Archive for May, 2018

Reviews and Real Life

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Before I buy a new camera, I always spend a long time reading through the various reviews available on the web, both the highly detailed ones such as those by Digital Photography Review and those by photographers who have spent some weeks actually working with the cameras and give a more personal evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses.

Of course they have there uses, and are certainly a lot more reliable than the opinions posted as reviews by some popular Internet figures or those user comments collected on some sites. Most internet reviews are not worth the bits they are written with – which come more or less free.

While it’s relatively easy to get the technical details right – it usually just means transferring them from the manufacturer’s data sheet – what is usually more important in practice is how the camera and user interact. Harder to quantify or even describe, and something that in the end is very individual.

I currently use two Nikon bodies, a D810 and a D750, and the differences in specifications are not great. The D810 is heavier and has better weather protection, and the shutter sounds smoother – and of course it costs rather more. The placement of buttons on the backs are different and the D750 lacks a separate ‘OK’ button, using instead the centre of the four-way controller. It’s a minor nuisance.

The D810 produces larger files, but normally those from the D750 are perfectly adequate and the D810 merely serve to fill up your backups faster. I do prefer the larger files for my panoramic work, where the D810 also scores with tilt indicators for up and down as well as for left and right. But apart from the relatively small increase in image size, the image quality is more or less the same.

The two most significant differences for me are actually things I’ve never seen pointed out in reviews. On the D810 it is possible to lock the aperture (and I think shutter speed) when using the camera on a manual setting. This means you can decide you want to work at – for example – 1/500th f8 and you can do so, allowing the camera to alter the ISO to give correct exposure – if possible on its auto-ISO setting. Unless you choose an aperture and shutter combination which is outside the range you have set for auto-ISO but with a little photographic nous this is unlikely.

You can use the same technique with the D750, but there appears to be no way to lock the aperture or shutter speed in manual mode. Whichever you leave on the primary command dial (in my case aperture) gets readily knocked around as you (or at least I) use the camera. The command dial doesn’t have sufficient resistance to movement for a clumsy fumble-finger like me, and I can suddenly find that I’ve taken a few frames at f45 rather than the f8 I’d intended, which can easily result in considerable underexposure even if I’ve set a maximum ISO of 12,800.

I’ve tried various ways to counter this. The most successful seems to be to tape over the command dial, but then sometimes you do want to change aperture, and have to peel back the tape which then often falls off and gets lost. The black masking tape I used also gets uncomfortably sticky.

My latest attempt to ameliorate the problem has been to reverse the direction of travel of the aperture control, which hopefully will mean that I get f4 instead of f45 when things go pear-shaped. Since I normally work with a wide angle at f5.6 or f8 this will only mean a two stop difference so perhaps less of a problem, and the depth of field with a wide angle will usually still be sufficeint. I’ll also reduce the maximum ISO when using the technique, perhaps to ISO3200 so the risk of overexposure will be less. It’s only very special conditions that need a higher value.

The second annoying difference is when using an FX lens in 1.2x or DX mode, which is a cheap way of effectively getting a longer telephoto. On the D810 there is a well-hidden way to get the viewfinder to display a greyed out area around the actual image, so that details outside the frame are visible but it is very clear they will not be recorded.

Quite why this should be obtained by setting Custom Setting a6 AF Point Illumination to OFF is a mystery only known to an inner circle of Nikon Illuminati, who may also be able to tell you (though they may have to kill you afterwards) why the equivalent CS a5 does not give the same effect on the D750.

Of course you do get a viewfinder frame to show the reduced image area. But as I can tell you from too frequent experience, it isn’t always easily noticed. It wouldn’t matter if it were not for the D750 to occasionally decide to spontaneously change the image area. It is possible to map the change to one of the function buttons or pressing the command dials, which could easily lead to such a mysterious event, but I’ve certainly never done so.

Modern cameras are simply too complicated, giving too many options. Both these cameras have instruction manuals with over 500 pages and there are just too many interdependencies, with one setting affecting another. Back in the old days you could just pick up almost any camera and just use it. Perhaps it’s time for a campaign for real cameras that real people can use. Or are they called phones?

IWGB Protest Outsourcing in Academia

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

I like to photograph the protests organised by the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) both because they are noisy, lively and generally photogenic, but also because I think it scandalous the way low paid workers are treated.

I’ve written often enough about out-sourcing and how it is used by companies to try and evade their duty as responsible employers, hiding behind the convenient fiction that they have no responsibility towards these people whose work is essential to the running of their organisations because they pay another company to employ them. It simply doesn’t wash.

