Not just a number

This is what 191 dead migrants looks like.


Except there’s 10 times that dead, and they’re not ‘migrants’ they’re people. Just like ‘Number 191′.

We need to remember that.

And we need to keep reminding our politicians and policy-makers of that fact too.

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Pat Pope was right. That’s my stance.

Pat is a photographer, and he was asked by the band Garbage to give them some of his work for free. Pat was unhappy with the ‘deal’ on offer, having apparently also had his work used without permission by the band previously, so aired his dismay publicly. You can read his response here: link

Garbage responded ‘formally’ here: link to Facebook

This thread is not about whether Pat was right or wrong; Pat made a professional judgment and on the surface it seems a reasonable decision to make.

No, what this thread is about, is ignorance.

Someone called Gabriela claiming to be speaking for Garbage responded to Pat Pope directly, in the responses to his blog post. You can judge for yourself what the tone of her comment displays:


Apart from Gabriela’s very forthright response, what has really surprised me are the uninformed comments this affair has elicited, and specifically the fact that some of them come from apparently well-educated people speaking on behalf of educational establishments: so here’s Hank from Eastern New Mexico University‘s take on the matter on HuffPost: (link to thread)

hank enmu

Or how about Zac Brewer’s thoughts, speaking eloquently on behalf of Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Mass.: (link to thread)

Zac 1

Yes, Zac is studying finance. How business works, supply and demand, payment, all that fiscal stuff you need to know in order to turn a profit.


So Zac, and anyone else who finds this concept of ‘payment for photography’ hard to follow. It’s called licensing – the ‘owner’ of the work, for a fee ‘licenses’ the user on a per-use basis. Repeat use for another, different, project requires repeat payment. Simple.

Oh, sorry, it’s still too hard to understand?

Ok  try this: I buy a Garbage album on vinyl in 1995. They re-release that same album in 2005 on CD, so they give me it for free if I ask them. Right?

No they don’t.

I paid for the right to listen to their music delivered to me on a large piece of plastic using a needle, that’ll be ‘licensed for delivery on vinyl’. Now that I want to listen to it using a beam of light, I need to pay again. That’ll be…yes you’re catching on fast…’licensed for delivery on CD’.

And if I want to see them play the same music live I get in to the gig for free, after all, I’ve paid for the music twice now? No, I need to pay again, that’ll be ‘licensed for live delivery’. It’s how (the music) business works.

Oddly enough it’s just like the way Business School works. The School licenses specifically created teaching material (made by very talented people in the educational publishing business) and employs tutors to deliver it. Students pay a fee to attend, and as part of that deal the material is ‘licensed’ to them, for the purpose of their education.

Not hard to understand really, is it.

Moral of this story: creative people need to be paid for their work, however unpalatable some may find that concept. And if they weren’t paid, musicians like Garbage would not be as successful and wealthy as they are.

Creativity matters, it underpins the intellectual richness of our lives. And proper payment for creative work generates revenue that filters right down through society, and benefits everyone.


And we should all remember and respect that fact.


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Living with a tiger © John MacPherson

Living with a tiger © John MacPherson


“Oh Donnie, Donnie, please…..please….straighten yourself up, please!   Oh god………..what will the neighbours think…………..”

So spoke my mum, emotionally, fighting back tears and trying desperately to look ‘normal’, on the day we removed my severely depressed dad from home. ‘We’ being the family doctor,  two burly ambulance men, and me. And there was little ‘normal’ about the way that it took the four of us to achieve this removal. We had to prise dad’s hands off the house stair rail as he fought to stay inside. And then again to drag him from the front fence which he’d fastened onto with a vice-like grip, before we were able to lift him over into the ambulance. He was only a small man but in his current state was possessed of incredible strength, only the previous day having thrown me, a six foot athlete, bodily across the room and over a sofa. Fit as I was, I was no match for the explosive energy currently coursing through him. And because of his behaviour, for his safety, as well as that of my mum, it was decided that medical intervention was appropriate, and so the papers were signed for his removal to hospital. And this was the reality of that signature………….

My reply to my mum was terse “Bugger the neighbours I don’t care what they think I only care about getting dad to where he can be safe and treated, and this is the only way to do that…..”

