Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

Magnum Capa

Friday, April 21st, 2017

As regular readers will know, I’ve followed with interest the long series of investigative articles by A D Coleman and his team of co-workers ferreting out the truth about Robert Capa’s D-Day pictures. There are after all few more iconic photographic images than Capa’s grainy and blurred US soldier in the surf of Omaha beach, and the story surrounding it must thus be of great interest in photographic history.

So while to learn about the whole nest of stories that have been deliberately built up to hide the facts came as something as a shock (even though its central story of the darkroom mishap had never been believable) it was good that at last we were getting to the true story. And while it isn’t always one that reflects well on Capa, it doesn’t alter my assessment of him as a photographer.

The latest instalment, Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (32), does include a mention of my post here, A Capa Controversy, and describes it as “thoughtful, balanced, and closely attentive to the specifics.”

Mostly it looks at the recent re-publication on the Magnum site of D-Day and the Omaha Beach landings, a chapter from the 2004 book ‘Magnum Stories‘, edited by Chris Boot, which begins in a bad way with the sub-head declaration “The only photographer landing with the first wave on Omaha Beach, Robert Capa’s iconic photographs provide a unique documentation of the event“.

It’s hard to make a great deal of sense out of some of the introduction to a lengthy quotation from Capa’s own ‘Slightly Out of Focus‘ story of D-Day, although it does remind us that Capa’s book was written “with film rights in mind” and that on its rear cover Capa tells readers that he has allowed himself to go “slightly beyond and slightly this side” of the truth. His was a radically different approach to Gene Smith’s ‘Let Truth be the Prejudice’.

Of course it’s impossible to know exactly what happened on D-Day, though there are some other relevant eye-witness accounts, but I think that we can be sure that “my friend Larry, the Irish padre of the regiment, who could swear better than any amateur” and the “Irish priest and the Jewish doctor” are simply a part of the Hollywood treatment rather than Omaha beach, along with much of the rest – and that Capa took only ten or eleven of the 106 pictures he mentions.

My other complaint about the Magnum chapter is that by mixing pictures taken by Capa before leaving for France and with others from after he left Omaha beach along with half a dozen of the 10 images it attempts to mislead readers as to his actual work on D-Day, though careful attention to the captions would probably clarify things for the careful reader.

As Coleman says, Capa remains an important asset to Magnum, who offer “second- or third-generation derivatives” of two of his D-Day pictures at $3500 each which he describes as “nothing more than posh, high-priced posters.” Copyright normally extends only to 70 years after the artists death, so unless Magnum have some way to extend their monopoly, others could market such prints from 2024.

Of course it goes beyond this. Capa was the driving force behind the foundation of Magnum and something of a deity so far as the organisation is concerned. I’m not quite sure what “he created a narrative myth for Magnum too that has helped propel it over more than half a century” means, if anything, but I think it is more religious dogma than rational thought.

Something completely different?

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Most new cameras that are announced are pretty much the same as our old ones, though the marketing guys would like us all to get all excited about a few more mega-pixels or slightly faster autofocus and other minor improvements, many of which we will never use. And often we fall for it and spend our cash on the latest model, hoping it will in some way revolutionize our picture-making.

Of course all these improvements do add up over time. The Nikon D810 I now use is significantly better in so many ways than my first digital SLR, the D100 in 2002, with its small, dim, viewfinder and its 6Mp sensor. But by the time they brought out the D200 or D300, Nikon had more or less sorted out the major issues, though they tempted me with full frame in 2008 and I upgraded to the D700 the following year. Nikon had actually said for some years that we didn’t need to have full-frame for digital cameras, and essentially they were correct for pretty much all I do – the main advantage is a little more light into the viewfinder, though often I work in DX format as I like being able to view outside the frame – an advantage the Nikon marketing department keep quiet about.

Incidentally, this is a feature that works better on the D810 (and 800) than on the D750. With the D750 you see the viewfinder frame, but it is easier to ignore, especially in the heat of the moment when what you see gets exciting, and I’ve several times framed and taken what I think would have been a great image, only to find later that I’d actually lost half of it and only taken the central part. With the D810 there is some esoteric combination of custom settings (don’t ask me – search in your manual) which allows you to grey out the non-image area of the viewfinder. You can still see the area outside the picture, but it’s very obvious it isn’t a part of the picture.

