Archive for the ‘Photo Issues’ Category

John Morris 1916-2017

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Many words have been written and said about the photo-editor John G Morris who died last Friday, 28th July 2017, and he has obviously played a large role in photography over so many years. Probably the most widely read of the obituaries is by Andy Grunberg in the New York Times, and although excellent in many respects it is a shame it was not more carefully brought up to date after being retrieved from the ‘morgue’ where it had been lying for some years in waiting for Morris’s death.

His was a long career as a photo-editor, working for some of the greatest names in photographic publishing – Life,  Ladies’ Home Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic and Magnum Photos.

His was a career in which he undoubtedly recognised the power of a number of images which subsequently became iconic. Although we now can be sure that the legend that he wove around Capa’s actions on D-Day was almost entirely false, he saw the power of one of the 11 frames that Capa exposed which many editors would probably have rejected out of hand for being unsharp – and it was an image that was only more widely recognised for its expressive potential quite a few years later. Had Morris told the truth about it and given the facts that the investigation by A D Coleman and his team have made clear, the image might have been published and long forgotten.

Again, while working for the New York Times, it was Morris who recognised the power of two of the iconic images from Vietnam, and fought to get Eddie Adam‘s picture of a summary execution of a suspected Vietcong by a Saigon police chief on the front page, and fought the paper’s ‘no-nudity’ policy to get  Huynh Cong (Nick) Ut‘s image of a naked young Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm bombing raid published – again on the front page.

It was Morris too who invited W Eugene Smith to join Magnum following his break-up with Life, and apparently suggested him (after Elliot Erwitt had turned it down) for an assignment to photograph Pittsburg – which almost ruined Magnum financially after Smith turned what had been meant as a three week assignment into a year working on what he believed to be his ‘magnum opus’, though it only really got an adequate publication as ‘Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith’s Pittsburgh Project‘ in 2001, 23 years after Smith’s death.

A D Coleman in Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (36): John G. Morris Dies (Update) has written about some of the obituaries for Morris, including the New York Times one, pointing out some of their many errors. Its also worth reading the comments on his piece, particularly one by Robert Dannin, who calls the story that Morris made up “nothing more than an unprofessional excuse to conceal his apparent embarrassment at Capa’s work on the Normandy beachhead.”

It’s perhaps a little harsh. I can imagine Morris’s immediate shock on looking at the processed film and seeing only 11 images. And then looking a little more closely and seeing that those eleven were all blurred. A little fabrication to protect his friend’s reputation would be understandable. But to invent such an elaborate story and to keep up the deception for as long as Morris and Capa did was clearly unacceptable – and something of a stain on the reputation of both.

Morris was obviously a man who cared about photography and cared for photographers – and you can read a tribute to him by one of those he helped and was a friend to, Peter Turnley, on The Online Photographer. We can remember him for that and should also put the record straight over Capa’s D-Day pictures.

Another Night

Friday, July 28th, 2017

The following evening I was out again taking pictures of a protest, this time in Westminster at Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament. It’s a gloomy place at night, and even worse it was raining.

At times the rain was light, even almost stopping. Then it would poor down. I felt sorry for the protesters, from Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle, including many in wheelchairs, though I think most had decent waterproof clothing and a number also umbrellas.

Of course I had an umbrella too, but it is seldom practical to use one when taking pictures – unless you have an assistant to hold it – and also I needed to work most of the time in a very restricted area between a ring of wheelchairs and the speakers, much of the time in a kneeling position so as not to impede the view of those sitting in the chairs. Occasionally sitting on the damp paving stones. Working with a micro-fibre cloth held on the lens filter, taking it away to take a picture, then wiping and covering up the lens again.

Most of these were taken with the LED light source, with a couple at the start of the event when there was still some weak light from the sky without any added light. Another photographer was videoing the event, and sometimes his LED video light lit up part or all of the scene for me – though other times it shone directly towards me and made taking pictures more or less impossible. I did take a couple of pictures with flash, but in rain it gets to be pretty useless, lighting up the rain drops and giving odd spots across the picture. With exposures around 1/15s to 1/60s spots of rain don’t show up except sometimes as streaks – which look very much like rain. But with the slow shutter speeds and probably a certain amount of shivering from me quite a few of the exposures were blurred even when there were no raindrops on the lens, and quite a few frames were unusable.

