Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

End Traffic Violence – 2014

Monday, November 15th, 2021

A few weeks ago I came to the end of a walk with friends and we stood at a bus stop on the edge of the A3 in south-west London with a relentless flow of traffic moving past in all four lanes in both directions. We were a few yards away on a slip road, but the noise was making my head throb and I could smell and taste the pollution, though I hope the Covid mask I was wearing might filter out some of the particulates. It was a horrible reminder of the mad dedication to traffic which is killing so many of us, poisoning adults and particularly children and playing a significant role in killing the planet through the huge carbon emissions in manufacturing vehicles, building yet more roads and of course burning fossil fuels. Fortunately our bus came earlier than expected.

The switch to electric cars will help a little, and reduce some of the pollution, though not its possibly most dangerous aspect, the particulates that come mainly from rubber tyres and from brakes. And there is still a huge carbon footprint from their manufacture – roughly equivalent to running around 150,000 miles of burning petrol or diesel, and much of the electricity used to power them will come from power stations burning gas or forest-destroying wood.

We can only have a sustainable future if we wean ourselves as a species away from travel, and take what journeys are still necessary by ways that reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. Going on foot or by bicycle, using public transport and severely limiting the more polluting and high-carbon forms of transport. It means measures such as banning private cars in cities, giving priorities to buses, building more light rail and tram systems, ending subsidies to air travel, stopping new road-building and more. But also it means great changes in our way of life.

It’s something I realised over 50 years ago when I sold the only car I’d ever owned. Something I considered very carefully in choosing where to live and what jobs to take. And something which has constrained the holidays I’ve chosen to take and other aspects of my life, but not anything I really regret. I’ve only ever made three trips by air related to my work – where no real alternative was possible, and only taken two holidays which involved flights.

Of course there are some things and situations where cars are essential. It’s very hard to manage without one for those who live in more remote areas, and some need to. I’ve chosen always to live in towns or cities and have been healthy enough to be able to ride a bicycle or walk. In 2019, George Monbiot wrote for the Guardian a piece with the sub-head ‘Cars are ruining our lives. We should cut their use by 90% over the next 10 years’. Like other posts on his web site its worth reading and goes into much greater and well-argued detail than this piece.

Donnachadh McCarthy

On 15th November 2014 I photographed the ‘Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence’ organised by environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy and ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’. It made its way through the centre of London from Bedford Square going along Oxford St, with a bagpiper playing and a horse-drawn hearse carrying a coffin for a mock funeral ceremony at Marble Arch.

It made the point that while too many pedestrians and cyclists are still killed and maimed by cars and lorries on a road system largely engineered for the convenience of motorised transport, their numbers are dwarfed by the many thousands of premature deaths each year caused by the pollution from road traffic, with pollution levels in many places being well above legal limits. After the funeral, there was a die-in by cyclists more or less filling the hard standing at Marble Arch, and a trumpeter sounded the Last Post.

Here is a list of the demands made by the protesters:

  1. Stop the Killing of Children with a national, multi-billion pound programme to convert residential communities across Britain into living-street Home Zones and abolish dangerous rat-runs.
  2. Stop the Killing of Pedestrians by a national programme to fund pedestrianisation of our city and town centres, including the nation’s high-street, Oxford Street.
  3. Stop the Killing of Pensioners from excessive speed with an enforced speed limit of 20 mph on all urban roads, 40 mph on rural roads/lanes and 60 mph on all other trunk roads.
  4. Stop the Killing of Cyclists, investing£15 billion in a National Segregated Cycle Network over the next 5 years.
  5. Stop the Killing by HGVs by banning trucks with blind spots, making safety equipment mandatory and strictly enforcing current truck-safety regulations; currently around 30% are illegally dangerous.
  6. Stop the Killing without liability with a presumed civil liability law for vehicular traffic when they kill or seriously injure vulnerable road-users, unless there is evidence blaming the victim.
  7. Stop the Killing from Lung, Heart and other Diseases caused by vehicular pollutants with mandatory for particulate filters that meet latest EU emission standards on all existing buses, lorries and taxis.
  8. Stop the Killing at Junctions with pedestrian crossing times long enough for elderly disabled to cross, filtered junction crossings by cyclists and strict legal priority for pedestrians and urgently provide physically protected left-hand turns for cyclists.
  9. Stop the Killing from Climate Crisis caused by CO2 emissions by insisting that all transport fuels are from truly environmentally-sustainable, renewable sources within 10 years.
  10. Focus on Life! with transport governance making safety and quality of life the top priority. Reform all council transport departments, the Department of Transport and Transport for London into Cycling, Walking and Transport Departments with formal pedestrian and cyclist representation.

