Archive for September, 2014

August 2014

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Turkish activists greet the Haringey march for Gaza in Wood Green

One of the reasons there have been fewer posts than usual recently here on >Re:PHOTO is that I’ve been busy trying to catch up with putting my work on-line in My London Diary.  August has traditionally been a month when things quieten down and there is little real news. Journalists used to have to sit down and make up stories, or try and make stories out of mildly odd (or sometimes entirely usual) events. While plenty of papers now fill themselves with that kind of nonsense all year, there was no need for an extra dose this August, as plenty of news kept happening – and the protests didn’t seem to slacken at all.

There seems also to be a growing number of anniversary events in August – some observed for many years – 69 years since the first atomic bombs with a Hiroshima Day Ceremony on Aug 6 every year – and this year a seven-mile long pink scarf for Nagasaki day.  But this year was also the centenary of Marcus Garvey’s founding of the  Universal Negro Improvement Association 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the second anniversary of the Marikana miners massacre and the campaign against ‘Page 3‘ and a year since the chemical massacre by the Syrian regime in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta and the massacres by Egyptian forces at Rabaa and Nahda squares.

But there were also protests over new and continuing injustices which I covered, both about those taking place in the UK and those abroad which prompted protests in London. And even on the one day when I got out of London for a walk in the country I couldn’t help but reflect on the incredible gulf between rich and poor – something which the continuing series of Class War protests against separate doors for rich and poor highlights. In a sense there is nothing special about One Commercial Street, with its back entrance down a dingy alley for social housing tenants but it is a clear indication of the increasing polarisation and inequality in our society.

Aug 2014

South East Alliance ‘Racist Thugs Not Welcome’
Sodexo: racism & unfair dismissal

Hands Up! Against racist Police Shootings
No More Page Three
Tamils protest Sri Lankan rapes & killling
Syria Chemical Massacre Anniversary
Gaza Protest – Stop Arming Israel
Divided Families protest over cruelty
Jubilee River & Taplow
Class War steps up ‘Poor Doors’
Shame on You Theresa May
Solidarity with Ferguson
Second Anniversary of Marikana Massacre
Koreans call for special Sewol Ferry Act

March against ISIS massacres
R4BIA remembers Egyptian massacres
Boycott Israel – Boycott M&S
Kurds Protest against ISIS
Class War’s ‘Poor Doors’ Picket 3

End Fast Track deportations
Wool Against Weapons
Bring Back Mark Harper’s Cleaner
Ukrainians & Georgians Putin Protest
Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners
Hiroshima Atomic Victims Remembered

No Glory No More War
Haringey March & Rally for Gaza
Sainsbury’s protest at illegal Israeli Goods
Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds
Vedanta told ‘end your killing’

Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade


Al Quds march

Monday, September 29th, 2014

An umbrella adds to the colour

The annual Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march in London has often aroused controversy, and at times this has made it difficult to cover, with those taking part being very suspicious of photographers. As someone who likes to work close to people with a wide-angle lens, it often meant a considerable amount of argument with stewards to be allowed inside the march. But things have seemed different in the last couple of years, and I had no problems at all this year, with everyone being very open and friendly.

Women shout up at the windows from which vegetables had been thrown at the marchers

The only incident of opposition to the march I was aware of came after the march had gone a few hundred yards south from its starting point at the side of the BBC’s Broadcasting House when a few root vegetables where thrown down at marchers from an upper floor window. I didn’t see them come down, though I was only a few yards away, but I was photographing marchers and not looking up, but I heard the angry response from the crowd, who stopped and shouted up – but whoever had thrown them was no longer visible.

Later I heard that there had also been a small group of far-right protesters who turned up during the rally at the end of the march, outside the US Embassy, but I had left the march well before it reached the embassy.

Much of the opposition in past years has concentrated on the backing for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, whose Al Quds Day Committee organises the event, by the Iranian regime, and Al Quds day was introduced by Ayatollah Khomeini. And although the march is supported by a wide range of groups it is still seen by some as being dominated by Iran. Clearly this year the march was almost entirely about Palestine, with the then ongoing attack by Israeli forces on Gaza at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

It’s always difficult to know how to approach things. There were two large banners of the Iranian leaders, and just a few stalwart supporters of Khomeini you can see in my pictures and who I’ve photographed in previous years. They were there, and in their way photogenic, but unrepresentative. I photographed to a handful of Hezbollah flags, but there were very few on show, whereas some years ago there were large groups of them.

