Archive for October, 2012

At London Met

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

There wasn’t really a lot I found to work with outside London Metropolitan University on the Holloway Rd. The building had a huge image on its front, but it was tall and difficult to do anything with.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

So it was basically people, banners and placards, like many protests, although a strong wind made it hard for people to hold up the larger banners. It was sunny and so there were some deep shadows to contend with, either with fill flash or burning and dodging in post-processing to bring down the sunlight areas and bring up the shadows, or both.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

In this image I had to lighten the shadow area on the woman’s face and darken the sunlit areas on her face, hand and arm. I did a little less work on the man at the left and you can see a difference in contrast in his face – obvious when I point it out. I processed the image in a hurry to get it onto the ‘wire’ within a few hours of taking it, and cut a corner too many, though I doubt if many of those who viewed the picture would have noticed.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Taking these pictures I was thinking very much about gesture, expression and of course framing. Choosing the right angle from which to photograph is critical, and when speakers are using a microphone or megaphone, how and where they hold this is vital.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Although the subject of the photograph is essentially the speaker, watching the people around him and the background are essential. None of the pictures I took would rank among my most interesting, but I felt I’d done a pretty good job with what was avaialable. You can make up your own mind by looking at the set of pictures on Action For London Met Students on My London Diary, which also has more about why the protest was taking place.


Workfare & More

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Saturday 8 September was billed as a Day of Action Against Workfare, the UK government’s scheme to get the unemployed working for nothing in order to keep their benefits. There would be some virtue in a proper work experience scheme, but this isn’t set up to be one, and lacks any real safeguards for those taking part against unscrupulous employers who use it simply as a source of more or less free labour to increase their profits.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Workfare protesters outside Greggs in Camden High St

Although the scheme was introduced as a voluntary one, many of those taking part have had it made clear to them they will lose benefits if they do not take part, or if their attendance or performance is unsatisfactory. Many complain it essentially forces them to work full-time in order to get their benefits, the equivalent of being paid around a quarter of the minimum wage.

Many shops are simply using workfare to replace existing proper jobs, saving them the cost of wages. One of the people on the protest reported she had found around a dozen unpaid workers in a single large charity shop, a mixture of those convicted of crimes and on community service orders and the unemployed on workfare. The unemployed can be effectively forced into doing more than double the number of hours on a workfare scheme than the maximum sentence of community work a court can impose.

In taking the pictures I wanted to show the protesters clearly, and the placards and banners were important as always to include the protesters views in the images. But it was also important to show the names or logos of the various shops involved, including several well-known charities in as many of the pictures as possible.

I knew of three protests in different areas of London, but because of the times and distances involved decided I could only cover two of them. The evening before, as usual when covering various protests, I’d worked out routes and rough timings for getting from place to place using the Transport for London (TfL) web site. It’s a very useful site, but not always perfect, and often fails to spot some of the alternatives and occasionally goes completely haywire. But it’s useful in particular because it knows which underground lines will be closed for maintenance work and some of the likely disruptions to buses.

Today my journey from a tour with a group in Camden High St to Brixton was a fast and straightforward one, getting the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line from Mornington Crescent and then changing to the Victoria at Oxford Circus, almost as TfL had suggested, and I did it few minutes faster than their estimate, arriving in time for a short walk around Brixton before the protest outside Poundland got going.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Leafleting a shopper inside Poundland, Brixton

This was tricky to photograph because it was taking place under some scaffolding along the front of the shop, on a narrow pavement to a busy road.  Not an ideal situation. When a couple of the protesters went inside the shop to hand out leaflets at first I hesitated, photographing through an open door from the pavement.  There are virtually no restrictions in photographing on the street, but things are a little different on private property.

But soon I went inside and took a few pictures inside the store, working a little more discretely – and without using flash, easy enough thanks to digital – the image above was with the D700 at ISO 3200. You don’t actually need permission to photograph on private property in the UK, but had I been asked to stop by staff I would have been obliged to do so. Fortunately nobody seemed to notice; perhaps the security there are on workfare, certainly many of the staff seemed to be sympathetic to the protest and I was told there were quite a few on workfare.