The path leading to dad’s depression was complex, with a variety of factors all imposing some effect upon his mental equilibrium, amongst them a seasonal affective (SAD) element that was not recognised by the medical profession until it had taken it’s toll on him. In retrospect the long slide into depression is clear to see, each episode we dealt with as a family another step towards his  ultimate breakdown. It was something we didn’t talk much about to people, something we felt we had to hide.

I regret that now.

Relieved of the burden of depression dad returned home from hospital with a ‘veil’ lifted. He was always a thoughtful and curious man, interested in politics, people and the world, and with a keen sense of humour and the absurd, but was quietly spoken, always disappearing into the background. The treatment he’d received changed that. His keen sense of humour came to the fore, and a slightly less inhibited character emerged. And it was a delight!  There are many memories I have of that time, but two stick in my mind. One I mentioned previously (link), and the other was equally hilarious. Dad had always wanted to go to the Military Air Display at Leuchars so I arranged for us both to go.

Dad loved it. One of the exhibits was a big American military spy plane, with a woman pilot, a very glamorous, crisply-uniformed Californian type who presence was making the aviation enthusiasts blood race. A large crowd surrounded the plane, the pilot standing talking about it, the eager crowd devouring each word she uttered, with great delight. Behind her, to protect the sensitive electronics and camera ports from prying eyes and damage, the long nose of the plane was shrouded in a giant, snug-fitting light-coloured bag, pulled tight around the front of the cockpit. Dad, all 5 feet 5 inches of him pushed through the crowd with uncharacteristic determination and got to the front, at which point he stared up past the pilot and took in the full bulk of the plane. And loudly proclaimed “Wooooaaaah! Look at that – they’ve put a giant condom over it for protection….yeah!” and burst out giggling to himself. The crowd  were rather less impressed, but a few did manage to raise a laugh, as the pilot’s face turned a delicate shade of pink.

But there were other things that emerged during this period of ‘clarity’, things he’d never ever talked about, family history that had gone untold for various reasons, his wartime experiences that had obviously affected him, and other experiences he’d suffered (link) but which would never have been shared, and which he had obviously had to wrestle with alone for decades. I learned a lot about the man during this period, facets of his personality and life experience that I would not otherwise have discovered. I’m richer in so many ways as a consequence.


Light at the end of the track. © John MacPherson


Depressive illness can be a harsh experience, for those suffering from it, and those struggling to support them. But it is not all gloom. It has moments of wonderfully loopy madness that may induce whole rooms of people to tears of mirth. I remember a lot of laughter in dad’s final years, interspersed with episodes I’d much rather forget. But I learned a lot about depressive illness in those years, saw it affect my mum, and I think I too came close to the edge of the ice as well. And what I’ve taken away from that experience is the thought that for the vast majority of people depressive illness is just like catching a cold. We can all get it, we suffer, feel miserable, then feel better. It’s something to deal with but not something that should define us.

Last night I followed a series of tweets by John Moe @johnmoe which I thought very moving, and which have prompted this post. He said a lot, but here are just a few of his tweets, but you can see the whole feed here on Chirpstory:

 “I want you to know that when I talk about this disease, it’s not just about my brother’s struggle, it’s about mine too. “

 “My brother died of depression five years ago today. He treated it with street drugs and shame. That doesn’t work.”

“There have been times it tore at me pretty bad. Affected my family and those around me.”

“The truth is that I’ve been living with the disease of depression for many years.”

“But the truth is, I haven’t done all I could do. I haven’t been forthcoming. I haven’t lied but I haven’t told the whole truth.”

“If you broke your leg, you’d go to the hospital. If you have depression you need to get help.”

“I have this disease and I can have a great career, have a family, be engaged in the world, and be happy.”

“I have depression but it doesn’t have me. There’s a tiger in my house but I work like hell to secure its cage.”

“There isn’t a real tiger, that’s just a metaphor. Whew!”


A tiger in the house © John MacPherson

A tiger in the house © John MacPherson


I’m sure my own mother’s journey through this period would have been easier had she felt able to talk to people about dad’s situation. I was under strict instructions to simply say “Dad’s not well” which I knew everyone else knew meant precisely what we were trying to conceal. Since then I’ve talked openly about mental illness, have worked professionally with people who have a depressive illness, and seen their return to normal life steal up on them and surprise them. And along the way I discovered that several of my friends had wrestled with depression for many years but managed to conceal it. There’s great value to be gained from speaking about these things, as unspoken they exert power; and what we choose to call them can help us to understand their meaning and manage their role in our lives.

