Archive for January, 2020

Shahidul Alam: The Tide Will Turn

Friday, January 31st, 2020

I’ve written on several occasions about Shahidul Alam, a Bangladeshi photographer, activist, teacher and entrepreneur and his gallery, news agency Drik and photojournalism school Pathshala, in Dhaka dedicated to allowing the majority world to tell its own story, something he has done so well through his own photography.

Among the stories I’ve mentioned here is the saga of his arrest and imprisonment in August 2018, when as he writes “I did not know if I was going to live or die. ” Though badly beaten by police, he survived and after 101 days in jail was released.

A new book, Shahidul Alam: The Tide Will Turn, is now published by Steidl:

“Combining Alam’s photos and texts with those of collaborators, including artwork by Sofia Karim and fellow inmates, The Tide Will Turn documents his experiences, the global support for his release and the ongoing fight for democracy in Bangladesh. The book comprises a record of Alam’s time in jail; a chapter each on art and politics; and an exchange of letters between Alam and writer Arundhati Roy. “

https://www.artbook.com/9783958296930.html

The book accompanies an exhibition of his work in New York which I read about on ‘The Eye of Photography‘, Shahidul Alam : Power to Truth.


LAFA halt Free Tommy

Thursday, January 30th, 2020
LAFA set off flares as they approach the Free Tommy protest

‘London is Anti-Fascist’ says the banner of the London Anti-Fascist Assembly, and I’m fairly sure that this is a true reflection of what most Londoners think, though few of them actually get out onto the streets to say so. Most Londoners are busy getting on with their lives rather than coming out onto the streets, but when the EDL tried marching into Whitechapel a few years ago their was a pretty impressive community mobilisation, if not quite on the scale of Cable Street in 1936 or Bermondsey the following year.

Masked protesters and a placard ‘British State Racist State’

As in the 1930s there are many among the wealthy who still run the country who hold right-wing views, though they largely avoid the obviously racist expressions of the extreme right on our streets. But they pander to them, with clearly racist immigration legislation and enforcement by the Border Agency and police and the increasing refusal to accept refugees or beleive asylum claims. Some of this came to a public notice with the ‘Windrush’ scandal, and this still continues and we see another manifestation in the ridiculous hoops some EU nationals are now having to jump through to remain in the UK.

People carry poles to protect the side of the march

The legal case against ‘Tommy Robinson’ seems 100% clear. He was arrested for a contempt of court that he admitted when brough to court, and which could have predjudiced the trial outside which he was live-streaming. It was nothing to do with ‘freedom of the press’ or ‘freedom of speech’ but all about threatening justice and a fair trial.

A protest holds a list of convicted EDL and Far Right Sex Offenders

And as many have commented, Robinson has had nothing to say about white pedophiles, many from extreme right groups. Antifa were handing out a long list of EDL and Far Right convicted sex offenders at the protest.

Smoke flares draw attention to the Antifa protest

The ‘Free Tommy’ protesters were greatly outnumbered by Antifa, and also by the police who kept the two groups apart, pushing back the anti-fascists. At first there were little more than a handful of them, though later a small march of perhaps 50 people arrived from Downing St with a larger police escort to protect them. A rather larger group from Stand Up to Racism also arrived to join the Antifa protesters – along with just a handful more police.

A ‘Free Tommy’ protester shouts at Antifa protesters. Police warned her about her language.

I hung around for an hour or two, then went to photograph a protest a few hundred yards away at the Polish embassy before returning to find the situation was much the same stalemate

Regent’s Canal Camden

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

200 years ago the Regent’s Canal was opened. In some respects it was like HS2 today, cutting travel times, though for goods, providing a more direct link between London’s Docks and the canal system which served Birmingham and much of the rest of England. Perhaps more importantly it brought coal and building materials into the centre of London at City Road Basin, and other basins and Samuel Plimsoll’s (remembered for his line) coal drops north of King’s Cross.

And like HS2 it came in late (though at the moment it is still doubtful if HS2 will come in at all, and it certainly will never deliver what was promised.)