I also decided to show the shoppers from behind so they were not readily identifiable, although I did talk to one or two of those I photographed and I think they were happy to be in the pictures. If you are taking part in a protest in public there is an implied (though not always actual) willingness to be photographed, but if you are inside a shop, you could argue that you had an expectation of privacy.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
I’d not expected to find Ghanaian Methodists at the Catholic Cathedral

My next journey took me to Victoria, where I was hoping to photograph a quite different event, but found I was far too early for them to be leaving the Catholic cathedral, and decided not to wait around for the hour or more before anything much would be happening. But then I found another group to photograph gathering outside the cathedral I’d known nothing about, Ghanaian Methodists celebrating ten years of their UK chaplaincy with some vigorous dancing. They were very different from the Methodists I know and I had to photograph them.

TfL had come up with some interesting suggestions for the next stage of my journey, to Sipson, around ten miles out from central London, close to Heathrow airport. Some seemed more trustworthy than others (and TfL sometimes suggest some strange things) and I decided to take the Piccadilly line to Hounslow West and then catching a bus. It was a long journey, but one of the essential things in my camera bag is always a good book.

I’d long intended to visit Transition Heathrow’s site at Sipson, a long-derelict market garden that had become a local eyesore and rubbish tip, but had never quite got round to it in the more than two years since they occupied the site and began their ‘Grow Heathrow‘ project, and today was a special open day there (you can actually visit on other days, or take part in their regular events such as the bike workshop, which would be useful for me, as one of my bikes is in great need of repair.)

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Part of one of the reclaimed greenhouses is now a dining area

It’s a large site, but the parts of it they have worked on are interesting and impressive, and it was well worth the visit, even if the photographs aren’t my greatest. On a warm summer afternoon it seemed a very attractive place to live, although I’m not sure I would like such rather basic facilities in the cold of winter.

Mike Seaborne: Landscapes in Transition

Monday, October 15th, 2012

© Mike Seaborne
Gorsuch Street, Hackney. Facades, Mike Seaborne

Tomorrow is the opening at Foto8 of Mike Seaborne’s show London: Landscapes in Transition and it is one I wouldn’t miss, presenting two of his long-term projects, Thames Estuary and Facades.

I got to know Mike when he set up a group ‘London Documentary Photographers’ which met at the Museum of London where he worked for many years curating photography around 1989. In his time at the museum he organised a number of fine shows of photography, including one by that group on transport in London and two others I was involved in, Photographers’ London: 1839-1994 and London Street Photography. The latter broke attendance records for exhibitions at the Museum, and coincided with his early retirement from the museum. Photographers’ London, one of a number of Mike’s books, remains as the finest work on the subject.

Ten years ago, Mike and I set up a web site,  Urban Landscapes, which is still going, with the occasional addition of new photographers to the site.  We put Mike’s Facades on the site in 2006 and you can see five of his other projects there.

WW2 tank obstacles, Grain. Thames Estuary, Mike Seaborne

Mike and I have always had a number of interests in common, and one of those is the fascination with the Thames estuary, where I photographed extensively from the 1980s until a few years ago. Most of the places that he has photographed in the show I’ve also photographed, and you can find some of my pictures on My London Diary as well as my own Thames Gateway projects on Urban Landscapes. So I have a particular interest in seeing another viewpoint on those same subjects, taken a few years after my own work.

© Mike Seaborne
Yantlet Creek, Grain. Thames Estuary, Mike Seaborne

Mike’s approach is different to mine. He has always been a more precise and careful worker than me, using medium or large formats while I’ve been satisfied with 35mm. There is a programmatic element in his approach to the shop fronts in Facades, all taken in a similar way with the same fixed lens camera which is something I’ve avoided. It gives his work an admirable consistency.

There are similar differences too in our work on the estuary and I think our work complements each other rather than in any way competing, and it would perhaps be good at some time to show the two approaches together. But his project is fine on its own, and I look forward to seeing the prints on the wall.  (We’ve previous shown work together in group shows a number of times, including Four on London, Another London and East of the City, which last year included work from his Facades project – so this is getting a second Photomonth outing.)

At the museum as well as in his own work, Mike made the most of the opportunity to explore the possibilities of digital printing. He was someone many of us went to for advice, although we often ended up doing things differently for various reasons (if only because we didn’t share his budget.)  But I think we can confidently expect to see some of the best that photographic printing can now provide.

Available from Foto8 during the show, and also from Quaritch who represent Mike is a fine 48 page catalogue of the show, designed by the photographer with over 40 of his images excellently reproduced.

Like ‘In Protest‘, Mike’s London -Landscapes in Transition is one of the shows listed as ‘highlights’ of this year’s East London Photomonth International Photography Festival.

