Archive for the ‘Photographers’ Category

Sweeps Festival – Rochester, Kent – 2011

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

Sweeps Festival – Rochester, Kent: I’d always avoided festivals like the Dickens Festival and Sweeps Festival at Rochester. Somehow these events seemed to be synthetic rather than authentic unlike the older carnivals, some of which still take place, though there are far fewer than twenty or thirty years ago – when my local carnival petered out.

Sweeps Festival - Rochester, Kent

The Rochester festivals are very much recent sponsored promotions of tourism to the town and the Medway area, although the Sweeps festival claims to dates back over 400 years, when child chimney sweeps celebrated May Day, said to have been their one day off in the year, and came into town to make the most of it with a great deal of mischief and mayhem.

Sweeps Festival - Rochester, Kent

The free Sweeps festival was actually founded in 1981 and lasts three days – in 2024 it begins on Saturday 4th May and ends on Bank Holiday Monday, May 6th. It has managed to continue while cuts in government funding have resulted in others being abandoned. It is very different now from its supposed origins, with folk groups and Morris dancers coming from around the country to perform to thousands of visitors.

Sweeps Festival - Rochester, Kent

Working with my friend, photographer John Benton-Harris on book projects I had seen his pictures of the event, and in 2011 he twisted my arm to get me to accompany him to the festival. We met at London Bridge station and took the train for the roughly 75 minute journey to Rochester.

Sweeps Festival - Rochester, Kent

It wasn’t the happiest of days for either of us. John lost his wallet which fell out of his pocket in a café and had disappeared by the time he realised and returned to look for it, and I managed to poke myself in the eye with the slanted end of a nylon camera strap that turned out to be remarkably sharp, after which everything seen through my normal camera eye was rather a blur. I still managed to take a great many pictures.

The best part of the day for me was actually the train journeys there and back with John where we had some stimulating conversations, with both of us enjoying a good argument about photography and photographers. He had a phenomenal knowledge of photographers and photography in New York where he had grown up and known many in person – which powered the iconic 1985 Barbican show and book American Images: Photography 1945-1980 , but he failed to appreciate many of the later photographers I admired.

When I wrote briefly about the festival on My London Diary I noted that “what seems to be entirely missing are the kind of drunken orgies that used to mark the spring festival. Or perhaps I was just in the wrong place? ” For all the unusual costumes and masks somehow the festival did seem rather tame, lacking any of the kind of energy that makes Notting Hill carnival so special. But it was also very much kinder on the ears, almost entirely acoustic and never reaching the intense high horsepower decibel levels of Ladbroke Grove.

We were there on Monday 2nd May 2011, the final day of the three day festival, as I hadn’t been prepared to miss the London May Day march the previous day or the protest in Brighton on the Saturday and had thought that the final procession would be worth photographing. But as I commented “What I hadn’t realised was that relatively few of the dancers stay on for the final day, and although the procession was interesting, it was considerably smaller than I expected.”

Given the circumstances I think I managed fairly well with my pictures, but I don’t think either John or I made any pictures that would stand among our best. Following his untimely death last August his own personal website is now offline, but you can see some of his work at the Mary Evans picture library (click on the image to see more) – but nothing there from his many visits to Rochester, nor in the 2021 Huck Feature or his APAG entry. Still online are a few of his critical articles which give a good idea of his thinking on photography on his The Photo Pundit blog.

John thought highly of some of his pictures from previous Rochester festivals and included around 15 of them in the roughly 150 images in his unpublished ‘Mad Hatters – a diary of a secret people‘, a book of his pictures of the English which I helped him produce. I worked on all the pictures and gave him a great deal of advice of which he very occasionally took notice.

I resisted later attempts to go to Rochester with him for this and other festivals there, and should I go back again its likely to be on a day without the festival crowds. Rochester does seem a very interesting historic town and there are some great places to walk in the area.

More pictures on My London Diary at Rochester Sweeps Festival.

