Archive for May, 2019

Soviet photos

Friday, May 31st, 2019

I think I should start this post with a health warning. Do not click the link in this post unless you have hours you can afford to spend looking at photographs. You will probably want to rush out and get a bottle of vodka and be glued to your screen forgetting meals, appointments and the rest and come round some time tomorrow with a huge hangover.

It will almost certainly be worse if you can actually make out the Cyrillic characters or actually read Russian, but even without that the pictures are fascinating, with every issue of Советское фото – Soviet Photo magazine – over 400 of them from 1926-1991 now available to read online at Archive.com.

You can read more about the magazine and its history in both Russian and, if you scroll down, in English on the About tab, which also talks about the early controversies in its pages in the late 1920s and early 30s. It was here that the work of Aleksandr Rodchenko was first denounced as plagiarising the work of Western European photographers László Moholy-Nagy and Albert Renger-Patzsch – unfortunately leading the magazine to boycott his work – and later his and similar work politically denounced as formalist; foreign and elitist and not in line with the official party line of Socialist Realism.

Photography developed rather differently in Russia, something that was made clear to me in 1978 when ‘The Russian War 1941-5’, a superb collection of photographs edited by A. J. P. Taylor , Daniela Mrazkova & Vladimir Remes, many of the pictures in which are now well-known.

After the war there was also a disjunct between photography on the two sides of the iron curtain, with relatively little contact between the two. With a few exceptions, the work that we saw came from photographers who had managed to leave the Soviet bloc – though some of those exceptions were notable – such as Czech photographer Josef Sudek (1896-1976), the ‘Poet of Prague’. Things of course began to change with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

This is certainly a site to add to your bookmarks, and one that, like vodka, is best taken in small doses.

Of course there is much more available on the Internet Archive, and a recent post looks at their work and at the problems of preserving Internet content. It’s something I have a definite personal interest in, as over 300 articles that I wrote about photography are now, for copyright reasons, only available among the 330 billion web pages, now stored on the ‘Wayback Machine’.





Catalan evening

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

It was around a quarter past five by the time the Catalan protest got going on the steps around Eros, and in mid-February this was sunset, though it seemed rather darker than this suggests. Of course with the amount of street lighting and lights in shop windows and traffic it never really gets dark, but the contrast between the brightness of the advertising display on one side of Piccadilly Circus and the opposite side of the monument was pretty huge, and the protesters seemed to be in very deep shadow,

Using the Nikon D750 and D810, with both set to ISO 6400 allowed me exposures of around 1/125 at f5.6 without flash, though these were deliberately underexposed by a stop or so to keep something of a night look.

I didn’t have any fast lenses with me – and don’t own anything faster than f2.8 for the Nikons, finding them too heavy to carry and unsuited to most of the work I do where wide apertures mean the depth of field is too limited, though there are times when a fast telephoto would certainly help. But apart from the cost of the lenses I’d probably find myself needing the services of an osteopath. Although the Nikon lenses are remarkably good wide-open, when possible I like to stop down just a little, and most of these were taken at 1/2 to one stop down from the variable maximum.

I used flash for about half of these pictures, with a Nikon SB800 in the hot-shoe, but still worked at ISO 3200 to avoid getting people looking like cardboard cutouts in front of a black background, making sure that areas too far away to benefit from the flash were still getting enough exposure from ambient light. Although normally I work with the cameras on the ‘P’ setting (but often altering the selected shutter speed) Nikon’s flash system doesn’t really work with this, and when using flash I switch to aperture or shutter priority or sometimes full manual.

Flash on camera is always a problem where important parts of the subject are at different distances from the camera, and sometimes I make use of the fall-off of flash away from the centre, angling the flash head away from the closer parts of the subject. But inevitably some, often considerable, burning and dodging is needed when processing the images. Even in those taken without flash the lighting was pretty uneven and some correction was needed. If I can tell which of the images was taken with flash and which without except by looking at the EXIF data I don’t think I’ve got it right.

