Saturday, April 18, 2009

Replies so far

I've had two replies to my letters so far.

The first is from my MP, Sarah Teather, who, you may remember, has a bit of a kick ass voting record.

Sarah Teather Letter

The second is from the IPCC

IPCC Letter

I will be writing to the address given in the IPCC letter.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Letter Writing

I'm writing to:
The Independent Police Complaints Commission
The Home Office
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
The Metropolitan Police Service
Sarah Teather, my MP

It turns out my MP is a Liberal Democrat and has a pretty kick ass voting record. I'm looking forward to her response!

I'm not really making a complaint, I figure enough people are doing that, and I only mention Ian Tomlinson in passing. Instead, I want to try to get some actual dialogue by asking questions.

Here is the letter (this is the MP version, obviously the first para was edited slightly for other recipients)
Dear Sarah Teather,

I am wondering if you could answer a few questions for me about the way policing is handled at protests. I do not wish to make any complaint but, rather, to understand the policing of protests better. I am sending a similar letter to the Home Office, the IPCC and the Metropolitan police. I am hoping you will have some sympathy for my questions as, looking at your voting record, it appears that our political views are similar.

I have attended two protests recently; Stop the War's Gaza Protest on January 10th and the G20 related protests on 1st April. I am a photographer and, although I supported the views of the protesters in both cases, I attended these protests to document them, rather than to join them.

On the 1st of April, I arrived at the protest shortly after it converged on the Bank of England. This was around midday and I discovered that the main area had already been “kettled” in.

When I asked police officers why we were not allowed inside to legally protest/observe, I was told it was for our own protection, as it was very violent inside the kettle. However, I could see directly into the cordoned area and people were sunbathing, talking, dancing and peacefully protesting.

By around 1.30pm, the police were charging outwards from the kettle to get us to move back. During one of these charges, I was walking backwards away from the police (in the direction they were telling us to walk). Apparently I was not moving fast enough, because just as I turned to face my direction of travel, I saw a policeman draw back his baton, which he then shoved into my back as I turned around. This is obviously the same sort of treatment that Ian Tomlinson received.

Later, after police lines briefly dispersed to the west of Bank, I made my way towards the centre of the protest and enjoyed photographing the peaceful protesters and talking to different people about their views on various issues. By around 5pm, I needed to leave and discovered I had been locked inside the kettle. I understand there had been some violence from protesters at this point, but the vast majority of people in the kettle were extremely peaceful.

I spoke to a police officer who told me that we were being kept inside the kettle for our own safety, as it was violent outside the cordons. This is the exact opposite to what I had been told earlier. I was continually polite to this officer and eventually he let me out after I told him I am a professional photographer. As soon as I reached the other side of the police line, I realised the streets were completely empty and there was absolutely no violence at all.

My questions are as follows:
- Why would the police 'kettle' a protest only an hour or so after it had started?
- How is it safe or legal to detain people for hours in an area where there is no access to shops or adequate toilet facilities? I twice saw people who felt ill (one of whom appeared to be under the age of 18) asking the police for water, which was refused to them. If a kettle is deemed necessary, shouldn't there be some system for providing detainees with water and adequate toilet facilities?
- Why would police lie about it being for our own safety when, in fact, there was very little violence inside the kettle, and absolutely none outside the kettle later when I left?
- What is the need to constantly charge towards protesters to get them to move? Why is this not kept as a last resort? (I have also seen coverage of protests such as Climate Camp 2008 where extremely peaceful protesters were charged at and police made them move backwards across a field.) What is the need to make people move “back” all the time?
- How is kettling helpful when it aggravates protesters? (People inside the kettle were more annoyed about being kept captive than anything else) Doesn't it make a situation less safe and peaceful if you rile protesters up by containing them in a smaller and smaller space?
- Is it standard practice for police to use violent physical force on people (such as myself, Ian Tomlinson and countless others) without provocation? What is the benefit of this?

I ask these questions as a concerned citizen and also because I plan to attend protests in the future as a photographer and I would like to better understand the policing methods so that I can adjust my coverage accordingly and ensure my own safety from police violence. I realise there are quite a number of questions here, however this is merely indicative of the level of my bewilderment at recent policing tactics.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, I greatly appreciate it and I look forward to your answers to my questions.


