Archive for June, 2017

Hugh Edwards

Friday, June 30th, 2017

As friends including regular readers of these posts will know, I don’t generally have a very high opinion of curators – except for a few that I’ve known and have worked with. Too many have put on shows that server largely to illustrate their lack of knowledge and real interest in the medium and are clearly concerned only with building their own careers. And far too often money that would be better spent on photography and photographers goes into their pockets and into creating fancy displays which might enhance their reputation but often take away attention from the work presented.

But of course there are exceptions. Actually quite a few of them, including the obvious ones like John Szarkowski. Many of the best have been, like him, photographers and have had a real appreciation of the medium.

Thanks to a recent post Hugh Edwards: Unknown Icon by Kenneth Tanaka on The Online Photographer, I have now been made aware of another fine curator. Edwards (1904–1986) was Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he had already worked for 30 years, for his last 12 years there from 1959-70, during which time he organised 75 exhibitions, as well as regularly showing new acquisitions.

This was an important time in the evolution of photography, and one in which Edwards played an major role, giving Robert Frank his first American museum exhibition in 1961 and promoting many emerging photographers as well as building up a fine study collection of work by nineteenth and twentieth century masters. And his contribution is finely and extensively documented in the web site on him and the photography he championed and bought for the Art Institute collection by photography curator Elizabeth Siegel and a team of researchers.

Photography was one of his many interests; David Travis, Curator and Chair of the Department of Photography from two years after Edwards retired until 2008 writes about him at some length and remembers the rare and memorable evenings at his home when he would show his own colour slides made at “a roller skating rink in Harvey, Illinois”. In in a letter to Frank, Edwards wrote “I ran away from ‘culture’ and accelerated education to spend all my evenings in a large skating rink on the outskirts of Chicago for five whole years. There were many wonders there and I used to wish someone would catch them so they could be kept. Then I found your book and saw you had done it.” Travis comments that having seen Frank’s work “published, Mr. Edwards felt his own mission as a photographer could end.”

Those who can make it to Chicago can see the extensive show at the Art Institute also curated by Seigel, The Photographer’s Curator: Hugh Edwards at the Art Institute of Chicago which runs until October 29th 2017. But otherwise the web site is a fine tribute to an amazing curator and his legacy.

D-Day Wrap

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Something which I meant to acknowledge earlier but slipped my mind after I read the post was the announcement by A D Coleman, ‘It’s a Wrap‘ marking the official end of “our team’s deconstruction of the myth of Robert Capa’s D-Day experiences and the subsequent fate of his negatives“.

The end came exactly three years after the investigation began with the publication of photojournalist J. Ross Baughman’s critique of the TIME video celebrating the 70th anniversary of Robert Capa’s D-Day photographs, and included further contributions from Baughman as well as from photo historian Rob McElroy and combat veteran and military historian Charles “Chuck” Herrick as well as Coleman’s own major contribution.

During its course it also referenced the work of others on this and related matters such as Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier’, and included a number of other guest posts, including one by Jim Hughes who in 1986 was the first to publicly challenge the Capa D-Day myth (and his review was quite probably the origin of my own total scepticism about the alleged ‘darkroom disaster’.)

It has been a remarkable series of posts, and quite rightly has received awards and nominations, and has changed entirely our view of one of the best-known events of photographic history, but also shed light on how that history is manufactured and by whom. History isn’t just facts, but a point of view (rather like any photograph) but in this particular case we know also know that much of what was claimed as fact is in fact fiction.

Of course we always knew that Capa was himself an invention, and a great inventor of stories as well as someone who photographed them powerfully. But even when we know more and can dismiss the embroidery the image remains. Of course like all photographers Capa took many weak images, some of which have found their way to gallery walls and books but there certainly remain enough to sustain his reputation.

We will still look at his pictures and be moved by them even when we know that the captions may be unreliable and some events may have been staged. And Capa did certainly put his life at some risk – even if rather less than he made out – on D-Day and probably more so on various other occasions, and of course later paid for the risks with his life, stepping on to a landmine in Indo-China. And his advice “If you’re pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” is still worth remembering.

Although officially the end, it certainly isn’t, and Coleman gives a number of areas that he or others will pursue, both about D-Day and Capa’s other work, and more widely in a critical look at the medium’s institutions, particularly the ICP.

Coleman states he considers “the basic research complete and the case effectively proven” and is “developing this material into a book, an exhibition, and a multimedia piece” about which he will give occasional progress reports, but apart from this unless there are some unforeseen discoveries or unpredictable surges of interest there will be no further posts in the series. I hope the exhibition will tour to some of the more prestigious institutions both in the USA and Europe and will perhaps help to end the promulgation of the myth.

Coleman concludes his piece with a comment on a New York Times article by Geoff Dyer, a man who writes about photography and who prides himself on not being a photographer; “I don’t just mean that I’m not a professional or serious photographer; I mean I don’t even own a camera” (in ‘The Ongoing Moment’ a book given me by someone who had probably read on the previous page “I suspect, then, that this book will be a source of irritation to many people, especially those who know more about photography than I do.” It was, though I’ve never managed to read to the end, always throwing it down in disgust at some idiocy within minutes of picking it up.)

Dyer’s ignorance clearly extended to never having heard of the doubts about Capa’s D-Day legend (despite a previous feature in the newspaper for which he was writing) and he writes “we know the precise historical moment they depict, what happened before and after, the reasons the pictures are so blurred” a statement untrue in every detail.

