Archive for the ‘Reviews etc’ Category

Datacolor SpyderPRINT

Saturday, October 9th, 2021

In an earlier job I used to often review anything concerned with photography, including hardware, books and exhibitions, but its now a while since I’ve done so, but I was pleased to be sent a Datacolor SpyderPRINT for review. It’s part of a whole range of Datacolor equipment for use in studios with cameras, computers and printers to provide professional image output. The Spyderprint enables users to produce specific profiles for each combination of printer, ink set and printing paper to provide prints which accurately match the on-screen image.

Years ago I used to do a lot of printing, locking myself in the darkroom for hours at a time. Printing black and white I enjoyed, but with colour, even after I’d installed a processing line it became something of a chore. Making quick proof prints was still reasonably fast, but to get good exhibition prints could mean a lifetime of test prints and fiddling.

Once inkjets became available I soon moved to them at least for the routine printing, and after I got a high quality pigment printer the results could – on the right paper – almost match the C-types I had been making in the darkroom – and were more archival. But getting a great exhibition print was still a matter of test prints and time. Fortunately you can put a sheet of A4 through a printer many times and make prints of small sections on different parts of the page, so it didn’t use too much paper, just time and time and time.

Printing from a computer – whether black and white or colour – differs radically from printing in the darkroom. Good darkroom printing is a performance, a ballet performed with hands and fingers, cut out cards on wires and precise timing to control the light reaching the paper – and with multigrade paper usually involving two or more exposures through different filter packs to control contrast in various areas. Some printers caressed areas of the print in the developer with their fingers to warm areas of the print and increase local agitation, or used chemicals such as ‘ferri’ to bleach highlights. Some used ‘flashing’, not the criminal offence but a short exposure to white light to lower contrast in some or all areas of the print.

Printing from a computer is quite different. All the manipulation takes place on the computer using software such as Photoshop. This enables much greater precision and makes it possible to reverse the mistakes you make without loss, giving unprecedented control. Good printing is still a skilled process – and at its basis is still knowing what you want to achieve, and what is possible from a specific negative or digital file. But the actual physical printing is simply a process of transferring the image you see on the screen accurately onto paper.

The initial step is to make sure you have a good monitor and proper working conditions and to ensure that the monitor displays images accurately and to the normal standards of colour temperature and gamma. A colour temperature of 6500K is standard for normal computer use and for sRGB files, while gamma is normally either 1.8 or 2.2. Windows 10 and MacOS both include display calibration tools and there are various web based tools that give a more precise result, including the free Calibrize 2.0 software. (See more at How to Calibrate Your Monitor.) For an even more accurate calibration you can buy hardware tools such as those from Datacolor or X-Rite.

Of course not all monitors are created equal and most are not capable of displaying the full colour range or sRGB or AdobeRGB files. Older monitors in particular may have a problem, but may still be good enough for all practical purposes.

Years ago when I bought a relatively expensive pigment inkjet printer I invested in expensive hardware and software, made my own printer profiles, had also had printer profiles made for me. Things almost worked, but for those exhibition prints I still had to tweak things at little – though with rather fewer test prints.

Eventually that pigment printer came to an end of its life (and so earlier had the calibration hardware). I pulled an cheap inkjet out of my loft, old but unused, bought for a project that never materialised and put it to work. The prints aren’t bad, but often a bit darker than they should be, and I thought it would be nice to get a profile that did a better job.

Datacolor SpyderPRINT

I installed this on my Windows 7 computer which has this cheap Epson inkjet attached, slotted the installation CD into a drive, then followed the installation instructions, selecting English (US) as the language. After agreeing to the usual set of licences and installation choices installion continued smoothly.

My next step, following the Quick Start Guide, was to plug the supplied Datacolor 1005 Spectrocolorimeter into one of the spare USB ports on the rear of my computer, and then to start the Sypderprint software from the desktop icon. For some reason it didn’t work the first time I tired, but removing it and replacing worked and it then asked me to put in the 16 bit serial from the CD envelope. I did so, putting in my personal details as requested, and tried to activate the software online. On-line activation failed, but the alternative manual process going to the Datacolor web site provided the new serial number needed to run the software. When I did it told me a rather newer version of the software was available, which I immediately downloaded and installed.