The canal was first proposed in 1802, but only got Parliamentary approval in 1812, after it had been adopted by the Prince Regent (later George IV) and John Nash as a part of their scheme for redeveloping Regent’s Park.

Like HS2, the canal had its controversies and problems. In 1815 Thomas Homer, who had first proposed the canal and remained in charge with Nash although neither knew anything about building canals, was found to have stolen company funds and was sentenced to transportation (though it appears the sentence was never carried out.) The first length of the canal, from Little Venice to Camden was completed and opened on the birthday of the Prince Regent in August 1816, but there wasn’t enough money to complete the rest.

The government came to the rescue with the Poor Employment Act of 1817, designed to give work to those unemployed after the end of the war against Napoleon, which provided cheap labour so the scheme could continue.

There were technical problems too, particularly with at Hampstead Road, where a hydro-pneumatic boat lift had been built to an innovative design by William Congreve (better known for his military rockets.) Designed to save water, as the canal had problems with water supply, although the design worked when first installed it quickly broke down when handed over to the canal company, possibly because the materials then available for pneumatic seals were not up to prolonged use. There was a lengthy and acrimonious dispute between the inventor and the canal company, who eventually replaced the lift with a two chamber conventional lock as used elsewhere on the canal.

Also like HS2, there were huge cost increases. The canal eventually cost £772,000 which was twice the original estimate.

I’d begun my walk at Camden Road station, walking from there through the Maiden Lane estate and new developments to York Way where I met a colleague with whom I will be having an exhibition in March 2020. My contribution to the joint show will be a set of around a dozen pictures commemorating the canal anniversary. We made our way together along the towpath to Kentish Town Rd, with several stops where she sat down to sketch and I wandered around making photographs. After leaving her I walked on to Cumberland Basin before returning to Camden Road station.

Many more pictures and displayed large on My London Diary at Camden, Kings X & Regent’s Canal


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

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Zero Time for Action

Monday, January 27th, 2020

I’d walked halfway up the hill to Blackheath where South East London Extinction Rebellion were holding their two day South East London Rebel Rising festival, but had to rush off and run back downhill to catch a train back to the centre of London to cover events there. But I was able to return without having to climb the hill again, taking a train to Blackheath station which is at the top of the hill, and just a short walk to at Blackheath Lincoln Field where the Greenwich Observatory Die-In was going to start.

I arrived just in time as the march to the observatory was about to set off, and was able to photograph them as they walked across the common and into Greenwich Park.

It wasn’t a huge group, which was just as well as they pretty well filled the space in front of the Royal Observatory which isn’t very large and a triangular area with very busy paths along two side, full of tourists going to see London’s finest view from the terrace just past the observatory or to visit the observatory. This is now a museum for tourists with a large meridian marker in the ground where people like to photograph themselves with a foot in each hemisphere (and I admit I’ve done so in the distant past.)

Back when I first visited the observatory it was free, but now it costs £16 for an adult ticket (cheaper if you book online.) When they started to charge for entry you could walk into the yard and photograph yourself on the meridian marker for free, but now you have to pay to get through the gate. Though there is a much older marker on the footpath just below if you want to save money.

Greenwich advertises itself as the home of Greenwich Mean Time, and Extinction Rebellion chose the venue to point out that we are running out of time and need to take urgent action now to avoid mass extinction. Some of the protesters had ‘clock faces’ painted on their faces or carried clock posters.

While most of those present lay down for a ‘die-in’, others handed out leaflets and used a megaphone to speak to the tourists wandering past, some of whom applauded the action, while others either ignored it or just looked confused.

It was another event where my fish-eye lens came in useful, though even it wasn’t quite wide enough to take in the whole scene as I wanted. The top picture on this post shows a fisheye view, slightly cropped at top and bottom, and it couldn’t quite let me take the whole scene I wanted. I had to angle the lens down to get in the foreground banner as I couldn’t move further back and you can see a little cut-off at both top corners after a little attempt at correcting the verticals. Photoshop could of course have generated a little sky at the left and tree at right to fill the gap but I decided that would be cheating.