Will update when I receive replies!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some Photos

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Notting Hill Market

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Liverpool Street Station

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The online persona

I was online when it was weird and geeky. I was on IRC when you had to whisper about it, lest anyone heard you. Lately though, we've all seen so much about Twitter that our eyeballs are ready to pop at another reference to tweets, tweeps or Stephen Fry. I don't know exactly when it became cool to be connected to the net every hour of your waking day, but it has definitely happened. Online social networking has gone mainstream.

It's starting to raise questions about how much of ourselves we allow to be online and what risks come with a public e-life. There was a story recently about a girl who was fired for posting on her Facebook that her job was boring. It's not the first time something like that has happened, but this story seemed to strike a chord with the press, probably because of popular Facebook et al have become.

I was torn on my feelings about her firing. On one hand, perhaps employers have a right to staff who are giving 110% every day, arriving 15 minutes early and willing to stay late when needed, plastering smiles on their faces from 8.45 to 6.40 every day. Why should they employ someone who is openly bored and uninterested? On the other hand, who hasn't ever had a day when they've gone home and bitched privately to their flatmates, family or dog about their crappy job? No employee is that perfect specimen, we're human.

It's not like she mentioned the actual company, where they could have a point about bringing public disrepute to their name. The only difference between this girl bitching to her dog and bitching to her twitter, is that her boss had the opportunity to find out. There have been parallels drawn with a boss overhearing comments in the pub, but it's not quite the same. She knew she was putting her comment out into the public domain... does that mean she shouldn't have said it?

Recently I've been working on a new website to publicise my freelancing services (web design, photography etc) and at the same time I've been Twittering. On my Twitter I have followers who are friends, followers who are family and followers who are potential professional contacts. Every time I post a tweet I have to consider who I am talking to. This is something I've been familiar with for a long time, since my brother has also been a member of almost every place I've ever hung out online. I'm always conscious of what I post, but it's becoming more and more of an issue as the line between real life and online blurs and especially as it becomes an issue in my professional life. I can't decide what blurring I should allow between my personal online life and my professional one. Should I start multiple twitters/blogs/etc, one for my personal life and another for my professional life? Am I required to separate myself out?

Personally, I don't want to distil my separate personalities and I'm really hoping that employers will begin to realise that their employees are real people. Is someone less likely to hire me because they read my blog entries about being hit on by a weirdo in a kebab shop? Or being mugged? Or twittering about eating pancakes? I hope not. However, there's nothing in my blogs/twitters/old forum accounts that would seriously incriminate me though. I've never stolen from a job, or not bothered to show up, or done anything to make me seriously unemployable. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had.

I think we're just moving towards more transparency. With that comes the responsibility for the employee to not transparently be a useless unemployable arse, and the responsibility for the employer to accept their employees' personalities.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! There are of course multiple other issues such as posting about criminal activity, opening yourself up to stalkers/criminals/thefts (although I have a low tolerance for silly irrational fear about this), and I'm sure you can think of others. Discuss!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crisis at Christmas

Crisis doesn't call their Centres 'shelters' anymore, explained a senior volunteer at 3am one night this Christmas, over a paper plate of bloody good curry. It's partly because there is a stigma attached to the word and partly because their Centres don't just provide a roof over people's heads. Instead, London's homeless (known at Crisis as guests) can access services such as doctors, lawyers and housing advice, eat three well-cooked meals a day, watch films, play bingo or board games, sing karaoke, and interact with each other and around 8,000 volunteers across 15 centres. I cannot count the number of times I was told that many of the guests consider the crowd from Crisis to be their family.

My Crisis experience, however, did revolve largely around providing a safe place for guests to get their head down, as I was signed up for night shifts. Starting at 10.15pm and running till 8.30am, the night shift is the longest and quite different from the two day shifts. As I arrived each night, the entertainment was finishing up, and people were beginning to go to bed. By around midnight, most guests were in bed and the majority of my time was spent sitting, watching over the centre. A few guests stayed up each night, shuffling around or sitting to talk. We were warned in orientation that it might seem like the reason for the job we'd been given was unclear, as we could spend an entire hour watching nothing happen. But, of course, every section of the centre needs to be staffed, sometimes just to ensure that nothing untoward is happening in empty corners.

