Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Ante 2013 - City boys up against the wall

Caged bird Matthew Cunningham is used to defending the ethics of street photography, so it was nice not to have to worry about such matters with the shots of City workers he stuck up at Ante Art 2013.

None of us expected any different. The bankers got let off, then they got bailed out, then they got richer than ever.

But while that was happening, the 'in-it-together' rhetoric gave way to vile, inhumane reforms with newspaper headlines to match. 

o get a gauge of how breathtaking the spite of this government and its cheerleaders is, you must see it in the context of recent history.

Thatcher wiped out industry, culled millions of jobs, and put all our chips on the City. New Labour stuck to her course, offering her victims nothing but cheap debt. And now a government of toffs has made a point of vilifying those whose futures it and its predecessors have coldly and deliberately taken apart.

It's textbook victim-blaming. For the Caged Bird Club exhibit at this year's Ante, in keeping with a celebration of those who do (or did) the real work, I wanted to try and turn the tables.

All of these photos were taken close to the scene of the crime, the office blocks in the City where the loot was last seen. I have, meanwhile, repurposed actual phrases and headlines that the Daily Mail has used to demonise the unemployed, disabled and other people who are paying for these misdemeanours which they had no part in perpetrating.

I originally published some of these photos without the Mail-isms on my Blipfoto journal as part of a series entitled 'Bankers are people, too.'

Someone actually challenged me about the ethics of taking people's photos without asking permission. And how could I be sure, they asked, that these people really are bankers, or whether they even work for banks or financial entities at all?

As I said then, I have no idea what these men do for a living. I also understand the ethical questions that have always surrounded street photography, but am satisfied that my photos are not cruel or exploitative.

By adding the headlines, I am not even going to try to make that claim in this case; if they seem unfair, judgmental, indiscriminate, that's the point.

I am deliberately using these pinstriped everymen (and by chance all the best expressions and poses I captured belonged to men) as avatars for the City as a whole. It is discriminately indiscriminate – you know, like Iain Duncan Smith's vicious scapegoating or the Mail's front pages.

And if anyone wants an apology, they can drop me a line on Twitter, and like the Mail I will put something insincere somewhere they cannot find it.

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