© 2013, Peter Marshall

The government has decided to sacrifice Lewisham Hospital as a token gesture over NHS costs, although it seems likely that the costs of closing it will in the longer term be greater than the short-term profit. Lewisham is a successful hospital clinically and financially, and serves a large population in south-east London and it is hardly surprising that the closure plan – removing its essential A&E and Maternity services along with some other children’s services – has caused local outrage, with many thousands on the streets for two major demonstrations – see Save A&E at Lewisham Hospital and Save Lewisham Hospital – as well as many smaller events.

The losses of the local heath area are  nothing to do with Lewisham, but arise from the decision to use private finance to build hospitals in neighbouring areas. The contracts negotiated under PFI reflected the lack of commercial nous in the public sectore, exacerbating what was in any case a disastrous policy, and now the pigeons hatched in Woolwich are coming to roost in Lewisham, at a time when government policy is rapidly privatising our National Health Service.

Around 150 people came to a lunchtime rally at the War Memorial opposite the hospital, where there were short speeches by a large number of people. I scrabbled around in my pocket for my notebook to record their names, only the remember that I had taken it out to write up a protest a couple of days earlier and had left it next to my computer at home. The only paper I had to hand was the small A6 rectangle of scrap paper I’d used to write down my directions for the day – times and places of events, bus numbers etc. I’d written these on the back of a piece of an old letter, and had covered most of the blank side with my pencilled directions.  I had to write the names of the roughly 20 speakers over these in biro.

© 2013, Peter Marshall
One of the speakers was the Mayor of Lewisham

Even when I remember my notebook, writing while taking pictures isn’t too easy. It would be rather easier and a better solution to be able to attach short audio notes to pictures – as you can on some phones. I do carry a small audio recorder, but it’s too fiddly just to record the odd note, and slow to have to look at the frame numbers on the camera back to use them in the recordings. Sometimes I do record longer audio tracks , but then having to search through and hour of audio to find the names takes too long.

You can add audio notes to images on some cameras – and with software on camera phones – but not on the Nikons. Theoretically I can use the buttons on the back to add a message, but it takes ages – and I type in one a year as a copyright message.

© 2013,n Peter Marshall

Taking the pictures of the crowd gave me the opportunity to include the older hospital building in the background, but for some of the best opportunities this also meant pointing my camera directly towards the sun. Being Winter, the sun even in the middle of the day was low, so hard to avoid even using a moderately wide angle.

I think even the manuals that come with Nikon’s professional cameras tell you to take pictures with the sun behind you, but of course this is neither always possible or desirable, and I like working towards the sun. It used to be considered a specialised aspect of photography, contre-jour, but hardly now qualifies as anything out of the ordinary.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

In several of the pictures I was able to make use of the placards that the protesters were holding up as lighting ‘flags’, thus avoiding excessive flare and ghosts, and for some pictures other protesters served the same function.  Digital makes this kind of thing easier, first because you can see immediately if you have got the results but also because it makes the post processing simple – just a quick dash with the adjustment brush in Lightroom to add a little brightness and contrast to the faces and other significant areas in shadow.

The problem with using people as ‘flags’ is that they will move unpredictably  while you are taking pictures. Just as I don’t normally direct the people I’m photographing, I don’t direct those I’m using  to control the lighting.

More pictures on Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues.


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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