Archive for July, 2011

The Umbrella in Photography

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

One of my earliest published serious articles on photography was entitled ‘The Umbrella in Photography’ and perhaps one day I’ll hunt for a copy (I can’t remember now when or even where it was first published) and either post it here or die of shame on reading it.  I do remember that it looked at a number of pictures including two by Kertesz, one I think of people coming down a bridge onto a station platform seen from above and concerned largely with design, and another of a man beside a park bench with a broken umbrella serving staunchly as a metaphor.  It’s an image I saw again this week in an original print hanging among others on a friend’s wall, and given the current interest in Hungarian photography is almost bound to be on show currently in London, either at the Royal Academy or a dealer show. Together the two illustrate different aspects which always combine in photography, though in differing extents.

One Sunday last month, at the start of Refugee Week 2011  I found myself rooted to the spot on the steps coming down from the Jubilee/Hungerford Bridge as coloured umbrella after umbrella came down past me, trying to capture something of the event. I think this was my best picture:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

in part because of the two t-shirts ‘Proud To Protect Refugees’ in the centre of the image which make clear what the parade was about.  But in Refugee Week Umbrella Parade you can see quite a few of the others I took in that same spot, including more with the 10.5mm full-frame fisheye on the D300 and also some with the 16-35mm on the D700.  I think the fisheye works better in this situation, although the effect it gives of people walking out of frame at the edges isn’t always a help. The woman at the left I think it gives a useful added dynamic to the image, but the guy with the blue umbrella at top right seems to be doing his own thing (and perhaps about to jump of the side of the steps.) I suppose I could crop him off (or use a little distortion correct which takes out the corners) but then I do like the blue umbrella.

I did photograph the rest of the parade, from its start in Victoria Embankment Gardens

© 2011, Peter Marshall

to its finish on the South Bank

© 2011, Peter Marshall

and of course you can see rather more pictures on My London Diary.

On the Buses Again

Friday, July 15th, 2011

The pictures I saw last week in Seen/Unseen at the Collective gallery as a part of the London Street Photography Festival reminded me of my own very different work on the buses around 20 years ago.

© 1991, Peter Marshall

In the early 1990s I was a member of a group of photographers called ‘London Documentary Photographers‘, brought together by Mike Seaborne, which met at the Museum of London, and discussed our work documenting the city as well as working together on some joint projects. One of these was a project on Transport, shown as Transport in the City at the Museum in 1992. Having admired the work that Paul Baldesare had already been carrying out on London’s underground for several years I decided that I would photograph people on buses.

You can see some of Baldesare’s black and white work from that project – with scans that are fairly typical of the web around ten years ago – on the Fixing Shadows web site.  He later worked on the project again in colour.

A dozen pictures of my work on London buses – with similar antique scans rather than those here- also went on to Fixing Shadows, where I was the first of several photographers from London. Fixing Shadows was one of the first great photographic sites on the web, founded in May 1995 to champion ‘straight photography’ by J. David Sapir, then a Professor, now Emeritus Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia and for some years the editor of the Visual Anthropology Review.

© 1991, Peter Marshall

Here’s the introduction that I wrote to my work on that site and which was particularly pertinent to the work on the buses :

Some people feel that you should only photograph others after asking permission. However, our behaviour in public places is public behaviour and thus, I believe, proper subject matter for the photographer.

It is – I was taught as a child – wrong to stare, but these pictures are glances rather than stares. All were taken with a wide angle lens, typically within a few feet of the subjects. Most were unaware of the camera: others choose to ignore it. Asking permission would have destroyed both the events I was trying to picture and the spontaneity of my response to them.

Many people – myself included – would generally prefer not to be asked. Just get on with it and don’t make a fuss – preferably don’t let me know. Daily our images are recorded unasked on security cameras on almost every city building and interior. I find the odd guy with a camera far less threatening; at least as a photographer I acknowledge a responsibility towards those who I photograph. I hope none would consider themselves misrepresented.

Documenting the way we live is perhaps the most important role of photography.

