London Is Anti-Fascist

When right wing nationalists plan a march, the Liberal left counter-marches on the same day. It creates a massive problem for the police though, and many of London’s busiest streets become closed to traffic to accommodate the protests.

rhdr

I spoke with a lovely Chinese woman at a bus stop and she asked me whether the protests were legal. I’m really grateful to be able to say that in the UK we have the democratic right to protest. I’m also excited to be living in such a diverse and multicultural city.

The democratic process means that all citizens have a right to protest. I don’t agree with the nationalist movements, I consider them to be racist and discriminatory, but I believe that they have a right to protest as well. If we pick and choose which citizens and groups can demonstrate then we break away from being a democracy. However, the police must enforce the marches so that demonstrators do not participate in hate crime. There is a difference between free speech and incitement to violence and/or hate talk.

oznorTO

I’m not a nationalist, I believe that all people were created equal, I value diversity, and I’m in favour of asylum, immigration and economic migration. So it was a pleasure to witness the anti-fascit groups marching today.

rhdr

Photographic Priorities – Refocusing – Planning Next Photo Essay

The feedback from my tutor, and my own reflections have demonstrated that I can express myself creatively. I have opinions, as do people who I may photograph. There are many questions about life, people, society and myself which I can explore through photography.

I see the work of OCA student Tanya Keane  in relation to women that have had abortions and their right to make decisions about their bodies, and I see photography with meaning and purpose.

This is the beginning of my photographic exploration and expression, and I can see with my photo essays on homelessness and also on autism, that if I focus, I can develop. I’m feeling inspired right now.

With that in mind I’m putting The Hobbit on the back burner. The coursework for part three of the Foundations in Photography gives me the opportunity to explore some social issues that have meaning to me, and I have some ideas to work with.

With my non coursework photography I have been given the opportunity to work with a writer, sociology graduate and blogger, Breanna. We are working on a photo essay “The Richness of Diversity, and the Harms of Racism and Discrimination”. Breanna will write the essay and I will make the photos and hold interviews with the photographed so that their voice is heard.

Feeling very grateful this evening.

Autism: Out Of The Box

It’s impossible in a short essay to cover autism in a manner that will be representative of everyone’s experience of autism.  In this essay, autism is used as a single term to provide linguistic consistency, rather than using the terms autistic spectrum disorders,  Aspergers, pervasive developmental disorder, or another diagnosis that fall within the autistic spectrum.

Photo 1-James-Barnett.and-border(James Barnett)

The medical terminology that defines autism as a “disorder” is unhelpful and many autistics would consider autism to be a neurodevelopmental disability or a neurological difference. Although diagnostic language can be offensive to some autistic people, being diagnosed can bring around an inner understanding, and enable additional support with education, personal care, mobility, housing, employment or finances. It is also recognised that the earlier a person is diagnosed and receives additional support, the more quickly they will develop, and the higher their quality of living will be.

Autism affects each person differently, and the intensity of symptoms can change depending upon current circumstances. However, autism is a neurodevelopmental disability which affects communication, thinking and imagination, social interaction, and sensory experiences.

Some autistics may be non-speaking or may have impaired intellect, whilst others may be authors, creatives, entrepreneurs, post-grads, students or employed. This is reflective of the non-autistic community. However, for those with autism, too much information, ambiguous and indirect presentation of information, and literal thinking, can make it difficult to gather, understand, process and respond to what’s being communicated. It’s as if the rest of the world has a secret code, and this confusion then creates misunderstanding which can lead to isolation. (Source Link 1)

Photo 2-Jen-Elcheson-with-border(Jen Elcheson)

When discussing social imagination Monique Botha says “I don’t mean that we lack any way in the form of imagination, because we’re writers, we’re poets, we’re scientists. We have these absolutely incredible minds, and we do wonderful things with them. It means that in a conversation, I genuinely won’t know what’s coming next… I won’t see it coming and part of that is because I struggle to read body language. Your faces all look the same to me, no offence. Which means you could be standing there getting aggressive, you could be getting really really angry with me and I’ll be like ‘oh yeah, hi’ which means that when you punch me I did not see that coming.” (Source Link 2)

