Archive by Author

Sexual consent survey is a new chance to debate attitudes and law

17 Nov

The Evening Standard today published an article titled ‘Boris Johnson: my shock over young people who cross the line from consent to rape’.

The piece refers to a survey commissioned by the Havens, a service for survivors of sexual assault and rape in London, where 1012 people aged 18-50 were asked on their opinions on consensual sex and sexual assault.  From what I gather the results were published last February, but this renewed press interest coincides with the Havens’ new ‘Where is your line?’ campaign. Continue reading

Climate Chaos in the South – documentary review

17 Nov

Photo courtesy of Wereldmediatheek vzw,

So we all know we’re meant to switch lights off, support wind power, reduce our carbon footprints, and be more environmentally aware in general.  But we’re not doing this to get thank you cards from polar bears or climate scientists.  So what are the actual human consequences of our effect on the climate and who is being affected the most right now? Climate Chaos in the South is a new documentary by Belgian filmmaker Geert De Belder, about the humanitarian impact of a problem that is too often made out to be an abstract scientific issue.

There are no polar bears or melting ice caps in sight, and there are no statistics and figures to impress us/confuse us and take attention away from the decidedly human story.  Climate Chaos in the South is essentially a 53-minute long collection of interviews with people from Burkina Faso, Togo, Ecuador and Bangladesh, describing how climate change has drastically altered their lives. Continue reading

Planeat – documentary film review

13 Nov

As a failed vegetarian and one-time vegan, I attended the premiere of Planeat, a new documentary by Shelley Lee Davies and Om Shlomi about the benefits of eating less meat, fully prepared for an hour long moral guilt trip…how wrong I was.


Through interviews with scientists, deeply passionate farmers and inspired chefs (and even cupcake makers) the film presents the global, environmental, health and culinary benefits of eating less animal protein.  Never once did it feel like I was being told to give up meat, but it made me think twice about it in the way that no other film has done so far.

Offering no prescriptive or patronizing advice, the film rejects shock tactics, guilt and moral arguments to take viewers on an informative, inspiring and very human journey.  Beware the trailer on the website though, it really over-dramatises the film. Continue reading

Interview with Walter Astrada, photojournalist

17 Oct

In his desire to show through photography that “Violence against women is not only the most widespread example of a human rights violation, but probably the least evident,” (more here) three times World Press Photo winner Walter Astrada has already documented femicide in Guatemala and sexual violence in Eastern Congo.   His latest project is ‘Undesired’, a multimedia documentary funded by the Alexia Foundation and produced by MediaStorm.  Watch the full video, as well as his commentary, by clicking the image below:

Along with an incredible series of photos, the film explores the economic pressure for women to give birth to boys in India, and the subsequent abortion, neglect and murder of girls and women.  It is a piece about people who are undesired and denied social worth and freedom from conception, and the inspiring women who refuse to comply.

After watching the film transfixed and wondering what had happened to the feminist I used to be, I contacted Walter.  He kindly found time to chat to me, put up with my increasingly embarrassing Spanish and answer a few questions.

When did you first decide you wanted to be a photographer?

When I was thirteen I saw a photojournalism exhibition in Argentina and decided that’s what I want to do when I grow up.  After I finished secondary school I started studying photography, and about two and a half years later started work for an Argentinian daily newspaper.

photo: Walter Astrada

Did you always want to focus on human rights?

When I worked for the newspaper, my photos were of wide-ranging, general subjects.  But I wanted to do more photo stories, so after about three years at the paper I quit, went travelling and started working for an agency, which meant I could photograph more of what I was interested in.  I was lucky to start working for AP, but I also wanted to do projects that were more personal, so I quit again and I started working as free lancer and doing assignments for AFP, first in Haiti and later in Eastern Africa.  I actually still work as a freelancer, represented by Reportage by Getty Images.

What made an Argentine male photographer decide to document violence against women in India?

