Archive for the ‘Photographers’ Category

WPP Fake News Controversy

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

As now seems to be usual, this year’s WPP awards are mired in controversy, this time over the award to Iranian photographer, Hossein Fatemi of the second prize for his long-term project titled ‘An Iranian Journey.’ The same project also won Fatemi  the 73rd POYi World Understanding Award, and it was the responses that Ramin Talaie received following this that made him begin an investigation into Fatemi’s work.

Talaie writes that he “was flooded with individuals claiming to have helped or witnessed Fatemi stage his subjects for this project. Others claim Fatemi had plagiarized their work and in some cases even copied images frame by frame.” and so  “Over the following months I began compiling testimony and evidence and started verifying sources, locations, website and other information.

You can (and should) see the evidence in his post 2017 World Press Photo Awards Fake News, and he supplied that same evidence to the WPP along with details of his sources. The WPP appointed  Santiago Lyon, former director of photography at The Associated Press to investigate, and have now concluded “there was not sufficient evidence to declare a clear breach of our contest entry rules.

Looking at the evidence it is hard to see how that conclusion was reached, and it reflects badly on the WPP as well as one of the finest agencies around, Panos, that they have not yet taken action against Fatemi.  It isn’t necessarily wrong to stage images, and as Talaie states, it would be impossible to take many of the pictures in the essay without staging them, but it goes completely against our understanding of photographic ethics to then present them as ‘news’.

Plagiarism is a more difficult case to assess, and many of us end up taking similar photographs to other photographers when we were working in the same place at the same time. The examples given are perhaps more about a breach of trust between Fatemi and the photographers he was at the time working for. There also seem to be clear breaches of trust with some of those he photographed, who he assured that the pictures would not be made public. It also seems clear that some of the captions are deliberately misleading, ‘sexed up’ to make the pictures sell in a way that is completely unacceptable.

Talaie concludes his article with the comment:

Also there is simply not enough debate and discussions about ethics and ethical journalism in the Middle East. People learn how to make films and take pictures in Iran, but they do not always learn about ethics.

The Capa Controversy

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Regular readers will have seen (and perhaps got rather tired of seeing) my frequent posts about the persistent detective work by A D Coleman and his co-workers, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist J Ross Baughman, photo historian Rob McElroy and military historian Charles Herrick. Together they have succeeded in putting together a minutely detailed and evidenced examination of Robert Capa‘s exploits on D-Day and the subsequent processing and publication of the ten or eleven frames he took before leaving Omaha beach along with the stories fabricated around this begun by Life‘s then assistant picture editor John Morris within hours or days of the events and shortly after by Capa himself but with later embroidery by others.

It was of course obvious to any photographer who looked at the published images and thought about the story that was being told that it was absolute bunkum – film just doesn’t melt like that – but that didn’t stop it being repeated in book after book after film and web site, even those of some of the most prestigious organisations in photography (or perhaps especially them.)

I return to it because of a post by Coleman in iMediaEthics, Conflict of Interest, Cubed: Robert Capa’s D-Day Photos, John Morris, and the NPPA in which he looks at the article in the US NPPA’S (National Press Photographers Association) publication, News Photographer, The Fog of War – D Day and Robert Capa by Bruce Young. You might like to read both before continuing with my comments, though if you have been following the story I think you may well agree with me.

Young got considerable cooperation from Coleman and Baughmann who hoped he was going to acknowledge their work and put the record straight, but he does the opposite, muddying the water, adding some half-baked and unsubstantiated suggestions and parading a great deal of ignorance while somehow pretending to make some kind of objective overview that would put the matter to rest. NPPA members surely deserve better – we all do.

When Young gets down to business, he quotes at length from Capa’s own published account, written in Capa’s best story-telling mode, a fictionalised Hollywood version of his life story, followed by John Morris’s totally unbelievable account of the darkroom mishap. Young’s next paragraph is interesting, beginning by stating that this was the established story and legend for 70 years (which isn’t quite true – many of us challenged parts of the story long ago) and goes on to say “but if the devil is in the details, this story carries enough demons to populate all nine rings of Dante’s Hell“, going on to list a series of questions.