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Pancakes, A Farm & Another London – 2007

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

Pancakes, A Farm & Another London: My working day on Shrove Tuesday, 20th January 2007 began in Guildhall Yard in the City of London, where by permission of the Chief Commoner the Worshipful Company Of Poulters were holding their annual charity pancake races. The Poulters got their charter to regulate the sale of poultry and small game in 1368, but their pancake races are a rather more recent tradition, first run in 2005.

Pancakes, A Farm & Another London

Music for the event came from the Worshipful Company Of Musicians (1500), time-keeping was by the Worshipful Company Of Clockmakers (1631) and a starting cannon for each of the many races was provided and fired by the Worshipful Company Of Gunmakers (1637.)

Pancakes, A Farm & Another London

Although this is a charitable and fun event it fully demonstrates the competitive spirit at the heart of the city. More pictures on My London Diary.

Pancakes, A Farm & Another London

From Guildhall I rushed to another pancake event on the edge of the City, the Great Spitalfields Pancake Race at the former Trumans Brewery, arriving very out of breath just in time to see the finish of the final race and to photograph some of those who had taken part in fancy dress and the prize-giving.

Pancakes, A Farm & Another London

As I commented, “the atmosphere was considerably less restrained than in the City.More pictures.

From there a short walk took me on a visit to Spitalfields Urban Farm, one of a number of urban farms set up in the 70s and 80s (1978 in this case) on waste land. This area had formerly been part of a railway goods depot next to the line out of Liverpool Street. It now provides an environmental education and a great deal of enjoyment to people of all ages in the local community.

I was meeting with other photographers later in the day, and still had time to stroll in a leisurely fashion through Spitalfields to Shoreditch to catch the bus, making a few photographs on the way. Back then there was relatively little graffiti on the walls around the disused Spitalfields station and Brick Lane, but now its hard to find a square inch of wall not covered with it. I was photographing in a dark alley leading through to Bishopsgate when a hooded figure strolled past me. Despite the media stereotyping of ‘hoodies’ I couldn’t feel he was in the least threatening; if anything rather more like a monk. More pictures on My London Diary.

I met a group of photographer friends for a meal at an Italian cafe in New Malden and then we went on together to Kingston Museum, where the show ‘Another London‘ including my work along with that of Paul Baldesare and Mike Seaborne was then showing. Of course it closed years ago, but the web site featuring work from it is still on-line.

Pancakes, A Farm & Another London

As the introduction on the site states, the show features “the London of the suburbs, of its deprived areas and of its various ethnic groups” with work by myself an Paul “in the tradition of ‘street photography‘” and Mike’s panoramic urban landscapes some “using the viewpoint offered by the front seat of London buses.”

Another London

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Freedom Protests in London – 2010

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024

Freedom Protests in London: Two protests on Saturday 23rd January, 2010 were against the increasing powers which have been given to police and misused by them to control and harass lawful actions on the street.

I’m A Photographer Not A Terrorist – Tragalgar Square

Freedom Protests in London

Around 1,500 photographers and supporters turned up to the I’m A Photographer Not A Terrorist rally in Trafalgar Square to protest at the increasing harassment of people taking photographs by police, and in particular their abuse of powers under the Terrorism Act.

Freedom Protests in London

I think those there included virtually every photographer who works in London as well as many amateurs. Almost all of us who work on the streets have been approached by police, questioned and then subjected to a search, usually under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (S44.)

Freedom Protests in London

As I commented in 2010:

These stop and searches appear to have continued unabated despite a Home Office Circular in September that made it clear they should not be used to target photographers. Searches can also be carried out under Section 43 of the act, but for this officers must have reasonable grounds to suspect someone of being a terrorist. S44 stops can only be carried out in “authorised areas”, which although intended by Parliament to apply in very restricted areas for short lengths of time have been used by police – for example – to permanently to cover central London and some other areas.

I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist

Freedom Protests in London

The Press Card that we carry has the text “The Association of Chief Police Officers of England Wales and Northern Ireland and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland recognise the holder of this card as a bona-fide newsgatherer.” But despite this, one of my colleagues was the subject of roughly 30 searches in 2009.