In some ways it would be easier to carry out this project today, although people often say that it is getting harder to photograph on the streets.  The cameras I used then were certainly noisier and more obtrusive than some now, and many designed to be used away from the eye.  Some of these images were taken without using the viewfinder, and framing then was a problem, which today’s swivelling screens would have greatly simplified. Usually I managed to lift the camera quickly to my eye for a quick glance, but there were occasions when I knew I needed a lower viewpoint, and had to rely on experience and guesswork, shooting either with the camera held in my lap, or on my chest.

© 1992, Peter Marshall
A swivelling screen would have made pictures like this rather easier

The other main problem was contrast, with sometimes huge differences in lighting inside the bus and through the windows. Unfortunately some of the best pictures came in the worst weather for this, with bright sunlight outside. Using chromogenic film was a part of the solution, as I found it possible to recover detail from highly overexposed areas, but I learnt a great deal about printing techniques in the darkroom from coping with these negatives, including the use of coloured filters while burning in areas on multi-contrast paper. Again things are so much easier with digital printing, and using RAW on the Nikon cameras does appear in practice to cover a pretty wide dynamic range.

© 1991, Peter Marshall

I can only remember one occasion on which any of those I photographed objected to me taking pictures. It was an African man travelling wearing shorts and a large snake draped around his upper body, on his way to Covent Garden where he and his snake would, for a fee, pose with tourists. He was off-duty and I wasn’t offering him any money. Before I could really reply to him, two elderly ladies sitting to one side joined in on my side telling him in no uncertain terms that if he got on a bus dressed like that he should expect to have his picture taken.

A Host of Pictures

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Having made our way around much of the London Street Photography Festival, Paul and I required some refreshment, and not too far away in Smithfield was the Rising Sun. It doesn’t have a great line in photography, though there are some pictures of the Samuel Smiths dray horses on the first floor landing, which perhaps might be considered closer to street photography than some of the work we had seen.

We tore ourselves away from there having put the photography world to rights over a pint and made our way past the Golden Lane estate to Honduras Street and the Host Gallery, which was not taking part in the LSPF, although Panos pictures which shares the building was one of the sponsors.

Packed into the fairly small gallery (apparently soon to be extended onto a second floor) was a show in its way as interesting as any in the festival, although also one that I find in some ways annoying, if not worse.

This was a photography beauty show, the Foto8 Summershow 2011, with 150 photos chosen from 2853 submitted “on single image impact alone” by the Foto8 editing team and then from these the overall winner chosen by four “illustrious judges.” Although I think it’s somewhat demeaning to the medium and insulting to photographers to judge and exhibit their work out of context in this way, I did actually rather enjoy looking at it. It was fun even if I’m not sure it is harmless fun.

You can see the short-listed 150 or so images on the wall at the gallery, where they are identified  simply by a number, or in a slide show on the web. In some ways the web show is better than looking at them in the gallery, where they crowd the walls and screens from top to bottom and it’s very easy to miss some images altogether. You get a pleasant soundtrack, though if like me you sometimes pause to look at a picture for longer than the 3 seconds required to squeeze 150 into around 8 minutes it does rather mess this up.  Some images look better on screen than on the wall, where the standard of printing isn’t always equal to the work, and if you rest your mouse cursor on the ‘caption’ link you actually get to see the photographer’s name.

There are of course also advantages to being at Host and seeing what we used to call the “real thing”, a rather debatable concept in this almost 100% digital age. A few are actually rather better prints than the web image would suggest, and you can buy (for a remarkably low £2) the small red catalogue that has every picture on its own page with the photographer’s name and caption. For the price it is also remarkably well printed – and again some of these reproductions improve on the wall prints. Also if you go along in person,  you can, as we did, vote for the ‘People’s Choice Award’.

None of my 3 votes went to any of the four pictures selected by the distinguished judges (one of their choices wasn’t bad, but still not among my 3 choices.)  I’d made my choice ‘blind’, without referring to the catalogue, and was surprised on checking after voting to find that two of my choices were by the same photographer and my third a picture I’d not seen before by a friend of mine.

I don’t think you can take either the short-listing or the selection of winners and runners up with any more seriousness than Miss World or the Eurovision Song Contest, though it is obviously nice for those who get selected and win the prizes. But the show does present an interesting cross section of current work by the kind of photographers who go in for prizes.

For a rather more interesting and more serious view of photography I can of course recommend Foto8 magazine which comes out twice a year and “is regarded as the most exciting photojournalism and documentary photography publications today.”  Better still, become a Foto8 member.

