On the kindness of people, and the violence of the state

If I had known how hard a 10 week trial on terror-related charges for a peaceful protest would be, I don’t know how I could have faced it. It was the support people offered from the most surprising places that got us through it.

I’m one of the Stansted 15 convicted, controversially, for a terror-related offence following a peaceful blockade of a Home Office deportation charter flight, for which we narrowly escaped prison sentences last Wednesday. We thought it might be an endurance test in the courtroom which would last as long as four weeks – but it turned out to be a gruelling 10-week ordeal that showed me just how scary it is to face the threat of state intervention into your life. But throughout that whole time, it was the kindness of the court staff and the community of Chelmsford that transformed a traumatic experience into one which strengthened the movement for migrant rights.

On the day I testified before the jury, we had sat silently through five weeks of prosecution evidence which felt to us like it completely misrepresented what had taken place on the night. I was in tears when I finally stepped down from the stand after being cross-examined for three intense hours of non-stop interrogation. For the 18 months since our charge had changed from one which carries a three-month jail term to one which carries life in prison, we had all had to carry the weight of considering what we stood to lose – homes, jobs, relationships – and begun to fear how our co-defendant’s baby, due just weeks after verdict, might start his young life, possibly without his mother.

This high pressure, high stakes scenario would have been enough to topple the most resilient among us. But we had something on our side that the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t expect. We were surrounded by the kindness of people who were once strangers, and are now our friends.

The community of Chelmsford churches from Anglican to Quakers, and a few socialists mixed in, stepped forward with open arms – sometimes with nervous caution that soon melted as we got to know how alike we all were. The Bishop of Chelmsford petitioned the Crown Court on our behalf, and the Cathedral hosted us and our legal counsel frequently as a retreat from the loud, airless, verbose environment of the courtroom.

The night before I gave my closing speech I had messages of prayers from Muslim friends in London, the Anglican and Quaker network in Chelmsford and even from one of the people who, because of our peaceful blockade, was able to be with his partner for the birth of their daughter and conclude his successful application for leave to remain. A multitude of people said they were with us in spirit, and we knew they meant it.

But possibly the most heartening kindness was our daily reception in the courthouse by the court staff. Between them, the head of security, who here I’ll call Terry, and the chief court clerk, who here I’ll call Stella, were able to enact the simple idea of humanity that says everyone deserves to be treated like a whole person in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Terry always met us at the security check with a smile and a joke. Stella watched over us in the dock with the utmost care and attention. We knew this was their way: they would have offered this to anyone, we weren’t special. People do their jobs in different ways, but the compassion and humour Stella and Terry showed us were enough to prick a decent hole in the veneer of state power embodied by the courtroom and the threat of incarceration it houses.

Ultimately that’s what we’d been trying to do with our peaceful protest back in March 2017, when we stopped a deportation charter flight taking 60 people to a place where they feared their lives would be in danger. To offer a small kindness to people who may have felt they had reached their darkest hour, having been ripped from their families and communities – many people who are taken into detention or deported have lived in the UK for well over a few years – and taken to an airport in the middle of the night to be forced onto a plane for which they were given a deportation order as little as five days previous. From the flight we stopped, 11 people are still here because it’s clear they were to be wrongfully deported that night, two have the right to remain now, and two women have now been recognised by the Home Office victims of trafficking. This is the obvious risk of the Home Office’s mass deportation charter flights; that the government bundles people off without looking properly at their cases. At the most recent deportation charter flight, the first to Jamaica since the Windrush scandal, also last Wednesday, 15 of the 50 people due to be deported were given a last minute reprieve, suggesting just how many more might have been able to secure an injunction given only a few more days.

Our action was one small kindness among many that people across the UK, nationals and non-nationals alike, are organising to welcome and support people seeking refuge and people currently being denied basic rights by the government. Hundreds of migrant support groups across the country are assisting migrants and asylum-seekers to find their way in a strange country, having escaped a worse fate elsewhere. Hundreds of people visit the 3000 people currently held indefinitely in immigration detention centres in a loophole of habeas corpus that those suffering inside describe as ‘worse than prison’, while thousands more campaign to close them, to let people continue to live with their families and in their communities while their applications are heard by the asylum and immigration courts. A national network of groups campaign for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers to basic survival needs like medical attention, a bank account and the chance to work.

