Rosie Pearson

Rosie Pearson
Second year, Senior Status Law
I'm a mature Law student and Londoner on the senior status LLB at QMUL. In my spare time I love to eat, cook, run and cycle round the city.

Lynsey Addario – ‘It’s What I Do’

Earlier this month, at London’s Frontline Club, Lynsey Addario gave an intimate talk about her experiences over the past two decades as a photojournalist capturing life in some of the globe’s most contested, dangerous territories. Being one of the few women in her field has granted Addario a unique perspective on human rights issues and women’s role in traditional societies such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur.

Addario spoke of her unconventional upbringing in a cross-dressing, Italian American household in Connecticut. Her mother and father, both hairdressers, separated when she was eight after her father ran off with her mother’s male friend.

“The men were all dressed as women and they had mock weddings and half the women were topless…In my house there were no rules”

After moving to India in 2000, Addario’s career as a photojournalist took off in Afghanistan taking photographs of women living under the Taliban. Journalists were permitted to enter into the country in the early 2000s, but photography of any living thing was interpreted as illegal under Sharia law. Addairo was able to use her status as a woman to her advantage, entering into female only areas that the Taliban could not access. She spent time in a women’s hospital, taking intimate portraits of maternity wards and unveiled patients. Addario recalled that the Afghan people were much more open to having their photograph taken during that time.

“They knew that nothing would get back to Afghanistan because there was no TV, no newspapers… So ironically people were much more open to being photographed then”

Due to a complete ban on women’s activity outside of the home, the only women seen on the street in Afghanistan were widows, unable to work to provide for themselves they were forced to beg on the street for food. Courageous enough to gain access to intimate, domestic settings, Addario’s work forms a rare visual testament to women’s struggle in Afghanistan at the turn of the century.

Addario went on to cover the insurgency in Iraq for almost a decade. She was stationed with the US Marines on assignment from Life Magazine during the counter-insurgency in Fallujah, with a brief to photograph wounded American soldiers. With access to military hospitals and rescue helicopters, Addario captured over 100 images of fallen soldiers. A powerful image shows a stripped-back, military cargo plane with wounded lying end-to-end, strapped to the floor of the aircraft bound for hospitals in Germany. Desperate to get the images published before the presidential election in 2004, Addario was crushed to receive an email from Life Magazine stating:

“We will never run your pictures from Iraq, because my editor thinks they’re too strong for the American public to see.”

The photos, having been held for three months and George Bush re-elected, were published by the New York Times Magazine in 2005.

Her series ‘Talibanistan’, shot in the tribal areas of Northern Pakistan, contains incredibly intimate shots of the Taliban in 2008. Addario’s first encounter with the Taliban again illustrates, perhaps unexpectedly, the benefits of being a female photojournalist amongst an Islamic culture. Having spent a weeks in the ‘creepy’ boarder town Peshawar, Addario and her colleague Dexter Filkins (an American war correspondent) receive a call from commander Haji Namdar and head to their date with the Taliban. Addario describes a tiny room, full of men, with dozens of AK47s and prothetic legs leant against the walls. She is introduced as Filkins’ wife and begins to shoot as many frames as she can, wary of the increasingly awkward atmosphere. With Filkin’s engaged in an interview, several men, looking troubled and skittish, begin to surround Addario. She’s certain they mean to kill her. Lowering his gaze one speaks to her and their translator translates:

“Madame we would like to serve you tea, but we don’t know how you can drink the tea through your veil.”

Addario talks of a world that is incredibly hospitable, offering food and drink to the most unlikely visitors, of a muslim culture that placed women on a pedestal and showed her a deference that allowed her to work to great effect.

In 2011, the risks involved in her work caught up with Addario as she was captured, alongside three other journalists, by Muammar el-Qaddafi’s troops in during the civil war in Libya. Having spent two weeks on the frontline of the conflict, with mortar bombs falling increasingly close-by and reports of Qaddafi’s troops about to break the line, Addario and her colleagues decided to pull back to Benghazi. At a check point on the journey the journalists were forced from the car in a hail of bullets, blindfolded and tied-up. They were beaten and, in Addario’s case, groped sexually, before being released in Tripoli six days later.

Perhaps sobered by her traumatic experiences, her husbands entreaty on US television while she was captive to ‘come back here because we’ve got to have kids’  hit home and by the end of 2011 Addario gave birth to her first child. Her book, written while coping with new motherhood and the adrenaline slump a war correspondent must feel at home in peace time, promises to be a fascinating and uniquely female account of our time’s defining conflicts.
Addario would not confirm reports that she is to be played by Jennifer Lawrence in an upcoming bio-pic at the time, but it has since been announced that Steven Spielberg will direct Lawrence in a film of the memoir It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.

