Archive for the ‘Reviews etc’ Category

25 Years Ago – April 1999

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

25 Years Ago – April 1999. When I began posting on my web site My London Diary I decided that the posts would begin from the start of 1999, and there are still image files I created in January of that year on line, though I think they probably only went live on the web a few months later.

25 Years Ago - April 1999
The Millennium Dome seen across the River Thames from Blackwall DLR station, one of a series of medium format urban landscape images.

In those early days of the site there was very little writing on it (and relatively few pictures) with most pictures just posted with minimal captions if any.

25 Years Ago - April 1999
Burnt out cars at Feltham on the edge of London, stolen and wrecked on waste land by youths.

A single text on the introductory page for the year 1999 explained my rather diffuse intentions for the site as follows (I’ve updated the layout and capitalisation.)

What is My London Diary? A record of my day to day wanderings in and around London, camera in hand and some of my comments which may be related to these – or not

Things I’ve found and perhaps things people tell me. If I really knew what this site was I wouldn’t bother to write it. It’s London, it’s part of my life, but mainly pictures, arranged day by day, ordered by month and year.

My London Diary 1999

25 Years Ago - April 1999
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster (left) takes part with Anglican and Methodist clergy in the annual Good Friday Procession of Witness on Victoria St, Westminster.
25 Years Ago - April 1999

In the years following My London Diary expanded considerably, gradually adding more text about the events I was covering but retaining the same basic structure. Had I begun it a few years later it would have used a blogging platform – such as WordPress on which this blog runs, but in 1999 blogging was still in its infancy and My London Diary was handcoded html – with help from Dreamweaver and more recently BlueGriffon, now sadly no longer.

25 Years Ago - April 1999
Man holding a placard at a protest against Monsanto’s genetically modified crops.

My London Diary continued until Covid brought much of my new photography to a standstill and stuttered briefly back to life after we came out of purdah. But by then my priorities had changed, and although I am still taking some new photographs and covering rather more carefully selected events my emphasis has switched to bringing to light the many thousands of largely unseen pictures taken on film in my archives, particularly through posting on Flickr. Since March 2020 I’ve uploaded around 32,000 pictures and have had over 12 million views there, mainly of pictures I made between 1975 and 1994. The images are at higher resolution than those on my various web sites.

121 Street Party, Railton Rd, Brixton. 10th April 1999 121 was a squatted self-managed anarchist social centre on Railton Road in Brixton from 1981 until 1999.

Since I moved to digital photography My London Diary has put much of my work online, though more recent work goes into Facebook albums (and much onto Alamy.) My London Diary remains online as a low resolution archive of my work.

Sikhs celebrate 300 Years of Khalsa – Southall. 11th April 1999

April 1999 was an interesting month and all the pictures in this post come from it. I’ve added some brief captions to the pictures.

No War on Iraq protest – Hyde Park, 17 April 1999 President Bill Clinton was threatening to attack Iraq to destroy its capability to produce nuclear weapons. Operation Desert Fox, a four day air attack, came in December 1999
Southall Remembers Blair Peach – Southall. 24th April 1999. Blair Peach, a teacher in East London was murdered by police while protesting a National Front meeting in Southall in 1979.

Stockley Park – one of a series of panoramic landscapes of developments in London – this is a major office park with some outstanding architecture

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London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

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

Saturday In Paris – 2008

Wednesday, November 15th, 2023

Saturday In Paris. It’s some years since I’ve been to Paris for the large Paris Photo show and the Mois de la Photo, though for a few years I went regularly. Partly I got bored with seeing the same work again and again at many dealers stalls in Paris Photo, and it also seemed increasingly dominated by the kind of large images for corporate walls that had little interest for me (but sold at huge prices per square foot.)

Saturday In Paris - 2008

Paris Photo generally occupied me during a couple of days, but most of my time on my visit was spent in visiting the many other exhibitions around the city which was really saturated with photography with a huge fringe of events. One evening I managed to attend five openings, though by the last I think the wine was taking a toll, and to pack in almost 90 shows in a five day visit – and there had been others where a short look had led me to turn away. There has never been anything like this in Britain, perhaps the closest we have ever got to it was in the East London Photomonth.

