Archive for November, 2016

In the Top 10

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

I’m not quite sure what it means, but this site, >Re:PHOTO, is now listed as No. 3 in  Vuelio’s  Top 10 UK Photography Blogs.

vueliotop10badge2016

You can see the full list with descriptions and links to the sites on the link above, but here are the top 10 in the rankings updated on 16/11/2016.

1. Sophie in the Sticks
2. Deceptive Media
3. Re: Photo
4. Lawson Photography
5. Girl With a Camera
6. The London Column
7. Allister Freeman
8. The Photographers’ Gallery Blog
9. Thesilenceofthelens
10. Holly McGlynn

And this is the description there for >Re:PHOTO:

“Capturing political movements and protests, Re: Photo takes a slightly different approach. With a more photo-journalist style, the blog focuses on the power of community spirit and people coming together to campaign for social and political change.”

Vuelio has this to say about their rankings:

“Vuelio’s blog ranking methodology takes into consideration social sharing, topic-related content and post frequency. Profiles of these photography blogs and their authors can be found in the Vuelio Media Database.”

The list is certainly a varied one, and most of those included are ones that I would probably never read, but there is room for many different approaches.

A Celebration Of The Life Of Colin O’Brien

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Tomorrow, 17th November at 6pm is the Celebration of the Life of Colin O’Brien at St James Church, Clerkenwell. Details are on the Spitalfields Life site and the programme for the event is also now available. All are welcome, and I hope to be able to be there.

I  wrote about him briefly in .

 

 

Be Creative

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

As I’ve found in the past, its hard to write about creativity. All to easy to mouth platitudes and end up sounding rather soppy. And at times in his ‘The Creative ManifestoBen Sasso on PetaPixel strays a little into that territory. For me at least the pictures accompanying the piece don’t help in that respect (too sentimental for my taste, though many will react postively), and neither does the fact that he’s American. But the ideas are certainly good advice, and mostly things that I’ve urged on students and those who bother to read my advice over the years.

It’s best you go and read his article. But in precis (and a little of my own spin) his 10 points are:

1. Emotion beats aesthetics
2. Go the other way to the crowd
3. Use you own emotions
4. Be yourself in your work
5. Experiment, try new ideas
6. Don’t get hung up on technical perfection
7. Take time to think when you need to
8. Photograph what you enjoy
9. Know your craft and study your medium
10. Get weird!

I don’t think there is anything new in any of these, and I’ve heard or read them all from many great photographers over the years, from Cartier-Bresson on. But there is also plenty of bad advice out there, confusing means with ends and more. And being a more creative photographer isn’t necessarily going to make you more commercially succesful – which is often rather more about business and people skills than your photography.

Although I came across it through PetaPixel, it’s better to read this on Sasso’s own site, as I couldn’t get some of the links to work from PP, and that ‘weird’ gif is worth seeing.

You can also read the comments, which though I don’t think they add anything in terms of content do show how this piece has been enthusiastically received by other photographers. Most of us at times feel we are in a rut.

There’s also another article on the same subject published on the same day on PP, ‘On Creativity: Seek Failure‘ by UK photographer Jacob James. Again  you can also read it on his own web site.

BBC Blindness

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016


There was a short sit-down at Piccadilly Circus on the way to the Trafalgar Square rally

You, or certainly I, might think that a protest by over 5,000 people on the streets of London against the action of an oppresive regime that brings traffic to a halt is worthy of a mention on the BBC, but apparently it isn’t news.  I searched their site and found no mention, even though they cannot have failed to notice the large crowd which deliberately gathered outside Broadcasting House.

Perhaps the Kurds aren’t singled out for special treatment. The BBC routinely fails to report on protests in the UK, with a few exceptions, mainly where celebrities of one sort or another get involved, or there is some particular ‘human interest’ peg on which they can hang a report on, preferably on something only involving a handful of people and an entirely trivial subject.  But protests about serious issues tend to be avoided – unless they are happening overseas and particularly in a country the establishment has issues with.

