Archive for the ‘Photographers’ Category

Loss, Lauds, Leaps & Lazarus

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Of Loss, Lauds, Leaps, and Lazarus is the title of a yet another interesting post by Professor Larry J Schaaf, the Project Director of the Talbot Catalogue Raisonné at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.  I’ve mentioned the catalogue before and it is truly a magnificent project on one of the founders of our medium, one which I very much wish had been available when I had to write a few articles on W H F Talbot and the Calotype process.

Among the items covered in the latest weekly post is one on a process that Talbot experimented with prior to 1839 that I’d never heard of before, the lo-type, which has now been recreated by Grant Romer, involving the printing-out of images by extended exposure on iodised surfaces of copper or silver on glass, not dissimilar to the work of Daguerre in France.

Unlike Daguerre he did not break his thermometer and thus discover the use of mercury to ‘develop’ these images, instead using greatly extended exposures that produced both a positive metallic silver image and also some fairly strong colours from interference patterns. The colours are unrelated to the colour of the subjects, most of which were leaves and similar specimens in contact with the copper or silver surface.

Another topic mentioned in his note is the 209th anniversary of the birth of Anna Atkins on March 16th 1799, though it is actually the 219th anniversary if my maths is correct. She was the only daughter of a well known scientist of the time, John George Children and very close to him as her mother died when she was only a few months old. He brought her up and encouraged her as a scientist and she continued her scientific work after marrying a railway promoter in 1825.  She of course is deservedly famous for producing the first photographically illustrated book, Photographs of British Algæ: Cyanotype Impressions, its blue images produced exposing the specimens in contact with sheets of paper senswitized using the cyanotype process which had recently been developed by the man who proposed the term ‘photography’,  her friend Sir John Herschel and who had sent the details of his work to her father. Schaaf has some interesting news about new publications and exhibitions of her work later in the year.

More sadly, there is also an obituary for Peter James (1958-2018), “Head of Photography at the Library of Birmingham for more than 25 years until his job was criminally swept away in 2015.”  As well as his own thoughts, Schaaf also has those of a number of well-known people in photography who knew him.  I only met him on a few occasions, and we had once briefly discussed the possibility of working on a project together.  I was impressed as others were by his knowledge, appreciation and enthusiasm for photography and his early death is a great loss for phtoography in the UK.

A Russian Vivian Maier?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

I think it does little service to “Leningrad’s lost photographerMasha Ivashintsova (1942-2000)  to call her a ‘Russian Vivian Maier‘ as the headline in Peta Pixel about her work does. The images in ‘Russian Vivian Maier’ Discovered After 30,000 Photos Found in Attic‘ bear no similarity to the work of Maier, nor do the circumstances of her life or the ‘discovery’ of her archive.  And fortunately, since they have been put on-line and into the ‘Masha Galleries‘ by her only daughter Asya Ivashintsova-Melkumyan there are very unlikely to be any of the legal shenanigans that have plagued the exploitation of the work of Maier by various parties.

Masha ‘s husband and daughter had moved to Moscow away from her when the marriage broke up around 1976, and the pictures (including some of the daughter) were found in 2017 by her daughter and her husband in the attic of the family home in house in Pushkin, Saint Petersburg where her mother had stored them.

Looking through the images both in the article and on the Masha Ivashintsova website and Instagram it is apparent that she was a very proficient photographer and the pictures also appear to be an interesting document of “the Leningrad poetic and photography underground movement of the 1960−80s”.  There is too a stylistic consistency absent from the work of Maier.

Of course we have so far seen only a very small fraction of her output, though perhaps more will emerge with an exhibition being planned this Summer in Vienna. It isn’t of course something that is going to change the history of photography, but I think it might well make a very interesting book or two – and possibly a rather interesting film.

I’ve long been of the opinion that their are many interesting collections of photographs in attics and often consigned to skips around the world, and its good to see one of them preserved and presented to the public.




