Archive for March, 2018

Luxury Cars, Cheap Labour

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

I think I last owned a car in 1966 or 1967. It was both my first and last car and frankly something of a liability and it was a relief to get a few quid from the scrapyard when I drove it there. I had a driving licence for the next 48 years and did occasionally hire a car when necessary, though I stopped doing so after a minor accident when I drove off the road into a ploughed field. I wasn’t sure at the time if it had been caused by a mechanical failure or a momentary blackout. A few years later, after being diagnosed as diabetic, the second seemed most likely.

I’ve never been a car person. Except perhaps in my extreme youth where I carried my copy of I-Spy Cars onto our local streets, which were rather disappointingly short of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Maserati et al and rather stronger on Morris, Austin, Vauxhall and Ford, largely early post-war clapped out models. That Ford Popular was popular, as was the Morris Minor. My family never owned a car – my father rode an ancient bicycle and used a hand cart when he needed to shift anything heavy or bulky like building materials or furniture. His father had been killed in a traffic accident a few years before I was born, when his horse-drawn cart was hit by a car unable to stop as he turned right across its path into their entrance across the main road. But by the time I was born they could no longer afford a horse.

All of which has really nothing to do with the United Voices of the World (UVW) trade union protest against Kensington luxury car dealers H R Owen, except to point out that they live in a very different world to mine. A new Lamborghini apparently costs around £160,000 or more, which would take one of the showroom cleaners over 21,000 hours to earn, well over 10 years of full-time work. Small change of course for those with bankers bonuses.

Angelica Valencia and Freddy Lopez keep the Maserati and Ferrari showroom further down the road spotless, for which they are paid £7.50 an hour. It’s a miserly rate, well below the London Living Wage which is calculated as the minimum needed to live on in London – and when this protest took place was £9.75 (in 2018 it went up to £10.20.) The Living Wage is 30% more than employers Templewood (backed up by the luxury car dealers who contract them) pay their cleaners. Things were even worse than that. Not only were they on poverty pay, but they were being required to work longer hours than they were paid to do and Templewood was making unlawful deductions from those minimal wages.

Angelica and Freddy joined the union and asked to be paid a living wage, but the employers response was to suspend the two of them without pay. So the UVW decided to take the employers to the courts and protest outside the showrooms. The protest was supported by other UVW members and friends from other groups, including Class War and the Revolutionary Communist group who have long supported various campaigns to get a living wage for London’s low paid workers. Whether or not you agree with some of their political views, they are prepared to get out and protest effectively on behalf of those treated badly by society.

And this protest helped, though it took another a month or so later to finally get the employers to see how ridiculous they were being, recognise their obligations and reach a satisfactory settlement, which led to a third planned protest being called off.

Of course I was pleased for Angelica and Freddy, but I had rather enjoyed photographing the two protests and was just a little disappointed not to be able to cover a third. But there were plenty of other protests, too many other companies large and small that still pay staff the least they possibly can and treat them badly.

Cleaners at luxury car dealers HR Owen

NHS not Border Police

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Being foreign isn’t a disease or an injury and to those of us brought up under a universal health system like the NHS, free at the point of use, it just seems wrong that doctors and hospitals should have an obligation to check someone’s immigration status when they come needing assistance. Yet since last October, a few weeks after this protest by medical staff and supporters they have been required to do so for anyone seeking non-emergency care will be required to prove they are entitled to free health service under the NHS and will be asked to pay for their treatment up front if they are not.

The change is all part of the government’s intention to ensure a ‘hostile environment‘ for anyone not entitled to be in the country, though it won’t of course affect the rich who pay for their private treatment – and they will in any case be welcomed here if they have sufficient funds to invest in the UK. There does seem to me something truly obscene about a system which welcomes the rich but hounds the poor.

The UK too is a country that believes in free trade and promotes it through various organisations. Again there seems to me a contradiction in promoting the free movement of goods but sets up great hurdles to prevent the free movement of people – except for tourism.