Winston Churchill described his depression as ‘The Black Dog’. I understand why, but I have to confess that I loathe that particular term. However, thanks to John Moe I now see depression as a more impressive and majestic beast, one worthy of great respect, but crucially one that’s a master of concealment……the tiger.

My dad, and his tiger. I like that.

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Trawling off Mull. Garvellachs and Scarba behind © John  MacPherson

Trawling off Mull. Garvellachs and Scarba behind © John MacPherson


I wrote this in 1997, on the 12th March, tearfully. Men are lost.

Seasalt taste.

I’ve always lived by the sea, and have several friends who are fishermen. And around this time I’d been doing a lot of seakayaking, and much more messing around on the ocean, and I’d started to wind myself up towards doing some photography work with inshore fishermen.

The risks to those who work on the sea are considerable. But it struck me how out-of-sight these risks are: we reach into the freezer cabinet in our supermarkets and pull out some fish. Do we ever consider how it got there? Next time you lift up some cod, spare a thought for those who obtained it for you.

When I heard this news report, I guess it was just one of those moments when I was in a certain place, at a particular time, and it just moved me, and elicited these verses. And the sentiment expressed is still relevant. Sadly I know it always will be.

So this is dedicated to all who go to sea. But mostly, it is for those who stay behind to wait………

The Loss of the ‘Westhaven’ 12/3/97

“A fishing boat is missing……..”
The radio casts it’s net of fear and hope
Across a sea of unseen faces
Anxious, in their homes and work

They bade farewell the other day
A day no different from the other days they left.
We stay
The land so broad around us
Fits us snugly
Shelter belts of trees
To break the growl of gale and sleet

But this is spring
Not foul
Nor howling
Just an easy day of warming promise.

Seawards, glancing back
Their land grows small
The sea ahead expanding
To fill their thoughts with home
And work
And will this earn their pay?

Hulls slap waves, that tease and beckon
…………………………….further out
To where the deep fish swim
Before the nets puff out with pride
Their cod-ends bulging
Straining on the ropes and shackles
Tying men to blood and guts
And ever-present risk of pain.

“Where were you when you heard?”
My friends ask….
As if the answer made a difference.

Men are missing
Gone to sea
Lovers, husbands, fathers, sons………..

When I heard the news
I was safe
And sad


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Alyssa © Lani Holmberg

Alyssa © Lani Holmberg




World Down Syndrome Day is the 21st March.

I worked in Disability Services in Social Work for almost 20 years. Many of the people I worked with, and for, lived with Down Syndrome. Some were parents, many were siblings, most were people who have Down Syndrome themselves. I realized very quickly that my preconceptions about the ‘ability’ of people with Down Syndrome were woefully, wildly, inaccurate. At first I was continually surprised by what they could achieve, after all they are so much less able than us, aren’t they?

Until the penny dropped. There was no ‘them’ and ‘us’. The ‘problem’ was me, and my assumptions, my low expectations. I learned fast that ‘disability’ is not inability. Something this man and many others eloquently demonstrated to me.

I learned that there is only us.

If you look at nothing else this week, look at this: And Holland Has Tulips by Lani Holmberg.

It is beautifully realised, illustrated with images that are dignified and deeply affecting. It tells a story, with care, about the considerable amount we all have in common, so much more than those few differences which set some people apart.

This is what multimedia should be all about: informing, entertaining, providing insights, and changing minds. It’s not just a story about Down Syndrome. It is about us. All of us. And simply living.


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That Time – International HIV/AIDS Alliance

“I really loved the course! It’s really helped me to get clearer about how I want to develop some important areas of my work.”


A mini-documentary is a great way to tell your story to an audience that is ever short of time. With the explosion of the internet and popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube, the demand for short videos has never been greater.

So why not join us in April for our brand-new Introduction to Mini-docs one-day workshop and take your first steps in learning how to produce powerful short-films.

We’ve designed a fast-paced, practical one-day workshop which will introduce you to making short documentaries. Drawing heavily on duckrabbit’s own experience of producing mini-docs for some of the world’s leading institutions, you will gain technical direction and the production knowledge and skills that you need to get a fast start in producing your own work.

And what’s more, anyone who wishes to book onto our Coventry workshop will recieve a generous discount! Places are limited so find out more by visiting our training page and book your place soon.



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