. On some other sites I’ve simply pointed out the offence – and demanded proper attribution if it was absent.

As an individual, I usually respond positively to any requests to use my images on non-commercial web sites (except those that I find politically unpalatable), requesting proper attribution including either my web site address or a link back to the site.  Like Anderson I want people to see my work, and like him I expect payment for any commercial use – we can’t eat bylines.

I also ask people to use the images from my web site which include a discreet visible watermark with copyright and web site details, rather than those published elsewhere. It’s a little extra publicity that costs me nothing so long as it is not abused.

London Transport

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Paula Peters of DPAC speaking outside the Atos HQ in Triton Square, Euston

The only fast way to get around London is by bicycle. But a bike is something of a liability when actually taking pictures unless you can find somewhere truly safe to leave it, and such places are rare in the city. Lock one anywhere you can’t keep an eye on it and there is a fairly high chance it won’t be there – or won’t all be there – when you come back, especially if you ride a real thief magnet like a Brompton, relatively expensive and slips very easily into a car boot.

I get absorbed in what I’m doing when I’m taking pictures, often so absorbed with the images I don’t even notice important things on my camera like leaving the ISO on a silly setting. All I can think about is the rectangle in my viewfinder and the event that I’m viewing through it. Even if my bike was locked a few yards away I probably wouldn’t notice anyone taking an edge-grinder to the lock.

So although using a bike might have been the obvious solution to my travel problems on a busy Wednesday I didn’t think about it. It was a day with an unusually large number of protests – there were a dozen that I knew about, and others that I only found out about later. Most were part of a day of action around the country against Atos and the tests that it administers on disabled people to decide if they are fit for work. Thousands who they have said are fit die within a few weeks, and they have included people who are in comas or already deceased.

I wanted to cover at least one of these, and it seemed to make most sense to cover the main national protest in central London rather than the smaller events around the capital. And since this was to last from 10.00 am to 16:00 pm it didn’t seem to give me much chance of doing anything else.

But I knew that there wouldn’t be things going on all that time I would want to photograph and also my own union was organising another protest from 11.30 to 1.30 that I both wanted to attend and also felt some obligation to go to. There was also another event, a vigil I would like to photograph at 10.30 to 1pm and yet another from 11.30 until 1pm. It would have been tricky if they were all in more or less the same place, but there was over 3 miles between the two more distant of them.

It was a day that involved some fairly tricky planning with the Transport for London web site and the map. I ended up making use of six underground trains, one bus and several bits of walking, and in all I probably covered a dozen miles or so to get to the four events on top of my normal 20 mile each way train journey from home to London

Dennis Skinner, Labour MP for Bolsover since 1970, speaking at Atos, Triton Square, Euston

I started at the Atos National Day of Action, arriving in Triton Square outside Atos’s UK HQ around 10.20am shortly before things really started there. I recognised many of those there from earlier protests, including Dennis Skinner who had really torn into what he called the “heartless beast” of Atos during the parliamentary debate triggered by a petition against Atos and was at least as fierce in his denunciation of them and the inhuman DWP policies of Ian Duncan Smith that drive them on this occasion. It was one of the times when I wished I’d been recording sound, though fortunately there were others present making videos, so I could concentrate on my job – though having people making videos does make it a lot harder to move around.

Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye and her daughter Zeinab at the vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar at the Iraqi consulate

Things quietened down a little around 11 and I hurried the short distance back to Warren St station and took the tube, changing at Green Park and on to Gloucester Road. A quarter-mile walk took me to the Iraqi Consulate in Elvaston Place for the Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar, where I apologised to his wife and daughter who I’d first met last May at the US Embassy for not being able to stay long, spent 5 minutes taking a few pictures then hurried back the quarter mile to the station, taking the tube to Hyde Park corner.

The Irish Embassy for the Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket was only a couple of hundred yards away, and again I apologised for rushing away after a little under 10 minutes, jumping on a bus to take me up Park Lane from the stop just a few yards down Grosvenor Place.

It  wasn’t a long way to the Egyptian Embassy, but the bus was faster, even though I had to walk a couple of hundred yards further than necessary as I couldn’t remember which was the nearest stop, the Hilton or the Dorchester. Both are slightly curiously named as going north neither is particularly close to the hotel, and probably few guests to either come by bus. NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists was a larger protest and I worked there for around 15 minutes, photographing the protest and a letter being taken in to the Embassy asking for the release of the imprisoned journalists, but decided not to stop for the speeches.

