Archive for the ‘Photo History’ Category

A Forgotten Street Photographer?

Friday, October 12th, 2018

While it’s great to see a film being made about Garry Winogrand which shows some insight into the man and his work, the description of him as a “forgotten street photographer” seems rather lacking in credibility.

Of course most people who think of themselves as “street photographers” nowadays are woefully ignorant of the history of photography including that of so-called street photography, and most people outside the photographic world would be hard put to name any photographer, certainly anyone who has been dead for over 30 years. Perhaps soon we will see a film about another of these “forgetten street photographers” like Henri Cartier-Bresson?

I’ve not seen the film, currently enjoying an extended run in New York, but I have watched the trailer and another introduction to it with more of WInogrand’s voice, as well as the preview – and many other videos about WInogrand, some of which I used in my teaching over 20 years ago. And I think the film will be something photographers should not miss. It will apparently be available later as a part of the ‘American Masters‘ series on PBS.

Vice has an interview This Forgotten Street Photographer Shot Some of Our Most Iconic Images with film director Sasha Waters Freyer which I think makes interesting reading and shows some fresh insight into the man and his work.

I’ve written about him and his work at some length, and have copies of most of his books as well as the most important works on him published since his death, and have been able to talk with one or two people who knew him working on the streets of New York. As well as this article, he gets a mention in 45 other posts I’ve written for this blog (and one other draft, about his work in Picture Post, that somehow never got finished.)

One of the problems with Winogrand is that he took so many pictures – including the many thousands on the undeveloped cassettes found after his death. Many of them didn’t really work as pictures, though without the openness they represent he would not have made those that, sometimes spectacularly, do. I feel sure that there are many images that have been published since his death (and a few during his lifetime) that do nothing to enhance his reputation, and the last show of his work I saw in London had far too many of them. Part of the reason for this lies with the art market, where anything attributed to him sells.

It’s interesting to look at his ‘Women Are Beautiful’ which Sasha Waters Freyer says “really hurt his reputation”. It obviously drew some attacks, but I don’t think he really had a reputation to destroy, and most of the attacks were based on the idea of a man publishing a book of that title rather than the work in it. As she goes on to say, “there are a lot of ways in which it is a celebration of women. It is a really important document of this period when women are entering the workforce and making themselves visible in a way that was completely new in American society.”

Winogrand thought it would sell, calling it in private “The Observations of a Male Chauvinist Pig” and hoping it might appeal to a different market, but it alienated too many and was too highbrow and insufficiently raunchy to attract the ‘Pigs’ he had anticipated. But it remains one of his best books, perhaps because of the focus given it by the problems in his personal life and the film sets out to examine him as a male artist and to understand how his “relationship to marriage and children and family … impacts (his) artistic output.”

Of course there are many other articles and reviews of the film (which has a Facebook page) you can find on-line. One from IndieWire by David Erlich caught my attention for this paragraph:

“Street photographer?” What a sterile way to describe someone who just captured what he wanted — who didn’t wait for permission to take pictures, or require an assignment.

Muybridge’s Horse

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

I don’t recall coming across the blog Muybridge’s Horse before, which is a site featuring artists whose work relates to the way we interact and experience animals and nature run by Emma Kisiel who lives in Portland Oregon.

It was drawn to my attention by a post featuring work by Carl Corey from his series Americaville, which you can see in more depth on his own web site and in particular in his Americaville blog, which appears to have been running since November 2016, though the photographs on it are undated. A feature on Slate suggests that Corey began the project in 2014, and you can hear him talk about the project on Wisconsin Public Radio in 2016.

You can find out more about Corey and see more of his archive and current projects on his impressive web site (a few may still need telling that the symbol with three horizontal lines close to top left indicates the menu.)

Corey’s work attracted my attention so much that I completely forgot about Muybridge, who I’ve previously written about elsewhere at some length. He came from Kingston, on the edge of London, close to where I was born and not far from where I live, and a few years ago in 2007 I took part in an exhibition with two other photographers, Paul Baldesare and Mike Seaborne, in the museum there which houses a display on Kingston’s most famous son, though the work which made him famous was made in California. Kingston Museum has put together a web site about him with the local university which is perhaps the best introduction to his work.

