Archive for December, 2016

Naked Greed

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Long ago I turned down the chance of working in the pharmaceutical industry. I was then a graduate chemist and one of the reasons I had been attracted to chemistry was the potential for developing new drugs that would benefit humanity. But what I saw and heard when I went for an interview with one of the leading drug companies made me walk out of the door.

Drug companies justify the high prices they charge for drugs by talking about their huge expenditure on research to develop new drugs and testing them, and the sums involved are indeed large. But still less than the amounts that they spend on marketing and trying to get their drugs prescribed – even in some cases if they are not particulary effective or appropriate.

At the end of March and the start of April this year I photographed two protests by Act Up London involving medical drugs. The first was largely directed at NHS England who were refusing to accept that they should pay for PrEP, a pre-emptive treatment against AIDS, and trying to get local authorities to pick up the tab. They also announced a two-year pilot study into the use of the drug Truvada®, marketed by Gilead.

Truvada contains two drugs, Emtricitabine which was discovered in 1996 at Emory University in Atlanta and Tenovir, first made at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and patented in 1984, though it needed research by Gilead and others to produce a derivative that was readily abosorbed – and this was approved for use in the USA in 2001.

Gilead has had a long period to recoup the costs of their research, but they are still charging premium prices for both PrEP (Truvada) and for other drugs such as Harvoni, an effective treatment for Hepatis C. A month’s supply of Truvada costs the NHS £355, while a generic alternative – effectively the same – would cost a fiver. A 12 week course of Harvoni costs the NHS around £39,000, while there are various ways to obtain a generic alternative (made in Bangladesh, India or Australia) for less than £2,500 for the same course – around a sixteenth of the cost.

The protest at NHS England – next to the Bakerloo line Elephant & Castle terminus – was pretty conventional, with a short rally outside after which protesters rushed in past security and made a noisy protest inside until police arrived and they left to continue their rally outside.

At Gilead’s offices on High Holborn it was a different story, with the protest being kept secret and preparations being made a short distance away before walking to the location, where a group of five protesters walked inside and stood in the window, dropping the gowns they had worn on the way there to stand naked with large painted letters G R E E D on their backs.

Photographically it was rather tricky, as the glass reflected too much light. I hadn’t known in advance what form the protest would take. I don’t think a polarising filter which is often used to cut reflections would have helped as it really needed to be photographed ‘head on’ when they make no difference. Although I don’t usually direct people I’m photographing I did go inside the office and ask the five to move right back as close as they could to the glass, which did make them a little more visible, but the image owes rather a lot to Lightroom and work on the bodies to bring them out.

The full image that the protesters wanted – the five naked bodies spelling out ‘GREED’ with the two banners, one each side reading ‘#PHARMA’ and ‘KILLS’ presented another insurmountable problem, that of aspect ratio. As you can see there were large areas of fairly empty space both above and below that line reading #Pharma Greed Kills. It would have made a picture with an aspect ratio of 4 or 5:1 rather than the 1.5:1 I was using.

Act Up invade NHS to demand PrEP
Act Up protests Gilead’s naked greed

Panoramas and Cigars

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

In my extreme youth I was a Brentford fan. Not that I ever went to a match at Griffin Park, though I think three of the under-11 team I played for went on to start professional careers there – and one of them stayed there until he retired a few years ago. I wasn’t a star player, and I think was sometimes the only player who didn’t manage to score when we thrashed some other teams 30, 40 or 50-nil (I think sometimes the ref lost count.) Even the goal-keeper sometimes put one in the opposite net, though at left or right back I could claim some credit for the nil on the other team-sheet, by fair means or foul.

But my attraction to Brentford was not just the football, but the romance, perhaps a strange word, but there was and still is something special about the place. It was always a thrill in my young days to take a trip on the bus along Brentford High St, though it was often too high, with the ammonia and tar of the gaswords sometimes almost overpowering, but visually too there was sometimes if you were fortunate the sight of a huge wall of re-hot coke as a furnace was opened and it cascaded down to ground level. I don’t know how many times I saw this, but it engraved itself indelibly on my memory.