More at Against political trial of Catalan leaders


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


Valentine for Venus

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Like everyone else at this year’s Reclaim Love street party I was delighted that Venus CuMara, who founded this remarkable annual street party back in 2004 was there, and to hug her and to hear her speak.

I missed that first event in 2004 as I was in Paris with my wife for Valentine’s Day and her birthday a few days later. This year was the 16th ‘Reclaim Love’ free Valentine’s Day street party and like all except I think the first which began in Trafalgar Square, took place around the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, with drumming, music, dancing poetry to celebrate reclaim love as a manifestation of the human spirit from the sleazy commercialisation which has taken over Valentine’s Day as a festival of profit.

Many of us still have the free t-shirts which were handed out to all who wanted them at several of these events, with their message “MAY ALL THE BEINGS IN ALL THE WORLDS BE HAPPY AND AT PEACE, though mine is now a little stained and doesn’t often get worn.

It was this same mantra that was repeated as those present made a large circle around Piccadilly Circus to share Venus’s message of peace and love around the world. Venus called it a “Massive Healing Reclaim Love Meditation Circle beaming Love and Happiness and our Vision for world peace out into the cosmos“.

Police stood back and watched this unofficial event each year, sometimes coming to persuade those who had climbed up onto the top of the fountain to come down. I think the only more serious intervention came when one year everyone went to the sacred grove of trees in Green Park to make the large circle there, and the police in the park were definitely not amused.

Beginning in 2005, I’ve photographed the street party almost every year and shared the pictures on-line, both on Facebook and on My London Diary. I missed 2016, when I was too ill to go, and 2017 when I was in Hull (both celbrating the city of culture and again my wife’s birthday.)

Venus and I have talked on several occasions about bringing out a book with my pictures of the events and her poems and reflections, but haven’t got around to making it happen.

A couple of years ago we were shocked to hear that Venus was suffering from cancer, and she missed the 2018 party at a retreat in Indonesia. But this year she was back again, though with the cancer still spreading through her body, speaking about it and about how we should all hug ourselves and each other. Her cancer has made her even more determined to spread her message of love.

Much more at Reclaim Love 2019 street party


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


Secret Rivers

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Just opened at the Museum of London Docklands is the exhibition Secret Rivers, which is worth going to see if you are around – and is free. Not all of the rivers featured are secret – they include the Thames and the Lea – but they are all of interest. As well as videos and maps and pictures including a few photographs there are also objects found in the rivers on display.

I’ll leave more general comments about the show to the reviews listed at the bottom of this post, but say a little more about my own minor contribution, the picture above of the DLR being built across the not very secret Bow Creek which I made in morning fog back in 1992. It was one of around a dozen images of the DLR extension shown as part of a group show on Transport at the Museum of London later that year.

I’d left home early on a Sunday morning in mid-January as a fine morning with clear sky was dawning, catching the first early morning train to Richmond then the North London Link to Canning Town. As we approached the destination I was disappointed to find everywhere was shrouded in mist; had I known I would have stayed in bed at home!

I’d recently bought what was then the most expensive camera I’d ever owned, a new Japanese Widelux 35mm model, a rotating swing lens camera, which had cost me around £2000 (equivalent to around £7000 today allowing for inflation) and had decided this was an ideal project to make use of its unique characteristics.

I was pretty fed up with the mist, as I wanted nice clear pictures, and it was also much colder than I’d anticipated in the mist, but as I’d spent a couple of hours travelling to the location I decided to take some pictures, and stuck at it for an hour or two, making around 40 exposures – roughly two films. The camera gave around 21 exposures on a normal 36x 35mm casette with negatives the same width as those made with a 6×6 camera but only 24mm tall.

It was a slow job, as the camera had to be carefully levelled on a tripod for each picture, otherwise the horizon would appear curved. The viewfinder was imprecise, and I soon learnt it was better to rely on the two arrows on the top plate which indicated the field of view to visualise the result.

The camera used no batteries, but was clockwork and entirely manual. Winding on the film also wound the shutter and rotated the lens, held in a vertical cylinder in front of the curved film behind, to its starting point. On pressing the shutter release, a slit behind the lens opened to epose the film as the lens rotated around a roughly 130 degree arc. I think the shutter speed was probably 1/125 s, based on the exposure of any point on the film, but it took perhaps 1/30th for the slit to travel across the film as the lens rotated.

