Posts Tagged ‘Blog’

Tearsheet – Renegade Magazine

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

 

I’m delighted that one of my images is featured in a new travel magazine called Renegade. It’s small, beautiful and full of interesting stuff. Here’s my double page – an image The Tree of Life in Iraq.

 

Iraq - Basra - Boys climb the tree of Adam at Al Qurnah near Basra. The tre, according to legend marked the Garden of Eden, at the convergence of the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers

Iraq – Basra – Boys climb the tree of Adam at Al Qurnah near Basra. The tree, according to legend marked the Garden of Eden, at the convergence of the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers

The joy of the jellied eel?

Monday, November 11th, 2013

 

According to a report in the Observer newspaper, Britain is again falling for the charms of the jellied eel. Apparently Tesco sales of the stuff have grown by “35% since the supermarket giant took a gamble and started selling them outside London”. The increase in consumption is being “attributed to a new, more austere environment”.

I’ve written and photographed jellied eels and the Pie and Mash shops of the East End a fair few times for different magazines over the last couple of years and I have to say reports that I have heard from there tell a completely different story. Very, very few people ask for eels in pie shops these days and those that do seem to fall into two categories. Firstly, older people that have always eaten them and remember their hayday pre-1950/60′s and secondly, young middle class emigres to the trendier spots of Hackney, that do so once for a bet.

What I suspect we might be seeing are the novelty buying habits of communities that still identify with the traditional accoutrement of a rosy, cosy fug of a dying white working class culture. These are to be found primarily in the post-war new towns of Hertfordshire and Essex. That would certainly explain the supermarket connection and why at least most pie and mash shops stopped killing and jellying their own eels years ago. Jellied eels are totemic of a simpler and now unrecognisable East End Victoriana but eels have long been a staple part of London food and were synonymous with the city and its people. In King Lear, Shakespeare’s Fool in his ramblings to the King, witters – “Cry to it, nuncle, as the Cockney did to the eels when she put ‘em i’ the paste alive; she knapped ‘em o’ the coxcombs with a stick, and cried ‘Down, wantons, down!’”

In a city dominated and bisected by the River Thames the eel’s popularity was that it was plentiful, cheap and when most meat or fish had to be preserved in salt, eel could be kept alive in puddles of water. The Victorian curate Reverend David Badham reports in his ‘Prose Halieutics; Or Ancient and modern fish tattle’ published in 1854 that -

“London steams and teems with eels alive and stewed. For one halfpenny a man of the million may fill his stomach with six or seven long pieces and wash them down with a sip of the glutinous liquid they are stewed in.”

Such was the demand that eels were brought over from The Netherlands in great quantities by Dutch eel schuyts and these were commended for helping feed London during the Great Fire in 1666. Although they were seen as inferior to domestic eels, the British government rewarded the Dutch for their charity by Act of Parliament in 1699 granting them exclusive rights to sell eels from their barges on the Thames. During the nineteenth century however, the Thames became increasingly polluted so that it could no longer sustain significant eel populations and the Dutch ships had to stop further upstream to prevent their cargo being spoiled.

The rise of the pie shops were a direct result of the adulteration of eels and pies sold on the streets. The shops were indicators of aspiration for sections of the urban working class and their physical rootedness. Their decoration and their hygiene were ways to ape ‘social betters’. The idea in the Observer article that jellied eels are traditionally austerity food is wrong. They were seen, certainly in the pie shops, as a treat. In wider society however, eating jellied eels and pies has a comedic value (but then the British always either laughed at or scorned its poor – except when it sent them off to die in the mud or Flanders or elsewhere) and a resonance with the ‘jolly’ Pearly Kings and Queens. Nowadays seen as quaint costumed charity workers, they were originally leading and respected costermongers that would settle often violent street disputes between gangs. A cartoon representation of poverty and tradition. The undoubted death of the pie mash and eel shops on the High Street is symptomatic of what the New Economics Foundation calls ‘clone town Britain’ where every High Street has the same shops. As Jane Jacobs argued in the Death and Life of Great American Cities (1960) communities are “created by myriad small daily encounters… the sum of such casual, public contact at local level is a feeling for the public identity… a web of public respect and trust”. It was that trust that made people flock to eel and pie shops in the late Nineteenth century because they knew that the food was ‘clean’ and somehow honest. It is what drives a more allegedly ‘sophisticated’ palate away today.

It’s what drives people to shop at Tesco. Even those whose families would describe themselves as ‘working-class East Enders’ whilst  living in more affluent suburbs.

When I interviewed Graham Poole, one of three brothers that run the authentic, remaining Manze pie and mash shops, he seemed to bear this out.

“We get emails at all times of night – after people have had a few drinks… old East Enders that have moved out, reminisce – they want their eels and pies”.

They want their memories.

