Archive for October, 2015


Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Paula Peters of DPAC, carrying the ‘RIP ILF’ wreath on her mobility scooter above, had a few minutes earlier written a message for Iain Duncan Smith on an incontinence pad : ‘I want dignity – I want to be treated as a human being – You wear one of these I. D. S. They are awful‘.

When IDS began his programme of ‘welfare reforms’ he obviously decided that the disabled would be an easy target, their disabilities making them unable to stand up against the cuts in the benefits that had been gained over the years of campaigning. It was clearly a mistake, and one that those campaigns over the years for equality for the disabled should have warned him about.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and other groups like Black Triangle aren’t the first groups of disabled people to stick up for their rights.  One of the chairs in Hew Locke‘s The Jurors artwork at Runnymede depicts the 1920 march to a rally in Trafalgar Square from Leeds, Manchester and Newport behind a banner reading ‘Justice not charity‘ and the same slogan was used for protest marches in the 1980s and 1990s. The Disabled People’s Direct Action Network, DAN, was formed in 1993, and at least one of DPAC’s current activists has the tattoos to show his membership.

In the past few years, DPAC have been at the spearhead of protests against the cuts and against unfair ways of cutting the support to the disabled, such as the Atos administered computer-based tests of work capability, now taken over by Maximus (see Maximus – Same Circus, Different Clowns.)

Sophie Partridge, disabled Actor, Writer & Workshop artist

The Independent Living Fund was set up in 1988 to provide support for severely disabled people who need intensive, high-cost care to combat social exclusion on the grounds of disability. It could provide them with personal assistants so they could continue to live in their own homes, and for many of them to work and have a social life.  Funded by the Department for Work and Pensions it was run as an independent public body, and supported around 19,000 disabled people at an average annual cost of around £17,000 per year – around 60% of the average cost of a place in residential care.

The petition to Downing St

The government’s idea was to shift that cost from central to local government, which it was engaged in savagely cutting, but to do so without providing any ring-fenced funding. In practice this is likely to lead to many of those on ILF being given dangerously low levels of support – those notorious 15 minute calls by care workers – by cash-strapped local councils leaving the disabled unable to take part in normal life, those working being unable to continue, and the kind of indignities that will leave them for long periods of the day and night in incontinence pads, not because they are incontinent, but because there is no one to help them reach a toilet.

John McDonnell MP speaking and John Kelly in Schimmel, the equine star and proud battle horse of the Threepenny Opera

Possibly part of the motivation for the government decision to close the scheme made in 2010 (when it closed to new applicants) was that providing support to the disabled did enable them to protest. The fight to keep the ILF was a long one, both on the streets and in the courts, with the court of appeal ruling in 2013 that the Minister for Disabled People had breached equality duties when deciding to close the ILF. But in the end they could only delay the truly evil day, and the ILF ended on June 30th 2015

The police at Downing St rather surprisingly accepted the petition that was delivered for David Cameron, but would not take the ILF wreath, which was laid instead opposite Parliament in Old Palace Yard.

More pictures at DPAC’s ILF Closing Ceremony on My London Diary.


Pride Again?

Monday, October 12th, 2015

I got the Queen to pose for me with her friend – and found another ten photographers had come to my side

Every year I wonder whether to photograph the annual Pride Parade in London again.  And so far every year with one or two exception I’ve decided to do so, though back in 2007 I wrote here:

Ten years ago, taking part in the Pride march was an important personal and political statement for many, sometimes marking their going public about their sexuality. Now it’s largely a fun event, although a few individuals and groups still attempt to get a more serious message across.

One exception came in 2005, when my younger son inconveniently picked the same day for his wedding and my photographic services were required elsewhere. And in 2003 I was in Edinburgh on the day it happened.  Back in 2006 I had a show Ten Years of Pride at the Museum of London, and I think this year was the 20th London Pride I’ve photographed.

Over the years Pride has become a much bigger and more organised event and it is now one of very few events I bother to get accreditation for because of the size of the crowds that come and watch it, particularly around Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. But little of what I do really needs it, and certainly until fairly recent years I never bothered.

Pride is so large now that corporate sponsorship is vital, but as always it comes with a cost, changing the nature of the event. But this year there did seem to be a little more getting back to the grass roots and more political engagement and a little less corporate gloss.

