More on Saturday

Continued from Last Saturday Everything Was Happening

From Topshop, I ran along Oxford St towards Vodaphone, which company had been voted for by UK Uncut supporters as the main target of their ‘Christmas special’. By the time I arrived, they were being prevented by police from entering the store – and UK Uncut are peaceful protesters who wouldn’t try and push their way in, so they simply gathered on the pavement outside.

There was plenty of room for them, as this section of Oxford St is currently one-way, with just a single lane fenced off at its centre, leaving a much wider than usual pedestrian area.

After chanting the indictment against Vodaphone, who it now seems have dodged not just the £6billion that UK Uncut originally alleged, but actually £8billion (or eight thousand million pounds in old-fashioned English)  using the human microphone we’ve become used to from the Occupy movement – with one person reading a phrase which is then shouted out by everyone else – slow, tedious but remarkably effective – they then turned to singing UK Uncut’s Christmas Carols with suitably different lyrics to some familiar tunes.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Carolling at Vodaphone

I tried hard to get the idea that people were singing, and also to show where they were singing and getting the odd Santa hat, particularly with messages about tax was a bonus.  Taken with the D700 and 16-35mm at 17mm, f5.6 gave enough depth of field. I used a fairly high ISO to get a reasonably fast shutter speed. On the full-size original you can read the words on the carol sheets, though I made sure to get a copy so I could quote from it in my story on Demotix (which will appear later on My London Diary.)

After that, the protesters even started dancing, but after taking a few pictures I decided I could leave and go elsewhere – which meant catching a bus towards Downing St.

On my list of events I had a protest listed by the Congolese, but the main group present when I arrived were Syrian Kurds, supporting the protests in Syria and calling for a ‘Free Syria.’ They were using both the old Syrian flag from the days when Syria gained its independence and also the flag of Kurdistan, and calling for the revolution in Syria to produce a federation in which the Kurds would gain recognition (many of them are stateless in Syria, and subject to laws against their language and traditions.)  It seemed to me important to try and show both flags together where I could.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Kurdistan and Syrian Freedom flags opposite Downing St

Flags at protests often make the pictures more interesting, but they can also be very frustrating, and it took a few frames to get one with the flag at the top  which was being waved around blowing out well.

Just a few yards away there were a few Congolese, but it was only half an hour after their protest had been timed to start. Probably more would turn up later, but since I thought it unlikely I would be back I took some pictures. The big attraction in several ways was the dancing, mainly by some of the women, and I was especially attracted by one  of them wearing a blue shirt with the yellow and red stripe and yellow star of the Congo flag.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Congolese men pose for a photo

But as I was preparing to leave, I saw a group of four of the men posing for a photograph. Although I don’t like to pose people – it’s interfering with the event – I’ve nothing against taking pictures of groups that the protesters themselves have set up, and I went across and they were happy for me to take aphotograph as well, playing up a little for the camera.

I was pleased it was a fairly slow bus ride from Whitehall to Bond Street, giving me time to have a little rest and finish my late lunch, although just a little worried that I might be too late at the US Embassy where I knew the friends of Bradley Manning were holding a vigil. But when I arrived, not only were they still there, but there were two other groups protesting.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The other protesters – pro-regime Syrians and Iraqis together with some people from Stop the War – were united in protesting against US intervention in their region. The Syrians wanted an end at attempts through the UN and other ways by the US to intervene in the actions their government is taking against what they call terrorists, while the Iraqis were celebrating the defeat of the US army, whose last active troops were leaving that day (though they were calling for the various ‘advisers’ and mercenaries also to go.) Both were united too in condemning the BBC and other media for telling lies about their countries.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Overall I couldn’t really find images that were strong, but there were a few individuals who I think told the story well.  It was really much the same with the vigil for Bradley Manning.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Finally, I strolled down to the Egyptian Embassy, only to find 3 rather bored looking police and no protest. I was a few minutes early, so I took a walk around the block, and when I returned on time there was one man there. It was cold and I wanted to go home, but a couple of other photographers had arrived, so at least I had someone to talk to. After 20 minutes or so a few more protesters had arrived and they decided to start, and so did I.

There was really very little light, and even at ISO3600 the ambient in the pen where the protesters were standing was giving me readings like 1/4s f4. So most of the pictures I took were with flash, though I did play around a little without. I don’t like just using flash, because in photographing these kind of events it isn’t possible to play with multiple light set ups. You could work holding the flash at arms length, but I actually prefer the effects you can get with it on camera. I’ve experiments a little with using larger diffusers – and used to use these with film, but with the SB800 I don’t find they make a great deal of difference.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Flash doesn’t really work – except for fill – on the P setting on the Nikons. My best results come from working in S mode, with a fixed shutter speed. By selecting a suitable value you can get usually get a decent balance between flash and ambient, and in these dim conditions I found 1/20 a sensible compromise. This left the 16-35mm at maximum aperture (f4) which is fine. Some of the images are sharper than others, depending on the amount of movement of both photographer and subject. Personally I think I preferred a bit of blur, as in the picture above, but I think I used a similar but overall sharper frame for Demotix.

Fuller stories from Saturday are on Demotix – and will be posted later with more pictures on My London Diary.


UK Uncut Santa Calls on Dave Hartnett
UK Uncut Xmas protest at tax dodgers Topshop
UK Uncut Xmas protest at tax dodgers Vodaphone – London
Syrian Kurds In London Call For Stop To Syrian Massacres
Congolese Protests Continue in London
Iraqis and Syrians Protest At US Embassy – London
Bradley Manning birthday demonstration at US Embassy
Egyptians protest in London as Cairo troops attack protesters

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