Fukushima anniversary

June 30th, 2019

It’s hard to believe that it is 8 years since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima when three reactors went into meltdown on 11 March 2011, but it is a disaster that is still continuing, with high levels of radiation in parts of the plant and clean-up of the site will take many more years, although life is begining to get back to normal in the surrounding area.

It is still far to early to give any definitive figure for the number of deaths th accident and its associated leak of radioactive material will cause, but Fukushima  ranks only second to Chernobyl in the long list of nuclear accidents. One method of estimation suggests it will eventually result in around 130 deaths from cancer.

Nuclear power has never yet lived up to the promises made by its advocates of clean, abundant and cheap energy, and even though the costs of decommisioning nuclear power stations has largely been disregarded, the costs of nuclear energy run high. Nuclear power plants have largely developed around the world because of their production of isotopes for nuclear weapons rather than simply to provide energy. Unless and until it becomes possible to develop nuclear fusion reactors it would make sense to put nuclear on hold, and to concentrate investment on reducing energy use and backing low-cost renewables such as on-shore wind.

Although the health risk from Fukushima may be lower than some activists suggest, it has had huge disruption for those in the surrounding area, with many having to be evacuated. Clearly it was a nuclear facility in the wrong place and with inadequate regard for safety. The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), was found to have failed to meet basic safety requirements including risk assessment, preparations for containing collateral damage, and developing evacuation plans. 

There continue to be regular protests about Fukushima in London, and an annual march on or close to the anniversary. I like to photograph them both because I think it important to end reliance on nuclear energy and becuase they are colourful and slightly surreal events, with people dressing as large bright yellow containers of nuclear waste and carrying large sunflowers, and some fine graphic posters.

Remember Fukushima 8 years On


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Vigil mourns deaths on our streets

June 29th, 2019

It is appalling that we have so many people homeless and living on the streets in what is still one of the richer countries of the world. And even more appalling that so many of them are there as a direct result of government policies. While Labour didn’t have a great record on dealing with homelessness, since the Tories came to power (at first with the support of the Lib-Dems) in 2010, the numbers of those sleeping rough have increased dramatically as a result of benefit sanctions and changes to benefits, in particular the introduction of Universal Credit, which has led to a remarkable number of people being evicted from their homes, unable to pay the rent.

My wife volunteers to work part time in a food bank in a relatively affluent area, where before 2010 there was no need for food banks, and the great majuority of the people who are referred to them as needing assistance need it because of the deliberate failures and actions of the benefits system.

‘One death is one too many’ was the clear message on one of the banners – and on its reverse were the names of around a hundred people who had died as a result of benefit cuts – a very small sample of the many thousands who have met premature death – academic studies suggest over 100,000 since 2010.

The protest was organised by a number of groups who help people in desperate circumstances on our streets, providing food and where they can shelter – despite the response of some local councils wh have passed by-laws to criminalise giving people food on the streets. I think anyone with any humanity should be angry about what is happening here.

Nikon

Strictly from a photographic viewpoint, I was interested to see how my recently purchased Olympus E-M5MarkII compared with the Nikon D810 working in low light. Despite being on a major street, the light on the pavement is fairly low. The Nikon has a full-frame sensor while the Olympus is a Micro Four Thirds system camera, with a sensor area roughly a quarter of the size. It also has a rather smaller pixel count.

Olympus

The difference in the images taken at ISO6400 is noticeable when viewed at full size, and still apparent when I view them at roughly A4 size. But the Olympus still produces usable images, far better than I could have obtained using film. And as the grain of my Tri-X images seldom if ever bothered me, neither does the slight tooth of these digital images. But perhaps I prefer the Nikon colour, though as is clear in the top image (Nikon, no flash) there are several light sources of different colour temperatures in the frame.

I don’t like to use flash at events like this, as it seems rather intrusive, and it’s too easy to lose the atmosphere of the candle light, but I did feel I needed to take as least some pictures using flash, and as I had the Nikon SB800 with me, used this for some pictures with the Nikon D810. I think I got the light balance about right in most of them and you can see the difference the flash makes from this pair of pictures both taken at 1/40th, f5.6, ISO 6,400, -0.3EV

More on the protest and more pictures: No more deaths on our streets


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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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Big School Strike for the Future

June 27th, 2019

School students can see clearly the threat that faces the planet – especially with some predictions that human life will be extinct on Earth before they reach middle age. I’ve never expected to be still alive in 2050, though it’s just about possible, but these people clearly should be – but quite likely won’t if we continue “business as usual“.