Saturday In Paris - 2008

The more interesting of those shows I went to I reviewed here on >Re:PHOTO and you can still find these reviews in the archives, along with every other post I’ve written on this site. And there are also posts covering many of our walks, along with some like this on My London Diary.

Saturday In Paris - 2008

The walks around Paris were sometimes more interesting than the shows. I first came to Paris to visit Linda who was then staying in a student hostel to the south of the city in 1965 and we’ve returned quite a few times since we were married, always taking long walks as well as making the most of our weekly travel tickets (which cost little more than a day’s public transport around London.) Few pages of the Michelin Green Guide have been left unturned over the years.

Saturday In Paris - 2008

On Saturday 15th November Linda and I left our cheap hotel close to the Metro at Barbes Roucechoaurt after breakfast and walked to the Rotonde de la Villette. As always I found a few things to photograph. We were on our way to visit shows by Gilles Raynaldy and then on to work by two photographers at a new arts centre in what had previously been the municipal funeral services.

The Metro took us to the centre of Paris for a short non-photographic interlude, including a nostalgic picnic in the Square du Vert Galant on the tip of the Ile de la Cite before another train took us to Galerie Vu and a show by Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjork, who I had met at the FotoArtFestival in Poland in 2005. Sadly he died in 2015.

Then we walked around the Marais, visiting a number of shows their, some rather briefly though others held our attention rather more, including work by Robert McCabe & Aurelia Alcais.

Some of the galleries were perhaps more impressive than the shows in them and this was true of the Galerie Karsten Greve in the rue Debelleyme (it also has galleries in Cologne and St Moritz which perhaps tells you something about who it’s audience is) which was showing work by Italian photographer Mimmo Jodice. I didn’t feel it was worth my writing about.

More to our taste was a show across the road in the Galerie Blue Square with remarkable images from the Global Underground project by artists Valera and Natasha Cherkashin.

Around the rue Vielle du Temple we looked in briefly at a number of shows, several of them aimed at the fetish market but none detained us long. On the rue du Perche we found John Bulmer’s ‘Hard Sixties: L’Angleterre post-industrielle, black and white and colour images from the 1960s in the north of England, mainly around Manchester where we had spent the first few years of our married life (all we could afford as a honeymoon was a day coach trip to the Lake District.)

It was getting dark and we took the Metro back to our hotel to change and then go out to meet Linda’s brother and his wife who live on the outskirts of Paris on the Grands Boulevards. We had planned to enjoy a three course meal at Chartier, but they weren’t feeling well so I was disappointed when we simply went to a creperie.

They left early to go back home and we took another Metro ride to Trocadero and walked down and across the bridge to stand under the Eiffel Tower, admiring its ring of blue stars to mark Sarkozy’s term as President of the European Council.

We then walked around the area, but it was late and the streets were dark and deserted. Eventually we came to a bus stop and after a wait of around 15 minutes a bus arrived and took us to the Place de Clichy.

Here the boulevard at least was still lit up and there were plenty of people as we walked on past Place Blanche and on to Place Pigalle, wandering past or hanging around the various sad-looking neon-covered come-on facades of sex shops and clubs. I took some more pictures, though with the large and obvious Nikon I kept my distance and concentrated on the signs. We walked back around a mile to our hotel and were exhausted after a long day.


Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

Ten years ago on Thursday 16th May 2013 I was pleased to attend the opening of the exhibition Estuary, held to mark the 10th anniversary of the Museum of London Docklands at West India Quay, a short walk from Canary Wharf. I was delighted to be one of the dozen artists in various media to be included, with ten of my panoramic images from my work on the north and south banks of the Thames.

Estuary opening

I’d begun photographing the lower reaches of the Thames back in the 1980s, then working largely in black and white and my work concentrated on the then fast disappearing industrial sites along the river. At first I worked on the Kent bank on the south of the river, having a particular interest in the cement industry that occupied and had radically changed much of area between Dartford and Gravesend. Later I also worked along the north bank.

Cement works, Northfleet, 2000

Estuary is a term that has various definitions, and both its upstream and downstream limits have, as Wikipedia states, “been defined differently at different times and for different purposes.” For my own purposes it has been rather elastic, usually beginning at the Thames Barrier and going east as far as it was convenient to travel by public transport, on foot or by bicycle from convenient stations. In earlier years I went further along the Kent bank by car in some outings with friends including Terry King as far as Sheppey.

