Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

Italy in London

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Another July and another Annual Procession in Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel from St Peter’s Church in Clerkenwell, an event which has been taking place for around 135 years – every year except during the two world wars.  It’s very much a day out for Italians living in London and further afield, and as well as the procession, which includes Biblical tableaux on lorries, various walking groups, some in costume, others carrying banners or statues etc, and first communicants and clergy, there is also a fair with rows of stalls selling Italian food and drink and other things.

The highlight of the procession – for me at least – is the release of doves by the clergy, and its something I try hard to get a good picture of. But you rely on two unpredictable elements – the clergy and the doves, even when you are in the right place at the right time and ‘f8’ – the correct camera settings.

It isn’t always possible to be exactly in the right place – and in an ideal world I would have preferred a closer and lower viewpoint – and to have the three releasing the doves to have their backs to the church. I had put in a request to the man providing the doves to do his best to get them released together (and I’m sure he tried his best)  the man on the right beat his two colleagues to it, his dove flying high above the other two.

At least this year all three doves were caught in a single frame, though I had to work with a fairly wide angle (28mm) to get them. To freeze motion I was working at 1/500th, and being a bright sunny day this gave me an aperture of f11 for plenty of depth of field at ISO 400.  There are two images with the doves in flight on My London Diary, and they came from a burst of exposures using continous exposure on the Nikon D810, though I’ve cropped the second image.

After a bad experience using two Fuji cameras in an earlier year (one ran out of battery at the critical moment and the other just didn’t want to know when I pressed the shutter – in some Fuji cussedness mode) I’d taken the always reliable Nikon for the event. You don’t get any second chance with this.

As soon as the procession, with the parishoners joining on behind, had moved away from the church I hurried down the hill to the Sagra below where I knew several photographer friends would be waiting for me, with one thrusting a glass of Italian red wine into my hand as I arrived.  One particular stall always has wine cheaper than the rest and we return there every year at the event which has become a social event for us.

By the time we had finished our second glass (or possibly more) the fair was filling up, and I moved through the crowds taking pictures on the rather more discrete Fuji X-E3 and the wider 10-24mm, now my favourite among the Fuji cameras I own, as well as some with the Nikon and 28-200mm. It’s a combination of cameras and lenses I might try to use more, as I sometimes find the 18-35mm Nikon just not quite wide enough – the Fuji lens is a 15-36mm equivalent and extremely sharp.

More pictures and information:
Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession
Sagra – Italian festival


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


Yarl’s Wood 14

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

I’m getting rather used to the ride from Bedford Station to Yarls Wood, going up through Clapham and then a mile or so on a cycle path beside the A6 befgore turning up the hill from Milton Ernest to the meeting point for protesters in front of the Twinwoods gates. That final hill is long and steep, though it’s something of shock to look at the OS map and find I’ve only climbed around 45 metres (around 150 ft) as it feels much more.

This was the 14th protest that Movement for Justice have organised, bringing many former detainees with them, with coaches from London and elsewhere. I could have joined them in London, but that would add another 3 or 4 hours to what is already a long day for me – and one that leaves me with perhaps another 3 or 4 hours to select, process and caption the pictures I’ve taken. It would be rather quicker if I didn’t keep dozing off at the keyboard while doing it, my finger on a key sending Lightroom into a frenzy of paging through the images which takes minutes to recover. And sometimes the doze is deep enough for my nose to hit the keyboard…

MfJ have come in for considerable criticism following their treatment of one member over a personal issue, which has led to a number of groups refusing to work with them. While some of the criticisms appear to be justified, others suggested a remarkable ignorance about the organisation, which has never hidden its background and organisation. It isn’t something I would join, but I admire and am happy to support the stand they have taken on several issues, and particularly on immigration and immigration detention.

But the controversy has meant smaller protests at Yarls Wood, which is a shame, although there has been a rival protest on another date which perhaps helps to keep up the pressure on the issue. And the absence of some of the other groups has made the evident support that the MfJ gets from former detainees even more obvious. However MfJ decides on and organises the events, it is the former detainees who make the great majority of the speeches and lead most of the chanting and other activities during the protests, and my pictures show this clearly.

It’s clear too how welcome the protests are to those people, women and families, held inside Yarl’s Wood who are able to get to one of the windows which overlook the protest, or to make contace with the protesters by mobile phone, despite the efforts of the guards inside to keep them away. It’s difficult to photograph the windows through the close grid of the top 10 feet of fence, and the windows have limiters to only allow an inch or two of opening, but one woman has managed to get both hards through the narrow gap and make a heart shape with her fingers, surrounded by messages for help.

