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.

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.

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.

Chris Grayling Secretary of State for Justice meets Swindon MP’s

Today I was one of only two photographers allowed in to the Swindon Probation Service Office’s to photograph Chris Grayling Conservative Party Politician, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice meeting with Robert Buckland Conservative MP Swindon South and Justin Tomlinson Conservative MP Swindon North. It was really nice as well, all three were more than happy for me to direct them around and we had a laugh and a joke whilst doing it, they were really nice to work with.

I would like to say a big thank you to Robert Buckland for arranging and allowing me access to take the photos and along with Chris Grayling and Justin Tomlinson for making it a pleasure to do.
I also want to thank the Swindon Probation Service staff for making me feel very welcome.

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.