Documenting the Climate Camp

Although the Climate Camp has always had problems with how to deal with photography and with the press – and things were a little better this year than in previous years – it has tried to create some proper documentation of its work through photography and film.

Although for various reasons I’ve not actually become a climate camper, I was invited to come and take part in this, although I was only able to do so for one day of the camp.

Members of the team were identified by wearing blue sashes and the camp handbook asked people both to tell them if they don’t want to be filmed and also if there is anything happening which should be documented. It says “These are highly trusted individuals accountable to the Camp as a whole, and we hope that campers feel cool and relaxed around them.”

Although wearing a sash did make it rather easier to work around the camp I still found a little hostility at times, and I wasn’t able to work as freely as normal. Much of my work relies on capturing a fleeting instant, and if I’m having to think whether I need to ask permission before I take the picture it means that I’ll miss the moment. You can see the pictures I did manage to make on My London Diary.

Of course there were photographers working inside the camp without permission, including several that I know who had simply come in with the rest of the public as visitors. I didn’t see anyone who had accepted the media guidelines and was wearing press badges and accompanied by minders.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

What I was photographing was the normal daily life of the camp, hopefully giving some idea about how it works and what it was like to be there. I also spent a little time following (with her permission) one woman who had heard about the camp and had made a short trip across South London to come and see for herself.

© 2009 Peter Marshall

I think she was both confused and impressed by her first impressions of the camp, and so perhaps was I.

As I walked out of the camp and across the heath I noticed a small group of Climate Campers gathered at the fence below the police cherry picker with its video cameras trained on the camp day and night.  A small group of police was talking to them and they all dispersed as I drew near. I stopped and took a few pictures of the cameras, still rather distant on their high platform, then turned around and walked on a few yards to photograph the banners on the Climate Camp fence.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.
The cherry-picker and cameras from inside the Climate Camp

I became aware of a black man in his mid-twenties around twenty yards away from me. I turned down a path and he too turned down it, and again at the next meeting of paths.  I stopped to put my camera away in my camera bag. He stopped too. I took out a sandwich and stopped to eat it.  I’m a slow eater, but when I’d finished I turned my head and the guy was still there, writing in a notebook. I made my way down the hill and he continued to follow me.

Of course I was behaving suspiciously. After all, I’d been taking photographs.

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