Archive for January, 2009

T5 Flashmob

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

© 2009 Peter Marshall. John Mcdonell

I’m not sure that this is the picture that MP John McDonnell would want to put on his election leaflets, but it did amuse me – and some of his constituents who were there with him at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to voice their opposition to the expansion of the airport and in particular the building of another runway – the so called ‘third runway’ which will go through their village and mean they are forced out of their homes.

I don’t like airports. I grew up under the flightpath to the main runway (I think in those days it had five runways, but they abandoned some and built a terminal on another) with planes passing over just out of reach, and for a while was a keen aircraft spotter writing down their numbers in my book. They weren’t hard to spot – you needed to look through the wrong end of binoculars to see the whole plane.

Seeing some going over with flames from the engines led to nightmares but fortunately I think it was only in these dreams that I saw and heard them crash.  But back in those days of the Brabazon and Comet, aviation was a brave and exciting new frontier and I was caught up in its glamour, thrilling in visits to the airport where my oldest brother worked and I actually got to go in a plane, and later with him to the Fanrborough air show.

But when I grew up I studied science and became interested in the environment, and even over 40 years ago it was obvious that we had to do something about airports and air travel – and now you have to really stick your head in the sand not to believe it.

Last week’s announcement approving the expansion of Heathrow and the building of a third runway from transport minister Geoff Hoon came as a shock – how can any government be so stupid?   But the protesters who came to Heathrow’s T5 on Saturday are determined to keep up the campaign to stop it, and it seems more than likely it will never be built.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

For the planet’s sake I hope it isn’t.

More pictures on My London Diary, where you can also see pictures from last year’s flashmob at the Department of Transport and march at Heathrow, the 2003 march against the Third Runway and more.

Inez Baturo – Polish Landscapes

Monday, January 19th, 2009

The current exhibition at the Paris-based on-line Dmochowski Gallery features the work of a good friend of mine from Bielsko-Biala, Poland, Inez Baturo.

© 2005 Peter Marshall
Inez Baturo

A week or so ago I wrote something about the ugliness of snow on trees and now have to eat my words seeing the magic which this gives to some of Inez’s pictures. As gallery owner Piotr Dmochowski writes, these are “misty, wistful and pensive visions” and have a powerful poetry, full of “nostalgia, memories and sad reflection.”  I think there is something deeply Polish in them – as Polish as the music of Chopin.

But go and look at them on the web site – and there are some good large versions of the images on show. The pictures date from 1991 – 2008, with 2007 seeming to be a particularly productive year.

Dmochowski was born in Poland and works as a barrister and professor of law in Paris, but has devoted much of his time to promoting the work of Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński (1929-2005) with a gallery at rue Quincampoix in the centre of Paris from 1989-95. Work from the Dmochowski collection is now on show as the Beksinski Museum in Częstochowa, Poland, and the gallery is now an on-line one, showing mainly paintings.

Earlier shows of photography on the Dmochowski gallery have included the surreal recreations of dreams by Misha Gordin, who I was pleased to spend some time with on my last visit to Bialsko-Biala where we were both guests of the FotoArt Festival organised by Inez Baturo.

© 2007 Peter Marshall
Inez and Misha on stage at the FotoArt Festival in Bielsko-Biala, 2007

Other photographic shows at Dmochowski have included the controversial ‘To die so as to leave the hell’ with work by James Nachtwey, Don McCullin, Sebastião Salgado, Raymond Depardon, Joël-Peter Witkin, Dieter Appelt and Elizabeth Prouvost as well as of Beksiński’s own photographs, which include some powerful closely cropped heads using his family and friends as models.

© 2005 Peter Marshall
Inez and Andrzej Baturo at opening of FotoArtFestival in 2005

Inez and her husband Andrzej Baturo are both photographers and run a gallery in Bielsko-Biala and publish photographic books. They are the co-founders of the Foundation Centre of Photography and the Programme and General Directors of the FotoArtFestival of international photography held in Bielsko-Biala. I met them both when I was invited to show work at the first festival in 2005, and again when I returned to speak at the second in 2007.