It’s something of a trek back from the field where the protest takes place to the road, through several fields and a short stretch of byway, and the fields are heavy going on a bicycle, often easier to get off and walk than to try and ride.  It it’s been wet there is mud which is slippery and soon builds up between wheel and mudguard on the Brompton, stopping the wheels from turning, and when the ground is dry the mud hardens into ridges and furrows which jolt the arms and can even throw you off the bike.

But once back on the road you can relax in the long downhill stretch to the A6,  though it’s annoying to have to brake for a few wiggles as you get near the main road. And when you leave the A6 cycle path to go up to the old road trough Clapham the first quarter mile is a steep climb. I have cycled all the way up, but its taxing, and this time I got off and walked, and even that was exhausting. But then its largely a gentle downhill all the way to the station and I had plenty of time to relax on a slow train to St Pancras.

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 14


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


The Elephant still says no, but council says yes

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Minor changes to the plans to demolish the Elephant and Castle shopping centre have not changed the opposition to them by local residents and students at the London College of Communication but were enough to convince Southwark’s planning committee to vote narrowly in favour by 4 votes to 3.

As the committee meeting started there was a loud and well-attended protest outside. The proposals by the developer still involve removing the working class and largely Latin traders and wider local community from the Elephant, in what is clearly social cleansing and further gentrification of Southwark.

The revised plans include only a low percentage of social housing and fail to meet local demands for affordable retail units, compensation for all traders and meaningful involvement and accountability for the people who live, work and study in the Elephant.

Like most such proposals by London’s councils – mainly Labour dominated councils – the development offers rich pickings for the developer, and realises the value of some publicly owned assets, with on the side a number of rather doubtful personal advantages for some councillors and council officials who get lavishly entertained by developers – and some move into lucrative jobs either with quasi-private council arms or working for developers. Local government in the UK has often involved a curious mix of municipal pride and profitable contracts or business advantages, but what was once a largely voluntary system of government has now become a rather well paid career for some of those involved.

While local councils – such as Southwark Council – once used to very clearly see their aim as working to improve the lives of the residents of their boroughs, particularly those in poor housing and low paid jobs, that vision now seems to have been lost. In part it is because of greater pressures and cuts by national governments that have forced many councils to cut services, but I think the major reason is in the rise of political careerists who lack the idealism that was once ingrained in so many. They see themselves as managers of a business rather than as working for the people.

The protest was a lively one, with some good material for photographers. Coloured smoke always helps, though it presents some problems and probably isn’t good for the lungs. It’s something it’s easy to have too much off, with everything seen through a smoky haze, and you often need to move back and photograph from a distance.

It’s good too when there is a little action, even when only symbolic, as when UAL’s campaigns officer Papaya Guthrie made an attempt to enter the council offices. At times like this it becomes vital to be in the right place at the right moment, and I had fortunately anticipated that something like this might happen. While I usually like to say that I record what people do at events rather than posing or telling them for the photograph, in situations like this the presence of a photographer does have some influence on events, and I’m sure that my presence and that of other photographers did encourage her. I think too that the police officer in this picture has just realised that his actions are being photographed – and this may have had some influence on him releasing his hold and moving back.

Fortunately the light was still good, although its generally a rather dim street, but it was only around 7pm on a July evening, as I was working in manual mode on the Nikon D750, and for some reason (or possibly just my fumble fingers again) had set the camera which was working on auto-ISO to a shutter speed of 1/1000 and the aperture on the 18-35mm lens to wide open. Though I think accidental, it was a fairly good choice for this situation, as the shutter was fast enough to avoid any camera shake (in a crowded situation you usually get jostled) or subject movement, and since I was so close I was working at short focal lengths – 18 and 20mm for these two pictures – and even at f3.5 there is considerable depth of field.

I rarely chimp. Looking down at an image on the rear of the camera loses your contact with the subject and your concentration. And working with Nikon’s auto-ISO it becomes far too easy to either totally under or over expose images when you go out of the ISO range set. But here it worked fine, though at ISO 4,500 these pictures are visibly rather noisy. I could have got smoother images working at a lower ISO but it didn’t matter, though there are some other pictures – both with the D750 and the D810 where I was also using auto-ISO where noise does become an issue. Lightroom can do a decent job in minimising it, but high ISO also reduces detail in images and without some noise can produce rather ‘plastic’ skin tones like make-up applied with a trowel. It’s a look some like but not to my taste. And within limits, like the grain on Tri-X, Nikon noise is not unattrative.

