Archive for January, 2017

On this day…

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Once upon a time I had to write a daily post on photography for several years as a part of my job. Of course I still write here most days, but then I wasn’t really allowed to write about my own work, which made things a lot harder, and I couldn’t take a day off whenever I felt like it.

Of course you don’t actually have to sit down and write a piece every day. You can write stuff when you have time or the mood takes you amd schedule it to appear later. I’m actually typing this at 10.25 on Wednesday but it will most likely appear on Saturday – unless something more urgent to publish means I will put it back a day or two or even longer. Just occasionally I get things wrong – as I did this week, when the post intended for Friday accidentally got published on Thursday afternoon when I pressed the wrong button.

Sometimes when I had to write those daily pieces there were plenty of things happening that I could write about – exhibition openings, books, new web sites, and inevitably obituaries etc. But there were days when I was stumped and would turn to various ‘On this day…’ sites for inspiration. The Library of Congress has its Today in History page which often features some interesting photographs from its extensive collection that might prompt a thought.

Those daily blog posts were a relatively small part of the job I was employed to do, and some were fairly short, though one of the reasons I eventually got sacked was for writing too much and writing for photographers rather than people who’d just bought a camera and had no idea what to do with it.

When I read a post by James McArdle on the Photohistory blog about his project On This Date In Photography I was interested but perhaps a little sceptical about his intention to present “an event that happened, or is happening, on the date of posting. Journalistic, not necessarily academic, it aims to broaden the interests of devotees of photography, with some posts specifically on British photo history, others more wide ranging.”

He goes on to state that the site is “a ‘labour of love’ I am undertaking for one calendar year to revive my research and writing in preparation for penning a book on an aspect of photography next year.”

I have to say that I’m very impressed by what I’ve seen so far, and suggest that his is a site you should all add to your bookmarks/favourites.  I haven’t read all the entries which he began in October, but enough to make me want to go back and read more. One almost at random, for December 27th, with the title Dream, looks at the photography of  Latvian photographer Gunar̄s Binde, born 27/12/1933  who I was pleased to meet and see his work in Poland in 2005.

Gunars Binde looks through the catalogue as Eikoe Hosoe, Ami Vitale and I  for a photograph at the first international FotoArtFestival in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, where I represented the UK with pictures from London. You can read the more about the festival in my Polish Diary. Picture by Jutka Kovacs.

Doctors & Teachers

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

This was a photo that I felt more or less summed up the march by doctors and teachers on the first day of the two-day strike by Junior Doctors’ last April.

From the banner at top left with its message ‘stand together‘, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, the poster ‘NUT says Teachers Support Junior Doctors’, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and supporters including a ‘Save Our Hospitals’ camapaigner carrying a large teddy dressed in surgical gear.

It perhaps could have been clearer in showing that the NUT poster was on the back of a wheelchair – and my framing at left has cut off the face of a well-known disabled activist and speaker, World of Inclusion and Coordinator UK Disability History Month Richard Rieser – but his presence would have drawn attention away from the rest of the image. You can see him in a lower image on this page.

Missing from it were NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney and Johann Malawana chair of the Junior Doctors Committee, shown in the second image, but you can’t have everything.

What isn’t clear in these pictures is the pushing and shoving from a few misguided stewards and other photographers that made getting some of these pictures at the front of the march difficult.

But there was one photographer who didn’t get hassled by stewards – John McDonnell taking a picture of one the marchers with Jeremy Corbyn.

The pavement opposite Downing St where there was a rally was also very crowded,  and it was difficult to move around. There were plenty of good speeches and I was able to get some reasonable pictures of most of the speakers, but photographing people in the crowd was more difficult.

It was quite an interesting list of speakers, including both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell as well as Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, Vivienne Westwood, Vanessa Redgrave, several junior doctors and others, as well as NUT Deputy General Secretary Kevin Courtney (above) who later used one of my pictures of him in his election campaign to become NUT General Secretary. I was pleased that he won, though I can’t really take much credit for the victory.

More at:

Downing St rally for Junior Doctors
Doctors & Teachers march together


Hull Photos 12/1/2017-18/1/2017

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

12 January 2017

Subway St was the main route in and out of the Fish Dock for men and lorries and the subway led under the main railway line – and after this picture was taken, the A63 main route into Hull, Clive Sullivan Way. The shadows at the bottom of the image are from the chimneys of one of a number of fish smoking houses in the area, I think now all demolished.

