Archive for July, 2014

Muslim Extremes

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

I’m never really sure if I want to photograph the events organised by Anjem Choudary, to give publicity to his small group of Muslims with deliberately provocative views. I’m not sure I believe the wide- spread story that he is backed by MI5 to attract the wilder elements of the Muslim fringe so they can more easily keep tabs on them, but there must be some reason why he has been allowed to continue his activities as he has while various organisations with which he has been involved have been banned.

Choudary is certainly a clever man, though some of his supporters rather less so have got into problems with the law. But the main problems in covering this protest were not from the protesters who are happy to be photographed but from the police. The protest was taking place on a fairly narrow pavement on a fairly busy road, and police seemed to have an obsession about keeping it clear. They were objecting to me standing in various places, although I was careful not to be causing any obstruction – by standing behind trees, police officers and other things that were already obstructing the path.

What annoys me isn’t that police tell me to move if I am causing an obstruction (though it would sometimes be nice if they were more polite about it) but that they refuse to engage in any sensible discussion about the matter. Police at times just do not have a sensible or reasonable mode, and this was one such time – though there seemed to be no reason for it.

Keeping the pavement clear was in the event rather pointless as very few people were choosing to walk down it, with almost all of those coming out choosing to cross the road immediately to get away from Choudary. He isn’t generally very popular with Muslims of any persuasion.

It is easy to scoff at these people, though the threats he has made about Sunni armies coming to establish a Khalifa seem significantly more real now that ISIS have been taking control of large areas of Iraq.

As usual there were also women at the protest, taking rather a back seat a few yards down the road, holding posters and joining in the chanting, but as  always it was hard not to feel they were being treated as second-class citizens.

Of course these women may not feel this,  though I suspect some of them do. When they have had an all-women protest (carefully supervised by a few men) they showed themselves capable of speaking at least as well as the men.

More pictures at London Mosque protest for Sunni extremist.


Garden Halls Protest at Senate House

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

There is a kind of controlled chaos that I like about this image, which I think is typical of the protests by the IWGB, the small grass-roots trade union that has been far more active – and far more successful – than the large trade unions in promoting the rights of London’s lowest paid workers, and in getting many of them the London Living Wage.

The Garden Halls are three intercollegiate halls of residence – for students for any of the various colleges that make up London University – which are on a street in Bloomsbury called Cartwright Gardens. The university is renovating and enlarging them – or rather handing them over to a private firm (with a name that makes it sound like it is a part of the university) who will do so and then run them, increasing the fees to students to get their money back. It doesn’t look like a good deal for students, and it certainly isn’t for the various staff who work in them, who are all being made redundant. Of course their jobs will not be there for the year or two years while the building work is taking place, but there are other sites where they could be found employment during that time, but the employers have refused to look at this possibility.

Although many of the cleaners, porters, catering and maintenance staff have worked for the university for years (decades in some cases) they are not employed directly by the University by by private firms who the university contracts. The university gets their labour on the cheap and the firms shareholders get profits while the workers get low pay, poor conditions of employment and often spectacularly bad management practices.


Pressure over recent years by the workers at the Garden Halls and some other colleges, backed by the IWGB, students and a few college branches of larger unions has led to some improvements in conditions and pay for them. But these gains will be lost even if the redundant workers are offered alternative employment at other workplaces by the contractors. The IWGB tried to negotiate to get better treatment for the staff but both the contractors and London University refuse to recognise them or engage in proper talks, and at the time of this protest they workers (the great majority members of the IWGB) were balloting for strike action.

The workers in the halls and in the colleges have received considerable support from students and the student union in particular – to which London University have responded by deciding to close down the University of London Union.

As on several previous protests at Senate House, the protesters made an attempt to go inside the building, but this time the security staff were ready, and after a brief tug of war managed to close the doors. My pictures are a little blurred, partly because it was fairly dark in the doorway, but also because in the confused situation I was getting pushed around quite a bit.  But even at ISO3200 I was working at 1/25th of a second with the 16-35mm wide open at f4.

More pictures and about what happened at Defend UoL Garden Halls workers.


