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Buy All Quiet on the Home Front here.

Buy All Quiet on the Home Front from ICVL STUDIO. It is also available now at the wonderful  Tipi Bookshop in Belgium, at Photobookst...

Monday, 18 June 2018

Awating Moderation


These are comments on the blog 'awaiting moderation'. They're either spam, deranged, contentious in some way, too much to deal with at a particular time, anonymous and hypocritical, private, or abusive. One or two might be a repeated comment.

They're reproduced with images from the blog posts that they commented on.





Lol. Boys looking so funny in girl's skirts.



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I think that the time has come for people not only to talk but to act. Legal action for assault and racial profiling on each of the attackers with the associated criminal record, would speak more poignantly than any expulsion. The victim would also be financially supported by the court award from each of the attacker's family. This would teach each of the attacker's families to correct their attacker and any other children educated in hate. Finally, such legal action would establish precedence upon which other similar cases could be built upon and encourage other similar victims to come forward. Please therefore get in touch with the victim's family and provide full support for their challenging but ultimately successful legal victory ahead. No more shall people of coloured be beaten into submission of servitude or silence. We shall stand as equals or we shall fight until we become so! 




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You have wisdom, dood... and a Seed of faith. Make it grow-up to be where Im at after death. How? Glad ya asked, pal. Let this be your catalyst to Seventh-Heaven: 'The more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague (<- Czech Republic, next to Russia) Love him or leave him... ya better lissen to DonJuan; if you deny o'er-the-Hillary's evil, which most whorizontalites do, you cannot deny Hellfire which YOU send YOURSELF to. Yes, earthling, I was an NDE: the sights were beyond extreme. Choose Jesus. You'll be most happy you did. God bless your indelible soul. 




Great idea. If you cannot be independently wealthy like HCB, you should not be in the arts. With money comes talent. Besides, looking at the lower and middle class in photographs hanging in galleries is a great expression of empathy from the rich. And unhygienic toilets and slums are really authentic, which makes up for the fact poverty stinks. Sarcasm aside, if we leave the cultural discourse of the arts to only those that can afford to subsidize their own art, we are going to end up with a society like the one we have now. Brexit and Trump are a direct result of this inequality--when the disadvantaged have their economic security eroded, the only power that remains is to say no, to break the machine. It is great to say we should just ignore economics and make art from higher motivations. But that is just those with the economic means to pursue art putting up barriers to those that cannot. This is an old story. But then the rich and powerful have always been able to drive the...





��������I know you are a retarded deranged mother sister fucker who fucks his own mom and suck your father's dick. You are obviously a jihaadi terrorist son of a terrorist sex worker parents. Why don't you go back to your shithole and masturbate to your sister and mother? So retarded motherfucker that you remove yoir frustration of having a small dick on your family. Hahahahahahaha��������������Gaandu randi chutiya. Bhosad. Please go cut your penis and make a dish out of it and serve it to your family 9/11 terrorist gang leader.��������XD :P :D Teri maa aaaah Teri behen kya dono items hai bey. Chut ki garmi. but unko bolna rate kam Kare. Bohot zyaada leti hai. Kal bolti hain ek ghantaa extra lelo plz. Jo chaahe karo.Main to kiya...Abey randibaaj sharam nahi aati kya apne maa behen ko randi banaakar chodta hai saala jihaadi. Baap to terrorist hai hi, tu bhi? Sahi hai bhaai. Randi maa behen chudaau spotted. Baap ka lund itna mat choos terrorist ki aaulaad. gharpe sab randi hai pata...