Personally although I’ve been approached and asked why why I’m taking pictures on a number of occasions I’ve only been been subjected to a S44 stop once. Being a still photographer I tend to work fast and keep on the move and I think videographers who stay around longer have suffered more. But certainly there was a lack of cooperation from the police and I was often finding my Press Card being unrecognised by offiers. Others told me that they didn’t regard those issued through the NUJ, one of the recognised gatekeepers to the system, as being valid. And most months if not most weeks I would be threatened with arrest when taking pictures.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this protest was listening to a BBC News reporter, standing in the middle of a crowd of experienced journalists and giving a report in which he gave the number attending the protest as “three hundred“. It drew immediate shouts of protest from those of us standing around him and was certainly “not a good advertisement for the competence or impartiality of the BBC who appear to have a policy of playing down dissent.” It’s a policy which still seems to govern the BBC reporting of protests in the UK which are either simply ignored or very much played down.

Among the protesters was a small “Vigilance Committee with a man on stilts wearing a number of CCTV cameras accompanied by a male and female vigilance officer, who picked on individuals and questioned them, taking their fingerprints before finding them guilty and sentencing them to a choice of six years hard labour or contributing to the Vigilance Committee.”

Also present were three Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, but police and ‘heritage wardens’ largely kept away. Although this had been planned as an illegal protest taking place without the permission from the Mayor required by the bylaws, the authority had put in an application for it without any reference to the protesters.

More pictures at I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist.

Life Is Too Short to be Controlled – St Pancras to Piccadilly Circus,

Later in the day protesters met at St Pancras for the ‘Life Is Too Short to be Controlled’ protest against the increasing control over our lives through increased police powers to stop and search, increased surveillance and controls on freedom of movement.

The protest, organised by ‘London NoBorders’ began outside St Pancras Station where the Border Authority detains migrants arriving by Eurostar and marched to Piccadilly Circus, beneath which Westminster’s CCTV HQ keeps a constant watch on the streets of London, the “City of CCTV”. Across the city there were then over 500,000 CCTV cameras watching us, installed by councils, public bodies, companies and individuals and on a typical day the average person in London will be recorded by 300 of them.

Police kept a relatively discrete watch on the event, with police vans parked out of site and even when the group marched along the busy Euston Road, holding up traffic for a few minutes not a single officer appeared. The march was well-ordered “and when an ambulance answering an emergency came along, the whole march cleared the road for it with remarkable speed. At Russell Square, one taxi driver decided to try to force his way through the marchers, but was soon stopped, with several people sitting on the bonnet of his vehicle.”

At Piccadilly Circus there was a short token road block before the protesters moved to the pavement around Eros for more speeches and some dancing. A Police Community Support Officer appeared briefly after someone climbed up and taped a Palestinian flag to Eros’s bow and tried to identify who had done this. The statue is rather fragile and could have been damaged. He soon gave up and went away and was replaced a few minutes later by a single police officer who was embarrassed by being greeted with hugs, and moved back a few yards to watch.

“Not me officer, someone borrowed my scarf”

The police had monitored the progress of the protest as it marched through London, both from some distance on the streets and also on CCTV. It had been peaceful and had caused only very minor disturbance. Few protests do, and the kind of heavy policing sometimes employed often means police cause more disruption that the protest, as well as sometimes provoking a response from protesters who would otherwise have protested peacefully.

More at Life Is Too Short to be Controlled.

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Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk – 2017

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk – On Thursday 7th November 2017 I met up old friends, all photographers, for the early Christmas social event we’ve organised most years. It had proved difficult to find a date everyone could make and several of the group were missing and we were down to five of us.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk
Four – and I was holding the camera

It’s a sobering thought that six years on only three of the five are still in the land of the living, with first Alex and more recently John having died. I’ve several times written about John Benton-Harris on this site over the years and he also years ago contributed two guest posts, as well as featuring his surprise 70th birthday party in 2009.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

I’d worked with John in recent years on producing a number of books, including a few for the Café Royal Books series, including his Saint Patrick’s People, though his major work, ‘Mad Hatters’ on the English sadly remains unpublished. And I’d gone with him taking pictures to St Patrick’s Day events in London and elsewhere. Although he had some health problems and was in his 80s, his death still came as a great shock to us all.

