New Look and New Project, Well Kind Of !

November 16th, 2012

Wow! I have discovered the appearance section of the WordPress site, it pretty amazing to think you can change the whole look of your website, literally, (no literally) at the touch of a button.

I have also been (slowly) learning more about blog sites. So now I  have a News page and a Recent Work page, where I’m talking about the latest project, Desk Job. Well I say latest; I have been working on it for several years, I have just decided its time to push it out there, so if any photography folks can think of any magazines who might be interested in publishing the Desk Job series please, (pretty please), feel free to share.

Help me with my blog look please

November 10th, 2012

Does any one know how i can remove the grey line around my pictures ?

Ah hold that thought , I’m changing the whole blumn’ blog

Police officers on duty including

Guardian’s G2, and the World Service.

November 10th, 2012

Its always great to be published in your home country, but not always easy and generally involves many calls and emails and a thick skin. Anyway the Guardian ran the Libya story  in G2 showing the pictures and interviews together with a lovely piece of writing by Luke Harding.

The BBC World Service invited me in to talk about the work on the World Update program. Was this the beginning of my radio career?

Link to sound file

Link to article online

Libya Tear Sheets

October 16th, 2012

Big Thanks to the magazines publishing the story completed recently in Libya , notably A-magasinet (www.aftenposten.no) , and Der Tagesspiegel.

Libya, Talking About A Revolution

October 16th, 2012

A Big Thankyou  to  the magazines publishing the story completed recently in Libya , notably Der Tagesspiegel and A-magasinet (www.aftenposten.no) , hope to publish these tears soon. Here’s the link to  full story for those of you interested:

http://www.louisquail.com/PDF/Talking_About_a_Revolution_final.pdf

Here are a few thoughts on my motivation.

Out of all the countries in the Arab spring Libya for me seemed the most interesting.  There was something inspiring and clean cut about the way the people removed such a brutal dictator whilst  introducing democracy and keeping control of the revolution ; side stepping the drift into insurgency ( as has happened in Syria).

In Libya the whole country it seems is behind the process of democracy. After the recent, and highly regrettable, killing of the American ambassador , 30 000 people came on to the streets to remove the militias allied to Islamic extremism deemed responsible. This truly is a popular Revolution.

However, although we have heard much about the Islamic extremists how many people know  about this huge  popular response to extremism  days later.

The nature of the news machine is to report the most dramatic, the most inflammatory stories if you like. My personal response to this is, and has always been to think  ‘there has to be a more complex and honest way to report on and understand a situation’.

I reported in my introduction:

“Our perceptions of Libya are constricted by a news industry that focuses on the most dramatic events – the fighting and global strategy. However, it’s only by talking to the individuals intimately involved with the revolution, that we can truly see the big picture and understand the legacy of Muammar Gaddafi.

So driven partly by my fascination with Libya and partly by the urge to tell stories in a less sensational manner I felt compelled to visit Libya.

I was first inspired to work like this in Kosovo and have since been to Afghanistan and Haiti, (www.louisquail.com) working in a similar way.

Of course there are many difficulties still in Libya as it recovers not just from revolution but 42 years of a brutal dictatorship.  While I was in Libya there was a gun battle outside my hotel, and the airport hijacked by a disgruntled militia (more of this on my earlier blogs).  Shocking as this is, it was in no way indicative of my lasting impression of Libya.

I met some truly amazing people, such as the lawyer, turned soldier, turned lawyer Ghelaio who fought to protect his family and is now fighting for a truly free Libya or the 15 female revolutionaries in Tajoura who risked their, lives fighting for freedom.

When every house hold has a gun, and easy access to grenades its not surprising that trouble happens, but what I was always amazed by was how little trouble there was. This is a country with problems but also of moderation.  For the most part the Libyans were friendly, and optimistic that there would be a better life for them and their country men.