So much is written about Muybridge and is available on line that adding more would be superfluous, but perhaps I might link to the web site on our show at the Kingston Museum, still on line some years later, Another London, and a picture from Kingston in 2006, a very different place to that which Muybridge knew.

David Goldblatt (1930-2018)

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

One of the first photographic books I bought was ‘On The Mines’ by David Goldblatt and Nadine Gordimer, published in 1973 in Cape Town, and I think purchased from Creative Camera’s bookroom in Doughty St, which played an important role in my own development as a photographer. Unlike many books, I still have that first edition hardback, and can still find it and am sitting looking at one of Goldblatt’s best-known pictures on its back dust-jacket, “Boss Boy”, taken in 1966 and from the essay ‘The Witwatersrand: a time and tailings’ with Gordimer’s text and Goldblatt’s pictures and captions which is the first of three parts of the book – which continues with his ‘Shaftsinking‘ and ‘Mining Men‘.

So far I’ve read five obituaries of Goldblatt, though doubtless many more will be published, and I may even look out a dust off a short piece I wrote about him perhaps 20 years ago, though probably not, as certainly others knew him far better and probably wrote more perceptively about his work. Of course, back when I was growing up we all knew about apartheid and condemned it – and as a teenager I remember acting a part in a play about it, and later joining the Anti-Apartheid Movement and going on marches and protests.

But Goldblatt’s photographs, often very calm and carefully composed like that superbly framed ‘Boss Boy, the tips of the folding rule in his top pocket a fraction from the tope of the frame and his presentation ‘Zobo watch presented by the company for his safe working at the bottom edge, and on his left arm the company’s three star rank ‘Boss Boy’ metal badge touching the right edge of the picture, along with the texts strikingly brought home the realities of living under the Apartheid regime.

The five articles I’ve so far read are in the New York Times, The Daily Maverick  and Mail and Guardian from Zambia,  Al Jazeera and The Guardian.

 

 

Lange & Winship at the Barbican

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Opening shortly at the Barbican is ‘Dorothea Lange / Vanessa Winship – A photography double bill‘, with Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing showing together with Vanessa Winship: And Time Folds in the Art Gallery there from 22 June —2 September 2018, presenting the work of two photographers I greatly admire.

I’ve several times printed a copy of Lange’s best-known picture, ‘Migrant Mother‘ from the high-quality large Tiff file that I years ago downloaded from the Library of Congress, and have written on several occasions about this and other works such as her ‘White Angel Breadline‘ from 1933 which prompted her career as a documentary photographer.

The show apparently has a large section on this work, and you can read more about it and see the some variants on a page at the Library of Congress, where you can see all her work for the FSA (a search using the term ‘Lange, Dorothea’ yields over 4000 items, though not all are photographs), and find more about various shows of her work. On the Library of Congress they reproduce Lange’s own story about how she made the picture, written for Popular Photography in 1960:

“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”

But apparently Florence (Owens) Thompson, the woman in the picture saw it differently, according to her grandson’s recollection (I think recorded in Anne Whiston Spirn’s book on Lange Daring to Look, and mentioned in my 2008 post on that)

 “a well-dressed woman jumped out of a smart newish car and started taking pictures, getting closer with each shot. Florence decide to ignore her.

After taking the pictures, Lange is said to have told Florence who she was and that she was working for the Farm Security Administration and to have promised that the pictures would not be published. Next day they made the front page of all the newspapers.”

Lange gave a long interview to Richard Doud in 1964, a year before her death. You can hear 12 seconds of her voice and read the lengthy transcript  in the Smithsonian Oral History Collection.

Some brief biographical details I wrote almost 20 years ago about Lange may be of interest:

Dorothea Lange was born in New Jersey. She gave up training to be a teacher to become a photographer, working part-time in the portrait studio of Arnold Genthe before studying with Clarence White.

