Archive for the ‘Photographers’ Category

Elswick Kids

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

Beautiful work by the late Tish Murtha, (1956-2013), immediately after her return to her home in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne in the late 1970s after studying at Newport to is featured on Flashbak’s article ‘Elswick Kids‘. It is work that could only have been made by an exceptional photographer deeply rooted in the community and celebrates the freedom that kids still enjoyed then – something which I remember from my own childhood in a working class area on the fringes of London, but which by the time she made these pictures had largely disappeared in the more affluent south.

The article comes in advance of a Kickstarter campaign by her daughter Ella together with Bluecoat Press to publish ‘Elswick Kids‘ which launches at 10.30am on October 2nd 2018. Make a note in your diary now! Their previous collaboration was highly succesfull, with the limited edition of Tish Murtha’s ‘Youth Unemployment‘ selling out within three months, and I’m sure this volume will do as well. You can still buy the second paperback edition of Youth Unemployment, and there are also a number of Cafe Royal Books available.

You can see more about Tish Murtha and more of her work on the Official Website of Tish Murtha run by her daughter. A retrospective Tish Murtha: Works 1976-1991 is at the Photographers Gallery in London until October 18th 2018 and some of her pictures are also among the most interesting work in the Museum of London show ‘London Nights‘, which runs until 11th November 2018.

Also worth reading is an article on AnOther, The Forgotten Photographer Who Captured Britain’s Social Crises, by Belle Hutton.

John de Prey’s Notting Hill

Monday, September 17th, 2018

John de Prey‘s pictures of Notting Hill in 1971, made when he stayed for a few months with a friend in Powis Square in 1971, show some of the more interesting sides of daily life down the Portobello Road and elsewhere in an article in the International Times archive, and you can see more of his work on his Flikr site, serious but unabashed, though its a shame there is only one or two more from Notting Hill among the 150 in his ‘United Kingdom‘ album. Not that some of the other images aren’t of interest, though it would be nice to have more information with some of the pictures, including some taken by others.

Most of his other work is in colour and what broadly might be called travel photography, much of it from the Indian sub-continent, and of rather less interest to me. The Notting Hill pictures were I think made when he was fairly young and fairly new to photography and show an appealing freshness and directness.


I suspect I may be around the same age as de Prey, or perhaps a year or two older, but from a rather different social milieu, and it was a total lack of funds that meant I was only really able to start taking photographs seriously in my mid-twenties. And it was many years later that I first went to Notting Hill, though I think it had perhaps changed relatively little by 1987 when I took a few pictures there, including this one on the Portobello Road:

Back in the 1970s, Notting Hill to most people still meant the 1958 race riots and Rachman. The media were always keen to seize on any violent incidents, particularly around carnival and give them maximum publicity, and it was an area most Londoners avoided.

Now it is generally swamped by tourists, and many of the old shops and pubs have gone or been changed out of recognition. The main language I heard on the streets visiting there recently was Italian – and even some of those sitting begging on the streets had notices written in that language. The biggest change came of course with the 1999 film ‘Notting Hill‘, but for some years there had been increasing emphasis on Carnival as a spectacle rather than just the crime statistics. But even when I first went to Carnival back at the start of the 1990s there were people who told me I would get attacked and knifed and have my camera stolen and told me I would be mad to go.

It wasn’t of course true. Though like any large public event it makes sense to be careful and not to make life easy for pickpockets, and to be careful not to antagonise people. But for most people Carnival was a great day out and they came to enjoy themselves and were happy to be photographed – as I think you can see from the pictures in my ‘Notting Hill Carnival in the 1990s‘, still available at only £6 plus postage.

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Emerging Photographers

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

A nice piece in the New York Times, a paper that has used a great deal of good photography over the years, showcases the work of 12 ‘emerging photographers‘.

My own experiences working for the New York Times organisation were considerably less positive, working for an organisation they took over, I got fired from a job writing about photography and photographers because the editors they brought in thought my work was not commercial enough. I’d been hired to write about photography for professionals and collectors of photography some years earlier, but what the new editors wanted was something that appealed to a well off market in the USA that would appeal to advertisers. I had to stop using British spelling, stop writing long pieces, stop writing about foreign photographers, write everything for people who knew nothing about photography but had just bought a camera to photograph their kids, July 4th and thanksgiving… I should assume my readers knew nothing about photography but should convince them that if they bought the latest new camera it would make them a real photographer, up with the greats.