A Walk Around the Street Photography Festival

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

 © 2011, Peter Marshall
A powerful blow on the tube today

I very much welcome the current London Street Photography Festival, as anything that creates something of a buzz about photography in a capital that largely seems to ignore it is a good thing. We need more photography events in London, and we need better photography events, and the publicity that the LSPF has got may help. Of course it’s on nothing like the scale of London’s largest photography festival, the East London Photomonth in October, which has been going around ten years and is perhaps ten times the size, and even that is a minnow compared to the month every other year in Paris.

I’ve already written about the work of Vivian Maier, which is the highest profile show in the festival. It’s a nice story and she certainly wasn’t a bad photographer, but unfortunately I think it’s simply untrue to suggest (as the festival program does) that she “captured daily life with a vision and sensitivity to rival any of the great street photographers of the time.”  The work we have – and you can see it on the web – simply doesn’t back that up, though it is of interest.

Back in the cafe at the British Library are a set of pictures from their collection by Walter Joseph, which for me were perhaps the most interesting of the festival. Taken in 1947-8 in London street markets even the poorest of them (and there are a few poor ones) has a historical interest that most work in the LSPF lacks. I don’t know what other work Joseph took in the years between his release from internment at the end of the war and his death in 2003, but it seems a great shame that only 80 of his pictures appear to have survived. Displaying 30 of these was perhaps too many – there is a certain amount of repetition and a few weak images – but the best have a humanity and warmth and show a keen eye for the moment.

We (I’ve not gone all Royal – accompanying me was one of London’s best street photographers) made our way out of the side entrance on to Midland Street and up to the Minne Weisz Studio to see ‘Adventures in the Valley‘, a collaboration by Polly Braden and David Campany. The LSPF booklet says that they “push the boundaries of street photography“, but it would be rather more accurate to say that this work really has no connection with street photography – which makes it no less interesting or worthwhile as photography but did make me wonder why it was included in the festival.

As someone who has photographed the Lea valley for over 30 years I had a particular interest in this work, and there are some pictures in it that I really liked, although the text on her web site rather contradicts that in the show handout. On her web site it says:

Adventures in the Valley is an ongoing project. It was shown as a 150 image, 15 minute digital slideshow at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London as part of the programme London in Six Easy Steps, Summer 2005

The web site quotes Sarah Wise from The Guardian in a piece that starts:

A beautiful photo essay, Adventures in the Valley filled one wall of the group show Real Estate; it was the most powerful piece in the show. Polly Braden and David Campany spent a year in the Lea Valley, part of which is to become the 2012 Olympic Village.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Adventures in the Valley showing at Minne Weisz Studio

There were a few prints on both floors of the gallery, but the real show was a projection of a large number (possibly even the 150 stated, although it seemed rather less) images. Viewing conditions – as you can see on my photograph – were not ideal, even on a rather dull day. The 17 images on Braden’s web site give a very good impression of this work. Looking at Waltham Abbey, Christmas Day, 2005, a canal mooring on the Lea navigation with pylons and a light mist, a large Santa on the roof of one of the narrow boats, I do wonder is this is really Ponders End, with the Ford car park on the left and the bridge across to the Ford Enfield works in the distance at the right, the site of the bitter Visteon dispute and worker’s occupation in 2009. But hers is a nice picture.  Here is one of mine taken not too far away as I walked away from the factory in 2009.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Visteon (Ford) at Ponders End (but no Santa) in April 2009

It took us some time wandering around inside St Pancras International to find Entente Cordial, a set of double sided pillars with work on one side by Nick Turpin and the other by Nils Jorgensen, as we entered the station from the wrong side. If you are an international traveller you will probably miss it, as both the Eurostar exit and entrance are some distance away. They are at the ‘main entrance’ from Pancras Road, immediately opposite the German Gymnasium where the Maier show is taking place, and so hand for those who are attending that. But unfortunately the architect put the entrance at the wrong end of the station for most passengers (and I speak as a regular traveller from there.)