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I am Alecia,from what I can read. It has been sad news and scam to everyone about Voodoo casters or so. But to me they are so real cause one worked for me not quite two weeks.i met this man on a blog his name is Dr Abalaka is a very powerful man.I traveled down to where his shrine his and we both did the ritual and sacrifice.he had no website site, and now me and my ex are living very ok now.I don't know about you but Voodoo is real;love marriage,finance, job promotion ,lottery Voodoo,poker voodoo,golf Voodoo,Law & Court case Spells,money voodoo,weigh loss voodoo,diabetic voodoo,hypertensive voodoo,high cholesterol voodoo,Trouble in marriage,Barrenness(need a child),Luck, Money Spells,it's all he does. I used my money to purchase everything he used he never collected a dime from. He told me I can repay him anytime with anything from my heart. Now I don't know how to do that. If you can help or you need his help write him on



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1. So, a new festival season is upon us. What has changed? - Does the Emaho website still exist? Yes. - Has content been removed from photographers who don't want to be associated with the brand? Doesn't look like it. They may have requested, but we don't know. - Have any of the festivals that supported Emaho and Manik made statements or put in place guidelines for this year? Not that I've seen. - Which festival curators who invited Manik to judge and review have spoken out saying they made and error? None, so far as I've seen. - Has an legal action be taken by any of the parties, including Manik? Unclear. None of the new publications have followed up on this. It is easy to think that this year the same is going to happen. Maybe not Manik, maybe not in India, but that the whole hoopla from 2015 about him will have little impact. So what has changed? This situation is not good enough. Photographers at the bottom of the food chain a cannot do much to move forward on this.

2. If man is contacting a woman its normal, its part of evolution because he is expecting sexual future, this is why we are alive now. If man is contacting woman and does not expecting sexual future or friendship... But he put sexual part already in contact and he know there will be no future, its wrong. So why he do this? If man know he will not succes, he will not try. If man never succes he will try anyway and because he already know he will not succes its go wrong way. If woman will help man to not feel lonely and go with him for drink, the same if they feel lonely and they go with man for drink because they feel lonely. Than this will be kind of succes for man, succes of good behavior. And man who want get woman, will try to not distorb woman if he feel she does not want that. How many times you go with man for drink if you was not inerested on him or drink, but to not want him feel lonely, and how many times did you agree just because there was nobody other to go with? 




1. Naming him would be much more useful. 

2. Hi, actually, just realised you may see my last comment before it's visible to the public on your blog - I'd appreciate it if you didn't publish it. Sorry. Still too nervous about repercussions, just wanted to vent and this seemed like an appropriate place. Thanks, 'another anonymous woman photographer'

3. Sex has been governing the world since its creation. Stop dreaming and name harassers so that people can protect themselves. What you are doing is useless and self congratulatory. When there are accusations, there needs to be proof and naming. That is if you have decided to become some kind of moral figure in this scene. Were you just born in the world Colin? WOW photography has sex offenders. You mean that thousands of mediocre artists with personality disorders do abuse themselves psychologically and sometimes sexually? Thank you man, this is really something I could never have imagined provided it happens in all parts of society. Either you say you are talking about Manik and other self made losers, either stick to writing pieces about photography (from Anonymous).


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Thursday, 14 June 2018

The World's Best Selling Photobook



“All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.”

So said Albert Camus and if you look at that quote from a realpolitik perspective, it makes perfect sense.

Anyway, it's World Cup time and so that means the  World's Best Selling Photobook is putting in its quadrennial appearance.

The Panini World Cup Sticker Book printed 7 million copies last time. In the UK, they give the book away free.What you don't get are the pictures, you have to buy them. What a model!

And in true photobook style, there's even a book of books; World Cup 1970-2014: Panini Football Collections (Paperback)

So next time someone says photobooks don't sell, point them in the direction of Panini.

Unless you think it's not a real photobook. In which case... oh well.




Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Donald Trump: I can't believe he's not butter!



Here's that much discussed picture by Jesco Denzel. It shows Angela Merkel leaning into Donald Trump. He's looking back, eyebrows raised, arms folded, implacable. It's a picture in which the great game of global power is being played out with, depending on who you talk to, either Trump or Merkel visually getting the upper hand. It's a great picture and all that that has multiple readings but I don't know. You can read about it here (thanks Paola - lots of links to alternative images on this Italian site), here and here.

What stands out to me is the lack of emotion on Trump's face. He doesn't show emotion. Here are pictures of people pretending to show Paul Eckman's six basic emotions; go on, make a wild guess as to what they are. These basic emotions are supposed to be universal.



