Archive for the ‘Reviews etc’ Category

On this day…

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2016 Books

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

I don’t like to look too much at the annual posts on many sites about ‘Photography Books of the Year‘, not least because if I spend too much time reading them I will invariably find some I feel I really need to buy.  And while I could usually afford to do so in terms of cash, I just do not have the space. Virtually every room in my house now has its shelves of photography books (and there are some in the loft) and there is just no room for any more. (We do have a few non-photography books too, but they are well in a minority.)

So over the past few years I’ve adopted in fairly strict rule. I only buy books by photographers I know. I’ve stopped asking for review copies some years ago too, though I won’t review books from PDFs – unless they are being published in that format – it just isn’t the same. I’m still pleased when people give me books, and I’ll try and find room for them, but I’ll really have to find something I already have that I feel I can do without to give away or at least move up to a box in the loft.

I’ve already posted about my book of the year – and a very thick one that I have bought – Provoke. I needed it for a talk I was writing, but I still haven’t found a place for it, and it’s in a pile of stuff on the carpet behind me.  I see in my guilty sneaked glimpses that it has featured in some other people’s lists too.

Currently I’m sitting on my hands and thinking about hiding my credit card after having taking a peek at the recommendations by Elizabeth Avedon, at least some of which seem more to my taste than most, Part 1 and Part 2.

I see at the right of her pages it has a counter recording ‘PEOPLEVIEWS’, which stood at 1,863,069 when I visited. I don’t have such a counter on this site, but I can get some statistics from my ISP, though I don’t know what a ‘Peopleview’ is.

At the moment I can only get statistics for the past 18 months, from 1st July 2015, although the site has been running since December 2006. Last year, 2016 >Re:PHOTO had 1,558,105 page impressions by 372,417 visitors.

The numbers fluctuate a bit through the year, with August and December being my best months last year, each average over 5500 page views per day. I suspect that I wrote more posts in these months and more people have time to read them because we have some holidays from work. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Berger & Mohr

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Magic

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photoshop Alternative

Friday, November 11th, 2016

A few years ago I would have jumped at the chance to move from Photoshop to an alternative that looks at least equally powerful but at a fraction of the cost. Now, I’m not so sure, as Photoshop has become much more reasonably priced, and there would be quite a long process of learning to move away to Affinity Photo.

That link is for the Mac version, but as I learnt from Peta Pixel, you can now download a free beta of a Windows version which is said to have an identical interface. I don’t think I will, as I haven’t the time to spend evaluating software and changing my old habits, but it does look good and rather than paying a subscription there is a one-off price. The Windows version when launched will cost the same $50 or £40 as the Mac.

It does seem to offer an alternative to everything I need from Photoshop – I took a quick look through the long listing of features – and elsewhere is a list of cameras it supports for RAW, which included all that I own and of course many more. As a British company the price in the UK is perhaps less likely to be affected by any further drop in the pound as we slide into Breixt economic gloom.

But for me, Photoshop comes more or less as a free gift with Lightroom on my subscription, and I’ve come to love and rely on the way that Lightworks with and catalogues my images.  And I still have nagging doubts about Serif, the company that produces Affinity, and  whose PagePlus DTP software I used in the long past; Version 1.0 was cheap and worked farily well, but didn’t quite match up to that available at several times the cost from the big names.  But it does look as if they have made that jump now, and PagePlus X9 looks rather good and if I wanted new web design software I’d certainly look at WebPlus X8. And Affinity seems to offer all that I use from Photoshop – including the ability to use 64-bit Photoshop plugins.

As I said, I don’t have the time to play with betas. But perhaps in a year or so when others have ironed out the worst bugs I’ll consider Affinity again, and decide if I can live without Lightroom. After all its one-off cost is less than 5 months subs to the Adobe Photography Plan – and after that I’d be saving just over £100 a year.  Of course sometime they would bring out a version 2,  and perhaps I might feel a need to upgrade, but it would still work out much cheaper.

