Archive for the ‘Photo History’ Category

Luminous Lint

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

One of the messages that arrived recently in my inbox was from Alan Griffiths of Luminous Lint, a perhaps strangely named web site which has a great deal of information on the history of photography and is certainly the best site of its type.

For those with time on their hands due to self-isolation over COVID-19, and particularly for students whose colleges have close down, Alan has very generously made this subscription site free for the next month or so – and will review the situation then.

Take a look, and if you find the site interesting then please consider taking out a subscription if you can afford it. Sites such as LL take a great deal of work and it is only the income from subscriptions that make it possible. Here are the details of the offer from his e-mail :

While we all go through the turmoil of COVID-19 we each have to do what we can.

It is important for all students to have access to high quality materials on photohistory as universities, schools and libraries around the world close down so I’ve opened up Luminous-Lint.

You can login to www.luminous-lint.com for free with the email address spring@lumlint.com and the password “spring” all in lowercase. You can login here.

This will be available until 18 April 2020 and then I will take another look at the situation.

I would ask the following of you:

1. If you see any errors or have something to add let me know. I’m always at alan@luminous-lint.com

2. Subscribe if you can afford it as it allows me to provide services to those who can’t.

Other than that – have an interesting time exploring and I wish you, your family and friends all the best,


My own sites, including My London Diary, London Photos, Hull Photos, The River Lea and London’s Industrial Heritage (see below) and a few other smaller sites you can find links to on this site remain free all the time.

I’m able to provide them without charge thanks to a relatively small pension from some years of teaching and a largely abstemious lifestyle :-) as well as the occasional sale of prints or images for editorial use, but small Paypal donations, as the text I often append to these posts suggest, are always welcome. And you can also help by sharing these posts or other work on my sites on social media.

As well as those web sites, you can also find over a thousand rather higher resolution versions of my images on my Flickr account – and I hope soon to add a few thousand more. I’m happy to share these images – and for you to share them with your friends – but they are all copyright and a licence is required for any commercial or editorial use.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

Stephen Shore small camera

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Stephen Shore is one of the photographers featured in Sally Eauclaire’s ‘The New Color Photography‘ published in 1981, though I had seen his work a few years earlier, certainly in Modern Photography magazine and possibly elsewhere. He also featured among the ‘New Topographics’ featured in the presentation by Lewis Baltz at his workshop I went to. Euclaire’s book certainly can be described as seminal, a significant milestone in the acceptability of colour photography as a serious medium for photographic artists – and perhaps more importantly for museums to collect and galleries to sell.

Of course colour in photography was not new. The first photographs had been taken in colour over a hundred years previously with technical demonstrations by James Clerk Maxwell and Louis Ducos du Hauron, and since the early days of the Daguerreotype colour had been added to photographs by hand. Autochrome, the first fully practical single plate additive colour processes was introduced commercially in 1907, and both Kodak and Agfa marketed their subtractive processes which were the basis of modern colour film photography in 1936.

Colour became used increasingly in some commercial photography from the 1950s on, and increasingly by amateurs in the 1960s. Its use by photojournalists was restricted not by the availability of film but by the huge bulk of publications still being printed in black and white for cost reasons, but as magazines changed it became more common.

I took one or two colour films (perhaps one per summer holiday) before I could afford to go seriously into photography, but when that became possible, partly because I was earning money rather than being a penniless student, it was also because I had learnt how to do photography on the cheap, loading cassettes from bulk film, developing and printing my own work – largely on surplus and often out-of-date paper. Colour was still expensive in comparison, though later I learnt to use bulk colour film and develop it myself, using cheaper alternatives to Kodak’s E3 and later E4 and E6 chemicals.

Kodachrome in some ways remained the gold standard, or rather the yellow box standard, but a film that was impossible to home process and which remained expensive to use. So though I used the occasional roll (mainly for those holiday snaps) and was fortunate enough to win a brick of the stuff in a magazine competition, largely I worked with cheaper films which could be brought in 50 or 100ft tins.

