Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

More staged pictures

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

London’s stabbings and shootings have generated headlines in the UK media and earned London Mayor Sadiq Khan highly critical tweets from President Trump, as well as allowing Boris Johnson to make seriously incorrect claims about his own time as Mayor. Most of us feel that the current rise in London’s figures owes more to Tory cuts in social and youth services and police numbers than any actions taken by Khan, who has announced some sensible policies which may help in the longer term based on those that have had some success in Glasgow.

Of course any death on our streets is tragic, whether by knife, gun, car or lorry. And while there were 732 homicides recorded in England and Wales in the year to December 2018 (and another 59 in Scotland), the latest annual statistics for road deaths for Great Britain are almost two and half times this, at 1770.

It’s also worth reminding Trump, that while London’s murder rate is around 1.6 per 100,000, this is only half that of New York and that all of the 30 largest US cities had higher rates – with Baltimore, Detroit and Chicago topping the list at 55.8, 39.8 and 24.1 respectively. Figures like that – up to 50 times as many in London – put our crisis in perspective. London is still relatively a very safe city.

But even those huge figures for some US cities are dwarfed by those in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, listed as world’s most dangerous city (outside war zones) with an annual homicide rate of 187 per 100,000 people. And it was photographs from this city, by Swiss/Italian photographer Michele Crameri that got me thinking and writing today, with an article in Fstoppers, Award-Winning Photojournalist Accused of Faking Photos of Assassins.

Looking at the pictures it seems fairly obvious that they were staged for the photographer, but despite this, they are said to have “won 15 awards, including [Crameri] being recognized as a finalist by Lens Culture’s Visual Storytelling Awards 2019.”

When working in Honduras, Crameri worked with local journalist Orlin Castro as his fixer, and was introduced to a number of hit men working for the local gangs who acted out some scenes of threatening to kill people while the two men were present (with Castro playing one of the victims in one of them.) These were captioned as if these were actual events rather than play-acting.

A harrowing film n Youtube, shot for VICE, Crime Reporting in the Murder Capital: San Pedro Sula Nights, shows Orlin Castro at work as a night-time crime reporter, reporting on the killings in the war between the city’s two most notorious gangs. It’s hard at times to watch, and to read the English sub-titles as Castro talks about some of the stories he has covered. Reporting is a highly dangerous job in Honduras, as the notes on the video comment, with “the Honduran National Human Rights Committee, at least 47 journalists and media executives have been murdered between 2003 and 2014.” Had Crameri been photographing the real thing he might well have ended up as another number on this list.

Although it is difficult to look at Crameri’s pictures and not at least have a powerful suspicion that they were staged, the deception was only brought to light by two other photographers who had also worked with Orlin Castro as their fixer and who raised the issue with them. Castro says that Crameri promised him the pictures would only be for his personal archive and “that he specifically told Crameri not to publish the photograph of him being jokingly threatened with the gun.”

Of course there is nothing wrong with the pictures – though clearly the photographer should have respected Castro’s request, and it’s possible that publishing that image may have placed him in some danger. The others are pictures of hit men, and had the captions clearly stated that they were playing for the photographer rather than actually at work they would have still been a viable part of the project. But lying about them not only invalidates those images, it also puts into question the whole of the project – and indeed the photographer’s other work. If you mislead us about these, why should we believe what you say about your other pictures.

The most valuable thing that any photojournalist or documentary photographer has is his or her integrity. Without it the pictures are just pictures, no longer a witness to the world.

Who Are We?

Friday, June 7th, 2019

You can now watch the video presentation Who Are We? 2019 – Shahidul Alam played at Tate Modern last month, part of Learning Lab 2: Artists who Risk and Artists at Risk, 25 May 2019. I found it an interesting insight into his work and in thinking about our own work as artists – and he says we are all artists.

Who Are We? is a cross-platform event designed for Tate Exchange (Tate Modern) reflecting on identity, belonging, migration and citizenship, open free to the public, and has been held annually since 2017 and is a partnership with the Tate, Counterpoint Arts and the Open University.

Probably I don’t need to say anything about who Alam his, or about his arrest last year. I’ve written at least a dozen times about his work as a photographer and also about his other incredible activities in Bangladesh, setting up Drik and Majority World agencies, the Bangladesh Photographic Institute, the South Asian Institute of Photography, Pathshala and the Chobi Mela festival. Here is a link to just one of those posts, 25 Years of Drik.