I’d built up a considerable following over the seven or so years I had written the web site, with photographers around the world reading my articles and writing to me. One article on the photographs from 9/11 got around a million hits in 24 hrs, and the audience figures generally weren’t bad – just as well as I only got paid by results. Though it turned out I and the other writers weren’t actually getting paid what we were promised, and a couple of years after I left I got a couple of thousand pounds more from a class action settlement.

All along I had been writing some things specifically for beginners and also for an American audience, but I also wrote and continued writing more serious articles as well. Using US spelling didn’t worry me, but there was too much I wasn’t prepared to compromise and dumb down on so after an uncomfortable few months I got fired. Which is really how this blog started.

Down the Tube

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

I think it was in 1979 that I first met Paul Baldesare. We had both joined a group set up by the then curator of photographs at the Museum of London, Michael Seaborne called London Documentary Photographers. It was not officially a group from the Museum, but held its meetings there and organised a couple of shows on the premises before moving to hold them elsewhere.

There were around 30 photographers who attended that meeting, and most of us brought at least some examples of our work to show the others. Several people stood out for the quality of their work, and one was Baldesare, who showed pictures from a project he was still making of travellers on the London Underground.

These pictures were all unposed, generally taken without the subjects noticing the man sitting in the seat opposite or just down the carriage with a camera – I think usually a Nikon with the pentaprism removed so he could look down and frame the image on the top of the camera body. Fortunately tube trains are usually noisy enough to drown the rather loud shutter sound.

Soon after the group decided to produce a show on the theme of Transport, which Baldesare’s pictures fitted perfectly. I didn’t have any current work that fitted, and having seen his work on the tube, decided to try my hand at some similar work on London’s Buses. You can see some of the work I produced in an earlier post, On the Buses Again.

Some of Baldesare’s work is now also available from Café  Royal Books, which has just published his ‘Down the Tube Travellers on the London Underground 1987–1990‘, available like my Notting Hill volume for just £6.  You can save on shipping by ordering the two – and other volumes – at the same time. Another recent volume by a photographer I  know that I’d highly recommend is Paul Trevor — India Road.  I’ve long been of the opinion that Trevor was the most interesting British photographer to emerge in the 1970 – bar none.

You can see more of Baldesare’s work on his own web site. Click on ‘Portfolio’ and scroll down the page to find three black and white projects,  his tube pictures, and two others which are due to also come out on CRB, Victoria Coach Station and A Local Event, pictures from carnivals and village fairs in the Surrey Hills.

Andrea Bruce

Friday, August 17th, 2018

According to the NOOR web site, “Andrea Bruce is an award winning documentary photographer whose work focuses on people living in the aftermath of war.” So it perhaps made her an obvious choice as photographer for a recent New York Times article, ‘In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything‘ by Peter S Goodman.

Both text and pictures are interesting and illuminating, though much of what Goodman writes will be familiar to those of us living in the UK. But I particularly admire Bruce’s images and her use of space, as well as the range of images and the research and gaining access that must have gone into the project. She obviously had a very good ‘fixer’, often the unsung heroes of documentary photography.

You can see more of her work on the NOOR web site, where there is also a short biography of this American photographer born in 1973. She also appears on the World Press Photo site for her Soldier’s Funeral which was awarded second prize for single photos in the Daily Life section of the 2014 WPP awards.

Some of you may also be able to access her own web site, but on my normal browser all I get is a white screen with the message ‘Click to enable Adobe Flash player‘ which fails to respond to my clicking. I tried on a second browser and just got a dark grey filling the screen.

There are several videos of her on-line, including one on a workshop she gave in Bali, a shorter one of her talking about her approach and another of her talking about her ‘Our Democracy’ project in the USA.

Notting Hill Carnival- Café Royal Books

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

It’s carnival time, or almost so, though I’m not sure I will be going this year. I came late to Notting Hill, only discovering it in the 1990s but was immediately captivated by it, our largest street festival. For the next fifteen or so years I went every year I was in London, spending two days taking photographs and then a further several days recovering my hearing. Carnival is a hugely visceral experience, where you feel the sound and your whole body vibrates, and I wanted to try and capture something of that in my pictures.

