Archive for January, 2016

My London Diary update

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

A new year has also dawned for ‘My London Diary‘ with a slight re-design of the main monthly page. It’s a slightly cleaner look but also fixed a couple of little niggles which had begun to worry me with the earlier design – here’s the top of the  Jan 2015 page to illustrate some of the difference:

The site title, ‘my london diary‘ is now more prominent, and importantly it will remain visible when users scroll down the page as the left panel is fixed – at least in Firefox, the browser I use and design the site for, though it usually works with slight differences in others as well. I should really test it in other browsers, but I’m a photographer not a web designer and life is too short. The site isn’t ‘mobile friendly’ but it does seem to work quite well when I look at it on my smartphone using Chrome.

When I add more stories from January, there should also be a difference in how the scroll bar appears.

I’ve moved the ‘my london diary index’ link down to the bottom of the left panel and also moved the site search slightly to make it stand out a little more. Basically I gave up with the ‘site index’ back in 2007, because there were just too many stories to make a sensible index, and went over to simply copying the story lists onto a page. But that got out of hand too, and unless you know the date of a story, the only sensible thing to do is to use the site search – as I always do.

Perhaps one day I’ll come up with a better idea for an index – which is why I’ve left the link there, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen. It’s quite a task, as of today there are now apparently 128,162 images on the site from around 16 years of work.

December 2015 complete

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

‘BP executives’ ply leaving British Museum director ‘Neil MacGregor’ with food and drink

Christmas and New Year are over and people are getting back to work. Including thank goodness my dentist, and I have an appointment this morning that I hope will put an end to my toothache – Christmas was just too much strain for a couple of my teeth.

I can’t really complain about dentists taking some time off over Christmas. After all I really stopped work on the 20th, and the later posts are really from activities with my family over the holiday season, although they hardly appear in them. I do take pictures of them, particularly of my two grand-daughters, but I don’t like to put them on line. I don’t think they are likely to be of any more interest to those outside the family than anyone else’s family pictures.

Of course I have put family pictures on the web – they were the subject of my very first web site, and I wrote a little about them and the family pictures of some other photographers a few months ago in ‘In the Family Way.’ But most are best kept in the family, along with a few other private events where I share images just with those involved.

One of the highlights of the month was a commission to photograph the unscheduled performance in the Grand Court of the British Museum by the artist protesters of ‘BP or not BP‘ opposed to the climate-wrecking oil giant’s sponsorship of the museum and other arts venues which they do to improve their image at a relatively low cost rather than clean up their act.

This was in some respects a private event, a ‘flash’ performance with no advance publicity and no permission from the museum on whose premises it took place. Another photographer was there to make a video, and one other had been invited to try to sell work to the press. Of course many of the visitors to the museum who saw the event also stopped to take photographs, but it was still rather easier to work than events where a crowd of other photographers is present.

There are other events at which I’m the only photographer present – sometimes like this one because they are kept secret or as least not widely publicised – such the pair of Class War protesters at the White Cube Gallery – and others where photographers and agencies just don’t think they are newsworthy enough to make the effort.

While I can’t get to everything that happens, I started covering protests seriously because so many got no publicity. Things have changed a little since then, with many more photographers now covering protests even though they generally get even less coverage in the media, thanks to the ease of digital and the rise of ‘citizen journalism’, this largely means that ‘popular’ protests attract hordes with cameras while many smaller events are still recorded by only one or two of us.

Dec 2015

Belper – World Heritage Site
Cromford – World Heritage Site
Staines & Wraysbury Walk
Boxing Day Walk
End BP’s British Museum Greenwash
Don’t Buy Tiffany ‘Blood Diamonds’
Solidarity with Sweets Way arrestees
‘One Voice for the Dolphins of Taiji’
Phulbari coal mine protest

Christmas Rally For The NHS
Santas in London

Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees

Climate Activists Red Line protest
Free the Focus E15 Table

Ugandan President – don’t sign anti-gay bill
No forced medical treatment for unemployed
Class War at Gilbert & George ‘Banners’
Bloody Murder at Ripper ‘museum’
Short Walks in Windsor

Save NHS Student Bursaries

Firefighters say cuts endanger London
Don’t Bomb Syria
London Images

As well as pictures of events etc I’ve also decided to add a monthly section with some of occasional images I take as I travel around London, often from the top deck of a bus or train window.