Roughly 10% of registered doctors and 4% of registered nurses in the UK are EU immigrants with slightly large proportions from outside the EU. Many who have migrated to work here are now British citizens, and a fairly large proportion of those born in the UK have parents who were migrants. As a frequent patient of the NHS I’m very aware of how dependent it is on migration to the UK, with so many of the staff I meet being from abroad. It seems rather inappropriate to ask these people effectively to police our borders.

The Patients Not Passports – No Borders in the NHS! protest was a slightly complicated one to photograph, as it had three separate blocs with different starting points, so I had to chose one of them. I met with the Migrants Welcome bloc, partly because I thought it might be more interesting and I knew some of those who would be there, and so was unable to photograph either the Maternity Care bloc or the Sisters bloc (I think Sisters as in Sisters Uncut rather than in the nursing sense) until the three groups came together in an undisclosed location.

Looking at where the three blocs were starting it was relatively straightforward to guess that our common destination might well be somewhere in the area of St Thomas’ Hospital, and we met with them just on the other side of the road, then walking into the garden area above the hospital car park for the joint rally. There were just one or two security staff who attempted to stop the protesters, but clearly stood no chance of doing so; either the hospital authorities (and police) had failed to notice the very public advertisements on social media for the protest or had decided only to offer a very token resistance. I suspect the latter as they will have appreciated the mood of their staff.

The protesters had decided that a very large banner would make a great photo opportunity to get press coverage, but unfortunately it was almost impossible to get the kind of result they had in mind – and at that point there were a number of security officers anxious to prevent us taking it. But the giant ‘Migrants Welcome Here‘ banner is really a difficult format to handle, being over ten times as long as it is high. I did manage to make a usable image, though the banner rather hides the rally behind it, and was rather pleased to catch a pigeon at almost exactly the right place before I was chased off the grass I needed to be on to take it with the 18-35 mm at its widest.

I had one other problem. Apparently there were some people on the protest who because of immigration issues requested that they were not photographed, and some wore small symbols to identify them. It isn’t practicable or even a sensible approach, and there is a very simple alternative if such people wish to take part in public protests (as they have every right to.) Which is to wear a mask or face-paint as a disguise. Police may sometimes ask protesters to remove masks, though not usually if they are clearly decorative, but photographers certainly won’t.

Apparently one such person appeared as a bystander in a couple of my pictures that are on the web site. I don’t know if he was wearing the ‘no photography’ symbol but from where I took the picture there was nothing to indicate he didn’t want to be photographed. It just isn’t possible for photographers to keep track of everyone taking part in a protest in this way.

By the time I had been told of the problem, one of those images had already been distributed around the world and it was too late to take any effective action. Other photographers who were at the event, including some from the major agencies, will also have taken pictures with him in the frame, and their pictures too will have gone out uncensored. But on my web site I have altered his image into a rather blurred generic figure. Like most journalists and photographers I’m opposed to such censorship, but this was a request from a friend and the presence of that person was not important to the picture. I felt unhappy to do so, but angry that I had been put into a position where it was necessary.

No NHS immigration checks


Senate House In House

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

When security officers at London University were taken off the university payroll and instead employed by independent companies who tendered for a contract to provide their services to the university they were made a number of promises, none of which have been kept. One was that the pay differential between them and other workers would be maintained.  The workers and their union, the IWGB Independent Workers union say that since 2011 these differentials have been considerably eroded.

Although there is some theoretical protection when workers are transferred from one employer to another – the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, usually called TUPE, in practice these are often ineffectual and tougher laws and an easier process of enforcement is desperately needed.

Out-sourcing of services is a cost-cutting measure, but costs are only cut by reducing the overall benefits the workers receive and by increasing their workload. And worse, since out-sourcing usually brings in new layers of management and in profits being taken for the company contracted and its shareholders, this too has to be paid for by the workers.

Out-sourced workers get bullied, often by managers who, to cut costs, are also not particularly well paid and often lack the proper training, qualifications and skills needed to be good managers. Usually too there is skimping on equipment and materials, often endangering the health and safety of the employees.