Occupy London

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Occupy London celebrated their first anniversary yesterday, a couple of days earlier. One of the events we were all invited to was a special Evensong in St Paul’s Cathedral today, and I didn’t pick up the hint, but it made the news tonight after four young women from the movement chained themselves to the pulpit.

I’d thought about going, but in the end decided not. I don’t like photographing in St Paul’s, its one of the few places I’ve actually been ejected from as a photographer, though the last occasion wasn’t too bad. Though the lighting was almost non-existent and I was forbidden to use flash (though in the end I did.)

I was with Occupy yesterday for their celebrations, but perhaps I’ll write more about that event when I finally get around to putting it on My London Diary. A year ago I was with them when a meeting on Westminster Bridge took the decision to occupy the Stock Exchange, and was with them again when they were locked out and ended up at St Paul’s the following Saturday.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
On the steps of St Paul’s before the attempt to occupy the Stock Exchange

© 2011, Peter Marshall
The general meeting takes the vote to occupy at St Paul’s Cathedral

I visited Occupy at St Paul’s on a number of occasions, both for special events and also during normal days there, and also the Occupy Finsbury Square site at the north of the city, but didn’t get involved in the movement, careful to attend as an observer rather than taking part. When they were moving out I got an urgent phone text message to come and take pictures, but was unfortunately on a hillside in Derbyshire.

But I was there on May Day this year when a few from Occupy London did finally make it to the Stock Exchange and staged a token occupation in its doorway for a few hours.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

So I was pleased to be at St Paul’s again, on the steps outside on Saturday for the anniversary event and to be handed a free copy of ‘The Little Book of Ideas‘ written by Occupy London’s Economics Working Group, which claims to explain in simple English many of those confusing economic terms like ‘quantitative easing’, ‘derivatives’ and ‘LIBOR’.

Occupy hasn’t come to an end, even if the initial occupations have ended, the movement has changed the way people think and given new insights into economics and society, in particular to the varied ways in which the rich in society have screwed the poor. Along with movements such as UK Uncut they have changed perceptions and changed the political debate.

Paris 2012

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

I hope to get to Paris Photo next month, but if I don’t I can save my feet an awful lot of wear by looking at the 276 photo sneak preview on Lens Culture.

I’ve put in for my press pass, but am still waiting for a reply from Paris Photo. It saves a little queuing to do it in advance, but certainly in previous years hasn’t really been necessary, and it would have been almost as quick simply to join the queue to get processed on the spot, as the people on the gate hadn’t been told how to handle those of us who had pre-registered.

Actually the Paris Photo show is really a dealers thing, though it is a great opportunity also to see an enormous amount of photography at first hand. But the more interesting things go on outside, both in the many shows in the Mois de la Photo, but even more in the fringe festival which accompanies it, the Mois de la Photo-OFF , the first of whose openings is this Tuesday.

But the ‘Off‘ really gets into gear on the 8th of November, with 24 openings that night, while Paris Photo is a week later, from 15-18 Nov. I’d like to go to Paris for it all, but it would be expensive, and I’d perhaps miss too much in London. So I’ll have soon to make up my mind which I prefer. The Off is also resolutely a French festival (the main language at Paris Photo is the US dollar), despite having an English director, so I’m happier going to the events with my multilingual wife Linda as my interpreter for when my poor schoolboy French runs out, so some negotiation is going to be necessary.

Appleby Horse Fair

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Side Gallery’s Archive Photographer of the Week is Dave Thomas, with a fine set of black and white images of the Appleby Horse Fair which he took in 1969-70 and were acquired by Side in 2000.

It’s sad however that these a perhaps only being shown because Thomas, born just outside of Glasgow in 1940  and a graduate in painting from Glasgow School of Art in 1962, died last month. Like many of us in the early 1960s he was inspired by the ‘New Wave’ French and Italian cinema, which led him to his own black and white photography.

After working as a freelance in Glasgow he got a job teaching photography at Leeds College of Art in 1968, which required him to spend a part of his paid hours as a practising professional,  giving him the opportunity for a number of documentary projects in Yorkshire and the north of England, of which the annual horse fair in Appleby, Westmoreland was one. Later he went back to freelance work, and then again into teaching. But I think there are relatively few teaching jobs now which would be set up to pay photographers to continue their photography alongside teaching.

