Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

Workers’ Memorial Day

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

April 28th is International Workers’ Memorial Day

As the TUC points out:

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) 28 April commemorates those workers.

https://www.tuc.org.uk/wmd

The day is commemorated around the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government. It is a day both to remember those we have lost and importantly to organise in their memory. The motto is ‘Remember the dead, fight for the living‘.

Each year the International Trades Union Congress sets a theme for the day and for 2021 this is:

Health and Safety is a fundamental workers’ right

There is a dedicated web site for the day set up by the ITUC and Hazards magazine which gives information about IWMD events in over 25 countries and an annual hashtag – this year #iwmd21. The ILO estimates that there 2.3 million people worldwide die each year because of their work – and there are 340 million workplace injuries.

Covid has brought the need for health and safety protection for workers to the fore – in 2020/21 there were around 8,000 recorded deaths of workers from Covid-19. This year the TUC has organised a national zoom meting and there is an online memorial wall, but there are also various local mainly virtual events.

In most recent years before 2020 I managed to attend the main London event held at the statue of a building worker on Tower Hill, and occasionally to also cover other events around the capital.

An article by Annabelle Humphreys for Talint International lists the most dangerous jobs in the UK, based on information from the Health and Safety Executive. Fishing is the most dangerous of UK industries although the actual numbers of deaths is small. Seven fishermen lost their lives in 2018, but all were cases that were preventable. Waste and recycling also has a small workforce but a high level of ill-health and deaths. It’s hardly surprising also that oil and gas riggers have a high injury rate and that deep sea diving is also a dangerous occupation , though the numbers involved again are low.

What stands out is the construction industry, were 40 UK workers died in 2020 and around 81,000 suffered work-related ill health. Almost half the deaths were from falling from a height, while others died when trapped by things collapsing or overturning or by being hit by falling objects or struck by moving objects or vehicles or by electrocution.

But there are also high levels of deaths in other industries, particularly farming – often cited as the most dangerous of all – and manufacturing. And while Healthcare always has the highest sickness rate in the UK, Covid-19 will have greatly increased the number of deaths in this sector.

Outsourcing and Covid

Monday, January 25th, 2021

One of the reasons why the UK has suffered so badly from the corona virus has been outsourcing. Not of course the major reason, which has been government incompetence and failure to take effective action, always a case of too little too late. A year after the outbreak began it is only now considering the kind of travel restrictions that would have saved many thousands of lives (and which even one government minister has said she was arguing in favour of at the start.) Three weeks before we had the first lock-down I was getting urgent messages from relatives who were in touch with the medical advice that was going to the government that, because of my age and diabetes, I should isolate myself.

And of course there has been the failure to work properly with existing public bodies, instead preferring to give huge payments to cronies to set up an ineffectual systems for testing and tracing, to source inadequate PPE and take large consultancy fees to no particular purpose, wasting billions.

Government has deliberately promoted policies which have increased the spreading of the virus, failing to stop much unnecessary work or ensure that proper protective measures are enforced and giving offers to people to go out for meals largely in indoor settings where the spread of infection was almost inevitable. Although they now deny it, their polices were based on ideas of herd immunity, where infection gives a large proportion of the population some immunity and stops the virus spreading; for this to work, perhaps 80% of us would need to have had it, and a quick back of envelope calculation showed that would mean perhaps 400,000 deaths – and I would have been rather too likely to be one of them. It’s a figure we may still reach, though 200,000 seems more likely now – and we are over half way there.

A couple of days ago on the Today programme on Radio 4 I heard Maria, a cleaner from the IWGB being interviewed. She contracted the virus, probably while travelling to work on crowded public transport, and tested positive. Before the test she had been ill at work and had asked her employer if she could go home, but had been told she had to stay. After the positive result, she had to continue to go to work, as the sick pay she would have received was simply not enough to live on.

