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Archive for October, 2009

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What Remains; Photo by Chantal Riekel

Chantal Riekel’s images portray someone she never knew.

She’s photographing old snapshots, newspaper clippings and hand
written prose to portray her grandfather, Harald Bratt.

Bratt was an Austrian screenwriter during World War II who kept a diary
compiling newspaper articles, hand written entries and family pictures.

Riekel’s pictures show the diaries and Bratt through her
eyes.

“I don’t want to illustrate,” she said. “Just hint.”

Family Mysteries

Riekel loves the search.

She wants her pictures to communicate this longing.

“We all have secrets in our families,” she said. “Hopefully,
[viewers] can identify with this feeling of searching for someone.”

Riekel says that Bratt was not the screenwriter’s family name but a
stage name.

She wants to find out why he chose Bratt over Riekel, the family’s
name.

Riekel’s Influences

The diary project is part of her masters in photography at the University of
Westminster.

Peter Beard is one of Riekel’s influences.

Like Beard she often works with text and images simultaneously.

The biography on Beard’s website says he began keeping a diary when he was young
and photography became part of his diaries

Beard’s site biography says he worked in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park in the early 60s,
photographing the depletion of elephant and Black Rhino populations.

Many of the photographer’s final images are similar to scrap books.

The borders of the images are collections of other pictures,
text and paint.

World War II

A couple of Bratt’s diary entries are vivid for Riekel.

She mentioned one where her grandfather addresses her father,
then three years old.

Bratt wrote that he hoped his son would never be pulled into the
war.

Another entry where Bratt describes Russian soldiers
that had occupied his house during the war.

The men drank wine from a petrol canistaer.

Burnt Paper

Chantal Riekel recently exhibited one of her images at Transform,
a gallery show at Ferreira Projects for the second annual westPhoto/
grafiche antiga Photo Prize.

The image, “What Remains” features some burnt paper over the pages
of Bratt’s diary.

Like some of Beard’s work, the image addresses a sinister darkness that
drives a large historical event.

Italian printer grafiche antiga printed the image and many others entered
in Transform in a catalogue.

Harald Bratt’s words have been published again.

Click here to go to main story.

Click here to go to Andrew Otto’s personal blog.

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WestPHOTO, the University of Westminster’s new student-run
photo agency gives students photography experience in an industry
where even onlinecommerce is struggling.

WestPHOTO’s current business model is a sign of the times.

Westminster and other educational funds provided the startup money for the
agency.

Students run the agency’s office, try to get assignments for photographers,
provide scanning services, printing services and make available
photographers’ work online.

The agency, based on Westminster’s Harrow campus, is trying to
take hold at the same time a similar business, Digitial Railroad folded.

Agency Closes

WestPHOTO’s project manager Kit Oates says the initial funding and
student labor are the only reasons that the agency can survive.

“Otherwise, I think it would be pretty difficult,” Oates said.

Digital Railroad had over 1,500 professional photographers using its site for archiving
and photo sales according to tech writer Rupert Goodwin, editor of ZDNet.co.uk.

Both Goodwin and Photoshelter, and the National Press Photographers
Association
pointed said that Dgitial Railroad would not be giving photographers
a chance to get their images off the failing company’s servers.

Despite industry difficulties, Oates and others at westPHOTO are optimistic about
the agency.

Oates thinks that students bring a unique eye to stock photography, as evidenced by
westPHOTOs latest collaboration with Italian publisher grafiche antiga.

Partnerships

Transform, a photo competition sponsored by westPHOTO
and the publisher recently displayed still image entries from several University of
Westminster photography students during an exhibition in London.

The competition’s title was also the show’s theme.

Entries addressed historic transformations, beautification and other changes.

Grafiche Antiga is publishing a catalogue of the entries from the competition.

Oates helped hang the show in the London gallery Ferreira Projects.

Unique Pictures

The project manager said the show was a challenge.

“It was quite tricky to get it together,” Oates said.

He felt that, as a whole, he didn’t want didn’t want any image to
get lost in the collection.

“[I had to] make each one look individual,” Oates said.

Given the current state of stock photography, westPHOTO may be facing
problems outside the photographic frame.

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Picture 2Gerwyn Dawe wishes it were tougher for people to
own a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

The retired RSPCA inspector and Mayhew Animal Home volunteer
has been dealing with dog problems full-time for over 15 years.

He says he gets frustrated because irresponsible ownership causes
many of these situations.

He mentions a dog he had to euthanize when he worked for the RSPCA
because it was aggressive, a result of the owner never making it clear to
the dog that he was in charge.

“If I had my way,” Gerwyn said, “before you could own a dog you’d
have to go to college for a month to learn about them.”

Dominant

In the case of one of the dogs Gerwyn put down, he says that among
other things the dog’s owner used to play tug with the animal and
always let the dog win.

This reinforced the dog’s perception that he was dominant. “Right
from when the dog’s young, you dominate the dog,” Gerwyn said.
“You make sure you dominate it and I don’t mean dominate by cruelty.
If you play tug with it, win. Don’t let the dog win.”

He adds that the Mayhew Animal Home is right to advocate training
classes for potential dog owners. “Training classes, ninety percent of
the time, are training the owner,” Gerwyn said. “Not the dog.”

Basic care

Claire Harper is an animal welfare officer with the Mayhew.

Part of her job is educating dog owners on how to provide basic care.

According to Claire, many of the people buying Staffies and similar bull
breed dogs as fashion accessories are not thinking about how much time
and money basic care requires.

Claire says these owners can be caught off guard after they have had a
dog for a while.

“It’s almost like the dog has played some nasty trick on them,” Claire said.
“It’s almost like it’s the animal’s fault.”