I think too my father may have taken us on days out, perhaps even bank holidays, not just to Kew on the bus through Brentford, but to walk along the Grand Union Canal, which enters the Thames here. Even now, many years later and long after the end of commercial traffic on the canals and the turning of Brentford Dock into a private housing estate, much still remains of the backwaters and streams of the River Brent between the high street and the river, hidden away from the casual visitor, but much more open to the public than when there was far more riverine commerce and only a few footpaths open.

The opening up of the riverside hasn’t been altogether positive, with large blocks of offices and flats destroying some of the unique atmosphere, replacing it with an identikit blandness, but a little of the charm remains, as I hope you can feel from these images.

I’ve written a little previously about the later stages of the walk that took use from Kew Bridge through Brentford to Isleworth and Mogden during last Easter’s holiday. This was a photographers’ walk rather than the normal family route-march where I keep finding myself having to run to catch up the others striding 50 or more yards ahead after I’ve stopped to make a picture. We wandered back and forth, explored dead ends and different views, took our time and our pictures.

I’d come this way a dozen years earlier, working with the Russian swing-lens Horizon panoramic camera as well as the Hasselblad X-Pan fitted with the 30mm lens, on a slightly misty New Year’s Eve in 2003, and I was interested to see both how things had changed and how different things looked using digital rather than film. Of course I don’t have a swing-lens digital camera – which would need a curved sensor, but was using software to produce a similar result from full-frame 16mm fisheye images.

One big difference is that I haven’t yet got around to either printing or scanning more than one or two of those colour negatives that I took in 2003, while the digital files were very quickly processed. At least I have developed the film, though I still have a few rolls waiting to be done from around 10 years ago that somehow I’ve never got round to. I did send a couple of batches off to be processed a year or so ago, but haven’t yet got around to finishing the job.

So far as I can see from the negatives, the results from digital are very similar, except that they have a significantly greater field of view. One big advantage fro digital is the wider vertical field, which if you want a panoramic format such as the 1.9:1 I’ve used here, gives you considerable freedom as to where to place the horizon. With the two film cameras I was using the horizon was always central as the cameras have to be kept level to avoid a curved horizon.

The camera used for these pictures was the D810, and the images are 7360×4912 pixels – 36Mp – before cropping to panoramic format. While the orginal RAW files are a reasonable 35-40 Mb (Nikon compression does a great job) changing the perspective results in a 16bit Tiff file of over 210Mb which rather eats up disk space. But that 7360 pixel width means high quality prints at up to 25 inches wide, similar to what is possible from film with images 56x24mm or similar.

Since the images use the same ‘cylindrical’ perspective the compositional problems are much the same, and the main problem is with ‘cigarring’. Images taken face on of any large rectangular subject show this typical shape because the ends of the block are further from the camera than the middle. A couple of the images in Riverside Brentford Panoramas including the boat above show this too strongly for my taste. There are several different types of perspective that can be used other than the straightforward cylindrical which can reduce this effect – such as the Vedutismo applied here by PtGui.

There is a marked improvement, but it does over-emphasize objects at each end of the frame and isn’t always the best choice.


Education Issues

Monday, December 19th, 2016

Back in what now seems like another life I was a teacher.  I worked for almost 10 years at what was then one of the largest (and certainly one of the least well-organised) secondary schools in the country, then went on to the rather more civilised atmosphere of sixth-form education, at what became a community college and than part of a larger FE college. When I left teaching to work in photography I continued to teach part-time for a few years, and I’m still a member of the NUT, albeit a retired member, as well as a full member of the NUJ.

It was an interesting career and had its enjoyable and rewarding moments, but if you’ve never tried it you can never appreciate how demanding and stressful it can be, and I glad to be able to leave the profession and make a living writing and taking pictures. And I was able to do so partly because of the experience I’d gained in teaching in one of the finest art departments in the country, with an A level photography course which I’d set up and helped to make almost certainly the best in the country, with colleagues whose skills and experience complemented mine.