As well as Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer is also available as a free beta for Windows.

Incidentally another page at Peta Pixel details how you can save 25 % on your Adobe subscription – but it doesn’t seem to work for me, with the Amazon page this links to listing it at the full dollar price of $119.88 – perhaps the offer is/was only available in the US.

Irwin Klein published

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Six years ago I wrote a short note on this site, The Color Photographs of Irwin Klein, about the work of a photographer whose life ended tragically in March 1974. You can now read the story I didn’t know then of his death on a web site Irwin Klein: Photographer (1933-1974) created by his nephew Nikolai Klein in 2012.

Rather more of his photographs appear to have survived, and there is a quite extensive archive on the web site, including the colour images of Brooklyn. There are over 300 of his Brooklyn slides on the site, although quite a few scenes are represented by two or more very similar views.

I was emailed about this site by Nikolai’s brother Ben Klein, who also commented on my 2010 post and has compiled and edited a book on the photographer’s major project, The Settlers. ‘ He tells me that the slides were discovered in Klein’s widow’s house less than ten years ago.

Irwin Klein and the New Settlers, Photographs of Counterculture in New Mexico, ISBN 978-0-8032-8510-1 is edited by Benjamin Klein with essays by David Farber, Tom Fels, Tim Hodgdon, Benjamin Klein, and Lois Rudnick, a foreword by Daniel Kosharek and an introduction by Michael William Doyle is published by the University of Nebraska Press.

You can download a PDF from the university site which includes the contents pages, preface, introduction and opening essay From Innocence to Experience: Irwin B. Klein and the New Settlers of Northern New Mexico, by Benjamin Klein and Tim Hodgdon.

There is also a Facebook Page and a number of article on the web about Irwin Klein, including one in the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is represented by the D Gallery, where you can see his most famous image, Minnesota Fire, 1962 and other pictures from the 2009 show Last Look: The Photographs of Irwin Klein (1933 -1974).

I think most photographers will recognise that striking ‘Minnesota Fire‘ image though they may well – like me – have forgotten who took it.

Killed by Roses

Thursday, October 27th, 2016


Eikoh Hosoe and one of his pictures from Ordeal by Roses

Today’s L’Œil de la Photographie with its article Eikoh Hosoe, Barakei A portrait of Yukio Mishima brought back memories to be of a few days spent in company with him and other photographers back in 2005 in Bielsko-Biala, at their first FotoArtFestival.


Eikoh Hosoe in Bielsko-Biala

It was a great privilege for me to be invited to show some of my urban landscape work from London’s Industrial Heritage along with such distinguished company as Eikoh Hosoe, Ami Vitale, Boris Mikhajlov and Malick Sidibe, as well as many rising stars and a few of those no longer with us, Mario Giacomelli, Inge Morath and Robert Diament, as one of 25 photographers representing 25 countries around the world.


Eikoe Hosoe uses his pink phone camera

I’d travelled light to Poland, and had only taken a small digital pocket camera, a Canon Ixus. It was an excellent camera for the time, but in some of the dimly lit interiors I did find myself wishing I had brought a Nikon. But it was a small and pocketable camera, and I think did remarkably well all things considered. You can see more pictures I took with it on the trip in my FotoArtFestival Diary, along with some of one of my three talks there. As well as presenting my own work, I also gave presentations on the work of two great British photographers, Tony Ray Jones and Raymond Moore, and on the work of some of my London Friends, Paul Baldesare, Jim Barron, Derek Ridgers, Mike Seaborne and Dave Trainer.


Eikoh Hosoe photographs me photographing him

What was remarkable apart from the photography was the atmosphere and camaraderie among the group of photographers there, some of the exhibitors and a few of their friends. Any ice between us had been broken at the press conference, which was enlivened by vitriolic attack on me as a British colonialist by one vodka-fuelled photographer as I got up to speak, enabling me to reply with a robust statement of some of my own political views and working class background, a family history of being screwed by that very same ‘elite’, ending up with us embracing each other – and going to a bar with most of the other photographers. Though I stuck firmly to my own resolve not to drink vodka, the beer was good.