You can listen to the whole Frontline interview with Lynsey on soundcloud and check out upcoming events at The Frontline Club on their website.

 

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

I spent a weekend at the world’s largest arts festival and over 3 days managed to squeeze in a hilarious cross-section of the event’s 2700 shows. Across the month of August Edinburgh’s labyrinthine bars, pokey comedy clubs and shoebox theatres host an array of emerging, acclaimed and (occasionally) questionable comedy talent. The atmosphere is brilliant as hundreds of entertainers and thousands of merry-makers flock to Edinburgh’s beautiful, grey-stone surroundings.

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Our first show of the weekend, Liam Williams ‘Capitalism’, was undoubtedly my favourite. Rather than the lefty, anti-establishment polemic the title led us to expect, Williams’ self-effacing and uniquely fragile show explored themes of mental health, aspiration and England’s dwindled world cup hopes hilariously. Capitalism was one of 360 shows featured on the ‘Free Fringe’ that runs off audience donations collected at the end of the performance. The calibre of entertainment on the Free Fringe is amazing and seating space often limited, so make sure you arrive at the venue early especially if a show has been hotly tipped.

Also really enjoyed the sketch comedy duo The Pin at the Pleasance Courtyard – a bustling fringe venue with outdoor bars and seventeen stages. Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen should win prizes for the use of an OH projector in their show (a stand-up trend that can be really annoying); they seamlessly chat to their past selves in London on a time-looped video link. The Pin is a really slick sketch comedy with some of the funniest audience participation I’ve ever seen (props to my friend Kate for narrating the murder scene like a pro) and the duo’s performance more than lives up to their long list of endorsements.

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Oscar Jenkyn-Jones’ debut solo show, Thomas Pocket Presents: Me (Oscar Jenkyn-Jones), is a bewildering, character-based lark and the only performance that made me cry with laughter. The surreal ramblings of Jenkyn-Jones’ unabashedly weird persona, Thomas Pocket, are perfectly crafted observations of not much in particular that, at the same time, seem bizarrely poignant. Thomas Pocket is the kind of show it would be great to go back and watch again, to see the level of improv involved and how much it develops over the festival.

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Apples an’ Pears

It’s not often that UK grime artist Wiley inspires me, but I’ve got to acknowledge his tweet this morning as the catalyst behind this blog post.

Wiley tweet

I’ve never been to Dagenham market (I’m sure it’s lovely), but London has many, many brilliant markets to explore. So, I’ve complied a couple of my favourites that are great to check out over the summer, or later on in the year for quirky xmas presents.

Colombia Road (Sundays from 8am ’til 3’ish): This is what I think of as a proper East End market (Wiley would probably disagree). Stalls on this tiny Dickensian street are piled-high with tiers of cascading flowers and shrubs, punters squeeze by whilst stallholders shout ‘TWO FORRA FIVAhhh’ and other classic ‘Laahandan’ market catchphrases at them. There’s a massive variety of beautiful plants and flowers and the stallholders genuinely know their horticulture, so if you’re looking to buy more than a bunch they’ll be able to advise on where/when/how to plant them. Be sure to buy something though as the vendors tend to get annoyed with people only interested in taking photos.

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Portobello Road (09:00 – 19:00 Friday and Saturday): Portobello has everything and it’s correspondingly huge. The market snakes all the way from the North African cuisine on Goldbourne Road, under the fashion lined West Way flyover and down to the Antiques stalls near Notting Hill. There is lots of great food to be had on route, both fresh and pre-prepared, and it’s the only place I know of where you can buy a second-hand cashmere jumper for a tenner. I like to spend a whole Saturday wandering down Portobello Road, rifling through piles of ‘vintage’ clothes, picking up some tasty fruit and looking at the amazing costume jewelry in the covered antiques market.

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Spitalfields Market (Saturday Style market 11-5pm): In E1, between Brick Lane and Liverpool Street station, lies Spitalfield market. It’s great for lots of reasons, a big one being that it’s a covered market so good for exploring on a wet weekend. The once dilapidated structure has been renovated over the past decade so now stalls and shops remain open Mon-Fri as well as on a Saturday. However the Saturday market is the best and showcases 60 odd designers, artists, bakers and antiques dealers under one roof. I like heading to Spitalfields for jewellery presents as you can often find unique pieces sold by the designers themselves. There are also lots of established cafés and restaurants to have lunch in if you get peckish looking around. At five, when everyone starts packing up head round the corner to the Water Poet, on Fleur de Lis Street, for a pint and an evening of live music.