I also discovered one of the problems of the Neewer CN-216 LED light. It doesn’t have a battery cover – or at least mine doesn’t, and at one point after it got a slight knock, all 6 batteries fell out and rolled across the wet paving stones. Fortunately I and some of the other people around managed to pick them up, but now I put a length of masking tape across them and the back of the unit after replacing the batteries.

As the evening went on the rain worsened. There was quite a long list of speakers, including the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, for whom the heavens opened pretty drastically. Fortunately he had brought fellow Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey with him to hold an umbrella. They and other MPs came out from the debate on government plants for a cut in Employment and Support Allowance, despite a UN report condemning the ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights’ which had resulted from the UK government welfare reforms..

It was really an evening that called for an underwater camera, or at least an underwater housing. I do carry a cheap plastic bag affair in my camera bag, but find it such a pain that I hardly ever use it. Fortunately I managed to keep the cameras under my coat much of the time, though having the front of it open to do this meant I did get rather wet. I was cold too, and very pleased when I could pack up and go home.

I wasn’t particularly happy with my work at this event – and so many of the images were ruined – but under the circumstances I felt I’d done a decent job to get any results at all. You can see more at End Discriminatory Welfare Reforms.
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Night Work

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

I don’t often photograph the Tower of London, but it would, I thought, a nice background for a picture, something that says ‘London’, and I went to the protest being held outside the Tower against the European Custody and Detention Summit being held there hoping to use it in my pictures.

Unfortunately the protest was taking place in the early evening and this was November. There were groups at two locations, one on Tower Hill, where there was a view of the Tower behind the protesters, and a second down below Tower Bridge, where there wasn’t really a much of a view of the bridge and the Tower was completely out of sight.

I’d taken two light sources with me, the Nikon SB800 flash, and a cheap LED light, the Neewer CN-216, which has an 18×12 array of small LEDs  – 216 in all, hence the model number. It takes 6 AA cells, which adds considerably to its weight and will just about fit in a large jacket pocket. The flash, with only 5AAs is a little smaller and lighter.

Knowing it would be dark, I’d also packed the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 and the two pictures above were both taken using this on a Nikon D810. I had the camera on shutter priority and both images were taken at 24mm, using the camera in full-frame mode at 1/50s and f2.8  – but there the simiilarities end. One used the flash at ISO 1,800 and the other the LED light at ISO 6400. Though it seems bright, those LEDs don’t really put out that much light.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which was which. The differences are easier to spot on the 7,360 x 4,912 pixel images, but after processing – including noise reduction – in Lightroom was less than I expected, and looking through the whole set at full screen size my guesses as to which used flash and which were LED where often wrong.

Both are relatively small light sources and so suffer similar problems with light falling off at roughly the square of distance, and I worked a little more ‘head on’ to groups than usual when I could to avoid too much having to dodge and burn in Lightroom.  One advantage of the LED was that I was able to hold it at arms length from the camera – much trickier with flash – and see the results of angling it away from closer subjects. The higher ISO I used with the LED meant that ambient lighting contributed more to the LED lit images and probably I would have been better using ISO 6400 with the flash as well. But I was worried about image quality, though it turns out I need not have been.

Increasing the ISO to 3200 for the wider group, taken with flash and using a Nikon 20mm f2.8  at 1/30s, f/2.8 on a Nikon D750 gave a good balance.

Down below Tower Bridge there was a little more light and I used the flash very little, relying on the LEDs for most pictures, though in some areas there was enough light from the street lights to make them the main light source.  The view of Tower Bridge in some of the pictures isn’t instantly recognisable.

I did have a few problems with fiddle fingers, and working in  S – shutter priority – mode does mean you get underexposure when you push the control dial in the direction of higher shutter speeds. With flash too the exposure drops – though with Auto FP High Speed Sync you no longer get just a fraction of the frame exposed. Fortunately Lightroom can cope with considerable underexposure if – as I do – you shoot RAW images.  And ISO settings don’t really have a great deal of meaning.