One of the posts was standing outside, checking off people coming and going. There was a lot of chat about whether it was a good job (the fresh air keeps you awake), or a bad one (it's fucking fucking cold in London in December and we are soft British folk who dislike any sort of weather.) I remain undecided, but there is certainly a funny feeling you get in your tummy when you are standing around with two other volunteers, bundled up in a bright yellow jacket of authority and complaining about your 45 minutes of chilly toes, when suddenly you all realise that not 5 feet away is a building full of people who... well, you get my point.

One night I was posted out there when a woman from a housing organisation (charity or council, I'm not sure) was just leaving and a guest collared her for some last minute advice. He had been given a flat in the past and had lost it, he said, due to the incompetence of the council, or charity, or whatever organisation it was. He was laddish, I later found out he was about 45 but he could have passed for a scrappy 25, and he gave a convincing story of his victimisation in the situation. His ex-girlfriend had screwed him over. He hadn't had any support. He lost his job and got kicked out. Housing lady said she'd do her best to help him if he could let her know a place he'd be on a regular basis, so she could visit. He scuffed his trainers on the pavement, sniffed and shrugged, and said he couldn't commit to anything like that. After some back and forth, she told him to see her tomorrow and left.

As soon as she was out of earshot he turned to us and with a cheeky grin he muttered, "I wonder if they'll want the three grand I owe them, hah" as if it was a joke we were all in on. None of us laughed. Another volunteer, who works in the Navy and was getting on with this guy well, told him he needed to play the game and cooperate with the woman. More trainer scuffing, sniffing, shrugging. He would, he said, he knew. It must be hard for the people who work with this all the time to know who to help, when they can't help everyone. This guy seemed like a nice guy. He had his forklift truck driver's license. He was well spoken. And he spent most of his 20s travelling up and down the country and sleeping in service stations. I'm not drawing a conclusion or making a judgement here because I'm not sure I have one to draw or make. Build your own if you want, I guess.

Another of the jobs at the centre was sitting in the sleeping rooms. Guests slept on simple cots made of wooden frames with canvas suspended in the centre and they each have a thick blanket which they are given to keep on the last day. The rooms held about 15 to 30 guests each and 2 to 4 volunteers would staff each room at any one time. The rooms were decorated for Christmas, the walls covered in bright drawings of holly leaves and snowflakes and signs proclaimed "Merry Christmas!" in multicolours and several different languages.

In the blue half-light of the main sleeping room, you could make out the shape of a large model reindeer and a fir tree. In another room were piles of board games and books, and a row of computers. My enduring memory from Crisis is of sitting in these rooms, watching anonymous mounds in identical beds snoring, shifting heavily under welcome blankets and getting some sleep.

One night, I was stationed in the far corner of the main sleeping room, away from the door, surrounded by cots. One boy slept inches from my knees. I say boy, he was probably around 30. But that night, with blankets clutched around his frame, his face upturned towards the window and his skin pale in the moonlight, he looked like a sick child. And so tiny. I kept thinking about stroking his forehead in the way my mum used to do to me, smoothing my hair to one side, where it would never stay. I couldn't do that, but I could help to give him a safe place to sleep that night, and 6 other nights this Christmas. 7 nights total, out of 365.

So every time someone tells me they think it's great I did Crisis this year, I feel only uncomfortable, because I know it's not enough and I don't know what would be or if I'd be capable of it. But, while a lot of what we did on the night shift was just sitting still and watching, I know that meant 100 people a night could sleep, safe in the knowledge that they could leave a plastic bag containing everything they owned under their cot and someone was watching to make sure it'd still be there in the morning. And, while the name for the centres may have changed, I know that providing safe shelter for the night is just as important to the guests as all the things that go on during the day at Crisis.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gaza Protest in London January 10th

The Stop The War coalition organised a protest in London today. It started in Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park at 12.30. I got down there around 3pm and by that time everyone had marched to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington. I found them by following the sound of loud speakers and chants. I had to climb over a fence of Hyde Park with the help of a group of well-to-do middle aged people who were also climbing over. I could hear the noise all the way from the other side of Hyde Park. As I got there, the official speeches were just wrapping up. There were thousands of people in the street still though so I stuck around to take pictures of the crowd and then it all kind of kicked off.