This is also an event that has inevitably been accused of anti-Semitism, and I was looking for anything that would substantiate that. Being against Zionism, or against the use of disproportionate force by the Israeli forces and their killing of children and other civilians is clearly not anti-Semitism. Even the support for groups such as Hezbollah isn’t necessarily anti-Semitic – as the Jews who marched as usual at the front of the Al Quds procession and were greeted as old friends by many of the Muslim leaders make clear, you can be Jewish and opposed to the state of Israel. And as the sheet of slogans held in the hand of the man leading the chanting says ‘Judaism is OK, Judaism Yes, Zionism No‘.

Perhaps the closest I came to any evidence of it was the use by just one of the several thousand protesters on the march of a quotation attributed to former Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon, one of several disputed quotations by him. There seems to be no evidence that he ever made this particular statement about burning Palestinian children which appears to be entirely fabricated. It first appeared on the web around 2002 and in 2003 IHRC published it, while stating they ‘could not independently verify its authenticity‘, which seems irresponsible given its inflammatory nature.

Photographically things were pretty straightforward, with just a little light rain meaning I had to keep vigilant for raindrops on the lens filters, and work with a cloth in my hands to give the occasional wipe. But it wasn’t raining that hard, but the light did go down a little, and most of the pictures on the D700 were taken at ISO 1600. I didn’t get around the changing the ISO on the D800E from my normal ISO 800, but it didn’t seem to cause me any problems. Perhaps for once I had image stabilisation turned on – it often seems to mysteriously get turned off.

As usual I using the D700 with the 16-35mm, switching to the 70-300mm for some more distant views of the march from a higher viewpoint. The 70-300mm is another full-frame lens and I generally prefer to use it on the D700 rather than get the larger file sizes from the D800E.  The 18-105mm was on the D800E all the time, with its DX format giving sensible file sizes (15.4Mp) and an equivalent focal length of 27-158mm.

So there was quite an overlap in the focal lengths covered between the this and the 70-300mm, which I think is useful, as it saves needing to switch between them so much. There is also an overlap between the ranges of the 16-35mm and the 18-105DX that is equally useful, especially when I raise the wrong camera to my eye. I still find it confusing at times that the smaller lens has the greater focal length.

Al Quds Day march for Jerusalem


London Airports

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

I can’t understand why London has always failed to sort out its problems over airports, although it’s something that has affected me much of my life.  I was born just a mile or two from the site of one of London’s earliest airports, and with another just down the road. As a kid I played in my back garden with the planes streaming into Heathrow sometimes so low overhead that I felt I could reach up and touch them and had nightmares having seen them come over with flames coming from their engines.

Speeches after protest march at Harmondsworth against proposed Third Runway at Heathrow, 2003

Heathrow was a mistake from the start, pushed through by dressing it up as a military airport (which wasn’t needed)  in WW2 by people who knew it would not get approval as a civilian project. By the 1960s it was glaringly obvious that London needed a new airport, and both the Roskill Commission and the Edwards Report concluded Heathrow was in the wrong place (and was badly designed.)  Roskill called for a new airport, suggesting 3 sites to the north of London and Foulness, eventually making Cublington their preferred choice. PM Edward Heath responded to nimby pressure and rejected this, going instead for Foulness (Maplin Sands),  and things started to get moving, only to be cancelled a couple of years later as too expensive.

Cliffe, 2002

Various studies and proposals followed, with another estuary site, Cliffe, being finally rejected in 2003, and Boris coming up with his island plan in 2008. Another runway for Heathrow – which would have made the problem of it being in the wrong place even more acute – was rejected in 2010, but in 2012 the Davies Commission was set up in a thinly veiled attempt to revive this dead duck.