Next step was the page setup. I thought I’d just change to landscape and accept the default margins, but that gave me a warning that the margins were too large. I put in a smaller value, 6mm, for all four and continued. Next I was invited to learn about colour management before profiling my printer and took a quick look at what seems to be a clear exposition before returning to start printer profiling.

First I entered a printer name, paper name and ink name and driver media setting. The Media Setting Check help page gave me information about the settings for the print driver and invited me to print out small samples to see which would be optional, printing out up to 4 on the same A4 sheet to compare.

Next came printing the targets, pages with small blocks of different shades and tones.
There are a choice of nine targets in two groups taking from 1 to 9 sheets of A4 paper. I went for the Help button to read more and as a first attempt I chose the single page Classic ‘High Quality Target’.

At this point I thought ‘How will I know if the calibration will have improved things’ and stopped to print out a copy of a Datacolor test target, labelling it ‘Before’, and then went on to print the target page. By now it had taken me a couple of hours work – though next time it would have only been a few minutes – and I was ready for a rest and a drink while the print was drying for at least 30 minutes before the next step.

I taped the target print to a flat surface and put the supplied plastic guide on it, again following the fairly lengthy help. It required some practice to move the colorimeter along the guide smoothly and at the correct speed – and there is some good advice and a practice tutorial in the help. Even so I made rather a mess of it the first time I tried. By the second try I was getting better, having learnt how to recognise when I hadn’t scanned a row properly and using the arrow key to repeat any of the 15 rows where I thought I hadn’t done the job properly – the software sometimes accepts a badly scanned row. Perhaps because my computer is now a little old and slow, the audio signals which help greatly in getting the right scan speed as you push the colorimeter across sometimes lagged a little.

It was only after I’d printed the target that I came across the advice that on Windows systems it is sometimes best to print the target at 110% and it required very careful alignment of the guide on my one I had printed at 100%.

I would have liked the colorimeter to engage a little more on the guide and run more smoothly, it sometimes seemed to slip a little, perhaps because I was pushing down too hard. Some rows I had to measure 3 or 4 times to get acceptable readings. I’m sure this would become easier with practice, but calibrating printers and papers etc isn’t something you do every day.

I think too that the packaging could have been better designed with storage of the equipment in mind – somehow I couldn’t quite get everything back into the box nicely. This is equipment that most of the time will be left on a shelf, and only got out when you change printer or paper or inks, and it would be nice to have a better storage box.

Finally came the acid test. Did the new profile actually produce a better print? The software now provides an option for testing it with a Datacolor test print, similar but not identical to the one I had printed earlier. And I was impressed as the print was significantly improved, and a good match to the on-screen original. Not a perfect match, but very close and very acceptable. So good that I didn’t feel I needed to do more tests with targets with more patches to get any closer. I’ve not included before and after images becuase the differences are fairly small and unlikely to be too clear in web images – but you can take my word for it. The difference was particularly noticeable in the black and white images included on the test image,

Despite minor quibbles this is hardware and software I can recommend, and in the UK it currently sells for a penny under £300. If you are a professional photographer or someone who does a lot of printing who wants to make good quality prints or proofs of their own work it would be money well spent.

Printing photographs well is never cheap, and with my old pigment printer I would get through several hundred pounds of ink a year even doing relatively little printing. Good quality photographic printing paper now costs over £2 for an A3 sheet, and anything that will both reduce waste and make better prints is work considering. When you consider the total costs of printing the cost of the SpyderPrint doesn’t seem excessive.

