Wednesday, 21 January 2015

English version of the Charlie Hebdo editorial following the attack

Knowing that despite the staggering seven million copies printed, not everyone would have been able to see it, French blogger Antoine Léaument has kindly shared the editorial published by Charlie Hebdo in its issue following the terror attacks last week.

With a similar aim of getting as many people as possible to read the piece, I have produced a rough and ready English translation of said editorial that you can read below.

I attended two of the gatherings that took place in London (on 07th and 11th January) to show solidarity with the victims. My pictures of the events are here and here.

You can make a donation to Charlie Hebdo here.

Will there still be "yes, buts"?
Charlie Hebdo Editorial, No. 1178 of January 14, 2015

For the past week, Charlie, an atheist newspaper, has performed more miracles than all the saints and prophets combined. What we are most proud of is that you have in your hands the paper we have always made in the company of those who have always made it. What made us laugh the most is that the bells of Notre Dame have rung in our honor ... For the past week, Charlie worldwide has moved much more than mountains. For the past week, as Willem has so beautifully drawn it, Charlie has lots of new friends. Anonymous people and global celebrities, the humble and the well-off, the disbelievers and the clerics, the sincere and the Jesuits, some we will keep for life and some here only briefly. Today we take them all, we do not have the time or the heart to sort them out. But we are not fooled either. We thank with all our heart those, in millions, whether private citizens or embodying institutions, who are really on our side, who, sincerely and deeply, "are Charlie". They know who they are. And fuck off to the others, who, in any case, don't give a shit...

One question, though, torments us: are we finally going to get the political and intellectual vocabulary rid of the dirty words "fundamentalist secularist"? Are we finally going to stop inventing scholarly semantic convolutions to similarly qualify the murderers and their victims?

In recent years, we have felt a bit alone, trying to push back with pencil strokes the direct crap and the pseudo intellectual niceties that have been thrown in our faces, and the faces of those friends of ours who strongly defended secularism: islamophobes, christianophobes, provocaters, irresponsible people, throwers of oil on fire, racists, you-got-it-coming ... Yes, we condemn terrorism but. Yes, threatening cartoonists with death, it's not nice, but. Yes, burning down a newspaper, it's wrong, but. We've heard everything, and so have our friends. We have often tried to laugh at this, because this is what we do best. But now we would like to laugh at something else. Because it is already starting again. The blood of Cabu, Charb, Honoré, Tignous, Wolinski, Elsa Cayat Bernard Maris, Mustapha Ourrad, Michel Renaud, Franck Brinsolaro, Frédéric Boisseau, Ahmed Merabet, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, Philip Braham, Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, François Michel Saada, had not yet dried that Thierry Meyssan explained to his Facebook fans that it was obviously a Judeo-Americano-Western plot. We could already hear here and there, delicate mouths pouting over the last Sunday's rally, drooling from the corner of their lips the eternal quibbles aimed at justifying, openly or quietly, terrorism and religious fascism, and getting indignant, among other things, of celebrations of the police = SS. No, in this massacre, there is no death less unjust than others. Franck, who died on the premises of Charlie, and his colleagues killed during this week's barbarism, died to defend ideas that maybe were not even theirs.

We will still going to try to be optimistic, although it's not the season. We will hope that, as of this January 7, 2015, the firm defense of secularism will be obvious to everyone, people will finally stop, as posturing, as electoral calculation or as cowardice, to legitimise or even tolerate communitarianism and cultural relativism, which open the way to one thing only: religious totalitarianism. Yes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a reality, yes, international geopolitics are a succession of maneuverings and dirty tricks, yes, the social situation of, as they call them, "populations of Muslim origin" in France is deeply unfair, yes, racism and discrimination must be fought relentlessly. Fortunately, there are several tools to address these serious problems, but they are all ineffective if one is missing: secularism. Not positive secularism, not inclusive secularism, not secularism-I-don't-know-what: secularism, period. It alone allows, because it advocates the universality of rights, the exercise of equality, of liberty, of fraternity, of sorority. It alone allows full freedom of conscience, a freedom that denies, more or less openly, according to their PR positioning, all religions as soon as they leave the field of strict privacy to descend unto the political field. It alone allows, ironically, believers and non-believers, to live in peace. All those who claim to defend Muslims by accepting the religious totalitarian discourse are in fact defend the executioners. The first victims of Islamic fascism are Muslims people.

