Mark Duffy was, up until the beginning of December this year, a staff photographer in the House of Commons. His work was published by much of the mainstream print media on account of his privileged acccess and of course, his undoubted talent.
Mark has political views, like most of the HoC incumbents, and is pretty forthright in expressing them through his chosen medium. He is anti-Brexit and doesn’t mind saying so:
Installation at Format Photography Festival, Derby 2019
The HoC authorities took a dim view of him exercising his democratic right and decided that his services were no longer required. He had ‘brought the house into disrepute’ they said. Many might take the view that the HoC has shown itself pretty adept at doing that, all on its own. In spades.
Mark has turned his home into a statement about his political views, although it seems he was already using the walls as gallery space well before his dismissal; his website is worth a visit https://www.markduffyphotographer.com/parliament-at-the-time-of-brexit
I wondered what this said about the HoC management, about Duffy and assumptions about photographer influence. Mark’s views seemed pretty mainstream, chiming in with around half of the population if voting is to be believed. Nothing extreme or controversial. I can only guess that Mark must have broken some condition of employment which required him not to engage in any overt political activity.
Perhaps his employers expected him to remain politically neutral, which would be tricky since most people have a view one way or another. So maybe it was about expressing the views – along the lines of ‘you can think what you like but you mustn’t say it’. Would that be because there’s a risk that Mark expressing his views would unduly influence the electorate? Or perhaps because Mark, in order to do his job correctly, must appear to be neutral?
The former seems unlikely so I’ll dissect the latter. It implies that the maker of a photograph might unintentionally imbue his work with a political bias. It’s a shame that I now know about Mark and his work because it would have been interesting to scan a range of his output to see if I could see any bias. I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t.
Presumably the HoC Media Relations Team had been content with his photography prior to his transgression in Derby; I wonder if they had noticed any bias?
I think it’s all about ‘keeping up appearances’ in the end, but it’s a great shame that a talented and committed photographer should be treated like this as a result.