Eikoh Hosoe

Hosoe was certainly the most distinguished of the photographers present, and probably too the oldest, and had a typically Japanese quiet reserve which was rather at odds with his photographic work. Though as some of these pictures show, by the end of the event he was very much one of us.


Eikoh Hosoe shows a picture on his pink phone

The ‘Eye of Photography’ feature accompanies a show of the work Bara-kei, (1961–1962) more often known in English as ‘Ordeal by Roses’, homoerotic images of melodramatic poses by the writer Yukio Mishima, one of Japan’s leading postwar writers, also a poet, playwright and actor as well as a nationalist who founded his own small right-wing student militia, the Tatenokai, taken in Mishima’s own house in TOkoyo. His work set out to break taboos and upset cultural traditions, with an emphasis on sexuality, death and political change, a delusion that led in 1970 to him with just four of his militia to perform a coup attempt to restore the power and divinity of the emperor, thought to have been a dramatic staging for his own ritual suicide with which it ended.


Eikoh Hosoe talks about one of his pictures

The Show ‘Barakei – Killed by Roses’ is at the Galerie Eric Mouchet in the Rue Jacob in Paris from today until December 23, 2016.


and another

You can see and hear him talking about some of his work in a video made for the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

There is a good selection of his work on Artsy – or you can search on Google Images. Although his work is on many gallery sites he does not seem to have his own web site. He has been the director of the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts since its foundation i 1995. There is a nice piece on him, Eikoh Hosoe – Kamaitachi – From Memory to Dream by Rob Cook in The Gallery of Photographic History

(more…)

A Bruised Bottom?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

There are some images that everyone with the slightest interest in photography know, and two of them were (almost certainly) taken by Robert Capa. Both have long been surrounded by controversy, and the ten or eleven pictures of the D-Day landings have been the main subject of a major series of posts on ‘Photocritic International‘ by A D Coleman and his collaborators.

We can now be certain that while Capa did land on Omaha Beach, he wasn’t in the first wave and was fortunate in that it was a relatively quiet area by the time he got there. ‘Relatively’ is an important qualification and though to the military who were getting on with the job of clearing the beach it was relatively normal, to you and I – or indeed Capa – it was a very scary place to be. So scary that he only managed to take those ten or eleven images before deciding to jump on the next boat out. And who could blame him – or feel they might have done any better?

Capa struck lucky with one of those images, though had it come out as he intended it would have been long forgotten. Imagine it as well-exposed, sharp and with excellent tonality; even if published, it would have been entirely unmemorable – rather like many of the images taken by military photographers on that and the following days.

Discarding the silly myths created around the picture actually make it more interesting. It’s a more human document and we can concentrate on the image and how it evokes what it does rather than think about unbelievable stories about darkroom abuse of film and mythical darkroom workers.

It’s a story I’ve dealt with here and elsewhere on numerous occasions and I return to it only because the latest post on Photocritic International, Alternate History: Robert Capa and ICP (6), from an e-mail by editor and author Jim Hughes has brought it back to mind, and also sent me back to read a contribution by Hughes to the earlier D-Day series, Guest Post 18: Jim Hughes on Capa’s Biographer.

Jim Hughes, as older readers will remember, was a consulting editor for the US magazine Popular Photography, a monthly which in the 1980s I read because it was so much better in its coverage of photography than any of the UK magazines (and I also read its rival ‘Modern Photography‘ for the same reason.) In 1985 he reviewed Richard Whelan‘s authorized biography of Robert Capa for the January 1986 issue.

I’m fairly sure that I will have read that review, in which he was the apparently the first to publish a clear statement that dismisses as myth “the oft-told story of Life‘s London darkroom having ruined the negatives of all but 11 of Capa’s 72 photographs by leaving the film in the drying cabinet with the heat on high and the door closed“. As Hughes makes clear, it just isn’t believable as film is just not affected by heat in the way the story claims.

