Nurses noisy but good-humoured protest

Nurses’ noisy but good-humoured protest outside Southampton General Hospital today as first ever major NHS nurses strikes in British history take place. 

Something about this touched me. Perhaps it was the sadness that these hard-working decent people have to do this. Or perhaps it was the gentle considerate way they did it. Every bus and the majority of privately owned vehicles that went by honked in support. And despite the sunlight, the temperature struggled to reach much above 0°C all day.

A few snaps

The protest was on the south side of Tremona Road, either side of the main road into the General Hospital. I noted how careful the protestors were not to obstruct this road. Patients attending appointments (the reason I was there in the first place) were not hassled or impeded in any way. What I didn’t know at the time was that my kid brother’s step-daughter was protesting there. She’s a petite lass and can easily get lost in a crowd. He emailed me the next day and said, “…can’t see her in these pictures but we could sure as hell hear her in a sound recording we heard earlier!

Which made me chuckle. Smile Seems not all the protestors were actually on strike either. Some had come in on their “day-off” just to lend some support to their colleagues.

The photography

I hadn’t actually planned to take these pictures. It was pure happenstance – being in the right place at the right time. It was a very photogenic gathering too. Only real difficulty I had photographically-speaking was most of the participants were facing north, and the sun was directly behind them to the south. The winter sun was quite low in the sky too, so it all had to be shot at a bit of an angle. I especially wanted to avoid using the flash as “fill-in” because it could affect and distract the protestors. I wanted to be more like the proverbial fly-on-the-wall.

As chance would have it, I also happened to have the right camera with me too: my little Lumix DMC-GX7. It’s a quirky, retro-looking and relatively non-intimidating little thing. But thanks to its tilting screen, it works well at waist-level. I also had my tiny 14mm-150mm Tamron super-zoom, so I could shoot effectively from between 5 and 20 metres away.

This meant I could compose my images reasonably nicely, without interfering with events in any way – and without being bumped, knocked or stepping in the way of passing traffic. As a seasoned journo pal told me many years ago, with regard to photographing events such as this, “Rule one: always stay out of the effing way!” 

The message

Photographing this sort of thing requires a little common sense, tact and sensitivity – a bit of struggle for me at the best of times, admittedly. Nevertheless, another important lesson my journo friend taught me was never to shove one’s camera in the faces of those who appear a tad camera shy. Well, not unless they are doing something really interesting of course. There are always plenty of others around who actually do want their photo taken. So concentrate on them instead. 🙂

Besides, I felt a strong desire deep inside not to do anything that could possibly hurt these people in any way. In the case of the lady below, her body language suggested she really wasn’t there for the fame. A few minutes later however, as she mingled with the crowd, I discovered she had duplicated her message onto both sides of her hand-written cardboard banner, presumably so that photographers and cameramen could get a clear shot of her message – which was simple and to the point…

Protect the NHS

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