According to Wikipedia, there are probably 50,000 Kurds resident in the UK. It’s figure used by government but which came from the BBC, as the government have not bothered to collect it – at the last census it wasn’t a category, but people could write in ‘Kurdish’ if they wanted to, and in England and Wales 48,239 reported their main language as Kurdish. Other probably even less reliable sources put the figure at 200-250,000.


The march assembled in front of Broadcasting House, spilling along the road north and south

Roughly one tenth of that population (on the BBC figure), which is spread out across most of our major cities, though with a significant number in north London and around Croydon – came to this protest about what is happening to the Kurdish community in Turkey (though many of them come from other areas of Kurdistan which also spreads across parts of Iraq, Iran, Armenia and Syria.) It’s a remarkable statistic, though the BBC didn’t think so.


Freedom for Öcalan – his picture was also on many flags on the march

Kurds have long been a persecuted minority in Turkey, which has systematically tried to eliminate their language and culture.  Opposition to this has been both political and military, with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) being regarded in many countries as a terrorist organisation (and is proscribed in the UK.) Its leader Abdullah Ocalan has been held in a Turkish jail since 1999; he still features on many of the flags carried in protests.

The Kurds also accuse Turkey of supporting ISIS (Daesh) both as a part of an attempt to turn Turkey into an Islamic dictatorship and also as a part of their fight against the Kurds, hoping that ISIS will make all of Kurdistan into part of its caliphate and sort out their Kurdish problem for them. They say Turkey – as Russian intelligence has also shown – provides a route for the oil exports that finance ISIS.

We support Turkey – and out government want to brush Kurdish issues under the mat – as a part of NATO in our continuing opposition to Russia. The US has supplied some arms to Kurdish fighters in Syria because they see their fight against the Syrian regime as also being against the increasing Russian influence. (They also got some British weapons but found they didn’t work…)  The Kurds have unfortunately become pawns trapped in the ‘Great Game’ in which our government and the BBC are players.

Photographing the march presented few problems, and it was more colourful than many with some wearing traditional Kurdish dress and many scarves in the Kurdish colours. The 16mm fisheye with its 147 degree horizontal angle of view enabled me to show the sit-down at Piccadilly Circus effectively (and as usual I ‘de-fished’ the image at the top of the page.) Like most landscape format images on this blog you can see it larger by right-clicking and selecting ‘View Image’.

I tried hard to represent the different groups and opinions in my picture – and you will see many posters, flags and banners in my pictures at Break the Silence! Turkey’s War on Kurds. As well as Kurds, the event was also supported by anti-fascist groups and a few others including human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
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I’m missing Paris

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

I went to Paris for several years for what is I think photography’s largest trade fair, Paris Photo, and reading about this years Paris Photo 2016 in several places, including LensCulture and BJP I am rather missing being there this year.


Paris, 2006

One development I welcome is the increasing emphasis on photography books in the show – again read about it on LensCulture – as I’ve long considered the best place for most photography is on the printed page rather than the wall (and have done my little bit towards this – though not of course featured at Paris.)

I’m also pleased to see the increasing emphasis on Japanese photography, something that has interested me for some years, though the book that would certainly be my choice for Photobook of the Year isn’t in the listings.


Paris Photo, 2006

The pictures above are from my first visit to Paris Photo back in 2006, when I visited Paris for a week with Linda. I spent the first evening and a couple of days inside Photo Paris, then in an underground location, going around every stall and looking at all the pictures. It was great, though there were some dealers to whom a journalist for the web was clearly of very little interest and made sure I felt it. But as you can see from the larger album of pictures here, we had an interesting week in the city, and for me the main attraction in this and the following visits were the many shows outside the dealer fair, in the Mois de la Photo and the fringe events of L’Off. I wouldn’t have gone to Paris just for Paris Photo, and  ‘the Month’ was only every two years.  Now it has evolved into ‘Le Mois de la Photo du Grand Paris‘ and won’t be until April 2017 – another reason for not going there now. But perhaps I will visit next April.

