Archive for February, 2017

Photojournalism 2017

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Here’s a piece you shouldn’t miss if you have an interest in photojournalism and its future – if it has one, though this is really more about its past. In its way it doesn’t say a lot, but I think even that says something. Donald R Winslow has been in the business for 40 years, at all levels. James Estrin, a staff photographer and regular writer for the New York Times, has also been around a while – he started with the NYT in 1987 and founded their Lens blog.

Also recently by Estrin are his comments on the 2017 World Press Photo. In The Guardian you can read the thoughts of the jury chairman, Magnum photographer Stuart Franklin, in This image of terror should not be photo of the year – I voted against it.

More on Banners

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

There was a rather more exciting banner drop the next day I was up in London, and I more or less missed it, walking past the British Museum in a rush to get to the TUC for another event. I saw some police activity, with several vans, but I was late and hurrying, and didn’t bother to investigate – which was pretty stupid.

THe TUC building is just a couple of hundred yards away, and whn I got there, nothing was happening. It took me a few minutes to go inside and find that the protesters were mainly still in a morning conference session which had overrun, and I decided I really ought to go back to the museum to see what was happening there.

By the time I arrived back at the museum, things seemed more or less over. The whole area was taped off and police weren’t letting the press inside, so all I could do was to talk to some of those outside and, like them, poke a long lens through the railings.

While most press photographers tote large heavy telephoto zooms, I’m too old for such body-building exercises (or rather from me body crippling) and my telephotos are petite and slow, and the difference rather tells in situations like this. The Nikon 28.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 is beautifully small and light but optically isn’t a match ofr the heavyweight glass such as the 70-200 f2.8 at 3 or 4 times the weight and size – and even that is rather small compared to some of the heavyweight lenses particularly favoured by Canon users.

Size may make photographers feel more virile, and certainly size will matter in terms of image quality, but even my midget lens can deliver a decent result, and I took a number of pictures of the Greenpeace activists on the columns of the British Museum where they had hung 7 giant banners on the opening day of the BP-sponsored ‘Sunken Cities’ exhibition. And since there was enough light to work at around f8, I didn’t need the heavy glass that most of the others were using.

What would have been useful would have been a considerably longer lens, perhaps a 500mm or longer, to enable me to show the individual climbers , but the longest lens I have is a relatively small 70-300mm, but that only gets in my bag when I know in advance I’m likely to need it.

‘Sinking Cities’ banners at BM/BP show

I didn’t have time to stay long, as I had to get back to the TUC where during the lunch break in the TUC disabled workers conference, activists from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Winvisible (Women with visible and invisible disabilities) were about to show others how to protest effectively.

They marched the short distance to the Tottenham Court Rd and blocked it to hold a short rally. Police diverted traffic away from the usually busy road and after a while came to ask them to leave. And after a while they did, because it was time for the afternoon session of the conference.

The banners with the message ‘No More Deaths from Benefit Cuts’ were rather long, and I was please to find the solution above, where the two bannerscropped, one high and one low spell out the message between them. Otherwise I would have needed to be twice as far away to get the whole message in, and of course the banners rather neatly frame the protesters.

More usually I like to work from one side, so that at least those nearest to me are in the picture at a sensible size. I’ve never understood why so many photographers want to work from dead centre – and there is often quite a lot of competition to get that centre spot. Usually it seems to me to be the most boring place to be.

No More Deaths from Benefit Cuts



Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

CETA is the CETA Canada EU secret trade deal which has been negotiated for some years behind our backs, a companion to the slightly better-known TTIP deal between the US and the EU. While TTIP appears to have been stopped, thanks to several million signatures on a European petition (and now a President who thinks that any deals he hasn’t made are an attack on the USA), CETA looks increasingly likely to be finalised.

London Green MEP Jean Lambert

For once, Trump is at least in part right. TTIP and CETA are not made in the US’s interests, but neigther are they made to advantage the EU. THe interests they primarily serve are not those of any state but of the huge corporations, although the US’s position is more aligned with these compared to the EU.

These and similar treaties are aimed at marginalising state interests in favour of corporate intesters, and ending the ability of states to act in a way that disadvantages corporate profit. Democracy goes out of the window when treaties provide a mechanism for corporates to challenge government policies on the grounds that these may limit their right ot profit.

