Archive for March, 2017

Hull Photos: 23/3/17-29/3/17

Friday, March 31st, 2017

23 March 2017

These railway tracks ran into the Neptune St Goods station of the Hull & Barnsley railway which opened in 1885. The company, full name The Hull Barnsley and West Riding Junction Railway and Dock Company had been backed by Hull Corporation to compete with the monopoly of the North Eastern Railway on traffic to the city and the docks. It opened its new Alexandra Dock the same year. After financial difficulties towards the end of the century it agreed to work with the NER over the building of a new jointly owned dock, opened in 1914 as the King George V Dock, and it merged with the NER in 1922, shortly before the 1923 grouping when this became part of the LNER.

The goods station was closed around 1960 and the yard was taken over Drapers to cut up steam locomotives for scrap around 1967 when they moved there from the old HBR Sculcoates Goods; around 578 engines ended their days at the two locations, and the pile of scrap past the wagons is probably some of their remains.

The large brick building left of centre is the HBR good shed and it and some of the Neptune St buildings remain. There is still a bridge, though completely rebuilt in concrete as a part of the construction of Clive Sullivan Way. The white building at left is the AJK Ltd (Andrew Johnson Knudtzon) Neptune Street bulk cold storage warehouse, 36,613 cubic metres of space for your frozen seafood, meat and other products close to Albert Dock.

28v41 Rail tracks under bridge to William Wright Dock, Goulton St, 1981 – Docks

24 March

Brenda’s Cafe was on a street corner somewhere on or close to Goulton St, but appears to have been boarded up when I took this picture, and I have no recollection of exactly where it was located. Almost certainly like most of the housing in this area it will have been demolished shortly after I made this and a second photograph concentrating on the message ‘THIS IS BRENDA’S CAFE’.

I liked the underlined ‘THIS IS’, written on a slant and then the careful alignment to the brick courses of ‘BRENDA’S CAFE’, provided with a correct apostrophe and a full stop but no acute accent. But I imagine Brenda’s was a cafe rather than a café.

28v42: Brenda’s Cafe, Goulton St area, 1981


28v43: Brenda’s Cafe, Goulton St area, 1981

25 March 2017

Above the doorway of the 1930’s brick building of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen’s Queen Mary Hostel (a building that is now the Hull Training Business Academy) in the 3 layers of stone facing above the stone door surround was a fairly lightly scratched bas-relief of two fishermen hauling nets aboard a small planked boat. The section at bottom right had suffered somewhat from erosion and the wheelhouse of the boat at top left was almost invisible.

I think my focus was possibly slightly out on this image, but the stone was also rather worn. A few years later this sculpture was painted to make the details clearer, but when I made this I think it was bare stone. When I last saw it, most of the paint had faded or flaked off and the work was reverting to its former state.

The building is a few yards to the west of the junction with Boulevard and on the north side of Goulton St.

28v44: Fishermen bas-relief, National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, Goulton St, 1981 – Hessle Rd

26 March 2017

This statue, I think in fibreglass, of a fisherman was in the reception area of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen., and could be seen clearly through the glass door and window, though the fine wire grid in the toughened glass.

I made several near-identical exposures through the right-hand window, and can be seen doing so in a reflection at the left of the picture, apparently from an interior glass divider.

I have been unable to find any information about this sculpture, or about its current location, though doubtless some people in Hull will know.

28v46: Fisherman, National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, Goulton St, 1981 – Hessle Rd

27 March 2017

Although my note on the contact sheet states ‘Boulevard’, I think this fine doorway was almost certainly in Coltman St, another of the streets I walked down on my way to Hessle Rd. You can still see a very similar example at the end of a row in Coltman St (I think at 194) on the west side fairly close to Anlaby Rd. There is a gap where two properties have been demolished, possibly following fire damage, a rather common fate for various reasons with derelict properties, particularly when listed. This may well have been one of those now missing.

There are around 15 houses in the street which were Grade II listed in 1973, and this example must surely have been one of these. The street was named after the Coltman family who owned the land and developed it from around 1840 starting at the south end on Hessle Rd, and it includes a number of houses in a ‘Greek Revival’ style from the 1850s.

