Patent Sense

October 31st, 2014

It’s a while since I mentioned any of the informative posts by Carolyn E. Wright on her Photo Attorney blog, certainly one of the best sources for photographers on US Copyright law and other US law related to photography. Although we have a different legal system here in the UK, that doesn’t stop us being affected by US Laws, which attempt to protect the interests of US citizens world-wide.

There are also some advantages for photographers outside the USA in making use of the US Copyright Office, as US law enables anyone who has registered the copyright of an image with them to sue for punitive damages, unlike in the UK where awards are limited to amounts related to the actual losses.

US Trade Marks and Patents are also something that we may fall foul of, and patents seem sometimes to be granted for fairly ridiculous claims that include no element of innovation – as in the case of Amazon’s U.S. Patent No. 8,676,045 on taking a photograph of an object in front of a white background. Charles Duan in his Arstechnica post makes clear why such seemingly ridiculous claims – that seem to lack any real inventive concept – make it to patents, but perhaps the case reported by Wright in Photographer’s Patents for Event Photos Declared Invalid at least shows that the courts do sometimes realise that the patent system can be an ass.

While some photographers paid up to PhotoCrazy over their patents including the 2006 patent for a ‘Process for Providing Event Photographs for Inspection, Solution and Distribution via a Computer Network‘, Capstone Photography decided to go to court rather than pay when charged with infringing this and two other PhotoCrazy patents.  You can find links to the details in Wright’s article, including to the web site set up by Capstone to explain why they were refusing to pay and solicit donations to fight the case.

Mike Skelps of Capstone says it cost around $100,000 to fight the case – the reason why around a dozen other companies threatened with legal action had settled and paid up. Capstone is a relatively small business, but took the decision to fight because they  “knew it was the right thing to do” not just for them but “on behalf of the many hard-working and talented photographers who suffer financially from these bad patents.”

The patents appeared to cover the process of displaying pictures taken at sporting events on a web site so that those taking part could identify themselves and thus order pictures. Perhaps I’m missing something, but it is hard to see anything that isn’t entirely obvious in the process – any element of invention that deserves patent protection. But of course the law isn’t about the the obvious or common sense.

Two days ago on October 28th 2014, Capstone won their case when a Federal Judge “declared three patents are ineligible for patent protection under 35 USC Section 101.” The court’s decision is a lengthy and complex document full of references to previous cases but eventually comes to the conclusion that all three of the patents concern “patent-ineligible abstract ideas, and lack an inventive concept that would make them patent-eligible applications of those ideas.”

There are other areas of photography that have been affected by patent problems that have similarly seemed to many to defy common sense and ideas of prior art. As one of the comments on a thread on the Photocrazy patents on Digital Grin by David Watts points out:

“iPIX theoretically holds several patents for 360º x 180º bubble panorama technology. They began to sue those offering up software to produce or view anything similar. One victim was Helmut Dersch, the programmer who brought us PTViewer and PTTools. Apple skirted around the issue by producing “cubic” panels and a new QuickTime viewer. The iPIX cases have died down, but it cost a lot of companies time and money. Drove some out of business. So there is existing precedent with something similar.”

The only time I’ve ever been personally faced with anything in any way similar to the demand from PhotoCrazy (not over a photography related issue) although I felt we had a pretty clear case, we didn’t have the $100,000 to fight it and couldn’t afford to stand up to the legal bullying.

Capstone are asking for support, for people to share their web site and the decision as I’m doing here. They are also asking for people to consider donating to their legal costs. Certainly any phot0graphers engaged in sporting event photography, particularly in the US,  owe them something.

Other Cultures

October 30th, 2014

Photographing people from other cultures is something that I think always requires a degree of humility from photographers, and I find the work of Jimmy Nelson disturbing. In yesterday’s Guardian, John Vidal writes about the criticism of his work by indigenous people and Survival International, and I share the views that he relates. Nelson seems to regard the people he photographs as models to be used to illustrate his own fantasies, which are largely unrelated to their own lives and to promote himself as a photographer. Ethnic fashion rather than ethnography. As well as quoting Stephen Corry, the director of Survival International, Vidal also gives the view of Benny Wenda, who I’ve met and photographed on several occasions, protesting about the persecution of his people by the Indonesian regime.


