Bollocks to Brexit: The People’s Vote March

Images and thoughts from The People’s Vote March 23rd June 2018

I was so tired when I woke up at 5.45am on Saturday.  I just wanted a morning lay-in and then the day to clean the house, make sure the boys’ school uniforms were washed and that the fridge had some food in it. But my concerns about Brexit overcame everything; I really felt I had no choice but to act and so I dragged myself out of bed, I made sure my children dragged themselves out of bed, and we all got the train to London Waterloo. Again.

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Daniel was wearing his ‘F**k Brexit’ badge on the train. I’ve always had a very positive response to mine, but someone took offence and decided to tell Daniel that he shouldn’t be wearing it. Daniel had been forewarned that he might get negative comments from wearing an EU T-shirt or this badge, but I’ve made it very clear to him that he is just as entitled to his opinion as anyone else is entitled to theirs. It’s always up to him what to wear, so he didn’t just ignore it, but throughout the day took the opportunity to add further decoration expressing his opinion on Brexit just in case he should encounter the same man on the train home. I said nothing, but as ever, I felt very proud of him and of Nathan who was wearing an EU flag T-shirt. It does say something about the reaction that some people in this country now have to the mere site of an EU flag, that he was not comfortable taking off his Batman hoodie on a hot day in London until he was in the crowd of people dressed like him.

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I’m studying photography, so obviously I took my camera with me – work and protesting combined is a great combination for me, but I found it a challenging subject. When we had reached the meeting point for the march I felt visually overwhelmed; in some way I always do when faced with people. I think it’s very difficult to pick subjects out of a crowd that say what the flavour of the moment is. Also, I have a few problems with street photography which I’ve spoken about here. However, I was here to be seen to be a part of this group and I have to assume that everyone else felt the same. I made a mistake not researching how other people make photographs in this context – crowds and protests – as I think that would have been useful. I will add this to my ever-growing research list.

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The first image taken before I’d decided a strategy 

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The slightly mad person – obligatory at any march. He clearly didn’t agree with the sentiment but no-one gave him any trouble; at most there was a slight tutting, a small amount of poorly hidden laughter and a bemused stare from a police officer. We are British after all. 

I was thinking about my fifth assignment while taking these photos. It’s really playing on my mind as I cannot narrow myself down to a topic and my brain will keep inconveniently coming up with more and more ideas and possibilities rather than less*.  But I think I want to explore something around my identity and Brexit ties in with that, as does photography and photographers. So although there were a lot of very interesting people in the crowd, the real interest I had was in capturing some of the people like me; the photographers. There is something in most of them that I recognise in myself. A certain detachment perhaps? I’m not sure… Maybe it’s a single-mindedness?

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Are the press photographers expecting to be photographed? As far as I am able, I try to make eye contact before taking shots of individuals; there is a sort of unspoken communication that says yes this is okay or no, it’s not but I know I can’t stop you. If I get that look then I won’t take the shot. Personally I find it important to try and get that communication even though I suspect that a lot of photographers may not do the same were our positions reversed. However, I have my own morals to live with and have to go with what feels right and reasonable to me.

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What do most of these photographers have in common? Hmm… Is the belly an essential? I hope not because I’m really working hard at the gym right now. 

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I want to say another mistake was not taking my telephoto lens, but I had had to be realistic about the weight of the equipment I was carrying – it was a considered choice to take a smaller, slightly lighter but wider lens. I know that the shots I took of individuals would have been better had I taken the long lens with me, but I just couldn’t carry it all.

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The youngest person I saw at the march; a perfect example of the future we want to protect

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It was interesting to watch the photography happening in the crowd as well as that of the crowd. I would make a generalisation that more women than men were using their phones to take photos and video. I did see men using phones, but it seemed to me that amongst the crowd it was women who were more active photographers and made more use of social media. I’m interested in looking into this to find out if it is the case, and if so – why? When people had an actual camera, they tended to be male – but not always. The photographers I saw that were carrying multiple cameras and/or tripods were exclusively male. In Parliament Square a woman approached a man I was sitting near and said “I’m from the BBC, can I take a picture of your dog?” He agreed, and she pulled out an iPhone to take the image.

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I’ve got an iPhone SE that I often use for photography. On multiple occasions I’ve been faced with the dreaded message informing me that I am out of memory, made all the more infuriating by the fact that I pay Apple for extra storage that I have only used a fraction of. But my reliance on my iPhone is heavy, so I have been considering upgrading to a newer model (8+) which has a better camera and a larger memory (256GB vs my current 16GB). However, the thought of spending £1000 on a phone sickens me at some level. If I had a spare £1000 (which I don’t) I would rather have a £25 phone, get a prime lens for my Fuji XT-2 and spend the rest of the money on something important and meaningful. Like a dog. I don’t care about which phone I have because IT’S JUST A PHONE. In fact, it’s only since I got the iPhone that I actually have any idea of what make or model of phone I happen to have; it’s just not important to me. But this experience has made me reconsider the benefits of a phone with a decent camera.

