Archive for February, 2020

Brian Harris – Independent Photographer

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

Recently published on Brian Harris’s Photoshelter portfolio is a remarkable series of around 80 pages of his images from the Independent Newspaper for which he worked for 14 years, from its start in 1986 to 1999.

The Independent was unusual as a newspaper in several ways, not least for what was in this country an unusual prominence it gave to good photography both in the magazine and newspaper. Of course other newspapers and magazines have published a great deal of good photography over the years, but much too that is at best mediocre.

It’s something that has got worse since the impact of digital photography and the ‘breaking news’ mentality which this has fostered. What matters now for the papers and on-line news sites is not that pictures are good, but that they are the first to reach the picture editor (though from some that get publish there are some publications that no longer appear to have a picture editor.)

There is I think a good argument that the last 30 or so years of the twentieth century was a golden age for newspaper photography, and Harris is one of those photographers in this country who made it so.

You can see more of Harris’s work on the Photoshelter pages, and his Brianharrisphotographer’s Blog and in 2016 he published a book, And Then The Prime Minister Hit Me…. Unfortunately because of the unusual lay-flat binding and other aspects which necessitated considerable manual labour (mainly by women) this is rather an expensive volume.


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


Elephant & Brixton Global Climate Strike

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Groups were meeting around London on Earth Day to take part in the Global Climate Strike, and I went to two of them which I could travel to reasonably quickly by tube.

People were gathering outside the London College of Communication, part of the University of the Arts London, where a group had obviously been busy making Climate Strike posters.

A group left to march to Southwark Council offices on Tooley St to join up with workers there and were then planning to go on to join protesters in Westminster. I left the marchers as they went past the tube station to make my way to a rally in Windrush Square, Brixton.

Teachers had brought pupils and parents to a rally in Windrush Square and I arrived in time for the last quarter hour of so, including a short address by one of the local MPs as well as by some of the children and others.

I left as the rally ended and the organisers began to get everyone ready to take the tube to Westminster and join the protests there, making my own way to central London ahead of them.

More pictures at Elephant & Brixton Global Climate Strike.


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.

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 – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Earth Day

Friday, February 21st, 2020

There was a huge turnout for the Global Climate Strike on Earth Day, with many organised groups from schools attending, and an incredible range of hand-made posters.

Way down Millbank there was a lorry where speakers and groups were performing, but the street was so crowded it was hard to get through to it. At one point I went down a side street and made my way forward a block to reach the front.

Once I’d photographed the people at the front of the crowd I slowly made my way back through the crowd, photographing groups of people with placards. The crowd was tightly packed and I often had to squeeze through, but people moved to let me through, sometimes even before I had asked. Getting enough space between me and those I wanted to photograph was however often difficult. Most of these pictures were made with the Fuji XT1 and the Fuji 10-24mm zoom, mainly at or close to its widest setting, equivalent to 15mm on full-frame.

Eventually I was free of the close-packed crowd, but there were still a large number of protesters in front of Parliament and in Parliament Square.

Although the main rally was in the morning, other groups were also meeting in London, some coming to Westminster later, and I left to photograph some of these.

Global Climate Strike Rally


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.

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 – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Hackney Housing

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

I took a short walk in Hackney before the protest outside the town hall to remind me exactly where Marian Court was, just behind the rather empty ‘fashion village’, an implant into the area with government money, £1.5m of Boris Johnson’s regeneration funding after the 2011 riots. It seems if anything to have been an expensive way to prove that gentrification isn’t an effective way to combat racist policing with a shoot to kill policy, and has failed to generate the promised jobs.

Marian Court appears to have been a well-designed small estate built for the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney in the late 1950s. It was built to the standards of the time and was in need of modernisation, and had been allowed to deteroriate. But as on many other council estates, rather than investing in the relatively modest cost of the necessary refurbishment, the council decided on an expensive scheme involving total demolition and the building of roughly twice as many housing units on the site by private developers, with a large proportion for sale at high market prices and others also at high prices as ‘affordable’ or shared ownership properties. Reports say that despite the roughly doubling of the number of units there will be 40% less social housing than at present.

The replacement flats in such schemes are almost always built to lower space standards than the existing properties, and demolition and rebuild involves an enormous environmental impact. Given our current problems with global warming and the impending threat of human extinction unless we take urgent actions to avoid this, demolition of existing buildings such as this should now be a rare last resort.