Workers employed at the University of London, both those in the separate universities such as SOAS and Birkbeck and those in the central administration at Senate House have been involved in a long campaign to be taken back ‘in -house’ as University employees, and also for comparable employment conditions – pensions, holiday entitlement and sick pay – with those of similar directly employed staff.

They also want proper contracts, as many are now either on zero hours contracts or on similar arrangements which guarantee only a small number of annual hours, equivalent to around six or seven hours a week.

After protesting outside Stewart House, the protesters moved on to Senate House, where they were barred from entering by other security guards employed by the same company as many of the protesting security officers. There was perhaps a little element of a game about it.

The protest then moved on and walked into the foyer of nearby Birkbeck College which had not been expecting trouble, walking past the one security office on duty there who argued with them but was in no position to stop them. They left after around ten minutes of noisy protest and returned for a final rally outside Stewart House.

There was a car parked rather in the way of where the rally was taking place, and I saw the possibility of using a reflection in its roof in a picture after the IWGB banner had been placed behind.   It would have been easy to set one up, but that would have been unethical – I’m there to record events not to direct them – though many photographers would do so without a second thought.  But for me it was a matter of waiting and hoping that someone would step into just the right place and then rushing to take the picture. Fortunately they did.

End outsourcing at London University

A Russian Vivian Maier?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

I think it does little service to “Leningrad’s lost photographerMasha Ivashintsova (1942-2000)  to call her a ‘Russian Vivian Maier‘ as the headline in Peta Pixel about her work does. The images in ‘Russian Vivian Maier’ Discovered After 30,000 Photos Found in Attic‘ bear no similarity to the work of Maier, nor do the circumstances of her life or the ‘discovery’ of her archive.  And fortunately, since they have been put on-line and into the ‘Masha Galleries‘ by her only daughter Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan there are very unlikely to be any of the legal shenanigans that have plagued the exploitation of the work of Maier by various parties.

Masha ‘s husband and daughter had moved to Moscow away from her when the marriage broke up around 1976, and the pictures (including some of the daughter) were found in 2017 by her daughter and her husband in the attic of the family home in house in Pushkin, Saint Petersburg where her mother had stored them.

Looking through the images both in the article and on the Masha Ivashintsova website and Instagram it is apparent that she was a very proficient photographer and the pictures also appear to be an interesting document of “the Leningrad poetic and photography underground movement of the 1960−80s”.  There is too a stylistic consistency absent from the work of Maier.

Of course we have so far seen only a very small fraction of her output, though perhaps more will emerge with an exhibition being planned this Summer in Vienna. It isn’t of course something that is going to change the history of photography, but I think it might well make a very interesting book or two – and possibly a rather interesting film.

I’ve long been of the opinion that their are many interesting collections of photographs in attics and often consigned to skips around the world, and its good to see one of them preserved and presented to the public.




Falls and files

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Last Thursday I tripped over a cable while taking pictures and fell, landing on my right arm on grass in Russell Square, but wasn’t hurt and my cameras seemed OK. I hadn’t fallen heavily and the cameras seemed OK. But I couldn’t understand why I kept filling up cards using the D810; I was taking quite a lot of pictures, but not that many. Sometime later I remembered I had switched from my now usual 1.2x to full frame earlier in the day as I was using the fisheye and had forgotten to change back, and I switched the image size. Since I was now working on smaller capacity spare storage cards going down to 1.5x.

I still seemed to fill a CF card rather quickly, but thought I’d just got used to having 32Gb cards rather than these older 4Gb and 8Gb ones. But working on the pictures later in Lightroom I found that many of the images were not my normal raw files but TIFs. And a 7360×4912 px TIF is 106Mb, three times as large as my full-frame NEF files. Even switching to 1.5x, the tiffs are still 46.5 Mb. And since a typical 1.2x NEF (6016x4016px) is around 21 Mb, I was still using up space at over twice the normal rate.