28v53: Doorway, probably Coltman St, 1981 – Hessle Rd

28 March 2017

I photographed this shop window on several occasions. A small general store and sweet shop on Church St I think I went in and bought the occasional Mars Bar or can of drink to keep me going in an otherwise rather desolate area. The normal window was simply a few drink cans thrown in randomly and this was a special effort for the Royal Wedding , with the tray and carefully arranged cans.

Church St used to lead to St Peter’s Church, the parish church of Drypool a large building which replaced and incorporated parts of the earlier church in 1823, with seating for a thousand worshippers. This was destroyed by bombing in 1941, though its former churchyard is still there across from where Church St meets Great Union St. The site of the church is now occupied by Humber Galvanising and its car park.

28×12 Royal Wedding Window Display, Church St, 1981 – East Hull

29 March 2017

Like St Peter’s Church nearby, the Clarence Flour Mill was badly damaged during wartime bombing, with only the silo remaining from the original 1891 flour mill, but it was rebuilt and reopened in 1952, continuing in operation until 2005.

Hull’s most prominent landmark, it was demolished in 2015, supposedly to allow a remarkably ugly replacement, the Radisson Blu hotel, to be built in time for the 2017 City of Culture. When I walked past a month ago the site was still just an empty gap of ground-level rubble and brick, with no building work having started.

Joseph Rank was born on Holderness Rd, Hull into a milling family in 1854 and was running a small rented windmill by the time he was 21, but it failed to make money. He invested in a larger windmill which was profitable and a few years later after seeing them in action at another mill he realised the potential of using steel rollers and mechanical power to greatly increase output, building his Alexandra Mill in Williamson St off Holderness Rd in 1885, the first mill of its type in the UK.

The Clarence Flour Mill, as well as having roller mills with high capacity also led in other areas of technology, including the bulk handling of flour, discharging it in into barges on the River Hull.

As well as the large ‘JOSEPH’ at the top of the picture, my attention was also drawn to the much smaller message across two of the ground floor window panes, ‘HELP ME’. My younger son, Joseph, then three, may well have been with me when I made the exposure, and I certainly pointed out his name to him on various occasions as we went past, and I may well have felt in need of help myself. But somewhere inside this huge building, with its hundreds of panes of glass there was someone who felt trapped.

While now it would have been trivial to correct the perspective using a wider lens and computer software, it wasn’t possible to get it right in camera with a shift lens, nor to correct the slight distortion, and I have left these more or less as taken.

28×23: Joseph Rank’s Clarence Flour Mill, Clarence St, 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.

February 2017 at last

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Finally I’ve managed to finish the month of February on My London Diary. It’s been hard going, partly because I spent 5 days away from home and taking pictures, working on a new Hull project in the 22017 UK City of Culture. The Hull pictures took a long time to process because I was mainly taking panoramas, which end up as files a little over 200Mb. They are slow to take as it’s essential to get the camera level in two dimensions as well as setting the framing at the edges. It is possible to make very slight corrections on the computer, but anything more than a small tad is destined for the bit bucket.

My time was also occupied in getting files ready for the show ‘All About the Lea‘ which opened at Cody Dock in West Ham last weekend and is open from 11am till 5pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays until 23 April. Cody Dock arranged the printing and hung the show, but I had to work on the files to get the 28 pictures ready, as well as checking up on locations and dates for the captions.

March also saw a rare appearance for me speaking in public on a discussion panel at Battersea Arts Centre after a performance of ‘E15’ there, a verbatim play based largely on the protests by the group of young mothers from the Stratford Focus E15 hostel. The play was a slightly strange experience, re-living for me the experience of a number of their protests that I had photographed (and you can find the pictures on My London Dairy by searching on ‘E15’.)

I don’t often speak in public, and I spent some time worrying beforehand (as well as doing a certain amount of preparation), but it went well on the night, and I was sorry when we ran out of time – though most of the panel and the cast had an enjoyable discussion over a few glasses afterwards.