As Coleman comments “This uninformed balderdash of Dyer’s exemplifies the lamentable condition of writing about photography today. If you wonder why I have persisted with this investigation, consider Dyer’s elegantly phrased but fact-free nonsense a sufficient answer.”

It’s a Wrap

Cleaners at Mace

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

There are always a number of things on my mind as I photograph protests by low-paid workers such as the cleaners protesting at a workplace. Obviously there are the reasons for the protest  – and if I didn’t feel they were justified I wouldn’t be there. Often, as on this occasion the workers have a number of greivances. They say the employer, Dall Cleaning Services had promised to pay them the London Living Wage,  and then had sacked two cleaners and increased everyone else’s workload  to keep their costs down, and that these sackings had been without notice or proper procedures.

While these sackings could be taken to a tribunal, where in all probabilty the workers would win their case, going to tribunal takes a long time  and has now been made an expensive process, with costs calculated by the Tory government to be high enough to make it virtually impossible for the ordinary worker. One of the advantages of belonging to a trade union is that they can usually afford to take cases like this to tribunals and also supply trained legal support. But the changes in the law have made it much cheaper and faster to try to settle such matters by protests and strike.

Here the workers were also complaining about the Dall’s management, in the workplace , dominated by members of one family, whose members working there were treated better than the other workers. They want an end to nepotism in the workplace. It’s something that should be policed by Dall’s higher management but the cleaners say their complaints are simply ignored.

But I’m also thinking about my legal rights. On the street there are few if any restrictions on photography and on publishing as news coverage. But it seemed likely that the IWGB would manage to enter the foyer of the Mace offices. The position on private property is less clear, but certainly, unless I was specifically asked to stop taking pictures by a person I was convinced represented the owners of the building I intended to photograph the event.

I hang back slightly as the cleaners rush in, but after the first two or three have gone past any security at the entrance, follow in with the others. It certainly is no part of my job to actually force an entrance in any way, but if there is an open door from the street I’ll happily walk through it.

Fortunately no one asked me to stop taking pictures, and knowing that it was likely they would be going inside the building I’d remembered as we went towards it to increase the ISO  setting on both my cameras. Because there would be less light and there was a possibility of some action taking place I’d set both cameras at ISO2000 or ISO2500.

It’s an important advantage of the D810 that it has an ISO button on the dial at the top right of the body, and pressing it displays the ISO in the top panel, where its a simple matter of turning the command dial to alter it, and the same is true of the D700 with which I took all of the pictures I’ve actually used in this post.

With the D750 I now use you need to go into the menu, though I make things easier by putting the ISO on the user menu, along with other items I’m likely to want while working, and making sure to enter the User Menu before starting taking pictures.

I could rely on auto-ISO, which I actually usually have turned on, but for this to be really effective you have to select a fairly high shutter speed as the minimum speed at which the ISO increases. With a lens like the 28-200 zoom there is really no sensible choice. I’d be quite happy with 1/30th at the wide end, but at the long end I’d want 1/250th or faster. It would be nice if Nikon would allow the camera to apply the 1/focal length rule – and better still if it allowed you to choose from various fractions or multiples of this. All of the pictures in this post were made with the 16-35mm f4, though I was also using the 28-200mm.

Inside occupations such as this it is difficult to work sensibly, in part because you never know how long you are likely to get to take pictures. I try not to simply dash off pictures but to get images that have something to say about the particular protest, looking for elements that identify the company concerned or make clear why the workers are protesting.  I also make a conscious effort to vary my viewpoint and angle of view to provide a variety of images.

An element of farce was introduced when the police finally arrived, a single officer who clearly didn’t really know what to do. After failing to get a great deal of attention from Alberto Durango who was leading the protest, he stepped aside and called for help.

As usual the protesters left in an orderly fashion when they felt they had made their point – and that the police might start to arrest them for aggravated trespass should they remain, and the protest then continued on the pavement.

Protests like this, that make clear how badly the cleaners who clean the Mace offices are treated and embarrass them as they would any respectable company, and usually lead to pressure being put onto cleaning contractors, all of whom seem out to give their staff little or nothing more than the bare legal minimum conditions and to employ management who just aren’t up to the job.

In this case I don’t recall the details, but it wasn’t long before  a further protest was called off as a satisfactory settlement had been reached.

You can see more of the pictures I took at this protest by the IWGB (Indpendent Workers of Great Britain) on My London Diary at Cleaners demand ‘End Nepotism’.


Heathrow Again

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

I don’t like airports and air travel. As someone with a sensible level of concern about the environment I try hard not to fly – and managed to avoid doing so until I was sixty. Since then I’ve flown on I think 8 occasions, mainly when I’ve been invited to talk or exhibit photographs overseas, and where there was no real alternative.

I’m obviously not a great traveller, though I have been to quite a few parts of the United Kingdom over the years, but there is still so much that is new here that I’d like to explore. And even in London I occasionally still find parts I’ve not visited.

Airports like Heathrow seem designed to generate the maximum unease amongst those passing through, and are designed largely to sell goods to those passing through rather than to transfer passengers in an efficient manner from entrance to plane and vice-versa. I’ve travelled through a few smaller airports which do just that, where you can get off a plane and be taking a bus or taxi away in just a few minutes – and you can catch one with only a short queue to go through a security check and just a few minutes waiting. No huge shopping areas and extended periods to wait in them.

