India in London

I’ve never been to India. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m not a great traveller, at least not outside the M25, though I do occasionally take a train elsewhere, and I’ve photographed in a few other cities.  Perhaps if I’d started young as a full-time photographer I would have got to travel rather more, but for almost 30 years my main job was teaching, and I had no great urge to travel in my holidays – I had work to get on with here.

London is truly a fascinating city, and one to which the world comes – even if those who want to stay for more than a couple of weeks holiday are considerably less welcome officially than they once were. Walking around the city you run into blue plaques commemorating the stays here of those who went on to liberate and lead nations around the world.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Perhaps this is still happening today, and one day there will be plaques commemorating the future leaders of Khalistan and Kashmir, who may well have been among those I photographed outside the Indian High Commission last week on the Indian Republic Day, which they celebrated with demonstrations calling for freedom from Indian rule for their nations. More about this and of course more pictures in Free Kashmir & Khalistan on My London Diary.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

After they left, another protest took their place, calling for the release of an Indian doctor and civil rights activist, Dr Binayak Sen, whose crime has been to spend his life working for the poor.  Release Binayak Sen Now  on My London Diary.

Quite by coincidence, on the train up to London that day I’d been reading Jaspreet Singh‘s novel ‘Chef’, a story about a Sikh man making a journey back from India to Kashmir and retelling the story of his life in his younger years there as chef to an Indian Army General. I read more between photographing the two events, sitting with a pint of Samuel Smith’s in the Lyceum, a short walk from the High Commission (though I actually walked there by a very long detour to the British Museum which had been closed  because of a ‘chemical attack’ which turned out to be a false alarm.) ‘Chef’ is a novel that had some resonance to both events.

It felt rather strange to be working with just one camera, and that the D300, as I’d taken my rather stuttering D700 in to Fixation for servicing the previous afternoon. Although I normally use both, somehow I’d forgotten the difference the smaller viewfinder image makes, though the having less weight to carry was welcome. Instead of the 16-35mm, I’d taken the Sigma 10-20mm out of the cupboard – equivalent to 15-30mm, and I really did miss that 35mm end while taking pictures. Possibly I would have  been happier with the 12-24mm Sigma (18-36 eq), though then I would have missed the wide end.  Along with the 10-20mm I was also using the Nikon 18-105mm (27-157 eq) so I did have a lens that covered 35mm, but often I found myself making do rather than bother to change the lens.

It was also a pretty dull day, and I did miss the extra stop or so I would have allowed in setting the ISO on the D700. I don’t much like working about ISO 1250 on the D300. So I was pleased the following day to get a call from Fixation to tell me the D700 was waiting for collection.  The two-year guarantee runs out next week and I am renewing it, as the camera does get pretty heavy use – the frame counter was at 116,150. Normally I wouldn’t bother, as it’s almost always cheaper to pay for repairs when necessary rather than take out insurance. As well as replacing the faulty unit, Fixation also replaced much of the rubber bits on the outside of the body, carried out a general service and recalibration and checked and cleaned it – including the sensor – and finished the job in two days.

I do rather like the ‘Release Dr Binayak Sen’ image, and I think the picture above is the best frame of several rather similar. There is a kind of rhythm across the frame, which the picture fits rather well, and the text too clearly conveys the message without being too obvious, a built in caption scattered around the image, including the nicely placed “people’s doctor & civil rights activist‘ on the apron at bottom right.  The yellow Amnesty balloon reads ‘Demand Justice’ though perhaps a little to small the read at the scale it is here. There is a difference in expressions in the faces across the picture which I like too, and just a little of the building behind to indicate where it was taken.

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