Homeless on 7th Street

When I went down to 7th and Olympic in West Los Angeles I was looking for a guy I’d heard gave food to the homeless there every afternoon. I was going to see if he could give me any leads on people living in their cars. He wasn’t there that day but Charles and his wife Delores were.

As I spoke to them they told me very openly and simply how they had ended up on the streets. They told me how they had been living in their van for the last 6 months after they lost their home they how they had to keep moving around town every few days to avoid their vehicle being towed. How Charles had to go round with a gas can at filling stations begging people for a little petrol to keep the van running.

The van was old and barely ran, doors were held shut with a bungee cord. A window on the side was missing so at night they draped a sheet over the side of the car for some meagre privacy and protection from the weather. The back was packed with all the clothes and belongings they could fit.

They told me how Charles earned a small income as a carer for his sick wife, Delores, and how they looked through the free newspapers every week for medical trials to take part in to earn some extra cash.

After spending some time talking with them I made some pictures and recorded a short interview with Charles, I’ve combined the two in this audio slideshow where you can hear Charles tell this story in his own words.

View these photos in the Gallery

No On 8


Within days of arriving the movement surrounding the ‘No On 8′ campaign erupted into large street protests after a narrow defeat at the polls.  The new law meant that same-sex couples could no longer marry in California.

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

– Proposition 8, California State Constitution

The ‘No On 8′ campaign had been organising lots of protests all over the state at very short notice using the internet, specifically the social networking site Twitter As I watched the morning news I cursed myself for missing a large demonstration the night before in downtown LA, just a few blocks from where I was staying, where a protester had jumped on a cop car they mentioned there was another protest later that day outside the Mormon Temple.

Eager not to miss out again I grabbed my lonely planet guide and frantically flicked through it hoping it would be listed, thankfully it was, I worked out which busses to get, grabbed my kit and made the 2 hour trip across town.

The ‘No On 8′ campaigners directed their ire at the Mormon Church as they had heavily funded the ‘Yes’ campaign and had lobbied it’s own parishioners to vote for the proposition as well.

When I arrived outside the temple about half an hour before it was due to start there were already a few hundred protesters, a fleet of news vans and two cops watching the whole thing from across the street.

The protest quickly grew, a few more hundred arrived then a few hundred more ’til there were suddenly about a thousand and they pushed out into the road, stopping traffic along both sides of Santa Monica Blvd.

It was then that I got my audio kit out to start getting some ambient sound to put together a video, you can see the result below. It was my first time using audio and my first time editing it as well. In retrospect it could of been a lot tighter in the editing but I think I did a good job of condensing 6 hours of pounding the streets of LA into about 5 minutes.

View these photos in the Gallery

Brighton Revisited

Photojournalist Marc Vallée is filmed by an officer of the Police Foward Intelligence Team
Photojournalist Marc Vallée is filmed by an officer of the Police Foward Intelligence Team

Yesterday the Brighton based group SmashEDO held a protest against the arms manufacturer EDO MBM whose factory is based in Moulescoomb just outside of Brighton. Past protests outside the factory have been violent, with protesters getting inside the compound, smashing windows and entering the factory.

This time was no different, with arrests taking place before the march had started and riot police being deployed using batons, shields and CS spray.

But half an hour before the protest was due to start as my colleague and I sat in the car a member of the Police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) began filming us from across the road before coming over and asking who we were. After identifying ourselves as members of the press and showing our UK Press cards the officer continued to question and film us. 

Whilst this was not as bad as the treatment we received at Climate Camp earlier in the year where our car was continually stopped and searched by police, in one case officers knew who I was and that I was journalist before I even spoke to them but I was searched regardless.

Later on when we left the car and stood under the covering of a railway station to shelter from the rain whilst we waited for the protest to begin Police told us that we would have to move and weren’t allowed to photograph near the station where protesters would be arriving.

There is no law against photographing railway stations or their surrounds, this officer was clearly being officious and confrontational, but I felt that if I had taken a picture I would of been very quickly bundled into the back of a police van.

During the protest journalists were also assaulted by police, photojournalist Marc Vallée was pushed back violently as he was photographing protesters and photographer Guy Smallman was bitten by a police attack dog which required medical attention.

The Police’s job would certainly be easier if we weren’t around to photograph what they do, but there is a clearly a very good reason to do so. This job isn’t getting any easier. 

You can view my full set of images of the protest here

Collateral Damage

This isn’t over-zealous policing this is a co-ordinated and systematic abuse of media freedom.

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary – NUJ

Those the words of Jeremy Dear, addressing the TUC in Brighton this week. His speech was in support of a motion expressing concerns over civil liberties, specifically the use of counter-terrorism laws and SOCPA against protesters and campaigners.  

Also the targeting of journalists by Police, he mentions the cases of Shiv Malik and Sally Murrer, but also the work of Police Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT)

Originally set up to overtly surveil Football fans and political protesters they have grown from a small unit attached to Metropolitan Police’s Central Operations to a nation-wide police tactic to gather intelligence on potential criminal activity and to deter known ‘trouble makers’ from doing just that.

Sounds like a good idea – if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide, right?

But what has ended up happening is harassment of individuals who may have committed offences in the past or associated with those who have by being constantly filmed, photographed and stopped & searched by police at protests or other events. Even when they have done nothing but turn up at a political protest.