© 2007 Peter Marshall
Inez introduces a speaker at the FotoArtFestival, 2007

© 2007 Peter Marshall
Inez listens to one of the talks

Sarah Moon and Inez at FotoArtFestival 2007

So, my congratulations and warm hugs to Inez!

Best Photo Books 2008?

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Photoeye Magazine invited 17 largely well-known publishers, photographers and critics to list their top ten or so photography books which came out last year. Most of the lists they got back listed the choices in no particular order, but by combining the lists, Photoeye has come up with an overall top ten, and as well as seeing all 17 lists you also look at the books and see who chose them.

Even more usefully there are links to the books so you can take a peek at them on line if you don’t already have them on your shelves – and it is hardly a surprise that you can also buy at least nearly all of them.  My own shelves are so overflowing I hardly dare add anything, and most that I do are second-hand or books sent for review. But there are one or two listed I’m thinking about – just a shame the publishers didn’t send me review copies!

The Magnum blog also lists the choices made by the two Magnum members among those asked, Martin Parr and Alex Soth. The only point in looking at them there rather than on Photoeye is that you can if you wish make comments. But there were none when I read the post.

Paranoia or Politics?

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I was outside the US Embassy at dusk on Sunday, photographing a protest on the 7th anniversary of the first prisoners being held at Guantanamo – and remembering those who are still there and still being mistreated, including two Londoners.

To remind us, there were two figures in orange jumpsuits standing manacled while the speeches were being made, so of course I went to photograph them, framing them under the watchful eye of the eagle and the stars and stripes on the embassy roof.

Not of course an original idea, and something I’ve done myself before on numerous occasions, so I was rather suprised when a police officer came up to me and told me not to take pictures that included the US embassy, but to restrict my photographs to point my camera away from the building.

I asked why, and the answer of course was “security“. Which is of course total nonsense, but  rather a common answer these days. Although it is an impressively ugly building, it has been photographed many times and pictures of it are widely available, and it is hard to see how any picture of it could represent a security risk. Rather easier to see why the US government might not wish it to be associated with such.

But I suppose these days I should think myself lucky not to be searched or arrested for taking photographs – like some others. And things could be much worse. While I was being given a polite warning I was listening to a Muslim man from Walthamstow talking about his experience of spending 18 months in prison for having a rather more impressive beard than mine and liking to go paint-balling. The police called it “military training” but fortunately for him the jury were less paranoid.

More pictures

Blessing the Thames

Friday, January 16th, 2009

The annual ceremony of blessing the Thames was only started 5 years ago, although it has a very traditional look, thanks to the more ancient forms of dress of those taking part.

I always try to respect religious events when photographing them, trying to interfere as little as possible with the worship of those taking part. But two other photographers from the two churches concerned seemed to have rather less inhibitions than me. I’m not sure if it is simply a matter of insiders having a clearer idea of what is and is not appropriate or just different sensitivities.

It isn’t easy to work out how to photograph the cross being thrown into the river; perhaps the ideal position for a photographer would be quite impossibly suspended in mid-air over the edge. It was quite a crowded event and it wasn’t possible for me to be exactly the best of possible positions, but I was quite pleased to capture a couple of frames with the cross in mid-air, and, by a happy chance to include a second less obvious cross just to the right of the Bishop’s mitre, made by the con trails in the sky.

More pictures

Hizb ut-Tahrir London March

Friday, January 16th, 2009

The British branch of the Islamic movement Hizb ut-Tahrir were also demonstrating in London last weekend over Gaza, but their attention was as much on the corrupt Arab regimes as the Israeli aggressors. They call for an end to the various dynasties and dictatorships set up as western puppets in the Middle East and a return to an Islamic caliphate as established in the early years of Islam.

They also call for the Muslim armies to go to the support of the Palestinian people, and visited the embassies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria to pour shame on them for colluding with the attacks on fellow Muslims.

As expected, this demonstration was highly organised and kept in order by the stewards and there was really very little need for the police other than to direct traffic.

Gaza – National Demo

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I’ve had a busy week doing odd jobs and have got a little behind with putting my work on the web and writing blog posts. Last end was a busy one, and I’m only just catching up with things.