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

We met at St Paul’s Underground Station and our first visit was to the Guildhall Art Gallery, where we went “down into its depths where a few years ago the remains of the Roman Coliseum were discovered and are now rather well displayed, before looking at the City of London’s art collection on display. It’s a rather mixed bunch with some fine works ancient and modern along with some rather tedious municipal records of great occasions that would have looked fine in the Illustrated London News but don’t really cut it as vast canvasses on the gallery wall.” (Quotes her are from my article written here in December 2017)

Our Pre-Chistmas City Walk

Some years earlier in 2005 I had been to the opening of a show at the gallery featuring works by some of London’s best-known living painters curated by Mireille Gailinou for a now defunct organisation I was then the treasurer of, London Arts Café, ‘London Now – CITY OF HEAVEN CITY OF HELL’ and had given my opinion on the gallery’s collection to the then curator who was very shocked when I’d said I would quite happily burn one of the largest canvases. Fortunately that had not resulted in me being banned from the gallery!

That show is now long gone, as too is the London Arts Café, but its web site with more about this and other shows and events we organised remains currently on-line. And despite my opinions the Guildhall Art Gallery is still worth visiting both for the artworks and certainly for its Roman remains and entry is free.

From there we walked “on past the Bank of England we walked into Adams Court and walked around in a circle before driven by thirst to the Crosse Keys, where I failed to resist the temptation of a pint of Smokestack Lightnin’, a beer from the Dorking Brewery, named after my favourite Howling Wolf track – I still somewhere have the 45rpm record. It was the first time I’ve come across the idea of a ‘smoked’ beer, and while interesting I think it would be best drunk around a bonfire.”

John had left us when we went into the pub, saying there was still light to take photographs and he wanted to make the most of it, but he seemed seldom to enjoy coming with us into pubs. The Crosse Keys is one of many interesting buildings – old pubs, theatres, cinemas, banks etc – around the country that Wetherspoons have taken over and preserved and though their owner has terrible politics and the chain poor conditions of service they offer cheap and generally well-kept beer and plain good-value food. Obviously their staff should unionise and fight for better terms.

We didn’t stay long in the pub, just a quick pint on the balcony and a short visit to the toilets in the depths, before leaving. Alex said goodbye here, seeing a bus that would take him back home to Hackney rather than go west with us, and I led the remaining two “down to the river, where we turned upstream along the Thames path. The light was fading a little, but perhaps becoming more interesting, but when we left the river at Queenhithe it was time to make our way back to St Paul’s to catch a bus and get a table for our meal together before the city workers crowded in.”

All the pictures accompanying this post were made with a Fuji X-E1 and 18mm Fuji lens, an almost pocketable combination. The 18mm f2 is probably my favourite Fuji lens, though often I prefer the added flexibility of the slightly slower but still fairly compact 18-55mm zoom. Later I moved up to the X-E3, which has better auto-focus and a significantly larger sensor and is slightly smaller, but both are still very usable cameras, and the X-E1 is now available secondhand pretty cheaply. It’s still a great camera for street photography and as an introduction to the Fuji range.

A few more pictures at Photographers Walk.

Joan Liftin (1933-2023)

Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Joan Liftin at Duckspool, 1993

I didn’t really know Joan Liftin who died recently well, but met her when I attended a workshop led by her husband, Charles Harbutt (1935-2015) at Duckspool in Somerset in the 1990s. I was impressed by some photographs she showed there and both she and Charlie were sympathetic and made helpful criticisms about my own work as well as expressing some views on photography which influenced me. Later she sent me a copy of her first book, ‘Drive-Ins‘ which I reviewed for the photography site I was then running for, long defunct.

I heard about her death on The Eye of Photography, where you can read an obit by her friend, the photographer Brigitte Grignet, though unless you are a subscriber you will not be able to see more than a couple of her photographs. But you can see more on Liftin’s web site, which has a few pictures from each of her three books.