I calculated the exposure using a separate hand-held meter, a Weston Master V, which could make relected light readings as in-camera meters do or, with the aid of a curiously shaped lump of translucent plastic, it could measure the light falling on your subject, almost certainly what I used for these pictures in the fog. The Weston meters used a selenium photo cell around two inches in diameter, which generated enough electricity to power the meter, and again needed no battery.

I’d walked from Canning Town down the Silvertown Way and over the Lower Lea Crossing to where the DLR crossed the creek. The mist I think was rather thicker than it looks in the picture, and I could hardly see Pura Foods. I took a few more pictures then my way back via the East India Dock Road to Canning Town cold and disappointed. It seemed to me to have been a wasted day – and I came back a week later to retake the images in clear daylight.

Once I’d developed and printed the films a couple of weeks later, I realised that although for most of what I’d taken the mist really spoiled the pictures, this image, with the viaduct disappearing into the distance was rather special. It remains one of my most widely published and exhibited works, but is the only one from that foggy day day that appears on my River Lea website.

More about the Secret Rivers show at:
Londonist
London Live (video)
The Guardian
Evening Standard
MuseumCrush

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

Streets & people

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Thanks to PetaPixel for bringing to my attention the video 1838-2019: Street Photography – A Photo For Every Year with 182 photos — one photo for every year between 1838 when Daguerre set up his camera overlooking the Boulevard du Temple and 2019 with activists hassling an MP outside Parliament in London.

It’s a curiously hypnotic experience, with each photo appearing for around 6 seconds, with a musical soundtrack that reflects the changing decades, and a rather strange selection of images by Guy Jones, taken on streets around the world, though majoring on the USA. I found it rather annoying but I couldn’t stop watching, though I did turn the volume right down.

Almost all of the pictures certainly are taken on streets and show people, but it rather reflects the lack of any real integrity in the term ‘street photography‘. And while the pictures do reflect the changes in technology over the years, any real historical oversight is entirely prejudiced by every picture from the 20th and 21st century being presented as colour – which for most means a recently colorized version of an original black and white picture. Some colours were rather less than believable. This is faux history in the making.

You’ll probably recognise a few of the pictures, and some of the photographers, but mixed in with these are some rather anonymous postcard views, press images and amateur holiday snaps, which don’t always seem particularly appropriate to represent the year in which they are taken. It’s in a way a very uninformative video; often I found myself wanting to know more about why a particular picture was taken and what it it shows. And for those taken in more recent times I did wonder whether Jones has permission to use the images from the copyright holders. I hope so, though I saw no closing credits to indicate this.

Haddo

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

I woke up early this morning worrying about this picture, and that below of the Haddo estate in Greenwich, around Tarves Way off Norman Road close to Deptford Creek and Greenwich Station.

How is it that an estate which seems so neat and tidy and so well-loved both by the council and the residents behind their trim net curtains some 15 or 20 years after it was built in the 1960s (I can’t find the exact building date) had deteriorated to such an extent that the Haddo Estate around Tarves Way was one of the first to be ‘regenerated’ under New Labour with the homes emptied and demolished only 20 years later around 2003 at a cost of £90m?

Back around 2000, and to some extent now, politicians indulged themselves blaming the architect of these and other schemes, though more often it was perhaps the builders or system developers who were at fault for disasters such as Ronan Point, a short distance across the river. But many of the estates that have been or are being demolished were well designed, decently constructed and basically sound, perhaps good for at least another 50 years.

Many of the faults were faults of their time, which could have been prevented by proper maintenance or corrected with relatively inexpensive melioration – new windows, insulation etc. Resident caretakers and appropriate security systems – like those that turned Trellick Tower from sink to highly des res could perhaps have saved Haddo. Instead even many estates that were built with resident caretakers lost them, replaced by the occasional quick drive-by visit from a man in a council van – and the occasional heavy-handed police raid.