G4S Protest

Friday, July 11th, 2014

I was pleased with this image, taken at a protest outside the London HQ offices of security firm G4S  – you can see the others from the set I made at Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails. There have been regular protests outside the offices on Victoria St, and it was difficult to think of some different way to show them, having covered quite a few.

I’m just slightly annoyed that I wasn’t working with the zoom lens just a little wider – it would have been good to have the word ‘TORTURED’ under the pictures of the boys from Hares – the ‘Five Palestinian Children’ who have been held in solitary confinement in small empty underground cells in a prison where G4S provides their support.

It was a cool, dull and slightly wet afternoon, and the tall buildings along the street channel the wind, turning the area of pavement where the protest was held into a wind tunnel. I made some more general images of the protest, and there was no problem in getting the Palestinian flags flying.

But I decided to concentrate on people handing out leaflets, using the 70-300mm to zoom in on the actual leaflets in some images – like this:

So for the top image, I was at the widest focal length the lens goes – 70mm – and really would have liked it to be just a little wider. It would have been a little better if I had been working with the 18-105mm.  The longer lens is fine for what it does, but very much less flexible than the 18-105mm.

The long lens worked for a number of images. I particularly liked a rather athletic pick-up of a leaflet by one man walking past – here is one of the two images of his. It’s an image I think I could improve by a little more post-processing to bring out more shadow detail; the pictures on My London Diary are usually from the fairly rapid editing that I do to get pictures to the agency within a few hours, and this was a very busy day. This story was my third of the day and I had to rush several miles across London after the half hour I spent there for another protest.

I’m only aware so far of one image from this set having been used, and it was this image of a man walking with his bike past the stall – and taking a leaflet from the woman at the right. This was taken with the 18-105 mm at 18mm. As with the other images, I tried to concentrate on the protesters, showing those taking the images either only as hands or arms or working from behind them.

More of my pictures from the event – and more information about the protest at Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails.


Photofusion Loses Arts Council Support

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

I heard a few days ago that Photofusion, the gallery and photography centre in Brixton, South London, has lost its Arts Council England NPO (National Portfolio of arts Organisations) status and that its funding was to be cut. I found it hard to believe, but you can now read a little more about it on the British Journal of Photography on-line. There it makes clear that the annual £150,893 revenue grant will end in March 2015.

The BJP quotes Peter Heslip, director of visual arts at ACE as saying “Photofusion did meet the criteria we set, but there were other applications we considered to be stronger.” He does go on to state “we will be exploring with the management and trustees what other options might be available to them in terms of Arts Council funding in the coming period.”

The decision would appear to be a part of a continuing attack by ACE on photography in England. In 2011 they withdrew funding from Side Gallery in Newcastle, arguably the only truly world-class photography organisation in the UK – and Side has failed to get this restored in the current round, though lottery funding for its parent organisation has kept it going.

There are still a few grants to what ACE regards as photography-specific organisations around the country, including in London both the Photographers’ Gallery and Autograph ABP . I certainly don’t begrudge Autograph its grant increase, and though I’m no great fan of the PG, it is something we obviously need – though as a long-term member (I think my membership has possibly just lapsed yet again as they are so incompetent in their record-keeping – or perhaps they just don’t want my money after what I’ve written about them) I feel they are failing photography.

Heslip says “Photography-based projects do really well on grants for the arts” and goes on to give some figures, as well as saying that most of the galleries they fund have at least one exhibition each year that features photography. But it’s a statement I can only view with utter derision.  There may be shows that have some photographic element (if only a photograph of the artist or some artistic works0 but that is not encouraging or showing photography.

I’ve had some association with Photofusion since before it started, with its pre-cursor a couple of miles away in Battersea, the Photo Co-op in Webbs Road. I’ve had my criticisms over the years but also praise, and it has played an important  role in photography in London and the South-East for many years, and I do hope it will find the resources to continue its programmes. I’ve written perhaps 20 posts about shows and events there here on >Re:PHOTO over the years – such as and contributed work to its library for many years.

The withdrawal of support from such a vital organisation supporting photography is yet another example of “the lack of any real photographic culture or support for photographers in the UK” which I last wrote about only a few days ago in Who Speaks for Photography?