Osborne Must Go – The Bast…

I would probably have stayed in teaching longer but for the policies of successive governments and their various reforms and innovations which have made such a mess of our education system. Of course we needed changes, but changes that were made on educational grounds, not because of ignorance and dogma.

There seem to be several major underlying assumptions behind most of the reforms we have seen: that you can’t trust teachers or local authorities, that education experts know nothing about education and that the private sector will always make a better job of it.

Guck Fove

Teachers were hoping for better things when when Michael Gove was replaced as Education Secretary, but instead got the threat to make all schools into academies – a hare-brained Labour scheme from the depths of New Labour, almost as unforgiveable as going to war in Iraq.

There is no evidence that academies improve the educational results of children and the plans remove all democratic controls from education as well as side-lining parents. They (along with so-called ‘free schools’, whose freedom seems to be mainly a freedom for some individuals to grab community assets) make sensible planning of educational provision impossible, and remove many of the safeguards on teacher employment that the unions have struggled for years to establish – perhaps their main attraction for the political right.

As someone who was a union rep for around 15 of my teaching years I can assure you that teachers by and large are a pretty conservative group and it isn’t easy to get them as a  body to show any militancy. But on 23rd March there seemed to be plenty of angry teachers marching to say Hands Off Our Schools, including those from the ATL, a union that many joined because they felt the NUT was too radical.

The unions say government should be addressing the real issues of teacher shortage, lack of pupil places and chaos in the curriculum rather than creating more organisational chaos. And clearly they are right.

By the time the march was going past the Dept for Education, the light was falling, and the narrow street with fairly tall buildings was getting pretty dim. I’d increased the ISO I was working at to ISO2000, but with the teachers getting rather agitated it perhaps wasn’t quite high enough, and many images were too blurred to use.

It’s always a bit difficult to know how high an ISO to use, and the image quality with both the D700 and the D810 does noticeably drop off at higher ISO, but ISO3200 is certainly normally usable and the extra 2/3 stop would have resulted in a few more sharp pictures – or a little extra depth of field.

All of the pictures at that point were taken with the D700 and the 16-35mm,  and even at 16mm depth of field isn’t huge when working close to the subjects as I like to do. And when close people’s movements become more important and more likely to blur. Of course blur in the right places – such as the hand and the NUT flag in the top picture – can improve images, but in the wrong places will ruin.

The 16-35mm does have image stabilisation, but that is really no help in stopping subject movement, though perhaps might cancel out some of the more erratic photographer movements. But somehow in those cases where it would be useful I almost always manage to have turned it off, though seldom intentionally.

Black Magic

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

I’ve sometimes rather laughed Magnum’s ‘Square Print Sales’, with their postcard-sized signed prints being sold at $100 when you could buy well-printed books with many prints by the same photographers (and sometimes at least as well printed) for rather less. And perhaps been amused by images advertising the sale which showed those same images at 4 times the size. I’ve nothing against people collecting postcards, and I have a few myself, but most cost me 20p or less – and I’ve given hundreds if not thousands of my own work on them away.

Visiting to galleries and auction houses, I’ve often seen prints for sale for thousands of pounds that were inferior in quality to the reproductions of the same images in books. Sometimes it is worth remembering that – with a few rare exceptions – in photography we are always dealing in reproductions, and one of the joys of our medium is its essentially infinite reproducibility.

But of course photographers have to earn a living – and selling prints for thousands or millions is what keeps some art dealers in their lives of luxury.

But Magnum Distribution are now selling Matt Black‘s ‘The Geography of Poverty – Heartland‘, a set of eight 8×10″ prints in an envelope with some documentation for what seems a reasonable price of $249.00 They are in a limited edition, but 100 copies seems a fairly reasonable number, and more than I’ve sold of any unlimited edition print.

The 8 prints are digital C-type on Fuji Crystal Archive Matte paper, which would perhaps not be my choice for black and white prints, and rather more suited to colour images. But certainly you can make good black and white prints this way, though I would generally prefer good inkjet prints (which I imagine is what Magnum’s ‘museum quality’ square images are.)  Perhaps Black prefers the Fuji paper – the cost difference between C-types and inkjet is small – the pro lab I sometimes use charges around 30% more for inkjet.

