All posts filed under: Editorial

UK Closed doors

The order of things in Britain has changed over the last few years. It has changed at a pace unlike any I’ve seen in my life. Or, does it just seem to be changing faster because I’m getting older? I can’t tell. I can only view the pace of change from my own perspective, distorted or otherwise. Many of our institutions we once thought rock solid have gone or changed so they’re no longer recognisable. It’s inevitable, I suppose. Change has altered much of the fabric of our society,  none more so than the media. The BBC, long regarded as the bastion of independence and autonomy seems to have buckled with its new apparent right leaning bias. The Newspaper industry, always powerful, now seems to have gained a renewed influence as its many independent elements have coalesced around certain powerful individuals. It wasn’t always like that. Britain has a fine record of independent newspapers dotted around the country. The Stamford Mercury, for example, Britain’s oldest continuously published newspaper title having been running since the early …

Documentary: Washing clothes in India

One thing immediately noticed when in India is, no matter how relatively poor the people are their clothes are clean and bright. Rarely do you see people wearing dirty or even unpressed clothes? How is this achieved in a country where the use of washing machines, though growing, is very rare? The answer, of course, is the same way it has been achieved for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The dobhi washerman is the man instrumental in the process of keeping India clean.  Hundreds of thousands of these workers exist all over India hand washing clothes all day. It’s a grueling task in the hot sun, often up to their knees in water, these workers soap, scrub, soak, rinse, wring and dry, – and even press with coal-fired irons – the full range of clothes for every type of household or business. Even the higher priced hotels seem to use this services, as marks inside my collars seemed to show when they returned from the ‘hotel laundry’. On top of the long and hard hours of work, there …

Travel: The Indian Sadhu.

A Sadhu is a Hindu holy man. Typically, as here, pictured in Mysore, dressed in saffron coloured robes they wander the country living on alms. Having renounced the normal pleasures of life, or denying themselves material satisfaction, they follow a mendicant ascetic life  – tapasvee in Hindi – dedicated to spiritual goals. There is a more radical sect of Sadhu, the Naga Sadhu, who wear no clothes, simply choosing to cover themselves with ash and beads. They rarely appear in public choosing special events like the Kumbh Mela to do so.   Abhishek Madhukar, a photojournalist, and filmmaker based in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, covered the last Kumbh Mela and produced a video on the Naga Sadhus for the New York Times. You can see it here…      

Travel: Gandhi in the back of a truck.

McLeod Ganj, high above Dharamshala in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India is the home of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan school of Buddhism. His Holiness escaped across the Himalayas to this region of northern India following the failed  Tibetan uprising against the Chinese in 1959. The Dalai Lama lives in a monastery in this small mountainside town on the edge of the ever present snow-capped foothills of the Himalayas which set an impressive backdrop. Part of the ritual adopted by Tibetan Buddhists is to ‘circum- perambulate’ the temple on a daily basis. A path has been built on the vertiginous slopes around the temple to facilitate this activity. It’s no mean feat. The inclines are steep and at nearly 7000 feet above sea-level, the air is thin for people not used to this altitude. His Holiness is in residence and is teaching so the town is bustling. McLeod Ganj normally attracts visitors from around the world, monks, mendicants and just the curious. But, when there is the opportunity to see His Holiness and …

Documentary: Brick making in India.

Here in Europe, most bricks used for building are machine made with only special bricks being “hand thrown” – hand made. If you are of a certain age you may remember LBC – London Brick Company – Flettons, or common bricks as they were called. Billions were made and laid after the war in housing projects all over the country. The LBC common bricks were made in and around Bedford. As you drove down the M1  you could see dozens of chimneys in the brick yards churning out smoke making bricks from London clay. This clay had a carboniferous content so the cost of firing was less than conventional clay. In India the process is somewhat different, using the “clamp” technique (which produces an intermittent type of kiln as opposed to continuous) to fire the hand thrown bricks. Labour intensive, hard work defines the process. The clay-rich soil is tempered by hand with water to make the mouldable clay which is then scooped up by hand and thrown into the metal moulds – hence hand …

coffee-shop-birmingham

Those quiet moments in coffee shops…

Coffee shops, or coffee houses as they were first known, spread to England from the middle east in the 1600’s. Hundreds of them sprung up in several cities across the country. They quickly became popular as a place to conduct business and to socialise as an alternative to the ubiquitous alehouses and taverns which proliferated at the time. Nobody back then drank water as most was not potable. Alehouses served weak beer in which the alcohol had killed the bacteria in the water from which it was made. Likewise, coffee houses used only boiling water to make their beverages. The action of boiling water for tea or coffee killed off the many bugs in the water. It was possible during that period to gain access to a coffee house by payment of one penny. You could stay as long as you liked and there was no need to even buy coffee. They were places of commerce where some businessmen would conduct their business. I say “business-man” as women weren’t allowed in coffee houses unless they owned …

Sabine Weiss

Editorial: Sabine Weiss. The last humanist Photographer.

“Born in  Switzerland in 1924  Weiss has been dubbed “The Last of the Humanists”, and even though she is getting tired of the label, she admits that it is somewhat fitting.”  Read the excellent piece by Time magazine on the life of this wonderful photographer. Her website (in French) Pictures in the Peter Fetterman gallery website. Biography on ‘All about Photography’ website.