Fuji Problems

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Every May my wife takes part in a sponsored walk, and as well as sponsoring here I sometimes walk around with her (and usually a few others she has persuaded to take part), as the walk is a church crawl in the City of London. It’s pleasantly deserted on a Sunday and the selection of churches at which she has to get her walk card signed and stamped varies enough each year to keep the walk interesting.

Of course a lot of the city churches are open much of the time to visitors in any case, but there are usually a few places on the walk which Christian Aid has persuaded to open specially for the event. Mostly they are Anglican churches, but each year there are a few exceptions and these are often of particular interest. This year we went into Bevis Marks Synagogue which is an interesting place to visit (and I’ve visited once before) but unfortunately photography inside is not allowed. But everywhere else we were free to take pictures.

Most of the City churches were designed shortly after the Great Fire of London in 1666 by Christopher Wren, but the fact that the plots of land on which they are were of differing shapes and sizes gives them some individuality. Some have suffered more at the hands of restorers than others, and some were severely damaged by bombing in World War II, but overall they are a remarkable collection. Probably my favourite as a building is not by Wren but by Hawksmoor.

And as well as the churches there were also the walks between them. The city streets we walked along were all familiar, though its a while since I’ve worked there on a Sunday and had the place so empty. I took the opportunity to take a few pictures in between the churches as well, including the one above of seeing a double Gherkin.

Taking pictures when out with others is often a problem and you often have to rush what you are doing and then run to catch up with the rest of the group. But I was really going to keep Linda company (and make sure she didn’t get lost) rather than take pictures.

I was just going to take the Fuji X Pro1 and a trio of lenses – the 18-55mm, the 14mm and the 8.5mm Sanyang semi-fisheye. I could have managed without a camera bag, with one lens in each of my jacket side pockets and the third on the camera around my neck. Of course I’d need at least one spare battery, but that could easily tuck away in one of my inside pockets. But in the end I decided to take a small bag so I could also easily carry a bottle of water and a book to read on the journey. And since I was carrying a bag I might as well also take a second body, the Fuji XE-1

I suffered from a few problems using the Fujis. I was already aware that although the 14mm Fuji lens is superb, and it’s a very nice idea to be able to change from auto to manual focus by a push/pull on the focus ring, it is all to easy to do by accident. And while the signs are pretty obvious when you take pictures, it’s also easy not to notice them. I think I’d like it to be just a little harder to make the change.

The 14mm also has an ‘A’ setting on the aperture ring. It works well, enabling you to work in shutter priority or program mode, depending on whether you set a discrete shutter speed or ‘A’ on the camera shutter speed dial.  But what it lacks is some way of locking it to A, or a least a rather firm detent. It is ridiculously easy to accidentally move away from that position and find you are working at f22.  And f22 is a setting you would be better without on any such lens, with its ridiculously small physical aperture cutting performance by diffraction.

Most cameras I use need little bits of black tape on them to prevent me making unwelcome accidental changes to settings. But the aperture ring is too vital a control for this to be viable.

Doubtless I’ll get used to these things in time, and remember to check for the obvious warning signs. But one thing that happened was more worrying. On the way home I turned the cameras on to look through the pictures. No problems with the X-Pro1, but with the X-E1 all I got was a message telling me the card was empty and did I want to format it? I didn’t.

At home I put the card into my computer – which found nothing on it.  My copy of Sandisk Rescue Pro which once came free with some Sandisk cards (it now needs an annual subscription) was more successful, and recovered around 600 files it claimed were TIFF files. Unfortunately no software for reading TIFF files agreed, but by renaming them to .RAF files Adobe Bridge gave a fleeting view of the thumbnails before only showing them as black rectangles – though it could read the metadata. By using ‘IJFR‘  I managed to recover the 1920×1280 preview jpgs  but found no way to get the larger RAW images I had taken. Better than nothing, but hardly great.  I tried various other file rescue programs, but nothing else worked at all, or wanted me to pay to recover the files – without any guarantee it could actually do so. Worst of all were those programs that pretended to be free, scanned the disk and found some entries and then told you to pay up to recover them.