It’s an great project by Black, who I think is one of the more promising new Magnum photographers for some years, and you can see more at MSNBC, where the presentation and text by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Trymaine Lee produce a work of outstanding quality. You can also see more of his work on his own web site and on Magnum, where he became a Magnum nominee in 2015. You can also follow him on Instagram, where he was Time’s Instagram photographer of the year in 2014. There is also a signed Geography of Poverty Newsprint issue for sale which seems to me rather poor value at $45. I have a number of such newpsrint publications now, and they usually end up in the recycling, as they hardly seem worth keeping.

I won’t be buying either that or the set of 8 images. Although I admire the work, I wouldn’t want to hang the 8 images on my wall, nor do I have the space to do so. And I have far too many prints  – my own and others – already hidden away in envelopes, tubes and boxes that never get looked at.

November 2016

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Justice & Reparations for Ricky Bishop – march through Brixton

November is now complete on My London Diary. It’s a month I remember for being dark, cold and wet, certainly not my favourite time of year. I hate it when we change the clocks at the end of October, plunging into darkness around 4pm – by the end of the month sunset was at 3.55pm. London did get more rain than in the average November and most of it seemed to fall on me and my cameras.

It was also the month when my Nikon D700 more or less gave up the ghost. I can’t complain as it has made well over 500,000 exposures, but repair costs are so high now that it is almost certainly beyond economic repair. It is still actually working – at least at times. I took my last image with the D700 at a protest a few minutes after the image above, taken on a D810. That last D700 image has the shutter count information:


embedded into its EXIF information  (you can, with difficulty find this Photoshop.) According to Nikon the carbon fiber composite shutter in the D700 should at least last 150,000 exposures.

It isn’t actually the shutter but the mirror that is the problem – it sticks in the up position, blanking out the viewfinder. It happened first around half an hour or so earlier but I managed to free it by using the menu to ‘Lock mirror up for cleaning’, then switching the camera off and back on again, but after a few exposures stuck again and I had to repeat the process. I missed a few opportunites to make pictures doing this, particularly annoying when the police came to interfere with the protest.

Back home, and testing the shutter it has been working perfectly, but a camera you can’t rely on isn’t worth carrying. And I am fairly sure the cost of repairs (and there are a number of other minor faults) would be prohibitive. So since then I’ve been working with the D810 and a D750, which I’d tried out a few days earlier. The D750 is a noticeably lighter, which is good, gives larger files – sometimes a bonus, but normally unnecessary – and has a tilting read screen, which is great for some things, though the ‘Live View’ you need to use is still clunky. And it somehow feels a bit cheap and has a nasty shutter sound compared to the D700.

Nov 2016

Class War protest ‘Fascist Architect’
Axe the Housing Act Autumn Statement
Brexiteers say ‘People Have Spoken’
Class War Croydon ‘Snouts in the trough’
Justice & Reparations for Ricky Bishop

Climate Crisis rally against Airport Expansion
Rally against Heathrow Expansion
Release British father from Israeli Jail
Cleaners at Claranet for Living Wage

Cleaners at Mace protest Dall nepotism
Cleaners in Lloyds against racist sacking
End Discriminatory Welfare Reforms
Custody Summit at the Tower
No Garden in the Sky
Kurds march through London
Hope Trumps Hate rally and kiss-in
US Election Day Guantanamo protest
Vigil for Fazel Chegeni

Make John Lewis cleaners Partners

Save Libraries, Museums & Galleries
Kurds march for Peace & Democracy
Bill to reverse NHS Privatisation
End mass deportations
Standing Rock Sioux – emergency protest

London Images


Time’s 100

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

I may have mentioned Time’s 100 Photos before, their collection of ‘The Most Influential Images of All Time‘, with ‘the stories behind 100 images that changed the world, selected by TIME and an international team of curators‘. If not, it’s an oversight on my part.

It’s certainly a list containing some remarkable images, and a number that it would be hard to criticise their inclusion, though my own personal choices would be mainly different – and with less of an American (that is USA) bias. There are a number of images I simply don’t recognise among the many more familiar, which either says something about me or something about them, and also some pictures where I might have selected another image from the same photographer or event.

