Archive for the ‘Photographers’ Category

Do I have a problem?

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

On the ‘United Nations of Photography‘ site you can read a contribution by an anonymous ex-photographer, who took his last picture as a professional in 2006, I’m a Photographer and I Have a Problem…, and it got me thinking a little about my own and other photographer’s motives, particularly in the main area of photography which I’m now involved with.

The writer is not the only photographer I’ve known who has had similar thoughts and a change of career – in his case to becoming “a Support Worker (£7.20 per hour) at a Residential Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre.” The current weekly hourly minimum in the UK, it’s actually better money than many photographers now earn, though I’m sure that was not the reason for the change.

Yesterday as I waited outside Harrods for a protest there to begin, I was talking to one photographer about the poor wages earned by some workers in the world’s richest store owned by the richest family in the world – the Qatari royal family. Many of the waiters there get either that same legal minimum hourly rate, or just a few pence more, while that “needy” family get the lion’s sahre of the tips and service charge the public think are for them. We reflected that many if not most of the photographers present put in long hours for a pretty low return, in many cases amounting to an even lower hourly rate than that minimum.

I thought too of a series of exchanges with Chauncey Hare after I’d written about his work. I’d first seen his work when Lewis Baltz showed some of it at a workshop I attended, and went out and bought his 1978 book ‘Interior America’. In the 80s he gave up on photography and became a therapist who concentrated on work related abuse. The piece I wrote about him is no longer on the internet, but you can read a review on ‘5B4’ of the eventual republication of his work as ‘Protest Photographs‘, an extended version of that 1978 Aperture publication.

While informative, Mr. Whiskets’s review is I think in one aspect misleading. The light printing of the book was not “so typical of books from the late 70s” but was the result of a deliberate aesthetic choice by Hare – as was the harsh flash lighting; I think he did not want his work and the book to be seen as “art” but as a manifesto. But I was pleased when in 2009, a few years after our on-line conversation, someone managed to persuade him, as I had failed, to have his work re-published.

The anonymous photographer’s article is illustrated with an image of smashed cameras and equipment; Hare threatened to destroy all of his work – 50,000 negatives, 3500 prints and 30,000 35mm slides and many taped interviews – unless the University of California’s Bancroft Library would accept it as a donation. Fortunately they did, and now the library holds all rights and permission to reproduce pictures from his work in social situations requires the following sentence to be used with them: “These photographs were (or ‘this photograph was’) made by Chauncey Hare to protest and warn against the growing domination of working people by multi-national corporations and their elite owners and managers.” There are no items on-line.

Later yesterday, another photographer said to me that he didn’t mind about the protest we were photographing, all he wanted was “some action“. I didn’t reply but thought to myself that I was only there because I did mind, did care about the issues and the people, and that although I’d do my best to take pictures of anything dramatic that occurred, it wasn’t what motivated me.

Berger & Mohr

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

This morning the media is full of tributes to John Berger, and in particular his 4 episode TV series which I watched back in 1972, Ways of Seeing. You can now view these on Youtube (start with Part 1 and the links to the other parts will appear.)

But although I listened to a discussion about him on Radio 4 there was no  mention of his long collaboration with Swiss documentary photographer Jean Mohr, and in particular what is perhaps a rather better thought out book they produced together,  Another Way of Telling (1981), recently republished in a new and improved edition by Bloomsbury. You can read Berger’s essay ‘Appearances‘ photocopied from the 1982 US edition as a PDF online, but that misses the real feeling of the work, which needs to be taken as a whole.

Ways of Seeing‘ also came out as a Pelican original, and the book is rather better than the TV programme if you want to think about Berger’s work and ideas, which were not universally accepted. ‘Art-Language‘ in 1986 (Volume 4 Number 3 October 1978) was 123 pages of criticism of the book, much of it worthy of consideration.

Mohr’s first published collaboration with Berger was the book A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor, first published as a hardback in 1967 (I bought it a few years later) and re-issued by Canongate Books in 2015. The new edition, as Rick Poyner points out has the advantage of much improved modern reproduction (though the more detailed images are less dramatic), but in several respects its design unfortunately fails to match the sensitive work in the original by Gerald Cinamon, which contributed greatly to its success in combining photographs and text.

On Mohr’s web site – if you select  ‘Itinéraire’ (or ‘Route’ if you view the site in English) you can browse through the  content of his CD “Journey of a photographer Jean Mohr” published in 2000 by  l’Association Mémoires de Photographes. As well as 1200 photographs, there are also texts, videos, interview and more.

