Sunflowers and Serwotka

D810 28-200mm at 28mm (42mm) 1/800s, f/11, ISO 800

I’ve long admired union leader Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, the trade union for British civil servants. I’ve heard him speaking sense at many events, and was shocked to hear of the sudden mystery illness in 2010 that had come close to killing him and left him being kept alive by a pacemaker and later permanently hooked up to a ventricular assist device. Despite all this he has kept on working and supporting his members.

When first elected in 2000 the retiring General Secretary refused to step down and it took a legal battle in the High Court to get him in post. Since then he has won three further elections, unopposed in two of them. In 2000 he had promised only to take the average civil servants salary and apparently still returns a proportion of his pay to the union.

D810 28-200mm at 70mm (105mm) 1/500s, f/9, ISO 800

He was the main speaker at an event to mark 100 days of strike by gallery assistants at the London National Gallery, against privatisation and the victimisation of PCS Union Rep Candy Udwin. To mark this were three strikers each carrying a digit of the number ‘100’; the ‘1’ was rather ordinary but the two zeros each used the sunflower motif taken by the strikers from one of the Gallery’s most famous images, with a hole in the centre.

D810 28-200 at 38mm (57mm) 1/500s, f/9, ISO 800

As soon as I saw this I moved around the circle of people listening to the speeches trying to make use of it as a framing device. Getting into exactly the right position to use one of the ‘0’s behind Mark’s head was a little tricky, not least as he moved a little while speaking. I quite liked my first attempt (or at least the first I got it right) but felt I could do more, though getting to the exact height needed was a little of a strain on my knees.

Next I tried to get a frame that showed him and the other two digits, but this was tricky as people were standing a little too close in to show the whole of the ‘1’, and I didn’t quite think it worked.

D700 16-35mm at 26mm 1/400s, f/10, ISO 800, slight crop

I used a wider view to include Candy Udwin as well and was quite please by this.

D810 28-200mm at 70mm (105mm eq) 1/500s, f/9, ISO 800

Then tried again, tightly cropping the two ‘0’s. Really I would have liked the guy at right to be more central in the aperture, but I couldn’t manage this.

I’m not entirely sure of the order in which I took these images, as I was working with two cameras, the Nikon D700 and D810 and hadn’t synchronised the clocks for a while. I think I altogether took around 30 images on each, a total of around 60 or 70 in a little under three minutes before the guys holding the figure took a rest and put them down on the pavement. A few frames were ruined by blinking or flags or placards coming into the scene, but most are simply slight variations of those above. I like when I can to push each idea until I’m sure I’ve got what I want – or the opportunity disappears.

Around the final frame I made of the scene is the one at the top of this post and my favourite of the set. It’s the widest view and the sun was causing me some problems – though was also the reason why the other photographers at the event weren’t standing where I was.  It takes a little work in post to reduce the flare in the image. But I liked the bus going past with people watching from the top, and telling us that this was London, and the placard at top left with its message of what the protest was about.


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 taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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