Thursday, November 27, 2008

Zimbabwe: The squandering of a country's freedom

I am from Zimbabwe and I have been meaning to put up a post about my beloved home country for quite some time. The problem is, I get too angry. I've drafted numerous posts where I set out with a clear intention to make a single point but became mired in a vicious cycle of blind, cold fury with just about everything. My frustration knows no bounds.

Before you read on, please be aware that my views are not "politically correct". I believe that (for want of a better term) political correctness lies at the heart of not only Zimbabwe's, but all of Africa's many problems.

Today, 50 people will die of cholera in Zimbabwe. Cholera is a deadly disease that essentially is spread from person to person through drinking water that contains shit. It is a dirty, filthy, disgusting disease that is wholly and very simply preventable. It is a disease that like no other is a clear indicator of the competence of a country's government; you have to be the lowest of the low for it to become a problem.

For years the world has watched Mugabe taking bites from the thin end of the wedge. The Third World apologists have even praised him for his "African" solutions to "colonial legacies". They have showered this man with praise as he dismantled the colonial legacy that he inherited. That legacy, aside from the privileges of a white minority, was law and order, jobs, economic growth, inventiveness, decent health care, clean hospitals, reliable water supplies in the cities, proper sewage management, a working transport infrastructure, education and a burgeoning productive sector.

When Mugabe exhibited any signs of his political stewardship falling below what is considered decent, the world and a huge proportion of his own countrymen turned a blind eye - the man committed a genocide - "The Gukurahundi" - against up to 40,000 Ndebele people and no one thought to prosecute him. Not the majority of Zimbabweans, not the leaders of the "civilised" world. You see, Mugabe's crimes against humnity are somehow less repellant to the world than those of Milosovich.

Even now, when the whole world is united against Mugabe NO ONE is prepared to snatch him and his cronies and whisk them off to the Hague. No one! Yet every day, 50 people - and rising - will die as a direct result of his actions. And that is just from cholera.

There is also a steady stream of disappearances of opposition supporters. There have been well publicised government-backed murders. There has been the disgusting "Operation Murambatsvina" where up to 2.4 million poor shanty town dwellers were rendered homeless, their posessions destroyed and their informal subsitance businesses looted and closed down. (Mugabe once had a programme called "Homes for all by the year 2000" which, as we can all see, failed). The world did nothing. Not a fucking thing.

Most idiotic of all, the world is under the illusion that diplomacy can bring results. With Mugabe? Since when? Its time to understand, Mr UN, EU and Co that diplomacy is wasted on Mugabe and is, to be honest, a bit baffling to most Africans - look at Thabo Mbeki's interpretation of it and see just how misunderstood it is. Africans can talk all day and all night. Long after others have given up talking and have gone onto the "enough talk, lets take action" phase, the Africans will still be talking - because as long as they can talk, they don't have to do the dirty work. Someone else eventually will.

What is worse though, is that most Zimbabweans have done almost NOTHING to stop this monster. Zimbabwe has a great deal to say about "Our Sovereignty" and "Our Freedom". A lot to say, but they do nothing to preserve those concepts and do you know why? Because they do not understand them. How can you understand a concept such as Freedom when to all intents and purposes, you are now much worse off than you were under the (often exaggerated) "oppresssion" of Ian Smith or the British?

You see, the majority of Zimbabweans did not have to fight in the liberation struggle. It was done for them by a few tens of thousands of (either brave or misguided) guerillas. Most Zimbabweans sat back and waited for their freedom to be given to them. They waited for the world's outrage to deliver them from the evil of Ian Smith. Not so bloody evil now, is he?

And then Zimbabweans waited for foregn aid to be delivered, which it duly was. They waited for jobs which they got and they allowed Mugabe to start taking bigger and bigger slices of the pie. His flagrant liberties were all, so it seems, forgivable. After all, "he gave us our freedom": He was delivering prosperity, growth, jobs and all Zimbabweans had to do was sit on their arses and occasionally sing the Party tune. But he was also lining his pockets and building a clique of super-powerful cronies who were seen to be above the law...

Then things started going down hill. Zimbabweans started muttering, agreeing yet again, with a few tens of thousands of people that Mugabe had to go. He was ruining their future. He was getting rich at their expense. Fortunately, Mr Tsvangirai put himself forward as the man to lead Zimbabwe out of the clutches of Mugabe. Fantastic! Now Zimbabweans had someone to do the job for them, they could once again sit on their arses and do nothing.

And this is how it has been. A lonely Tsvangirai surrounded by a few (brave or misguided?) people trying to take on Mugabe who has control of the army. And the police. And the CIO. But at least the people of Zimbabwe can carry on sitting on their now scrawny backsides while Tsvangirai tries despertely to stem the bleeding.

This cholera epidemic, this badge of hopelessness, is the inevitable result of a people whose idea of freedom is to chant the mindless, meaningless ZanuPF slogans at political rallies. Whose idea of freedom is to cower in the dust before their leader. Whose idea of freedom is to sit and wait for someone else to deliver them from evil. Again.

Zimbabweans - ALL zimbabweans need to grow some balls. Tsvangirai cannot overcome Mugabe on his own. He needs the peoples' committment to be the same level as his. That means, he needs people to put their lives on the line, just like he does. There are still more than enough Zimbabweans fit and able to create a tidal wave that will obliterate Mugabe and his henchmen. Save yourselves or drown - the rest of the world has proven it doesn't really care. If it did, Mugabe would be serving his 15th year in prison for genocide.