Free trade isn’t necessarily a good thing, and rather more important as the basis for gree trade is that trade should be fair, and in particular fair to those who actually produce the goods or services that are to be traded. Unfortunately this isn’t what trade agreements are about.

We started the day outside the Dept of Business, Innovation & Skills in Victora St, a few hundred yards from Parliament, where protesters had erected a mock reading room. In the other EU countries MPs can read the secret agreements at the US Embassy, though they are not allowed to take in phones, cameras or iPads or to make any exact copies of the texts. But in the UK there is no such reading room, the government having agreed to set one up but it has failed to do so. Our government – and the others involved – want to keep these deals secret, and to approve them without subjecting them to any public scrutiny.

If we were allowed to see the details it is almost certain these deals would be rejected. SO the idea is to push them thorugh in secret, only revealing the details when they are signed and approved and it is too late – and one of the details is that it will then be imposible to withdraw. If they are completed while we are still in Europe, one of the details is that we will still be bound by them when we leave.

There were a few minor moments of friction when security at the BIS objected to the parotesters fixing anything to their building and refused to let them enter the building to deliver a letter to the minister – though a civil servant did come out, talk civilly with the protesters and accept it. But is was perhaps a little dissappointingly low key and rather small, though one of our MEPs, London Green MEP Jean Lambert, who I think had been able to view the agreed documents in Brussels (but not to copy them) did come along to speak.

After the protest at the BIS came a banner drop, one of my least favourite froms of protest. While it can be of interest when made from a particularly interesting or apt location, usually these are simply rather boring and offering few chances of an interesting picture.

This one was from Westminster Bridge and the idea was to photogaph it with the Houses of Parliament in the background to highlit the fact that ours is the only EU Parliament that will not be allowed to vote on either CETA or TTIP, as our government can apparently make treaties without needing the approval of Parliament.

I’ve written before about Banner Drops, and in particular about the problems of doing them on Westminster Bridge. This again demonstrated the problems – and showed that a merely big banner isn’t enough, you would need one that was truly huge for it to work well.

Since the day was mainly aimed at CETA, which is much closer to being approved, largly because very few people have heard of it, the logical place to end the day of protest was outside the Canadian High Commission at the west edge of Trafalgar Square.

Sewcurity there didn’t share that view and tried to get the protesters to move away, and made them remove any of the banners and posters from the walls or railings. But the pavement outside is the public highwy, and the protesters knew that their rights meant they could protest there, and they did so. Among those speaking was Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians, and MEP Jean Lambert came to speak again.

The day was to continue with an evening meeting (where these two were among the speakers as well) but by now I’d had enough. And though meetings are vital in campaigns, they seldom have much to offer for photography.

BIS protest against CETA & TTIP
Banner Drop against CETA & TTIP
Canada House vigil condemns CETA


Upsizing & AI

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Back in January 2016, when the Chinese bought up Corbis and Demotix where I was placing many of my pictures and handed their entrails to Getty, I began to put many of the pictures I was taking into Facebook albums as well as sending them to agencies.

I hadn’t been happy with Demotix for some years – particularly since they sold out to Corbis, but they had the advantage for me of presenting my work as coherent stories with text and captions that were easy to link to – so I could post links to these stories for my friends on Facebook and also others, particularly those who had taken part in the events I had photographed.

I’ve lost count of how many albums I put on Facebook in 2016, though at a rough guess they would contain around 5000 pictures. So when I read an advert on Facebook offering to make an album of my year I was intrigued to see what they would make of them, and clicked the links, though I had at the time no intention of buying the book from ‘Re-Snap‘.

It took several minutes before the book appeared as a 100 page A4 hardback and I was able to page through it’s roughly 100 pages, each with 5 images in a variety of layouts, mostly more or less uncropped. The selection they made wasn’t entirely random – they state:

“The images are selected by analyzing all the images step by step. For instance, we filter out photos by looking at several quality aspects (like blurriness). Our system also automatically looks at the amount of faces and the micro expressions of the faces. Of course we filter out similar photos by looking at the pixels. After this part our deep learning network will look at correlations the pictures in your uploaded photo set. In this way we analyse what kind of picture you would like to have in your photo book.”