Some of the pictures are also for sale at the Equestrian Gallery, where his photographs stand out alongside “prints, paintings and sculpture by a selection of the most talented artists in the field.”

Also on Side you can see his documentation of the Blue Circle cement works at Eastgate in Weardale, County Durham, 1991.

In Protest Opening Speech

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

It wasn’t a large event, with many friends unable to attend for various reasons, but we had a very pleasant evening, and for once I think I managed to talk to nearly everyone who came, even those who only had time to be there for a few minutes, most of whom missed my short speech – as did a one or two who came late. Of course not everyone is in London, and some photographers who might otherwise have been there were unfortunate enough to be in Birmingham with David Cameron and Boris Johnson.  But it was good to see some old friends, and a few of London’s best photographers.

The show of course continues for another two or three weeks, at least until Friday 26 October, and I think will actually still be on the wall for the 27th.

Paul Baldesare kindly took some pictures with my Fuji X100 camera, and this is me giving the speech.

© 2012, Paul Baldesare

I’ll put some more from the evening on My London Diary later, and probably later still when I get the time, almost certainly after the show closes, I’ll put up some web pages with a permanent version of the show.

Among other cameras, Paul  regularly uses the Fuji X-Pro1, and he commented how much better and more responsive the X100 is compared to that camera, even with the improvement made by the recent v2.00 firmware update. But we both agree on how hopeless the menu systems were on both cameras, really letting them down.

It’s also a shame that Fuji decided to produce the X100 with a 35mm rather than a 28mm lens; the add-on converter now available might solve that problem at a size, but it adds around 1.5 inches on the front of the lens, while a 28mm prime could possibly have given an even more compact camera. Even so I think I may buy one, as although some feel the small difference in focal length isn’t a big deal, for me it seems critical. For years I worked with a 35mm as a standard lens, and 28mm seems about the longest that works as a wide-angle.

So, here’s what I had to say last night:

I’d like to start by saying thanks to everyone for coming here tonight, it’s great to have your support.

When I heard from Maggi Pinhorn, the director of Photomonth, that this year’s festival was to have Radical London as its key theme, I made a few tentative enquiries among friends about a show we might put together, and was very firmly told this had to be a show of my own work.

As I’ve written for the wall, it was in some respects an impossible task. I first photographed protests, very much as someone taking part, in 1978, and over the next 34 years I’ve taken a few pictures. Since I started My London Diary, a dozen or so years ago, I’ve put on-line around 50,000 pictures from protests. It’s relatively easy to go through the digital work, much more of a task to look through and review almost 30 years of contact sheets, spread across something like a hundred large files – and one I’ve yet to finish.

I was also clear I wanted to show work that reflected both some of my own convictions about photography and a wide range of the issues that I had worked on. Not just a wall of my “best images” whatever that might mean, though one or two of those here have enjoyed a little success.

There is a lot of text on the wall, particularly with the colour images, something that reflects my feelings of the importance of context, but far too much for most to read on an opening night. I want to share a couple of paragraphs from my statement with you now:

I was dissatisfied with the photographs that I saw published of protests – usually static groups of people and banners at the front of a march, or of a few of the better-known speakers, and wanted to produce something that more reflected my own experiences as someone taking part in the events. It was also important that the images were about something; I was more interested in telling stories through my pictures than in making pictures, though of course effective story-telling needs pictures that embody the skills of photography. But I wanted to be sure that I didn’t confuse the means with the end.

In other words, photography isn’t about making pictures; making pictures is how you tell a story.

The pictures from protests were part of a wider view of society and varied sub-cultures in London, work which also includes various religious and other festivals as well as daily life on the streets. As the title ‘In Protest’ was meant to suggest, it was in most instances in solidarity with those who were protesting and reflected my own viewpoint, and an attempt to put into practice the emotional imperative: ‘if it moves, photograph it.’ Anger, empathy, love, hate, lust, amusement, hope, excitement, affection, joy, admiration and sometimes just plain nosiness have all at times provoked my images, and some of those on show were taken with camera hiding my tears.

But there other things I’d like to say. There are many myths about photographers, some a hangover from the idea of the romantic artist starving in a garret (if anyone still knows what a garret is) and others about money-grabbing paparazzi hounding so-called celebreties. And we all know how many photographers it takes to change a light bulb! 136*. Its no surprise if some do exhibit fragile egos, when we are often disregarded, often expected to work for free and sometimes treated like something people have picked up from the street on their shoes.