If he had bothered to read all of the published research by Coleman and others and had understood it, he would have found we now have answers to all or virtually all those questions, supported by evidence from various sources, but instead he goes on to suggest that Coleman, one of the best known and highly regarded critical writers about our medium over very many years, is not really qualified to comment because he has never been a professional photographer. While I sometimes think it helps, being a pro is neither necessary nor sufficient, why mention it when the research was the result of a team including one player with a Pulitzer for photjournalism?

There are many other curiosities in Young’s piece. Speaking about Morris’s reactions to Coleman’s research he suggests “But what if John Morris, now 98, sticks to the story because … well, it’s true? There are problems with some exacting details, but…” But it isn’t exacting details there are problems with but a fairly tremendous weight of evidence, and Morris himself has since accepted at least some of the facts, whilst spinning new fictions.

Young then goes into rather a lengthy digression on memory, which is to some degree irrelevant, as the fictions were written down close to the event, but rather fails to see that what he says about memory makes a nonsense of relying on Morris’s memory – having based his life and career around the story for the past 70 years he doubtless came to believe in his story. That’s how memory works!

I started writing not meaning to criticise Young, meaning to leave it to readers to make their own judgements. But it is really so bad I couldn’t resist, but I’ll spare you the rest of my thoughts. Of course Coleman has a lot more to say about it and about many details, and its hard not to feel his criticisms are at least largely justified.

But does it all matter about Capa? Well, obviously it does, from the angry responses that publishing the series of articles has generated from much of the photographic establishment. I think it matters because of the wider issues. Personally I’ve never been a great advocate of academic research that is too concerned with the details and minutiae, I’ve always been more concerned with the fate of the forests rather than the leaves on the tree. Integrity is the bedrock of photojournalism and documentary practice, and I think this research calls into question not so much the integrity of Capa – who didn’t make up the story about this or about the Falling soldier (about which Young also seems uninformed about the most recent research) but of the whole system that promulgates news to the public – immediately through Life Magazine in this case, but in the 70 years since then various other organisations including Magnum and the ICP.

Of course I didn’t know Capa, who was killed when I was still in short trousers, but I get a strong impression of him from his writing and photography and the stories about him I’ve heard over the years. I can imagine him opening the magazine and seeing the caption under the ‘Falling Soldier’ or the D-Day pictures, shrugging his shoulders and saying ‘Oh well, it’s a better story’ and thinking it was in any case too late to stick to the truth.

And of course the picture is still the same, still a powerful, truly iconic image of war. For me it isn’t diminished by knowing the truth, and it in no way diminishes my respect for Capa as a photographer to realise that he was only human, cold, wet, scared and shaking as he lay on the beach, only able to make ten or eleven exposures in the 20 minutes or so he was there. One was really enough.

You can read Coleman’s post about this at iMediaEthics and the NPPA, though I wrote this post before doing so. It contains a link to Young’s change of mind over the ‘Falling Soldier’ that I was unaware of, and also to another of Coleman’s own articles, Ethics in Photojournalism Then and Now: The Case of Robert Capa which I’m now reading with considerable interest.

Dog control

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

In his latest contribution to Photocritic InternationalOn John Berger on Photography‘, A D Coleman provides the answer to something which had worried me about the photographs of Finnish photographer Pentti Sammallahti. I remember looking at length at a display of his photographs at a corner in Paris Photo a few years ago and wondering how he managed to control the dogs who play such an important role in many of his images (such as Solovki, White Sea, Russia, 1992.)

It wasn’t as if the same dogs appeared in many images, so it was unlikely that he had a troupe of highly trained canine actors, and the pictures were taken in various countries, which would create tremendous logistic problems for such a company. And the animals certainly did not look stuffed (though some stuffed animals have been realistic enough to fool the judges in prestigious wildlife photograph contests.) Many of the images show the dogs on a background of snow, which would have made it rather easier to add some or all of the dogs in printing, but there were none of the signs of that making it highly unlikely. But obviously the photographer had to have some way to attract and place the animals, and something that left little trace in the images. There were no signs of bones.