All of my images on-line at Facebook are uploaded at 600×400 pixels and with my watermark – exactly the same images as I post on My London Diary (though sometimes these are a little tidied up as I generally post them there rather later.) Printing at the normal standard of 300dpi would result in images only 2 inches wide, and while the smallest images in the book are not much larger than this (I think around 3.5 inches) others are significantly larger – around 8 inches) and on the covers and a few inner images cropped to an 8.5 inch square they are even further stretched – to 12×8.5 inches on the cover (which also requires a slight crop. A little simple maths gives a figure of around 47 dpi.

The book actually looked pretty good on screen, and I couldn’t resist going ahead with the order. Of course I could have done a better job myself, more selective and with better quality originals, and the selection algorithm hadn’t included a number of my favourite pictures from the year.  There were just too many pictures from some events that were just a little too similar for me to have included them. But as a fairly random selection of typical images from the year it seemed useful, the kind of thing I could possibly had to people who ask me ‘So what do you photograph?’ as a view of my current work.

Possibly one day I’ll make a better book of 2016, but it would probably take me a week or so to put together, and still cost almost as much as the roughly £50 for this volume (allegedly on special offer), so I clicked and went ahead. It’s possible to edit the book, take out pictures and choose replacement images, but I decided to make only a single change, removing an awards certificate for this blog. Essentially I wanted to retain the automatic selection which was reflected in the title I added to the cover, ‘Peter Marshall 2016 – A random selection‘. I missed one picture that I should have removed, by my friend Townly Cooke who died last year – though I was happy with it appearing once, I should have removed a second, smaller version of the same image, but I must have turned over the page too quickly to notice it.

Obviously the quality of the highly upsized images is noticeably poorer, but the pictures still work, and however Re-Snap upsizes them, it does a pretty good job. Obviously the larger images don’t stand up to detailed scrutiny, but if you saw them in – for example – the pages of a newspaper, they would be acceptable. My main complaint is that the printing inside the book lacks vibrancy, almost as if it had been printed with watered-down inks, rather than any lack of detail or sharpness. It’s acceptable but lacks the punch of the original sRGB files, though the colour balance seems more or less spot on.

Seeing the result, I’m rather pleased that I now watermark all the new images I put on Facebook – and the watermarks are present throughout this book. It doesn’t stop people using my images without permission, sometimes complete with watermark, but more often cropping it or even removing it in Photoshop, both of which seem a clear admission of guilt. If only I could find a few abusers worth suing in the UK courts. I wrote a post here some while ago about an images that I had found used without permission on over 80 web sites, none of which on investigation I felt were worth pursing.

And recently, Google have published a paper on Pixel Recursive Super Resolution which doesn’t make for easy reading, but essentially shows how a believable image (rather than the actual original) can be created using neural networks from even a very small 8×8 pixel pixillated image. Unsurprisingly it works better on reasonably predictable subject matter, such as faces (which after all generally have the same number of eyes, a nose and a mouth) than other subjects.

And the most predictable images of all must be the photographs of ‘celebrities’ that so obsess our popular media. There can’t really be any need for yet another photograph of any of them, yet outside the Albert Hall yesterday was a pen crammed full of photographers with hardly room to swing a lens, when inputting a little blur and typing in a name – for example ‘Ken Loach‘ – could surely have generated an equally newsworthy image.

It was of course not his image, but his film, I Daniel Blake, and his speech that were newsworthy, telling to the nation the truth about the terrible treatment of benefit claimants by the DWP, something that all those who visit our job centres or talk to those who do already know, but which the complacent well off like to assure us doesn’t happen. And while some news outlets reported it, the BBC did their best to play it down, ignoring it in their early bulletins, though rather grudgingly reporting it later.

I mention him mainly because I’ve photographed him on a number of occasions in the past, but there was no way I’d ever cover an event like that. I was having much more fun a few miles to the west at the Willesden Green Wassail.

Streets of Shame

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

I’ve never sat down to really write my views on street photography at length, partly because I’ve never taken it that seriously as a category. The defining text is still ‘Bystander – A History of Street Photography‘ by Colin Westerbeck and Joel Meyerowitz published in 1994, which deserves a closer reading than the flip-thorugh on Vimeo, but this does demonstrate that it attempts to annexe a signigicant proportion of the history of our medium to its rather flimsily described genre.

Of course it isn’t the fault of these authors that street photography has now gained the popularity it has nor that most of what passes under that title is sloppy, self-indulgent ephemera. There are some fine photographers who call themselves ‘street photographers‘, (and I’ve written about some here and elsewhere) but they are in a small minority. It’s probably the same for any other genre, but it shows more simply because everybody and his cat is now a ‘street photographer’.