Some of the jpeg images were fine – like the architectural image above, but others where the lighting was rather difficult or the auto-exposure had been rather out were trickier.

Inside the churches, the Samyang 8.5mm was very useful, both with and without the partial correction of Fisheye-Hemi. (I’ve recently had to buy a new 64bit version of this plugin to use with Photoshop CC 2014.)  They really need to update the software to work with the Samyang’s unique projection, though it does still improve many images – such as that above.

These two pictures inside Saint Sepulchre-Without-Newgate,  taken from almost the same position, give a good idea of the relative views of the 14mm and 8.5mm lenses. I think had I taken the lower image with the Nikon 16mm semi-fisheye the plugin would have removed all curvature from the vertical pillars.

There are more examples in Christian Aid Circle the City, where you can also see that I had some problems in getting proper colour correction from the pictures taken outdoors in bright sun from the Fuji images. Although people often praise Fuji cameras for their colour I have more problems with this than when using Nikon. Perhaps this is a problem with Lightroom.

I do like using these two Fuji cameras, though from the reviews the Fuji XT1 might well suit me better. I’ll let you know more about that in a month or two.  But the card problem with the XE1 really has me worried. Though I asked on a Fuji facebook page and I don’t think anyone else had experienced a similar problem. But I’ve only had to try to rescue files made on other cameras when I’ve deleted files or formatted cards in error, and have managed to get these back fully unless they have been overwritten.

Stanley Greene

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Although I’d undoubtedly seen photographs by Stanley Greene before then, it was only early in 2004 that I really became aware of him as a photographer, and my immediate reaction was to sit down and write an essay of over 2000 words, ‘Stanley Greene: Witness to the World‘, which I published on the web site I was writing for shortly after.

It is no longer available, but it is perhaps no great loss, being more a telling of the major phases of his life and work to that point than offering any real insight into his photography, and is really too long to include in a post here. Like much of what I wrote then it was cannibalised from the available information from a number of sources on the web and some in print, and I have no complaint that parts of it have in turn been recycled by other web sites (though often rather more lazily well on the wrong side of the borderline between research and plagiarism.)

Here at any rate is how I began the story of his life (with a reference to links removed):



Stanley Greene was born in Harlem, New York in 1949. His father, also Stanley Greene, had been a part of the ‘Harlem Renaissance‘ of the 1930s, an actor and an activist, who was blacklisted as a communist in the 1950s. He kept in the business only through minor roles in movies, his name not listed in the credits. Although his father encouraged the young Stanley to think of a career in acting, he decided he wanted to become a painter. His parents gave him a camera when he was 10 and he used the camera to photograph material for his painting.

Gene Smith

The teenage Greene also became politically active, joining the Black Panthers and taking part in the anti-Vietnam movement, refusing to serve there. In 1971 he met the famous photojournalist W Eugene (Gene) Smith, who encouraged him and offered him space in his studio. Smith advised him to study photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York to get a grasp of the technical side of the medium, and later to go to the San Francisco Art Institute where the focus was on aesthetics.

California and New York

In California, Greene photographed the music scene, sending pictures of new punk and rock bands to the music magazines. In the mid 70s he helped to found the Camera Works Gallery in San Francisco, and it was while curating a show for this that he made his first visit to Paris in 1976. Dissatisfied with his life in California, he moved back to New York in the early 1980s, taking a job with Newsday, one of the larger regional newspapers in the USA. He hated it, being constantly sent to cover such minor events as delicatessen openings.

Paris Fashion

Eventually, in 1986, he was fed up enough to decide more or less on a whim to go back and live in Paris, where he had met a group of photographers who styled themselves ‘poets of photography’. Greene became a fashion photographer. Despite his success and easy lifestyle – including a taste for heroin – he was not content, haunted by the ghost of Gene Smith and the nagging of his example and his advice to photographers “You have to give something back.”

I was reminded of this by a set of Greene’s early pictures, (Never Quiet) on the Western Front, published by Lensculture,  none of which I’ve seen before, which set me off on revisiting much of his work around the web. As well as photographs there are also a number of articles about his work and interviews, and I thought again about the piece I had written in 2004 when I read in Stanley Greene’s Redemption and Revenge published by Lens in 2010 the photographer’s comment to the question of why he had brought out an autobiographical work:

I wanted to set the record straight. I kept hearing people say, “Chechnya was when you really started to be a photographer.” And that’s not true. I was shooting back at the Berlin Wall, but nobody knew about it.