Coleman’s revelation, first made in an essay for a 2010 book, comes in a shortened form on his web site, but there is a link to download his whole essay. In it he comments on a text by the late John Berger which was printed in Sammallahti’s ‘The Russian Way‘ and is also on-line.

Berger, like Coleman and myself and almost everyone else who looks at the work of Sammallahti had of course noticed the dogs – it would be hard not to – and he posits:

“It was probably a dog that led Sammallahti to the moment and place for taking each picture.”

Coleman comments that on this occasion Berger (for whom he expresses respect and admiration) got it precisely wrong – and spills the beans, having asked the photographer and, perhaps surprisingly, got a straightforward reply – which you can read in his post. I’m pleased too, that Coleman mentions his collaboration with Jean Mohr, which produced the works by Berger I most admire, and was the main subject of my remembrance of him in Berger & Mohr last month, though neglected in much of the media comments.

It is of course, as Coleman makes clear, not just a matter of the dogs, but about how critics need to examine the actual evidence – and where necessary to ask appropriate questions rather than simply postulate theories. It’s often also important to be or have been a photographer so as to appreciate what is likely or possible – and what isn’t. Those who write about photography without having had an intimate practical involvement in making photographs are often likely to get the cart before the horse.

Coleman has also recently added more to his comments on John Morris’s continuing fabulation about Capa’s D-Day pictures. Morris’s story (or now rather stories) fails on many points, but not least the photographic practicalities. Things like knowing that in the days of film, working photographers when unloading 35mm film would usually rewind the leader inside the cassette or at least tear it off so there was no doubt the film had been used and could not be reloaded by accident. Like knowing that after fixing, unexposed film is clear.

Photojournalism 2017

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Here’s a piece you shouldn’t miss if you have an interest in photojournalism and its future – if it has one, though this is really more about its past. In its way it doesn’t say a lot, but I think even that says something. Donald R Winslow has been in the business for 40 years, at all levels. James Estrin, a staff photographer and regular writer for the New York Times, has also been around a while – he started with the NYT in 1987 and founded their Lens blog.

Also recently by Estrin are his comments on the 2017 World Press Photo. In The Guardian you can read the thoughts of the jury chairman, Magnum photographer Stuart Franklin, in This image of terror should not be photo of the year – I voted against it.

Early Days

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

One of the sites I like to look at occasionally is the Blogs page of British Photographic History, launched in 2009 by Dr Michael Pritchard, where there are often posts from members that interest me, though I write far less about photographic history than I used to when I was writing for another place.

There of course I chose to write about many of the important figures in the medium, including its inventors and many of the early greats of the medium, drawing very much on the lessons I’d earlier given on photographic history as well as published works and the generally rather small amount of information on the Internet in the early 2000s. But although I spent some time looking at actual photographs in collections, exhibitions and museums and was involved for some time in actually creating images using some of the early techniques, I was never really a historian, relying largely on the contributions of others though occasionally with a little of my own interpretation and perspective. And just a few times being able to point out some of the errors in published work.

I wrote at least four full-length features on the work of W H F Talbot, both about the processes he developed – photogenic drawing, salt paper printing and the calotype – and his use of photography, particularly in his ‘Pencil of Nature‘. And while I had access to a number of books on him and his work, the William Henry Fox Talbot catalogue raisonné now available in a beta version and formally announce this Friday would have been a great extra resource.

You can read more about the project, led by Larry J Schaaf on the site itself, so I need not waste your time with details here. There are some parts of the site which are not yet complete, but there is already a very large searchable collection of the work of Talbot himself, as well as a number by Calvert Richard Jones and a few by others.

From the catalogue record you can click on the image to go to the image viewere, which as well as allowing you to zoom in, also has some tools (at top left) by which you can alter brightness and contrast, change from colour to greyscale, and invert the image – particularly useful when viewing the paper negatives.