More fundamentally we have to ask how it happened that a housing policy once driven by social justice and civic pride that built many fine estates changed over that period to one led by estate agents, developers and profit. It happened under a regime that sought to remove all power from local authorities by a process of pauperisation and emasculation, forcing them to sell off properties at cut price and preventing them from using the proceeds to replace them.

And of course it goes wider than housing. Under Thatcher and Thatcherlite New Labour, greed and personal ambition at the expense of others became the order of the day. Our ideas about community, strong after the war and the era of the welfare state which followed it where whittled away by a leader who stressed self-reliance and the individual (or at best the nuclear family) and told us there was no such thing as society. Back in the early 80s I could walk around estates like this carrying a large bag of expensive camera gear and never feel any danger, but fifteen years later things had changed.

Part of the equation was certainly the relatively high standards, both of internal space in the dwellings and the green spaces around the buildings which make them such delectable targets for demolition and replacement with properties at high market or near market (the unaffordable “affordable”) returns.

I don’t know much of the details of the Haddo estate, either before or after its replacement, but have seen what has happened and is if anything now accelerating at other council estates in London, the majority in Labour-run boroughs.

Plans outlined in the building press showed ‘New Haddo’ was to have 510 homes, around half built for market rate sale, a third for some kind of so-called “affordable” rent and 85 for shared ownership. In most such regenerations by the time they come to completion, ways have been found to increase the proportion at market rates, by claiming that the developer cannot make sufficient profit – a figure set ludicrously high.

There appear to have been no homes in the new development at real social rents which most of those in the properties in my pictures will have been paying, and which will almost certainly have been sufficient to have paid off the council’s investment in building the estate.


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


BP out of the BM

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

‘BP or not BP’ is a bunch of activists who stage performances of one sort or another at various cultural institutions and events to protest at the way the arts are being used to promote and sanitise companies guitly of destroying the planet and other crimes, ‘greenwashing’ to hide their mucky stains.

BP are a prime example of such a company, responsible for many murky political dealings in countries around the world in search of oil, Extracting oil has destroyed valuable ecosystems though pollution, with huge oil spills threatening large areas of ocean life. Its oil feeds the plastics and artificial fabrics industries, while the use of oil products in heating, air conditioning and transport etc is the cause of the huge increase in grrenhouse gases which is causing disastrous global warming.

BP gives a relatively small financial contribution to the British Museum, for which it gets a incredible return in good publicity, its logo on posters and on labels in the museum.

The protest took place on the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, conducted as is now clear from documents from many sources largely to ensure access by US companies to Iraqi oil resources rather than anything to do with the WMDs which all knew did not exist. It also took place while the BP-sponsored show I am Ashurbanipal: King of the World, King of Assyria‘ was nearing the end of its run. It’s a show which includes a number of looted objects from the area (which stretched from Egypt to the Persian Gulf), both from historical times when the BM was itself sending archealogists to the area and apparently some more recent acquisitions sold to dealers after Iraq was left in chaos and during the current conflict in Syria, bought with the aid of BP money.

While several hundred protesters gathered at the front of the Great Court, a small performance took place in the Assyrian galleries, and was then repeated in front of the entrance to the Assyrian exhibition. Meanwhile the main protest got under way, amd after an introductory rally people were lead to from a ring all around the Great Court, with posters all round.

The Great Court is a large area around the old former BM Reading Room (where my wife once worked) and is said to be the largest covered public square in Euripe, with an area of 3,692.5 square metres. I think the chain around it holding the banners must have been around 600 feet long, though only relatively small sections were visible from any one point.

This was something of a challenge to still photographers, and I walked around it several times taking pictures. Long banners are always a challenge in terms of the aspect ratio. Even if you frame the people holdina banner from head to toe working in landscape format, this only results in a horizontal field of view of around ten foot. To frame longer banners results in the people and the banner shrinking to a narrower strip across the image.

You can improve matters by photographing the banner from one side, filling the frame height with the nearest person or going in even closer, and this is often my approach. But as the make the viewpoint more oblique, the banner text becomes less and less legible. And legible text is important with banners.