Something that bothers me is how society tries to force autistics to fit into “our” interpretation of the world. We may think people are unusual if they don’t respond to our attempt at communication, if they wear noise-reducing headphones in the office, if they decline an invitation to a social event in a busy environment. Others may try to force eye contact. Why should autistics try to fit into our mental framework? Wouldn’t it be better if we tried to meet an autistic person on their terms?

Photo 3-Kerryn-Humphreys.jpg-with-Border(Kerryn Humphreys)

When discussing eye contact Monique Botha explains “with me, if I’m comfortable with someone I’ll look them in the eye, and it will be as intimate as kissing them on the cheek” (Source link 2). Imagine a colleague trying to kiss you on the cheek without your consent, how would that make you feel? Non-autistics may often be trying to build a bond or foster friendship by trying to force eye contact or communication. However, there are other, non-invasive ways to do so. Drop an email, explain a bit about yourself, you know – do the conversation/introduction stuff but without pressure, and if you do not get a reply don’t take it personally. Accept that the other person cannot communicate with you in that way today. Say hello another day, in passing, and don’t expect to get a reply. It’s not rudeness, the autistic person is having difficulty communicating, don’t judge, don’t make it into a big deal, because it isn’t. If someone is unable to communicate with you on your terms, don’t assume that they do not understand you. They do. If you’re genuine and sincere and don’t try to pressure them, given time and familiarity they may well approach you.

photo-4-Bo-Rex-Moore(Bo Rex Moore)

Hyper and hyposensitivity to sensory stimuli can overload autistic people, conversely, they can also be super developed career skills that are needed in the fields of quality assurance, IT, product testing, data analysis and engineering. On the negative side, an autistic child, on a hot sunny day, hungry, just before lunch, the whole class is shouting, the label in her jumper is scratching, someone drags their chair on the floor. Sensory overload. The child rocks on the floor, counts out loud and picks her skin until it bleeds. This is where diagnosis may be vital. A diagnosis may lead to a statement of special educational needs, and additional support in the classroom. This support means that the child is then calmed and soothed by a teaching assistant whilst the teacher carries on. Without this, autistic children can be labelled, excluded, and expelled. Expelled for being failed by the school and the state. It happens.

On the positive side, there are companies that seek out autistic people because of their hypersensitivity and how this is valued in the workforce. As Noah Britton says “Luckily this hypersensitivity can be very useful. We have an incredible bird of prey like the ability to detect differences in the visual environment very very quickly…There’s actually, a company called Aspiritech that hires autistic people only, because of this hypersensitivity, to do product testing, and figure out what differences there are between their website and the website they actually want” (Source link 3)

Aspiritech, Auticon and Goldman Sachs are a few of the businesses with a positive approach to autism, and which understand the benefits of having a neurodiverse workforce. A few years ago, Jonathan Young began a part term internship with Goldman Sachs. Because of his skills, talent and determination, he has turned a part-time position into a full-time post, and he has had regular promotions.  When discussing his career as a business analyst at Goldman Sachs, Jonathon says, “I’m the company’s global go-to guy for all the information used in every single one of our internal and external presentations…I’m moving up the ladder every year in terms of responsibility or promotion. My ambition is to maintain this momentum. In 10 years, I want to be someone fairly big.” (Source link 4)