She moved to California, meeting Imogen Cunningham and opening her own portrait studio. In the early 1930s she began to take pictures of people suffering from the effects of the Depression, such as the ‘White Angel Breadline‘ in San Francisco in 1933.

The following year she met sociologist Paul Taylor who she was to marry (after divorcing her first husband, painter Maynard Dixon) and began to work for various Government projects, most notably the Farm Security Adminstration.

Her career was interupted by illness for almost ten years from 1945, following this she travelled extensively around the world with her husband before settling down to photograph things ‘close at hand‘ around her home and family.

One single picture she took for the FSA stands as an icon of the depression. ‘Migrant Mother‘ shows a mother looking worried into the distance, as if wondering what future there is for her. One child lies sleeping on her lap, two older children frame her, turned away from the photographer with their heads bowed. Lange recorded that the mother was aged 32 with 7 children; they were migrant pea-pickers but the harvest had been ruined by frost so there was no work. They had already sold the tyres from their car for food and were now living in it, keeping alive on wild birds the children caught.

Surprisingly the article in yesterdays Observer, Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing review – a visionary whose camera never lied by Laura Cumming fails to even mention that the show is on together with Winship’s, though possibly this was made clear elsewhere in the print edition. I’ve long been a fan of Vanessa Winship, and have several times mentioned her work here (I think this is the 15th.)

The best of these posts is I think  Sweet Nothings – Vanessa Winship written in 2009 which included a couple of her portraits from Turkey.  In a more recent post, I quoted from Sean O’Hagan’s blog in The Guardian:

“From Mississippi to the Black Sea, Winship’s poetic, masterful photographs show how hard it is for people to belong … so why don’t British galleries acknowledge her as this large Madrid retrospective does? She deserves it”

At the time I commented: “Though I’m afraid the explanation is unfortunately rather simple. She is a real photographer, and there is no major British gallery with a real interest in photography.” It is great to see her work acknowledged at last in the Barbican show.

 

Weegee the Unknown

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

Arthur Fellig, the self-styled ‘Weegee the Famous‘ is certainly one of the oddest figures in the history of photography and his best images of his New York have a remarkable raw power. I’ve tried to write about his on various occasions with varying success, and one of the great problems has always been to separate the facts from his inventions.

Writing a biography of the man would seem to be a rather Herculean task, and one not attempted before but it looks as if Christopher Bonanos’s ‘Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous‘ is a remarkable effort. I’ve not read the book, but there is an excellent long article about it in the New Yorker which I’ve just enjoyed by Thomas Mallon, Weegee the Famous, the Voyeur and Exhibitionist. As Mallon says, all we have had before is “a host of fragmentary recollections and the loudmouthed, unreliable memoir, ‘Weegee by Weegee’, published in 1961.” And of course the pictures, available in various books of which Weegee’s own ‘Naked City’, published 73 years ago is still possibly the best. But to go with Bonanos’s book you need a rather wider collection of his work since he refers to too many of this pictures to be included in the biography.

As well as various more recent publications, some listed in The New Yorker, there is also the web, and the ICP has quite an extensive archive of his work on-line. For a better short introduction I would recommend the 42 images at Amber, which also has a short version of his life. A Google Images search also throws up an interesting collection of pictures, though not all by Weegee. It also led me to the graphic novel, Weegee: Serial Photographer, by Belgian cartoonists Max de Radiguès and Wauter Mannaert, now translated into English and published last month, and the hour long “documentary” from 1993, The Real Weegee, not in great quality, but the few scenes I’ve dipped into have been, as one comment says, “Terribly produced and horribly executed.” As well as using his photographs it is based around footage of Weegee himself acting out an extremely silly script of a fake story of his life.

I’m never quite sure how much knowing more about a photographer’s life helps us to understand his work, though certainly in Weegee’s case it does answer some of the questions that have long bothered me about some of the pictures. There are also some photographers whose work would never have emerged into the art world had it not been for their biography. But sometimes I find myself thinking that I wish Minor White or Edward Weston had written less and had less written about them, and perhaps rather more about their actual pictures.