As well as the collaboration with Berger – other books include Art and Revolution, (1969) A Seventh Man, (1975) and At the Edge of the World, (1999) – Mohr is well known for his images of Palestinian refugees, which began with a commision for the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1949 and continues through the years – including another ICRC assignment in 2002. His After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives (1986) includes a poetic meditation on Palestinian identity by the late Edward W. Said in response to his pictures.

2016 Yunghi Grant awards

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

One Facebook group I’ve belonged to for some time is an invite only group with almost 5,000 members, The Photojournalists Cooperative, a confidential discussion forum where we can discuss photography related issues, largely on the business side of photography, in private. But what is no secret is that this group was created by Yunghi Kim, a photographer who has been with Contact Press Images for over 20 years.

Like all photographers Kim has her pictures taken from the web and used without permission, but she has been more diligent than most in chasing up these copyright infringements. A little over a year ago we read (and you can read it on Photoshelter) the she was to donate “$10,000 to create ten one-time grants of $1,000″ with money that she has received “from fees recovered from unauthorized use of my work”. You can read more about her and the grants in I Wanted To Protect Myself, and I Wanted To Empower Other Photographers on Vantage.

American Photo in January 2016 published a fine article, Yunghi Kim on Intimacy in Photojournalism by Hannah Smith Allen illustrate by some of her powerful images, and you can see more of her work on her own web site and she is also on Facebook.

Kim apparently got back enough from copyright infringements to continue the grant into 2016; entries closed on 20th December and another group of awardees was announced on Christmas Day, and I read about them on PDN Pulse a couple of days ago with a link to the announcement on Kim’s blog which gives some information – and of course a great image – from each of them. On it she writes:

We thank all those who submitted entries to this year’s grant; it was difficult to narrow it down to ten. Jeffrey Smith and I feel privileged to read everyone’s stories and proposals, and are heartened to see that there is really strong editorial thinking and story development even as funding resources become more challenging each year.

I am immensely proud of all the entrants of this grant: committed photographers who are a part of our photojournalism community, all doing meaningful work as best as they can manage, often under difficult circumstances. My life has been enriched by being able to help in a small way.

The submissions are selected by Kim “in consultation with Jeffrey Smith director of Contact Press Images. Decision-making is inherently subjective. Please no complaints.”

The grants are a wonderful initiative by Kim, and a great example of a photographer showing her concern and love for the medium and what it can achieve.


Photographers photographs

Monday, December 26th, 2016

The Photographer’s Guide To Choosing the Right Bio Picture on PetaPixel certainly made me smile, and I hope it will you.

It’s not a subject I’ve ever given a great deal of thought to for my pictures of myself, and I’ve tended to simply pick the first one that comes to hand whenever I’ve needed to produce a picture of myself.

Photographers seem often to take pictures of other photographers, and there are a few that people have posted on my Facebook page or given to me. I don’t think any of them will mind if I post them here (and two are by friends who are now dead, Townly Cooke and Tony Mayne.) These are just a selected few of those I have.

Peter Marshall by Luca Neve
Me at a protest by Luca Neve

Photo by Milena Nova, paint by black bloc

Photo by Paddy Garcia

by Paul Baldesare

From a portrait session in my home by the late Tony Mayne

Taken on my camera in the Prince Arthur pub, probably by the late Townly Cooke

Battle Of Cable Street 80th anniversary march and rally, Tower Hamlets October 201
Photo by David Hoffman at Cable St

And finally one of me with Linda, which I think was a self-portrait at a party in Paris where one room was set aside as a studio for all the guests to make use of. I think it was probably me rather than Linda who pressed the cable release.


All photographs copyright of the named photographers.

Black Magic

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

I’ve sometimes rather laughed Magnum’s ‘Square Print Sales’, with their postcard-sized signed prints being sold at $100 when you could buy well-printed books with many prints by the same photographers (and sometimes at least as well printed) for rather less. And perhaps been amused by images advertising the sale which showed those same images at 4 times the size. I’ve nothing against people collecting postcards, and I have a few myself, but most cost me 20p or less – and I’ve given hundreds if not thousands of my own work on them away.

Visiting to galleries and auction houses, I’ve often seen prints for sale for thousands of pounds that were inferior in quality to the reproductions of the same images in books. Sometimes it is worth remembering that – with a few rare exceptions – in photography we are always dealing in reproductions, and one of the joys of our medium is its essentially infinite reproducibility.

