Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

Elsewhere

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Two recent articles I’ve read on other sites that I think you might be interested in, both with some fine photographs as illustrations.

In Can Photojournalists Be Entirely Objective? on Artsy, Kelsey Ables looks at the problem that photographers have in “today’s social media–oriented political landscape “of following the NPPA Code of Ethics instructions to “recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work” and to “resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.”

If you are a regular reader you will know what I think of photo-ops. A few years ago I was involved in a NUJ attempt to produce a code of ethic and came to very much appreciate the problems involved.

The second piece is more entertaining, and is a feature on Aperture advertising an Aperture/Magnum print sale, now over. 15 Photographers Reveal What’s Hidden in Their Work and the pictures were among the over 120 included with roughly postcard size (6×6 inches) prints selling for $100 a piece with an undisclosed percentage going to Aperture.

I’m not quite sure what makes a postcard size print “museum quality” though these are “signed or estate-stamped“, and quite frankly I think a waste of money.

If you’ve a a spare $100 and want to support Aperture take out a magazine subscription, which will get you many more images printed high quality and mainly rather larger. I subscribed for many years but recently gave it up partly because I already have far too many books and magazines around the house, but also because frankly it just isn’t as interesting as it used to be.

The pictures are accompanied by short comments by the photographers (quotations from previous writing by those who are no longer with us.) There are a few of the 15 I’d hang on my own wall if I had a rather larger than postcard copy.

The Time Is Now

Friday, November 8th, 2019

Lobbies of Parliament are generally not the most exciting things to photograph, but at least ‘The Time is NOW for Climate Justice‘ began with a kind of march, and had at least one very recognisable face in ROwan Williams.

I’m sure some of the other faith leaders holding the banner as they march along the pavement in Whitehall will be recognisable to some, and we can probably work out which faith most of them are representing. It was a rather timid march, moving quietly and sticking to the pavement, which isn’t very wide here and has quite a few obstacles as well as tourists to get in the way of both photographers and marchers.

The front of the march halted briefly for photographs in Parliament Square, though the place just isn’t so interesting with Big Ben (and the rest of the Clock Tower) under wraps. As well as to photographers, this is a disappointment to the tourists who I think should get a discount on their trips to London until the covers are lifted. I’ve managed to partly hide the rather ugly sight behind Lloyd George in his Superman costume about to leap off his plinth, though I have to say his is one of my least favourite statures, looking like some nasty plastic toy that might come free in your cornflakes.

I let the leaders move on and walked back to photograph the other walkers straggling along behind, eventually finding some who were enjoying themselves and making a considerably more lively protest.

A few minutes later I met yet more people marching down Whitehall, this time with some dressed in giant condoms, with the message “Don’t Screw With The Planet” and that it’s no use us cutting carbon footprints if we keep increasing the number of feet. 

‘Population Matters’, of course it does, and it’s a message that is far more important for the richest nations, where people typically have ten times the carbon footprint per capita than in poorer countries with high birth rates. The most effective way to curb population growth in poor countries is to increase people’s wealth and security. While it’s good to make effective contraception cheap and widely available, people also have to want to use it.

More pictures at:
Time Is Now Walk of Witness
Condoms Cut Carbon

Shot in Soho

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

It’s a while since I’ve been to the Photographers’ Gallery, which once used to be a regular place to call. I was a member for many years, probably more than 30, and used to attend most of the openings there, as well as dropping in occasionally when I was in town, perhaps to have a coffee, lock and the pictures and browse in the bookshop, as well as attend some of the lectures and workshops that took place there.

Back in the old days the gallery had an extensive library, mostly I think donated by photographers and run by volunteers, and it was a good place to visit and study books that were no longer available or too expensive to buy.

Back in the 1980s I was a member of a photographers group that had regular meetings there mainly looking at work that others had brought in, and some well-known photographers would drop in and show a portfolio and comment on our work. It was a part of the gallery’s education programme that that was needed for their charity status, but one that their education officer found hard to handle, and was very pleased to be able to drop in 1987.

I also worked at one time with a group set up to produce educational material there, getting some time release from the college where I was working. I’m not sure that we ever produced any material but it was interesting and fun to do.

There was a different atmosphere to the place in the old days. I used to go to the bookshop or café not just to look at books and drink coffee but for intelligent conversation about photography both with staff and other users. This just doesn’t seem to happen any more.

