November 2009


Mugger to photographer: ‘Your money or your life!’

Photographer to mugger: ‘I don’t have any money and I don’t have a life.’

Oh, very well, please yourselves.

British Journal of Photography – Review recommends rethink of protest monitoring

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‘Aggressive’ policing of protests condemned in post-G20 inquiry | Politics | guardian.co.uk

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Nottingham Branch had two delegates at this years ADM at Southport. Also somewhat to our amazement there was a second year journalism student from Nottingham Trent University. Welcome. We had no idea she was coming which is of course a shame since we might have made a greater contribution to student ADM when funding was discussed at earlier branch meeting.

I’ll start by saying that this years ADM was a lot more businesslike and more centred on journalism and professional work-related matters. Previous years in my limited experience have tended to centre on wider political issues and NUJ affiliations, with many of the same people speaking time after time to these motions. Some of us have been critical of this in the past and I’m pleased to say that this appears to have changed. On Sunday morning however #145 was remitted. Speakers said it had nearly reopened old wounds, when previous motions on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict were considered to be so partial. When the condemnations and the called-for boycott caused so much heat before.

Overall, there was a general sense of gloom, I felt. Because of job cuts and wage stagnation that is obviously such a feature of current journalism. It is surprising then that didn’t seem to infect the student members to much.

The two main financial matters were headlined by motions concerning the frequency of ADM’s and the subscriptions increase. Motion #1 by what seemed to me to be a tortuous route of a process of elimination, as we waded through the amendments. We eventually arrived at the compromise position of 18month DMs. Motion #54 on Subs rise was also passed, but the idea to automatically link subs to any future rise of inflation was rejected.

Motion #72 on the establishment of virtual branches was dropped because the Netherlands Branch members were not there to move it. I thought this a shame, since I’ve always thought it relevant to not only rural, international and new media members, but also to skillsets like photographers. I am pleased also that a motion of much personal interest to me, #12 on asking for NUJ support and legal safeguards for UK Indymedia, concerning the police seizure of servers and equipment. It was passed unanimously.

Nottingham supported #125 on the ‘Photographer Matters’ Campaign and was passed. Also #92 was concerning “Special Procedure Material”, documents defines under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. There is concern that this is widely ignored by police. Further that there is now sometimes conflict with the recent anti-terrorism laws. ADM is asking for a legal guide to be produced to advise and address such conflicts. This was also carried.

The dangers of journalism in some parts of the world were highlighted with contributions from Zimbabwe and Russia. During discussion on #141, it was pointed out that every year the number of journalist killed, seriously injured or generally targeted continues to rise. One of the speakers got applause and appreciation from the platform for the idea of having a ‘roll-call’ of names at future DM’s to illustrate this rise. Delegates stood in silence in the memory of journalists killed doing their job. It was passed.

Students were congratulated on a number of occasions from the floor and the platform, for their coverage of the ADM proceedings. With writing, podcasting and photography, the material was accurate and excellent. They maintained a blog of the proceedings at http://www.nujadm.org.uk. At one point the president pointed to a student scoop, in that they had got the officers election results on their blog ahead of the official announcements on the ‘big screen’. Ongoing developments were regularly posted on Twitter #nujadm and on a dedicated Facebook page at: http://tinyurl.com/ycds6xw. together with video on YouTube etc. It was then perhaps a bit of a shame that some officers made slight of such media as “Twatters” This comment being much re-tweeted!!

Later, at a new media event, activists discussed how to recruit ‘web workers‘. Chris Wheal said that this may best be achieved by “Perhaps not insulting potential members might be a start”.

Motions #94 onwards concerning the BNP, racist policy and the code of conduct were discussed. However, the General Secretary came to the podium within minutes at the end if this debate to say that he information that some of the photographs, many taken by the students, were already on the Redwatch site. [‘Red Journalists’ etc]. There was then some heat as some members said that they thought photographers should not be photographing speakers at the ADM! However, many of us wondered that if we couldn’t photograph journalists at a conference … what other section of society could we ever photograph? It was more widely agreed that we wouldn’t be intimidated from our activities This was their objective, after all. Anyone with concerns were offered security arrangements.

Further to this issue, a member from the London Freelance Branch told us about the death threats that he and others had now received for their coverage of the English Defence League events and assorted groups.

