Mark Pinder

The world Is Not Black And White

Datsun Sunny’s to continue in Sunderland, (for the Moment anyway).

 

The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister has given assurances to Nissan over the issue of tariff-free access to Europe. Is this the way our exit from Europe is really going to be negotiated, unaccountable secret deals until the shit really starts hitting the fan?

Guardian report on Nissan deal

May could be playing a very risky game here? It appears that sweeteners and inducements may not have been offered to Nissan after all, but an assurance that tariff-free access to the European market will continue for car makers.

Unless she already knows something, she is taking a huge risk. Her gamble is based on the belief that the European car manufacturers need Britain as customers, the same way as Nissan needs European customers. We Brits do buy a lot of European cars after all and they wouldn’t want to hurt their market?

There is a very big ‘but’ here though. If tariffs should be imposed, it will push up the price of vehicles imported to Britain to the point where they become uncompetative, but by the same token, cars exported from the UK to Europe will become uncompetative as well, which will boost the sales of a manufacturers cars within their domestic market or trading bloc to compensate.

Just because Fritz in Frankfurt can’t afford to buy a Nissan, doesn’t mean he’s going to take the bus, he’ll buy a European car instead, and if it’s German, then all the better. If he’s going to pay the same price for a base model Nissan as he’d pay for a VW or BMW with all the toys, I think we all know which option he’s going to plump for.

This could be disastrous for Britain’s balance of payments. A Japanese company selling British made cars to the British brings no foreign money into the country, but Mercedes selling a car to a driver in Italy does.

If May has misjudged the mood of Europe, and Europe does decide to play hardball over tariffs, (which they can afford to for the reasons above), then she’s going to have totally blown her credibility for any future inward investment and will probably end up having to make up the difference between the price Nissan will have to dump their cars in Europe to remain competitive before the tariff is added.

And what about Honda, or Jaguar/Landrover, (owned by Indian company Tata), or Mini, (owned by German BMW), for example? What happens when they come to make decisions about future investment in Britain or even the viability of remaining here if it turns out May is just bluffing and playing for time? What’s to stop them just upping sticks and moving production to the EU? There’s nothing to stop that icon of Britishness, the Mini, (for example), being made in Ulan Bator or by the Uruguayn descendants of Josef Mengele if BMW really wanted to get weird about it. Protected geographical name status only applies to agricultural and food produce.

I hope that May is not just stalling for time and she does actually know something that we don’t, as the consequences for Britain if Europe gets pissed off with her presumptuousness are potentially disastrous.

If May’s got it wrong, we might all be driving Nissan’s in 10 years time, which I really don’t look forward too. They are so fucking ugly!!

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Let them eat austerity!

Between 2002 and 2005, Philip Green siphoned off at least $2.7 billion, (or$2,700,000,000.00 if you prefer), in dividends and other payments from BHS and Taveta to his non tax paying wife in Monaco. Even if you subtracted the maybe $1 billion of BHS pensions black hole, he and his family would still have drawn $1.7 billion from the companies. Could you ever spend that amount of money? If you could, could you do it with a clear conscience, even before you factored in the destroyed expectations and poverty that you’re imposing on the people you’d fucked over with your greed? 

One issue I have not seen talked about is what state the pension schemes are of the other companies in his retail empire? If I worked at Burton or Miss Selfridge, (or a host of other Arcadia owned stores), I’d be feeling rather nervous right now, and be demanding an immediate public audit into the pensions schemes of the rest of his chains, not to mention legislation barring any other tycoons that behave like this, from being allowed to be involved in any takeover or acquisition deals in the UK in future. Was there not talk some time ago, coming from Labour, about legislation to make it illegal for companies to make dividend payments to shareholders illegal, if the pension company was in arrears to the pension scheme?

This article in Vanity Fair is worth a read, even if they don’t acknowledge their own complicity in helping to foster and promote the lifestyles of the Philip Green’s and the super-rich.

When Topshop tycoon Sir Philip Green, the U.K.’s answer to Donald Trump, off-loaded the struggling retail chain BHS for just one pound, Britons cried foul.
VANITYFAIR.COM|BY WILLIAM D. COHAN

America? Fuck Yeah!