But certainly back in the 70s I was serious about colour, even if I took fewer colour pictures than black and white, and if the results weren’t always particularly successful. I studied colour, not in an art school but at home with books such as Johannes Itten’s ‘The Art of Color’, first published in 1920 when he was leading the “preliminary course” at the Bauhaus:

Itten theorized seven types of color contrast and devised exercises to teach them. His color contrasts include[d] (1) contrast by hue, (2) contrast by value, (3) contrast by temperature, (4) contrast by complements  (neutralization), (5) simultaneous contrast (from Chevreuil), (6) contrast by saturation (mixtures with gray), and (7) contrast by extension (from Goethe).”

David Burton, quoted by Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Itten

When I went to teach in a sixth form college in 1980 I found the art students there carrying out exactly the same exercises devised by Itten.

So while I appreciated the colour portfolios that were published in Euclaire’s book I reacted rather negatively to the suggestions that this was the beginning of serious colour photography – and I think we are now much more aware of earlier colour work than was then the case.

I began thinking about Stephen Shore and ‘The New Color Photography’ on reading an article online at The Guardian by Sean O’Hagan, Stephen Shore: ‘People would chase me off their lawns with my Leica’. Although Shore became well-known for the work he made in colour with a 10×8 camera, he was also carrying a Leica with him. It’s an interesting article that tells me more about the photographer, though I don’t think it illuminates his work in any respect for me, but perhaps may for those coming to him anew.

I’ve not yet seen the book, Transparencies: Small Camera Works 1971-1979 which is published on March 5th, but the preview suggests it is rather more interesting than the small selection of images illustrating The Guardian article.


Paris Pictures

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Sometime in July 2017 I stopped getting my daily e-mail from l’oeil de la photographie – The Eye of Photography and though I missed it, soon forget to rejoin their free mailing list, which I’ve now done as I write this.

A post on Facebook linking to the site today, reminded me of what I have been missing, as well as to the end of the oldest photo agency in Paris, Roger-Viollet. Founded in 1938 by two “passionate photographers”, Hélène Roger-Viollet and her husband Jean-Victor Fischer it remained at its premises at 6, rue de Seine until now. After the founders deaths in 1985 they left the business and its huge collections to the City of Paris, and in 2005 it became a part of the local public company the Parisienne de Photographie, distributing works from the unique Roger-Viollet collection of nearly 4 million negatives and 2 million prints as well as those from the huge collections of many Parisian museums as well as some foreign historical collections in France and several independent photographers.

You can get an idea of the range of their work from their web site, though it may not remain on the web long. It truly is a remarkable collection, particularly of photographs of Paris from the 19th and 20th century. I particularly enjoyed looking at the pictures from the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.

As ‘l’oeil‘ says, the city council of Paris voted to close the Parisienne de Photographie on November 15th because of its large losses, incurred in part by the costs of digitising the huge image collection. Surprisingly the collection has been handed to a private company which does not publish its accounts, NLDR, rather than a public company or state institution.

The article also states that ‘the museums and libraries of the City of Paris will soon adopt the “open content”, that is to say the free availability of images‘ though I can’t understand why this should make NLDR a more appropriate choice. It now has been given an already digitised collection with an annual turnover of over a million euros and a public grant of 482 000 € to exploit.

What worried me rather when I ‘Googled’ “Roger-Viollet” was that “roger viollet getty images” came up several suggestions above the actual agency. Getty gets everywhere, and has had a disastrous effect on lowering image prices, not just for agencies but also for photographers. It is the basic reason that so many other agencies have already disappeared – and for the pathetically low reproduction fees now paid by most publications.

The Eye of Photography is a bilingual site, and one where I always find much of interest whenever I visit – and today was no exception (and it delayed writing this post considerably.) I look forward to receiving their daily e-mails.