Feb 2017

Hounslow Heath
Dubs Now – let the children in

25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre
Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness
Picturehouse recognition & living wage
Shut race-hate LD50 gallery
End homophobic bullying at LSE

Hull 2017 City of Culture
Sculcoates & River Hull
City Centre & Beverley Rd
Ropery St & St Mark’s Square

St Andrew’s Dock
Hessle Rd
Beverley and Nellie’s

Around the Town
The Deep
More Hull Panoramic
Wincolmlee and Lime St
Evening in the City
Old Town
A ride on Scale Lane Bridge
Around the City Centre
Hullywood Opening
East Hull & Garden Village
Old Town & City Centre
River Hull
Night in the Old Town
Victoria Dock Promenade

Show Culture some Love
Willesden Green Wassail
Kensal Rise to Willesden Green
ANAL squat in Belgravia
Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists

Dubs Now – Shame on May

King’s College Divest Oil & Gas Now!
Court support for Heathrow protesters
No Muslim Ban, No State Visit

London Images


Keep Corbyn

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

A grinning Piers Corbyn among thousands who turned up to support his younger brother

I can’t remember when I first photographed Jeremy Corbyn, but it must have been more than 20 years ago, and I’ve listened to him speaking at many events and often exchanged the odd word with him. He has always seemed to me to stand for the ideas and approach that are central to the Labour Party and which clearly differentiate it from the Conservatives, and states his views lucidly without a great deal of histrionics, but not without a certain passion and clearly a man of principle. If I had to pick a single word to represent him, it would be ‘reasonable’.

Like most, I was surprised when his name was put forward as a possible leader of the Labour Party, because he has never played the kind of politics that takes you to the top of political parties. It was perhaps precisely this that got him put forward as a candidate by the left of the party, as someone few MPs would be particularly antagonised by and who they would not feel had any chance of success – and so could be persuaded to back his nomination.

But it was also just this quality that appealed to many grass-roots members and supporters of the party who had become disillusioned with the politicians and who found a decent honourable man who clearly stood for the traditional values of the labour movement something which gave them hope for the future. Many joined the party to support him, though most existing members also backed him and were voting for change.

I’m not a fan of Corbynmania, but he was a man whose time had come, and I think rightly so. Most of the policies that Corbyn supports – for example in his recent ‘10 pledges to rebuild and transform Britain‘ enjoy wide popular support, even among many Conservative voters, but nothing in the press or media coverage reflects this. They seldom actually report on his policies, but spend a great deal of time on irrelevances or even truly ‘fake news’ such as a recent story over his tax returns which was patently untrue from the start, and simply showed the reporters had not bothered to read the document they were criticising. It’s a sign that those who really run the country are very worried that Corbyn could win.

It seemed obvious to me at the time he became leader that the same kind of reasons that led to his popularity also represented the only hope that Labour have of getting re-elected in our next general election – probably in 2020. But also obvious that this will only happen if Labour MPs get in line with the party as a whole and get behind him. Which unfortunately seems unlikely, and many of those MPs who continue to plot against him will lose their seats as a result.

But Labour MPs are not alonge; today with Theresa May delivering her Brexit letter to Europe we have another reminder that shooting ourselves in the foot now appears to be our overwhelming national characteristic.

Back last June I covered two protests by supporters of Corbyn, one rather small and the other rather large when some right-wing Labour MPs attempted a coup against him. At the larger of these events another photographer asked me how many days I thought it would be before Corbyn resigned. I told him he had been reading too many newspapers and there was no chance he would go. And nine months later he is still leader, having won a second decisive contest with over 60% of the vote in September.

Pictures from both events:
Keep Corbyn – No Coup
Thousands rally to Keep Corbyn


Pride 2016

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

I first photographed Pride back in 1992 and since then I think I’ve been every year except 2005 when I was out of the country, but I was wondering whether I could be bothered in 2016. It really has become so much of a corporate and commercial event that it has lost much of the interest it had for me. This year was the first for many that I didn’t bother to apply for accreditation, which given the large crowds and strict control of the procession and main events by stewards and police makes covering the event rather easier.