There are other ways to get printer profiles and paper manufacturers such as Hahnemühle or Canson provide a range of generic ICC profiles, though these may not include any for your printer model or particular inks you use. These generic profiles if available are better than nothing but your printer is not going to be exactly the same as another of the same model, and for best results you need a specific profile, like that I made with the SpyderPrint. Some paper sellers provide a free service to make specific profiles from a target print you send them, while others offer a paid remote profiling service, with the best costing around £95 a profile. Printers and inks do age, and it’s probably a good idea to profile your monitor each month and your printer perhaps each year – or when you change to new inks, so having your own profiler seems a good idea.

System Requirements:

▪ USB Port
▪ Windows 7 32/64, Windows 8.0, 8.1 32/64, Windows 10 32/64
▪ Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.10
▪ Monitor Resolution 1280×768 or greater, 16-bit video card (24 recommended),
1 GB of available RAM, 500MB of available hard disk space
▪ Internet connection for software download

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.

Bad Ass and Beauty – Mao Ishikawa

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

I am seriously considering buying another photography book. For the last ten or so years its an area there has been a moratorium on in this household, as we live in a smallish house that is overflowing with books, mainly photographic monographs, many of which came as review copies, but with a hefty core of key volumes I paid real money for, including some long ago when I had little or no cash to spare.

Unlike some other reviewers, I’ve never relied on selling off review copies to get a decent income, and never asked for copies of anything I didn’t intend to review, though there were a few sent unasked that I felt it best to hold my silence about and gave away. Since I gave up reviewing books (and ran out of space) virtually the only books I’ve bought or occasionally been given, have been by photographers I know or have known personally. Even then I’ve been fairly selective in my purchases.

Most of what is currently being published holds little attraction for me – even if by photographers I admire, certainly those that are well-known. I don’t need yet another book of pictures by Henri Cartier Bresson or Paul Strand or Eugene Atget et al, as even if these may contain a few images not already on my shelves they are probably less interesting than those already there. And there are relatively few published works by contemporary or previously unknown photographers that seem worth buying.

Bad Ass and Beauty – One Love is a 408 page retrospective of the work of Okinawa born photographer Ishikawa Mao, born in 1953 and, according to her publisher’s web site (like the book in both Japanese and English) “contains all 15 series of Ishikawa’s works, from her early work ‘Akabanaa’ to her latest work ‘The Great Ryukyu Photo Scroll’, as well as essays by various experts, a chronology of Ishikawa’s life, and a bibliography.” It is published to accompany her first solo exhibition at a museum, the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum.

I learnt of the book through Jörg M. Colberg who recently published a highly appreciative post Bad Ass and Beauty on his Conscientious Photography Magazine. Usually his perceptive reviews put me off buying the books he writes about, but this was an exception.

The Japanese price for the book, 3960 Yen, corresponds to around £26, and I considered first buying it from Japan, but found the carriage cost made this uneconomic. There are suppliers in the UK at various prices, and should I yield to the temptation I would probably go with Beyond Words, who are currently taking advance orders and have a sensible price and carriage costs.

Although it was Colberg who first alerted me to the book, my interest in it was greatly raised by another author, Ross Tunney, whose 2017 PhD Thesis at the University of Tasmania, with the lengthy title Between ‘Reality’ and Representation: Photographic Ambiguities of Place and Identity in Japan’s Postwar Modernity you can read online.

I can’t claim to have read all 351 pages, but the work looks at projects by seven Japanese photographers, including two of my favourites, Issei Suda and Shomei Tomatsu, as well a Mao Ishikawa’s ‘Hot Days in Okinawa‘, and his chapter on her work gives rather more information and insight into her work, reproducing a number of images which it discusses.

4000 Posts

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

I’m not a big one for anniversaries and so on. But I’ve just noticed that today this is the 4000th post on >Re:PHOTO since I began this site on December 1st 2006. That first post has been edited since then to reflect the reason I began posting here, which was to provide an audience for my writing about photography (and also my photography.) I’d been writing professionally about photography on the web since 1999, and it was becoming clear that I was likely to lose my position before long – for the offence of writing too much about photography.