My lens-hood slips around and adds an unwanted frame

Getting accreditation does mean having to arrive early to go to the Press office and pick up stuff, which was a bit of a nuisance, and meant I was at Baker Street where the parade forms up rather earlier than most of the paraders. It was a very slow start to the day and if I’d had any sense I would have found something else to do for an hour or so. But many of the places I might visit don’t open until rather late, and it was in any case a little early for a beer. Sometimes I settle down somewhere and read a book, but often I’m too psyched up to read.

Pride was perhaps a little more political this year than for a while

Eventually things got busier, and by the time the parade was starting at noon things were pretty frenetic.  I went up to the front a quarter of an hour before it began, and then began to work my way slowly towards the back taking pictures. It was well over an hour later that I came to the people still waiting to set off at the back of the march. I should probably have stayed longer and taken some more pictures, but I was already late for a meeting with Class War.

I took the tube from Baker St to Piccadilly Circus and walked into the pub where they were going to be and found no one there.  Eventually I found a small group outside just around the corner and joined them, still waiting for others to arrive. Class War had decided to protest at Pride, and had come with a new banner with the message ‘Poor is the new Queer‘ and ‘F**k the Pink Pound, F**k Corporate Pinkwashing!’  They were not the only protesters, and another group had arranged a funeral procession for Pride, which had attempted to go along a part of the route, but I’d decided that I would be unable to cover that as well as Class War.

The small group of Class War protesters made their way to the parade route through Piccadilly Circus as the parade arrived, but the crowds were too thickly packed behind the barriers for them to get through. They held a short protest in front of the Barclays Bank there, which closed its doors, and then moved off quickly to find a less crowded part of the route on Cockspur St.

As the front of the parade approached, they unrolled the banner, unhitched one of the barriers and ran out in front of it, with a mauve smoke flare attracting attention, and I followed them onto the road to take pictures. They were soon escorted back off the road and I continued to photograph, though rather impeded by an amateur photographer who move in front of their banner, to the consternation of several of the press pack who had now arrived.

I’d thought in advance that I would probably be working at a very close distance and had decided to use the 16mm fisheye on the D700 along with the 18-105mm (27-157 equiv) on the D800E when a longer view was needed. It was a pretty good combination, but once Class War were back behind the barrier and I was still on the other side, after  a few frames I quickly changed back from the 16mm to the rectilinear 16-35mm.

Cropped to remove some of the vignetting by the out of position lens-hood

And there I caused a problem, because I had the lens-hood on that lens, although there was no need for it as that side of the road was in shade. And in my rush to change lenses and the general excitement, I managed to knock the shade out of its proper condition. As often in the heat of the moment, it was some time before I realised this, obvious though it is in the viewfinder, and I took a number of frames with it vignetting at top right and bottom left.  Images seldom work quite as well cropped to remove the vignetting, and sometimes I’ve lived with it there, usually desaturating it to remove a rather noticeable blue edge. The image above is probably better for losing a little at each edge, but there is still some vignetting visible.

Class War soon saw a squad of police heading in their direction and quickly melted away in the crowd. I followed some of them down into the subway from where they emerged without a police escort on the east side of Trafalgar Square and made their way to a nearby pub, where I said goodbye and went to photograph another event.

Many more pictures at Pride Parade (my pictures overstate the political aspects of the event as these interest me more) and Class War protest ‘corporate pinkwashing’.


Adobe Goofs

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

I’ve used Lightroom since it came out. I wasn’t pleased because Adobe bought out Pixmantec, developers of Rawshooter software, which I had been using, because it was better than the software they were developing. Of course I could continue using that – and I did for a while, but once I bought a new camera that wasn’t supported by Rawshooter I was forced to move to different software.

I might have chosen one of the alternative products – and I did try out several, including Bibble, Phase One and some others, but none appealed. And Adobe had provided a free copy of Lightroom 1 to us Rawshooter users. It wasn’t as good as Rawshooter for processing my RAW files but I decided to go with it.

And I’ve kept with it over the almost 10 years it has been going, first paying for the various major upgrades and then paying for a monthly subscription to both LR and Photoshop. Though I didn’t like the subscription idea it did give me access to the latest versions of the software and at a lower cost than buying the major updates.