Crowd standing outside a posh London hotel

Mostly people were just chanting "Free, free Palestine" and waving their signs.

Clearly this guy was no newbie to "causes"

This is some kind of hippy-mobile.

That's an Israeli flag in the air

A group of guys started setting alight Israeli flags and stamping on them...

At this point, I was in a big group, flanked against a row of police with shields and helmets. About 50 yards down the road was another row of police facing the other way, with a group of protesters on the other side. They were trying to get people from the other side through to our side and weren't letting people back the other way. I chatted to a guy with press pass who said his friend was on the other side and that a Starbucks had been smashed in. He flashed his pass to a cop to try and get through and I was considering holding up my camera (big professional SLR with a long lens sometimes does the same job as a press pass) and trying to pretend I was with him... but the cop denied him anyway.

Things seemed pretty peaceful on our side as far as I could see, people were chanting, the flag burning was the worst I saw up to this point. All of a sudden, a row of police mounted on horses trooped in behind the line of standing police. This drew strong boos from the crowd, and people started saying the police were planning to charge at us to move us back. People started yelling "shame on you" at the police and scattering backwards. I found it weird that the police had called in extra reinforcements as it really didn't seem necessary and it definitely made people angry that the police were beefing up. As the crowd dissipated I saw this...

I don't know what had happened to him and I've since read in the news that a policeman was knocked unconscious so I guess this was the guy. Every now and then the police would make a little surge and people would start running backwards and shrieking. I ran backwards a bit at this point, as the prospect of getting trampled down by a row of mounted police wasn't appealing. As we ran, I saw a guy who had tripped over a barrier and was lying on the floor, a couple of police grabbed him and there was a scramble in which they hit him as he was trying to get up. I don't have any photos of it though as too many people were in the way, and I was still running away, so take it as you will.

Some people were dragging the metal barriers into a row to form a blockade to stop the police advancing further.

We ended up with this kind of set up, police were on one side...

And protesters were on another, behind a barrier they'd set up themselves.

This was when people started throwing various stuff at the police, mainly the wooden poles that had been used to hold up signs. They were very light and the police were looking unconcerned and just knocking them away with their shields.

People in the crowd were still chanting "Free, free Palestine"
lady with signs

And the drumming started again...

A couple of guys went in front of the barriers and waved their signs and chanted

Then about five police vans appeared from behind the crowd, driving through towards the front. A few protesters banged on the vans, and threw sticks and even barriers. I decided to blur this guy's face.

These guys ripped these metal bars from some basement steps of a house.

I guess they intended to throw them but they must have thought better of it because I saw them again ages later still holding them.

Someone had the idea of putting the barriers underneath the wheels of the vans, and that led to a few minutes of the vans driving back and forth, sometimes at quite some speed considering how many people were around. The police were obviously trying to get protesters to move back. They'd surge forward every few minutes, and people would run, myself included. I was very conscious that if the police wanted to, they could just trample us. There were lots of barriers around still and I was worried that I, or other people, could get trapped. It felt like a very real possibility that anyone caught in the wrong place at the wrong time could end up on the wrong end of a police baton. After each little surge, the crowd would regroup and begin chanting again until, after another few minutes, the police would suddenly start running towards us again, seemingly unprovoked.

Around this time I wandered a bit further back to send a text to my friend and when I got back, only a few minutes later, things seemed a little calmer. A few people decided to sit on the floor in a gesture of peaceful protest.

The atmosphere in the crowd was so calm at this point, seriously. No one was throwing things as far as I could see. People were chanting "free free palestine" and that was all.

These guys were even taking comedy "us running at the police" photos.

It was calm.

Then suddenly the police yelled "FORWARD" and marched at us at speed. People had to scramble to get off the floor and we moved back about 30 yards. These photos are super blurry because I was walking backwards while taking them.

Everyone just seemed confused about why we were being forced back. This happened a few more times, the crowd would settle in a new spot, calm. The worst people were doing was yelling "You can move us back but you can't get rid of us" and yet the police would still yell "FORWARD" and surge at us. I guess they had just had enough and wanted the protest over so they could go home.

More police arriving...