Reclaim The Power’s #StayGrounded protest made some of the issues clear, though perhaps not to all the travellers passing through Terminal 2, who probably couldn’t see the speech bubbles with things like “I’m one of the 15% who make 70% of all flights” and probably didn’t see or appreciate the ‘Frequent Fliers’ stepping over the ‘dead’ on the ground to get to the ‘High Polluters Club Frequent Flyer VIP Check-in’. And relatively few would have heard the speeches.

Photography – and of course video – is vital in getting the point of protests, particularly onrd like this which have a narrative across to an audience. And to a wider audience than those few members of the public who actually experience it. Of course the highest numbers see them through TV and newspapers, and this protest did make some of them even on the channels which like to ignore or minimise protest, but many too see them through social media. Even web sites and blogs like this have thousands of readers each day.

Air transport – for goods and people – is expensive and essentially wasteful. It creates pollution and wastes resources and is an important factor in climate change. We need to look not at ways to increase it, but ways to cut it. Some of its popularity is because of huge subsidies that currently encourage it, and those need to be removed.

Our recent election in the UK has perhaps served largely to show that we need a better voting system, that more accurately reflects the views of the British public. I welcome too the fact that it has brought out more young people to vote, and that a significant number of voters have begun to see through the media lies about Corbyn. As someone – not a Labour Party member – who had been saying since he became party leader that he represents Labour’s only chance of being elected to govern in 2020 I think the Labour vote shows I was right. Certainly he is the only Labour leader who could win if there is another election soon (and its highly likely.)

And until we do have another election the good news is that the vote needed for the expansion of Heathrow is unlikely to go ahead in this Parliament, which is good news for those of us who live in and around London, for the nation and for world climate.

I had been worried on my way to the protest that airport security might make photography difficult, but I had no problems as they stood back and watched, stopping the protesters from going into the security area and directing passengers in alternative ways to avoid being held up by the protest. The protesters too had obviously decided against any confrontation here, which was, for example why all the plastic champagne glasses of those ‘high polluting frequent flyers’ were filled only with air to abide with the bylaws.

You can see the whole story of the protest – which ended in singing and dancing – at Heathrow flashmob against airport expansion.

Hull Photos: 8/6/17-14/6/17

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

8th June 2017

An oil products tanker, empty and high in the water, speeds up the River Hull as the Drypool bridge begins to lift – when fully raised it is only a little short of vertical. Drypool Bridge, built in 1961 to replace an earlier swing bridge, is a Scherzer rolling lift bridge. Patented by William Scherzer in the US in 1893, two months before his early death at only 35, US Patent 511,713 describes the principle clearly:

“A lift-bridge having a moveable span provided at one end with a curved part adapted to rest and roll upon a stationary supporting surface. Other characteristics noted in the patent include: teeth or projections on the said curved part adapted to interlock with projections on the supporting surface to hold the said curved part from moving or slipping on said surface; and means for moving the span, comprising a horizontally moving part connected with the span at or near the central point of said segmental or sector-shaped part.”

This design takes up little space and by rolling backwards away from the river it leaves this entirely clear for navigation. With the weight of the bridge being balanced by a heavy counterweight at its rear, relatively little energy is needed to raise the bridge. It was a remarkably simple and elegant invention.

As a part of the celebrations in Hull’s year as City of Culture, Drypool Bridge has recently been repainted from its rather plain blue (enlivened by a little rust) to a pattern celebrating Victorian mathematician John Venn (1834-1923), born in Drypool where his father was rector. He moved away from Hull when he was seven and attended schools in north London before going to Cambridge. So far as I’m aware he had no further connection with Hull. But the bridge does look quite pretty in the pictures I’ve seen of it.

I’ve not been able to find any information about MV Mister Humber moored in the foreground. The two barges in the distance are Poem24 and Kago.

33h13: Drypool Bridge raised for traffic on the River Hull, 1982 – River Hull

9th June 2017

The shadow on the wall at the right of this picture is of the gate into Mandela Gardens, leading now to the StreetLife Museum. The warehouses at left, 172 High St, have been converted into flats but still look rather run down. It’s a little difficult to recognise them as the bricks have been covered, but the large central blocked doorways at ground and second floor level are still there, though windows have been added on the first and second floors.

George Yard, then a pedestrian way only, marked by a post to stop vehicles has now been widened and renamed Gandhi Way, and there is a bust of him in Mandela Gardens, unveiled in 2004, donated by Hull’s Indian community, behind the wall on the right of the picture.

John Wesley preached at the new Methodist Chapel in George Yard in 1788 on one of his many visits to Hull (the first in 1752 ended in a riot) more or less opposite Wilberforce House on the other side of High St. But by that date William Wilberforce had left Hull to live in London, and it is unlikely that the young Wilberforce had been allowed to go and hear this powerful preacher against slavery on any of his earlier visits as his mother was strongly opposed to Methodism – and brought him back to Hull from London when he was 12 in 1771 fearing he might be influenced by Methodist friends of the relatives he was living with, and sent him to school in Pocklington to avoid Hull Grammar’s Methodist headmaster.

33h23: Dereliect warehouse, High St, 1982 – Old Town

10th June 2017

E E Sharp & Sons Ltd at 158/9 High St, were, according to the notice on their doorpost, ‘Dealers in Ships Bonded Stores, Ship Chandlers, Sail Makers etc’.