Of course carnival is a very colourful event, and I did photograph it in colour, but somehow it was the black and white images I also took (and some years only took) that somehow managed – at least for me – to convey the spirit of the event.

Some of these pictures were among the first of mine to be put on a web site, Fixing Shadows, back in 1994 or 5. Fixing Shadows was one of the earliest web sites to show photographs on an internet that was only just beginning to display images as well as text. The site is still on-line, though the scans, made on a black and white only flatbed scanner, while effective, are not quite up to current standards.

Later, J David Sapir, who as well as setting up Fixing Shadows, a site ‘concerned with photographs of historic interest and with contemporary straight photography in general‘ was editor of the Visual Anthropology Review, commissioned fellow academic George Mentore to write the leading article in the Spring/Summer 1999 edition (Volume 15 number 1), Notting Hill in Carnival in which, as well as his writing about Notting Hill in particular and carnival in general from an anthropological viewpoint, also featured 20 of my pictures, each accompanied by a sometimes lengthy comment by Mentore.

Those of you with JSTOR or similar academic logins will be able to read it, but those without can only access the first page of the text  – and none of my photographs – without payment. (The issue also contains an excellent article by Darren Newbury, Photography and the visualisation of Working Class Lives in Britain, illustrated by work by Paul Trevor, Nick Waplington and Paul Graham.)

Since 1999 a few of the pictures have appeared here and there and in 2008, twenty of them were a part of a show ‘English Carnival‘ in London’, also still on-line.

I’m delighted to say that Café Royal Books have now published ‘Notting Hill Carnival in the 1990s‘ and for a mere £6.00 you can buy a copy of this 36 page issue with 18 of my pictures, including just a few that I’ve not printed or published before.

Notting Hill Carnival in the 1990s

A Sort of Home – David Hoffman

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Finally today I managed to get to see David Hoffman’s show A Sort of Home: 1970s Whitechapel at Gallery 46 in Whitehchapel. I’d been very disappointed to have to miss the opening because of a nasty stomach upset last month, and finding a time to get out to Whitechapel was a problem as I’ve been rather busy and also away from London for some time. But today I got on a 25 bus and made the rather slow journey there, and it was well worth the trouble.

If you haven’t already seen the show you haven’t got long as it is only on until August 15th, which is next Wednesday. According to the web site the gallery is open 12 – 6pm, but hidden on the contact page is the information that it is closed Sunday and Monday, so that means your only chance is now Tuesday or Wednesday. Also rather discretely it is only on the contact page that it discloses that the gallery is at 46 Ashfield St, E1 2AJ – which is tucked away behind the Royal London Hospital. You walk south down Turner St, which seems to be a part of the hospital site, almost directly opposite the new Whitechapel Station Entrance, and Ashfield St is a couple of hundred yards down on the left.

Plenty of people had found it when I was there earlier today – one of the best attended small galleries I’ve been in for a long time. As well as the prints on the wall there is also a short audiovisual presentation, which I think displays the pictures rather better. For my taste some of the prints on the wall are a little dark and lacking in contrast and don’t do the great images any favours.

If you can’t make it you can see some of the work on the Gallery 46 web site, where 10 of his prints are for sale. But for a greater selection go to his own web site, particularly the ‘Fieldgate 20’ page.

As a small bonus for visiting Gallery 46, you also walk past one of the better 1930s block of flats in East London, which I photographed rather better in black and white some time in the 1980s for an (as yet) unpublished book with the provisional title ‘London Moderne‘. Gwynne House, architect Hume Victor Kerr, a block of 20 modern flats for ‘students, social workers and professional people in east London’ was completed in 1938. For some years it was owned by the hospital for its staff, but they sold it in 2011 to a company that modernised its interior and gave it portholes on the doors. Go a little further south along Turner St to 9-17, and you come to another of Kerr’s buildings, Comfort House, built in 1932 as a factory and showroom for gown manufacturer M Levy.