The human impact is of course also huge, with the estate being emptied. Those in social housing will have been offered rehousing, but usually in far less convenient places than this, targeted in part because of its central location and close transport links, and also probably with less security of tenure and higher rents. Leaseholders typically get compensation at far less than the cost of a similar property in the same area – or the new properties.

Schemes such as this effectively lead to social cleansing, despite the promises often made (but seldom kept) by local councils about residents being able to stay in the area or move back into the redeveloped properties. Those on low incomes are forced to move to the peripheries of the borough, to outlying borough or sometimes well outside London, away from jobs, schools, friends and other links in the community.

The protest at Hackney Town Hall, organised by East End Sisters Uncut and London Renters Union was over the failure by Hackney Council to provide suitable rehousing for two families remaining in Marian Court, both of whom attended and spoke at the event, and who seem to have been victimised because they particular housing needs and have stood up for their rights. You can see more about both of them and their issues with the council at Hackney don’t victimise housing activists.

And a few pictures of the area including Marian Court in Hackney


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

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 – 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.


Sitting on a goldmine?

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Though film is now long dead for serious photography, the past few years have seen an upsurge in film sales, driven by young people who want to have fun taking pictures. And although I don’t see much point if any if you are going to have your films trade processed and then scanned, I can see how people can get a great deal of satisfaction about developing film and darkroom printing, which still has its particular magic that enthralled me around 50 years ago.

Like the youth of today, back in the 1980s and 90s, I became interested in archaic photographic processes, going heavily into what then became known as ‘alternative processes’. Partly my interest was in learning more about the historic processes used by some of the early photographers whose work I admired, but it was also in the aesthetic possibilites offered by cyanotype, kallitype, platinum and palladium, gum bichromate et al.

My interest was shared by a number of friends, one of whom became a well-known figure in the world of alternative photography, organising international conferences and making soemthing of a living running workshops and selling prints. But eventually I realised that my interests were more in the making of images to say something about the world and that the conventional processes, which were just beginning to embrace digital photography and printing. And I found that I could make prints which seemed to me just as expressive using an inkjet printer (and Piezography inks) as I had acheived with salt printing or platinum and with much more control.

When digital first began to dominate photography around ten years ago, film cameras were redundant and secondhand prices slumped. But apparently with a new young generation wanting to shoot film they are now in great demand. The video by NBC Left Field, ‘Why We Still Love Film: Analog Photography in the Digital Age‘ includes  some footage of a secondhand camera shop with cameras now being sold for silly prices. The man at K&M Camera in New York in the film says demand now exceeds supply and offers smiling customers cameras at prices that seem to have an extra zero on them. Those like me, who couldn’t bear to sell their old film cameras at knock down prices, may now find they are sitting on a goldmine.

Unfortunately for me, a quick check online of the UK secondhand camera market tells me that UK prices as yet don’t reflect those in New York, so we can either sit tight and hope they will catch up in time, or take a heavy suitcase full to the States. Though looking at those UK listings of cameras which all seem to be in at least ‘good’ if not ‘excellent++’ condition I do wonder how ‘knackered–‘ might affect the price.

It’s certainly a good thing that using film forces people to think about taking photographs rather than just keep pushing the button. Most of us who grew up on film probably still do that anyway with digital, though it has made some differences.

Long ago I remember looking at the contact sheets made by a Magnum photographer, working with 35mm film. Most of his sheets of 36 exposures only really contained perhaps two pictures, working around the subject until he was satisfied that he had probably done the best he could. Where possible (sometimes there is only a fleeting chance and it is gone) I work the same way with digital, but can now take more frames and take them in a considerably shorter time and have a higher chance of getting the scene exactly as I want it.

But it’s perhaps a good time to sort out all those old cameras and put them up for sale. And perhaps we shouldn’t leave it too long. As one of the photographers on the film in what was perhaps its most interesting contribution points out that the film renaissance is likely to be of relatively short duration because of its environmental impacts.


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

Brixton march against government racism

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Brixton in south London has a special place in the history of our country, as it was in this area that the first wave of post-war Black migrants found homes and jobs, with those who had arrived on the Empire Windrush being given temporary accomodation a short distance away in an underground bunker on Clapham Common.

Brixton had the nearest government Labour Exchange where they went in search of jobs, and many found them in local businesses and found cheap lodgings in the area, and in time brought their families to the area. Soon this working class area of London was developing the more vibrant and colourful culture that now, together with its location close to central London and good transport links makes it a prime target for gentrification.