Benny Wenda protesting at the Netherlands embassy calling for the promised free elections in West Papua

In his very expensive book, Corry says Nelson describes Wenda’s Dani as a “dreaded head-hunting tribe”, while Wenda states “My people, the Dani people, were never headhunters, it was never our tradition. The real headhunters are the Indonesian military who have been killing my people.”

I’ve not seen Nelson’s exhibition, but was sorry to miss the protest outside it by Nixiwaka, an Amazon Indian from the Yawanawá tribe, which you can read about on his blog at Survival International.

For a look at some real photography of peoples from various parts of the world, I’d recommend some time on the web site of Giles Perrrin, who I first met when he showed me his work in Birmingham in 2007. There is a sensitivity in his work, whether in Detroit, Veille Aure, Ethiopia or anywhere else around the world that seems entirely lacking in Nelson’s fashion plates.

And another interesting cross-cultural show, one I’ve not seen but only read about, is taking place in Coventry, and continues until 11 January 2015 at the Herbert Museum.  ‘Photographs of India’, work by Coventry by based photographer Jason Scott Tilley from 1999 and 2009 is augmented by work from his Anglo-Indian grandfather Bert Scott, who worked for the Times of India from 1936-40 and headed the Indian Army photographic unit in Burma during the Second World War.

Also on show are pictures from the collection of the Library of Birmingham of images of Indian people published in eight volumes between 1868 and 1875 by the India Office in London and containing 470 original photographic prints, an expression of the “British government’s desire to create a visual record of ‘typical’ physical attributes and characteristics of Indian people to help them understand the population of the newly-acquired colony“. You can view this remarkable work in its entirety on the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Cricklewood – Round 3

October 28th, 2014


People outside World Media Services shout at a small group of SEA supporters across the road

Cricklewood isn’t a place I often visit, and perhaps there is not a great deal to draw the visitor there. Even when I was engaged in my encyclopaedic photographic wanderings of London in the 1980s and 1990s I’m not sure if I penetrated to its core (if it has one.) Its always seemed to me a kind of in-between place, between Kilburn and the North Circular, Willesden Green and Fortune Green, split between the boroughs of Brent, Barnet and Camden. A railway line – and some railway cottages, the A5 and some shops.


World Media Services with North West London United supporters outside to protect it from the SEA

And it was one of those shops that was the object of my journey. A closed-down kebab place, the room above it the home of a small web company run by Egyptians (though it wasn’t clear whether it was still in use) with the grandiose title of World Media Services. One of the activities based there was an unofficial English language web site for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a political party founded way back in the colonial era in Egypt in 1928 which became a rather unexpected beneficiary of the Arab Spring which led to its becoming legal in 2011, having been illegal in Egypt for most of its existence, and its candidate Mohammed Morsi (standing for the Freedom and Justice Party) was elected as president in 2012.

Not unsurprisingly there was some activity in London around World Media Services when Morsi was deposed by the military a year later and there were protests by the supporters of the MB around the world. But it was probably sloppy reporting that led to the small group in Cricklewood being designated as the European headquarters of the MB, and if it had been important in their organisation it seems clear that their activities in Europe are now based in Graz, Austria – also, coincidentally the home of the bi-lingual photography magazine Camera Austria.


The SEA march from Kilburn started with 3 men and a woman some way behind

But Cricklewood is a little closer to home than Graz for supporters of the South East Alliance, a right wing group which includes former supporters of the EDL, BNP, EVF, NF, British Movement, and other extreme right groups, led by Paul Pitt, former  Essex/South East EDL organiser (the EDL called him a Nazi and expelled him in 2012; he was fined for racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress outside the US Embassy in May 2011.)


I get insulted taking pictures

I missed the first two SEA protests in Cricklewood in June and July (I was on holiday for the second and had better things to do on the first) and was surprised given the poor turnout for their second protest they had decided to try again. But this third round, which I was able to cover turned out to be even smaller than the second, disappointing for photography but rather positive for Cricklewood. One poster read “We Are Happy in our Diversity. Leave Us Alone to Enjoy It!’ and perhaps that wish will now be respected.

I don’t like covering the extreme right, but I think it is important to show what they are like, and I try to do so in an objective fashion, reporting as accurately as I can what they say and what they do. I think they condemn themselves more effectively than I could. They constantly complain of unfair treatment by the press and there is sometimes some truth in this, but swearing and threatening reporters as many of them do is hardly a way to encourage fair reporting.