27p44: Subway St leading to St Andrew’s Dock, 1981 – Docks

13 January 2017

This fish smoke house was one of a number in the area close to where Subway St led into the Fish Dock – and probably this picture was taken either on West Dock Ave or Subway St close to their junction with Goulton St. Rows of chimneys like this on top of a steeply sloping roof were a familiar sight in the area between Hessle Rd and the Fish Dock.

27p45: Fish Smoke House, Goulton St, 1981 – North & West Hull – Hessle Rd

14 January 2017

This is the image I chose for the cover of my book ‘Still Occupied’ and from my contact sheet it appears to have been taken in the Goulton St/Subway St area, although when I showed it in 1983 it was titled ‘Clearance area near Woodcock St‘, around 600m to the north-east. I’m afraid the exact location of some of my pictures is something of a mystery as I did an awful lot of wandering around while taking pictures.

Those more familiar than me with Hull may be able to identify the large curved roof in the right background, and below it, just in front of the houses a small obelisk on a plinth, though these details are probably too small to be seen clearly on the web image, and there are more monuments on a low mound in the centre of the picture, so this is definitely a burial ground. Just to the left of the post, partly obscured is a building which could be a pub.

Today, writing this, I spent a little more time researching this (thanks to Google Streetview), and the street at the left is definitely what is now called Conway Close, though when I took the picture it was Division Road. The mound and monuments are the Division Road burial ground – an overspill from Holy Trinity – and the houses at right are terraces from Tyne St. The buildings close to the post have I think all been demolished. The ‘Play Street’ I was on the edge of was I think Beecroft St or Massey St. The latter is still there with a ‘Play Street’ sign and the muddy area is now a grassed open space.

27p46: Play street and cleared site, 1981 – North & West Hull – Hessle Rd

15 January 2017

One of my favourite images from Hull, with its lively lettering and rather erratics letter heights in the sign-writing, the vase of daffs, one with a broken stem, and the patterning of the net curtain, the step and the frontage as a whole, which together I find rather satisfying. It was probably taken on a Sunday as there is a closed sign on the door.

I never went inside; like many working in Hull around noon I would rush back for dinner at ‘home’ before returning to work for the afternoon. My mother-in-law would put it on the table at 12.15 precisely. A friend who worked on Sculcoates Lane used to rush down to Paragon Station, jump on the train to Hessle for his home dinner his mother had waiting for him as he arrived, ate up and then rushed for the train back to Hull and a rather speedy return to the office.

It was about two and three-quarter miles from here to Loveridge Ave, and if I was lucky I might get the Fish Dock bus I think a 27. But otherwise I was then fairly young and fit, and at ‘scouts pace’ I might make it in 25 minutes. I daren’t be late.

27p53: West Dock Cafe, West Dock Ave, 1981 – North & West Hull – Hessle Rd

16 January 2017

Another picture from West Dock Ave, a shop selling Norwegian jumpers for fishermen. There is a very straightforward and workmanlike look to the shop, with its boarding and simply set out display of four wooden forms showing off different jumper patterns. Presumably the others are in there bare as they only currently have four patterns.

You can still buy genuine Norwegian Merino wool jumpers, though probably not in West Dock Ave and the genuine article will cost you £150 or more. They use ‘raw’ wool which retains its natural lanolin and the fibres are spun along the fibre in a worsted weave rather than the normal wool weave across it. They are noted for warmth and breathability and have a natural water repellence due to a thick weave and the natural oil.

One of my brothers made several visits to Norway before his death when I was 20, and brought me back not a jumper, but thick woollen knitted socks. These were of oiled wool and came with the strict instruction – DO NOT WASH. But eventually they did need washing, or keeping in a different room.

Apparently you can then wash them with a little baby oil in the water to replace the natural oils. But I didn’t bother, and later relegated them to serve as bed socks, keeping my feet warm in winter and meaning I didn’t need to put on slippers when I got up in the middle of the night. I think they lasted well over 30 years.

27p55: Norwegian jumpers, West Dock Ave, 1981 – North & West Hull – Hessle Rd

17 January 2017

It’s easy to place the picture of the shop window and the jumpers with some precision, as the reflection in the window shows it was taken opposite the school in West Dock Ave. This terrace is the next frame on the film, and I think was probably taken as I walked further south down West Dock Ave, and perhaps shows one of the terraces leading off east from Subway St – which would be the road behind the line of washing. But I could have wandered further, perhaps towards any of the three streets named after leading public schools, Rugby, Eton and Harrow presumably by some Victorian developer with a warped sense of humour.

