We’ve had a fun 24 hours here in the Calder Valley due to storm Brendan which has brought with it lashes of rain and high winds as well as dismal skies that have reduced us to half-light. The camera has stayed firmly in its bag and apart from forays on foot to go shopping and get some exercise I’ve been pretty much glued to the office.
This morning I was up at 6am as Dawn had an early start. This gave me the opportunity to try and integrate back into the library some of the old slides I had back from picture agencies a couple of years back. They’ve gone back into the albums they were taken from in an effort to give me some continuity. In order to save space (and time) I’m weeding out duplicate images. The problem with slides was that I used to back up pictures by taking 2-3 shots that were exactly the same. This served a dual purpose. If the original got damaged or lost I had a back-up. I could also send one to a picture library whilst keeping another version for myself. Of course, in the digital age such redundancy is, well, redundant! Now I can duplicate an image with a click of a mouse!
The stuff I’ve had returned covers many different subjects. Apart from all the travel shots and rail images one of the libraries I contributed to was a social issues picture agency based in Brixton called Photofusion. The stuff I placed with them covered a rainbow of subjects, from Housing (which I still worked in at the time) to UK travel, politics, demonstrations like the miners strikes or Iraq War and festivals like Gay Pride. Looking back at the pictures makes me realise that – if nothing else – I’ve certainly had an interesting life and covered an awful lot of things in my time! I’m looking forward to getting most of them scanned, although a few are destined for the bin as the things they covered have little relevance today. It’s a sad waste and another advantage of digital. When I consider how much each of those mounted slides cost me to take and the mountain of plastic waste they’re reduced to I wish I’d switched to digital long before I did.
Here’s a few of today’s scans spanning the years from the early 1990s to the 2000s, just to give you an idea of what I have in the archive. First up is a May day protest in central London back in 2001. These events could get out of control quite quickly so the police always turned up dressed up in full riot gear to make a point. As a photographer it could get quite hairy as you were in the thick of it, with police on one side and demonstrators on the other. This photo shows a stand-off between protestors and riot police outside the John Lewis store in Oxford St. As you can see, the copper to the left wasn’t too pleased to see me!
Here’s an earlier shot taken in 1992 – although it looks like it could have been the early 1980s. This is a miners demonstration in London, protesting about the mass closure of some of the remaining UK pits – strange as that might seem now when climate-change is the most important issue that faces us and the days of ‘King Coal’ are long gone. In the photo is Tony Benn MP, NUM President Arthur Scargill and Dennis Skinner MP. Like the May day demonstration I’ve a large archive of pictures of this event to scan (one day). The miners were very well organised and also media savvy. A group of them worked with photographers to ensure you got the shots you both needed. They’d escort you out in front of the procession leaders and guide you so that you could face backwards getting the shots you wanted before moving you on so the next photographer could get their shots.
Of course I should mention that in the days when these photographs were taken I’d no idea that I was eventually going to change career and become a professional photographer. Then I was a rep for my trade union (NALGO, the local Government Officers Union, or ‘Not A Lot Going On’ as it was sometimes referred to!) and involved in producing the newsletter. I took these pictures because I was interested in photography and social issues, not for a moment thinking that one day this would become my career.
– and now for something completely different, and a lot more camp! Lynn and I would often attend the annual Gay Pride parade in London with friends. When I first met Lynn she worked for the AIDs charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. Needless to say, we made a lot of friends through her work and ‘Pride’ was always a good day out and chance to catch up with people. In 1995 the parade used Victoria Park in East London not far from where we were living, so naturally, we dropped in! This particular couple were spectacular, and this was before Elton John got married in similar style 9 years later…
Time to go back to trains for my final picture which shows how much the railways have changed. Here’s an old Class 508 electric train used by Connex arriving at Maidstone West on the 7th March 2002. Built by British Railways for suburban services out of Waterloo they were transferred to Merseyside. Some surplus units made the trek South once more and ended up working South-Eastern services, first for Connex and later South-Eastern Trains. The SET units remained in service until 2008.
I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and through elements of social history. If you want to see the full selection of pictures you can find them on my Zenfolio website. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get around to scanning the rest but as I’ve 1000s to get through we may all need to be patient. I’ve spent a few hours tonight weeding out duplicates from another travel album which includes shots from New Zealand, the UK, India and Denmark. They might not get scanned for a while, but at least they’re taking up a lot less room…