Eventually Ms Guthrie was eased away from the door by a woman police officer and her foot pushed out by security and, surrounded by officers she was moved a yard or two forward. After moving in to photgraph her with the police around, taking my usual care not to get in their way, I moved back, partly to allow other photographers to get pictures too. I’d been the only one in position to get pictures earlier, but by now a couple of others taking pictures had moved around and I wanted to get out of their way. And when she took out a smoke flare from her bag and set it off I was far enough away not be be engulfed by the smoke.

More text and pictures at Refuse plans to destroy the Elephant


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


Clocks and Buildings

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Two unrelated issues, the first rather brief.


Firstly a reminder to those – like me – who have yet to adjust the time settings on your cameras to do so without further delay. On my Nikon cameras it only takes a few seconds to go to the Setup menu, select Time Zone and Date and turn Daylight Saving Time to OFF, but it takes a little longer to find anything on the Fuji menus, once you have made them appear on the rear screen. If you have the Local time set for Daylight Saving you then simply have to select Home.

I got up in the middle of my typing above and made the changes on the four cameras I frequently use. Job done until we get the light back next year.


Secondly, photographing buildings, something I was reminded of by an image I shared with the previous post – and here it is again. I’ve just come across a very clear answer to the question of copyright at the IPCopy blog so far as UK law is concerned – with a clear statement that “there is an express exception to copyright infringement under the CDPA 1988 which allows photographs or indeed a film to be made”  and to be published in any way of any building in the UK.

So far, so good. Unfortunately the answer goes on to say that in some cases “in some cases permission may be required to use the photograph” and goes on the mention the Committee of Advertising Practice Code. You can actually find this advice on the ASA web site, where it basically states that buildings and general public locations can be used “without permission so long as they do not denigrate the building or area in question.”  It goes  on to state that recognisable properties owned by “members of the public” require permission.

Perhaps the main area that the IPCopy post does not make clear is the matter of Trademarks, which I’m sure they know far more about than me.  The most interesting discussion I’ve come across of this issue is The London Skyline – an IP view by Leighton Cassidy and Beverley Potts of Fieldfisher LLC written in 2016. In the section on ‘Corporate Branding’ they discuss the use of trademarked buildings suggesting that limitations only apply if the photograph uses the building as a trade mark, or relates to similar goods and services or dilutes or profits from the reputation of the brand.

Although it seems to me that none of these could apply to editorial or most artistic uses of the image, some trademark owners have clearly adopting a bullying approach, threatening any use with expensive litigation. And photo agencies have allowed themselves to be browbeaten into the strictly unnecessary removal of some images.

UK copyright law also has specific exceptions to allow us to photograph and publish pictures of sculptures, models of buildings and works of artistic craftsmanship permanently situated in a public place. I’m not sure what constitutes a ‘work of artistic craftsmanship’, but the legislation makes clear that this does not apply to paintings or literary works, so all those millions of internet posts of graffiti (almost rivalling cats) are at least technically copyright infringements. Though I post some on my own web site, I don’t generally file them with agencies and some at least will not accept them. And I run a cat filter on my Facebook feed.

Unless of course the copyright material is included incidentally, though exactly how that should be interpreted is unclear. Perhaps as a rough rule of thumb you might ask yourself if you would have taken the photograph had that material not been present and if your image focuses (not necessarily literally) on that material. Fortunately also in the UK we have a copyright system where any damages are compensatory rather than punitive, which greatly limits the desire for litigation.

So, aside from a few specific limitations covering military and similar sites you should feel free to photograph any building in the UK (or more or less anything else) and generally to publish those images for non-commercial uses. For commercial use, you and any client need to think more carefully – and I would be very wary about signing any indemnity clauses. But as always with anything involving the law I end with a statement that “I am not a lawyer” (IANAL) and you take my advice and opinions entirely at your own risk.

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


Up the Elephant

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

It’s rather a cliche, but I still like it, the one protester and the line of police protecting the status quo, in this case the London College of Communication. But of course it isn’t the whole story and turning my camera around roughly 180 degrees shows a very different picture.