All of these efforts are a testament to the power of human kindness against the shocking daily violence of the state. If the government continue to insist on scapegoating immigrants as an excuse for the failures of austerity and Brexit, it is this very real connection between the rest of us that can stand to sustain a country that is not built on fear and hatred, but instead on kindness and the knowledge that someone who was once a stranger may soon become a dear friend.

Follow Mel Evans on Twitter, and learn more about what she’s fighting for on the End Deportations website.

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Inside the UK’s most radical indie publishers

Fitzcarraldo Editions. You’ve seen their books about. The deep blue covers with the white text; just title and author. Or the cream white covers with blue text; just title and author. The same design for each release. Super collectable, in fact – some bookstores line them up all in a row on special shelves.

Fitzcarraldo entered the literary scene with a seismic earthquake, shaking up the slumbering ‘big’ publishers and showing them exactly what happens when you take serious risks. They threw their weight behind European fiction in translation, great works in English, and illuminating non-fiction releasing books such as Mathias Enard’s one sentence novel Zone, Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s Second Hand Time and Olga Tokarczuk’s international Man Booker award-winning Flights. Reading a Fitzcarraldo book, any Fitzcarraldo book, is a guaranteed experience.

The seven English-language debuts on their list are what Jacques Testard – founder and editor at Fitzcarraldo – feels is one of his proudest achievements. “I have a somewhat naïve and idealistic – or frankly stupid – conception of the role of a publishing house,” he explains. “I want Fitzcarraldo Editions to be the kind of publishing house that publishes authors, rather than books. For example, if I publish your debut book and it sells 500 copies, I will publish the second one anyway, and so on and so forth. The hope is that the author and publishing house can grow – and prosper – together. The idea is to build a publishing house that is sustainable over a long time, and to do so with authors from around the world, whether they write in English or not.”

This is the real key to Fitzcarraldo’s success, and part of what makes them a radical publisher in the modern era. Too often publishing houses sign a writer for one or two books and if those books don’t do well enough, in financial terms, the author is dropped and often finds it very hard to get a book deal somewhere else. But Fitzcarraldo are in for the long term. 

“If you publish a good book, readers and critics tend to pay attention,” Testard says. “It can still take time to find an author in translation a readership, of course, and it will always take time to build up any young author’s career. That’s the point of an ‘author-centric policy’, to quote Spanish publishing legend Jorge Herralde, who set up Anagrama 50 years ago: you have to be patient, to wait for authors to develop, follow them through one, two, three, four books, and hopefully over that time the authors get better and better and they accumulate a readership along the way.”

Although publishing original books in English – such as Claire Louise Bennet’s remarkable Pond or Brian Dillon’s Essayism – Fitzcarraldo have a particular reputation for leading the renaissance in publishing books in translation. Following Fitzcarraldo’s emergence in 2014, writers such as Elena Ferrante and Karl Knausgard have dominated book charts. “In France,” says Testard, “where a fifth of all books published in 2017 were translations, you’ll find Balzac and Bolaño, Calvino and Carrère on the same shelf in bookshops. I really don’t know why we feel the need to set translated literature apart – literature, surely, is a global art form which transcends borders, barriers, languages even.”

Fitzcarraldo have had, perhaps, the most visible success of all the independent publishers who were founded in the last 10 years, but does Testard still feel outside of the literary mainstream? 

“A couple of years ago I came up with a really bad metaphor for contemporary publishing in the UK to explain to foreign publishers where Fitzcarraldo Editions stands. If British publishing is like the French Revolution, along with a few other die-hard literary presses we’re the Jacobins – intransigent, radical, idealistic; then there are a handful of publishing houses who are radical to a point, like the Girondins; but mainly – and this is key – everyone scarpered in 1789. Joking aside, I don’t want to emphasise our difference from mainstream publishing too much. There are lots of brilliant authors being published by corporate imprints and larger independents, and a fair few of the books we have published wouldn’t look out of place on those publishers’ lists. But perhaps where we differ from mainstream publishing is that we only publish ambitious, innovative writers who play with form or style or both.”


Pond by Claire Louise Bennet

A magnificent collection of short stories circling around a seemingly single narrator.

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

International Man Booker winner, and a stunning fragmentary novel based on travel between in 17th and 21st Centuries.


Ash Before Oak by Jeremy Cooper

Winner of the inaugural Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize, is written in the form of a journal written by a solitary man on a secluded Somerset estate. A stunning investigation of the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.

