Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1923b

Cameras that put the struggle in sharp focus

This article is over 19 years, 4 months old
THE PHOTOGRAPHIC exhibition is a cultural highlight of the ESF. One of the photographers featured is Martin Jenkinson, who has contributed to a display on the British miners’ strike of 1984-5. He spoke to Socialist Worker about his work during the stri
Issue 1923b

I HAD been taking pictures for the Yorkshire Miner and the Morning Star for years before the strike began, so I was very familiar with the issues around the dispute—job losses and the assault on communities.

The picture featured here was taken during the confrontation at the Orgreave coke works.

This was one of the key turning points in the strike. If the miners had won at Orgreave, everything might have been different.

I’d been going there since the miners began picketing there—it’s just a few miles from where I live.

This frame comes after the police had charged up the hill to scatter the pickets. I’d positioned myself in a small gateway in an effort to be able to record what was really going on, but to avoid sideswipes from the police truncheons.

On the left hand side of the picture you can see a Morris car. That’s the one where, seconds earlier, a miner had been thrown onto the bonnet and beaten by police.

Another photographer, John Harris, whose work is also on display at the ESF, took that picture.

There’s a question of engagement when you are in a situation like this. Obviously you are trying to get as clear a picture of what actually happened, but you are also sympathetic to one side.

A lot of the local press went and stood behind the police lines. That was their take on the day, that was their view of the dispute. Their pictures were very likely to be of angry miners’ faces, not police violence.

They were taken from a police officer’s perspective.

Me, John Harris and John Sturrock, and some others were on the miners’ side. That’s not a false picture, it’s a way of getting at the truth.

It was the same when the police rampaged through the mining villages later in the strike. We were in the communities, not among the police. And we could do that because people knew us and trusted what we were doing.

I’m still working for the labour movement, although it’s harder to make a living at it because the unions have merged and centralised, and that reduces the number of journals. Also there has been a phase of not showing pictures of struggle.

But I think that’s changing now.

Slums alongside the glamour of Bollywood

IN THE 1990s, the Brazilian photographer Sebastio Salgado began a major project to document the world-altering phenomenon of mass migration.

The result was the major body of work—Exodus.

It helps us to picture the enormous social and political transformation of a world divided between excess and need.

The pictures displayed at the ESF focus on migration into urban environments by rural workers forced out of work by agricultural mechanisation and other factors.

Mumbai in India, the subject of many pictures, is now the second largest city on the planet, with a population that has been estimated at between 13 million and 20 million.

The slums and shanty towns stand in stark contrast to the multi-storey towers and the glamour of Bollywood.

“We hold the key to humanity’s future,” says Salgado, “but to make that future we have to understand the present.

“These photographs are part of the present. We cannot afford to look away.”

Salgado considers himself part of the anti-globalisation protest movement and believes that people misunderstand migrants. “People talk about migrants in a bad way, they say they break the system and are not nice,” he says. “But the problem is that a big part of humanity does not have wealth.

“When we give work to African people to make tea or coffee that price is fixed here.

“They are selling their products at a negative price—and they are paying us with their health. We need to find a solution that will suit the whole of humanity. I believe that this work will help to start the debate.”
Jean Carey


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