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A casual phone photo

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Faux Borris stops for a more formal portrait

Watching the interactions going on between photographer and subject, it’s become clear to me that the interactions between the ‘phone photographer’ and their subject, and the ‘camera photographer’ and their subject are actually quite different. I can understand that for the photographer themselves the phone camera is more spontaneous, less cumbersome and easier to use. But why is there a difference in the subject? Is this a sense of the phone photographer being less threatening? There is certainly a playfulness and spontaneity in the subject that I don’t see when that same subject is faced with a ‘real’ camera. The phone photographer is seen as part of the crowd, ‘one of us’, just a normal person. I think the camera photographer is an unknown quantity; there is a seriousness about their equipment, about their demeanour, about needing to take the event – the moment of the shot – more seriously at some level if there is a ‘real’ camera pointed at you. It’s almost like people are determined to be on their best behaviour when there is a ‘proper’ camera around. Perhaps the recording of their image is seen as more permanent at that point? I’m not sure what it is, but I would be very interested to hear the thoughts and opinions of others on this so do feel free to add them if you’ve got this far.

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For the first time ever, I also found myself taking video and live streaming on Instagram while walking through Westminster. I’m not aware of being able to do that with my XT-2. When sitting in Parliament Square it felt more appropriate to record sound. A photograph couldn’t capture the disappointment clearly felt by the crowd at the non-appearance of Jeremy Corbyn and the ensuing chants of ‘Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?’

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I also decided to pick out my favourite placards and banners from the day. I was unable to get a shot of one that said ‘Who needs Airbus when you’ve got Spitfires?’ For me that might have made the best point about the leave vote being driven by emotion rather than facts. By a misunderstanding of the needs of our current economy and the businesses that drive it. I know it’s not all about economics, but it certainly shouldn’t be about nostalgia for an imagined past. In the end people need jobs to pay the mortgage; it’s reality. Voting to support industries that no longer exist while voting against the needs of the industries that do and then saying, as the ever self-serving dangerous buffoon Boris Johnson is reported to have said, ‘F**k business’ is an act of national self harm that will see real suffering inflicted on families that have already borne the brunt of ruthless cuts by an irresponsible government that clearly do not have the national interest at heart.

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So, here is my second favourite banner; Spock. Personally I’d have gone for a photo of Zachary Quinto as I love him as Spock and I have a crush on him (there, my secret is out); but I can obviously respect the decision to use Leonard Nimoy because he was great.

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It was interesting to see the reaction of my children (aged 14 and 15) to the placards inspired by memes because they certainly had the biggest effect on them and I noticed they had been made by people who I’d guess were of a similar age. I suspect that these speak more directly to their generation than the choices of banners featured in the press coverage. I feel there is a whole set of associations that my kids picked up on that I was missing; almost like a mythology that they understand and I don’t. Much like Snapchat, I am too old to understand it.

These are some images I took on my way back to Waterloo Station.

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On the train home, I took more images. I always do when I’m on the train. When I was a child I loved looking out of the window while travelling and seeing how things change as you get closer to them at speed. I have always enjoyed the experience of seeing those disconnected elements observed through a window while travelling come together and then move apart again, and also that experience of seeing something – a tree or a plant – so beautiful in a particular light at a particular time, just for a moment and then it’s gone. It’s almost spiritual to me. But it’s something I can’t experience while driving, so the train becomes a treat for me because I can just sit and observe and see beautiful moments everywhere.

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Basingstoke

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While stuck at Basingstoke

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Self portrait

Note: The Sunday Brexit Follow Up

Well, here’s to the power of photography and social media to piss people off.

One of my relatives had obviously seen my posts from the march on Facebook, so as well as her usual racist ‘Britain First’ posts – I like to call them ‘Tales from Morrisons’, you know the sort of thing – the ones that spout the mythology that Muslims hate Britain, the armed forces and the English flag because ‘I saw a Muslim woman in Morrisons who…(fill in your anti-Muslim lies here)….’, I also had the obligatory post composed of a Union flag with the message that ‘We knew exactly what we were voting for’ appear on my feed. When I pointed out to her that she didn’t, no-one did – not even the government – I was given the arguments that the hate-filled Daily Mail are presumably now peddling: that I am not truly British, that I am anti-democracy and that I should move to Europe if I love it so much.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this from people. Funnily enough, the day after protesting for a vote when we will know what the actual deal with Europe is (for everyone to vote on, not just remoaners like me), I was at home watching the England vs Panama match while, admittedly not understanding football properly but loving the score and feeling very happy about it. Occasionally I was running out to the kitchen to check on the roast beef, and all the while I was under the impression that I already live in Europe. Strange.

 

 

 

 

*I am an INFP so coming up with ideas is my thing.

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