Surrender by Joanna Pocock

Blending personal memoir with reportage, Surrender is a narrative nonfiction work on the changing landscape of the West and the scavenger, rewilder, and eco-sexual communities, inspired by a two-year stay in Montana.

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How technology transformed long-distance relationships

Last year, I was obsessed with the internet. I spent months writing and thinking about online intimacy, a whole summer meeting nobody in person, relying simply on apps. Most of my romantic encounters took place online, many of them never crossing over to ‘real life’ at all; my phone was littered with names like ‘Richard Hinge’, ‘Simon Tinder’, ‘Sophie OkCupid’. Dutifully putting them in my phone on Friday nights, Sunday mornings, by Tuesday the conversation was dead: I had no idea who these people in my phonebook even were.

So it was a surprise to me, too, when I met someone at a party and we fell in love. There was no preamble, no holding each other at arm’s length, no weeks or months of online conversation: it was easy, instant and uncomplicated. Like the early days of any modern relationship, of course, we also got to know each other via text message, had the giddy trepidatious thrill of an online back and forth. But everything important happened when we were together.  

It’s somewhat ironic, then, that several months in we’re embarking on a short-term long distance relationship: once again, intimacy has moved online.

It’s an interesting switch. We think a lot about how we turn online relationships into offline ones; in fact, when we meet online, it can be an overwhelming preoccupation. Will they still like me when they meet me in person? Am I funnier online, sharper, quicker, more impressive? Will the chemistry survive a ‘real life’ meeting? No matter how confident I felt, every time I matched with someone from Tinder the idea they might not like or fancy me in person haunted me before we met, so aware I was that the image I projected online wasn’t quite accurate. It was part of the picture, yes. But the whole was obscured.

What we think of less, however, is how it works the other way round: how we experience offline relationships online. Long distance relationships are the most obvious iteration of this dynamic; after all, the day to day minutiae of your relationship is completely changed. You fall asleep together on FaceTime, not in person. You can’t do the crossword together anymore, so you do it on Skype. You can’t spontaneously have lunch together; you send pictures of what you’re eating instead.

But in actual fact, the dynamic exists if you’re two miles away or 220.  We don’t tend to worry about how our offline relationships work themselves out online – even if it’s where we spend most of our time talking to the people we love. The things that concern us are negative, generally – something taking a long time to text us back, being left on read. We sometimes forget about how rich our online relationships can be, how alive.

It’s not just in romantic relationships, either. As I write, my most active group chat contains 150,000 messages: stickers, voice notes, pictures of ourselves, screenshots, videos, gifs. We talk for 12 or more hours a day every day without fail – way more time than we could ever feasibly see each other in person. I’d never think of this group as ‘online’ friends: they’re just ‘my friends’. But the way we interact online is a vital part of how we love each other offline, too.

When we’re unthinkingly updating our friends or our boyfriends on what we’re doing that day, it doesn’t feel particularly meaningful. But it is. There’s a richness of intimacy to be found in our online lives; it’s just that sometimes, someone has to be 200 miles away before you realise it’s there.

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The indie print revolution: how to make your own magazine

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Horsing around: a wild weekend at Appleby Fair

One week every year, the tiny town of Appleby in Cumbria host the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Western Europe. Around 10,000 members of the travelling community pour into the Eden Valley to trade horses, party, gamble, meet friends, and even find love.

Increasingly, horses are being brought to the three-day fair for leisure rather than for trade, and the vast majority of visitors are there as part of a traditional family holiday. Hundreds of horses are seen being ridden around the town, washed in the river, groomed, and exercised (the best way of showing them off).

I’d known about the Appleby fair for years – it’s been around since 1775 – but last year was the first time I got to visit. It was amazing: there was so much going on. I was surrounded by incredible faces everywhere – young boys riding cobs around, long-haired girls wearing beautiful outfits, and men dealing horses of all shapes and sizes.

Everyone was welcoming and charming. As a photographer, I always look for permission from people I shoot, and the majority of attendees were fine with me taking their photo. That said, I did receive a few nos – I felt some people were a bit suspicious of me, which I completely understand given the ignorance and prejudice these communities have faced in the past. I would probably be sceptical of photographers too.


See more of Stefy Pocket’s work on her official website, or follow her on Instagram.