The business was founded here in 1868. Mr William Rayment, born in 1829 was from 1875 a member of Hull council and an Alderman for Coltman St Ward from 1886 and Mr E T Sharp died in 1921. As well as the High Street premises, they also had offices in Bond St. The High Street premises were reported as being badly damaged by a fire in 1907. In 1911 they are listed as General Agricultural Merchants and Manufacturers. In 1932 the Hull Daily Mail published a notice of the voluntary liquidation of Rayment Sharp Ltd, and its purchase from the Receiver in 1932 by EE Sharp Ltd.

The window and door and the names from the ground floor have gone, and the front of the building is now a solicitors, with a wide entry through the centre to ‘The Sailmakers Arms’ pub. I can’t vouch for it but it is supposed to serve good pies and decent beer. Rather surprisingly it was selected as one of five ‘historic’ Hull pubs by the community arts group, Cascade, who got a £40,300 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for an oral history project in 2011, despite only being around 20 years old.

33h32: E E Sharp & Sons Ltd, Sail Makers & Ship Chandlers, High St, 1982 – Old Town

and a second picture taken at the same time:

33h33: E E Sharp & Sons Ltd, Sail Makers & Ship Chandlers, High St, 1982 – Old Town

Four months later, in April 1983 I took a further picture of the same shop. The only apparent change was that the doors were now both closed.

11th June 2017

A pile of odds and ends from ship maintenance near the entrance to the Union Dry Dock was topped by a boat. Behind it the towers are those of Rank’s Blue Cross Animals Feed and others to the north of the main Clarence Mill buildings.

34g22: Union Dry Dock, Great Union St, 1983 – River Hull

12th June 2017

The Union Dry Dock on the east bank of the River Hull was full of water with no ship being worked on, its gates open to the River Hull and a rather solid looking bridge taking the riverside path across, though I think the path was still closed by various obstructions at this time.

On the other side of the river are buildings on Dock Office Row, as well as the large bulk of Hull College beyond. Past the chimney on the right is the crane, a Scotch Derrick, now one of Hull’s listed buildings and the shed of the Yorkshire Dry Dock Company on the west bank of the River Hull.

This dry dock is still there, though silted up, and with a rather fancier bridge across its entrance. The factory and chimney and the Yorkshire Dry Dock shed have gone, and the riverside between Drypool Bridge and Charlotte St stands empty and deserted, as if Hull has not found a way to incorporate its heritage into the city.

34g26: Union Dry Dock, Great Union St, 1983 – River Hull

13th June 2017

Chambers & Fargus, an edible oil refiner and seed crushing company, was founded in 1854 by Henry Waudby Chambers and James Fargus and was at High Flags Mill at 200 Wincolmlee few hundred yards upstream on the opposite side of the river from their factory on the left of this picture.

The High Flags area had formerly been part of Hull’s whale oil industry according to an article in the Hull Daily Mail about the possibility of their former mill there being converted in to riverside flats and High Flags Wharf got its name from large flagstones there to make it easier to handle the large barrels of whale oil landed there.

Chambers & Fargus imported linseed and rape from the Baltic to crush in hydraulic presses, producing oils for use in paint, linoleum, and other products and leaving ‘C & F Super Cake’ animal feed. Later soya became an important product for them.

In 1905 the firm was incorporated under the Companies Act 1862 as a private limited company. In 1907, two years later it purchased the former Anglo-Egyptian Oil Mills and Refinery in Lime street on the left of this picture, though most of this factory was rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1937. The company went public in 1947 and was sold to the Swedish Karlshamns group in 1989. The factory is still there now, looking much the same as in 1983, and there were clouds of steam coming from it when I last went past.

The site is now owned by Finlays, part of an international company founded in Glasgow in 1750 trading with the British empire, particularly in cotton. It is now principally focused on tea but also coffee and other beverages, with “tea estates, extraction facilities for tea, coffee and plant extracts, packing facilities and R&D labs across four continents.”

The Humber Star was built in 1969 and was owned by John H Whittaker (Tankers) Ltd of Hull, an Oil Products Tanker of 274 tons gross, built at Harkers of Hull. In 2009 she was an effluent carrier owned by Oran Environmental Services and sank at her berth in Southampton. Later with name changed to Wade Stone she was detained elsewhere in Southampton in 2011 for multiple breaches of safety and was arrested in Malta in 2013 as Kara. This vessel appears now to have been scrapped.

34g42: Humber Star on the River Hull from Scott St, 1983 – River Hull

14th June 2017

Two men share a few words with a member of crew as the Humber Star goes through Scott St Bridge, the flag of John H Whittaker (Tankers) Ltd clear on its funnel. The two men on the bridge are I think the bridge operators, with a small panel behind them with electrical cables leading off left. The two bascules of Scott St were raised by an electrically powered hydraulic system, which when first built was presumably linked to the nearby hydraulic power station, the first such public utility in the UK. The Grade II listed bridge has been held in raised position to road traffic for years and allowed to decay by Hull Council.

The vessel was actually going backwards upstream slowly on the tide, and I took four pictures as it approached and came through the bridge (this was the last), as well as one of the bridge opening before it arrived. The river here is too narrow for a vessel of this size to turn around.

At the wharf beyond is Bonby, empty and high in the water and waiting to be loaded with sand or gravel. Bonby is a village in North Lincolnshire a few miles south of Barton upon Humber.

34g44: The Humber Star goes through Scott Street Bridge, 1983 – River Hull

You can see the new pictures added each day at Hull Photos, and I post them with the short comments above on Facebook.
Comments and corrections to captions are welcome here or on Facebook.