And I thought, well those who read my piece a few years earlier certainly did – and knew too that you were a photographer before the Berlin Wall. And given that we were looking at around a million page views a month there were probably quite a few who had read at least the first few paragraphs even if they didn’t all struggle to the end of page 4.

So far I’ve only got halfway through the 25 minute interview with him in 2013 on Italian Vogue – though I’ll watch the rest later today, as he makes some interesting points. Including his observation “When you shoot film you really have time to think“.  I don’t entirely agree with this, and perhaps he also weakens his own point by going on to say he seldom ‘chimps’ when working on digital. I try to remember to take a test picture at the start of each event I photograph to check things are working properly, but seldom look at the pictures again until I’m sitting on the train on my way home. Digital does give you the choice of  being able to work differently – and in a way that I think as he does – divorces you from the situation, but you don’t have to take it.

There is a shorter interview with Green on PhotoRaw in which he also talks about digital and the attraction of film to him as well as about “Brains, guts, humanity” and the problems of being a photographer nowadays. It’s perhaps an interview that would have been better with just audio, or accompanied by a few stills, as I find the image of the photographer gets rather annoying after a minute or too.

You can of course view very many fine stories by him on Noor, the agency he was one of the founder members in 2007, one of several agencies that seem to be continuing the Magnum tradition rather better than Magnum.

An End to May

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

All of the posts and images for My London Diary for May 2014 are now on-line, and I hope the links are all working. Sometimes pictures do mysteriously disappear and have to be uploaded again. If you notice missing images or broken links please let me know – there is an e-mail link on each monthly page of My London Diary. There are still a few stories I have to tell about the story behind the pictures from the second half of the month – such as this:

I was escorted out of the Department for Education for taking photographs of this protest ‘class’ against education minister Michael Gove’

and about how I worked at ISO 25600 and jpeg at one event by mistake – you can probably spot which in the pictures below, and a few more.

While I’m thinking about May I decided to post some of the site statistics for that month for this blog, >Re:PHOTO.

 May 2014                                           Visitors                            Page Views
>Re:PHOTO                                        165,946                           332,582

It isn’t easy to do the same for My London Diary, as this can be reached at several different web addresses, including the new which I have registered simply to avoid confusion. But I’m gratified to see that over 5000 people per day on average now read this blog. It’s still a little short of the audience (around a million views a month) when I wrote about photography for a commercial site – and for a living – but a very significant number. But it is quality that really counts rather than quantity – and I have no doubts on that score. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t care about photography.

May 2014

Great Badger Trail ends at Westminster

Zombie Walk London
Gove “Read-In” protest in DfE
African Liberation Day protest against Vedanta

London Mosque protest for Sunni extremist
Peckham Jobcentre penalises jobseekers
Solidarity with Ukrainian Miners
Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails
Oromo and Ogaden against Ethiopian killings
Defend UoL Garden Halls workers
Obama keep your promises

Cyclists protest Death at the Elephant
Turks protest Soma mine deaths
Christian Aid Circle the City
Lambeth College March for Further Education

Garden Halls Closure Senate House Protest
Communists & Anti-Fa protest Ukraine Massacres
Travellers protest Spectator’s racist language
Save Independent Living Fund
Bin British Gas

Excalibur Estate
Support Harmondsworth Mass Hunger Strike
IWGB Cleaners at Royal Opera
Horse Traps at the Nag’s Head
Baloch Hunger Strike

20 years of Women Vicars
Anti-Fur Picket at Harvey Nichols
Restore the Ethiopian Monarchy
Joint Enterprise – NOT Guilty By Association

May Day Rally

May Day March for Bob Crow & Tony Benn

The design (such as it is) of My London Diary means that the lead image used on the ‘month’ page is always in landscape format. As I’ve previously noted the increasing viewing of images on screens has led to a dramatic decrease in portrait format – so I’ve tried to redress that a little with the images on this page. The format of this blog, which limits the horizontal width to 450 pixels, works better with portrait format.