There is some interesting text about each of the images, and for some further images or a video. The videos, 20 of them are also listed on a separate page and I have to admit to not watching all of them, and to skipping briefly through some others.

But one I paid more attention to than most is the one that brought me back to this site, from a link on Rob Haggart‘s A Photo Editor blog. Untitled (Cowboy) Photograph by Richard Prince is I think the longest of the Time videos at around 15 minutes. It includes some fairly lengthy scenes of Prince talking about his appropriation of the Marlboro adverts, as well as comments and images showing some of the team of photographers who made the pictures as ‘work for hire‘, and some experts from the art world.

One of the more fascinating aspects is that Prince introduces (at around 9.04) the 1949 Leonard McCombe essay in Life,  Cowboy, which was the inspiration for the Marlboro campaign.

I ended up thinking I would have liked to see more about how the original images were made, and that the actual Marlboro adverts were generally more interesting as cultural artifacts and as images than Prince’s selections from them.

This case differs from some of Prince’s other image thefts in that none of the photographers concerned has any copyright in the images, which are not – as Prince states he thought when he made them, in the public domain, but the intellectual property of Marlboro.

Capa and Margaret Bourke-White both get a couple of images into the collection – and you can probably guess which two. The texts which accompany both the Capa images are severely misleading, as too is the video in which John Morris talks about the D-Day image and his part in it.

The commentary on the ‘Falling Soldier‘ states that in the 1970s:

‘a South African journalist named O.D. Gallagher claimed that Capa had told him the image was staged. But no confirmation was ever presented, and most believe that Capa’s is a genuine candid photograph of a Spanish militiaman being shot.’

It’s a belief that now only those who pride themselves on being ill-informed and dismissing the evidence and research can hold to. If Time’s comment is true then there are plenty of flat-earthers in photography.

Past Memories

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

We all have our own view of the past, and particularly of our own part in it. I’ve long believed that I watched England beat Germany back in 1966 in a crowded room in an international hostel just to the south of Paris. It was a protestant centre largely housing refugees, and although many spoke a little English, my fiancée and I were among the very few English people staying there at the time.

She insisted when she heard me say this recently that she watched that final with the children in the home of a short French General (a mate of the tall one) where she went on leaving the hostel – and I left at the same time to start a new job back in outer London. My first day at work was 1st August 1966, 2 days after the final on 30th July.

It’s a story I’ve often mentioned over the years, when, as rather often happens in certain discussions, usually pint in hand that 1966 game comes up, and despite my absolute conviction that I was there at Cimade in Massy-Palisseau, on full consideraton I think Linda just has to be right.

I remember watching two matches in the communal TV room there, and the atmosphere that was not far removed from being on the terraces, except that the fans of both sides were in close proximity. Given that many of those at the hostel were Spanish or Portuguese speakers I think it most likely that the two games I saw were the quarter final with England playing Argentina and the semi against Portugal decided by two Bobby Charlton goals.

It’s a trivial example with little consequence, and probably of now great interest to anyone except Linda and myself. And since most often my story comes out in entirely male company when the talk turns to footy I could probably keep up with my embroidery about the occasion.

Of course what got me thinking (and writing) about this again were the photographic events around D-Day and the systematic and detailed research by A D Coleman and his team (J Ross Baughman, Rob McElroy, Charles Herrick.) Unlike my own case above there is a great deal of evidence about what actually happened – photographic and eye-witness reports – around these much more momentous events, and they have done a remarkable job of putting it together and teasing out the truth.

More recently Coleman’s emphasis has been on the failure of various individuals and bodies in photography with an interest in Capa to acknowledge this research, and to continue to promulgate the now discredited legends which were largely the inventions of two men, Capa himself and photo-editor John Morris.