Climate Rush protest against Heathrow Expansion, 2009

Meanwhile, other countries facing similar problems have gone ahead and built their new airports in sensible places. In London we’ve made things worse by developing yet another airport in the wrong place, London City Airport. Roskill I think got it more or less right back in 1971, and we should be considering sites in that general area, around the M1 and the A1.

‘The Future’ protest at London City Airport, 2014

So when Tamsin Omond  handed me a flyer and invited me to photograph a protest by a group who call themselves ‘The Future’ at London City Airport, I was keen to do so, even when it did mean travelling across London rather earlier than I like.

The Eye, The Future. London City Airport, 2014

On their web site they write:

The Eye is The Future’s symbol.  A large circle drawn around the eye to mean:

We are connected:
We unite with a circle drawn around our eye to fight for our future.

We are the watchers:
We judge the powerful when they do not act to protect the future from climate change.

We are the creators:
We refuse to be victims. We create our own world.


Fuji X in the wet

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

I’d rushed away from the procession for Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Clerkenwell, down the road to Farringdon station and on the tube to Brixton where the workers at the Ritzy Cinema were picketing the cinema in their campaign for a living wage.

But when I got to Brixton, there was a crowd blocking the exit as torrential rain was coming down outside. I stood with the others just inside the station watching with surprise what was really an unusual cloudburst. After five or ten minutes the sky got just a little lighter and the rain slackened off a little to heavy and I thought it was clearing. With quite a few others I put up my umbrella (there is always a folding one in my camera bag – except when I take it out to use and forget to put it back after drying) I struck out towards the Ritzy – just a short tread away.

It was still raining when I arrived, and the protesters holding the banner outside were wet; those without umbrellas were soaked. At least they left the big tree when they redesigned Windrush Square a few years back to try and stop people hanging out there, making it a bleak and inhospitable place. And I made for it, only to find the rain was as bad under it as not, dripping down from the sodden canopy above.

I don’t like working in the rain, but I’d thought it might make for some interesting pictures, and I think I was right. But the rain came on again, as heavy as before. I started taking pictures one-handed, holding the umbrella in the other. Autofocus takes care of focusing, but changing the focal length is another problem, involving holding the lens to the hand holding the umbrella to use it to push the zoom ring round. It’s easier to do this without trying to look through the viewfinder, looking at the focal lengths on the scale, or you can find the rain dripping from one of the umbrella spines down your neck as you accidentally tilt the umbrella as you twist the ring.

My umbrella at top left

The umbrella is ok when using a telephoto, but with a wideangle it does tend to creep into a corner of the frame as you take pictures. And forget it with a fisheye, but in any case it isn’t easy to change lenses without an extra hand. I had two cameras with me, both Fujis, with the X-T1 with the 18-55 zoom and the X-E1 with the 14mm. The X-T1 is supposed to be weather resistant, but neither lens is, and the bag I was carrying the kit in is not that waterproof either. Most of it was around my neck in any case, though the 8mm fisheye was in the bag and stayed there.

The rain came down heavier still. Not just cats and dogs but horses too. Even under the umbrella it was raining, with a fine mist of small drops spraying through as the larger drops stormed down from above. I was getting wet. I moved back under the tree, and was still getting wet.

It had been bright and sunny when I came out, and hot. The forecast was for it to get hotter, with no mention of rain, and I hadn’t brought a coat. But now the temperature had dropped perhaps 10 degrees – Centigrade – and I was both wet and cold. My shirt was getting damp from the spray through the brolly and lower down my trousers were wet from the top of my legs down, soaked by the knees and below. The rain was slowly filling up my shoes too, and I was squelching as I walked. But the pickets were standing there – some without umbrellas, and I thought if they can do it so can I.

Eventually it did ease off, and finally it even stopped raining. By then Acre Lane was in flood, the stream running along its gutter too wide to jump, but it soon went down. As the rain eased, a man turned up with his pans, and along with the couple of drummers who had been playing in the rain we got some live music, and people began to dance. It began to look like it was going to be a fine evening, both in terms of weather and in the atmosphere around the picket, but it was also around time for me to go home.