Again you can read more detail and more evidence in Guardian posts by George Monbiot, available on his own web site such as Don’t Breathe.


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BDS and Gaza: London 2nd August 2014

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Wood Green

Many of the protests I photograph are in Westminster and concentrated around Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. There are obvious reasons for this, particularly during the week when Parliament is in session, though on Saturdays there are few people around other than tourists, with MPs back in their constituencies, government offices closed and the Prime Minister seldom if ever at home and these locations are purely symbolic.

Brixton

Trafalgar Square is a good site for large rallies, and often the end point for larger marches, though this century has seen the epicentre for protest move to Parliament Square, I think influenced by the permanent presence there for around ten years of Brian Haw’s Parliament Square Peace campaign. It can I think hold larger crowds than Trafalgar Square and Jeremy Corbyn drew them there on various occasions and issues, though of course Hyde Park is on a very much larger scale.

Brixton

But protests do take place elsewhere across London and over the years I’ve travelled to most London boroughs to cover them, thanks to London’s public transport system, which also brings me into the capital from my home on its western edge. On Saturday 2nd August there were two protests I wanted to cover, one in South London and the other at its northern end, connected both by the underground and in that they were both related to the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

I met with protesters outside Brixton Tube where they were gathering to march to the Sainsbury’s store half a mile to the south. I could have chosen several other locations in London and others around the country as this was a part of protests at a number of Sainsbury’s locations around the country because they sell products produced in illegal settlements inside the occupied Palestinian areas. I’d chosen Brixton partly because I expected there to be a slightly larger protest than some other locations, but also because it was beginning at a convenient place, two stops on the tube from Vauxhall where I could travel direct from my home.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

The protest was a part of the ongoing international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign, the protesters also wanted to show their anger and disgust at the horrific attack on Gaza then taking place, in which by this date over 1200 Palestinians, mainly innocent civilians including many children, had been killed by Israeli forces.

Sainsbury’s Brixton

The protest – along with those at other Sainsbury’s branches – had been widely publicised in advance and both police and store staff were waiting for the protesters, and the few that managed to walk inside the shop were soon asked to leave. The manager came out to talk with the protesters, telling them they had to leave the ramp in front of the store, which prompted them to hold a sit-in.

I had to leave before the protest ended to get back to Brixton tube station and make my way up to Turnpike Lane station in Haringey, where a larger protest was gathering on Ducketts Common opposite the station for a rally and march to show their anger over the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the killing of civilians including many children. I arrived shortly before the march began.

Haringey

Haringey is one of London’s most ethnically diverse areas, with around 65% of the population in non-white-British ethnic groups. Many are of Cypriot or Turkish origin, including Kurds, but there are also large Black African and Black Caribbean populations. The crowd that came to the rally reflected this and the strong local trade union movement led by the Haringey Trades Council.

Haringey

As the march walked up through the Wood Green shopping centre one Jewish man came to shout his support for the Gaza invasion – and police stepped in to shield him from the marchers – who included many Jews, some of whom came to argue with him. But there were many others who stopped to applaud the march, which was greeted at one location on its route by a group of Turkish Popular Front members.

Haringey

The march was again fortunately a short one and ended around three-quarters of a mile with a rally opposite the Haringey Civic Centre on Wood Green High Road. After listening to a few of the speeches I only had a quarter of a mile to walk to Wood Green Station to start my journey home.

More at:

Haringey March & Rally for Gaza
Sainsbury’s protest at illegal Israeli Goods


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.


Frank continued (part 2)

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Here is the second of three parts of my longish essay about Robert Frank, certainly the greatest influence on other photographers including myself in the years that followed publication of his book ‘The Americans’ in 1958/9. The final and I think most interesting part, in which I take a look at that book in some detail will follow shortly.


New York and Travel

As soon as he possibly could, in 1947, Frank left Switzerland and moved to New York. Art director Alexey Brodovitch encouraged Frank to photograph for Harper’s Bazaar and other fashion magazines. Frank soon found fashion restricting and also contributed to “Life”, “Look”, “Fortune”, “McCall’s”, and “The New York Times”.

Frank also began to travel, coming back to Europe in 1951, where he photographed in mining villages in Wales and in London, as well as photographing in South America for a book including work by Swiss photographer Werner Bischof and the French photographer Pierre Verger who devoted more than half of his life to the study, promotion, and practice of Afro-Brazilian culture.