Stuart Heydinger dies

Monday, November 4th, 2019

A few days ago I wrote a post linking to Brian Harris’s blog post about an epic scoop by Stuart Heydinger, then photographing for The Times who apparently not only managed to stage a handshake between Vivian Fuchs and Edmund Hillary at the South Pole in 1958 but get his pictures back days before the other photographers present.

The post by Harris included extensive written comments from Heydinger, who Harris managed to find living in Germany, age 92.

On Saturday evening the Guardian online published a gallery of pictures, The photojournalism of Stuart Heydinger, edited by Greg Whitmore under the text :

The Observer’s chief photographer from 1960-66, has died aged 92. Here we look back at his outstanding photography that captured some of the key moments of 20th century history.

But perhaps the most interesting pictures in the set are not those of great events or famous men or women, but two of French men in Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the 1970s and a girl collecting water in Algeria. It’s also interesting that the set also includes an image of a lonely flooded pylon, one of a set of “eerily beautiful, quiet images which were never published” taken in 1960 during flooding around Lewes in East Sussex.

Along with the photographs is a page from Heydinger’s travel diary for May 1963- August 1964 detailing around 55 journeys by air, sea, rail and road, an exhausting schedule that took him around Europe, to the USA and Borneo as well as to Antartica and the Middle East.

Like others, I’ve long questioned the role of the heavyweight news photographers travelling internationally around the globe, jumping from country to country and story to story, often actually manufacturing rather than simply recording the news. And there are elements in his work that support those criticisms, not of him but of the industry which employed him. There is certainly no doubting that Heydinger was a heavyweight who took up that role and made and reported history.

South Pole and Back

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

If you’ve not already done so, make sure you read Brian Harris’s post Stuart Heydinger-the South Pole and Back posted on his Brianharrisphotographer’s Blog a few days ago. It’s a post with interesting memories about legendary press photographers of the previous century, particularly Bill Warhurst, whose epic story about Stuart Heydinger is retold by Harris and the photographer. Heydinger’s photograph of a 1958 meeting between Dr Vivian Fuchs ( later to become Sir ) and Sir Edmund Hillary at the South Pole shows something of the initiative, planning, bravery and sometimes a little luck that went into what became a grand scoop, with Heydinger able to get his pictures of the meeting he had managed to set up back to The Times in London days or longer before other photographers present at the event.

In his research, Harris managed to track down Heydinger, now 92 and living in Germany and the article includes some lengthy comments written by him.

After recounting that story, Harris goes on to recount his own later experiences photographing on separate occasions both Hillary on Snowden on the 25th anniversary of the Everest climb, and making a much more formal portrait of Fuchs, both taken for The Times.

The piece is an interesting comment on the old adage about photojournalism, “f8 and be there”. Being in the right place at the right time sometimes takes and incredible amount of planning.


Danny Lyon on Frank the man

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

” For all artists, there is a difference between the person and their work. “

Thus states Danny Lyon in the article ‘When Fathers Die: Remembering Robert Frank‘ on The New York Review of Books site. His piece is a very personal story of the man he lived with and worked with and who he says “brought integrity to an art riddled with compromise.”

I don’t think it makes me see any more – or less – in Frank’s pictures but I found it a fascinating read, a reminder of the very different times and lifestyle in which that work was produced.

Robert Frank: The Americans

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

The final part of my essay on Robert Frank, written 20 years ago and published on the web in 2000 looks at his iconic book ‘The Americans’ which changed photography after its publication in 1958/9.

The discussion of the pictures and their sequencing owes a great deal to other photographers, including two whose workshops I attended in the 1990s, Charles Harbutt and Leonard Freed and many others, but I think I added a little of my own. I’ve come across parts of it on various web sites since it was put on the web, and I’m told it was widely plagiarised in student essays, at least in the years following its publication.


The Americans

The Americans‘ was turned down by New York publishers, but Frank took it to Delpire in France. There, Robert Delpire only persuaded the company to publish in 1958 by threatening to leave the family firm if they didn’t. The French edition was not entirely successful as a book, including texts by a number of well-known writers which had the effect of making the photographs seem like illustrations rather than a coherent work in their own right. The following year it was published by the Grove Press in America, in a form that respected Frank’s vision and which has been followed with minor revisions in later editions. Sales were poor and the reviews were vituperative, but the book has been republished in many editions and has I think been continuously in print.