That first post was just an introduction to me, though a second post that same day was a short opinion about Paris Photo, which I’d attended the previous month. Here is its in full:

Paris Photo

Paris was full of photographs in November, and there were some great ones at Paris Photo. But there were things that were hard to take too. Large empty wastes of dollar-rich nothingness covering the walls of some galleries. Vintage prints pulled from some photographers waste-bins and awarded stupendous price-tags. I found it hard not to burst out laughing when a dealer came up to the person next to me and told her the price of one rather ordinary ’60s fashion print was 20,000 euros. A couple of years ago we would have though 200 rather steep, and 2000 definitely well over the top.

Still, all good news for investors, and for the minority of photographers who have a place on the gravy train. There were a few other photographers around, trying to talk to dealers, but this wasn’t the place for it. “Best if you e-mail us” they were politely brushed off.

The first day I had a panic attack of sorts as the place got more and more full of people, all there for the free opening party, and had to rush out and up from the bunker into the fresh air above. The next day things were better, less crowded, but still more a place for millionaires than photographers.

But fortunately, there was much more in Paris than Paris Photo.

Then there was a long gap, with my next post not appearing until May 2007, around the time I finally got the push. Most of those early posts were about things I would not have put on the commercial site I wrote for. >Re:PHOTO was and is my own personal site and I can say and write what I like without having to worry about upsetting editors or readers or maintaining the broad church approach which I had originally been hired to pursue.

Being entirely my own site also freed me from some other restraints. Although my articles and notes had ranged widely over photography across the world (another crime in my new editors’ views) I was unable to write about and promote my own work or that of my friends. Occasionally I did use one of my pictures, but mainly to illustrate some technical point, and these were very seldom of any real interest. The pictures in this post are all ones I took in the month >Re:PHOTO began at a protest in Dagenham against the racist BNP, none of which could be posted on the commercial site.

Politics was another area where I often had to restrain or moderate my views, though I think sometimes they were fairly apparent. But most of my photography at the time was highly political. And certainly at times I’ve treated readers here to something of a political rant.

Jeremy Corbyn photographer

>Re:PHOTO has changed over the years, and back in its early years I was still very constrained by the fact that most of those accessing it were doing so with relatively low bandwidth. So images were few and far between in those early posts, while today most have at least half a dozen.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at Dagenham

There are also many more photography sites and photography blogs than 13 or 14 years ago, and I feel less need for me to discuss wider photographic issues here. I’ve also come to a stage in my own work where I’m increasingly re-evaluating my own photography from the previous century and thinking about its future as my own is drawing closer to a close. That virus has sharpened my own thinking, particularly as I’m in groups designated as vulnerable both from age and illness and has given me time to think and to scan old work. I’ve had to give up taking new photographs (except for a few during exercise bike rides and the odd walk close to home) and stay at home – and have put over 11,000 old pictures onto Flickr, a few of which I’ve shared here.

All of those 4000 posts are still available on this site – and you can find them by month in the archive list at right or by a search for particular topics. This feature has taken longer to write than it should have, as I spent some time reading my several posts about important photographers who were omitted from what I felt was a rather disappointing 2007 V&A show,  ‘How We Are: Photographing Britain, along with some other things I came across.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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

Paris 2010 (final)

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

After breakfast on Saturday we went for a walk, first making our way alongside the Metro Aerienne to La Rotonde de la Villette, one of my favourite Paris buildings, and then walking a little beside the canal, first to the north and then turning and going south to where there was a street photography show displayed as single images in each of a number of shop windows in the streets around the Rue de Lancry. It was a nice idea, but not really much of a way to display photographs, though we did enjoy the hunt for them. See more about the exhibition and the wedding here on >Re:PHOTO and more photographs in my diary at  Street Photography in the 10e.

Of course I was taking pictures, and for a short while became an unofficial wedding photographer, though I turned down an opportunity to join the party as we had other things to do.