I’m not a great believer in accreditation for events. It often seems to be a way of controlling access to a small group of people known to the organisers – often including many who don’t have a press card. But at least accreditation for Pride is straightforward and I’ve never been refused when I have applied, unlike a few other events. But generally I feel a press card should be enough – and even that is usually unnecessary for the kind of events I want to cover and the way I like to cover them.

In the end I decided to go again largely because Movement for Justice had organised a Migrant Rights & Anti-Racist Pride march to join the main Pride event. They gathered on Oxford St, a smallish group including London in Solidarity with Istanbul LGBTI Pride, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and others who feel as I do that ‘ the official event has been taken over by corporate sponsors such as Barclays and BAE systems and is a parade rather than a protest, no longer representing its roots.’

And they joined on the main Pride march at the end, where other political groups are generally marginalised. As they moved forwards to join in the march I walked back to the tube and left.

You can see some of my pictures from Pride in 1993-2002 in Ten Years of Pride based on the  work shown as a part of the exhibition Queer is Here at the Museum of London, Feb 2006 and touring.

More text and pictures:
Pride London 2016
Migrant Rights & Anti-Racist Pride

Brexit shock

Monday, March 27th, 2017

The Brexit vote came as a shock to most of us, not least to David Cameron who had planned the whole referendum as a way of keeping his even more right wing chums in Parliament quiet, certainly the biggest political mistake so far of this century. Though it was one which his colleague who succeeded him seems determined to worsen by refusing to make the kind of compromises over our divorce from Europe that might have made the split bearable.

The referendum result, although it confounded the media and the opinion pollsters, didn’t come as a huge surprise to those of us who had been following the campaign, and in particular the way it had been reported in the media, and in particular the BBC. While we had seen for years a hate campaign against Europe and migrants in the whole of the popular press, it was rather a shock to us that the BBC made such a determined effort to promote Nigel Farage and his delusional opinions (along with his mates from the Conservative Party) in the run up to the vote.

There were of course some at the BBC who tried to present the facts rather than the UKIP spin, but they seemed to have little effect on the news coverage, which gloried in reporting the ridiculous lies of the Leave campaign as if they made any sense, while failing to report at all much of the more sensible aspects of what was overall a rather lacklustre Remain campaign.

One contribution to this BBC failure was of course their continuing campaign to belittle Jeremy Corbyn, whose many appearances around the country arguing Labour’s nuanced campaign to remain in the EU hardly got a mention. But as on some other issues, BBC ideas about ‘balance’ also prevented a truly unbiased coverage – as when they give equal prominence to the views of those few climate sceptics as to the huge majority of scientific evidence for the man-made contribution to climate change.

So while the fairly narrow vote to leave the EU came as a shock, it was hardly a surprise, and its consequences almost certainly disastrous. That such a small majority should lead to such a momentous decision still seems an unbelievable idiocy on Cameron’s part to many of us. It should have been made clear when the vote was set up that a simple small majority would not be binding on the government.

Defend All Migrants was a reaction to this shock, and it was one that brought home to me the reality of ‘Fake News’, seeing an ultra-right US ‘news’ site operating at first hand. Their team at the protest had clearly not come along to report on the event, but to try and provoke a reaction by the way they behaved and the questions they asked.

While it might have been more sensible for the protesters to have ignored them it was actually inevitable that they would provoke some reaction – which was why they had come there. And as usual when trouble-makers try to protest and stir up the situation, eventually the police strongly advised them to leave. I’m not sure if they actually escorted them out of the park, but I’m fairly sure they would have done if they didn’t go without an escort.

Behaviour like this by people who pose as journalists but are really political activists threatens all of us who work as journalists. I was disturbed that some colleagues took the side of these fake reporters whose activities are a real threat to the freedom of the press. Those of us who were there as genuine journalists faced no problems in reporting this event, but when people come along posing as journalists and acting provocatively it makes our job more difficult.