As well as low wages and the legal minimum conditions of service – holidays, sick pay, pensions – outsourced workers also generally suffer from poor and sometimes despotic management, with overwork and bullying rife. Many too are on zero hours contracts, a legal fiction which is effectively a non-contract which works only in the interests of the employer and lays employees open to various unfair practices.

I’d gone to photograph the protest by cleaners, receptionists, security officers, porters and post room staff at the central administration of the University of London who had been on strike and picketing since the early morning. The picket over (severely restricted by Thatcherian anti-union laws) they were joined by other workers and supporters and myself for a loud rally in the early evening.

There was music on a PA system, much waving of flags and shouting of demands, and a great samba band all reminding the University that its workers are demanding to be directly employed. And at the end a number of speeches by the workers and their trade union leader, as well as other trade unionists in support.

And there was then a surprise. Well, by then it was not a surprise to me as one of the trade union leaders had whispered in my ear (though given the noise level I think he had to shout) earlier what would happen, and a double-decker bus arrived and we were invited to go on a mystery tour to another location where the IWGB are in dispute.

The location was not announced (though I had been told) so that the police and others listening could not warn those at our destination, where the IWGB hoped to be able to walk in and protest in the foyer. I wasn’t entirely pleased with the idea, as I was getting rather hungry and wanted to get home where dinner was waiting, but it was an opportunity not to be missed. The journey through London in the evening rush hour was hideously slow but eventually we were dropped off just around the corner from our destination, and got ready, walking quietly towards the doors. Two people went ahead and held them open as we arrived and walked in with two security guards helpless to stop us.

We were at the Royal College of Music, another academic institution that outsources its cleaners to evade its responsibilities, and where Tenon FM who recently took over the cleaning contract decided to unilaterally cut hours in half and change shift times, telling the cleaners they must work at times most already have other cleaning jobs. The cleaners now threatened with dismissal for refusing to accept the new hours.

After 12 minutes, the police arrived and ordered the protesters outside, where the protest continued on the pavement. One of the police officers was clearly incensed at the way the protesters were behaving and seemed likely to arrest some of them, but his colleagues restrained him. The protest appeared to be lawful and the police should not be taking sides as he so obviously was.

Flashing blue lights from police cars make photography a little unpredictable, and produce some strange effects, which are seldom too appealing. The high-output blue LEDs have a very limited spectral range, turning everything directly illuminated by them an intense blue. But the protest appeared to have settled down and I felt nothing much else was going to happen, so I left for home and food.

More on the two protests at:

Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music
End Outsourcing at University of London

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Homeopathic Advertising

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

I was attracted by a post by Shaun Curry Co-founder of Pixelrights on their blog, We laughed then decided it wasn’t funny at all largely because of the phrase ‘Homeopathic Advertising’ he invents in it.

It tells the story of how the UK Government Trade & Investment office (UKTi) approached him to use one of his pictures “in their new ‘GREAT Britain campaign’ “the biggest ever integrated Government international marketing campaign” with funding of £30 million” and which they say would be seen in “120 countries!!” Which sounds like good news except all that they were offering the photographer from that £30million was ‘exposure’.

After he contacted them suggesting they should pay for its use, they did offer him £100. Now for us people who sell stuff for use in newspapers and magazines that would not be an unusually low fee for single use – but this was a major campaign and they wanted to secure the “images for 2 years, with above and below the line advertising rights.”

Basically this means using the image in all sorts of media, both mass media – print, web, TV – and in more personalised advertising such as direct mail, email… If like me you are an advertising virgin (I did come close to selling an image to some clothing company a few years ago, I think it had some name like Gap, for a few thou, but they changed their mind at the last minute) you might want to read more about Above and Below the Line, but basically it means big bucks.

Quite how big – and how much to ask should UKTi get in touch with you and want free use you can work out from the Association of Photographers online usage calculator. You need to start by inputting your BUR or Base Usage Rate, which they advise should never be less than your normal day rate, and would include a single use of the image.

The calculator then allows you to multiply this for the various rights the client wants, including the type or usage and the countries in which the image would be used. If you try it out for the UKTi’s claim you are almost certain to end up somewhere well north of £10,000 – for which they were offering a byline.

Even on Alamy, putting in some details of just one of the uses can come up with four figure sums though I suspect many customers opt for vague things like ‘Marketing package’ at around $50 rather than paying for their actual usage. If I was at Alamy I’d take a close look at what UKTi have done with any images they have bought.

