QE2 Conference

I wasn’t of course invited to the conference hosted by David Cameron on aid for Syria at the QE2 Cconference centre just a few yards from Parliament Square, but a number of world leaders were, and security around the area was high, with metal fences guarded by police hiding the lower part of the building from view. But I hadn’t come to photograph the world leaders, but those who had come to protest.

It wasn’t of course the British left who were protesting rather a long way away outside the no-go area, on the opposite side of Victoria St, which had been closed to traffic. There has been a virtually complete failure among organised left groups to articulate any sensible policy on Syria or to give any real support to the people of Syria.

The government’s record has too been one of abject failure, supporting the US in encouraging rebellion but doing virtually nothing to actually help the rebels, and dragging its feet in supporting refugees fleeing the war zone.

There were two groups protesting while I was there, both from our miggrant communities, Syrians calling for the conflict to be recognised as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, displacing 50% of the Syrian population, half of them children, with 5 countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – taking 95% of the refugees and calling for an end to hunger sieges and the Russian bombing of Syria. They want a ‘no-fly zone’ to stop the bombing of civilians in Syrian cities by the Assad regime.

The larger protest was by Kurds, as Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu was attending the conference. They accuse the Turks of genocide against Kurdish civilians in Turkey and of supporting ISIS by exporting ISIS oil so they can attack Kurds in Syria and Turkey.

Several of my fellow-photographers had some problems with separating out the two protest as the situation was just a little confusing, and there were some misleading captions on some images sent to the agencies. One of the reasons I don’t send images direct from the scene is that captions sometimes need rather more thought – and often a little internet research – than photographers can give in the instant-news set-up. Though my carefully crafted captions are usually ignored when the pictures are used.

Along with captions, images are also key-worded. While it seems obvious to me that a properly written caption should convey the most relevant information, most image databases used by agencies I’ve contributed work to seem to give far greater priority to keywords – and some have not used the captions at all for finding images. Presumably this is simply because it’s easier and faster for software searches.

The other small problem in taking pictures was a little harassment by police, who kept telling photographers – who need a little distance between them and those they are photographing – to get back on the pavement. Since the road was closed to traffic there seemed no justification for this, and photographers, myself included, kept wandering back into the road after having followed the police direction. Fortunately I like working close to the people I’m photographing, but when I’d been threatened with arrest the third or fourth time I decided I’d taken enough pictures and left.

Kurds protest against Turkish PM
Syrians protest at donor aid conference


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