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Meet the African chief who leads a double life in Germany

Céphas Bansah works as a self-employed car mechanic in the German town of Ludwigshafen. But in his spare time, he oversees the development of his hometown – Hohoe, capital of Ghana’s Gbi Traditional Area – through WhatsApp and Skype.

“Being a king is not a profession, it is my life’s work,” says the 70-year-old. “My happiest moments are when I can help in Ghana through my efforts here in Germany.”

Technically, the Gbi Traditional Area is not a monarchy and the title Ngoryifia literally translates as ‘development chief’, an honorary position bestowed on people thought of as respectable and believed to be capable of helping an area.

For Bansah, that could be securing sources of clean drinking water, redeveloping prison infrastructure for women and young men – “Until recently all inmates, whether male or female, were housed in a single room! I think you can imagine how they had suffered.” – or helping to fund life-saving treatment of a child with heart disease.

The path to this point is not exactly typical where Bansah comes from. But back in the 1970s, moving away and developing a trade felt like the only viable option to him. “My goal was to learn from the Germans themselves – the virtues of their work ethic, their understanding of technology, etc. – and bring this to my people in Ghana,” he says. “Many of my German friends today say that I am fussier than any German they know of.”

Bansah met his wife, ‘Queen Gabi’, when she came into the shop one day with a malfunctioning car. “The problem itself was found quickly but I told her that she had to come back a few more times over the next few days, that I had to test everything again,” he says. “I liked her and thanks to this trick – which I think she saw through quickly – we got to know each other.”

Those at home in Ghana struggled to understand the move, Bansah explains, but once the first of his relief projects became successful, people began to understand and respect his decision. Back then, offering support and orchestrating projects from afar required constant long-distance calls and faxes via his brother, Fredolin. But even today, over 30 years later, Bansah makes the trip back to Africa every winter.

That’s how he came to know the photographer Christina Czybik. Over the years, she’d heard stories about Bansah as an apprentice photo-editor at a news agency in Germany. When she approached him for a project in 2015, he invited Czybik to lunch and later suggested she join a delegation of family and friends travelling to Ghana and Togo later that year (at her own expense) to document his work – culminating with a visit to the Agbogboza Festival, an annual celebration of the Ewe people’s ancestral history.

It proved to be a transformative experience for Czybik. Growing up, she was constantly taking pictures of her family: first with her mother’s waterproof camera and later with the professional equipment that her father – a private investigator – bestowed to her in a metal suitcase.

After transitioning from apprentice to photo editor over the course of 10 years, Czybik moved to Los Angeles to work for different German agencies as a correspondent, which inspired her to pick up a camera again.

First she wandered the streets alone, taking pictures of LA at night, or drove out to the desert searching for relics of Americana. But she wasn’t interested in photographing people until she saw War Photographer, the 2001 documentary about photojournalist James Nachtwey.

“It was a turning point; it moved me so much,” she says. “I decided that I needed to step away from working full-time in the entertainment industry, so I took a chance and moved back to my hometown of Hamburg in 2013 when my father passed away – starting as a freelance photojournalist and photo editor.”

By the time Czybik embedded herself with ‘King Bansah’, she’d completed an award-winning project on the Small Nambas tribe of Malekula, an island in the Pacific Ocean. But travelling from Accra in Ghana to the festival in Notse, Togo, proved a different kind of challenge. The bus broke down before it even started. Then came days of traversing dirt roads, cramped together with no tangible sense of time or distance.

“You realise, quite suddenly, that travel feels different there,” she says. “I learned a lot: not only about the value of patience, but about respect, about helping people. Even though people in Germany might find [Bansah] funny, my approach was to show the hard work he’s doing to support his people in Ghana, how important this person is and what he is capable of achieving.”

Wherever the delegation went, Czybik explains, Bansah took on a full schedule of events with gusto – shaking hands and spending time with as many people as possible – while making a point of never smiling or looking directly into the camera as long as he wore his crown.

It was heartwarming to see he and Gabi so personally invested in all of their projects, she says, and rewarding to be able to soak up a different culture from such a unique vantage point.

But asked what image she feels connected to from their time together, Czybik singles out a moment taken back in Germany: Bansah standing in his colourful Kente dress, alone in the garage.

“It just doesn’t need any explanation about who he is and what he does,” she says. “For me, it’s also the symbol of bringing together two cultures, two different worlds. It’s about learning; about integration; a symbol against bias; about what you can archive if you work for it and to never give up.”

