Archive for September, 2013

Munem Wasif’s Old Dhaka

Monday, September 30th, 2013

I think the first time I wrote about Bangladeshi photographer Munem Wasif was five years ago, when he was one of the five from PDN’s Top Thirty ‘New and Emerging Photographers to watch’. Later in the year I commented when the Prix Pictet bankers selected  him for the commission to document WaterAid’s Chittagong Hill Tracts Project in Bangladesh, and a couple of years later there was another short post here linking to an interview on Lensculture and his work at Agence Vu.

Although I don’t ever seem  to feel now that I want to work in black and white again, I still appreciate great black and white images like those of Wasif. What brought him back to mind was Chaos and Harmony in Old Dhaka on the New York Times Lens blog, which has an audio slideshow of work from his new book, “Belongings,”  which “explores the rhythms of daily life in Old Dhaka” in which the photographer talks about the old city and his work.

He works with a remarkable simplicity of equipment, one camera, a 28mm lens and a bottle of water.  28mm was for many years my favourite lens too, though I’ve long abandoned working with a single lens. Perhaps I should try it again – and at the moment my back certainly thinks it would be a good idea.

The bi-lingual French/English book, ISBN: 978-2-9542266-1-3, is available in France, but does not yet seem to be on sale in the UK.

Love Russia…

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Things don’t always go right when I’m taking pictures, and getting something that really satisfies can be elusive.  Love Russia, Hate Homophobia seemed to have everything going for it, a colourful protest with plenty of people who were interesting to photograph, obviously showing their emotion over the issue of homophobia in Russia, but although I worked hard at it, nothing seemed quite to gel.

I tried hard, and there are some pictures that almost make it. Some that would be improved by cropping, which suggests I wasn’t framing things as well as usual, though there did seem to be more things than normal that didn’t fit a 3:2 ratio frame. Or perhaps I just didn’t stay there long enough, and was too busy thinking about getting to my next event.

It was an event where many of those taking part were very much aware of their own images, which perhaps makes things harder. Or perhaps I’m just getting too self-critical in my old age, expecting too much. I did a decent job after all.

More about the protest and more images at Love Russia, Hate Homophobia.


BBC Tell the Truth

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Protesters from DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) meet before protest against the failure
of the BBC coverage of the impact of cuts on the disabled.

This is a photo that I like, though perhaps it’s a little small to be appreciated here.  I’d been sitting for a while talking to the people around these two tables, who were part of a group of disablement activists, many themselves in some respect disabled, meeting up in a branch of Macdonald’s before going to protest unannounced at the doorway of the BBC’s new building in Central London.

I’d just decided it was time I got to work, and taken out the D700 with the 16-35 wide-angle and was checking the settings, and had taken a couple of picture mainly to see the camera was working ok, and I moved back to where I’d been sitting and saw this scene.  The lighting was interesting, if slightly impossible, but it was the disposition of the people and their various gestures that moved me. I took two frames quickly, and the second was slightly more interesting, with very minor changes in position, particularly of the figures at extreme right and left who had moved slightly to become more a part of the group, and the man in the wheelchair at the far corner of the table had turned his hear more towards me.  Also, the two customers entering – nothing to do with the protest – were now neatly centred in the gaps between the figures in the group.

Little things like this can make a big difference, and I was lucky that things had come together. It was still a challenging image to process, with light from both the internal lighting and through the large windows (enough to give me an exposure of 1/200 f5,6 at ISO 640) at rather different colour temperature, and the scene through the window rather over exposed – about 3 stops brighter.

Of course I wanted it to be brighter outside, but it took quite a lot of burning in to get it to the level you see – and there are still one or two areas where I might have gone a tad further. I needed to increase the contrast, and also lighten the group around the table, and to play a little in places with the colour temperature.

Perhaps I’ve taken it just a little too far, made it just too painterly, but I think it works without really seeming artificial.

