This Saturday, July 2nd 2011 marks the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War and events will be held at memorials all across the UK. This annual commemoration honours the 2,500 men and women from the British Isles who served in the International Brigades as soldiers or medics, of whom 526 were killed in Spain. They were among 35,000 volunteers from around the world who rallied to the Spanish Republic as it tried to put down the fascist-backed military revolt.
In the London ceremony on the South Bank, I believe that two surviving veterans plan to attend. They are David Lomon, who was captured with other members of the British Battalion during fighting in Aragón in the spring of 1938 and spent six months in the notorious prison camp of San Pedro de Cardeñas, near Burgos, and Thomas Watters, who served in the Madrid-based Scottish Ambulance Unit. I hope I can be there.
In 1996 I wrote and photographed a piece for the Independent Magazine about the veterans of that war.
Here are three images that I found from my archive.
Roger Tooth in today’s Guardian makes an excellent point when he comments about David Cameron, the Prime Minister appointing two visual journalists as ‘vanity photographers’.
“But we’ve had a surfeit of “behind the scenes” pictures of both coalition leaders; too many pictures of Cameron gurning at his new baby have led to this sort of material becoming a devalued currency”.
Quite. As if having the majority of the unquestioning press having bought into the ‘spending review’ to pay for an economic crisis caused by the gamblers of international finance wasn’t enough, Cameron’s ’embeds’ – both of whom have done extensive work for the Conservative Party – have been paid for from the public purse. At a time of alleged attrition. Both have been recruited as civil servants on short-term contracts thus avoiding the normal competitive employment process.
As the true heir to New Labour spin, Cameron (whose only other job was as a PR executive at Carlton) has similarly surrounded himself with ‘advisors‘. The issue here is that unlike the White House Press corp or Presidential photographers, there is little explanation about the context, the voracity or the quality of the ‘historical’ archive that these two will produce. Artists have always had wealthy patrons and the excuse is usually vanity, but to have such control of images at the heart of government seems to me a paranoia par excellence.
I’m sure that the images will be carefully crafted to show just how much the former PR man, married to an Astor and his chancellor (a man who will inherit a knighthood and the fortune of the present Baronet of Ballintaylor) are really just like us and are also having to tighten their belts. We are all in it together … I’m also sure that the images will be used by lazy picture desks clamouring for ‘intimacy’. Interesting though that the prevalence of military embedding in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has spread and, in the age of ‘citizen journalism’, just how much the Centre is able to get its message out in exactly the way that it wants.
Sometimes however, there are more important things than photography and journalism. At a time of the dismantling of the post-war consensus, the welfare state and perhaps the very idea of a society perhaps we as citizens should ask of these appointments: cui bono – who benefits?
Here are some pictures from an assignment for the Times Magazine on David Cameron that I think were intimate, human and, despite my personal opinions, I gave what I felt to be a fair and balanced impression.
Because that was my job.
As a journalist.
So it’s Halloween. Rather than mentioning the ideologically incoherent ramblings of Republican Senate contenders embarrassed by youthful dabblings, I thought I’d dig through the archive and find someone who actually had a coherent world view, albeit a Pagan one.
Step forward the rather brilliant Shan Jayran, pagan scholar, therapist and mum who ran the House of the Goddess temple in Balham during the ‘Nineties. I photographed her for a Channel 4 documentary and then again as part of a project about British Pagans at Home. She was terribly helpful and gave me lots of contacts in the Pagan world.
Contrary to it’s serious spiritual roots, Halloween is now an American, corporatised globalised money pot that from my curmudgeonly vantage point gives children a dubious moral ability of being able to demand something from you at point of a threat. But I digress…
Here’s a couple of more pictures from the series
It’s been a long while since I looked at these images but what I remember from meeting these people was how charming and generous they were. These were people who, whether you agreed with them or not, had immersed themselves in a spiritual search to find their own personal understanding of the world. Unlike the deluded minions in the Tea Party movement doing the unwitting bidding of real dark masters like the Koch brothers.
My thanks to Barry and all at GSM for an excellent shoot this week. Special thanks to Shane, the best welder in town for being so patient with my lighting…
Begging at the window
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.
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.
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.