Probably there are people in Hull who could remember having written their names on these walls, Tony, Kev, Mark, Dale and the others. Back in the days before spray cans graffiti was considerably more basic. And some years earlier another Tom, Sir Tom Courtenay, born in Subway St, lived at 29 Harrow St from the age of 4 in 1941 until 1959.

27p56: West Dock Avenue area, 1981 – North & West Hull – Hessle Rd

18 January 2017

Four months after taking the picture above I was back in Hull and went back to roughly the same area. St Mark’s Square is not the only thing that Hull has in common with Venice – it also has the parish and church of St Charles Borromeo, a sixteenth century Cardinal and administrator of the archdiocese of Milan which stretched from Geneva to Venice, and it used to have a great deal of water in the centre of the city, though rather less since Queens Dock was filled in as public gardens in the 1930s and a disturbing shopping centre plonked down on stilts in Princes Dock in 1990-1.

Hull’s St Mark’s Square is perhaps a little less imposing than its Venetian counterpart, but was at the centre of Hull’s first out of town suburban development by Thomas English, a wealthy local shipbuilder in the first decade of the nineteenth century  known as the Pottery Ground. Edgar was one of his sons, and there is also an Alfred St, named after the other, as well or course as English St.  Where St Mark came in I don’t know – there wasn’t a church there, though it did have a Wesleyan Chapel in the early years. St Mark’s Square was an open square for some years at the centre of the new development. All that remains from around 1802-3 appears to be the street pattern.

28h15: St Mark’s Square from Edgar St, 1981 – North & West Hull – Hessle Rd

And I turned my camera to portrait orientation for a second picture.

28h21: St Mark’s Square from Edgar St, 1981 – North & West Hull – Hessle Rd

You can see the new pictures added each day at Hull Photos, and I post them with the short comments above on Facebook.
Comments and corrections to captions are welcome here or on Facebook.

Charmes de Londres

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

I have quite a collection of books of photographs of London (as well as probably a few hundred thousand of my own pictures) but one of my favourites is ‘Charmes de Londres‘, credited to Jacques Prevert with photographs by D’Iziz-Bidermanas. Although most of the texts are poems by Prevert, it also has some quotations by others including William Blake and a Picasso drawing.

I didn’t buy this when it first came out in 1952, as I was then only seven and penniless – and it wasn’t in any case for sale, but came across it in an Oxfam shop perhaps 15 years ago, paying £19.50 for a copy in good condition. Perhaps remarkably you can still find copies of the original edition, published ‘hors commerce‘ for members of La Guilde Du Livre in Lausanne and printed by heliogravure (photogravure) on wood pulp free paper, for only a pound or two more. The previous year’s collaboration, published in the same way,  Grand Bal du Printemps, will set you back around 25 times as much.

Part of the reason you can still find copies of that original version (there are also later editions) is that it was a relatively large print run, with 10,300 numbered copies (mine is No. 4871) as well as 30 labelled I to XXX for the organisers of the guild. Although photographers often complain about getting second billing to writers when then works are published, Prevert had a much larger fan base!

The book is a reminder of the fine printing that could be achieved with photogravure, and it matches the mood of Iziz’s images perfectly. A recent post on Spitalfields Life,  Israel Bidermanas’ London, reproduces a fine selection of over 20 images from the book, without Prevert’s poems (which are of course in French) and gives a good impression of the subjects, but shows them in a more modern tonal interpretation, more contrasty and with intense blacks, which perhaps loses something of the gloomy charm of the original publication. This was a post-war London still under a gloomy miasma, though probably the real pea-soupers defeated the photographer few if any images have a clear distance.

The best way to see more of his pictures on-line seems to be to search on Google Images or Pinterest for ‘Izis Bidermanas‘.

Iziz was one of many fine photographers of Paris, and another was Willy Ronis (1910-2009). In 2004, French editor Alain Dhouailly published a limited edition of 130 copies of a set of 12 or his images printed by heliogravure which gives some background on the process. Ronis’s work is fairly widely avaialable and on galleries on the web, for example at Hacklebury Fine Art.

Do we need artybollocks?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Photography Critics, Theorists and Academic Writing: Does Photography Need Them? is the question asked and answered by Grant Scott on his ‘The United Nations of Photography‘ blog.

It’s an article which makes a great deal of sense, although I come at photography from a rather different angle. Most commercial photography just fails to interest me, and I take it as seriously as I do the text that goes with it on the magazine pages or billboards. I may sometimes, often, admire the craft, but I’m far more interested in reading a novel or a poem.