But Trump doesn't really show emotion. When he laughs or smiles, it doesn't seem real, he doesn't cry, he doesn't get happy or sad. He goes red sometimes, but he doesn't really get angry, however much he pretends to. Instead he has a series of nervous tics; the folded arms, the downturned mouth. the raised eyebrows, the voice. And these can have multiple meanings.

That's fine, but you get the feeling that emotion is part of an inner life that he simply doesn't have. No shame and no emotion. So we see his face and we project whatever we want to think onto it. His face is a  blank gammon screen of emptiness. Perhaps that's part of the secret of his success.

I remember Oliver Sacks writing about a group of patients on an aphasia (aphasia is a condition which affects language processing) watch watching Ronald Reagan give a speech and laughing because, even though the language passed them by, the inauthenticity of his theatricality was laid bare to them. It was so transparent they could do nothing but laugh (or cry, or get angry).

I wonder what a contemporary aphasia ward would make of Trump; a man in whom the detachment between words, meaning, emotion, and performance is so complete that he somehow turns this full circle till it convinces people of his authenticity. What is the name for the condition that renders someone like Trump (or... name your political poison) digestible? Because it is a condition.

In his ability to be an emotionally blank canvas, Trump is a living embodiment of the Kuleshov effect, the cinematic effect where we project emotions onto a character or a scene depending on the sequence. This is from the original version of the Kuleshov Effect, the idea being that read in sequence we see hunger, sadness and lust in the actor.




So, having employed the finest imaging experts on the planet for this post, we can apply a kind of Kuleshov Effect to the G7 picure. Here there are three slightly different versions of the  G7 meeting picture (and it's a fun game to see if you can guess which one's the real one. It's more difficult than it looks.)

But where in one image I imagine a degree of grade 9 defiance, in the following ones I see respect and admiration. But of course it's just my imagination playing tricks on me. Really there's nothing going on beyond those nervous tics. It could mean anything and so it does.






Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Why are they scared of cameras?


     From Peeping Tom

There's the idea that photography is not to be trusted, that the naive idea that there is a connection between reality and the image is one that has had its day, that photography cannot provide evidence because of theoretical disconnects in the making, dissemination and understanding of the image.

It's a nice idea in theory, and it's nice to consider in theoretical settings. But I don't really see that idea working in a practical setting. Because if we're living in a post-truth setting, where all evidence is unreliable and not to be trusted, why is it that people are still so scared of cameras. Why does the image, and the moving image in particular in these examples, have so much power.

I saw it yesterday, in the excellent I Was There: Kate Adie on Tiananmen Square. Kate Adie is the BBC reporter whose team got the footage of the shootings in Tiananmen Square that took place 29 years ago yesterday. Adie herself had people shot beside her, was grazed by a bullet, fled with the demonstators,  flung herself over her hotel wall, attacked security staff in a mad rage before finally getting the story that really mattered (that of the PLA shooting unarmed demonstrators in their hundreds and thousands) off to be broadcast to the world. Five copies were sent out from the BBC hotel room that counted as their broadcasting base in Peking, one got out. "Tell the Truth, Tell the Truth," is what demonstrators told Adie during the shootings. And that's what she did.

In the aftermath of Tiananmen, Deng Xiao Ping said "The West will forget." He didn't need to say that China will forget, because that was embedded into the system, though things are never quite as they seem on the surface, and so pockets and seeds of remembering are still kept alive. Ready to come to life one day.

In the meantime, Kate Adie is banned from visiting China, a badge of honour for her reporting from June 1989.

Israel also seems to have a fear of the camera as this report on a bill that will ban photography of the army shows.:

A bill has been proposed that seeks to prohibit “the photographing and documenting” of IDF troops “with the intention of undermining the spirit” of the army. It recommends a five-year prison term for offenders and 10 years for those judged to have harmed state security.

According to its proposer, Robert Ilatov, chairman of a minority rightwing group supportive of the ruling Likud party, the “worrying phenomenon” of the monitoring of Israel’s soldiers by pro-Palestinian organisations through video, photographs and audio recordings is a “biased and tendentious” act with “a clear anti-Israeli agenda”.