 

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I think I want one of these. It’s a bed that looks like a Russian Buk missile launcher.

You could say to women you fancy in bars: ‘want to come back to mine and see my missile launcher’ with all sincerity and still be able to project an aura of hurt bewilderment after being punched in the face

Trust the Guardian to get it’s knickers in a twist though: Buk at Bedtime

A bit of googling and alternatively, you can be the proud owner of something to make any potential mate wonder whether they’re dealing more with a deranged psychopath and run a 50/50 chance of not waking up in the morning, rather than a cute, cuddly slight eccentric who’s still waiting for his Leonid Brezhnev teddy bear to arrive from Ebay seller Vlad-Put 33.

Blitz bedding

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‘Displaying the powerful strength of the US Air Force, our custom comforters, bed sheets and other bedding items show a high definition photograph of a real aerial bombardment. Modern bomber jets fly overhead as the ground erupts in an explosive flurry of fire and napalm. We can see black smoke billowing from the inferno underneath a blue sky as the US bombers quickly make their escape and return to base after a completed mission. A truly striking graphic, the imagery on our personalized futon and duvet covers truly creates a unique look in your home and a great gift for those who love action movies, video games or the peace keeping ability of the US Air Force.’

Money makes the World go round………

This film, ‘Money as Debt’  by cartoonist Paul Grignon, is well worth watching, especially in the current context of the European sovereign debt crisis, the near default of the US federal budget and possibility of a Global economic meltdown which increasingly looks to be not so much if, as when.

It explains simply, the basics of fractional reserve banking, how this relates to runs on the banks, and why the nature of lending money and creating debt is only sustainable as long as the world is able to maintain economic growth and service it’s obligations to the global banking and finance industries which then continues to fund that growth, by lending more notional money, who’s value is predicated on the borrowers ability to repay, (or not, in the case of a credit crunch).

It also explains why any notions peddled by politicians as to going green or reducing consumption are empty platitudes, because the current system, can only survive on a model of ever increasing consumption and debt.

Now might be a good time to shift your pension fund investments into tinned food, Rottweiler puppy farms, (futures), and pump-action shotgun makers!!

Climb a mountain or jump in a lake…………..

As the Irish folk singer Christy Moore sang in his song ‘Lisdoonvara‘:

‘Everybody needs a break,
Climb a mountain or jump in a lake.
Some head off to exotic places,
Others go to the Galway Races.
Mattie goes to the South of France,
Jim to the dogs, Peter to the dance.
A cousin of mine goes potholing,
A cousin of heres loves Joe Dolan.
Summer comes around each year,
We go there and they come here.’

In my instance, I climbed a mountain in Co’ Mayo last Sunday.

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I wanted to reconnect with my spiritual side by retracing the footsteps of Saint Martin of ParrArchbishop Koudelka, Cardinal Killip, and some chap called Patrick, who they tell me is big in Ireland, so I joined another 20,000 or so and climbed Croagh Patrick.

Every last Sunday in July, (Reek Sunday), around 20,000 Catholic pilgrims climb the 2500 ft mountain near Westport, in Homage to Saint Patrick, who supposedly climbed the mountain in the fifth century, where he spent 40 days and nights praying and fasting, and upon conclusion threw a silver bell down the side of the mountain, knocking the she-demon Corra from the sky and banishing all the snakes from Ireland.

I know that Snakes have a special place in the Judeo-Christaian tradition, but having never been menaced by a snake, ever, I wonder why saint Patrick couldn’t also have included the Midge in his list of proscribed creatures, of which Ireland has many?

Feck, another really bad hair day! I'm not actually as pissed off as I look, I just hate having my picture taken. It does take away the soul you know! Pic:Dermot Blackburn

The climb up the mountain was pretty tough, but I’m glad I did it. I have a set of pictures I’m pleased with, and whilst my Catholicism lapsed a long, long time ago, (and was never really there anyway), I was really struck by the generosity, warmth and great humour of my fellow climbers. I reached the summit about 10 minutes before the conclusion of the last mass of the day and almost lost an arm with the number of handshakes and “Peace be with you’s” being swapped between myself and those around me. Perhaps it was the awful weather, and a sense of shared achievement and privation, but the peak of that mountain felt a very intimate place to be.