Lightroom has improved fairly dramatically over the years – and every major upgrade and some of the incremental ones have added mostly useful new features. Whenever Creative Cloud told me at startup that a new version was available, I’ve always welcomed it and upgraded immediately. Except for the latest update. I’m still running LR 6.1.1 and have not upgraded to 2015.2/6.2.

Before I saw the button upgrade I’d see a post in my Facebook news feed about various problems people were having with the upgrade. Some of those were major bugs, with the software crashing and blue screening, and Adobe is putting out a bug fix*, though I’m waiting to hear whether this had been effective. But perhaps this is an update to miss.

Lightroom has always been very stable software on my current Windows 7 system, very rarely giving problems and working at a reasonable speed with some pretty large catalogues. At the moment I’ve no pressing reason to upgrade – and won’t until I hear that they have really solved the problem. Although making dehaze available as a local adjustment will be useful – currently I have my own ‘anti-flare’ preset which performs a similar function.

But a greater problem is that Adobe have massively changed the Import dialogue. Currently I use LR import to rename my files, add metadata from a preset file, add keywords, chose where to place the files on my system and make a backup on another drive.

Watching the Adobe tutorial I first found suggests you can’t do any of these things, but it isn’t actually  as bad as it seems. Most of these things are still available. but harder to find and use. Most photographers will find that going into Preferences and turning off the ‘Show Add Photos screen‘ option will both greatly improve performance and give you an import screen that makes some sense. And the online Import help for 6.2 shows that most of the functionality is still there, if rather hidden and less transparent.

Laura Shoe’s Lightroom post on the redesigned import process is far, far better as a simple introduction to the changed dialogue, and helped to calm me down a little. Perhaps after all I might be able to live with it.

Adobe say the complexity of the import dialogue put some people off buying the software, but it’s power is what made many of us stick with it. I don’t have a problem with Adobe providing an ‘Input for Dummies‘ option, but not at the expense of making it harder for those of us who want to do more.

Their explanation of why they made the changes issued after the outcry really is frankly arrogant nonsense. We were not “universally unable to decipher the Import dialog without getting frustrated” though it did take a little work.  Improvement without gelding would have been simple to acheive and universally welcomed. The changes have actually made it less transparent in various ways and it looks like they were a panic reaction to extreme pressure from marketing.

My reaction seems to be shared by many if not most other LR users. When I first read about the changes I went into panic mode, wondering which other software I could use in place of LR, but now I’m thinking I may be able to live with it.

I don’t just use LR when bringing my pictures from camera to computer. It’s far too slow for viewing and assessing images in the Import screen, and also too slow to import everything you take and then delete the no-hopers.  For some time I’ve been using FastPictureViewer Pro to go through the images on my cards – in a USB 3 card reader. FPV lives up to its name for speed, and a single keystroke copies the images I need to keep to my ‘Input’ folder on an external hard drive for later ingestion by LR.  FPV is great as a general file viewer and can also be used for renaming files and other things.

I’m still not sure if I can continue with my current workflow to get files into Lightroom and on disk, but if not FPV may be able to replace LR for parts of the workflow. Its rather a shame that we still have to rename files, as Nikon filenames only allow for 9999 images. It would be useful to be able to automatically add a yyyymmdd or other prefix to the file names in camera – the current 3 user specified letters isn’t enough. In some ways its good that Nikon has hardly changed the firmware through the whole series of six DSLRs I’ve owned, but there are some features like this that are long overdue for change now that far more memory is available.

* As often happens, I’d written this piece some time before it was scheduled to be posted to the blog. When I loaded Lightroom after saving it, the promised bug fix was available, though I’ll wait until I’m less busy (and other users have tested it) before I upgrade.

And Tom Hogarty and the Lightroom Management Team have issued an apology which you can read in full in Lightroom Journal. Here’s one section of it:

We made decisions on sensible defaults and placed many of the controls behind a settings panel. At the same time we removed some of our very low usage features to further reduce complexity and improve quality. These changes were not communicated properly or openly before launch. Lightroom was created in 2006 via a 14 month public beta in a dialog with the photography community. In making these changes without a broader dialog I’ve failed the original core values of the product and the team.

So far on person has commented on the apology, saying that the ability to eject a card after import is important to him and questioning how they decided this was a ‘very low usage feature’. The answer was somewhat surprising to me, “we have in-product analytics that measures feature usage and we also reference that against the quality of any one feature and the effort required to bring it up to our standards.”  It does sound a little more like “We know best” than might be expected after the apology.