But there haven’t really been any great advances. I’d still be using the D700 if it hadn’t gone legs up after a little over 520,000 exposures (not bad as it was only rated for 150,000.) It does have a few other minor faults, but it’s still sitting on my desk waiting for me to bother to get an estimate for repair, though I’m convinced it will be beyond economic – along with my 16-35mm f4 lens.

Over the years I’ve read about several new cameras that claimed to be truly revolutionary, and the latest is the Light L16. When I first read about it around a year ago I was frankly a disbeliever, and certainly not convinced enough to risk the thousand dollars or so to back the campaign and get an early camera. The video on its web site explains the concept, with 16 lenses with focal length equivalents of 28 to 150mm, using 10 of them each time you take a picture and digitally combining their images. They promise this will give ‘DLSR quality’ equivalent to using 28 to 150mm lenses from a package the size of a rather fat smartphone.

The camera will produce 52Mp images and will enable you to choose focus and depth of field after taking the picture. I remain more than a little sceptical, but cameras should soon be going out to those who pre-ordered and are expected be on sale to the rest of us towards the end of the year. If it lives up to their expectations, they may be correct in their claim it will be the most significant advance in camera technology since the first Leica. Just a shame they don’t have a wide-angle version!

Police Station Occupied

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Sometimes I look at the pictures long after an event and realise with a start that I forgot or failed to see what would have been an obvious picture, and in this case, when Focus E15 briefly occupied a police station, it was a good, clear image using the sign above the door which read ‘POLICE’. It is visible in a number of pictures, but clearly I hadn’t managed to take one that really made good use of it.

Of course it may not have been that I hadn’t wanted to or even tried. Sometimes I can see possibilities, but they don’t happen spontaneously – and it goes completely against my principles to set things up. Looking through the 45 or so images on-line in Focus E15 Occupy Police Station it seemed fairly clear that I was aware of the sign and I wondered why I hadn’t managed to make better use of it.

So I went back to my backup of the day’s work on my NAS, a Drobo 5N that sits to my right, and went through the pictures for the day – around 330 of them. So many have that sign in them that it was clear I was trying hard to include it, but didn’t manage to do so well enough to for  those pictures to make the web page. People just didn’t stand and set up things in the right place. Perhaps the best attempt was the image above, though it might be better had I taken it in portrait format – like this:

but I can see why I chose not to use this, as it definitely isn’t a flattering angle for Jasmin Stone. And while I don’t set out to flatter I try to present people well.

I can also see other images in the set that are on-line that I’ve framed to get that word in, notably where a police officer comes to talk with the protesters:

but at the critical moment, where the expression on the officer’s face and those of the protesters are at their most interesting, one of the protesters waves a Focus E15 flag in front of that word.  I can almost feel myself shouting ‘CUT!’ and saying ‘OK, lets run that scene again, and this time can we keep the effing flag to the left of the doorway’, but this isn’t a film set, and I’m not a director.

It is there in my favourite frame from the set, but rather in the background, but I’m fairly sure that would be why I was standing where I was to photograph Jasmin speaking. It was slightly tricky to take pictures, as it was a busy road and the pavement isn’t particularly wide, and there was a steady stream of people walking past as the annual Newham show was taking place in the park down the road.

Of course this wasn’t the only thing to photograph. This was the pavement outside and the occupation was taking place up above, not quite inside the building, but on the balconies.  Here’s just one picture of that, with one of the ‘occupiers’ holding up a ‘selfie stick’ which E15 produced so that people could pose with Robin Wales, the feudal Labour Mayor of Newham who features in their posters as ‘Robin the Poor’ and who had to apologise for his arrogant and rude behaviour to Focus E15 at a previous ‘Mayor’s Newham Show’ – not a previous Mayor’s show, but a previous show – the Labour Party machine in Newham, essentially a one-party state – runs the voting to ensure that no-one but Robin from the party can stand as mayor.