Here’s the post I wrote for this site back in 2006:

Paris was full of photographs in November, and there were some great ones at Paris Photo. But there were things that were hard to take too. Large empty wastes of dollar-rich nothingness covering the walls of some galleries. Vintage prints pulled from some photographers waste-bins and awarded stupendous price-tags. I found it hard not to burst out laughing when a dealer came up to the person next to me and told her the price of one rather ordinary ’60s fashion print was 20,000 euros. A couple of years ago we would have though 200 rather steep, and 2000 definitely well over the top.

Still, all good news for investors, and for the minority of photographers who have a place on the gravy train. There were a few other photographers around, trying to talk to dealers, but this wasn’t the place for it. “Best if you e-mail us” they were politely brushed off.

The first day I had a panic attack of sorts as the place got more and more full of people, all there for the free opening party, and had to rush out and up from the bunker into the fresh air above. The next day things were better, less crowded, but still more a place for millionaires than photographers.

But fortunately, there was much more in Paris than Paris Photo.

In 2008 I published a partial diary of my visit as a ‘Paris Supplement‘ on My London Diary and reviewed some of the shows here on >Re:PHOTO, (beginning here) and I had a great time. I only published the series of posts after I got home as I just didn’t have time to write more than notes in Paris, and they are mixed with other posts – the last, on Louise Narbo, only being published on December 5th. YOu can also find more on My London Diary from 2010 and 2012, and also on the November pages of this site.

In 2014  I was just too busy to go, and the attraction of Paris Photo had somewhat waned after seeing many of the same photographs on some dealers stalls again and again.


Paris, 1984

You can see more of my photographs of Paris from 1973-2007 (when I was also there for Photo Paris) on my web site Paris Photos.

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Photoshop Alternative

Friday, November 11th, 2016

A few years ago I would have jumped at the chance to move from Photoshop to an alternative that looks at least equally powerful but at a fraction of the cost. Now, I’m not so sure, as Photoshop has become much more reasonably priced, and there would be quite a long process of learning to move away to Affinity Photo.

That link is for the Mac version, but as I learnt from Peta Pixel, you can now download a free beta of a Windows version which is said to have an identical interface. I don’t think I will, as I haven’t the time to spend evaluating software and changing my old habits, but it does look good and rather than paying a subscription there is a one-off price. The Windows version when launched will cost the same $50 or £40 as the Mac.

It does seem to offer an alternative to everything I need from Photoshop – I took a quick look through the long listing of features – and elsewhere is a list of cameras it supports for RAW, which included all that I own and of course many more. As a British company the price in the UK is perhaps less likely to be affected by any further drop in the pound as we slide into Breixt economic gloom.

But for me, Photoshop comes more or less as a free gift with Lightroom on my subscription, and I’ve come to love and rely on the way that Lightworks with and catalogues my images.  And I still have nagging doubts about Serif, the company that produces Affinity, and  whose PagePlus DTP software I used in the long past; Version 1.0 was cheap and worked farily well, but didn’t quite match up to that available at several times the cost from the big names.  But it does look as if they have made that jump now, and PagePlus X9 looks rather good and if I wanted new web design software I’d certainly look at WebPlus X8. And Affinity seems to offer all that I use from Photoshop – including the ability to use 64-bit Photoshop plugins.

As I said, I don’t have the time to play with betas. But perhaps in a year or so when others have ironed out the worst bugs I’ll consider Affinity again, and decide if I can live without Lightroom. After all its one-off cost is less than 5 months subs to the Adobe Photography Plan – and after that I’d be saving just over £100 a year.  Of course sometime they would bring out a version 2,  and perhaps I might feel a need to upgrade, but it would still work out much cheaper.

As well as Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer is also available as a free beta for Windows.

Incidentally another page at Peta Pixel details how you can save 25 % on your Adobe subscription – but it doesn’t seem to work for me, with the Amazon page this links to listing it at the full dollar price of $119.88 – perhaps the offer is/was only available in the US.

Irwin Klein published

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Six years ago I wrote a short note on this site, The Color Photographs of Irwin Klein, about the work of a photographer whose life ended tragically in March 1974. You can now read the story I didn’t know then of his death on a web site Irwin Klein: Photographer (1933-1974) created by his nephew Nikolai Klein in 2012.