Maria is probably one of those IWGB members in the pictures I took on 25 Jan 2018, and the other pictures I’ve taken at IWGB protests against outsourcing. Outsourced workers are employed not by the company at their work place – on this occasion the University of London – but by a company that is given a contract for the services they provide. Contracts are usually awarded to the lowest bidder, and outsourcing companies cut their costs by paying low wages, giving only the statutory minimum in conditions – including sick pay, holidays, pensions etc – and often bullying the workers, demanding impossible workloads and failing to provide proper safety equipment – so that they can gain contracts and also make a profit for the company owners.

Usually too both the contractors and the workplace management refuse (often illegally) to recognise the trade unions to which the outsourced workers belong – such as the IWGB, and refuse to discuss any of the workplace issues with them. Often union members are disciplined and sacked for their union activities.

Had Maria been one of the cleaners at the various places where the IWGB have been able by organising protests like this and forcing the management to talk with them and to get the workers directly employed she would have got the kind of conditions that other workers at these places take for granted. She would have been able to call in to work when she knew she was ill and have time off, and would have been able to self-isolate after her positive corona test, as she would have been able to rely on proper sick pay.

Outsourcing and other poisonous working arrangements, particularly zero hours contracts, have been a major factor in directly spreading the infection, and are a part of the reason for its increased prevalence among our black and ethnic minority communities. Low pay too has an indirect effect, leading to more crowded housing conditions. Many low paid jobs too are ones that involve considerable contact with others, and often involve travel in crowded public transport to workplaces.

The first protest on that Thursday evening in January was calling for the University of London to directly employ the cleaners, receptionists, security officers, porters and post room staff that work in the premises that are part of the central administration, including offices and halls of residence, and took place outside the University’s Senate House. Earlier protests have persuaded the University to consider direct employment for some of these workers, but the IWGB call for all of them to be brought in-house as soon as possible. Students and some teaching staff from various colleges came to support the protest.

At the end of this protest a double-decker bus hired by the union arrived to take those present to a ‘secret location’ for a further protest and I was invited to go with them. It dropped us off around the corner from the Royal College of Music, and the protesters ran into the building. A new contractor had taken over the RCM cleaning contract and decided to halve the hours worked by cleaners and change shift times. Most of the cleaners have to work on several jobs like this to make ends meet and so were unable to change to the new hours and had been threatened with dismissal. The RCM and the contractor had refused to discuss the changes with the IWGB who had launched a collective grievance; the cleaners have balloted for strike action and the union is also considering a legal challenge under law governing the transfer of undertakings.

It was a short and very noisy protest inside the foyer, and the protesters who had been very careful to avoid any damage left when the police arrived after 12 minutes and continued their protest outside.

More at:
Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music
End Outsourcing at University of London


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.


London in Lockdown – Chris Dorley-Brown

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Many photographers have been busy with various projects taking advantage of the unique situations created by the Covid-19 lockdown, but the most impressive set of images I’ve come across so far are the hauntingly empty cityscapes by Chris Dorley-Brown which are featured in an article with the over-lengthy title ‘Chris Dorley-Brown’s photographs of London during lockdown are “terrifying and exciting in equal measure”’ on web site It’s Nice That.

These images of well-known locations from meticulously researched locations were all taken on weekdays, between the hours of midday and 2 PM and in the article Dorley-Brown says that they took him “about an hour each“. There are just a few people visible, mainly in the distance in some of the images, but they do convey an incredible feeling of emptiness and I imagine it took some time to exactly fine the best position and sometimes to wait for the few wanderers around the city to move into less conspicuous positions, and sometimes for the light.

There is something of a contrast between these and one of Dorley-Brown‘s earlier projects, The Corners, on his web site with other works, where he very effectively made use of multiple exposures to overpopulate the streets of East London in unreal but fascinating tableaux vivants.

Thanks to another photographer, Paul Baldesare, for drawing my attention to this article.


Photographers who have been able to keep working during the lockdown may be interested in a competition with free entry and a £1000 prize on the theme of ‘My New World‘:

The World as we knew it six months ago has been changing dramatically. Many people’s lives were put on hold, some endured hardship and loss, some had to reinvent themselves and perhaps have been working harder than before. There have been important social movements and appreciation of inevitability that we all facing a New World.  