Some Stats

>RE:PHOTO Dec 2015
Visits: 126,357
Page Views: 361,839
1.12 mins
2.88 pages
Ave Views per day: 11,672
Highest PV per day: 16,264 (Dec 17)

>RE:PHOTO  Year 2015 total
Visits: 1,622,248
Page Views: 3,855,303
1.9 mins
2.39 pages
Ave Views per day: 10,562

All my domains Year 2015 total
Visits: 2,646,880
Page Views: 7,460,850
1.14 mins
2.87 pages
Ave Views per day: 20,440


New Year thoughts

Monday, January 4th, 2016

I’ve tried hard not to add significantly to the barrow-loads of reviews of the year 2015, lists of the best photographs of the past year etc, as well as resolutions for 2016. Mostly they are excuses for writers having a week or two off over Christmas and the New Year and ignoring as much of what is happening as they can as they enjoy eating an drinking immoderately. And I have to admit that it’s something I’ve enjoyed taking advantage of in the past, and we all do need a rest from time to time.

I even sneaked a look at one or two of those compilations of the ‘best images of 2015’, though I found them in the main disappointing; too many pictures of politicians, sometimes obscure to those of us not the the USA doing nothing very interesting, and relatively few images that will stand the test of time.

It all makes for a good time for politicians to sneak out controversial announcements on the day when most MPs have already left for the Christmas break, knowing that the papers will mainly have their minds fixed on different things. But this year the Christmas break for many UK journalists and photographers was rudely interrupted by torrential rain causing flooding in cities, towns and villages in the northern half of England and parts of Scotland.

Terrible though this was for those who were flooded out – and having been an inch or two from the water coming into my own home for several weeks in 2014 and knowing others close by flooded I felt for them, as did most of the rest of the nation, though we didn’t let it spoil our celebrations. And even if a lost filling and some painful toothache hadn’t been making my own life something of a misery I wouldn’t have felt I could have contributed anything by travelling a couple of hundred miles to photograph other people’s troubles which were already being covered by so many photographers.

Possibly something good may come out of the floods. Perhaps they will have finally silenced the climate change deniers and several articles have appeared in newspapers suggesting a need to adopt sensible policies to lower the risk of further flooding. We may now see measures to slow run-off from agricultural land (including re-afforestation, semi-permeable barriers and reductions in sheep grazing and maize growing) and any new building in flood plains being designed with flooding in mind.

As for new year, I’d like it to be moved back to March 25th, where it was celebrated in England up to 1751. Perhaps then we could avoid the ridiculous almost two weeks of shutdown that we now get in midwinter that has me waiting so long for my dentist to come back to work. The Feast of the Annunciation, or ‘Lady Day’ marked the beginning of the agricultural year, and was when it changed from being one year to the next – so the day after March 25th 1715 was March 26th 1716.

Photographic new year jobs

But we do differently now, and I’ve just been performing some of the photographic rituals (yes, eventually this post gets around to photography) for the change in the year to 2016. If you, like me, file images by date, now is the time to set up folders for the new year 2016.

Lightroom too needs attention – as an e-mail from the Lightroom Queen Victoria Bampton reminded me. I’ve decided now to change to a new Lightroom catalogue each year, labelled with the year. I’ve found LR works much better if you don’t grow your catalogues too large. Yesterday I finished processing the images from 31st Dec 2015 and backed up the 2015 catalogue, then created a new catalogue for 2016.

It’s also worth deleting some of the old catalogue backups, though I like to keep a couple as well as the most recent, just in case one is corrupted.

Lightroom presets also need updating, in particular the import preset that I use to write copyright and contact information into every image I add to Lightroom. You do this from the import dialogue by selecting the preset, then choosing to edit it – and saving it, preferably under a name that reminds you it is for 2016.