The Grove Press edition had an introduction by Jack Kerouac, who Frank had recently met: ‘That crazy feeling in America when the sun is hot on the streets and music comes out of the jukebox or from a nearby funeral, that’s what Robert Frank has captured in tremendous photographs taken as he traveled on the road around practically forty-eight states in an old used car (on Guggenheim Fellowship)…’ Kerouac continued for five pages, showing a clear knowledge of Frank’s work and an understanding of what he was trying to do, concluding with some short sentiments which have been often been quoted, among them ‘Anybody doesn’t like these pitchers dont like potry. See?’ and his description ‘Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.’

The work starts with a picture of the front of a building, an American flag draped across its front and two windows, in each a person. Both are apparently female, though both are obscured. Taken during a parade at Hoboken, the bottom edge of the flag visually cuts off the head of the figure at the right, preventing us and her from seeing. On the next page, the City Fathers line up, probably for the same event, on a stand behind a rail with a flag pinned to it. Soberly dressed old men, hats and coats against the cold, the man at the back stands with eyes closed, apparently totally elsewhere in his thoughts as his lips pucker into a kiss.

Next on a balcony in Chicago, a demagogue raises both fists, arms outstretched, above a very bored looking sculptured head in a frieze below. Cut to a car park in a field in South Carolina, black men attending a black funeral, heads titled, hands to cheeks, lost in thought probably during an address. One man clearly has his eye on Frank, wondering what this white stranger is doing. Next to a rodeo in Detroit, a white man in a cowboy hat, in profile, smoking a cigar, hand also up to his face, behind him two women apparently subservient; we turn the page and a uniformed man is dragging a woman on his arm (probably his wife, though it almost looks like an arrest) along the street in Savannah. The uniform leads us to the doorway of a Navy Recruiting office, though which we see the flag on the wall and the end of a desk with two feet resting on it.

Already we begin to see some of the ways Frank is building a story, using montage – the recurring element of the flag, the orator followed by the listeners. A couple of other motifs have also been presented – the car and the American Dream, but have yet to reappear. Frank concentrates on the ordinary, the things you see on the road and along its edges, but he also deals with real issues, whether of race, as in the pictures of the black nurse with the white doll-like baby in Charleston, South Carolina or the trolley in New Orleans with whites at the front and blacks at the back, or spiritual emptiness in the ‘Merry Christmas’ signs at the fast food Ranch Market in Hollywood or the plastic crosses, ‘Remember your loved ones’ on sale for 69 cents. A petrol station forecourt, the pumps like figures in a religious procession, carrying a tall banner that says S A V E in heavy capitals. It takes a second look to see the lightly written G A S in the gaps.

Perhaps the two most famous of the pictures using the flag are from a Fourth of July celebration in New York, where the giant hanging flag is shown to be patched, torn and threadbare, and a of a man playing a tuba at a political rally, rendered anonymous, the bell of the instrument replacing his head, and growing out from this a pole with the flag spreading out. These pictures are used to start the second and third loose sections of Frank’s book – the first also starting with the flag.

We think back to the rodeo picture when we come to another vision of the Wild West, a bar in Gallup, New Mexico, taken from a low viewpoint, perhaps even shot appropriately from the hip. The picture is at an angle and slightly blurred, half obscured by the looming back of a man close to the camera. Across the bar a man stands alone and desperate, hands perhaps just in pockets or on his hips, but giving the suggestion of a gunfight that is ready to start. Later we see an immaculately dressed cowboy on the streets of New York, seated not on a horse but on the edge of a litter bin.