A good photograph strikes me as being something like a haiku and some can perhaps tell a short story, while a set of photographs can certainly be an essay and a good book at least a novella. Some photography (and even some commercial photography, though precious little) is more profound than other, and it isn’t elitist to say so.

I think also that in writing that art theory based criticism “exists within a niche created for a specific reason. Just as ‘commercial photography’ is created to meet a need and provide an income this academic approach to photography provides a career for those involved with it” Scott is confused. Commercial photography is created to meet a need and does thus provide some with an income, but its justification is that need, not that it provides a career for some photographers. And it can be no justification for the academic activity unless it too has some utility. Perhaps their shouldn’t be people getting paid for doing it.

Where I’m 100% behind him is when he then goes on to comment on “impenetrable academic text, agenda heavy theory and ill-informed criticism”. It’s only purpose is just that rather incestuous career-building which he has previously said he has no issue with.

I’m happy too in agreeing with him and Einstein, who apparently actually said “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience” though “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” is certainly pithier.

But I think the growth of theory-based criticism in the 1970s actually led to an impoverishment of our medium, and certainly to an impoverishment of many photographers, and to the growth of a new and largely unnecessary stratum of paid curators and other professionals who took funding away from the artists, along with a huge cohorts of photographers who could talk the talk but had little to say with their pictures.

I’m not actually against critics or curators. I’ve played a little on both sides over the years, and even achieved a little appreciation from fellow photographers on occasion. But good curation and criticism has to be built on an informed appreciation of the work and not on arcane theory.

And of course we don’t really need any of these guys. The  Artybollocks generator can create it all for us, with its ‘instant artist statement generator coming up with such gems as:

My work explores the relationship between Critical theory and copycat violence.
With influences as diverse as Derrida and L Ron Hubbard, new tensions are distilled from both constructed and discovered dialogues.

Ever since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by the unrelenting divergence of the mind. What starts out as vision soon becomes manipulated into a cacophony of lust, leaving only a sense of unreality and the chance of a new synthesis.

As spatial phenomena become distorted through studious and repetitive practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the darkness of our condition.

Artybollocks also offers you a printable certificate to show you are an artist (“Please keep this certificate in a safe place. Nobody else will ever ask to see it but you may feel better if you behave as if it is important.”) as well as a generator for tweets. And so I leave you with 144 characters:

What starts out as triumph soon becomes finessed into a manifesto of lust, leaving only a sense of chaos and the possibility of a new beginning

Grossman & the Photo League

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Around 15 years ago, I wrote a series of articles and short notes about what was still then a very much overlooked part of American photographic history, but which is now referred to as ‘New York’s famed Photo League‘. An organisation that was destroyed by McCarthyism as ‘anti-American’ it remained largely outside the pale until this century, and I was pleased to be able write about it and to mention some of the photographers still alive and working who learned and developed their craft there, largely under the critical eye of Sid Grossman (1913-1955). I’ve mentioned it before on this site, including two posts with the same title, The New York Photo League where I quote from my 2001 article, and a longer version here.

You can get some idea of the critical blind-spot by reading the lengthy introductory essay by Gerry Badger to the 1985 Barbican show ‘American Images: Photography 1945-80’ which relegates Grossman and others to what is essentially a footnote to the later work of Robert Frank and the Photo League to an introductory sentence to the work of Aaron Siskind which makes clear that his importance as a photographer was due to breaking away from his early work with the League on Harlem Document.

Although none of Grossman’s work appeared in the Barbican show, that the work of several others involved in the Photo League does probably owes itself – as did much of the show – to the ideas and graft of John Benton-Harris, a native New Yorker who studied with Alexey Brodovitch, and who grew up with the work of the Photo League photographers and their successors and their views of his city.

As his artist page at the Howard Greenberg Gallery states, Grossman, who had founded the Photo League with Sol Libsohn in 1936, “had a tremendous influence on a large number of students who studied with him including Weegee, Lisette Model, Leon Levinstein, Ruth Orkin, Arthur Leipzig, Rebecca Lepkoff and numerous others.”

The main show at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York until Feb 11, 2017 is the “first solo exhibition in 30 years to explore the legacy of Sid Grossman” and the exhibition also includes “a small selection of work by some of Sid Grossman’s students including Rebecca Lepkoff, Leon Levinstein, Marvin Newman and Ruth Orkin.” Also showing at the gallery is a “companion exhibition with work by Sy Kattelson, a student and close friend of Sid Grossman.