I shot on film, taking my time, and interviewed people, sometimes at length. I felt it was also important to document and pay tribute to the ordinary people involved in extraordinary events and to report on their tragedy, courage and stoicism not to mention other unexpected qualities such as  moderation and tolerance.

Often for the most part people seemed grateful that they could at last speak openly, and people were always friendly.

My one regret was I didn’t get to see the fabulous Roman city outside Tripoli. I’m betting if I return to Libya in a few years or so it will be along with thousands of tourists enjoying a peaceful country with an amazing history.

The wars end anniversary is on the 23/10/12, it seems a fitting time to show this work and remember the courage and loss of the Libyan people.

Libya: ‘Talking About A Revolution’

August 23rd, 2012

So after what seems like an eternity of transcribing interviews; far to many conversations with retouchers about removing dust marks on film scans; and a crash course in Adobe Indesign I am finally showing my feature from Libya in pdf form.  Anyone  who would like a copy please get in touch, ( mail@louisquail.com) in the meantime here is a taster. The project  explores the legacy left by the revolution and Gadaffi’s dictatorship and pays tribute to the suffering and courage  of the extraordinary people of Libya.

[slideshow]

Libya, reposted

July 29th, 2012

So it’s 12.30 at night and I can’t sleep – not because of the usual reasons: traffic , insomnia,  noisy neighbours, but because there is a guy outside shouting very angrily and he has been there  ever since he fired his AK47 off  into the kebab shop opposite my hotel 30 minutes ago, and I’m trying to remember if the doors to my hotel are glass or not.

 

In case you’re wondering I’m not in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire where the only thing one has to worry about is whether someone is going to steal your parking space or not , I’m in Tripoli, Libya where there’s a lot more to be worried about.  ( Ok so it’s gone very quiet now – or has it? No there’s shooting still but not immediately outside).

 

The thing is about this town and country is that at times,  it can feel deceptively charming,  peaceful  even. In day time Tripoli,  there is a  feel in places, especially near me in Martyr  Square, of  a bustling, sophisticated metropolis.  People are friendly, they want to tell their stories, there is shopping and café living.  But there is a dark and angry flip side, a violence that is there, just beneath the surface.

 

According to the quietly spoken hotel concierge, the man with the gun was drunk and trying to catch/kill the guy in the kebab shop for whatever reason. And there are many possible reasons: he could have been a pro-Gadaffi secret policeman hiding his murderous past, or maybe he served him a dodgy kebab and gave him a stomach upset.

 

When every man has a gun (thank God, including the quietly spoken concierge) then things like this will happen, as I am frequently told. Anyway the military are here now so I think that’s good.

 

It is worth pointing out however that this a country of extremes, and where there are stories of violence there are also stories of courage and strength. Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting some (15 actually) of the Tajoura female resistance –  charming and elegant, as they are brave. (The shooting is starting again, great,  brilliant! There’s a full scale gun battle outside my hotel , including automatic fire) . This was organized by the Tajoura media department ( no not the gun battle the line up of classy Libyan women) so I couldn’t help thinking it was a masterstroke in PR when I was introduced to 15 highly educated, rather beautiful,  women of Tajoura who risked their lives during the Ghadaffi regime. They are female revolutionaries if you will.

 

There were lawyers, teachers, doctors and dentists.  They told me that the simple act of distributing an anti Ghadaffi flyer ( or broadcasting an anti Ghadaffi video as they have done)  would have meant arrest, and after arrest , they told me , would come torture ( the regime would want to see if they could  extract information from you).

 

I wanted to come out to Libya to see for myself something of what was happening before and during the revolution and to see what kind of future there is for Libya. Can they wean themselves off the brutalitly of the iron fist of Ghadaffi, or will they be inspired by western influences and the calls of companies like Human Rights Watch to clean up their act? According to HRW, Libya recently “ has passed some shockingly bad laws, mimicking Qaddafi laws criminalizing political dissent and granting blanket immunity to any crimes committed in “support” of the revolution.”  So that is not a good sign, and until they get some of these guns off the street things are going to be unstable at the very least for some time to come .