However, this is far from the norm. In the UK only 16% of autistic adults are in employment. Forty-three percent of autistic adults that have found employment will be sacked because they don’t fit in socially, despite their productivity and performance being more than adequate. They can do the job and yet nearly half of them will find themselves sacked. Of those that do remain in employment, only 10% will have support to ensure they can fit in to the working environment. We are more than letting autistic people down, we are causing harm either by our actions or lack of them. “in the UK, just 16% of autistic adults are in full-time employment, according to the National Autistic Society. And yet research has shown autistic traits can be associated with high numbers of unusual responses on divergent thinking tasks; a mark of creativity, which is sought after by ambitious start-ups. Meanwhile, research from University of Montreal suggests that people with autism are up to 40% better at problem-solving” (Source link 5)

The research also shows that when companies do employ autistic people then their organisation and employees benefit from it. Autistic people have a whole array of skills that are required in a healthy thriving, working environment. They are especially good at problem solving, because they have a unique perspective on the world, and can see things that their neurotypical colleagues over look. Some recent research into the costs/benefits of having autistic employees found that the “Overall, the impact of having an employee with ASD in the workplace was overwhelmingly positive …particularly in regard to increasing awareness of ASD, and in promoting a culture of inclusion. Employees with ASD also contributed new creative and different skills to the work environment and positively impacted on workplace morale.” (Source link 6)

Marcelle Ciampi is one of the contributors and co-author of this blog. She is a recruitment consultant, and she recruits people to be software testers from home. 70% of the workforce are autistic. Being able to work from home is a relief for many autistics as it means there is no social pressure to interfere with you work. Marcelle works for ultra testing, it a large organisation and has many varied opportunities for work.

Photo 5-puzpiece-with-border(Kimberly Tucker)

Now here’s the negative side of diagnosis. When talking about societies need to label people with mental illness and disorders, Jon Ronson says “We seem to love nothing more than to declare other people insane. We love to reduce people to their outermost aspects, to the aspects of their personalities that might be labelled mental disorders. All this is creating a more conservative, conformist age…. when we reduce people to their flaws. Look we’re saying, we’re normal, this is the average, we are defining the boundaries of normality by labelling those on the outside of it” (Source link 7)

Photo 6-red-and-white-with-Border(Amalena)

This is where we need to take autism out of the box. Autistic people are not a set of symptoms and diagnosis. “Autistic people are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, co-workers and employees, students and teachers, friends and relatives, neighbours and community members. You probably know an autistic person. Autistic people have different abilities, different needs, different interests, and different personalities.” (Source link 8)

When we as are society label people as “others” we de-humanise them and we open the floodgates of discrimination. Do we discriminate against autistic people? Is it as bad as this really?

According to the United Nations “Discrimination against autistic person’s, [is] the rule rather than the exception”. (Source link 9)

The discrimination against autistic people is severe. On a societal level the discrimination means that we are being deprived of the presence, skills, talents, colleagues and friendships of autistic people. That’s a huge loss. On a personal level the stress of discrimination is tragic. Anxiety and depression are more prevalent in the autistic community than the non-autistic community. 1 in 4 non-autistics will experience depression in their life time. If you’re autistic that statistic goes up to nearly 3 in 4 people, 75%. As awful as this is, when it comes to suicidality it gets worse. 64% of autistic people live with suicidal thoughts. Now let’s be clear about this, anxiety, depression and suicidality are not diagnostic symptoms of autism. These experiences are as a direct result of the discrimination and stresses that are common in minority groups. These statistics come from the research of Monique Botha. An autistic scholar who is applying the Minority Stress Model to autism, as part of her PhD. (source link 2)

She goes on to explain that scientists have now found a way to reverse the autistic genes in mice. She questions why do we try and find cures and fund drugs instead of accepting and accommodating the strength and colour of diversity.

Will we put up with this? I think not. I hope not. With between 1% and 2% of the population being autistic then the chances are that you know someone with autism. Why does society find it easier to try and cure or medicate people, rather than accept them for being who they are?

Why do we need to accept autism?

“Because autistic people are your friends, family members, children, partners, co-workers, fellow-citizens, customers, and neighbours.

Because autism is a natural part of the human experience.

Because autistic rights are human rights.

Because autistic people can speak for ourselves, and we want you to listen to us.