But of course photographers have to earn a living – and selling prints for thousands or millions is what keeps some art dealers in their lives of luxury.

But Magnum Distribution are now selling Matt Black‘s ‘The Geography of Poverty – Heartland‘, a set of eight 8×10″ prints in an envelope with some documentation for what seems a reasonable price of $249.00 They are in a limited edition, but 100 copies seems a fairly reasonable number, and more than I’ve sold of any unlimited edition print.

The 8 prints are digital C-type on Fuji Crystal Archive Matte paper, which would perhaps not be my choice for black and white prints, and rather more suited to colour images. But certainly you can make good black and white prints this way, though I would generally prefer good inkjet prints (which I imagine is what Magnum’s ‘museum quality’ square images are.)  Perhaps Black prefers the Fuji paper – the cost difference between C-types and inkjet is small – the pro lab I sometimes use charges around 30% more for inkjet.

It’s an great project by Black, who I think is one of the more promising new Magnum photographers for some years, and you can see more at MSNBC, where the presentation and text by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Trymaine Lee produce a work of outstanding quality. You can also see more of his work on his own web site and on Magnum, where he became a Magnum nominee in 2015. You can also follow him on Instagram, where he was Time’s Instagram photographer of the year in 2014. There is also a signed Geography of Poverty Newsprint issue for sale which seems to me rather poor value at $45. I have a number of such newpsrint publications now, and they usually end up in the recycling, as they hardly seem worth keeping.

I won’t be buying either that or the set of 8 images. Although I admire the work, I wouldn’t want to hang the 8 images on my wall, nor do I have the space to do so. And I have far too many prints  – my own and others – already hidden away in envelopes, tubes and boxes that never get looked at.

Time’s 100

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

I may have mentioned Time’s 100 Photos before, their collection of ‘The Most Influential Images of All Time‘, with ‘the stories behind 100 images that changed the world, selected by TIME and an international team of curators‘. If not, it’s an oversight on my part.

It’s certainly a list containing some remarkable images, and a number that it would be hard to criticise their inclusion, though my own personal choices would be mainly different – and with less of an American (that is USA) bias. There are a number of images I simply don’t recognise among the many more familiar, which either says something about me or something about them, and also some pictures where I might have selected another image from the same photographer or event.

There is some interesting text about each of the images, and for some further images or a video. The videos, 20 of them are also listed on a separate page and I have to admit to not watching all of them, and to skipping briefly through some others.

But one I paid more attention to than most is the one that brought me back to this site, from a link on Rob Haggart‘s A Photo Editor blog. Untitled (Cowboy) Photograph by Richard Prince is I think the longest of the Time videos at around 15 minutes. It includes some fairly lengthy scenes of Prince talking about his appropriation of the Marlboro adverts, as well as comments and images showing some of the team of photographers who made the pictures as ‘work for hire‘, and some experts from the art world.

One of the more fascinating aspects is that Prince introduces (at around 9.04) the 1949 Leonard McCombe essay in Life,  Cowboy, which was the inspiration for the Marlboro campaign.

I ended up thinking I would have liked to see more about how the original images were made, and that the actual Marlboro adverts were generally more interesting as cultural artifacts and as images than Prince’s selections from them.

This case differs from some of Prince’s other image thefts in that none of the photographers concerned has any copyright in the images, which are not – as Prince states he thought when he made them, in the public domain, but the intellectual property of Marlboro.

Capa and Margaret Bourke-White both get a couple of images into the collection – and you can probably guess which two. The texts which accompany both the Capa images are severely misleading, as too is the video in which John Morris talks about the D-Day image and his part in it.

The commentary on the ‘Falling Soldier‘ states that in the 1970s:

‘a South African journalist named O.D. Gallagher claimed that Capa had told him the image was staged. But no confirmation was ever presented, and most believe that Capa’s is a genuine candid photograph of a Spanish militiaman being shot.’

It’s a belief that now only those who pride themselves on being ill-informed and dismissing the evidence and research can hold to. If Time’s comment is true then there are plenty of flat-earthers in photography.

Conscientious Picks

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

The annual Conscientious Portfolio Competition is in some ways an ideal photographic competition, though I’m not generally a great fan of competitions. The annual competition is free to enter (but you will have to wait until late next year – this year’s deadline was 31 October 2016, 11:59pm ET.)

As Conscientious founder and editor Jörg M. Colberg writes:

I don’t believe in “pay to play.” Everybody needs to have the same fair chance. This is why the eventual winners are selected blindly, mimicking blind auditions: the judges get a set of photographs (and nothing else), with the names of the artists encrypted.