Cement works, Northfleet, 2000

The exhibition had come as a surprise. The ten picture in it were from around a hundred images the Museum of London had bought from various of my projects for its collection a few years earlier and I think the first I knew about it was when I received the invitation to the opening, or perhaps by an email a couple of weeks before that.

Greenhithe, 2000

These pictures all dated from the early years of this century, those from Kent in 2000 and from Essex in 2004 and all were in panoramic format. In 2000 I was working with two swing lens cameras, a Japanese Widelux F8 and a much cheaper Russian Horizon 202. Both work with rotating lens and a curved film plane, invented by give Friedrich von Martens in his Megaskop-Kamera in 1844, but instead of the daguerrotype plates he worked with use standard 35mm film, producing negatives around 56x24mm.

Chafford Hundred, 2004

The two cameras have a similar field of view horizontally around 130 degrees and have a cylindrical perspective which renders lines parallel to the film edges straight but gives an increasing curvature to horizontal lines away from the centre of the image. The image quality of the two is very similar but the cheaper camera has a rather more useful viewfinder.

Dagenham, 2004

By 2004 I had two further pieces of equipment which extended my panoramic photography. One was a new camera, the Hassleblad X-Pan, which had generally received rave reviews. I found it rather disappointing at first and it was only after I added the 30mm wideangle lens that it became useful for me. The X-Pan is a standard rectilinear camera design but gives negatives 65x24mm rather than the normal full-frame 36x24mm. The horizontal angle of view it produces with the 30mm is at the limits of rectilinear perspective, before stretching at the edges becomes too apparent, and is considerably less than the swing lens cameras at 94 degrees. The lens comes with a separate viewfinder that fits on the top of the camera, but does make operation a little less convenient.

West Thurrock, 2005

The second, and very important for working along the north bank was a Brompton folding bicycle, which enabled me to travel the greater distances needed there. Of course I also used this and the X-Pan for later pictures elsewhere.

Mucking, 2005

You can see more of these pictures in two sections of the Urban Landscapes web site, which also includes work by other photgraphers, both British and overseas. Some of the pictures I’ve chosen for today’s post were in the Estuary show, but others were not – I have a rather larger body of work to select from than the Museum, some of which appears in my book Thamesgate Panoramas.

Northfleet, 2000

The site has separate sections on the Thames Gateway in Essex and Kent, as well as from my Greenwich Meridian project in 1994-6 and a wider selection of panoramic work from around London from 1996-2005, though there is much more that I still have to put on-line. Some is also now on Flickr.

Lung Theatre ‘E15’ Battersea March 2017

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

Lung Theatre ‘E15’ Battersea March: Thursday 16th March 2017 was a rather unusual day for me in that rather than photographing a protest I was being part of a theatrical performance, though not in a theatre but on the busy evening rush hour streets of Battersea.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

But like many of the others there, I was playing myself as a photographer of protests, and taking pictures as I would if this had been a real protest.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

This performance was to announce that Lung Theatre, a small theatrical group, were bringing their Edinburgh festival award-winning performance ‘E15’ to Battersea Arts Centre, and they were doing so with the help of many of the housing protesters, particularly from the Stratford-based Focus E15 campaign, on which their ‘verbatim theatre’ performance was based.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

An interesting article, Documentary & Verbatim Theatre by Tom Cantrell of the University of York gives a clear definition, “Verbatim theatre is a form of documentary theatre which is based on the spoken words of real people. Strictly, verbatim theatre-makers use real people’s words exclusively, and take this testimony from recorded interviews.”

The “protest” began in the rather dim light of the street outside Clapham Junction’s busiest entrance, and it was hard for me to distinguish the actors from the housing protesters by their speech and actions, though rather easier in that they were the only faces I didn’t recognise, having met and photographed the activists so often at previous events. But the group certainly put on a convincing performance as they handed out leaflets and fliers, both about the Focus E15 campaign and their forthcoming performances at the Battersea Arts Centre.

Focus E15 began when a group of young mothers housed in the Focus E15 hostel in Stratford were told that Newham council were going to evict them and they would be dispersed not just in the borough but to rented accommodation across the country in far away places where they had no friends, no family and away from any jobs, schools, familiar services and support.