Last September, Steidl co-published with Howard Greenberg Gallery ‘The Life and Work of Sid Grossman ISBN, 9783958291256′ with a biographical and critical essay by Keith F Davis, the first comprehensive survey of Sid Grossman’s life and work, with over 150 photographs “from his early social documentary work of the late 1930s to the more personal and dynamic street photography of the late 1940s, as well as late experiments with abstraction in both black and white and color.”

England, and Saint George!

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

A few minutes on Wikipedia convinces me that April 23 has more than its share of famous births, deathas and commemorations of which the best known here is of the man the Eastern Orthodox call “Holy Glorious Great-martyr and Victory-bearer and Wonderworker George“, a Palestinian (or Turk) of Greek parentage and a Roman soldier – if he actually existed. Certainly the dragon didn’t, and was not involved in the legend that made him a saint, in which, undoubtedly like some Christians of the era, he was tortured at length before being beheaded for refusing to convert to the Roman gods following an edict by Emperor Diocletian in AD 303 which led to three years of such persecution, though applied with differing severity across the Roman Empire.

April 23 is a day George shares with a number of other saints, with Wikipaedia listing around a dozen for the Eastern Orthodox, including George’s mother, two soldiers converted by witnessing George’s martyrdom and the wife of Diocletian, as well as another 14 pre-schism Western Saints, post-schism Orthodox saints, new martyrs and confessors (though due to our change to the Gregorian calendar they celebrate these April 23 events on our May 6th.) In the West, George shares his feast day with Adalbert of Prague and Gerard of Toul, while both the Evangelical Lutherans and Episcopalians in the USA commemorate the life of Japanese Christian pacifist, reformer and labour activist Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960) which seems to me admirable. It’s a shame we’ve never heard of him here.

Shakespeare was probably born on April 23 1564, and certainly died on April 23 1616, giving us another reason to commemorate – and UNESCO chose April 23 as UN English Language Day, (one of six promoting its official working languages,) for that reason. It’s also UNESCO World Book Day, though in the UK we celebrate this on on the first Thursday in March instead, as April 23 is often in the Easter school holidays.

In England, St George’s Day once ranked with Christmas as a major celebration, an occasion for feasting and drinking, but its celebration became less important after the union with Scotland, and had almost disappeared in the last century. One or two people still wore a red rose, and some official buildings flew a flag, though usually the Union Flag rather than the English flag of St George. The day never became a bank holiday, partly because of its closeness to Easter (and the Church of England even moves his feast day when it gets too close to Easter, moving it from April 23 to the Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter.)

Back in the last century, even English sport teams and their supporters would often use the Union Flag rather than the English St George Flag, but it was sport and particularly football that led to a resurgence for the red cross on white, and pubs showing England games at the World Cup on TV that led to its proliferation across the land. It became associated with football supporters, and with the largely right wing hooligans involved in football violence who dominated many ultra-nationalist groups, often styling themselves as patriots, and looking back to a mythical past of an all-white England ruling an empire around the world, or even launching crusades against the infidel foreigners.

A strange alliance between these ‘patriots’ and others who have tried to reclaim the English flag from the bigots has led to an increase in official commemoration of St George’s Day this century, which has involved groups including the BBC, English Heritage and London Mayor Boris Johnson, as well as some churches, and it’s a mixture that has been reflected in my photographs of the day over the years.

In 2016, St George’s Day actually fell on a Saturday, and I expected to see more activity than in other years, but was in the end rather disappointed. The Mayor’s day of events in Trafalgar Square seemed rather lacking in spirit, and all more organised events by ‘patriots’ in the London Area seem to have evaporated, perhaps because of increased militancy by anti-fascist groups. I paid a brief visit to Trafalgar Square, but found little to photograph – perhaps things got better later in the day, but the few pictures I’ve seen by others don’t encourage that thought.

South of the river in Southwark things were a little better with a festival ‘A Quest for Community’ with the aim of ‘Taming the dragon of difference’ involving a St George’s Day procession from the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St George to the Church of England St George the Martyr in Borough High Street. As well as St George, Diocletian and his daughter, a sooth-sayer and of course a dragon, it also included drummers and the Mayor of Southwark, to whom I was pleased to be able to point out a blue plaque and tell her a little about one of the Borough’s more famous son’s, photographer Bert Hardy, who grew up in ‘The Priory’ which was on our route.