So while I thought it was my own experience as a photographer (and one who managed to mess up film processing in every conceivable way over the years) that led me to the inevitable conclusion that the story was entirely fictional, perhaps I should now credit Hughes for alerting me to that fact.

Whelan responded to the review by suggesting that Hughes had only seen reproductions of the images in the book of Capa’s photographs, and that these somehow did not allow such conclusions to be made. Was Whelan claiming that the reproductions were so bad that we could not see the obvious? In any case Hughes responded that his conclusions came not from the book but from examination of the original prints.

It seems odd that although photographers such as myself were convinced by the evidence that the darkroom destruction myth was just another story in that great fund of Capa fiction it should have continued to hold such sway – and that even now it has been so comprehensively debunked it should still be published and supported by some leading figures in photography. Whelan simply lacked the photographic knowledge to realise it had to be wrong, but – at least once pointed out – it was clear to those of us who had toiled long in darkrooms.

But more controversial at the time was the discussion by Hughes of Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier‘, already the subject of the 1975 book, The First Casualty by Phillip Knightley. In the latest article, Hughes, who had mentioned the controversy over this image in his review, looks at some of the issues around this image and the attempts by Whelan and Cornell Capa to cover up the controversy.

The post also links to the more recent work by Spanish scholar Jose Manuel Susperregui, which appears to have established conclusively “that Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier’ was staged by Capa at Cerro del Cuco, outside the town of Espejo, Cordoba — and that no soldiers died there that day.”

Painstaking research enabled him to determine the place where the picture was taken. He also establishes that the image was taken on a square format (6x6cm) camera that Capa never used to photograph combat, and was more often used by his partner Gerda Taro; the image characteristics lead him to conclude that this image was indeed taken by Capa although others have suggested it was by Taro.

He shows that the camera was deliberately set up (on a tripod) tilted at an angle to suggest it was on sloping ground rather than the flat field, and the two pictures of different men falling show they were performing for the camera. The post has a link to an English translation of an length illustrated article by Susperregui published in April this year describing his research and conclusions.

The picture does indeed show a ‘falling soldier’, but he is falling not to a bullet but to Capa’s directions, and rather than dying; his injuries will have amounted at worst to a bruised bottom.

Composition & Selection

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Two possibly related posts attracted my attention this morning as I trawled though the latest on my newsreader. The first on Petapixel was Ignoring the Rule of Thirds: When and Why ‘Bad’ Composition Works, which was essentially a link to a 5 minute YouTube video episode of Brain Flick ‘Why does “bad” framing work? – A look at the psychology behind a pleasing image‘. The video examines the use of framing in a TV programme I’ve never seen or heard of, Mr Robot – and if you share that lack of knowledge with me, Mr Robot: Uncoventional Framing may also be worth a look.

I’ve never been a great fan of the ‘rule of thirds’, and was certainly introduced to ‘unconventional framing’ early in my photographic life by the Nathan Lyons book ‘Notations in Passing’. The ‘rule of thirds’ has some use as a way of weaning beginners from the tendency to put every subject dead in the middle of the frame – something that reduced me to a fit a giggles when I once attended an evening class on photography and the tutor showed his work. It – or rather the ‘golden ratio’ to which it is an approximation – has a long history in art, but I’ve always liked images that – in both physical and emotional respects – were more ‘edgy’.

The only real compositional rule is I think one that comes from Minor White, as the text to one of his ‘Three Canons’, “Let the subject generate its own composition.” Unfortunately the image it accompanies (I think a stove in the centre of a church in Arizona, its slightly bent pipe going up to the ceiling in an otherwise symmetrical composition) doesn’t seem to be available on the web. I first met it in the monumental ‘Mirrors, Message and Manifestations’ (which I couldn’t afford but borrowed from our National Library which appeared to be the only UK Library with a copy – which took several months for my local library to obtain and required my signature in blood to borrow for a few weeks,) but I think it is the same image as on page 31 in the later and annoyingly unpaginated ‘Rites & Passages’.