To answer that, I’ll ask you a question first:  If my project had been on Child Labour, would you have asked me the same question?  People often ask me that, and my answer is always ‘Why not?’  I see no contradiction in being a man and wanting to document such an important subject. Continue reading

Interview: Mikey Watts on Mining & Human Rights in Peru

19 Feb
All photos:  Mikey Watts 

On March 14, LAMMP (the Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme) is holding an international conference on ‘Mining, Women and Human Rights in Guatemala’. One person who’ll be filming there is young British documentary maker Mikey Watts, who I caught up with last week to talk about his last film and forthcoming projects.

I’d first heard about Mikey’s film Laguna Negra back in October. Perusing The Guardian, I noticed a video and article about alleged torture in the province of Piura, northern Peru, linked to a mining company called Monterrico Metals. It was a British company, and yet there was barely a whisper of news about it in the UK. In 2003 Monterrico had pressed ahead with a copper mine project that the local population had not agreed to. The mine was going to occupy vital agricultural land and would pollute the valley’s water sources. Monterrico had a legal requirement to obtain the consent of at least two thirds of the population. They didn’t, but were supported by the government nonetheless and so went ahead with the mine. In 2005, locals, including children and the elderly, made their way to the mining site in a last attempt to have their objections recognised. They were tear gassed, arrested and allegedly tortured by police and the mine’s security guards.

It was a Peruvian photographer friend, Adrían Portugal from the collective Supay Fotos, who first sent me a link to Mikey’s video on VimeoLaguna Negra is a 20-minute study of how mining has affected people in the Huancabamba valley, northern Peru. The film follows two people, Servando and Cleofé, as they describe their lives, land, protest, how they are perceived, and question the purpose of environmentally and socially destructive ‘development’. It has won a series of awards, including: Grand Jury Prize World Cinema Student at the Amsterdam Film Festival 2010, Best International Documentary (Festival Internacional de Cine de Lebu 2010), and the Rights in Action International Award (Bang! Short Film Festival 2009). I met Mikey last week to discuss how it all started, his stay in Piura, Huancabamba, the impact of and inspiration behind the film, and the projects he’s working on now.

Continue reading

Sustainable Fashion – An Oxymoron?

18 Feb


Illustrations by Zoe Barker

Sustainable Fashion, what does that mean? This was the question posed by Vanessa Friedman at the beginning of London Fashion Week’s Estethica guide. I approached LFW with a fair amount of scepticism. Despite wearing my UK Press Pass with the secret pride reserved for a total LFW novice like moi, bien sûr, and being in total awe of how much work our fashion ed Rachael, all the writers, photographers and illustrators had put into it all, I was hesitant.

Is fashion that great? One part of me thinks it’s essential to be constantly re-inventing and changing things, challenging what we take as a given and celebrating new creativity. And that fashion is another form of individual and social expression and even a tool for rebellion against restrictive archaic norms. But another part thinks that the fashion industry is responsible for an attitude that waste is OK as long as it provides a fleeting moment of self-centred happiness, and that we need to be constantly re-inventing the way we look. That fashion stands for endless buying, and the sanctioning of a kind of mass egomania. Alternatively, it means the production of things that are so well made they will last forever, but which are destined for an elite few whose monthly wages allow for it. So should this kind of thinking now be greened and made sustainable? Hmm…it doesn’t really appeal. And, while it admittedly takes a very narrow view of fashion, I loved Tanya Gold’s blunt, honest piece on ‘Why I Hate Fashion’ in The Guardian a few weeks ago. It does raise the question though: what does fashion, let alone sustainable fashion, even mean?

Illustration by Zoe Barker Continue reading

BTCV Green Gyms – Review

17 Feb

My muscles are aching as I type, my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, admittedly, fitness…

hedge stage 1
All photos: Zofia Walczak

Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly.

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

Green Gym area

Photo: Zofia Walczak Continue reading