As well as being free, its also easy to enter. You simply start by sending an e-mail  with the address of your the web site with the project is on, and which of the projects there you are submitting.

It’s also a very personal view, with no pretention that this is some kind of industry consensus. You go through to the next round if Colberg sees yours as one of the 25 projects he finds of most interest. Then comes the final, where he and two others with experience in working with photographers – for this year Emma Bowkett and Felix Hoffmann, one a director of photography and the other a curator – each make there own personal pick of one project from the 25 in the pool.

There could be one, two or three winners, depending on whether they make the same or different choices. But the contest is run to try and create a level playing field. At this second stage each of those selected sends in 10 jpeg images at the same size which are then presented without the name or CV of the photographer:

Having a second round is based on the idea of making everything as equal as possible. With uniform file sizes, fancy websites won’t be able to beat out simple ones. With a special naming convention for the jpegs (which will hide the full names), the winner(s) will be solely chosen based on the quality of the work.

The prize is simply exposure, with the winners winners each having their work featured on Conscientious, one of the best-regarded photography websites, “in the form of an extended conversation”. This is a contest for ‘emerging photographers‘ and this will certainly be worthwhile and lead to coverage elsewhere. They might even get a mention on >Re:PHOTO :-)

The three winners this year have just been announced, in CPC 2016: The Winners, and I have to say that I find one of them rather more interesting than the other two. Readers will probably be able to guess which. There are links to their web sites on the page, and Colberg also tells us that of the 26 winners selected in 7 years, exactly 13 have been women and 13 men.

It isn’t an ideal competition, but for me beats most others in the way that it is organised. The one big change I’d like would be to have all the selectors being photographers rather than curators or employers of photography or critics. But that’s a view that reflects my strongly held belief that it is our medium and not theirs.


Danny Lyon – Burn Zone

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

I was annoyed to realise yesterday that I’d forgotten to go and see the Danny Lyon show which closed a few days ago in London. I’d had it marked down in my list of things to do, but there were just so many other things. Not that I would have seen anything new to me in the show –  the pictures in the  BJP feature are all familiar. But it’s always good to see real prints on a wall, even though I think much photography works better in books.

Lyon in yesterday’s The Guardian article Danny Lyon on why he’s naming and shaming ‘climate criminals’ by Alex Rayner mentions the London show, and the comment by Lyon, ‘”There is a show now of my work in a London gallery,” he says. “I have nothing to do with it and no interest in publicizing it“‘, and the article also has a link to a gallery of his pictures from his major retrospective when launched at the Whitney Museum.

But the article is about Lyon’s latest book, Burn Zone, and you can download a PDF of this free from his Bleak Beauty blog. You can also order and pay for a print version.

The book, Lyon’s newest published work, is described as “a Cri de Coeur directed at the artist community and our youth asking them to join the fight to save planet Earth” and as well as a text about Lyon’s return to New Mexico after 30 years illustrated by his black and white photos, it also includes a state-by-state list of 50 leading US climate criminals prepared by climate activist Josephine Ferorelli at Lyon’s request for “a list of the worst of the worst, a climate j’accuse” with descriptions of their role and contact details, all from publicly available sources.

In the book Ferorelli says:

The people who profit from the sale of fossil fuels have played a really cunning game, and we have lost more than 20 years of possibility as a result. As we approach dangerous environmental tipping points, a phrase my friend Eiren Caffall wrote in a song comes to mind: “the wickedness of wasted time.”
The alliance of corporate executives, their legal teams and the politicians they finance has pushed the line so far back from progress that liberals now congratulate themselves simply for
acknowledging the existence of this threat to our lives.

Some of those named in the list are well-known, at least to climate activists here, such as the Koch Brothers about which Ferorelli comments “Almost mythic in their climate obstructionism, the Kochs are involved in just about every aspect of every fossil fuel, as well as beef, fertilizer, lumber, disposable dishes, and other environmental-nightmare products, through their many-faceted multinational corporation.

The book ends with an article by Lyon on “Kill the Koch Brothers” a Thanksgiving play by Ava Lyon, his 10-year-old granddaughter, which ends with a a Google search that reveals that the “the Koch brothers had successfully killed a documentary film that had been
made about them before it could be broadcast on PBS. It said, “Koch Brothers Kill Film.

The PDF comes free and with this comment:

“Bleak Beauty offers the entire contents of Burn Zone free to anyone who wishes to read it, download it, or print it. We want to have the widest possible distribution of this work, and hope you will put it out there, to every person and every website and organization possible.”