The fight was not so much to save the Elephant & Castle as it currently exists, but to see it developed in the interest of the community who currently live around and use the area, particularly the small market traders, the Latino community and the local residents, rather than a ‘regeneration’ that benefits the developers, the big businesses that will open their shops in the new centre, and the overseas investors who will buy many of the new flats simply as investments rather than for people to live in. And while the University of the Arts will get improved facilities (their current building dates from when the London College of Printing moved here in 1962), the education that working in a vibrant community provides for its students will be lost.

The struggle to improve the plans continues, even though Southwark Council narrowly passed the plans following some minor concessions made by the developers to meet the demands made by the local campaigners. But unfortunately the new shopping centre, though almost certainly more attractive looking than the currently widely despised building, will probably have all of the sterile emptiness of Westfield, though on a smaller scale, attracting people from a wide area rather than serving the locality.

Built in the 1960s, when it opened in March 1965, it was hailed as the first covered shopping mall in Europe and argest and “the most ambitious shopping venture ever to be embarked upon in London”, but was hampered by budget cuts. Although inside it now seems rather small and claustrophobic compared to more recent malls, but is on a more human scale, and has shops that serve local needs, as well as a thriving market that has grown up around it, in particular with over a hundred small Latin-American businesses.

I think everyone agrees that some redevelopment of the centre is necessary, but any local authority that truly represented its residents would have made strenuous attempts to protect the interests of these and other local businesses, insisting that the developer provide a similar amount of low-cost market space in the new development. But all that has been provided, even after the protests are some rather vague promises and a small relocation fund.

The protests have also resulted in a some increase in the number of affordable homes in the development, although only around 12% of the 979 residential units will be at ‘social rents’, and the overall proportion of 35% ‘affordable’ properties is likely to be reduced by fancy accountancy during the construction which will allow the developers to claim this ‘impacts viablity’, reducing their profits below an exorbitant 20%.

Southwark Council has a long history of scandalous so-called ‘regeneration’ projects, selling off the interests of its local population to developers at cut-down prices, including the demolition of the Heygate Estate and the currently continuing demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and other schemes elsewhere in the borough. Unfortunately the Labour dominated council is still dominated by right wing ‘New Labour’.

Protesters Stand Up For The Elephant


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


Thieving Artist

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

I’ve written before about Richard Prince and his appropriation of photographs and only return to the case as I’ve just read a post in The Art NewspaperRichard Prince defends reuse of others’ photographs,  by Laura Gilbert which states the defence he is offering to  a federal court in Manhattan about his use for profit of the works of two photographers, Donald Graham‘s photograph, Rastafarian Smoking a Joint, and Eric McNatt’s photograph of the musician and artist Kim Gordon. It is a rather longer statement, apparently 15 pages, than his original (and soon deleted) tweet: “Phony fraud photographers keep mooching me. Why? I changed the game. &their wizardry professorial boredom keeps coughing up a vick’sVAPOrub.”

Prince argues that by taking the images exactly as they were on Instagram, but enlarging them and adding his comment to put them on the gallery wall and sell them at high prices he was somehow producing a new original work of art, commenting on the process of communication involved in using social media – and Instagram in particular. As Gilbert writes, his approach is supported byome pretty serious names in the art world, with statements from  a museum director, curator and well-known art dealer to the court. All of course people who profit in some way or other from artists like Prince.

Prince of course profits from all the publicity this and other court cases give him, with many articles -including this one – in newspapers, magazines and blogs significantly raising his profile as an artist, and thus the prices and sales of his work.

Perhaps the photographers whose work has been stolen might think about reclaiming it by appropriating Prince’s, producing copies of ‘his’ images, perhaps ‘transforming’ them by the addition of their signatures. I rather suspect Prince and his dealers would call foul and run to the courts in what would be a rather fascinating copyright case.

There is of course absolutely no need for any of this. I’ve had my work used by artists – and they have come to me before doing so, explained what they wanted to do and we have negotiated a licence with an appropriate fee, and appropriate attribution. It’s an established way of working that avoids controversy – without misappropriation. But the very idea of stealing other people’s work seems to me to be the basis of Prince’s artistic practice. He’s famous for it.

I don’t of course know what judgement the court will finally make – and Prince has got away with it in earlier copyright cases, though I hope at last it will be one that fully respects the rights of the photographer – and leads to them getting compensation for the use of their work as well as the legal costs of taking the case. Prince would still be the winner, with all the publicity from the case aiding his status and sales. The only losers – in the longer term – will be those who have paid high prices for what are works which will almost certainly be consigned to the dustbin of art history, lacking any real worth or interest.