Nine Photos

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Nine photojournalists talk us through the story behind their favourite photos in a feature published by XCity+, a site I’d not heard of before which is produced by alumni of London’s City University, which recently had a rather confusing name change to City, University of London. Formerly the Northampton Institute, it has its base in Northampton Square, Clerkenwell, and was one of the CATs which given university status (part of Harold Wilsons “white heat of technology“) in 1966 as The City University, changing its name after becoming a part of the wider University of London (which boasts 18 constituent colleges and nine research institutes) in 2016.

It had always had a close connection with the City of London and the trades of that city, and it is perhaps surprising that it only formed its journalism department in 1976 offering a diploma in Newspaper Journalism, when it is less than a mile for any crow flying from Fleet St.

One of the photographers included is David Hoffman, and his picture from the 1983 Stop the City protest against globalisation, big business and the banks is a stunning image. But it is a little disappointing that the text that accompanies this – and the others is so short. The feature promises us more:

“we rarely have the full story. How were these photos taken, and why?

As the photographers talk us through their most powerful images, we are given a rare opportunity to see these pictures through their eyes.”

Fortunately in David’s case it gives a link to a much more detailed story about the image , both about the situation in which it was taken and how it was the vital evidence in a court case. Its also well worth going to his web site and seeing more of his work.

There are also links in the XCITY+ article to the web sites of the other 8 photographers.

Sex, Lies and Lemmings

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Sex, Lies, and Lemmings: Hossein Fatemi and the Toxification of Photojournalism is the provocative title of a detailed article by on PetaPixel by Benjamin Chesterton, known to many of us through his Duckrabbit blog, where this and many other thoughtful and incisive articles first appeared.

In it, Chesterton looks in some detail at the abysmal failure of World Press Photo‘s ‘investigation’ and the equally guilty collaborations by Fatemi’s agency, the generally well-respected Panos, Time, the New York Times and others in dismissing the evidence from fellow Iranian photographers and two Iranian women who worked with him in the making of the pictures (though not in their subsequent misuse), one of whom was falsely labelled in the caption as being a prostitute working to support two young children, a complete fabrication, which could result in severe penalties for the woman in the picture.

Rather than make investigations and take appropriate action, WPP and others appear to have decided on a campaign to discredit fellow Iranian photographer Ramin Talaie who first raised the issues about Fatemi’s work, which has now been shown by WPP around the world. The evidence against Fatemi, as related by Chesterton, much of which comes from investigations by Talaie as neither the WPP, Panos, Time or others has bothered to contact the people in the pictures, seems completely damning.

One of the strengths of Chesterton’s article is that he doesn’t stop there, but goes on to suggest how the matter should have been dealt with – an approach which he says he suspects would have made Fatemi withdraw his work before the issues became public, rather than lead to “the charade on show.” It seems good sense, and an approach that were it taken would lead photographers to think much more carefully about photojournalistic standards rather than, as in the current case, to put forward theatrically staged images with false captions. They may be powerful pictures and I have nothing against the creation of fictional narratives using photography, but it needs to be clearly identified as such and has no place in photojournalism.

You should read Chesterton’s article, and I’ve deliberately not given much of its content here to encourage you to do so. The real scandal is not the photographs themselves, although Fatemi appears to have used them and his subjects irresponsibly, but “the incomprehensible decisions that led to Fatemi’s work being given such a massive platform to deceive.” And as he says in his conclusion:

“World Press Photo set a new standard for photojournalism: NO standard. Basically, you can get away with pretty much anything. Just as long as there are no pixels out of place and you stick to your story, any s**t goes.

You can be certain: lemmings in search of awards will follow.”

The price we pay for devaluing photography

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

The full title of photographer Kenneth Jarecke‘s piece on ‘Medium‘ is ‘How Newsrooms Abandoned Photojournalism – And the price we pay for devaluing photography‘, and I think it’s an interesting view.

Jarecke, born in Nebraska, USA in 1963, has worked with Contact Press Images since he was 20, going around the world as a photojournalist, and has also worked for TIME. He is probably best known for an iconic and controversial picture from the Gulf War, first published in American Photo in 1991. You can see more of his work on his own web site.