LSE Cleaners dispute starts

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

As a part of the LSE‘s 3-day ‘Resist’ Festival organised by Lisa McKenzie the United Voices of the World trade union which many of the LSE’s cleaners belong organised a meeting to launch their campaign for decent and equal treatment. The cleaners work in the various buildings around the LSE campus but are not employed by the LSE who use an outside contractor, Noonan, to employ them.

Outsourcing contracts like this are generally awarded to the cheapest bidder, and the companies involved cut costs by providing minimum standards – low wages and statutory benefits – and increasing workloads, employing fewer cleaners to do the same jobs. Workers are also not provided with proper safety equipment and many suffer health problems. Low wages for supervisors and managers also mean they generally get less competent managers – and at the LSE there were allegations of illegal favouritism and discrimination, and of generally being treated like dirt. Outsourcing results in these essential staff working in the LSE under conditions of service far worse than any that the LSE would offer to those directly employed – and also in lower standards of cleaning.

Our large trade unions that have traditionally represented low paid workers such as these have in many organisations failed lower paid staff and particularly out-sourced staff such as these, often being more concerned about maintaining pay differentials than getting better pay and conditions for the lowest paid. Language too has often been a problem, with many of these workers being Spanish speakers. So as at many other workplaces, the cleaners have joined grass roots unions formed and run largely by workers like themselves, often with support from academics and campaigners for social justice, such as the UVW. And because these unions are active and successful, many managements refuse to grant them recognition.

As well as seeking equal conditions of service to workers in similar grades directly employed by the LSE and to be treated with dignity and respect, the campaign at the LSE was also one for union recognition.

I was pleased to be able to attend and photograph the meeting, chaired by the UVW’s General Secretary Petros Elia, which was attended by many of the cleaners as well as their supporters including LSE students and staff, among them a whole group of students from the LSE’s new graduate course on equality issues and LSE Students Union General Secretary Busayo Twins.

All present were shocked when one of the cleaners, Alba, stood up and told us how she had been unfairly sacked that week after 12 years of service at the LSE, and the demand ‘Re-instate Alba‘ was immediately added to the campaign.

I was pleased that several of the photographs I took at this event were used by the UVW in promoting its campaign, and to be able to come back and photograph many of the protests and pickets that were a part of the fight for justice. Even more pleased to read a few days ago the following statement from the UVW:

UVW is proud to announce that the LSE cleaners will be BROUGHT IN-HOUSE and become employees of the LSE from Spring 2018! This will ensure they get, among other things, 41 days annual leave, 6 months full pay sick pay and 6 months half pay sick pay, plus proper employer pension contributions of up to 13% of their salary.

This is the most significant victory for any group of workers in UK higher education today, and will hopefully set a precedent to follow for other degraded outsourced workers across the country.

LSE Cleaners campaign launch


Nanas Tea Party

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Continuing yesterday’s theme (Strong Women) the following Tuesday I made a rare visit to Buckingham Palace, not to see the Queen but to meet with the ‘Nanas from Nanashire‘ who are leading the campaign against fracking the the UK.

At their head is a remarkable woman, Tina Louise Rothery, who as well as leading protests against fracking sites has also stood as a Green Party candidate in elections in Tatton in 2015 (against George Osborne) and in June 2017 for Fylde. Unfortunately JUne 8th wasn’t a good day for the Green Party nationally, and though Fylde is a pretty safe Tory seat, there was a large swing to Labour which probably included many who would have preferred a Green candidate. But until we get a decent proportional representation system, British democracy remains something of a sham.

One of the Green Party’s two co-leaders, Jonathan Bartley came with the Nanas (I think Caroline Lucas was busy in Parliament) but it was very much an occasion for the women. Tina Louise is only one of a number of remarkable Nanas.

Unfortunately, the Queen hadn’t replied to the Nana’s invitation to have tea with them, and hadn’t had the courtesy to invite them in onto her lawns around the back of the palace – probably one of the few sites in the country not under threat from fracking, so they had to have their tea party around the rather hideous Victoria Monument in front of Buck Palace.

Protests are definitely not allowed there, but this, the Nanas assured the police was not a protest but a tea party, and certainly it is a place where many tourists settle down to snacks watching the rather boring building and the daily changing of the guard. The police agreed they could sit there, but told them that they mustn’t display banners or posters.

So we had tea and coffee and scones with strawberry jam and cream and I think some cake I didn’t photograph but ate. And the Nanas being who they are, they did ignore the police orders and held up their banners so they could be seen from the palace and then posed with them for photographers with the palace behind – until a police officer climbed slowly up the steps to tell them to put them away.

With the Nanas was one eco-warrior whose disguise as a Nana was less than convincing – and someone like several of the Nanas I know from various protests over climate and other issues over the years.

I was sorry when I had to leave the group around the monument – where they stayed for over 24 hours. But I had to catch a train and my ticket was only valid before what the rail company designates as the rush hour.

Shortly after I left a man arrived to try to serve to serve a court order on Tina Louise Rothery.  Fracking company Cuadrilla are trying to end protests against their drilling by  bullying her “for camping in a field, doing no damage and exercising a right to protest peacefully”.  As the only named defendant she was ordered to pay an excessive bill for deliberately ramped up legal charges by Cuadrilla after she failed to submit her defence against their injunction by a deadline in what the legal firm who later gave her advice called a legal process many professional lawyers would have struggled with.

After Tina Louise refused to give the court details of her financial circumstances in June she was charged with contempt of court, but when she returned to court 3 months after this protest with details showing she was unable to pay the fees, the contempt charge was purged, with the court apparently showing some annoyance at Cuadrilla for pursuing the case.

