2012 – My Own Favourites – June

June was a shorter than usual month for me, as I spent a week, welcomely coincidental with the royal shenanigans,  away in the wilds of rural Devon. Though they are not very wild and were very wet, so I took relatively few pictures, and none that made my favourites list.

But I was pleased to be in London for the annual Naked Bike Ride, a rather curious and somewhat vaguely ecological protest that gives a great deal of interest and amusement to riders and spectators alike. One of the challenges for the photographer is in finding images that are widely publishable with so much flesh on display, and I’ve always been fairly cautious in the images that I have put on the web, although I know that there will still be some that offend a few people.

Personally I can’t find nudity offensive, although I think there are good reasons for most of us to keep most of our bodies covered up most of the time, not least our British weather. Since Genesis tells us that God created man and woman in his own image I find the objections of some extremist Christians blasphemous, but making a cult of nudity and body worship is equally disturbing, with its echoes of the Third Reich (when “Mensch und Sonne” was official party literature.)

I’ve deliberately not put the picture from the Naked Bike Ride at the top of this page, and if anyone is likely to be upset in any way by looking at pictures of people without clothes they had better not scroll down. But I like this picture because it shows a whole group of people taking part in the event, standing with or sitting on their bikes, mostly more or less naked (the only absolute clothing rule is that you have to wear something on your feet.)

They are taking a breather on Westminster Bridge, with the Houses of Parliament behind them, making obvious that this is taking place in the centre of London. Cycling for me – and I learnt to ride a two-wheeler when I was six – has always been about freedom, and I like the sense of freedom in this image. People are together but doing their own different things, including drinking water, taking pictures, being photographed; only four of the twenty or so are wearing cycle helmets, a couple have sun hats and another two are in wigs.

More pictures (if some more nudity won’t offend) in Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

A very different event in very different weather just a few days later,  was the Carnival of Dirt, a mock funeral procession to remember the many activists around the world who have been murdered for standing up against the interests of the powerful mining and extraction companies, many of which are based in the City of London, listed on the London Stock Exchange and who trade on the London Metal Exchange. Many of those taking part wore black, and one of the most striking was this woman, with the message ‘Poverty is Filth’ across her face.

I’d talked briefly with her and photographed her a couple of times at the start of the event on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, and its hard to choose the best of several images (which you can see on My London Diary.) But this, taken in fairly heavy rain as we stood for some short speeches outside the Stock Exchange on Newgate St (yet again we were barred from Paternoster Square.)

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I seldom ask people I’m photographing to look at me, although it is often important that eyes are visible, ‘eye contact’ isn’t always important in images, and often detracts. But here is is absolutely essential and unusually intense, large irises with small pupils staring fixedly from the image. I didn’t need to ask, this was obviously someone very aware of the image she had set out to create and the contrasts between black and white in her dress and hair and hat – and of course those bright red lips and the message written across her face.

The inspiration behind this event, and many of the more imaginative protests we have seen in recent years in London was the radical anthropologist Professor Chris Knight, a Marxist sacked from his post at the University of East London in 2009 for his involvement in the political street theatre group ‘The Government of the Dead’.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

I’ve photographed him on many occasions at protests, usually in his black suit and hat, but the picture of him speaking through a megaphone at the London Metal Exchange, along with a crowd of protesters with coffins and placards with images of murdered activists is one of my favourites.

I was working with the 10.5mm partly because of the crush of the crowd which made it impossible to stand any distance away, but also because of the wet weather. Both the other lenses I was carrying – the 16-35mm and the 28-105mm Nikkor had become unusable, with condensation steaming up on internal lens elements. Like most zooms that change physical length the 28-105 isn’t good in damp weather as zooming pumps moist air in and out, but the 16-35mm where zoom and focus are both by internal movements is usually much better.

The wide angle has let me bring in so much that is happening around Knight, while the curvature of the image makes everything centre around him and the megaphone and the patch of mud on his face in symbolic solidarity with the people of West Papua where the Indonesian government is carrying out a policy of genocide on behalf of mining interests.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Several Fathers Day Vigils for Custody deaths were held around the country on June 17, and I went to Brixton Police Station, where a number of people over the years have died  – have been killed – under suspicious circumstances. Physically healthy young black men taken in by police dead within hours of arrival. Among them Ricky Bishop and Sean Rigg, killed inside Brixton Police Station on 21 August 2008, and whose inquest had just begun on 11 June 2012, a few days before I took this picture of his two sisters fixing a framed picture of him to the memorial tree outside the police station.

The case of Sean Rigg is just one of several thousand  – in my report on the event I noted:

The official statistics are deliberately (if not criminally) misleading and record only a small fraction of such deaths. A report published by the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody in 2011 states:

‘in total, there were 5,998 deaths recorded for the 11 years from 2000 to 2010. This is an average of 545 deaths per year. Despite the fact there have been 11 unlawful killing verdicts since 1990 there has never been a successful prosecution. ‘

What makes some of these cases stand out – and in particular those of Ricky Bishop whose family organised this event, and of Sean Rigg – has been the determined effort by these families to get justice, not just in the case of their own families but also for others through the United Friends and Families Campaign.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Finally for June I’ve chosen a picture from Sudanese march in London, a protest on the anniversary of the coup by which President Omar el-Bashir came to power in 1989 calling on him to step down, for the release of all political prisoners and for BashiR, the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court in a controversial decision in 2010, to be turned over to the ICC.

The picture, taken at 40mm (60mm) on the 28-105mm I think shows the united crowd calling for change, echoed by a red crowd in a placard behind the central raised fist. The shutter speed of 1/160s has rendered the people at the front of the crowd and their placards fairly sharply but the limited depth of field at f6.3 makes the more central man with the raised fist on whom I focussed stand out with critical sharpness, while the movement of his central fist gives it a very tangible blur.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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