His is obviously an American view, but I think in some ways the situation in the UK is worse, with few news outlets having any real interest in much beyond celebrities and the latest scandal. America still has many local papers which still employ a number of photographers and probably many more who actually pay for photographs rather than begging them from members of the public. His article was written in response to These tools will help you find the right images for your stories published by Poynter, where  you can also find some responses they asked for others to make on that story.

Here in the UK, my union, the NUJ, are having a month long campaign, #Useitpayforit, which you can also read about in Amateur photographers should charge for published work, says new NUJ campaign and Major publisher’s pictures budget is less than your daily cup of coffee a week, which I understand the company concerned has said is inaccurate, though they haven’t yet given a figure to correct it. But I did a search and failed to find any mention of the campaign on the Amateur Photographer web site.

I think most photographers like me will be used to getting e-mails and phone calls from local papers asking if they can use my work, “of course we’ll give you a credit“.  My response is simply to tell them that of course they can use my work so long as they buy a licence from the appropriate agency it is with.  I don’t think any of them ever has gone on to use an image, even though the prices are usually ridiculously low.

Lunatic photographers

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

It’s almost a week since I last wrote a post here, and I’m rather scratching my head to say why. I have perhaps been a little busier than usual, starting with the funeral of the father of one of my friends, where I was appointed official photographer. This isn’t something I’ve done before, and although I did a decent job at the wake, I didn’t feel I really did a job of the actual funeral, too many inhibitions showing themselves.  It would have been easier had it been a burial rather than a cremation, and I found myself very much a mourner rather than a photographer.  The pictures I did take I’ve given to the family, and have decided not to share in public.

Since then I’ve photographed several protests, one very large and some quite small, but all taking time, both to attend and to edit and file work, and I’ve made a resolution to try and keep My London Diary up-to-date – so you can already see the pictures I took yesterday there. Today I’m having some time off because of a minor health problem, though tooth-ache never feels minor. I had to rush to my dentist for an emergency patch-up yesterday, though it will require rather more painful work at a later date, and have time to write now because I’ve had to cancel a couple of things in my diary. Though being still tanked up on pain-killers and feeling a little unsteady probably isn’t the best state to be in charge of a keyboard, it does take my mind off my symptoms, and I started my day looking back at some of the things online I’ve missed over the past few days.

Judging from the pictures I’ve seen on Facebook and elsewhere, one of the biggest photographic events I’ve missed in the past few days was the “super blue blood moon” of January 31st, described by the Telegraph newspaper as a  “a once-in-a-lifetime event“. Except it wasn’t. I saw the moon rising through my window and there was really nothing special about it, and I didn’t bother to pick up my camera. It was the same old moon, a little brighter than sometimes, thanks largely to a clearer than usual atmosphere here, and exactly the same colour as usual.

Of course, London wasn’t the right place to photograph it, as the eclipse which did give it that blood-red colour was over well before the moonrise here. Which didn’t stop a number of photographers from producing (and the papers and web publishing) nice orange or red sunrise pictures, which of course owed more to our atmospheric pollution and perhaps a little Photoshop than the moon.

You can read a long account and watch a video on Peta Pixel of how Michael Tomas  took a series of these pictures showing a moon rising through the skyline of central London 10 miles away from a hill in Richmond Park with a 1000 mm lens, though I have to tell him he didn’t shoot a super blue blood moon, as he was several thousand miles away from a blood moon, with the total eclipse starting at 12.52 and ending at 14.08 and moonrise in London being at 16.55, almost three hours later, and three quarters of an hour after the end of even the penumbral eclipse (which is almost impossible to see.)  It’s still an interesting image and got a remarkable amount of exposure. Though I feel rather sorry for him for thinking this makes it the best photo of his life.

It wasn’t even a true ‘blue moon’, as Diamond Geezer points out in his daily blog for 31st January, the blue moon a name given to the third moon in a single season which had four moons rather than the normal three. On this definition there are no blue moons in 2018, but we do get one on May 18th 2009. But a journalist in 1946 got it wrong, and journalists have been getting it wrong ever since, calling the second moon in any month a blue moon. We get our next one by this definition on March 31st this year.