And considerable adverse publicity – partly because protests like this one resulted in widespread coverage of the case – were probably behind Cuadrilla’s decision not to further pursue their claim – though they muttered about possibly doing so if her financial circumstances change. I suppose if she were to win the lottery they might get their money, though I suspect she has the sense not to waste her money on a ticket.

Nanas call on Queen to stop Fracking


Strong Women

Monday, June 19th, 2017

I’m not sure how much it reflects on me and the entirely sexist world I was brought up in back in the days of the fifties. Even in the sixties when I became politically involved, many still regarded the role of women to be to darn the socks of the revolutionary man. Though I hope I didn’t share that view, but I’m sure there are still traces of that prehistoric past in my make-up. And it still surprises me a little how many of those that I photograph and admire as political activists are women. I’ve not made any accurate census, but so many of those who first come to mind are women, and many of my favourite images are of women.

But perhaps I just like women. They often seen far more sensible than men. Photographing people isn’t just a technical thing, and it works better at least for me when there is a certain rapport or at least empathy. But perhaps I’m straying into sensitive territory and will find gender police of various sympathies swooping down on me talons outstretched (surely a sexist metaphor but what metaphors aren’t.)

On Saturday 24th September last I photographed three protests which were or seemed to be dominated by women (and the fourth, Release the Craigavon Two would perhaps also at least seem that way from my pictures.) Focus E15 started as a group of unmarried mothers in a council funded hostel under threat of eviction who got together and decided to fight to be rehoused in London, and were celebrating three years working together on a campaign which has widened into one fighting for proper housing for all and an end to social cleansing, particularly in their own entirely Labour borough of Newham, but also more widely.

The celebration took place on the wide pavement at Stratford Broadway where they hold a weekly street stall, and there was music and dancing and it was one of the few protests at which I’ve been handed champagne, which still tasted pretty good from a plastic cup. Almost all of the speakers at the rally were women, and so were most of those taking part.

From Stratford I made my way to Brixton, where Ritzy Cinema workers, men and women, were striking for a living wage. There were rather more women than men visible, and rather more of the men seemed to be hiding behind some large masks.  The picture above was a slight disappointment and would have been better, but as I was carefully framing it, another photographer walked into the frame at the right hand side, spoiling the composition. I’ve cropped him out but had to lose a little more too, and though I still like the picture, I can’t look at it without thinking of the one that I just missed.

Of course I did photograph the men too, and there are one or two decent pictures starring them, but in general it is those with women in the lead that are most interesting. Judge for yourself at The Ritzy’s Back for a Living Wage.

My final protest of the day was at the Polish Embassy, called by Polish Feminists against the introduction of new laws outlawing abortion  proposed for Poland  in solidarity with the 5th annual March for Choice in Ireland against the strict anti-abortion laws there condemned by the UN as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’.

The colours of the head dress of this woman speaking are of course those of the Polish flag, and I carefully positioned myself to get the Polish eagle on the Embassy frontage  to her right. It wasn’t possible to get enough depth of field for this to be sharp, but I stopped down as much as I could under the lighting conditions.

This was a ‘black protest’ with many of those taking part dressed in black, and the black doors of the embassy made a good background, though careful exposure and a little help in post-processing made the figures stand out better. I wasn’t ‘directing’ the woman holding up this octagonal placard, and it took a little patience and luck to get the framing I wanted.  And although the verticals were quite close to vertical as I took them, a little massaging in Lightroom was needed for the final image. Some agencies would not approve, but this was what I saw and tried to achieve when I was taking the picture and I’ve no qualms about using a little electronic help in this way.

Of course I took other pictures, but given the nature of the protest they too were mainly of women. You can see some of them at Polish Women’s ‘Black Protest for Choice’.

Hull Photos: 1/6/17-7/6/17

Friday, June 16th, 2017

1 June 2017

When I scanned this image for the Hull photos site I couldn’t remember where I had taken it, looking up somewhere from the south and east at the R&W Paul silo which still dominates the area close to Scott St Bridge, though now with the name Maizecor. Before taking it I had walked along Lime St and then turned down Jenning St to cross Scott St bridge – something which is unfortunately not now possible.

Working from the picture I’m now sure it was taken from the end of Scott St beside the river, probably from inside the urinal, now long demolished, which was tucked into the corner beside the River Hull and presumably drained into it. Much of the urinal wall in the bottom third of the picture has been knocked down, though a section remained last time I walked past and the concrete lamp post is still there. Quite a sizable tree has now grown in the corner from where I think this picture was taken.

33g25: R&W Paul silo from Scott St urinal, 1982 – River Hull

2 June 2017

The pipe bridge across Lime St is still there, between the riverside wharf on the right and the storage area at the left of the road. The lorry leaving the wharf is from Cargill, a company who, according to their web site have only been operating in Hull since 1985 and operate the ISIS mill in Morley St. Cargill is a giant US private company founded in 1865 and still owned by the Cargill family, with most of its business in food and agricultural products.

The pipe bridge now carries the name ‘IBL Bulk Liquids’ and LIme St is one of two company sites in Hull, the other being at the King George V dock. They began in Hull in 1947 with “a few small tanks on the river Hull”, presumably at this site, storing latex imported from the Far East but now offer a wide rang of bulk liquid storage in Hull. They also offer other services in Hull, including a public weighbridge, and you can see a small sign for this in front of the tanks at the lower centre of the picture.