Light on LIGHT

Friday, October 9th, 2015

PetaPixel  has an article about a revolutionary new camera, the LIGHT L16, which looks rather interesting, along with sample images. Its a novel concept and could change the camera market considerably, though perhaps is priced too high to really replace phone and compact cameras, costing more than many DSLRs with their kit lenses.

Apart from PetaPixel, most informative page I’ve so far found on the LIGHT L16 is  Introducing the Light L16 Camera by Rajiv Laroia, Light co-founder and CTO which has a couple of videos and at the bottom of the page the press release, which doubtless you will read recycled as articles on many photography web sites and magazines.

Here are a couple of quotes from it:

Key features of the L16 include:

Integrated 35mm-150mm optical zoom
DSLR-quality high-resolution images
Exceptional low-light performance
Low image noise
Fine depth of field control
Five-inch, easy-to-use touch-screen interface with on-device editing and social network sharing

The L16 will retail for $1,699 and ship in late summer 2016. A limited quantity will be available for pre-order through November 6 at a special price of $1,299 at

It looks interesting and truly innovative, though only fuller reviews next spring and summer – and user experience – will really tell how well it works.

I don’t see it as a replacement for my own DSLR – it simply doesn’t cover much of the focal length range at which I work – around half my pictures are taken with the 16-35mm lens and mainly in the wider part of its range, while some require a rather longer reach than the 150mm can provide. And although they say its innovative technology gives great low-light results, I think they may be thinking in camera-phone rather than DSLR mode on this.

But there are certainly some very interesting aspects. I remain somewhat sceptical until it actually reaches the point of sale, as we have had a number of innovative products that never quite made it in the past, but this could well be the a great success. And if so, it may be a killer for DSLRs not because it can really replace them, but because it will take away the market for cheaper amateur DLSRs without which the higher end models may not survive.

I’m not sure whether I would want to buy one. It lacks one key feature I’d find it hard to live without, a viewfinder.

Against Austerity

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

I got to Bank early for the March Against Austerity on June 20th because I knew it would get crowded. It was hard not to think back to previous events there,including the G20 Meltdown in 2009, where police came determined for a fight, having stoked up public hate against the protesters through the media over the previous week with predictions of violence and riot. What the organisers intended as a carnival of protest (though a very small minority of protests were intent on mayhem) ended up with police wading in, extended kettling, baton charges and the death of a bystander. Photographers were injured – one of my friends later got a large sum and extensive dental treatment and legal costs from the police for a totally gratuitous assault, another had his arm broken, and there were many more with minor injuries. And of course many protesters were also injured by the police, almost entirely those who had come with every intention of protesting peacefully.

I’d been fortunate then and left before the trouble really started to cover another event at the other end of town. By the time that finished it was too late to go back to Bank, as police had the whole area cordoned off and were not letting press in (or out.) It did mean I missed the chance of some dramatic images, but long ago, back on May Day in 2000 as I watched the riot police storming in to attack protesters I decided that I would where possible avoid being in such violent confrontations. Which I have more or less managed to do. Part of that decision was not to buy or carry the protective equipment which are now a part of many photographers standard equipment – helmets, shin pads and the rest. I’m a photographer not a para-military.

But on this day I expected things to be fairly quiet and orderly. Why? Because of the cuts that the protest was against. Police have suffered from them, and seem seldom to have either the resources or the will to oppose protests as they used to. There were a few police around, but hardly more than you might see on a normal day in the City, though rather more van loads sitting and waiting in case.

Class War and End Austerity Now

After a while I left in search of Class War, who had been dismissive of the plans for the march and rally, calling for direct action. Their published plan had been to meet up at St Paul’s Cathedral, but that was occupied by another event and they were nowhere to be seen. I wandered down to the route of the march, looking on Twitter for some clues as to where they might be without success. I’d taken a couple of pictures of the march when I realised something was happening just a few yards further on and it was Class War.

Some of them were standing with banners on the edge of a small courtyard which overlooked the street, and others were at the bottom of the steps down from this. As well as the banners and some unusual dress they were drawing attention to themselves by letting off smoke flares.