I get attacked with a Union Flag on a bamboo pole

I was particularly disgusted at the disrespect the SEA, who claim to be patriots, showed towards their national flags, using them and the bamboo poles they were on as weapons, attempting to poke out the eyes of photographers or damage their cameras. And at the police response to this; rather than warning or arresting those using offensive weapons or confiscating them, they simply prevented photographers going within range of them.

At the start of the SEA march at Kilburn there were four photographers present (including one apparently working for the SEA – most of the others had stayed at Cricklewood) and four marchers, and although another perhaps 20 turned up at Cricklewood it was still a rather pathetic event, with the protesters outnumbered by around 150 people supporting the counter protest. Some who had come in the morning had left early when they saw how small the SEA protest was.

I think the pictures – you can see many more at South East Alliance ‘Racist Thugs Not Welcome’ – show clearly the differences between the two groups which faced each other in Cricklewood. On one side an atmosphere of suspicion and hate and on the other a welcome and openness to being photographed.  I think the account I’ve given of the event is accurate, fair and unbiased (except perhaps for the headline, which originally read South East Alliance told ‘Racist Thugs Not Welcome’ but that was too long.)
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London to #Ferguson: Don’t Shoot!

October 27th, 2014

In August I went to two events organised because of the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the military-style response by the US authorities to the protests there that followed his murder.

Although the scale of that repression is something we haven’t yet seen in the UK, I’m writing this a couple of months later just before I go out to photograph the annual march by the United Families and Friends Campaign who have a long list of 3,180 individuals who have died in state custody since 1969; at the bottom it states ‘Too many have died in questionable circumstances. Too many killed unlawfully … and pitifully too few held to account for the deaths of those we name here.’ Also published today, accompanied by one of my photographs (and another by Matthew David), is the closing speech by writer and activist Kojo Kyerewaa from last month’s annual conference of the London Campaign Against Police & State Violence.

And another reminder that similar things happen here in London were the speeches at the first of the events I covered of Carole Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan, unarmed and surrendering to police when they shot him, and at the second by Marcia Rigg, the sister of Sean Rigg, killed inside Brixton Police station in August 2008.

The two events, both at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, were organised by different groups, the first by ‘London Black Revs‘, the Revs being short for revolutionaries, rather than men of the cloth, and the second, ten days later, by a wider range of organisations, led by Unite Against Fascism, and including the United Friends and Family Campaign as well as trade unions and other campaigns.

Prominent at the first event were the family of Mark Duggan, and in particular his aunt Carole Duggan, who spoke eloquently and at some length drawing out the parallels between his death and that of Michael Brown. Both were black, both were unarmed, both had raised their hands in surrender when they were shot by police. And both deaths were followed by a response from their communities that were turned to violence by police responses and followed by panic reactions by politicians. Both brought into swing a huge media effort by the authorities feeding lies and covering up the truth about what happened, and in various ways conspiring to deny justice.

A torrential rainstorm added to the photographic problems of the event, though also providing some opportunities. At first I sheltered – along with many of those present – under the trees along the edge of the park facing the embassy, but soon the rain coming through and under their dense leafy canopy was too much, and I had to put my head down and dash for the cover of the broad concrete overhang of one of the embassy lodges with those shown in the picture above. It’s perhaps unfortunate that this picture suggests a rather smaller gathering, with others like me sheltering under the trees, under the canopy of the left-hand lodge and a few standing under umbrellas out of view.

Although it does show the rain, I don’t think any of my pictures give a real impression of just how heavy it was, a photographic problem for which I have no solution. Using flash certainly doesn’t work, though the light had sunk considerably and it would have been useful on this account, but it lights up every raindrop, with those close to the lens appearing over-large and out of focus and of course brighter. An effect well exploited by Martin Parr in his 1982 book  ‘Bad Weather‘,  I think the only one of his books I own that I actually paid my own money for, but not something that generally appeals to me or to editors. There are pictures in there by Martin that mean none of us should ever feel the need to do the same again.

My damp dash did get me closer to the speakers, and I was able to photograph them from the dry as they, standing a few yards out in the open and holding an umbrella as well as a megaphone, were still getting rather wet. Although an umbrella stops most of the rain, with heavy driving rain a fine spray passes through and slowly soaks.

Eventually the rain did slacken and stop, and photographers and some of the people came out from under the canopies, giving more varied opportunities for photography. We were a little too close to the embassy for many pictures to include the US Eagle and flag was too sodden to fly, but there was a small plaque on the gates that I could include in a few images, though it meant stopping down the lens to a rather smaller aperture than I would normally use to get sufficient depth of field.