The police had succeeding in separating the crowd by now, and I decided to make my way home. I chatted to this girl, who was using a loud speaker to call to the police lining the streets back towards the tube station... "Happy New Year, nice to see you all, it's been a pleasure. Hope you had a great Christmas, and a great day today", all laced with heavy sarcasm.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What's more limited?

I saw this on the subway in NYC today. Have a feeling it wouldn't go down so well in say, Texas.

I especially like how they've added an "anti choice" badge, just incase there was any ambiguity.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I saw Hillary Clinton yesterday!

Having wandered into Grand Central Station to have a look at the building, I saw a big group of people huddled around a bunch of cameras pointed at an unattented podium. I went over to see what was going on and, after asking a few people who didn't know what was going on but who were pushing to get to the front anyway, I found out that Hilary Clinton was going to be there!

I waited about 5 minutes and she popped up and started talking... I managed to get right to the front of the crowd but there were still lots of security people in the way and lots of middle class ladies wanting to get through to see her so I stepped back and went round to the other side of the crowd where I managed to get right to the front again and had a pretty unobstructed view! She gave a talk about the transit system as I think she's just come up with a plan to give loads of money to it. Then a few other people spoke and then they had questions. It was so cool to see! She was obviously a very good speaker and conducted the questions really well. She was wearing a hideous orange pantsuit.

The crowd was pretty appreciative altogether though a few people tried to start up a chant of "obama obama". Someone asked a question about Sarah Palin and how inexperienced she is, something along the lines of how does Hillary feel about the comparisons with sarah and one of her colleagues said "It's obvious that Sarah Palin is certainly no Hillary Clinton" which got the biggest cheer of the whole thing! Then she did a few photo ops for the press, signed a framed photo collage some fan had brought along and shook hands with some people. As she walked out, she came right by my side of the stage and shook hands with members of the crowd so i got some good photos then. One guy she kissed on the cheek and, as the crowd broke up and started to follow her to the first class lounge where she made her exit, I heard the guy overexcitedly saying to his friends "I french kissed Hillary Clinton!" and "Who needs Monica?!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Natalie Portman

Managed to go back and pretty much finish up this Natalie Portman piece

Friday, July 25, 2008


Yes, I am chronically unable to finish a proper painting piece. This one, however, was just for fun... drawn freehand, it was fun to do :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Natalie Portman

Another work in progress. I realise the sketch of the arms is out, proportion wise.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Katie Holmes somewhat stalled

Well here's where I'm up to with the Katie Holmes piece. I've started on the skirt (out of shot here) but I think I'm going to leave this one here for a little while.

Here's a bonus 100% shot of the face
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I'm starting work on a shaved-head Natalie Portman piece now... we'll see how that goes.

In other news, I was on hold to virgin internet for 20 minutes today. They made me choose from a list of 5 different genres of hold music. Missing the point by about 6 miles, they let me choose between "pop", "soothing classical", "blues" etc. Do you want to tell them it's not the type of music that's annoying, it's the 20 minute wait... or shall I?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Katie Holmes Work in Progress

Still working on this one, it's hopefully going to be a full body piece in the end. In the source pic she's wearing a gorgeous balletic dress made of a net material that is bound to cause some problems in drawing!

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QuickPost Quickpost this image to Myspace, Digg, Facebook, and others!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Print Sales!

I've started selling prints at!

Etsy seems like a super artist-friendly platform to sell from. It's also extra fun for buyers to surf around, with options like search by colour, where you're given a funky bar of colour that pops out little bubbles as you roll over it and Treasuries, where etsians can put together little themed lists of products from other sellers. The whole site is cutely designed and put together to provide an enjoyable shopping experience full of kitsch.

Have a look! Here's a selection of things I've currently got for sale :)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chinese New Year

I'm a bit behind on this post. A couple of weekends ago I went to the chinese new year celebrations in the centre of London. There was a photography competition going on so I was there with the camera and tried to get some nice shots. I have a feeling that 99% of the photographs entered into the competition will be of the red lanterns that were strung round everywhere and, honestly, it was a bit difficult to find anything to photograph beyond that which would "capture the day".

I don't think I'm going to enter any of these, but here they are anyway!

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Crispy duck! Yum!

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Shop and restaurant windows

Welp, that's it!