And it was hardly a ‘supermoon’ either, though it was a little larger than usual (5.9% according to the Hermit Eclipse web site).  The actual perigree (closest approach) was a day earlier. Visually these differences are hardly visible.

Lunar eclipses happen quite frequently – there is a good one due on 20th July 2018, where the total eclipse should be visible at moonrise in London at around 9pm.

But it is instructive to compare Tomas’s real image with the many Photoshopped ones that appear, notably that by Peter Lik, which has been the subject of much discussion, including on FStoppers, but also posted on Peta Pixel. Clearly this is a composite image and the fact that an identical image of the moon appears in another of his pictures makes this beyond doubt.  Perhaps the most mystifying aspect is that only 75% of those who voted in the accompanying poll were sure it was made in Photoshop, though I suspect the other 25% hadn’t watched the video or read the article in any detail.

Lik’s work is obviously very commercially successful, though few believe that his claim to have sold a single copy of a print for $6.5 million in 2014 to be anything more than a publicity stunt, he certainly makes a small fortune providing expensive decor, enough to employ a small team of people working on his images in Photoshop; two of those taking part in the FStoppers discussion revealed that a former employee had hold them he had spent an entire seven days working on one particular image. People could paint these things from scratch in less time than that.

But in the end I don’t have much interests in how Lik’s images are produced; they are simply not worth bothering with. I fail to see anything of interest in them, bad paintings produced with a little aid from a camera and rather more from software, clichés that lack any sense of reality and any meaning.

American History of American Photography

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Only Part 1 of Marc Falzon‘s short survey of the history of American photography is currently available (and featured in PDN Pulse), but it’s 8 minutes offers an interesting introduction to the subject, dealing with it through 3 key curatorial figures, Alfred Stieglitz, Minor White and John Szarkowski (part one only deals with Stieglitz) and a few key photographers.

Among those photographers, so far only Timothy O’Sullivan and Walker Evans have been the only to have been looked at in any depth, with a passing mention of a few others.

It’s an introduction that tries to demonstrate what is peculiarly American about American photography and makes some interesting points, while of course minimising or neglecting much European work of the era.

Where it descends to the ridiculous is in suggesting that photographers such as Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson were somehow the product of American advances in the medium and the influence of Stieglitz. What influence there was clearly flowed the other way.

It wasn’t the school around Stieglitz that motivated Walker Evans – except in a reaction which dismissed it as well as the newer modernism of photographers such as Paul Strand, but the vernacular photography of the many unknown American photographers – and the work of Atget which was brought to New York by Berenice Abbott and Julien Levy.

What I find most annoying about this video is however the way that the photographs are shown, generally starting zoomed into a detail and wandering around the image, with only at best a fleeting glimpse of the image as a whole. Framing is so intrinsic to our medium and we need to see and study pictures in their entirety – perhaps occasionally zooming in to view significant details.

Daniele Tamagni (1975-2017)

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

It came as a real shock as I caught up with my reading online today to learn of the death of Daniel Tamagni, someone I still thought of as a young photographer, born in Milan in 1975 and only 42 when he died last month, and who I first heard of and met in 2007 , the year when he won the Canon Young Photographer Award for his series on ‘The Gentlemen of Bacongo‘, African dandies or ‘Sapeurs

I met him first at around that time at a show he had with two others in Peckham, writing about it for this web site, Peckham Rising, where he showed me a newspaper article on his work on Black Churches in the area, one image from which was in the show, and I was sorry to have missed the earlier show he had of that work.

I wrote about him again when his work on the ‘Sapeurs’ was on show at the Michael Hoppen Gallery and my piece Sapology included the picture of him with Araminta De Clermont, whose pictures were also showing in the gallery. The work had by then gained him the 2010 ICP award for Applied Fashion photography, and had been published by Trolley Books (Gentlemen of Bacongo, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-904563-83-9.)  As well as writing a little about the Sapeurs and Tamagni’s pictures of them I was also pleased to be able to photograph one of them in person at the event.

I used that picture again when I wrote another piece, Encore Sapeurs, following on from a post by  Joerg Colberg on his on Conscientious blog which linked to some of Tamagni’s work.