So I’ve shared the link here and hope you enjoy and make use of the book and share the work. Perhaps we should have a UK supplement naming and shaming our own climate criminals.

You can see a post on this blog with more about the Koch Brothers,  The Cost of Coal.

British Bikers

Friday, November 25th, 2016

I’ve seen some rather scary video of UK Bikers and the police harassment of their events which take place on rather out of the way ‘strips’ on the south and eastern edges of London, and although I’ve thought they would make an interesting subject, it’s never been one that I have seriously considered pursuing. And although some of the videos have been interesting, those I’ve watched have been rather amateur, and I’ve seen relatively few good still images. And most of those are by Dan Giannopoulos.

Giannopoulos came across some of them when cycling to work on his mountain bike and went over to talk to them, and Lens (again!) has just published a feature on the eigtheen months of work that followed, illustrated by 17 of his black and white photographs.

I’m not generally a fan of those photographers who work in black and white simply because they feel it gives their work a more documentary look, but Giannopoulos isn’t one of these, and his use of black and white really suits the subject, though there are just one or two pictures among the 17 where I felt colour might have been better. You can see a few more pictures from this project on his own web site, along with a number of other projects both in b/w and colour.

Among the work is another black and white series form 2009-2010 on the UK’s Far Right, which includes some striking images from some events I also photographed. His series was highly commended in the 2015 British Life photo awards, and he was Documentary Series Winner with a series of four images from his project Living with Dementia.

The BLPA isn’t a competition I know anything about, and having taken a brief look at its web site I don’t think I’m a great deal wiser. The entry fees seem relatively reasonable as such things go, but the site currently says:

We are currently in discussion with a major new sponsor regarding opening times and terms and conditions. We hope this will be an exciting new development taking the awards to a new level of awareness and prestige. Please bear with us whilst the negotiations are in progress.”

Jack London Photographer

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

As often happens, it was a feature on the New York Times Lens blog that set me thinking this morning , this time by Jonathan Blaustei, the ‘The Rarely Seen Photos by Jack London‘. It wasn’t the first time I had seen photographs by London, with a number of earlier article such as Spitalfields Life’s Jack London, Photographer, published a couple of years ago at the time that Tangerine Press and L-13 Light Industrial Workshop republished his classic study of London’s East End, The People of the Abyss including all all 80 original black & white ‘illustrations from photographs‘ of the first 1903 US publication.

Interesting though these are, the poor quality of the original reproduction (which I assume is faithfully reproduced in the republished version) perhaps makes it had to appreciate London’s qualities as a documentary photographer.

Those unfamiliar with London’s life and other works such as ‘The Call of The Wild’ (which I was intrdouced to at school many years ago) will find a good short biography in the Smithsonian Magazine marking the 100th anniversary of his death a few days ago. The feature does mention his photography but almost in passing, a surprising lacuna given the 2010 book Jack London, Photographer by Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson and Philip Adam, which used original negatvies from the California State Parks collection (and there is a Jack London State Historic Park) and the albums of original photographs in the Huntington Library Jack London collection (this has 200 images on-line but these don’t really represent his documentary work.)

The book includes images from the East End, where he dressed as a working man and lived with those he photographed and wrote about (an approach which later inspired George Orwell‘s 1933 ‘Down and Out in London and Paris‘ – though Orwell worked only in prose), his work as a war correspondent on the Russo-Japanese war for the Hearst press, the 1906 San Franciso Earthquake, sailing trips to the Hawaiian Islands, the Marquesas, Solomon Islands, and Bora Bora where he documented cultures he saw fated to disappear, and his final photographs of the 1914 Mexican Revolution two years before his death. You can read a review of the book by blogger Ron Slate.

This April The Daily Telegraph published a feature accompanying the release of a new book, ‘The Paths Men Take‘ by Contrasto Books which has 70 photographs from his four major photographic coverages, and more recently The Guardian got in on the act.

Unlike some other famous figures whose snapshots have been published in later years, London was clearly a serious photographer, taking over 12,000 photographs in his relatively brief career. He saw himself as a professional photographer and was taking his pictures to sell alongside his writing. He called his pictures ‘human documents‘ and while they lack the revolutionary and controversial power of his writing they bring to life the people and events that he photographed.  He died on his ranch, aged only 40, having suffered from many serious illnesses on his travels, including scurvy in the Klondike and various tropical infections on his voyages, as well as life-long alcohol addiction on 22nd November 2016.