There is a lengthy podcast interview with her on ‘Right Eye Dominant‘ where she talks at length about her life and career at Magnum, ICP and more, working with almost every photographer whose name you will know. The sound is a little rough but her character which attracted me really comes across. Close to the end she talks a little about Harbutt and his work. You can also hear her talking on the B&H Photography Podcast. There is a written interview with her on Visura magazine, which in many ways I prefer to a podcast, though it was good to hear her voice again.

Harbutt played an important part in my own photography, particularly through his book ‘Travelog‘ published by MIT in 1973. This was one of the first photography books I bought and opened my eyes to different ways of working. His workshops were legendary, and it was one of those which inspired Peter Goldfield, who I met in the 1970s to leaving Muswell Hill where he had set up Goldfinger Photographic above his pharmacy in Muswell Hill and set up the photography workshop at Duckspool and I wrote about this at the time of Peter’s death in 2009.

Liftin’s web site also has links to a post in the NY Times archive, Moving Freely, and Photographing, in Marseille, with text by Rena Silverman and 16 photographs, though again access may be limited if you are not a subscriber. There are also links to some other features on her Marseille book on her site.

Liftin wrote an introduction to The Unconcerned Photographer published in 2020 which includes the text of a lecture given by Harbutt in 1970 which first publicly expressed his views on photography.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Cuts & Paris, New York, London

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

Wednesday 20th October 2020 was a rather different day for me. I started photographing speakers at an indoor rally, something I rarely do, went off to meet with my MP in a pub, then photographed a march against cuts in welfare and the loss of public sector jobs, ending the day at the opening of a show featuring myself and two other photographers, one of whom, Paul Baldesare took two of the pictures in that section of today’s post.

Jesse Jackson & Christian Aid Lobby – Westminster, Wednesday 20 October 2010

I was one of the 2,500 or so Christian Aid supporters who came to Westminster to lobby their MPs on 20.10.2010, asking them to press for transparency and fairness in the global tax system and for action on climate change.

The day started with a rally in the Methodist palace of Westminster Central Hall, opposite Westminster Abbey, the hall where the inaugural meeting of the United Nations General Assembly took place in January 1946. The Methodists had then moved out for a few months to allow this to take place, and special seating, translation booths installed, along with extra lighting to allow the event to be photographed and televised. But I think that lighting must have been removed as it was pretty dim inside for me to photograph the speakers. But I and a small group from my constituency were fortunate to be inside as there wasn’t enough room for all who came.

Supporters outside Methodist Central Hall

There were speakers from this country and abroad, but the star of the event was undoubtedly the Rev Jesse Jackson, a noted US civil rights and political activist, president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.

After the rally and a hurried lunch a small group of us from his Spelthorne constituency met with our then recently elected MP, Kwasi Kwarteng, who suggested we find a place in the St Stephen’s Tavern to talk rather than have to go through the tedious business of queueing to go through security to meet inside the parlimentary offices. Although he was still relatively unknown it was rather easy to find him, as there are relatively few extremely tall black male MPs. Though rather more share his educational background of prep school and Eton.

Since then his rise to fame has been rapid, though after his recent sacking after only 38 days as Chancellor of the Exchequer, perhaps that should be notoriety. He has only visited his constituency on fairly rare occasions and I’ve yet to meet him again, though have seen him from a distance outside parliament.

He listened – or at least stayed fairly quiet – while my wife and others talked about the campaign for tax justice and the need for reforms to stop the various forms of tax dodging by major companies robs poor countries of more than $160bn a year, while climate change and the natural disasters it is bringing have a vastly greater impact on the poorer countries who are most vulnerable, despite their much lower per capita carbon footprints. They suffer from the results of our high dependence on fossil fuels.

But his response to the lobbying was perhaps best described as ‘mansplaining’; we were not at the time aware of his work as a consultant for the Odey Asset Management hedge fund or the recent allegations by Private Eye that he has continued to receive undeclared contributions from them. Certainly his activities as Chancellor have resulted in them and other hedge funds who bet against the pound making millions.