She had been unaware that one of Picture Post’s best-known photographers and a pioneer in using 35mm in press photography had come from her patch – and never really left it, though advertising brought him enough money to buy and live in Chartlands Farm, Limpsfield Chart near Oxted. And about how his powerful photography had powered the textbook example of an unsuccessful advertising campaign, ‘You’re never alone with a Strand’ along with an outstanding ‘noir’ TV ad shot by Carol Reed with music by Cliff Adams that would have topped the charts had the BBC not banned it for advertising cigarettes. Even at 3s2d for 20, nobody wanted to be seen as lonely enough to buy them.

The procession ran late, and I didn’t have time to watch more than a few minutes of the play that followed, and missed the free pint that was waiting for me in the City where Leadenhall Market was also celebrating our patron saint. Instead I met with friends at the Old Kings Head in Kings Head Yard just off Borough high St, a welcome survival of a traditional English pub – and where better to meet not just one St George, but two, the second accompanied by his very own dragon.

I forget why we left. Perhaps it was the thought of a good dinner waiting for me at home, but I stopped for a minute or so in the yard outside for a last picture of St George with his dragon holding his own and George’s pint in the alley outside, a rather different and very English version of the legend, and my favourite picture from a long day.

More at:
St George in Southwark Procession
St Georges Day in London


Whose Streets? Our Streets!

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

My thanks to writer on the New York Times Lens Blog for pointing out the exhibition ‘Whose Streets? Our Streets!‘ currently taking place at the  Bronx Documentary Center until March 14, 2014, but more importantly for most of us, on-line.  Curated by photo editor Meg Handler  and historian Tamar, it features work by 38 photographrers, including a few familiar names.

But as Handler says in the Lens feature, few of the pictures  were widely seen when they were taken; “It used to be, you’d show your contact sheets to a couple of your friends and that was it,” she said. “They’d rarely get seen.”

Handler goes on to say that the freedom of movement for photographers ended in 2002, but she continued by saying that any demonstrator with a phone can now project images to the world almost as the events are happening.

I’m not sure how different things are in New York to here in London, but here there is certainly no shortage of photographers covering protests, and while it’s obviously true that protesters with smart phones now tweet and post images as events take place, this is a rather more recent phenomenon.  When I first got a mobile phone, a little after 2002, like most at the time it didn’t have a camera, and it was only at the end of that decade that phones with cameras began to be widespread.

Things did change around 2002. Photographers got digital cameras – like the Nikon D100 I bought towards the end of the year. A few professionals had used them earlier, but mainly in more lucrative areas than photographing protests. For a few years after most of the photographers at demonstrations here were still using film – and I continued to use both film and digital for several years.

Back then, unless you had something that was startling news, you took your pictures, came home, developed film, looked at the contacts, maybe made a few prints and took them to the agency a day or week or more later. If you though you had something special, you would phone a paper and if they were interested take them the film to rush through for the next day. Staffers would of course take in their films – and most of the protest pictures published were from photographers on the staff of the major agencies and papers. They only bothered to attend major events, and seldom stayed for more than a quick photo-op.

Photographers who really covered protests were a different breed – and it shows in the pictures in the Bronx show. Here – as there – some worked for the left-wing magazines and small circulation newspapers – such as Mike Cohen who gave me advice at times when we covered protests and whose work appeared regularly in the Morning Star, Socialist Worker and Searchlight, which also regularly featured pictures by David Hoffman, a photographer who some on the extreme right confuse me with and I get a share of his abuse along with that really intended for me.

The other thing that has changed and encouraged more photographers to cover events is the growth of online photo agencies that have little or no bar to submissions. Sites like Demotix (bought out and closed down a year ago by the Chinese to end its competition with Getty) encouraged people to put much unfocussed (often literally as well as metaphorically) photography online – with many more people becoming photographers, and a few of them producing work at least as good as that of the professionals who disparaged such sites. And of course there are professionals around the world who now contribute to such on-line agencies.

The freedom of movement all ended in 2002,” states Handler, but here protesters have often managed to avoid being penned by police, and except for those on the extreme right and some anarchists, protesters have largely remained on good terms with most photographers.

So we have more photographers than ever taking pictures at protests, although no more pictures are being used. Many that do appear are pretty poor because what matters most is not quality but getting the images in first, with many photographers rushing into a corner before a protest has even started to file some pictures. It’s a race I refuse to take part in, but then I’m in no danger of going hungry or getting evicted if my pictures don’t make the news. Like those photographers in the Bronx show I’m more interested in telling the stories – but at least now I can get them out on Facebook and My London Diary even if the newspapers don’t pick them up.

Another big change is of course the move to colour that came with the move to digital. There are rather more colour pictures in the Bronx show than I would expect from any similar UK show of the same era, but it is still black and white that dominates. Now using black and white is largely only an affectation practised by a few largely younger photographers hwo have never really learnt how to use it, other than clicking on a button in Lightroom or other software.


