It was the first event of East End Sisters Uncut and a protest against domestic violence and the failure of Hackney Council to take the problem seriously – 60% of women who desperately need a refuge are turned away as there is no room for them.
I didn’t know any of the women who were there are the start and felt just a little awkward photographing at a women-only event, though I don’t think I really needed to be. But I like to blend in and photograph form inside the protest, and it just felt a little uncomfortable. Though I think it was entirely within my naturally very shy mind. People sometimes laugh when I admit I find it very hard to take photographs, but it’s true. And some days, some events, I never quite manage to overcome that shyness. There is always an initial barrier I have to overcome, and there have even been a few rare occasions on bad days when I’ve turned around and walked away rather than take pictures.
Once the protest really started things were easier, though I did have some arguments with the two women who sere security guards on the steps of Hackney Town Hall. These look and feel to me like a public place, but they were being policed officiously as private property, and although they were not in use and empty they insisted I move off from them. Hackney hire out parts of the town hall for weddings and they use the steps for wedding photographs, but there was no wedding there at the time- and I would have kept out of the way had one emerged.
I argued a bit, and took a few pictures before moving off them, but perhaps I should have stuck up more for my rights. But the protesters had moved off them when they were told they had to, and though I was annoyed, it was more important to photograph the protest rather than make my own protest.
And of course I wanted to get in closer to the people who were taking part in the protest and take their pictures. It’s always good to get images from different viewpoints, and I like ot keep my eyes open for places where I can look down on events, but the really good pictures usually come from getting down and getting close.
Although the steps were fine so far as I was concerned, increasingly I do have problems with climbing up on anything less solid. Where I used to climb on top of all sorts of street furniture to photograph from a higher viewpoint, I now have to chose more carefully, looking for places that are really solid and where I have something firm to hang on to. Stand on a wall or a box without support and I begin to shake uncontrollably, getting blurry images and in danger of falling. I think I’ve always had slight problems with balance, but in recent years it has got far worse.
It didn’t look as if much was likely to happen, everything was very quiet and ordered and there seemed to be a number of speeches coming, and I decided I could leave to go to other events that day.
This was something of a mistake, as not long after I left things rather kicked off. The protest took to the steps I’d been ordered off earlier, and set of flares and protested noisily before going off to occupy a flat nearby in their protest against the failure of Hackney Council to take seriously the need to provide refuges for women who have to leave homes because of domestic violence. They set up a flat as a refuge and kept it going for several weeks before they were evicted.
I should have talked to some of those organising the protest and found out what was happening, but the event was running rather later than I’d hoped and I was keen to be elsewhere. I should learn, as too often I try to do too much.
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