What a waste of freedom.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How to Have a Road Accident

This morning, as I was lying in bed wishing I'd slept better and getting increasingly annoyed with Heart 106.2, I suddenly realised why so many people are killed on the roads in Britain. It was the annoying traffic report person telling me that "the inside lane of the M1 north bound is blocked due to an accident".

I come from Africa. In my homeland we don't have "inside lanes" or "outside lanes". We have left lanes and right lanes and I'm sure that somewhere we have some middle lanes. But definitely no inside lanes. And neither do we have "offsides" and "nearsides". What on earth are those? What is wrong with left side and right side? Why, when lives depend on clarity, is it necessary to muddy the water with archaic terms?

I have walked down cycle paths before. Adevnturous, I know but hey - I like to live dangerously. I have seen and been thoroughly mystified by the red circle with a picture of a car and a motorcycle at the beginning of the cycle path. Neither have a simple diagonal red slash drawn through them as happens every-bloody-where-sodding-else, so foreign car or motorcycle users could be forgiven for thinking that its perfectly okay to drive down the cycle path. The poor cyclist skewered by their vehicles was, they would argue, riding where only cars and motorcycles are permitted to go.

And speed management. I have driven miles along some roads uncertain as to what the speed limit is. I am one of those drivers who likes to obey the speed limit - my days of being in a tearing hurry are over. I have no desire to be pulled over by the Narks, no desire for points on my licence and even more importantly, no desire to run over a brace of school children. I want to be told, and then constantly remeinded through the medium of the sign, what the limit is. It is not difficult. Instead, you have miles of road, no speed limit signs and then suddenly, a speed camera. Only then, 300 yards after you've been flashed and auto-ticketed, there's a sign that helpfully points out that you should have been doing 30, not 40 as you asssumed.

If the British government was serious about managing speed, they'd be more energetic about informing us and then reminding us constantly about the speeed limit. But it seems they just want the money raised through fines and rely rather heavily on catching drivers out.

And why don't they put speed limit signs on the back of their cameras? Sneaky bastards.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quite a day...

I've not been sleeping much of late. Mr Heartburn ensures that, ably assisted by Mr Headache and the rather irritating Ms Worry. So I was up by five this Sunday morning. Bloody freezing.

Skips and Drips.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative.

Directed by Chloe, the cat I made myself some coffee and put down a dish of food for her to ignore, then sat down to write my blog of yesterday's shoot. It seems this blog is more about the missions I go on with my camera than its original purpose, erudite (tongue snug in cheek) discussion of small business marketing and design. No matter. I like photography and I like design and marketing. It just so happens that I have more to say about photographs right now.

Moorhens and Stipes.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative.

So yes. I was up early, it was cold. Very cold. In fact as dawn broke, I looked outside and it was snowing - not much, just a little. Then it started raining. Quite a lot. Somewhere around nine my lovely other half got up and decided she wanted me to dig up some photographs that we could print and get framed. Disaster. I have buggered up my database of images. Something to fix when I can be arsed.

After messing around trying to locate the images, I looked outside and noticed that summer was back. Well, so it seemed, and because I was hyper grumpy, I decided to go for a walk forthwith! I'm glad I did.

As I often do, I set off through St Mary's Catholic Cemetary towards Scrubbs Lane and then through the industrial estate past Car Giant . I noticed the Brent council parking attendants ruining peoples' weekends, ticketing cars parked on the single yellow line. I mean, come on! Its Sunday! I can categorically state that the illegally parked cars were not creating a hazard, nor were they causing congestion. Revenue-raising swine.

Storm Approaching.
How much more stripped down do you want your photographs?

Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative.

When I'm on a shoot, I often feel like a hunter. There are so many similarities. Observation is key. Everything deserves scuitiny. My eyes dart around looking for targets. I suddenly stop and stare and may even raise my camera to my eye to better see my quarry. And yes, I sometimes get down on hands and knees, scrabbling forward or sideways to get the best framing position. People stop and stare. I'm used to it. I'd rather be a bit embarrassed about the scene I'm making to get my shot than to not get the shot or even worse, get a mundane shot of the same subject.

Railway Bridge Reflected.
This shot is of a bridge reflected in wooden hoardings painted with dark blue gloss.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative.

Today I was stared at by people as I photographed a wooden hoarding around a construction site; to them, just a piece of painted wood (dark, dark blue), to me, a series of warped reflecting panels delivering a superb abstract of a railway bridge.

I eventually made it down to the Grand Union Canal, intending to go as far as where the canal crosses about 60 feet up, over the North Circular. However, the towpath was cordoned off so I diverted through Willesden and then Harlesden, seeking out urban decay, irony and abstracts.

Prepare to Meet Thy God. Harlesden
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative.

The weather was showing signs of deterioration, but the strong, low, early afternoon sun was doing a fine job of lighting the foreground with dramatic storm clouds off to the north. Nice, golden light. Yummy. I wandered back in the direction from where I had come through the Park Royal industrial estates and came across The Old Torpedo Factory.

The Old Torpedo Factory, Park Royal
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative.

Eventually, I picked up the canal towpath I had used outbound earlier in the day and strolled back towards the direction of home, keeping an eye on the cloud/sun combination in the west and the very dark clouds massing in the North. I was well rewarded with some mega-dramatic light. Which meant it was time for my camera battery to die. Fortunately, using tricks discussed before, I managed to eke out the last few shots as the rain started to fall and the magic light was obliterated by the rain.

The Yellow Pole and the Approaching Storm. Car Giant, Willesden.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative.

The wind and rain picked up sufficiently to destroy my brand new Evening Standard umbrella within a minute of popping its cherry, forcing me to seek shelter in various doorways and rain shadows cast by buildings... But it was worth it. Dig the rest of the photographs.