Hull Photos 5/1/17-11/1/17

Friday, January 13th, 2017

5 January 2017

Today’s picture is at the mouth of the River Hull, looking up-river from the end of Nelson St towards the tidal barrier which had been built the previous year, although everyone in Hull says that they forgot to lower it on the first occasion it was needed. Since then it has prevented flooding on many occasions, with recent floods arising from surface water rather than tidal ingress. The barrier was upgrade recently.

27o43: Dry dock entrance and Tidal Barrier, River Hull, 1981 – River

6 January 2017

Nelson Street is already paved with interlocking bricks, work is going on to replace the old pavements, and walls are in place to make this a tourist attraction at least for those living in the city. You can see the Humber over the walls with the heads of a few visitors looking out over the river. The two men driving pony carts are there for an afternooon outing too. I was there with family and we were more interested in the sweets from G Stevens than the Minerva.

27o52: The Minerva and pony carts, Nelson St, 1981 – Old Town

7 January 2017

This corner is now Henry Vernone Court, and the white wall at top left is that of the Minerva in yesterday’s picture which was taken a few seconds earlier. The building between the Minerva and the derelict property of Bert Johnson & Sons has since been rebuilt and now has only a single storey as ‘The Minerva Brewery’. The first door around the corner in Pier St has the number 10 above it, but the sign higher on the building is for John Mallinder, Fruit Commission Buyer, 5 Humber Place, which is a short distance away on the other side of Wellington St, facing what is now the Marina, and now the address of Global House.

27o53: Pony carts, Nelson St/Pier St, 1981 – Old Town

8 January 2017

Taken in April 1981, a few months before the ferry service ended on 24th June 1981 with the opening of the Humber Bridge. The ferry – the diesel paddle steamer Farringford – is about to dock at the floating pontoon which had a roadway leading up to the pier (also known as Hull Corporation Pier.) The 1930s pontoon was removed after the ferry closed, but the pier is still there, rather tidied up now.

27o64: Humber Ferry approaches Hull Victoria Pier, 1981 – Old Town

9 January 2017

Today’s featured image is taken from with a picture from the footpath into St Andrew’s dock showing an empty dock and a row of caravans stored alongside the roadway, dominated by the Humber bridge in the background.

27p23: Caravans and Humber Bridge, St Andrew’s Dock, 1981 – Docks

I’ve also added a picture of a cafe window, very similar to one previously posted. I’ve included it because I can’t decide which I prefer, and I think I have exhibited both of them at different times in the past. Today I think this second one is better.

10 January 2017

St Andrew’s Dock was named after the patron saint of fishermen when it was opened in 1883, though most people in Hull new it as the ‘Fish Dock’ and knew when the wind was in the wrong direction and could smell it. But in 1972 it was decided to move what was left of the fishing industry to Albert Dock, and St Andrew’s closed to shipping in 1975. It was part filled in four years after I took this picture and the western part of the site is now St Andrew’s Quay Retail Centre. I was trespassing on the north side of the dock, but the Trans Pennine Trail goes across the bridge at the left of the picture – and then continues beside the Humber.

27p24: St Andrew’s Dock, 1981 – Docks

11 January 2017

By the 1980s, fishing from Hull was dominated by British United Trawlers freezer fleet based in Albert Dock who quickly ran down their operation, leaving two family firms, J Marr and Boyd Line in Hull. Both were later bought by the Icelandic company UK Fisheries Ltd, part of Samherji HF.

27p26: Boyd Line Ltd, St Andrew’s Dock, 1981 – Docks

You can see the new pictures each day at Hull Photos, and I post them with the short comments above on Facebook. Comments and corrections to captions are welcome here.

Found at last

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Back in 1983, the Radio Times and BBC2 held a ‘Photo-Assignment‘ competition for the BBC2 National Photographic Week Competition, and although I didn’t like the idea of having to send off my film along with the two 10×8″ prints I decided to enter a set of pictures taken in Hull. I loaded a roll of FP4, 36 exposures loaded from bulk into a camera body and set out on a Sunday morning in early August for a trip around the city taking pictures for the competition on that body as well as some just for myself on a second camera.

