On the day before the Conserative Party Conference in Manchester, the People’s Assembly called a protest. I went along, and figured it was a good opportunity to try out medium format film in an old soviet camera1 I picked up on eBay.

The red bloc formed up around Whitworth Park, before joining the inital rally outside Holy Name Church. I’m not sure why the assembly point was strung out so far along Oxford Road, maybe a sign that the organisers were expecting a much bigger crowd.

red flag forming up

This photo has to be the best of the lot, it’s the most technically accurate image in terms of exposure and focus, while still giving off a strong filmy look.

The march ended in a rally on Catalan Square, where I heard councillor Laura Smith speak.

The fact is this warmed-over technocratic centrism is no match for the challenges of our times. Economic and climate crises are interacting with the Covid pandemic and all that the Labour Party currently is aspiring to, is once again, securing itself in the position as a rampart of the British state, made safe for the interests of capital.

final rally

Red flags all over

While this post is as much about photography as politics; I am enthusiastic about the more organised form of demonstration here.

red bloc in crowd

The differences were clear when walking back past the ‘rejoin EU’ protesters on St. Peter’s Square. It’s not only that I find their politics reprehensible, it’s that their protest was (literally) a joke. They were wearing hats and capes and placards with snarky slogans; a kind of playful, self-referential, post-modern protest. They made some noise and attracted attention, but not in a way that was politically meaningful.

police pointing

When you see some 60 people marching in tight formation, all carrying red flags, you don’t need any placards to explain the message. It is a serious thing, and it gets taken seriously.

Aesthetically interesting failures

These photos were all taken in 6x6 format on Kodak Ektar 100 film. Large frame size, slow film speed, which leaves the resulting photos with almost no perceptible grain. But, what you gain in resolution and detail, you lose out on everything else.

The viewfinder on the Lubitel is very awkward to use, and there’s no inbuilt light meter. In a rapidly-moving situation like this you can’t really stop to set up a tripod, take a light meter reading, or spend much time framing and focusing a shot. I was essentially shooting blind.

I wasn’t used to manually winding on the film before (or after?) every shot, and ended up ruining a few shots with double exposures.

banners double exposure

This one started out as a portrait photo of Laura Pidcock, accidentally overlaid with a Fire Brigades Union banner.

laura pidcock double exposure

These are some blurry police vans waiting after the demo. I remember exactly what I did wrong here.

blurry police vans

As I was winding down the shutter my finger slipped and it snapped back up, the camera jolted and smeared a ghostly shadow across part of the frame.

  1. A Lubitel 166b, for you camera nerds.