My murky thoughts on the subject were stirred up a little this morning by two articles I read. One on PetaPixel, Why Street Photography Matters in 2017 by London-based street photographer Temoor Iqbal, and the second a feature on Amateur Photographer, Ali Shams: iPhone Street Photography with his pictures made in Qazvin, Iran.

As I write this, there are 18 comments on the first article, and some of them are worth reading, but none on the second, which has to my mind the far more interesting images. But your opinion may differ.

I’m getting ready to go out and photograph on the streets in a few minutes, my first call being at Downing St. But while I might have been a ‘street photographer’ back in the 80s and 90s, these days I’m just a photographer. As for Downing St, I’ll finish with a link to a verse written 95 years ago by “socialist MP, poet and lion-tamer amongst many other thingsJohn S Clarke.

Fleet Street used to be referred to – at least in ‘Private Eye’ – as the ‘Street of Shame’. That accolade has now firmly passed to Downing St.

An Afternon in London

Friday, February 10th, 2017

The protest outside Holloway Prison overran its scheduled time, and was still continuing when I rushed off to catch a bus down to Oxford St, where ‘Victory to the Intifada!’, a campaigning group of the Revolutionary Communist Group and friends were mounting a ‘rolling picket’ along Oxford St to mark Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering the roughly 80% of the Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949.

This was a peaceful protest, with music provided by a mobile sound system, banners and posters making its way along the pavement to protest for a few minutes outside various businesses with short speeches about the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and against current Israeli government supported attacks on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which attempt to brand any opposition to the actions of the Israeli government, its miilitary forces and companies that support Israel as anti-semitic.

Police tried hard to keep the small group of Zionists who waved Israeli flags from getting in the way or attacking the protesters, and their presence certainly made the protest considerably move visible.

The Zionists made no real attempt to present facts or information, but simply shouted that the facts and figures from well-verified international reports by UN and other agencies and by well-respected human rights organisations were lies and shouted insults at the protesters, who largely ignored them, refusing to sink to their level.

I left the protest outside Topshop (where I would return later in the day) and went to Trafalgar Square where I knew a group was holding a protest calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. It was rather smaller than I had hoped, but I took a few pictures, and also found a protest by Vegans taking place, wearing white masks and holding laptops and tablets showing the film ‘Earthlings’ about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc.

While I was taking pictures a farmer who was visiting London came up and tried to talk with them, saying how he cared for and looked after the animals he farmed, who made use of land that would otherwise not be productive, but there was no meeting of minds.

Finally it was time for the major event of my day, at Topshop in Oxford St, following the sacking of two cleaners from the United Voices of the World union after they protested for better pay and conditions. A long line of police stood in front of several of the entrances to the store, and there was a little pushing and shoving from both protesters, many of whom wore masks showing Topshop owner Philip Green, and police at the largely peaceful protest.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP and Ian Hodson, Baker’s Unions General Secretary outside Topshop

The protest received widespread support from various supporters of trade union rights, including the two in the picture above, Class War and many more. And after a noisy protest outside the Oxford Circus Topshop, Class War and others led the protesters onto the street to block the road at Oxford Circus.

More police poured in and started to threaten the protesters with arrest unless they moved, though by the time they arrived Class War were already moving on, leading the way to protest outside John Lewis, where cleaners have been protesting for years to be treated with dignity and respect by the management. They play an important role in the running of the store but say they are ‘treated like the dirt they clean’.

Here there was more pushing and shoving as police stopped the protesters from entering the store, and some angry arguments between UVW General Secreatary Petros Elia and the police about their handling of the protest.

The protesters moved off and marched down Oxford St to continue their protest outside the Marble Arch branch of Topshop.

Here the staff had locked the doors and shut the shop early as the protesters arrived. The protest continued noisily outside for a while, but seemed to be coming to an end. I was getting tired and hungry, having had a busy day and decided to leave for home.