Curry found out he wasn’t the only photographer they had tried it on. They approached someone else with a similar image who also wasn’t going to play ball. I have a nasty suspicion they will have gone on trying other photographers until they found one who fell for it, probably someone who is a near-starving photojournalist who thought that getting a hundred (or even two if they had to raise their offer) wasn’t a bad deal, perhaps someone like me who found his best sale so far on Alamy this month was $20.

£30 million is a big budget, and photography is a vital part of the campaign. UKTi should be prepared to pay a reasonable price for it – and heads should roll there if people are prepared to compromise the project with derisory offers like this.

America First

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Not the protectionist policy of President Trump, which I rather hope the rest of the world will take exception to and stand up against, perhaps by similarly excessive tariffs on US natural gas or some such, but I photographed what I think was the first protest at the new US Embassy in London.

It’s a building I’ve been keeping my eye on for some time as it has risen up from the ground at Nine Elms as my railway journey to London takes me past it several times each week, and I’ve often taken the odd snap in passing – the one above in December 2015.

A few months later I had an hour or so spare and took a walk around the area, though most of it was a building site and still closed to the public, but I could photograph from the road or the Thames Path.

I’m not sure the building was improved by these plastic thingies on its sides, or rather three of the four sides, but it doesn’t really have a great deal else going for it visually. It does stand out from the mediocrity with which it is surrounded, but it might have been better left naked. It wasn’t a good day for photographing the area, with alternating light and heavy rain, but I took a few pictures and told myself I’d be coming back again before long for another protest.

The protest by Stand Up To Racism was on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. The protest was prompted by his racist description of African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as ‘shitholes’, and included a rather too graphic poster related to it, which you can see, along with other pictures of the event at US Embassy – No to Trump’s racism.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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My London Diary April 2018

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Again it has taken me a long time to complete uploading the images and texts for the previous month, which was disappointing as until close to the end of the month I had kept up with things pretty well. But a few busy days near the end of April and then May Day, always hectic, put me back rather, and a weekend away put me back even more. But it’s probably more down to a few little problems, health and photographic that have kept me occupied.

Apr 2018

International Vigil supports Mumia Abu-Jamal
Windrush march to Home Office
Workers’ Memorial Day Grenfell vigil


International Workers’ Memorial Day


End outsourcing at University of London
Justice for Asifa protest
Recognise the Armenian Genocide
Land Rover stop supporting Bahrain
Solidarity with the Windrush families


City Highwalk
‘Time to Twig’ Masked Ball
Indians protest President Modi’s visit
Hindus support Modi
Save Girl, Educate Girl
Stop & Scrap Universal Credit say DPAC
Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game
Ditch the Deal say NHS Staff


Don’t Bomb Syria protests
Palestinian Prisoners Day protest


Great March of Return – Stop the Killing
Lea Valley Walk
CND At 60 at Aldermaston

London Images

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Bolivia, India, Iran… London

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Bolivian president Evo Morales has led his country since he became president in 2006, following an election in which his vote was roughly twice that of his nearest rival. His policies, aimed at reducing the US influence in the area, and getting more of the profits from Bolivia’s oil and gas industries enabled much greater spending on public works projects and social programmes resulted in a significant decrease in poverty, and he was re-elected with an increased majority in 2009. And although he had said he would not stand for a third term, he changed his mind and was elected again in 2014.

In 2016 Bolivia held a referendum on whether Morales should be allowed to stand for a fourth term in 2019. His reputation had been damaged by allegations that Morales had favoured a Chinese company with state contracts because he had fathered a child with a woman who was a lobbyist for them. He admitted the relationship but denied any favouritism. There had too been a slowing of growth in the Bolivian economy due to global problems, and the indigenous groups were becoming upset at not benefiting as much as they should from the increased wealth of the country, which has created and large and growing middle class, many of whom do not support his anti-imperialist policies. The vote to change the constitution to allow him to stand went against him by 51% to 49%.

Morales cried ‘Foul!’ (he is a keen footballer) and appealed to the Supreme Court, who ruled that, despite the constitution, no public offices should have a term limit allowing him to stand, which he says he needs to do to consolidate his party’s programme of of social reforms. The protesters accuse him of wanting to be a dictator and abandoning democracy. Some were also protesting against the revised penal code recently signed by the President, which, among other things makes provision for legal abortion, but that some journalists say endangers freedom of expression and worries some in other professions about the sanctions for professional misconduct.

