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SURREY, United Kingdom
Amateur and still learning!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

SPEAKERS' CORNER


Yesterday I was given a salutary lesson in understanding what I perceive as one of the fundamentals of photography. Don’t just see what you are photographing, feel what you are photographing.
As someone who has spent many hours at Speakers’ Corner documenting those that speak and those that listen, I was invited to attend a meeting at the Bishopsgate Institute in London.
The Institute has received a lottery grant to archive and log as many speakers as possible from as early as possible. What their names were and what did they choose to talk about; and of course any photographs of these speakers were an integral part of this process.
Attending the meeting were several Speakers’ Corner specialists, not speakers themselves but people who had attended the corner for many a long year, and two social history graduates that had researched the history of the corner over several years.
One chap bought along his grandfather’s diaries which logged his participation at the corner from the 1920’s up to 1981. He was accompanied on his podium over the years by members of parliament and on two separate occasions the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in England. This was all confirmed by the social historians, with names and dates. Something that all agreed would never happen today. With today’s politicians only ever addressing tame audiences that were ‘chosen’ for the purpose.
The Speakers Corner Specialists were a fount of information about speakers from the early fifties onwards. There were a few pictures from that time and they immediately agreed on identification and the subjects spoken about. Those who had made their name from just the ‘heckling’ viewpoint were also spotted quickly and their favourite mode of heckling was demonstrated quite vocally.
For me however the highlight of the meeting came from three speakers who still attend on a regular basis, two from the early sixties, and they speak on political and current affairs, not the religious mainstream that dominates today’s proceedings at the Corner. They were immensely proud of their skills in public oration, they ensured they knew their subjects thoroughly and had practised the art of handling hecklers and all were in awe of perhaps the greatest orator of all, Lord Donald Soper.
What has this to do with a Photoblog?
I’ve always enjoyed my days at the Corner and it has been the source of many a picture that has given me pleasure and satisfaction. It is in fact a social/candid/documentary photographer’s dream come true. I don’t get there as often as I used to but having spent some time with these enthusiastic and dedicated people, I will not regard it as just a place for photography but part of England’s heritage.    

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