But in making these pictures I’ve been very much aware of photographers as a community that works together, giving each other support and encouragement. There’s a sense in which this work is a communal effort – between myself and the other photographers but also with those many people who appear in the pictures – sometimes unwittingly and occasionally unwillingly, but in the public interest.

One of the first photographers who talked to me and gave me practical advice when I was photographing protests was the late Mike Cohen, best known for his work for Searchlight and the Morning Star, who once kindly characterised my approach to subjects as fly fishing compared to his coarse angling – though he was not being entirely fair to himself. Another who who is no longer with us but will be remembered by photographers here was Mike Russell, ‘Mini Mouse’, who organised the media coverage of Climate Camp. But there are many others fortunately still on their feet and some who have made it here tonight. Thanks to you all.

In particular I’d like to thank the small group of photographers I’ve worked closely with over the past 20 or more years, including Mike Seaborne, whose show at Foto8 opens next week, Dave Trainer, unfortunately not able to be here tonight, and the others. Most of all, Paul Baldesare without whose work this show would not have been possible – and also Sara who with him has so kindly organised the most important part of tonight’s opening. Thanks also to Phil and his staff at The Juggler, perhaps the nicest place in London to exhibit, and it’s sad that this may be the last show at the Shoreditch Gallery.

I want to leave you with one last thing. A few nights ago, lying in bed unable to sleep, worrying about the show and about this speech, my desperate thoughts somehow turned to photographer’s epitaphs. It came to me that one I might like to have earned would be ‘A photographer who never shot a picture.’ These images were never shot, seldom taken but always made.

Thank you.

It was good to hear from the gallery that there has been quite a lot of interest in the show with some people spending a lot of time looking at the pictures and reading the extended captions.

Doubtless it helps that it is one of the shows listed on the front page of the brochure as ‘exhibition highlights’ and it is also stands out slightly in the listings as I think the only entry with both a red and a green dot – red for being part of ‘radical london’ and green as part of ‘eatyourartout’.  Unlike some café venues it is generally easy to look at the pictures without feeling you are intruding into the privacy of the customers, or that you need to buy food or drink, although they do have some very tempting filled rolls if you are feeling hungry.


Tonight’s Opening

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Bad news about tonight’s opening of In Protest: I intend to make a speech.

Good news – it won’t be very long!

So if you are in London, it would be nice to see you tonight.

London Met Protest at Home Office

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall

The decision by the UK Borders Agency to withdraw the licence from London Metropolitan University to have overseas students seems to be particularly spiteful, obnoxious and counter-productive. It will cause great and entirely unnecessary disruption to the lives of those students who were following their courses assiduously, with many personally disastrous effects, while those who made use of London Met without being genuine students – assuming they exist – will have already melted away.

Financially it may be ruinous to one of the UK’s largest universities, possibly effecting the futures of many home students. But the biggest financial damage is likely to be to the UK economy. Overseas students studying here make a large contribution to our economy, both directly and indirectly, and the cavalier treatment those at London Met have received at the hands of the UKBA is likely to result in the loss of many millions – if not billions – as future overseas students decide to study where they are made welcome and promises are kept. This senseless action will cost the country dearly at a time when it can least afford it.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Given that the protest outside the Home Office was outside of student terms, most of the students at the protest were postgraduates, and the protest was surprisingly large. Police had provided a rather smaller pen than was necessary, and photographing the protesters was hampered by them keeping the pavement in front of it clear, moving on anyone who stopped to take pictures.  We were made to stand a couple of yards back on a small grass covered bank, though I did slip down and take a few pictures occasionally before getting moved on.

The speakers too were standing on that same bank, and it was difficult to work in front of them – there was really little or no space that the police would allow – except from inside the crowded pen which was a little far away, and also sometimes difficult to find a space. Most of the time I was having to work very close from on the steeply down sloping edge of the grassed bank or even closer to one side.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Then there was the lighting. It was a sunny day with quite a bit of cloud, but when the sun wasn’t behind a cloud I often found myself working into it; sometimes dramatic but almost always giving problems with flare. In the image above I’ve made the two large greenish circles above and to the left of the head almost invisible by darkening and desaturating them so they almost match the greyish background, but some frames were ruined.