The second post ‘New Software Promises to Take the Grunt Work Out of Ranking Your Images‘ was on PDNPulse a few months ago but I came across it again this morning. The software it refers to, then called Picturesqe but now Picturio, uses artificial intelligence to ‘help you select your best shots’. It identifies simiilar images and judges things like sharpness and exposure, but then, according to PDNPulse:

As the software learns about your images and style, it will grow more sophisticated and be able to rank images based on factors such as sharpness, color harmony and composition.

There is a free version, but this is rather limited, offering ‘Automatic grouping’, ‘Aesthetic ranking’ and ‘Intelligent zoom’ on jpegs only and for only up to 1,500 photos a month – probably a day’s work for many pros. Paid for versions – on a monthly subscription basis – handle more photos (though not that many more), raw formats and integrate with Lightroom. But for the professional version the monthly cost is around the same as we now pay for both Lightroom and Photoshop.

However there are some useful features, and if it really works the time saved should make it worthwhile paying for many. But I’m just a little sceptical. The images that really grab my interest are those that surprise me in some way rather than fit in with my preconceptions, and I have a suspicion that this software might well label some of them as trash because they are in some way uncoventional. Personally I’ll keep doing a relatively quick review before import using FastPictureViewer Professional to select those images to import and then Lightroom itself to pick those I’ll actually use.

Epson Scans

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Today I’d doing some serous scanning despite it being a lovely day to go out and perhaps take some pictures. But I’ve a busy few days over the weekend and don’t want to get tired before this. I’m trying hard to finish a whole month of black and white work – July 1986. The pictures here are just a small sample from those I took that month, all in London.


Free Trade Wharf, Limehouse, London. July 1986

But before I started did something I should have done several years ago but always put off – something I’m definitely Grade A* at.

I’m scanning today with the Epson V750 flatbed; it’s much faster than the Minolta Dimage Multiscan Pro, and with care the results are virtually as good. I’ve been having problems with the Minolta – the Firewire interface has become unreliable, working for a few scans then giving up halfway, and it had become very difficult to use. It’s the way most of these scanners eventually fail.

The scanner also has a SCSI interface, but getting the SCSI card I have to work in my current computer might be difficult – though I mean one day to try. But SCSI is really now a thing of the past.

For some time I’ve been photographing negatives instead of scanning them, and I had everything set up using the D800E – and then that decided to internally destruct. Again another thing I mean to try is to get it working sufficiently to use for this, but that’s another job I’m putting off. And although the images were sharp and detailed I also had problems with getting even illumination across the frame.

So I decided to use the Epson V750 flatbed that I have on my desk and have mainly used for making scanned ‘contact sheets’ and as a photocopier, or a quick method of getting web-size images from slides or negatives. It is a capable scanner, and the only real reason for not using it before is that I had other ways of scanning negs that were just marginally superior. I’ve used the V750 both at home and elsewhere to produce scans for books by a couple of other photographers, and they have been very happy with the results.

A new Neg carrier

One of the problems that I think Epson themselves acknowledge is that the 35mm filmstrip negative holder just isn’t quite up to the job. They’ve never I think said so, but when they came out with the V800 it had a new holder. Unlike that provided with the V700 and V750 it was not glassless but incorporated anti-Newton’s rings glass as well as more flexible height adjustment to ensure correct focus.


Columbia Market, London. July 1986

Looking at the pictures in the reviews, some of which commented on the improved design, it looked as if it would fit the D750, and I checked this was so before ordering one – rather expensively – from eBay. As well as the A-N glass, it also has better height adjustment than the D700/750 holder. Overall it does seem possible to get flatter negatives and better overall sharpness – though before things were already fairly good

Having the glass does of course make dust more of a problem. But with care and a powerful blower brush, along with the Pro Co Statbrush 2000* conductive brush I used in the darkroom and a lint-free cloth or two it isn’t too bad – and Photoshop sees off much of it very quickly. I seem to get slightly less dust spots than with the Minolta, and so far none of the problems with Newton’s Rings that sometimes plague my Minolta scans. It was an effect I hardly saw in the first year I used the scanner, then told another photographer I hadn’t seen them, after which they became a real problem.