My cameras and lenses took a hammering. After a while, i just gave up on trying to keep the lenses dry and just went with whatever came out. The idea that the photographer is a passive observer and the camera an objective tool is conceited bullshit anyway, and our presence is always going to impact the dynamic of any environment in any case. If that environment decides to impose it’s own aesthetic by giving my tools a hard time by screwing over decades of technical and optical development, then so be it, I can live with it.

Ireland, north and south, has always been a fascinating place, and has a tragic history that no-one deserves, (least of all the Irish), but things in the Republic are especially interesting at the moment. The collapse of the Ponzi scheme that was the Celtic Tiger and the sudden backlash against the Catholic Church that finally threatens to break the corrupting influence of the Church in Irish civil, legal and political life following the revelations as to the scale of sexual abuse within the Church, and realisation by the Irish state that they can no longer turn a blind eye to these issues in the face of public disgust, makes the Irish Republic ripe for radical social change. Hopefully for the better.

It is something I want to document, and a place I intend spending more time in over the next couple of years.

Watch this!!

Watch this: ‘It Felt Like A Kiss‘ made with The Punchdrunk Theatre Company for the 2009 Manchester Festival by Documentary film maker Adam Curtis

For those of you in foreign climes who can’t get BBC iplayer content, ‘It Felt Like a Kiss’ can be viewed in 6 parts on youtube here.

I have always liked Curtis’s work, (apart from perhaps his stint as a researcher for ‘That’s Life‘),  a film maker responsible for such brilliant documentaries as The Mayfair Set, (about the rise of corporatism), The Power of Nightmares, (the manufacturing of fear), and The Century of the Self, (Freud, Bernays, and mass manipulation), whose polemical series ‘All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace‘ has recently finished on the BBC.

Unlike most of the critics though, I found this recent series and his previous series ‘The Trap‘ slightly unsatisfying. Whilst interesting, I found some of the narrative leaps disjointed and a bit too tenuous and the theses of both these documentaries just a bit too inconclusive.

This film is brilliant though. In his trademark style, Curtis uses uses montages of news footage out-takes, bizarre cultural artefacts and an ironic soundtrack to take us on a roller coaster, (or perhaps Helter Skelter), ride through 1960’s American history and foreign policy, putting Rock Hudson, Nikita Khrushchev, Charles Manson’s Family, Angela Davis, Enos The Chimp, and a whole host of other iconic characters into the mix, dumping us out the other end just where the thesis of his most recent series begins.

For some reason, Curtis’s film-making reminds me of French film maker Chris Marker especially his Film about memory and forgetting ‘Sans Soleil‘. Marker was most famous for ‘La Jetee‘, a narrative film make up almost entirely of still’s, which was supposedly the inspiration for terry Gilliam’s 1995 film ‘12 Monkeys‘.

Ennemi public numéro un!!

Easington Colliery 1989 ©Mark Pinder

This is how I once became the most reviled photographer in the north-east, nearly rivalling a French pap’ in a Parisian underpass, co-incidentally also involving our Gallic friends, and almost causing a minor diplomatic incident in the process.

In late January 1999, I received a call from a journalist with the French weekly Telerama, who had gotten my number from the Big Issue. He was in the north-east and wanted to speak to someone with good local knowledge and contacts about a story he was working on.

We met in a pub in Newcastle, and discussed the story. Basically, he was writing about how beneath all the New-Labour assertions to things never being better that poverty and inequality were being abolished etc, he wanted to show that behind these claims, there were still significant pockets of deprivation and inequality in Britain that for many was going to remain structural, and thought the north-east a good region to illustrate this thesis. A thesis I couldn’t disagree with.

We swapped notes and a few phone numbers, and I left him to get on with it.

A week or so later, I had a call from the Telerama picture desk asking me to email some examples of my work as they had a commission taking portraits of Antoine’s case studies and some of the areas he’d highlighted and wanted to see whether I was any good or not. Amongst the dozen or so pics I sent, was the above pic’ I had shot in Easington Colliery in the late 80’s looking over the town towards the colliery.