The impetus for the bill is the idea that the camera, in its immediacy, doesn't lie. It is evidence and no amount of photographic criticism comes close to challenging that idea. From the same report:

One trigger for the Ilatov initiative is obvious. In March 2016, a Palestinian attacker who was lying wounded and immobilised on the ground was shot dead at point-blank range by an IDF soldier, Elor Azaria. The shooting was caught on video and posted on social media by the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem. As a result, Azaria was arrested, convicted of manslaughter and served nine months of an 18-month sentence before being released last month.



And finally, there is A Cambodian Spring. I saw this outstanding documentary last week as part of a tour with a Q and A with its director Chris Kelly, and one of its main protagonist, a Buddhist monk called Loun Sovath.

This is a brilliant film about land, justice, the law and how religion, family and community are coopted, divided and intimidated by government forces. It's about how development isn't development, growth isn't growth, democracy isn't democracy, and human rights aren't human rights.

Loun Sovath, reads Kelly's introduction, '...became a monk as a child to escape the bloodshed of the civil war that was consuming his family. A few months before his brother and nephew were shot during a violent forced eviction, in which many of his family and community lost their land to a wealthy businessman. When he arrived at the hospital, he started to film, and afterwards he made a short documentary to share with others. This was the turning point that transformed Venerable Loun Sovath from an artist into a filmmaker activist.

Now dubbed the multi-media monk, because of his technical proficiency in filmmaking and editing, and because of his innumerable gadgets, Venerable Sovath is trying to combine the teachings of Buddha with his new role as a Human Rights Defender, creating documentaries that highlight human rights abuses across Cambodia. For him, the path to enlightenment and the path of a Human Rights Defender are inexorably linked, yet how successfully he can reconcile these two drives is at the heart of his own personal struggle.

He uses video as a tool for his advocacy, both bearing witness to history and sharing information. He uses social media such as Facebook and his blog to share his videos with an increasingly connected and online Cambodian population.

He is fulfilling the now neglected traditional role of the Buddhist monk in Cambodian society, providing moral and spiritual guidance, and acting as a counterpoint to the power and corruption of an authoritarian government and a corrupt religious Sangha.'

It's a study of double think and though it's based in Cambodia, it's examples of land grabs, the struggle for land-rights, extrajudicial killings, intimidation, and coopting of religion, nationalism and the rhetoric of development will find almost matching parallels in countries around the world. It's not just about Cambodia in other words. The same thing happens (with either more or less brazen shamelessness) in Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Vietnam and anywhere else you care to mention.

One of the most interesting things about the film is the family resemblance in the language, architecture and spectacle of  international law and that of the tools of land theft and the rhetoric of national identity, development of growth. The two are intertwined.

The other really interesting thing is the power of the camera. The film is a mix of footage from Loun Sovath's pre-smartphone phone. It's footage of demonstration, protest, and appeals to justice being blocked at every stage. It's footage that shows intimidation (by the police, by the army, by the 'monk police', from within the community itself). It shows the pressures that are brought to bear on those who protest against  the blatant and always-shocking greed, venality and injustice of it all.

The camera is evidence in A Cambodian Spring. It brings truth to power and it is something that is feared by the authorities. It's also used by the authorities. There are scenes in the film where the multi-functional capabilities of the phone are shown in strict opposition. It's almost like a duel with protestors using the phone as an evidence-recording tool, while plain clothes police and thugs use  it as a tool of threats and intimidation.

But it's the positive power that brings out the scopophobia in the authorities, and it's a real scopophobia where the means of distribution of images are monitored, controlled and restricted. This is a scopophobia where there are people who are evangelical in their scopophobia. They don't just have a fear of being looked and examined, they have a fear of others seeing their being looked at and examined. And for good reason because the visual examination shows them up for what they are; greedy, shameless and evil. These are bastards who know they are bastards, but don't want anyone else to see it.

"Why are they scared of cameras?" the venerable monk asked at the end of the Q and A. It was a rhetorical question. Because it's the phone, the camera, as a tool of evidence that the authorities are scared of. You shoot somebody, it's photographed, it's evidence. And it doesn't matter if it's in Cambodia, China, Israel, Syria, Turkey, the UK, or wherever. The camera, just sometimes, never lies.