The millions of anonymous people, all the institutions, all the heads of state and government, all the political, intellectual and media personalities, all the clerics who this week proclaimed "Je suis Charlie" need to know that it means also "Je suis pour la laïcité/I am for secularism." We are convinced that for the majority of our supporters, this goes without saying. The others can fuck off.

One more thing, an important one. We would also like to send a message to Pope Francis, who "est Charlie" also, this week: we only welcome the bells of Notre Dame ringing in our honor when it is members of Femen who make them resound.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Two days in Brussels


My pictures of Brussels can be found on flickr here.

Due to a some problem when coming back from a trip to Paris on the Eurostar, I had been given 50% off on another trip and rather than returning to Paris, I thought I would use it to go to Brussels where I had never been.

I had been warned that Brussels is not a particularly pretty city. My expectations were therefore not very high, further dampened by the forecast of rain.

Thankfully that rain never materialised and I was lucky to have very sunny, unseasonably hot, weather. It seems however true that Bruxelles is not the best looking of cities. The commentary on the bus tours I took extolled the merits of the city as the once capital of the second richest empire on earth, now the modern international centre of the economic and political union of over 500 million people.

But, with the exceptions of a few pockets dispersed throughout the city centre, it lacks the grandeur you would expect from such a place. There seems to be many derelict buildings even in the very centre and it certainly lacks the thrusting energy of the buzzing capital it is supposed to be. Visually it seems that large sections of Brussels have been built at the turn of the 20th century, giving the visitor the feeling of being in the outskirts of Paris, alas forever unable to find the grand and elegant heart of the place.

For a photographer with little time get to know the city, the fairly limited number of "sights" turned out to be a positive thing as I think it allowed me to move away from shooting the obvious focal points more quickly, thus focusing on an hopefully more authentic vision of Brussels.

The population seemed incredibly diverse and much more intermixed than it is in London. Young men of north African origin are an ever present sight, even the more central areas or on the Metro, when ethnic minorities seem to remain confined to certain areas and mostly to the buses in London. The presence of beggars is also quite apparent in a way that it hasn't in London for some years now.

The gay scene, though I didn't particular seek it or even visited it, seems extensive for what is after all a fairly small city, and is quite prominently settled right in the centre of town.

Sadly I did not have the time to go to any museum or gallery, of which there seem to be an inordinately large selection, to a point that seems barely sustainable.

On the whole I enjoyed my stay and it's clear that I only scratched the surface of what is on offer but my myopic first impressions were in the end not positive enough for me to say that I will be back soon. Never say never, though.

My pictures of Brussels can be found on flickr here.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Women Who Eat on the Tube and street photography

I started writing this a question on the Facebook group of my photography group and it seemed to turned into something much longer, so I decided to post it here too. 

Those of you based in the UK will probably have heard of the Women Who Eat on the Tube furore that's slowly leaked from social media into the mainstream news cycle. I think this raises some questions for those of us with an interest in street photography (whether just passing or more serious). 

This morning the guy behind the idea was on Today defending his actions as an innocuous personal art project victim of its own success. The consensus among the critics seems to be that the whole thing is sexist and just another way for chauvinists to shame women. 

Although I can see that specifically "targeting" women can be seen as a little suspicious, my understanding is that it was mostly the later (once the thing (started in 2011) got some traction) comments on those pictures that did the shaming. 

But the criticism seem firmly directed at the project rather than the reactions it created in its intended audience. This leads me to question what is going on. Is there a legitimate concern or is it just another hysterical twitter storm? And what does it all mean for us photographers?