In low light conditions you also get problems with slow shutter speeds and subject movement, as well as camera shake. None of the lenses I was using has image stabilisation but it would have been of little or no help. But you do need to make a lot of exposures and to have a little luck.

More pictures of this protest by the Reclaim Justice Network which includes prison activists, refugee solidarity groups and anti-arms trade campaigners against this trade fair for  major arms companies, security companies, prison builders, and others profiting from expanding and privatising the criminal justice system at Custody Summit at the Tower.

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Hugh Edwards

Friday, June 30th, 2017

As friends including regular readers of these posts will know, I don’t generally have a very high opinion of curators – except for a few that I’ve known and have worked with. Too many have put on shows that server largely to illustrate their lack of knowledge and real interest in the medium and are clearly concerned only with building their own careers. And far too often money that would be better spent on photography and photographers goes into their pockets and into creating fancy displays which might enhance their reputation but often take away attention from the work presented.

But of course there are exceptions. Actually quite a few of them, including the obvious ones like John Szarkowski. Many of the best have been, like him, photographers and have had a real appreciation of the medium.

Thanks to a recent post Hugh Edwards: Unknown Icon by Kenneth Tanaka on The Online Photographer, I have now been made aware of another fine curator. Edwards (1904–1986) was Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he had already worked for 30 years, for his last 12 years there from 1959-70, during which time he organised 75 exhibitions, as well as regularly showing new acquisitions.

This was an important time in the evolution of photography, and one in which Edwards played an major role, giving Robert Frank his first American museum exhibition in 1961 and promoting many emerging photographers as well as building up a fine study collection of work by nineteenth and twentieth century masters. And his contribution is finely and extensively documented in the web site on him and the photography he championed and bought for the Art Institute collection by photography curator Elizabeth Siegel and a team of researchers.

Photography was one of his many interests; David Travis, Curator and Chair of the Department of Photography from two years after Edwards retired until 2008 writes about him at some length and remembers the rare and memorable evenings at his home when he would show his own colour slides made at “a roller skating rink in Harvey, Illinois”. In in a letter to Frank, Edwards wrote “I ran away from ‘culture’ and accelerated education to spend all my evenings in a large skating rink on the outskirts of Chicago for five whole years. There were many wonders there and I used to wish someone would catch them so they could be kept. Then I found your book and saw you had done it.” Travis comments that having seen Frank’s work “published, Mr. Edwards felt his own mission as a photographer could end.”

Those who can make it to Chicago can see the extensive show at the Art Institute also curated by Seigel, The Photographer’s Curator: Hugh Edwards at the Art Institute of Chicago which runs until October 29th 2017. But otherwise the web site is a fine tribute to an amazing curator and his legacy.

D-Day Wrap

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Something which I meant to acknowledge earlier but slipped my mind after I read the post was the announcement by A D Coleman, ‘It’s a Wrap‘ marking the official end of “our team’s deconstruction of the myth of Robert Capa’s D-Day experiences and the subsequent fate of his negatives“.

The end came exactly three years after the investigation began with the publication of photojournalist J. Ross Baughman’s critique of the TIME video celebrating the 70th anniversary of Robert Capa’s D-Day photographs, and included further contributions from Baughman as well as from photo historian Rob McElroy and combat veteran and military historian Charles “Chuck” Herrick as well as Coleman’s own major contribution.

During its course it also referenced the work of others on this and related matters such as Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier’, and included a number of other guest posts, including one by Jim Hughes who in 1986 was the first to publicly challenge the Capa D-Day myth (and his review was quite probably the origin of my own total scepticism about the alleged ‘darkroom disaster’.)

It has been a remarkable series of posts, and quite rightly has received awards and nominations, and has changed entirely our view of one of the best-known events of photographic history, but also shed light on how that history is manufactured and by whom. History isn’t just facts, but a point of view (rather like any photograph) but in this particular case we know also know that much of what was claimed as fact is in fact fiction.

Of course we always knew that Capa was himself an invention, and a great inventor of stories as well as someone who photographed them powerfully. But even when we know more and can dismiss the embroidery the image remains. Of course like all photographers Capa took many weak images, some of which have found their way to gallery walls and books but there certainly remain enough to sustain his reputation.