Fortunately it had got a lot brighter – the sun was out and causing some contrast problems. For the man speaking under the umbrella I had been working at 1/100s f5 (ISO 800) with the 18-105DX lens at 52mm (78mm equiv), while at the same ISO the exposure for those holding the ‘London to #ferguson’ posters I needed 1/500 f13 – at 66mm (99mm equiv.)  I think that means a difference of over 5 stops, though it’s too early to really do the maths as I write.

At the end of the protest, those present decided they would like a group photo in front of the embassy. I’m never a fan of group photos (except perhaps the Brown sisters) and certainly not for groups of this size. Photography always works best (or certainly almost always) on a more intimate scale – if Hill and Adamson had been able to photograph all 457 of the ministers at the First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland we would have just had one rather boring photograph rather than the earliest (and still one of the best) great collection of photographic portraits.

And the picture the activists wanted did rather remind me of that ‘Disruption Picture’, except there were rather fewer people and they were far less well organised. It too was impossible to take as the area in front of the large group was crowded with people with cameras and phones in the way. As usual people there were people shouting and gesturing ‘Let’s move back, move back‘ but while photographers might reluctantly respond if they see any chance that others will do so rather than just as usual move in front of them, holding up a phone to take a picture (or worse video) seems to render people terminally deaf and impervious to their surroundings. It really isn’t a licence to walk in front of photographers.

The only way I could manage to get everyone in – if not very satisfactorily – was by working close to one end of the wide spread group with the 16mm fisheye – and then converting the image to a cylindrical perspective to lose some of the fisheye effect. But even with the fisheye I could not get far enough back to take the picture from the centre of the group without people with phones and cameras being in the way.

The second protest, ten days later, was held in the evening, and towards the north end of the embassy frontage, in front of the rather dreary statue of Eisenhower. The organisers had produced a graphic poster, two black hands with the message ‘Hands UP! Don’t Shoot!‘ which dominates perhaps rather too many of my pictures, though it was unmissable.

Weymann Bennett is someone I find it hard to take a bad picture of, and there were others speaking that I also like working with, including Marcia Rigg and Zita Holborne, who had brought along a couple of placards of her own.

You can see her other one in another image of her, standing together with Marcia Rigg which is together with a larger selection of pictures from both protests – and text about them – on My London Diary:

Solidarity with Ferguson
Hands Up! Against racist Police Shootings

No Justice, No Peace!

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Ozier Muhammad photographs protest for NYT

October 24th, 2014

What attracted me most about the New York Lens blog video showing New York Times photographer Ozier Muhammad taking photographs at the People’s Climate March in New York was that it was showing another photographer working the kind of event that I often cover, though perhaps everything in London is on a slightly smaller scale.

It’s a shame that the video covering the Climate March when I saw it was preceded by an advert for Shell, one of the major companies responsible for climate change, and according to the Greenpeace petitionincreasingly desperate to plunder the Arctic in any way possible. It has recently made a deal with the devil: partnering with Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom to access the Arctic through Russia. If this joint venture continues, an Arctic oil spill is practically inevitable.” The petition as I write has 6,177,332 signatures from around the world and is hoping to reach 10 million. The video has them trying to make them look as if they are trying to save the environment, a prime example of ‘greenwash‘.

NYT videographer Deborah Acosta followed Muhammad who talks about how he works, mainly using a couple of digital Leicas but also a Canon with a very large zoom. I got the impression that neither of the Leicas had a particularly wide lens, and he seemed to like to work from a rather greater distance than I do, with perhaps rather less interaction with the people he was photographing, at least while he was taking pictures, though he was shown taking down some details from them after having made the picture, something I seldom need to do. As a photographer I would like to have seen more detail, but doubtless sharp eyed Leicaphiles will identify cameras and lenses in use.

I was also surprised at the amount of space there was inside the protest. At the London People’s Climate March things were considerably more crowded when I was photographing it.

Also surprising was that the event was covered for the NY Times by “upwards of 5 photographers” – and its perhaps not surprising that given so many of them around trying to file work he had problems. Although there were a lot of photographers covering the London event, I think the vast majority were freelances, and I think our media didn’t really consider the march as a major event. Except for the involvement of a few celebrities I doubt if any of our newspapers would have sent a single photographer.