You can see some other pictures made both with the fisheye and, like that above this paragraph made with a rectilinear ultrawide lens – the 10-24mm Fuji zoom at 15mm equivalent focal length – on My London Diary, along with others made at longer focal lengths.

Rebel Rising Royal Observatory Die-In

Train windows and London’s best view

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

Back in the old days of British Rail (and at times after privatisation) I often used to enjoy taking pictures out of train windows. Then many carriages on suburban routes had doors between every pair of seats, and the doors had windows that you could slide down to around waist level and so take pictures unobstructed, though it might make it rather draughty for your fellow passengers. There were stern warnings about not leaning out of windows, and unless you braced yourself against the door frame it might have been possible to fall out, but you could photograph in any direction.

Some of the older rolling stock you needed to open the window to actually open the door at stations, as the doors only had handles on the outside, a useful safety precuation which made the carriages childproof and avoided any accidental opening, but sometimes meant infrequent travellers were trapped inside, unable to work out how to open them. Older readers too may remember the thick leather straps with holes to fit around a pin to hold the windows open at various levels.

Slightly more recent carriages came with a stiff handle you had to move sideways, protected by a raised surround, which only trapped mainly elderly ladies whose hands were no longer strong enough to move them and relied on other passengers to allow them to alight.

Now we have automatic opening doors and fixed windows with air conditioning on almost all services (though some still have narrow windows that don’t open enough to be useful) and can be sweat boxes when the air conditioning fails in summer or chill you if it can’t be switched off in winter. But more importantly for photographers, they have windows that are often scratched inside by bored travellers and almost always filthy outside. I have at times travelled with a cloth so when joining a train at the start of its journey I could select my seat and then step off the train to clean the window I was going to sit at so as to get a clearer view.

But either the train I joined at Charing Cross was new (and it did have that toxic smell of plasticiser) or had been recently cleaned, and for once I had a clear view. I hadn’t got onto the train to take pictures, just to get me to Blackheath, but it seemed to be too good a chance to miss, so I made a number of exposures.

The problem with photographing through glass is of course reflections. You can cut these down by removing any lens hood that would interfere and holding the front of the lens (or lens filter) directly against the glass. However this can cause vibration, so a small gap is a good idea, particularly while the train is in motion. Modern train windows are double glazed and while this close approach can avoid reflections from the pane you are in contact with, you still get them from the outer pane.

It also only works when the edge of the lens is in contact with the window all around, meaning you are restricted to views directly opposite the window and cannot aim the camera to left or right.

There is a solution to these problems, and it is in the form of a giant floppy lens hood with a hole at the centre which stretches to fit on the body of any lens. It’s called ‘The Ultimate Lens Hood‘ and is around 25cm across, and I have one sitting on my desk. The main problem with it (apart from looking rather eccentric) is that although it is a silicone rubbery thing that can squeeze down considerably, it is still too large to easily fit in my normal camera bag, at least without leaving out something essential like my sandwiches. So it was sitting there on my desk while I made these pictures 25 miles away. Slightly smaller versions are available and I think I might get one. Even a normal cheap rubber hood as I’ve used in the past can help a lot.

I was on my way to Blackheath to photograph an event that ended at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and my final pictures in this set were taken without benefit of any windows of the incredible view from the terrace in Greenwich Park north across the River Thames. It’s a view I first saw and photographed many years ago, and though rather changed since the building of Canary Wharf remains London’s most splendid.

I did try to take more pictures from the train on my return from Maze Hill to Waterloo, but the windows were not so clean, and only a few were usable – and then required considerable retouching.

More pictures at Charing Cross to Greenwich


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

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.


Animal Rights March

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

I’m 100% against cruelty to animals, including cruelty to human beings, and there is far too much of both going on. But I do have a certain ambivalence about some animal rights protests.