Gaza of course is still very much on all our minds, and on Saturday and Sunday I photographed two very different demonstrations. The first was the huge national demonstration in London on Saturday, when perhaps a hundred thousand marched from Hyde Park to the Israeli Embassy.

Part of the reason why things got rather out of hand around the Israeli embassy has to be the lack of planning by the police for the numbers involved. It’s one thing to issue derisively low estimates of those taking part in marches, but quite another to base the policing on similarly ridiculous figures, and make it physically very difficult for the march to actually get past the likely flashpoint.

When the front of the march reached the southern gates close to the embassy, apparently there were still people leaving the assembly point near Speakers Corner a mile and a half behind, with the mainly wide roads between fairly densely packed with people.

Obviously people would stop – at least for some minutes – close to the embassy, and using barriers to narrow the road there more or less brought the march to a halt. Trouble started both at this point and at the northern entrance to the road containing the embassy, where demonstrators thought the march had been halted by police and started to get angry.

March stewards got angry too, and I was assaulted by several of them while attempting to photograph the front of the march. But I went home early as I had a party to photograph in the evening, and the demonstration continued for several hours after it had been expected to finish. More about the event and of course more pictures on My London Diary.

Thousands for the Obvious

Monday, January 12th, 2009

I’ve seen plenty of bad videos.  Even watched French TV. But you if you’ve a really strong stomach you can see one of the worst camera tests ever from the Gadget show on Five TV.  The Online Photographer, where I found the link, calls it “Kind of long but good fun‘” but they obviously have a very different idea of fun to me. It’s bad, bad, bad. So bad that at times it’s laughable, but also so bad I can’t force myself to watch a second time.

A male presenter with an incredibly staring eye problem and an uncomfortable twitch and a patronisingly eager female, both blessed by bad script writers, dress up in Avengers leatherware and get themselves photographed in a studio on a Nikon D700 and a Nikon F5 using the same Nikon lens (the photographer gets into the spirit of the act later with a bad black cloth cap.) He works with ISO 400 film in the F5 (it seems a bad choice to me) and sets the D700 to ISO 400 too.

Then they get prints made the size of the side of a bus and have them erected on the rather boring exterior of a modern building in the centre of Birmingham, UK, then run along (yes, they do run) and look at them. What a surprise, the digital camera gives the better print.

Better colour, more details in black, less grain, greater clarity. Digital gives the far better result. Which has been pretty obvious to all of us who actually use digital cameras for several years now.


Monday, January 12th, 2009

 Princess Diana fountain © 2008 Peter Marshall
Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park, London – more pictures

Tilt-Shift Maker  have got it all wrong. What I never wanted when I used a tilt-shift lens or the movements on a 4×5 was never to reduce the area of sharp focus, but always to get a greater apparent depth of field by tilting the plane of focus to cover the subject.

After extreme processing by Tilt-Shift Maker

So I don’t want this. What I’d like to see is that foreground area made sharp. Software that could do that would really be clever. Almost every time I go out to take pictures in winter or at night when light it low I find pictures where I can’t get the depth of field I want – and often a tilt lens could help. It isn’t often I want less depth of field – and when I do it generally isn’t just in the simple way that this program offers.

But if you are really looking for a new way to really mess up your photos and get some glowing comments on flickr, this is perhaps the way to go.

Suit for Prince

Monday, January 12th, 2009

It’s interesting to read, thanks to Cityfile that French photographer Patrick Cariou has filed a suit against Richard Prince and his gallery for using his photographs published in the 2000 book Yes Rasta in a series of paintings that were recently on show at Gagosian New York. Not least because the precendents suggest that Cariou is probably unlikely to win, despite a certain obvious justice in his case. Prince’s work clearly could not exist without his creative input, and to suggest otherwise seems to me to deny the creative input of Cariou’s work.

I rather suspect that if Prince’s work had been shown in Paris, the result of a case in the French courts would be rather different. I don’t have any time for the appropriation of photographs – but then I’m a photographer. I’d be happy if people wanted to use my work, so long as they were prepared both to acknowledge their indebtedness explicitly in both words and cash.