The largest photographic event taking place in Paris was not the dealer show Paris Photo, nor even the Mois de la Photographie, though that had the most prestigious shows, but the fringe, the Mois de la Photo-Off. This is a well organised event, with a free booklet listing the many events accepted for it (and there is also a fringe of the fringe with many other photography shows), but also a series of organised tours around the shows in different areas of Paris on each Saturday afternoon in November.

Photographer Loïc Trujillo (left) talks with Neil Atherton, Commissaire General of the Mois de la Photo-OFF, who led the tour, in Galerie Impressions

On November 20th we had a choice of two areas, and picked ‘Beabourg’, going to eight shows and meeting the photographer or gallerist at all but one of them. We spent around 15-20 minutes in each gallery before walking the short distance to the next. At times it was rather taxing on my hazily remembered ‘O’ Level French, and I was pleased to have my interpreter with me. You can read more about the shows on the tour in two posts here, Photo-Off – A Guided Tour – 1 and Photo-Off – A Guided Tour – 2, and again there are more pictures in my diary.

We had to hurry away at the end of the tour to change and meet Linda’s brother and his wife for a dinner in one of Paris’s institutions, Chartier. It has become a must for tourists and it’s best to go early to avoid a long queue.

I spent Sunday morning at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie and you can read about what I saw there in Sunday Worship at the MEP, though there are no illustrations as photography is forbidden there. Linda chose instead to attend the culte at the Temple de l’Oratoire du Louvre, and we met afterwards for lunch, buying some delicious slices of quiches and cakes on the rue St Antoine and sitting and eating them on a bench out of the light rain in the Place des Vosges.

Afterwards we wandered aroung the Marais, visiting several shows open on a Sunday afternoon, including ten Swedish photographers of the collective Tio Fotgrafer and A Few Shows in the 4e, before making our way across the Seine to the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), to view France 14, the work of 14 younger photographers selected by Raymond Depardon, and then another Metro ride to FIAP Jean Monnet in the 14e, to view a show celebrating 40 years of women’s liberation. And then it was time for dinner and to return to our hotel and rest. There are more photographs from the afternoon in my diary at The Marais and BnF and FIAP.

We had a day before catching our Eurostar back to London on Monday evening for a final walk, rather more relaxed than in the previous days with hardly a visit to a photographic exhibition. You can see the pictures at  Monday Wandering and read a little more about the walk at Monday in Paris.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

The Perfect Camera

Monday, November 16th, 2020

I recently came across a post on Petapixel, My 10 Year Search for the Perfect Camera Brought Me Back to APS-C written by international photographer and filmmaker based in San Francisco Kien Lam. Although I try to avoid thinking too much about gear, like most photographers I suffer from a considerable amount of insecurity and the feeling that somehow a better camera or lens would improve my work.

It’s a feeling that over the years has led me to buy numerous cameras and lenses, most of which now lie unused in cupboards either because I can’t be bothered to sell them, or because of a feeling that one day I might just take them out and use them again.

Things were rather easier in the days of film, and there were usually what seemed to be very good reasons to change to a new camera. I got fed up with the Zenith B because it was a clunky beast that required so much force to wind on film that it was easy to rip a film in two. Its one camera I didn’t hang on to when I moved to the Olympus OM1, which compared to it seemed an almost perfect camera – and one I used until various bits fell off and I replaced it with an OM4. I still have two of these, to my mind still the most perfect cameras of their type.

But I still bought other cameras. For some types of photography I preferred a rangefinder Leica. Starting with a battered secondhand Leica M2, I later bought a nearly new Minolta CLE, another great camera with decent exposure metering well before Leica’s own. Leica’s shutter was noisy and intrusive compared to the Hexar F, another camera I loved, though its fixed 35mm lens wasn’t quite wide enough. The main problem I had with its silent mode was that I was often not sure if I’d actually taken a picture or not.

Then there were cameras of a more specialist nature, each with their uses. Several swing lens panoramic models, medium format and even 4×5″ cameras, and another favourite, the Hassleblad X-Pan.

