Black Lives London

May 16th, 2017

First, my apologies for not many posts in the last few days. May Day gets rather hectic here and I’m still trying to catch up with things. Then I went away for a weekend, had a birthday and more – and managed to forget what I was writing about…

There was a great deal of largely unconscious racism around when I was young, perhaps more xenophobia than racism. We were brought up in an atmosphere where to be British (or perhaps more importantly, English) was to be effortlessly superior to the rest of the world. We had just won the war – with just a little help from the Yanks (who we felt only ever succeeded in anything by sheer mass of numbers and fire-power) and of course ‘Uncle Joe‘ Stalin and his Russian hordes, But we were the proud little nation that had invented almost everything, from the industrial revolution to football, and had taken civilization around the world to create a glorious Empire on which the sun never set.

Of course, the Empire was on its way out. India (and Pakistan) had got independence, and more of those had been or were still a part of that Empire were beginning to take up that promise that they could come and live and work here. And in 1953, an England team were soundly beaten by Hungary at Wembley, rubbing it in the following year with a 7-1 thrashing in Budapest.

Even in my own family, where the views of English superiority were somewhat countered by a strong Christian belief in all men (a word that still then included women) being equal in the eye of God – unless perhaps they were Catholics – there was still a certain air of paternalism – and we were still collecting those halfpennies with a ship on them to send out missionaries to covert the heathen.

Of course there were a few foreigners, and even a few black people around; there had always been some in London and a few made their way to the outer suburbs where we lived. Some even came and stayed with us when we gave hospitality at Christmas to some overseas students whose homes were on the other side of the world, though quite what they made of us I still wonder.

Over the next twenty years or so, things changed fairly dramatically as first West Indians and later immigrants from India, Hindu, Muslim and Sikhs, moved into the area which Wikipedia now describes as having ‘a very high ethnic diversity with a low White British population.’

It was a change that in most respects I found positive. It created a more positive local economy, we got shops that didn’t close at 5.30 (or 1pm on Wednesdays) and even opened on Sundays, a considerably wider range of food etc. There were people to drive the buses (and to ride on them to keep routes open.) There were doctors and nurses and people to run other essential services.

London is a better place to live in than when I was growing up in many ways, and its new citizens who have come here from around the world have made a great contribution to that. But there are those who resent their presence, and still attitudes in some organisations including the police, much of the press and some political parties which discriminate against immigrants in general and ethnic minorities including those who are our citizens. We see it clearly in our immigration policies and immigration raids, in the imprisonment in immigration detention centres, in the still frequent ‘stops and searches’ of young Black men, in deaths in custody and in some court cases.

Of course it isn’t just Black people who suffer discrimination. Class is always important, and at the basis of how our society works. Islamophobia is rife – and behind most of the ‘fight against terrorism’, there is still antisemitism around (though exaggerated by deliberate attempts to paint any opposition to the actions of the Israeli state as anti-semitic), still extreme prejudice against Roma and other travelers, as well as other xenophobic attitudes.

This event remembered the many UK victims of state violence, including Mark Duggan, Sarah Reed, Mzee Mohammed, Jermaine Baker, Sean Rigg, Leon Patterson, Kingsley Burrell and over 1500 others, disproportionately black, since 1990 and was held five years and a day after the killing of Mark Duggan. The park in which it took place in Whitechapel was renamed a year after the murder there of Altab Ali, an 25 yea-old Bangladeshi textile worker, on May 8th 1978 by three teenage racists.

More pictures at Black Lives Matter London.
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Hull Photos: 27/4/17-3/5/17

May 13th, 2017

27th April 2017

There is little trace of the various buildings that were a part of Victoria dock now, with I think just the winding house of the slipway surviving, along with the slipway itself and the Outer Basin and Half Tide Basin, and the swing bridge from this across the entrance to the main Victoria Dock.

The two-storey brick building in this picture and the shed attached to it are some of the buildings which haven’t survived, and it isn’t easy now to know exactly where they were, but I was making my way east though the dock from the Half Tide Basin where I took the previous picture, but like all photographers I tended to wander somewhat.

Lister Blackstone were active from 1937, when Blackstone was taken over by Lister until 1965 when they were taken over by the Hawker Group. What this and the other engines etc were doing in this yard on Victoria Dock can only be a subject of conjecture on my part. It looks to an untrained eye rather like a Lister JP3 engine which were made in the immediate pre- and post-war era for both industrial and marine use, or perhaps a larger version of this. Many such engines are still working and can sell for a few thousand pounds.