More at Jesse Jackson & Christian Aid Lobby.

March Against Spending Cuts – Malet St & Lincolns Inn Fields, Wed 20 Oct 2010

This was the day that the government announced the results of their comprenhensive spending review (CSR) which involved considerable cuts in welfare benefits and the loss of many public sector jobs as services are cut. The deficit left by the outgoing New Labour government had given the Tories in the Con-Dem coalition a perfect excuse to slash the public sector and privatise services in a way they would never have dared before.

More than a million public sector jobs were expected to be lost, with some being replaced by private sector workers on lower wages, fewer benefits, lower standards of delivery and safety and higher workloads. There will be more cases of people suffering as private companies expand into healthcare, putting profits before the needs of people, and similar changes in other areas.

The Coalition of Resistance who called the protest say the £83 billion to be cut from public services will plunge the economy into a slump. Rather than cutting jobs, pay, pensions, benefits, and public services that will hit the poor ten times harder than the rich, they urge the government to cut bank profits and bonuses, tax the rich and big business. Rather than contract out the NHS, they should axe Trident and withdraw from Afghanistan.

I had to leave before the rally at the end of the march at Downing Street to prepare for the opening of an exhibition I had organised in Hoxton.

March Against Spending Cuts

Paris • New York • London Opening – Shoreditch Gallery, Hoxton Market. Wed 20 Oct 2010

Paris, 1988

Together with two photographer friends I had put on the show Paris • New York • London at the Shoreditch Gallery which was attached to a cafe in Hoxton Market, a small street just off Great Eastern Street, close to Hoxton Square. Rather confusingly this is not where the actual Hoxton Market is now held which is in Hoxton St.

Me in a red jumper at the opening © Paul Baldesare, 2010

The show was a part of the East London Photomonth annual photography festival, and over the month it was on attracted a decent number of visitors and comments. My section was Paris, and I’d ordered a decent number of copies of my book, Photo Paris, still available at Blurb, most of which sold at the show. Unfortunately I think it now costs around twice as much as I was able to sell it for then.

Jiro Osuga, Townly Cooke, my book and Me © Paul Baldesare, 2010

Paul Baldesare’s pictures of London and pictures taken by John Benton-Harris in New York completed the show and you can still see the work online on a small web site I wrote for the event. Thanks to Paul for some pictures taken at the opening where I was too busy talking to use a camera.

Paris • New York • London Opening

Digital Panoramas on the Thames Path

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

Digital Panoramas on the Thames Path
I’ve long had an interest in panoramic photographs, both in taking them and also appreciating the work of well-known photographers who have made panoramic images. From the earliest days some photographers wanted to make pictures with a wider field of view than was possible with a normal camera and lenses, and the first patent for a specialised panoramic camera was filed in Austria in 1843, using a curved Daguerreotype plate and rotating lens.

The earliest existing panoramic photographs appear to be those by Friedrich von Martens made in the early 1840s – such as this example on Wikimedia dated from 1846. There are also paper prints from the same era, presumably made from calotype negatives. As well as making single exposures with an angle of view of around 150°, von Martens and others made panoramas using multiple exposures, often with normal lenses. Martens produced what was probably the first 360° panorama using three curved Daguerreotype plates.

Normally we use cameras with rectilinear lenses to render straight lines in the subject as straight lines in the picture. But as the distance from the lens centre to the film or sensor gets longer towards the edges and corners, the image magnification also increases. This begins to be noticeable with extreme wideangle lenses, although more of a problem with some subject matter than others.

Although I’ve worked with a full-frame lens at 12mm, I’ve found that for general purposes a practical limit is around 15-16mm with 18mm generally more useful, corresponding to an horizontal angle of view of 90°. Beyond that the image stretching usually becomes too noticeable.

The first really popular specialised panoramic film cameras were the 1899 #4 Kodak Panoram and the Circut, patented in 1904 and produced in a range of sizes until 1945. Some were still in use until recently for producing long roll photographs of perhaps 800 pupils sitting in rows on the school field. They rotated slowly enough for some students to run around the back of the group and appear at both ends. Cameras of this type were used to great effect by photographers including Josef Sudek.