Find out more about photographer Christina Czybik.

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What Netflix did next: brats, bodyguards & sociopaths


The first five minutes of this bang, and I maintained hope for it quite a long way in. But,no – I’m sorry to report that it’s a load of toot.

This is a boilerplate 90-minute action film centred around a bodyguard, but the twist is – gasp! – it’s only a bloody woman! That’s right folks, it’s that Flashdance opening sequence all over again: there’s a welder, welding away, being a man, as per usual, nothing to see here, until the welding mask comes off and – wait, what??? It can’t be… it is! It’s a WOMAN!

Spoiled poor little rich girl, Zoe (Sophie Nélisse) has just inherited her father’s phosphate mines and must hang out in a safe house in Morocco for a bit so she doesn’t ruin the company’s reputation at a crucial point with her grief-fuelled clubbing and shagging. Her bodyguard Sam (a brilliant and wasted Noomi Rapace) is hired to look after her on the basis that she won’t also shag her (as bodyguards of yore have done).

Everything kicks off when the house’s safety system is compromised and kidnappers attempt to take Zoe for ransom. She and Sam flee to Casablanca on the run from more or less everyone, including Zoe’s ambivalently evil stepmother who may or may not be in on the plan to kill her.

Apparently filmed in just 29 days, Close has potential and two really solid central performances, but feels resolutely thrown together. It’s one of those ones with a script which sounds comically obviously written by committee, where you keep thinking “oh God, give more or less any person who’s had a conversation before a few hours to edit this and it will be better” – most pertinently when Zoe keeps stopping to shoehorn in half-hearted poignant conversations about emotional unavailability at the exact moment they’re about to be killed. Shut up Zoe and let the emotionally unavailable bodyguard save your stupid life!

Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth in the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, is absolutely brilliant – even in this shite – and deserves something with far more panache.



WORTH A WATCH WHEN HUNGOVER/ DRUNK? If it’s a choice between this and just listening to deafening white noise to drown out your hangover anguish, I’d choose this, but only by a hair.

Abducted In Plain Sight

True crime is primo entertainment now, dominating our Netflix queues, most-cherished podcasts and viral long reads. Many people, myself included, have made attempts to analyse why we’re so hung up on it as a genre, but I can’t get too far past the fact that we like it because unusual crimes, the sort we make productions out of, are weird and gross and interesting. You can take a hundred different nuanced side glances at how we consume and receive it but I can’t believe there’s much more subtle at play than our related need to gawk at a totalled car on a motorway.

Nor is it a new compulsion, unique to our generation of internet voyeur creeps. Outside Ted Bundy’s execution in 1986, hordes of drunk revellers gathered to witness the occasion in what was described as a carnivalesque atmosphere. People are curious and morbid, and understandably concerned with the unusual ways that there are to die in this hell world of ours, and probably always have been.

Abducted In Plain Sight is the latest buzzy Netflix true crime doc, and one of the most jaw-dropping I’ve ever seen. Some crimes are astonishing because of their unusual debauchery, or the number of people they affected. This one is incredible because of the beguilingly incomprehensible behaviour of almost every single person involved, and the gothic horror insanity of its narrative trajectory.

Jan Broberg was 12 the first time she was kidnapped by her neighbour Robert “B” Berchtold. Her parents had stood back, acquiescing, with only slight discomfort as Berchtold infiltrated Jan’s life. Though friends with the entire family, he took a clear liking to Jan, paying her special attention and compliments, taking her on outings, eventually even sleeping alongside her in bed with her parents’ knowledge. Berchtold’s slow manipulation of each of Jan’s parents is disturbing but also maddening to watch. It’s clear he must have been an exceptionally charming and charismatic sociopath – but even so, one’s sympathy begins to reach its limits when they continue to allow him to see their pre-adolescent daughter even after he’s kidnapped her once.

I don’t want to say too much more about the details, because part of what makes this film so striking is the rapidly mounting disbelief as it all unfolds. But what’s most notable is absolute cognitive dissonance when it comes to child abuse and sexual molestation. It wasn’t that the Brobergs knew that Jan was being abused and decided to do nothing, but it also wasn’t that Berchtold so successfully deceived them that they had no way of telling.