This competition aims to collectively record the experience of people in the United Kingdom during and post lockdown reflecting new challenges and aspirations, bravery, kindness, love, sadness and humour. 

Launching Anna Steinhouse Photography Award

Entries – one image per person – are invited through Instagram until midnight Wednesday the 19th of August 2020. You can find full details of submission, terms and conditions at the link above

Shepperton Ride

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020
River Thames, Church Square, Shepperton

June 4th I took it easy again on my ten-mile ride, forcing myself to stop and take pictures here and there. Of course the stopping and starting does actually add to the amount of energy expended and I find it hard to actually waste the effort I’ve made by braking, so the places I stop are sometimes more determined by where I need to slow down for other reasons.

Laleham

I’d changed my route slightly to go along a little of the River Thames towpath through Laleham village. I don’t like cycling along this bit of the towpath much, partly because its often quite busy with walkers, but mainly because the loose chippings on the actual path are a nuisance. Years ago, as a teacher hurrying along here on my way to an early morning in-service training meeting at the Runnymede Centre in Chertsey a stone flew up and into my chain, snapping the fairly chunky aluminium arm of my Campagnolo rear derailleur. I couldn’t ride the bike but rushed home pushing it, and picked up my wife’s bike to ride to the session. Fortunately I’d left home early to enjoy the bike ride, and ended up only a few minutes late. But I had to buy a new derailleur, opting for a rather cheaper model that seemed to work just as well.

This time I took the path in a leisurely fashion, keeping as far as possible to a narrow hardened mud area to one side of the chippings to arrive at the parking area where I stopped to take a photograph before proceeding.

One of many unfilled gravel pits in Spelthorne
Chertsey Lock and Chertsey Bridge

The narrow path soon becomes a metalled road, which would provide a pleasant ride beside the river to Chertsey Lock and Chertsey Bridge, though marred by the traffic humps and the occasional rather dangerous pothole.

The house where Zane died

Just before the bridge is the house where during the 2014 floods a tragic release from landfill of deadly hydrogen cyanide killed a seven-year-old and paralysed his father. Zane Gbangbola’s parents have continued the campaign to get the truth about the incident since.

Chertsey Lock

At the bridge I turned left towards Shepperton, along a busier road with a road surface curiously resistant to bicycle tires.

House, Dockett Eddy Lane
Pharoah’s Island can only be accessed by boat
Shepperton Ferry – not currently operating.

It was a pleasure to turn off down Docket Eddy Lane which leads back down to the river, and past the houses on the riverside and on Pharoah’s Island to Shepperton Lock and the ferry.

I turned off the route into Church Square and went down to the garden by the riverside, to find a pair of fancy ducks with a small group of chicks. I switched to my longer lens so as not to disturb them while taking pictures.

Back on my bike I rode up Shepperton High St, turning left at the top to go over the M3. It’s always just a little of a struggle up this bridge, perhaps because its usually against the wind and very open, but there is a long downhill stretch after it, with little need to pedal until just before the next traffic lights. I kept on and was soon cycling through Laleham on the road and up towards Staines, over some more resistant road surface and some really poor cracks and holes at the roundabout by the pub I still think of as the Lucan Arms, though it has changed its name several times since Lord Lucan went missing. Nowadays he could easily disappear through a Surrey pothole.


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.


Showing faces II

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

For a rather wider discussion of the issues involved in photographing protests and showing the faces of those taking part, you may like to read On Ethics, The First Amendment, and Photographing Protestors’ Faces by Allen Murabayashi.

It is of course in some respects a very US-centric article, talking about Trump and about the constitution. But I think it makes some of the reasons for the disagreements over the issue clear, and is worth reading.

Murabayashi gives his own opinion in two short paragraphs as the end of the piece:

To me, the real discussion shouldn’t be about the blurring or obscuring of faces, nor gaining consent of a subject. These are tactical choices, and in the U.S. there is simply no expectation of privacy in a public setting.