A few minutes later I took another picture which appeals to me. The protesters had gone outside, and had a little meeting to discuss what they were going to do, asking the photographers including myself to give them a little space. We stood around talking about this and that – photographers often spend a lot of time talking to each other – and then I realised the meeting was coming to an end, and moved in to take a picture as they joined hands in a gesture of solidarity before starting their protest.

The lighting was very contrasty, and it took quite a lot of careful burning in to get details in the sunlit skin, but I was pleased to have got the picture, which I think shows very much the spirit of these activists.

The protest DPAC at BBC – Tell The Truth went well, though unfortunately nobody inside the BBC would come out and discuss their grievance at the biased coverage of the cuts and in particular the disproportionate affect they are having on the disabled. The protesters blocked the main entrance for some time, bringing their protest to the notice of those who had to find their way around inside the building to another entrance, and other BBC staff probably had to delay their afternoon tea breaks in the cafés in the courtyard.

The protesters stopped an attempt by BBC security to use force to remove them by threatening to bring charges for assault. Finally the BBC did take some action – they called the police, and also asked a freelance who had been working on another job for them to take some video of the protest, though it wasn’t to be for the news (I did suggest to him he might sell it to Sky or RT.) The police came and had a chat, and the protesters agreed to leave in a few minutes after they had been protesting for an hour, and did so. The police watched them but made no arrests.  It was all very civilised, and you can see my pictures and more comments on the protest in My London Diary, but I think the two pictures above before the actual protest were my best work from the day.


Not A Drop in Bermondsey

Friday, September 27th, 2013


Tomorrow and Sunday if you have time and can face going South of the River, ‘Not A Drop‘ is on at 47/49 Tanner Street, a Victorian warehouse with 3 floors of exposed brick walls and ex-industrial features, providing a unique and inspiring environment, home to contemporary arts organisation 47/49. Tanner St is a short walk from London Bridge station, and not far from Tower Bridge.


The event opens at 11am on Saturday 28th September with an exhibition over 3 floors, including film, sculpture, 2d visual art and performance, and is free until 6pm, with workshops for kids from 1-3pm. Later from 6pm to midnight there is an entrance fee of a fiver, for which you get expert talks, bands and live performance and contemporary music installations.


I’m not performing, but my pictures are, with a projection of 31 panoramic images from my Thames Gateway project, including most of those currently on show at the Museum of London Docklands in their 10th anniversary exhibition ‘Estuary‘ which continues until 27 October 2013.


Not A Drop will be an opportunity to see these pictures and more from the same project on a larger scale.


Not A Drop continues on Sunday 29th from 11am – 6pm, with free entry to the show and a number of film screenings. More details on the web site.

More of my work from Thames Gateway is in my book ‘Thamesgate Panoramas‘ which has a fairly extensive on-line preview, and you can download a PDF version with decently sized images for £4.49.  All the images in the book are from the south bank of the river, and I intend to bring out a second volume at some point. You can see some of the work made on both sides on the Urban Landscape web site.


Fire in the East

Friday, September 27th, 2013

A nice post on American Suburb X has Fire in the East: A Portrait of Robert Frank, a 1986 film for the Museum of Fine Harts, Houston and KUHT Public Television, written, directed and edited by Amy and Philip Brookma, who aslo narrates the film, and produced by by Anne Wilkes Tucker and Paul Yeager.

It has some nice footage of Frank himself talking, as well as the views of a number of photographers, including Louis Faurer, whose darkroom Frank shared when he first went to New York in the late 1940s, as well as Sid Kaplan, Elliot Erwitt, Duane Michals and others who knew him then or when he returned to America after travels around the world in 1953, shortly after to embark on the Guggenheim-funded road trip that resulted in a book that many see as something of a watershed in photography. John Szarkowski has a few words too.  And many of Frank’s finest images appear, if sometimes rather in the background.

It was in some way a visual counterpart to Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, the bible for a new generation. I put down my guitar, stopped singing Buddy Holly badly and entered a new world at least in my mind. If I’d heard that Kerouac had written the introduction to a book of photographs I’d probably have bought it, but it was only around 15 years later that I first saw a copy of ‘The Americans’, thanks to the guys at Creative Camera.