Brixton has also been a flashpoint for social unrest, with riots (or uprisings) in 1981, 1985 and 1991 after heavy-handed and racist policing as well as in the London riots of 2011. The 1981 riots came at a time of high unemployment, particularly among the local African-Caribbean community who felt under attack by excessive policing and also by lurid press stereotyping of them, their culture and the area.

I began going to Brixton regularly in 1991, when a photography collective I had links with moved from near Clapham Junction in Battersea to the heart of the area on the edge of Brixton market and reconstituted itself as Photofusion. For years I went to most of their exhibition openings as well as visiting to take prints in to their picture library, which was then an important source for images of British social life. Photofusion is now in new premises but just a short distance away, though I think all the people I knew there are gone and it’s a year or two since I last visited the gallery.

But I have continued going to Brixton, mainly to photograph protests and events, particularly at Windrush Square, outside Lambeth Town Hall and at Brixton Police Station. And on September 14th I found myself again in Brixton, beginning at Windrush Square. This is a rather bleak and windswept area in front of the Ritzy Cinema, the Tate Library and the Black Cultural Archives, with a busy road along its west edge, ‘landscaped‘ a few years back by Lambeth Council apparently with the aim of making it a less attractive place for people to gather.

Here’s what I wrote about the protest on My London Diary:

Movement for Justice and Lambeth Unison Black Workers’ Group protest in Brixton against the continuing persecution of Windrush family members and other migrants, calling for freedom of movement, the closure of immigration detention prisons, and an end to Brexit which is being used to whip up immigrant-bashing and nationalism to establish a Trump-style regime in Britain under Boris Johnson.

After speeches in Windrush Square they moved to Brixton Market where wide support was shown by the public for speeches. Before they left Green MEP for London Scott Ainslie spoke about his LDNlovesEU campaign. They then marched up to Atlantic Road and back along the main street, Brixton Road for a final short rally in Windrush Square.

More pictures at Brixton anti-racist march.


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.

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 – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Trans+ Pride

Monday, February 17th, 2020

Stonewall tell us that:

One in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.

The number of lesbian, gay and bi people who have experienced a hate crime has risen by 78 per cent since 2013.

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/cy/node/57287

But they go on to state that things are even worse for the trans community:

Two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last year, compared to one in six lesbian, gay or bi people who are not trans.

Two in five who identify as non-binary have experienced a hate crime in the last year.

14 per cent of trans people do not feel safe where they live. 44 per cent of trans people avoid certain streets because they do not feel safe, compared to 26 per cent of lesbian, gay or bi people who are not trans.

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/cy/node/57287

Trans people have particularly come under attack in print and on the media by a small group of largely ageing feminists, who have been labelled ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists‘ or ‘TERFs’ though these people object to the label, calling it a slur. Some of them use the rather non-specific term ‘gender critical’. Wikipedia says TERF is “used to describe feminists who express ideas that other feminists consider transphobic, such as the claim that trans women are not women, opposition to transgender rights and exclusion of trans women from women’s spaces and organizations.”

TERFs have disrupted various events including the 2018 Pride Procession and the London Anarchist Bookfair 2017. As well as TERFs, trans people are under attack form some Conservative religious groups and people on the far right including so-called MRAs, men’s rights activists. Odd bedfellows for feminists.

Stonewall was an appropriate source for my information for various reasons. It was the 1969 Stonewall riots that kick-started the whole gay rights movement, a time when gays first stood up against the police raids on gay clubs, and the main figures who led that defiance were three ‘women of color’, two of whom were trans women the third a butch lesbian. The ‘T’ has always been an integral part of the LGBT community, and transgender people have become much more visible in recent years.

There were fears that there might be some disruption of London’s First Trans+ Pride March by TERFs or other transphobic groups, but if there were any protesters against the march I didn’t see them.


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.

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 – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Rape Crisis in South Africa

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

Protesters met in Trafalgar Square to protest following the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana one of many such crimes against women in South Africa. The protest was in solidarity with those in the country which are calling on the government there to declare a state of emergency against gender-based violence, and to protest against gender-based violence across the world.

Protesters had been asked to dress in black and the vast majority had done so. Most of those protesting were women and the vast majority of gender-based crimes are against women. One woman held up a poster with the message ‘The Tortured Screams Of Millions Of Women Will Inevitably Be Drowned Out By the Pathetic Chorus Of “Good Guys” Mumbling “Not All Men.”‘

Another, rather more positively asked ‘Men: This Is Global Man-Made Crisis, What Action Are You Taking?’ though I was rather sorry that she was holding it upside-down when I took the picture showing her.