I think I was right about the weather making for some more interesting images – well at least they were different –  although of course this was very much down to the spirit shown by the strikers. Both Fuji cameras and the two lenses seemed to put up with a bit of rain – and I got none of the misting up that can often be a problem with the Nikon lenses – down in part to the heavy lumps of glass in the 16-35 and the vigorous pumping action of the 18-195 zoom, though that might have been down to the particular quirks of the weather.

Both cameras coped pretty well with this event, and I’m beginning to feel more confident with using them at least where no fast-moving action is likely to be important. I’m hoping that the Fuji wide-angle zoom will come down a bit in price shortly. Unfortunately the £200 cashback offer from Fuji for buying two lenses excludes the only other Fuji lens I’m thinking of buying to make up a versatile kit.

Text and pictures at Ritzy workers strike for Living Wage.

Back to Little Italy

Friday, September 19th, 2014

It was I think in 1992 that I first photographed the annual festival of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at the Italian Church in Clerkenwell – certainly those are the earliest pictures I can currently find, though unfortunately they are not yet on-line – and I’ve continued to do so for most years since then, missing the occasional year when I’ve not been in London.

According to my filing sheets, that 1992 event took place in June rather than July, but perhaps that was probably just an error on my part. Otherwise it looks quite similar to this year’s event, except that some of those still taking part look considerably older and greyer. The procession then followed a different route, around the streets to the south of the church and my pictures were black and white, mainly taken with the 28mm Minolta lens on a Minolta CLE – always my favourite Leica.

That lens too was my favourite ‘Leica’ lens, bought because the extensive reviews and lab tests in the US magazines (at at time when UK magazines mainly poked the camera out of the office window and took a snap across the river) showed it to be optically superior to the Leitz equivalent, as well as rather cheaper. I think the difference in price enabled me to buy the Leica 90mm f2.8 as well – which did get deservedly good reviews.

And that Leitz Canada Tele-Elmarit M lens fits well (with a Fuji M adapter) on the Fuji X cameras (where it is a 135mm equivalent) and their electronic viewfinders make it a far more practical proposition than it ever was on a Leica, where the viewfinder frame was laughably small. Being able to focus on a magnified image with focus peaking makes it very usable for reasonably static subjects. Fuji don’t offer any equivalent to this lens, though there are a three zooms that include this focal length, and a fourth on the way. If they did it would be larger and heavier than the Leitz (around 330g with the adapter) but would of course have the advantage of autofocus and offer the option of auto aperture control.

I tried using all my old Leica lenses when I first got the X-Pro1, and several of them – whatever name they had on them – were just a little disappointing compared to Fuji X glass. The 28mm Minolta was one of the worst, suffering from white spots and fungus. I took it to a specialist in lens cleaning, who gave me the unwelcome news that it was permanently damaged and not worth cleaning – though at least that advice came free.

I might have taken some colour pictures of the festival as well back in 1992, and I thought I came across some earlier today while I was looking for the black and white, but I can’t find it now, so perhaps it was just a hallucination. Back in the 1990s, black and white was still king, particularly for the library I put my pictures in, as relatively few books and magazines used much colour, and I only used colour for personal projects where colour itself was an issue, although things were changing. (I’d moved by this time from colour transparency to colour negative, which did simplify things,allowing me to file the work in the same way as black and white, using archival plastic negative filing sheets. But things didn’t always get filed where they should have done.)

Things at the Italian festival were rather more freer back then, with no barriers or roped off areas, and perhaps just a little more chaotic. It was in some ways a more Italian event back then, although it is still Italian now, and it was also rather more of a local community event. And of course the wine was cheaper, though at the right stall in the Sagra it was still very reasonable and drinkable this year. Most years I meet up there with a friend of Italian descent who can always be relied on to source the cheapest wine and we get through a few together between taking pictures. Whatever wine snobs would say, it seems to taste fine drunk from a disposable plastic tumbler.

Using the Minolta I was also a rather more discreet presence than I am usually now with two large Nikons with hefty lenses around my neck, and my pictures then had more of a ‘street’ feel to them. Though for this occasion I had chosen to work with two Fuji cameras, the X-T1 with the 18-55mm zoom and the X-E1 with the fixed 14mm. It also helped that there were far fewer photographers around than now; apart from a few proud mums and dads taking pictures of their children there were probably only a photographer from a local paper and a couple of friends of mine seriously taking pictures. Things are very different now.