The came digital. After some compact cameras I started seriously with the Nikon D100. The pictures were fine but the viewfinder was abysmal, reason enough to upgrade to D70, then the D200 when that came out. Then the D300… Cameras were beginning to seem disposable, each new model offering more pixels. Then came full-frame, and really I should have resisted, but I didn’t. I didn’t really need the extra pixels, but again the viewfinder was better, though I ended up taking a lot of images in DX mode and enjoying being able to view outside the frame lines.

Most of those digital cameras I’ve actually passed on to friends or swapped including the disastrous Leica M8 with its colour problems. It was that swap that really got me into Fuji, with the X Pro1. A nice optical viewfinder but rather poor with lenses outside its range which needed th electronic version.

I’ve still got my Nikon kit, two working bodies, though a couple went beyond economic repair, and various lenses. The D810 is now mainly used to ‘scan’ negatives, though occasionally taken out until the virus lockdown for its low light capability. But I find the kit too heavy for me now, and looked around for a lighter system.

For a while I used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II which seemed in some ways very similar to my old and well-loved OM film cameras. Some fine lenses – both Olympus and Panasonic Leica – but just occasionally I felt there was something lacking in the images from the smaller sensor.

Eventually I went back to APS-C, and like Kien Lam to Fuji, though to the less expensive options of a Fuji XT-1 and an XT-30. It was the latter than decided it for me, roughly as small and as light as the Olympus, and I bought it rather than commit to Olympus by buying a second Olympus body. Unlike Kien Lam I’m not searching for a perfect camera, and I certainly spend a lot of time swearing at the Fuji cameras with their complicated buttons and menus. But the lenses are excellent (though some are rather expensive) and I’ve yet to find myself thinking that any particular image would have been better on full-frame.


Sunday, November 15th, 2020

I probably won’t be buying J M Colberg’s book Vaterland, to be published by Kerber, as my bookshelves are already groaning under the stress of far too many volumes. But it was interesting to see a book of photographs by someone much of whose critical writing – which I’ve often referred to on this site – has been about photography books.

The latest post on Colberg’s online Conscientious Photography Magazine is Vaterland, where he writes about the state of his native Germany and the rise of right-wing extremism there. In 2016 he went to take photographs exploring ” the region in Europe’s heart whose largest parts are made out of Germany and Poland, Central Europe” without the intention of producing his first photo book.

He writes that living for 20 years away from Germany has resulted in him being more engaged with the changes that are happening there than had he stayed and he sees the book as a metaphorical “expression of my unease, of my worries, of my upset, of my realization to what extent Germany and its past are an integral part of my own life.”

There are more pictures from it on Colberg’s web site – I think almost half of those that will be in the book, along with more text. As would be expected they seem very precise and carefully framed, but they seem to me to perhaps be both at times too obvious – a headless statue, rubble, grass like a stain punctured by some kind of fence – and too controlled, too cold.

In part I think this represents something that I was aware of in my visits to Germany and in some aspects of German photography. A few of the photographs I took there in the very different 1980s would certainly fit into a book like Colberg’s, though the exhibition of images and text I showed in 1986 had a very different feeling.

Of course things have changed since then though when I went back to Germany to stay in the same place and with the same family in 2013 my experience was rather more positive than his.

You can view the book I produced based on my pictures from the 1980s on the preview at Blurb, and if you make the preview full page can read the texts that I wrote back in 1986 to accompany them in the show, which represent both some of my feelings about the pictures and my experiences in Germany and my sometimes odd sense of humour which these brought out.