What he was doing was obvious – obscenely, distressingly so. But the level of naivety and denial meant that when Jan finally broke down and told them explicitly, years later, they were legitimately devastated and shocked. At one point her father says he doesn’t think he even would have known what the words “child molestation” meant. It’s a chillingly illustrative account of how paedophilia is simultaneously totally othered and totally, utterly pervasive, knit into the fabric of so many childhoods and cultures.


WORTH A WATCH WHEN SOBER? Yes – though a big trigger warning for child abuse and rape.

WORTH A WATCH WHEN HUNGOVER/ DRUNK? No. Your head will frankly explode.

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Documenting the unseen side of the Black Panther Party

In 1968, the Black Panther Party (BPP) stood 2,000 strong; armed not just with firearms, but a knowledge of the Constitution, state, and local laws. Initially organised to fight police brutality, the group quickly organised to institute community social programs. Leadership understood the power of the press and began working with writers, artists, and photographers to get the word out.

That year, Kathleen Cleaver met husband and wife photographers Pirkle Jones (1914-2009) and Ruth-Marion Baruch (1922-1997), and gave them unprecedented access to the inner circle of the BPP.  Of the work they made, Baruch said: “We can only tell you: This is what we saw. This is what we felt. These are the people.”

The photographs – first printed in The Black Panther weekly newspaper – were immediately well-received, and an exhibition of the work, Black Panthers: A Photo Essay, opened at San Francisco’s de Young Museum shortly after. More than 100,000 people attended the show, despite City Hall’s best efforts to pressure the photographers to delay or cancel it.

This historic body of work is the inspiration for Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures, an exhibition that places Jones and Barruch’s archival photographs in dialogue with the work of four contemporary black artists and collectives: Kija Lucas, Tosha Stimage, Chris Martin, and 5/5 Collective. The exhibition is the culminating project for the students of the Collaborative Practices Course, which was taught by Jeff Gunderson, Librarian and Archivist at San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) during autumn 2018.

Pirkle Jones, Black Panthers drilling before Free Huey Rally, DeFremery Park, Oakland, CA, #23 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers.

Pirkle Jones, Black Panthers discussing their reading material, Bobby Hutton Memorial Park, Oakland, CA, #101 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers. Commissioned by Swedish magazine, Vi.

Gunderson met Jones when he began working at SFAI’s Anne Bremer Memorial Library. Over the years, they spoke frequently about photography and politics, as well as his time as a student at SFAI on the G.I. Bill, studying photography under Ansel Adams in 1946, where he first met Baruch.

“Ruth-Marion received the very first MA in photography in the US in 1946 from Ohio University, doing her thesis on Edward Weston,” Gunderson remembers. “Afterwards she enrolled at SFAI, where she met the luminaries on the faculty: Adams, Weston, and Dorothea Lange, as well as Minor White, Lisette Model, and Imogen Cunningham.”

“Both Pirkle and Ruth-Marion had become radicalised in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, being anti-war, pro-civil rights and members of the Peace and Freedom Party. Ruth-Marion approached Kathleen Cleaver about photographing, explaining how she wanted to debunk the demonisation of the Panthers and to show the side of the Panthers not being shown in the media.”

After receiving an invitation to photograph a Free Huey Rally in Oakland’s De Fremery Park, Jones and Baruch were introduced to Kathleen’s husband, Eldridge Cleaver.

Pirkle Jones, Three men carrying Free Huey banners on court house steps, #71 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers.

“Pirkle and Ruth-Marion were eager to have their photos shown in The Black Panther newspaper. The Panthers had a great grasp on communication: whether it be in their rhetoric, artwork, their confident style, and most of all their message, which resonated with a wide group of radicals, not just left-leaning African-Americans.”

“When they showed their first images to the Cleavers, the couple responded enthusiastically. Eldridge asked, ‘Why do your photographs have a feeling that none of the work I’ve seen of us by other photographers has?’”

Jones and Baruch stood in solidarity with the BPP, openly using photography to support and amplify the message. “They would never have considered themselves photojournalists – not even documentary photographers. Their photographs took a stance,” Gunderson says.

“Even though they worked together and their intentions were ‘to tell it like it is,’ in the parlance of the times, they photographed individually and then edited the set of photos into a joint essay. As one of the Panther founders Elbert ‘Bigman’ Howard would later say, Pirkle and Ruth-Marion, ‘had a great eye for humanity; nobody was posing; we were all part of somebody’s family.”

