‘The Ambassador will see you now…’

I was a little saddened to read this week that India’s oldest car maker, the Kolkota-based Hindustan Motors, said reduced demand and accumulated losses had wiped out over half its net worth.

Since the liberalisation of the Indian economy in the 1990’s India’s roads have been filled with gleaming new cars. I do sincerely hope that Hindustan’s most famous vehicle has some mileage in it yet.

The Ambassador is such a feature of the Indian landscape that it’s demise is almost unthinkable. I think it’s by far the most reliable and sturdy vehicle on the Indian roads and, by dint of its ubiquity, it can be repaired almost anywhere very quickly. Usually by a combination of hammers, tape and brute force.

The extraordinary Raghubir Singh who it is my great regret never to have met, used the car as a device in his wonderful, A Way into India.

Here’s a recent image of mine of an ‘Ambi’ parked on a quiet street in Tamil Nadu with a rather lovely garland hanging from the mirror

India - Tamil Nadu - A garland of flowers hang from the mirror of an Hindustan Ambassador car in the town of Swamimalai

The enemy within

I have written before about the increasing use of private security and the erosion of liberty in public space so I was interested in a piece in today’s Guardian, ironically, the result of a Freedom of Information request:

City of London security guards told to report ‘suspicious’ photographers

It seems increasingly clear that unelected, untrained and under qualified security guards from private companies (operating for profit) are deciding who has freedom to walk the streets and carry out perfectly legal activities … like taking photographs in a public space.

Interestingly, the article asserts that both the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and John Yates, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, have warned that police risk losing the support of the public through the inappropriate use of section 44.

Surely not.

I first photographed the burgeoning private security industry in the late 1990s for several magazines and over the years have continued to have assignments to do so.

UK - London - A private security 'operative' patrols South London council estate
UK - London - A security guard at a gated community monitors a bank of closed circuit television screens.

David Miliband

As the Labour government loses power and its party leader, the front runner to take the reins is David Miliband. I made a large story about him for the Times Magazine a little over a year ago.

UK - London - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear at his home in London
UK - London - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear at his home in London
Belgium - Brussels - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear during a live broadcast with a TV channel in the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium
UK - London - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear at a meeting at his official residence with the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Hussain Qureshi
Ukraine - Kiev - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear with his staff on Board the Queen's flight bound for Kiev, Ukraine for talks with the Ukranian government
UK - Birmingham - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear at a meeting in Birmingham with the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Hussain Qureshi and members of the British Pakistani community
Belgium - Brussels - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear during an informal meeting with the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair in his office in the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium
Belgium - Brussels - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear during an informal meeting with the Serbian Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremich
Belgium - Brussels - David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, Tyne and Wear holds his head in his hands during a live broadcast with a TV channel in the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium

Hang Parliament…

So, as two further national newspapers swing their support away from Gordon Brown, all indications a week before the election point to a hung Parliament controlled by the Tories. My views on this are complicated: when all the parties represent the Market and the status quo there IS no choice, however my formative political years were formed under the Thatcher government and so I reserve a particular dread for the Bullingdon Club‘s entry into Number 10.

I haven’t photographed elections – or much British politics – for a long time. I do however remember a particularly depressing April dawn dropping rolls of film off at Der Spiegel’s office after photographing John Major celebrating victory in 1992.

Subsequent years of PR-dominated press conferences and stage-managed photo opportunities made me less interested and I turned my attention to the world outside the UK. I do occasionally get to photograph politicians however. Here’s one of the Man that would be King taken a couple of years ago on assignment for the Times Magazine.

UK - Oxfordshire - David Cameron, Conservative Party Leader and Conservative MP for Whitney in his constituency office

I leave my final thoughts to one of my favourite essayists, Emma Goldman, whose views on the subject echo my own:

“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal…”

No gods, no masters.

Happy May Day.