There are some exhibits that seem almost to be blank paper – either because they were greatly underexposed or because images have faded with time. But perhaps as a scientist, Talbot beleived in keeping the result of every experiment he made with the new medium. Fading of prints was certainly a major issue in the early days, and many surviving Talbot prints have faded badly, sometimes to the extent that they have little value as pictures, though this doesn’t stop them being sold for silly money.

Photography on paper really became practical with Talbot’s calotype process, and the two people who produced the best-known body of work in the early days were Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill (who I think should be thought of in that order) working as a team in Edinburgh in the early 1840s. Also on British Photographic History was a post about the sale of their former premises, Rock House, next to Calton Hill in Edinburgh for more then £1.7m. The post links to both the estate agents site for the property and to an article in The Herald about the sale. Although it would be a grand place to live, I didn’t put in a bid for it, as the “house was recently redesigned internally by Jonathan Reed, a designer who had worked for figures such as David Bowie, Giancarlo Giammetti and Queen Rania of Jordan” and I think I would want a complete redesign for comfort before trying to live there having seen the pictures.

The studios, later home to other notable Scottish photographers, have been bought by an individual who wishes to remain private, but Adamson & Hill’s real studios where they made the great majority of their portraits are the Edingburgh cemeteries which remain open to the public.

Tish Murtha

Monday, February 6th, 2017

I’m not a fan of the Metro, the free newspaper that litters our trains in the mornings. It’s useful if you have to wait for a train, to put underneath your bottom to sit on those cold metal benches, but otherwise I never bother to pick up a copy myself, and when occasionally I pick up a copy someone else has left on the train, a quick flick through confirms my belief that it isn’t worth reading. Which is what you expect given it comes from the same stable as the Daily Mail, a sorry excuse of a right wing newspaper.

But for once the Metro web site has published something worth reading – and my thanks to friends on Facebook for point out Ellen Scott‘s article Powerful photo series captures unemployed youths of Thatcher’s Britain, about the work of Trish Murtha (1956 – 2013), a photographer who lived the life she photographed in Newcastle’s west end.

Murtha first used a camera to frighten away men who would proposition her on the streets where she lived, taking it out and threatening to take their pictures – even if there was often no film in the camera, but soon got hooked on photography and aged 20 went to study at Newport’s School of Documentary Photography in 1976, returning to photograph in the community where she lived. Later she spent some time in London.

The Guardian published a piece written by her younger brother Glenn Murtha, in their That’s me in the picture‘ series in 2015, and you can find out more about her on Wikipedia, which also links to a number of sites with her work on them. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm just a day before what would have been her 57th birthday in 2013.

Her daughter Ella Murtha wants to make sure that her mother and her pictures are not forgotten, and manages an official Facebook page dedicated to her. She is planning to create a Kickstarter page shortly to fund the publication of a book of this series of pictures and her essay, Youth Unemployment. I’ll add details here when they become available.

My opinion about the Metro was confirmed by the two stories listed under the heading ‘MORE’ at the bottom of the piece which includes eighteen of Tish Murtha’s pictures.

MORE: Photo series celebrates hard-working cats on the job
MORE: Photographer captures the weird and wonderful things people have flushed down the toilet

Frank Herzog & Early Colour

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

I don’t often mention Amateur Photographer here, though it’s a magazine that I used to read many years ago as a schoolboy – well before I started taking pictures – probably mainly attracted by pictures of scantily-clad women which occasionally appeared in its pages, or even those carefully posed nudes with strategically placed accessories or gauzy fabrics that amateur photographers were wont to produce in the 1950s and 60s (and they still dominated many club contests when I was on the edge of that world in the 1970s.)

Later, before the web, it became the magazine to go to in the UK when you were searching for cheap materials or equipment, or wanting to sell cameras, with pages of secondhand listings and adverts from Marston & Heard and others, as well as the first camera discounters. There seemed to be several times the pages of adverts as editorials, and much of the editorial was hardly worth reading. Compared to the US magazines such as Modern Photography and Popular Photography, their reviews were decidedly amateur. AP’s idea of a lens test was to open a window, take a few snaps of a ship at anchor on the opposite bank of the Thames and blow up the results.