After the rally in Trafalgar Square, the protesters moved to South Africa House where they lit candles and put many of their posters against the wall of the closed High Commission.

The building and the crowd of protesters around provided some shade which just about made the flames visible in the middle of a bright sunny day.

More at Criminal Abuse of Women in South Africa.


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.

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 – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Against Hate Crime

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

I’d caught a train that should have got me to London in good time to meet the Stand Up to LBGTQ+ Hate Crime protesters outside the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, chosen because of the nail bomb attack on this gay pub by a Nazi supported in 1999 that murdered three people and injured many more. It was the second in a series of protests to combat the nearly 150% increase in anti-LGBT hate crime in the UK between 2014 and 2018. The campaigners say we should all be able to walk the streets without fear. 

But the South West Railway had other ideas, and my train made several unplanned stops on its journey into Waterloo, arriving around 40 minutes late – over double the normal journey time. It’s hard to understand quite why South West Railway has such a poor record of time-keeping. They use fairly recent rolling stock with automatice doors that cut down calling times at stations by perhaps a minute at each stop. The trains have better acceleration than the older units and I think faster maximum speeds. They cheat by shutting the doors 30 or 45 seconds before the train time – so you may miss the 17.38 unless you are actually there by 17.37:30 – unless it is running late. And most years they manage to add a minute or so to scheduled running time. Back when I first moved to where I now live, the ‘fast’ trains used to get to London in under 30 minutes; now they take 35, an unremarkable speed of 33.6 mph. They are even slower at weekends.

I ran from the station to the bus stop, and fortunately didn’t have long to wait, though buses are now always slow in evening rush hour traffic, though still usually faster than walking over anything but the shortest distance. But I’d known roughly how long it would take and had allowed for that in planning my journey. I ran from the bus stop down Old Compton St, annoyed at having missed the start of the event but hoping I could still find them on their march.

Fortunately they had begun a few minutes later than planned, and I caught them just a few yards from the start of the march, though I was too out of breath to take many pictures immediately. But I was able to go with them on their march through Soho, where they attracted considerable support from many on the streets outside the clubs and bars.

The light was going down noticeably as they marched, though it was still 25 minutes before sunset when they reached Trafalgar Square. But some Soho streets are quite narrow and the light can be low. Trafalgar Square is wide open and there was more light. I was working with the Olympus E-M5II on auto ISO and it wasn’t long before it was sometimes reaching the maximum I’d set of ISO 6400. The results at this setting were noticeably noiser than at ISO3200, but at this and lower ISOs the camera was a pretty good match to the Fuji XT1, which started the evening at ISO 1600 but I later switched to ISO 3200. With a wideangle 10-24mm on this camera I didn’t need to go higher.

Trafalgar Square had been chosen for the end of the march partly because it was the scene of the murder of Ian Baynham in a homophobic attack almost exactly 10 years earlier, but also because it is a public place with a long record of protests. Protests in the main area of the square now require the permission of the Mayor of London, but the North Terrace in front of the National Gallery, though pedestrianised, still counts as the public highway and protests such as this are allowed.

More at Against LGBTQ Hate Crime


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.

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 – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

Regents Canal 200

Friday, February 14th, 2020

If you are in London next month you are invited to the private view of the exhibition ‘2020 Vision – Vistas and Views’ at The Street Gallery, University College Hospital, 235 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BU. The gallery is along an area at the front of the hospital – turn right immediately you go through the main entrance – and will be on show until 22nd April 2020.

As well as paintings by Hilary Rosen the show includes a dozen pictures from a project I’ve been working on when I’ve had time over the past year, ‘Regents Canal 200‘.

The Regent’s Canal, which runs from Little Venice on the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal to Limehouse Dock was completed and opened in 1820, 200 years ago this year. There are other, more official, celebrations later in the year but I began this project in complete ignorance of these.

I’ve photographed the Regent’s Canal occasionally over the years since the late 1970s, and have hundreds or probably thousands of pictures from it, both in black and white and colour. But since space is limited in the gallery I will only be showing a small selection of the several hundred colour panoramas I’ve made over the past year.

Please RSVP to Laura Bradshaw – laura.bradshaw7@nhs.net 020 3447 7146 – though you will be welcome anyway, and Hilary and I will be pleased to see you there. If you want to print out a copy of the invitation you can open it as a PDF.