Instead, we ought to continue to consider how photography is used to portray others (particularly the vulnerable), and whether an image truly advances a story or simply acts as a signifier for the photo we should have taken.

Op cit

The link in the last sentence is to another piece by Murabayashi, The Photographic Phases of Depicting COVID-19, which is also an interesting read.


Black Lives Matter

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

Staines, Surrey, UK. 4th June 2020.

I won’t be going to today’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest at London’s US Embassy though I would like to be there, both to show my support and also to take photographs, and it would be an easy journey for me.

The health risks of attending, though not huge, are greater for me than for most or all those who will be there, as if I were to be infected my life would be at greater risk both because of my age and because I have diabetes. I’m fortunate not to have great problems with diabetes, and I think I lived with it for over 30 years before it was diagnosed as a contributory factor to my heart attack in 2003, and now insulin and a careful diet usually keep it well under control, but it does mean my immune system isn’t too great.

The risks would be quite low. According to one of our leading epidemiologists speaking on the radio yesterday, about 1 in 700 people currently has Covid-19 and is infectious, although they may not be showing any symptoms. The proportion who are infectious in the protest crowd is likely to be rather smaller, as those who do have symptoms will almost certainly stay away. The protest will be taking place outside in a very open area, which will cut down the chance of infection.

The chance of being infected depends on various things. You reduce it by physical distance from an infected person – so if people at protests are able to keep that 2m away from people not in their own social group that helps greatly. If people who have the virus are wearing even simple home-made face masks that greatly reduces their spreading of the virus.

Protesters ‘Take the Knee’ at the side of Staines Town Hall.

Being a photographer is slightly more complicated. In the nature of things you have to move around and thus have a greater chance of coming close to one of that very small number of infected persons present. The moving around also cuts down your chance of always keeping that 2m distance. If you are, like me, someone who likes to get close to those you are photographing, you would be advised to change your way of working, moving perhaps to longer focal lengths. And you would certainly be advised to wear an effective mask when working. Moving around does have the advantage of decreasing the time you are close to any individual, which will also reduce the chance of infection.

The main danger to protesters will almost certainly come from policing. The police seem consistently to fail to observe social distancing and fail to wear face masks, so putting the public at risk. But also they often try to herd protesters into smaller areas where social distancing may be impossible, often to try to keep traffic flowing.

A silent die-in for 8 minutes 46 seconds in the Two Rivers shopping park in the centre of Staines, the time Floyd was restrained by a police officer.

It was probably unwise for me to leave home on Friday to cover a Black Lives Matter protest which I could hear from my window in Staines, particularly as I rushed out unprepared, forgetting to pick up my face mask. Of course I tried to keep at a suitable distance but there were moments when this wasn’t practicable. It was a rather smaller protest, with perhaps a couple of hundred people, not all of whom were wearing face masks either. Rather more of my pictures than usual were made with a short telephoto lens, with my wide-angle used largely for wider views in an attempt to preserve social distance.


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.


John Pfahl (1939-2020)

Monday, May 25th, 2020

I was interested to read the appreciation of the work of John Pfahl by photographer, photo critic and historian Bruno Chalifour published by A D Coleman as a guest post on his Photocritic International web site, not just for the information it gives about Pfahl who died in April, a victim of Covid-19, and his work but also for its insight into some of the political aspects of photography and photographic history.

Although I’ve been aware of the work of John Pfahl more or less since I first started my serious interest in photography in the 1970s when I think I first came across his work in the pages of one of the US magazines, probably Popular Photography, he wasn’t a photographer who particularly inspired me, perhaps because I found his work a little academic. So although I have books with his pictures in, particularly Sally Euclaire’s ‘ The New Color Photography’ (1981). I didn’t buy a copy of his Altered Landscapes also published that same year by The Friends of Photography, and have failed to acquire any of his later publications.