Another of the motifs, or in this case perhaps more of an icon, is the jukebox. It glows weirdly like an alien visitation in a New York bar, leers obscenely among apparently drugged kids in a Candy store. An ornate model dominates a wooden shack bar in Beaufort, South Carolina, with bare tables and chairs and a small black baby escaping from his mattress on the floor.

At Long Beach, California, Frank came across a car covered with a white cocoon in front of a low plain building with two palm trees. Here the car is clearly an altar, the trees forming the columns and roof tracings of a church dedicated to the Holy Motor Spirit; next we have the site of a car accident; a blanket covering some bodies at the edge of Route 66, four people in a line looking at the and a row of buildings back form the road; next a road in New Mexico stretching into the distance, its centre line absolutely vertical.

A woman needs on the banks of the Mississippi at dusk, her white robes contrasting with her black face; kneeling she holds a white cross. The next picture is captioned ‘St Francis, gas station and City Hall – Los Angeles, and St Francis is silhouetted in the foreground holding up a cross. Next come three crosses marking the site of a highway accident, lit by a shaft of sun from a cloudy sky. We get an assembly line at a car factory, followed by a political assembly line at a Chicago convention, a fine row of urinals and a black man cleaning the shoes of a white businessman in a men’s room…

I’m conscious of how much I’m not pointing out in these pictures; this is a book every photographer or anyone who wants to be a photographer should own. All eighty three of them are worth close study, although they work together to produce something much greater than their sum. Despite the mauling it received on publication – it showed a personal view of America and one that was distant and uncongenial to comfortable middle-class America who were, by and large, both the major cultural producers and consumers – and poor sales at the time, it has become a classic. It marked a new vision in photography, a shift in the paradigm, and, as often happens it took some getting used to. To modern eyes it is difficult to see how critics could fail to see the good points in Frank’s work – the irony, the capturing of the essence of the small towns on the road, and even the humour of some of his work. Students of photographic history will certainly also be amused by his deliberate introduction of references to other photographers, with at least one carefully taken ‘decisive moment’ and a couple of pictures that are pure FSA.

Of course the clearest stylistic reference is, as Tod Papageorge pointed out, in his ground-breaking ‘Walker Evans and Robert Frank – An essay on influence‘ to the work of his mentor, Walker Evans. The debt is at its strongest to Evans’s own work with a 35mm camera, particularly to his pictures of people on the streets, where there are many pictures which could well have been taken by Evans. As Papageorge points out, various aspects of the design of ‘The Americans’, not least its title, also clearly derive from Evan’s masterpiece, ‘American Photographs’.

Later Work

After ‘The Americans’, Frank turned most of his attention to film, although continuing to take some still pictures, despite stating later that in 1960 he decided to put his camera ‘in a closet‘. His first film in 1979 was the only film which allowed the beats to present themselves on screen, ‘Pull My Daisy’, starring poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, artist Larry Rivers and musician David Amram. Kerouac contributed an act of his never completed play ‘The Beat Generation‘ as the screenplay and also appeared as a narrator. Better known is his controversial ‘Cocksucker Blues‘ about the Rolling Stones, though this was never commercially released, and probably more known about than actually viewed (there is a poor digital copy on YouTube.) Altogether he directed around twenty films, as well as acting in some, and being an editor and writer.

Frank’s photographic output was increasingly linked to the problems of his family, including the death of his daughter, Andrea, in a 1974 plane crash in Guatemala and his son Pablo’s mental illness. Increasingly his pictures were carefully constructed but also captioned with texts, often crudely scrawled or scratched on the images. There is a raw emotionalism and outpouring of grief that is sometimes hard to bear in such texts as ‘She was 21 years old and she lived in this house and I think of Andrea every day.

More recently he worked on a series of photographs of common tools and objects, referring back to the series produced by Walker Evans for ‘Fortune’ magazine when Frank was working as his assistant.