Fire in the East deals with his whole career up to 1986, and the second half of it I found a little less interesting than the first. At about the time I discovered Kerouac, Frank abandoned still photography and moved into film with the  1959 ‘Pull My Daisy‘ with improvised performances by poets Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky  and Gregory Corso and opthers playing themselves to a script by Jack Kerouac, along with other artist friends and Frank’s young son Pablo.

Grove Press (the first US publisher of ‘The Americans’) also brought out  ‘Pull My Daisy’ as a book, and this was republished a few years ago by Steidl.  There is an interesting article about it by John Cohen, who photographed the entire production in photo-eye magazine. A few of his pictures were used, along with stills from the 16mm black and white film.

All photographers will of course already own a copy of ‘The Americans’, but if not, various editions are available second-hand at prices from around £20 to £9,000. Should you not have it you could put it on your Christmas list and cross your fingers as to which to get, though if you are buying it yourself I’d recommend the 1978 Aperture edition which you can probably find at a reasonable price. I think my copy of ‘On the Road’ cost me 1/6d, and you can pick it up  for less than a quid if you are lucky at a second-hand book shop, which allowing for inflation is rather cheaper. For free you can see some great drawings by Paul Rogers in his ‘On The Road, Illustrated’ ,  an image for every single page in the book, though not all on line yet.

August 2013 at last

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

At last all of my August events are on My London Diary – here is the list:

Counihans Celebrate Anniversary
Obama Don’t Attack Syria

It rained very hard in Thirsk, though fortunately not all the time we where there!
More Holiday Snaps
SDL and UAF in Edinburgh

Theatre not protest – and I didn’t go to see the show

Edinburgh & the Festival

Putin, ‘Hands Off Queers!’
Against Live Animal Exports
Also in Trafalgar Square
Frack Off

Hetty Bower, a remarkable woman born on October 3, 1905 spoke briefly at the event

Hiroshima Day
Stop MI6 Lies About Shaker Aamer

Westfield security tells me I’ve taken enough pictures. I couldn’t agree.

Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield
End Zero Hours Contracts – Sports Direct
Roma Genocide Commemorated

Al Quds Day March
Victory Celebration at Vedanta AGM

Shut Down Guantanamo

It seemed a busy month, and despite having a couple of weeks away I felt I still needed a holiday at the end of it.

It was also an opportunity to evaluate the Fuji EX-1 camera, but I ended still not convinced if it will really work for me. Perhaps I’ll try it again when the promised wide zoom finally appears.

Now its time to catch up with September, which is almost over.

Counihans Fight for Housing for All

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Isabel Counihan Sanchez pours out squash on the first ‘birthday’ of their campaign

There are just so many political campaigns in London that it’s often difficult for me to decide which to go and photograph. Although I support most of the campaigns that I photograph, there are some causes that are closer to my heart than others for various reasons, and that I’ll always try to photograph if I possibly can.

There is also sometimes a matter of news value, a rather subjective term, and one that I usually interpret rather differently from the commercial media, not least because I have a healthy disrespect for the kind of celebrity nonsense that sometimes seems to monopolise their pages. Sometimes I think it’s important to cover events particularly because I know that they are unlikely to. And personal factors come into it too, I am more likely to photograph events organised by people I know and warm too, though I do photograph some by people I actively dislike.

But it is also a matter of logistics and timing as well as priorities. Next Saturday I know of two protests which both start at noon in different parts of London, and I can’t easily photograph both. Had one started an hour earlier I might have tried, leaving one after around 40 minutes to jump on the tube to get to the second, but it depends on the protest whether I would want to leave after only 40 minutes, or risk missing the start of the other.

On the last day in August, there was a march and rally against military intervention in Syria that I wanted to attend, which met at noon at Temple station, and also a celebration of the first birthday of the Counihan Family Campaign starting at 3pm in Kilburn. I expected the Syria march to actually start at 1pm, so and had to work out how to cover that, and at least some of the rally afterwards in Trafalgar Square before getting to Kilburn for 3pm.