Can You Help?

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Having just read A D Coleman’s latest post (the ninth) in his series on Capa and the fictional account of the ‘ missing pictures’  from Omaha Beach on D-Day still being told by TIME, Magnum and the ICP – which includes the discovery of another video from TIME made in 2009 including another ‘faked’ image, I  went to my e-mail to read a post from the Coleman, who asks if any readers of >Re:PHOTO can help to solve some of the mysteries of what actually happened to Capa’s film from the landing.

Here are Coleman’s four questions as he wrote them – please comment or email either to me or to Photocritic International if you can help.

1. Have any of them experienced, or heard from others working back then or since, a case of emulsion melt due to brief exposure to high heat in a drying cabinet or other situation? Any mention of such problems in the photo periodicals of the time?

2. Does anyone know, or know of, the mysterious teenage “darkroom lad” Dennis Banks, a/k/a/ Dennis Sanders?

3. Does anyone know, or know of, the London-based LIFE contract photographer Hans Wild*, who was present when the film was developed? Are there any interviews with him in which he discusses that event? Did anyone who knew him ever hear him talk about it?

4. According to Morris, he had 5 darkroom staffers present that night. If we take Wild and Banks/Sanders as two, that leaves three more who would have witnessed the consequences of the development and (if it happened) the emulsion melt. Does anyone know any of these people?

The video that has now been found on TIME was made in 2009 and includes in the middle of a strip of Capa’s pictures from D-Day one that is not by him. You can watch it better on Vimeo.

Image from Wikipedia, obtained by them from PD-Archives Normandie – not by Capa

It is a picture from the U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives taken at Omaha beach – you can see it better on Wikipedia in a differently cropped version and a somewhat cruder version on the US Naval History & Heritage site. There are also some other images there from Omaha beach. The photographer is not named.

The real question I ask is why anyone should want to insert this image (and insert it rather crudely) into a video about Capa. An honest video might also have made clear that the picture of men on a packed boat (at 0m50s) although taken by Capa was not from Normandy but from Dorset, and shows US soldiers being ferried to the larger ships that would take them across the Channel.

It would perhaps be churlish to object that the pictures of Capa in uniform were not taken on D-Day, and we would not expect him to have taken these themselves, but I don’t recognise the image of a ship from above (at 1m21s) as one of his, and rather than the overprint ‘TIME’ it should perhaps have had one to indicate its source.  There are two pictures showing LCT 305 that are also probably from US Naval photographers at around 1m30s, then the picture that was re-used in the strip of Capa’s pictures. If you have more information about these it would also be of interest.

Cynthia Young, a curator at the International Photography Center in New York, annexes all these images into the Capa myth with her statement “So Capa was shooting with his camera for all of this.” But he wasn’t. He made four exposures from the landing craft before getting pushed into the water, then another eight on the beach, mainly holding his camera above his head and shooting ‘blind’ as the bullets passed over him. You can see these and others taken before and after June 6th on Magnum. Unlike the troops he could stay where he was  flat on the sand in shallow water. I’m not sure how quickly after returning with his film Capa went back to the beaches, but one of the pictures on the Magnum page taken when he returned claims also to have been made on June 6th.

Young states that a soldier was assigned to take Capa’s films back, but that these films he took were lost, and the only ones that survived were those that were not picked up. THis is a part of the myth I’ve not heard before, and I think one that does not fit the analysis in Coleman’s series of articles. It’s while she is telling the myth about the emulsion melting off the film in the ‘drying rack‘ (whatever that is) that a slightly blurred crop of the mystery image above is explicitly presented as being by Capa.   It’s a poor attempt at a forgery, being rather crudely pasted into the image strip, and not quite matching the look of the other images. As well as Cynthia Young, the blame for the misrepresentation must fall on Craig Duff who produced and edited the video, and thanks photo editor Mark Rykoff for his assistance with the images. Presumably Rykoff made clear to Duff that some of the images were not by Capa?

