A Swindon Photographers Experience of Election 2015

First off I want to say that this is not a political article and does not reflect where I stand and which way I voted, it is more about my experience as a freelance photographer in Swindon for the last couple of weeks leading up to Election Day. It has culminated in some 4 images in the Guardian, Sunday Times, The Sun and in a number of political blogs, and that is all of what I know about there could be others. With the exception of one image of the P.M. all were of Labour personalities.

It started off by my understanding of the fact that both Swindon South and North were marginal seats and that the major parties were going to send their ‘Big Guns’ down to help and support the campaign.
I had to sort of bully my way in to get on invite lists. I was not comfortable with this as it is not my style and it could have gone the wrong way and I could have ended up being excluded from everything. Fortunately persistence paid off and I got on the press lists.
Interestingly the Conservative campaign was being run from a central office whereas the Labour campaign was run from a local South West Office. I wanted to point this out as it turned out there was only one Conservative event whilst there was several Labour.

The Conservative Party decided to launch their party manifesto in Swindon. Which I attended and photographed. Security was very tight as not only David Cameron was there but most of the Cabinet and other MP’s from the South West. It was really interesting to say the least.
Apart from meeting Robert Buckland whilst out campaigning and at the poling station that was it for the Conservatives.

Labour were much better as once I was on the list then I got invited to everything that was going on in (mainly) South Swindon.
I ended up photographing Dan Jarvis, Tristram Hunt, Caroline Flint, Andy Burnham and Ed Miliband.
Anne Snelgrove was great, once she knew who I was and trusted me she made sure that at any shoots the ‘Big Gun’ posed for me and in some cases introduced me to them.

The Green party, Tony Hillier local campaign manager, I met by accident not by planning and so got invited to a couple of activities but very low key. Interestingly whilst I was sat in a local Cafe having coffee before meeting a Green Party activist who was going to cycle around The Magic Roundabout with a placard, I saw Talis Kimberly-Fairbourn the Green Party Candidate sat in the Cafe knitting and drinking coffee. This was the day before the election. (Shouldn’t she have been campaigning)?

I saw nothing of the Lib Dems or UKIP at all.

I really got to respect Anne Snelgrove,(Labour) and Robert Buckland,(Conservative). Not only were they very accommodating to me and my requests they both seemed very genuine, caring, hard working and committed to their respective causes and parties. Should I have been surprised, I don’t know but my experience was that they were really nice people and not ‘hard nosed politicians’ which the media can sometime have us believe. I would like to say a big thank you to both Anne and Robert.

Just one more little story which I am not sure how to take. Did I understand it correctly? Is this really what went on? Whilst photographing mainly Asian Labour supporters in a mainly Asian part of Swindon I found myself outside the Poling station, The Asian Liberal Democrat candidate was asked if he had voted for Labour (jokingly) and he answered yes, when asked further was he joking he said no. Begs the question, did he understand what he was being asked? Asian vote, family or politics, real understanding?? I am not sure.

Well, that is it for this Election 2015 and my experience of it. I can only look forward to the Referendum and photographing the campaign for it.

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South Swindon Hustings Election 2015

Like the previous night it was a nightmare photographing at the Hustings last night.

Last night it was the turn of the candidates for The South Swindon Seat. It was another interesting evening. There was a certain amount of heckling from the audience but it was all well behaved, no seats ripped up and thrown this time.

The candidate for South Swindon are Anne Snelgrove for Labour. Robert Buckland for Conservative. Damon Hooton Lib Dem, John Short UKIP and Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn for the Green Party.

North Swindon Hustings Election 2015

Last night was the Hustings for Election 2015 for the North Swindon Candidates. It was interesting and fairly well attended by the public. Photographically it was a bit of a nightmare. The lighting was really really difficult. I didn’t want to use flash so d700 was set to 6400 and hoped for the best. Lots of hot spots etc. Managed a few usable shots.
The candidate are, Justin Tomlinson for Conservative, Mark Dempsey Labour, Poppy Hebden-Leeder Green, Janet Elland Lib Dems and James Faulkner UKIP.