Walk along the Regents Canal

Yesterday was one of those lovely, crisp winter days. The sky was clear, and looking out of my window, I knew that I'd never forgive myself if I stayed indoors, out of the cold. It was very cold.

Merge with the sky. King's Place is a new building beside the canal, housing amongst other things, a classical music venue and gallery spaces.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Convergence, King's Place.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

I have for a while been thinking about doing a walk home from King's Cross along the Regents Canal through Camden, so weighed down with my trusty Manfrotto tripod (ball head) and my bag of camera stuff, I took the overground train the Euston and zig-zagged through the streets, under St Pancras Station and eventually ended up at the Canal where my favourite old warehouses are being redeveloped into scenes of swankiness. They have helpfully placed displays with artist's impressions of the finished development. Tragic. The soul will be ripped out of those old buildings as they are "sanitised" by the architect's pen.

Warehouses awaiting conversion.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

But I will save ranting about that for another day. Perhaps when the redevelopment is complete. In the meantime, the lovely brick facades are still there to be appreciated in all their decaying glory.

Warehouses awaiting conversion.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

I absolutely love the Regent's canal - its part of the Grand Union Canal system and I have cycled along it from Limehouse Basin to Watford - or the other way to Brentford several times. Every time I've cycled, I have wished I'd brought my camera - but I cannot carry a SLR on my bike - too much stuff already what with my Camelbak etc. I have long intended to get a compact camera to take with me on cycle rides. I digress.

Water Under the Bridge. I like the simplicity of this image.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

So unencumbered by my bike and my Camelbak etc, I had my camera and decided that rather than go for the scenic or urban landscape shots that abound (in everyone else's camera) I'd do a little more on my abstracts project.

Languid Liquid 2.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

It was quite breezy so chances to photograph languid, oily ripples were few, but I did get some shots. I also got buildings, bridges (the underside) and the Maida Vale tunnel. The last of the autumn leaves were floating on the surface and created a gorgeous contrast between the blackness of the water and their own bright colours.

The House By the Canal.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Under the Bridge.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Naturally, as I was hitting my stride photographically and nearing Little Venice, my camera battery died. I think it was a combination of the cold and the fact that it is an ancient battery is why it died after only 60 exposures. I also believe my ancient lenses guzzle power. Growl.

Maida Vale Tunnel.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

I met up with my friends Ian and Heather and went to the Regent where I had a visitation from Mr Cider. Four times. Thanks Ian, thanks Heather!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The recession: Stop carping. Carpe Diem!

So there's a recession. The dreaded beast has officially arrived and all the businesses in the world are going to collapse. We'll all end up beggars and that's just the way life is.

No! This recession is going to be the making of many small businesses if they are prepared to swim against the current. I was reading Vincent Laforet's excellent blog about "The Perfect Storm" where he examines the impact of the economic crisis on photographers. He warns us that (particularly in America) business is starting to dry up and that many publications are likely to go to the wall. Budgets have been so severely cut that some publishers have NO advertising booked for 2009. That's the cold that America has and we're going to catch it.

But where some see gloom and doom, I see opportunity. I think this "perfect storm" will allow the savvy amongst smaller businesses to come out of the shadows and into the light. Now is the time for compact, agile businesses to go for the opportunities that were once the exclusive reserve of the big ticket players.

Be a piranha

If you've ever seen piranhas feeding, you'll notice how many of them make short work of the body they are feeding on, not by taking large bites, but by taking little chunks. And that's what small businesses need to do - take lots of little bites. While times are tough, remain a piranha, don't try to become a shark. Don't worry too much about expanding your business, because you'll also grow your overheads. If you're doing well, perhaps tweak your pricing upwards so you can save more money - you don't want to become a lumbering behemoth right now, but being cash rich would put you in a much more powerful position.

Twice as much marketing for half the budget

Increase your marketing activity if you want to keep busy or sell more product. You're a small business - a sassy street kid. Be street smart and hustle. Its time for clever, low cost marketing initiatives. Again, small businesses are far better positioned than the giants to seek out new opportunities and if you're smart, you can do it for almost free. But remember, you are growing your brand so make sure that whatever you do, you still reflect the values that underpin your brand, your corporate image. Low cost marketing should never be cheap and nasty - use an expert!

Lean on the desperate.

That sounds brutal. It is. But "the desperate" in the world of marketing are the media. Their revenues are falling dramatically. If you want to buy advertising space or time, now's your opportunity. Negotiate - you're in a powerful position.

Use a sniper's rifle.

Be clever with your targeting. I think that during a recession its better to go with more tightly targeted marketing rather than a scatter gun approach. Pick off prospects one-by-one and work harder to convert them.

Give them some love

The customers you won during the recession will stay loyal when its over, but only if you build on their loyalty. Keep on showing them some love. Keep in touch with them. Charm them. Keep it fresh.

None of the above are especially insightful or brilliant ideas. They are all dead simple. There are so many ways - most of them are common sense - for your business to flourish right now. Carpe Diem!

Friday, November 14, 2008


I have been doing my most annoying thing: Procrastinating. About everything. This is very irritating as it means that little is achieved as I dilly-dally. Weighing up options quickly morphs into making excuses not to do something and when I use that excuse, I end up with regrets. The answer is to get off my arse and get on with it! So I will.

First off, some very exciting news in the world of photography. Red have at last announced a much anticipated camera system. Only its not a system. It is a mere - wait for it - 2,251,799,813,685,248 systems. This announcement is huge news for photography and for film making as the cameras all shoot RAW format video and stills with staggering quality. I am in lust. No, more than that, I am a hopelessly smitten wreck of a man and will no doubt be found wandering naked and weeping through the cold wet streets of London muttering platitudes to the people at Red.