But its also good to be with them and to feel the energy they have, and the enthusiasm they show. As well as in the actions on the day it comes out too in the many placards. There are some mass produced from the usual culprits, Socialist Worker and the Socialist Party, but even the SWP have produced a decent one for the cause, with a nice Wave and the message ‘System Change Not Climate Change’. But clearly there are many schools where the art department is full of people making their placards.

We clearly are at a point where we need drastic change, and are unfortunately stuck with dinosaurs in charge, fiddling about with Brexit and internal party politics (both Tory and Labour) while the planet almost literally burns.

We won’t of course go on like this. It’s a simple choice, change or die, and one that has become far more critical since I first got up in front of a microphone almost 50 years ago and said we can’t go on like this. We now know much more in detail about what is going on.

Police tried to stop the protesters at the end of the Mall, but while a crowd gathered in front of their line, others coming up behind simply swarmed around the sides and ran across the grass to get to the Victoria Monument in front of Buckingham Palace.

The police gave up and the others came through to gather around the monument, and their were speeches from several of the protesters to a tightly packed crowd – and I managed to squeeze my way through to take photographs. Mostly I was so close that the fisheye became almost essential, though the one at the head of this post was made with the 18-35mm at 18mm.

After the speeches there was something of a lunch break, with people making their way along various routes back towards Parliament Square – I chose the shortest way – where some protests continued. The largest block made its way over Westminster Bridge and then turned to the east; I left them on Stamford St, deciding I’d walked far enough, but they were still going strong.

London Schools Climate Strike


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Million Women March

June 26th, 2019

I photographed the first of these all-woman Million Women Rise marches in London in 2008, and have covered the event in most or all years since, always on a Saturday close to International Women’s Day. It’s an event that is supported over a hundred human rights and women’s groups around the country and is “led and organised by a majority of black women” and also includes many from other minority ethnic communities.

It’s an organisation that welcomes support from men in various ways, but on the day of the march asks them to “come and stand on the pavement and cheer us on.” And I do, though most of the time I’m too busy taking pictures to actually cheer.

Their web site has a list of ten demands, beginning with:

To acknowledge the continued discrimination faced by all women, the additional discrimination faced by Black women and women from other minority groups, and reflect this in all public policy in the UK and internationally

Million Women Rise web site- http://www.millionwomenrise.com/demands.html

I took pictures in the side road where the march gathered, where the marchers spill over onto the pavement and I could mix a little with the marchers before the march began, but for the march itself I stayed on the side as requested.

One slightly different aspect of this years march was the Pan Indian Dance Group who danced their way along Oxford St at the rear of the march – and I think went on to dance at the rally in Trafalgar Square, but by then I had left the event.

More pictures: Million Women March against male violence


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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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More staged pictures

June 25th, 2019

London’s stabbings and shootings have generated headlines in the UK media and earned London Mayor Sadiq Khan highly critical tweets from President Trump, as well as allowing Boris Johnson to make seriously incorrect claims about his own time as Mayor. Most of us feel that the current rise in London’s figures owes more to Tory cuts in social and youth services and police numbers than any actions taken by Khan, who has announced some sensible policies which may help in the longer term based on those that have had some success in Glasgow.

Of course any death on our streets is tragic, whether by knife, gun, car or lorry. And while there were 732 homicides recorded in England and Wales in the year to December 2018 (and another 59 in Scotland), the latest annual statistics for road deaths for Great Britain are almost two and half times this, at 1770.

It’s also worth reminding Trump, that while London’s murder rate is around 1.6 per 100,000, this is only half that of New York and that all of the 30 largest US cities had higher rates – with Baltimore, Detroit and Chicago topping the list at 55.8, 39.8 and 24.1 respectively. Figures like that – up to 50 times as many in London – put our crisis in perspective. London is still relatively a very safe city.

But even those huge figures for some US cities are dwarfed by those in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, listed as world’s most dangerous city (outside war zones) with an annual homicide rate of 187 per 100,000 people. And it was photographs from this city, by Swiss/Italian photographer Michele Crameri that got me thinking and writing today, with an article in Fstoppers, Award-Winning Photojournalist Accused of Faking Photos of Assassins.