My friend taking video had a simpler task and did it well, filming as he walked around the whole circle. A similar approach using still photography would have resulted in a print with a roughly 100:1 aspect ratio, and while it might have been possible to join up the banner, as you moved from exposure to exposure the backgrounds would change.

I did take a series of pictures from the top of the stairs overlooking the area in front of the Assyrian exhibition, where the banners were brought and people sat on the ground. Possibly taken together they would show the whole string of banners (though I think some were folded before they reached the display), but more than the two on My London Diary make rather tedious viewing.

End BP sponsorship at British Museum

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

Goldsmith’s Security

Friday, May 24th, 2019

Goldsmith’s University is a part of the University of London located in New Cross in south-east London. Like many other organisations it has outsourced many of the service jobs on campus, paying private companies to provide the vital services that keep the university running.

Outsourcing contracts are generally awarded to companies who put in the lowest tender, and they do this largely by cutting corners at the expense of their employees, who are on poor wages, with lousy conditions of service and often greatly overworked by bullying managers. At Goldsmith’s the security guards employed by CIS Security report not getting their statutory sick pay, grievance pay, maternity/paternity pay and public bank holidays off, and feel they are treated as second-class citizens, not allowed to make use of the car park, canteens that other staff can use.

Their campaign to be brought in-house – employed directly by the university – has been supported by the Student Assembly which passed a motion of support for the security guards and the campaign by their trade union, the IWGB, and asking for Goldsmith’s management to recognise the IWGB to which the majority of them belong.

The protest, called by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) Security Guards and Receptionists branch and supported by the Goldsmiths Students union and the Goldsmiths branch of university teachers union UCU, took place on St Valentine’s Day, and placards, posters and balloons reflected this, calling for the university to ‘show some love’ for the people who work there.

It was quite an eventful protest, and after a brief rally in front of the main building, the campaigners went inside and spoke to people eating in two canteen areas before walking through the buildings to emerge on the busy main New Cross Road, where they stopped traffic for some minutes by sitting on the road in front of Deptford Town Hall which now houses some of the university management. They returned onto campus and occupied the foyer of another building for a short rally before walking back to where they had started the protest for a final short rally.

More at Bring Goldsmith’s Security In-House.


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.

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.

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

To order prints or reproduce images


Tripod rethink

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

I am not a tripod user. Of course like many photographers I own a small collection of these objects, but they stay tucked away in boxes or cupboards or gathering dust in a corner. They range from a hefty large Manfrotto job which used to be able to hold a 4×5 camera down to a tiny twisty table-top thingy that came free with a roll of film. Somewhere in the loft there may be still an even more massive beast from Linhof. It’s several years since any of them have left the house.

Of course tripods are sometimes essential. I used one when photographing ‘The Secret Gardens of St John’s Wood‘ in 2011, where I needed to take multiple pictures from the same camera position to build up panoramic images, though more to mark the spot than support the Nikon I was using which I often didn’t actually bother to attach, as I didn’t have a proper (and expensive) panoramic head.

I’ve also occasionally resorted to a monopod, though not to hold the camera steady but to hold it in places I could not otherwise put a camera – around 5 foot above my head for the picture of the druids on Primrose Hill. This picture was taken with a Nikon, and peering at the screen on the back of the camera at a very distant arms length iinvolved considerable luck to get the camera level. Using a mirroless camera would be an advantage as it is rather easier to operate them remotely from a phone app.

Tripods have changed a little over the years, with various attempts to make them smaller or lighter. I’ve used ones made of wood, aluminium and steel and cursed them all. Even plastic, though I’ve never paid the extra for carbon fibre. But there is a general rule, that if a tripod is light enough to carry it’s too flimsy to be of much use. Of course if you can afford an assistant, things are different, and he or she can add the tripod to the umbrella, step ladder and lighting gear. But that isn’t my sort of photography.