Family dog

But not every owner wants a Staffy because the dogs are fashionable.
Mandy Oakham , a west London resident says she and her husband have
wanted a Staffy for years, feeling it completed their family.

The Okhams adopted Melanie, a Staffy crossbreed from the Mayhew in May.

And, Mandy says, like with any member of the family, she and her husband
have to consider how their plans affect Melanie.

“With kids if you want to go out you plan your life around the kids,” Mandy said.
“Now we plan our life around the dog…You do think of her like a member of
the family cause she has to fit in.”

Re-homing

Gerwyn says that re-homing a dog like Melanie is one of the reasons he
fosters dogs for the Mayhew.

“It’s what makes the job worthwhile,” Gerwyn said. He visited the Oakhams
in late June to see how Melanie was adjusting to her new home.

He is hopeful that the Oakhams will continue to treat Melanie as a member
of their family.

He says people owe all dogs a good home .

“A dog,” Gerwyn said, “ is the most faithful companion in the world.”

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hijab

Four students at the University of Westminster want the UK’s state
schools to recognize that the hijab
is not hostile.

This message may get tougher to deliver because current research has renewed
debate over the threat that Islamic political views pose at British universities.

The four Westminster students, two of them Muslim, are all studying for masters
degrees in public relations.

They have created a campaign which encourages all primary and secondary state
schools to permit their Muslim female students to wear the hijab or headscarf.

Wearing the hijab “doesn’t pose any threat to [anyone’s] life,” said Karim Hacine,
one of two Muslim students working on the campaign. “It’s not something related to
bombings [or] fundamentalist groups. It’s just a religious symbol for the Muslim females.”

Research and Debate

Dr. June Edmunds
of Cambridge University wrote in The Guardian’s
Comment is Free that interviews she did with Muslim students at British
universities suggest that fears of Islamic extremism on UK campuses is overblown.

Her findings contradicted research which the Centre for Social Cohesion
published in June.

That report said 32% of the 1400 students it polled believed killing in the
name of religion is justifiable.

But, professor Anthony Glees, wrote on The Guardian’s Mortarboard Blog
that Edmunds’ evidence was not reliable because she only conducted 26
student interviews, eight of which were not in person.

Edmunds responded to Glees that her research was solid because she
used more than just the 26 student interviews. She said she also utilized
a focus group, face to face interviews with Muslim youth organizations
and the work of other researchers.

Changing Perceptions

The Westminster students admit that trying to change the UK school
uniform while addressing perceptions of radical Islam in Britain is difficult.

According to the students, many citizens on the street declined answering
basic research questions asking what they knew about the hijab.

Others acted apologetic when they did answer the students said.

“[The hijab] remains sensitive and controversial at the same time,”
Karim Hacine said.

Also, according to Hacine, many people who did answer questions
about the hijab mistook it forthe niqab, the veil which covers the face,
worn by some Muslim women.

British Muslims

The Muslim Council of Britain reports on its website that different
agencies and publications say there are between 1.5 and 1.8 million
Muslims living in the UK.

The council’s site also provides figures that calculate about half of
these Muslims are born in the UK.

“They consider themselves as being Muslim and British,” says
Erab Fuqaha, the other Muslim student working on this campaign.
“It is very important for them to be accepted by their own community.”

Both the Centre for Social Cohesion’s report and Edmunds’ research
seem to show that many Muslim students want the same kind of tolerance
in the UK that Fuqaha does.

” The British, they are so proud of having this multicultural atmosphere,”
Fuqaha said. “If you really claim that you are a multicultural country then
you have to accept all different religions.”

But she thinks that before she can change school attire she will have
to change some perceptions.

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Jim Chapman, the manager of a student bar at the
University of Westminster’s Harrow campus, said the
establishment’s Monday night drink promotion
makes the place crowded but not chaotic.

Chapman manages Area 51, the university’s bar which is
run as a student club.

His comments follow recent efforts by MPs to introduce
legislation setting a minimum price on alcohol in England
and Wales.

Some in the House of Commons say that cheap booze makes
it easier to binge drink.

They say the drunk patrons of some happy hours are damaging
property and becoming violent after they leave the bar.

Happy Hour Criticism

Keith Vaz,
chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee
has said that said that binge drinking and the behavior
problems it facilitates has become a problem for police.

Vaz spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today on 10 November saying
“happy hours lead to unhappy communities.”

Home affairs published a report at the end of October which
alleges that “alcohol-related crime places a heavy burden on
police resources.”

Anita Adams, a member of Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations
was also on Today where she argued that MPs were largely at fault for
current problems because they changed the licensing laws.

She added that like the police, pub owners can suffer the consequences of
drunken behavior too and therefor do all they can to stop it.

Local Promotion

Area 51’s promotion, Happy Mondaze, which serves
certain drinks for £1.50 is the busiest night at the bar.

The club posts security guards at the bar’s front
door on promotion nights.

Jim Chapman says that while license laws do not require security
for the happy hour, he feels the guards are a good
precaution for the club to regulate its members.

Because it is a student club, guards check student ID cards to
make sure only students and their guests are entering.

Students are allowed to sign in guests who may not be
Westminster students.

Pound a Pint Problems

Chapman added that for binge drinkers looking for
cheap booze, Area 51 is not a good deal.

He pointed out that a nearby pub in Harrow charges £1 per
pint at its happy hour.

“We would never do £1 a pint.” Chapman said. “We don’t think
that’s responsible drinking.”

He notes the club adheres to measure regulations and he
and his bar staff are mindful of how drinkers conduct
themselves.

“To be honest, I’ve got a low tolerance for drunk people,”
Chapman said.

Chapman wants to keep approaching his job with
that attitude because he believes it has kept drink
fueled mayhem away from Area 51 and Westminster’s
Harrow campus.

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