It’s perhaps a shame that so much of the video is taken up with the problems of transmitting images and meeting deadlines, and I would have liked to see more of him at work, hear more of his comments about his approach and see more of his pictures from the day. You can see more of his work from elsewhere on his own web site, but not those from this protest. There is some fine work from the NATO protest in Chicago as well as other events around the world that he has covered in his more than three decades as a photojournalist.

I’ll write more later about my own work on the People’s Climate March in London, but for the moment here is just one image that perhaps shows a rather different view of what it is like to work at such an event – and taking the kind of pictures that our press are much more likely to publish than Muhammad’s more thoughtful work.


Not one of my best pictures – from the People’s Climate March in London. Nikon D700, 16mm

I didn’t go there to photograph this kind of thing, but I was there and thought that I might as well do it. It certainly isn’t one of the best images I made that day, and I had a very limited time as I had another event I strongly wanted to photograph and had to leave shortly after the march began.

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Rene Burri (1933-2014)

October 21st, 2014

René Burri, who died on October 20th, aged 81, was a photographer who was not appreciated as he should have been here in the UK – something which could be said about almost all photographers, but especially true in this case. Wikipedia lists almost 20 major shows of his work, quite a few of which were shown in several cities, but not a single one of them in the UK. I saw his René Burri – Rétrospective 1950-2000 in Paris in 2004 and was surprised at the breadth of his work, with many images that were unknown to me.

Most of us will recognise the six images he talks about in the video on Vimeo, and there are some others that are well-known as well as others that surprised me in another short video, Impossible Reminiscences, which came out for the publication of the book of the same title. But the best place to see his work is probably on his Magnum page, although the material on show there still only scratches at his huge output- he has left his archive of over 30,000 pictures to the Musée de l’Élysee in Lausanne.

The slide-show on Magnum starts with his first picture, Winston Churchill standing up in a car going through Zurich in 1946, when Burri was 13, and he was supremely a man with the great ability to be in the right place at the right time. But he was more than that; for him it was not just ‘f8 and be there’, but the ability to be there and to see things differently.

Of particular personal interest on the Magnum site was his set of over a hundred images of Brasilia, mainly taken around the inauguration in 1960, but also some images from the 1970s. Some of these brought back memories of my own trip there in 2007, though I wasn’t there to take pictures but to show them, and only took a compact camera with me.

I wrote briefly about the 2004 show in Paris as follows:

The queue at the MEP stretched out the length of the garden into the street, but it only took us around fifteen minutes to get in. Inside it was pretty crowded, at times too full to really look at the pictures. The main show was of work by Swiss photographer Rene Burri (1933-) who joined in 1955. Burri was a pupil of Hans Finsler at the School for Arts and Crafts in his hometown of Zurich. It was both an exhaustive and exhausting show that left me feeling that he would have been better served by a significantly more selective editor.

Burri is best known for such iconic works as his portrait of Che Guevara smoking a cigar. By far the strongest of the work on show was from his book on Germany made in the late-1950s (he brought out a revised version including some later pictures more recently.) Burri’s work is more traditional than that of his compatriot Robert Frank and more cerebral than that of Leonard Freed (who also produced a book on Germany.) Burri caught the Germans at a time when their memory of the war and the consequences of defeat were still very evident, and recovery was only beginning to make itself felt.

One image shows two elderly men in Weimar perhaps planning a holiday route, poring over a map spread over the bonnet of a car. The overtones of invasion are only too clear. Another picture of a street in Rheinpfalz on a misty day in 1959 has a man in the centre walking toward the camera. The street looks down-at -heel and the young man is a worker, wearing a hat and muffler. In is arms he holds awkwardly horizontal a baby, whose white bonnet is outlined perfectly against the black coat of an older and more distinguished figure walking away from the photographer. We see the new Germany coming out of its murky past with the hope of a brighter future, while and older generation is left behind in the past.

So far the obituaries I’ve seen have done little more than state brief biographical details together with a few pictures, with the best I’ve seen to date on PDN.  Doubtless more substantial accounts will be forthcoming – and if you come across any before I do, please feel free to add the details in a comment to this post.