32p42: Victoria Dock, 1982 – Docks

28th April 2017

This view looks roughly east from close to the boundary of Victoria Dock and the distant buildings are I think the sheds around the half-tide basin and dock with, between the first two buildings the two pylons carrying the docks name between them at the entrance. In the far distance towards the right, at the end of the line of telephone poles is Hull’s tidal barrier, and in front of it a chimney, which could be one of the few surviving features in the redeveloped area, the engine house of the slipway. The engine itself is now on display beside the Marina on Humber Dock St.

By the time I took this picture in 1982, Victoria Dock was already filled in, and this Attendant’s Office where drivers were instructed to report was boarded up and redundant.


32p43: Attendant’s Office for Filling of Victoria Dock, 1982 – Docks

29th April 2017

There were still a few men working in what appeared to be a graveyard for boats at the east end of Victoria Dock, in an area which had once been part of Earle’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Yard.

Charles and William Earle set up in business together in 1845 as millwrights, founders and general smiths but realised the potential of iron hulled ships and in 1853 built their first vessel. After a disastrous fire in 1861 they moved to a 26 acre site to the east of the new Victoria Dock, later adding another 47 acres and were soon the second largest shipbuilder in England, close behind the Humber Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co (formerly Samuelson’s) based at Sammy’s Point. In the 19th century it built ships for the Chilean, Japanese, Russian and Greek navies – and eventually several cruisers for the Royal Navy, as well as cargo vessels, ferries and of course trawlers. The yard went bust in 1900 and after a year was bought by another Hull company, the the Wilson Line, then the largest private shipowners in the world (but bought in 1916 by Ellerman to become Ellerman’s Wilson Line.) The yard closed in 1932, with much of its equipment going to the Kowloon ship yard in Hong Kong.

The yard was one of the earliest to build steel ships and also pioneered the use of triple-expansion engines, but an earlier attempt at innovation with a cabin on gimbals to combat sea-sickness built for Henry Bessemer was a disaster. They built the Russian Imperial yacht and one of their final orders was a flat-pack steamer for use on Lake Titicaca which remained in service there for over 50 years. They had in 1904 built the SS Inca in similar kit form which was assembled at Lake Titicaca, 12,507 ft above sea level, in 1905.


32p44 Site of Earle’s Shipbuilidng & Engineering works, Victoria Dock, 1982 – Docks

30th April 2017

Joynson & Son, Scale and Slicing machine specialists, established in 1892 were at 75 Mytongate, on the north side of the street in a row of shops between the Rampant Horse Inn and Thomas Borthwick and Sons Ltd, meat exporters on the corner of Vicar Lane. Joynsons are still in business, now at 45 Anlaby Rd, as catering equipment specialists, providing food service solutions & catering disposables.

The only building in this section of the street to escape demolition was the former Mytongate telephone exchange and headquarters of the Hull Corporation Telephone Department from 1914-64, at No.65 – though the street has since changed its name to Castle St, and is considerably wider, part of a continuing Highways Agency scheme to turn much of the city into the near-motorway A63, with a giant swathe of the Old Town lost to tarmac and wasteland, still largely awaiting recovery – or perhaps to be submerged by further road schemes.

Fly posters on the boarded up windows include those for ‘Rock Stateside’ at the Live Wire Disco, events at the City Hall and Hull Tower and a poster protesting against the first visit to Britain of President Reagan in June 1982 with the message ‘Neither Washington Nor Moscow But International Socialism’.

Hull demolition contractors D J Broady, ‘Space-Made’ went into administration in 2011. Together with Sam Allon they were responsible for demolishing many of Hull’s most notable buildings. The wife of one of Hull’s most prominent Aldermen was said to be a major shareholder in D J Broady.


32p52: Joynson & Son, 75 Mytongate, 1982 – Old Town

1st May 2017

Telstar was I think TELSTAR CARAVANS LIMITED, a company who made caravans and whose registered office had the address Victoria Dock, Hull and went into liquidation in 1978-80. I’m not sure of its exact location in the dock but think it must have been to the west of the Half-Tide basin which I photographed a few frames later, and is fairly close to the bank of the Humber, perhaps near the slipway in what was once the LNER dock yard.

Probably the company was named after the 1962 instrumental hit written and produced by Joe Meek for the Tornados, which got it’s name from the first communications satellite to transmit TV across the Atlantic, Telstar 1, also launched in 1962.