 

But still the women of Tajoura give me hope, and the strength of the family unit is inspiring as well. Families are close. This gave them the strength to rid  them selves of Ghadaffi and also  helped them show much restraint since. This country is dangerous but considering what has happened out here, some  credit should be attributed to the fact the place is not shooting itself up like Iraq for example.

 

 

worker photographed through the bullet hole , made the previous night when a disgruntled Libyan decided to shootup his kebab shop

 

The shooting eventually stops ,and the following morning I discover what happened. The guy who came with a group of his mates had apparently been drinking ( this is fortunately quite rare as it’s illegal out here) . He was upset over an earlier detention and came to make a point . The owner of the kebab shop being high up in the military, had something to do with it so he decided to shoot his shop up, I don’t think there was an intention to harm, but it’s just the way it is out here right now –  I need to make a point, how do I do it?

On the day I arrived my flight had been diverted as the the international airport had been closed down by a brigade from Tahouni  doing pretty much the same thing.  Well the elections are coming soon and we have to hope the influence of democracy will change this mind set.

 

On a positive note yesterday I saw the Tahouni  group who earlier had closed down the airport  with their anti-aircraft guns, protesting outside the police station , peacefully.  Maybe things will move on quicker than expected.

Picture Tank !

May 4th, 2012

Although I have always managed to get around France with my Petit Français using vital phrases Like Une bière, s’il vous plait? I have struggled to market my work in a sophisticated way in this lovely country. It is with great pleasure then that I can announce that I am joining the fabulous and friendly PictureTank Agency, who will hopefully be assisting me in the French  arena and  beyond. You can see some of my recent stories in further detail on their site.

http://bit.ly/IPDpyO

“China In Our Hands”, A report on China’s One Child Policy!

October 10th, 2011

The Sunday Telegraph magazine, Stella, published my short Story on China’s one Child policy  yesterday.  In case you missed it or  would like to see or know a bit more ( and may even want to run the story in your  magazine)  have a look at any of the following :

The  introduction below, Stella’s online link,   a slide show and for the really serious  a downloadable PDF.

“China In Our Hands”, A report on China’s One Child Policy! Words: Katy Regan Pictures: Louis Quail.

Since its introduction in 1978, the One Child Policy has come under great scrutiny, particularly by the West for human rights abuses and harrowing reports of mass sterilization and forced abortions have become commonplace. Whilst undoubtedly these still go on, what we found when we travelled across four provinces to interview one-child families was something unexpected: Yes, there are couples who will do anything to get round the policy, but acceptance of the policy was the norm, and even if people were eligible to have more, they only wanted one child: the poor welcomed the limit for economic reasons and the middle-classes saw it as a lifestyle choice.

The ‘one child story’ is topical right now: China’s Census, published in April this year, increased speculation in the Chinese media and abroad that a review of the one child policy was inevitable due to expected shortages of labour, an alarming increase in boy babies and concerns about the care of the elderly in a nation of only children. Secondly, as China’s amazing economic growth drives it to become the worlds first superpower, some are asking: Is there a link between a nation of highly educated, ambitious, competitive only children and its global ambitions?

We travelled across 4 provinces to photograph and interview some of the 1.4 billion Chinese to see the day to day reality for the families dealing with the legacy of chairman Mao’s One Child policy.

I Hope you enjoy the story and thank you for your time.

[slideshow]

China, A Travelogue.

September 23rd, 2011

In April this year, I set off to China to complete a story on the one child policy. I went with my son and my son’s mother (we are not together but we get on well and we wanted our son to have a family holiday). Holiday is not the right word really. We were to complete an assignment for Stella magazine (Fergus Mum, Katy, is a journalist, that’s how we met); a travel story for at least two magazines, the deal was that we would also find time to be tourists with our child. It was not going to be a picnic, or really a holiday for that matter, but we hoped it would be a little adventure.