Looking at the pictures it seems fairly obvious that they were staged for the photographer, but despite this, they are said to have “won 15 awards, including [Crameri] being recognized as a finalist by Lens Culture’s Visual Storytelling Awards 2019.”

When working in Honduras, Crameri worked with local journalist Orlin Castro as his fixer, and was introduced to a number of hit men working for the local gangs who acted out some scenes of threatening to kill people while the two men were present (with Castro playing one of the victims in one of them.) These were captioned as if these were actual events rather than play-acting.

A harrowing film n Youtube, shot for VICE, Crime Reporting in the Murder Capital: San Pedro Sula Nights, shows Orlin Castro at work as a night-time crime reporter, reporting on the killings in the war between the city’s two most notorious gangs. It’s hard at times to watch, and to read the English sub-titles as Castro talks about some of the stories he has covered. Reporting is a highly dangerous job in Honduras, as the notes on the video comment, with “the Honduran National Human Rights Committee, at least 47 journalists and media executives have been murdered between 2003 and 2014.” Had Crameri been photographing the real thing he might well have ended up as another number on this list.

Although it is difficult to look at Crameri’s pictures and not at least have a powerful suspicion that they were staged, the deception was only brought to light by two other photographers who had also worked with Orlin Castro as their fixer and who raised the issue with them. Castro says that Crameri promised him the pictures would only be for his personal archive and “that he specifically told Crameri not to publish the photograph of him being jokingly threatened with the gun.”

Of course there is nothing wrong with the pictures – though clearly the photographer should have respected Castro’s request, and it’s possible that publishing that image may have placed him in some danger. The others are pictures of hit men, and had the captions clearly stated that they were playing for the photographer rather than actually at work they would have still been a viable part of the project. But lying about them not only invalidates those images, it also puts into question the whole of the project – and indeed the photographer’s other work. If you mislead us about these, why should we believe what you say about your other pictures.

The most valuable thing that any photojournalist or documentary photographer has is his or her integrity. Without it the pictures are just pictures, no longer a witness to the world.

Boris’s Biggest Blunder?

June 24th, 2019

Earl’s Court

Probably the largest desert in London – thanks to Boris!

Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor was in many ways a disaster for London, but while the media obsess about his sexual peccadilloes and to a lesser extent his racist comments, little is said about his more important failures, which may have enriched some of his city friends but whose consequences will remain to impoverish Londoners for many years after he has left office. One of these, and probably the biggest, is the stalled £12 billion Earls Court redevelopment, which makes even the £53 million Garden Bridge Fiasco fade into insignificance.

The vacant site where one of London’s iconic 1930s building once stood

It’s wrong of course to call it a blunder. It was a deliberate scheme for the enrichment of a few, undoubtedly including friends and financial supporters of the Conservative Party at the expense of London and Londoners, aiming to provide a huge high-rise development of investment properties largely for sale to foreign investors, a huge empty triangle in what was once a thriving part of London, contributing greatly to the local area and more widely, housing several thousand people who would lose their homes and removing jobs from the area.

Along with Boris, and Transport for London, then a part of his fiefdom, the villains in this £12 billion scheme are developers CAPCO, (Capital & Counties Properties) whose development proposals bear no relation to the considerable history, needs of the area and its locality and the contribution it would pay to the local economy, simply wiping the whole area clean and imposing a solution based on maximising profit to the developers. As soon as they acquired the site in 2008 they applied to English Heritage for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing for the 1930s Earls Court Exhibition Centre, granted despite its iconic status – and the fact that some aspects of it were apparently already listed.

We look at the site of Earls Court 2, with a photograph before demolition

The site falls into two London Boroughs, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham, both when the project began under Conservative control. Hammersmith and Fulham council agreed to sell off the two council estates which cover a large part of the area to Capco in 2012. Since Labour took over in H & F in 2014 they have set up an inquiry into the decision to sell and have called for Capco to return the two housing estates. In February 2019 the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stated that he wanted the two estates to be transferred back to the council by Capco unconditionally after they demanded unacceptable planning permission in return for their release.