Chalifour talks about the “Rochester camp of photography“, to which Pfahl belonged, being in opposition to the MoMa school around its curator from 1962-91 John Szarkowski: “Szarkowski — still echoed nowadays by non-rigorous if not lazy art critics, curators, photo historians and researchers — did not consider that there was any serious color fine-art photography before the William Eggleston show he mounted there in 1976.” But Pfahl studied on the “first graduate-level program in color photography in America” gaining his MA at Syracuse University in 1968.

Of course there was serious colour photography even before that, including by a number of European photographers (who certainly didn’t count either in New York or Rochester.) But it was still true for most of us at the time that real photography was black and white, and while there were books largely for amateurs on colour photography, my own real training in the medium came from Johannes Itten‘s The Art of Color, published in 1961 based on his teaching at the Bauhaus, a copy of which I found in the 70s in my local library (many years before the cuts.)

Chalifour also mentions another Rochester linked problem, in that “Most of Pfahl’s work until the 1990s was printed on Ektacolor paper” and is thus showing signs of fading. The George Eastman Museum apparently has two sets of his major series, one for display, research and exhibition, and the other kept in the dark in cold storage. Kodak’s colour materials were notoriously fugitive, and having read the research many of us switched to Fuji in the 1980s. Some of his work was printed by the expensive but much more stable dye-transfer process. Pfahl was also an early adopter of digital printing, using the Iris/Giclée process for projects in the 1990s.


As I go through my own old slides, produced from around 1970 to 1985, I’m painfully aware of the limitations of older colour processes, with many images faded beyond repair and others requiring time-consuming restoration and much digital tidying to remove ingrained spots and mould. Fortunately images taken on Kodachrome have survived well, but Kodak’s card mounts are a problem, producing stray fibres and dust around the edges as well as masking too much of the image. I should put them in proper mounts before re-photographing them but it takes too long. Fortunately much of the pictures towards the end of this period before I switched to colour negative were made on Fuji films.



Super supermarket pictures

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

Photographer Dougie Wallace who I’ve mentioned here before for work including his pictures of shoppers outside Harrods has a fine portfolio on LensCulture, Adapting to Covid-19 in London’s Supermarkets.

Rather more sympathetic to his subjects than in some of his work, Wallace’s pictures show a remarkable degree of intimacy to the shoppers and supermarket workers he photographs. It’s hard to believe that some were not taken at rather less than the regulation 2m Covid separation.

In the text he is recorded talking about some of the problems in making pictures under lockdown, and as still “struggling with the professional hazard of holding a camera close to the face while trying not to touch one’s face and remembering to regularly sanitize hands and equipment to protect against the invisible enemy.”

It is remarkable work made under challenging conditions. Wallace worked with the small, fast and light Olympus EM1 Mark 3, a Micro Four Thirds camera. I’ve not used this latest top of the range model, but very much liked the similar mid-range Olympus OMD M5 MkII which cost me less than a quarter of the price. Olympus back in film days were always the nicest cameras to use – I still have two OM4 bodies – and that superior user experience is still there in their digital models.

There are very few occasions when one really needs the larger sensor of a full-frame camera – perhaps copying negatives and slides. Working in very low light too; though wide aperture lenses and image stabilisation go some way to bridge the gap, they don’t help when you need depth of field and are photographing moving subjects.



NHS Fundraising Sale

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

I don’t normally publish press releases, but here an exception:

James Hyman Gallery announces the launch of a special fundraising sale.

All profits will go to support the National Health Service.I know that at this time of international crisis, the last thing on people’s minds is looking at art, let alone buying it. In my case, one of my daughter’s has coronavirus (thankfully mildly) and we are under quarantine and waiting to see if we also catch it. All being well my wife, Claire, will return to her job as a surgeon in a major NHS hospital next week.

Unfortunately, NHS Hospital staff, on the front line in the treatment of patients with Covid-19, are still working without the proper PPE (personal protective equipment), and there remains a shortage of testing kits and ventilators.

As everyone pulls together I have been thinking what I can do as an art dealer. I feel very helpless. What I have done is put together a selection of works by some of the major photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and will donate all profits to the National Health Service.