An article in the Guardian earlier this year looks at how this tactic of overt surveillance is being adapted from protests and football matches and turned on youths in Essex to harass them essentially into staying at home.

But what the FIT have also been doing which is even more worrying is photographing and filming journalists at these events. Something which they deny happens and if it does any images they do take of journalists those images are deleted. We are simply collateral damage.

As one of the journalists who has been affected by this I feel a lot differently. The recent example of Climate Camp last month comes to mind.

I and six other journalists were in a McDonalds down the road from where the camp was being held (not very glamorous but they have free WiFi) filing our images. When around 8 officers appeared outside with video cameras and started filming us.

There were no protesters from the camp inside or anywhere nearby. They were literally standing outside filming us working, this was not collateral damage, this was specific targeting and harassment of journalists.

One of the journalists who was also there was Jason Parkinson and over the past few months he has been putting together a film that catalogues these incidents so that it can be put beyond doubt that the police are doing what they say does not happen. It’s a short ten minute film that will be part of a longer, more in depth film later this year. You can watch it here:

In the last 24hrs since it was posted it has attracted over 500 viewers, please watch it, send it to colleagues and vote for it on the current tv website. There’s much more to come on this story. 

If you go down to the woods today…

Back in 2006 I took a walk around the site where the London 2012 Olympics was going to be, as you can see from my pictures it was a pretty miserable place.

Recently I went back to the area to see what had changed, quite a lot it would seem.

No longer blighted by huge piles of rubbish and burnt out cars, instead there is a new eyesore. A 3m high, 11 mile long bright blue construction fence, encircling the entire site. 

A large blue construction fence now surrounds the site, cutting off parts of the area.
A large blue construction fence now surrounds the site, cutting off parts of the area.

View Larger Full Set

 

But this huge feat of modern engineering is soon to be gone as well. Replaced by 5m high galvanised steel mesh fence topped with a 1.2m electrified section. Not too dissimilar to the one built around Kingsnorth Powerstation in Kent before this years Climate Camp

So far there has been little photography from inside the Olympic site, a deliberate policy made by the PR people at the Olympic Deliver Authority (ODA) not to allow any independent journalists onto the site, absolutely terrified of any negative coverage it might create.

The Evening Standard has a reporter assigned full time to covering the build up to the 2012 games. Two years in the job and he has not once been allowed on the site, other than on carefully planned photo-calls. 

This is a hugely important subject to be documenting, a project that will transform the area forever and access to this story is being blocked by a few paranoid PR bods in the ODA.

It is reminiscent of when The Dome O2 Centre was being built, just down the road in Greenwich. Mark Power petitioned the developers for months trying to get access to the site, being turned down again and again, pleading with them to let him in. Eventually he gained access and over 3 years created a beautiful set of images using a 5×4 large format film camera, that were also made into a book.

We can only hope that the ODA comes to it’s senses and allows journalists and photographers onto the site, to document what truly will be great games. 

You can view the full set of images here

Blurry Faces & Shady Deals

Chief Superintendent Bill Tillbrook, head of the CO19 firearms unit
Chief Superint. Bill Tillbrook of the CO19 firearms unit, not seen here.

Last Wednesday a group of 12 photographers, headed up by Nigel Howard of the Evening Standard, went to a meeting with senior officers from the Met Police CO19 firearms unit

Press Gazette has the full story here And quite frankly it’s a shocking tale. Apparently an agreement was made where picture desks would be issued guidelines from the Met Police to blur or pixellate the faces of armed officers.

The current guidelines that were drawn up by the NUJ and BPPA took two years negotiation with the Met police and since early 2007 were adopted nationally by ACPO.

So for Nigel Howard to go a meeting that no professional photographers body was represented at and make a unilateral agreement that photo desks and editors should pixellate the faces of armed officers is a serious affront to press freedom.

The press need to be able to hold the police to account, especially armed officers. The stories of Scott Hornby and Alan Lodge seem pertinent here. Officers should be identifiable and accountable to the public. 

Thankfully the NUJ and BPPA have come out strongly against this ‘deal':

There are already clear guidelines detailing how relations between the press and the police should be conducted. Those guidelines have been agreed between ACPO, the NUJ and other news organisations. We would have serious concerns if they were to be undermined by unilateral action by a specific branch of the police force.

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary – NUJ

It is unacceptable for the police to discuss, informally, with a group of independent photographers, matters such as this and them to then be reported as some form of agreement. 

Jeff Moore, Chairman – BPPA

Hopefully that will put a nail in this agreement and ward off future attempts by the police or rogue photographers trying to cut backroom deals.

Back once again

Hello!

I’ve returned to blogging after a 2 year break. I hope to bring more of the same reporting from shoots plus some comment and views on the photography world.

This is also to co-inside with the relaunching of my site with brand new and much easier to maintain backend software. Before I was manually editing a xml file every time I wanted to add images, it was also quite slow to go through images so was more of a showcase of my work.

But now I’ve redesigned and rebuilt the whole site from the ground up things are looking a lot better. For the curious the gallery software I’m using is ZenPhoto and the blog is of course running on WordPress

We’re Live…

Hello and welcome, the site is live today and is distinctly bare in content, but not to worry there’ll be lots more to come over the next few weeks. – J