Rather more of his photographs appear to have survived, and there is a quite extensive archive on the web site, including the colour images of Brooklyn. There are over 300 of his Brooklyn slides on the site, although quite a few scenes are represented by two or more very similar views.

I was emailed about this site by Nikolai’s brother Ben Klein, who also commented on my 2010 post and has compiled and edited a book on the photographer’s major project, The Settlers. ‘ He tells me that the slides were discovered in Klein’s widow’s house less than ten years ago.

Irwin Klein and the New Settlers, Photographs of Counterculture in New Mexico, ISBN 978-0-8032-8510-1 is edited by Benjamin Klein with essays by David Farber, Tom Fels, Tim Hodgdon, Benjamin Klein, and Lois Rudnick, a foreword by Daniel Kosharek and an introduction by Michael William Doyle is published by the University of Nebraska Press.

You can download a PDF from the university site which includes the contents pages, preface, introduction and opening essay From Innocence to Experience: Irwin B. Klein and the New Settlers of Northern New Mexico, by Benjamin Klein and Tim Hodgdon.

There is also a Facebook Page and a number of article on the web about Irwin Klein, including one in the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is represented by the D Gallery, where you can see his most famous image, Minnesota Fire, 1962 and other pictures from the 2009 show Last Look: The Photographs of Irwin Klein (1933 -1974).

I think most photographers will recognise that striking ‘Minnesota Fire‘ image though they may well – like me – have forgotten who took it.

Notting Hill Revisited

Sunday, November 6th, 2016


Portobello Rd, Notting Hill 1987

Notting Hill has “gone up in the world”, if down in my respect, one of London’s epicentres of gentrification, and now a mega-tourist attraction post the 1999 film of the same name. When we went there in March, the language on the streets was Italian – even some of the beggars had signs in Italian. Both tourism and gentrification have had a heavy toll, and little of the old Notting Hill remains, though in some respects the setting is the same.

Class War came to Notting Hill long ago -back in 1837 when John Whyte enclosed land to form a racecourse, the Hippodrome, and closed a well-used public right of way. At the first race meeting, several thousand are said to have used the closed footpath to make holes in the fence and get in free. More legally, a gang of labourers from the local authority went and cleared the obstuctions to the path but Whyte simply restored them.The matter went to court, where Whyte lost but still kept the path closed and instead tried to get an Act of Parliament to allow him to divert it rather than let the hoi polloi disturb him and his upper class mates.

The people set up a petition and went to the newspapers, telling them about the various illegal activities going on there, unlicensed drinking, gambling, prostitution, and pickpockets – and The Times (long before Murdoch who would probably have backed the racecourse) wrote a leader condemning it as a den of vice. Eventually Whyte was forced to re-route the racetrack and restore the footpath – which he did with a high metal fence on each side so the riff-raff could not see the toffs.

The race track soon failed, not because of the footpath but the heavy soil, which made it dangerous for racing in wet conditions, and many horse owners refused to risk their mounts.  The ground was sold to a Mr Ladbroke, a developer and that disputed footpath became, more or less, Ladbrooke Grove.

The radical history of Notting Hill continued – and you can read more in Tom Vague’s ‘Bash the Rich‘ where you can read about Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor, the Campden squatters, George Orwell, the Free Republic of Frestonia, the Angry Brigade, King Mob, the International Times, the original Hustler, the Carnival riots and more.


Bash the Rich, 2007
Class War returned to Notting Hill and marched through Ladbroke Grove to Holland Park on the first BASH THE RICH march in 1985. Twenty two years later they returned, and this time I went with them.


Bash the Rich, 2007

The event was heavily policed, with protesters and press getting pushed around considerably, and there were several arrests for no particular reason (mainly I think for objecting to police violence) with those arrested being released without charge after a few hours of arbitrary detention. You can see more pictures at Bash the Rich.