Worse still, TIF files produced in camera are only 8 bit files, so image quality is reduced despite the larger file size, and the difference does show. though most of the TIFFs were perfectly acceptable. There were a few where highlight detail was burnt out that I think would have been recoverable on a raw file and I couldn’t quite get the images to match those the colour quality of those from the D750 still working on raw files. I cannot see any reason for having cameras able to produce 8 bit TIF files. I imagine it is a hangover from the early days of digital imaging, and that the marketing department have stopped common sense prevailing to remove this ‘feature’. There might just be a justification if the cameras could produce 16 bit files, but these would be truly huge – and wasteful as the sensor can only produce 12 or 14 bits.

Since they are only 8 bit files, I’m thinking I might convert all those TIFFS to high quality jpegs, just to save space on my computer storage.  There are over 300 of them taking up 21.5 Gb.

I’ve also been trying out working on manual shutter and aperture settings and allowing the cameras to alter ISO to get correct exposure. I’ve come to two conclusions. The first is that its great in normal daylight, usually giving a lower ISO than the standard settings that I would normally choose. But I’m not happy about using it in low light, as if the light falls below that which needs the maximum ISO you have selected for the shutter speed and aperture you have set the camera simply underexposes (and it will also over-exposure in the light is too bright for the minimum ISO and shutter and aperture you have chosen.)

And there is the problem of the main and sub-command dials, both of which can be inadvertently moved by fidgety fingers or with the main command dial possibly simply by knocking against clothing while walking. In normal use of the camera I seem to shift the main control dial most, and so on the D810 have used Custom Setting f9 to change the shutter speed to the sub-command dial, and then have put Custom Setting f7 onto the top of ‘My Menu’ and locked the aperture setting. You don’t seem to be able to lock the setting on the D750, so I have a little bit of black tape over that. It’s ons of several little ways I find the D810 a better camera.

This means I can easily change the shutter speed – when for example I’m photographing a faster moving subject, but cannot change the aperture without accessing the menu. If all my lenses had aperture rings I could use CS f9 to assign aperture to the ring only, but often I’m using lenses without an aperture ring.

It’s a pain having to go into a menu or peel back the tape to change the aperture, but I think I can live with that.  Generally I change aperture only when I’m thinking about depth of field and  for most of what I do there isn’t time for that, especially with no depth of field markers on modern lenses.  In good light I’ll mainly work around f5.6 or f8 and hope. If I forget to lock the aperture it’s too easy to find that I’m working at silly small apertures like f22 and ISO 12,800 when I should be at f5.6 at ISO 800. And at f22 it’s easy to underexpose even at ISO 12,0800.

So there are two advantages to changing to manual auto-iso mode. It beats simple use of auto-ISO settings, which result in too many pictures being taken at the lowest shutter speed you have set, rather than that you would be happier working at. So long as the light keeps in a reasonable range I avoid the occasional descent into huge under or over exposure with missed frames until I get time to review images, and rather than having to choose a relatively high working ISO for a session, when the light is there I’m getting higher quality with many images taken at lower ISOs.

So I’ll keep trying it out, and perhaps find other ways to improve what I’m doing, and to see if I can adapt the method to working in low light with and without flash.

A Year of the Ritzy strike

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

I’d rushed from the march to Finsbury Park to join the Ritzy strikers in Brixton, who were celebrating a year of striking for a living wage, though their campaign had began several years earlier, and I first photographed them outside the cinema in 2014.

Outside the Brixton Ritzy in July 2014

As I commented back then, “The Ritzy is the busiest and most successful art-house cinema in the the UK and can afford to treat its workers decently, but perhaps fear it will set a precedent for other workers in the Cineworld empire“. It is a large and highly profitable business, with a net income in 2016 of £82.0 million, but according to The Guardian (quoted by Wikipedia) 80% of its 4,300 staff are on zero hour contracts.

