G8 & Hunger

The Saturday before the G8 meetings in Ireland I went to two events about World Food supply and hunger. The first was outside the landmark Unilever House at Blackfriars where David Cameron was talking to a carefully selected audience and pushing the G8’s special initiative launched in 2012, the ‘new alliance for food security and nutrition.’

Outside were a group of protesters pointing out that while this was very good for Unilever, Monsanto, Cargill and the other global agribusinesses it was terrible news for African farmers, and the people of Africa, resulting in huge land grabs, much of the output being for biofuel or food exports, and a move of people away from the land to the city slums. The protesters argued that what is needed is not ‘food security’ through making agriculture profitable for large companies but ‘food sovereignty’ which “puts the people who produce, distribute and consume food at the centre of decisions on food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations that they believe have come to dominate the global food systems.”

The protesters had brought with them plants in boxes and fruit and veg to form a ‘garden’, along with a lot of placards and banners, and visually it was rather a mess, as I think this picture shows.


‘visually it was rather a mess’

You can see at No to G8 New Alliance on Food Security how I told the story in pictures, and there was one which – at least for me – stood out as a better picture – and you can see it at the top of this post. Of course I didn’t pose it, though the woman I was photographing was clear I was photographing her. Often people do stop and pose, but I tell them to get on with whatever they were doing (I try to avoid saying “act natural”, surely an oxymoron) but after a while people do just ignore you.

It would perhaps have made a slightly better picture had she managed to be natural while putting out the plants into the container, rather than just after when she was planting potatoes, but neither she nor I had quite got our act together in time. But there are several things that help it. There are the green plants in the container, put in the foreground to emphasize them. The three placards although all different all clearly tell a similar story about the ‘New Alliance’. Most important of course is the woman at left, and her red jumper and hat with flowers and her yellow scarf are the main visual interest.

I wasn’t using flash, which perhaps would have made processing this image a little easier – and it did need some work (which I hadn’t done very carefully in the rush to get this image on-line.) Straw hats are a problem in sun, overlaying the features with a shadow and sun grid which I’ve had to tone down. Often this means zooming into the face and burning down the sunny areas, then lightening up the whole of the face to get more detail in the shadow areas.

The groups and charities involved in this protest were critical of some aspects of the other much larger charity event around the same problem, the Big IF, which was taking place in Hyde Park. Since the main part of this appeared to be to construct a large display to be photographed from above and I didn’t have a helicopter handy, I wasn’t particularly keen to photograph this, even though my wife and some friends were taking part. But I’d promised to take a picture of them on the ‘solidarity walk’ from a Big IF church service in Westminster Central Hall to the main rally in Hyde Park.

After taking the picture above (or perhaps another like it), one of the other  photographers taking pictures at the event, I think for one of the charities involved, came up to me and thanked me because I had alerted him to the rather large building that made a nice background to the image.  Well, it was nice to be thanked, rather than just the more normal shoulders that suddenly appear pressing on both sides of me when I’m taking pictures, but it was just a little surprising.  It’s something that to me seems so obvious as to be unmissable.

It seemed to me a wasted opportunity that this wasn’t a proper march, and any impact that several thousand people walking through London might have had was missed by staggering their starting times, keeping to the pavement and taking a longer than necessary route along the back streets to reach the destination. And I was also a bit annoyed because even though I arrived at the starting point twenty minutes before the advertised time, they had already started on the walk.

It really would have been more sensible to hold the service in the open air in Hyde Park before the rally. You can see some of the pictures I took on Big IF Solidarity Walk, although not that of my wife and a couple of friends, which is on another web site – it wasn’t a good enough picture for me to want to include it on My London Diary. Some of the people I photograph really are uncooperative!

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