I stayed with Class War, photographing the rest of the large march as it passed their position. At one point, police briefly massed behind them as if to pounce, but then melted away. As the end of the march passed them, Class War tagged on for a couple of hundred yards, then turned off into the city alleys in search of a pub, followed at an indiscrete distance by the bill. The city isn’t their territory, and the search was fruitless until they chanced upon Ye Olde London on Ludgate Hill. I went inside with them while their escort waited on the other side of the road.

Although I’d found Class War, I’d also missed them, and a group of them had led a breakaway group of around 500 from the march down to the Elephant in support of the occupation of a pub there which has been bought to be closed down and opened as yet another estate agents. It was too late to try and join them by the time the news came through, so I settled down with a pint or two and listened to the discussion of what those in the pub intended to do next.

Class War at the Savoy

Eventually there was a decision to go to Westminster, where the rally after the march was taking place. Some were keen to take the tube, but others couldn’t afford the fare and they decided to march, and they turned out and set off, followed by the small group of police who had been waiting outside for an hour or so. As they crossed Lancaster Place, one of them called out for them to run to the Savoy, and they broke away from the police. But there were more police already at the Savoy who moved them away as they stood with banners and stopped a few of the taxis going in and out.

Class War in Whitehall

As it looked as if the police might be about to make some arrests, Class War ran off down the Strand and into Whitehall. There they met some of the marchers who were leaving the rally and stopped for more protests, meeting with a sound system and dancing in the street before going to protest in front of Downing St.

There were a few short speeches, some more dancing, and a smoke flare got thrown over the gates into Downing St. Quite a few people from the rally going past on their way home stopped to join them, but the light rain that was now falling dampened things a little. The police stood and watched but did nothing. When Class War decided the police were likely to make a move, they rolled up their banners and rapidly moved away with the crowd towards another pub to decide on further action. I’d had enough and I went home.

Climate Lobby

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

People going to lobby their MPs at the Houses of Parliament is seldom a good thing to photograph. Mostly the actual meetings take place inside offices either in Parliament itself or in Portcullis House around the corner, and even if you can get in to these meetings there usually is little to photography. The last time I actually lobbied my MP we went in as a small group to the St Stephen’s Tavern, just across the road from Big Ben and I did take one or two pictures, but the lighting was all wrong.

So when groups are taking part in a mass lobby of Parliament, they usually have a photo-call or a rally beforehand, at which there are rather greater opportunities for taking photographs. The Climate Coalition’s mass lobby was a little different to most, partly because of the scale and instead of going into Parliament to see MPs they had arranged for the MPs to come out and meet their constituents.

The various constituencies were each allotted a position along a long line stretching through the gardens next to the Houses of Parliament, across Lambeth Bridge and then down the Albert Embankment back towards Westminster Bridge – spread out along about three-quarters of a mile, with a cycle rickshaw service being provided to take the MPs as close as possible to their places.

I’m not sure quite how many MPs made it, but I think it was something like a third of the 650 MPs, but they were spread out not only in distance, but also across a two hour period. I’d started early, when just a few MPs and people come to lobby were around, and after photographing the few groups I could find in Victoria Tower Gardens, went off to cover a couple of other protests – the regular weekly vigil for Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer in Parliament Square, and, a short walk away, a protest opposite Downing St for free speech activist and liberal blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1000 lashes (essentially a slow death sentence) in Saudi Arabia.

Badawi was given the first 50 lashes in January, but the following Friday the second flogging was postponed as he had not recovered sufficiently, and so far it seems the scheduled weekly floggings have not been resumed. The sentence has however been confirmed and now UK government ministers seem to be excusing the Saudi authorities rather than joining in the world-wide condemnation, valuing UK arms sales above human rights.

Today comes the news that Badawi has won the annual Pen Pinter prize established in 2009 in memory of established in 2009 in memory of Nobel winning playwright Harold Pinter for championing free speech.

By the time I’d finished photographing this and returning to the Climate Lobby many of the MPs had been and gone, but I was able to run along and find those still talking and take a few pictures. It was hard on Lambeth Bridge because the pavement is so narrow and the groups were very crowded close to the MPs.

MPs are a pretty mixed bunch, and listening to them interacting with their voters I was surprised by a few of them, who seemed to have little understanding of the urgency of climate change, and were lecturing their constituents rather than listening to their views. But most seemed to share their concerns. I’m not sure that lobbies like this have any real effect.