Having made several multi-image panoramas and found the process limiting I bought my first rather more modest panoramic camera, a Japanese Widelux taking images on 35mm film in 1991. Later I bought a Russian Horizon which gave similar results, and a 120 format Chinese model. I still have these along with a Hasselblad X-Pan, not really a true panoramic camera, but using a panoramic format – with the standard lens it only gives a similar angle of view to a 28mm lens, and even with the 30mmm wideangle I mainly used only around a 90° angle of view.

These cameras were the main reason I continued using some film after going digital in 2002. But some years later I found a way of working with digital cameras to make panoramic images, using a fisheye lens and then ‘defishing’ this with software to give a similar image to those made with the swing lens cameras.

These pictures were taken seven years ago on a short walk along one of my favourite sections of the Thames Path in London, from Vauxhall to Wandsworth on Sunday 5th January 2014.

I took images handheld with a Nikon D800E using a Nikon 16mm f2.8 fisheye lens, and later converted them using an Equirectangular projection in PTGui software. I now generally use the more convenient Lightroom Export plug-in ‘Fisheye-Hemi’ from Imadio.

You can see larger images and many more from the walk at Thames Path Panoramas on My London Diary.

Pioneering Women of Photojournalism

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

CNN recently published the article ‘These are the pioneering women of photojournalism‘ a story by Kyle Almond highlighting the website Trailblazers of Light, started by award-winning photojournalist Yunghi Kim who has covered stories all over the world for Contact Press Images and is best known for her story documenting South Korean “comfort women,” sex slaves used by the Japanese military during World War II.

Trailblazers of Light now lists more than 500 women who since the late 19th century have made significant work, reporting from around the world, including in war zones and other dangerous places, breaking their way into what is still – as a 2015 study by World Press Photo, the University of Stirling and Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism confirmed, very much a male dominated world.

The CNN article is illustrated by over 30 photographs of some of these women at work, some familiar names, and others I was not aware of, each with short notes about their careers.

I think there are at least ten of them who had got as a mention when I wrote about photography including the history of photography for a commercial web site, and some I had featured at greater length such as Dorothea Lange and Berenice Abbott. It was clear to me back then that our history of photography has been dominated by men and that there were many women whose work had been sidelined and largely forgotten, and whose work demanded greater attention.

I was also finding many contemporary features by women photographers that greatly impressed me and I could link to on the site. And on the streets where I worked it was also clear to me that although women were much outnumbered by men, their numbers among those whose work I admired were rather more equal, perhaps because women have to work harder to be recognised.

Magnum called out

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

Magnum holds a hugely important place in the history of photography, and many of us grew up with a concept of photojournalism that was largely based on its founding photographers, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, William Vandivert and David “Chim” Seymour (three of whom only heard about it after the meeting in Paris.) From the start it was a co-operative and importantly the photographers retained copyright, and they divided up the world between them.

Magnum of course flourished and grew, but retained its basic structure, owned and administered entirely by it photographer members, employing staff to support them. As well as the full members who are shareholders and vote at its annual meetings, there are also nominees, associates, contributors and correspondents who have no voting rights. A Wikpedia article gives more details, and includes the sentence which is perhaps relevant now, “No member photographer of Magnum has ever been asked to leave.”

I don’t know how complete the list of members (of all grades) on Wikipedia is, but it names over 130 photographers, many now deceased or withdrawn from Magnum, almost all of the familiar names, and including many of the best-known photojournalists of the last 73 years. Among them is American photographer David Alan Harvey, active since 1993 and a full member since 1997.

Magnum began with five male photographers, though both the Paris and New York office heads were women (Maria Eisner in Paris and Ruth Vandivert in New York) and among those in the members list only around 20 are women. It could be seen as a photographic ‘old boy’s net’ and perhaps its structure and membership have both contributed to the current controversy over both some of the work available in its digital archive and its perhaps sluggish response to allegations of sexual abuse.