A few days ago, Morris celebrated his 100th birthday, and the photographic world celebrated with him, largely by publishing those inventions which were the foundations of his later career – at a time when Morris himself has finally come to accept the findings of Coleman and others. As I commented on Facebook a week ago:

“After studying new theories of what happened, Mr. Morris now thinks that the negatives were not melted, and that Mr. Capa only exposed 11 frames on one of the four rolls that were shipped. Mr. Capa probably was rattled, Mr. Morris said, during the withering fire he withstood at Omaha beach.”

John Morris corrects a little photographic legend – thanks to A D Coleman & colleagues.’

As my rather heavy-handed example at the top of this post shows, it’s easy for any of us to become convinced by our own inventions, and I think that both Morris and Capa – who after all invented himself – were before long incapable of separating their fictions from the actual happenings. But in the end we have to give way to the evidence where it exists and is presented, although it may be hard to do so. And I am finding it hard, trivial though it is in my case. As I often think to myself, ‘If only I’d kept a diary.’

Coleman continues to excavate the career of John Morris in a series of posts, the third of which, Alternate History: Robert Capa and John Morris (c) appeared today, examining the exaggerations in Morris’s biographical note which was published in the February 1946 issue of Popular Photography, doubtless providing the source for many later journalists and writers.  His second piece looked at Morris’ part in covering up the truth about Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier‘, and the first in this sub-series Alternate History: Robert Capa and John Morris, examines the various published eulogies on Morris’s centenary – of which the Lens piece mentioned above stands out as the only one to bring out some of his inconsistencies. Written by James Estrin it also seems to be the only piece of any originality among them.

Conscientious Picks

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

The annual Conscientious Portfolio Competition is in some ways an ideal photographic competition, though I’m not generally a great fan of competitions. The annual competition is free to enter (but you will have to wait until late next year – this year’s deadline was 31 October 2016, 11:59pm ET.)

As Conscientious founder and editor Jörg M. Colberg writes:

I don’t believe in “pay to play.” Everybody needs to have the same fair chance. This is why the eventual winners are selected blindly, mimicking blind auditions: the judges get a set of photographs (and nothing else), with the names of the artists encrypted.

As well as being free, its also easy to enter. You simply start by sending an e-mail  with the address of your the web site with the project is on, and which of the projects there you are submitting.

It’s also a very personal view, with no pretention that this is some kind of industry consensus. You go through to the next round if Colberg sees yours as one of the 25 projects he finds of most interest. Then comes the final, where he and two others with experience in working with photographers – for this year Emma Bowkett and Felix Hoffmann, one a director of photography and the other a curator – each make there own personal pick of one project from the 25 in the pool.

There could be one, two or three winners, depending on whether they make the same or different choices. But the contest is run to try and create a level playing field. At this second stage each of those selected sends in 10 jpeg images at the same size which are then presented without the name or CV of the photographer:

Having a second round is based on the idea of making everything as equal as possible. With uniform file sizes, fancy websites won’t be able to beat out simple ones. With a special naming convention for the jpegs (which will hide the full names), the winner(s) will be solely chosen based on the quality of the work.

The prize is simply exposure, with the winners winners each having their work featured on Conscientious, one of the best-regarded photography websites, “in the form of an extended conversation”. This is a contest for ‘emerging photographers‘ and this will certainly be worthwhile and lead to coverage elsewhere. They might even get a mention on >Re:PHOTO :-)

The three winners this year have just been announced, in CPC 2016: The Winners, and I have to say that I find one of them rather more interesting than the other two. Readers will probably be able to guess which. There are links to their web sites on the page, and Colberg also tells us that of the 26 winners selected in 7 years, exactly 13 have been women and 13 men.

It isn’t an ideal competition, but for me beats most others in the way that it is organised. The one big change I’d like would be to have all the selectors being photographers rather than curators or employers of photography or critics. But that’s a view that reflects my strongly held belief that it is our medium and not theirs.


Epic Photobomb?

Monday, December 12th, 2016

You probably will have already seen the video, if not, take a look at it on Petapixel: Guy Epically Photobombs Newspaper Photographer Shooting a Demolition.

It’s a good example of the kind of thing that happens with remarkable frequency these days, when it has become very hard to work at many events without someone holding up their phone getting between you and the subject.

