Not A1 at Lloyds

When the idea of Open House days first came up I thought it was a great one, and in the first couple of years I went into quite a few places otherwise inaccessible to the public, and even took a few pictures, although photography wasn’t always allowed. Now it has perhaps become too popular, and except for those locations where you need to book in advance (and where places tend to fill very rapidly) there are often extremely large queues.

One of the longest queues this year was at the Lloyd’s building, and the London Citizen Workers took advantage of the event to hold a demonstration. Cleaners at Lloyd’s – whose members are among the wealthiest people in the country – are some of the lowest paid in the capital, and the contract firm that employs them apparently provides no sickness pay or other benefits. They have so far resisted the campaign by the LCWA for a ‘London living wage’ for cleaners, which demands £7.20 an hour, along with entitlement to sick pay, holidays and access to a recognized trade union.

It was a small but vociferous demonstration, and some of those queuing expressed surprise at the poor treatment of the people who keep the Lloyd’s building clean. The Living Wage campaign reveals the poor treatment of essential workers, who are trapped in a ‘working poverty gap.’

Technically it was an interesting but difficult job. More film and megabytes have been used on the Lloyd’s building than any other modern building in London, and its shining silver surfaces have a definite appeal to photographers. The red banners and tabards of the demonstrators added some exciting colour, and the strong sunlight coming down the street some powerful lighting effects. But although visually stimulating, it was murder to photograph, with contrast hitting the extremes.

Picket at Lloyd's London

At least with digital you get a clear view of the problems you are facing, although in this case they were not entirely soluble. Although flash fill can bring up the foreground, it could not deal with the lower floors of the building which were in deep shade while the upper levels were in bright sun. A few years back I would have shot this kind of thing on black and white without fill (as a colleague was still doing with his Leica and doubtless getting great pictures) and probably cursed on location my inability to take wider images, and back in the darkroom cursed the empty shadows and dense highlights.

More pictures on ‘My London Diary‘.

Peter Marshall

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.