32p53: Telstar, Victoria Docks, 1982 – Docks

2nd May 2017

Burnett House was built as the Queen’s Hotel at 82 Mytongate, and in 1875 the frontage was rebuilt with the Britannia consoles and distinctive window surrounds and the hotel renamed as the Britannia Hotel. It closed as a hotel in 1913 and became the offices of shipping agents Stockwell & Co. Ltd. After the second war it was occupied by shipping agents Burnett & Co (Newcastle) Ltd and renamed Burnett House, though retaining the name Britannia Hotel on its east wall. It had been empty for some years when I took this picture stood empty and derelict for years on Mytongate.

Mytongate was around this time drastically widened as the A63 and renamed as Castle St, with Burnett House becoming 82-3 Castle St The frontage was finally renovated in 2006 back to its 1875 condition and advertised without success as office space. Later it was converted to seven flats and ground floor retail premises around 2015 when it was finally let. The ground floor is now occupied by an estate agents and property letting company. Some of the delay has been attributed to incompetence by the agency set up to market Hull Council properties, Hull Forward, which was disbanded in 2010.


32p66: Burnett House, Mytongate (Castle St), 1982 – Old Town

3rd May 2017

These sheds were either along the dockside either close to the entrance lock to Albert Dock, and may have been taken from the south end of the substantial swing bridge which then took a roadway and the public footpath across the lock, or possibly on Humber Dock, where I made my next exposure.

There were warning lights and gates which closed the entrances to the bridge before it swung, and large notices prohibiting pedestrians or vehicles from being on the bridge while it was being operated. But on one occasion the bridge operators failed to notice that my wife was still walking across it with our younger son and took her for a ride.

The recent Scale St footbridge across the River Hull was designed and built as the first such footbridge in England that allowed foot passengers to be on it while it is operated, and is opened briefly every Saturday, at a time which depends on the tide for those who wish to take a short ride.


32q12: Dockside sheds, Albert Dock or Humber Dock, 1982 – Docks


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Scorpions, Magnum & Datta

May 12th, 2017

Kenneth Jarecke‘s Two Scorpions Cross A Stream is an excellent post about the state of the photographic industry as revealed by the Datta/Magnum/Lensculture controversy, and one that I recommend all those with an interest in our medium to read.

Though I do have some slight quibbles. One is over the title, I think a reference to an ethical fable probably of Persian origin as ‘The Scorpion and the Turtle‘ and later as ‘The Scorpion and the Frog‘, which re-emerged in popular culture in the 1950s, in which the scorpion having convinced the frog to ferry him across the river, stings him in mid stream so they both die, giving the reason for his action as “It’s my nature…”.

The two scorpions are presumably the photographer and Magnum, and clearly in the current story they were both acting out their rather poisonous nature, but it was not that which led to their downfall – and indeed was very much the reason for the success that they (and others) had been enjoying, until their fall.

The agent of that fall was not a scorpion but a quite different kind of animal, duckrabbit – photographer Benjamin Chesterton – as I posted in Lensculture & Child Rape.

His story spread rapidly though the photographic world, and led to the further revelations about Datta’s plagiarism by Shreya Bhat which were published in PetaPixel, and which I wrote about in The Strange Case of Souvid Datta a few days later. Jarecke is thus incorrect to state “The initial scandal focused on photoshop manipulation and photographic plagiarism” though that aspect has since rather eclipsed the initial outrage, and I think for rather obvious and unsavoury reasons.

As Jarecke finishes his piece by writing, Magnum have “not apologized for any bad behavior or their association with this whole debacle” and as he suggests if they do so Datta will become the scapegoat. And putting all the emphasis on the plagiarism and Photoshopping neatly enables Magnum to step aside from the wider issues of the content of Datta’s work, to which unlike the manipulation they have awarded their approval.

March 2017

May 10th, 2017


Protesters at the Home office call for an inquiry into the ‘Battle of Orgreave’

March seems a very long time ago now, with so much having happened both personally and nationally since then, which is a part of the reason it has taken so long for me to complete updating My London Diary for March.

One of those personal events was the show ‘All Along the Lea’ at Cody Dock, which took quite a lot of time on the computer preparing images as well as a couple of visits to the venue. It also stirred me to go and visit the area again and take some more pictures.