The vertical tanks, one with a spiral stair around it are still there, just to the south of Hodgson St, but most or all of the others have now gone, although there are still storage tanks along the street. At the end of Lime St the building on the corner close to North Bridge is still there, though no longer a bank. It was at one time a bar, but was empty when I photographed it in February. Some buildings remain on Lime St, but others have been demolished.

33g35: Bulk storage, Lime St, 1983 – River Hull

3 June 2017

Another view of the Hull Ships Stores on the west bank immediately downstream from North Bridge, with at left the remains of the old North Bridge at the end of Charlotte St, and above that the rear of Hull College. Hull Ships Stores, a ship supplies warehouse built in 1870, architect RG Smith, were Grade II listed in 1994, a few years after they were converted into flats in 1989 as Northbridge House.

33g52: Hull Ships Stores, Charlotte St, 1982 – River Hull

4 June 2017

It was the name ‘Hull Truss & Surgical Co’ in a curve around the arch above the doorway which I’m sure made me photograph this shop front in Dock St on several occasions, though I never made my way inside. It obviously appealed to others too, as although the shop is long gone, the name has survived and has been repainted on the section of the front wall still standing in a similar fashion above the bricked up doorway. I deliberately framed the ornate bracket above the doorway to make its truncated form resemble a crucifix, seeing the building as a kind of temple to the mysteries within.

The arch has been plastered over and the name repainted in bolder pale blue letters with a white drop shadow effect, and the door and window filled in. It is no longer a shop but simply a brick wall in front of a parking area between ‘The Purple Door’ lap dancing club and a chunky concrete block on the corner of Dock St and Grimston St.

Then the window display was crowded with boxes and posters of body belts, elastic support stockings and tights and condoms. I never saw anyone enter or leave and it seemed tot be on its last legs, with peeling paint. The sun blind was faded, tatty and dirty, and I think no longer ever in use and there was a curious kind of stained glass panel in the top section of the window. Whatever had once been painted on two dark panels inside the archway was no longer visible. The white-painted brick made it a little tricky to photograph, and I’m not sure I ever got the exposure quite right.

Dock St is of course now nowhere near a dock, running parallel to and a short distance north of Queen’s Dock, closed in 1930 and bought by Hull Corporation who partially filled it in during the 1930s to provide a slightly sunken and rather boring public garden, though it does sometimes have some nice flower displays. A “major public realm design competition” for the gardens and neighbouring Queen Victoria Square was announced by Hull Citybuild in 2006, but though much needed appears never to have happened.

33g53: Hull Truss & Surgical Co’. Dock St, 1982 – City Centre

5th June 2017

Great Union St is a street that most living in Hull avoid, or drive down quickly on their way to Hedon Road or the A63, not a street with a great deal to offer other than traffic. It ran from close to North Bridge to the Hedon Rd, and now continues on to Garrison Rd.

The office through whose window I took this picture was not far south of North Bridge, and the building reflected in it may still be there, just beyond Hyperion St on the East side of the road. Where the office stood is now the parking area at the front of ‘The Crossings’, a hostel and centre for the homeless.

I photographed the interior of this office on several occasions, always from the outside when it was locked and empty.

The poster at right is for Ruston Marine Diesel Engines, a company which dates back to the 1840 engineering and millwright firm started by James Toyne Proctor and Theophilus Burton in Lincoln in 1840; Joseph Ruston joined them as a partner in 1857, but Burton didn’t get on with the new partner and left the following year and the firm became Ruston Proctor & Co. They had great success building traction engines and steam locomotive and had 1,600 employees when they became a limited company in 1889.

During the First World War they were Britain’s largest builder of aircraft engines, producing them for 1,600 Sopwith Camels. In 1981 they with Richard Hornsby & Sons of Grantham, becoming Ruston & Hornsby Ltd.

Rustons were unsuccessful when they tried to become car manufacturers after the First World War, building cars that were too heavy and too expensive (perhaps based on their wartime experience as builders of some of the first tanks) but soon became a major producer of small and medium size diesel engines for gas turbines, railway locomotives and marine use.

Rustons were taken over by English Electic in 1966, who moved diesel projection to their Stafford and Newton-le-Willows factory, and later became part of GEC, whose logo is at bottom left of the poster. The gas turbine division which remained in Lincoln was later merged with the French company Alsthom and was sold to Siemens in 2003.

The ship in the poster is the 1597 tonne coaster Surreybrook, built in Selby in 1971. She sailed under a whole string of names – 1982 Romana – 1990 Lito – 1991 God Spirit – 1993 Aquarius – 1994 Serenade – 1998 City Of London, although a photograph taken of the CIty of London shows her original name still faintly visible. Berthed in distress in the harbour at Marseilles in January 1999 she left only to be towed away to the breakers at Aliaga in Turkey in September 2003.

PoLadaire is a trade mark of Porter-Lancastrian Ltd of Bolton who made refrigeration equipment, vital for freezing fish at sea and conveying other perishable goods, and at the extreme left is part of another poster about diesel engines with the GEC logo.

But the main point of the picture for me when I took it was the empty plinth, protected by ropes. I saw it as signifying the state of industry, particularly the fishing industry, in Hull. Though a few months later when I walked past again I made another image in which the plinth was occupied.

33g61: Empty plinth, Great Union St, 1982 – East Hull

6th June 2017

I took what was for me at the time the remarkable number of six frames with more or less the same view (this was the first) as the boat moved slowly away under Drypool Bridge downriver, the final three in portrait mode to capture more of the reflection at left.