There were the occasional articles that were worth reading. Once in a while there would be an interesting historical article or series by one or other of the few British photo-historians, or perhaps an extended review of a new book or exhibition which enabled the magazine to print some pictures without having to pay reproduction fees.

I even wrote a few articles for the mag, illustrated by my own photographs, including one with some of the Hull pictures I’m currently putting on my Hull Photos site, as well as several, intended to be amusing, on the outings and exhibitions of a small and atypical group of club photographers that got me more or less thrown out of the camera club, whose august members became aghast and I was summoned to appear before the committee. Some people had no sense of humour.

I’ve not looked at a print copy of the magazine (you can also subscribe to a digital version) since my local library stopped having magazines in some earlier round of cuts, but I do occasionally glance at its news feed online, and sometimes find something of interest. And a couple of days ago my attention was caught by a review of a book, Modern Color by Fred Herzog, written by Oliver Atwell, illustrated by several of Herzog’s pictures. The book was published last year by Hatje Cantz in Berlin.

I wrote about Herzog back in 2013, having seen some of his work in a lazy show at Somerset House, in which his work had stood out, along with some pictures by other photographers whose work I knew well, and I’ve seen more since. You can view many of his images online at the Equinox Gallery which brought his work to a wider audience with two shows in 2007. Before then he had previously had one-person shows also in Vancouver in 1994 and 1972 and had work in a few group exhibitions.

Herzog, who worked as a medical photographer at the University of Columbia and also as a Fine Arts Instructor, apparently took to working with colour because he didn’t have the time to make black and white prints, though his work suggests that he had a strong feeling for colour. It wasn’t unusual for photographers to work in colour at the time he started back around 1960 – and I took my first colour film – before I was a photographer – a year or two later. It’s the quality and intention of his work that were different, at a time when colour photography was largely the province of commercial photographers and amateurs like myself photographing their holidays or their girlfriends sitting in cherry blossom as I did.

Herzog chose to use Kodachrome, an excellent choice in terms of longevity, and a film with an attractive and distinctive pallette, if not the most accurate colour. It was also a film with high contrast, rather restricting the subject matter and lighting if you wanted to avoid large areas of empty shadow. Over many years of working he produced an extensive archive and you can look through 162 of the 100,000 or so at Equinox. They were taken from around 1958 to 2009, but it is work from the first 10 or 15 years that I find more appealing.


When I began working as a photographer in colour, Kodachrome was a rather expensive option, and I generally used less expensive alternatives, either process paid, or films which I could buy in bulk and process myself in E4 (later E6) chemicals. To cut costs I kept away from expensive Kodak chemicals too, making use of alternative and cheaper brews. Usually these produced good results, but keeping the solutions at the correct temperature and accurate timing was difficult.

Although producing transparencies was in some respects an easy option, it created a problem if prints were needed for exhibition. There were reversal papers available – and I used an Agfa version for the colour prints in my show German Indications – they were fiddly and it was hard to get good prints. More expensive were colour prints made from inter-negatives, which could be good, especially when paying for professionally made 4×5″ negatives from 35mm, and For those on very large budgets it was possible to get excellent dye transfer prints, but a single print would have cost around half my monthly salary.

Things changed a little with the introduction of Cibachrome-A by Ilford in 1975, making it possible to produce prints from slides in amateur darkrooms. The prints were brighter and bolder than those produced on conventional colour papers, and more long-lasting, but it was difficult to tame the contrast. Good for many commercial uses, Cibachromes were death to more sensitive images.

The chemicals used for the Cibachome dye bleach process were also pretty nostril-searing and disposal required some care. They were never very suitable for those of us with small and not too well-ventilated darkrooms, probably shortening the lives of many of us.

I abandoned colour transparency and moved to colour negative film for my own work in 1985, either processing the film myself or using cheap amateur film processing services, which also provided enprints as proofs. The change for me made sense because of new and better colour negative films and paper from Fuji becoming available. Until I moved over to digital almost of my colour work was made on Fuji materials, though I did try out some of the newer Kodak films that emerged after Fuji had disturbed their complacency.