Both of us were too familiar with this work to spend much time there, having hoped that both photographers would have more new work to show. We had much the same feeling later in the day at Exmouth Market where ‘Street Photography Now‘ was on show. But of course those new to this work will have a very different reaction. And doubtless there are people who have not yet seen it, even if some of us are rather tired of seeing the same few pictures again and again.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
One picture from Street Photography Now in the Rue de Marseille, Paris 10e

After the innovative showing of the best of this work in Paris last November, for me it felt rather tame here.  I hope that this will not be the last London Street Photography Festival (and I was told there are plans for more) but I hope too that any future years will feature at least one major show by one of those “great street photographers of the time”, along with rather more street photography than the current manifestation – and rather less of the same now rather old “contemporary” work and more truly new work. And I also hope there will be more getting photography out onto the streets, as with both the show at St Pancras station and also the eight Camden bus shelters with work by George Georgiou in this year’s festival.

Most of the shows in the LPSF end on 17 July 2011, with the Maier show continuing until 24 July and that in St Pancras until 31 July. The bus shelter pictures remain until 5 Aug.  The London Street Photography show at the Museum of London, surprisingly not included in the festival, continues until 4 Sept 2011.

Uneasy Birth of a Nation

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I thought about going to celebrate the new nation of South Sudan on Saturday, but felt too tired after photographing a couple of other events in London to go on to do so, and caught the train home instead.

Of course the real celebrations were going on a few thousand miles away in   Juba, the capital of this newest of countries, but as I’ve often noted, the whole world comes to London to protest, and also they celebrate here when there is anything to celebrate.

But three weeks ago there was a powerful reminder of some of the problems that Sudan and South Sudan face, with a protest by the London-based human rights movement Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad. You can read about it and see more pictures in Solidarity with Nuba in Sudan

The Nuba mountains lie more or less on the border between the two countries, but have not become part of South Sudan. One of the more balanced and informed comments I’ve read on the area puts it like this:

The Nuba, as has been the case for more than 20 years, are fighting for their land and their cultural survival. The fact that their southern allies left them in the lurch by choosing to secede doesn’t change that.

The roughly 1.5 million Nuba (not to be confused with Nubians) have a diversity of religion, including Christian, Muslim and traditional faiths (even at times within the same families) as well as around 50 different languages. The Sudanese government, as well as quelling all military opposition in the area aims to create an Islamic state, making Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language. Sudan’s president al-Bashir at the start of the month repeated his orders for the ‘cleaning’ of the area and its conversion into a loyal part of this Islamic state.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Photographically I found it difficult not to concentrate on one young man, with wide open eyes. Though when he was joined by a younger girl with a similar gaze there was strong competition.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The problem in photographing her was the police barriers in front of the protesters, the upper bar of which was just above her eye level. As you can see clearly from the shadow on her forehead and jacket, I was using flash. The SB800 was as usual in the hot-shoe and really needed because the light level was pretty low and things just looked rather dull without it. But I did try a few pictures, including this one:

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Skin tone is often an issue, and many of those taking part in the protest had truly beautiful dark skin, and in processing the images rapidly to put on the web I’ve lightened it too much in some pictures.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I had a few exposure problems with some of these pictures, largely because I didn’t realise that I had the D300 set for spot metering. In a picture like the one below, this gives quite different results from the face or the poster the woman is holding, neither of which is appropriate. Of course there is a beautifully clear symbol at the bottom left of the viewfinder image to tell you the metering mode in use, but when you are absorbed in the subject, anything else is easy to miss. Spot (or more pedantically, semi-spot) metering like this is a great tool to have on a camera, but one that requires considered use.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

This is also a picture where it was important to have the whole of the message on the poster legible, and I was pleased to find that in this and most of the other images I took at least the key placards were legible. At this event it was easy, as everyone was facing more or less the same way and holding the signs in that direction, and there were plenty of them, unlike some protests where there is little or nothing to tell the viewer what they are protesting about.

This was another London protest ignored by the mainstream media, and I seemed to be the only photographer covering it. Although it’s taken a long time for me to post here, my story and pictures were on Demotix later the same day (I’ve used more or less the same text in the My London Diary feature.)  When sometimes I think about taking things easy and stopping reporting on events, it is events like this that might otherwise go unrecorded that keep me going.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Sisters Protests

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

I first photographed Hizb ut-Tahrir in October 2004, when they held a rally in Hyde Park and marched to the Pakistan High Commission in a protest against Presdent Busharraf. Then, as at most later occasions involving them I was quickly approached by their press officer keen to know where I was from. Although they were polite, it always seemed to be more a reflection of a desire to control than to help, although usually they did give me a helpful press release .