 

No More ‘Page 3′

October 20th, 2014

I’ve never been a fan of The Sun newspaper, and have never bought a copy, though I have leafed through the occasional copy left on the train or elsewhere. It’s always seemed stuffed full of non-news about so-called celebrities and opinionated views lacking any factual basis with only the occasional actual news story, usually given an impressively shallow treatment. To me it’s always been the kind of newspaper that makes it hard to hold the views I have about the importance of a free press. And of course The Sun isn’t a free press, but a press controlled by the interests of one man, the owner of the giant media corporation which owns it. It isn’t about all the news that’s fit to print, but about all that Murdoch wants printed, news or not.

Why Murdoch should want pictures like those on Page 3 printed was simple when the paper was launched; it was a straight-forward commercial decision that he thought it would increase sales. It reflected and reinforced a particularly insulting view of the male working-class audience he wanted to buy the paper. It’s a decision he is now apparently having second thoughts about, as the world has changed since the first Page 3 appeared in 1970, shortly after Murdoch took over the title.  Around 40% of Sun readers are women now, and the No More Page 3 petition has so far attracted over 200,000 signatures.

When I wrote about photography for a living, I used to get fairly frequent approaches from so-called ‘glamour’ studios, asking me to publicise their activities, and sometimes offering me the chance to attend their courses free of charge. Although at times I wrote about photography of the nude (male and female) my response to them was always that I found the photography they promoted of no interest, though perhaps I tried to put it politely. But my objection to ‘Page 3′ is not that it shows part-naked women, but that it trivialises what is something very basic and fundamental to our human condition. Worse than that, I think it is essentially dishonest, telling lies about our humanity.

Frankly too, ‘Page 3′ is boring. That’s not to in any way disrespect the young women involved, but the mould into which they are processed. And in many ways the photographers and others involved in that processing are very professional in what they do. It probably isn’t something I could do – but then I don’t want to. I’d find it hard to live with myself if I did.

Part of the reason why ‘Page 3′ is boring is the near-interchangeability of the models, day after day. Real women are far more varied and more interesting – even if not half-naked – and of course not just, and even to a photographer not largely, for their physical characteristics. Too often women I’m photographing tell me that they “don’t look good in photographs” and I think my pictures of them prove the opposite to the world – if not to their own satisfaction.

One of the photographers had brought a chalk board for people to write their reasons for being at the event and be photographed holding. I took pictures of some of them holding it too and you can see them in No More Page Three on My London Diary, but I was too busy taking photographs to write my own view at the event.

Photographically the main problem I encountered was wind. It wasn’t a bad day, but a chilly breeze was being generated or attracted by the Shard and the News UK towers, and the candles on the cake for the second birthday of the campaign kept blowing out. I was also in danger of over-indulging in the seventies party food!
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W. Eugene Smith Awards

October 17th, 2014

I’ve not consciously come across the work of Joseph Symenkyj before, though a few of the pictures on his web site seem familiar, but his is a name I’ll probably now remember even if I’m rather unsure how to pronounce it. I find he is an American photographer who graduated from the New York School of Visual Arts in 2002, and what finally brought him to my attention in a post on the NY Times Lens blog is that he has been awarded this year’s W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his long-term project on family life in Ukraine.  On the web site you can also see his work on more recent events on the streets of the country.

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund has also made an award to a more familiar name, Spanish American photographer Moises Saman for his four years of work on the Arab Spring and its aftermath, and there is some fine work on his Magnum pages.

James Estrin in his Lens post also mentions that Muriel Hasbun ‘received the Howard Chapnick award for the “Laberinto” project, a collaborative education and cultural preservation project that documents artists who worked during the Salvadoran civil war.’ I have to say I find most of her work on line leaves me rather cold, rather too academic for my liking, though I do admire her ‘Conversacio‘, a photographic  ‘conversation‘ exchanging photographs with Pablo Ortiz Monasterio.

Capa’s Missing Negatives Found

October 16th, 2014

It’s a headline that offers rather more than it delivers. We can now be completely sure that there were no more pictures made by Capa during the D-Day landing. There never were any “missing” negatives, no ruined films. The negatives (or at least a large selection of them) are in the archive.

If like me you have followed with interest A D Coleman‘s investigations into the “missing” Capa negatives from D-Day, supposedly ruined in processing in the LIFE London office, you will want to read the latest episode, Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (13) in which Coleman discloses where they “sit today, intact and available for study” (though currently unavailable until sometime next Spring due to relocation.)