From there it was half a mile to walk to Green Park for the Victoria Line back to Warren St and the Atos protest in Triton Square. I’d hoped to be back in time for speeches at 12.30, but several minor hold-ups on the tube meant I was twenty minutes late, but I hadn’t really missed a great deal, and I stayed there until the event ended, rather earlier than planned. The finale was the release of a large net full of yellow balloons, and as usual I didn’t really manage to get a good picture, partly in this case because they were released before most of us were ready.

Some of the protesters were going on to protest elsewhere, but by then I felt I’d had enough. And I had a lot of post-processing to do, as well as writing stories about the four protests, so it was well after midnight before I finished work.

You can read the stories and see the other pictures I took on My London Diary:
Atos National Day of Action
NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists
Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket
Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar


Bugsby’s Under Threat

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Looking across Bugsby’s Reach in 1982

Here is an e-mail I sent yesterday:



Dear Alistair Gale,

I write to register my opposition to the proposed name change.

As someone who has known Bugsby’s Reach since the late 1970s, often walking the riverside path I feel that the name Bugsby’s Reach should be retained. I state some reasons below

1. Bugsby’s is a name that is genuinely a part of our heritage, both through oral tradition dating back several probably several hundred years and recorded in a multitude of written sources including may maps, charts and literature of all kinds since 1735 as ‘Bugsby’s Hole.’

2. Bugsby’s is a locationally specific name, linked to a past usage of a specific part of the river as an anchorage, whereas the suggested replacement is generic with no real connection to this particular stretch of river.

3. Your suggestion about the historical basis of the name is contested by local historians – and the name Bugsby’s Hole indicates that this was an anchorage from the 18th century or earlier.  I  have yet to see evidence that Bugsby was a person, let alone that he was a market gardener. – see the article by Mary Mills at in ‘On the Thames’. You appear to be attempting to mislead respondents in your statement on this consultation.

4. I think the current name has much more character than the proposed replacement which seems bland in comparison.

5. Waterman’s Reach sounds like the kind of name property developers would give to some generic waterside development (and they have done so.)

6. There are other stretches of the Thames which would seem to me to have a greater claim to the name Waterman’s Reach, and I think if any stretch is to bear that name it should be on the course of the ‘Doggett’s Coat and Badge’  and most obviously close to Watermen’s Hall. There isn’t even a Waterman’s Pub on this stretch!  Brentford could also make a good case with a Watermans Arts Centre and a pub.

7. Surely it should in any case be Watermen’s Reach and not Waterman’s  Reach – which I’m afraid makes me think of fountain pens not watermen.

8. There appears to be no particular reason why Bugsby’s Reach should have been selected for oblivion. There are other reaches with names with far less character that could have been selected, for example those that are simply geographic in nature – such as Woolwich Reach. I’m not against change, but want changes that give the river greater character not reduce it.

I would like to make a positive suggestion. On my PLA map of the River Thames, Woolwich Reach is shown as extending from the PLA radio station at Charlton through the Thames Barrier to Gallions Reach. I would suggest that while Bugsby’s Reach be maintained, the short section of Woolwich Reach from Charlton to the Thames Barrier could be renamed as Watermen’s Reach. There is no need to ditch our history to commemorate “watermen, wherrymen and bargemen.”


Yours sincerely

Peter Marshall

Thamesgate Panoramas:
London’s May Queens:
In Search of Atget: Paris 1984
Still Occupied: A View of Hull 1977-85
Before the Olympics: The Lea Valley 1981-2010

Peter Marshall    –    Photographer, Writer: NUJ
My London Diary       
London’s Industrial Heritage:
The Buildings of London etc:
River Lea/Lee Valley 1980-2010
and elsewhere……


Bugsby’s Reach from the cable car, 2013

The Port of London Authority (PLA) is currently consulting over its intention to change one of the old established names for the reaches on the River Thames, Bugsby’s Reach, which extends from the tip of the Greenwich Peninsula at the Millennium Dome (O2) to Charlton.

In a document online, they state:

In commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the 1514 Act of Parliament for regulating watermen, wherrymen and bargemen when King Henry VlIl granted Royal Assent, the Port of London Authority intends to rename Bugsby’s Reach as ‘Waterman’s Reach’ at a ceremony
on 18 September 2014.

and they invite observations/representations on this to be sent by Monday, 21 April 2014 either by letter or by email to:

I’ve sent my comments – but if you have an opinion why not tell the PLA too.

Bugsby’s Reach, 1982
You can read more about the proposed name change for this stretch of rive in Bugsby’s holed? Why a bit of Greenwich’s history is under threat on the 853 blog.

