Archive for December, 2008

Amen Sister!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

2008 has been a year that has seen a few interesting developments in photography in the UK, although also a year that has left many of us considerably poorer. Many photographers have seen their incomes fall sharply with clients going out of business, staff jobs being axed and an increasing use of images from free or cheap sources. Many publications seem to think that anything that will fill a suitable size rectangle on the page will do and are not willing to pay the rate needed to sustain professional work.

I heard a week or so back of one local newspaper offering a ‘day rate’ of £25 – and still finding people who would take it, while others are now relying on amateurs to send them pictures for nothing but having their name in small print next to them.

Not of course that their is anything necessarily wrong with amateurs – much of the most interesting photography over the whole history of the medium has come from people who supported themselves by other means (or relied on partners, friends or families to support them,) or was the personal work of photographers whose professional work was generally tedious and mundane.

And many photographers who became famous through their actual professional work of course still often produced a great mass of uninspired bread and butter images. One of the problems we now have is that curators have a great delight in bringing this out and presenting it on walls as great previously unknown art. The truth generally remains that there are very good reasons why these images were obscure, but there is no career-enhancing kudos for curators in repeating – for example – to show the pictures that Henri Cartier-Bresson chose to include in his ‘The Decisive Moment.’  (You can now usefully see the entire book online, although of course the quality of reproductions is so much better in the real thing.) And yes, even H C-B had his off-days, and it is hardly surprising that the title “the Pope of Photography” has most often been applied to a curator – John Szarkowski – rather than a photographer.)

There have been some encouraging developments this year. Photographers often like to bitch about the British Journal of Photography (not least when it asks to use their work without payment) and there are sometimes very good reasons for this, particularly in some of their coverage of equipment which at its worst can be little more than a round-up of press releases or a display of personal prejudices, but in my eyes their coverage of photography has certainly improved. This was brought home to me when I cleared out the shelves containing several years of back-issues before Christmas.

One innovation for the BJP this year was its rather curiously named blog, 1854, a reminder that the print magazine is extremely long in the tooth. One of the great things about blogging is that it forces you to read other blogs, and although 1854 hasn’t yet become a useful source of information for me (usually I’ve read it first on the same blogs as them!) it does mean that its writers, “the editors of the British Journal of Photography, the world’s oldest photography magazine” at least keep up to date with “photographic news, from the latest gear to the best exhibitions to the best insights on ongoing and upcoming trends in the industry” which I’m fairly sure accounts for the improvement I’ve noticed in the print issues. Though there are perhaps one or two of their contributors who still need to start blogging!

At least for those of us who live in London, one of the big developments of the year – and one the BJP largely neglected – was the tremendous growth of the East London Photomonth. Of course there are some other photo festivals in the UK, but this is the only one of any moment in the capital and with around a hundred events this year beginning to make an impact.

The Mermaids and the Poodle, Hayling Island Carnival, 2005.  Paul Baldesare from the show “English Carnival“, part of the Photomonth I was also in.

Of course it still has a very long way to go to rival Paris – which is why I spent eight days in that capital this November (which you can read about in great detail both in many posts about the shows here on >Re:PHOTO and also in my  Paris Supplement to My London Diary.

One of my first posts on arriving back from Paris was Paris and London: MEP & PG which compared our London Photographers’ Gallery with the Maison Europeene de la Photographie (MEP).

The main thrust of my piece was in the third paragraph:

but the biggest difference so far as photography is concerned is one of attitude. The MEP clearly believes in photography, celebrates it and promotes it, while for many years the PG has seemed rather ashamed of it, with a programme that has seemed to be clearly aimed at attempting to legitimise it as a genuine – if rather minor – aspect of art.

So I was interested to see that when the BJP’s report (BJP 17/12/2008 p6) of the PG’s opening on its new London site (my account,  Zombies in Ramillies Street, on >Re:PHOTO was rather different) commented that gallery director Brett Rogers “hopes that the gallery will reach an equal footing with organisations such as the Maison Europeene de la Photographie in Paris“.

Amen sister! So do I, but I’ve yet to be convinced that we are singing from the same hymn sheet!