In those days the gallery was in Great Newport St, just a short walk from where I often find myself with some spare time in Trafalgar Square. Nowadays I tend to go into the National Gallery or the National Portrait Gallery instead. Since 2009 The Photographers’ Gallery is now a little further to go in Ramillies St, but mostly I gave up going because so many shows there held little interest for me.

I continued being a member for some years, even though I only went very occasionally until one year the cost of membership increased significantly for me and others of advanced years when they removed concessionary membership rates. Of course I could have afforded it, though I’m not rich, but the jump in cost made me think whether it was worth it.

What got me thinking about this was an on-line post on the British Journal of Photography web site. Again I was a BJP subscriber for many years, when it was a weekly trade journal and as well as publishing some well-written reviews of equipment and exhibitions had a useful listing of exhibitions. Then the BJP was an essential guide to what was happening in photography in the UK, but at some point it morphed into a monthly doing what other photo magazines already did, often better, and sometimes mainly featuring work which was of little interest to me. There seemed little point in continuing my subscription.

Of course it does still publish some interesting articles on good work, and the article I read on the web site by Marigold Warner, Anders Peterson on Soho, Cafe Lehmitz, and intention is a fine example. 18 images by Peterson are in the show ‘ Shot in Soho‘, along with work by William Klein and several others at the Photographers Gallery, London until 09 February 2019 (more pictures, some rather boring on the press release) and I will be finding time to go along and see the show, probably after 17.00 when entry is free. Usually the gallery closes at 18.00 but stays open until 20.00 on Thursdays.


End Live Transport

Monday, October 28th, 2019

My heart sinks when any event I am intending to document is described as a “photo-opportunity”, or, as in this case has clearly been designed as such by someone working in PR. It’s like when someone tells me “this will make a great photograph” and I’m obliged to take some rather pedestrian images, often of large groups doing something not very interesting.

I’m a photographer, and see it as my role to come up with ways to tell the story and not to be told how to see things, often by people who seem bereft of any power of thinking visually. Of course it’s useful if people have made posters and placards, but very few really add to a scene if reproduced in large numbers. Perhaps the only example of those that do I can think of offhand are those produced by David Gentleman for Stop the War protests.

The idea of a poster showing part of a cow’s face that people could hold up in front of them and complete with the left side of their own face wasn’t a bad one, and it works well when photographing one or two people, but doesn’t at least for me for a whole herd. It simply isn’t possible to see what it is meant to be – and I’ve only photographed around half the herd in the picture above.

Cut down the numbers and you can see it beginning to work, but I think the best attempt I managed was the image at the top of this post, with only two people involved.

Perhaps it could have been even better with just one person, but I chose to photograph John Flack, who recently lost his seat as a Conservative MEP with another poster which made clear by its text what the event was about. I know nothing about his background, but to me he looks very much the image of a wealthy farmer, though appearances are often deceptive and Wikipedia informs me that as well as being an active animal welfare campaigner he was a chartered surveyor and a director of various property companies. After a distinct lack of success in his campaigns for parliament and failing to become an MEP for the East of England in both 2009 and 2014 he rose to that status after sitting MEP Vicky Ford was elected as an MP in 2017.

The event marking Stop Live Transport International Awareness Day was a curiously Conservative one, with as well as John Flack, Tory MP Theresa Villiers speaking. Other speakers were Compassion in World Farming CEO Philip Lymbery , Professor Jo Cambridge of Vets Against Live Export and actor Peter Egan .

More at Rally to end Live Animal Transport.


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.

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.


Naked Bikers

Friday, October 25th, 2019

I hadn’t gone out of my way to photograph the London World Naked Bike Ride, but the point where all the riders who start at a number of points around central London meet up for the final section of their ride was close to the station from which I get my train home, so it seemed to be worth taking a few minutes to cover the event.

The first London WNBR took place in 2004 but with very little advance publicity – I’d attended and photographed ‘Bikefest’ which it is associated with on the day it took place but remained unaware of it. In 2005 I was out of the country when it took place. So I first photographed this event back in 2006, when quite a few people I knew were taking part.

This year I think there was nobody I knew in the event, or at least no one that I recognised without their clothes on. The ride is billed as “a protest against oil dependency and car culture” and back in 2006 it appeared to appeal to many people involved more generally in environmental protests. The message of the ride has never been very clear to those watching it and I think over the years the participants have changed, and it now seems much more dominated by naturists and has a rather smaller proportion of women taking part. The total number of riders this year, stated to be 1300, was roughly twice that in 2006.