Normally in London I travel by bus – you get a better view than on the Underground and I get free bus travel, but that would be too slow for this, taking around an hour, perhaps longer as the protest and any others would disrupt bus services.

The fastest way to get across London is almost always on a bike, but unfortunately that is seldom practical when photographing protests. I would have to lock it at Temple, then go back to collect it, and the chances of finding it still there would be on the low side, as folding bikes like mine are highly prized by the thieves. Boris bikes don’t get out as far as Kilburn, and are in any case heavy and a slowish ride.

So it was the Underground, and while there are always some lines closed for maintenance at the weekend, my luck was in and on that day the Bakerloo line was working normally, taking me direct from Charing Cross to Kilburn Park station, a few minutes walk from Kilburn Square, perhaps a 25 minute journey.

There were two other protests in my diary for the day, but one clashed with the Syria march and I ruled out. The other was later in the day, but looking at who had called the protest I decided that it was quite likely not to happen, or if it did, not likely to be of great interest. There was also the fact it would mean staying in London after I was tired and wanting to be home and editing pictures and writing up the two stories from earlier – and also it would be nice to get home for some dinner!

Usually before I go out to take pictures, I’ve planned the activities for the day, looked up the travel possibilities on the Transport for London web site and made a note to remind me what I’m doing. If possible I’ll also have done some web research on the protests and started to write the articles, with possible headlines, summaries, keywords and some other information. Often I’ll write some more after the event on the train home in a paper notebook that I use at events to write down names and other key information.

It was a pleasant event at Kilburn, partly because the Counihans had something to celebrate, but also because of the solidarity shown by everyone present, many of whom I knew from there and other protests. But their story is I think an important one, and one that should encourage and inspire others to fight for justice.

Ian Hodson

Another good reason for going was that one of the speakers was Ian Hodson, President of the BFAWU, one of the oldest trade unions around, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, which has taken a stand against zero hours contracts, bringing Hovis bakery workers in Wigan out on a series of strikes. It’s an issue that have come into the news recently, and for good reason, with these contracts being used increasingly to deny workers proper conditions of employment.

Photographically the only problems were high contrast lighting and messy backgrounds. Most but not quite all of the protest was in the shade – always good, as people screw up their eyes in the sun – but this meant that in pictures like that above, parts of the image  were very bright.  Areas like the table cloth would only too easily burn out, and the exposure needed to be set carefully to avoid this, leaving faces rather dark. In Lightroom I had to burn down the light areas and add a little brightness and contrast into the shadows.

In this picture of Sarah Counihan speaking (and wearing the ‘You Can’t Keep the Counihans out of Brent’ song t-shirt) the background was just too bright, and although I’ve brought it down a lot, you can see there are some empty white (or near-white) areas. I’ve also slightly darkened her father at left, and the balloon he is holding, while adding contrast and lightening her face.

I could have used flash to get a better balance, but had decided against using it earlier as I think it would have altered the feeling of this relatively small event.  But although overall I think it was the correct decision, I think I could have used a little fill on this and some of the other portraits.

More about the Counihans and their struggle for housing against Brent Council in Counihans Celebrate Anniversary.

Hands off Syria

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Finally I was back in London on the last day of August, sorry that I’d missed several events, including an ’emergency’ protest called at short notice when US military action against Syria seemed imminent. But action in the UK parliament, or at least a misjudgement by the prime minister, had lost our government a vote on the issue, causing Obama to have to rethink.

Speakers at Saturday’s rally suggested it was a great victory for those who protested against military intervention, but the facts don’t bear that out. If Cameron had agreed to the Labour amendment, our parliament would have voted overwhelmingly in favour – if with a little more caution than the PM would have liked. But Cameron appears to have thought he had the chance of a Falklands moment and went for it, only to fall at the first fence.

It was perhaps the protests that made Milliband urge caution and to wait until the UN report was available – despite knowing that the UN report would throw little light on the matter, as it was not charged with determining who was responsible.