Some memories are dangerous however. As much as I personally enjoy eating them, eels are endangered. In 2010 eel populations in the Thames had fallen by 98% in five years. Across the country there are similar issues. Nobody really understands why elvers aren’t spawning – but then nobody actually knows the precise mechanism for and the location of, the migration to the Sargasso Sea.

Catholic priest Father Oliver Kennedy, 80, has for forty years run one of the only remaining commercially viable wild eel fisheries in Europe (Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland). “Things are very bad (for the eel) in Germany, Holland and France… we on the other hand are relatively safe – we buy elvers out of the Severn (River in the UK) and they take between twelve and twenty years to mature so our crisis might be delayed”.

It is clear however that unless we find a way to farm eels like salmon or clear migratory paths, the European eel may not see the end of the century.

 

 

UK - London - A bowl of jellied eels in Cookes' Eel, Pie and Mash shop in Hoxton, London, UKEel, pie and mash shops are a traditional but dying business. Changing tastes and the scarcity of the eel has meant that the number of shops selling this traditional working class food has declined to just a handful mostly in east London. The shops were originally owned by one or two families with the earliest recorded, Manze's on Tower Bridge Road being the oldest surviving dating from 1908. Generally eels are sold cold and jellied and the meat pie and mash potato covered in a green sauce called liquor.

UK – London – A bowl of jellied eels in Cookes’ Eel, Pie and Mash shop in Hoxton. Pie and mash shops are a traditional but dying business. Changing tastes and the scarcity of the eel has meant that the number of shops selling this traditional working class food has declined to just a handful mostly in east London. The shops were originally owned by one or two families with the earliest recorded, Manze’s on Tower Bridge Road being the oldest surviving dating from 1908. Generally eels are sold cold and jellied and the meat pie and mash potato covered in a green sauce called liquor.

 

UK - London - Joe Cooke killing and gutting eels in the yard of Cookes' Eel, Pie and Mash shop in Hoxton

UK – London – Joe Cooke killing and gutting eels in the yard of Cookes’ Eel, Pie and Mash shop in Hoxton

 

UK - London - A bucket of eels ready to be killed and gutted at the rear of Cookes' Eel, Pie and mash shop in Hoxton

UK – London – A bucket of eels ready to be killed and gutted at the rear of Cookes’ Eel, Pie and mash shop in Hoxton

 

 

You dancin’?

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

 

Here’s the first in an occasional series of unpublished images from a recent Conde Nast Traveller piece on Sao Tome and Principe.

I’d just finished a portrait down the road when I heard some music and drifted into a bar (as you do). I found a sound system and a few people swaying to the music between the tables. This elegant woman was dancing the afternoon away.

A thousand stories.

 

 

Sao Tome and Principe - Airport - Paula, a local woman dances at the White House bar near the airport, Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe – Airport – Paula, a local woman dances at the White House bar

Tearsheet – Eating Pests

Friday, February 15th, 2013

 

Here’s a recent tearsheet for the German Magazine, Effilee of an article that I wrote and photographed about a particular response to non-native invasive (alien) species – Muntjac Deer, Grey Squirrel and American Crayfish… the German headline has it best – something like, “Who is a stranger here is eaten”. Less sensationally, the piece explores the environmental fallout of introduced species and a discussion about both ‘speciesism’ and, the realization that we now live in an age that may come to be known as the Anthrocene.

Many thanks to the very excellent Crayfish Bob, Fergus Drennan (aka Fergus the Forager) and Mike Robinson

 

 

 

pest01

pest02 pest03 pest04

Burundi – slipping back

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

I read with great regret a small piece from the Economist that tells of a ‘souring mood’ in the tiny African country, Burundi. It seems that opposition forces have again taken to the hills after around three hundred of their number have been killed since July and dozens arrested. Much of this goes back to the 2010 election which, despite the International community declaring reasonably fair was greeted by anger from the forces opposing President Nkurunziza. I worked several times in Burundi during the last twelve years – assignments ranged from looking at the so-called Regroupment camps where the Tutsi government corralled Hutu peasants ‘for their own safety’ in appalling conditions (as part of a global series called The Politics of Hunger) to looking at the steps to reconciliation with the Bashingantahe councils. I also photographed and wrote about the extraordinary Marguerite Barankitse, The Angel of Burundi who adopted children of all tribes amidst the terrible violence of the Civil War. I fear that her heroism and devotion will be called on again.

On Monday, The Forces for National Liberation (FNL) leader Agathon Rwasa, whom Burundian authorities believe is hiding along with fellow combatants in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, called on Nkurunziza to step down. Reuters are reporting this as a declaration of war. I sincerely hope that they are wrong.

 

 

Burundi – Bujambura – President Buyoya speaks at May Day rally

 

Burundi – Buhonga – A Hutu child carries water in a tin up a steep hill in Buhonga Regroupment camp

 

Burundi – Buhonga – A malnourished Hutu peasant woman receives treatment at a medical centre. She is part of the ethnic Hutu population that has been internally exiled from their land by the Tutsi military in order to cut aid to Hutu rebels.