When I have more time I’ll go back and scan some of those images from 1992. But in the meantime you will just have to make to with my pictures from this year – and on the web you can also look at those from When I have more time I’ll go back and scan some of those images from 1992. But in the meantime you will just have to make to with my pictures from this year – and on the web you can also look at those from
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. I had 2010 and 2011 off and was back there in 2012 and 2013.

There was one small disappointment this year. Back in those pictures from 1992, there are a couple of frames of people all staring up into the sky and the next frame, pointed up towards the sky shows a dove making its way into the heavens. But this year I saw no doves.

More of this year’s pictures and about the event at Festival of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.


July 2014

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

July 19: Protesters from the End Gaza Killing Now march stop off in Trafalgar Square on their way to the Israeli embassy

Yes, its the end of July on My London Diary, a kind of time machine with only a single gear – reverse:

And it was a month that was really dominated by the attacks on Gaza and for me in London by the response on the streets to this. But I did have a week’s holiday – and many of the pictures I took of that are on here too.

July 2014

Class War – Rich Door, Poor Door

Aldgate & Spitalfields
Denham & the Grand Union
Stop Stealing Children
Stop the Massacre in Gaza Rally
End Gaza Invasion March to Parliament

Israeli Embassy rally – End Gaza Invasion
Al Quds Day march for Jerusalem
Alban Way to Hatfield Walk
CanningTown to North Woolwich

‘The Future’ at London City Airport
Ritzy workers strike for Living Wage

Festival of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Police & Gaza Protesters
End Gaza Killing Now
Devon/Dorset Holiday

Public Service Workers Strike for Fair Pay
Argentina don’t pay the Vultures
Court vigil for WCA Judicial Review
Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday
Focus E15 March for Decent Housing
Independent Living Tea party


Tavakolian versus Carmignac

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian (born 1981) gives her reasons for  returning the 50,000 Euro grant and stepping down as the winner of the Carmignac Gestion Award for photojournalism 2014 in an article Newsha Tavakolian versus Carmignac published today on The Eye of Photography (L’Oeil de la Photographie).  In it she makes clear her reasons for doing so, because of the interference of French investment banker Edouard Carmignac in the presentation of her work.  She writes:

from the moment I delivered the work, Mr. Carmignac insisted on personally editing my photographs as well as altering the accompanying texts to the photographs.”

and that his interventions had the effect of changing her work from “a subtle attempt to bring across the realities of life of my generation in Iran to a coarse and horrible clichéd view about Iran.”

Tavakolian states that the Carmignac Foundation has a persistent attitude of erring on the side of controversy, and that their behaviour towards her and her work is at odds with its stated aim of being “committed to champion the personal and, by definition, minority view”, attempting to straitjacket her subtle and nuanced individual perspective into the clichés about Iran. As she points out, even their statement they made about the ‘adjournment’ of her exhibitions and book they state this was due not to her standing up for the integrity of her work but to ‘severe pressure’ applied by the Iranian government on her and her family. She describes this as “absolutely false, and laughable”.

Tavakolian was one of the photographers – others included Azadeh Akhlaghi, Gohar Dashti, Shadi Ghadirian, Babak Kazemi, Abbas Kowsari, Ali and Ramyar, and Sadegh Tirafkan whose work was shown earlier this year at Somerset House in Burnt Generation: Contemporary Iranian Photography, and one of her pictures in a set of images on Iran’s young middle-class from The Observer shows a man sitting at a table with his face covered with shaving foam, ‘to draw attention to her feeling that, “Men in Iranian society are often perceived as angry and bearded in the west”’.

Hers is a principled stand, and one that as a photographer I whole-heartedly applaud. Too often the price of having work published or shown has been to have the views of others imposed on it. Her website  – and those of the other photographers listed above – is worth spending time looking at to understand something about both her own perspective and the realities behind living in Iran.