A note about Red. This is a company that knows how to market a new product. Having followed their progress since their earliest mock-up and rumour days, I have noticed how they have built up an incredibly loyal fanbase of potential customers and like me, wishful thinkers. Their approach to customers is fresh and honest. They tell us not to expect delays in availability, but to count on them. And until recently, they told us loud and proud on the front page of their website that those with a bad attitude will not be served. Us followers like that. We are a community, not just numbers.

Red's Head Honcho Jim Jannard, is very active in the Red community. He participates in the forums (fora for the purists). He is "one of us". Compared to the Canon, Nikon and Sony, et al ivory tower approach, Red is a shining light.

For more information and the usual well written, well thought out summary of this remarkable system, visit The Luminous Landscape.


This last weekend, I did two walks, both of which yielded some very satisfying photographs.

On Saturday I was invited to help celebrate my very good friend Ian's birthday at his place in Wapping. I decided, in spite of the almost torrential rain to hoik my camera along and bang off a few shots around Butlers Wharf on the South Bank. Unfortunately, I did see a few very good opportunities, but was unwilling to risk soaking my camera. It ain't weather sealed.

Eventually the rain eased and I started shooting:

An alley off Shad Thames near Tower Bridge
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

The sun broke through eventually...
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

After the rain...
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Once the rain had stopped, I crossed Tower Bridge and by one of its towers stopped to photograph the reflections. I got some very pleasing photographs - the surface and the ripples giving them a nice painterly look, the colours subdued and the contrasts high.

Together at the yellow line
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Alone at the yellow line.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

The afternoon sun had by now broken through in the south west and with the moisture diffusion in the air, was casting a lovely warm golden light as I headed down the Thames towards Wapping. There is a lovely, usually unpopulated wharf just downstream of the entrance to St Katherine Dock with benches overlooking the Thames. Its one of my best kept secrets, as usually people walking along the river don't know that its there. The afternoon light was playing beautifully across the benches and the paving stones. Under exposing as I usually do in an attempt to preserve some highlight detail, I got these photographs. I'm rather pleased:

Benches, Capital Wharf
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Benches 2, Capital Wharf
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

On Sunday, I once again had to drop my very hard working other half at her office so I parked up there in the City and proceded towards Whitechapel. I was on the hunt for squalor and urban decay - I got it by the spadefull!

Milk and Cigarettes, Quaker Street, Spitalfields
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

I found, just off Brick lane, some derelict Victorian buildings. One had a Rickshaw cycle type thing dangling from its upper railings. I could not isolate it the way I wanted to but took some shots anyway before moving round to the front of the building.

Dangling Rickshaw, Whitechapel
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Moving round to the front, I was setting up my tripod when the front door of one of the crumbling houses opened, revealing a tall thin man and a short, (very short) dumpy old woman. I was a bit surprised - I had a hunch that the building was occupied, thanks to the notices to the bailiffs informing them of the rights of the current occupiers. But I never expected one of the squatters to be an old lady of seventy-something. She seemed very friendly and intelligent and started to tell me the history of the area and the buildings. I asked her if I could take her picture, but she declined, offering her 'son' as a subject instead, before toddling off along the cobbled street towards Brick Lane.

I Think His Name Was Andy, Whitechapel
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

I Think His Name Was Andy 2, Whitechapel
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Fuck Off Bailiff Scum!
An "Arts Collective's" HQ, Whitechapel

Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

I eventually arrived at Shadwell DLR and took the line to West India Quay by mistake, so walked the short distance to Poplar station where I could head further east. I Got off the train at Custom House and made my way down to the Royal Albert Dock, opposite London City Airport. There was a bitterly cold wind blowing and I was under dressed, having learnt the previous weekend that being warm = sweating a lot once I get going. There is a massive, modern office building opposite Royal Albert DLR station that still appears to have few, if any tennants. Its been like that for a few years. I'd love to work there with its view of City airport and the water. The tragedy of Royal Abert Dock is that there is very little going on there. There's a massive Chinese Restaurant and there's a rowing club. At the other end, there is a the University of East London campus and in the middle, two magnificent (derelict) Victorian buildigs. There's nothing moored there. No Dutch barges. Sigh.

I walked the length of the dock and then crossed over the Sir Steve Redgrave bridge, overlooking Gallion's Point Marina. Just the one Dutch Barge, an "Aak". Not my cup of tea. I headed for the River Thames and made my way upstream as the sky darkened.

Derelict Pier, North Woolwich
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

The rain started falling and thanks to the cold, my camera battery died so I sought shelter, eventually finding The Henley, a 1970s style pub, clearly West Ham United territory. I'm football agnostic but still made a show of not caring who was winning the Chelsea/Blackburn game on the big screen. The landlady allowed me to charge my battery and I had a Coke, looking enviously at the pints being drunk by Big Merv (who can, no doubt, do you a bit of a 'favour') and his mates. All good East End boys. There was a food van outside serving pie, mash and liquour. I'd just eaten my Tesco's submarine roll. Bugger.

After waiting a while for my lying battery charger to tell me that the battery was charged, (it wasn't) I collected up my goodies, under the watchful eyes of Merv and his mates and made my way out into the once again dry outdoors. I walked down past the Tate & Lyle factory, past the derelict Graving Dock Tavern and eventually found myself at the Thames Barrier Park.

