Photographer: Working with the ​charity, Just Shelter

As some followers of this blog will be aware, for several years I’ve been documenting trips to Northern France with London-based charity Just Shelter, who raise money, collect necessary items and organise educational activities for displaced children in France. For others, it might come as a surprise to hear that people are still living precariously in Calais and Dunkirk. The well-publicised Jungle closed in 2016 but families and individuals have continued to arrive in the area and many are existing without any of the basics most of us take for granted.

Donated toys are washed and books sorted in a warehouse in Calais before being given to children and families. Another warehouse nearby continues to provide food for people in need. (2020)

Over the last few years, I have focused on landscapes which aim to mark the passing of time, as well as the Just Shelter’s activities, and when appropriate I’ve photographed people we met. Cameras and displaced individuals are not a great mix, but one of Just Shelter’s aims is to remind people that there are still many in need as well as busy, underfunded, volunteer organisations providing support.

This weekend was the first time I accompanied Just Shelter after a break of several months, and it was distressing to see that, although some things have shifted, the situation is not improving. One is left wondering if it ever will. Today, as we remember some of the worst events from of our history, we can reflect on the way people are being treated in the US and across Europe, and consider the lack of empathy evidenced by Parliamentarians recently who voted not to reunite refugee children with family members in the UK.

Images of a workshop run by teachers with Just Shelter and volunteers from Project Play this weekend with children who really enjoyed the games and maths lessons provided. (2020)

To donate or offer support please visit Just Shelter’s Facebook page. You can find out more about Project Play here. 

All images (c)SJField2016-20

 

South London Photographer: Protests

As another youth-strike took place yesterday across the world, I continued my long-term project of documenting protests, which we have seen more and more of in recent months. Here are a few images from the march in London. Although climate was the focus of Friday’s international gathering, some protesters used the opportunity to express their thoughts about alternative or unrelated issues.

(c)SJField 2019

 

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South London Photographer: Protests, Easter Friday 2019

Today I wandered through the centre of London and photographed people protesting, but included here are people who are just watching, or taking advantage of the fact there are no cars on the road, and some are simply getting on with life as they explore the city.

The protesters were expressing themselves for a variety of reasons although most of the images below cover the Extinction Rebellion blockades. However, there are other groups too. There are signs in the pictures which may identify movements, but that’s not what I’m most interested in here. What matters to me is the desire to protest – to speak out, to question the status quo – regardless of what the individuals choose to affiliate themselves with. Perhaps I take my lead from Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa who is quoted in Nicholas A Christakis’s latest book Blueprint, “Seeing people only as members of groups is …’ inherently reductionist and dehumanising, a collectivist and ideological abstraction of all that is original and creative in the human being, of all that has not been imposed by inheritance, geography, or social pressure’ Real, personal identity, he argues, ‘springs from the capacity for human beings to resist these influences and counter them with free acts of their own invention.”‘ (2019)

Many people here gave me permission to take their photographs. However, there are some candid, taken in the tradition of street photography.  I am extremely grateful to everyone who acknowledged my camera or spoke to me and told me a little bit about themselves.

The world might seem a lot less stable than it’s been for a while and people are often justifiably angry and frustrated – perhaps for reasons we don’t always understand, but I try to take comfort from scientists/writers Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luis who wrote in A Systems View of Life; “…new structures, technologies, and new forms of social organisation may arise unexpectedly in situations of instability, chaos or crisis.” (2016)

All images (c)SJField2019

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References

F Capra, P Luigi Luisi, 2016, A Systems View of Life, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

NA Christakis, 2019, Blueprint, New York, Little Brown Spark

 

South London Photographer: Climate Protests in London

The following images are from today’s climate Extinction Rebellion protests, which I believe are planned to continue for some days to come. As I have been doing over the last two years, I photographed the way people are choosing to speak out about issues that matter to them. I will need to keep some images back as I read there are planned arrests this evening, but the protesters in the following images are obscured in some way or performing and so overtly present or have already been arrested.

This morning, someone I know said that the arrests had been pre-arranged but I spoke with a legal observer this evening and was told categorically the arrests had not been arranged in any way. Those being led away did not look like they were happy to be going anywhere and I saw how they tried to sit it out – but no-one was violent. I was told people were arrested as gently as possible on Waterloo Bridge this morning, which is where I heard a policeman telling one of his colleagues they were going to arrest people one by one – and then they proceeded to do so.

I was not able to stay for the evening but it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few days.

All images (c)SJField2019

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South London Photographer: Calais

Recently I was asked to accompany an Earlsfield based association to document their trip to The Jungle in Calais. In the near future Just Shelter aim to raise funds for charities, Calais Kitchen and Jungle Canopy,  who feed and help people living in the camp. Please follow Just Shelter to find out more about upcoming fundraising events. There are no NGOs operating properly in Calais and so the volunteers working there are doing so under extremely difficult conditions and really need any help they can get, as do the people living in the camp. With so much going on in the world the media have moved away from The Jungle and donations are less forthcoming. It is becoming harder to maintain the support that is required.

Here are a handful of the images from my previous trip. Please see my site for other images showing some of the conditions people are living under. You can also visit Just Shelter or Calaid-ipedia for further information about what is needed and how you can help. Just Shelter is planning another trip very soon and will welcome donations of money or goods, but please check with Just Shelter about what is  required.

All images (c)SJField 2016

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Taken from inside a makeshift kitchen. We were offered tea, coffee and snacks, as is usual there. The people I spoke to here had been living in The Jungle for almost a year.
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Although the authorities succeeded in demolishing this section of the camp there are still just as many people living very close by and about a hundred arriving daily*.
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The packing containers which have been used to house some people are woefully inadequate. There are no cooking facilities and limited bathrooms.
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I was told that one of the hardest things, amongst many, is having very little to do. Kite flying is perhaps difficult for the authorities to prevent. Destroying the street with its makeshift cafes, as well as preventing external groups from being there in order to provide something to occupy people’s time, is a cynical strategy aimed at breaking down morale amongst residents.
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Although this church was left standing another was demolished despite assurances it wouldn’t be. As was a school. This church is now surrounded by wild scrub when just a few months back it was surrounded by the people it served.
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Another area where once there were tents and shelters.  These were bulldozed in March. Thousands of already displaced people were forced to set up just a few yards away.  There are more than 7,000 people living there and no NGOs in place. The charities work tirelessly to help and are privately funded with donations. Volunteers fund their own travel and board.
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Sanitary towels are of course really important for women. I can imagine how uncomfortable and difficult it must be to have your period and not have a bathroom to use.
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The warehouse we visited is a huge operation being run entirely by self-funded volunteers.

 

*https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jul/27/calais-camp-france-food-refugees-business-companies-support