68th Anniversary Nabka Day
Vegan Earthlings masked video protest
Refugees Welcome say protesters
Topshop protest after cleaners sacked


Hull Photos: 2/2/17-8/2/17

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

2nd February 2017

The view from the end of Cooper St (or close to it) looking southeast across the former Cottingham Drain towards Pauls Agricultural Products, on both sides of Wincolmlee on the River Hull where cereal processing has taken place since the beginning of the 20th century. Pauls Agriculture Ltd is now Maizecor, the premier supplier of milled maize products to the UK baking industry, brewing and for animal feeds, using certified non-GMO French yellow maize. If you want large quantities of bran, maize flaking grits, coarse and fine maize grits, medium polenta, maize germ, maize meal or maize flour, they can supply them.

Drains like the Cottingham Drain and and the Beverley and Barmston Drain which enters the Hull a few yards upstream date from around the start of the nineteenth century and are a part of huge drainage schemes begun by monks in the middle ages (though they were mainly interest in them as a transport system), but mainly from the late 17th century onwards which turned a huge area of saltmarsh and peat bogs (carrs) – the largest wetland area in England outside the Fens – into habitable and profitable land. Recent floods are a reminder of the past and the inability of any system to cope with truly excessive rainfall, though the tidal barrier protects the area from tidal flooding. The Cottingham Drain was culverted in 1963.

28i32: Pauls Agriculture Ltd (now Maizecor) from the end of Cooper St, 1981 – River Hull

Extra pictures:

28i46 – another picture of Victoria House, Cooper St, 1981 – River Hull

28144: Brick structure, Cannon St area, 1981 – River Hull

3rd February 2017

Catherine St is one of Hulls shorter streets, but Google halves its length to around 30 metres with no real buildings on it, naming it other half as part of Machell St, though the street signs still have it at original length. The corner site shown here is now a yard for LS Lighting & Signs. The building at extreme left on Scott St has also gone, though there is a similar building a few yards further on on the other side of Wincolmlee.

Spear Warehousing & Transport Company Limited owned a number of warehouse premises in Hull and the company was liquidated in the mid-1980s. I don’t know the history of this building, but it looks fairly solid and a good example of commercial building of its era, with a rather impressive carriage entrance at the left, and it is a shame it has not survived.

28i35: Corner of Catherine St/Scott St, 1981 – River Hull

4th February 2017

This building was on the corner of Carr St, which appears now to have disappeared into a parking area of the Maizecor site. It was only a short street and ended at the Cottingham Drain.

It was built probably around 1803/4 as a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, one of the first in Hull, and had seating for 531 worshippers. The plain brick was coated with stucco some time in the mid 19th century and the building is mentioned in the Hull pages of Pevsner. The population of Sculcoates fell and new Methodist churches opened elsewhere in Hull and the chapel became a printing works. It was in use by Mason and Jackson Ltd from 1910 until after I took this picture – you can read more details and see pictures in Paul Gibson’s Hull & East Yorkshire History. Sadly listing of this building was refused and it was bought and demolished for a lorry parking area by Maizcor in 2001.

28i36: Scott St Wesleyan Chapel (Mason & Jackson Ltd, printers), 1981 – River Hull

5th February 2017

From an iron foundry established in the late 18th century Rose Downs and Thompson developed an engineering business specialising in machinery for the edible oil industry. Constructed in 1900, their ferro-concrete factory extension was the first in England (a year or two after Weaver’s Granary and Flour Mill at Swansea, which has been demolished for a Sainsbury’s car park) using the Hennebique system and is said to be the only remaining example in England though many were built, and is Grade II listed.

Hennibique’s agent for the UK, L G Mouchel, was extremely active in promoting this patented method of steel reinforcement in concrete – and invented the English term ‘ferro-concrete’.

Hull has another listed Hennibique structure, a bridge over the Foredyke stream in New Cleveland St, next to its junction with WItham, also built by Rose, Downs & Thomson Ltd in 1902 and a plaque on it states it to be the first ferro-concrete bridge in the UK. The stream has since been filled in and only the parapets are visible on each side of the road.

There were plans to convert the factory to flats in 2010 and some Hull councillors challenged the listing and wanted to get it pulled down in 2012. It was still in a derelict state in August 2016.

28i45 Hennebique ferro-concrete built factory, Rose Downs and Thompson, Cannon St, 1981 – River Hull

6th February 2017

Conveniently placed public toilets under the statue of Queen Victoria by Henry Charles Fehr erected in 1903 in Hull’s main square. The toilets date from 1923 and their position under the former monarch was highly controversial at the time but Victoria was back on the throne the following year. The toilets were restored in 1989 but retain most of their original fittings in the Gentlemen’s section. Both statue and toilets are Grade II listed.