David Douglas Duncan (1916-2018)

Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Vietnam was the perhaps the greatest war for photojournalists, the last war where photographers were allowed the freedom to work and report what they saw with relatively few restrictions. The coverage in magazines and particularly on TV in America had a powerful effect on public opinion, stimulating the anti-Vietnam War movement there and across the world.

While the iconic images by Nick Ut and Eddie Adams are seared into our minds, there were many, many others and so many fine photographers, many of whom made their names there. And too many who died there, as had Robert Capa years earlier in 1954 when we knew it as Indo-China and it was the French colonial power who were fighting and losing.

There were far too many photographers of note in Vietnam to mention them all, but two stand out for the body of work that they produced and also for the books they published. One was the greatest Welsh photographer of the century, Philip Jones Griffiths, with his ‘Vietnam Inc‘, published in 1971 and the second, a man twenty years older than Griffiths, was David Douglas Duncan, who died on Thursday. His ‘I Protest!‘ (1968) was also a denunciation of US policy in Vietnam.

Duncan had made his name as a photographer in an earlier war, in Korea, and his book ‘This Is War!’ is a classic of photojournalism which Edward Steichen called “the greatest book of war photographs ever published.” It was a view very much from the position of the fighting man, reflecting his own past in the Marines, aiming to see war through their eyes. He went on to photograph many other things, and to produce a remarkable document of the life of Picasso as a friend and resident photographer.

You can read more about this remarkable photographer and his life in the TIME Lightbox celebration of his 100th birthday in 2016 and in the New York Times obituary.

D Day and more

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Perhaps because the media have been so preoccupied with the anniversaries of the First World War there was little publicity this year about the anniversary of D-Day, June 6th 1944. Which perhaps explains why I’m only writing about it a day late, having seen some posts about it on Facebook late last night.

Although we now know much more about the iconic images taken by Robert Capa – and the myths that have grown up around them and are still being stated as fact, even by some who are perfectly aware of the investigation by A D Coleman and his team, a three year study concluded around a year ago, when I last wrote about it. I suppose they are following Capa’s example; his most famous dictum was ‘If you’re pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough‘ but perhaps the attitude that most shaped his life was to never let the facts get in the way of a good story, though to be fair the story that he wrote was intended more as a Hollywood treatment than real autobiography.

I don’t mean by this in any way to belittle Capa as a photographer. The investigation is one that I think paints others in a worse light than him, though he certainly went along with the deception. Nor do I in any way minimise the shock of landing on that Normandy beach; for the military who went as a team to do a job they had trained to do it will have been far less horrific than for a lone individual, and I doubt if many of us would have handled the situation there any better. If anything I admire him more for his courage in realising that he had to return as soon as he could and get on with doing the job.

I’ve fortunately never been under fire from an enemy army. The nearest I’ve come is having milk bottles thrown at me from six floors up on a council estate, beer cans and bricks thrown from far right groups and a firework rocket aimed horizontally at me early one Sunday morning by kids in Bermondsey that missed by inches. And a paintball which splatted on my chest from the black bloc, probably like other missiles aimed at nearby police. I’ve been spat at, threatened, cursed, pushed and punched by the right, assaulted by police… But generally I’ve chosen to avoid violent situations, and I know I would never be a good war photographer. So Capa and the others who have chosen that course deserve and get my respect.

I hadn’t meant to do more than briefly mention D-Day and Capa, but as so often I got a little carried away. On being reminded of the anniversary I took another look (as I do fairly often) at Photocritic International. A D Coleman’s latest post there has the rather uninformative title Spring Fever: Ends and Odds 2018 and is, as always, worth reading, with a typically acute analysis of the case of Naruto, a crested macaque who picked up David Slater’s camera and took a few pictures with it. Coleman explains and comments on the decision by the Federal Appeal Court that copyright law covers the actions and creations of humans, and only humans, as well as on the concept of animals having names.