German Indications
German Indicat…
By Peter Marshall
Photo book

Panoramic Carnival 1992

Sunday, October 11th, 2020
Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992

Although I’d been making the occasional panoramic image over the years, taking a series of pictures and painstakingly cutting and pasting several prints to produce a seldom quite convincing join, it was only late in 1991 that I finally bought a camera capable of taking true panoramic images.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92001_2400

It’s hard now to imagine how difficult it was to produce panoramic images back in those pre-digital days – unless you could afford an expensive panoramic camera. Nowadays many cheaper digital cameras come with a ‘panoramic’ mode (though I’ve never managed to use one to produce an image that survived close scrutiny) and both specialised “stitching” software and more general programs such as Photoshop make joining several frames just a matter of a few clicks.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92004_2400

It was the Soviet Union, and Krasnogorsky Mechanicheskiy Zavod  (KMZ) that first introduced a reasonably priced panoramic camera to a wider audience, with the Horizont, available from 1966-73, but at the time I wasn’t interested in panoramic photography. Like their Zenith SLR cameras which I started serious photography with this was pretty basic and had a possibly undeserved reputation as being something of a problem to use.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92011_2400

When I bought my first panoramic camera in 1991 it was a Japanese model, a Widelux F8, a similar swing lens camera to the Horizont but with a wider 140 degree angle of view and rather smoother operation. It was also considerably more expensive and I think cost me almost a month’s salary.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92020_2400

Although the camera worked smoothly, its viewfinder was abysmal, and I made landscape pictures with the camera on a tripod and using two arrows showing the field of view on the top of the camera body, with a spirit level in the accessory shoe to level the camera. But for the carnival and similar images of events I used it handheld.

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92022_2400

In later years I bought the revised version of the Russian camera, now with a similar mechanism encased in a plastic body and called Horizon (there were several slightly different models.) The viewfinder was so much better than than Widelux and thankfully incorporated a spirit bubble – and the cameras were less than a tenth of the price (I used at least two over the years, one ridiculously cheap from a clearly illegal operation in the Ukraine, evading any customs duties.)

Panorama, Notting Hill Carnival 1992 nh92024_2400

The only colour images I can find from Notting Hill Carnival in 1992 were taken with the Widelux, and appear to have been taken in two relatively short periods, one on Ladbroke Grove and the other on Elkstone Rd. There are some more, some rather similar to those in this post, in my Flickr album Notting Hill Panoramas -1992.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Against Facial Recognition

Sunday, August 16th, 2020

I’m not sure if you need this. But for some people in some countries it could be very important, assuming that it works. I’ve always been very open on-line, posting only under my real name and everything I post is public. I’ve been careful though only to post things that I don’t mind everyone knowing about me.

As a journalist I’ve had some advice and training on privacy issues, particularly on messaging and e-mail, but haven’t ever felt I was in a situation where I needed to put this into practice. But I do sometimes worry a little about my pictures on line and how these might be used to build up profiles of some of those present by legal or illegal groups, including the police who are already making use of facial recognition in various city environments.

There have been various attempts to block facial recognition, both through the courts and through various subterfuges, including the use of masks and special makeup. Covid-19 has surely added to the problems faced by Dynamic Neural Networks in recognising individuals and whereas wearing a mask was often a criminal offence now you may be fined for not doing so.

What is new about Fawkes (it gets its name from the ‘Anonymous’ mask) developed by a team of students at the SAND Lab at University of Chicago is that it is the first tool to enable us to “protect ourselves against unauthorized third parties building facial recognition models that recognize us wherever we may go” that “gives individuals the ability to limit how their own images can be used to track them”, able to defeat the tools used by systems such as using deep learning to identify individuals.

The team explain how Fawkes works (and for the technical there is a publication and source code available on the site)

At a high level, Fawkes takes your personal images and makes tiny, pixel-level changes that are invisible to the human eye, in a process we call image cloaking.

They go on to state that “if and when someone tries to use these photos to build a facial recognition model, “cloaked” images will teach the model an highly distorted version of what makes you look like you.”


I’ve downloaded the software (a small file available for Mac and PC) and run it on a picture or two. It was rather slow – but my first files were large. I tried it again on a couple of 600×400 pixel images to post here, and it took around 100s to convert the pair.