Busy Tuesday

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

I don’t often photograph three protests on a Tuesday, though one of the three I could have taken pictures of on almost any weekday, and have done a few times before. The anti-Brexit Stand of Defiance European Movement, SODEM, was started by Steven Bray in September 2017 and continue to protest every day that MPs are in session. I went along on this Tuesday as they had announced a a ‘Pies Not Lies’ Remainathon during the parliamentary debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, and there was a little more interest and activity than usual, as you can see from the ten pictures at Stop Brexit ‘Pies Not Lies’

From Old Palace Yard it was a convenient short stroll to the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy on Victoria St, outside which the Unite Restaurant, Catering and Bar Workers Branch and Unite Community, including staff from TGI Fridays were holding a short protest reminding business secretary Greg Clark of his predecessor in office Sajid Javid’s promise to stop employers stealing the tips paid by credit cards from staff.

Among those protesting was one dressed as a giant burger, though I don’t think either Unite or I really made use of this. I’m there to record events, not to direct them. I won’t tell people how to arrange their protests, and rely on them to decide how they want to do things, but this doesn’t always make for good pictures. Our conventional trade unions are often rather lacking in their ideas about protests and photographs of protests, and trade union magazines and web sites arwe often full of rather boring group photos that I dislike making.

Unite TGI Fridays demand Fair Tips & Fair Pay

From Victoria St I wanted to be at SOAS, a little under two miles away. I should have thought ahead and brought my bike with me to London, as there would have been no problem with having it with me at any of these three small static events. For larger protests and marches, having a bicycle tends to be an encumbrance, and leaving a folding bike like my Brompton locked anywhere in London is a gamble I seldom like to take. A relatively high value machine, easily lifted into a car boot or van and readily sold they are effective magnets for theives.

But at all three of these protests I could have locked it to a lamp post or stand within sight of where I was working, and that mile and and three quarters would have been less than a ten minute ride. Bikes don’t get held up much by traffic, while my buses certainly did. It would actually have been slightly faster to walk the whole way (I’m usually quite a fast walker), but you can’t know that when you start your journey, and my legs would have suffered. The journey took 35 minutes, an average speed of just under 3 miles per hour.

Most journeys in central London are faster by tube – and this is certainly more reliable than buses, but this is one which isn’t. TfL’s journey planner does suggest a combination of two tube journeys and walking would be fastest, but tells me it would have taken me 37 minutes, two minutes more than walking the whole way. Sometimes biking is by far the best solution. Of course for the wealthy there are taxis, but freelance photographers can seldom afford these, and they get held up in the traffic too.

At SOAS, students and staff were remembering the shameful events of nine years earlier, when SOAS management called their cleaners to an early morning ‘meeting’ where agents of the UK Border Agency rushed in, handcuffed all of them and held them for questioning. Nine were then deported. The action was a part of the despicable ‘hostile environment’ for migrant workers, begun by the Labour government, but severely ratcheted up by Theresa May as Home Secretary. People at the protest held posters with the names of the nine who were deported.

SOAS management took the action as retaliation over the trade union activities of their cleaners, members of Unison, who had begun to campaign for a living wage and to be directly employed by the university rather than being employed on terrible conditions and low pay through cowboy cleaning firms. They got the living wage – but then nine were deported.

Eventually, ten years later, after a continuing struggle, the management finally agreed to bring them ‘back in house’, though at the time of these pictures the details had not been finalised. They are now directly employed and both SOAS and the employees are better off.

‘SOAS 9’ deported cleaners remembered

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


Memory Card Failures?

Monday, October 8th, 2018

I’ve generally been lucky with memory card failures over the sixteen years I’ve now been using digital cameras, and I don’t think I’ve lost a single image due to them, though writing this is likely to provoke disaster. A few times cards have simply refused to work when I’ve put them into the camera either on first use (and one batch turned out to be very convincing ‘fakes’ for which I got a refund) or after some time when they have worked without problems. Once or twice I’ve had cards fail with pictures on them (or formatted them by mistake in a camera with dual card slots), but so far I’ve always managed to recover the images, though often it has been a lengthy process.

