Archive for the ‘Photographers’ Category

London in Lockdown – Chris Dorley-Brown

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Many photographers have been busy with various projects taking advantage of the unique situations created by the Covid-19 lockdown, but the most impressive set of images I’ve come across so far are the hauntingly empty cityscapes by Chris Dorley-Brown which are featured in an article with the over-lengthy title ‘Chris Dorley-Brown’s photographs of London during lockdown are “terrifying and exciting in equal measure”’ on web site It’s Nice That.

These images of well-known locations from meticulously researched locations were all taken on weekdays, between the hours of midday and 2 PM and in the article Dorley-Brown says that they took him “about an hour each“. There are just a few people visible, mainly in the distance in some of the images, but they do convey an incredible feeling of emptiness and I imagine it took some time to exactly fine the best position and sometimes to wait for the few wanderers around the city to move into less conspicuous positions, and sometimes for the light.

There is something of a contrast between these and one of Dorley-Brown‘s earlier projects, The Corners, on his web site with other works, where he very effectively made use of multiple exposures to overpopulate the streets of East London in unreal but fascinating tableaux vivants.

Thanks to another photographer, Paul Baldesare, for drawing my attention to this article.


Photographers who have been able to keep working during the lockdown may be interested in a competition with free entry and a £1000 prize on the theme of ‘My New World‘:

The World as we knew it six months ago has been changing dramatically. Many people’s lives were put on hold, some endured hardship and loss, some had to reinvent themselves and perhaps have been working harder than before. There have been important social movements and appreciation of inevitability that we all facing a New World.  

This competition aims to collectively record the experience of people in the United Kingdom during and post lockdown reflecting new challenges and aspirations, bravery, kindness, love, sadness and humour. 

Launching Anna Steinhouse Photography Award

Entries – one image per person – are invited through Instagram until midnight Wednesday the 19th of August 2020. You can find full details of submission, terms and conditions at the link above

John Pfahl (1939-2020)

Monday, May 25th, 2020

I was interested to read the appreciation of the work of John Pfahl by photographer, photo critic and historian Bruno Chalifour published by A D Coleman as a guest post on his Photocritic International web site, not just for the information it gives about Pfahl who died in April, a victim of Covid-19, and his work but also for its insight into some of the political aspects of photography and photographic history.

Although I’ve been aware of the work of John Pfahl more or less since I first started my serious interest in photography in the 1970s when I think I first came across his work in the pages of one of the US magazines, probably Popular Photography, he wasn’t a photographer who particularly inspired me, perhaps because I found his work a little academic. So although I have books with his pictures in, particularly Sally Euclaire’s ‘ The New Color Photography’ (1981). I didn’t buy a copy of his Altered Landscapes also published that same year by The Friends of Photography, and have failed to acquire any of his later publications.

Chalifour talks about the “Rochester camp of photography“, to which Pfahl belonged, being in opposition to the MoMa school around its curator from 1962-91 John Szarkowski: “Szarkowski — still echoed nowadays by non-rigorous if not lazy art critics, curators, photo historians and researchers — did not consider that there was any serious color fine-art photography before the William Eggleston show he mounted there in 1976.” But Pfahl studied on the “first graduate-level program in color photography in America” gaining his MA at Syracuse University in 1968.

Of course there was serious colour photography even before that, including by a number of European photographers (who certainly didn’t count either in New York or Rochester.) But it was still true for most of us at the time that real photography was black and white, and while there were books largely for amateurs on colour photography, my own real training in the medium came from Johannes Itten‘s The Art of Color, published in 1961 based on his teaching at the Bauhaus, a copy of which I found in the 70s in my local library (many years before the cuts.)

Chalifour also mentions another Rochester linked problem, in that “Most of Pfahl’s work until the 1990s was printed on Ektacolor paper” and is thus showing signs of fading. The George Eastman Museum apparently has two sets of his major series, one for display, research and exhibition, and the other kept in the dark in cold storage. Kodak’s colour materials were notoriously fugitive, and having read the research many of us switched to Fuji in the 1980s. Some of his work was printed by the expensive but much more stable dye-transfer process. Pfahl was also an early adopter of digital printing, using the Iris/Giclée process for projects in the 1990s.