The rally proceeded and it was good to hear speakers from a wide range of organisations, all speaking up to defend migrants at a time when many were coming under attack after the vote to leave the EU – which had been widely seen as a way of cutting down migration to the UK. It isn’t likely to have a great effect on levels of migration, as we will still need people to come here to staff our hospitals, to work in old peoples homes, on our building sites, as agricultural workers etc – to do all the jobs that there are not enough people here qualified or willing to do.

And we will still have refugees seeking asylum, particularly while this country and companies based here encourage, fund and take part in perpetuating war and famine in countries around the world.

After the rally, many of those present took part in a march, which was to go to News International, home of The Sun and The Times, both of which have spread lies and scapegoated immigrants. As I wrote in a caption, ‘Murdoch hates Europe because unlike UK governments they don’t do what he tells them.’

Although it’s destination was clear, the route the marchers took certainly wasn’t, and those leading it turned down a side street on seeing more police ahead, and then got rather lost. There was much looking at maps on phones by those at the front and I began to wonder if they would ever find their way or keep wandering through the back streets of the city for ever.

I knew exactly where I was and decided I had walked far enough and was beginning to get hungry. When the march turned to the north, walking in exactly the opposite direction to its destination I decided I’d had enough and caught a bus for the station and my train home.

Defend All Migrants


Hull Photos: 16/3/17-22/3/17

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Weekly digest of images posted to Hull Photos and my comments from Facebook

16 March 2017

Parts of the Old Town first got electrical lights in 1880, but the private company failed to supply power consistently and the lights went off in 1884. In 1890 the corporation got the power to make power itself and built this Corporation Electric Lighting Station in 1892 in Dagger Lane. But, according to the Victoria County History, the service grew from the original 33 customers to 960 by 1898 and a new and larger generating station was opened in Sculcoates Lane.

The door states that it is a Boiler Store for B Danby & Co Ltd, a plumbing, heating and electrical merchants in the North of England, was founded in 1891 by West Riding businessman Benjamin Danby and still in business, but the building appeared to be empty and derelict, and I think was demolished a few years later.

28r51: Corporation Electric Lighting Station 1892, Dagger Lane, 1981 – Old Town

17 March 2017

The former warehouses beside Railway Dock were listed Grade II in 1970. The listed eastern wing was demolished in 1972 and later the remaining parts converted into offices, commercial premises and flats. Unfortunately the 1845/6 No 7 warehouse, architect J B Hartley, lower than these with five storeys but with nineteen bays, on the north side of Humber dock was demolished in 1971, a tragic loss to the cityscape, now scarred by a near-motorway.

Railway Dock warehouses were next to Hull’s first railway station, Manor House Street or Kingston Street station (on the opposite side of Kingston St, opened as the terminus of the Hull and Selby Railway in 1840, and remaining in use as a goods station after passenger traffic moved to Hull Paragon in 1848.) The station was demolished in 1959 but Wikipedia states some sidings there were in use until 1984 and the lines are shown on the map I was using when taking these pictures.

In the foreground is one of several wagon turntables on the dockside. These were just large enough to take both sets of wheels on a wagon coming from the warehouse which would then be turned through 90 degrees onto a railway line running along the dockside. The wagons would be hauled and turned either by horses or gangs of men, or in some places were moved by chains running around a capstan attached to an shunting engine.

28r64: Former Railway Dock warehouse, Railway St, 1981 – Old Town

18 March 2017

J.B. Mirrlees became a partner in a Glasgow engineering firm making cane sugar processing machinery in 1848. Mirrlees, Watson & Yaryan Company Limited were excited by the engine patented by Dr Rudolf Diesel and visited him in Germany in 1897, taking out an exclusive licence for manufacture and sale of diesel engines in Great Britain. Their first engine, only the third diesel engine in the world and now in the Science Museum was completed in 1897. Unable to sustain the heavy development costs of these engines, they sold the exclusive licence in exchange for a non-exclusive licence in 1899.