King Billy (William III) in Market Place with 4 lamps around him is Grade I listed, though the toilets he rides towards are again only Grade II listed. I rather doubt if Queen Victoria would be amused to find herself above the public conveniences, and I’m sure that – unlike King Billy, who is well-known to pop down off his mount for a pint when the clock on Holy Trinity strikes midnight – she never needs to make use of the facilities beneath her.

28j15: Queen Victoria & public lavatory. Victoria Square, 1981 – City Centre

7th February 2017

The Grassendale, a 667 ton gross twin grab hopper dredger built by Richard Dunston Ltd at Hessle in 1954 was in the Union Dry Dock on Great Union St. It appears that Grassendale was owned by the British Transport Docks Board (now Associated British Ports) and was earlier based at Barrow in Furness but replaced in about 1978. She is also said to have been based at Garston and an undated postcard published by the magazine ‘After the Battle” shows her at Fleetwood. The ship was broken up at Millom in Cumbria in 1987.

The ship was around 50.3m long and 10.4 m wide, reasonable fit in the dock which was 65.2 by 14.8 m according to Wikipedia. The dock, built in the first half of the nineteeth century was at the time of the photograph I think owned by Mersey Welding; it is still present, but was completely silted up. The shed at left and a brick building just out of this frame to the left are still there, with a sign in front for Blenco Welding Ltd on the pipe at the right of my picture. I think that company is no longer in business.

One of several photographs of the Grassendale on-line shows her at the entrance to Humber Dock Basin in 1980, presumably dredging in preparation for the reopening of Humber Dock as the Hull Marina in 1983.

28j21: Grassendale in Union Dry Dock, Great Union St, 1981 – River Hull

8th February 2017

A view which was almost impossible to resist photographing every time I walked across the Drypool bridge, and the presence of Humber Dawn in the left foreground added to the scene. Owned by John H Whittaker (Tankers) Ltd of Hull it was, according to various web sources, built in 1967 in Poole and originally was called Druid Stone and is now in harbour in Gibraltar.

The view shows in the distance the new Myton Bridge which opened in 1981, with just a single car visible on it (too small to see on the web image), and a fairly usual mix of barges and other vessels moored on both banks of the river. At right are the Grade II listed Pease Warehouses, with the fire damage at the extreme right having reduced the right-hand block from five to two storeys.

28j24: River Hull looking south from Drypool Bridge, 1981 – River Hull

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.


Early Days

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

One of the sites I like to look at occasionally is the Blogs page of British Photographic History, launched in 2009 by Dr Michael Pritchard, where there are often posts from members that interest me, though I write far less about photographic history than I used to when I was writing for another place.

There of course I chose to write about many of the important figures in the medium, including its inventors and many of the early greats of the medium, drawing very much on the lessons I’d earlier given on photographic history as well as published works and the generally rather small amount of information on the Internet in the early 2000s. But although I spent some time looking at actual photographs in collections, exhibitions and museums and was involved for some time in actually creating images using some of the early techniques, I was never really a historian, relying largely on the contributions of others though occasionally with a little of my own interpretation and perspective. And just a few times being able to point out some of the errors in published work.

I wrote at least four full-length features on the work of W H F Talbot, both about the processes he developed – photogenic drawing, salt paper printing and the calotype – and his use of photography, particularly in his ‘Pencil of Nature‘. And while I had access to a number of books on him and his work, the William Henry Fox Talbot catalogue raisonné now available in a beta version and formally announce this Friday would have been a great extra resource.

You can read more about the project, led by Larry J Schaaf on the site itself, so I need not waste your time with details here. There are some parts of the site which are not yet complete, but there is already a very large searchable collection of the work of Talbot himself, as well as a number by Calvert Richard Jones and a few by others.

From the catalogue record you can click on the image to go to the image viewere, which as well as allowing you to zoom in, also has some tools (at top left) by which you can alter brightness and contrast, change from colour to greyscale, and invert the image – particularly useful when viewing the paper negatives.

There are some exhibits that seem almost to be blank paper – either because they were greatly underexposed or because images have faded with time. But perhaps as a scientist, Talbot beleived in keeping the result of every experiment he made with the new medium. Fading of prints was certainly a major issue in the early days, and many surviving Talbot prints have faded badly, sometimes to the extent that they have little value as pictures, though this doesn’t stop them being sold for silly money.