Referendums, as we have found to our cost in the UK, are exceedingly blunt instruments, and there are very good arguments where any constitutional change is concerned for calling for more than a simple majority. And for countries that have a representative democracy I think they should only ever be advisory to the parliament. Morales clearly lost this one, as even had the vote been the other way round it would not have been a satisfactory mandate. And in the case of the UK, our Prime Minister who made the mistake of calling the referendum, should have made clear when he did so that no government would be bound by the result. 52% to 48% should have made our government look carefully at the issues and examine the possibilities but it should not have led to them rolling over with their legs in the air.

Back in Parliament Square, as well as reflecting on the idiocy of referendums (or -da?) I couldn’t help thinking that the protest was perhaps more about some of the socialist policies of Morales than about the constitutional issues that were presented as its cause.

A short distance from the Bolivians, various Indian groups were gathering for a march to the Indian High Commission in protest against attacks on the Dalit community in India by Hindu fundamentalists and the continuing illegal caste-based discrimination. The protest was organised by the Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB, and supported by various Ravidass groups, Amberdkarite and Buddhist organisations and the South Asian Solidarity Group. Dr Ambedkar, arguably India’s greatest 20th century statesman was the author of the Indian constitution, which outlawed caste discrimination, but it is still endemic there, and in the Indian diaspora. Government moves to outlaw it in this country were stopped by representations from the Hindu community, which includes a number of wealthy donors to the Conservative party.

And to complete a typically international London scene, a short distance away in Whitehall a further protest was taking place at the same time, with a rally organised by exiled Iranian groups urging UK Prime Minister Theresa May to break her silence over the uprising in Iran and call for the immediate release of the thousands arrested and under threat of the death penalty.

Read more about the protests and see more pictures on My London Diary:

Bolivians protest for Liberty & Democracy
Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence
Break UK silence over Iran uprising

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Save the Elephant

Thursday, May 17th, 2018


Protesters outside the council meeting

London’s Elephant, or Elephant & Castle is south London’s major road junction, funnelling traffic from Westminster, Blackfriars and the city to where both the A2 and the A3 head off, one to Dover and the other towards Portsmouth and the south-west.

It gets its name from a coaching inn, probably older than Shakespeare, replaced several times over the years, most recently around 1960. That name and the elephant symbol on the 1965 shopping centre probably came from the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, who used ivory on the handles of their knives and whose coat of arms is supported by two elephants and, since 1622 has had a crest with an elephant carrying a castle on its back.


The Elephant & Castle shopping centre

Although the post-war reconstruction of the area included some of the better buildings of the era – including the now demolished Heygate Estate* and the 1959 Alexander Fleming House (1959) now converted into flats – the shopping centre, planned with great aspirations to revolutionise retailing in the UK was sadly reduced in scope by budget restrictions and never really took off. Increasingly it was isolated by the ever heavier traffic flows and the often unpopular subways many had to use to reach it.


The march sets off from the Elephant

New road layouts, including the removal of the subways have improved the area, but the shopping centre is still less than inspiring, though a thriving and lively market has grown up there, largely due to the Latin American community. But that doesn’t make enough money for Southwark Council and the private developers the council has largely been taken over by, and there has been a huge programme to replace low cost social housing by high rise private towers and estates, forcing many of the former residents out of the area, often to the cheaper fringes of London or further.

As well as towers like the ugly Strata with its purely decorative green-washing wind turbines on its top (they caused highly unpleasant vibrations for the residents when used) there are larger schemes such as Elephant Park, which replaced the Heygate, as well as ongoing demolitions on the large Aylesbury Estate and plans to remove all or most of the borough’s council housing by the Labour council dominated by the right-wing ‘Thatcher-Lite’ New Labour Progress group. Much of the new properties are destined to be sold off-plan to foreign investors and never occupied and very few will provide the new homes that so many Londoners desperately need at rents they can afford.


London Latin American banner on the march ‘Protect our Barrios – Fight Gentrification’

So it came as no surprise when the council and the new owners of the shopping centre Delancey announced plans in 2015 to demolish it and redevelop the area. Nor, given what has already happened in the area that the needs of the growing Latin American population, which in 2009 the chair of the London Assembly had made clear were important and should be taken into account in the regeneration of the area were almost completely ignored. Though they weren’t being singled out – the needs of the rest of the community were also marginalised in a redevelopment by Delancey together with the London College of Communication who would get a new campus.