I’ve written a longer than usual article about the afternoon and Focus E15’s campaign at  Focus E15 Occupy Police Station where you can view my selection of pictures from the afternoon.
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More Brexit

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

It remains difficult to see anything positive coming out of our vote to leave Europe, and it seems to have brought out a number of the worst sides of parts of the British public, with an increase in racist attacks and bullying. Another Europe is Possible hosted a rally opposite Downing St against this climate of fear and hatred after the Brexit vote, calling for an end to scapegoating of migrants and Islamophobia.

Its long seemed irrational to me to allow the free movement of capital but to restrict the movement of people; if the market is a good enough mechanism for one it should be for all, though perhaps we might be better with a certain amount of planning and intervention in both. But certainly we don’t need the kind of draconian measures that the UK currently takes against migrants in general and refugees and asylum seekers in particular. The contribution that migration has made both economically, in maintaining essential services and in broadening our culture during my lifetime has been enormous and a genuinely free press would welcome and praise it – and politicians would then not be able to stir up the kind or racist and xenophobic responses that were behind many of the votes to leave Europe.

I arrived as Anna from Movement for Justice was speaking about the terrible injustice and maltreatment of asylum seekers in our detention prisons such as Yarls Wood, and photographed her framed by MfJ posters; a still image doesn’t tell us what anyone was saying, but the posters make MfJ’s arguments clear.

Of course we can’t ignore the Brexit vote, close though it was, but it is still worth fighting for the kind of Brexit it is going to be, keeping up the pressure on Theresa May (and her possible successors) not to throw out the baby with the bathwater as they currently seem determined to do.

Another of the speakers as Syrian activist Muzna Al-Naib, urging the UK to take action over the atrocities of the Assad regime and to offer real support to the Syrian people and to offer refuge to more than the small handful of Syrian refugees that have already managed to come to the UK –  largely despite the efforts of our government.  Her’s was a message that called for love and for unity of peoples and again a banner on the barrier she was speaking behind seemed appropriate.

The Europe, Free Movement and Migrants protest ended with many of those present leaving to go to the Green Park Brexit Picnic,  and while many marched there, I took the tube. The picnic had been advertised as an opportunity for people to come together and debate the future under Brexit, though the great majority of those attending were obviously still feeling upset and cheated over the result of the vote obtained by an essentially dishonest campaign.

Those at the picnic were splitting up in to small groups to debate various aspects of the future as I arrived , some very small like that above, which seemed to me to be seceding into a small island of Europe in the sea of grass, and others considerably larger, circles with perhaps 20 or 30 or 40 people, and they were getting down to some sensible, organised and at times fairly heated discussions.

One group stood out, Brexit supporters who had come to counter the protest with their own ‘picnic for democracy’ organised by Spiked magazine calling for ‘Article 50’ to be invoked ‘NOW!’ They stood out in several ways, not least the number of empty cans and wine bottles and it was clearly in that respect a rather better party than the rest. I started to photograph them and got sworn at and threatened by one or two people who recognised me from right-wing protests I had photographed, but then they found a new outlet for aggression as the march from Downing St arrived with posters against Brexit and were joined by people wearing t-shirts with the message ‘Spread Love Not Fear’ and calling for ‘Hugs for Immigrants’ rather than hate.

There was some angry name-calling and posturing, but people from both groups came across and tried to calm things down, and stopped what had seemed an inevitable fight from developing.  The shouting had attracted the TV crews covering the event, and there was then a little largely good-natured jostling to get greater coverage from the cameras.

Having taken my pictures, I moved a few yards away and sat down to eat my own rather late sandwich lunch, after which as things seemed to have calmed down I decided to leave to cover another event.

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Hackney Women against D V

Monday, April 10th, 2017


It was the first event of East End Sisters Uncut and a protest against domestic violence and the failure of Hackney Council to take the problem seriously – 60% of women who desperately need a refuge are turned away as there is no room for them.

I didn’t know any of the women who were there are the start and felt just a little awkward photographing at a women-only event, though I don’t think I really needed to be. But I like to blend in and photograph form inside the protest, and it just felt a little uncomfortable. Though I think it was entirely within my naturally very shy mind. People sometimes laugh when I admit I find it very hard to take photographs, but it’s true. And some days, some events, I never quite manage to overcome that shyness. There is always an initial barrier I have to overcome, and there have even been a few rare occasions on bad days when I’ve turned around and walked away rather than take pictures.