What I have found is that many ‘recovery’ programs have failed to recover any images, and the only one I’ve found to work reliably has been an old version of Rescue Pro, which came free years ago with SanDisk cards but is no longer supported by them. You now have to pay to get a working version, though a free download will show you whether files can be recovered. I didn’t try every other product on the market, but most I did failed. They may work for some causes of card failure, but didn’t help me. An article recommends some cheaper alternatives to Rescue Pro I haven’t tried (and links to more) that are cheaper and might be worth considering, and I’ve also found Recuva useful – and there is a free version.

That old version of Rescue Pro is slow and rather opaque, but it still works on WIndows 7, though I think it was written for Windows XP and may not run when my next computer is on Windows 10 (or 11.)

I began thinking about this after I put the SD card with all my pictures from last weekend into my card reader. Windows gave an error message asking me if I wanted to format the disk. Fortunately after I declined the offer the card read without problems. I do try to remember to always format cards in camera after I’ve copied the pictures from them and before using the card again, which I think is good practice.

Also when I’m away from home for more than a day or taking pictures I try to back up the cards I’m using on to my notebook computer every day, so that at worst I should only use a day’s work.

Catching up on my reading this morning I came across an article on PetaPixel by photographer QT Luong, Lessons from Losing a Week of Photos to Memory Card Failure, in which he recounts his problem with a corrupted SD card. He tried various software recovery programs without luck, and then some commercial recovery services who again were unable to bring back his files by their normal methods, eventually offering to charge large sums for further detailed examination of the card with no guarantee they could recover any data. At which point Luong decided it was simply not worth continuing.

It is an interesting article and very much a warning to the rest of us not to be complacent about the problem, as well as suggesting some strategies. In particular it might be a good idea to back-up while working using both card slots on dual slot cameras, even though this may slow down the rate at which the camera will work.

As Luong states, not all cameras have dual slots, and when Nikon and Canon recently announced mirrorless cameras with only a single card slot (like the Fuji cameras I sometimes use), there were many comments from photographers that this made them unsuitable for professional use. I’m more inclined to think that way after reading Luong’s article, though I do still wonder how many of those making the complaint actually currently use the second slot in their cameras for back-up.

Luong also quotes some statistics, looking at the star ratings given to several UHS-II cards in Amazon reviews. Although overall ratings are generally high, there were an alarming number of 1-star reviews for some cards from top brands, as high as 17% for the Lexar 2000x, while others were a more reassuring 3%.

Of course people who buy a card that fails are far more likely to contribute a review than those whose cards just keep on working without problems. I don’t think I’ve ever submitted a star rating for any of the cards I’ve used. But these 1-star ratings almost certainly give a good comparative rating of the reliability of the different products.

It also seems likely that the faster the card and the more complex the higher the failure rate is likely to be. My good luck so far may well be because I’ve never bought the fastest cards and I don’t think I have any UHS-II cards.

I’ll keep using that card that gave an error message as I suspect it was itself an error, as it was not repeated when I re-inserted the card into the reader. And I’ll make sure to format the card before next use. It might too be worth carefully cleaning the contacts on the card in case they have picked up some dirt or corrosion.

Archives for the Future

Friday, September 28th, 2018

this afternoon I went to an interesting presentation, Radical Archives for the future: networks and collaboration  organised by Four Corners in Bethnal Green. Four Corners, which began as an independent film workshop in 1973, inherited the archives of Camerawork (and the Half Moon Photography workship), which published one of the most interesting photographic magazines of the 1970s, devoted to radical left practice in photography and including the work of people like Paul Trevor and Jo Spence. And you can find out more at their recently set up archive.

Camerawork was a confusing title for a photography magazine, as probably the best-known (and argualbly the most beautiful) publication in the whole history of photography was Camera Work, its 50 issues produced in stunning photogravure from 1903 to 1917, edited by Alfred Stieglitz, with its last two issues dedicated to the then novel modernist approach of Paul Strand. But Camerawork, founded in 1976, was in its early years a powerful influence on many young British photographers, and copies are held in most major libraries with an interest in photography as well in a box on the top of my bookshelves.

Camerawork somewhat lost the plot at the end of the decade (see Paul Trevor’s review of the book, The Camerawork Essays), when photography saw a huge and highly destructive debate over theory and practice, which essentially debilitated UK photography for the next decade or two, though Camerawork struggled on, at least on the Roman Road into the following century, but with little relevance in its later years to current photography. Four Corners then inherited its premises and its archive.