D-Day 75 years on

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

What else could a photographer post on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy but a link to Robert Capa on D-Day, the huge series of investigations into what have since become the iconic images of the event, the 10 or 11 severely undexposed frames made by Capa in the few minutes he spent on the beach before rushing to jump on a boat and get his pictures back to England.

The project, launched 5 years ago today on the 70th anniversary of the event “combines elements of photo history, research in journalism, critical thinking, and media literacy” and the team, led by photography critic and historian A D Coleman of photojournalist J Ross Baughman, photo historian Rob McElroy and military historian Charles Herrick have provided us with a remarkably clear and detailed view of what actually happened on that day and later, in the darkroom and to the present day in creating and promulgating the legends around that handful of pictures.

Doubtless there will be articles published today that retell the invented story of the darkroom mishap, or repeat some of the other fabrications around the pictures made by Capa and others. But knowing the real story – or as much of it as can now be verified – doesn’t in any way detract from the power of the couple of truly iconic pictures.

It seems unlikely that we will ever know who was that ‘face in the surf‘ , though we can now be sure it was none of those who have most publically claimed to be him. I’m not sure we would gain were a positive identification possible – isn’t it better that it remains an ‘unknown soldier’ whose face commemorates the event?

If I didn’t have a busy day ahead of me taking pictures (nothing to do with D-Day) today would be a good time to get out those several books of Capa’s pictures on my shelves and look through them, along with some of the investigations and perhaps a glass or two of wine.

Those of you who would prefer a very much shorter and generally accurate account of the the D-Day pictures you can read Wikipedia’s ‘The Magnificent Eleven’, which also reproduces seven of the pictures.

And should you be in London before 29 September 2019 you can go and see the free exhibition Robert Capa: D-Day in 35mm at the Imperial War Museum, which includes prints of 10 of the 11 photographs taken by Capa on Omaha Beach, as well as “personal accounts and objects related to Allied soldiers who landed that fateful day. ”

Soviet photos

Friday, May 31st, 2019

I think I should start this post with a health warning. Do not click the link in this post unless you have hours you can afford to spend looking at photographs. You will probably want to rush out and get a bottle of vodka and be glued to your screen forgetting meals, appointments and the rest and come round some time tomorrow with a huge hangover.

It will almost certainly be worse if you can actually make out the Cyrillic characters or actually read Russian, but even without that the pictures are fascinating, with every issue of Советское фото – Soviet Photo magazine – over 400 of them from 1926-1991 now available to read online at Archive.com.

You can read more about the magazine and its history in both Russian and, if you scroll down, in English on the About tab, which also talks about the early controversies in its pages in the late 1920s and early 30s. It was here that the work of Aleksandr Rodchenko was first denounced as plagiarising the work of Western European photographers László Moholy-Nagy and Albert Renger-Patzsch – unfortunately leading the magazine to boycott his work – and later his and similar work politically denounced as formalist; foreign and elitist and not in line with the official party line of Socialist Realism.

Photography developed rather differently in Russia, something that was made clear to me in 1978 when ‘The Russian War 1941-5’, a superb collection of photographs edited by A. J. P. Taylor , Daniela Mrazkova & Vladimir Remes, many of the pictures in which are now well-known.

After the war there was also a disjunct between photography on the two sides of the iron curtain, with relatively little contact between the two. With a few exceptions, the work that we saw came from photographers who had managed to leave the Soviet bloc – though some of those exceptions were notable – such as Czech photographer Josef Sudek (1896-1976), the ‘Poet of Prague’. Things of course began to change with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

This is certainly a site to add to your bookmarks, and one that, like vodka, is best taken in small doses.

Of course there is much more available on the Internet Archive, and a recent post looks at their work and at the problems of preserving Internet content. It’s something I have a definite personal interest in, as over 300 articles that I wrote about photography are now, for copyright reasons, only available among the 330 billion web pages, now stored on the ‘Wayback Machine’.





Catalan evening

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

It was around a quarter past five by the time the Catalan protest got going on the steps around Eros, and in mid-February this was sunset, though it seemed rather darker than this suggests. Of course with the amount of street lighting and lights in shop windows and traffic it never really gets dark, but the contrast between the brightness of the advertising display on one side of Piccadilly Circus and the opposite side of the monument was pretty huge, and the protesters seemed to be in very deep shadow,

Using the Nikon D750 and D810, with both set to ISO 6400 allowed me exposures of around 1/125 at f5.6 without flash, though these were deliberately underexposed by a stop or so to keep something of a night look.