Mirrlees moved to Hazel Grove, Stockport to expand their manufacturing capacity and produced many innovative and successful engines, whose uses included powering WWI tanks as well as trains and ships and electricity generation. In 1969 they merged with Blackstone & Company, who had begun in the 1880s making agricultural implements in Lincolnshire. Both companies were a part of the Hawker Siddeley group. They became part of GEC-Alsthom in 1988 and disappeared in the early 2000s.

The office here was disused after the fishing industry moved from here to Albert Dock and St Andrew’s Dock was closed in 1975.

28v21: Mirrlees Blackstone Marine Diesel Engine posters, St Andrew’s Dock, 1981 – Docks

19 March 2017

The notice by the London and North Eastern Railway forbidding any unauthorized explosive materials being brought on to the docks was considerably the worse for wear. It had been there for some time, as it had been signed on behalf of the London and North Eastern Railway Company, which ceased to operate on nationalisation on 1 January 1948.

Explosive materials were of course vital in many ways for mariners, and included rockets and distress flares. The 1875 Act was not intended to prevent explosive materials being brought into the docks but to regulate their use and ensure safe handling.

28v24: Explosives Act 1875 Hull Docks Bye Law notice, St Andrew’s Dock, 1981 – Docks

20 March 2017

The World Championship Three Piece Suite, with a settee that ‘easily converts into a snooker table and is complete with all equipment‘ dominated the window display in a shop on the Hessle Road, and it wasn’t cheap at £799.95 – when the average UK wage was around £6000, and in Hull rather lower than that. At left a notice tells us that under the NARF credit plan it could be ours for only £79.95 deposit and 24 Monthly Payment of £38.40, an APR of 27.9%. Which takes up the total price to just over a thousand pounds, at a time when you could buy a freehold terraced house in the area for well under £10,000.

Living as most did in the area in small terraced houses, few would have had space for a snooker table, though the practicalities of using even this rather small table in a typical living room would have been tricky – it would need to be pulled into the centre of the room to allow players to move around all sides and pull back their cue to make a shot – and it would probably be tricky to keep the playing surface level in many houses even if the settee’s mechanism was sufficiently firm to support a player leaning on the outer edge, which seemed unlikely.

There was a good reason why there were Snooker Halls and tables in clubs. Few houses in Hull -or elsewhere – had the space for a proper full-size snooker table, though a friend’s house we often stayed at in later years in Newland Park did have a billiard room complete with full size table and bar. But there would have been few if any billiard rooms around the Hessle Rd.

I’m sure they sold a few of these on the Hessle Rd, though by 1981 the money from the fishing had mostly gone, but I’d be fairly sure too that those who bought them would have found them disappointing. I spent some time wondering whether the spelling of ‘LEASURE AND PLEASURE’ was deliberate and am still not sure. A notice by the dummy at right holding a cue informs us that his clothing is from the Leeds tailoring firm of Burras Peake who had a shop nearby at 266 Hessle Rd.

28v26: World Championship Three Piece Suite, Hessle Rd, 1981 – Hessle Rd

21 March 2017

This building at 82-4 Goulton St still stands and is now the Hull Training Business Academy, with the mosaic and a bas-relief above the door of the adjacent brick building. At the top of the mosaic is the message ‘serving the fishermen‘, an occupation then very much in decline thanks to the Cod Wars, though the lobby you can dimly see a statue of one, the subject of another of my pictures. The fishing boat is very much something from a different age to Hull’s trawler fleet.

Although the former Queen Mary Hostel of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen was only registered by them in 1957 (according to the Victoria County History) the brick building seems clearly from the 1920s or 30s and both its appearance and name suggests that it was built during the reign of George V who died in 1936 (although Queen Mary lived on until 1953.) The extension on which this mural is situated could be from the late 1950s or 60s.

Although I didn’t quite get the image upright and fully squared up when taking it, scanning and subsequent cropping has added a little more slant to this image, which I really should correct when I have time. Working as I did with a shift lens did usually enable me to correct verticals and horizontals in camera at a time when the kind of correction in software we now take for granted meant finicky darkroom work.