Once the protest really started things were easier, though I did have some arguments with the two women who sere security guards on the steps of Hackney Town Hall. These look and feel to me like a public place, but they were being policed officiously as private property, and although they were not in use and empty they insisted I move off from them. Hackney hire out parts of the town hall for weddings and they use the steps for wedding photographs, but there was no wedding there at the time- and I would have kept out of the way had one emerged.

I argued a bit, and took a few pictures before moving off them, but perhaps I should have stuck up more for my rights. But the protesters had moved off them when they were told they had to, and though I was annoyed, it was more important to photograph the protest rather than make my own protest.

And of course I wanted to get in closer to the people who were taking part in the protest and take their pictures. It’s always good to get images from different viewpoints, and I like ot keep my eyes open for places where I can look down on events, but the really good pictures usually come from getting down and getting close.

Although the steps were fine so far as I was concerned, increasingly I do have problems with climbing up on anything less solid. Where I used to climb on top of all sorts of street furniture to photograph from a higher viewpoint, I now have to chose more carefully, looking for places that are really solid and where I have something firm to hang on to. Stand on a wall or a box without support and I begin to shake uncontrollably, getting blurry images and in danger of falling. I think I’ve always had slight problems with balance, but in recent years it has got far worse.

It didn’t look as if much was likely to happen, everything was very quiet and ordered and there seemed to be a number of speeches coming, and I decided I could leave to go to other events that day.

This was something of a mistake, as not long after I left things rather kicked off. The protest took to the steps I’d been ordered off earlier, and set of flares and protested noisily before going off to occupy a flat nearby in their protest against the failure of Hackney Council to take seriously the need to provide refuges for women who have to leave homes because of domestic violence. They set up a flat as a refuge and kept it going for several weeks before they were evicted.

I should have talked to some of those organising the protest and found out what was happening, but the event was running rather later than I’d hoped and I was keen to be elsewhere. I should learn, as too often I try to do too much.
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Awesome!

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

There is, according to the Everypixel Aesthetics Test, a 99.6% chance that my picture uploaded to their test page below is awesome:

Well, actually it isn’t, just a rather ordinary image, typical of many that I take. Publishable? Yes, and fairly nicely done, but certainly not awesome. Here it is rather larger so you can judge for yourself:

It’s clear, leaves no doubt about what it is – spells out in the banner who the group is carrying it and why they are protesting.  And they are obviously marching down a street in London as I caerfully took it with ‘Big Ben’ in the background. You can see too that it is part of a larger demonstration as there is another banner to the right. Clearly the people are actually walking along a road – except for one in the middle – and you see the wheels of her wheelchair.  It’s competent, even precise (if rather hurriedly processed)  but awesome? No.

I tried out the 14 images currently on the front page of my website My London Diary, on the test page, and the results were interesting, with this image getting the highest score, though there were others that ran it close.  And one that I rather like that only scored around 25%.

Clearly the algorithm used to set the scores needs some more work, and I doubt it will ever be able to spot the awesome, though it might well be able to weed out the truly hopeless. And when I hear some picture editors get sent 50,000 images a day that could certainly be useful.  There is a disclaimer on the page, which admits it isn’t really – despite the name – makeing aesthetic judgements at all. It states:

Surprised by the result? This service doesn’t measure the coolness or beauty of a person or any object in a photo. It cares only about technical parts like brightness, contrast, noise and so on. Service doesn’t dedicate for historical photos, illustrations or 3D visualizations.

What is surprising – and perhaps even at the currrent basic level useful is the ability to generate keywords from the visual content. This is perhaps a fairly simple image, and some of the others I tried were a little more impressive, but here is the algorithm-generated list for the image above:

Protest, People, Marching, Flag, Parade, Men, Cultures, Outdoors, Editorial, Protestor, Street, Sign,

It isn’t 100% accurate – but then neither are my own hand-crafted keywords for images, particularly since time constraints often mean I’ll synchronise a list across a whole set of images, and only fine-tune them for individual images if I have time later.  Obviously this list doesn’t have any of the more specific keywords I’d find essential, but only because the agency I place most pictures with doesn’t make sensible use of captions for searching its image library.