As Kristen Chick points out in her special report, Magnum’s moment of reckoning in Columbia Journalism Review, it was only in 2018 that Magnum issued a code of conduct for its members in 2018 while in the same year boasting that it had not received a single complaint against any of its photographers. 

Chick’s article rapidly disposes of that assertion, pointing out that complaints had been made nine years earlier over inappropriate behavior by David Alan Harvey but that no action was taken by Magnum until a scandal broke on the web. In August 2020 Fstoppers reported that Magnum was selling explicit photographs of sexually exploited minors on its website, including pictures taken by Harvey in Bangkok in 1989; this led photojournalist Amanda Mustard to tweet “alleging that sexual misconduct allegations against him were an open secret in the industry.”

Chick’s report goes into some detail about the allegations made by eleven women against Harvey, and also what appears to be a very inadequate response by Magnum. The exploitative photographs were withdrawn from their web site but apparently remain available through other suppliers, and although Harvey was suspended and an inquiry launched into his behaviour, the report demonstrates that it and Magnum have failed or refused to listen to women making complaints.

And perhaps rather surprisingly, although Magnum proudly claimed it had drawn up a code of conduct for members, it refuses to make this public.

Do read the full report at Magnum’s moment of reckoning in Columbia Journalism Review.

Shortly after I wrote this last Tuesday (22nd Dec) Magnum issued a statement that they were “deeply upset to read the allegations about David Alan Harvey that have been reported in the CJR” and that they “will immediately investigate them and consider the appropriate action.”

What this omits is any mention of the several allegations that Magnum failed to investigate earlier that are mentioned in the CJR report, and the apparent shortcomings in the investigation that resulted in his clearly inadequate one year suspension.

According to the report, Harvey’s behaviour over several decades was widely known among other photographers, and Magnum is an organisation run by its photographers; it seems more than likely that at least some of the other members were aware of it – yet nothing was done before the organisation was forced into action by the furore in August 2020.

Kamoinge Workshop

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Thanks to Antonio Olmos, a Mexican photojournalist, editorial and portrait photographer based in London and one of the finest photographers working for the UK press at the moment for posting a link on Facebook to a current show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop.

Of course I won’t be travelling to New York before the show closes on Mar 28, 2021 (nor for that matter after that date, as I generally don’t do air travel for environmental reasons and am unlikely to be offered a yacht trip) but have enjoyed looking at the show online. Should you be in New York the gallery may be open – at your own risk – but you will need to book a ticket in advance.

The Kamoinge Workshop was set up by black photographers in New York in 1963, taking its name from the Kikuyu word for a group of people working together. The Whitney show has around 140 pictures from 14 of the photographers – 13 men and one woman – from the first two decades of the collective: Anthony Barboza, Adger Cowans, Daniel Dawson, Louis Draper, Al Fennar, Ray Francis, Herman Howard, Jimmie Mannas, Herb Randall, Herb Robinson, Beuford Smith, Ming Smith, Shawn Walker, and Calvin Wilson.

A few of the names are familiar to me, with scattered photographs in various of the many books I own, but I’d not really appreciated the work of this group as a whole. According to the museum web site:

Nine of these artists still live in or near New York City. The photographs provide a powerful and poetic perspective of the 1960s and 1970s during the heart of the Black Arts Movement. Working Together also presents an overview of many of the group’s collective achievements, such as exhibitions, portfolios, and publications.

Clicking on each of their portraits links to a video of each photographer talking about their career and work as well as reproductions of their works in the show. The photographers also speak about one of their works in the audio guide and there is a section devoted to archival works, several of which lead to versions of portfolios and publications digitised by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. And there is a series of installation views

It’s a show of some fine work and remarkably thoroughly documented on the web site. Although it’s always good to see actual prints, in some ways I think the site (assuming you can view it on a decent monitor) is a better experience than the real thing, and certainly less tiring on the legs, as to see it all will take you a couple of hours. I spent so long looking at it all that I nearly didn’t get this post written.

Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop
Antonio Olmos