It would be wonderful if you could take a look and let me know if anything is of interest to you.

http://www.jameshymangallery.com/exhibitions/2682/press/special-fundraising-sale-for-the-national-health-service

Although some of the pictures are at least of some interest to me, the prices are a little out of my league. But wealthier readers of this blog (if there are any) might be interested. Regular readers will also know that I think the fetishisation of of the photographic print rather misses the point of our medium and its infinite possibility of reproduction.

As I’ve pointed out here before, if you want an Atget to hang on your wall you can have one at little or no cost, and it will quite likely be a rather better print than you can buy from an art dealer. The one hanging in my front room certainly is. And I’ve certainly printed better Walker Evans prints than were made of his work back in the 1930s.

But this is a generous response to the crisis, and I hope it that some will buy and enjoy these pictures, mainly but not all photographs, quite a few of which are images I’ve not seen before.

At least one other dealer has made a similar response, with New York based dealer and gallery owner Hans P Kraus Jr putting up a sale of prints by Early British Photographers, with 10% of the sales revenue going to support New York healthcare workers. The works for sale include some by Talbot himself, as well as Hill & Adamson, Anna Atkins, Julia Margaret Cameron, Roger Fenton and others. The print which attracts me most is a later reproduction of Hill & Adamson’s ‘The Bird Cage (the Misses Watson)’, a carbon print made by Jessie Bertram in 1916.

Both these sales were featured in posts by Michael Pritchard in the blog on the British photographic history web site.


Solidarity with Rojava

Monday, April 6th, 2020

While we may feel cooped up in isolation in the UK, and are mourning the deaths of several thousand from COVID-19, the situation for many around the world is far worse. Particularly at risk are the people of Rojava in North-East Syria, mainly Kurds, at risk both from Turkish invasion forces and from the virus.

Kurds are the largest minority community in Turkey as well as being widespread across the northern parts of Iran, Iraq and Syria. They were promised an independent state at the end of the First World War, but that promise was denied when the boundaries of modern Turkey were defined in 1923.

Since 1923 Turkey has attempted a programme to eliminate Kurdish culture and identity, at times with massive military campaigns as well as repressive legislation. The Kurds, around 20% of the population, have fought back the opposition led since the 1980s by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK led by Abdullah Öcalan who has been in jail in Turkey since 1999.

In recent years Turkey has been aggressively attacking Kurds outside Turkey and in early 2018 they invaded Afrin canton in northern Syria, part of the territory where Kurds with other minority ethnic groups had established a de-facto autonomous region of Rojava, with a constitution based on decentralisation, gender equality, direct democracy and guaranteeing ethnic minority rights and religious freedom.

Kurdish forces in the People’s Protection Units, the men of the YPG and the women of the YPJ, were the most effective force in fighting the ISIS in Syria, with the help of US air support. But Turkey is second only the the US in military strength in NATO, and has benefited greatly from NATO support and arms supply, and were able to take Afrin from these lightly armed Kurdish forces. Many Kurds were forced out of the area, which had been overwhelmingly Kurdish and they are now a relatively small minority.

President Trump’s announcement of a US withdrawal from Syria gave Turkey’s President Erdogan a green light to continue his country’s invasion of Rojava, and left the Kurds there no alternative but to call on the Syrian government for support, a move which in the longer term seems likely to end their autonomy.

Turkey is now using the coronavirus to threaten Kurds in Turkish prisons for political reasons – including many journalists, excluding them from its plans to release them with other prisoners because of the pandemic. They are also refusing to refer prisoners with COVID-19 symptoms for medical treatment.

For the 4 million inhabitants of North and East Syria, including 600,000 refugees the situation is also dire. The World Health Organisation refuses to support the area directly and little comes to them through the Assad regime. There are no WHO test kits or test machines and only 35 intensive care beds and 40 ventilators.

More pictures from October’s protest: Solidarity with Rojava – Kurdish Syria


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.