Writing good captions is essential – and the old rules still hold, though so many images on the web and on many sites selling images are full of images are lacking. But captions for photographs to go in an online library are not the same as captions that will be used when an image is printed in a newspaper, magazine or book.

One of the old and good rules about captions in printed material is not to state the obvious. But to be computer searchable image captions need to include the obvious as they will generally be read without the image when searches are conducted. And while you may send a batch of images and feel you don’t need to mention some piece of information on every one, you have to remember that searchers – machine and human – are often going to see just a single one of them.

The 5 W’s remain essential:

  • What
  • Who
  • Where
  • When
  • Why

and sometimes there is a How worth adding.

Something like Everypixel or an enhanced version of it, taken together with software that could parse captions to generate keywords from them could make assigning keywords unnecessary. Actually computing power is now such that there is no reason not to search captions and give them greater significance in searches. After all, any editor likely to want to use that picture above would be looking for a generic ‘Protest’  but would be interested in a protest about ‘disability rights’ or the UN and UK disagrement or the organisation named on the banner or some other specific. And those would be in the caption but are not in Everypixel keywords.

Going further down the Everypixel web page we find that they actually – despite the disclaimer above – make the claim that their ‘Heartless algorithm‘ has  ‘learned to see the beauty of shoots in the same way as you do‘ because it has been trained using Artificial Intelligence techniques on a sample of images provided for them by ‘designers, editors and experienced stock photographers‘.  My short test on the site suggests to me that there is still a very long way to go.

I rather hope it does work, as they suggest it might be used for ‘intelligent image curation‘, giving high-scoring images a higer ranking in search results, and I think I would generally benefit from this. I’m often apalled at the poor quality images used by the press when I know that much better and more appropriate images by myself and others are available if only those resonsible for finding images had done a better search.

But I’m just a little worried about it being used to weed out low-scoring images. I suspect it would eliminate all of the most creative and unusual pictures along with the rubbish. It does give some scores in the 20% range to some of my favourite images.

But I’m pleased to say that sometimes I agree with the software!

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London Mix

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Some days there are just too many things happening in London. Well all days there are, but I mean too many things that I have access to and am trying to photograph, and June 28th last year was one of them. And in the early evening there were three protests occurring simultaneously in the same area of Trafalgar Square and to make things worse it was raining steadily and fairly intensively.

Rain isn’t necessarily a bad thing for photographers, and umbrellas can offer some visual interest – I once published an article ‘The umbrella in photography’ looking at examples by a number of photographers including Kertesz, though I have to admit I’ve probably seen more than enough pictures made through rain-drenched windows to last several lifetimes.

But umbrellas in crowds are something of a problem. Unless you have an assistant holding a large one over your head, they become pretty impossible to use when using a camera. If you are alone in plenty of space and there is little wind it can be manageable to hold one tucked under your left arm and held up by your wrist as you hold a camera to your eye, but this becomes untenable in crowds, as you get buffeted by other brollies and yours will uncontrollably poke other people in their eyes.

Working without one, you get wet. Wetter than just the rain would make you, as those other umbrellas around direct the rain they protect the holders from onto you, and unless you are wearing a hood, unerringly down the back of your neck, making you sodden from inside your clothing. In winter I wear a good waterproof jacket with an integral hood, but even an expensive ‘breathable’ coat becomes unbearably hot in summer.

Cameras too suffer from water. Even those that are ‘weather-sealed’ will slowly drown, but lenses generally go first. You can keep wiping the front surface with a chamois or microfibre cloth (and I often walk around holding one in front of the lens), but you do have to remove it to make the exposure. Zoom lenses which alter their length pump moisture into their interior as you alter the zoom, and even those that only move internal elements had something of the same tendency. Something that seldom gets a mention in the manuals is that lens hoods, at least with telephoto lenses, are at their most useful in keeping the rain off.