Cleaning under the scanner glass

For several years I’ve been looking at the V750 and seeing smears and dust on the underside of the platen glass; I could clean the top easily, but these remained. The manual didn’t help, and on several occasions I’ve done a quick search on the web and read dire warnings from various people and decided perhaps it didn’t really matter.


Bridge over Regent’s Canal, Bridport Place, Islington, London. July 1986

This time I was a little more assiduous in my search, and found a few people who said it was a quick and easy job. A link to Epson’s exploded drawings of the scanner on the ‘Better Scanning’ site which has a page about dismantling various Epson models confirmed it was a matter of lifting the lighting module off from the scanner bed and then revealing and removing 4 screws and the top would lift off. And so it did.

The hardest part was removing the four plastic plugs which hide the screws, which I did by kind of digging at their edges with a craft knife and easing them up. They have a V on their top and are easy to spot, one fairly near each corner of the glass bed. Once the screws are removed the top can be pulled off – mine caught a bit at the front a needed a little persuasion. Fortunately fitting it back on again after cleaning turned out to be as simple.

Using Epson Scan

The Epson scanner software isn’t bad when used in ‘Professonal’ mode, though some features – like the ‘Thumbnails‘ which always seem to crop your images are best avoided. I do a Preview scan, click the Normal tab if thumbnails have appeared, then drag a marquee roughly around the first neg I want to scan, and click to ‘zoom’ in. It’s best then to adjust the marquee to be entirely inside the image area to avoid any black and white areas outside the frame which might affect exposure before clicking on the auto-exposure icon.

Auto-exposure will always give a less than optimal result, but does get in you the ballpark. It’s best to keep the Histogram panel open all the time you are scanning and click on the ‘show output’ button to check if there is any black or white clipping. Adjust the input values to get rid of all or almost all of this, then move the midpoint slider to get the image looking roughly how you want it.

I can’t see any real point in not having the output as the default visible in this panel as it is what you really need to see, although sometimes you might want to be able to view the input. It’s one of several minor annoyances about the software, but otherwise it works well. I could instead use Vuescan, which I’ve used with the other scanners, but somehow never bothered with the Epson. Perhaps I’ll download the latest version and give it a try, certainly when I start to scan some colour negs.

It’s best to scan in 16 bit grey for black and white (48 bit RGB for colour) as then you can make final adjustments to brightness and contrast in Photoshop (or other image editor.) You are going to have to open the images in Photoshop anyway to retouch the dust etc. So concentrate on getting all you can from the neg by avoiding clipping.

Re-adjust the marquee boundaries to the edge of the image, and then you are ready to scan. Of course you will have already set the directory for the image to save in and for it to be saved as 16 bit tiff, as well as a suitable stem for the name – to which Epson Scan with add 001, 002…


Closed Turf Accountants, Micawber St, Islington, London. July 1986

When the scan has saved, click on ‘Full’ in the preview pane, shift the marquee to the next image on the page you want to scan, and then ‘Zoom’ to view it and adjust exposure. Only use the auto-expose icon if it comes up way out, otherwise it is generally quicker to adjust from the previous values. And ‘unsharp mask’ has a habit of sneaking itself on. You don’t need it – if you want sharpening, Photoshop can do it better.

One further hint. Always go through the negs and decide exactly which are worth scanning – I mark the contact sheets, but if you don’t have these, you can write down the negative numbers. Otherwise if you are like me you will end up scanning twice as many.


* Not quite as effective as those Polonium 210 based StaticMaster brushes we used to use, but which now appear unobtainable in the UK. Quite safe so long as you remembered not to stir your tea with them!

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