We will still look at his pictures and be moved by them even when we know that the captions may be unreliable and some events may have been staged. And Capa did certainly put his life at some risk – even if rather less than he made out – on D-Day and probably more so on various other occasions, and of course later paid for the risks with his life, stepping on to a landmine in Indo-China. And his advice “If you’re pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” is still worth remembering.

Although officially the end, it certainly isn’t, and Coleman gives a number of areas that he or others will pursue, both about D-Day and Capa’s other work, and more widely in a critical look at the medium’s institutions, particularly the ICP.

Coleman states he considers “the basic research complete and the case effectively proven” and is “developing this material into a book, an exhibition, and a multimedia piece” about which he will give occasional progress reports, but apart from this unless there are some unforeseen discoveries or unpredictable surges of interest there will be no further posts in the series. I hope the exhibition will tour to some of the more prestigious institutions both in the USA and Europe and will perhaps help to end the promulgation of the myth.

Coleman concludes his piece with a comment on a New York Times article by Geoff Dyer, a man who writes about photography and who prides himself on not being a photographer; “I don’t just mean that I’m not a professional or serious photographer; I mean I don’t even own a camera” (in ‘The Ongoing Moment’ a book given me by someone who had probably read on the previous page “I suspect, then, that this book will be a source of irritation to many people, especially those who know more about photography than I do.” It was, though I’ve never managed to read to the end, always throwing it down in disgust at some idiocy within minutes of picking it up.)

Dyer’s ignorance clearly extended to never having heard of the doubts about Capa’s D-Day legend (despite a previous feature in the newspaper for which he was writing) and he writes “we know the precise historical moment they depict, what happened before and after, the reasons the pictures are so blurred” a statement untrue in every detail.

As Coleman comments “This uninformed balderdash of Dyer’s exemplifies the lamentable condition of writing about photography today. If you wonder why I have persisted with this investigation, consider Dyer’s elegantly phrased but fact-free nonsense a sufficient answer.”

It’s a Wrap

Cleaners at Mace

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

There are always a number of things on my mind as I photograph protests by low-paid workers such as the cleaners protesting at a workplace. Obviously there are the reasons for the protest  – and if I didn’t feel they were justified I wouldn’t be there. Often, as on this occasion the workers have a number of greivances. They say the employer, Dall Cleaning Services had promised to pay them the London Living Wage,  and then had sacked two cleaners and increased everyone else’s workload  to keep their costs down, and that these sackings had been without notice or proper procedures.

While these sackings could be taken to a tribunal, where in all probabilty the workers would win their case, going to tribunal takes a long time  and has now been made an expensive process, with costs calculated by the Tory government to be high enough to make it virtually impossible for the ordinary worker. One of the advantages of belonging to a trade union is that they can usually afford to take cases like this to tribunals and also supply trained legal support. But the changes in the law have made it much cheaper and faster to try to settle such matters by protests and strike.

Here the workers were also complaining about the Dall’s management, in the workplace , dominated by members of one family, whose members working there were treated better than the other workers. They want an end to nepotism in the workplace. It’s something that should be policed by Dall’s higher management but the cleaners say their complaints are simply ignored.

But I’m also thinking about my legal rights. On the street there are few if any restrictions on photography and on publishing as news coverage. But it seemed likely that the IWGB would manage to enter the foyer of the Mace offices. The position on private property is less clear, but certainly, unless I was specifically asked to stop taking pictures by a person I was convinced represented the owners of the building I intended to photograph the event.

I hang back slightly as the cleaners rush in, but after the first two or three have gone past any security at the entrance, follow in with the others. It certainly is no part of my job to actually force an entrance in any way, but if there is an open door from the street I’ll happily walk through it.

Fortunately no one asked me to stop taking pictures, and knowing that it was likely they would be going inside the building I’d remembered as we went towards it to increase the ISO  setting on both my cameras. Because there would be less light and there was a possibility of some action taking place I’d set both cameras at ISO2000 or ISO2500.

It’s an important advantage of the D810 that it has an ISO button on the dial at the top right of the body, and pressing it displays the ISO in the top panel, where its a simple matter of turning the command dial to alter it, and the same is true of the D700 with which I took all of the pictures I’ve actually used in this post.