I do have a kind of plastic raincoat for my camera, but its a real pain to use, and though it diverts the rain (except from the front lens surface) it doesn’t stop the moisture. Usually I put one camera away in my bag to keep dry, and keep the other under my jacket as much as possible – though that does mean leaving my jacket rather open so the rain (and those brolly drips) can enter too.

And when the lens clouds over due to condensation on its inner elements, I take the other camera out of the bag and work with that. Until it goes too. Usually I’ve at least one more dry lens in the bag to change to, though that may mean I end up taking far more pictures than I really should on the 16mm fisheye.

When all my cameras, lenses and clothes are sodden, its time to give up and go home. Though at such times I always remember what my father used to tell us kids when we complained about getting wet, ‘You’ve got a waterproof skin’.

You can read what the protests were about and see more pictures on ‘My London Diary’:

Act Up for Love
London Still Stays

The third protest was a group of four women protesting over the agreement between the South Korean and Japanese government over ‘comfort women’, the Koreans used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers in the second Worlad War – and I only used the one picture above.

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Brexit shock

Monday, March 27th, 2017

The Brexit vote came as a shock to most of us, not least to David Cameron who had planned the whole referendum as a way of keeping his even more right wing chums in Parliament quiet, certainly the biggest political mistake so far of this century. Though it was one which his colleague who succeeded him seems determined to worsen by refusing to make the kind of compromises over our divorce from Europe that might have made the split bearable.

The referendum result, although it confounded the media and the opinion pollsters, didn’t come as a huge surprise to those of us who had been following the campaign, and in particular the way it had been reported in the media, and in particular the BBC. While we had seen for years a hate campaign against Europe and migrants in the whole of the popular press, it was rather a shock to us that the BBC made such a determined effort to promote Nigel Farage and his delusional opinions (along with his mates from the Conservative Party) in the run up to the vote.

There were of course some at the BBC who tried to present the facts rather than the UKIP spin, but they seemed to have little effect on the news coverage, which gloried in reporting the ridiculous lies of the Leave campaign as if they made any sense, while failing to report at all much of the more sensible aspects of what was overall a rather lacklustre Remain campaign.

One contribution to this BBC failure was of course their continuing campaign to belittle Jeremy Corbyn, whose many appearances around the country arguing Labour’s nuanced campaign to remain in the EU hardly got a mention. But as on some other issues, BBC ideas about ‘balance’ also prevented a truly unbiased coverage – as when they give equal prominence to the views of those few climate sceptics as to the huge majority of scientific evidence for the man-made contribution to climate change.

So while the fairly narrow vote to leave the EU came as a shock, it was hardly a surprise, and its consequences almost certainly disastrous. That such a small majority should lead to such a momentous decision still seems an unbelievable idiocy on Cameron’s part to many of us. It should have been made clear when the vote was set up that a simple small majority would not be binding on the government.

Defend All Migrants was a reaction to this shock, and it was one that brought home to me the reality of ‘Fake News’, seeing an ultra-right US ‘news’ site operating at first hand. Their team at the protest had clearly not come along to report on the event, but to try and provoke a reaction by the way they behaved and the questions they asked.

While it might have been more sensible for the protesters to have ignored them it was actually inevitable that they would provoke some reaction – which was why they had come there. And as usual when trouble-makers try to protest and stir up the situation, eventually the police strongly advised them to leave. I’m not sure if they actually escorted them out of the park, but I’m fairly sure they would have done if they didn’t go without an escort.

Behaviour like this by people who pose as journalists but are really political activists threatens all of us who work as journalists. I was disturbed that some colleagues took the side of these fake reporters whose activities are a real threat to the freedom of the press. Those of us who were there as genuine journalists faced no problems in reporting this event, but when people come along posing as journalists and acting provocatively it makes our job more difficult.

The rally proceeded and it was good to hear speakers from a wide range of organisations, all speaking up to defend migrants at a time when many were coming under attack after the vote to leave the EU – which had been widely seen as a way of cutting down migration to the UK. It isn’t likely to have a great effect on levels of migration, as we will still need people to come here to staff our hospitals, to work in old peoples homes, on our building sites, as agricultural workers etc – to do all the jobs that there are not enough people here qualified or willing to do.