Thames Barrier, London
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Yet again, and after only a few photographs, my camera batter died so I decided to head back into town, pick up my car and go home. It was quite a trek to Canning Town station - the DLR stations on this stretch were all closed for maintenance. Eventually, footsore, thirsty and frustrated with my lack of battery I got to Canning town and took the DLR to Bank in The city. Where I got lost. For ages.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

This blog is made from recycled binaries

I am a person who is interested in all things "green". I think it stems more from my coming from Africa and the wildlife conservation efforts I supported there, than from my time in the UK where I have been turned into a major sceptic.

In Zimbabwe, being Green was simple and it was ingrained. First off, its a poor country and what we throw away in Europe, is not necessarily rubbish there. I have personally seen a rather restrained argument between children out in Zimbabwe's Sticks as to who would get the plastic milk bottle left behind by the bunch of rich white mountain bikers (a long story for another day). You see, when people are properly poor, a plastic bottle is not rubbish. I wish I could say the same about plastic bags - although I have seen garments crocheted from them.

In Zimbabwe we had our Cokes in bottles - and could reclaim about a third of the drink's cost by returning the empty bottle. Each bottle was used on average, five times. The same for wine bottles - queues at the supermarket as empty bottles were converted back into cash. I still believe Zimbabwe led the way on being careful with its resources. Sanctions can be a good thing. We made a plan.

Now let me put the spotlight on the UK (well, the "first world"). Here, anxious people have seen the very real need for proper conservation measures to be put in place. I agree. We need to tidy up our act and stop generating so much pollution in all its guises. And we need to consume less.

Most importantly we need to become even more sensitised to "green" issues. They DO need to dominate our lives. We DO need to make sure our planet survives and we DO, God willing, have the power in our hands to make this happen. But we have to learn to see the sustainable forest for the trees. We must learn to separate real Green policies from the dross that clever money-grubbing people - politicians - try to impose on us.

I have a real suspicion about carbon trading. Now, I will confess I don't understand the whole ins-and-outs of carbon trading/offsetting and I'm not really driven to understand it. Its too complicated and I'm too thick. My suspicion arises from the word, "trading". To me, "trading" is another word for shifting. It isn't, as far as I can tell, reducing carbon output, indeed, I'm sure that a clever Chinese person (for they make the most carbon dioxide/pollution) will figure out a way of generating huge profits from creating even more carbon dioxide and "trading" it.

I think the west could learn an awful lot from good old Zimbabwe. We'd all recycle dilligently if we could get money back on our rubbish. If each can of beans cost 10p more in the supermarket and we could get that 10p back...all cans would be recycled. Ditto for bags. Ditto bottles.

If cars under say, 1600cc were sold fuel at 10% less than other cars, people would buy less polluting cars. (Okay a lot of this is happening, but the reward measures are rather more subtle).

So I have exposed my ignorance about clever green measures, but now I want to have a proper rant. Because what I really hate is the Green Bandwagon and how just about every Tom, Dick and Harry is clambering aboard.

Saying your company is "Green" is not good enough. It does not make you Green. Nor does the "Are you sure you need to print this email". It helps, but come on! The boss still pitches up in his V8 Range Rover. They still book flights to Paris when the Eurostar would do. And they still leave every light in the building blazing all bloody night, every monitor on screensave and the air conditioning plant running.

But what turns me into a rancid, dripping, oozing well of scorn and contempt is my own industry. It will, without a second thought and without even the vaguest connection the the real issues at hand, attempt to inject greeness into just about everything. Advertising has a duty to communicate and support matters green. It does not have a right however, to inject faux green into everything. Especially when it doesn't even work as an ad.

I am talking about an ad that I hear on Heart 106.2 (woo-hoo I live wild! - their 4 song playlist is deserving of its own, special rant) almost every morning. Some earnest person (I cannot even remember the gender, let alone the product or brand they are advertising) rattles on for a bit and then tells us right at the end, "This ad is made from recycled sound clips". DIE!

Tell me how on earth recycled soundclips are going to save even one picojoulle of energy. I have little doubt that several agency bods - lets see, copywriter, radio commercials producer, account director, account executive and client - all scurried across London in taxis, tubes, buses etc to the studio where it was recorded, spent hours of electricity digging up samples, editing and fiddling and yet STILL used a specially recorded voiceover to tell us that the commercial was made from recycled soundclips!

Breathe, Paul, breathe!

I am totally confident that the agency that created that ad will have entered it in just about every awards show. I am almost sure that they probably held a wrap party for the client and a dozen or so hangers-on when the ad was completed, congratulating each other in a circle-jerk of green euphoria. "Aren't we so cutting edge, Tarquin!" Idiots. I am also certain that they charged an enormous amount of money so that the Account Director can afford to put petrol in his Range Rover and pay the agency's leccy bill.

We have made a mess of our planet and yes, its up to us, the individuals that make the mess to clean it up. What we need are real measures, not the flaky, difficult-to-grasp 'scams' err schemes. Lets start by recycling some of the bandwagonning filth that people the advertising industry. Wannna buy some bonemeal?

And now for something nice: Help fund a scholarship

Leading photographer and film maker Vincent Laforet is asking fellow photogs/bloggers to help him fund a photography student scholarship by placing this CLEVER Photoshelter Falsh gallery on your page:

Check here for details.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Help stop this terrible waste of a brilliant talent

I come from Zimbabwe. It is a country that I love, populated by a people that I love and ruled by a monster who I hate. Properly, fundamentally and all-consumingly hate. I cannot summon up enough obscenity to describe my hatred for Robert Mugabe. But I don't want to talk about him. I want to talk about my very good friend, L.