I didn’t have any fast lenses with me – and don’t own anything faster than f2.8 for the Nikons, finding them too heavy to carry and unsuited to most of the work I do where wide apertures mean the depth of field is too limited, though there are times when a fast telephoto would certainly help. But apart from the cost of the lenses I’d probably find myself needing the services of an osteopath. Although the Nikon lenses are remarkably good wide-open, when possible I like to stop down just a little, and most of these were taken at 1/2 to one stop down from the variable maximum.

I used flash for about half of these pictures, with a Nikon SB800 in the hot-shoe, but still worked at ISO 3200 to avoid getting people looking like cardboard cutouts in front of a black background, making sure that areas too far away to benefit from the flash were still getting enough exposure from ambient light. Although normally I work with the cameras on the ‘P’ setting (but often altering the selected shutter speed) Nikon’s flash system doesn’t really work with this, and when using flash I switch to aperture or shutter priority or sometimes full manual.

Flash on camera is always a problem where important parts of the subject are at different distances from the camera, and sometimes I make use of the fall-off of flash away from the centre, angling the flash head away from the closer parts of the subject. But inevitably some, often considerable, burning and dodging is needed when processing the images. Even in those taken without flash the lighting was pretty uneven and some correction was needed. If I can tell which of the images was taken with flash and which without except by looking at the EXIF data I don’t think I’ve got it right.

More at Against political trial of Catalan leaders


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

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BP out of the BM

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

‘BP or not BP’ is a bunch of activists who stage performances of one sort or another at various cultural institutions and events to protest at the way the arts are being used to promote and sanitise companies guitly of destroying the planet and other crimes, ‘greenwashing’ to hide their mucky stains.

BP are a prime example of such a company, responsible for many murky political dealings in countries around the world in search of oil, Extracting oil has destroyed valuable ecosystems though pollution, with huge oil spills threatening large areas of ocean life. Its oil feeds the plastics and artificial fabrics industries, while the use of oil products in heating, air conditioning and transport etc is the cause of the huge increase in grrenhouse gases which is causing disastrous global warming.

BP gives a relatively small financial contribution to the British Museum, for which it gets a incredible return in good publicity, its logo on posters and on labels in the museum.

The protest took place on the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, conducted as is now clear from documents from many sources largely to ensure access by US companies to Iraqi oil resources rather than anything to do with the WMDs which all knew did not exist. It also took place while the BP-sponsored show I am Ashurbanipal: King of the World, King of Assyria‘ was nearing the end of its run. It’s a show which includes a number of looted objects from the area (which stretched from Egypt to the Persian Gulf), both from historical times when the BM was itself sending archealogists to the area and apparently some more recent acquisitions sold to dealers after Iraq was left in chaos and during the current conflict in Syria, bought with the aid of BP money.

While several hundred protesters gathered at the front of the Great Court, a small performance took place in the Assyrian galleries, and was then repeated in front of the entrance to the Assyrian exhibition. Meanwhile the main protest got under way, amd after an introductory rally people were lead to from a ring all around the Great Court, with posters all round.

The Great Court is a large area around the old former BM Reading Room (where my wife once worked) and is said to be the largest covered public square in Euripe, with an area of 3,692.5 square metres. I think the chain around it holding the banners must have been around 600 feet long, though only relatively small sections were visible from any one point.

This was something of a challenge to still photographers, and I walked around it several times taking pictures. Long banners are always a challenge in terms of the aspect ratio. Even if you frame the people holdina banner from head to toe working in landscape format, this only results in a horizontal field of view of around ten foot. To frame longer banners results in the people and the banner shrinking to a narrower strip across the image.

You can improve matters by photographing the banner from one side, filling the frame height with the nearest person or going in even closer, and this is often my approach. But as the make the viewpoint more oblique, the banner text becomes less and less legible. And legible text is important with banners.

My friend taking video had a simpler task and did it well, filming as he walked around the whole circle. A similar approach using still photography would have resulted in a print with a roughly 100:1 aspect ratio, and while it might have been possible to join up the banner, as you moved from exposure to exposure the backgrounds would change.