Keep Your Rights

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

The law, particularly it seems in the USA, works in mysterious ways, as Jerry Greenburg and other photographers who worked for the National Geographic Magazine have found to their disappointment and cost.

National Geographic re-issued the print magazines containing their work on CD, adding a searchable database, and claimed that this was just a ‘revision’ of the previously published printed work and so photographers were not entitled to any further payment. And they got a court to agree with them.

The legal arguments have continued but seem to now have reached a conclusion with the US Supreme Court deciding that the case isn’t worth them bothering about.

You can read more about the case on the Photo Attorney site, where Carolyn E Wright makes the comment that “photographers now must be clear in their licenses whether a publisher may make electronic uses of their photographs.”

Of course, many of us supply images through agencies or libraries that supply the licences rather than doing so ourselves, or submit work to organisations that impose their own licence terms.  But with these, some photographers have found that the small print in them hasn’t actually reflected what they have agreed with an editor to supply and often have been able to delete or alter them and still have their work used.

It’s important to protect your work when submitting it ‘on spec’ to editors by including with any images your own general licence terms and fees. You can make up a general ‘PDF’ file containing these to attach along with the images to any e-mail, and add a sentence such as: ‘Usage of the image(s) is subject to the attached terms unless other agreement is reached prior to publication.’

One simple way to do it is to use the forms written by the Creators’ Copyright Coalition for ‘Confirmation of Sale, Commission or Submission‘ which are written for use in the UK – and you can download a copy from the NUJ London Freelance site, which also has some very good advice on negotiations as well as an invaluable Freelance Fees Guide.

Of course if you are UK based and 50% of your income or more comes from journalism (including photography) you should join the NUJ if you are not already a member.  Given the increasing problems and threats involved in photographing in public it really does make sense to be in an appropriate professional body, and for UK photographers that means the NUJ

Thinking about copyright, if you put your work on the web yourself, then it is a good idea to put your copyright message on every web page. You can find out all about copyright on the UK Copyright pages, which include a useful page on using copyright notices. (But you can neglect their advice about registering copyright – it is hard to imagine any situation where this would be necessary for photographers – assuming you keep your negatives or shoot on digital andkeep theRAW files. And if you don’t, you should.)

Although when the typewriter was king we got away with using (C) for copyright you should make sure you use the proper copyright symbol ©, followed by the year of publication and your name. It is also useful (and necessary in some countries)  to actually use the word ‘Copyright’ along with the symbol.) If you wish you can also add a statement about rights, such as ‘All rights reserved.’

Some programs used to edit web sites have problems with entering the copyright symbol ©. The ancient version of Dreamweaver I still use messes it up if you try to add it to the ‘alt text’ of pictures in Design view. But if all else fails you can edit your source code with a text editor – even Notepad – and put in either the html code ‘©’ (without the quotes of course) or the unicode ‘!’ both of which should display correctly in your browser.

It goes without saying that your image files should indicated your copyright in the appropriate metadata fields. You can read more about this in the features  Orphans Act – Your images up for Grabs and More on Metadata. Many cameras also allow you to set a message to be added to all the pictures you take – which appears in an EXIF field – and mine currently reads ‘(C) 2008 Peter Marshall’ as the character set available doesn’t include the copyright symbol. But the D300 does also allow me to put my name into a copyright field.

A Christmas Message and a small Milestone

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Forget Ahmadinejad and the Queen. My Christmas message came in the early hours of Christmas morning. Santa and his elves were busy working overtime with the fairy dust and a small present came floating into my mind as I woke to roll drowsy out of bed to empty my bladder at 3am, and after completing the necessary I sat down with paper and pencil to record it. Unusually for such night-time notes it remained legible and made some sense when I found it again in the morning.