I’m not a supporter of the Syrian regime and Stop the War finds itself with some strange bed-fellows in its protests – as it did over Libya. But military intervention now would certainly not be right or useful.

Its also difficult for me to sort out some of the various groups involved. The Alevi are quite distinct from the Alawites though it it is easy to confuse the two, both sects of Shia Islam. But to find Alevis with a placard ‘Al-Qaeda is Murdering Alevis in Syria’ confuses me. Although Al-Qaeda doubtless would see Alevis as heretical and so to be killed, I understood few if any lived in Syria, though there are plenty of others who they are killing.

I try hard to show the different points of view at events such as this, taking care (usually) to frame at least some images so that placards and banners are legible. One problem at this protest was than the main banner was just too long, and very difficult to get it all in a single picture, even with the 16-35mm more or less as wide as it goes, and then only by going back so far that the composition became rather boring and the figures holding it too small.

It makes a better picture from rather closer – and the iron grip of more cooperative Stop the War Stewards relaxed just a little for a few seconds to let me take this – but you have to supply your own ‘NO’.  I was able to place the clock tower of Big Ben between the placard and the banner and the figures holding the banner are larger, and the whole image more dynamic. It was taken with the 10.5mm and verticals were straightened with the Fisheye-Hemi plugin.

The attraction of the young women with Syrian flags and slogans on their faces was obvious from the start of the protest (not least by the crowd of photographers I found pressing on both my shoulders after I moved in close to photograph them) and I made a few attempts to take their pictures later in the event. My favourite image when I viewed them on the camera back turned out to me not quite sharp enough. Stupidly I was working at ISO 640 and the 1/125 second wasn’t fast enough as I was walking backwards close in front of her – taken with the lens at 38mm (57mm equiv.) It was a bright sunny day, but this image was taken in shadow, and I could well have given myself a couple of stops more to play with. But perhaps it wasn’t really the best picture – those little images on the back of the camera are usually misleading, but the fish that gets away is always larger.

There were plenty of other images of her and her friends that I took that were usable. Some at least are probably better. Others are certainly not so good, and at Downing St there was such a mob of photographers than it was impossible to get good pictures. I particularly like another of the same woman, taken a few seconds earlier. I like the tight framing of the second woman, and the kind of visual tension between the two. This is full frame as I took the picture, and possibly I might trim a fraction at the right, where the wide-angle (18/27mm) makes that hand close to the camera just a little too much.

Story and more pictures at Obama Don’t Attack Syria.


Fuji on a Scottish Protest

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Among the hundreds or thousands handing out postcards on Edinburgh High St for their various performances, one small group stood out. They had a rather different demeanour and what they were promoting was not themselves as a part of the festival but a political demonstration, or rather a counter-demonstration.

They were appalled that at a time when Edinburgh was bursting with people it had welcomed from all around the world, the ‘Scottish Defence League’ (SDL) had been given permission to march through its centre. Having photographed the EDL on many occasions I had no doubt about the kind of organisation and views that their Scots counterpart would have, and decided to cover the event.

Fortunately the play we had tickets for on Saturday morning was only a short walk from where the anti-racist counter-demonstration was forming up. It was a good performance, and one of the few we went to where every seat was occupied, and it took a little while to get out along a narrow corridor (I did worry about the fire risk at some of the venues we attended) but finally we got out and rushed to the protest.

It felt a little strange walking across the street to the front of the march. The policing seemed a little more vague at this point than it might have been in London (though later it became more impressive) but the big difference for me was that I saw no faces I recognised, either among the protesters or the few photographers around. And also that instead of having a heavy camera bag with a couple of Nikons, flash and several heavy lenses, all I had to cover the protest was the Fuji EX-1 with its 18-55mm zoom and the 15mm Voigtlander.

On holiday too I’d not managed to do the kind of research that is a part of my normal routine, looking up the planned routes of the two protests and working out where I might go to cover them. In London I would have normally tried to follow the EDL from their meet up point, but I’ve no idea even now where the SDL were marching from.  Later I did meet a few photographers I recognised by sight, who had doubtless been with the SDL at the start.