A poster here ‘Say NO to Speciesism’ rather worries me. I see a fellow feeling for your own species as a rather natural thing and certainly not something that prevents you from being, as another poster puts it, ‘Kind to all Kind’. And no other species are “just like us” as the marchers were chanting.

Our species has lived for all its existence with other animals, and have learnt ways to make use of them, some of which are certainly cruel and should be prohibited – such as the fur trade. But we admire animals such as lions who depend for their food on the brutal killing of other species. Nature is a system of many dependencies, of predators and prey and though I would like humans to be civilised and avoid unnecessary suffering, whether for sport or sustenance, I see nothing wrong in continuing to produce and consume animals and diary products etc.

I grew up at a time when many kept chickens in their back yards, and we looked after them. We fed them and ate their eggs they produced, and when they were too old to produce eggs we wrang their necks, plucked the feathers and made them into chicken stew and soups. Certainly we did look after the hens, just as we looked after the bees, feeding them over the lean months with candy so we could extract their honey.

There are of course very good environmental reasons for us to eat less meat, and like many others my diet contains considerably less than it did years ago, lowering my carbon footprint considerably. Most of what we meat we still eat is from UK farms, largely fed on grass and produced to high animal welfare standars and relatively low carbon emissions. We also eat as much local produce as possible, including fruit and vegetables from our own garden and avoid air-freighted produce.

Official Animal Rights March 2019


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

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.


Stand with Hong Kong

Friday, January 24th, 2020
Supporters of Hong Kong and the protests there march from Trafalgar Square towards Downing St.

History is catching up on Hong Kong and Britain. Back in the 17th century the British East India Company had begun cultivating large quanties of opium in Bengal which was then imported into China in order to pay for the luxury Chinese goods much desired in Europe. This led to a huge increase in opium addiction in China, and in 1839 the Emperor decided the trade had to stop.

Chinese students and others in Trafalgar Square oppose the pro-Hong Kong march

The trade went through the port of Canton, and the Emperor’s man there tried to persuade the foreign merchants to hand over their opium in exchange for tea, and when they refused, seized around 1200 tons of the drug and publicly destroyed it. We sent in the Navy to fight this ‘First Opium War’, and Chinese war junks were no match for our gunboats. In 1842 China was defeated and forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking, opening up China to free trade and ceding Hong Kong to Britain.

Protesters pose for photographs before they march in support of the Hong Kong protests

This wasn’t the end of our quarrel with China over the opium trade, and in 1856 we picked a second fight with the Chinese to get greater access and to legalise the opium trade, ending in the 1869 Convention of Peking which also ceded a part of Kowloon to join Hong Kong. The final area of Hong Kong, the New Territories were added on a 99 year lease in 1898.

At the rally on Whitehall facing Downing St. But the British Government can no longer send a gunboat and dictate to China.

In 1984 when the end of that lease was only a dozen years away, Margaret Thatcher signed the Sino–British Joint Declaration with China, returning all of Hong Kong to China on 1 July 1997. Under this agreement Hong Kong would be a ‘Special Administrative Region‘ which would retain its capitalist system and way of life unchanged for 50 years until 2047 in what is known as the “one country, two systems” principle.

Posters make the Chinese response to the Hong Kong protests clear.

China now considers the joint declaration to be only of historical significance, while the UK government and the G7 still regard it as an important international treaty. In practice there is probably little Britain can do to see that either the letter or the spirit of the agreement is adhered to. China – and the Chinese students and others who came out to oppose the protest supporting the Hong Kong protesters see Hong Kong as a matter of China’s internal affairs.

More pictures from the pro-Hong Kong and Chinese protests at Stand with Hong Kong & opposition.


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

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


March to the common

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020
The banner ‘Are We The Last Generation blocks the main road for the march to take place

Lewisham Council’s web site records that Blackheath’s common has played host to more than its share of:

  • rebel gatherings
  • military encampments and exercises
  • royal meetings
  • religious festivals
  • sports
  • fairs
  • circuses

and a host of other activities.