Newham had adopted a policy which amounted to social cleansing, removing people from its area who, as the then Mayor put it, could not afford to live there. Rather than accept this they came together to fight the council, and inspired others across the country to fight for ‘Social Housing NOT Social Cleansing’.

And Focus E15 won their fight but didn’t stop there, continuing the fight for others in the area faced with homelessness and eviction, demanding the council bring empty council housing back into use in a campaign for ‘Housing For All’. They are still out on Stratford Broadway with a street stall every Saturday, still forcing the council to face up to its responsibilities despite considerable harassment (and more recently a change of Mayor.)

As well as some of the leading activists from Focus E15 at the eevent were also other campaigners including some from Sweets Way in north London and Lewisham People Before Profit and others fighting the demolition of council housing by London’s mainly Labour controlled councils, increasingly in league with estate agents and property developers scrambling for excessive profits from sky-high London market prices. And they had brought some of their banners with them for the event.

From Clapham Junction the “protesters” marched up Lavender Hill to the Battersea Arts Centre, where they occupied the foyer for a few final minutes of protest in what had been a pretty convincing event. And while actors had to go on stage and give their performance, the activists could sit down in the theatre and watch.

I didn’t join them, as I knew I had to come back to view it a week later and then be a part of a panel discussion Art & Accidental Activism, a week later. It was an impressive performance and gave a real impression of some of the more dramatic aspects of the real protests I had covered and made clear the political aspects of the housing crisis and why activism was necessary. But sometimes it did seem strange to hear words I remembered well coming out of a different person.

I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I would have liked as I was very nervous, considerably daunted at having to appear afterwards ‘on stage’ to answer questions with fellow panelists Jeremy Hardy, journalist Dawn Foster and theatre legend Max Stafford Clark. But in the event it went well (my sternest critic says) and I rather enjoyed it and the session in the bar that followed.

More at Lung Theatre ‘E15’ march to BAC.

Housing For All – Focus E15

Monday, September 19th, 2022

Housing For All - Focus E15

On Saturday 19th September 2015, two years after the start of the Focus E14 and a year since their successful occupation of empty flats on Stratford’s Carpenters Estate gained national headlines about both their own treatment by Newham Council and the problems faced by others around the country in finding homes, Focus E15 organised a march, rally and party.

Housing For All - Focus E15

In a ‘long read’ published in The Guardian at the end of June 2022, Oliver Wainwright writes about the particular problems that Newham and the other ‘Olympic boroughs’ are facing and how these have been worsened since the Olympics came to the area. His ‘A massive betrayal’: how London’s Olympic legacy was sold out details how the many promises made before and after London’s winning bid have failed to materialise.

Housing For All - Focus E15

As Wainwright states, in the area “there are almost 75,000 households on the waiting list for council housing, many living in desperate poverty. Thousands of former residents have also been rehoused outside the area since the Olympics took place.

Wainwright quotes the former directory of the agency which bought up land for the Olympic site and evicted local businesses as saying “There is no pretence any more that the legacy is trying to get a positive outcome for East Enders .. It is driven by a total market ideology, dressed up in some good aspirational talk, with a few baubles thrown out to keep local people happy, while mostly catering for the rich. It is a massive failure at every level

Although Wainwright points out the naivety of London Mayor Ken Livingstone in his ruthless support for the bid – which he saw as the only way to get the billions needed to develop the area – he makes clear who the real villain was, Livingstone’s successor Boris Johnson.

Many pointed out the problems over the years the bid was being made, and locals and others actively campaigned against the Olympic bid, over the removal of many successful businesses from the area, the demolition of a fine cooperative housing estate, the removal of allotments and the cycle circui, the loss of green space. People warned that the Olympic priorities would result in a development very different to that serving the needs of the area. And it has.

I’m pleased to have recorded at least some of that opposition in My London Diary over the years. I’d come to know the area over a number of visits since the 1980s and knew some of those involved in the protests which I photographed throughout the period, as well as continuing my photographic documentation of the area, much of which was published in my 2010 book ‘Before the Olympics‘, where I wrote ‘Stratford Marsh was one of the areas I found most interesting from the start; then a curious mixture of wilderness and industry … What was once an exciting and varied area with a great range of wildlife is now sterilized and under concrete.