L is a very senior advertising copywriter, editor and wordsmith at large - arguably Zimbabwe's top talent in that field. Twenty-two years of experience. She still lives there, unlike me, who got out eight years ago. Despite everything - the horrific political situation and the utter destruction of the economy, L like the majority of Zimbabweans, has managed to survive because Zimbabweans do one thing very well: they "make a plan". "Making a plan" should actually read, "finding a way to get round yet another hugely difficult obstacle".

But things have rapidly ground to a complete halt in Zimbabwe. Inflation which ran into the stratosphere has finally completely killed the local currency. This means that it is pretty much worthless. If you want to buy something now, pay in US dollars. And for many Zimbabweans, that is a problem because Zimbabwe ain't earning much of any currency right now - it has almost nothing to export and a wasteland of a productive sector. Thanks, Mugabe.

L, now desperate to earn foreign currency so she and her dependents (dependents = children, domestic workers, domestic workers' children, her retired mother, extended family, pets and others to whom she happily gives) can buy food and other basic staples, is coming over to the UK to train as a carer. Yes, to learn how to wipe old peoples' arses. It seems Zimbabweans are good carers - and I know L would be brilliant. She's a very kind, gentle woman. But this is bullshit!

I do not want to devalue the work of carers at all, but L is a WRITER. A bloody good writer who, to be frank, could outclass some of the very top copywriters over here in the UK. Her skill is very hard-won. Like all other Zimbabweans, copywriters have had to invent and innovate their way around problems one does not encounter in any other country. Her skills have been honed under the most difficult marketing conditions and she's been successful. Her clients have benefited. She has held several Creative Directorships and she has won awards. Lots of them.

She is conscientious. She used to work with me and I have seen her burning midnight oil, often. I have seen her battling to improve a piece of writing that is more than good enough. Her career matters so much to her. I write copy because I have to. She writes copy because it fulfills her. Every comma, every full stop she places is agonised over. Her delete button is probably worn through because I remember how before she had a computer, she used to cross-out and re-write the same sentence sometimes dozens of times.

She has written to overseas agencies asking for work but with the storm of job applications that lands daily on the desks of creative Directors across the world, she has not managed to get much work. Those who do read her application and her CV are doubtless impressed but hell, "Zimbabwe's a long way away. It just wouldn't work." Rubbish!

  • Zimbabwe, give or take an hour or two, is in the same timezone as the UK.
  • From my own experience I can tell you that I have some clients in London, the same city as me, who I have never met, communicating only through emails and phone calls.
  • Sophistication is not an issue. The one thing I discovered once joining the creative industry in the UK is that it is actually not much more sophisticated or clever than that of Zimbabwe's. Just look at the fecking Halifax ads!
  • L would cost a fraction of the hourly rate of a UK writer and deliver huge bang for the buck
  • She has UK right of abode
Much as I admire L's "I'll do whatever it takes" approach, I am not having it.

Advertising is a horrible, cut-throat industry. Very few people like L survive - she's too nice. Too gentle. I fear for her. I fear that the industry that she has loved, immersed herself in, helped to drive, helped to improve, won't give her anything back. She'll get swept aside in the wake of the race to win more D&AD awards, more Cleos.

I also know that there are people in the advertising industry who understand the value of people like L. People who when they read this will bother to contact me. People who want, like a Zimbabwean, to make a plan.

Please contact me. Please pass this on. I have her CV and her portfolio here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Making me angry...

A few months ago, I was on my bicycle cycling alongside the Thames on Cheyenne Walk in Chelsea, when an attractive young lady walking with her boyfriend, loudly pointed out to me that I should not have been cycling on the pavement. I chose to ignore her, but she maybe had a point: I had indeed narrowly missed ramming my bicycle into her and her beloved by the narrowest of skimpy margins (about 5 or 6 metres -that's thrity feet to the imperialists) and considering the lightning-fast pace I was cycling at (a neck-breaking 12 kilometres an hour - I was ogling Dutch Barges) she surely had escaped a bloody and violent death by a gnat's whisker.

A few hundred yards further on I stopped to more comprehensively ogle the Dutch barge and she and her gentleman friend caught up. She then proceded to remonstrate with me about cycling on the pavement. I listened. She lectured me most thoroughly and seemed sure that she had savaged me enough with her verbal thrashing but I had a reply. It was as follows: "Lady. It is a nice sunny day and you are having a lovely walk. Enjoy it! There is no need to be officious. If you care to look at that sign, it most clearly states that I am on one of London's many cycle routes. Now get off my bloody cycle track!"

And therein lies the nub of what I want to bitch about today: Officiousness. I am a public minded person. Indeed, I'd be a "have-a-go-hero" if the chance arose. I don't like seeing the law deliberately broken and I hate yobbishness. People who know me, know that it was I who put the Serial Spitter of Ascot Station in his place (a yob with a spitting habit). But I cannot abide people who feel it is their duty to correct me or others when we are going about our perfectly legal business.

What makes me even more angry, is when those who should know better get in on the act. People like policemen. I saw an item on this blog which made my blood boil. Properly. It had a YouTube clip of policemen harassing a photographer for the crime of taking photographs. Its well worth a look.

Now lets get this in perspective: Yes, there is a terror threat. Yes, it is likely that terror plotters will want to take pictures of their targets, and yes, it is possible to look suspicious when taking photographs. I get that and understand that the policeman's use of discretion is flexible and that he has a right to ask what is going on...

BUT: If a policeman were to ask me whether I had a licence or a permit to take photographs, I would then make it my sworn duty to get the half-witted, ignorant hobbledehoy dismissed from his job. Because surely a policeman should at least have a basic grasp of the law? Of what is and isn't illegal? Do these cretins (and I do not mean the majority of police, who I love and wish to buy presents and sing to, I mean the minority of officious uniformed no-hopers amongst their numbers) not have the capacity to compute that there are camera shops? They are legal? There are camera buyers who are also legal? And there are camera users who are in the main, legal too? Clearly not.