Writing about that event, I noted that they separated the women from the men, and that the rally was held by the men – with all the speakers being men and the platform in the centre of the men, with the women all in a separate group around 50 metres away, where it was hard to hear what was being said and even harder to see. There were a few women on the edge of the group, closest to the men, holding up camcorders, with zoom lenses  doubtless giving them a better view.

© 2004 Peter Marshall

During the march too, the women marched separately, with a large group of men leading the march, and a smaller group behind the women. It pleased me slightly that although the instructions were repeated again and again that the marchers must all line up and march in lines of six people, there were a few who defied the orders.

Of course, all the placards were the official ones with no individuality tolerated, and the marchers were issued with sheets of the slogans to chant (and I reprinted most of them in my piece on the event.)  Hizb ut-Tahrir seemed to me a slightly sinister organisation, and certainly not one I would want to see in power in any country, but it was hard to see any good reason why they should – as some people wanted – be banned.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Over the years and quite a few demonstrations, little seems to have changed, although I have photographed at least one of their demonstrations – against the French ban on Islamic face veils – which was almost a women-only event (there were just a few men around who seemed to be there to make sure they behaved.)

One of the points made by Hizb ut-Tahrir it was difficult to disagree with in many of their speeches in English I’ve listened to when taking pictures was about the corruption and despotism of many Arab rulers. But the Arab spring we’ve seen this year has nothing to do with the kind of revolution they preach, based on establishing a peculiarly fundamentalist version of  Islamic rule under a caliphate (khilifah.)

© 2011, Peter Marshall

But last month they were protesting against the persecution of some Muslims in Russia, where Hizb ut-Tahrir is an illegal organisation. In researching the article I wrote I got the impression their complaints of violation of civil rights there were real and justified, although perhaps more directed against members of their organisation than Muslims in general. You can read more about what has been happening in Russians Told ‘Release Our Sister Sidikova’ on My London Diary.

The only real problems in covering this event opposite the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in Kensington were the weather and the traffic. The embassy proper is hidden away in Kensington Palace Gardens, a private street where neither photography nor protests are permitted, but the consular section overlooks the busy Bayswater Road, and the protest was taking place on the opposite pavement, which is not particularly wide.

There were perhaps around 50 men and 20 women present when I arrived, behind a line of police barriers on the edge of the road. So to photograph them I could either go behind the barriers with them or stand on the edge of the road. Usually police put these barriers with their triangular base pointing out into the road, but here they had put the bases towards the curb, making them stick out eighteen inches of so further into the road.  It seems a small difference (and it is easy to trip over those bases) but it does expose photographers significantly less to traffic. On busy roads like this there is usually too a line of cones to warn traffic which also gives us another foot or so to work in safely. But there were none here, just a police van parked in the road immediately before the protest, obscuring oncoming motorist’s view of it and any photographers.

Of course in tight working areas like this the 16-35 mm on the D700 is very useful, and mainly at the wider end. But one or two cars and lorries did go past uncomfortably close to me as I photographed the men and a smaller group of women at one end of the protest.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

It had started to rain slightly as I arrived, but fortunately after a few minutes during which I was working microfibre cloth in hand and wiping the UV filter before every shot it stopped for a few minutes and let me get on with taking pictures. But not for long. Possibly the umbrellas help in some of the pictures, but as well as stopping the rain they also fairly effectively stop light, especially if large and black.

I stuck it out for some time, perhaps rather longer than I would have done if any other photographers had been present (of course there were people from Hizb ut-Tahrir taking pictures with cameras, phones and camcorders too.)  Much as I like many of my colleagues, it’s good to occasionally photograph different things to them. But then we got a really torrential storm; I put up my umbrella and thought briefly that there might be some interesting pictures as people sheltered from the rain, but decided instead to make for the nearby underground station and go to my next location.

Although I’ve only used pictures of the women at the protest here – it was mainly a protest about women after all – I actually spent rather more time photographing the men, and perhaps got some slightly better pictures, as you can see on My London Diary.