Hugh Mangum (1877-1922)

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

These days I seldom seem to have a good word for the BBC, and their coverage of the Scottish question in recent weeks has further mired their reputation. It will be hard to believe any report from their political editor Nick Robinson after he was widely perceived to have made “a brazen and quite spectacular lie” about Alex Salmond’s lengthy response to his questions at a press conference.

So it’s nice to get a little away from politics and have something positive to say about one of our great British institutions. In the BBC online Magazine there is an interesting article by Rob Brown of the BBC World Service, The photographer who rejected racism in the American south, about a relatively unknown photographer, Hugh Mangum (1877-1922), a self-taught itinerant photographer from Durham in North Carolina who travelled by rail across North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia and set up temporary studios producing low cost portraits for anyone who wanted a photograph of themselves or their family.

The Penny Picture Camera he used allowed for a variable number of images on a single glass plate, cutting the costs of each exposure (and hence its name – with the smallest pictures costing only a penny), and sometimes the photographer would get things a little wrong, producing unintended if sometimes interesting multiple exposures.

Some of the pictures have been on show last month at the Museum of Durham History, curated by Sarah Stacke, who is working together with Margaret Sartor of the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies on a book about Mangum. You can see all of the 688 surviving negatives in the  Hugh Mangum Photograph Collection on-line in their fine Digital Collections site, where you can also download images at various sizes for  study and personal use.  The surviving images are almost certainly only a small fraction of his work.

Mangum was unknown to me until I read the BBC World Service article, although there was an article by Stacke about him on the NY Times Lens blog in August last year that I missed.

You can see more about Penny Picture Cameras on the web, and there is a detailed description of the 5×7  Century Penny Picture camera which was manufactured by the Century Camera Company from  1900 to 1907, and then when they became part of the Kodak empire by the Folmer & Schwing Division of the Eastman Kodak Company until 1926. After leaving Kodak they made a similar camera until 1937. There were also other cameras of this type available and I don’t know if it was a Century that Mangum used for his work.

Mangum’s pictures are interesting in showing us such a cross-section of the population of the US South, working across the boundaries of race in a society that was, as Stacke says “marked by disenfranchisement, segregation and inequality — between black and white, men and women, rich and poor” and also for the directness of the images, showing the people he photographed as individuals.

Gaza Stop the War

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Israel began its 2014 military attack against Gaza, ‘Operation Resolute Cliff ‘ (though they gave it the different, more defensive-sounding title ‘Protective Edge‘ for the English speaking international audience) on 8 July, although the ground invasion only began on the 17th, so ‘Stop the War‘ had some time to prepare its first major national protest in London on the 19th July.  And it was a large protest, with thousands filling Whitehall at the start and more at Kensington High St for the final rally, if not on quite the same scale as the truly huge protests before the invasion of Iraq.

Like most people in this country, I was appalled by the hundreds of innocent civilians who had been killed in Gaza, and the huge imbalance of power and destruction between the two sides. Of course I’m against attacks on Israel, but looking at the coverage by world news channels – and even some reports from BBC reporters, even if the BBC at times seemed to be an Israeli propaganda channel – the attacks seemed entirely disproportionate. If I’d not been at the protest as a photographer and journalist I would have been there as a protester.

I’ve had a long and slightly fraught relationship with Stop the War. Back in 2002, as well as photographing marches and rallies in London, I was also out in my local area most Friday evenings holding a placard or handing out leaflets to workers on their way home. A dozen or so of my images were included in the the book ‘Stop The War: A Graphic History‘ published to mark 10 years of its protests, and some of these are among those I published here in a post when this came out.

But there are some issues over which I’ve disagreed with Stop the War – in particular over Syria, where I felt our government should have given much more support to the Free Syrian Army while their opposition supported the Assad regime with its long and bloody record of oppression of the Syrian people. I’d also felt, back in 2003, that they had lost their nerve – or had been so dominated by outdated political thinking – that having won the arguments and gained such widespread support across the British people, they had failed to take advantage of this. So while I support – and admire much of what they have done, I’m not uncritical.