And we will still have refugees seeking asylum, particularly while this country and companies based here encourage, fund and take part in perpetuating war and famine in countries around the world.

After the rally, many of those present took part in a march, which was to go to News International, home of The Sun and The Times, both of which have spread lies and scapegoated immigrants. As I wrote in a caption, ‘Murdoch hates Europe because unlike UK governments they don’t do what he tells them.’

Although it’s destination was clear, the route the marchers took certainly wasn’t, and those leading it turned down a side street on seeing more police ahead, and then got rather lost. There was much looking at maps on phones by those at the front and I began to wonder if they would ever find their way or keep wandering through the back streets of the city for ever.

I knew exactly where I was and decided I had walked far enough and was beginning to get hungry. When the march turned to the north, walking in exactly the opposite direction to its destination I decided I’d had enough and caught a bus for the station and my train home.

Defend All Migrants

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She was ready

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Benjamin Chesterton on his Duckrabbit blog posted last Sunday “She was ready and actually pushed the tweet button” about a series of pictures by Welsh photographer Dan Wood who “discovered photography through skateboarding” in 1995 and is a member of the Artist Collective: Document Britain which I have to admit I’ve never heard of before.

Duckrabbit writes about Wood’s ‘Shoot the damn dog‘, a project on his wife’s struggles with depression, post-natal depression and makes his point so well that I’ll leave you to read it. And when he asked Wood how she flet about him publishing the work, the reply he got from the photographer was that 3 years after he made the work, “She was ready and actually pushed the tweet button”.

On Lensculture you can read an interview with Wood about the project he began in 2013 ‘Suicide Machine‘ after the town where he lives, Bridgend, was named as having an unusually high suicide rate, along with a set of images of those who live there from his book of the same name. They were taken on his Hasselblad 500CM using colour film, and Wood still sees film as central to the way that he works: “it’s always been about film for me: shooting, developing, printing, scanning, the cameras, I love it all, especially the pace in which you work.”

You can see more of his work on his own web site, including both black and white and colour work, much based on Wales, but also elsewhere.

Street talk

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Thomas Stanworth asks Is Street Photography Killing Itself?, and gives an excellent summary of some of the reasons why so much of it is boring and pointless, along with many images culled from the web to support his case. It’s an article that will probably be reacted to with some forceful comments, particularly from those who either haven’t bothered to read it or who have failed to understand it.

Personally I’ve never been convinced ‘street photography‘ was ever alive. I’ve written a little before about it and my feeling that it is not a real or useful category, something which I think becomes entirely obvious if you read it’s ‘bible’, Westerbeck & Meyerowitz’s ‘Bystander. Fortunately almost none of those whose work is in its pages considered themselves as a ‘street photographer’; they were all taking photographs on or from the streets – as opposed to working in a studio – but they all went on to those streets with particular ideas and stories they were interested and involved in photographing.

The problem with most so-called ‘street photography’ I see now is simply that it is vacuous. Stanworth uses a lot of examples and explains the point well, and there are a couple of sentences in the middle giving a little advice to those who must be street photographers that I think really the crux:

“However, just engaging in the subject of photography helps. Learning a little more about yourself helps. Learning about the people and environment around you and your thoughts and reactions to it helps. The sad truth is that most of our effort in photography amounts to nothing.”

‘Street photography’ in general is, as he said, seen as ‘cool’. It is generally cool in that it is unengaged, using a small ragbag of tricks to produce images as deep as the average street puddle.

In his final sentences Stanworth again makes his views clear:

“And here we are back to the supreme importance of relationships, expression and connection. Without these things, both just become repetitive, predictable acts that lose their lustre.”

For a quite different piece of writing by Stanworth, I’ve also been reading his review of the Fuji X100F on his Photofundamentalist blog. It’s very much a photographer’s review rather than the technical tour-de-forces that sites such as DPreview.com offer, and one that complements their work well.  It makes me think I really ought to buy one, though having also read his view on the Ricoh GR I think I might find that more useful – if I can live without an optical viewfinder, though there is a rather expensive external accessory that will fit in the hot shoe.

His photography is also worth a look.