Empress Place would make a fine entrance to a new estate – but Capco will knock it down

There are two large office blocks on the site, both visible in the top picture. The tower at left has already been sold and is now occupied by the Metropolitan Police. The smaller block, at right, belongs to TfL and is a part of their site which also includes extensive workshops; it seems that they have so far failed to find suitable alternative sites for these essential facilities.

Thanks to determined opposition from local people the scheme has so far failed to materialise, and the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates are still there, along with the TfL workshops, but the demolition of the two exhibition centres has created the largest desert in London. The cleared area, left as dusty bare cleared rubble is a local eyesore and pollution source, with wind carrying dust into local homes and businesses, creating thick and possibly dangerous grime.

West Kensington, a well built and much loved estate that Capco would demolish

Opposition to the demolition of the exhibition centres is led by the Earl’s Court Area Action Group, one of whose members took me and other journalists on a tour of the area last week. They now demand the demolished area be developed with a replacement venue for the demolished iconic Earls Court Exhibition Centre as a large green space for exhibitions, sports and cultural events, along with “low rise, high density, exemplary green housing with a wide range of housing options including social housing, green space, community and social infrastructure, reflecting the demographic and unique characteristics of Earl’s Court.”

The residents of West Ken & Gibbs Green estates have been campaigning against the demolition of their homes since 2009, and as a part of their campaign for ‘The People’s Estates’ commissioned Architects for Social Housing (ASH) who in 2016 produced ‘the People’s Plan’ for improvements and new homes on the estates without demolition. They want the estates to be transferred to community ownership.

Gibbs Green estate also well built, loved and in good conditions and under threat of demolition by Capco

Earl’s Court Area Action Group
WKGGCH – West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes
ASH – Architects for Social Housing


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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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Blood of Our Children

June 23rd, 2019

Extinction Rebellion had hoped that police would make arrests when they poured fake blood onto Whitehall, but the police just watched (and doubtless videod and photographed) the event. It was after all doing no real damage and the next shower of rain would wash the street clean if it had not already been hosed down.

It did seem a remarkably sensible approach by the police, though one that will have infuriated some of our politicians, with many on the right feeling the police are being too soft on protesters. But we enjoy a right to protest and it is something that the police often tell us they protect and facilitate, though sometimes I rather feel with a codicil “so long as you do it in a way that nobody much notices” with protest areas being designated at some distance from where protesters want to protest.

Many events in London disrupt traffic, including the many wreath-laying ceremonies just a few yards down Whitehall, as well as major events such as the Trooping of the Colour and the State Opening of Parliament, Royal weddings and the like. Many sporting events also have a major impact, with the London Marathon virtually shutting down the city for a day.

I’ve long thought and suggested that much of central London be pedestrianised and that all through routes should be removed. There have been a few minor improvements to areas such as Trafalgar Square, where traffic no longer flows beside the National Gallery, but I think the city could be much improved by more dramatic restrictions on traffic.

Whitehall could be restricted to emergency vehicles, pedestrians, buses and bikes, along with Westminster Bridge and an end put to though traffic in Parliament Square, which could then benefit from some much-neede landscaping – which could also provide adequiate security without t he current ugly tank traps.

Visually I found the pouring of blood just a little disappointing, one of those ideas that sounds good on paper but didn’t quite deliver in practice, at least for still photographers. It was perhaps too spread out and we were kept too far away and as always there were too many people taking photographs and finding various sometimes ingenious ways to get in the way. I’ve not seen any really interesting still pictures from it, though it looks better on some videos.

It was perhaps an event designed with video in mind, and I’ve sometimes thought I should go back to my roots and work (I did my first serious visual work as a student behind TV cameras, video cameras and a tiny bit of film) with video rather than persist with still photography. But I find making still images much more interesting and challenging.

More about the protest: Blood of Our Children – XR


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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Camden Canal

June 21st, 2019

I thought I had plenty of time to go to Camden and take some ictures along the canal towpath between two events – I think after my late lunch there were at least a couple of hours to spare. But I had reckoned without London’s traffic, and by the time my bus from Aldwych reached Camden High St, things were beginning to look a little tight.

Traffic in central London often comes to near standstill, and I could have walked there in the same time, but I can no longer walk the long distances I used to, or at least not without getting exhausted. If you want to get anywhere during the working day, apart from walking, the only reliable methods are now either cycling or using the Underground. It wasn’t feasible to bring my bike to cover the two protests, and I was saving pennies (or rather a couple of pounds) by taking the bus.