As I go through my own old slides, produced from around 1970 to 1985, I’m painfully aware of the limitations of older colour processes, with many images faded beyond repair and others requiring time-consuming restoration and much digital tidying to remove ingrained spots and mould. Fortunately images taken on Kodachrome have survived well, but Kodak’s card mounts are a problem, producing stray fibres and dust around the edges as well as masking too much of the image. I should put them in proper mounts before re-photographing them but it takes too long. Fortunately much of the pictures towards the end of this period before I switched to colour negative were made on Fuji films.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


Super supermarket pictures

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

Photographer Dougie Wallace who I’ve mentioned here before for work including his pictures of shoppers outside Harrods has a fine portfolio on LensCulture, Adapting to Covid-19 in London’s Supermarkets.

Rather more sympathetic to his subjects than in some of his work, Wallace’s pictures show a remarkable degree of intimacy to the shoppers and supermarket workers he photographs. It’s hard to believe that some were not taken at rather less than the regulation 2m Covid separation.

In the text he is recorded talking about some of the problems in making pictures under lockdown, and as still “struggling with the professional hazard of holding a camera close to the face while trying not to touch one’s face and remembering to regularly sanitize hands and equipment to protect against the invisible enemy.”

It is remarkable work made under challenging conditions. Wallace worked with the small, fast and light Olympus EM1 Mark 3, a Micro Four Thirds camera. I’ve not used this latest top of the range model, but very much liked the similar mid-range Olympus OMD M5 MkII which cost me less than a quarter of the price. Olympus back in film days were always the nicest cameras to use – I still have two OM4 bodies – and that superior user experience is still there in their digital models.

There are very few occasions when one really needs the larger sensor of a full-frame camera – perhaps copying negatives and slides. Working in very low light too; though wide aperture lenses and image stabilisation go some way to bridge the gap, they don’t help when you need depth of field and are photographing moving subjects.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


Route 66

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Charles Custer had been employed as a street photographer as a high school student, and after he met his future wife Irene when studying at the University of Chicago decided he could make some money so they could get married by working as a roving photographer. Irene told him she would go with him and the couple got married and began an extended honeymoon travelling along Route 66 in 1950-51, stopping off at small towns along the way to make and sell photographs to shop owners and others.

Apparently, according to the Chicago SunTimes story, they walked into businesses and announced themselves with the message “Hollywood’s Calling!” and Irene then posed the staff for a portrait while Charles set up his Agfa camera and took the photograph.

The camera he used was an Agfa Ansco view camera and the pictures were I think taken on 5″x7″ sheet film. Probably they used an orthochromatic film to make it easier to develop by inspection in motel rooms crudely blacked out using blankets, drying the negatives and making contact prints to supply to their clients the following day.

The lens used had a surprisingly wide angle of view, essential for photographing the workplace interiors, and which gives what the CST writer describes as “one point perspective” but is simply what we always get with a wide-angle lens, accentuated by the generally frontal viewpoint. Almost all show some vignetting at the corners, suggesting that the lens used was one designed for a smaller format where its angle of view would have been less.

The Back to the Past page gives similar information about the photographs but includes many more of the roughly 150 that survived and were recently rediscovered and reprinted by Oscar Larrauri Elías and Khela de Freslon — of  OK More Photography who discovered the box of old Kodak negatives when visiting their friend Charley Custer, whose father Charles died this January. They are hoping that putting them on line will get people to come forward with information about the people and places shown in the pictures taken around 70 years ago.

Thanks to my friend Derek Ridgers (a photographer whose work you shouldn’t miss) for posting a link to the Chicago Sun Times article on Facebook.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


FotoNostrum

Monday, April 20th, 2020

Welcome to a new free online photography magazine, FotoNostrum, published by FotoNostrum Gallery in Barcelona and their parent company The Worldwide Photography Gala Awards.

This is to be published fortnightly:

“The issue zero of this magazine that we’re presenting to you today is proof of what can and should be done to keep our social contact alive, to work for the future, to be able to improve our skills and showcase the work of our fellow photographers. When it seems that we’re lost in confinement, we propose to find each other in our magazine.”

The magazine is to be supported by advertising and donations which are solicited.

The first issue, Issue 0, is certainly well-produced and I wish it well, though I have to say it’s contents don’t particularly appeal to me, with a lead feature on Helmut Newton, a photographer whose work I’ve always found problematic. If you like his certainly very professional but extremely mannered highly commercial soft porn, you will probably also find some other work in the issue of interest. But it isn’t my thing. I’ve nothing against pictures of the nude, male or female, but other photographers, including some in this issue, have done it so much better. There is an element of falsity and sadism that doesn’t attract me and certainly fails to excite.

The only portfolio I found of interest was by Michael Knapstein, an American documentary photographer something in the tradition of Walker Evans. But I hope that having got Newton and some of the others off their chest they will find more interesting work for their next fortnightly issue.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


Magnum Turning Points

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Lensculture’s selection of images from Magnum Photos, each with a personal story is an interesting collection, though I have to say that there are a few I find distinctly unimpressive among them. Even photographers good enough to have their work distributed by Magnum don’t always take great images.