The differences are real but pretty subtle – easier to see if you right click to download the files then view them one after the other in your image viewer. The change between the two in each pair then gives me a slightly weird feeling

But these were both images of a single person and I thought I’d try it on something rather more complex but the same size. Although it said it would take about 1 minute, 5 minutes later I was still waiting, and waiting…. I went away and did something else and I think it took around 7-8 minutes. There were small differences to most of the larger faces in the image but many appeared completely unchanged.


The input files were all jpegs, but the output files are png, and have roughly five times the file size in bytes. They had also lost their various keywords and presumably other metadata. The files went back to a similar size to the originals when saved from Photoshop as jpg at an appropriate quality level, and it is these I’ve used here. Saving as jpg perhaps very slightly diminishes the differences.

I have of course no way of knowing whether the ‘cloaked’ files would – as the inventors say their trials show – provide at or near 100% protection “against state of the art facial recognition models from Microsoft Azure, Amazon Rekognition, and Face++”, but can only accept their assurances – and presumably their paper gives more details on their testing.

Fawkes is at the moment more a demonstration of concept rather than usable software, and you would have to be very concerned about your on-line privacy to treat pictures with it. But it does show that there are technical ways to fight back against the increasing abuse of personal data and its commercial exploitation by corporations.

Recently we’ve seen complaints being made by protesters about photographers putting their pictures online, with some arguing that their permission is needed or that they should be pixellated. While photographers rightly argue their right to photograph and publish public behaviour as a matter of freedom of speech – and the idea of claiming privacy seems to negate the whole idea of protest, I can see no objection to minor alterations in images which retain the essential image while frustrating AI-assisted data acquisition. It would I think be rather nice if Adobe could incorporate similar technology as an optional ‘privacy mode’.

Images used above are from My London Diary No War With Iran protest on 4th Jan 2020 opposite Downing St.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Patina and Photography

Sunday, July 26th, 2020

According to Wikipedia, “Patina is a thin layer that variously forms on the surface of copper, brass, bronze and similar metals (tarnish produced by oxidation or other chemical processes), or certain stones, and wooden furniture (sheen produced by age, wear, and polishing), or any similar acquired change of a surface through age and exposure.”

For his post ‘Patina in Photography‘, Jörg Colberg interprets the word a little differently, using it to refer to the qualities of any surfaces in photographs, something I might prefer to refer to as texture, but also extends it to consider the content of images.

The piece is an interesting discussion, illustrated with some of his own work, of what makes a “good picture“, something which he rightly says is “enormously difficult to describe” but is also “usually straightforward to see“, though I think we might often disagree with other viewers. Colberg continues to give what is I think a useful definition of “a good picture as a picture that makes a viewer look more carefully, that makes a viewer think.”

Colberg writes about the “lure of the easy picture” which captures many photographers – indeed all of us much of the time, including as he admits himself, writing “Mostly I now ask myself whether a picture challenges me. Not surprisingly, most pictures don’t. I still take them.”

He then discusses his different reactions to the very different cities of Warsaw and Tokyo, which he ascribes to their different patina. Colberg rightly comments that as photographers we react to what we see and chose to photograph because of our “background, culture, society…” but I think I would equally stress that what we have in the world to react to is also a product of these aspects, a different culture, particularly in terms of aesthetics, but also in terms of ideas about space and personal space.

Perhaps the most important picture I took in my early years as a photographer is one that I don’t think I have ever shown to anyone. Taken on a the building site of a new estate in Bracknell where I was then living, it showed a number of sewage pipes waiting to be installed. It wasn’t a great picture but it worried me because it stood out from the others I had taken that day and that in the terms that Colberg uses, it challenged me, though not at the point of taking, but when I saw it on the contact sheet and later as a print.

I couldn’t quickly find a copy of that picture, and I think it’s one I’ve never digitised, but probably neither you nor I would find it very interesting now, and if I had it to hand I probably wouldn’t have included it here. It wasn’t a bad picture – I was taking plenty of those – nor I think a particularly good picture but one that made me begin to think and study and change.