Muybridge’s Horse

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

I don’t recall coming across the blog Muybridge’s Horse before, which is a site featuring artists whose work relates to the way we interact and experience animals and nature run by Emma Kisiel who lives in Portland Oregon.

It was drawn to my attention by a post featuring work by Carl Corey from his series Americaville, which you can see in more depth on his own web site and in particular in his Americaville blog, which appears to have been running since November 2016, though the photographs on it are undated. A feature on Slate suggests that Corey began the project in 2014, and you can hear him talk about the project on Wisconsin Public Radio in 2016.

You can find out more about Corey and see more of his archive and current projects on his impressive web site (a few may still need telling that the symbol with three horizontal lines close to top left indicates the menu.)

Corey’s work attracted my attention so much that I completely forgot about Muybridge, who I’ve previously written about elsewhere at some length. He came from Kingston, on the edge of London, close to where I was born and not far from where I live, and a few years ago in 2007 I took part in an exhibition with two other photographers, Paul Baldesare and Mike Seaborne, in the museum there which houses a display on Kingston’s most famous son, though the work which made him famous was made in California. Kingston Museum has put together a web site about him with the local university which is perhaps the best introduction to his work.

So much is written about Muybridge and is available on line that adding more would be superfluous, but perhaps I might link to the web site on our show at the Kingston Museum, still on line some years later, Another London, and a picture from Kingston in 2006, a very different place to that which Muybridge knew.

Birth of the Fake News Photo

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Another splendid piece by Kenneth Jarecke on Medium, Birth of the Fake News Photo takes a look at the principles that grew up (if unevenly) to produce the ethical basis of photojournalism and their more recent undermining, in particular by World Press Photo.

Jarecke writes with beautiful clarity, and is (as Wikipedia states) an American photojournalist, author, editor, and war correspondent. He has covered “everything, from wars to Olympic Games, in all corners of the world”.

You can see some of his fine photographs on his own web site, and at Contact Press Photos – of which he was one of the founding photographers.

His web site also contains a age worth reading in which he outlines his philosophy, which is also worth reading.

Famine Porn?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

I hesitated to add my thoughts about the World Press Photo Instagram posts from Alessio Mamo showing villagers from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in front of tables with what for them would be exotic foodstuffs. Really I didn’t want to give what I felt was a misguided project any more publicity. But since every man and his dog, including The Guardian and the BBC have had their say I felt I too should say something, just in case anyone had manage to miss this and the enormous stir it has created on the web.

Firstly I think it important to state that some of the criticism has been ill-informed. The villagers that Mamo worked with were not starving or particularly malnourished, though certainly they were not the obese figures we are so used to in the west.

As Mamo has stated:

Most of the people enjoyed spontaneously to be part of this and photographed behind the table. The people I photographed were living in a village and they were not suffering from malnutrition anymore, they were not hungry or sick, and they freely participated in the project.

Mamo, as he says, “brought…a table and some fake food, and…told people to dream about some food that they would like to find on their table”. But the food on the table was not food and would not represent the dreams those people had of food.

It isn’t true to say as some critics did, that this was bringing fake food to starving people. It wasn’t although it did rather look like this, and it is that impression which matters. We make pictures but it is others who read them, and create their own meanings from them whatever our intentions.

This picture highlights the problems when photographers start doing rather gimmicky projects like this imposing a false situation on their subjects. It might be art, though I think not particularly impressive as such, but it certainly isn’t photojournalism, and should have no place at all on the World Press Photo site, whose Instagram posts Mamo was given the opportunity to takeover for a week.

The guidelines to photographers who take on this responsibility remind them that they should present “quality visual journalism and storytelling’ and “present accurate, compelling and creative work allowing people to see the world freely.”

WPP reserves the right to step in and “edit a post or a photographer’s selection”, but chose not to do so, and instead gave what many of us feel a response which fails to support any clear idea of what photojournalism is or should be.

The area into which these pictures fall is certainly not photojournalism, but rather more that of advertising, with Mamo thinking like an art director trying to sell a product to an audience than allowing “people to see the world freely”.

There have been so many comments on this work already made – with large collections of them on various web sites including Scroll and PetaPixel. For a couple more opinions you could read Allen Murabayashi of PhotoShelter and Yamini Pustake Bhalerao on ShethePeople.