Because we aren’t going anywhere.

Because this is our world too.

Because there are all kinds of minds, and this world is big enough for all of us.” (Source Link 10)

Photo 7-Awoken.jpg-with-border(Marcelle Ciampi, AKA Samantha Craft)

 

Authors

Richard Keys, Amalena, Bo Rex Moore, James Barnett, Jen Elcheson, Kerryn Humphreys, Kimberly Tucker, Marcelle Ciampi

Additional Thanks to Judy from Actually Autistic Blogs List

 

Source Links

1 – Autism Initiatives; Symptoms of Autism; Online at: (http://www.autisminitiatives.org/about-autism/what-is-autism/symptoms-of-autism.aspx)

2 – Botha, M; 2016; A Quick Trip To My Home Planet; Surrey University; TEDx; Online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCAErePScO0

3 – Britton, N; 2015; Autism: give me a chance and I will change everything; New England College; TEDx; Online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkD9d8qzB-g

4 – Hill, A; 2013; Autism doesn’t hold me back. I’m moving up the career ladder; Online at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/08/autism-career-ladder-workplace

5 – Davis, H; 2017; Forget stereotypes … how to recruit talented, neurodiverse employees; Online at: https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2017/aug/31/forget-stereotypes-talented-neurodiverse-recruitment-entrepreneurs

6 – Scott, M, et al; 2017; Employers’ perception of the costs and the benefits of hiring individuals with autism spectrum disorder in open employment in Australia; Online at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0177607#sec008

7 – Ronson, J; 2014; Declaring Other People Insane: Marthas Vineyard; TEDx; Online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnGAjiALurI

8 – The Autistic Self Advocacy Network; Autism Acceptance Month: Acceptance is an action; Online at: http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/what-is-autism/

9 – United Nations Human Rights. Office of the High Commissioner; 2015; World Autism Awareness Day – Thursday 2 April 2015; Online at

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15787

10 – The Autistic Self Advocacy Network; Autism Acceptance Month: Acceptance is an action; Online at: http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/about

11 – Ultra Testing; Online at: http://ultratesting.us/

Autism: Out Of The Box, was a collaboration between Richard Keys, James Barnett, Jen Elcheson, Kerryn Humphreys, Bo Rex Moore, Marcelle Ciampi, Kimberly Tucker, and Amalena.

With Special thanks to Judy from Actually Autistic Blog List

It has been kindly published by The Sociological Mail

 

Proud of Pride

Pride is a celebration of diversity and gender in all of its many forms. It’s an opportunity for the LGBTQ community, friends, family and supporters to gather together and be proud of being who we are. Being visible as a community means that equality and diversity can be promoted and homophobia and discrimination can be challenged by presence and a carnival atmosphere.

Pride Portraits and Organisers/Sponsors Now Online – Lightroom Adjustment Brush and Airbrushing Portraits – Big Tip for Skin at the Bottom of the Page

The series that I will keep for my portfolio will be 24 of my favourite/meaningful photos of the day. I am currently reviewing the contact sheet and will select  the final 24 from 40 over the weekend.

I have uploaded the portraits and the Pride Makers on my website. I will include a few at the bottom of this blog.

Portraits Page OnePortraits Page TwoPride Makers

I have used a lot of the skills that I have learned on Foundations in Photography with making and developing these photos. I am more aware of how ISO, shutter speed and aperture affect lighting, grain and depth of field. With some of the portraits I felt anxious and I didn’t check to make sure that I had all of what I wanted to include in the frame, at other times my anxiety wasnt so bad and it was clear that I took more time.

It wasnt the kind of environment where distractions could be avoided altogether, but the people I photographed were happy to move so that I could light them more effectively or get rid of the background distractions. This was something that got easier as the day progressed and I became aware of how people allow you to direct them once they have consented to their photo being taken.