A few months back I got myself involved in one of those long and essentially pointless discussions on internet forums that I usually stay clear of, which I think had started with the question “what is a photograph“, although as such things do soon strayed off into other areas (at least one per participant.) I’d contributed Walker Evans’s quote from the text for a show at MoMA in the early 1950s about valid photography “Under no circumstances is it anything ever anywhere near a beach” (which I had put on >Re:PHOTO a few months earlier

However it’s perhaps more relevant that on Christmas Eve I had been thinking about Minor White, both in writing my Seasonal Greetings and also leafing through the latest Winter 2008 issue of Aperture, which on its final inside page has a feature by Anne Wilkes Tucker on what she truly describes as a “seminal gathering” at the Aspen Institute in 1951, which is accompanied by a group photograph of just over 20 or those taking part. This high-powered crew included Wayne Miller, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott, Frederick Sommer, Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, Herbert Bayer, Eliot Porter, Minor White, Ferenc Berko and Laura Gilpin. The event led to both the founding of Aperture, with Minor White as editor and moving spirit and also the genesis of the Society for Photographic Education.

Aperture has now reached issue 193 (as a subscriber for many years I now have well over a hundred issues on my bookshelves) and published many fine books and editions. I wrote a double feature on its history at the time of its 50th anniversary (another piece no longer on line – but perhaps to be rewritten to come out at the same time as issue 200?)

So here (at last) is my little present, a kind of definition of worthwhile photography:

The simultaneous exposure of two sensitive surfaces – one in the camera and the other in the photographer’s mind.

I’m always wary about milestones. It’s a word too close to millstones, which though perhaps notable for grit also hang round necks. But I do note that a few days ago I wrote my 500th post to this blog.

Also, looking at the statistics from my web host (which I seldom do,) I find that with a few days left, >Re:PHOTO is getting very close to 500,000 page views for 2008, though unless there is a sudden surge it won’t quite reach the half a million this year.

Seasonal Greetings: Bells not Bombs

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Apologies to those readers who have already received a Christmas Card from me, either physically or by e-mails, but finding one picture that was recent, appropriate and visually literate was the best I could do, so you will already have seen this.

Festive demonstration outside London offices of one of the three companies that make the UK’s nuclear warheads at Aldermaston, Dec 2008

 Glory to God in the highest,  and

on earth peace,  good will toward men


Someone did ask me whether I had arranged this group for the photograph, (or rather they accused me of doing so)  but as usual I was able to reply that all I had done was to be in the right position at the right time and keep thinking and shooting as things developed.  It’s a picture in which body language was very important, and the only one in a short sequence where the guy in the ‘radiation suit’ at left has a strange lean away from centre. I also shot a similar image without flash:

Two frames and 10 seconds earlier without flash

but I think this doesn’t for me work quite as well, partly because my eye goes to the two very bored looking security men on the door.  I also like the picture with flash partly for the way it picks out the foreground slightly, and especially the figure lying on the ground (a deliberate reference by the demonstrators to the outlines of bodies etched on pavements by the atomic bombs dropped on Japan) but also to the ‘fault’ of the reflection on the shiny black door of the bomb-makers offices – which the remaining security guy seems to be regarding with concern.  It appears to me like there is an explosion taking place inside and this flash is escaping through the door.

People often ask photographers if they ‘saw’ certain things in their pictures when they were making them.  Well, I certainly don’t stop and write things down – and the pictures are the best record of how I was thinking. In some ways it helps not to have too set ideas of what I’m trying to do which would stop me trying to push things further and make things less open to chance.

Minor White had a lot to say about photography.

every photograph a celebration

every moment of understanding a birthday


So enjoy and celebrate.

Background Information

Picture shows the North-London based group of Trident Ploughshares, the ‘Muriel Lesters’, in festive protest on 12 Dec 2008 outside the London offices of the leading company behind nuclear bomb production at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston.

US company Lockheed Martin leads the group making warheads for the Trident replacement and is the makers of ‘bunker buster’ and ‘cluster’ bombs, the worlds largest exporter of weapons.

The UK’s Trident replacement program is an illegal breach of the UK’s obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Around a week after I took this picture it was announced that the one-third stake in the UK bomb-making programme previously owned by British Nuclear Group (BNG) has been sold off to another US firm Jacobs Eng, outside whose offices the Muriel Lesters also demonstrated.