The buildings at the extreme left are still there, though I think re-roofed, and the tall buildings behind of what is now the Gamebore cartridges but was then part of Rank’s Clarence Mills are still there but now off-white. The main building of the Clarence Mill behind the ship is now sadly gone – a great loss to Hull – and as yet nothing has taken its place, with plans for a hideous hotel to provide beds for Hull’s year as city of culture having fallen through. Also gone now is the warehouse building just the the right of the bridge, and the sheds of the dry dock at right.

The bridges across the Hull opened fairly regularly back in 1982, causing long holdups in the traffic, but openings now are rare events, and much of the traffic goes over the Myton Bridge which has a much greater clearance above the water. Few if any vessels come up the River Hull now which would need it to swing open.

33g62: River Hull and Drypool Bridge, 1982 – River Hull

7th June 2017

Joseph Rank Ltd had mills both north and south of Clarence St immediately to the east of Drypool Bridge, and both were largely destroyed by bombing and the subsequent fires in May 1941.

The mill to the north of Clarence St was rebuilt and in part was the Blue Cross Animals Feed premises which remained in use until around the mid-1980s when the site became the Gamebore Cartridge Company. Blue Cross was Rank’s trade name for animal feeds.

33h12: Blue Cross animal feed mill, Clarence St, 1982 – River Hull

You can see the new pictures added each day at Hull Photos, and I post them with the short comments above on Facebook.
Comments and corrections to captions are welcome here or on Facebook.

Grenfell is Political

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

I just couldn’t get down to writing yesterday morning. I woke to hear the terrible news of the fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, and couldn’t stop thinking about the people who were trapped inside as it burned. News was coming through at a great rate on Facebook, and it was soon evident that this had been a disaster waiting to happen, a result of the managed neglect of social housing over the years under many governments, and in particular of the lack of effective and updated regulations about building safety. I could write more, and already at least one MP has described what happened as murder and called for prosecutions for corporate manslaughter. There are certainly calls for justice, and it will be hard to see it done unless people end up in prison for their deliberate actions in failing to properly address the concerns clearly made by residents of the tower, failing to ensure that their homes were safe.

RCG with their impressive housing banner at the entrance to the London Real Estate Forum

Of course the agencies I send pictures to would have liked pictures, but I decided not to go. Other photographers closer than me to the area were already covering it, and there would be little I could add, and already it was the centre of a huge media storm which certainly would not make life easier for those affected. I don’t criticise individuals who went to report – and some certainly several friends did a fine job – but we do have a problem with far too many people covering major events such as this, while the news media neglect the lies and policies that are behind such tragedies.

Sid Skill of Class War with a poster ‘Regeneration is Killing People’

If I had a particular connection with the area I would have gone, but I don’t. One friend is a former resident of the tower, but now lives miles away, and I used years ago to visit another who had a studio half a mile away, and would sometimes walk around if I had some time to spare. Otherwise, I’ve sometimes walked along the street on my way to Carnival – its only a short distance west of Ladbroke Grove, and in an area many would think of as Notting Hill rather than North Kensington. But later in the day I was attending a protest which had a strong connection with the events there.

What was he doing in the London Real Estate Forum?

Notting Hill is of course one of the wealthiest areas of London – and I’ve been in one or two houses not far from here that are probably now worth £5m or £10m or more. It’s an area that has suffered from gentrification though some individuals have benefited greatly, and there is little doubt that Kensington & Chelsea Council would like to see estates like that containing Grenfell House demolished and sold off for private development, a process they would call ‘regeneration’.

Tory MPs – 39% of them landlords – voted down a proposal to ensure properties are “fit for human habitation”

And I suspect that councillors from K&C where present at the London Real Estate Forum along with those from Southwark, Lambeth, Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Croydon, Ealing, Hackney, Haringey, Enfield, Waltham Forest, Ealing, Westminster and elsewhere, all keen to sell off public land for private development, destroying in the process the homes of many Londoners, and building private flats for the wealthy, including many overseas investors who largely don’t even want to live in them, just watch their value increasing and then sell on to make a profit.

Letting them know what people think of them

Although these councils being in London are largely Labour councils, it is hard to see this event – backed Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and sponsored by Labour’s real estate advisors Savills – as anything other than a class war, part of a wholesale policy of social cleansing of London, making it impossible for those in low paid jobs – and even key workers like teachers and nurses to afford housing in the capital. As one New Labour Mayor told people being evicted who complained about being offered private rented properties in Manchester or Wales rather than housing in his borough “if you can’t afford to live in Newham – you can’t afford to live in Newham!“.  Now that Labour is finally getting behind it’s elected leader, housing is one area where policy needs a total rethink and a new direction. Unfortunately Shadow Housing Minister John Healey’s recent report Housing Innovations inspires little confidence that they are capable of doing so.

London Co-operative Housing Group’s new report ‘Co-operate Not Speculate’

It isn’t surprising that people are angry about this – and about the Grenfell Tower fire – and that Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group outside the Mayfair venue were calling the architects, developers and councillors going into the event ‘Scum’ and ‘Parasites’ and sometimes worse. There are people making polite and reasonable arguments – including the London Co-operative Housing Group who were there too with their new report ‘Co-operate Not Speculate‘ and others putting forward closely argued rebuttals of the rush for profit at the expense of people – and detailed plans for the real regeneration of council estates – such as Architects for Social Housing, but on the morning of London’s most disastrous fire since the Blitz and with almost certainly more deaths than the 1666 Great Fire of London, anger seemed entirely justifiable.