Did I mention we were also going to throw in four provinces, interview and photograph twelve families? Not really that relaxing then! We were also dealing with a child who is jet-lagged and desperate for fish fingers. In a country where there are virtually no English speakers ( even in the hotels) or even English signs. It was a challenge at times.

It worked though, we managed to have a great time, even though Fergus was jet lagged for a week…..We had to point to food in photographs quite often,( it’s hard to tell donkey from beef in a picture you know but then we thought it was about time Fergus expanded his diet)  And he did. Duck was added, donkey maybe, and lots of other strange things of which I can’t tell you the names. Dim Sum in Hong Kong was a highlight, you get to choose food from waiters wheeling trollies of exotic delights. In Shandong, however, they eat pickled cabbage for breakfast –  what’s that all about –  and no coffee., would you believe it? This was an outlandish and hostile environment to be working in.

On the plus side they did have this great food concept called ‘hotpot’ where you pick and cook the food you want to eat on the table – for example lobster. Very often, restaurants were like an aquarium. This is a definite plus for two parents trying to entertain a six-year-old boy.

China, like the food, is a country of extremes. In a third world country where the average income is equivalent to that of the  Republic of Namibia, who could imagine cities like Shenzhen? A commercial metropolis exploding from nowhere  – twenty years ago it was a fishing port – Or Beijing where four lane superhighways and gleaming skyscrapers have almost erased all the history of an ancient city in the time it takes to decide that an ancient culture is almost irrelevant. (I think they were lucky to hang on to the Forbidden city and managed this only because of the economics of tourism.) Planning permission is not an obstacle for development in China.

It’s a ruthlessly pragmatic communist country where the bottom line is more brutal than in Wall Street. If the Americans put the $ into CAPITALI$M then the Chinese put the ¥ into MONE¥. Every thing has a price, its not surprising they are tipped to be the world’s next super power. I guess corporations are all mini dictatorships so when China embraced capitalism it had all the systems in place to be one vast, Chinese Corporation.

But in China there is always the antidote. An overnight and evocative train ride away from Shenzhen and you are in the rural province of Guangxi.  Even though I had to pay every time I wanted to photograph a water buffalo around the ultra touristy Yangzhou, it was hard not be seduced by the amazing iconic mountain ranges along the River Li, and even bartering on the streets of this reassuringly quaint Chinese equivalent of Windermere was great fun.

Back on the river, we discovered that having a picture taken with a cormorant fisherman was also chargeable. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry really, the octogenarian even had his own business card but then in China, economic success is progress of a sort, why work all day to get a few fish when you can make £15 in two hours? Especially as there is no state pension. Still, how many British six year olds get to pose with a real life piece of Chinese history? The photo we have of Fergus on board the Cormorant fisherman’s raft, is one to treasure.

Down the road In Guilin though I was happy to part with my Yuan when I picked up some lovely Chinese paintings after a demonstration of this ancient art form in the museum, we even had a stamp carved with Fergus name on and Fergus taught the technique by a master artist, a personal highlight of the trip.

So there you are: China: ancient and modern, crass and cultured, rich and poor, communist and capitalist, and is  a country where despite many similarities with western culture, is truly an exotic, mystical place, full of surprises.

In between all the touristy stuff above we did manage to complete the intended assignment, which I will publish in the next blog:  ‘China in Our Hands’ a report on the One Child Policy. Fergus was my mini assistant, carrying my equipment, loading film and so forth. Ha! Was he heck, but he did play with the children and our ‘only’ child was a great ice breaker for all the families we met with their ‘only children’ so really very helpful.

I hope he will have fond memories of this trip, after all he got  to see pandas, climb the Great Wall, meet a cormorant fisher man, bike along the river Li, catch minnows at Splendid China (a huge miniature recreation of all of china’s amazing sites )but maybe not  quite as many as I would hope. After retuning he had a weekend with his grand parents pottering around the shores of North West Lancashire.  “Dad” he said, “I had a great time in China, but I had a better time with nana and granddad.” Brilliant!