Photography on paper really became practical with Talbot’s calotype process, and the two people who produced the best-known body of work in the early days were Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill (who I think should be thought of in that order) working as a team in Edinburgh in the early 1840s. Also on British Photographic History was a post about the sale of their former premises, Rock House, next to Calton Hill in Edinburgh for more then £1.7m. The post links to both the estate agents site for the property and to an article in The Herald about the sale. Although it would be a grand place to live, I didn’t put in a bid for it, as the “house was recently redesigned internally by Jonathan Reed, a designer who had worked for figures such as David Bowie, Giancarlo Giammetti and Queen Rania of Jordan” and I think I would want a complete redesign for comfort before trying to live there having seen the pictures.

The studios, later home to other notable Scottish photographers, have been bought by an individual who wishes to remain private, but Adamson & Hill’s real studios where they made the great majority of their portraits are the Edingburgh cemeteries which remain open to the public.

Tish Murtha

Monday, February 6th, 2017

I’m not a fan of the Metro, the free newspaper that litters our trains in the mornings. It’s useful if you have to wait for a train, to put underneath your bottom to sit on those cold metal benches, but otherwise I never bother to pick up a copy myself, and when occasionally I pick up a copy someone else has left on the train, a quick flick through confirms my belief that it isn’t worth reading. Which is what you expect given it comes from the same stable as the Daily Mail, a sorry excuse of a right wing newspaper.

But for once the Metro web site has published something worth reading – and my thanks to friends on Facebook for point out Ellen Scott‘s article Powerful photo series captures unemployed youths of Thatcher’s Britain, about the work of Trish Murtha (1956 – 2013), a photographer who lived the life she photographed in Newcastle’s west end.

Murtha first used a camera to frighten away men who would proposition her on the streets where she lived, taking it out and threatening to take their pictures – even if there was often no film in the camera, but soon got hooked on photography and aged 20 went to study at Newport’s School of Documentary Photography in 1976, returning to photograph in the community where she lived. Later she spent some time in London.

The Guardian published a piece written by her younger brother Glenn Murtha, in their That’s me in the picture‘ series in 2015, and you can find out more about her on Wikipedia, which also links to a number of sites with her work on them. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm just a day before what would have been her 57th birthday in 2013.

Her daughter Ella Murtha wants to make sure that her mother and her pictures are not forgotten, and manages an official Facebook page dedicated to her. She is planning to create a Kickstarter page shortly to fund the publication of a book of this series of pictures and her essay, Youth Unemployment. I’ll add details here when they become available.

My opinion about the Metro was confirmed by the two stories listed under the heading ‘MORE’ at the bottom of the piece which includes eighteen of Tish Murtha’s pictures.

MORE: Photo series celebrates hard-working cats on the job
MORE: Photographer captures the weird and wonderful things people have flushed down the toilet


Sunday, February 5th, 2017

I wasn’t sure about going to take pictures at Reclaim Holloway; I had several other things to cover later in the day and this was expected to be a relatively small event. Holloway is up in the north of London, and although its not a hugely long journey it would make my day a rather long one.

But in the end I decided it would be worth the effort, and part of the reason was that it was in the Islington North constituency of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, and knowing that he is a good constituency MP there was a decent chance he might turn up.

I’ve photographed Corbyn many times over the years, supporting protests on a wide range of issued – often in the past few years along with John McDonnell, now his shadow chancellor. But since he won his remarkable victory  to become party leader by a substantial majority, he has become a hate figure for the British media and often is at the centre of an intense media scrum at events, and seldom has time for many of the smaller protests he used to come to.

It was also an event that interested me, as housing has long been a special interest – since I was a student activist back in the 1960s. The protesters want Holloway Prison, which is closing down, to be kept in the public domain and used for social housing and community services, rather than to be sold to developers for yet more expensive housing that few Londoners can afford.

And Corbyn did turn up, and there were only a couple of photographers present, though many people taking pictures of him with their phones, but it was all pretty civilised. He spoke briefly, giving his support to the campaign, posed behind the banner (after I had asked him, more for the campaign organisers than myself – it wasn’t my sort fof picture) and then cycled off to do what he needed to do as party leader, while the rest of us marched off to HM Prison for another rally.

Reclaim Holloway