Tonight is the South Swindon, which will be more interesting as I live in South Swindon but I am sure the lighting will still be a nightmare !!!!!

David Cameron launches Conservative Party Manifesto in Swindon

Wow, what a morning. I was photographing at The Conservative Party Manifesto launch here in Swindon this morning.
It was presented by Prime Minister David Cameron but George Osborne and Theresa May both made speeches as well.
I have never seen so many famous faces in one place. The security must have been a nightmare. I think the whole of the Cabinet was there as was Samantha Cameron. Not only that, there were all of the famous journalists that I have only ever seen on TV. And I was in the media room with them.

Star struck, me nooooooo.

Hilary Benn on the Campaign Trail in Swindon

Friday morning I attended a short photo shoot of Hilary Benn Labour MP and Shadow Minister for Local Government and Communities. He was visiting Lotmead Farm just outside of Swindon, as part of the Labour Campaign Trail. It was fun, not only was he very jolly and nice to talk to as was Anne Snelgrove the Labour Candidate for Swindon South I had a good long chat with some of the other photographers there.

Talking to and meeting other journalists is always enjoyable and enlightening.

So just a few shots of Hilary Benn.

Ed Miliband in Swindon a Photojournalist’s View

Part of the reason why I like being a photojournalist is the press scrum. It is fun and funny. Pushing and shoving some of the time. Other times we all let each other take prime spot and change around.
Yesterday I was photographing Ed Miliband who was visiting Los Gatos in Old Town Swindon as part of the Election trail and to show support for Anne Snelgrove the local Labour candidate for Swindon South. Los Gatos was just heaving with customers and Labour supporters before the media got in there. It was heavily controlled by the Police and Labour party officials and so we had to be in before he arrived. Not only that, all the media had to be behind the bar!!!!! So we were all pretty much going to get the same shots. I was too late in grabbing a chair to stand on and at first all I got was the backs of all the rest of the media. (See photo). After that I just moved around a bit trying to get something different. I don’t think I managed to achieve it. I did manage to get Ed Miliband being interviewed by the Swindon Advertiser journalist. Only because the Labour official in charge thought I was with them so I didn’t tell him otherwise 🙂

My point in all of this is that news photojournalism is all just a matter of luck, being at the right place at the right time. Pushing and shoving and standing your ground at times. Being really nice and accommodating at others.

Fun though, either way.

BBC Question Time in Swindon

Was lucky to be allowed in to take photos during the warm up session of BBC Question Time which was being held in Swindon. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Panelist joining David Dimbleby are, Philip Hammond,Charles Kennedy,Liz Kendall,Jeanette Winterson and Roger Scruton.

Three Demo’s and a Bike Ride A Grand Day Out for a Photojournalist in London

It was a busy afternoon in London on Sunday.

Whitehall was a very busy place. Firstly I covered the service and laying of wreaths at the war memorial by riders from the Help For Heroes Charity bike ride from Paris to London.

Then I covered the protest by UK based Turkish and Kurdish protestors who were there to show solidarity with all the protesters out in Turkey who are protesting against the ruling AKP party.

Then I covered a protest by some UK based Venezuelans who were protesting against alleged rigged elections by the ruling government party.

Then I covered a Free Palestine protest mainly by Orthodox Jews and members of the Neturei Karda who were also protesting against Zionism and the mass rally that was taking place in Trafalgar Square to celebrate 65 years of the State of Israel.

It was a hot, busy and tiring but really good day for a photojournalist.

Sunday Project – No More

Well no photo of Sunday anymore. Why? I have been carrying out quite a bit of research and despite it being only the 4th Sunday of the year I have decided to bin it because it is not providing any benefit to me or anybody else. Stats are showing very few hits on those posts and to be honest I can understand why. There is no theme and is therefore completely random and unless I am on another assignment then I am just taking an image just for the sake of it with very little thought behind it. With very little information around the photo, why it was taken etc then why would anybody actually be interested in reading it.