When I wrote this the only other widely available book of Frank’s photographs was The Lines of my Hand published in 1972 which included a range of his work but lacked the coherence of The Americans. In 2003 came London/Wales, and in 2008 a revised edition of The Americans with most images uncropped and some variants. In 2009 Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, gave us scholarly essays with a great deal more information (and more pictures) about Frank and his work. From 2010 on Steidl published a series of half a dozen ‘Visual Diaries’ with photos from his early career together with the later more personal images. But despite all this, The Americans in its earlier editions stands out as the essential Robert Frank and the book that changed photography.

Frank dies

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Robert Frank whose book ‘The Americans‘ shook up photography when published in 1958 (and 1959 in the USA) died Monday, 9th November 2019. Born on 9 November 1924 in Zürich, Switzerland, he was 94. Frank was clearly one of the truly great photographers of the 20th century.

Studying that book changed photography for many of us, though many like me came to it rather late, though not long after I took up photography in the 1970s. As well as the direct influence there was also the work of a whole generation of photographers that were influenced by it, notably for me Friedlander and Winogrand. If you are a photographer you will probably already own a well-thumbed copy of ‘The Americans‘; if not, rush out and buy one.

In his Vanity Fair article written in 2008 about Frank’s visit to China, Charlie Leduff decribed the book as “his artistic albatross of sorts” and for many of us it stood head and shoulders above his earlier and later work.  It seemed to be a definitive statement that left him little or nothing to say.

Frank went on to make a number of films, of which the best known and almost certainly least seen is the 1969-1972 ‘Cocksucker Blues‘ of the Rolling Stones, never commercially released but which you can watch on YouTube. It’s a remarkably intimate film which epitomises sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and was rather too extreme for the image that the Stones wanted to make public. The sound track includes some great music but much of the speech is for various reasons unclear and if you are not a fan of the music and the musicians the film is difficult to watch other than as a document of that particular age and time.

Some of his other films are more conventional, and perhaps for that reason less interesting. Again for fans of the beats, ‘Pull My Daisy‘ (1959) is required viewing. Directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie and adapted by Jack Kerouac from an act of his play Beat Generation, it has an improvised narration by Kerouac and among others stars Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Larry Rivers, Alice Neel and David Amram.

Perhaps the best of the obits I’ve so far read is unsurprisingly in the New York Times, but The Guardian is also worth reading, and there a brief note on the BBC web page, and many more.

There are many obituaries of Robert Frank, and I don’t intend to write another, though I’ve previously written about him and his work at some length, though these pieces are not currently available on the web. Since this is no longer available, I’ll revise and post it, or at least some of the more interesting parts of it over the next few days.

The cameras behind the pictures

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

I’ve often written about it being the photographer and not the camera that makes great pictures, but of course most photographers spend far too long talking and worrying about cameras, and many of us own a ridiculous number of them, mostly just sitting unused in cupboards.

Of course there are a few pictures that call out for some very special features in a camera, but most of the great images we know could have been taken by almost any working camera. Back in the days of film it wasn’t too unusual for the images used to advertise Camera X to have by taken by a photographer working with a different manufacturer’s system, and when captions included things like the camera model, aperture and shutter speed these were often rather speculative. Sometimes on my contact sheets I noted the camera used – OM1/ M2 etc – but often it was unrecorded. Now we have EXIF data to go on; with film you only had the markings on the film, which confirmed it was Tri-X or FP4 etc but nothing more.

But I think most photographers will find the article “20 Of The Most Iconic Photographs And The Cameras That Captured Them” of interest, even if as one of the comments points out, it really is “20 famous photographs and photos we found on the internet that we think might come pretty close to what wikipedia says they used“.

It rather shows the lack of proper historic research behind the article when it comes to one of Capa’s D-Day pictures:

Capa was with one of the earliest waves of troops landing on the American invasion beach, Omaha Beach. While under fire, Capa took 106 pictures, all but eleven of which were destroyed in a processing accident in the Life magazine photo lab in London.

We now can be certain, thanks to the exhaustive and painstaking work of A D Coleman and his team, that the “processing accident” was entirely fictional, a story invented by Capa (or possibly suggested to him by military intelligence), who was a great story-teller in words as well as images. The story was never believable – film just doesn’t behave as suggested, nor does processing equipment.