On the whole I use Lightroom for my developing, and tend to only use Photoshop for clone and healing brush. The healing brush tool is really useful for those times when I have cloned complicated areas of clothing or sky where the cloned section has been lighter or darker than the surrounding area. Clone first, then find smooth toned area with some texture, use the Alt key to select the source, then smooth over the cloned area. The key for me was finding a textured area, as it prevents the healing brush from turning the cloned area into a smudge. That’s a new trick up my sleeve.

Developing portraits in Lightroom has become more intuitive as this process went on. The first thing that I realised was to set the exposure and tone curve for the main subject. Once I had got that right I could then use the adjustment brush on the background. For many of the photos I have used the adjustment brush with decreased exposure and clarity and brushed over the background. This works well for complex scenes, but can look messy on bright white sky’s, however that’s what the grad filter is for.

I Feather, Flow, density and auto mask have taken me quite a while to get used to. Feather is useful for brushing around the outside of a subject as a harsh boundary with no feather creates the halo. I tend to use auto mask in conjunction with the grad filter, and use it as an eraser inside a subject so the filter doesn’t effect them. Density gives me more control of the affect – so a burn of -.3 can be toned down using the density slider and this decreases the incidence of “brush strokes” on light areas.

Airbrushing – using spot heal for blemishes, adjusting saturation, temp and tint on lips, eyes (am amazed at how you can bring out the colour of eyes) and skin. Whites adjustment for eyes. Increase exposure for deep-set eyes or eyes in shadow. Decrease highlights and whites for reflections on glasses. I am also going to change my Lightroon and Photoshop background to white. The sites I use have white backgrounds and the tone appears different to my eyes on a black background than it does on white.

Big skin tip – don’t do a global increase of contrast, it changes the skin colour. I have found that the best results came from a typical ‘S’ tone curve, but with darks at no more than 10% and then increase the mid-tones and bring up the shadows.

Northern Pride Taster Photos – What I Have Learned About Portrait Photography – How I will Publish These Photos

I am going to include 8 taster photos from Northern Pride at the end of this blog.

There were some things that I had planned well for making photography at Northern Pride. I had taken a notepad and paper with me, which means I can now email people their photos, as I took down emails of those that wanted a copy of their photo. This is something that I will do more often at events in general. I had prepared my self to ask people if I could take their photos.

There is something really important that I have learned this weekend, if people have agreed to be photographed they are generally very comfortable in being directed as to where to stand. I did not ask people to pose, but I did move them around so that they did not have objects sticking out of their heads, where possible. It wasnt always possible as the event was very busy. Initially I didn’t feel comfortable with this, but as I became more relaxed then I stepped into the role.

I used continuous shooting mode, and I am glad that I did. People move, they close their eyes, the wind blows the hair across their faces, they talk to people and have weird expressions on their faces when doing so. Having used CS mode I managed to get some good photographs that may have been ruined by movement if I had only taken a single shot. In future I really need to step into the role of being the director of photography. Once you have asked, if people agree, then direct. Slow down and direct.

I made sure that I got photos of the Northern Pride Committee, Newcastle Council, The Lady Mayoress of Newcastle, the main stage sponsor, the security and the police. I believe that its important to demonstrate that I take high quality event photos that show off the organisers and supporters. This is also part of my long-term plan to become a professional events photographer.  Start as I mean to go on.

It would be sensible if I developed a contact card, although it isn’t completely necessary, if I have my pad and take people’s emails if they wish to have a copy that will suffice for now.

I have made a point of deleting photos of people from the march who were not happy to be around a camera. It’s impossible to ask individuals for consent in a large group – but I am not here to make people feel uncomfortable. So their photos are gone, as are others that would show people in a bad light. I don’t see my role as a sensor, but neither do I wish to hurt people who may have had too much to drink, or been caught with an expression that makes them look silly.

The Plan

I have completed two runs of evaluation and categorised photos into three sections.