These workers are the victims not just of a greedy anti-union management who could easily afford employ their workers on proper contracts and to pay them a living wage, but of our anti-union governments, which have legislated to reduce the power of the unions and largely failed to make the laws we have about trade union rights enforceable and have not dealt with the zero hours loophole in contract law. And although we do have employment tribunals, too many employers still get away with the victimisation of workers for their trade union activities.

The strikers are members of BECTU, the leading union for the media and entertainment industries, which became a sector of Prospect at the start of 2017. It isn’t a union that has a reputation for militancy, and seems a little embarrassed by the activities of the Picturehouse workers and some of the groups that have supported them, including grass roots trade unions such as the United Voices of the World and the IWGB who were both at the Brixton rally and march.

I’d arrived as Poets on the Picket Line were performing, always interesting to listen too, but perhaps rather difficult to make particularly interesting still images. I took a few pictures while wondering if I knew how to use the video features of my cameras. I have made videos (and even in the long distant past ‘worked’ as an unpaid cameraman on a film, as well as making video recordings and real-time video editing on a campus TV network) but gave all that up after I stopped being a student and took up still photography.

I was told there would be a big surprise coming, and it arrived in the form of the newly acquired ‘Precarious Workers Mobile’ bright yellow Reliant Robin. There were also a number of speeches from supporters to photograph as well as a presentation to mark the anniversary, including some from the UVW involved in a dispute with the London Ferrari dealers.

I’d taken quite a few pictures and succumbed to the wiles of a few friends who were going to a nearby pub, where I had an enjoyable pint of a locally brewed beer (it’s become impossible to keep up with the number of breweries in London – in 2010 there were only 14, but the latest figure is 74) before saying goodbye and leaving. My timing was immaculate, and as I reached the steps into Brixton Underground I heard the noise of a protest in the distance and rushed to the junction with Atlantic Rd to see the Ritzy strikers and supporters coming along the road led by the Precarious Worker’s Robin, and photographed them as they made their way back to the Ritzy along the Brixton Rd, before returning to the station to make my way home.
One year of Ritzy strike

Nine Photos

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Nine photojournalists talk us through the story behind their favourite photos in a feature published by XCity+, a site I’d not heard of before which is produced by alumni of London’s City University, which recently had a rather confusing name change to City, University of London. Formerly the Northampton Institute, it has its base in Northampton Square, Clerkenwell, and was one of the CATs which given university status (part of Harold Wilsons “white heat of technology“) in 1966 as The City University, changing its name after becoming a part of the wider University of London (which boasts 18 constituent colleges and nine research institutes) in 2016.

It had always had a close connection with the City of London and the trades of that city, and it is perhaps surprising that it only formed its journalism department in 1976 offering a diploma in Newspaper Journalism, when it is less than a mile for any crow flying from Fleet St.

One of the photographers included is David Hoffman, and his picture from the 1983 Stop the City protest against globalisation, big business and the banks is a stunning image. But it is a little disappointing that the text that accompanies this – and the others is so short. The feature promises us more:

“we rarely have the full story. How were these photos taken, and why?

As the photographers talk us through their most powerful images, we are given a rare opportunity to see these pictures through their eyes.”

Fortunately in David’s case it gives a link to a much more detailed story about the image , both about the situation in which it was taken and how it was the vital evidence in a court case. Its also well worth going to his web site and seeing more of his work.

There are also links in the XCITY+ article to the web sites of the other 8 photographers.

More Hull photos

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Just because Hull’s year in the limelight at UK City of Culture has ended does not mean I have stopped adding pictures to my Hull web site, Still Occupied – A View of Hull. Although I’m no longer posting an image every day (and to my surprise I managed to keep that up through 2017) I have been occasionally posting images, along with some Facebook posts about them. But those posts recede in hours into Facebook history, hard to find again even if you know they are there, so I intend to post occasional digests here, where they will have a more permanent presence and can be easily found.

So here is the first set of some of those from 1985 I’ve posted this year. Clicking on the images will take you to the image on the Hull Photos web site where they appear slightly larger than on this blog.