Peak Design have embarked on a new project to redesign the tripod and are now seeking funding on Kickstarter to produce their Travel Tripod, which they claim is “A full-featured tripod in a truly portable form.” And it does look to be a decent tripod. They claim too that it can be fully erected ready for use in 9 seconds. The project has already been funded to around 6 times it’s goal with a couple of months still to go, so clearly plenty of relatively wealthy photographers beleive their claims and want to save the $61 off the aluminium version or $121 from the carbon version for a tripod which should arrive around Christmas. The carbon version has so far attracted almost 3 times as many pledges – at US$ 479 (or more). Spiked feet are extra and you’ll need more than the one standard plate to fit on the bottom of your camera provided if you want to be able to use more than one camera, though Peak say it can be adapted to take similar third-party plates.

It does look a nice tripod, but that’s around £377 (or a little more as the exchange rate falls), which to me seems rather a lot and even the cheapskate aluminium at US$289 (£227) seems prohibitive. But if you are a genuine tripodophile it’s worth a look, if just to drool. The Kickstarter offer ends Fri, July 19 2019 1:00 AM BST.

Mostly the improvements seem small; a different leg profile that makes them fit neatly when folded so it takes up less space; cam levers to lock the legs (rather similiar to some on at least one of the tripods I’ve owned.) The big improvement to me seems to be in the ball head. For some the phone adapter that hides away in the centre column until needed will be useful. But you still end up with a package that is 15.5 inches long and weighs 1.56 or 1.27 kg to cart around.


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


UPHD protest discrimination

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

I’m not a fan of Uber and very seldom a user of taxis or private car hire services, regarding them as a necessary evil for those rare occasions when public transport is not practicable. And taxis in particular are evil, causing large amounts of unnecessary pollution – both oxides of nitrogen and particulates – on the city streets both directly and also indirectly from other vehicles caught up in the congestion they cause by ‘plying for hire’ – an archaic system now made redundant by the smartphone.

Also rendered archaic by modern technology is the ‘knowledge’, made unnecessary at least in principle by sat-navs and sat-nav apps, though there is still room for further development on these. But at least in theory they can determine best routes making use of real-time traffic information. An car magazine recently conducted a very unscientific test of black cab, Uber and the writer’s car with an up to the minute sat-nav on a London journey, and the journalist’s satnav – evidently a better one than that in the Uber – won. And despite the ‘knowledge’ many taxi drivers seem to have and use a sat-nav, or at least the “Cabbies Mate” App .

Learning the ‘knowledge’ is certainly a good way to learn your way around London, but largely retained as a method of entry control to the trade. It’s part of the reason why London’s cabs are still largely driven by white British drivers while most private hire drivers come from various BAME communities. The United Private Hire Drivers union (UPHD) would appear to have a good case in claiming that TfL’s decision to apply the congestion charge to minicabs but not to taxis is discriminatory, though it remains to be seen what the court will make of it.

The UPHD also claim that private hire drivers are four times as likely to be stopped by TfL’s enforcement officers “than taxi drivers despite consistently better compliance performance on a licensed driver & vehicle basis. ”

THe UPHD is a part of the IWGB (Independent Workers Great Britain) one of several grass roots unions which are leading the fight for precarious workers in various sectors , including cleaners, cycle couriers and foster carers. As well as this campaign against TfL and the congestion charge, they are also fighting Uber for proper employment rights for the drivers, who are clearly workers for the company rather than self-employed.

Since 2016, successive judgements from the UK’s Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal have all said Uber drivers are being unlawfully denied basic worker rights, such as the minimum wage and holiday pay. 

(IWGB web sute)

The union says drivers currently only earn around £5 per hour and are demanding an increase in fares to £2 per mile, a reduction in Uber’s commission from 25% to 15% and an end to unfair dismissals.

We need to reduce traffic and congestion in London, though the congestion charge is a blunt instrument and unfairly discriminates against less wealthy car drivers. For all private hire vehicles – taxis and minicabs – a per fare surchage paid by the customer would be a better solution. We need to give far more encouragement to cycling and walking, by providing safe routes and also by changes to some traffic laws and road design to give cyclists and pedestrians priority; more bus-only routes (or rather bus and cycle routes), and greater subsidies for buses, trams and local underground and overground trains; to set dates before very long when non-electirc powered vehicles are banned for our cities .

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