Photographing people in the crowd was also rendered tricky by the extremes of sun and shade. In the top picture I’ve done considerable ‘dodging’ and ‘burning’ in Lightroom to reduce the contrast, particularly in the face at top right, which started with probably even greater contrast than that at bottom left – where I liked the dramatic poster-like effect.

The Home Office is an interesting modern building with a jutting out roof with large horizontal areas of colour glass, through which the sun was shining, giving large patches of coloured light on the pavement and people. Again the effect can sometimes be interesting – as in this picture of one of the speakers:

© 2012, Peter Marshall

where the orange-red on his hair, shoulders and hand adds something to the image, but on some other subjects it just creates an unpleasant colour cast – the blue in particular is difficult to work with. I’m not quite sure about the bright orange fingers of the woman below, caught in one of these patches of strongly coloured light, though it would probably be possible to reduce the effect by a little local painting with a suitable complementary colour – although this would go beyond what some would consider acceptable for news images.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

Those fingers make her look as if she is wearing some curious rubber gloves with nails on them. I used another frame where the effect was less obvious.

The protest got a little more active after the speeches were over and the petition handed in and the employees from London Met had left for their afternoon’s work, as the students decided to head for Downing St. Police halted their impromptu march after a few hundred yards, but after some discussion and negotiation and being held for around a quarter of an hour they were allowed to continue to their destination.

© 2012, Peter Marshall

This is a picture taken between a row of police stopping the front of the march toward the long end of the 18-105mm, and so depth of field was a little limited. I didn’t quite get the focus right on this one, it seems to have been on one of the hands rather than on the face in the middle and I didn’t notice. The D800 can actually spot faces in images and automatically focus on these at least in some modes which should have made this image a little better, but I probably wasn’t using the right mode. There are just too many things to remember, too many things I still have to learn about this camera, but I’ve been too busy using it!

You can see the pictures from there and more from the Home Office, as well as more information about the story in Don’t Deport London Met Students on My London Diary.

Karol Kállay 1926-2012

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Slovakian photographer Karol Kállay, born on 26 April 1926 died on 4 August 2012 aged 86.  He took up photography seriously when he was only 14 and by the time he was 17 had won a gold medal in the national photographic exhibition had his pictures published in the Swiss magazine ‘Camera’ and organised an exhibition of his work in Spain.

Kállay travelled the world as a freelance, published many fine books, had his work in magazines including GEO, Paris Match, Focus and der Spiegel, won various awards and had many exhibitions around in his own country and around the world – his web site lists Prague, Berlin, New York, Moscow, Budapest, Warsaw, Bucharest, Sofia, Paris, Hamburg, Baghdad, Cairo, Osaka, Istanbul, Havana… But he appears to have been virtually unknown in the UK, and if his death was mentioned in our press or photographic press I didn’t notice it.

I met him in Poland in 2007 where he was one of a dozen or so exhibiting photographers who gave a  presentation of work at the FotoArtFestival in Bielsko-Biala where I gave a lecture. I wrote about my experiences there in a diary, although I managed to avoid mentioning him or his work and I think he is absent from my pictures.

In the catalogue for the 2007 festival, photographer Eberhard Grames writes

“His images remind rather memories of an inconspicuous, friendly smiling fellow-traveller. Because that is how it is – Karol takes photos as a good, nice and cultivated man. That is why he becomes a “dangerous” witness of all those human commonplaces and tragedies, which take place in his surrounding.”

“It is very hard to find a proper word, which would define “the image talk” of Karol. His talk with people is nice, friendly, without any superficiality. Karol likes when his photos state questions and simultaneously have the strength of a philosophical stroke.”

“Sometimes, his photographs look like a frightening moment with a little deal of cynicism (which characterise life in big cities.) Therefore some of his photos discover “that something typical” in people, caught in the twinkling of an eye.”

There certainly is something about many of these images that reflects the twinkle of the photographer’s eye which you can also see in some portraits of him. But as well as humour in his work there is a very strong sense of design underlying all of them, perhaps sometimes becoming a little too dominant for my taste, something which has remained more prominent in central European photography than here in the UK. It perhaps explains why my favourite image from the 140 or so on his site is of people sitting around in a Montmartre square, lovers kissing on a bench in the foreground, people listening to a guitarist sitting on a wall, while at right a young girl seems lost in a world of her own. That truly is a picture I would have loved to have taken.

Inez Baturo and Eberhard Grames at the 2005 FotoArt Festival in Bielsko-Biala (more…)