The 2008 financial crisis meant the government had to pick up many of the bills, and large parts became publicly owned. Wainwright points out that the sale of the athlete’s village for around half what it cost to build meant a £275m loss to the taxpayer, who had funded the social aspects including a “school and health facilities, while the private sector kept the more profitable parts of the scheme – the shopping mall, the offices and the luxury flats.”

Newham’s Mayor until 2018, Robin Wales, encouraged the development of high-priced flats as attracting a wealthier demographic to the borough, and at the same time presided over a policy of ‘displacement and relocation of low-income households, as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent’. The Focus E15 mothers he tried to disperse away from London named it clearly – ‘Social Cleansing’.

The huge redevelopment in the area since 2012 has resulted in only 110 genuinely affordable homes. Newham currently has over 27000 applicants on the Housing Register and some 4500 families in temporary accommodation. Newham began emptying one notable large estate in central Stratford, the 1967 Carpenters estate of 710 homes in 2004 and by 2012 more than half of the homes were empty. The residents had wanted the estate refurbished, but Newham hoped to sell it off. When protests led to UCL withdrawing plans for a new campus, they looked for a developer, but those plans were dropped in 2018 and a new start made.

Bridge House – LB Newham’s Housing Office

There is much more in Wainwright’s article than I’ve mentioned, along with some of my own thoughts here, particularly about the huge failures of Boris Johnson and the failure to provide the kind of overall planning that could have occurred had the area been developed as a new town with the legacy corporation reinvesting “profits back into the future of the place, as happened in the postwar New Towns and places like Milton Keynes.” But instead it has been a commercial operation and one that has turned into a financial disaster for the taxpayer, rich pickings for developers and a social and environmental mess.

Wainwright describes the outcome in his final paragraph as “a nice park dotted with impressive sports venues and high-end homes, with some cultural attractions on the way.” I have to disagree, particularly about the park. It’s a park that is still scarred by the Olympics with large arid areas which I think will leave much of it forever beyond redemption, though there are some nicer parts. But I can only echo his next sentence: “But the poorest and most vulnerable, in what remain London’s most deprived boroughs, have lost out.

The Focus E15 march began with a rally in Stratford Park. It was supported by people from a huge list of organisations I list on My London Diary. They they then marched around Stratford town centre, past the bus station, the station and the Theatre then back down the Broadway, stopping briefly outside Foxtons, where Class War staged a brief protest inside the estate agents offices.

They then moved on to the LB Newham’s Housing Office at Bridge House for another protest. Finally the marched on to the Carpenters Estate to hold a rally in front of the flats they had occupied for two weeks in 2014. Their occupation had led to these flats being re-occupied along with a few other of the roughly 400 empty properties on the estate.

If you’ve not yet read ‘A massive betrayal’: how London’s Olympic legacy was sold out please do. You can read more of what I wrote back in 2015 and see many more pictures on My London Diary:
Focus E15: Rally before March
Focus E15: ‘March Against Evictions’
Class War Occupy Stratford Foxtons
Focus E15: Anniversary of Carpenters Occupation

Music, Spoken Word and Protest

Saturday, August 20th, 2022

Music, Spoken Word and Protest
Cosmo sings at the Jack The Ripper protest, 2015

Music, Spoken Word and Protest. A week or two ago I received a Facebook invitation suggesting I listen to a monthly radio show on Riverside Radio, the Colin Crilly Takeover, a monthly show with hosts Andy Bungay and Colin Crilly. In this edition they were to “be playing SONGS with a political/social angle, and discussing the issues raised.”

Music, Spoken Word and Protest
Adam Clifford performs at Class War newspaper launch, White Cub, Bermondsey, 2017

Colin Crilly is someone I’ve often met and photographed on protests in London and who has on occasion asked me to be interviewed for the show, but I’ve never done so. Radio isn’t really an ideal medium for photography.

Music, Spoken Word and Protest
Different Moods play at Poor Doors protest, 2014

Riverside Radio is a local station covering a wide area of southwast London, mainly the boroughs of Wandsworth, Richmond and Merton but available to everyone on the web. I didn’t log on to the live show live as it airs for two hours from 11pm on a Saturday night, a time when I’m usually exhausted and only ready to fall asleep. Or if I’ve had a particularly busy day covering events I might still be editing the work.