But the advent of high quality negative scanners and archival inkjet printing have opened up new possibilities for all of use, and particularly those who worked with transparencies, giving a degree of control over contrast and colour that was simply impossible in the past. And it meant a new lease of life for Herzog’s Kodachromes.

Laughlin’s Third World

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

One of the books I’ve had on my shelves for a very long time – since soon after it was published in 1973 – is is ‘Clarence John Laughlin: The Personal Eye‘, a catalogue for the Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition and a double issue of Aperture, Volume 17, Numbers 3 & 4, also published ‘as a book for general distribution’.

I don’t think its distribution in the UK would have been very wide, but like many US photographic publications of the time it would have been available at the Creative Camera bookshop in Doughty St and doubtless advertised in the magazine.

For those without a copy on their bookshelves, you can get a good idea of Lauglin’s thinking from ‘First Principles of the Third World of Photography – THE WORLD BEYOND DOCUMENTATION AND PURISM ONE – TEXT AND IMAGES BY CLARENCE JOHN LAUGHLIN’ on Carnival of Dogs. His 12 point manifesto there begins “In Photography, as in all arts, the quality of the human imagination is the only thing that counts – technique, and technical proficiency, mean nothing in themselves” and ends “The limitations of photography are nothing more than the limitations of photographers themselves.”

Much of Laughlin’s work is now in the Historic New Orleans Collection, where you can view and zoom into many of his pictures, so many indeed that it is hard to know where to start. But it is worth paging through the many pages of thumbnails and picking some to look at.

Although in the end I learnt that my own creative interests were in purism and documentation, in my early years in photography work such as Laughlin’s made a strong impression on me, and I’m rather surprised that although I wrote about him and other photographers who might be considered to follow in his footsteps such as Arthur Tress in another place, this is the first time in several thousand posts I appear to have mentioned him here.

Laughlin’s work was brought to my mind by two posts Clarence John Laughlin: In Memoriam on Photocritic International by A D Coleman, who wrote about Laughlin in his 1977 critical survey The Grotesque in Photography.

The first piece takes its sub-title Prophet without Honor from the subtitle of the Laughlin biography, Clarence John Laughlin: Prophet without Honor by A. J. Meek, professor emeritus of art at Louisiana State University (University Press of Mississippi, 2007), and one of two stories in it recounts Coleman’s meeting with Laughlin around 1975 when the photographer showed his of work to collector Sam Wagstaff. He set out a strict set of conditions about what he expected anyone who bought his pictures must do – and after looking through the work, Wagstaff rejected the idea that a photographer should have any rights over their pictures after they had been sold.

Over the ages, artists have almost always had an uneasy relationship with those who have provided them with a living, but it is only in relatively recent times that photography has succumbed so entirely to patronage by individuals and corporations. Most of the early photographers were themselves wealthy and others have maintained some sort of independence based on various commercial practices and around the reproducibility of the medium.

The second piece, subtitled Lament for the Walking Wounded, is an article published by Coleman in his “Light Readings” column in the December 1977 issue of the magazine Camera 35, together with a postscript.

Published at the time without names, it recounted the speech by Hilton Kramer, then chief art critic for The New York Times, at a New York City national meeting of the Society for Photographic Education, in which Kramer held Laughlin up to ridicule not for his photography, but making tasteless jokes about his eccentric nature. Coleman himself felt ashamed after the event at having joined in the whole-heated laughter at a man he describes as on of “the walking wounded of photography” who have suffered from their dedication to the medium and “never got their due and are beginning to realize that they may never get it.”

Though relating events now around 40 years in the past, these are stories which are still relevant, perhaps even more relevant, today.

On this day…

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Once upon a time I had to write a daily post on photography for several years as a part of my job. Of course I still write here most days, but then I wasn’t really allowed to write about my own work, which made things a lot harder, and I couldn’t take a day off whenever I felt like it.