Another was my appearance on stage – an extremely rare theatrical moment – at Battersea Arts Centre. Not that I had to learn any lines to make a contribution to the discussion I was asked to take part in – with fellow panelists Jeremy Hardy, journalist Dawn Foster and theatre legend Max Stafford Clark – after a performance by Lung Theatre of their ‘E15‘ based on the activities of Stratford-based housing activists Focus E15 and using their actual words (and those of some other activists from Sweets Way) in a ‘verbatim theatre‘ play, but it did involve a whole lot of nervous worrying on my part, though I think it went rather well on the night. And there was also a slightly strange protest/publicity event in Battersea for the opening night. Lung Theatre ‘E15’ march to BAC.

I actually attended fewer protest than in most months in March, but probably took rather more pictures than usual, and these included quite a large number of panoramic images. These actually take rather longer, both to take but particularly to process afterwards. It is a slightly different process to normal, as what I see in the viewfinder is rather different from what I will get in the final image, requiring a little mental gymnastics, and its also vital in most landscape images to get the camera dead level to avoid a curved horizon. But it is the processing that takes up more time – and much more disk space.

My London Diary

Mar 2017


Easy to see why estate agents salivate at the thought of building on public land like York Memorial Park and the West Hendon Estate
West Hendon Estate
Colindale
Cody Dock 2
Southwark march for homes & businesses
Canada Water

Vigil against Terror fills Trafalgar Square
Stop Central Hill Estate Demolition

Thousands March Against Racism
Lung Theatre ‘E15’ march to BAC

Police carry out another politically motivated arrest of LSE academic Lisa McKenzie
Police arrest Lisa again
LSE cleaners strike and protest
Wapping Walk
Orgreave Truth & Justice at the Home Office
JENGbA march to support Orgreave
Women protest outside Worboys hearing

Million Women Rise against male violence
Fukushima anniversary challenges nuclear future
Solidarity With Palestinian Prisoners
West Ham to Stratford – Channelsea River
International Women’s Strike Flash Mob
Death By A Thousand Cuts
Vigil for Thai Farmers
WASPI at Parliament

International Women’s Strike
From Russia With Love
Deal or Brexit Van
Tory Cuts Kill Disabled

Save our NHS March
Three Mills & Stratford
Leawalk to Bow Locks

Cody Dock
Bow Creek Canning TownLondon Images
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Ethics in Photojournalism

May 8th, 2017

Just a short post to commend the article by Photoshelter co-founder Allen Murabayashi on the Photoshelter blog, The Ambiguity of Pressing the Shutter – Ethics in Photojournalism.

Here are the final words of the piece – but if you’ve not read the whole of it, I urge you to do so:

But let’s be clear, ethics isn’t just a photographer problem. It took an industry of contest organizers, judges, photo editors, grant organizations, and publishers to allow questionable content and an ethically-challenged photographer to surface.

For every “obvious” scenario, there are dozens of ethically ambiguous situations. Do you preserve history at the expense of dignity? We will only gain clarity with an on-going discussion – not a punctuated dialogue that waits for egregious activity and a backlash of moral outrage.

I’ve fortunately never found myself – or never deliberately put myself – in the kind of extreme situations that serve as examples for Murabayashi’s post. But even in more routine events, photographers are making – or should be making – ethical decisions every time they take or edit their photographs. Decisions about what to photograph and how to do so, about whether an image fairly and accurately reflects a situation or a person.

But as Murabayashi makes clear, ethics isn’t something just for photographers but for the whole photography industry, and for the whole of the media.  And for the audience too. While we may condemn the media for its ever-increasing emphasis on controversy (and celebrity gossip) it does so to feed an increasingly insatiable demand.

I’m not sure what conclusion I draw from this, other than that I’m getting old and full of apparently outdated ideas like truth, justice, freedom etc. Perhaps that somehow we need to re-establish a clear distinction between news and non-news, something I’m shocked to see even highly regarded publications seem to have abandoned. And certainly to stop publishing for the lowest common denominator.

The Strange Case of Souvid Datta

May 4th, 2017

A few days ago I posted about the controversy over the use of a picture of child prostitution being used to promote a Magnum photo contest on the web site Lensculture, brought to my notice in a post on the Duckrabbit blog.

Since then more has appeared about the photographer concerned, with Petapixel posting Photographer Souvid Datta Appears to Have Plagiarized Mary Ellen Mark, a story which came to light after Shreya Bhat of Bangalore, India read a report in Petapixel, who like me had picked up and commented on the original post from Duckrabbit.