After the lobby there was a rally, with speakers on the top deck of an open-top bus, which made them a little hard to photograph, especially with the sun behind them. A few were too short to be easily seen over the side of the bus, and it would have been good to have had some kind of platform for them to stand on.

As usual, the audience were more interesting than the speakers, as you can see in the pictures at Climate Coalition Rally. Images from the lobby are at Climate Coalition Mass Lobby.

But at least at the rally the names of the speakers went up on a screen, though I missed one or two. Writing the captions for the pictures of the MPs took some time, working out who the MPs in the pictures were from my notes; fortunately some of the constituency labels were visible in the images. MPs often wear their ID cards with their name, but somehow these nearly always seem to be showing the wrong side. I often wish I made clearer notes, but I think you will find all four of the MPs shown above and most of the others have their correct names in My London Diary.

August 2015 complete

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Class War protest against Ripper sick tourist attraction in East End – 12th August

Only just over a month behind time! Includes my holiday pictures from one of England’s smallest designated AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) a designation that adds to those larger areas of outstanding landscapes which are National Parks, and is rather more specific. Arnside & Silverdale AONB is only 75 sq km and includes “almost 100km of well-maintained footpaths and narrow lanes and byways” most of which we walked in our week there.  And the walking was more important for me than the photography, though there are a few half-decent snaps, all made with considerably lighter Fuji-X cameras & lenses rather than my usual Nikon gear.

It was good to get the news that after another 48 days of strike action the dispute at the National Gallery appears to have been resolved and that PCS rep Candy Udwin shown in my picture below has been reinstated.

Aug 2015

Morecambe Bay with Heysham Nuclear Power Station at left from Arnside Knott
Silverdale Holiday
Stanwell Moor Walk

Zita Holbourne and Lee Jasper of BARAC
BlackoutLDN solidarity with Black US victims

Protesters call for the reinstatement of Barbara and Percy, sacked for protesting for better conditions
United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2
16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest
Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs
Kashimiris Independence Day call for freedom
Sikhs call for release of political prisoners
Equalitate at Tate Modern
London Views

Candy Udwin, sacked by the National Gallery for her trade union activities as PCS rep
National Gallery 61st day of Strike
Marikana Mine Murders protest at Investec
Class War protest Ripper ‘museum’ again

Asylum prisoners in Yarl’s Wood greet protesters from behind a tall fence. Windows only open an inch or two.
Close Down Yarl’s Wood

Jeremy Corbyn sings – ‘Don’t you hear the H bombs thunder’ rather than the National Anthem!
Hiroshima Remembered 70 Years On

Feminists say ‘We have better stories’ with images of the suffragettes and other women in East London.
Class War at Jack the Ripper ‘Museum’

A placard with Arundhati Roy’s message to Vedanta ‘Take your goddamn refinery and leave’.
Foil Vedanta at mining giant’s AGM
Nitrous Oxide – ‘My Mind, My choice!’

Safia & friends from Focus E15 with a message for ‘Robin the Poor’ Wales, Mayor of Newham.
Focus E15 & Boleyn Ground campaign together
Boleyn ground fight for Social Housing


Cable Street Ripper Horror

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Cable St 70th anniversary, October 2006

I wasn’t at Cable Street in 1936, but was expecting to be there today, 79 years to the day after the ‘battle‘, but yesterday Class War cancelled their planned protest against the Jack the Ripper Museum there. It isn’t really a museum of course, although the owner pretended it would be, getting planning permission to open a museum celebrating the history of women in London’s East End.

That would have made an interesting museum, but would have been unlikely to make the kind of money the owner was obviously after in setting up the tacky tourist attraction that has now opened. Several protests have taken place there, and there is now little doubt what most people in the area think about it – and if anyone still has any doubts about its nature they should read the review by Fern Riddell on Storify or the article based on that in the Independent newspaper.

Fern Riddell is a historian who specialises in the period and in the area, and a consultant on the BBC’s Ripper Street series, so someone whose opinion is of value. Her conclusion: ” it’s not a museum. It’s a poorly executed shock attraction.”

Earlier in their planning, before the change of purpose, the Museum had consulted a friend of mine formerly from the Museum of London who was shocked to hear her name being used to attempt to give the ‘museum’ credibility and made it very clear to the owner that this was entirely unacceptable, getting an undertaking from him not to do so – which he has now broken.