In Wales he took a powerful if slightly predictable close view of a miner coming back from the pit, blackened by coal. It is a powerful portrait, the cheery face beneath a cloth cap heightened by contrast with the broader out of focus miner in the left of the frame. His picture of children playing on the slag heap, and of a miner at home scrubbing himself in a zinc bath while his wife sits at the table reading the newspaper are vibrant reminders of vanished times, and were surely informed by pictures from the 1930s of similar scenes taken by Bill Brandt.

In London too he was drawn to the stereotype, but rendered it in a personal and interesting fashion; men in bowlers and top hats stroll through the fog of city streets, carrying umbrellas. There are also some odd moments and places – a dog in a foggy street, an angel peering over a wall, mothers (or nannies) struggling with giant wrapped babies and prams in the park, bombsites and hearses.

Back in New York in 1953, Frank began to work with Edward Steichen in selecting work for an exhibition on ‘Post-War European Photographers’ at the Museum of Modern Art, and later on ‘The Family of Man’, although as Frank says, he did not share the ‘Captain’s’ sentimental vision behind this. Frank took Steichen to visit the studio of Jacob Tuggener among other photographers, and his work was included in the exhibition.

American Influences

Meanwhile, Frank had discovered another of the elements that was to influence him greatly, Walker Evan’s seminal book ‘American Photographs‘. Again this was a carefully and subtly sequenced work, with picture linking visually to picture and recurring themes. Evans possibly drew his ideas about sequencing more from literary than film sources. Frank took his work to show Evans, who was impressed; it was Evans who was the major support behind Frank when he successfully applied for a Guggenheim Grant to make a journey across America taking photographs.

A further influence on Frank was also largely literary (although at that time derided by the literary establishment.) This was the ‘beat generation’ – writers and poets such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Kerouac had written ‘On the Road‘, his second book, using a single long roll of paper in his typewriter so he could let his stream of thought flow out through its keys to paper without interruption, without pausing to think or editing. The book is based around a series of four largely pointless journeys by Kerouac (Sal Paradise), driving across America with or to visit his friend ‘Dean Moriaty’, whose wild behaviour and unreliability are legendary.

Written in 1950, Kerouac’s publisher turned it down, and it did not appear until 1957. Frank was probably not familiar with the detailed text, but certainly was aware of the movement and had met some of the principals including Ginsberg in the early fifties before his own road trip around America, and in his attitudes and view of America he echoed those of the beats.

On the Road

Frank’s journeys across America were however rather less frenetic than Kerouac’s and fuelled more by his experiences than drugs. Much of the the time he was accompanied by his wife and son who both appear in the final image of the finished book. Throughout 1955/6 he crossed America, driving a second-hand car given him by Peggy Guggenheim, shooting around 500 rolls of film, photographing on the streets and in post offices, Woolworth stores, cafés, small hotels, bus stations.

He started work early in the mornings and usually continued all day. He seldom talked to people and usually tried not to be noticed while he was photographing, though his subjects in some pictures are clearly reacting to his camera – and not always positively. After his travels he edited the roughly 18,000 images down to the 83 which appear in his book, on average around one from every six films.

The journeys were not without problems, particularly when he was arrested and held in jail for 3 days in Little Rock, Arkansas. A police officer saw a Ford with New York plates being driven by a badly dressed and dishevelled Frank; he stopped the car and spoke to him and discovered not only did he have a strongly foreign accent, but saw that there were several cameras and other boxes and bags in the car. Clearly this was a spy, and that he had a piece of paper with something about Guggenheim on it (another foreign name) made circumstances even more suspicious.

So Frank was arrested and left in jail for around seven hours before being subjected to a series of interrogations for another four hours. This was at the height of the cold war and McCarthyism, and the police were totally unable to understand what Frank was trying to do. Why was anyone photographing America other than to supply information to a foreign power? Every possible point in his papers and his attempted explanations was fuel to their paranoia –the name Brodovitch – one of his Guggenheim sponsors – was clearly Russian, one of his children was called Pablo – a foreign name, he had marked routes on his maps and so on.

Fortunately Frank was able to persuade them not to have any of his films developed locally as they had threatened to. When they asked him if he knew anyone in politics or the police or similar, he told them he knew Steichen, and that his wife’s uncle was a close friend of Mayor Wagner of New York.

What concerned Frank most after he had been released was that his fingerprints had been taken and sent to the FBI; he was worried that this might prejudice his application for American citizenship.


The final piece of this essay, first published on the web in 2000, will appear shortly and looks at the content of ‘The Americans’ and then concludes with a very brief section on his later work.