And, as a photographer and journalist, it’s my job to be critical. I’d heard many accusations that those protesting against the Israeli army attacks were anti-Semitic. Was there any evidence of this on this march at at the rally. Plenty of Jewish marchers, some of them, along with many others on the march calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. A few Israeli flags on a painting, on placards. So far as I tell none were being used in an anti-Semitic manner, but were calling for an end to the bombing of children and other war crimes by Israeli forces. Placards and speaker after speaker making clear they were not opposed to the Jewish people or the existence of Israel but against Zionism and the criminal attacks on civilians in Gaza, calls for Israel to respect international law and UN resolutions.

Of course there was considerable support for Hamas, who were elected as the majority party in Gaza in the 2006 elections, taking complete power there later in the year after a misguided US-backed attempt to unseat them. Israel’s response was to impose a blockade on Gaza, a form of collective punishment on the whole population of Gaza which is almost universally considered illegal. And many if not all of those taking part in the protest were calling for the lifting of the blockade.

I also saw – and made sure I photographed – four people carrying Hezbollah flags (and one with them a Lebanese flag.) This is a group widely regarded around the world as a terrorist organisation and who consider Israel to be an illegitimate state. Although officially they distinguish between Judaism and Zionism, many leading members are recorded as having made anti-Semitic statements.

I managed to sneak in and take a picture of Jocelyn Hurndall, Kamel Hawwash, Garth Hewitt, Ismail Patel, Andy Slaughter MP, Rushanara Ali MP , Diane Abbot MP & Lindsey German holding the main banner

As a photographer I’ve often had problems with the stewarding of ‘Stop the War’ organised protests, with some over-officious stewarding.  I’ve on occasion been assaulted by one of their stewards and narrowly avoided possibly serous injury by their disregard for my safety.  At this event the stewards made it very difficult to photograph the people holding the main banner – mainly the speakers – at any stage during the march, and failed to provide any working space for the press at the pre-march rally.

Back at one Stop the War march in 2002, photographers sat down on Park Lane in front of the march bringing it to a halt because we were not allowed access – and negotiated five minutes to take photos before the march continued. Perhaps we should take direct action more often! Though it’s perhaps better to work through the NUJ (see later.)

George Galloway MP

Things were a little better at the rally following the march, in the main road close to the Israeli embassy, but failed to give any real space in front of the speakers for photography. A narrow two foot gap between the front of the stage and the crowd barriers was not really enough, and those photographers who managed to get access (myself included) were crowded  at one side, hoping that the speakers would occasionally glance in our direction.

Although there were all sorts of people in this small area – including many taking pictures on their phones – many of the press were refused access. The stewards controlling the entrance asked who people were working for and refused entry to photographers with UK Press Cards who told them they were freelances  – as the great majority of photographers now are, while allowing others without proper press cards in to the area. I  was admitted because I gave the name of the agency I send work to rather than saying ‘freelance’.

Following this protest, representatives from the NUJ London Photographers Branch met with Stop the War, and at the next Gaza protest we got some extra space and the stewards controlling entry recognised the UK Press Card.  Good relations between protesters and press are in everyone’s interest.

See a rather large selection of images from the event at End Gaza Killing Now.


Devon/Dorset Holiday Snaps

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Not London, but its convenient to post my holiday snaps in My London Diary, and there were some London connections. We were staying just a few miles from Lyme Regis, and one of its more famous sons was Thomas Coram, the founder of the Foundling Hospital in London’s Coram’s Fields, and there is a window for him in the parish church.

But for most people Lyme Regis means fossils and possibly (largely thanks to the French Lieutenant’s Woman) The Cobb, a slightly odd shaped harbour wall.  We did go looking for fossils – and found quite a few small ammonites – but none were really worth photographing, and the rocks they were on were either far too large to move or too crumbly to keep, though we did take a couple of lumps back to show the friends we were sharing an ex-hotel in the middle of nowhere with.

The slope is handy to allow the waves to run back off, though the sea was pretty flat when we were there, and most of the time there were quite a few people walking along it.

