South London Photographer: Some shots from Bank Holiday Monday

I took these images on Monday evening at the end of the bank holiday during one of my visits to the Extinction Rebellion protests (see previous blogs). There might have been a further image here; one of a policeman who was sitting, clearly exhausted in the evening sunshine, arms crossed and alone against some hoarding on Park Lane just before Marble Arch. Diane Arbus whose work you can currently see at the Hayward Gallery said taking photographs can feel ‘naughty’ – and yes, it is when we steal pictures of people in the street. The ethics of street photography seem more complex than ever as the structures of our culture emerge, perhaps in part, due to the internet which acts as a mirror and as ubiquitous smartphone-cameras make everyone a potential photographer/voyeur. Although I had asked most (but not all) the people in my images for their permission, I hoped to take an image of this lone policeman who seemed to represent authority,  exhaustion, and isolation so well. Perhaps, in the end, it would have been a clichéd shot that would never have made it passed an initial edit. However, I never got the chance to take my ‘naughty’ picture as he saw me, got up, then walked towards me to call me an idiot. I must stress this was not the behaviour of most police-people I saw, who seemed immensely patient despite what must have been a testing and exhausting week for them.

What are you doing, bloody idiots, costing a fortune, we’ve not seen our families in days, you’re all idiots …. I attempted to explain I was documenting this fantastically interesting period of change in our history … documenting what, there’s nothing to document? You’re all idiots. History is happening in front of us, I said. It’s not history; idiots the lot of you, he’d insisted. I understand he must have had his patience tested. I’d loved to have been able to explain my enthusiasm for witnessing everything I’d been reading about for the last few years emerge so vibrantly, just as the authors had predicted. To see, in front of us, the way we have internalised new ways of understanding and being – in helpful and not so helpful ways – coming to fruition, to see clear evidence of a system changing, to view power evolving. I could have bored the poor exhausted policeman to death with my childlike excitement! Next time, he ranted as he followed me, we won’t …. I never heard what he said about next time as I was too far away from him by then.

I walked on and as I reached the end of the cordoned-off area, another policeman got out of his van. Perhaps his colleague had radioed him about the idiot with the camera coming his way. Nice pictures? he asked. Maybe, I shrugged and smiled at him. It was a beautiful evening. At the bottom of Park Lane tourists stood taking pictures of a golden sun setting over London. Parked outside the Lanesborough Hotel were two super-cars and guests milling about on the steps. And around the corner, yet another sign of homelessness which we see everywhere and far, far too often nowadays.

(c)SJField2019

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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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