The protesters meet for a rally before the march at the LCC, where a student occupation is taking place against the plans

As well as local residents and traders, the protest also included students from the LCC, who incensed by the proposals and their management’s collusion with Delancey have occupied part of their building. Trade unionists from the LCC and also working for Southwark Council were also taking part in the protest, and a number of councillors had also come out against the proposals which the council officers had recommended and the cabinet were hoping to push through. I left well before the end of the long meeting, where the full council turned the current proposals down (14 had earlier signed an open letter against the scheme, citing “unacceptable” social housing provision and inadequate protection for traders), but after several more hours in private session agreed to hold another meeting at the end of the month, where Delancey were expected to come up with an improved proposal.


Piers Corbyn, Jeremy’s older brother and a Southwark resident speaks to to the crowd

The protests so far have obviously led to some improvements in the scheme, but the gulf between development for profit and development for public good is still huge and it seems unlikely that it can be bridged. Until the Labour party membership in Southwark – and other London Labour councils – takes back control from Progress though the democratic mechanisms of the party, social cleansing will continue.

As well as pictures from the protest I arrived a little early and took a few pictures in the immediate area Around the Elephant.

Images and text of the protest are at Don’t destroy Elephant & Castle
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*
Walking the Rip-Off – Heygate & Aylesbury
Heygate Estate Scandal
Heygate Panoramas

______________________________________________________

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Guantanamo – 16 years

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

It came as something of a shock to realise that the prison camp at Guantanamo was set up 16 years ago, on 11th January 2002, and that there are still over 40 people held indefinitely there. As I wrote on My London Diary, almost all:

“were sold to the US by Afghan militias and the Pakistani military for cash bounties with no real evidence of terrorist involvement, but whose torture in CIA secret prisons across the world before arrival at Guantanamo as while as throughout their detention there makes their release too embarrassing to US authorities.”

I photographed two events in London to mark the anniversary, a lunchtime vigil in Trafalgar Square and a candlelit vigil in the evening outside the US Embassy, still then in Grosvenor Square. You can read more and see more pictures in the posts on My London Diary:

Guantanamo Vigil Marks 16 years
Close Guantanamo – 16years

I think the first protest against Guantanmo I attended was possibly in December 2003, though it may just have been the first where I used a digital camera, as relatively few of my pictures on film are on My London Diary, which I set up largely to post my digital work, putting on just a few earlier film images.

Back in those days, the camera I was using was a Nikon D100, and I had only one Nikon lens, a 24-85mm, and would also be using a camera with wider lenses (and longer) loaded with film for most of my work. The rather odd colour of the digital images from those years partly reflects the software used to process the raw files which was at the time limited compared to Lightroom and other current programs, but also my relative inexperience in using digital, though I had been using the camera for around a year.

By January 2006, cameras, software and myself had improved somewhat – and the D200 was perhaps the first digital camera I was really happy with, and many of the pictures were quite respectable. I had also bought several more lenses and had given up using film, working only digitally.

Looking at some of the images full-size, it is apparent how much image processing software has moved on, and I think I could re-process the raw images to produce technically rather superior results – if I had the time. It is one of the advantages of taking pictures in raw format that you can go back and rework them differently, whereas jpegs allow rather less without unacceptable degredation, though Lightroom can often perform a surprisingly good makeover.

Until relatively recently, those bright orange jump suits presented something of a challenge, with some being highly fluorescent which tended to eliminate all detail, but improvements in Lightroom have changed this. Even this year, improvements in the ‘Auto’ setting on the exposure basics have considerably cut down the fiddling involved in this and other challenging situations.

I think this may too have been the first occasion on which I photographed Vanessa Redgrave, and others who spoke included Moazzam Begg, released by that time, and Amani Deghayes whose brother Omar was still being held there.

Later I was pleased to photograph the last British resident held there, Shaker Aamer, after his release, but regular protests continue for the 41 others still held. A site search on ‘My London Diary’ on ‘Guantanamo’ gives over 150 results, and though there may be several links to each protest, there are still reports on a considerable number on the site. Below are links to the four I’ve mentioned here:

December 2003: Guantanamo Bay protest, Whitehall
January 2006: Free British Residents from Guantanamo Bay
January 2018: Close Guantanamo – 16years
January 2018: Guantanamo Vigil Marks 16 years
______________________________________________________

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Free Ahed Tamimi

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Until I went to the protests over the arrest of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, beaten up and arrested by Israeli soldiers at her home in the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank at 4am on Tuesday 19 December I wasn’t aware of the personal connections I had with her and her family.