By the time I got to the canal there was very little time, and the weather had changed, with a little light rain, which does tend to get more people into their cars, so I knew my journey on to the next event would also be slow.

I’d replanned in my mind a shorter walk than anticipated while sitting on the bus, and set out only to find the canal towpath I’d intended to use had been closed for a few weeks because of building work taking place. So this was not my most successful journey. I took a few pictures, and then left, just missing a bus and finding the services were disrupted by the traffic. I did make the next event more or less on time.

The pictures here – with a few slight variations – were all that I managed to make of the canal.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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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Women’s Strike Assembly

June 19th, 2019

The Women’s Strike Assembly unites a range of feminists (of all genders) and is a part of an international women’s movement which has led protests on the streets in many countries, from “Argentina to Poland, from Ireland to Kurdistan” as well as in London, with women “making connections, building alliances and taking action against our current conditions of womanhood.” It “rejects the decades of economic inequality, criminalization and policing, racial and sexual violence, and endless global war and terrorism.

On the evening of International Women’s Day, the met in front of the Bank fo England to make the point that “it is our labour that keeps the world turning and profits flowing.

They had called for a “tidal wave of red feminist energy and righteous rage” at the end of the Women’s Strike day. After speeches they marched towards Soho, where sex workers were taking part in an evening strike in Leicester Square.

My own energy was by this time becoming rather low, having been out taking pictures since the morning, and, inspiring though the event was, my spirits and cameras were rather dampened by the rain, which turned from light to heavy as the march began.

I was also having problems with the light and exposures, and my Nikon SB800 flash was in one of its moods. When it works I think the Nikon flash system is the best there is, and it always works when I test it back at home, either inside or outside in my back yard. But something about the dark streets or perhaps the rain often seems to upset its delicate nature, and the exposures were wildly fluctuating, often washing out the image completely.

I was cold, wet, tired, hungry and fed up by the time the march reached Aldwych, and rushed ahead to catch a bus before they were held up by the march, missing the events in Soho, where some of my friends made some interesting exposures. I’d done all I could and had to accept there are limits to what I can cover.

Women’s Strike Red Feminist March


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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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Global Women’s Strike

June 18th, 2019

International Women’s Day began as a socialist festival in New York in 1909 and was adopted more widely by the socialist movement in the following years. In 1914 it moved from the last day of February to May 8th and has since been celebrated on that date.

Largely observed by communists in the early years, it was taken up more generally by feminists in the 1960s and 70s but remained a day of radical protests, calling for equal rights, equal pay and for women’s control of their own bodies in areas such as abortion, sexual preferences and consent.

In 1975 the UN celebrated the day as part of a year dedicated to women’s rights and two years later declared it as  UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. Although this gave it a much wider audience, it also extended the celebrations to include many less radical events and organisations, including some that seem to be more media beanfeasts than any real part of the fight for women. As Wikipedia comments:

In the twenty–first century, in the West, the day was increasingly sponsored by major corporations and used to promote feel–good messages, rather than radical social reforms.[30] In 2009, the British marketing firm, Aurora Ventures, set up a “International Women’s Day” website with corporate sponsorship.[31][32] The website began to promote hashtags as themes for the day, which became used internationally.[33] The day was commemorated by business breakfasts and social media communications that were reminiscent of Mother’s Day greetings.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Women%27s_Day

One organisation that has certainly kept its radical edge is Global Women’s Strike, who I first met on a protest march on International Women’s Day  back in 2002, protesting at the offices of the World Bank, the Defence Ministry and elsewhere.

This year they were at Royal Courts of Justice, outside the High Court to protest against destitution, detention, deportation, benefit cuts, sexism, racism and other discrimination, criminalisation, pollution and in particular the state use of Family Courts to take children from their mothers. And alongside them were others, including anti-fracking Nana from Nanshire Tina Louise Rothery, DPAC’s Paula Peters, a speaker from the English Collective of Prostitutes and two speakers from Extinction Rebellion.

It was a lively protest, and ended with a short road block on the pedestrian crossing in front of the courts. Many of those present were going on to meetings in the afternoon and another women’s protest in the evening which I was also intending to photograph.

More pictures at Global Women’s Strike.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images