This year’s ‘historic, riotous and fun‘ Notting Hill pub crawl attracted rather fewer people and less attention from the police. It had been planned to start at the former Colville Hotel  where Class War’s first conference was held, but the few of us who had arrived on time to find the bar there boarded up and up for sale, and had to stand outside and drink from tins. With Class War’s Rita the Raven. But a close pub is no good to man, woman or beast and we didn’t hang around too long. So some late-comers missed the tour.

The next pub on the route, formerly the Warwick Castle, once the heart of Notting Hill is now gentrified out of recognition as simply the Castle, had ‘closed for maintenance‘ for a few hours having heard Class War was coming, so again we had to stand outside. There was no sign of any maintenance inside – the only thing being maintained was a very low and scared profile. People put up blue plaques (or rather blue paper plates) to mark this as the place where Ian Bone met Joe Strummer who jumped at the idea of the 1988 Rock Against the Rich tour.

There were just a few police following us a few paces away as we walked down to the next venue, the Duke of Wellington tourist trap, once H H Finch‘s bar. They seemed to have extra bouncers on duty, but let us in and we got served, though Young’s isn’t my favourite brewery and the price was high. But I paid up and swallowed my Pride slowly. We sat for a while with a few more joining the tour, including a visit from Ray ‘Roughler’ Jones whose epic book about the Warwick Castle was titled ‘3000 Hangovers Later‘.

It wasn’t far until our next stop, one of the few real pubs left in Notting Hill, though not quite as genuine as it seems. The Earl of Lonsdale,  was once Henekey‘s, but was remodelled as Sam Smith‘s pub in a way that pretty authentically recreates the real thing – as do a number of other pubs they have worked on. It seemed we had settled down for the day, but more people were joining the tour, and onwards it went.

The next stop wasn’t a pub, but the house were George Orwell once lived – and which recently has appeared on in a faked image on Facebook with a CCTV camera Photoshopped on the the wall close to the blue plaque. As Lisa McKenzie gave us the low-down on Orwell as an upper class toff but one who understood the class war we noticed that there was indeed a small camera covering the doorway.

But this was Class War and we were close to a branch of Foxton’s, that arch-agency of gentrification, and it was our next stop. We were amused to find it had been closed and boarded up in anticipation of our visit, and it was duly stickered. A speech about the role of this company in gentrification had to be abandoned after a few minutes when a number of police vans came in sight and the tour melted away into the nearby Prince Albert, built in 1841 at the gate to the Hippodrome.

After we had been in there for around an hour (including a Class War make-up lesson) it became clear that this was to be the end of the tour rather than as intended the Daily Mail offices, where no food or drink was likely to be available, though probably a few police officers were still awaiting our arrival.  So I said goodbye and left as I could expect a good dinner waiting for me at home.

More pictures and text: Class War’s Notting Hill Pub Stroll

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Work and Mental Health

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Since one of the main causes of mental health problems is workplace stress it seems odd that the current government appears to believe that somehow getting those with mental health problems into work is a miraculous cure. Of course finding suitable work can be a something which helps those who have recovered stay well, but it’s had to believe that job centres will help people find suitable work; instead they will be bullied into taking unsuitable work by advisers who get brownie points or bonuses for cutting benefits – either by forcing people into jobs or sanctioning them if they refuse.

There just are not suitable jobs for the great majority of those with mental problems or with physical disabilities, and even fewer than there used to be, both with the government closure of Remploy and other sheltered work and the removal of other support. Another major reason for many people’s mental health problems is the pressure on them to find work, the cutting of various benefits, benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax and other government policies.

Finding disabled people fit for work through unsuitable ‘work capability assessments’ carried out by Atos and Maximus when they are demonstrably unfit is a major source of stress, and has led to many suicides. A very high percentage of those who appeal against these assessments succeed – but often only for the people concerned to be failed yet again when called in for another test. It’s perhaps an unsurprising effect of setting up a testing system that ignores medical reports and rewards the company administering the tests for failing people. It was a cruel system introduced under New Labour, but one which the coalition – even after its effects became clear – deliberately tightened the screw.