What I should be doing more of is explaining things and why I do them, how I do them etc.

So as a start, I did a small photo shoot this morning. It was only mug shots for the person to send off as part of his profile as part of a competition. It was carried out in a gym, (in the squash court to be precise) where lighting is just awful. And short of getting the flash and umbrellas out it was a case of the ISO at 3200 and hope for the best. I just did not feel happy with the results which prob will suffice for what it was for but I just did not feel satisfied. Which at the end of the day is what it is all about for me. I have to feel emotionally involved in what I am doing and I didnt. Is that true of all professional photographers? I dont want to just earn money and not feel as though I have not done a good job.

So this blog is going to go back to the Swindon News/Photojournalism and I am not going to try to combine other things with it.

Likewise I am going to re-design my website to provide a better experience, better show case for my better images from both the UK and Spain and try to make it more interesting.

Handing out leaflets for protest in Baza Spain

leafleting in Baza Spain

leafleting in Baza Spain

Whilst out shopping this morning in Baza (Granada province of Andalucia) I came across a couple of guys handing out leaflets informing people of and encouraging them to attend a protest against austerity and anti capitalism in Baza on the 3rd of January. Of course I could not resist talking to them, taking a photo of them and of course I will be at the protest on the 3rd. The message is STOP Capitalism and that this is the ‘hour for revolution!’ Below is a translated copy of the leaflet.

A month after the 14N (general strike on 14th November 2012) the silence continues.

In spite of the increase in unemployment in numerous sectors (including the food and agriculture industry) and in spite of the demonstrations with millions of workers and youth in the streets the union CCOO (comiciones obreras – commission of workers) and UGT (Unión General Trabajadores – General union of workers) continue with the only proposal on the horizon… a referendum.

However, it is felt that the government of Mariano Rajoy is not going to call a referendum when they know there is a great possibility they will lose.

Based on the sectors that are currently fighting, conflicts multiply throughout the region. The majority have been in Madrid for the past year and a half.

The educational community carried out a demonstration with over 150,000 attendees in July in solidarity with the struggle of the miners. As well as the actions of the 25s (occupation of Congress on 25th September) and resisting police repression and the struggle for public health, was the strike of the workers of Telemadrid who were threatened by ERE (Expediente de regulación de empleo) that they could fire more than 800 workers.

Authors note. ERE is a ‘record of employment’ regulation and is a procedure under current Spanish law whereby a company, supposedly in a bad economy, is seeking authorization to suspend or fire workers. It aims to obtain from the competent labor authority permission to suspend or terminate labor relations in a framework in which guarantees certain rights of workers.
The best antidote is the unification of all these struggles done in association with each other.

Toward a general strike in Madrid.
Unions must convene in Madrid and uniformly carry out a regional general strike. Where there is already a widespread strike in a particular sector, such as health in Madrid, they should promote a general strike of the health in the region as a whole.

Today, the protests are centered in Madrid and it is necessary that the whole of the working community and the youth join in with global mobilization. Strike committees, assemblies, all occupations should join together for a general strike.

In Baza we should also ensure that all resistances converge, in defense of the hospital and the defense of education.

These are measures that would show the government is on the side of the workers:

Don’t pay more to those who have more.
Abolish the tax exemptions to the bosses.
Expropriation of the banks, not a public euro more for banks.
To maintain employment, repeal of the labor reforms, distribution of working time, reduction of the working day and the age of retirement with no decrease in salaries.
When prices rise, they also have to raise wages, benefits and pensions.

These measures may be imposed only by the general mobilization and mass of the workers and the youth, the struggle is the only guarantee.

There are no shortcuts.

All of us therefore have a responsibility to influence the political decisions and bring about a radical change in this crisis situation untenable for the vast majority of the population.