The post also contains Coleman’s incisive comments on two other matters, one of which is also – like the names of animals – related to ideas of ‘identity’ and brings in Alfred Korzybski’s argument that we should beware of all variants of the verb to be, which is perhaps rather relevant to some current debates, and a second more specific to photography, and in particular the devaluation of photojournalism, something some previous guest posts on Photocritic International have explored. It’s perhaps ironic that while some photographs now sell for undreamed of amounts in the art market, the rates for photojournalism are actual cash terms are lower than they were 30 or 40 years ago, despite huge inflation. Or if not ironic at least pretty desperate for those trying to make a living.

Brixton Portraits and GDPR

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Rather fewer photographers now have shops with windows to display examples of their work, and of course it was only those who made a living from social photography – weddings, portraits etc – who sold their services to the general public for whom it made sense. Now, most people take their own portraits, apart from those usually hideous examples produced by school photographers which parents are blackmailed into accepting so that schools can have a photographic record of their pupils (or rather ‘students’ now that you graduate even from nursery schools.)

Of course there are parents who like them, but when I was a teacher I was opposed to them on principle; not just because they generally had the same degree of originality as a photobooth, but because I knew that they put parents on low incomes into the position of having to either pay for them and go without necessary food or clothing or disappoint their child and force them to take the pictures back to hand in at school.

But good social portraiture is a rare skill, and during the late 1980s and early 1980s I carried out a project that involved photographing in and through many shop windows across London, and this included many photographer’s windows. I photographed a detail on one in Landor Rd in 1989 which I think must have been Harry Jacobs studio window; the caption states 4/6/89 Landor Rd 305758, where the 6 figure number is a Grid reference, though these were not always correct to the last figure. The image is a scan from a commercial enprint, which I could locate quickly as these are filed by the 1km grid square in which they were taken.

I’m sorry that I don’t appear to have taken a wider view of the shop front, but this picture is unusual for me and I think means that I realised the value of his work. As with many of the pictures in this series it was taken on a Sunday morning, when most shops were closed as this usually enabled me to work undisturbed. I do remember thinking that it would be worth going back and finding out more about what appeared to be a remarkable social record, but I never got around to doing so. And perhaps a little over ten years later I noticed the shop no was no longer there.

Soemone from the Photographers’ Gallery had clearly also noticed the work, and three years after Jacobs retired in 1999, with an archive of almost 60,000 photographs they put on a show based around his work in 2002, discussed in The Guardian. His son wrote a short piece, My Father the photographer which was published in The Evening Standard.

The Photographers’ Gallery apparently decided at the time that for photographs taken before the 1988 Copyright Act they had to get permission from the subjects to exhibit them. I’m not sure that was true, but although we have had no such problems from then until now, it is possible that things may be different again under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But you can rest assured that the GDPR allows processing for the purposes of journalism, and I think for art. The problem with the work by Jacobs was that it had been taken as a commercial agreement between the sitter and photographer and the sitter’s permission was probably required for it to be shown as art or documentary. My photograph above is clearly a work of art!

The Freelance Branch of the NUJ (a union to which all journalists in the UK should belong) has published an excellent guide to the GDPR for Freelances, which is generally reassuring, though it does point out we should all have registered as data controllers under the Data Protection Act 1998 and should continue to pay the £40 per year this involves.

You are also required to take proper steps to protect your data, which would include using strong passwords or physical locks on devices including computers, backup disks and memory sticks etc. The article makes clear that as journalists you can use the exemptions for free expression to avoid giving any information in response to ‘subject access requests‘ and that journalism is explicitly exempted from the ‘right to be forgotten‘. Something which may upset some is that the advice suggests that there may be problems under GDPR in using cloud storage.