Bhat is a great fan of photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and also very familiar with the subject matter and in 2014 was a social worker in the Indian red-light district of Sonagachi. So she had a great interest when in 2014 the Huffington Post published a feature on Dattas’s higly acclaimed series documenting sexual violence among sex workers and children in that Indian red light district, ‘In the Shadows of Kolkata‘. She noticed that one of the women in a picture had actually been taken not from life but from an image published in Mark’s fine 1978 book ‘Falkland Road‘ with the caption ‘Transvestites getting dressed in a courtyard. Falkland Road, Bombay, India.’

After reading the Petapixel post Bhat contacted them with this astonishing revelation – and the pictures in their post leave no room for doubt. It remains to be seen if this is an isolated case of cheating, or if once people across the world of photography start to look critically at Souvid Datta’s pictures they will come up with more instances. Petapixel describe it as plagiarism but I think a better term might be fraud. If you attempt to look at Souvid Datta’s web site at http://souvid.org/, you now only get the message ‘This page is password protected‘ rather than being able to access his pictures. ‘In the Shadows of Kolkata’ was available on the site last year, and the removal of this and his other pictures is highly suspicious. Petapixel say his Facebook and Twitter were also taken down after they contacted him asking for a response to the allegation.

As Petapixel states, Datta’s work has gained many prestigious awards over the years, but this puts all of them in doubt. Did he cheat in those other images? Will more cases like this emerge? It reminds me very much of drug-taking in athletics and cycling, and while it would probably not be sensible to call for awards other than those which include plagiarised images to be removed, perhaps we should consider ‘life-time bans’ for abusers in photography too.

Already PetaPixel has posted an update, linking to a Facebook post by documentary photographer Daniele Volpe, about two of his pictures being posted by Datta as his own.

FURTHER UPDATE

The latest development – published as I was finishing writing the above is that Datta has admitted his guilt in an interview with Olivier Laurent on Time Lightbox, and trying to explain his actions. Frankly I think he is in the wrong job. Datta was educated at Harrow School, one of the UK’s two top public schools, going on to study at University College London (UCL) and spending 3 months as an intern at Magnum. None of these venerable institutions seemed to have trained him in basic honesty and integrity.

Hull Photos: 20/4/17-26/4/17

May 4th, 2017

20th April 2017

Hawthorn was a general cargo ship, gross tonnage 1197 tons, built by D.W.Kremer & Sohn GmbH & Co. in Elmshorn, Germany in 1967, and had various names and owners. She began as ORTRUD MÜLLER, and was then HUNNAU and FRANCINAPLEIN before coming to Liverpool owners in 1977 who named her HAWTHORN. In 1992 she became BLACKBIRD, and since then has been SMARAGD and GULF TRADER, and was last heard of as the LADY AGNES, registered in Kingstown (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and not Hull), sailing under a Tanzanian flag and leaving Port-de-Paix in Haïti a few days ago.

My picture shows here moored in Alexandra Dock, Hull. The cranes are long gone too.


32p22: Hawthorn in Alexandra Dock, 1982 – Docks

21st April 2017

Taken somewhere on the walk from Alexandra Dock to King George V Dock, where you can see ships moored in the distance. It may be from where the path detoured slightly to cross the Holderness Drain which flows into the Humber here at Marfleet.

Drainage of the low-lying Hull valley has always been a problem, with flooding both from higher land to the north and tidal salt water from the Humber. Flood defences were certainly being built along the Hull and the Humber by the early 14th century, with simple sluices to allow water to flow into the rivers at lower tide levels. The sixteenth century saw the start of new drainage schemes, and a drain taking water from the north to the Humber at Marfleet was first proposed in 1671, but not dug. Just over a hundred years later a new plan was granted approval by Parliament, but with drainage into the Hull at Stoneferry, as Hull’s shipping owners argued the flow of this water was needed to stop Humber mud silting up the Old Harbour on the River Hull. It was only in 1832 that permission was obtained for an outlet at Marfleet.

In 1885 the Alexandra Dock was opened immediately to the west of the Holderness drain, and water was then pumped from the drain to raise its level and stop the mud-heavy Humber water entering the dock around each high tide. The King George V dock immediately to the east, opened in 1913 and used more water pumped from the drain for the same reason.


32p26: King George V Dock, 1982 – Docks

22nd April 2017

Victoria Dock had been closed for a dozen years, but there were still scattered remains of its past, including odd piles of sand and gravel and a few boats which had been left stranded on the dockside, some in various states of scrappage, producing at times a rather surreal landscape.