I photographed protests by Class War outside the ‘museum’ on August 5th and 12th, and filed my pictures in the usual way. There was no interest in the protests from the media and none of my pictures were used at the time. Both protests were relatively peaceful, though one small pane of glass was cracked. The protesters held up the traffic on a minor road for some minutes, made a lot of noise, and on the second occasion let off a few flares.

Lisa McKenzie at protest against the Ripper ‘museum’

In the last week, one of my pictures taken at the protest on August 5th has  appeared in several newspapers, some of them more than once. The reason is that some of the same people who organised the ‘Ripper’ protests also organised an anti-gentrification street party in Shoreditch a week ago on Saturday night.

Around a thousand people turned up and took part; I didn’t go although I had been asked to, because I’d had a busy day and its quite a trek from where I live. There was music, masks, dressing up and Class War’s banners; a lot of chanting and shouting, flares, arguments with police who tried to stop it – and some fighting with police when they started pushing people off the road.

I wasn’t there, but many others were with cameras and phones and I’ve seen the videos and heard people’s stories. There were two fairly minor incidents in which two shop fronts were attacked. There was a lot of angry shouting, and the glass of an estate agents window was cracked, and slogans daubed on a hipster-run ‘cereal shop’.

There were a few other nasty incidents recorded on video, including a police attack on a young woman which could have been really serious, and there were a few injuries and some arrests. But it is the cereal shop incident that has apparently enraged the newspapers, causing them to throw as much mud as they can at anyone connected with Class War, whether or not they were around at the time.  Someone even invented a story about the protesters – many of whom also campaign for animal rights – ripping a dog apart with their bare hands for the press. Though there were no real witnesses.

The woman with a megaphone in my picture became one of their chief targets, with some articles that can only be described as vitriolic, although she had left the protest before any trouble occurred. It’s a picture I like because it shows her as a strong and determined woman, and one which I think celebrates her and the working class culture from which she comes.

She left school shortly before she was 16, taking time off school with other women from miner’s families to support their striking men, worked 10 years in a stocking factory, then in shops etc, living in the notorious St Ann’s district of Nottingham. She became a single mother and at 30 took an Access course, going on from there to study at Nottingham University for a first degree and then her Ph.D.

Back in 1970 I bought a book, a Penguin Special, ‘Poverty: The Forgeotten Englishmen‘ by Ken Coates and Richard Silburn, based on their studies in St Ann’s (though the cover photograph by Roger Mayne was I think from North Kensington.) It was this book which inspired Lisa McKenzie to study the area she lived in and knew – and which ended up in her doctorate and the book ‘Getting By‘ that came out earlier this year.*

Ken Loach, Jasmine Stone and Lisa McKenzie, author of ‘Getting By’ talk at the book launch

Hers is really a great story of success, a positive story that my picture I think celebrates, but in the media she is portrayed as the devil, an ‘academic‘, someone who obviously doesn’t know anything about the lives of ordinary people. They suggest she is wealthy and privileged and using the lives of the poor for her advantage, but she is in a job that almost certainly pays less than the average wage and her work is all about supporting working class people and their values.

Once you put work into an agency you lose control over it. I’m sure there are uses for which my agency would not supply pictures, publications they would not supply images to, but these were articles in the mainstream press. Companies which almost any agencies would supply images to in good faith. You can’t vet articles when you are supplying pictures, and nor should you be able to or have to. We should demand higher journalistic standards from the press.

But perhaps all is not lost. I cling to the hope that many readers – even of the gutter press (and more seems to be aiming for the gutter at the moment) will see the picture for what it is – an affirmative image of a strong and obviously working-class woman protesting against the horror of a ‘shock attraction’ that glorifies ‘nameless violence inflicted on nameless women’. And perhaps there will be many, particularly working-class women who are less scared of the idea of a strong working-class woman than newspaper editors.

* Any journalist writing about her who had done even a few seconds of research would have found this information about her in an article in The Guardian: The estate we’re in: how working class people became the ‘problem’. It comes up as the second item when I search for her on Google.