Back to Harry Jacobs. My reason for mentioning him is that Lambeth Council are for once doing something I approve of, with a show of his work in the Town Hall. A Snapshot of Brixton: Harry Jacobs and the Empire Windrush opened on Friday 25th May and runs until Friday 6th July. Open M – F, 09.00 – 20.00

Bolivia, India, Iran… London

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Bolivian president Evo Morales has led his country since he became president in 2006, following an election in which his vote was roughly twice that of his nearest rival. His policies, aimed at reducing the US influence in the area, and getting more of the profits from Bolivia’s oil and gas industries enabled much greater spending on public works projects and social programmes resulted in a significant decrease in poverty, and he was re-elected with an increased majority in 2009. And although he had said he would not stand for a third term, he changed his mind and was elected again in 2014.

In 2016 Bolivia held a referendum on whether Morales should be allowed to stand for a fourth term in 2019. His reputation had been damaged by allegations that Morales had favoured a Chinese company with state contracts because he had fathered a child with a woman who was a lobbyist for them. He admitted the relationship but denied any favouritism. There had too been a slowing of growth in the Bolivian economy due to global problems, and the indigenous groups were becoming upset at not benefiting as much as they should from the increased wealth of the country, which has created and large and growing middle class, many of whom do not support his anti-imperialist policies. The vote to change the constitution to allow him to stand went against him by 51% to 49%.

Morales cried ‘Foul!’ (he is a keen footballer) and appealed to the Supreme Court, who ruled that, despite the constitution, no public offices should have a term limit allowing him to stand, which he says he needs to do to consolidate his party’s programme of of social reforms. The protesters accuse him of wanting to be a dictator and abandoning democracy. Some were also protesting against the revised penal code recently signed by the President, which, among other things makes provision for legal abortion, but that some journalists say endangers freedom of expression and worries some in other professions about the sanctions for professional misconduct.

Referendums, as we have found to our cost in the UK, are exceedingly blunt instruments, and there are very good arguments where any constitutional change is concerned for calling for more than a simple majority. And for countries that have a representative democracy I think they should only ever be advisory to the parliament. Morales clearly lost this one, as even had the vote been the other way round it would not have been a satisfactory mandate. And in the case of the UK, our Prime Minister who made the mistake of calling the referendum, should have made clear when he did so that no government would be bound by the result. 52% to 48% should have made our government look carefully at the issues and examine the possibilities but it should not have led to them rolling over with their legs in the air.

Back in Parliament Square, as well as reflecting on the idiocy of referendums (or -da?) I couldn’t help thinking that the protest was perhaps more about some of the socialist policies of Morales than about the constitutional issues that were presented as its cause.

A short distance from the Bolivians, various Indian groups were gathering for a march to the Indian High Commission in protest against attacks on the Dalit community in India by Hindu fundamentalists and the continuing illegal caste-based discrimination. The protest was organised by the Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB, and supported by various Ravidass groups, Amberdkarite and Buddhist organisations and the South Asian Solidarity Group. Dr Ambedkar, arguably India’s greatest 20th century statesman was the author of the Indian constitution, which outlawed caste discrimination, but it is still endemic there, and in the Indian diaspora. Government moves to outlaw it in this country were stopped by representations from the Hindu community, which includes a number of wealthy donors to the Conservative party.

And to complete a typically international London scene, a short distance away in Whitehall a further protest was taking place at the same time, with a rally organised by exiled Iranian groups urging UK Prime Minister Theresa May to break her silence over the uprising in Iran and call for the immediate release of the thousands arrested and under threat of the death penalty.

Read more about the protests and see more pictures on My London Diary:

Bolivians protest for Liberty & Democracy
Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence
Break UK silence over Iran uprising

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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.

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Wembley 1979

Friday, May 11th, 2018

Facebook friends will know already that most days at the moment I am posting a picture or sometimes a couple of them that I took in London in years past, currently from 1979, which are on my growing London Photographs site, along with my comments, sometimes about the pictures but also about other things that come into my mind.  I don’t intend to publish all of them here – as I tried to with the pictures of Hull throughout 2017 – but will try an put some of those that include more general comments about photography on here as well.