The counter-protest did seem a little less organised than I expected, and though there were a few speeches (I’d come late and probably missed more) the crowd seemed just to be standing around waiting for the march to start. I got down to taking a few pictures, and the slower focus of the Fuji with the zoom was very noticeable, and I very much missed the longer reach of the 18-105mm Nikon.

It was a dull morning with the occasional sunny spell and the odd spit of rain. There isn’t much reason to use low ISOs with the Fuji and I was working at ISO 1250.  There is a choice of Spot, Average and Multi metering modes on the Fuji, and I had the camera on spot for the first few frames, which predictably gave some exposure problems, and things got better when I changed to multi.

Spot is the best option when you have time to think carefully about what you are doing and place your exposure carefully, metering from a suitable mid-tone, but not when you have to grab pictures quickly. I don’t think Fuji’s Multi metering mode works as well as Nikon’s Matrix, but it does a reasonable job. I’m not sure when if ever I would want to use Average.

The slower reaction of the Fuji did mean I missed some pictures, and the lens perhaps showed a little more flare from bright skies than the Nikon, but I was reasonably happy with the pictures.

I left the march shortly before the end and went looking for the SDL, who hadn’t yet arrived. I found them coming down Canongate, surrounded by a fairly tight ring of police and was able to get a few pictures before they reached their pen. Again I missed a longer focal length, and it was rather trickier to get focus on the moving subjects.

At Hollyrood where the two marches both ended, police did a very good job and keeping the two sides apart, but it wasn’t too great for photography, as we were unable to work from the front for either group. I took a few pictures of the SDL (and there were quite a few EDL among them, a few whose faces I recognised.) With people penned in and relatively static the Fuji worked reasonably well, though I still missed the better optical viewfinders of the Nikons.  There were a few what seemed rather pointless arrests I could photograph, but access to the actual protest was poor (the 300mm would perhaps have helped.) Nothing much was happening and it started to rain a bit more and it seemed a good time to leave.

It wasn’t really a fair test of the Fuji – I had only one body and a limited lens range – and the results weren’t bad. But given the choice I’d still pick up the heavier bag.

You can see the story and the rest of the pictures at SDL and UAF in Edinburgh.


Tony Ray-Jones Discovered Yet Again

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Good though it is to see the attention currently being given to the work of Tony Ray-Jones with the show at the new at Media Space in London, it is perhaps surprising to see a video about him and the show that fails to mention Alexey Brodovitch, whose classes Ray-Jones attended and which were a key turning point in his development as a photographer. Wikipedia lists among the photographers who attended Brodovitch’s classes Diane Arbus, Eve Arnold, Richard Avedon, Lisette Model, and Garry Winogrand – and there were quite a few other well-known names.

Among the ‘Brodovitch boys’ (and most were male)  peculiarly relevant to us in Britain, two names stand out: Tony Ray-Jones and John Benton-Harris, both of whom came to the UK in the mid to late 1960s soon after their studies with Brodovitch, Ray Jones in New Haven and Benton-Harris in his native New York.

The two only met up after both came to the UK in the mid 1960s, Ray-Jones probably returning home because of visa problems, and Benton-Harris staying on after meeting his future wife at a party when he came here from Italy on his military discharge to photograph Churchill’s funeral. They found they had similar and strongly felt views on photography, and both became involved in bringing the ideas and photographic work they had got to know in the USA to this country.

The best place to find out more about Ray-Jones is on Weeping Ash, a photography web site run by Roy Hammans, which has a whole section about him, including the introduction from ‘A Day Off: an English Journal’, the book published in the year following his death, which reinforced his reputation among photographers. Also there are some other essays worth reading, and one by me, from a lecture delivered in Poland in 2005, where I found his work was previously almost completely unknown. Here is one paragraph from that lecture which I think captures something of his personality:

Ray-Jones did more than take photographs in England, he gave the whole of British photographic culture a much-needed boot up the backside. He brought back from New York a brashness and an enthusiasm for the photography that was unknown in England. In 1968, having completed much of the English project, he introduced himself to the editor of Britain’s only really serious photographic magazine by announcing “Your magazine’s shit, but I can see you are trying. You just don’t know enough, so I am here to help you.” But it was his photographs rather than what he said that convinced Bill Jay that he was worth listening to, and Creative Camera published them.