There are some problems in photographing the event. It take place on the public highway, where no one has any expectation of privacy – and indeed people ride naked to make a statement, but some have tried to restrict photography in various ways. Not that this has ever had any effect on the crowds of tourists who the ride surprises who almost to a man (and many women too) get out their phones and take snap after snap.

But while the legal position on taking photographs of the event may be clear, there are problems in publishing the images in some media and particularly on platforms such as Facebook. I try hard to take at least some pictures with discretely placed saddles and handlebars.

I’d had enough after around 15 minutes and didn’t bother to try and follow the cyclists after they had moved off, though it would have been fairly easy to catch them several more times as they cycled around central London. But I went to a nearby pub with a friend I’d met photographing the event, and then on to cover another event. Or at least to try to; I arrived outside the Home Office at the right time on the right day to find no one there. I waited for a bit, checking the details on my phone, but after waiting for 20 minutes caught a passing bus to Vauxhall for the train home.

More pictures from the 2019 London World Naked Bike Ride.


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.

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.


Al Quds march

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

The Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march is always a contentious event in London, and one that I often find difficult to photograph, and I had my problems this year.

Of course many of those who protest regularly for freedom for Palestine know me as I photograph many of their protests – as you can see on My London Diary.

Some of those who have organised the Al Quds day marches over the years also now recognise me and are friendly, but it is an event that does meet with a lot of opposition by some Zionist groups and where many of those attending are rather wary about being photographed. So I found myself several times being stopped by people asking who I was taking pictures for and some trying to prevent me photographing.

As regular readers will know, I like to take pictures close to those I’m photographing, though I don’t particularly like the kind of distortion you can see in the hand of the organiser above, taken with the lens on the Fuji set at 11mm – 16.5mm full-frame equivalent. I’ve long felt that the ideal photographic distance is one where you can reach out and touch the person you are photographing, as if you were talking with them, though sometimes a little greater distance is necessary.

Of course there are times when you do have to stand further back. There was a giant Palestinian flag between me and the Neturei Karta ultra-orthodox Jews when I made the picture showing their recipe for a peaceful end to the bloodshed in Palestine. There the distance was a necessity.

And there are pictures that need a longer focal length to isolate the subject, as in this picture, made with the remarkable 18-150mm on the Olympus E-M5MarkII at 135mm (270mm equivalent.) Long lenses certainly do have their photographic uses, and this one comes in an incredibly small and light package.

I’m not sure I will go to photograph this event next year, despite my support for the Palestinians and my hope that one day they will gain justice and be able to live in peace with their Jewish neighbours, to make good the neglected second part of the Balfour declaration that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”  I’ll continue to photograph other pro-Palestinian events in London, but this one was just too much aggravation. I ended up feeling more welcome photographing the Zionists opposing the event.

A D Coleman on Frank

Monday, September 30th, 2019

Although A D Coleman wrote his “Robert Frank, a Retrospective: The Reluctant Reference Point” for his column in the New York Observer of December 4th 1995, it remains worth reading, and is included in his post Robert Frank (1924-2019): A Farewell on Photocritic International.

Among other things it includes a more sensitive and positive discussion of Frank’s later photographic work than I’ve given. I think I found it too annoying to give it proper consideration.

As well as Coleman’s thoughts, in the comments there is a link to an online version of the 1977 book ‘Photography Within the Humanities‘ where Frank’s April 1975 interview at Wellesley College was first published. The book is an interesting record of a series of talks when ten people connected with photography were each invited to the college on a different day to speak. Among the ten as well as Frank were John Morris, Paul Schuster Taylor the partner of Dorothea Lange, John Szarkowski, Gene Smith, Susan Sontag and Irving Penn.

More Canal Pans

Friday, September 27th, 2019

Photographing protests and other events generally keeps me pretty busy and for some years I’ve had little time for anything else, along of course putting some of my earlier work online and writing this blog and keeping My London Diary almost up-to-date. But one project that I’ve managed to do a little work now and then on is making panoramic images of London’s canals – and I hope to use a few of these in a show next year.

My first panoramic project, back in 1992 when I bought my first panoramic camera was on the DLR extension then being built from Poplar to Beckton. Prints from this were shown at the Museum of London back then, and a few are now in their collection – and one is in the current show, Secret Rivers at the Museum of London Docklands.