The group of protesters takes its name from Muriel Lester, (1883–1968), born in Leytonstone, was a leading Christian peace campaigner and writer. Among many other things she founded Kingsley Hall in Bow, was a friend of Ghandi, Travelling Secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and was detained for ten weeks in Trinidad and then several days in Holloway Prison for her activities during the Second World War.

Paris Supplement

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Finished at last, November’s Paris Supplement to My London Diary.

Paris (C) 2008, Peter Marshall

The trouble with being a one-man band is that when its all hands on deck there are still only two of them, but at least you can get away with murderously mixed metaphors without the restraining good sense of an editor. Though too many of those have the good sense of the average donkey coupled with a total lack of vision and an over-pernickety attitude to spelling and punctuation (and in the unlikely event she’s ever reads this, there is one lady who will immediately know I’m thinking of her – and for the record, you have absolutely no idea about punctuation despite your “corrections” to my pieces.)

Paris Photo, the world’s largest annual dealer photography fair, Le Mois de la Photo, a two-yearly festival of around a hundred shows and events, and it’s fringe, the Photo-Off with another hundred or so (and probably another hundred shows unlisted on the fringe of that fringe.)

Paris, the city and perhaps 50 km of walking around its streets searching for those shows and taking pictures. It’s all too much for one guy, even with the help of his wife (whose punctuation is always reliable and French impeccable.)

I admire those who are able to pull out their laptops or notebooks and blog or twitter away at events – at least until I read what they have written. Twitter is really such an apt name. Dawdlr is perhaps more my style, though I’ve yet to feel moved to contribute.

Anyway, my Paris Supplement 2008 is now on-line, with a dozen articles


Tourist Montmartre at Night
Le Paris Nord
Ceremonies du 11 novembre
Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise
Night in the City Centre
More Shows, more walking
The Canal, Les Halles and more
Friday – More Shows
Saturday- Art & Tourism
Sunday: Marais, MEP, Seine
Buttes Chaumont / Belleville Traversée
Paris Photo Party

and over 300 photographs. In the features there are many links to the roughly 30 articles and reviews from Paris I’ve posted here on >Re:PHOTO and of course both sites have many links to external sites where you can see some of the pictures and find out more.

If you went to Paris you might find I saw some things differently, and almost certainly you will have missed some of those things I saw. Comments as always are welcome on this site, though you need to join (it’s fast, free and simple) to post.

For those who missed Paris this November (and if you are interested in photography and weren’t there, you did miss a lot) reading my thoughts and seeing my pictures (or at least the 10% or so I’ve put on line) is probably the next best thing. So if you can tear yourself away from the mince pies and steal away to your screen it might provide a little Christmas cheer.

(C) 2008, Peter Marshall

You’ll need to provide  your own champagne for that party though.

The Worst Photograph Ever Made?

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

If you’ve not read Friday’s post to The Online Photographer, don’t miss it.  The Annie Leibovitz picture printed there is certainly a contender, though as it says it isn’t really a photograph, but a bad Photoshop job combining several photographs to make up something that is bad on almost every conceivable level.

The actual photography is trite. The Photoshop is terrible (so in Paris it might win a prize.) The parts don’t really fit together. The concept is lousy. It’s sexist. Kitsch. But Mike really puts it much better than me, and why waste my time. Elsewhere on PDN Online you can see some of the incredible bills that Leibovitz gets for the work of stylists for her pictures, and this picture undoubtedly involved a lot of similarly expensive work by a team of the highest paid pros in the business.

Also on PDN is a series of links to Ad-Week’s 2008 freakiest ads contest, and although you’ve missed the chance to vote in the preliminary rounds (but can still see the contestants) the final round voting starts on Monday. Your choice for Ad-Freak 2008  is between “A headless person, a disembodied tongue, a guy who likes kissing glass, and a nude 86-year-old woman.”  The old lady is I think quite sweet, though I’d have preferred her to keep her clothes on (but it’s harmless enough), but the whole tongue thing really sucks.

Annie’s isn’t the worst photograph ever made. There are guys (mainly guys) who churn out worse examples day by day that are hideously bad on a level she doesn’t compete on – though I admit here she is trying quite hard. I won’t post a link, but you could try typing ‘glamour photography’ into Google and take a look at some of the 1,470,000  hits.