With the D750 I now use you need to go into the menu, though I make things easier by putting the ISO on the user menu, along with other items I’m likely to want while working, and making sure to enter the User Menu before starting taking pictures.

I could rely on auto-ISO, which I actually usually have turned on, but for this to be really effective you have to select a fairly high shutter speed as the minimum speed at which the ISO increases. With a lens like the 28-200 zoom there is really no sensible choice. I’d be quite happy with 1/30th at the wide end, but at the long end I’d want 1/250th or faster. It would be nice if Nikon would allow the camera to apply the 1/focal length rule – and better still if it allowed you to choose from various fractions or multiples of this. All of the pictures in this post were made with the 16-35mm f4, though I was also using the 28-200mm.

Inside occupations such as this it is difficult to work sensibly, in part because you never know how long you are likely to get to take pictures. I try not to simply dash off pictures but to get images that have something to say about the particular protest, looking for elements that identify the company concerned or make clear why the workers are protesting.  I also make a conscious effort to vary my viewpoint and angle of view to provide a variety of images.

An element of farce was introduced when the police finally arrived, a single officer who clearly didn’t really know what to do. After failing to get a great deal of attention from Alberto Durango who was leading the protest, he stepped aside and called for help.

As usual the protesters left in an orderly fashion when they felt they had made their point – and that the police might start to arrest them for aggravated trespass should they remain, and the protest then continued on the pavement.

Protests like this, that make clear how badly the cleaners who clean the Mace offices are treated and embarrass them as they would any respectable company, and usually lead to pressure being put onto cleaning contractors, all of whom seem out to give their staff little or nothing more than the bare legal minimum conditions and to employ management who just aren’t up to the job.

In this case I don’t recall the details, but it wasn’t long before  a further protest was called off as a satisfactory settlement had been reached.

You can see more of the pictures I took at this protest by the IWGB (Indpendent Workers of Great Britain) on My London Diary at Cleaners demand ‘End Nepotism’.

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Heathrow Again

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

I don’t like airports and air travel. As someone with a sensible level of concern about the environment I try hard not to fly – and managed to avoid doing so until I was sixty. Since then I’ve flown on I think 8 occasions, mainly when I’ve been invited to talk or exhibit photographs overseas, and where there was no real alternative.

I’m obviously not a great traveller, though I have been to quite a few parts of the United Kingdom over the years, but there is still so much that is new here that I’d like to explore. And even in London I occasionally still find parts I’ve not visited.

Airports like Heathrow seem designed to generate the maximum unease amongst those passing through, and are designed largely to sell goods to those passing through rather than to transfer passengers in an efficient manner from entrance to plane and vice-versa. I’ve travelled through a few smaller airports which do just that, where you can get off a plane and be taking a bus or taxi away in just a few minutes – and you can catch one with only a short queue to go through a security check and just a few minutes waiting. No huge shopping areas and extended periods to wait in them.

Reclaim The Power’s #StayGrounded protest made some of the issues clear, though perhaps not to all the travellers passing through Terminal 2, who probably couldn’t see the speech bubbles with things like “I’m one of the 15% who make 70% of all flights” and probably didn’t see or appreciate the ‘Frequent Fliers’ stepping over the ‘dead’ on the ground to get to the ‘High Polluters Club Frequent Flyer VIP Check-in’. And relatively few would have heard the speeches.

Photography – and of course video – is vital in getting the point of protests, particularly onrd like this which have a narrative across to an audience. And to a wider audience than those few members of the public who actually experience it. Of course the highest numbers see them through TV and newspapers, and this protest did make some of them even on the channels which like to ignore or minimise protest, but many too see them through social media. Even web sites and blogs like this have thousands of readers each day.

Air transport – for goods and people – is expensive and essentially wasteful. It creates pollution and wastes resources and is an important factor in climate change. We need to look not at ways to increase it, but ways to cut it. Some of its popularity is because of huge subsidies that currently encourage it, and those need to be removed.

Our recent election in the UK has perhaps served largely to show that we need a better voting system, that more accurately reflects the views of the British public. I welcome too the fact that it has brought out more young people to vote, and that a significant number of voters have begun to see through the media lies about Corbyn. As someone – not a Labour Party member – who had been saying since he became party leader that he represents Labour’s only chance of being elected to govern in 2020 I think the Labour vote shows I was right. Certainly he is the only Labour leader who could win if there is another election soon (and its highly likely.)