I’d chosen to work in panorama (using a Japanese Widelux camera) because I thought that the essentially linear nature of the railway was particularly suited to the panoramic format, and it seems to me that the same applies to photographing the canals. I’m now working of course with digital, and the pictures I’m making don’t natively come in a panoramic format as the camera sensor is either 3:2 (with the Nikons) or 4:3 in the pictures I’ve made with the Olympus EM5 MkII.

The character of the cylindrical perspective that I’m currently working with (others are possible) means that the image curvature required to give the wide angle of view (around 145°) increases towards the top and bottom of the image, and using a 4:3 or similar format makes it more noticeable than a more normal panoramic format such as 2.5:1. So I often crop the images to a more panoramic aspect, often 1.9:1 which can give a more natural look.

Cropping the image also has another advantage. In making these images it is important to keep the camera level – aided by indicators in the viewfinder at bottom and left of the image. Doing so means that the horizon will always be a horizontal line splitting the image into two equal halves, and this can make a set of images a little monotonous. When cropping the images, it is possible to move this above or below the centre line. In days largely long past, landscape photographers used cameras with a rising or falling front to acheive the same goal, and for much of my black and white work on film I used a 35mm shift lens which could do the same.

These pictures were taken between the end of a protest in Hackney and my visit to an Open Studio event at the Chisenhale Studios in Bethnal Green to which I walked. I began the walk along the canal in one of my favourite spots where Mare St becomes Cambridge Heath Road and goes over the canal and then walked east along the Regent’s Canal towpath to the junction with the Hertford Union Canal. I had time to go a little beyond the studios before turning around and returning to leave the canal and make my way to the studios. By the time I got there the rain was beginning to come down fairly steadily and I’d walked around a mile and a half.

More pictures at Bethnal Green Canal Walk


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.

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.


Lenses and cameras

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Sitting outside a London pub on Saturday, possibly the last real Summer day of the year (I started to write this on the Autumn Equinox), I was enjoying an expensive pint of bitter and talking with a friend, when a group came to the next table including a photographer carrying a Nikon with the kind of lens that gives you a hernia just looking at it. I don’t know which focal length it was, probably a long wide aperture zoom, perhaps the 180 – 400 mm f4, which is around 14 inches long, weights over 7lb 11 oz and costs a mere £10,999, though I think it may have been something even larger. As the woman sitting next to us observed “My, you’ve got a big one!’

I held up my Olympus with the diminutive 18-150mm to show her, saying it did the same job. And at only 285g and a little over 3 inches long it does. It’s just a little bit shorter at the long end (300 equiv) but a lot wider at the short end. All for around a twentieth of the cost. Size does matter, and so far as I’m concerned this is a situation where being small is greatly desireable.

The Nikon may have a slight edge in sharpness (and the Nikon body helps with more pixels) but essentially they do the same job. Though the Nikon will also greatly improve your muscular strength through additional exercise. The Olympus, also an f4 lens at the widest focal length, benefits from 5 stops of stabilisation on the OM body, while the Nikon VR claims 4 stops from VR in the lens.

There are some situations where the larger lens would have a slight advantage. Nikon’s autofocus is a little better, particularly at following rapid action, thought the Olympus isn’t at all bad. That extra stop at the long end could come in useful at times too. I’ve never used the 180-400, which is a relatively recent design for digital cameras, but my tests a month or so ago showed the Olympus performing better than an older and smaller and lighter Nikon lens only around twice its weight and size.

Carrying long and heavy lenses has become something of a status symbol for many photographers, and I suspect that the white bodies of the Canon examples may have influenced some to change over to that marque. They make Canon photographers stand out while the equally excellent but black Nikon optics are less noticeable.

A rather silly article I read the other day (I won’t waste your time with a link) was about using an old film camera to work as a photojournalist. Of course some have never given up using them, particularly a few dedicated Leica users, sticking with essentially 1950s technology.

My Leica M2, built around 1956 is still a nice camera to use and later models of the film cameras really added nothing of substance to the design that wasn’t provided by the nicely engineered third-party accessory wind-on lever and Leica’s own MR4 exposure meter. It was left to others to bring the concept up-to-date, Minolta with the CLE, a more petite version with decent metering, and Konica who produced both the Hexar a fixed 35mm f2 lens camera with autofocus, and the Hexar RF, with excellent metering and auto film wind. Leica only really got back into the act after a few rather disastrous digital introductions, including the M8 for which I can never forgive them.