Hull Photos – from 1985

The Humber Conservancy Board built a slipway at Sammy’s Point in 1961 with a yard and shed for the storage of buoys. Trinity House had been made responsible for safe navigation in the Humber estuary around 1512, but the responsibility for buoys etc passed to the Humber Conservancy Board in 1907. Following the nationalisation of the British Transport Docks Board in 1981 this work is now carried out by ABP Humber Estuary Services.

The buoy close to camera in this picture taken with the camera lens poking through the fence has ‘WRECK’ in large letters, if in need of a little de-rusting and repainting. Through and above the fence at left is the tidal barrier and some of the buildings along the west bank of the River Hull.

This site is now occupied by The Deep, Hull’s popular visitor attraction.

Wreck Buoy, Sammy's Point
85-10m-52: Wreck Buoy, Sammy’s Point, 1985 – River Hull

Another view of the buoy storage yard of ABP Humber Estuary Services at Sammy’s Point on the site now occupied by The Deep.

Buoy storage yard, Sammy's Point
85-10m-53: Buoy storage yard, Sammy’s Point, 1985 – – River Hull

A curious affect of sunlight shining directly into the camera lens, something which every photographer was taught to avoid, the effects of which in the days of film were impossible to predict but almost always thought to ruin the image.

Knowing this, I still took the picture, and rather like its many faults, though it is an image that really remained unprintable without the use of digital scanning and processing, over thirty years later.

The kind of marbling effect in the lower left quarter reminds me of the scales of some fish, which seems appropriate, and there is a subtle gradation in the greys of the distant view with the ship passing the mouth of the River Hull on its way down the Humber, with the pier and the trees. The full-size image has a sharp and prominent grain exaggerated by the over-exposure and has something of the feeling of a mezzoprint.

The mouth of the River Hull
85-10m-54: The mouth of the River Hull, 1985 – River Hull

A Ford Anglia, a ship’s boat on a roof and a large shed at the premises of Allen R Worfolk, Ship Repairers & Marine Engineers on the bank of the River Hull at Tower St.
Allen R Worfolk, Ship Repairers & Marine Engineers, Tower St
85-10m-55: Allen R Worfolk, Ship Repairers & Marine Engineers, Tower St, 1985

Mooring buoys (I’m told by Iain Ralph in a FB post they are Admiralty 3 point mooring buoys) on the derelict land that was once a part of the Victoria dock estate close to Sammy’s Point near South Bridge Road. This area, like much of the land around the dock was formerly a timber yard.

I can’t positively identify the structure behind the two buoys at right of centre, perhaps a former dock gate on its side, nor the buildings in the distance at left which have a boat on the ground in front of them, though I think these are close to the Humber entrance to Victoria Dock.

The area where this was taken is probably now a part of the car park for The Deep.

Mooring buoys etc on land, Victoria Dock
85-10m-56: Mooring buoys etc on land, Victoria Dock, 1985 – Docks

Another picture taken deliberately into the sun, but with less drastic light effects. The pier is in the background, and behind it the buildings of Albert Dock, with a ship moored at the riverside quay. There are a could of small vessels by the pier (one possibly the pilot boat) and a larger one on the other side of the Humber.

Boys fishing at Sammy's Point
85-10m-61: Boys fishing at Sammy’s Point, 1985 – Humber

A short telephoto lens gives a closer view of the pier and just avoids much flare from the direct sun (which lightens the left edge) though this has resulted in over-exposure. One of the boats in the previous picture is now heading up the River Hull.

Victoria Pier from Sammy's Point
85-10m-64: Victoria Pier from Sammy’s Point, 1985 – Humber

Hull Central Dry Dock is still there, though now underneath a new event venue. When I took this picture there was a ship inside it being worked on. Holy Trinity Church is still much the same, though now renamed Hull Minster. At the right of the picture is a small dredger, with the river then being regularly dredged, while now the mud has been allowed to build up considerably.