I usually get around to altering the discrete copyright message that I add when writing images for the web from Lightroom by some time in April, but yesterday I managed to do it before importing any 2016 images. You do this from the ‘Edit’ menu, which rather to my surprise has the choice ‘Edit watermarks’. I selected my 2015 watermark, made a few changes, then saved it as pm2016 – it now puts ‘Copyright © 2016 Peter Marshall‘ in a slightly different place and a little darker than before.

My web site, ‘My London Diary’ is also chronologically arranged, and I will need to set up a new page for the year, along with new versions of the monthly page and the individual pages. It’s getting to be something of a squeeze to get another year along the top of the monthly page for the top menu. I also have to change the copyright text on the pages and other library items that are on the pages. Fortunately this isn’t yet urgent, as I still have to finish adding my text and images for the last week of December 2015.

It might be slightly less simple to do all this on ‘Lady Day‘, but I’d happily make the changes then, listening perhaps to Billie Holiday with Prez.

Vivian Maier still in hiding?

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

I’m not a true believer when it comes to Vivian Maier. Not that she was a bad photographer, far from it, but I’ve failed to share the kind of fawning hype that seems to have affected so many. Though I can enjoy looking at her work, to me its rather like the ‘Easy Listening’ section that they used to have in record stores. Obviously she had a great interest in photography and a good eye, and a great appreciation of the tradition, but to say, as curator Anne Morin does in her Lensculture interview with Jim CasperShe has a key place in the history of the medium—right next to Robert Frank and all the other great practitioners” seems just ridiculous nonsense.

As Morin makes clear, Maier was very aware of the history of the medium, and looking through the selection of 120 images on Lensculture it’s impossible not to realise some of the sources that inform her work. As you look at the images, its obvious that this one would not have been made had she not been aware of the work of Lisette Model, others completely predicated on her knowledge of Lee Friedlander or Robert Frank … though perhaps she never quite came to terms with Diane Arbus.

Maier didn’t make history, she depended on it, at least in the images we have seen, and Morin is misguided to think that her exhibition “helps place her work in the history of the field.” Perhaps the main point it and her story makes is that she was outside that history making, a mere – if sometimes enjoyable – footnote.

The fascination is very much in the back story, and it is one that has been carefully cultivated in article and film, with more yet to come to light. Morin mentions the link with the young French woman photographer Jeanne Bertrand with whom Vivian’s mother and the young Vivian were lodging in the Bronx at the 1930 census. Though Vivian was then only four, it seems likely that Bertrand was a friend of the family and they may have kept in touch in later years.

Claus Cyrny in his Artificial blog links to writer Jim Leonhirth who has posted the information he has gathered together about Maier’s family from various sources which often contradicts earlier statements and includes the information above about Bertrand, as well as reproducing a page from the Boston Globe in 1902 with a long article about her becoming well known as a photographer in the region at the age of 21.

Bertrand came from the same commune in rural France as Vivian Maier’s mother, where Vivian and her mother went to live from 1935-8 before returning to the USA, where the 1940 census shows them both living with Vivian’s brother and father (both called Charles) in 1940. Other family members, including an aunt and great-uncle also lived in New York, and it is thought that Vivian’s mother had reverted to her maiden name and died in New York in 1975.

Morin says that so far “somewhere between 120,000-150,000” Maier negatives have been found, including “6,000 rolls of film that Maier didn’t even develop” as well as voice recordings on cassette of her thoughts and ideas. She was only able to make her selection for her exhibition from a selection already made by John Maloof. Perhaps in the larger body of work we have yet to see there will somewhere be the real Vivian Maier?

30 Under 30 Women

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

I almost gave up with Photo Boite‘s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers, as although the initial page loaded rapidly, when I clicked on the link for 2016 I got just a large blank white page with just the header menu, now showing a larger 2016 and, scrolling down several blank white pages, the page footer.