Someone I’d known for some years turned out to be a cousin of hers, something she had only found out a few years ago when she started to research her family history, as her mother who had come to live in this country had never talked about it. Another friend, a photographer, told me while we were watching one of the protests how he had visited Nabi Saleh, staying with some of the family and playing football and other games with the children, as well as photographing the protests while he was there.

Of course I know other Palestinians and have talked with them, and have read the history of Palestine, from biblical times and more recently, listened to people, Palestinians and Israelis speaking about the situation there, read books, watched films and TV and listened to the BBC’s correspondents as well as many interviews with Palestinians and Israelis, getting views from all sides.

One man I know married a Palestinian and spent some years living in Palestine. As well as meeting the couple on visits here, he gave regular long e-mail reports on the problems that he faced from both settlers and the Israeli security forces. In the past I have worked with people who had lived and worked in Israel and talked with them about the situation there. In my first teaching post I was declared an honorary Jew by my Jewish head of department so we could hold departmental meetings while school assemblies took place. Back in those days, like almost all on the left, I was of course a supporter of Israel.

So although I’ve not lived there, or been there, its an area I have a considerable interest in, and have tried hard to cover protests about Palestine and Israel, mainly by pro-Palestinian groups because those are the people who protest, but also the counter-protests by pro-Israel groups. And I try to photograph them without bias, showing them as they present themselves to the world, and to caption them objectively, though on my web site I often make my opinions clear.

I have long hoped for a just settlement in Palestine, one that in the words of Balfour does not “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Unfortunately it now seems further away than ever, though perhaps not beyond the realm of possibility, with and optimistic view by Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka in the Washington Post recently. Perhaps,as with North Korea, Trump will surprise us all – but at least equally likely his interventions will be disastrous.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the Israeli arrest of Ahed Tamimi who slapped a soldier who entered her home is that she was tried and found guilty by a military court – where the conviction rate is said to be 99.7% – which doesn’t sound like justice. This is a part of what seems rightly to be called an ‘apartheid’ system, with different laws, different roads, fences and checkpoints etc.

Two men came to try and shout down the protest in Trafalgar Square, and there was an argument in which one of them told a protester that he was not British and should “go home”, a clearly racist sentiment against someone settled in this country – and whose family had I think lost their home in Palestine. Later they were joined by a woman whose face screwed up with hate as she tried to shout down the protesters. Activities such as this do the Israeli case no good.

Earlier in the day the Palestinian Forum had held a protest against the US Embassy being moved to Jerusalem and the arrest of Ahed Tamimi. Speakers condemned Trump for his decision to move the embassy and called for peace and freedom for Palestine. And from there I went to a protest outside Marks & Spencer, a major supporter of Israel, where the Revolutionary Communist Group was supporting the very successful BDS movement worldwide calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israel and sanctions, who were also specifically protesting against Tamimi’s arrest.

Free Ahed Tamimi
Free Palestine, Free Ahad Tamimi
Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Grenfell – 6 months on

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

There’s dark and there’s dark, and coming from the bright lights of the city to arrive on Lancaster Rd for the silent march marking six months since the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower, it was very dark indeed.

And Grenfell is dark, not just from the rather dim street lighting, but the shameful and criminal behaviour of the council and others responsible  for creating the conditions that made what should have been a small and easily contained fire into an immense tragedy, and from the failures since then by the council and government to act effectively to ease the situation and the suffering and to search for justice. Dark from the trauma suffered by so many who tasted to smoke and watched as people died, and the failure to provide treatment for so many.

But there is also light and hope, from the response of the community and of the volunteers, many of whom came and gave and who are still giving all they can to help – often at considerable personal cost (and not primarily financial, though there were huge donations – and a huge question mark over what has happened to them.)

Six months on, some things are clearer, but others are still as murky as ever, with the government and local council clearly still hoping to sweep much under the carpet, to ignore issues and hope they will go away. These monthly marches are a way of keeping the memory and keeping the issues live, ensuring they are not allowed to be forgotten.

Many feel that the movement to get justice for Grenfell needs to grow, need to make its protests more public, and to make them more political.

Or else Grenfell may be forgotten – until the next disastrous fire in a social housing tower where safety has been neglected and modifications made that endanger lives. It isn’t just a matter of tightening regulations, going back to proper inspections but a change in culture which takes seriously the safety of our social housing and the lives of those who live in it.

Grenfell Silent Walk – 6 months on

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________