Julie Felix at CND protest, 2007

But a few days later, Colin sent me a link to a recording of the show on MixCloud and I began to listen to it. I’ve not managed to hear the whole two hours and I found MixCloud a frustrating experience as, perhaps because I haven’t subscribed, I couldn’t skip forward and when I took a rest it reverted to the start of the track. Since radio doesn’t come with pictures (except in the mind) I’ve added some of my own to this post.

Billy Bragg supports IWGB strikers 2018

It was good to hear a track by Anne Feeney, the late great US folk musician, singer-activist and lawyer who died in 2021. Her ‘Have You Been To Jail For Justice?’ and her lines “A rotten law stays on the books til folks like us defy it, The law’s supposed to serve us, and so are the police, And when the system fails, it’s up to us to speak our piece …” are very relevant now. It led to some interesting discussion by Colin and Andy, but perhaps it could have been related rather more to the approaches of groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain in the UK.

Sheffield Samba Band on march to Aldermaston, 2004

Next up was Paul Hardcastle’s ’19’, about the Vietnam War, but released in 1985, which apparently made a huge impression on a then-young Colin. It really was a ground-breaking release in several ways, but like the interview with John Lennon which followed – and preceded his ‘The Fool On the Hill’, did give the show seem rather an academic and historical approach to the subject.

Samba band, Carnival Against Capitalism, 1999

I didn’t get much further in listening – and I think these were the only songs in the first hour of the show, though I might have fallen asleep a bit – there was a lot of long discussion. George Michael on BBC Hard Talk in 2002 came into it. It’s perhaps a shame that there wasn’t a playlist on the MixCloud page.

Samba – UK Uncut, 2011

Among the hashtags there was #london and I didn’t think I’d heard much about London or protests there in the part of the show I heard. Nor did I get to hear the promised Wood Guthrie, whose songs I used to play and sing badly from a much dog-eared paperbook in my youth, though fortunately seldom in public.

But many of the protests I’ve attended over the years have included performances by singers as well as spoken word performers, and of course the sound of almost all marches in recent years has been the samba band. How or if the recent act designed to prevent effective protest alters this remains to be seen.

Cosmo at Poor Doors protest, 2014

I’ll just mention a few of those I’ve been impressed by – and have photographed in London. On his web site is this description of Cosmo, based in Wales as well as a number of music videos featuring him and his friends.

Cosmo is “a one-man folk-punk phenomenon.” (Miniature Music Press). Over the course of 14 albums and 30 years of touring, he has established himself as a formidable voice on the UK and international underground.

He has appeared at Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Fringe and other major UK festivals, as well as touring across the UK, Europe, North and South America and the Middle East. In that time, he has shared stages with Billy Bragg, Frank Turner, Grace Petrie, John Cooper Clarke, Mark Thomas and more. Cosmo has won awards at the Edinburgh fringe and Hay fringe festivals.

An activist as well as a musician, Cosmo has also performed at countless picket lines, protest camps, rallies and demos, as well as being involved with community organising.

I’ve photographed Cosmo several times, particularly at protests with Class War and always been impressed by the lift he gives to protesters.

Grim Chip (left) outside the TUC, 2017

Quite a few rappers and poets have also performed at events I’ve photographed. Poetry on the Picket Line does exactly what the name suggest. Poets in the group, including hip Hamer, Janine Booth, Nadia Drews, Joe Solo, Tim Watts, Tim Kiely, Owen Collins, Repeat Beat Poet, Mark Coverdale, Lantern Carrier and Michael Breen, reading their work in the spirit of solidarity
on picket lines and at rallies.

Potent Whisper performs ‘Estate Of War’ at Class War’s Newspaper Launch at the White Cube 2017

Georgie, a London based rapper and spoken word artist performs as Potent Whisper. Dog Section Press published his ‘The Rhyming Guide to Grenfell Britain‘ including the text of nine full-length pieces, I think all of which I’d heard him deliver at various demonstrations as well as in videos, including The Rhyming Guide to NHS Privatisation, Estate of War and Grenfell Britain. The book is worth getting if you can find a copy. An article by him in the New Internationalist includes a link to his ‘You’ll Never Edit Grenfell‘ and you can view more on his YouTube channel.

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

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