I’ve known Mary Mills who I mention in the e-mail above for a long time and have both her books on Greenwich. She also has her own blog, When she was de-selected as a councillor by the local Labour party last year, the Greenwich Phantom blogger – who says “I rarely – almost never – talk about political issues in Greenwich” was moved to post:

“Greenwich’s finest councillor by a country mile, Mary Mills, was deselected in what has to be the biggest own-goal the local Labour Party has scored in some time, and believe me there have been some pearlers… I am utterly gobsmacked that they have been so shortsighted in getting rid of the only personality that actual, real humans on the doorstep recognise and like.”

Dr Mills is also one of our leading industrial archaeologists and almost certainly has researched more about the history of the area than anyone else. If the PLA had done any local consultation about Bugsby’s Reach they would certainly have approached her. You can read her views on the change here.

Angerstein Wharf, 1982

I can only speculate (as I often do!) why the PLA has it in for poor Bugsby’s rather than choosing any other named stretch of the river to obliterate.

Could it be because it is a name that sits uncomfortably with the property developers who want to cover every riverside plot with unsightly luxury flats to sell to overseas speculators? It has an unattractive sound – bugs, bogs, bogeys, bogles, bugbears, buggers, boggarts… none very pleasant, though perhaps related to the history of the area, which certainly was boggy and full of bugs (the land is Greenwich Marshes) and it was also a place where the bodies of executed criminals were formerly hung in chains, so doubtless a haunting ground for malevolent spirits.

The Pilot, Ceylon Place, 1982

The Pilot, built (according to Mary Mills) in 1804 on Ceylon Place, New East Greenwich is still there, though the interior was apparently refurbished last year, and it is now a Fullers pub. It and the adjoining cottages were built on the causeway leading to Bugsby’s Hole which was given approval in 1801, the date recorded on the stone at the left of the sign. It’s name is not directly related to the river, but to Prime Minister William Pitt, described by George Canning as ‘The pilot who weathered the storm’ for his negotiation of the 1802 Treaty of Amiens which ceded Ceylon to Britain. It is no longer a Whitbread pub – and Whitbreads are no longer brewers.

The Place We Live

Monday, March 10th, 2014

At a quick count I appear to have ten books by Robert Adams already on my shelves, though I’d be surprised if there were not another one or two lurking somewhere. A few of the ten were review copies, but most I paid good money for; I expect I thought both Denver and The New West were rather expensive when I bought them; the cover price for each was $15, though in a London bookshop at the time they probably cost £15. And of course there are portfolios  by him in various magazines on my shelves too.

Which kind of suggests that I am something of a fan of this work – and I have been since I first saw it in the 1970s. It also reminds me that he has published quite a few books, because there are certainly some that I know I don’t own. At a little over £100, his The Place We Live seems almost certain to fall into that latter category, though as a three volume set with a total of 640 pages it could well represent good value for money.

The Place We Live is a show as well as a book, and is currently at the Jeu de Paume in Paris until May 18, 2014. Although the show was originally scheduled to have a showing in London at the Media Space, this seems now to be the closest it will get to us. But you can view the show on-line at the Yale University Art Gallery. I’m wondering whether to take a trip on Eurostar, but that would cost me about as much as the book, and given the choice I’d probably go for the book.

Forty or so years ago when I first started in photography, it was important to see original prints, partly because there were relatively few books, but mainly because the quality of the reproduction in almost all of them was, by today’s standards, abysmal.  Now it possible to get fairly decent quality in even cheap publications – and even from print on demand companies like Blurb, while some of the best (and most expensively) printed photographic books are superb.  I remember back around 1980 rather insensitively telling a well-known photographer when we compared his print with the page proof from his latest book that the printed page actually reproduced the highlights rather better than his darkroom print. True, but it upset him to be told so. A few years later and this would be almost commonplace, and we began to see duo-tones and tri-tones that did things that were impossible in the darkroom.

Now it is also possible to view images on large high quality displays, and certainly looking at my own images, I often find I can see them better in any print. Images on the web are generally a poor substitute, but the high quality pdfs I’ve made of my books are often better than any print I can make. Of course there are some ways in which a real object is preferable to a digital image (and I have many real prints framed on my walls, along with a few less real), but perhaps the days when you had to see the ‘real thing’ are largely gone. Except for print fetishists.

There is also an article about the show by Aaron Gertler in OUT OF ORDER Magazine and Alexander Strecker blogs about it at Lensculture.