 

Burundi – Buhonga – A peasant cultivates land in Buhonga Regroupment Camp watched by a soldier. He is part of the ethnic Hutu population that has been internally exiled from their land by the Tutsi military in order to cut aid to Hutu rebels.

 

Burundi – Buhonga – Hutu peasant family cultivates a small patch of land within their regroupment camp

 

Burundi – Ruyigi – A counsel of the Bashingantahe (roughly meaning ‘wisemen’) meet to settle a dispute in their commune. The Bashingantahe, a traditional court system, have been successfully resolving disputes concerning the civil war and issues of forgiveness and acceptance.

Action Aid Photos of the Year

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

India - Delhi - A homeless cycle rickshaw driver dresses at a parking lot next to the Yamuna River where he sleeps

 

I’m delighted to say that this image has just been chosen as one of Action Aid’s images of the Year. The full set is here.

 

 

 

 

 

World Homeless Day

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

This post is a little late as World Homeless Day was on Monday 10/10/11 and although several kind people (Laurence Watts, Justin Leighton, Panos and Duckrabbit) Tweeted some of my work but I was away and so missed the opportunity to write something.

The work here is from an ongoing piece about Delhi and it’s people – where some 100000 people just happen to be homeless. I’m always cautious these days about doing another story about the homeless – you know the nameless victims staring up at the camera but  the sheer scale of Delhi’s problem is so significant, so enormous it became inevitable. The work was an assignment from ActionAid (thanks to Laurence who believed in my proposal) and was made through the invaluable assistance of Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan from whom I must thank the wonderful Paramjeet Kaur and Prakash, my invaluable guide and I hope now, friend. I tried very hard to make work that showed people as individuals coping in very difficult circumstances but one that is surprisingly easy to fall into. Normal, ordinary people in difficult situations. These are just three of my current favourite images – you can see a larger set via my archive or the Panos site.

 

India - New Delhi - Patti Das and his child Khrisha on a piece of waste ground beneath a flyover near Okhla station. New Delhi, India.

 

India - New Delhi - A mother picks at her child's hair for fleas as a train passes behind them on a piece of waste ground where they live beneath a flyover near Okhla station. New Delhi, India

 

India - New Delhi - A homeless mother, hugged by her small child, cooks breakfast by the railway tracks where her family live. Okhla, New Delhi, India

Ten glorious years…

Friday, October 7th, 2011

 

According to General Stanley McChrystal, America’s war in Afghanistan began with a “frighteningly simplistic” view of the country.

An illegal, arrogant, NeoCon invasion was premised on a basic misunderstanding?

No shit

As our colonial masters in the White House might say.

 

Afghanistan - Kabul - A woman begs on the street

Other lives, other rooms

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I am woken every morning at dawn by the sounds of men breaking down buildings by hand. New Delhi, because of its absurd land prices is constantly being broken and rebuilt again by thousands of unskilled labourers working for a pittance. All day, every day.

This is the view of the house opposite. A view into other lives, other rooms.

 

India - New Delhi - Men construct a new house room by room

Verve Photo

Friday, September 9th, 2011

I’m delighted to be the subject of a post at the rather excellent Verve Photo that features my work on capoeira in Brazil.

I must admit I was a little surprised to be included in such a blog that prides itself on showcasing ‘the new breed of documentary photographers’ as I seem (or feel) like I have already been around the block more than once, but no matter. Geoffrey Hiller was utterly charming and I was very pleased that he chose an image from a series that showcases work that isn’t necessarily dark and serious.

Many thanks to Geoffrey and I reproduce the short interview below.

 


“The story was on Capoeira, the martial art/dance once the (banned) preserve of African slaves, now a national symbol of Brazil. It was shot on assignment for a car magazine – Lexus – with whom I’ve photographed and written travel pieces on and off for nearly a decade. My fixer had arranged for five models – all expert Capoeiristas, and the idea was that in addition to photographing some Capoeira classes in the city, we’d make the main images on Copacabana and Leblon beaches. I remember it rained for a couple of days so I had to shoot the beach twice before I was happy. Initially I shot with two portable strobes but that felt too ‘fashioney’ so I went back to a much simpler set-up – shooting at dusk with available light and couple of fixed lenses: a much more traditional reportage feel. I’d worked in Brazil only once before in 1999 as part of a five country reportage about the Politics of Hunger. I’d shot a piece with the Landless Peasant’s Union (the MST) on squatted land in the far north: the Capoeira story was far removed from that and some of the images have formed the basis of a lifestyle folio that sees me work on ‘lighter’ stories away from pieces in Africa and Asia that I am perhaps more known for. A good balance, I think.”