The picture was taken in the eastern part of the dock estate, and was a part of the area that until 1932 was one of Hull’s largest ship-building yards, Earle’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Yard.


32p31: Victoria Dock, 1982 – Docks

and


32p46: Victoria Dock, 1982 – Docks

23 April 2017

A long disused jetty leading out to the long West Wharf pier in the Humber off the west end of Alexandra Dock. The pier had a minimum water depth of 18ft.

This was the westernmost of three jetties leading to the wharf, and the only one without a railway line, presumably only used by workers on foot and lorries. The remains of the pier and jetties were still visible until the redevelopment of the site for Green Port Hull.


32p33: Western Jetty to West Wharf pier, Alexandra Dock, 1982 – Docks

24th April 2017

The Humber mud seems to stretch out from the river wall almost to the flimsy-looking wooden structure of the West Wharf around 400 ft away, and it seems unlikely that moorings there would still have enjoyed the 18ft of water at low tide which the Wharf had when built in 1911.


32p34: West Wharf, Alexandra Dock, Humber, 1982 – Docks

25th April 2017

Until recently a public right of way ran across the lock gate here, and led on beside the Humber to King George V Dock and beyond, coming to a disappointing dead end in the middle of nowhere.

This path around the south of Alexandra Dock was diverted in 2012 as a part of the development to allow Siemens to build wind turbine blades here and enable them to be transported more readily to offshore locations.

All the dockside buildings have since been demolished, including the tall posts at right which carry a sign across between them at their top, with the name Alexandra Dock, designed to be clearly visible to those navigating the Humber. There was a similar structure at the entrance to Victoria Dock.


32p36: Alexandra Docks entrance lock, 1982 – Docks

26th April 2017

Taken from the dockside at the north of the Half Tide Basin, close to where a swing bridge led into the main Victoria Dock, already filled in when I made this picture. The two gates lead into the Outer Basin and on to the Humber. The wider of the two – on the left of picture – was 100ft wide and the narrower was used for barges. The Half Tide Basin enabled vessels to enter from the Humber at any time from when the tide was halfway in to when it was halfway out, hence the name, thus greatly increasing the time available for shipping into and out of the dock.

The main entrance had only a single gate and would be kept open while the tide was above half level, then closed to keep the water at half-tide level. Smaller vessels could use the narrower lock at right when the tide was out so long as the outer basin had enough water to float the boat, as the smaller size incurred less loss of water.

As can be seen, the dock was open to the Humber and had silted up considerably by 1982. There were plans to develop the dock as a marina, but these proved too expensive and the developers were allowed to permanently block the entrances. Virtually the only things that has survived from the working dock were the dock walls and the bridge across the entrance from this basin to the now completely filled in main dock to one side of me as I made this picture.

The dock now acts as drainage for Victoria Dock Estate which was developed from 1988; water is stored there and then discharged through small sluice gates when the tide is low. Unfortunately these gates are now silted up in the outer basin and pumps are needed to protect the estate from flooding, as this is cheaper than dredging. It is being used this year as the venue for a series of four performances in Hull’s year as UK City of Culture, ‘Flood‘, by theatre company Slung Low who are based in Leeds rather than Hull.

Floods of course continue to be a significant threat in Hull, with major floods in June 2007 and several others since, most recently in November 2016 when large areas of the city were again affected. Mostly these are now due to heavy rain across the area, though a tidal surge caused flooding in 2013. The tidal barrier is said to have saved 19,000 homes from flooding then, but it was a close call, with the water reaching around 8 inches from its top. More than 90% of the city is said to be below high tide level.


32p41: Half Tide Basin and entrance locks, Victoria Dock, 1982 – Docks


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Lensculture & Child Rape

May 1st, 2017

I’ve long been a supporter of Lensculture, which has done a great deal to popularise and support photography and educated photographers in the history and scope of the medium over the years and its editor Jim Casper is a friend I’ve met on many occasions. It’s sad to hear of the incredible mistake made by the site in promoting the Magnum Photography Awards, and I’m sad at feeling I have to write this. And I’m finding it hard to do so.

Although I often look at the site and see its Facebook posts I didn’t see this myself, as I long decided that competitions with high entry fees are something of a racket – and I get frequent mailings from a number of sources about them and simply delete or scroll quickly down when I see them.