I waited  and waited and after a minute or two,  went to check my e-mail. But fortunately I’d left the page open in Firefox and five minutes later came back to find the site had loaded.  I don’t know why the page should take so long to load, though around 3Mb of images doesn’t help, but I’m working on a connection where sites download at 35Mbps and pages with a similar amount of images download faster than I can scroll down them. Perhaps it loads all 30 pages at once, though the time seemed excessive even for that, or perhaps it was just very busy when I tried.

I tried the site in another browser, Internet Explorer, rather than the Firefox I normally use, and it did load rather faster, though still slow enough for many to have gone elsewhere.  But don’t be put off; once the site has loaded it works well, and shows a good number of images by each of the 30 women.

As well as the pictures, there are also short biographies of the photographers, many of whom have already enjoyed considerable success, and rightly so from the quality of their work, though there are a few who I felt were perhaps a little over-exposed and where a tighter selection of images might have helped. Or perhaps their work appealed to me less.

Despite the press release which describes the work as:

“A more feminine vision: 30 UNDER 30 exhibits the work of women photographers from around the world offering their visions based on their experience, along with their tact and composure, innocence and sensuality, at times fierce and provocative.

A more innocent vision: Driven by expression, this new generation draws its inspiration
and conveys it through its works with purity, free of disillusionment, through portraiture, photojournalism, landscapes, art and architecture, fashion and even war photography in a milieu traditionally practiced by their counterparts.”

I can’t really see anything about the work that would make me think they were ‘women photographers’ rather than simply thinking of them as photographers; my experience has always been that many of the best photographers I’ve known have been women. When I taught photography, the great majority of my better students were women.

Of course women have been under-represented in the pantheon of photography, but the reasons for this are not photographic but wider social issues.  When I put together a list of notable photographers for a photography web site,  there were only 41 women among the roughly 200 photographers, but these did include some who made really significant contributions to the medium, including Julia Margaret Cameron, Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, Mary Ellen Mark, Imogen Cunningham and more. Many women have over the years played an important role behind the camera as well as in front of it, something I feel the introduction to ‘30 under 30 Women‘ fails to acknowledge.

In Memoriam 2015

Friday, January 1st, 2016

This year has seen the loss of a number of fine photographers, including figures who have really contributed to the development of our medium. Many of them are remembered in the Time LightboxIn Memoriam‘ feature, including several who were particularly important to me. One was Charles Harbutt (1935-2015), whose 1974 book 974 book, Travelog made a great impression on me when I was starting in photography, and who I was later fortunate enough to meet and to attend one of his workshops. I’d already picked up much of the lessons that he taught by the time we met, but he really did change the lives of many, including one of my friends, the late Peter Goldfield; attending a Harbutt workshop in 1976 changed his life and he went on to set up his own photography workshop centre at Duckspool, where I met Harbutt in the 1990s. I wrote a longer post on him at the time of his death.

Another loss I felt personally was that of Lars Tunbjörk (1956-2015), a Swedish photograph inspired by the ‘New American Color’ of photographers including Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, who I think added a European irony and incisiveness to their work, and who I think is still comparatively unrecognised. After meeting him in Poland in 2005, I bought three of his books and continue to be amazed every time I take them from the shelves in my living room where I keep my favourite works.

Another photographer whose loss I felt greatly was an old friend of mine, Terry King (1938-2015), who I wrote about at some length in April. Although I’d only seen him infrequently in recent years, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s we often went together on photographic group trips and also worked together on what came to dominate his photography, alternative photographic processes, for which he became one of the leading evangelists and proponents, inspiring and teaching many others, as well as developing his own methods.

I had no personal connection with Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) though I admired her work, as well as that of several others listed by Time. Hilla Becher (1931-2015) along with her partner Bernd were enormously influential teachers of photography, and while I admire the ‘typologies’ she and her husband produced I’m not always enamoured of the work of some of their students. Takuma Nakahira (1938-2015) too was a hugely influential figure as the founder and editor of ‘Provoke‘. If others on the ‘Time’ list are less well known to me, this partly reflects my lack of interest in certain areas of photography, though the list is also a reminder of the continuing dangers of photojournalism. The Committee to Protect Journalists lists 97 journalists and media workers killed in 2015, of whom roughly a third were photographers or videographers.