Naked Rambler Jailed

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

One of the sadder pieces of news in the past couple of days has been the jailing of the ‘naked rambler’ Stephen Gough, given a 12 month sentence by a Glasgow Court for breach of the peace.

I don’t have any particular wish to walk our streets naked myself, our weather seldom tempts me to bare anything, but I find it hard not to agree with Gough’s comment reported by the BBC, that if members of the public were offended by his nakedness then the problem was with them and not with him.

Naked protest (C) 2000, Peter Marshall

In 2000 I photographed a protest for the right to be naked in public outside the Met police HQ at New Scotland Yard.  I don’t think any of the public showed any signs of concern, and most of the police seemed pretty amused by it, although doing what they considered their duty by telling people to cover up – the man below was threatened he would be arrested until he held his hat strategtically over  his penis.

Naked protest (C) 2000, Peter Marshall

More recently I photographed several of the annual naked bike rides through the centre of London – last years had almost a thousand riders, mostly wearing nothing more than a little decorative body paint. It was again an event that caused considerable amusement among spectators. Here are a couple from the 2006 event:

No fumes here (C) 2006 Peter Marshall

WNBR London (C) 2006, Peter Marshall

and one from 2007:

WNBR Lonfon (C) 2007, Peter Marshall

and again from this year:

WNBR (C) 2008, Peter Marshall

We all have bodies, and most of us have nothing very special about ours. Mine I think generally looks better the more it’s covered and I certainly feel more comfortable wearing clothes. But I can’t really think it should be an offence not to do so.


Even where the attempt was to give offence – as in this group of anti-monarchists ‘mooning’ outside Buckingham Palace in 2000.  Here the police did wade in and make an arrest – of a Swedish journalist watching the event who had kept his clothes on, but just happened to wear rather similar ‘Lennon’ style glasses to one of those taking part in the protest.

This event came into my mind last week when the police were insisting that anarchist demonstrators should remove items of clothing – face scarves –  in the demonstration I photographed at Dalston last week,  but here and at Scotland Yard they were attempting to arrest them for not keeping bits on.

The Boston Global View – 2008 in Big Pictures

Friday, December 19th, 2008

The Boston Globe publishes some big pictures of major events in its three-part round-up of 2008.  (Part 2 and Part 3.) Not all of the 120 pictures would have been in my choice of the images that define the year, but there are some powerful images among them. And some relatively trivial ones.

Use the ‘j’ key as it says to jump down an image at a time.

It’s been good to see photographs used large – here on screen and also in print in papers such as The Guardian. Its also good to see that desptie the size, the images aren’t marred by visible watermarking.

One small point that annoys me is that there are a number of pictures where the photographer isn’t named. Of course there are rare occasions where to do so might endanger their life, but with that single exception I’d like everyone in the industry to aim for 100% attribution. It’s a moral right, and one photographers should be making more fuss about.

Philip Jones Griffiths & Patrick Tourneboeuf

Friday, December 19th, 2008

There were two exhibitions at the École nat. sup. d’architecture Paris Val-de-Seine, housed in the fine late nineteenth century factory (now listed and protected as a historic monument, and recently restored) built for the Société Urbaine d’Air Comprimé (SUDAC) and with the message in large text on its frontage: ‘Distribution d’air Comprime‘.

View from the Pont National, Peter Marshall

‘Recollections’ was a show of pictures by Philip Jones Griffiths taken in Britain from the 1950s – 1970s, with plenty of reminders of what a fine photographer he was. It appears to be showing also at the National Conservation Centre in Liverpool from 17 October 2008 to 15 March 2009, and their site has half a dozen images and some text. You can also read more and see some other pictures on the Trolley Books page about the accompanying book. The Paris show did not have the slide-show of his Vietnam images which is apparently at Liverpool, and there is also a slide-show linked at the top of the Trolley page.