This Magnum contest is a cut above some of the others which are pure money-making exercises for those who run them, but with fees of $20 for a single photo still seem to me something of an expensive vanity for most who enter, though for $50 or $60 (which covers 5 single photos or a set of up to 10 respectively) you do get a submission review which offers “constructive feedback on your photography plus recommendations for improving your practice” from “over 100 of the top photo editors, educators, portfolio reviewers, curators, and other industry professionals“. You can see some of these on the web site and decide if you think they are worth the money – you still have some days to make an entry – until May 16th. You can also get a free download of over 60 pages of advice from Magnum photographers; it’s title ‘Wear Good Shoes‘ is advice which I gave for free in a magazine interview many years ago.

Looking through a few of the reviews I feel they might be of some use to some photographers. But if you are a photographer the best advice is to get to know other photographers, and you will probably get a greater insight from passing your pictures around with them in the pub or café. You’ll certainly get far more (though at greater expense) from going to a good workshop if you can find one – I was fortunate to be able to attend a number with Paul Hill and Ray Moore and others at Paul’s Derbyshire Photographers’ Place in the 1970s.

Perhaps I was fortunate to get to know a number of good photographers fairly early in my life as a photographer, and we set up regular meetings where we would bring our current work and discuss it – something we could do rather more openly and honestly because we were friends than it’s possible to do in commercial setting such as this competition or portfolio reviews. A few photographers couldn’t take it and went off in a huff when people called a spade a spade (or sometimes an effing shovel) but they were generally those whose work was weakest and the exercise certainly helped those of us who stayed to improve. Of course I didn’t always agree with the criticism of my own work, but I tried to understand it and often went away determined to create more work to prove my critics wrong.

I was fortunate too that many established photographers were then happy to spend a few minutes looking through the work of me and other young(ish) photographers and give me their opinions, and gallery owners and editors too, without having to book and pay for portfolio reviews.   But while some like me regret the commercialisation that has taken place in photography and the relations between photographers (and its partly because of the sheer number of people who think of themselves as photographers now, particularly with the coming of digital) this isn’t that which the controversy against Lensculture & Magnum over the contest is about.

Quite simply, what has shocked many photographers is the use of a photograph of child rape to advertise the contest – and a picture in which the victim of the crime is clearly recognisable. It’s a picture – and a project that raises severe ethical problems, and one which certainly should not have been used in this context. It has now been taken down – apparently after the photographer who took it complained, saying he specifically told LensCulture not to use it.

You can read more about it in a post by Benjamin Chesterton on his Duckrabbit blog. I hadn’t read this blog post when I found the story – along with outraged comments by some photographers I admire – on a private Facebook group. I share that outrage.

Vedanta

April 28th, 2017

Vedanta is “one of the world’s most ancient spiritual philosophies and one of its broadest, based on the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of India” according to the Vedanta Society of Southern California, which also tells me it is “the philosophical foundation of Hinduism” but that it is “universal in its application and is equally relevant to all countries, all cultures, and all religious backgrounds“. Theirs is a rather more understandable description than in the possibly more rigorous Wikipedia page on the subject.

It goes on to state:

Vedanta affirms:

  • The oneness of existence,
  • The divinity of the soul, and
  • The harmony of all religions

and later that “Vedanta asserts that the goal of life is to realize and to manifest our own divinity.”

Vedanta World puts it slightly differently “Vedanta designs the pursuit of happiness through logical and systematic exposition of eternal truths. Founded on no individual, It is a system of knowledge“.

But Vedanta the company is something quite different. It styles itself as follows:

Vedanta Resources, is one of the world’s largest diversified natural resources companies with interests in Zinc, Lead, Silver, Copper, Iron Ore, Aluminium, Power and Oil & Gas. Vedanta Resource’s operation is located in India, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Liberia, Ireland and Australia.

Its critics would see it more like;

Vedanta designs the pursuit of material profit through the ruthless and systematic destruction of communities, the exploitation of workers, the corruption of governments, creating high levels of pollution through its mining of natural resources. Founded by Anil Agarwal, it is a system of ruthless exploitation.

For some years the group ‘Foil Vedanta‘ (also on Facebook) has organised protests outside the AGM of this London-based multi-national mining giant, bringing along their own inflatable ‘Vedanta Monster‘, as well as some members buying shares in order to attend the meetings and question the companies activities.