28v33: National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, Goulton St, 1981 – Hessle Rd

22 March 2017

I was photographing the cityscape and buildings and generally considered people likely to be a distraction from my subject, but as I wandered around the streets with a camera around my neck, people, especially children, would sometimes ask me to take their pictures, and I did as it seemed only polite, although with my camera set for photographing streets and buildings the results were sometimes blurred as people moved around rather faster than the buildings did.

This group of children were playing in a terrace off one of the streets soon to be demolished, and were sitting on the front step of a house which I think may already have become unoccupied. This, the second of two frames, is the sharper, except for the young girl who ran across as I made the exposure and a more interesting group.

At the time there was little of the exaggerated fear of strangers that some years later would have made stopping to take a picture like this without parental permission problematic. I and they knew that the were unlikely ever to see the picture I took; but perhaps now it is on-line they will see it – and I have posted it to one of the Hull Facebook groups for them.

28v36: Children on door step, West Dock Ave area, 1981 – 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.

Fink notes

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Although many photographers have worked with square format cameras, notably those made by Hassleblad and Rollei, few have really taken to the format and worked with it. Many always cropped their images, and saw the square format simply as enabling them to shoot in the same way for either a portrait or landscape format, with none of the problems of needing to tune the camera on its side. And some cameras really did make this a little of a problem. For those photographers who work with a camera on a tripod or stand it can also present some difficulties. But with the square format you just took the pictures and cropped whichever way you wanted afterwards.

What I like about Larry Fink’s photographs – most of them on square format ands presented as square is how he really gets the frame to work, getting in close to his subjects and using those edges in a really dynamic way.

The front page of his web site contains the text:

Viscerality is my perceptual mode. Simply spoken,it means that I want to touch everything that I love. Hopefully my pictures are a testimony to the love of the senses.

I’ve long thought of photography as being a very tactile medium and I’m at my happiest photographing people and groups of people at the kind of range where I could reach out and touch them, though often I have to work from a rather longer range.

Fink’s best-known work remains Social Graces, a book published by Aperture in 1984 (with a later Powerhouse edition in 1999.)

Born in Brooklyn, like others of a similar generation he studied paintings in the museums of that city, as well as photography with Lisette Model at the New School for Social Research. And he got to know many of the artists and literary figures living in the city.

Visura has a great portfolio of his images of ‘The Beats‘, taken in the late 1950s and published as a book in 2014, and you can read more about him and the book in The New Yorker. Olivier Laurent wrote about him on Time LightBox in 2015, and there is an interesting interview with him by Julie Ma on The Cut.

What prompted me to write this post was Fink on Warhol: New York Photographs of the 1960s which appeared recently in L’oeil De La Photographie.

I’ve owned several square format cameras over the years, including an ancient Rolleiflex (it cost me £35) but never really got into the cameras or the format.

She was ready

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Benjamin Chesterton on his Duckrabbit blog posted last Sunday “She was ready and actually pushed the tweet button” about a series of pictures by Welsh photographer Dan Wood who “discovered photography through skateboarding” in 1995 and is a member of the Artist Collective: Document Britain which I have to admit I’ve never heard of before.

Duckrabbit writes about Wood’s ‘Shoot the damn dog‘, a project on his wife’s struggles with depression, post-natal depression and makes his point so well that I’ll leave you to read it. And when he asked Wood how she flet about him publishing the work, the reply he got from the photographer was that 3 years after he made the work, “She was ready and actually pushed the tweet button”.

On Lensculture you can read an interview with Wood about the project he began in 2013 ‘Suicide Machine‘ after the town where he lives, Bridgend, was named as having an unusually high suicide rate, along with a set of images of those who live there from his book of the same name. They were taken on his Hasselblad 500CM using colour film, and Wood still sees film as central to the way that he works: “it’s always been about film for me: shooting, developing, printing, scanning, the cameras, I love it all, especially the pace in which you work.”

You can see more of his work on his own web site, including both black and white and colour work, much based on Wales, but also elsewhere.