This show – like the John Bulmer show I’d seen the previous day, was also a reminder of a vanished past – some gone for good, but in other ways very much for the worse. The Jones Griffiths show covers a much wider range of political and cultural events, and there is always an insistence on stating the photographer’s point of view in his work.

One image that particularly appealed to me (you can see it small and dark on the Trolley site) was taken in Downing St, outside the home of the Prime Minister. It showed four nannies with a couple of prams and a push chair who had stopped – as they did every day while taking their young charges for some air – to chat to the two policemen on duty outside the door of No 10. Now the west end of the street is walled off, and there are security gates on Whitehall, and they would need to apply several days in advance to go down the street – after passing through an airport-style security gate.

You can see many of Jones Griffith’s finest images on his Magnum pages, including in the slide show there a number that were in the show. Surprisingly, the book Recollections does not yet feature on the site.

Patrick Tourneboeuf’s giant colour pictures of spaces behind the scenes or being redeveloped in his ‘Monumental, etat des lieux’, (shown in Los Angeles as ‘The Museum Project‘) were also impressive. For once the scale of the images had a purpose, confronting us with these spaces almost on the same large scale as they actually existed, giving the feeling one could walk into these empty halls and spaces under repair. I was particularly impressed by an image of the Théâtre du Châtelet, its balconies and stalls wrapped in plastic and the workmen in hard hats at the bottom left.

It is also a project that reflects the much greater support that photography enjoys in France compared the UK.  The project began with a carte blanche commission from the French Minister of Culture in 1997 to photograph the renovation of the Pompidou Centre; other official commissions followed on from the success of his work there.

Hard Sixties

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Another interesting show from Le Mois was at Galerie Galerie David Guirand  in the rue du Perche with John Bulmers ‘Hard Sixties: L’Angleterre post-industrielle,’ which closes 20 Dec.   This small gallery had a series of black and white and colour images from the 1960s taken in the north of England, particularly around Manchester.

Bulmer studied engineering at Cambridge, going on to become a freelance photographer working for the Daily Express and Town Magazine before The Sunday Times, Life, Look and other magazines sent him around the world. In 1972 he worked as photographer (cinematographer) on a BBC film directed by Mai Zetterling about Vincent Van Gogh which won a BAFTA award for documentary, and after this he made his career mainly in film, although continuing to take still pictures as well.

He has directed over 30 films, photographing on many of them and also on other films. Now approaching 70, he lives in rural Herefordshire (not far from where another Bulmer, Percy, founded a cider empire in 1887) and is working with his archive of images, most of which have never been published. As yet he doesn’t appear to have put any on the web.

The show contains some dramatic images of the times, showing a clear liking for fairly extreme wide-angle views – several looked as if taken with a 21mm lens. The harsh printing of the black and white work also added to the gritty feel of the work, which did very much seem to mirror life in some of the poor and deprived working class areas which they depict.

This was a time when the colour supplements and magazines were increasingly publishing colour images, although many documentary photographers were reluctant to use colour, with its added technical problems. The magazines wanted colour transparency, and many of an older generation of photographers had never had to bother with exposure meters before. Bulmer’s colour work stands out from this era, although I felt his black and white images were more confident and perhaps more true to the subject.

For most of the sixties I was a student, and seven years of my life were spent in Manchester.  For much of that time I lived in working class areas not a great deal different from many of those where he took his pictures, but although I owned a camera (a Halina 35x), I didn’t have the money for film. Photography then was still largely a hobby for the middle class, and those of us with little money made do with a film a year  for our holidays.  At the time setting up a darkroom was beyond my dreams. Living in small flats there was no room – and we had no money.

My daily journey across Manchester in 1970 to my first job in a small town in its northern outskirts took me on the smoke-filled upper deck of a bus through miles of closely packed terrace houses,  across the dead and dreary wastes of council estates, past a working colliery and varied industries including a wire works, canals, mills and the inevitable gas works and gas holders.It was a vivid grandstand view of a slice of the industrial north for a few pence twice a day.

All of these industrial sites were on the edge of extinction and much of those older areas of housing have been bull-dozed. My journey today would be completely different  Bulmer’s work is a valuable record of and England that has changed, if not always for the better.