I’m sorry (not really) that I’ve posted this link too late for you to take advantage of Magnum’s Square Print Sale, which offered these and others as “archival-quality prints, signed by the photographers or estate-stamped by the estates, are available for just $100.” You can see them much better on screen, and in most cases rather better in books than in the small prints on offer, more or less postcards. You pay for the signature or stamp. There are better ways to support photography and spend your money.

There are some truly great images among those featured here – and Magnum photographers have certainly taken many more. It’s worth also reading what the photographers have written, sometimes more interesting than the pictures.

And after reading these, do spend some time looking at the Lensculture site, always packed with interesting photography.


Enforced Disappearance

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

A post by Shahidul Alam, The journalist who got too close, reminded me of the dangers faced by journalists and photographers in some countries of the world, and in Bangladesh in particular, where extra-judicial killings and ‘disappearances’ are now common, despite government protestations there that they show ‘zero tolerance’ to extra-judicial killings, or torture and death in custody.

Alam writes:

On March 10, 2020, the Bangladesh police registered a case against photojournalist Shafiqul Islam Kajol and 31 others under the country’s draconian Digital Security Act for publishing ‘false, offensive and defamatory’ information on Facebook. He has not been seen since.

You can read more about his case at Amnesty International who have released a video showing CCTV footage of unidentified men interfering with his motorbike outside the offices of his Bangla daily Dainik Pokkhokal for which he was both editor and photojournalist shortly before he left the office and rode away on the evening of 10 March 2020. He has not been seen since. Police filed a new case against him three hours after he was last seen.

You can see a few photographs by Shafiqul Islam Kajol on the Majority World agency web site. His disappearance took place after he and 31 others were accused of publishing “false, offensive and defamatory” information on Facebook. He had been publishing about sex scandals by members of the ruling party. He had previously been badly injured in several attacks when covering their political rallies.


78- Issei Suda

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Regular readers of this blog will know about my interest in and admiration for the work of Japanese photographer Issei Suda, and remember the post I wrote about him, Issei Suda (1940-2019) shortly after his death last year with some links to his work and writing about it.

A couple of days ago I came across a post on the British Journal of Photography online site, Issei Suda: 78 unseen photographs, which tells the story of how Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi, co-founder and director of Paris-based publishing house Chose Commune, wrote to Suda for the first time in January 2019 to ask about a new publication of his work. He was keen to cooperate, but sadly he died before she visited later in the year – but he had set aside a box of unpublished pictures for his widow to show her when she visited.

The book ’78’ presents 78 of these previously unpublished photographs taken between 1971 and 1983, typical of his work with its strangely unusual views of ordinary people and situations. It was only when she got back to Paris that Poimboeuf-Koizumi realised that the number of pictures she had selected for the book, 78, was also the age at which Suda had died.

You can see more pictures from the book on the Chose Commune web site, and it looks to be a finely produced work and a fine tribute to one of Japan’s most interesting photographers who received far less attention in the west than others whose work is rather more controversial and perhaps less intimate.

It’s a book I’m unlikely to buy myself as it is a little expensive at 55€ and I already have an earlier book of his work and a house with overflowing shelves and far too many books in it. But if you haven’t already met and lived with his work this is certainly worth considering.


Davidson & Goro

Friday, April 10th, 2020

Two photographers (at least) made extensive documentary studies of blocks of low-income housing in New York in the 1960s. One of them you are probably familiar with, Bruce Davidson’s ‘East 100th Street’, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and published by Harvard University Press in 1970 and now featured on the Magnum web site.

The other you may well be unaware of. New York photographer and journalist Herb Goro (1937-2019) lived for over a year in the East Bronx around 1966 working on a project about which he wrote:

The Block I have chosen is within fifty-five square blocks designated as one of the city’s worst health areas. It’s population is approximately 50’000 with 48 percent Negro, 48% Puerto Rican and 4% elderly white. This section has a significantly high infant mortality rate (29 deaths per 1’000), a tuberculosis rate three times higher than the city average, and a significantly high venereal disease rate. As high crime area it ranks among the worst in New York City.

The Block by Herb Goro, its subtitle ‘Human Destruction in New York City‘ was published in 1970 by Random House. As well as his pictures it contained “slightly edited transcripts” of the tape recordings that he made with the people who lived there, as well as a block worker, a landlord, policemen and Sanitation Department employees who worked in the area.