But back to the article, which suggested that modern photojournalists like to work from a distance because they are frightened of their expensive and fragile modern cameras getting damaged. Firstly I don’t think it is true, and most photographers insure their gear and forget any risk to it. Many of us like working close and with wide-angles that in the days of film would have been considered extreme.

The people who keep moving back are those who have spent fortunes on large heavy long lenses (and chiropractors) and need to justify the expense to themselves. The article was illustrated by some not particularly distinguished protest images, taken from a rather longer distance than I like to work (though you often can’t get as close as I would like) using a standard lens.

Of course the real reasons why most of us no longer use film have to do with cost and deadlines. I’ve been getting e-mails and phone calls from an agency that I file most of my pictures to calling on me to get work in faster as they say I am missing the deadlines, though I usually get pictures in only a few hours after taking them. That isn’t now fast enough – and those who get the pictures in that are usually used by the papers can be seen squatting in corners with a laptop while events are still taking place, often missing much of the events they are covering. A weak image filed within minutes is more likely now to be used than a good picture which arrives an hour or two later – it’s become being first rather than being best which makes the sale.

And standards in some respect have changed. With modern cameras and digital imaging it’s generally easy to get pictures which are sharp and correctly exposed of almost anything, and work which fails on these is likely to be rejected unless it is either showing some very dramatic event – or is being offered for free use. At least one of those accompanying the article might well have died in ‘Quality Control’.

I’ve been using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II for some months now, and continue to be impressed with it and the few lenses I own. As with all cameras I have some reservations (and wish Olympus had a simpler naming convention.) It’s become my favourite camera to use, one I’ll pick up when going for a walk rather than just when going out to work and the only thing that has stopped me buying a second body is the impending launch of the Mark III. One of the expected improvements this will bring is a slight increase to 20Mp from 16Mp which would be welcome, but unless there are other substantial gains I might still buy another Mark II (and will doubtless be able to get it cheaper.)

Not Window Dressing

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

I’ve never worked in the United States (or as they call it, America) or at least only digitally, having been on contract serially with three major US companies over a period of around 7 years. It started well, but ended sadly, at least in part because I wasn’t from the States.

During those years I sometimes had to write about the USA as if I was located there, taking a lively interest in exhibitions at US museums, reporting on some US events and US institutions, and about the US photography culture in general (and more difficult, on Thanksgiving and Independence Day.) In later years I even had to use ‘American English’, though I made no secret of being British and continued to try adopt an international approach, introducing my readers to photography around the world.

There were many ways in which photographers working in the USA had things rather better than us in the British Isles, and perhaps the basis of all these was a culture that took photography much more seriously than here, something that was perhaps most apparent in the number of museums and galleries and in the US press.

And generally books, magazines and papers were happy to pay usage rates that were considerably above those in the UK. I remember getting one request from a left magazine with a profuse apology for what little they could offer me for a picture which was at least twice what a more mainstream British publication would have paid, and was annoyed a few years later when a UK agency sold a picture for text book use at just under a third of the payment I had negotiated directly with the publisher for a previous edition (and then took 50% of that meagre fee for their efforts on my behalf!)

One of the reasons for these differences is the presence of strong organisations representing photographers, one of which is the National Press Photographers Association, NPPA. Of course we have organisations here, but good as some are, none has the same clout.

Newspapers across the USA are now suffering with competition from the web (and some have very fine web sites themselves) and many have made drastic cuts in staffing, with many photographers being ‘let go’, leaving many, particularly the smaller regional and local papers that are much more important in the US than here, without staff photographers and with very limited budgets for pictures. As of course we’ve seen in the UK.

It’s a situation that led Jaymie Baxley , a reporter working for The Pilot in Southern Pines, North Carolina to take pity on his fellow journalists and help them by “creating a resource for reporters in small newsrooms that no longer have visual journalists“, setting up a website offering his own editorial photographs for free.

As you can read on the NPPA web site in a post by Sue Morrow,
Pictures are not window dressing. In fact, pictures are the window, this did not go down well with other photographers. And the NPPA got on the case, explaining their position to Baxley, who quickly took down the website.

Under Morrow’s article is a post by NPPA President Michael P King which makes a great case for professional photography, starting from the premise ‘Photography is valuable‘ and giving some reasons why.

It’s a statement I think is worth reading and which makes a great case for using professional photography – by staff or freelance photographers. As he says it’s a matter of trust and legality and of retaining credibility for news organisations.