It would be hard to overstate the hate that many disabled people feel for the man who has directed the process, Iain Duncan Smith – and hard not to understand it when you hear one of them telling how eight of her friends have committed suicide thanks to his policies. He appears to combine a total lack of empathy and understanding of the problems faced by those on benefits with an outstanding incompetence.

This was a difficult protest to photograph outside the job centre because the pavement it was taking place on was rather narrow and soon get very crowded. There were too many people for the space and too many of us trying to take pictures. It was good that the protesters had plenty of props and costumes, but it was perhaps too elaborate to tell the story clearly, at least visually. I think it would have been easier in video.

Things were simpler once the protesters began to march, and although the police didn’t seem to know what was happening, I think it was fairly obvious that they would attempt to block the Old St roundabout. Which they did for some time. As usual disabled protesters gave the police a problem; most have a genuine concern about manhandling disabled people, while others realise how it would look in the media. For both reasons they hang back from taking action for rather longer than would be the case with able-bodied protesters – though many of those taking part were not disabled.

But eventually the police would have had to take action, with one of London’s major junctions taken out, and DPAC realise they can only push things so far. After blocking the roundabout for around 20 minutes, Paula Peters of DPAC announce it was time to leave.

I wrote a fairly lengthy account of the action on My London Diary at No Job Coaches in GP Surgeries, and as usual there are plenty more pictures there. But although I took quite a few usable images, I didn’t manage to get one that really stood out and summed up the protest in the way I would have liked; but perhaps the issues were too complicated for that.

London Transport

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

I don’t always carry a camera when I go out, except for the one on my phone, which I very seldom use, partly because it isn’t very good but mainly that I’ve never really sorted out how to control it to get results I might like. I also find it rather hard to use; looking at images on a screen and pressing a virtual button is just not how I work.

I do still have a pocketable camera, and got it out and looked at it again a few days ago. Back when I bought it, the performance was pretty much up with the leaders for anything of its size, and the 6Mp images from the Fuji Finepix F31fd weren’t bad. Probably better quality than the larger files from my phone, but still if I took anything on it Ilooked at the images and felt it was a pity I hadn’t had a real camera with me. All the pictures here were taken when I did, on either the Nikon D700 or D810.

Usually when I’m out I do have a better camera, and most often two of them in a rather heavy bag on my left shoulder. I take them out with a specific event or place in mind to photograph – and some of those photographs go on-line in My London Diary and to one of the agencies.

Most of the time I’m out I’m not at those events, but travelling to them or returning home, and going from one event to another. Much of these in-between times there is nothing I’m interested in photographing, and I often read a newspaper or a book or occsionally hang out with other photographers. Occasionally I’ll visit a pub or a gallery, and there are quite a few of both in London, though few galleries that show decent photography. Or if there is a long gap and the weather is right there may be time to go somewhere I want to photograph and take some pictures.

Like many other photographers I also take pictures at times on my travels around the city, through bus or train windows. Often these are rather dirty or scratched and this sometimes rather spoils the images. It can be hard to avoid annoying reflections (and even harder to get ones that aren’t annoying.) So most of these images get deleted, but a few are worth saving, and in recent months I’ve been including some at the bottom of the page on My London Diary under the title ‘London Images’. Silly really as most of the rest on the site are also from London, but I needed a title.

I like travelling on the upper floor of a double-decker bus for the views – even if most of the time I’m not taking pictures. It’s a great viewing platform for the city, though often frustrating as the buses flash post places that look interesting only to stop for ages in the least interesting of locations. I’ve always planned to do a project from the open-top tourist buses that clog our streets – which would be rather more flexible – but somehow never got around to it.

I’m still wondering whether to start carrying the little Fuji again for those time I don’t have a camera with me – or even if to replace it with a more modern and capapble device that would fit a jacket or trouser pocket. Perhaps a new compact camera – or would I be better of getting a phone with a better camera?

You can see more of the pictures made as I travelled around in January, Febraury and March on My London Diary. There is quite a lot of repetition, particuarly as almost every time I go to London I go past one of its largest development areas at Nine ELms and Vauxhall and have often recorded the progress, particularly on the new US Embassy building there.
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