I did take a series of pictures from the top of the stairs overlooking the area in front of the Assyrian exhibition, where the banners were brought and people sat on the ground. Possibly taken together they would show the whole string of banners (though I think some were folded before they reached the display), but more than the two on My London Diary make rather tedious viewing.

End BP sponsorship at British Museum

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

Zeke – the Roma issue

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Zeke Magazine is published by the Social Documentary Network and “presents outstanding documentary photography from the Social Documentary Network on topics of global concern.”

SDN was launched in October 2008, and “is for documentary photographers, editors, journalists, NGOs, lovers of photography and anyone else who believes that photography plays an important role in educating people about our world.” I signed up for a free membership back in 2008, but never got around to becoming a paying member, though probably I should have done. When it started I think it was free to submit work, and I seem to recall doing so, but soon there was a fee to retain the work on the site. It was, as they say, a modest fee, but I decided against it.

You can read more on their ‘About SDN‘ page which includes the following requirements for the images they publish:

  1. Aesthetic quality. The photographs must have a strong point of view and have a deliberate and meaningful composition.
  2. Documentary integrity. The images and the writing must avoid sensationalism, factual information must be accurate, and the images must be respectful of the subject and viewer.
  3. Technical quality of digital files (resolution, focus, exposure, etc.) Only fewer than 10% of exhibits are not approved and we work with a photographers to bring their exhibit up to the level required to go live. We do not edit or curate exhibits. The content on SDN is completely user-generated.

If I hadn’t already got an extensive web site – or rather several, including My London Diary and of course this blog I would probably have thought more seriously about becoming a paying member, making more submissions and paying the fees to keep them on-line.  The membership page makes the benefits clear.

I still get the monthly newsletter, and this month’s links to an article in the Spring 2019 issue, which you can read online or susbscribe to get a print version. This is The Roma and Traveller Issue, with some fine documentary photography and some very informative articles.

I first became involved with travellers back in the 1960s – before I really took photos – when along with other students I went to protect them from eviction from one of the many cleared areas of derelict land close to the university in Manchester. We sat down to stop site clearance and were invited into several of their caravans for tea and conversation.

In more recent years I’ve been occasionally involved in Roma protests, visiting Dale Farm and in central London, but have never really photographed in depth, perhaps put off from doing so by several rather fine bodies of published work featuring them. The best known of these is of course by Magnum’s Josef Koudelka, very much a traveller himself (though not from the community); Zeke includes a largely positive review of the re-publication of that work, though having a copy of the 1975 book (the UK edition) I don’t feel the need to buy the new revised version, despite the apparently superior quality of its quadtone reproductions. Perhaps the more graphic nature of that earlier publication suits the pictures, though I’ve not yet been able to compare them directly.

Which Camera?

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

Its perhaps interesting to see which cameras were used to take the winning pictures in World Press Photo, though the sample is so small (I think 38) it isn’t possible to draw any really strong conclusions from them. They continue to be dominated by Canon and Nikon DSLRs, but I doubt if the one can really draw any conclusions about the relative popularity of the two marques from the different proportions from year to year. There are articles in various places on the web about this, including Fstoppers and PetaPixel, all relying on an article in a Spanish magazine. But I’ll try to give my own perspective.

The DSLR remains the camera of choice for most working professional news photographers for good reasons, and they are likely to use the more expensive models designed for professional use. The actual models change over the years, rather more rapidly than they would have done years ago, both because the manufacturers bring out new models with at least minor improvements, but also because they simply do not last as long as cameras used to, with major repairs usually being uneconomic. So while the SLR I bought back in 1973 is still actually capable of taking pictures (though in terrible condition after I used it for almost 30 years), I’ve written off two DSLRs bought in the last ten years.

DSLRs are flexible and relatively reliable, usable with lenses of every focal length – and a huge range of them available. Professional models at least can be used in all kinds of conditions (or almost all) and are reasonably weather-proof, important to many of us. They can do almost any photographic job, even if there are better tools for some. Since I went seriously digital I’ve used Nikon DSLRs for almost all of my work. When I went into digital, Nikon had the best camera at an affordable price with the D100 and I’ve upgraded though a whole series of new models to the D810, though never moving to the top of the range models such as the D5, which have always seemed just too large and too heavy for any advantages they might have. When the D810 comes to the end of its life I’ll probably replace it with another Nikon DSLR.