River Hull, Dry Dock and Holy Trinity from Sammy's Point
85-10m-66: River Hull, Dry Dock and Holy Trinity from Sammy’s Point, 1985 – River Hull


Haringey march against HDV

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

People from Haringey, including many who would lose there homes under the council’s plans for a £2 billion give-away of estates for private development, which might include some affordable housing, were joined by housing campaigners from across London for a march against the plans, the so-called Haringey Developmnet Vehicle, or HDV.

It now seems hopeful that with a change in Labour party housing policies and the likely results of this May’s council elections the plan will be stopped, though officers and councillors who perhaps stand to benefit from it appear still to be attempting to push it through. Their argument that the private development would somehow be good for the people of the area has been thoroughly discredited, and the tightening of some of the loopholes that the developer would certainly have intended to exploit announced this week by the government might also give Lendlease some second thoughts about the desirability of the project.

It was a rather long march and went slowly, starting by Tottenham Town Hall and walking a slightly long way round to Finsbury Park. I found it a little tiring, carrying a fairly heavy camera bag and of course adding to the length by walking up and down to take pictures rather than simply going straight along the road. Often I was walking backwards, which is also more tiring, though at least I managed not to walk into street furniture or trip down kerbs.

I’d intended to go the whole distance to Finsbury Park, where there was supposed to be another rally, but in the end had to give up a little before the end as I had run out of time. There had been a rather longer rally before the march moved off than expected and it had started late, and I was due at another protest.

I almost got to Finsbury Park, and abandoned the slow march at Manor House, when we had already passed at least a couple of places that I’d photographed in my work on Finsbury Park in 2002, taken with the Hassleblad X-Pan, mainly using the 30mm lens. Another picture taken just a few yards off the road to the left was the winning image in a competition about the area, though I think others that I took are more representative of the area.

Haringey against council housing sell-off


Trafalgar Square Road Block

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

I have to say that I thought taking on Trafalgar Square for a protest by Stop Killing Londoners was perhaps over-ambitious. But the operation had been carefully planned and there was a rather larger group gathering when I arrived at the meeting point for the protesters. It had been a dull day and was raining a little, and half an hour before ‘sunset’ and I was getting just a little fed-up waiting for anything to happen as the the light was beginning to fade.

The organiser also had a very clear idea about the photograph they wanted to get, and as often it didn’t sound too good to me. Their banner in an traffic-free Trafalgar Square with Nelson on his column might sound a good idea, but that column is 52 metres tall, and even their large banner would seem pretty insignificant if I moved back far enough to include him where they were planning to stand.

I’d set both cameras to ISO 2,500 by the time the groups began to move into place to stop traffic on all the roads feeding onto the roundabout at the south end of the square around the Charles II statue – St Martin’s Place, The Strand, Northumberland Ave, Whitehall, The Mall and Cockspur St.

I wanted to photograph all the groups blocking the road – I think there must have been six of them – but only managed five despite running around dementedly during the short period the roads were blocked for, as well as taking as best I could the banner in front of Nelson. I settled in the end for including the two lions at the base, but cutting out all of the column above its bas-reliefs. Of course I wasn’t the only photographer present, and getting a clear view without people in the way took some patience, difficult as the whole total block was only for around 5 minutes.

The group then moved into the centre of Trafalgar Square, pleased with its success, and after another five minutes moved together to block St Martin’s Place, this time accompanied by music and dancing, until after almost ten minutes the police, who had stood back and watched during the earlier protest, made a more determined attempt and persuaded them to finish and they moved off without much argument. This part of the square is very much shaded by trees, and the light was pretty low. Because of this and the movement, most of the pictures I took were at higher ISOs and for some I also added some flash, taking care not to completely overpower the ambient lighting.

As with their previous road blocks, this was intended to gain publicity for the almost 10,000 premature deaths and many more people suffering from the excessive air pollution in London, mainly caused by traffic. But although it got some publicity, neither the Mayor of London or Transport for London, although aware of the problem and making some minor improvements, have taken the kind of drastic action that this serious problem requires, and Stop Killing London are keeping up their campaign.

Trafalgar Square blocked over pollution