In this case it actually makes what would otherwise have been a rather boring movie clip rather more interesting – and the idiot with his phone running across the field of view hardly obscures what is happening.

Without that guy, no-one outside of Reading PA would have watched that demolition video, or known that Reading had a newspaper. Although the factory demolition may have been ‘a momentous occasion, at least regionally, given the history behind this factory, which once built tanks during WWII’ the video would frankly have been rather boring.

The Reading Eagle staff photographer was working from a location where the public had gathered to view the event. But it wasn’t one that gave a particularly good view of the factory and one might have hoped that working for the local rag would give you an idea and get you better access than Joe Public.

And ‘she even set up her gear down low in case debris came flying.’ What? Debris could equally fly low or high, but a higher viewpoint would have helped and avoided the low moving person. The chances of a camera being hit by anything large enough to cause serious damage would seem to be low, and would probably be covered by insurance. If she or the authorities were worried about her own safety then a remote trigger could have been used.

I doubt if we will ever see the phone video, though I expect it will be of little interest with the chimneys hard to make out in a rather blurry and jumpy film. Many of our local papers would now be relying on getting that and others sent to them for free rather than having a staff photographer spending a day on the job.

Refugees Welcome

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Lee Jasper and Zita Holbourne lead the Black Lives Matter bloc

Every time we press the shutter release we are making choices, expressing a point of view. What we chose to photograph and how we decide to represent it. And later, which images we select from those we have taken and how we put them together to make a report, and the captions and other text we present with them. Covering events like the large march and rally against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and fascism organised by Stand Up to Racism on March 19th perhaps makes those choices more evident than many other events.

Marcia Rigg fighting for justice over the killing of her brother Sean by Brixton police

Of course the great majority of the British people have an immense sympathy for the plight of families fleeing from the wars in Syria and elsewhere, or indeed from famine and extreme poverty elsewhere – even despite the efforts of our billionaire-owned press and Tory politicians to demonise them, and a government that has almost totally failed to step up to the challenge.

But this was an event which brought together a huge range of issues and although I tried hard to cover them all, of course my view is a personal bias. There were many people on the protest that I knew and had photographed at other protests, and there were also those who would be known to a wider public. Although I try not to concentrate on celebrities, pictures of them, particularly of those who spoke at the rally, are important both in terms of gaining publicity for the causes and also paying my bills, though I try no to be over-influenced by the latter thought, and as much as possible avoid the media scrums around well-known figures.

There is also the question of visual appeal. Some people are certainly more interesting visually than others, and as photographers we have to make pictures that people will want to look at. We dramatise events, picking those who stand out in some way to photograph, and doing so in a way that will engage others. Dramatic gestures, unusual placards are to photographers like a flaming candle to moths.

A very small group of protesters against the march who stood around the statue of Eros and shouted abuse, protected by several rows of police certainly attracted far more attention than they deserved – and I took a few photographs. They were a part of the story, but only a very small part.

One of the reasons for ‘My London Diary’ and this site is to enable me to present a much wider view of events such as this than is possible through the mainstream media. I think I posted far too many pictures from this event, but they do allow you to see that wider view, if very much from my perspective.

But though it’s obviously from my point of view, for me it’s vital to maintain a certain objectivity and distance from what I’m photographing. It’s important to me to be fair and not to misrepresent what I’m photographing, whether I agree or disagree , approve or hate. I often see pictures by some other photographers and think that had I taken that particular view – perhaps catching a picture of someone caught in a way that makes them look stupid – I would simply have deleted it, even if I don’t like them. If you ever see a picture by me that looks as if someone is making a Nazi salute it will be because I sure they were doing so and not just waving. Without integrity documentary is without value.

Refugees Welcome Rally
Stand Up to Racism – Refugees Welcome march

Australians protest against their country’s racist immigration policy

I left shortly before the rally in Trafalgar Square came to an end to go to a much smaller event also taking place on UN Anti-racism Day. Another reason for My London Diary is that I knew this would get no coverage at all in the UK’s mainstream media – though the other photographer present was covering it for an Australian newspaper.

Australians protest on UN Anti-Racism day