I fail to see what is shameful about the act of eating. The pictures were taken in a public space where they were therefore allowed and the "victims" remained anonymous. If WWEotT is reprehensible, shouldn't there have been an outcry when Tubecrush came to notoriety? Is there a double standard being applied here? 

The critics also talk about breach of expected privacy, saying that people should be able to expect not to be photographed and have their image subsequently shared without consent. But that leads me to wonder what we should do with the images of famous street photographers, the Doisneaus and the Maiers of this world, who took (presumably) unauthorised shots of passers by which can now be easily seen be thousands (or more) people. Should their art be banned? Is their work more legitimate and acceptable because they are now recognised artists? what about emerging artists? 

I realise that a group of mostly men is perhaps not the best place to discuss this but I think that, both as gay men (and a few women) and photographers, we have a stake in the debate and I would like to hear people's thoughts on this. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Prideful week-end

The magic hour
I managed to get a press pass for Pride London again this year. This gave me access to a loo in a nearby hotel at the end of the parade(!) but more importantly to the pit at the front of the main stage where my arms got thoroughly burned by an unusual appearance from the sun. The dwindling number of fundamentalists protesting the parade (there weren't even 20 of them this year!) would probably remind me that that's one gets from pride: the burns of hellfire...

I'm glad to report that no debacle like that of last year with Boy George took place this year and that the artistes with whom I shared my images on Twitter have been very gracious about it. Some have even asked for permission to use the images.

On Sunday, to finish a gay old week-end in style, I was at Tate Britain for Queer Britannia, a mellow and relaxing tour of the newly hung galleries, highlighting some of the gay-friendly pieces on display. Again pictures were taken... (full flickr set)

Full Pride set available on flickr here.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Beyond Words

Saturday marks the opening of an exhibition organised by Foyles and the Gay Photographers Network. It will showcase the works of some of the GPN's members around the themes of Literary London, Travel, Love and Marriage and Mind, Body and Soul. I'm very proud to be among those whose images will be featured.

As I also have an image in a show celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Pink Singers, this marks the fourth exhibition in which my work has been displayed. And I have more plans for later in the year...

So if you find yourselves in Charing Cross Road in the next five weeks, drag yourselves to the gallery on the 3rd floor and (hopefully) enjoy our works. On your way down, you can stop at the cafe for a nice sit down and a cuppa and enjoy a few more works from some of our members.

Beyond Words
Gallery at Foyles,
Charing Cross Road
29 June to 03 August
Admission free
more info: here and here.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Kew Gardens

strata The latest photowalk organised by the Gay Photographers Network was at Kew Gardens. I had been some years ago but the location (not really close from my patch) and the entrance fee had prevented me from returning. I must also confess to not being that excited by plants and trees... I had my fill as a kid, I suppose.

As we got there it was raining which didn't bode too well for the next few hours. We took shelter in the sweltering atmosphere of the Palm House and thankfully the weather soon started to clear to finally offer a glorious afternoon. The rest of the day, punctuated by a well deserved and most welcome cup of tea with cake, went on without problem, taking us from the waterlily house to the treetops walk and the formal gardens of Kew Palace.

My images can be viewed on flickr here.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

London from Centre Point

London from Centre Point
You know how Facebook has decided to include "sponsored posts" to your timeline, advertising things you don't need or already have?

Well, recently one of those adverts (let's call a spade a spade), actually turned out to be of interest. Sony is launching a new compact camera and to mark the occasion were inviting people to sign up to attend an event on the 31st floor of Centre Point. The highest building in the West End.

Called the Viewing Tower, this was an opportunity to test the ultra powerful zoom of the new camera. And of course an great opportunity to whip out our own cameras. The weather was good for most of the time, though sadly it all clouded over later in the evening, anihilating any chance of a sunset and we got busy.

My images can be viewed on flickr here.