They saw the photos, and commissioned a 3 day shoot, which was completed, delivered, billed and forgotten about until the last Wednesday in February, when I received a call from a reporter on the Newcastle Journal asking about the story.

Apparently, the boss of the Northumbrian Tourist Board had been in Paris the previous week, picked up a copy of Telerama and blew a fuse. Apart from not liking the story, there had been a mistake by the production desk at the magazine and they had run my old picture of Easington Colliery on the opening spread suggesting that this was Newcastle…..ooops!!

The Journal reporter wanted to know about the circumstances under which the picture had appeared, and I told him that a mistake appeared to have been made even though the picture was correctly captioned in the IPTC fields with the who, what, where, when etc, and gave him a copy of the file by way of verification.

Nothing appeared in the Journal until the following Monday. That morning, I arrived at an early press call at a hospital on Teesside, walked into the room where it was happening and a BBC reporter who was usually really snotty and stand-offish, welcomed me with a hearty ‘Good morning Mark’, and a big grin. I finished the job and thought I’d get the papers and have some breakfast in the hospital refectory. On the news-stand in the hospital shop, I was confronted with this:

My first response was to burst out laughing. My second response was to laugh some more. The story ran to a cover and several pages inside. The gist of it was essentially how dare those damn Frog’s come over here and criticise our beloved region, the place that gave us stotties, Alan Shearer, the most loved call centre workers in the world, and possibly the most well developed sense of chauvinism this side of a Jock, (for any non British readers who may have stumbled onto my blog, a ‘Jock’, is a Scotsman).

The story continued in the local press for several days with some bizarre exchanges between the Telerama and Newcastle Journal factions, pulling the French ambassador into the fray for good measure. Antoine forwarded me a copy of the magazine and an English language transcript, (most of which I couldn’t disagree with), as well as a copy of a fax to Jon Bennett with one of the most surreal put downs I’d ever seen:

‘Thank you for your “articles”. I was quite amused to discover how the gutter press from Newcastle imagines (in a rather Freudian way actually) it can teach a lesson to a cultural magazine from Paris’. Quite!

And in a wonderfully Gallic cover note to me: ‘Dear Mark, Here is the (in)famous reportage! I was sorry to discover the big mistake with your photo. What a pity! For the rest, I send you what I send to Mr Bennett, who looks for me like a camembert telling to a cheddar: “you stink!”.

I like living on Tyneside, if I didn’t, I’d have moved. That doesn’t however make me blind to the shortcomings of the region where I choose to live, one of which is how easy it is for the place to get an over inflated sense of it’s own importance, and if that bubble gets pricked every now and then, so what, grow up. Whilst the mistake regarding my photo in Telerama was regrettable, and should not have happened, it shouldn’t be allowed to detract from the central thesis  of the article. Nor should I forget that I have chosen to work, primarily, in journalism, not public relations. As to the charge that the article was unbalanced, so what? I’m not the BBC, and there is already enough unbalanced uncritical reporting of the region that is bland, tourist chief friendly and unlikely to raise synthetic  outrage or offend the sickly sweet sentimentality that the British local media is so practised at, whether print or broadcast.

Whilst the vista portrayed in the photo looked fairly grim, this was 1989. The pit that gave Easington Colliery it’s name was still working, employing nearly 2000 men. Since then, the mine has been shut and if anything the reality of Easington Colliery is far bleaker today, having some of the worst youth unemployment and early mortality rates in the UK and consistently does very badly in just about every index relating to health inequality and incidences of multiple deprivation, with the highest rate, in England, of people claiming sickness benefit because of mental health problems. All this despite 13 years of Labour rule. A situation which will only worsen under the Tories. Easington may not have been Newcastle, but it isn’t Mars, and it most certainly proves Antoine’s basic thesis correct.

For the rest, as in the words sung by Gallic warbler extraordinaire, Edith Piaf, ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’.

I got  a hundred quid in repro’ fees out of the Journal into the deal as well!

The LRB on the Ryan Giggs affair

There is an interesting article in the current edition of the London Review of Books by former High Court judge Stephen Sedley articulating very well the concerns I raised, (rather facetiously), in an earlier post about the Ryan Giggs injunction affair.