Pirkle Jones, Free Huey rally, Bobby Hutton Memorial Park (formerly DeFremery Park).

Pirkle Jones, Black Panthers in formation during drill, DeFremery Park, Oakland, CA, #57 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers.

Pirkle Jones, Black Panthers from Sacramento, Free Huey Rally, Bobby Hutton Memorial Park, Oakland, CA, #62 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers

Pirkle Jones, Free Huey rally, DeFremery Park, Oakland.

Pirkle Jones, Bullet Hole in plate glass window of Black Panther Party National Headquarters, Oakland, CA, #1 from A Photographic Essay on The Black Panthers.


Vanguard Revisited: Poetic Politics & Black Futures, co-organised with the University of California, Santa Cruz, is on view at San Francisco Art Institute through April 7, 2019.

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Where sex therapy meets art: the magic of Shelby Sells

Talking to Shelby Sells is like catching up with an old friend. Squirting hot sauce into an avocado, she spoons at it with manicured fingernails painted the same fiery shade as her Sriracha. “I’m gonna stalk your Instagram for beach pics!” she cackles, after learning that I’m calling from vacation.

Speaking over Skype from her cluttered New York flat, the 27-year-old is disarmingly open and animated. Every so often, she waves a green juice around to emphasise a point. It’s easy to see why Shelby Sells (her real name) has become Internet Famous for intimate interviews with people about sex and relationships: she’s a great talker, and an even better listener.

What’s harder to believe is that frank communication didn’t always come easily. Having grown up in a religious Idaho household, today she explores topics once deemed off limits.

“I had the fear of God in me,” she says, her face framed by wavy blonde hair, her upper arms covered in tattoos. “From a young age, I associated fear with sex. Sex was only to be had between husband and wife – end of discussion.”

As a rebellious teenager who liked to sneak out and party with friends, Shelby was sent to a “lock-down emotional-growth boarding school” for her behaviour.

The impact of that experience – combined with her religious upbringing – proved traumatic. “I don’t think my family was aware of the extent of mistreatment there,” she says. (After Shelby graduated, the school was shut down for child abuse.)

Later, when she finally had sex for the first time, Shelby couldn’t help but feel ashamed. “It took a while to come to terms with what sex meant to me, what my definition of it was, and that it’s okay that my definition might be different than others.”

Moving to Los Angeles for college began to undo some of that. There, Shelby dropped out of her fashion marketing degree in its final year (“I was 19 and said, ‘Fuck it’”), choosing instead to work in vintage clothing stores around the city. She began socialising with an ever-expanding circle of friends, driven by curiosity.

“I was always like, ‘Who are you dating? Who are you hooking up with?’ And everyone would always tell me. Girl and guy friends would come to me if they had a crazy sexual experience, and then we’d talk about it.”

With a little encouragement from those around her, Shelby realised her knack for communication could be useful for more than just prying gossip. So in 2013, she started a blog featuring interviews with people about their experiences of sex and relationships. “I thought I’d just document it and take their photo,” she says with a shrug. “And that’s how I got started.”

The blog, Pillow Talk (now titled Perv on the Go), quickly gained momentum. It blended images of cam girls, rappers and “full-time bad bitches” – all shot on 35mm film – alongside detailed exchanges about turn-ons, kinks and romantic histories.

We meet Megan, a 35-year-old actor from Massachusetts, who reflects on the impact of being engaged only for the six-year relationship to unravel the closer they got to the wedding. Nicky, a 19-year-old club kid from LA with bright green hair, reveals that he has only dated bisexual people, is turned off by masculinity and keeps his platform shoes on in bed.

David, a babyfaced musician who grew up on a farm in Arizona, talks about needing to masturbate at least twice a day as a stress reliever. Then there’s Max, a 22-year-old model and artist who attended a home for troubled teens in Utah. He’d experienced issues with feeling loved as a kid and questioned his sexuality when he began to travel at 18.

As the site continued to grow, amassing more stories, Shelby decided to take a breather from the LA scene and moved to Detroit. She began to make a living as a freelance writer-cum-sexologist, contributing to titles such as Vice and Paper while shooting for the likes of Nylon and fashion brand Nasty Gal.

Her Instagram presence, too, grew in tandem with her output: across two accounts – one public, one private – she now has close to 60k followers. (The separate profiles are a strategic move to skirt Instagram’s censorship rules around nudity.)