See I was there: Kate Adie on Tiananmen Square here


If you're in the UK, there are screenings and (most of these screenings have ) follow up Q and As with Chris Kelly and Venerable Loun Sovath at these venues and these dates. 


5th Jun
8:00 PM
Lewes   Depot

6th Jun
6:20 PM
London   Bertha DocHouse
7th Jun
7:30 PM
London   Crouch End Picturehouse

10th Jun
5:00 PM
Leeds   Hyde Park Picture House

11 Jun
6:10 PM
Canterbury   Curzon

12 Jun
6:10 PM
London   Genesis

13 Jun
6:30 PM
London   Picturehouse Central

15 Jun
6:30 PM
Swansea   Taliesin Arts Centre: Create

17 Jun
5:00 PM
Norwich   CinemaCity

19 Jun
6:00 PM
Liverpool   Picturehouse at FACT

24 Jun
5:30 PM
Exeter   Exeter Picturehouse

25 Jun
6:30 PM
Southampton   Harbour Lights Picturehouse

26 Jun
6:00 PM
Northampton   Errol Flynn Filmhouse

3 Jul
7:30 PM
London   Regent Street Cinema

6 Jul
6:00 PM
Aberdeen   Belmont Filmhouse

Friday, 1 June 2018

Emilie Lauwers and the complex simplicity of collaboration



I received Emilie Lauwers' brilliant collaborative book, Er is geen boek ('There is no book') two weeks ago (it's not for sale I'm afraid. Only twenty five copies were made) . It's a collaborative project where Emilie worked with group of initially resistant 18-year-olds in the town of Zelzate in Belgium to create a picture of their town. I am struck by the book's multiple layers, by its complexity. In the visual arts, and photography in particular, sometimes, the complex is a shield for further complexity. You end up with deeper and deeper levels of complexity. Einstein said something about the genius being taking the complex and making it simple.  That's what Lauwers does with the book.

The dilemma for collaborative projects is how do you create something of value while involving those being collaborated with, giving them an authentic voice, and  ending up with something that is actually worthwhile.



The basic model of giving people a camera and asking them to photograph is not enough. It doesn't work unless it's framed in such a way with supporting workshops, ideas, input so you get something out of it at the end that is usable. This is what  Wendy Ewald did with her giving people cameras, creating parallel lives out of children's dreamworlds, memories and imaginatioins.

And then she used collage, paint, text and installation to modify these works so there is a creative input, another layer of collaboration where the work has an impact that ties in with how those elements are framed - which you see again and again in all kinds of wonderful ways.

Again, when it's great it's never random, it doesn't happen by accident, the work is made in conjunction with events and conversations and engagement leading towards a particular end with the idea of a link between the audience and the worlds of those photographed..

If you don't frame it, if you just hand out cameras, then the danger is you end up with a bunch of bad pictures. People take banal pictures already. Give them a camera and you just end up with more banal pictures. It's all very nice, but you know. Bad photography is bad photography and just sticking the word collaborative in front doesn't make it good.

One idea people often have about collaboration is that it's about presenting things positively. It's not. It's about framing things in three dimensions. I remember seeing an exhibition of collaborative work at a musuem featuring people with a particular national background. The intention was to show the positive side of the country. It was text-image, using interviews to expand the works. Every interviewee talked about how the different regions of the country loved each other, how it was one big happy family wherever you went in the world, how there were no problems whatsoever, and if there were they were sorted out honestly and fairly by the elders.

There might have been some truth in that, but it bore no relation whatsoever to how those people saw the place in different circumstances. Somewhere along the line a consensus had been made to present a united smokescreen. This collaboration was a public front, a marketing campaign which was pure propaganda.

The problem, of course, is that sometimes that is part of the deal. I remember Jess Crombie of Save the Children talking about the difficulty posed when people in a refugee camp in Syria were showing fake videos of atrocities. A bigger dilemma than the videos being fake (even if what they represented was not fake) was the problem of how can you tell the story of people being so desperate that they need to show these fake videos, they need to tell their story somehow. And in a cruel and spiteful country like the UK, you simply can't. You need to counter the hate-filled propaganda of the government and mainstream media with something altogether less complex. Complex narratives are not often completely counter-effective. Pictures of crying babies still sell. Pictures of crying babies still raise money.