Capa only took 10 images on Omaha Beach (or just possibly 11) before deciding that if he was to get his images back to England in time he had to jump back onto a landing craft. His films will have been developed under military supervision, and it seems almost certain that any images that he took on the approach to the coast will have been censored and destroyed, as the censors were anxious to hide the huge scale of the invasion.

Of course Omaha Beach was dangerous, but by the time Capa arrived (an hour or two later than he claimed) the leading US troops had already made their way well ahead, meeting rather less resistance than on other beaches. But it will still have been a very scary place to be, and the image conveys that through its rawness and lack of sharpness, I think a combination of camera shake and under-exposure combined with overdevelopment. I think experienced darkroom workers at that time lifted the film briefly from the developing tank and held their glowing cigarette behind it to judge development, dropping it back into the developer if the image was too weak.

At least they got the make of camera right – a Contax – though the particular example shown doesn’t look as if it got far out of the showroom and certainly not to war. The same is true of quite a proportion of the others here.

Given what is now known about Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ the comment on this seems rather lacking, and the same could also be said about ‘Afghan Girl’ by Steve McCurry. And perhaps it should be pointed out that several other photographers also took pictures of ‘Tank Man’ in Tiananmen Square (and they probably used Nikons too.) Then there is that ‘Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima’ …

A few of the comments are also worth reading, and some tell rather more than the Bored Panda article about the pictures featured.

A Rich Seam

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

It has been great to see the recent awakening of interest in British documentary photograph from the last 30 or so years of the previous century. The 1970s began well, but by the end of that decade it was an area that attracted little interest and even less funding. Apart from a few who had established a reputation, most were left to continue their work not because of any community of support or wider interest but because of a burning personal conviction.

It was an era when people were beginning to set up galleries and photography was increasingly bought as art (and investment) but while gallery owners might look through portfolios and admire documentary work, often at length, they would then regretfully say “I’d love to show this, but it wouldn’t sell“. And the non-commercial world, increasingly dominated by the world of education had become obsessed by theory, and it became the idea expressed in words that mattered more than any quality of its expression in visual form. Documentary was old hat, and while it might get a showing if sufficiently historical (particularly if its creators had become a part of the established canon) there was little interest in new work – and its value was increasingly questioned.

One major operation that in recent years that has begun to mine this rich seam of largely unpublished work is the series of Café Royal Books, small low-cost volumes published weekly by Craig Atkinson, dedicated to “Publishing, Preserving and Making Accessible British Documentary Photography“. I’ve written about this before, and have to declare an interest in that a few of the many volumes have been of my own work, with another due shortly.

Others too have played a part, among them Bluecoat Press in Liverpool, who have used crowd-funding to finance the publication of a number of fine volumes, including books by Paul Trevor and Trish Murtha. Their latest crowd-funder, already fully subscribed but open for more pledges (and rewards) until  Wed, July 24 2019 10:28 AM BST, is for Coal Town,Mik Critchlow’s epic documentary about the last years of coal mining in Ashington and England’s North East.”

It would be hard to imagine a photographer more embedded in the community he was photographing than Critchlow, who has for 42 years photographed the town in which he was born and lives.

” His grandfather worked at Woodhorn Colliery for 52 year, his father was a miner for 45 years and his two brothers worked for 25 years before taking redundancy shortly after the 1984 Miners’ Strike “

Of course this wouldn’t matter if the photographs weren’t worth looking at, but they show a fine and intimate view of Ashington and its people by a photographer who is clearly aware of the history and possibilities of the medium and capable of using it in a personal fashion. I’m moved by them, and possibly strongly enough to overcome the domestic fatwah on buying any more books. And I know I’ll regret it if I don’t make a pledge.

The north-east, thanks largely to Side Gallery and the Amber-Side Collection was one area of the country where documentary remained in high regard during the fallow years for the rest of the country.