Back home later in the week I developed the film, selected my two pictures and sent them off to New Broadcasting House in Manchester on 22.8.83. I was reminded of this today when I read the label on the back of an old print with my entry form stuck to it. It wasn’t the picture they chose, but the other I sent in was selected and they made two 12x9s and a 16×12 of it for showing on BBC2 and the touring exhibition. Not owning A TV (I still don’t, seeing enough in life and not having the time to watch it secondhand), I got my college to record the programme so I could see my picture on it for a few seconds.

But it was the picture rather than the reverse of the print that caught my attention, and I realised it was an image I hadn’t seen since 1983 and had forgotten about completely. And it wasn’t a bad picture and would certainly have been included in my Hull book had I had it to hand. So I looked for it in my file containing the contact sheets from Hull, searching for it at some length, but it was nowhere to be found.

The BBC had of course returned my negatives in the stamped addressed envelope I had included, and they came back in October or November and were filed with the work I was taking then – but somehow I forgot to make a contact sheet, which made the negatives were very difficult to find. Finally I did find them, and made the digital contact sheet above, rather too small to be seen properly in the small version on this post, but good to see at full size on my screen.

Looking at the set of 36 pictures, it’s obvious that I had decided to go an visit some of the favourite locations I’d photographed earlier and retake versions of images I’d taken before. This isn’t generally a very good idea, as if you have made a good picture before you are likely to get something that doesn’t match up to it when you return.

Though mostly I seem to have tried hard to make pictures that were just a little different, and in some parked cars or other obstructions made a repeat performance impossible. If you have are following my daily posts on Hull Photos for the UK City of Culture 2017, then today’s image showed the shadows of the chimneys of a Fish Smoke House, perhaps even the one in the image above, though there were several others in the area, all now gone – a piece of heritage lost.

The other of the two I printed for the BBC – which was the one they selected I also took on the other camera I was carrying – and I think did it rather better, and in time two better images will appear on Hull Photos – and I’m unlikely to post it myself (its the fourth frame from the left on the fifth row down.)

But the image I’d found this morning I’d only taken on the film for the BBC and it’s  only one in the 36 where I made two exposures, presumably because I realised I had over-exposed the first. The two are almost identical  so far as the three people in the foreground are concerned ,though the over-exposed frame is just a little better framed and has the woman and child in the background in a different position. It would have been hard to get a decent print from the negative in the darkroom, but I may be able to rescue it digitally.

The pictures were taken using an Olympus OM-1 camera, and the FP4 was processed in Acutol. There are two slightly darker bands across every frame, only noticeable in even areas such as sky. I’m unsure whether these represent a film fault or uneven processing, but at least with digital these can be treated, and they are almost entirely invisible after a little work in Photoshop.

Faulty film was not that unusual, particularly in bulk film, and I had some batches replaced by Ilford over the years, though they ever admitted the faults. Now I might be able to reclaim some of those faulty negs by digital retouching if I have time and patience.

I had found the print when I went up into the dark recesses of the loft in my house, looking for more of the actual prints I showed in Hull back in 1983. I didn’t have a great deal of luck with these, only coming across a handful to add to those I’d already found. Perhaps I had sold a few, and others might have got lost or still be hiding in a cupboard or lost after taking them to talks or shows.

But as well as the  print which led to my rediscovery of that BBC competition film, I also found a slide filing sheet with 14 sides from Germany in the early 1980s, including an image I’d spent several days searching the house for when I was producing the book ‘German Indications‘ and had to leave out, and a couple of others that might have been included had these slides, obviously selected to send to a gallery at some point along with some black and white prints been available.

A couple of others are probably the originals of images which I reproduced from duplicate slides, although most of the duplicates, made using an Illumitrans slide duplicator, were of exceptionally high quality. The only way I can identify the originals is if they are in the original Agfa slide mounts, but some of them I will have taken out of these for various reasons, especially if I wanted to reproduce the full image, a small part of which is hidden by the slide mount.

The image above is in the book (and the preview on line) but with a different colour balance to the new scan. I’m not sure which is more accurate, but the book image, considerably more yellow, is closer to the slide, though my memory prefers the bluer version above, though perhaps it is just a touch too blue… 

Which reminded me of a post on The Online Photographer a couple of days ago, on Color Correction (which I’d spell as Colour Correction) which is worth reading, including some of the comments. And you are welcome to download the above image as one to practice on though of course despite the lack of a watermark it is still copyright.

Slide films always added their own personality to the colour pictures we took, and we have now rather got used to the more accurate rendition of digital, though digital cameras too have their own differences. I generally prefer the results from my Nikons to those from the Fuji cameras I less often use, but others rave in admiration of the Fuji colours, especially in jpegs. I just adjust their RAW files to give something that seems more like I see.