I probably should have written earlier about the  Radical Visions show ending at Four Corners now, which looked at Community photography and in particular the contribution to this of Camerawork, but somehow it is hard for me to take too seriously a show where the great majority of images on the wall are also on the shelves behind me as I write. But of course I do realise that there are generations now unaware of its history.

I was a subscriber to Camerawork from almost the start, with issues from No 2 winging their way to me by post, and these accumulated in my personal archive until I cancelled my subscription when I thought they magazine had abandoned photography. The first issue, which I think I bought in the gallery, seems to have disappeared, but it impressed me enough to subscribe.

Active in photography since around 1971, I have over the years built up a considerable archive or magazines, books and of course photographs, mainly my own, but also by others I worked with in various ways. It’s a not inconsiderable archive, probably around a million physical ‘documents’ (negatives, slides, prints, magazines, books etc), but rather more digital files.

A small amount of this material is now duplicated in more official and more organised archives – such as those of the Museum of London and Bishopsgate Institute – but most is not. A much larger amount, particularly of my own images is much more available to researchers and others with any interest on the web – now approaching a quarter of a million images. Most days I add a batch of perhaps 20 or 100 images to that on-line archive.

The presentation and discussion at Four Corners was largely dominated by professional archivists (along with some unpaid amateurs running archives) whose approach I think is not always helpful. The audience included others involved with archives, and academics, along with a few photographers.

Photography for me is at its very basis a medium that arose from the possibilty of the essentially infinite reproducibility of the photographic image. Why Talbot’s negative-based process was such a great step forward over the in some ways superior Daguerreotype. Later it became the medium for the printed press, enabling the mass production of books and magazines. Many of the most iconic photographs were produce by photographers who were working for the printed page, and the books and magazines, not the photographic print are the true expression of their work in the medium.

Unfortunately, largely by by transference from the art market too many fetishise the photographic print, and in particular the idea of the vintage print. Had photographers like Edward Weston been able to use computers and make prints with the control that these enable I’m sure they would have jumped at the chance. I’ve always felt that – in the past, and beginning with Anna Atkins and W H F Talbot’s ‘Pencil of Nature’ that photographs belong in books – and more recently that their true home is also in digital publication. Certainly I don’t dispute the value of a fine print – I learnt to print from Ansel Adams (though from the first and best edition of his Basic Photo series) and from criticism by Raymond Moore at a time when photographic printing was seldom taken seriously in the UK and ‘soot and whitewash’ was in vogue (and in Vogue.)

It often annoyed me when I taught photography that I had to make students go to study ‘first hand’ at the V& A or exhibitions, when the real authentic experience of a photographer such as Robert Capa or Gene Smith was in magazines such as Life or books which we had in the college library (or my personal collection).

Photographic reproduction in books has improved to the level that it is now often at least as good as that of original prints. Back in the late 1970s I pissed off Lewis Baltz when he was examining the page proofs of ‘Park City’, by giving him my opinion that they were better than his own photographic prints. It was clearly true, but certainly not politic.

I’ve had long arguments over the years with some professionals in the world of archiving who have discounted the use of digital files for archiving. At least one such professional ended up by researching the writing of digital files not as digital files but by printing them out in a binary format using carbon inks on acid-free paper, arguing that only these would be available to generations in the extreme future.

We need to get real about archiving. The rate at which we produce stuff means that only a very limited selection can possibly be save in its original print or poster format for the future. Digitisation enables us to save a rather larger selection, but still requires careful consideration of what is worth saving and makes easier the careful captioning, particularly in metadata, of what is saved. Metadata is vital for the way it enables us to find material, particularly visual material that has litte or no textual element.

Digital archiving has many advantages, enabling the same record to be classified in multiple ways and facilitating both simple and complex searches, particularly on text in captions and metadata, but increasingly on image elements as greater computing power enables matching of faces or other elements.

I have a sneaking suspicion that what will be of most use to future generations and historians will not be the archives we were discussing, but the residues of the internet, and of commercial services such as Facebook and Instagram, – and perhaps even websites like my own, such as My London Diary, London Photos and Still Occupied – A view of Hull. And I’m slowly working through my own output over the years, producing digital images from those negatives and transparencies I feel worth keeping, and thinking of ways to provide those digital images with a future after the photographic materials have decayed or gone to landfill.

Internet wanderings

Monday, September 24th, 2018

I’m often surprised by the Internet, or rather I should say by the World Wide Web, invented by Tim Berners-Lee, whose name though etched in my memory I was unable to recall in a pub quiz last night to my extreme annoyance. Both by what you can find out using it, and sometimes by what you can’t.