And until we do have another election the good news is that the vote needed for the expansion of Heathrow is unlikely to go ahead in this Parliament, which is good news for those of us who live in and around London, for the nation and for world climate.

I had been worried on my way to the protest that airport security might make photography difficult, but I had no problems as they stood back and watched, stopping the protesters from going into the security area and directing passengers in alternative ways to avoid being held up by the protest. The protesters too had obviously decided against any confrontation here, which was, for example why all the plastic champagne glasses of those ‘high polluting frequent flyers’ were filled only with air to abide with the bylaws.

You can see the whole story of the protest – which ended in singing and dancing – at Heathrow flashmob against airport expansion.
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Strong Women

Monday, June 19th, 2017

I’m not sure how much it reflects on me and the entirely sexist world I was brought up in back in the days of the fifties. Even in the sixties when I became politically involved, many still regarded the role of women to be to darn the socks of the revolutionary man. Though I hope I didn’t share that view, but I’m sure there are still traces of that prehistoric past in my make-up. And it still surprises me a little how many of those that I photograph and admire as political activists are women. I’ve not made any accurate census, but so many of those who first come to mind are women, and many of my favourite images are of women.

But perhaps I just like women. They often seen far more sensible than men. Photographing people isn’t just a technical thing, and it works better at least for me when there is a certain rapport or at least empathy. But perhaps I’m straying into sensitive territory and will find gender police of various sympathies swooping down on me talons outstretched (surely a sexist metaphor but what metaphors aren’t.)

On Saturday 24th September last I photographed three protests which were or seemed to be dominated by women (and the fourth, Release the Craigavon Two would perhaps also at least seem that way from my pictures.) Focus E15 started as a group of unmarried mothers in a council funded hostel under threat of eviction who got together and decided to fight to be rehoused in London, and were celebrating three years working together on a campaign which has widened into one fighting for proper housing for all and an end to social cleansing, particularly in their own entirely Labour borough of Newham, but also more widely.

The celebration took place on the wide pavement at Stratford Broadway where they hold a weekly street stall, and there was music and dancing and it was one of the few protests at which I’ve been handed champagne, which still tasted pretty good from a plastic cup. Almost all of the speakers at the rally were women, and so were most of those taking part.

From Stratford I made my way to Brixton, where Ritzy Cinema workers, men and women, were striking for a living wage. There were rather more women than men visible, and rather more of the men seemed to be hiding behind some large masks.  The picture above was a slight disappointment and would have been better, but as I was carefully framing it, another photographer walked into the frame at the right hand side, spoiling the composition. I’ve cropped him out but had to lose a little more too, and though I still like the picture, I can’t look at it without thinking of the one that I just missed.

Of course I did photograph the men too, and there are one or two decent pictures starring them, but in general it is those with women in the lead that are most interesting. Judge for yourself at The Ritzy’s Back for a Living Wage.

My final protest of the day was at the Polish Embassy, called by Polish Feminists against the introduction of new laws outlawing abortion  proposed for Poland  in solidarity with the 5th annual March for Choice in Ireland against the strict anti-abortion laws there condemned by the UN as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’.

The colours of the head dress of this woman speaking are of course those of the Polish flag, and I carefully positioned myself to get the Polish eagle on the Embassy frontage  to her right. It wasn’t possible to get enough depth of field for this to be sharp, but I stopped down as much as I could under the lighting conditions.

This was a ‘black protest’ with many of those taking part dressed in black, and the black doors of the embassy made a good background, though careful exposure and a little help in post-processing made the figures stand out better. I wasn’t ‘directing’ the woman holding up this octagonal placard, and it took a little patience and luck to get the framing I wanted.  And although the verticals were quite close to vertical as I took them, a little massaging in Lightroom was needed for the final image. Some agencies would not approve, but this was what I saw and tried to achieve when I was taking the picture and I’ve no qualms about using a little electronic help in this way.