His enterprise, both behind the camera and in cultural terms, was shared by Benton-Harris, who printed many of Ray-Jones’s pictures both while he was alive and afterwards. Contrary to what has been written, Benton-Harris says he was not fond of the darkroom and never a a great printer, and he suggests few of the ‘vintage prints’ were actually made by the photographer. The one print I own that was unequivocally by him is adequate but not expired.  Unfortunately the prints for  ‘A Day Off‘, the posthumous publication that established his reputation more widely, were made from the negatives by a commercial darkroom, who produced images in a then fashionable heavy style: too contrasty with empty highlights and blocked shadows, giving a distorted view of how the photographer would have wanted and printed his work.

Bill Jay comments in an interview in Russell Roberts’ encyclopaedic book ‘Tony Ray-Jones’, published on the previous occasion when the photographer was re-discovered for the major show at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television at Bradford in 2004, that the 120 pictures in ‘A Day Off‘ “had lots of photographs from the same shoot, and Tony would not have tolerated that...”, but it does contain those pictures which the photographer himself thought were his best work and were included in earlier book dummies he produced.  Jay’s criticism has some validity, but perhaps only for half a dozen or so of the 120 images.

It was a book that reflected the style in photographic publishing at the time, with rather heavy and contrasty images, which perhaps helped it make the impact it did on many young photographers, myself included. But it was never a look that I liked much, though it suited a few of the pictures well. But the print I have on my wall of the Bacup Coconut Dancers in 1968, made by Ray-Jones himself for his 1969 ICA show is far more subtle. Sadly it was omitted from the Roberts book, perhaps under the influence of Jay’s comments, for this was one day that the photographer made two fine images of the same group – and is perhaps the better of the two.

The printing for the NMPFT show (and the book) was I think state of the art, squeezing everything possible out of some often very difficult negatives and generally impeccable. Excellent inkjet prints, often rather superior to the original vintage prints, were also made available at very reasonable prices (I bought several), and every photographer could afford to have a Tony Ray-Jones on their wall.

Ray-Jones was, as Jay commented “a very, very, careful editor.” He looked very carefully at all of his images. I’m not yet convinced that having another photographer – Martin Parr – going through his contact sheets and apparently picking out another 55 images for the current show is a good idea. For better or worse, these previously unseen images (assuming they are so – and not as in some other shows just hyped as such) are ones that the photographer rejected.  I’ve yet to see the show, but those I’ve seen so far look to me more like near misses than more of his very best.  The show at the Media Space also includes work by Parr, black and white images made in the 1970s when he was very much influenced by Ray-Jones, and which for many photographers remains his best work.

There is also a new book published of colour work by Tony Ray-Jones, American Colour 1962–1965 . Again I’ve only seen what is available on the web, but on the basis of this, I think it does nothing to enhance his reputation. There is perhaps a reason why after he came back to England he used only black and white for his personal work, although commissioned work was often in colour.

Benton-Harris sometimes went out working with Ray-Jones, and they shared a similar point of view.  He printed much of the photographers work both before and after his death, and wrote the obituary which appeared in Creative Camera. His work too appeared in Creative Camera, with a fine portfolio in the final Creative Camera Annual (which also contained three of my pictures in a rather different style.) Later he was the main organiser behind American Images: Photography (1945-80) at the Barbican in 1985, a show which introduced many in the UK to a whole new world and also curated other shows.

His web site includes some of his better images, and includes work from recent years as well as his Looking at the English and St Patrick’s People.  He is currently working on a book containing some of his work on the English, Mad Hatters – a diary of a secret people.