Back in March 1979 I took a trip to Wembley, and walked around a bit, stopping off on my way home in Harlesden around Willesden Junction. Part of the reason was to look at the buildings on the British Empire Exhibition site, close to the stadium, some of which were threatened with demolition.  And here are a couple of posts about them:

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Palaces of Industry, British Empire Exhibition site, Wembley, Brent, 1979
19g-52: building, concrete, reinforced, derelict

I had come to Wembley to photograph these derelict buildings which were built in 1922 and 1923 for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 -25, probably because some of them were about to be demolished shortly I’m not quite sure exactly which buildings I photographed, and although some were demolished in 1980, the last only went in 2013.

Although they had been built for the temporary exhibition, their reinforced concrete made them difficult to demolish, and they had only remained there so long because it would have been expensive to get rid of them. I think this is one of the buildings that was still standing and being renovated when I returned three years later and took some more pictures on Engineers Way.

The Empire exhibition was important in accelerating the development of the surrounding areas of north-west London, much of which soon became covered with suburban housing in the years up to the second war.

The area is I think totally unrecognisable now, with about the only remaining building being the 1934 Empire Pool (now Wembley Arena), which I think I photographed a few years later.


Palaces of Industry, British Empire Exhibition site, Wembley, Brent, 1979
19g-64: building, concrete, reinforced, derelict,

A second picture of the derelict concrete buildings, apparently left standing after the exhibition as it was too expensive to demolish them.

I think I probably took rather more than the handful of pictures in the area during this visit than have survived, and suspect that one of the films that I took may have been ruined by a camera or cassette fault or in processing. Although it is possible to lose digital images though card or hard disk problems – and to delete them by human error, digital is in many ways more reliable than film, not least because you can see some or your mistakes on the back of the camera.

In the 70s and 80s I was always short of cash, and loaded almost all the film I used into cassettes from bulk 100 ft lengths. I used a ‘daylight loader’ which mean that a short length at the end of each film was exposed in attaching it to the cassette spool, though later I learnt to do this part of the procedure in total darkness to avoid this. Re-using cassettes led to occasional problems with light leaks. Sometimes I used plastic bodied cassettes made for reloading – and these had caps which were quite easy to twist off – sometimes too easy. The metal bodies used by Ilford and most other films had ends which popped off when you squeezed the cassettes and could be re-used but could get too easy to remove with repeated use. (Kodak’s were crimped on and needed a can opener to remove and were not re-usable.)

All normal cassettes used felt light-traps on the opening where film emerged and films might be ruined by scratches if grit was caught in these from loading the camera in a dusty place, and we had to try hard to keep them clean when reloading them. Those fabric light traps were not intended for repeated use and this sometimes led to leaks. Leica used to have their own metal re-usable cassette which worked without a light trap, the with a slot opening up inside the camera, but it was hardly practical.

Processing too had its traps. Developers not stored in air-tight containers could react with oxygen in the air and become less active or even entirely useless (though normally they went brown to show this.) Some were meant to be re-used, and careful counting of the number of films developed was necessary to avoid them becoming too weak. As mentioned in a previous post I had to abandon some developers as simply too unpredictable.

One of my late friends, a professional photographer who did a number of jobs for a leading oil company magazine, was flown out by helicopter by them to photograph their North Sea Oil rigs. It was an extremely long and tiring day, and on reaching home she loaded the films into a multiple tank to develop them. After she poured the first chemical into the tank she realised she had poured in the fixer rather than developer. (Fixer is the chemical used to dissolve the undeveloped silver halides from films after development as most photographers will know.) The films were ruined, and she had to go in the next day and confess to her client. Fortunately for her, she had worked for them on many previous assignments and they appreciated her work, and they arranged another helicopter to take her out and make the pictures again. That time she made sure she got the processing right.

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Another picture from that walk around Wembley (though I’m again not sure exactly where it was taken) has I think two clear processing faults, visible even in this small reproduction. I could of course have removed them digitally. Fortunately I think this was the only frame on that roll affected.

You can see thumbnails of my selected images from 1979 here.

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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