On the Buses

Friday, July 8th, 2011

 © 2011, Peter Marshall
Brett Jefferson Stott talking in the gallery

© 2011, Peter Marshall

London’s first Street Photography Festival is now in full swing, and last night I was at the opening of what is perhaps the most impressive of the several shows, although not one that has received any great publicity. Seen/Unseen at the Collective Gallery down an side alley at 15 Camden High Street, a few yards from Mornington Crescent station is for various reasons an interesting show, and is open 7 days a week until 17 July, although a display of 8 of George Gerogiou’s images is also on nearby bus shelters until 5 Aug.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Waiting for the 168 at Mornington Crescent

It was Georgiou’s images, taken looking out of bus windows, that held my interest, displayed on a grid of six screens in the gallery. At least during the opening, the light level in the gallery shining on the front of these largish monitors seemed to me at least a couple of stops too high for optimum viewing, more designed for the large prints by Mimi Mollica around the rest of the space.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
George Gerogiou

Part of the interest was in recognising many of the views captured by Georgiou, but the work also reflected the near-invisibility of the photographer, recording unobserved from the window of the bus. Of course he is not the first to take advantage of this kind of privileged position (and most of us city photographers have done the same) but he has persevered at it in a way that few others have.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Six screens display Georgiou’s work

His work incorporates the reflections and irregularities that come from shooting through glass which is seldom clean, and although at times this gave the images a greater depth, there were others images where I found it simply annoying and wished he had worked harder to avoid these – as some other photographers have done. But then we would have had different pictures.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Mimi Mollica

I found Mimi Mollica‘s images taken of people inside buses somewhat less gripping, at least in part because of their technical qualities. I felt they would actually have looked rather better on computer screens than as the large and rather garish blow-ups on the wall, and certainly felt they looked considerably better from a distance than close to, and I think better in my photographs than in reality. But others will certainly disagree.
© 2011, Peter Marshall
Grace Pattison, Brett Jefferson Stott and others listen to the photographers talking

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Both Brett Jefferson Stott, the founder/director of the London Street Photography Festival and the two photographers spoke at the opening, and there was a large and appreciative audience including a number of other photographers. Brett in particular talked a little about the difficulties of photographing in public, which I think can easily be overstated. So far as buses are concerned I do of course have a little form, producing a set of black and white pictures on them which was shown at the Museum of London back around 1991.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

On my way home I had a long time to wait at one of the bus shelters for the 168, and so had plenty of time to photograph one of Georgiou’s images on display there. And as often on my bus journeys I did take a few pictures out of the window, as well as one of my fellow passengers.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Another show in the LSPF not to be missed, which I’ve yet to see but which looks to be of great interest is Walter Joseph‘s ‘Street Markets of London in the 1940s‘ which is at the British Library until 31 July. It’s good to see the value of this work being recogised, I think promises to be rather more interesting than the much hyped Vivian Maier show.

A few more pictures from the opening will be on My London Diary some time in the next few days.

Red Hot Pictures

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Well, I exaggerate slightly. But too hot to hold.

As I’ve written before, I still stick to a rather relaxed regime for filing work, preferring to have had a good look at my images on a large colour-corrected screen and making any necessary adjustments – burning, dodging and occasionally even a slight crop – before sending them out into the world.

So last night as usual, I got home, powered up the computer, put the CF card into the reader, added a few keywords to the Lightroom input dialogue, clicked on import and then went downstairs to pour out a glass of a rather decent southern French red and start on dinner. Fortunately before I picked up my knife and fork, I remembered something else I needed to do and went back upstairs, to be greeted by the acrid smell of bien cuit bakelite and an error message on the screen telling me that a USB device was malfunctioning. A small wisp of smoke confirmed this.

I picked up the card reader and immediately dropped it again – it really was too hot to hold – then pulled out the plug and holding the reader by its cooler edges, away from any components, held the card also by its cooler edge and pulled it out.