And it goes on to list some of them, including Danish invaders in 1011, Wat Tylers anti-poll tax rebels in 1381, Jack Cade’s rebel yeomen in 1450, rebel Cornishmen in 1497 and John Wesley who preached there.

2009 Climate Camp general meeting at Blackheath

It fails to mention the chartists and the suffragettes who met their, or the Climate Camp with whom I travelled there in 2009, recorded their setting up and later returned to photograph.

Clearly it is an area that has a strong association with rebels over the years and so it was highly appropriate that South East London Extinction Rebellion chose it for the location of their two-day festival  on Global Climate Change.

I went to photograph their march from Greenwich to the festival site, and almost had to leave before it began, as the samba band which was to play a major role in bringin it to the notice of people in Greenwich was around an hour late in arriving.

I stayed with the marchers as they blocked the main streets of Greenwich and made their way up into Greenwich Park, climbing with them most of the way to the top of the hill before I had to leave and run downhill to catch a train back to central London and the next event I wanted to cover.

XR Rebel Rising March to the Common


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

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Kiss-in against LGBT+ hate

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Hate crime attacks on LGBT+ people on our streets and on public transport are on the increase. Between 2014 and 2018 there was a 150% increase and in recent months more and more have been reported, with some disturbing videos posted on social media.

The shift to the right in British politics under the Tories have encouraged anti-gay sentiments and made them come to the surface. A small but very vocal group of feminists have also been very active in campaigning against trans people on social media, with meetings and protests – including at London’s Pride parade. These “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” or TERFs (a label they dislike) include a number of high-profile largely older feminists who often appear on mainstream media and make their views clear.

Trans people have always been an important part of the gay scene, and played an vital role in the Gay Liberation movement, including the Stonewall riots which were really its starting point.

Stand up to LGBT+ Hate Crime, the organisers of this kiss-in have decided that a more active opposition is needed to these attacks:

It is 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising and the birth of the Gay Liberation Front. Our movement was born out of rage and riots. We will not be driven back into the closet. We will meet all attacks with resistance and protest.”

This protest held in Parliament Square in persistent light rain was the first of a series of protests to combat this increasing hate.

Stand up to LGBT+ Hate Crime Kiss-In


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

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


The lessons of Marikana

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

Seven years ago, on August 16th 2012, South African police opened fire on striking miners at the Marikana platinum mine, killing 34 of them.

The mine was owned by London-based mining company Lonmin (better known by its earlier name of Lonrho) one of whose directors at the time was Cyril Ramaphosa, now President of South Africa.  It seems certain that the police action was deliberately planned and had the backing of powerful people in the South African government.

No one has been prosecuted for the murders and the campaigners called for justice and for compensation for the workers families. Lonmin have attempted to evade their responsibilities and the company was sold in May 2019 to South African mining corporation Sibanye-Stillwater for $226 million. This is a company with a terrible safety record – 20 mineworkers were killed in its mines in the first six months of 2018 – and the Lonmin shareholders and London asset management companies, Investec and Majedie are major investors in Sibanye-Stillwater.

Legally the new owners have inherited the liabilities of Lonmin and are responsible for compensation for their crimes at Marikana.

The protest took place outside the South Africa Embassy in Trafalgar Square where for 1408 days and nights the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group staged their non-stop picket for the release of Nelson Mandela, beginning in 1986. That picket was firmly opposed by both the South African government and the Metropolitan Police who harassed it in various ways, attempting to ban it and making 171 arrests.

Today’s commemoration was again opposed by an embassy employee, who came out and told the protesters they had to move, but they took no notice, and after the embassy had closed for the day they decorated its gates and walls with the pictures of the murdered miners and yellow flowers. The police ignored the event.

A number of those taking part had also taken part in that earlier non-stop picket. Although Mandela was released and we have a new South Africa, much of the exploitation that was present in the old continues, though at times with some new masters. But the colonial domination and extraction of African wealth by London-based companies (and those from other wealthy nations) continues – and the Marikana massacre demonstrates that little has changed.

Justice for Marikana – 7 years on


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

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.