Currently, as some will know, most days I post a black and white picture taken in London in 1979 on Facebook, with a usually short comment on the subject matter. All of the pictures are on my London web site, but currently there are only brief captions, as in today’s example:

Disused shop, Hackney, 1979
21l-66: shop,, derelict,

Back in 1979 I took relatively few photographs on often long and protracted walks and kept few records; for me then the photograph was the record, and it was only a few years later that I began to keep something of a diary of my walks and to annotate the contact sheets of my films with street names and grid references.

When I wrote the web page I only had a vague idea about where I made this image – somewhere close to London Fields and not far from Broadway Market. That I now know where it was taken to within a yard or two is thanks largely to Google Street View, and the two buildings in the background, both of which appear in other pictures of mine.

Street View of course has its limitations. Where this shop stood is now simply a brick wall, and Street View only allows limited time travel, usually back to 2008, when the shop was long gone.  Its often impossible to get a view from exactly the place and angle you need, and it doesn’t share my predeliction for alleys and footways, with rare exceptions sticking to where a car can drive. It also has a very annoying habit of jumping inside shops where no-one wants to go, which greatly reduces its utility to the public if enriching Google from the owners of these premises.

But of course Street View is a remarkable asset, and one which has almost rendered some photographic projects unnecessary, as I commented in my 2014  post Bleeding London – re-Inventing Streetview?  It’s a resource I now often use when planning walks and visits to new locations.

The time limitation isn’t just confined to Street View. Most of the material on the web has been put there in the last few years, and there is relatively little information about the times before it existed. Various projects have put considerable efforts into digitising historical material and putting local history research into web sites, but much published material from the last century is still unavailable, either not digitised or hidden behind paywalls. Of course much is still copyright, and will remain so until 70 years after the death of its authors, and as a photographer I welcome that (although I am considering gifting my own work to the public domain on my death.)

The posters across the front of the shop are for a march from Hounslow West Station to protest at Harmondsworth Detention Centre on Saturday 21st July. A calendar on the web for 1979 confirms that the 21st of July that year was a Saturday, so these posters, despite their condition, were fairly fresh when I photographed them, probably on the 22nd or 29th July 1979.  But the small print at the bottom of them cannot be read, and I can find no record on the web about this demonstration.

I was surely interested about it when I took the photograph because I was living just a 20 minute bike ride from the immigration prison (I still live in the same place, but the bike ride takes me a little longer) and also because I grew up spitting distance from the starting point of the march.  But probably taking this photograph would have been the first I had heard about the march. Before the web, this photograph illustrates how information about most protests was shared, by fly-posting. Leaflets were handed out at other protests – as they still are – and in some busy inner London streets and markets, information shared at political and trade union meetings.

Left-wing newspapers were mainly sold at street stalls, again on some busy inner city streets, but often only shared details of the events of their particular faction. There were of couse newsletters of major national organisations such as CND and the Anti-Apartheid Movement and Peace News but most smaller demonstrations I often only found out about after the even when I happened to come across the posters.

This protest must have been in some of those printed sources, and as well as the posters there will have been flyers. At that time we still had a local press, and almost certainly the Middlesex Chronicle reporter will have been there covering the protest, even if, as today it will have been ignored by the National Press and broadcasters. But none of these sources about that July 21st protest is accessible via the web.

You can find many reports of more recent protests at Harmondsworth – including my own from my first visit there in 2006 (and more later) and also some information about the detention centres and reports from those held inside them. But little of this is from the first ten or fifteen years of the web or covers anything about the last century. It’s so easy to forget what things were like even relatively recently.

I put my first small site on the web back in 1995 (Family Pictures, still available, only slightly adapted to keep it working, but still with its typical mid-90s flatbed print scans), not that long after the first visual web browsers that would display images became widely available. Mosaic, running on Unix, appeared two years after the start of the web in 1993, when most of us were only using the Internet for e-mail and forum systems along with file transfer and rather odd things like ‘Archie’, all text-based.  Windows 3.1, which first really brought Windows to life had come a year earlier (and still seems to be used by parts of our rail network.)

But when I was making a living writing about photography on the web from 1999-2007 my problem at the start was that so little photography was available on the web. By the end of my tenure things where rather different, and the problem was that so much was there it was getting hard to sort the wheat from the tons of chaff.


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

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