Of course you don’t actually have to sit down and write a piece every day. You can write stuff when you have time or the mood takes you amd schedule it to appear later. I’m actually typing this at 10.25 on Wednesday but it will most likely appear on Saturday – unless something more urgent to publish means I will put it back a day or two or even longer. Just occasionally I get things wrong – as I did this week, when the post intended for Friday accidentally got published on Thursday afternoon when I pressed the wrong button.

Sometimes when I had to write those daily pieces there were plenty of things happening that I could write about – exhibition openings, books, new web sites, and inevitably obituaries etc. But there were days when I was stumped and would turn to various ‘On this day…’ sites for inspiration. The Library of Congress has its Today in History page which often features some interesting photographs from its extensive collection that might prompt a thought.

Those daily blog posts were a relatively small part of the job I was employed to do, and some were fairly short, though one of the reasons I eventually got sacked was for writing too much and writing for photographers rather than people who’d just bought a camera and had no idea what to do with it.

When I read a post by James McArdle on the Photohistory blog about his project On This Date In Photography I was interested but perhaps a little sceptical about his intention to present “an event that happened, or is happening, on the date of posting. Journalistic, not necessarily academic, it aims to broaden the interests of devotees of photography, with some posts specifically on British photo history, others more wide ranging.”

He goes on to state that the site is “a ‘labour of love’ I am undertaking for one calendar year to revive my research and writing in preparation for penning a book on an aspect of photography next year.”

I have to say that I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen so far, and suggest that his is a site you should all add to your bookmarks/favourites.  I haven’t read all the entries which he began in October, but enough to make me want to go back and read more. One almost at random, for December 27th, with the title Dream, looks at the photography of  Latvian photographer Gunar̄s Binde, born 27/12/1933  who I was pleased to meet and see his work in Poland in 2005.


Gunars Binde looks through the catalogue as Eikoe Hosoe, Ami Vitale and I  for a photograph at the first international FotoArtFestival in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, where I represented the UK with pictures from London. You can read the more about the festival in my Polish Diary. Picture by Jutka Kovacs.

Charmes de Londres

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

I have quite a collection of books of photographs of London (as well as probably a few hundred thousand of my own pictures) but one of my favourites is ‘Charmes de Londres‘, credited to Jacques Prevert with photographs by D’Iziz-Bidermanas. Although most of the texts are poems by Prevert, it also has some quotations by others including William Blake and a Picasso drawing.

I didn’t buy this when it first came out in 1952, as I was then only seven and penniless – and it wasn’t in any case for sale, but came across it in an Oxfam shop perhaps 15 years ago, paying £19.50 for a copy in good condition. Perhaps remarkably you can still find copies of the original edition, published ‘hors commerce‘ for members of La Guilde Du Livre in Lausanne and printed by heliogravure (photogravure) on wood pulp free paper, for only a pound or two more. The previous year’s collaboration, published in the same way,  Grand Bal du Printemps, will set you back around 25 times as much.

Part of the reason you can still find copies of that original version (there are also later editions) is that it was a relatively large print run, with 10,300 numbered copies (mine is No. 4871) as well as 30 labelled I to XXX for the organisers of the guild. Although photographers often complain about getting second billing to writers when then works are published, Prevert had a much larger fan base!

The book is a reminder of the fine printing that could be achieved with photogravure, and it matches the mood of Iziz’s images perfectly. A recent post on Spitalfields Life,  Israel Bidermanas’ London, reproduces a fine selection of over 20 images from the book, without Prevert’s poems (which are of course in French) and gives a good impression of the subjects, but shows them in a more modern tonal interpretation, more contrasty and with intense blacks, which perhaps loses something of the gloomy charm of the original publication. This was a post-war London still under a gloomy miasma, though probably the real pea-soupers defeated the photographer few if any images have a clear distance.

The best way to see more of his pictures on-line seems to be to search on Google Images or Pinterest for ‘Izis Bidermanas‘.

Iziz was one of many fine photographers of Paris, and another was Willy Ronis (1910-2009). In 2004, French editor Alain Dhouailly published a limited edition of 130 copies of a set of 12 or his images printed by heliogravure which gives some background on the process. Ronis’s work is fairly widely avaialable and on galleries on the web, for example at Hacklebury Fine Art.