In another LRB  article from 2006, Sedley raised some interesting arguments regarding how useful, (or otherwise), the privacy components of the Human Rights act are to the average non millionaire and how confusion, conflicting interests, and the laws of unintended consequences can impact on, (seemingly), well intentioned legislative initiatives.

Both articles inject a rare, (and much needed), blast of fresh air into a complex and hotly contested range of issues that are vital, not just to those of us that have ‘special interests’ in the issues raised, (such as journalists or photographers), but any of us that have real concerns as to the maintenance of a viable, functioning democracy not only in serving the interests of the wealthy, but the rest of us too.

We are entering a very difficult and dangerous period, where  correctly negotiating this moral and ethical  landscape, (populated by some very powerful, contradictory and polarised vested interests), is vital, not just to the future of press freedom and application of the law, but ultimately, wider freedoms and democracy as well.

To quote the concluding paragraph of Sedley’s current article: ‘The naming of Goodwin and Giggs is on a different plane from ministerial briefings against judges, inappropriate as these are, because it disrupts the historic equilibrium between the judiciary and the legislature. The media may present themselves as amused spectators, but it is they who have provoked and exploited the breakdown of an element in the democracy they themselves inhabit.’

On the surface, I can’t disagree with that statement, but it does ignore the existence of that rather large and non house trained Elephant in the room, the internet, and the fact that it seems ridiculous that the media should continue to be prevented from commenting on or reporting something that became, (rightly or wrongly), public knowledge through the injunction busting agency of the world wide web.

Perhaps we now have to start waking up to the unintended consequences of not just the globalisation and deregulation of trade, markets and labour, but the anarchy engendered by the deregulation and globalisation of information and intellectual property too, and the seeming impotence of the judiciary or politicians to do anything about it, in a world where old fashioned concepts like borders now only really apply to the poor and disenfranchised.

Another Genie has been let out of the bottle. One that further weakens any concept of the nation state or ability of the politicians to legislate for the interests of anyone other that the global new media corporations, (most notably Google), who peddle fantasies of the free-flow of information whilst simultaneously coercing intellectual property away from their true owners, only to repackage, mediate and monetize it, whilst disingenuously pushing a self serving fantasy of being the good guys, where they conflate freedom of expression with freedom to exploit. A position which government appointed academics such as Professor Ian Hargreaves, are loath to contradict. A man, who to all intents and purposes, may just as well have been  a shill to the global IP leveraging industries, considering how little notice he took of the small artisan producers of intellectual property in his recent review and how devastating to the economic basis of my industry, (amongst many others), his recommendations on ‘orphan works’ licensing will be.

Rather than responding to the changing IP landscape by tightening regulation to protect the creator, he has recommended loosened the law in the interests of the pirate instead. With the near routine stripping of metadata from image files, photographs pretty much become orphans the moment they enter cyberspace, and if they aren’t, someone, somewhere will soon arrange it. This is a gift to the likes of Google, and only serves to further illustrate the impotence of the politician or judge when it comes to attempting to regulate or understand another aspect of the globalising juggernaut that they are increasingly powerless to control, runs on it’s own logic and rather stupidly, have been conned into colluding with.

Appleby Horse Fair 3/6 2011

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I spent Friday shooting a feature on the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria for the Independent On Sunday.

Unfortunately, because the Daily Mirror had run a similar story on the Saturday, the story was spiked, even though the Mirror has a totally different reader demographic.

I still get paid, obviously, but if money was my main motivation, I wouldn’t have become a photographer, and despite having had my ego surgically removed years ago, (incidentally, incredibly liberating), vestiges still remain!

It still disappoints when I get a set of pictures I’m really pleased with and then circumstances or a bigger story prevents the photos from appearing.

From the archive: North Shields, 1987

Looking west up the Tyne from the North Shields ferry terminal, 1987 ©Mark Pinder

I like the timelessness of this photo. It was shot in 1987 from the ferry landing at North Shields, (where I now live), looking west up the Tyne towards the old Smiths Dock ship repair yard, which closed that same year.

Apart from the distinct lack of heavy traffic on the river, this photo could just as easily have been taken in 1937 as 1987.

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