It’s a disclosure that confirms Coleman’s previous conclusion that Capa only took 10 or 11 frames on Omaha beach and very much calls for an explanation of the legend that was clearly manufactured around Capa’s D-Day images. All 35mm four rolls survived processing and that the contents of them – apart from those frames from Omaha Beach – were deliberately suppressed. The existing images in the archive apparently match the notes Capa made about the films containing images of the briefing and embarkation from Weymouth already published.

But you should go to Photocritic International to read Coleman’s account, which gives great detail on his findings. If you haven’t already read them, there is a page linking to all the posts in the series, including those by guests, around 18 in all, with another promised with more about the negatives “and their implications, and related matters.”

Coleman’s correspondence  by email exchange with former LIFE picture editor John G. Morris which he published earlier ended with Morris accusing Coleman of “false accusations” and calling for a public apology. It seems clear now that it’s time for Morris, now 97, to tell the truth about what happened, despite any promises he may have made at the time.

For my own previous comments on Coleman’s Capa series see Capa Under Fire and More on Capa – Fraud.

Poor Doors 4

October 15th, 2014

The series of protests outside one of London’s more prestigious (or at least more expensive) new developments is still continuing – after writing this I’ll be getting on the train to go to the twelth weekly event.  Other committments have prevented me from covering it every week, but I’ve managed to get to most of them, and it has been interesting to see how the events have developed.

August 20th was the fourth week (and the third that I’d attended – you can see the first and third weeks on My London Diary) and as my headline Class War steps up ‘Poor Doors’ protest suggests, the protests were developing.

It was just as well that there were some incidents, as otherwise I was having trouble with trying to come up with something fresh each week, as the basic set-up was the same on each occasion. Protesters, banners, stickers, leafleting, the building security…  It really was getting hard to produce new images.


The 8mm fisheye gives an overall view with the three banners in front of the ‘rich door’

At least the banners had changed a little. Class War, the loose group that is behind these protests, has a good line in banners, intended to offend. As I wrote in My London Diary:

Class War draws attention to real and important issues – the gentrification of this and other areas of London and the financially based social cleansing that is resulting. They do so in a manner that is confrontational and theatrical, but amusing and not always entirely literal. Among the banners at today’s protest was that of the ‘Women’s Death Brigade’ with its message ‘Smiters of the High & Mighty’ and ‘F**K Capitalism! F**k Patriarchy!’

Almost everyone would agree that London has a housing crisis. And that little is actually being done about it. Most of the new developments – such as this block, ‘One Commercial St’ (confusingly its actual address is in Whitechapel High St) are actually making the situation for ordinary Londoners worse. As I also write in my piece on the protest ‘Tower Hamlets has a huge list of people wanting housing. The whole idea of building large blocks as investment properties for rich overseas buyers is simply obscene.’

Tower Hamlets council is at least I think doing its best to house its people, unlike neighbouring Newham, a monolithically Labour council. But council powers are very limited and no match for the developers who make huge profits from blocks such as these. The best they can manage are a few crumbs from the table – including the flats here behind the ‘poor door’ in a dingy alley along the side of the building.

You can read more about what actually happened on the evening, and more on the background in My London Diary. When I wrote it, I believed that there was no internal connection in the building between the parts containing the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ residents, but that appears to be untrue, though I’m sure the door between the two parts is normally kept firmly locked.

But although there were some incidents to photograph, and I think I took some decent pictures of them, it also left me thinking about how much the still photographs leave out, and how easy it is to miss the critical moment.

In photographing this and other protests, I normally try to avoid taking pictures of people who are not really involved in the event, except in the background. Most of those actually going in and out of the ‘rich door’ are tourists staying there on holiday lets, who know nothing about the building and are not profiting from it, and unless they choose to become involved – perhaps by stopping to argue with the protesters – have little to do with the story.

I’m not sure why I took a picture of the woman in high heels and a striped top carrying her white bag towards the ‘rich door’, perhaps just to show that people were still going in despite the protest. But I missed the moment just after this when she turned rapidly and snatched the leaflets from the hand of the woman at the left holding one of the banners, throwing them into the air, and by the time I had reacted she had turned back towards the door and the flyers were actually flying. Had I been taking a movie it would have been an interesting incident. You can tell how rapidly it happened as the papers are still in the air in the second image and the others in the picture have not reacted.

Finally, when someone came forward to hold her end of the banner, the protester moved to pick up the leaflets, as another person – a man in a grey suit – stepped carefully over the leaflets to enter the rich door.

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