That being said there are still alternative ways of working and my favourite Patrick Willocq Save the Children Image picture  of Anicet, the Malaria Doctor, which I never tire of looking at is a case in point. It's engaged, it's positive, and it's collaborative but retains the authorship that makes it such a great work. And you know there was a whole process which was incredibly difficult that led to the making of the work. This is what he said about it.

“I wanted to show real children, involve the subjects, listen to them and create a set together staging their lives and desires,” says Willocq. I wanted the resulting photos to be empowering representations of these children while upholding their dignity.”

It's positive, but it's also somehow three-dimensional with a back-story embedded within it, as well as links to possible futures. It doesn't stand alone in other words, and is an example of Save the Children's Report on Putting People in the Picture and consulting the people in the picture with how they are represented. These are the conclusion in the report.


'Invest in more collaborative content. Save the Children will continue to ensure its communications provide a balanced portrayal of the individuals and communities it works with and use first-hand accounts wherever possible. It will also continue to explore and test the potential of more collaborative, contributor-led content for different purposes (including fundraising). Possible approaches include:

• increased use of first-hand accounts and contributor-led narratives

• engaging children and other contributors as spokespeople on issues, as well as in telling their own stories

• image making with the same individuals over time – enabling contributors to take a more active role in their portrayal, and the sharing of stories that show need, support and impact.


Anyway, that brings us back round to Emilie Lauwers collaborative project Er is Geen Boek ('There  is no book'). It's both a classic collaborative project which fits all of the categories above, as well as a form of mapping. It maps out the town of Zeldate in a literal sense, put also provides a place and a geography in which the people Emilie worked with are placed centre stage.

Most interestingly, it's a project that is in part about creating a sense of culture in a town that apparently has none, but is even more about bringing out the culture that is already there. It's a psychogeographic project that rethinks a place on the terms of the people who are living there, in terms of cultures that are suppressed within the institutions, expectations and organisations that are seen to dominate the physical and psychogical landscape. It's multi-layered and it's quite fantastic. It's collaborative but it also has a sense of direction and purpose. It's something to be proud of.

This is what she says about it.




'I was sent to Zelzate in January by an organisation that provides artistic projects to people who usually don't come across artistic projects at all. It was my first experience with people who didn't volunteer to sign up for my classes. 

The kids, aged 18, gave me a lot of resistance from the very start. Alos, I was bound to work with them on the heritage of their region or city. The city of Zelzate is surrounded by factories - a massive
metal factory and another one that makes asphalt. So the future isn't very bright for the teenagers growing up there. There's criminality, poverty, and a lot of frustration. 

The centre that takes care of Flanders heritage had nothing for me to work on. I asked them if I could do any research but they told me there was no book to read (Er is geen boek)

So I  decided to ask the students to give me all the information I needed about the community they live in. We made scale models of all the important landmarks: the bus stop they love because it takes them far away, the bar they go to on friday nights, and so on.
They also gave me a whole pile of newspaper articles about gangs running their streets, toyshops burning down, bodies found in the park and so on. 



I told them to cut up the articles and re-shape the text into a different content. Meanwhile I visited the places they mentioned and photographed them. 



I would have loved to photograph the kids as well, but they were very sensitive to privacy matters - you'll see that even in the notebooks I gave them todraw themselves. 

All the above is what you'll see on the large pages of the book, along with some images taken on our days out, when I took them to the local museum, or to the control tower of the industrial bridge, or to the place where the giants of their traditional parades are stored. 



On the small pages, they show us some of their own lives. The class was very divided full of tension and concurrence. Whoever opened up with a personal story was lynched directly. It was a very hostile environment to get to creation. So I started to email the students individually and they sent me their stories along with the images printed on the small pages of the book; Kaylyn goes to the shooting club with her dad every snday. She keeps the cards with bullet holes, writing 'first time with a kalashnikov' for example. Chadian loves Disney. She collects all the maps of Disney Worlds around the planet. 



Robin gave me a particularly hard time  - always asking, "Is this compulsory?" or"Why is this necessary?", sitting by the window with his back turned towards me. On one of the last evenings however, he sent me a video of his hands on the piano, playing 'tempesta' by Beethoven. 