Series – I am going to produce a series of 24 photos of my journey with Pride. I have selected around twice this many and they include Newcastle, before the march, the march, the venue, portraits and the event makers (organisers, supporters and sponsors).

I will have three pages on my website, one for the series, one for event makers and one for individuals and groups.

The individuals and groups page will contain a lot of photos. I am then going to use Twitter, local newspaper, pride tv, and LGBTQ lifestyle magazines to inform people that they are able to download any photo that they wish of themselves or the day without charge.

I will do similar with the event makers, but I will also use the internet to get e mails from organisations so that I can inform them that they can use my photos free of charge to promote themselves.

The Taster Photos

These are not the strongest photos that I took, I have kept those for the series, but I wanted to get some up here. I like to blog every day.

Northern Pride, Newcastle, July 2017

There are so many technical and creative reasons that I shouldnt like this photo, but I do. Its one of my favourites from Northern Pride. She was very photogenic and agreed for me to take other photos of her on the day, but I like this. It suggests a furtive glance to the camera, but it wasnt. She was engaged with the camera for half a minute or more, when the crowd werent in the way.

I look forward to the developing process, now that I have completed the evaluation, and feel free to let me know what you think works, and what doesn’t and why.

 

 

Amazing Day With Northern Pride – Anxiety Vanished – Thankyou

This is just a short post as I’m exhausted. I’ve left early because talking with so many people is emotionally draining. This has been a well organised, attended and supported event. Lots of happy, joyful, colourful and photogenic people. I’ve lived it.

It took me a little while to get into asking people if I could take their photos – and then you couldn’t stop me. The overwhelming majority of people have happily had me take their photos.

I’ve also been able to take photos of Northern Pride committee members Jane and Chris – Jane has been very supportive in enabling me to take photographs. There were so many organisations supporting the event and I have many photos of them, which I will email and tweet to them. The security was excellent with the local police and Smart Security and although Cleveland Police don’t police the event as it’s out of area, they attend and support Northern Pride.

I have no idea how many people I have asked if I could take there photos but it was a lot. I’m pleased with my self for that. I don’t enjoy portrait photography because of my anxiety, so this is another part of my development as a photographer.

Thankyou to the LGBTQ community, friends, family and supporters, Northern Pride and it’s supporters and sponsors.

It’s going to take some time to develop these photos.

Time to eat.

Northern Pride – My Kind of Britain – Emotionally Preparing to Photo in a Large Crowd

My Kind of Britain is an ongoing project about diversity, equality and discrimination, that I began a few months ago. I intend for it to be an ongoing project. With this in mind I am visiting Northern Pride in Newcastle tomorrow. “Here at Northern Pride we have an overall mission to reduce homophobia, promote awareness of equality and to unite LGBT communities across the region.”

Preparing my photography equipment is straight forward. My mental health is a little more difficult. I’ve had increased anxiety and racing thoughts for a couple of days. I have to build up to talking with people, explaining a project and seeking consent. It terrifies me in the build up and right up until I open my mouth. However once I have started to speak I take on the role of photographer, become present and my mind switches off. Today my emotions are quite intense. It will pass.

I’ve completed a lot of coursework over the past few days so that I could switch off today, and so that I can develop my photos on Monday and Tuesday.

Time now to phone a friend and seek support for the anxiety I’m feeling.

 

References

www.photosociology.info/sociology/ethnicity-and-diversity

www.northern-pride.com

 

 

Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl

I have been watching Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl on ALJAZEERA (produced by Northern Pictures). The documentary explores the issues surrounding the discrimination and racial violence faced by the Lebanese/Arab/Muslim Australians, and how commities have grown and developed together.

As well as the excellent documentation, the cinematography has been superb. There has been a variety of different apertures and focus changes and good use of street signs and buildings to play film Reportage.  My favourite image was of a bridges reflection on the side of a high rise building. The detail of the bridge and building were so crisp. My android has issues with white balance and exposure (even in pro mode) so please excuse the quality of the images.