In the wise words of Wiley ‘god bless all markets.’

Not OK Cupid

Revelations that Facebook, according to a former data scientist employee, ‘conducts experiments on us all the time’ might have sparked dating-site OKCupid’s disclosure that they too had indulged in user manipulation. Facebook has confirmed that they have deliberately altered the emotional timbre of 700,000 users feeds in an attempt to ascertain whether emotions are ‘contagious’. OKcupid has published results of three recent studies. One test obscured profile pictures, another profile text was hidden and in a third, it informed daters that they were a better or worse potential match with someone than the company’s software actually determined.

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OKCupid’s president, Chris Rudder, has defended against criticism that the sites activities are inherently unethical in saying “If you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site …That’s how websites work.” I think he’s missed the point, well two points. The first being; who actually chooses to use the internet these days? Anyone who ‘opted out’ of internet use on the basis that they didn’t consent to being experimented upon would be a literal, as well as digital pariah. They would miss out on social and cultural events, public affairs, jobs and, for those hopeful daters, romance. For Rudder to paint us as autonomous web-users who can take-or-leave the internet is insincere and lazy.

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Which leads me to the second point; in order for such studies to be performed on an ethical basis users must give informed consent, not just opt in to a service riddled with digi-emotional bear traps. Though users will scroll blindly through a terms & conditions that make experiments of this nature legally acceptable, the research that stems from them is inherently unethical. For that reason, amongst others, what these sites extrapolate from their manipulation-of-unsuspecting-user data is unscientific, sloppy and blameworthy.

Room with a view

If you’re an international student, whose stayed put for the summer, you may be pleasantly surprised by London’s stickily sweet weather. Now is definitely time to make the most of the sunshine and get out on one of the cities rooftop venues.

East London is home to a few of my favourites and some of the more affordable venues to take in the city skyline. Perched on top of a rabbit warren of work-shops, creative office space and pop-up galleries, Netil 360 has one of the most picturesque urban vistas I’ve ever seen. There is an entry fee of £5, but the space is BYOB which, for the price of a Hoxton pint, is well worth it. I’d recommend picking up locally brewed IPA from the London Fields Brewery around the corner and a pizza from Franco Manca.

Netil 360

Dalston Roof Park is another cosmopolitan viewpoint that’s worth a visit. £5 summer long membership gets you free access to rooftop screenings, music events and some really tasty pop-up food. Membership proceeds go to local charity Bootstrap who are dedicated to nurturing East London start-ups and regenerating community spaces to be enjoyed by all. Check out their Dalston Junction bee garden, in what was an old supermarket car park, when it opens later this year.

Netil House

London Legal Walk 2014

Last week I helped celebrate a decade of fundraising for the London Legal Support Trust, alongside 8000 other participants walking or running the 10 kilometers from Chancery Lane, past Buckingham Palace, round the Serpentine and back on a sweltering Monday evening in order to raise funds and awareness for legal aid charities across the capital.
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The QMUL team, 21 strong, set out in the sun joined by such eminent legal celebs as the Lord Chief Justice John Thomas, Dominic Grieve, Lord Neuberger and Lord Dyson, though the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling was notably absent… (*innocent face*). We were spurred on by £1200 sponsorship, from 71 generous donors, 50 % of which goes towards the work of the LLST who help to tackle debt, homelessness and other general causes of human misery in the capital by supporting centres committed to access to justice and granting the most vulnerable in society pro-bono legal support. The other half of sponsorship will form part of the Sonvico Bursary Award set up by the Criminal Bar Association in memory of QMUL alumnus Gianni Sonvico. Help us reach our £1500 target and support both great causes here.
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Though fundraising was a team effort, walk organiser Vicky Naylor challenged us to a race to the finish promising a coveted Legal Walk medal for the fastest finisher. Us QMUL runners weaved in and out of walkers, trying not to get run over in the process, resisted jumping in the Serpentine (which looked mighty temping in the 28 degree heat) and scavenged tap water along the way. Neck and neck with Professor Richard Ashcroft with 2km to go, I managed to pull out in front along Aldwych and pip the Bioethics expert to first place (woo!). The first three runners all managed the distance in less than an hour, which is a big win considering the heat and the crowds.

Walkers and runners alike were congratulated with a street party and free booze (another woo!). The London Legal Walk is one of the most popular events on the London Legal calendar and is a great opportunity to gain fundraising experience and potentially network with some great legal minds, if you’re not too busy sweating into a pint that is… Maybe see you there next year!

 

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