My last meeting with Daniele was at the opening of ‘Global Style Battles‘ at the  ArtEco Gallery in Wandsworth (now the Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery), an enjoyable occasion graced by the presence of a number of leading photographers who live in London, including James Barnor (with him above) born in Ghana and Charlie Phillips, born in Jamaica (below).

It was a memorable night and you can read about it and see a few more pictures at Daniele Tamagni at ArtEco.

You can read a brief obituary of him, as I did, on PDN Pulse, and, in Italian, in Corriere della Sera.

The Conversation

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

I’m often critical of the BBC, and they way they promote an establishment view in many of their news programmes, often failing to report or minimising stories which would embarrass the government and, as academic studies have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, being extremely biased in their treatment of trade unions, Jeremy Corbyn and class issues generally.

It is a very middle-class institution, and employs too many people as commentators who come from highly privileged backgrounds (with private education and Oxbridge), but does produce some excellent programmes. And one whole area that particularly stands out is the BBC World Service – which also covers the news more neutrally than the internal services, which often follow the lead of the UK newspapers which are owned by a small handful of billionaires including of course Rupert Murdoch and reflect their perspective on matters.

On Monday morning this week the BBC World Service broadcast in their series ‘The Conversation’, which looks at the experiences of women across the world on “image, work, relationships, equality, migration and working lives” had presenter Kim Chakanetsa talking with two women, Mexican photographer Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier and Ami Vitale from the USA.

It was a lesson in sensitive presentation, with Chakanetsa encouraging the two women to talk with pertinent questions (unlike some BBC programmes which end up being more about the interviewer than the guests), and in the roughly half-hour programme there were some interesting reflections on photography, on women photographers generally, on news, on ways of working and more, much of which as they state applies to photographers whatever their ethnicity or gender. You can listen to the programme online (along with 169 other episodes of the series) or download it from the page.

Both women are photographers for National Geographic, and Mittermeier’s recent video of a polar bear starving without the ice it needs to hunt has attracted global attention to the problems of climate change. She is also the founder and President of SeaLegacy, a non profit organization working to protect the oceans. Ami Vitale’s ‘Pandas Gone Wild‘ won her second prize for Nature Stories in the 2017 World Press Photo – to add to her many earlier awards.

I first wrote about Ami Vitale many years ago as one of the more interesting photojournalists around, and it was a great delight to meet her in Poland in 2005.

Ami Vitale (in red) at Alcatraz, Bielsko-Biala, Poland

You can read more about that event, the first FotoArtFestival on My London Diary, which links to my own diary of the Festival.

Like you’ve never been away

Monday, December 4th, 2017

I got quite excited this morning when a parcel arrived and I unwrapped it to find a signed copy of the new edition of Paul Trevor‘s amazing pictures of children in Liverpool in the mid-70s, ‘like you’ve never been away‘. The first edition, which sold out pretty quickly, was published as an exhibition catalogue in 2011, and was a rather unsatisfactory portrait format, with pictures split across the gutter, and the new edition’s landscape format is a great improvement.

I’ve always regarded Paul Trevor as the most interesting of the whole batch of British photographers who became known in the mid 1970s at exactly the time I was myself coming to photography, and there were some other impressive talents, some of whom are very much better known. Some were rather better at self-publicity.

I wrote a little about the first edition when it came out, and still have it on my shelves, but I was pleased to be one of the 193 supporters of the Kickstarter campaign which closed on 28th October andt enabled this re-publication (though I didn’t pay the extra to have my name included or get the very reasonably priced prints on offer.)

The new edition is of a thousand copies, of which half are hardback and the rest softcover. It isn’t yet listed for sale at the publisher, Bluecoat Press, and the link at Amazon is still to the unavailable First Edition, copies of which secondhand now cost roughly twice as much as as the new and far preferable hardcover edition.

I’m sure it will soon appear on sale, though perhaps not for long as quite a few copies will have been sent out to those supporters. The hardback is ISBN 9781908457387 and the cover price £25 it might make a good Christmas present for someone with an interest in photography. I’ll try and comment or update on this later.