Street talk

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

Thomas Stanworth asks Is Street Photography Killing Itself?, and gives an excellent summary of some of the reasons why so much of it is boring and pointless, along with many images culled from the web to support his case. It’s an article that will probably be reacted to with some forceful comments, particularly from those who either haven’t bothered to read it or who have failed to understand it.

Personally I’ve never been convinced ‘street photography‘ was ever alive. I’ve written a little before about it and my feeling that it is not a real or useful category, something which I think becomes entirely obvious if you read it’s ‘bible’, Westerbeck & Meyerowitz’s ‘Bystander. Fortunately almost none of those whose work is in its pages considered themselves as a ‘street photographer’; they were all taking photographs on or from the streets – as opposed to working in a studio – but they all went on to those streets with particular ideas and stories they were interested and involved in photographing.

The problem with most so-called ‘street photography’ I see now is simply that it is vacuous. Stanworth uses a lot of examples and explains the point well, and there are a couple of sentences in the middle giving a little advice to those who must be street photographers that I think really the crux:

“However, just engaging in the subject of photography helps. Learning a little more about yourself helps. Learning about the people and environment around you and your thoughts and reactions to it helps. The sad truth is that most of our effort in photography amounts to nothing.”

‘Street photography’ in general is, as he said, seen as ‘cool’. It is generally cool in that it is unengaged, using a small ragbag of tricks to produce images as deep as the average street puddle.

In his final sentences Stanworth again makes his views clear:

“And here we are back to the supreme importance of relationships, expression and connection. Without these things, both just become repetitive, predictable acts that lose their lustre.”

For a quite different piece of writing by Stanworth, I’ve also been reading his review of the Fuji X100F on his Photofundamentalist blog. It’s very much a photographer’s review rather than the technical tour-de-forces that sites such as offer, and one that complements their work well.  It makes me think I really ought to buy one, though having also read his view on the Ricoh GR I think I might find that more useful – if I can live without an optical viewfinder, though there is a rather expensive external accessory that will fit in the hot shoe.

His photography is also worth a look.

Frank thoughts

Monday, March 20th, 2017

There are two books that should be on every photographer’s bookshelf, and I think you can hardly call yourself a photographer unless you have a well-thumbed copy of both. Neither is a perfect work, but both are exemplary. One of them is Robert Frank‘s ‘The Americans‘, published first by Robert Delpire in Paris in 1958, and available in numerous editions since. That original edition would no set you back around £2,500, but you can buy more recent editions secondhand from around £25, less if you strike lucky. Most have been based on the first US Edition from 1959 published by Grove Press with it’s introduction by Jack Kerouac, but I would probably now recommend the Steidl 50th anniversary issue, which you can read more about on the 5×4 blog – and some of the comments there are also worth reading.

Kerouac was an important figure in my later teenage years, though only through his ‘On the Road‘ and other books, which together with Miles Davis dominated those times. I still remember the expression of distaste with which my Grammar School headmaster handed over the ‘Evergreen Original’ of Doctor Sax, with its inscription ‘Academic Year 1961/62 Awarded to P. G. Marshall for distinction in academic work‘. What a shame that then I didn’t then know about that other Grove Press volume by Frank, a copy of which now fetches around $4,500.

What brought these thoughts to mind was an article ‘The Man Who Saw America‘ by Nicholas Dawidoff published in the New York Times magazine on July 2, 2015 which for some reason was posted twice on my Facebook news feed this morning. He writes a little about the pictures, but mainly about the photographer and his life. I’ve no idea why the article has resurfaced now, but if you are coming new to ‘The Americans’ it isn’t a bad read. I think it should have said rather more about Frank’s first editor, Robert Delpire and his contribution to the work, and having to refer to Frank’s film of the Rolling Stones on tour as “[expletive] Blues,” seems odd. You can read about the film (which I find rather painful to watch for more than a few minutes – it’s available in parts on YouTube but part missing because of a copyright claim) and its significance in the the New Yorker.

The second book? Surely I don’t need to tell you.