Of course I took other pictures, but given the nature of the protest they too were mainly of women. You can see some of them at Polish Women’s ‘Black Protest for Choice’.
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Deeper, Stronger…

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

I’ve not before come across David du Chemin, but his 3 Shortcuts to Deeper, Stronger Images expresses well many of my own thoughts and teaching about photography.

Its worth reading what he has to say about them, but the 3 shortcuts are:

Study Photographs Not Cameras.
Focus Your Attention, Not Just Your Lens.
Expose Your Soul, Not Just Your Sensor.

I feel happy about spilling the beans here, because although they give you the gist, you really need to go and read his piece to fully understand what he means.

Of course it isn’t novel. Strikingly similar to what I tried to deliver to students in my 30 or so years of teaching – and of course many others. And if you want to know more you can also read duChemin’s new book,  The Soul of the Camera ,which has its own web site where you can download some sample material.

I do have a few minor quibbles, not least that cameras don’t have souls, though some of mine definitely do have a perverse character of their own – and one that changes the camera settings when I’m not looking. I also wonder how someone can stretch out what is basically a fairly simple idea into around 25 chapters and 250 pages.  But what I’ve seen is good advice and could certainly be useful to some, though others might find it better to just get out there and do it.

This, I find, is only one of a number of books that duChemin has written, one or two of which have titles that do a little suggest the kind of learning tricks approach he denigrates. But rather than buy his books you might also be better off buying and studying those of the great masters of photography. And if your bookshelf is already stuffed with well-thumbed copies of the works off Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Gene Smith, Cartier-Bresson and the rest you probably don’t need this one!

The Strange Case of Souvid Datta

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

A few days ago I posted about the controversy over the use of a picture of child prostitution being used to promote a Magnum photo contest on the web site Lensculture, brought to my notice in a post on the Duckrabbit blog.

Since then more has appeared about the photographer concerned, with Petapixel posting Photographer Souvid Datta Appears to Have Plagiarized Mary Ellen Mark, a story which came to light after Shreya Bhat of Bangalore, India read a report in Petapixel, who like me had picked up and commented on the original post from Duckrabbit.

Bhat is a great fan of photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and also very familiar with the subject matter and in 2014 was a social worker in the Indian red-light district of Sonagachi. So she had a great interest when in 2014 the Huffington Post published a feature on Dattas’s higly acclaimed series documenting sexual violence among sex workers and children in that Indian red light district, ‘In the Shadows of Kolkata‘. She noticed that one of the women in a picture had actually been taken not from life but from an image published in Mark’s fine 1978 book ‘Falkland Road‘ with the caption ‘Transvestites getting dressed in a courtyard. Falkland Road, Bombay, India.’

After reading the Petapixel post Bhat contacted them with this astonishing revelation – and the pictures in their post leave no room for doubt. It remains to be seen if this is an isolated case of cheating, or if once people across the world of photography start to look critically at Souvid Datta’s pictures they will come up with more instances. Petapixel describe it as plagiarism but I think a better term might be fraud. If you attempt to look at Souvid Datta’s web site at http://souvid.org/, you now only get the message ‘This page is password protected‘ rather than being able to access his pictures. ‘In the Shadows of Kolkata’ was available on the site last year, and the removal of this and his other pictures is highly suspicious. Petapixel say his Facebook and Twitter were also taken down after they contacted him asking for a response to the allegation.

As Petapixel states, Datta’s work has gained many prestigious awards over the years, but this puts all of them in doubt. Did he cheat in those other images? Will more cases like this emerge? It reminds me very much of drug-taking in athletics and cycling, and while it would probably not be sensible to call for awards other than those which include plagiarised images to be removed, perhaps we should consider ‘life-time bans’ for abusers in photography too.

Already PetaPixel has posted an update, linking to a Facebook post by documentary photographer Daniele Volpe, about two of his pictures being posted by Datta as his own.

FURTHER UPDATE

The latest development – published as I was finishing writing the above is that Datta has admitted his guilt in an interview with Olivier Laurent on Time Lightbox, and trying to explain his actions. Frankly I think he is in the wrong job. Datta was educated at Harrow School, one of the UK’s two top public schools, going on to study at University College London (UCL) and spending 3 months as an intern at Magnum. None of these venerable institutions seemed to have trained him in basic honesty and integrity.