I’ve never worked with a Canon DSLR. I’m sure once I got used to it I’d find it as good as the Nikon, but over the years I’ve built up a collection of Nikon lenses, most of which have their uses, though I only regularly use three of them, and a system change would be expensive.

But I have for some years wanted to move to a smaller, lighter system, and for some years I’ve also been using Fuji cameras too. They feature in the winners list too, though I think the interpretation I’ve seen of this in various articles is rather lacking. Fuji-X cameras split into three very distinct groups – the fixed lens X100 series – used by three of the winners, the rangefinder style X-Pros with one winner, and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras which fail to feature. All of the four Fuji images in the list were taken with cameras which have – like the DSLR – an optical viewfinder.

I’m increasingly working with cameras without an optical viewfinder, including the Fuji XT1 and an Olympus OMD E-M5II (I remain convinced Olympus would double their sales if they came up with a sensible naming system) and although their digital viewfinders are good, they are still lacking compared to the directness of an optical finder. The Fuji is frustrating in not always being ready to take a picture – sometimes the quickest way seems to be to switch it off and on, and while the Olympus is better in this respect, I find its menu system and function buttons etc confusing, and sometimes the camera seems to have a mind of its own, refusing to stay on auto WB or some other setting I’ve made. Nikons just seem easier to keep control of (though they have their quirks.)

Of course if you are going to use Nikon or Canon’s top of the range DSLRs you will be probably be using full-frame (though perversely I often use the D810 at 1.2x or even APS-C) though few of us ever need the full size files. I didn’t consider Micro 4/3 cameras for years, but using the Olympus has rather changed my mind.

Although the name Leica still comes up with one entry, this is the Leica Q, a fixed lens camera rather than a traditional M-series camera. The nearest to that in the list is perhaps the Fuji X-Pro2, and that, along with four relatively compact fixed lens cameras (three from Fuji and the Leica) making the winners does seem to me to be a very high proportion. There are still situations where a relatively small and less obtrusive camera is the best for the job.

Do Not Bend

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

The film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay produced by Grant Scott’s The United Nations of Photography casts an interesting light on photography in the UK in the 1970s at a time when I was just coming into the medium, though so far I’ve only taken a brief look at a few sections of it. The full film is over an hour and a half long, and I hope to have time to watch it all before long – when I may have more to say about it. If you don’t already know something about Bill Jay it would be worth reading the web site above before watching it.

It does contain insights from a number of photographers and others I’ve come across over the years, including a few I got to know fairly well at various times and one who is a good friend I visit regularly, and whose view on it I will be interested to hear.

It has already been shown at a number of screenings here and in the US, but Grant Scott and Tim Pellatt who were the team behind the documentary have now made the film available to view for free on Youtube.

Whaling or a woman?

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

I’m not sure why a protest against Japan’s plans to resume commercial whaling should be such a Conservative occasion as this clearly was, with a strong presence from the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation as well as Boris’s father Stanley Johnson and Tory MEP for the East of England John Flack as speakers.

Animal rights is an issue that cuts across party divides, but the more radical side of the movement including most of those I’ve photographed at protests against the annual slaughter of dolphins at Taiji cove outside the Japanese Embassy seemed to be missing.

I’m clearly not sufficiently aware of the political nature of conservation and animal welfare, and this does appear to have been organised by Conservatives for Conservative conservationists, with no speakers from Labour, Lib-Dem, Green or other parties in Cavendish Square.

But we did see some disgraceful behaviour by some photographers, pushing protesters and other photographers out of their way as they rushed to photograph conservationist and former Tory spin doctor Carrie Symonds, not for anything she had to say, but because she was Boris Johnson’s girlfriend. I try to avoid occasions where the paparazzi are at work, as on this occasion butressing their reputation as the scum of photography.

And unfortunately their rudeness and assaults were rewarded at least by the popular press, whose accounts of the event hardly mentioned whales and were almost entirely illustrated by pictures (some rather poor) of Symonds and gossip about her and Boris. For the media it was about the woman rather than whaling.

Of course I did photograph her too, and did file four of her in the 44 pictures to the agency from the event, rather more than of the others who spoke, and you can see those pictures along with many others at ‘No Whaling’ rally and march.

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images

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