Does all this matter? Like Coleman I think it does. Photographs such as these are not just illustrations, but a witness statements. They say ‘I was there and this is what I saw’ and depend crucially on the integrity of the photographer – and on that of the others involved in bringing the image to public view. It matters for the same reasons that Reuters has a strict code on altering images – and fires photographers it finds to have breached it.

I think it’s also important in honouring the memory of photographers like Capa – who later died photographing another war – that we remember and value them for what they actually did, the truth about their lives and not fictions (a polite word for lies.) Finding out the true story of Capa on Omaha beach doesn’t lessen my admiration for what he did manage to do there – if anything it increase it by making me more aware of the problems that he faced. A friend I was talking with yesterday – and a former US Army photographer told me that in army training they were told that the average life of of photographer in a combat situation was twelve seconds.


* A search on Getty images brings up 3,181 pictures apparently taken by Hans Wild, who had a very long career as the first claims to have been taken on 01 Jan 1900 (but from the subject matter clearly were not) and the latest on 21 Jul 2009. The earliest appear to date from the 1930s.  Looking through the images I wonder if Hans Wild was not really a person at all, but a kind of wild card name, perhaps used for images taken by people who for contractual reasons were not named or whose names for some reason were not known. But I would like to be proved wrong!


Who Speaks for Photography?

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

I’ve often commented on the lack of any real photographic culture or support for photographers in the UK, at times contrasting the situation here with that in the other country where it also came to birth – for example in posts here such as – and also in many other countries around the world. Despite our heritage, during my lifetime at least there has been little if any evidence of any real understanding or sympathy with photography or photographers in the UK (though perhaps just a little more the further you get from London.)

I think there are many reasons for this, including the logocentric nature of British culture and the snobbishness of our class-based education system and society. The fact that photography has so many practical applications made it dismissed as a subject for vocational education, and the shift into higher education courses that has happened more recently overloaded courses with pseudo-scientific theory while refusing to take the medium itself seriously. And so on.

It is perhaps also curious that while the UK is home to the world’s leading auction houses that sell photography (including in Paris, New York…), the UK has never really been home to a leading commercial photography gallery.  The best known of those that we do have (or have had) have been those that specialise in the ‘golden age’ or British photography that seems to have ended a hundred years or more ago. People have tried – sometimes heroically – but there just is not the market in the UK.

In Who Speaks for Photography?, Francis Hodgson, professor in the Culture of Photography at the University of Brighton, in England, photography critic for the Financial Times and a former head of the photographs department at Sotheby’s and more writes his own thoughts on the failure of photography to gain any real place in our institutional culture, identifying the lack of any influential voice to stand up for the medium – and suggesting what might be done.

It is a long piece, and some may well be tempted to give up reading before they even get to where Hodgson begins to address photography, with the question:

If a museum needs to campaign against the cuts, or a change is mooted in the curriculum for ‘A’ Level study, or a failure in intellectual property law cries out for lobbying in Parliament – who speaks for photography?

And his answer (again at some length, but with at least for me, considerably more interest, and including some perhaps illuminating comparisons with cycling and gardening) is that nobody does, or at least that nobody has been in any position to do so since when the Arts Council had a Photography Officer.

Barry Lane who held that post from 1973 to 1995 certainly did something, but I suspect worked under great difficulties in that organisation, and the various switches in policy largely frustrated the development of photography in the UK. In my post mentioned above I commented:

In the UK in the late 1970s the Arts Council made the fatal mistake of handing over the medium to curators and galleries, and we  … are still suffering from it.

My view is that of a photographer, and not one that Hodgson shares, as he praises Lane’s work overseeing the “specialist photography sub-committee which carried on throughout the  allocating grants and also purchases into the Arts Council collection by acquisition.

It was perhaps better than nothing, though I’m not convinced. I still see it as largely driving the train in the wrong direction.  And I’m not entirely convinced by his suggestion of trying to revivify the ‘Committee of National Photographic Collections’ would have a great effect, though it would be good to see it happen.

I’m not sure I have any better answer – except perhaps to move to Paris. Though supporting what we do have – such as the Photomonth East London photography festival would be a good start – something many parts of the ‘photographic establishment’ have rather turned their nose up at in the past.