The only really good fossils we saw were in shops and the museum – and the museum also has quite a few interesting local photographs, including some taken by Roger Mayne (1929-2014), best known for his work on children playing in Southam St and elsewhere in North Kensington between 1956 and 1961. When I met him he complained that people never realised he had ever taken anything but these pictures, but looking at the work on his own web site these pictures do seem to me to stand out.

In 1974 he moved together with his wife, playwright Ann Jellicoe to Lyme Regis, where she developed the idea of community plays and became, along with John Fowles, co-curator of the Lyme Regis Museum for some years – and later both Jellicoe and Mayne were patrons of the Town Mill, rescued by volunteer efforts over ten years from dereliction to become both a working watermill and to house various artisanal businesses. You can see a couple of Mayne’s images of Lyme in the Landscapes section of his web site.

If you look at the pictures in Devon/Dorset Holiday you will find that we did quite a lot of walking – not least because where we were staying was a little over three miles from Lyme and further from anywhere else, and although we were close to a bus stop, the first bus into Lyme came at 10.59 and the last bus back was timetabled for 16.59, though it was always late when we took it.

So I was very pleased to be carrying a couple of Fuji cameras rather than my more usual Nikons. I was going to take just one camera, the Fuji X-T1, but in the end decided the Fuji X-E1 was so light and petite that I might just as well take that along as well to save me having to change lenses so much. I took three lenses, the Fuji 18-55mm zoom and 14mm, and the Samyang 8mm fisheye, which at f2.8 was a stop faster than the others.  All three lenses are fully usable wide open, though like all lenses they improve a little a stop or two down, and both bodies performed well.

Its actually an advantage that the 8mm is a manual lens, as you hardly ever need to focus. Both the click-stopped aperture ring and the focus ring are commendably firm, and even clumsy fingers like mine seldom knock them from position. Set the lens at infinity and f5.6 and you never need to touch it again.  I did miss the level indicators of the Nikon D800E when using this lens, as any up/down tilt in the camera gives you a curved horizon, and while the unusual projection used by this lens is better when using the images uncorrected, correction software doesn’t quite work as well with them. Its a lens I love using, and as you can see I probably used it too much!

I have two problems with the 14mm, though optically it is fine. Firstly it is quite easy to shift from manual to autofocus mode or vice-versa by pushing the focus ring – great when you want to, but can be disastrous if done by accident and not noticed. Of course you should notice, as the viewfinder shows quite clearly when you have autofocus by giving a green square outline. But if you get absorbed in making pictures you can miss this.

More annoying is the very loose aperture ring, turning with only a slight detent on every 1/3 stop. Not so bad if you set the aperture manually, but if you set it to A, that slight touch takes it to f22, which is a disaster. Of course a 14mm lens should not have an f22 setting in any case – far too much diffraction – and it would be better limited to f16.

The 18-55mm has no real problems that I’ve noticed. As with most zooms these days the performance is more or less on a par with fixed focal lengths. I sometimes turned off the optical image stabilisation by accident when changing lenses, but most of the time it makes little difference in any case.

The X-T1 viewfinder is amazingly good and I only notice it is electronic when there is a slight delay moving to an area with very different light intensity. I’ve fitted the accessory larger eye-cup, which perhaps makes it a little better when wearing spectacles, as I now need to.

For the kind of holiday photography I was doing the only real problem with both cameras was battery life. I needed to carry at least one spare battery for each body and to charge both the spare and the one from the camera every night. On at least one fairly long day I had to change the battery in the X-T1 twice. It would doubtless have helped if I kept turning the cameras off after taking a picture, but with Nikons you don’t need to. I can only remember once this year I’ve had to change a Nikon battery I put in the camera fully charged before leaving home before I got back to put it in the charger again. And Fuji batteries seem to take longer to charge too. It’s a problem you can live with, but annoying.

I’m also having a problem with the combined dial on the left of the top-plate of the X-T1, which alters the ISO. You have to press down the centre to change the ISO, which is fine, but this dial is now very stiff, and usually turns the lower surrounding mode dial with it – the lock button unlocks the ISO but seems to lock the ISO to this. Unless I remember to check  and return the mode setting I find myself taking a panorama or bracketing when I want a single shot.

Devon/Dorset Holiday