Motion #68 concerned photographers continued struggle in getting better representation within the NUJ. Moved by Bristol and E.Yorks, called for the establishment of a Photographer’s Industrial Council. There was then some exchange in which the motions wasn’t in order, in which case it’s strange that SOC hadn’t so ruled earlier. There was talk of the current financial climate. Money was one of the original objections to an Organiser of course. Eventually agreed to remitting it, on getting a statement from the NEC, that they would be expedite progress on his.

A video was made of this statement, just in case…. another photographer later pointed out that: “What we are left with is a likely range of options to put to a future DM, which will include:
1) a full photographer’s sector, PIC and NEC seat.
2) an NEC seat and a members council …or something else”.

Mysterious innit.

EFJ Report “Photojournalists: An endangered species in Europe?

General Secretary, Jeremy Dear introduced freelance photographer Guy Smallman. He was injured during the G8 protest in Geneva in 2003 and has won damages in his case against the State of Geneva. He had to undergo two rounds of emergency surgery after a police concussion grenade exploded at his feet, causing permanent damage to his left leg.

It has taken six years in a legal battle with the authorities over his right to compensation. Although he won the initial case, the State appealed. On Friday during the ADM we heard he has finally won his case. In his speech to ADM, He thanked the NUJ and the legal advice team for their support. Guy said: “They said they had acting within their guidelines which they clearly hadn’t, unless you think it acceptable to throw high explosive at journalists as they’re running away.” http://tinyurl.com/yj3rmkx

Sunday was only a brief session finishing by 12.00 in which staff, officers and administration where thanked for their service. We now have a new President in Pete Murray from the Glasgow Broadcasting Branch and the Vice President is Donnacha Delong from London Freelance branch and New Media Industrial Council. Both in place now for 18 months. Interesting times for the union.

URL Refs:
NUJ ADM 2009
Student ADM Blog
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Online journalism at the NUJ ADM: The Journalist, Twitter and new blood

Back home now from the ADM. Having had a little lie down, I thought I’d add sommat on the London Photographers Branch and issues. Personally I don’t easily fit into any  camp, I don’t think.

What I want is a better understanding of photographers specific needs and time to express them, within the NUJ. Many in common of course, but I think some are a bit different to other journo needs. Having a camera planted in from of your face means that we are obvious and get attention from the public [for being a paedo or terrorist]. From authority that also thinks the same, but additionally are concerned at their own self image. Not to mention those involved in ‘action’ of different sorts who are also worried at their representation and all the above.

We went round some of this at the photo-meet in the pub on Thursday at the ADM. Trying to build a mental model of what’s going on. I explained I don’t know if this best achieved by plan A: which was a photography organiser. Someone in post with all our collected wisdom, by their own skill and education, and what we tell them. This might be considered a ‘top down’ approach. Plan B: is with an industrial council.  It is this that was in front of us at ADM, before it evaporated, on the promise of jam tomorrow.  I guess this is the model that has a best chance of encompassing those of us up north [and everywhere else] etc.  ie. to be able to draw on collective experience from around the country. Plan C: which seem to have upset so many is a locally based photo branch, which London happens to be the first, since many of these photo-types are based in London.

It seems I still haven’t quite got it right yet, since I’ve now discovered some photographers don’t think this is choise A B or C but want all of the above. The NUJ establishment are then concerned about the cost and some are probably frighten of loosing power and want established order to remain.

I admit here I know little of the politics. For example the fascists are calling us ‘left scumbag photographers’ but they can’t mean me, can they, I’m an anarchist 🙂 But plan C in this model I think, means that folks have got together thinking they may best be able to help each other in their profession, with their collected experience and expertise. Much of it is new knowledge and not something that can be passed down from on high.  This might thus be considered a grassroots solution. However, there are 4 of us in Nottingham, so don’t know what plan C could do for me.

In sum then, I have tried to pan out my understanding so far, and all nodded up and down when I said this lot in the meeting. I have been a client of the NUJ in asking for service several times in Tash’s continued adventures with the police/law, and am of course grateful for what I’ve received from the outfit and it’s officers. Thanks. Aside from help and service and advice, I guess I’m also looking for what structure would additionally help me convey my concerns and influence decisions to them up there on the top table. Which structure best does that?