For a while, Shelby kept expanding her skill-base: branching into lingerie design, radio and filmmaking. Then she decided to get back to basics. In order to be a true source of knowledge in this field, to really promote greater transparency in relationships, she decided to pursue a degree in psychology and human sexuality.

“There are a lot of great people out there who are giving back and educating,” she says. “And I would like to be one of those people. Education is power.”

Turning her interpersonal skills into a career as a therapist feels like a natural evolution. Half an hour into our call, the conversation seems less like an interview and more of an impromptu counselling session. Shelby asks, “Why?” and “Like what?” just as much as I do.

“It’s empowering to witness someone open up,” she says. “I learn something new about myself in every interview; I always relate to each of my subjects on some level. The more we open up to each other, the more intimacy we create.”

That approachability has turned her into an agony aunt, of sorts, for the online world. Men in her DMs aren’t after nudes, but advice – often when it comes to issues of consent and respect. “I’m like, ‘Yes!’”, she says, clicking her fingers for emphasis.

“One thousand per cent yes! …We’re working towards equality here in every sense of the meaning and I realise that a lot of times people just need someone to talk to about this kind of stuff.”

She pauses for a moment. Her earnest, pixelated face leans closer towards the webcam before breaking into a smile. “…And I’m here for you, too.”

This article appears in Huck: The Flying Lotus Issue. Buy it in the Huck shop or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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Neville Southall tackles… the National Health Service

The NHS is the people’s property: it’s for the people, run by the people. Nowadays though it has become a political football (which isn’t the good type of football). Time is marching on and the Tories are dismantling things, and privatisation is very much at the fore.

The NHS is the best thing in Britain, to me it’s a place where you should be able to go for free no matter who you are. This must be saved – health should not be about how much money you have, or how important you are perceived to be. It’s about everyone being treated equally.

I doubt anyone in their right mind can say it’s perfect but, it has been mismanaged, underfunded and not been taken seriously enough for years.

The staff work themselves into the ground every day, week in and week out. Although some people have had bad experiences, it is mainly because of the stress and the pressure put upon the staff.

The NHS needs modernising for sure, and I want an NHS that makes private medical treatment look normal. Why should rich people get treated any better than the poor? We need to increase the numbers of nurses, doctors, surgeons and specialists, and just as importantly cleaners and chefs.

There is no point is having great surgeons if we have dirty hospitals because of understaffing, and it’s no good having substandard food as patients will spend more time recovering from operations.

We need a super motivated staff who get the respect and wages they deserve. There needs to be enough nurses in each ward so they don’t have to do a thousand jobs at once while also looking after the patients. Nurses belong with patients, not spreading themselves so thin that both sides suffer. They need to be paid more.

Advancement in medical practices and in medicine is moving forward quickly, so the NHS needs to keep pace by having flexibility to change routines and practices. It can’t get stuck doing same things just because they have always been done like that.

Every person who works in the health sector in management or in politics should spend a full week in a hospital so they understand what goes on, especially on weekends. This way, perhaps, we may get a change of views and attitudes from those in charge who are out of touch.

Why should people be allowed to abuse ambulance crews or hospital staff when all they are trying to do is help? False 999 calls and abuse must be met head on with large fines, or if persistent a jail sentence.

We also need to work on the GP system, I would like to see 24 hour access to treatment consisting of 3 x 8 hour shifts for doctors. This way everyone can get an appointment, and if surgeries were open 24 hours it may save the hospitals a lot of time and trouble.

The after care for patients needs looking at, with carers being allowed proper time with patients – not just 10 minutes but time to listen and to care, without rushing through and dashing to the next appointment. They must have a decent wage to do the job too.

I am aware that all this requires money, and one way to is to set up a new extra tax scheme: a pound a week from everyone to pay for the NHS.

This weekly fund on a national scale could help a lot. It would also help break the stigma of “not everyone pays to use NHS”. It should raise about £40 million per week.  This could be pumped into one hospital per week, 52 hospitals a year. This would be in addition to increased standard funding. Imagine the things this could do.

I want to see a day when we celebrate the NHS with all premier league teams giving match proceeds to local hospitals.

We don’t need privatisation, we need smart people and a culture change to give our hospital heroes a chance to be what they want to be and deliver what they want to deliver in a way they want.

We under estimate how wonderful these people are, and we should cherish them.


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