Foil Vedanta have also supported other groups on the ground and under threat from Vedanta, including the Dongria Kondh of India’s Niyamgiri Hills who won a court victory against the company who wanted to destroy their sacred mountain for the aluminium ore it contains. Their research showed the Zambian government how Vedanta was cheating them out of huge amounts of tax in their copper mining there. Campaigning  by them and other organisations has resulted in many  organisations around the world, including the Church of England and the Norwegian Government’s Pension Fund divesting from the company.

The entrance to Ironmonger’s Hall is under the walkways on the Barbican estate and is a slightly restricted space  which does concentrate the protesters but also sometimes makes it a little difficult to work.

Again it was a place where a fairly extreme wide-angle is essential, and the Nikon 16-35mm was very useful, though when the Vedanta Monster came into play I needed the wider view of the 16mm fisheye – though even that’s 147 degree horizontal angle wasn’t always sufficient.


Samarendra Das of Foil Vedanta speaking as shareholders walk past the protesters

As usual I also had a telephoto, the 28-200mm on the D810, working in DX mode – great for framing with the area outside the frame greyed but still visible. The picture above was at 80mm (120 equiv), ISO 800, 1/250s, f/8, with my standard -0.3EV setting. Even on DX setting the camera still produces a 4800×3200 pixel file (15Mp), large enough for almost any use.
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Wood St final

April 27th, 2017

We didn’t know it on the day, but this was to be the final protest in aid of the Wood St cleaners, on the 50th day of their strike. Eight days later, shortly before the next protest it was called off as the UVW had arrived at a satisfactory settlement. The strikers had been there on the picket line for 58 days which says a great deal for the determination of the workers – and for the obduracy of the employers.

Strikes are costly for those taking part, who lose their wages, though it helps that there was a great deal of support and contributions from other trade unionists to the strike fund. This strike was particularly expensive for the UVW union, which was almost bankrupted by being saddled with over £10,000 in legal costs after being taken to court by the employers. Fortunately people came to their aid.

Financially strikes don’t always make sense, but generally they are more about issues such as fairness and being treated with respect by management. Often, as in this case it is unfair sackings which precipitate strikes, which are a demonstration of solidarity with fellow workers.

But the costs were surely higher for the employers, starting with their own legal bill, but more importantly in terms of their reputation and the likely loss of future contracts. Who would want to be associated with a company that led to people protesting outside your offices for 58 days – and during that time delivered an obviously inferior level of service? Rational and well-managed companies seldom suffer from strikes as they realise that their best interests are served by a motivated workforce that is well-managed and given reasonable pay and conditions.

But outsourcing, with contracts being awarded for the short term to the lowest bidder encourage cowboy companies who try to cut costs by overloading the workers, and pay them and the lower levels of management as little as possible. Often when they take over the workforce from a previous contractor they renege on agreements made previously. It’s a recipe for strife and for poor quality performance which I’ve personally seen proved in schools and hospitals.

I don’t know how many pictures I took in all of the protests at Wood St, but it must be several thousand, and the 50 or so I posted on My London Diary for this evening’s protest were probably less than a tenth of those I took on this occasion.

Roughly a quarter of those that made it into My London Diary were taken with the 16mm fisheye, an unusually high percentage for me. It is a lens that comes into its own when working in crowded situations, and the protest outside the back entrance to the CBRE offices involved a large group of people in a very confined space.

But more than any other lens I think it is one that I have to be in a particular state of mind to use – and sometimes it will stay unused in my camera bag for weeks or more. And at times I’ll find myself wondering after covering an event why I didn’t think to use it. It isn’t easy to work with but sometimes it is the only tool for the job.

I do use it with a little reluctance. It adds time to my processing as almost every image made with it needs to be taken into Photoshop so that I can straighten the verticals using the Fisheye-Hemi plugin. As well as taking time, this also uses up a ridiculous amount of hard disk space, as the image needs to be converted into a Tiff file to allow this to happen.

Working with the D750, a typical RAW file is around 22Mb. The Tiff file from this will be around 141Mb giving a total for a single image of 163Mb. I’ll store images on two different hard disks – so that doubles the storage needed to over 320Mb. Add two copies of a full-size high quality jpeg and the full amount is around 350Mb. Even with hard disks now available with 6 or 8Tb of storage these files soon fill them up.

If I work on the D810 with its larger 32Mp files the total gets to over 500Mb per image. I like to do this with landscapes as the camera can provide level indicators in the viewfinder while taking pictures, essential in avoiding converging or diverging verticals in the processed image, but I think these can actually help in pictures of protest such as a couple of those here.

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