I know personally all the personalities in the current exchange. I look up to all of you / them.

The discussion on how to represent photographers has been going on for as long has I’ve been in the NUJ. But I am now frightened that the rest of the NUJ, might look at photographers and think, why should we trust any of these photographers with structure and power within the union, since an objective Martian, looking in from above, might deduce that they couldn’t organise their way out of a paper bag.  AAAAgh!

In response to David Hoffman

“The London Photographers’ Branch is a very exciting and necessary development in the NUJ.

It has been discussed across our sector as a serious prospect over the past year due to the crisis in our industry, also partly due to the success of Photo-Forum (http://photo-forum.org) and the unity around campaigning against the use of the anti-terrorism legislation on photographers.

We have been involved alongside other photographers in and outside the NUJ to organise Photo-Forum which people have enjoyed and found valuable.

We have also worked with colleagues to build probably the single most effective photographer event outside New Scotland Yard about the introduction of S76 of the Terrorism Act earlier this year and the subsequent ‘I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist’ (http://photographernotaterrorist.org) campaign.

The assertion that NUJ Left will somehow wield it’s secretive ‘power and control’ over the branch is frankly ridiculous. It will bring together all photographers. It will of course be open and democratic and we would like every photographer – left, right or in between – to be a part of that democratic process.

We hope to see everyone at the first branch meeting on Tuesday 26th January 2010 at 6pm at Headland House.”
A response by:

Jess Hurd
Marc Vallée
Jonathan Warren

“Several people have claimed to be the originators of the Photographers’ Branch. I recall this being discussed in the 1980s. Very likely it’s been discussed in every decade since Bert Hardy was a boy.

Over the last year the London Photographers’ Branch (LPB) has become a reality. We’ve talked of a branch run “by photographers for photographers”. I was proud to be building that with Jess Hurd, Marc Vallée, Jonathan Warren and other colleagues. I believed that we could accomplish a great deal that the NUJ has failed to do and that the time was right for a bold venture uniting photographers under the NUJ banner. I now need to make it clear why I am no longer a part of this initiative.

The discovery last month that most of the people who would be central to LPB are committed to an NUJ Left agenda took me by surprise. I had thought that I had assurances to the contrary.

Political pressure groups are entirely normal within a trade union. But NUJ Left is not just any old political force pushing their line within a trade union. The power and reach of the NUJ Left has ensured that their candidates have won every high profile election for many years. It was only the NUJ Left candidate who had a job created for him during a job freeze and at a time of redundancies. With members of NUJ Left including the General Secretary, the Deputy General Secretary, the Vice President, the (outgoing) magazine editor, the Campaigns Officer and many members of NEC as well as other influential committees, it’s clear that this low profile self-selected group has considerable power within and control of the NUJ.

I’d thought we were a group of colleagues working together to build a power base for photographers. In reality I was kept in the dark, and have been left feeling that I have been a useful patsy to disguise the real underlying aim of building a power base for NUJ Left. Not so much a branch “by photographers for photographers” but rather “by photographers for NUJ Left”.

Why does it matter? The aims of NUJ Left are not the same as the aims of LPB and at times are very likely to be quite opposed to those of LPB. Imagine an LPB committee planning a campaign for a Photographers’ Organiser. A majority of the committee will have already discussed this on NUJ Left. The timing, the best way to get a NUJ Left candidate into the post, whether to support this faction or that plan – this will all have been decided by the NUJ Left membership. The Photographers’ Branch discussion will be meaningless, fake. Whatever the views of the LPB membership the committee vote will be preordained by loyalty to NUJ Left discussions and decisions. The NUJ Left bloc will always prevail.

I cannot present myself as a candidate to the new branch on the basis that I am putting forward and working for the interests of the membership when I know that in many important matters I will be powerless. The branch will in reality be directed by the demands of an entirely separate unelected group with its own very different aims and plans.

I won’t stand for a position on a committee where I can only fight and lose. Where my role is that of a shoe tied behind a wedding car – I get to be at the wedding and even to go to the honeymoon – but in a merely decorative role and only ending up battered . We could have built a branch incandescent with energy and bursting with achievement, but without a genuinely independent voice for photographers then I cannot have a part in it.”

Quoted from : David Hoffman
http://www.hoffmanphotos.com

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