The Palaces of Memory

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

If you’ve not yet got a copy of Stuart Freedman‘s The Palaces of Memory, pictures from the Indian Coffee Houses, I suggest you do now. It’s one of the most charming publications I’ve seen for a while, and I was pleased I decided to support the Kickstarter campaign – one of the 157 backers who together pledged the £10,496 that made it possible.

You can see 44 images from the Indian Coffee House project at Panos Pictures, and there are also pictures on the BBC web site and elsewhere. I was fortunate to see the photographer talking about and showing this work around six months ago to a crowded meeting of Photo-forum in London, and it was also featured on Lensculture.

Google will now find you a long list of reviews, articles and interviews about the work, but I’ll pick out just a few: Roads and Kingdoms has a nice interview with Freedman talking to their Director of Photography Pauline Eiferman; Slate’s Photo Blog Behold has a well-illustrated feature, and of course Freedman has his own web site including a blog, Umbra sumus – ‘we are but shadows’…, where his occasional posts are always worth reading.

But perhaps the nicest article I’ve so far found is  on The Delhi Walla; City Moment – People of the Book, Indian Coffee House by Mayank Austen Soofi who took Freedman’s book  to the Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place to the obvious delight of the workers whose pictures and those of their customers appear in it.

Tendance Floue at 25

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Today’s e-mail from L’Oeil de la Photographie (available here on the web) is devoted to Tendance Floue, currently celebrating its 25 anniversary. As usual there are links to other features about the photographers on L’Oeil as well as the group and show web sites.

You may never have heard of Tendance Floue, particularly if you are not French, as English media in general seem seldom to pay any great attention to photography in France, or at least photography in France by a post-Magnum generation. With a few exceptions it hasn’t really been taken up by the US dealers and museums that tend to dominate the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ photography world.

Tendance Floue is a collective which has had a remarkably stable membership over the years since they were founded in 1991 by Patrick Tourneboeuf and Mat Jacob. Born in or around the 1960s, all of the twelve photographers involved when I first came across them in 2006 are in the 25th anniversary show, and there is just one addition, Alain Willaume, who rejoined them in 2010; Caty Jan is still featured although she had to give up photography after a stroke in 2003. The Paris show continues until October 17, 2015.

When I wrote about their 20th anniversary shows five years ago, I failed to find the earlier piece I had written about them, and got at least one of my facts from memory wrong. I first met them and their work when I went to an opening which was part of the 2006 Mois de la Photo, and wrote the following short note around 4 months later.

Tendance Floue
One of the shows I visited last November during the ‘Mois de la Photo’ in Paris was that of Tendance Floue (site in French*), a French photographers’ co-operative. Literally ‘Fuzzy Tendancy”, the group, founded in 1991, now has 12 members, Pascal Aimar, Thierry Ardouin, Denis Bourges, Gilles Coulon, Olivier Culmann, Mat Jacob, Caty Jan, Philippe Lopparelli, Bertrand Meunier, Meyer, Flore-Aël Surun and Patrick Tournebœuf. Their 2006 book, Sommes-Nous? has been awarded the 2007 Infinity Award for Publications.

The Paris show was held in one of the more atmospheric venues of the month, former storage cellars in the arched space under a road close to the new Bibliothèque National, in the yard of ‘Les Frigos’, where I also saw the impressive nudes of Chilean Photographer Paz Errazuriz. As well as the images on the wall, there was also a projection, allowing the work to be seen at a large scale. Some of the pictures are indeed rather unsharp, and the group as a whole obviously sets more store on producing powerfully personal statements than on technical correctness. In a group such as this there is bound to be work by some photographers that I found more interesting than others, but it is certainly worth looking at them all on the web site. My installation view was shot handheld in the darkened space and gives some idea of the way the work was hung on the curved brick vault.

*I’m pleased to find that their web site now has a full English version.

I’ve spent some time looking for the original of that installation view – and a few other pictures I took in the show, but with no success (though it is probably still on the old CDs I keep in the loft.) The thumbnail above was with the original post, where it was ‘used by permission’ of the group. But I did come across some of my more interesting pictures from that week in Paris, which perhaps I’ll come back to in another post.

But it came to me as a reminder of how photography has moved on. Without the file I can’t exactly recall the exposure but I do know the lighting was something of a challenge for the Nikon D200 I took it on by available light. I think it would have been rather easier with the D810 at higher ISO and with a greater dynamic range. Black cats in coal cellars are now hardly a problem.