I’m not sure what temperature a CF card has to reach for meltdown, but I was certainly very worried at that point that I had fried my pictures.  Fortunately I had a spare card reader handy and was able to plug that in.  A couple of minutes later I sighed with relief as the drive opened on screen and I saw a complete list of files, and even more relief when images appeared in Lightroom’s import.  This time I watched to make sure the import started properly before going down for dinner.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

One or two of the pictures weren’t bad, and together with the story NHS 63rd Birthday March in London they were on Demotix before I went to bed just a little after midnight. But I’ll probably write more about them in a week or two after I’ve put them and some more on My London Diary.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Celebrating the 63rd Birthday of the NHS at the Houses of Parliament

War Over War Photography

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

I’m not a war photographer, and probably I panic far too easily ever to have made a good one. The worst thing I’ve been hit by taking pictures is paint, though there have been some near misses from bricks, bottles, bags of flour, shoes and other handy urban missiles and over the years I’ve received numerous and sometimes all too convincing threats of violence both at close range and occasionally on-line by people who “know where you live.”  And a few rather nasty moments, as when when guy was dragged back by his BNP mates after promising to do something totally anatomically impossible to me with my camera.

Like most photographers who cover demonstrations I’ve been hit, pushed and punched and spat at, mainly by the police,* but occasionally by the rabid right or fringe anarchists or even bulky men with Northern Irish accents and dark glasses. But usually when trouble starts I like to try and cover it from the sidelines rather than get stuck in, to think carefully about whether I want to go there.

Unlike most other photographers now covering such events in the UK I refuse to carry or wear a helmet, a decision that would not be tenable in most other countries, but then I only work in England, and seldom even outside London.

But though I don’t do it, anyone with an interest in the history and practice of photography has to have an interest in what has been an important strand in our medium, at least since Roger Fenton went to the Crimea. As well as Fenton, I’ve written in the past about a number of the great war photographers – Robert Capa, Gene Smith, Don McCullin, Stanley Greene are just a few that come immediately to mind.

So I’ve been following with great interest the controversy aroused by the ‘The War Photographers biggest story: themselves‘, a controversial point of view posted on the Duckrabbit blog on July 1, and in particular the responses to this from a variety of points of view. A follow-up post on July 4, with the improbably long title  highlights a perhaps rather tetchy and perhaps ill-thought out comment to the first piece by the one of our leading current war photographers, Christopher Morris of VII, and a response to that by Asim Rafiqui. Again interesting reading, with a growing string of comments. Really quite a war!

Duckrabbit truly has form in raising interesting questions about photojournalism, for example with   last February, and radio documentary producer Benjamin Chesterton and photojournalist David White have produced some great work. As well as the blog, their website also has some fine features, for example The Other (side of Sweden) which shows the work of photographer Joseph Rodriguez with young Muslims growing up in the city of Malmo.

* I take that back – the police have yet to spit at me.

Hawk’s Wings Clipped

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Jay Maisel isn’t on my list of favourite photographers, but must rate as one of the better commercial photographers of the twentieth century, and there is certainly a great deal to admire in his portfolio even if very little if anything  I would want to emulate. We obviously think and work in very different ways.

One subject we seem to agree on is copyright and I was pleased to hear that he had reached a settlement over the unauthorised use of one of his images – not my favourite picture of Miles Davis – by  Andy Baio, some sort of internet entrepreneur who made a fortune selling a web company to Yahoo a few years back. For the USA it seems a rather reasonable cost settlement for what was a clear breach of copyright.

But apparently Maisel has become the target of a hate campaign spearheaded by someone who aims to put a million pictures on Flikr. I’ve only seen a hundred or two – mainly his most ‘faved’ images – by the pseudonymous Thomas Hawk, but they do seem to epitomise the worst of Flikr, and include what look like a few third-rate attempts to emulate Mr Maisel’s work that only increase my admiration for the originals.

Jeremy Nicholl in The Photographer, The Entrepreneur, The Stockbroker And Their Rent-A-Mob on his Russian Photos blog has yet another of his excellent pieces of research and reporting about Hawk and Baio, suggesting why Hawk should have an interest in stirring up a hate campaign against Maisel.

Perhaps what he fails to mention is what I think may really be the true motive. Jealousy. Even if Hawk/Peterson realises his million images on line there won’t be one that comes up to Maisel’s standards.

Anyway, read it and if you agree with Nicholl’s and my estimation of the integrity of this stockbroker employed by Stone & Youngberg in San Francisco – and at whose address his web site is registered – you too may want to click on their web comment form and tell them what you think.

Nice one Jeremy!