It is as stupid, yes STUPID, as the Zimbabwean soldiers and policemen who several years ago caught a "spy" taking photographs of the Mazowe Satellite Station from the side of a main road. It was only when it was pointed out by the "spy's" lawyers that a photograph from the same angle of the satellite station was on the cover of every telephone directory that the case was dropped. Idiots. But clearly not confined only to Zimbabwe, where they have taken idiocy to new and impressive heights.

(This also reminds me of when those UK plane spotters were arrested in Greece for taking pics of Greek Air Force jets. It was a serious situation and people were genuinely worried for the annoraks. The Greeks were outraged that their aeroplanes were being photographed. They were classified aircraft! Top secret! Bollox. Jeremey Clarkson was so outraged that he published a full list of the Greek Air force's Fleet which he'd obtained from the internet.)

Now, if I were a terrorist and I wanted to take sneaky shots, I'd use a small discrete camera. Ditto, if I was a pervert and wanted to take pics up skirts (it happens). In fact, you know what? I'd use my camera phone! Damn I'm sneaky! Hell, I might even take photos of my friends right there in my targeted building, capturing at the same time, whatever it is that terrorists want to see in photos (70 naked virgins apparently). And if a policeman were to question me, I'd tell him to stop infringing my legal rights. But humour aside, you'd have to be a very unlucky little terrorist to be arrested for using your camera phone. If you were using a big DSLR however, you're almost as good as busted. No more 70 virgins for you!

Here in the UK its almost becoming socially unacceptable to carry a camera. Parents see a someone carrying a DSLR and recoil in horror at the "pervert" sharing the same tube carriage as them and their snotty little children. What they don't notice as they keep an eye on the dirty, dirty bastard photographer is the nice dude in the sunglasses sitting opposite their daughter, looking up her skirt, happily snapping picture after picture as he 'texts' his buddy.

So what to do? I sympathise with the police and understand the need for the public to be vigilant. But I also sympathise with myself and my fellow photographers. I'd say its pretty much 100% certain that if you can see the camera, the photographer poses no threat. So look for people without cameras and arrest them all.

Smoking Saves Lives!

So...put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sunday's Walk

As I promised myself, I went for a walk with my camera in one of the grunkier parts of the East End. I had to take my other half to work in The City so I parked the car outside her office and proceded to zig-zag my way through The City, passing through The Barbican's towering edifices,

Barbican. Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

nipping down alleys and eventually made my way onto Cable Street, heading for Canary Wharf.

Never Mind the Bollards, Here's the Barbican. Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Cable Street has a fine resonance with me as The Ghosts of Cable Street by The Men They Couldn't Hang is one of the few songs I can play on my guitar. I found a fantastic old building with a superb mural on its side, depicting the riot that kicked off when Mosley's Fascists were confronted by just about everyone. A good thing too!

Cable Street Mural. Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Cable Street Mural detail. Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

I picked up the DLR at Shadwell and got off at Canning Town where I began phase 2 of the afternoon: The Ghetto Walk! Sort of.

Millennium Cafe.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Millennium Cafe II.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

It didn't take me long to find the sort of pictures I was after - and the edginess is, as hoped, there in the pictures. I think its amazing how some unintended 'symbols' really do affect one's feeling of security, broken window panes being one such symbol.

Crazed Lock-up.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Not knowing the area that well did mean that couldn't navigate my way to exactly where I wanted to go. After daring to enter the meanest, darkest, smelliest and most scary-stuff-strewn staircase,
The Meanest, Darkest, Smelliest and Most Scary-Stuff-Strewn Staircase. It looks quite tame, but all two-hundred-and-something pounds of me was spooked and almost gagging with the stink. I didn't hang around to do a clever set-up; shoot and run!
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative.

I ended up walking along the North Woolwich Road cursing my bad judgement - it was all a bit sterile. The light was fantastic and there were some lovely clouds - I got a few keepers but wished I was nearer the Thames, on some properly mean streets.

Millennium Web.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

As the sun was setting I managed to get a few more quite acceptable shots although my camera battery did die. Thanks to a trick I taught myself, I managed to eke out a few more shots.

Fisherman's tale.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Good Workman Blames His Tools

Today (now yesterday) has been a long day. Up at 05.30 to prepare for a trip to Warwick to do a shoot of trainees being trained by trainers. Got there no problem but was already tired - the M40 was fast-running but very busy, so big eyes!

I shot pictures. Indeed, I shot about 200 frames from which probably only 4 or 5 will ever be used. I had to shoot the trainees being trained by the trainers whilst the trainers were actually training the trainees which presents its own unique problems. Two of the trainees who were being trained...etc didn't want their pictures to be taken - fair enough, but please ladies, bugger off to the side so you don't appear in every bloody shot.

Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

So yes, it was difficult - Me trying to be unobtrusive. Me trying to shoot shots in the same style as I've always shot for this particular client - i.e. crawling around, getting cramp, pushing my wide angle lens up against people's hands etc. Me trying to be unobtrusive as I bang off shot after shot with my flashgun flashing, my tripod clattering and huffing and puffing like the fat middle-aged man that I am, crouched in peculiar pants-splitting positions. Net result? I failed to be unobtrusive and probably ruined the morning session of the course. Sorry.

Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

But I got my shots. Well, sort of. I had my usual white balance issues as I shot under a mixture of daylight, florescent and fecking low voltage bastard eco lights that turn everything greeny-yellow. Nothing that Adobe Lightroom cannot put right though. (I LOVE lightroom). I have also learned the hard way to radically underexpose on my very elderly Canon 10 D so that I will get at least some detail in the highlights. Which is great, except that I then have to put up with noisy shadow tones (yes, even at ISO 200 its noisy). Add to that my very old, slow, noisy lenses (no image stabilisation here!) and you'll understand why I have to do a fair amount of rescue work in Lightroom and photoshop.

Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Its beginning to really grind me down. Make no mistake, my ancient Canon 10D is still a very, very good camera. But its very hard to be happy with something when you know its way, way behind what is available.

I have long grown jaded with the whole "Great Megapixel Race". Yes, more pixels are theoretically better, but 6 million good pixels will trounce 10 million bad pixels. Many of the world's most respected camera reviewers will pick out Nikon's 12Mpx D700 as having the best in class image quality - yet its up against Canon's superb 21Mpx 1D MkIII. But yes, I want some more megapixels because I need them. Need as opposed to want. I want to be able to crop images and still have some resolution left. But: There's no point in putting old lenses in front of a clever, big, sexy 21 Mpx sensor. They cannot resolve detail as minutely as the sensors can these days. So I need to get new glass too. Lots of it. The expensive kind!

My work is now suffering. Work, mind you, not the results. I am still very pleased with what I can get out of my workflow. But It takes so long.

Back to today: Where was I? Oh yes. I was shooting the trainees being trained by the trainers. Well, I finished that and packed up my gear, set the GPS for "Home" and began the most convoluted journey in the history of modern motoring. Now, I'm not stupid. I know that Warwick is near the M40. How do I know this? Simple: I got there via the M40. But Mr TomTom Had other ideas - I only wanted the GPS to help me navigate the Warwick one-way system, but I got sent off to Mogadishu. I'm sure I saw the turn-off for Vladivostock just after I'd traversed much of Siberia. I tell you, I saw a bunch of pole and dagga mud huts as I bypassed Johannesburg. I know what an Afrian elephant looks like and I swear I saw one! A whole herd, actually. Breathe, Paul, Breathe! Pure, undiluted idiocy from the makers of my satnav.

I eventually got home.

And then, much to my horror I discovered that the CF card with all of today's work on it had decided to have a post-halloween tantrum. Miss Lightroom (who I love and trust) told me there was nothing to import. And I believed her. I am quite sure that my beloved mummy reads this blog, so I will not write the words that I uttered. Suffice to say, they were "workshop" words.

After a little bit of a calming down session I fired up Photorecovery and to my enormous relief, all files were recovered in absolutely perfect condition. But it took a long time...

Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

So where does that leave us? In the space of just 2 weeks I have had two moans about my gear. Here is the previous one. So why don't I stop whingeing and get some new gear? Cost. Yes, I have underinvested in equipment and now I'm really feeling the bite. But on the upside, I can get significantly more bang for my buck when I do re-equip. There is no way I can afford a new rig but that hasn't been too much of an obstacle in the past. I will make a way of affording it. Oh, and a new Mac.

One more thing for the Design Police: USB wireless dongles. Why, oh why are they not on a short length of cable So that they flop and don't SNAP OFF WHEN SOMEONE IS USING THEIR LAPTOP AS A LAPTOP???????

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Its been a busy week

This week has been one of those nose-to-the-grindstone weeks. I am blessed with a rather full workload and am really beginning to feel like I could use a second pair of hands/eyes/talent to help me keep up - and to help me to continue delivering better and better creative to my clients.

Blue Spikes

What work have I got on? Well, lets see: A website, brochures and photography for a security and facilities management firm. Poster, packaging and other bits and pieces for my fine Chinese Food delivery client. Case study photography in Warwick for my very loyal client, CPIO. Ongoing brand identity work for a retail start-up in Cobham - everything from the logo through to the packaging, signage, shop colour scheme and vouchers. I also have an ongoing saga job tweaking a logo that requires, in my client's view, ever more tweaking, even when it looked its best at draft 1 stage. As usual.

Again, I have been greedily hoovering up photographs when I do my compulsory daily walk. Many are of the same things I have shot before, but with different light or another lens, the fast-changing seasonal vegetation etc all offer up quite an interesting diversity of images despite the 'sameness'.

Jah Man!

I'm hoping tomorrow to get some more pics (weather permitting) down near London City Airport. There are some fine derelict buildings and wastegrounds. I feel a real need to shoot the ugly stuff - there's more character in it. I want to go and take pictures where the possibility of being mugged is very real. Or being stuck thigh deep in the mud as the tide floods back in (umm on second thoughts...) I need to feel that there is some degree of risk involved - it will work its way into the images.

The Pigeon Gang's hangout. Same shot as this, just wider and on another day with different weather and lighting conditions. I used my 15 - 30 lens and pumped the blue saturation in Lightroom. I love the simplicity of this image.

For me, its obvious: the best photographs are the ones I've worked hardest for. I've gotten up at 3am on countless mornings and traveled miles to get the early dawn light. I've stood chest deep in the Thames at 7am on a cold, late September morning in Henley, photographing rowers - watched from the shore by a mystified pair of policemen wondering whether to arrest me, to call the men in white coats or to leave me be. They left me be in the end.

Mitre Bridge, The Underbelly. I so dig rivets. They give such an 'engineered' look to steel structures. Welding has sapped the character away from engineering. Next I'll be bitching about how digital has sapped the character from photography (it hasn't). Progress.

So yes, tomorrow I'm going to be a bit edgy. A bit out there. Whoa!

Wanna see more photographs? Visit my website.