See more of Emilie's work here. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Spiderman of Paris Story Happy Ending? Let's see



I saw the video of the spiderman in France and it just didn't strike me as quite right. There are all kinds of reasons why it is right, and why it is a good thing that it is right, especially considering the hero, Mamoudou Gassama., has gone through such a gruelling journey involving time in Libyan ... It's amazing to think that refugees who went through pre-2012 Libya had it easy in comparison.

Anyway, he climbed up the balcony, rescued the child, came down, got made a citizen of France, and has an internship to the fire service. What's bad about that? It's a great rags to riches story.

Nothing except the whole storyline stinks. First of all it is a storyline. And it's a bad storyline. It's this sudden arc that reads like it was written on the back of a fag packet. And the backdrop to the story is the forced closure of migrant camps around Paris a few days before - making 1,700 already marginally housed people even more margiinal. With one finger you giveth, with the other nine you taketh away.

Second, the story isn't finished. This isn't rags-to-riches. It's a tragedy. You can play it out over two days and it has a happy ending. Play it out over a little longer and see what happens. It's the same as always happens with migrant focussed stories. Because packed tightly inside this rags-to-riches story is the flipside. The flip side of being worthy to become a French citizen, is the idea that if you're not a hero you're not worthy. What if you're a bit morally suspect, what if you're a bit of a failure, what if you have some kind of a questionable past, what if you have done something illegal, then what? Are you not worthy?

This heroism is a fantasy heroism, but behind it there's a real man with real traumas, and real failings which will be put under the spotlight to further the ends of  the status quo. The story doesn't end with getting citizenship and an internship. That's the beginning. Anyone who has made that journey and experienced what Gassama has experienced will have difficulties in settling into this new, supposedly idyllic routine of being a French citizen with an internship in the fire service. Make a list of them and it's just about everything that matters. If you are serious about helping him, then you provide services for Gassama and others in his situation that address those needs; needs to do with health, housing, education, language, community etc etc. If you don't, your actions are empty and are part of the problem, precisely because you are setting up the story for a different kind of ending.

The happy story of Mamoudou Gassama isn't over. It's just beginning. It stretches into the future. Positioning a man in this unrealistic role is part of a status quo because in the long run, without addressing what really matters, there will be a fall, and that becomes and reinforces the bigger story which, once the exceptional bravery is over, is the one of land clearances in Paris, and forced returns and quotas in the UK. Behind every story of the hero, the non-heros lmass in their thousands, behind every story of the deserving poor, there are the non-deserving poor. And that's what this story is all about.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Farewell then Gazebook



Finally the news comes through that Gazebook Sicily is not running this year. It's come to an end, the founders have family, work and studying commitments and so it has come to an end.



It's inevitable really and the three years it ran were fantastic. To create a festival out of nothing, with barely any funding, without charging entrance, making it truly open to everybody, is an achievement in itself.




To make one with such good feeling and goodwill is beyond belief. Looking back at the images of the three festivals (and I was really, really lucky enough to attend them all), you can see the loose associations and friendships and collaborations that came out of the festival taking root, on an international scale across borders and genres and boundaries.



I think three years is the upper limit for this kind of festival. It was started by Simone Sapienza, Melissa Carnemolla and Teresa Bellina, and they provided the energy and organisation to keep it going. They turned the event from something that was questioned by locals to something that was accepted and embraced.



But events like that also rely on a huge amount of goodwill and for that you need volunteers, helpers, and mounds and mounds of goodwill. That's what makes a festival, that's what gives it its special feeling. That and the town of Punta Secca. You can't take it away from there. So farewell then Gazebook. You are gone.



And in a way, it's a good thing it comes to an end. It makes us appreciate how much effort and work went into making it so special, how much diplomacy behind the scenes, how much tending to local and international concerns, how much walking close to the edge of all things financial, technical and meteriological.


So farewell Gazebook. You're ending at the right time. And I can't wait for the next Gazebook to come along. Thank you for everything.







So if you're somewhere in the world, especially if it's hot and by the beach, and you're thinking of starting a festival. Make it happen!