I don’t cover general elections, but I do take a photographer’s view of the general election!
I am not a media pundit, an election photographer, a pollster and most of all I am not a politician. But there is something about the cyclical squabble surrounding election day and its feverish build up that is compelling. The British media go daft for about 2 months every time there is a general election – Christ, they sometimes work themselves into a frenzy at a by-election. The party contenders vie for as much coverage as they can get, although quite how many different facial expressions a lensman can capture is not known. But try they do, the pap pack chasing after the ‘celebrity’ politicians, all of whom – even the women – have been taking lessons from Barack Obama’s campaign Bible. In this most ‘presidential’ of general elections, the be-shirted, sleeves rolled-up, sweaty-browed (but those underarms must be perma-sealed with deodorant) contenders take to the hustings like men (and women) possessed by some political dervish. The faux-impassioned spouting in supermarkets and factory floors I never find convincing, but what I do find convincing is that these folks sure love the limelight.
And the British media are on hand to shine the spotlight on them. In this era of Holywood style campaigns with state of the art helicopters, sleek aircraft, buses and trains hustling the party leaders from place to place, I don’t think any of them are immune from that most notable of Holywood traits – entitlement. And with the perma-lens of the broadcast and print media in your face everywhere you go, there is little chance of ever getting away from the importance of yourself (mostly to yourself), something that ironically distances the politicians from the very voters they are trying to attract. I find Cameron’s high-pitched Etonian delivery jarring; I’ll never get rid of the picture of poor Ed eating that sandwich; Nick looks like he has a pole permanently up his ass and talks likewise; Farage nearly died at his last general election outing and has seemingly convinced himself that life’s too short not to be eating and drinking at every watering hole on the campaign trail; the Green woman sounds like a foghorn; every time the Plaid Cymru woman speaks I’m taken right back to Gavin & Stacey; and wee Nicola, taking her name from a fish doesn’t help, but as a wee woman, she surely holds her own in a field of larger, if not big, hitters!
Which brings me rather depressingly to our own lot here in Northern Ireland – or the North, or the Six Counties, or Ulster, or the Sick Counties, or The Province – take your pick depending on your own political persuasion or background. As an image maker I like to innovate and look at things from new and unusual perspectives. But when it comes to the politics of the Sick Counties (yes, you guessed it!) I am at a terminal loss to find anything that might even marginally lift my spirits. Our politicians have succumbed to their British counterparts sense of entitlement as a political elite, but this is as far as they get. Anyone settling in to watch our rather pitiful ‘leaders’ debate on BBC Northern Ireland on the Tuesday evening before the general election would have been served the same cold soup that we’ve been getting since partition. Maybe its that most on the panel have seen too many general elections – signs etched on many of their ageing faces – or simply that these old heads have nothing new to say. Discussion on serious issues like same sex marriage, the deficit, abortion etc. provided on a thin veneer to mask the vicious sectarian nature of our so called politics. Even those who have donned the clothes of global statesmen – Mr McGuiness of Sinn Fein – couldn’t help being drawn into grubby shouting sessions on the past. At least one wag online had a pop in this funny adaptation of the debate.
It is probably certain that no-one takes any interest in our local gobshites, other than when the big media get their mits on some of their more recent outbursts to camera – Jim Wells for example – and then the boys and girls over the water can get to their tut-tutting at a new target other than Nigel Farage. And not even our poor First Minister can sound convincing in his ‘defence’ of the outrageous mutterings emerging from his party’s rank and file. And Tuesday evening’s event once again turned the spotlight on our eternal backwater. Thankfully only a few of us were looking in.
But away from politics, I’ll continue to point my camera and lens at you, my worthy customer, and dwell on the reality of living here in our lovely Sick Counties, away from the glare of the media and into the places and spaces that make meaning of our lives – far, far away from the world of politics.
I’ll still be at the polling station tomorrow though!