You can get a good impression of the book in a post made in 2008 on the Artcoup blog, which has half a dozen double page spreads, and on Google Books from the book Mag Men: Fifty Years of Making Magazines. Another of his stories, ‘The Old Man in the Bronx‘ is reproduced from the 1972 New York Magazine (the fifth result featured) and a 2014 blog from Oi Polloi, Through The Magpie Eye: The Block By Herb Goro has a good set of reproductions as well as text and some comments worth reading. Someone did buy the film rights to the book but I don’t think a film was ever made.

One of the comments on the Oi Polloi blog comes from someone whose family featured in the book, some of whom went to the Supreme Court seeking a permanent injunction and damages against publishing their “pictures, names or biographical accounts of their lives, or purported first person narratives“. Goro had releases from some of those in the pictures (and had paid them adequately) but had been unable to obtain them from others, and some he had paid disputed what they had been paid for.

The court denied the motion for a temporary injunction and commented “What appears to be really sought here is money damages.” You can read more details here.

You may be lucky and find a cheap copy of ‘The Block‘ and I almost bought one on the web for £2.91, but just before I clicked found the postage was over £30 and I decided against it.

The two photographers methods were very different, and their pictures make an interesting comparision. Though Davidson’s was in some ways an exemplary and highly admirable documentary project, Goro’s are far more visceral and apparently truer to life.

I got the urge to find out more about Goro after reading the repost by A D Coleman of the review of Bruce Davidson’s “East 100th Street” which he wrote for the New York Times, first published on October 11, 1970.It remains well worth reading and was among the first to broach in a national platform the issues around “the power dynamic inherent in the act of representation, and the difference between representation created from within a given community and representation produced by an outside observer — the politics of insider vs. outsider representation, and the ramifications thereof” as they relate to photography.

In the comments Coleman clarifies the position that he took in the review which have often either been misunderstood or ignored.

At the time of first publication he suggested to the New York Times that they should publish a second review by someone from the LatinX community along with his, and But Where Is Our Soul by Philip Dante, son of Puerto RIcan immigrants and some-time assistant to Gene Smith, appeared alongside his. Although I’m not a subscriber to the NYT, I was able to access this, a damning critique of Davidsons approach – “Davidson’s one-sided preoccupation with the vile is a damaging oversimplification.”

Dante concludes:

The work will doubtlessly be praised and applauded by photography’s esoteric circles, but it would be ironic and unfortunate for a photographer who has produced such commendable achievements in the past to be lifted into a state of eminence by an accomplishment so devoid of feeling. “East 100th Street” is an essay so contrived and demeaning that it can in no way endure as an art—unless it is the function of art to desecrate.

I wonder what Dante made of ‘The Block’.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


The Classic

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

I’d not before come across ‘The Classic‘, a magazine launched by French dealer and fair promoter Bruno Tartarin and the London based collector and writer Michael Diemar at the end of 2018 and now it its third issue. Again thanks to Michael Pritchard for mentioning it on the British Photographic History blog.

The Classic is a free magazine, dedicated as its name implies to classic photography, and is distributed free at leading photo fairs when they have been able to take place. You can also take out a subscription to be sent the two print issues each year at a price which reflects the high production quality and likely audience.

But you can also download all three editions of the magazine from the web site without charge. And of course if you have something photographic to advertise, the magazine offers the possibility of single or double-page adverts which make the free magazine possible.

Probably I’ve missed it before because I’ve stopped going to photo fairs such as those in London and Paris for various reasons. I’m a photographer and not one of the wealthy collectors and dealers for whom these fairs are designed and run, and there were times at each of these where I was made unwelcome by a few of the those I talked with about the work on display at their booths – at times because I clearly knew more about it than they did.

And though I did enjoy seeing new work, much on display always turned out to be the same old and often uninspiring work by well-known names, sometimes work that had the photographer still been around they would surely have prevented being shown.

I think too that these shows have encouraged some of the worst aspects of contemporary photography, with too many stands showing extremely large and rather empty images. Of course the larger the square footage the higher the price (and the dealer’s cut), and these are images largely produced to decorate corporate foyers where content puts work at a disadvantage.

There are also some minor health reasons. I find standing around tiring and eventually painful, far more so than walking at a normal pace. There generally aren’t many places were you can sit and look at work in photo fairs where exhibitors pay high rates for space.

But if you are missing the photo fair experience, The Classic will provide you with a little respite. And if you have an interest in photography, particularly historic photography, you will also find part of it an interesting read. You can download the three issues from the web site as I have done and there are articles in them all worth reading.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr