Archive for March, 2017

Hull Photos: 9/3/17-15/3/17

Friday, March 17th, 2017

My weekly digest of pictures added to Hull Photos

9th March 2017

Taken from a position which is now occupied by Princes Quay, the new housing at the left is on the other side of the dock in Princes Dock St. The squat warehouse block is on the Castle St corner and is now a chain Italian restaurant where I had to eat with my family recently. The low dockside sheds of Humber Dock have all gone, but the taller warehouses remain. One fine listed block had already been demolished when I made this picture.

Somewhat oddly, the collapsed end of a shed at left has the old name for Hull, ‘WYKE’ on it, too small to read on-line, and it was this together with the cross made by a beam and a shadow to the left that made me stop at this point and admire the shapes strung along the horizon, including the two boys fishing and ending at the dockside bollards at right. Near the centre the vertical pole supporting telephone wires that surely now led to nowhere. Unusually I took four frames, obviously working with the situation until I was satisfied with this one and wandered further onto the dockside but took no further pictures here.

28q41: Princes Dock, Waterhouse Lane, 1981 – City Centre

10th March 2017

Most of this picture is a reflection in the shop window of a commercial stationers, with a notice reflecting the gloomy nature of business – I think the business had either closed or was about to close down.

On the east side of Paragon Square you can see two banks and then the War Memorial, and to the north is Binn’s department store, still trading but now called House of Fraser. Next down Ferensway was a large C&A, now Poundland. The Midland Bank was taken over by HSBC in 1992, though they only changed the name in 1999. This branch had closed by 2008 and the lease was up for sale and Barclays soon moved out leaving the whole frontage to Bronx, a men’s clothing store selling fashion brands with branches in Hull and Huddersfield.

I appear in a ghostly and largely headless fashion just to the right of that notice.

28q53: Stationers, Paragon St, Hull, 1981 – City Centre

11th March 2017

The Midland cafe, a few shops up from Osborne St on the east side of Midland Road, was closed when I took this picture, with a small notice at the bottom right of the right-hand window ‘All Enquires to 227608‘ (sic). It opened later as the Midland Juice Bar, but I think was demolished not long after for the building of Owbridge Court.

An article by Ann Godden on the Hullwebs History of Hull site informs me that this development by the William Sutton Trust in 1990 was on the site of the Cough Mixture Factory, which Walter Thomas Owbridge had bought in 1894 to build a larger factory to make Owbridge’s Lung Tonic. He had invented this in 1874 and it had become a favourite with fishermen working in arctic waters. While he demolished most of the site for his factory, the shops on Midland St were left intact. Owbridge’s was sold to a Dutch pharmaceutical company in 1959, and production in Hull stopped in 1971, with the factory closing the following year.

28q61: Midland Cafe, Midland St, 1981 – City Centre

12 March 2017

Another image of a reflection in a shop window, from the west side of Midland St which shows the opposite side, with J Hawkins Newsagent and the ornate building occupied by Joynsons on the corner with Anlaby Rd. Above one of their windows at the right of the image is the text ‘Scales & Slicers’ in a ‘modern’ and hard to read face.

A carelessly flung down drop-handlebar bicycle on the pavement outside the newsagents reminds me that Hull, flat and reasonably compact, was still then a city where the rush hours were dominated by crowds of cyclists rather than cars.

28q62: Shop window reflection, Midland St, 1981 – City Centre

13 March 2017

Myton Bridge, apparently officially opened in 1980 but only completed the following year provided a new viewpoint on the river. Its site was around 50 yards to the north of where there had earlier been a ferry and from 1865 a footbridge across the river which closed in 1934, South Bridge. A toll bridge, it was also known as the Ha’penny Bridge, and was a great shortcut for many who worked at Victoria Dock immediately to the east of the river.

This part of the river was the Old Harbour, where the port grew up before the docks and was still in use, with sand and gravel on the wharf at the right and barges moored two or three deep along the Old Town wharves.

Until the road leading to this bridge was upgraded in preparation for the bridge as Castle St, the section from Princes Dock Side was named Mytongate, and the area to the west of the Humber Dock was supposedly the site of the ancient hamlet of Myton; Myton St still runs from Osborne St to Castle St.

Engineers will find the design of Myton Bridge interesting, and it is described as a “cable-stayed bridge with fan system“. A swing bridge, the main span is 55 metres long and 32 metres wide, and it’s height was apparently restricted because of the need to be unobtrusive in its location next to the old town. It hardly achieves this, and the tall pylon with the control centre high above the roadway certainly doesn’t help.

The height of the bridge itself is enough to give a good views, and when I took this picture there was virtually traffic-free and I could easily walk from side to side. Now you can still walk across, but two new footbridges nearby are more pleasant as this bridge, the main route to Hull’s working docks, unceasingly carries very heavy traffic.

28r12: River Hull upstream view from Myton Bridge, 1981 – River Hull

14 March 2017

The Fish Street Day Schools were built in a Venetian Gothic style in 1871, next to the former Grammar School, the doorway at the left being for an external stairway to that school. Built by the Church of England, the Fish Street Schools soon became a board school.

The Fish St Schools were Grade II listed in 1994. The adjacent former Grammar School, built in 1583 as the Hull Merchant Adventurers’ Hall was the Grammar School from 1766 to 1878, and later the Choir School for Holy Trinity opposite, and was Grade II listed in 1952.

Both properties were renovated in the late 1980s and became the Hands-on History Museum, now only open to the public on a couple of Saturday afternoons each month.

28r36: Fish Street Day Schools, South Church Side, 1981 – Old Town

15 March 2017

An open market had been held in front of Holy Trinity, Hull’s Parish Church, since medieval times and was still there three days a week. Now the open market has gone it has been renamed Trinity Square and enlarged by the removal of the wall that enclosed a churchyard area in front of the church, as well as the trees inside it. Both this square and the adjacent covered market are getting something of a makeover for 2017, though this was still in progress last month with the square still full of orange barriers around the new mirror fountains and other areas of paving.

In the background are the Old Grammar School, Fish St Day Schools and on King St, the London and Manchester Warehouse (Grade II listed in 1973) and other late 18th century listed buildings on King St. The Venetian window is above the archway into Prince St, a a rather rundown 1770s Georgian terrace more recently transformed (as the Hull Daily Mail said) into “a picture postcard curved row of terraced homes“.

28r45: Open Market, Market Square (now Trinity Square), 1981 – Old Town

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.

Cleaners deserve a living wage

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

I rather like the effect of the diverging verticals in this image, though its something I try to use sparingly. But it seems in this image to lead the eye down to the subject in the centre of this ultra-wide image, Cleaners from the United Voices of the World union protesting for a living wage and for fairness in the way they are treated by their managers on the 10th day of their strike.

As a documentary photographer and a journalist I hold dearly to the principles of recording events accurately; our work has to retain its integrity to be of any worth. That does sometimes require keeping a certain distance, needing to be careful not to interfere in the events I’m photographing. But although that means I won’t hold the banner or blow the horn, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a point of view, and any set of photographs is to a certain degree subjective.

I wouldn’t be here photographing this protest if I didn’t think that all workers have a right to proper treatment and a living wage, and that it was important. Our major media outlets don’t think strikes and protests like this are news and are unlikely to publish my pictures, but I disagree.

It is a dispute that involves issues which are vital about how we live together, issues of fairness and equality, and ones that are brought sharply into focus here, at the centre of one of the world’s great financial centres, the City of London, by the naked greed of some of the wealthiest people and companies in the world.

And the response of the employers to the cleaners claims for a decent wage and proper treatment? To take them to court and try and get an injunction against them striking, probably spending as much or more on that as it would have cost to come to a sensible settlement.

The court made things worse, although turning down the injunction against striking, by imposing conditions on picketing (a practice already well covered by law) but also by imposing legal costs on the cleaners’ union which were actually greater than the total assets of the union, a grass roots organisation totally funded by the subscriptions its low paid members.  It was a striking demonstration of how our legal system, despite its ideals, is a system for the rich and institutionally biased against the poor.

At the end of the protest outside the offices at 100 Wood St (at a distance carefully measured to meet the terms of the injunction) the cleaners and supporters marched off to protest outside the office of the building management company CBRE, the largest commercial real estate company in the world, who manage the building for the richest man in Europe, Amancio Ortega (and the companies whose offices it houses include Schroders and J P Morgan) though the dirty work of managing the cleaners badly and paying them poorly is outsourced to a small cleaning company.

It got rather crowded around the entrances to the CBRE offices, which is where the full-frame 16mm fisheye came in useful (corrected as usual with Fisheye-Hemi.) When I’m using it for landscape or architecture I usually take great care to keep the lens upright, where I work with it using the built in markers of the D810, when small triangles at centre right and centre bottom of the frame show you have the camera straight and level, but there isn’t the time or need to be so precise when photographing protests, and the D700 used for these pictures lacks this feature.

UVW Wood St Strike Day 10


Ripper Facade

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Class War, London Fourth Wave Feminists and many more including local residents and Tower Hamlets council were all appalled when the shop that had been given planning permission to open as a museum celebrating the women of London (and for which a number of people had given services without charge in aid of a good cause) turned instead to be a tacky tourist attraction romanticizing London’s most celebrated killer of women, Montague Druitt, whose body was fished out of the Thames on December 31, 1888, better known as ‘Jack the Ripper’.

Since there could be no trial, although police at the time were apparently convinced enough to abandon their inquiries, an industry has grown up around various theories as to the murderer’s true identity with almost every prominent Victorian male being put under the spotlight.

One American crime novelist who believes artist Walter Sickert was the man responsible even went to the extremes of spending £2 million buying 32 of his paintings – and attracted the opprobrium of the art world by destroying one of them – in her unsuccessful efforts to find any evidence that would impress even the most gullible juror. But efforts such as hers have certainly stoked interest in the case.

The man hoping to make money out of the prurient interest in this series of horrific crimes against innocent women by promoting speculation as a tourist attraction is Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, and although he has been present during some previous protests, this time he only appeared on the mask worn by one of the women, leaving two female staff to run the shop.

Rip Down the Ripper Facade! came after Tower Hamlets Council refused planning permission for its facade and shutter, and since it was still unchanged, Class War’s fearless Womens Death Brigade came along with the tools to take it down – or at least an inflatable hammer.  Their other armaments were stickers, which were soon liberally covering the windows.

The feminists came armed with posters and wearing cat masks, and some hooded characters in black arrive with a smoking red flare, which rather got in the eyes of police and this photographer.

I like to work as close as possible to those I’m photographing, usually working around the wider end of a 16-35mm zoom.  But when smoke fills the air, it also obstructs the light as well as your lungs, and you really need to move back.

The worst damage that the facade actually suffered at this protest was when an egg or two was thrown at its sign – and again I got just a little splattered as it splashed off.  Mostly the protest remained good natured, though with a lot of noisy theatre.  Stickers generally peel off without damage, and egg can be washed off.

Despite that, two people were arrested and charged with criminal damage, though I have no idea what this damage was. The charges against one of them have been dropped, but the second prosecution is continuing.  The ‘museum’ appealed the planning decision – and lost. They are to be allowed to keep a small hanging sign, but have already had to take down the illegal signage and have until 31 May to remove the unauthorised shop front and roller shutter.

Rip Down the Ripper Facade!


Hull Photos: 2/3/17-8/3/17

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Weekly digest of pictures added to Hull Photos and my comments from Facebook on them.

2nd March 2017

These houses have quite a distinctive doorway, which is found in several streets around this area, and that and the fenestration eventually allowed me to match this up with Perth St, though it took quite a lot of searching. Unfortunately the street sign on the house side at right is just too small to be legible on the negative, but once you know it is Lanark Street can just be seen – and the name is still in the same place now.

I can’t find any trace of Val Halla Entertainment Services, although a number of organisations around the world have use the name Valhalla, the Norse hall of the gods ruled over by Odin. The Vikings were of course frequent visitors to Yorkshire from the 8th century, with boats coming up the Humber and along the Ouse to York, and Yorkshire was a Danish Kingdom from around 866 to 954 Ad, when the English retook it. Some still sail their boats into Hull Marina, or arrive on North Sea Ferries, though with less rape and pillage than in earlier days.

This street view has changed little, though it is now usually full of parked vehicles on both sides.

28o34: Val Halla trailer, Perth St, 1981 – Springbank area

3rd March 2017

J Hawkins Newsagent was just off the Anlaby Rd in Midland St, opposite Paragon Station. It was in a block which was and still is the premises of Joynson’s who sell catering and related equipment. The newsagent’s is closed and no longer a shop, though you can still see the decorations and others on the side of the building at 45 Anlaby Rd.

There was a curious grid above the entrance, which appeared to restrict entrance to those customers of short stature or prepared to stoop a little for their newspaper, packet of fags, ice cream or sweets. I wasn’t sure if the section at the rear could at any point decide to fall and and impale the eager customer or perhaps those escaping surreptitiously with an unpaid for Mars Bar. In fact I think the back was fixed while the front section could be lowered when the shop was locked.

The Joynson’s building is locally listed and described (in part) as a “pleasing 3-storey mid-Victorian shop building that curves satisfyingly round the corner into Midland Street. Red brick with stone dressings. Attractive example of French Renaissance style architecture featuring a decorative string course, 7 festooned patera (bass-relief decorative circular ornaments) and heavy moulded window architrave.

28p43: J Hawkins, Newsagent, Midland Rd, 1981 – City Centre

4th March 2017

Dark Birds Eye tobacco got its name from its appearance, being made from dark tobacco ‘whole leaf’ rather than strips, with the stem giving a ‘bird’s eye’ effect when it was cut. It is a strong tobacco and was a favourite with fishermen as its fine cut made it easier to light and keep burning in bad weather on board ship, doubtless why it was strongly featured in this Anlaby Rd shop window.

Most of the rest of the window is taken up by snuff, also traditionally favoured by fishermen – and fishwives. Scandinavian fishermen in particular were often heavy users, usually By mouth rather than sniffing, and the habit had the advantage of not being affected by wind or rain.

28p52: Dark Birds Eye, tobacconist’s window, Anlaby Rd, 1981 – City Centre

5th March 2017

The building closed in 1989 and stood unused for some years, but was demolished before 2008 and it and Goldstein’s next door replaced by an extremely dull-looking building, converted into Goodwin Community College around 2010. When built in 1902, the Icehouse Citadel had seating for 2,500.

The edge of the doorway at left is of the New York Hotel, demolished in 2015-2016 after a fire. It had opened around 1880 as Alfred Percy’s York Commercial and Temperance Hotel and Restaurant (known locally as Percy’s Cafe) was rebuilt in 1920 and altered in 1954. Its name changed to the New York Hotel and Ballroom, and then Jack’s Nightclub and Bar, and it had long abandoned its founding temperance principles. Derelict for over ten years before the fire, it found a place on the Hull Daily Mail’s 2014 list of the ‘The ten ugliest buildings in Hull’ though given the plentiful strong opposition it is hard to see why this relatively innocuous building was chosen, except for its long dilapidated state, because the owners could not afford to demolish it.

28p54: The Salvation Army, Icehouse Corps, Anlaby Rd, 1981 – City Centre

6th March 2017

Sharp St is on the west side of Newland Avenue, and the war memorial to those from the street who serverd in the ‘Great War’, one of several similar in Hull, was in fairly good condition in 1981, though difficult to photograph because of the reflections. Originally on Beal’s Joinery, when I took this picture it was then fixed to the side of the more recent building for Goodfellows on the site, which was demolished around 2010 when the memorial was put into store by the council.

The memorial has been restored by Lincoln University and reinstated in March 2014 inside a new case on the side of Eden Floral Boutique on the corner of Sharp St and Newland Avenue.

The memorial was made by James William Robinson (1876-1924) a carver and cabinet maker at W H Beal Limited who lived at 112 Sharp Street and lists the names of all 139 men in the street who joined up, with the 10 who were killed listed in the centre under the heading ‘Fallen’.

There were over 37,000 such street memorials across the country, including many in Hull, but relatively few have survived – only five in Hull.

28p62: Sharp St roll of Honour, Sharp St, 1981 – Beverley Rd area

7th March 2017

Another picture of Queen Victoria standing above the public lavatories in Queen Victoria Square with the City Hall behind her, this time from the view enjoyed by gentlemen entering the public conveniences. All three are listed, City Hall as Grade II*, the statue and conveniences Grade II.

28q01: Public conveniences, Queen Victoria and City Hall, Queen Victoria Square, 1981 – City Centre

8th March 2017

The view from Monument Bridge across Princes Dock with the warehouses beside Railway Dock in the distance before the shopping centre (one of Hull’s major carbuncles) was built. The warehouses on Kingston St are still there but the shopping centre obscures them, as well as covering much of the dock, and the fence still stops you falling in the river, but instead of phone boxes you squeeze your way through narrow paths between barriers around the various road and paving works that seem to permanently block your way.

The four curved roofs of the phone box seemed to me to be communicating with the four triangles on top of the Kingston Road warehouses, which seem rather closer than they should be, thanks to the moderate telephoto lens used (unlike most of my pictures which are made with a wide-angle.)

Hull’s distinctive cream telephone boxes are well-known, and this was a fine opportunity to showcase them; as well as colour they also lack the crown of their otherwise identical Post Office K6 designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1935 for King George V’s Silver Jubilee, and the word ‘TELEPHONE’ is in a bolder font.

Hull was one of six municipalities which took advantage of the Telegraph Act 1899 to set up its own telephone service, and opened its first exchange in 1904. By 1913 the other five had all given up, but Hull kept on, and remained technically ahead of the rest of the country and with cheaper calls – people in Hull would speak for hours on the phone before the invention of mobiles. The council set up a separate company to run the phones in 1987, and Kingston Communications was floated on the Stock Exchange in 1999 with the council retaining a large stake in KCOM PLC, which was all sold by 2007.

28q15: Phone boxes, Princes Dock and Railway Dock warehouses, Monument Bridge, 1981 – City Centre

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.

Homes for Londoners

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

One of the duties in my teaching past, when I was a group tutor for 16-18 year olds was careers advice. Of course there were special careers advisers, but I would have to discuss careers with my students and get them to take a computer careers questionnaire before there careers interview. And so I several times took those same multiple choice quizzes myself, and the career recommendation that came out on top for me was always ‘architect’ though photographer generally came out after that. I don’t think ‘teacher’, which is what at the time I was, ever made the top five.

But when I was 17, careers advice was non-existent, at least at the grammar I attended, and the idea of being an architect was a non-starter in any case for those of us from penniless backgrounds. So I went off – thanks to government maintenance grants – to university to study chemistry (it could have been physics or maths, the other subjects that seemed acceptable at that boy’s school.)

As a student, particularly as postgraduate student (more grants) I became heavily involved in the campaigning over the large-scale redevelopment of areas close to the university and where I was living, and when I did finally learn enough about photography and start earning enough to take more than the annual holiday film, housing remained an issue in some ways behind much of my work – notably my first major project which ended up as the 1983 show ‘Still Occupied – A View of Hull‘ and now appearing day by day on the web.

Housing in London was the subject of contention at several events I photographed in the middle of last June. The first Advance to Mayfair, was outside the London Real Estate Forum taking place in Berkeley Square.  I wrote quite extensively about it on My London Diary, so won’t repeat myself here.

Two days later I was back in Mayfair, with housing protesters outside the Municipal Journal Awards for Local Authorities, which were honoring some of those London councils, Southwark and Newham,  who have been at the forefront of London’s shameful housing scandals over the past few years – and continuing. That we were in Mayfair, London’s wealthiest area, again says much about the priorities behind redevelopment, more about enriching the wealthy than housing the poor.

Two days later again, the Axe the Housing Act March gathered on the edge of Mayfair to march to Parliament against an act that even enrages those same Labour councils for its full-frontal attack on social housing. Friction was bound to make itself known between them and the housing activists on the march and it did.

Later that day I went to cover the UCL Rent Strike Victory, an event which had been planned to further press the student’s demands as an Open Day Manifestation but the Complaints Panel decided that the residents of Campbell House West would be compensated in full for the final term last year – up to £1,368 per student.  The students were instead celebrating their victory (although the rent strike has started again more recently as rents are still too high for students.) I left too soon, as they decided to go on a victory march which gave other photographs some rather dramatic pictures as they celebrated with coloured flares.

But I was by then on my way to Crystal Palace in South London and the Central Hill Open Gardens Estates. Central Hill estate is at the southern edge of Lambeth – cross the main road and you are in the London Borough of Croydon. It’s a fairly spectacular development designed by Rosemary Stjernstedt working under Lambeth Council’s director of architecture, Ted Hollamby and built between 1966 and 1974 and described by the Twentieth Century Society as “one of London’s most exceptional and progressive post-war housing estates” – they were dismayed when their application for its listing was turned down by Historic England last year.  You can see my photographs of the estate earlier in the year at Central Hill Estate which give a good impression of the architecture and its general condition.

Local residents were surprised (and some enraged) to find that one of those attending the open day was local Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood Helen Hayes who had backed the decision by Lambeth Labour councillors to demolish the estate. When Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) confronted her about this she was unwilling or unable to answer his questions about this and stormed out, after making an emotional statement about the recent killing of Labour MP Jo Cox, a tactic which disgusted many of those listening.

ASH were showing alternative plans for a proper regeneration of the site at the open day, which have been dismissed without any real consideration by Lambeth, retaining the existing properties but increasing the site density by sensitive infill of some of the spaces. It would achieve the same housing results but at significantly lower cost and without displacement (and shamefully poor compensation) of existing tenants and leaseholders – but would not give the same profit to developers. The refusal to consider such schemes is a clear indication of the priorities of private profit which are driving schemes such as this by councils like Lambeth and neighbouring Southwark and their consultants including estate agents Savills.

Later, after her supporters had left, the more pleasant atmosphere of the afternoon – despite the treat hanging over the estate – returned, and I was sorry when I had to leave, though not before watching and photographing a Marxist puppet show by Andrew Cooper and comrades from the Revolutionary Communist Group lampooning the Lambeth councillors and Councillor Matthew Bennett, Cabinet Member for Housing in particular for their cooperation with estate agents Savills and developers over the planned development of the estate, a prime opportunity for private profit in South London with its extensive view over the city and good transport links.

Advance to Mayfair
Municipal Journal Awards
Axe the Housing Act March
UCL Rent Strike Victory
Central Hill Open Gardens Estates


Fuji X-Trans blues

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

I’ve been testing Fuji-X cameras for some years now, hoping that I would find a lighter alternative to my Nikons, but never quite feeling I could make the break.

It started with the X100. A lovely camera in many ways, but one that had me tearing out my hair when so many times I pressed the shutter release – and nothing happened. It was (and is) a camera with a habit of going into a deep sleep, and the fastest way to revive it is to switch off and start again. By which time the picture had often vanished. And then there was the battery life…

Had it been small enough to fit into a pocket I might have continued to use it, but it was too big to be a compact camera, and not really flexible enough for many uses. The X-Pro1 was bigger and heavier, but I quite liked it, at least with a limited range of fixed lenses. The optical viewfinder was fine, but the electronic one not great. And I still felt I was carrying a lot of camera and lenses for a fairly limited system. I still get it out and use it occasionally, but not often, and not for long.

The X-E2 was a little smaller and lighter – and let me use the zoom lenses with an almost OK electronic viewfinder. But autofocus was often too slow. But its a camera I still use occasionally when I want to carry two cameras.

The best of those I own is the XT1. A better viewfinder and faster focus – though it is a bit larger than the X-E2. But it has too many quirks. Last time I used it, although I’d set the camera to save RAW files, a number of them came out as jpegs, and with some lenses it adds around 35 magenta to the images, while other lenses give correct colour. And like the others, it eats up batteries.

By now I’ve a considerable investment in Fuji-X lenses, but largely use the Fuji system as a camera for when I’m not working. When things get serious, the Nikons come out again. The weight difference is still there, though the Nikon always seems to last a full day on  a single battery, whereas I carry a bag with 4 spares for the Fuji, and sometimes need them all.

I’m wondering now whether the XT20 will be the solution to most of the problems I have with Fuji, but perhaps it’s a false hope and I should cut my losses and sell off all the Fuji gear I have.

Fuj-X has a strong following on the web, often showing what seems to me missionary zeal. I’ve never felt that the Fuji Image quality was inherently better than that I get from Nikon, and if I do get equivalent quality, then its down to lenses. When quality and size matters the Nikon D750 and D810 are still ahead with their full-frame sensors.

Fuji makes great play of the advantages of their X-Trans sensors, but while this may have some advantages, it also has its problems. The study in PetaPixel, X-Trans vs Bayer Sensors: Fantastic Claims and How to Test Them debunks those claims and makes clear that the publicity about the X-Trans sensor is just that, publicity, and that the different filter pattern has no real advantages – and indeed slightly lets the cameras down. Though of course the the differences are small and insignificant for all normal purposes.

Fuji’s latest camera announcements are, as usual, tempting. Reviewers and Fuji evangelists are generally waxing lyrical over the X-T20 and also the X100F as well as the rather too large and considerably too expensive (for me) GFX. My son, still a loyal user of the original X100, is thinking about updating, but for the moment I’m keeping my hand in my pocket.

I still remember with some bitterness the Leica M8, given glowing write-ups by some of the world’s greatest photographers as well as reviews that made it seem a near perfect machine, the digital camera that all of us who had once been bitten by the Leica bug would die for. Enough to persuade me to invest the ridiculous amount that it cost, only to find it was virtually unusable, at least for colour – and needed a special filter on every lens. Of course, Leicas have improved since then, and with every new model people have said that they’ve got it right now. And the M10 does look tempting…

Back in the real world (a decent Leica outfit with a few new lenses would cost what I live on for a year) those new Fujis do look tempting, but I’ll wait and see how others get on with them before making a decision. Or perhaps get out that old Leica M2 and go back to using film. It’s still a fine machine, working smoothly despite being 60 years old last time I tried it out. Later models never quite matched the feel of using it, though they did add a few useful things. And photographers made and sold the only thing it really lacked, a rewind lever.

Hull Photos: 23/2/17-1/3/17

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Photos added together with the comments I post on them on Facebook. At a later date I intend to add these comments to the Hull Photos web site, Still Occupied – A view of Hull.

23 February 2017

The view across a wharf with sand and gravel to the buildings on the opposite bank of the River Hull.

The buildings visible in the background, on the opposite bank of the River Hull are, from left to right: the roof and chimneys of Wilberforce House behind trees in the garden; a large shed, now demolished, Lister Court, built as warehouses around 1880 and converted to flats in 1985 and Grade II listed in 1994; and lastly the Pease Warehouses, Grade II listed in 1952. Wilberforce house, the home of William Wilberforce and now a museum was built for the Lister family.

28k65: Wharf on east bank of River Hull, Tower St, 1981 – River Hull

24 February 2017

Much of Charles St was facing demolition as I took these pictures, some being cleared for the building of a kind of bypass road around the north of the city centre, the Freetown Way, named for Freetown, Sierra Leone, which Hull twinned with in 1980. Freetown is the largest city in Sierra Leone, rather larger than Hull, but like Hull is a port, though on the Atlantic rather than the Humber and with a fine natural harbour. The first settlers in Freetown were black Britons who had been born as slaves, and were emancipated and shipped out from London by the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor. There settlement didn’t last long, being burnt to the ground two years later by the local black ruler, who had probably not realised they intended to stay permanently. The city’s formal beginning came a few years later when it was settle by over a thousand former slaves from Nova Scotia.

All this happened a little before Wilberforce became involved in the fight against slavery in 1787, but it was his connection with Hull that, at the suggestion of former Hull University student and High Commissioner of Sierra Leone, Dr S T Matturi, the two towns became twinned. Which also explains why Freetown has a Kingston-upon-Hull Way.

People in Hull voted overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit, with over twice as many wanting to leave as to remain despite the fact that the city has benefited enormously from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund, which have supported pretty well every major development in the city since we joined Europe – including the Freetown Way. The vote came despite too (or perhaps because) Labour’s ‘In’ campaign being led by Hull MP Alan Johnson, and Hull’s two other MPs both supporting remain.

The picture shows bargains in Bedding and Jewellery (cheapest in Hull!) painted on the window of a shop with fine ironwork around its windows, and a row of shops opposite reflected in the glass; the only name across the street I can read clearly is that of Oswald T Hall, who was I think a family butcher.

28l12; Open and closed shops, Charles St, 1981 – City Centre

25 February 2017

I don’t know exactly where this yard with workshops and a wall with the peeling sign ‘PIONEER’ was, but I think it was near Charles St, and I am fairly sure it has now been demolished, though a few small workshops remain not far away from here. It could have been closer to Beverley Rd as I was probably wandering through back streets from Charles St towards Springbank to catch a bus.

28l16 Pioneer, workshop in yard, Charles St area, 1981 – City Centre

26 February 2017

These two doors, next to each other I think down Baker St or Union St, one with a Celtic cross and its neighbour with a permanent ‘Meeting in Progress’ struck me as a mystery. The meeting was apparently still going on undisturbed around ten years later when I walked past. For years I couldn’t decide what the name above the notice had been, though it was familiar. The letters ‘Soft’ remained, followed by the trace of an ‘e’ and another letter, perhaps a second ‘e’, and much later I recognised it as a part of the ‘Mister Softee’ ice-cream logo. This US franchise came to the UK in the 1960s and Massarella Supplies Ltd took a franchise in Doncaster through Lyons as Mr Softee UK. The door is numbered 2, with this crossed out by a rather fish-shaped daub of paint – or perhaps solidified ice-cream.

28l23: Softee meeting in progress, Baker St area, 1981 – City Centre

27 February 2017

The sign that greets travellers approaching Hull by rail while their train waits to go into Paragon Station. The sign was still visible the last time I remembered to look out of the window at the right moment, but most of the black paint has peeled off, leaving the remnants of the white lettering on red bricks, with just a few black flecks.

Trippetts were drapers and had stores in Bradford and Nottingham as well as a large block in Ferensway, Hull, and was “noted for value in Yorkshire since 1887” as a department store with a ‘cash only’ policy. They occupied an ugly 1930s block on the corner of North St which extended to Prospect St and the block was recently demolished. The store closed towards the end of the last century.

The store belonged to the Trippett family. I don’t know if it is simply a co-incidence that the area of Hull immediately to the north of the old town between the walls and the Charterhouse was the liberty of Trippett, which although owned by the corporation for several centuries was only incorporated into the parliamentary borough in 1837. There is still a short and rather empty Trippett Street there.

28l32: Trippetts for Gloves & Hosiery, Railway Houses, Londesborough Street 1981 – Springbank area

28th February 2017

On a street near Chanterlands, Newland or Princes Avenues and was a fairly common sight during the school holidays in many areas of Hull. This one was perhaps unusual in the amount on offer, including the small Coleus plants; most seemed to have just a few toys, outgrown and often rather played out. We stopped and took a good look at what they had for sale and this is one of 5 pictures while my wife (not in picture) talked to them and looked at the books and toys on offer. I think she bought a children’s colouring book.

28o11: Childrens sale on street, 1981 – Springbank

1st March 2017

I wasn’t actually driving the train. Some of the diesel units used for local services had the driver’s cab separated from passengers by glass giving a view out of the front of the train. The glass was often scratched and appeared never to have been cleaned since the unit left the factory many years previously, and once the driver got in the view was less clear. The glass in front of the driver wasn’t too clean either, though the train did have windscreen wipers. You can see a little of a rather cleaner area at the extreme right

Our two sons were keen on railways and we often sat behind the driver. We were on our way to Broomfleet, a station around 14 miles west of Hull by the Humber, where I think you had to tell the driver you wanted the train to stop, and hold out your hand as the train came to travel back to Hull. They didn’t sell many tickets to Broomfleet. It now gets six on seven trains each way every day Mon-Sat.

Broomfleet is where the disused Market Weighton Canal enters the Humber, opposite one of very few islands in the Humber, Whitton Island. In 1981 when we visited this was still just part of a sand bank, the Whitton Sands, but was promoted in status around 2002.

I chose this picture as the cover picture for my Hull web site. Though it would have been better if it were coming in to Paragon rather than preparing to leave, but then the driver’s back would have been obscuring my view.

28015: Waiting to leave Hull Paragon Station, 1981 – City Centre

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.

34 Women plus one

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Today on Facebook, curator Peggy Sue Amison shared a link that so impressed me that I stopped writing the post I was preparing for today to share it with you. It might have been better to keep it to share tomorrow, which is of course International Women’s Day, but I may be too busy covering International Women’s Strike (IWS) events here in London to have time to think about writing anything.

Women in Photography: 34 Voices From Around the World by Time’s Kira Pollack and Katherine Pomerantz came about because Pollack, one of the jurors of the this year’s World Press Photo was stunned to learn that only around 15% of the entries were by women – and that this figure has been around the same over the last 10 years.

As a result, “TIME reached out globally to the most acclaimed female photojournalists, curators and directors of photography in the industry, asking them to select one female photojournalist that they believe is worthy of recognition” and the results are impressive, truly as they write and I agree “an astonishing collection of brilliant work from around the world. For me, this list includes many photojournalists I have never known, was delighted to learn about and excited to get to know more.” Among the 34 there are only two or three whose names I recognise, and it is truly a list from around the world.

One of many other woman photographers whose work impresses me is Abbie Trayler-Smith, and I recently watched a video interview with her on Lensculture, The Big O: A Female Photographer on Approaching Obesity. In it she looks at the benefits of being female when it comes to making intimate work, stating “I love being a woman, and I love the access that gives me as a photographer…”

I mentioned Trayler-Smith a couple of years ago, appropriately in a post about World Press Photo, Man Up?

PDN’s 30 to watch

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Perhaps I’m getting old, but this year’s PDN 30 seem to have less to offer than in most previous years. Well, of course I’m getting old, but while there is a great deal of very competent photography by all of those in the list, there was little that made me really think I was seeing something new and different, and rather a lot that made me think I’d seen stuff like this before.

Those that interested me most on an admittedly quick run-through were Souvid Datta, Yuyang Liu, Yael Martinez and Xyza Bacani. Though if I take another like I expect I might find others.

You can of course look back at previous years PDN30 choices and decide for yourself if you think this year’s crop is a vintage one or not.  While being picked for the list is certainly a great honour and I’m sure has helped all of them in their careers there often seem to be relatively few who have really become well-known in photography.

There are of course different areas of photography, and many countries around the world. PDN relies on nominations for the list, and while not entirely from the US, the list of those who nominated this year is certainly dominated by those working for American magazines and organisations. As you would expect from Photo District News, which got its name from New York City’s photo district along lower Fifth Avenue; though it rapidly expanded to other American professional photographers and others in the business it’s base remains in New York.

More Road Deaths

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

We moved from being a horse-drawn economy to one dependent on motorised vehicles in a relatively short time, and it was a change that took place without a great deal of thinking about road safety. One of my grandfathers, whose main business had been building horse-drawn vehicles, died in the 1930s after his horse-drawn trap turned into the driveway of his house in front of an oncoming car, whose driver had seen him but said at the inquest he was unable to stop in time to prevent the collision. The pace of life had speeded up considerably but brakes and perceptions had not kept pace.

Almost 30 years later, as a sixth-former, I went on a visit to the Road Research Laboratory, established around the time of my grandfather’s death, then still at Harmondsworth (and later, as a teacher I went with students to Crowthorne.) There I saw a great deal of research taking place about improving junctions for cars and about the safety of drivers in collisions, but little or nothing about the safety of pedestrians. And I don’t think cyclists were ever even mentioned, except on the later occasion when they wanted them to all wear cycle helmets – doubtless a cheaper if not too effective prescription rather than making roads safer.

It’s a bias that still operates widely, particularly in some local authorities, but also in the calculations of cost-benefit of various transport schemes. Or rather road schemes, as planners seldom seem to think of walking or cycling as means of transport or of them having any financial value. There are a few signs of change – and even back in the 1930s we got cycle paths alongside some of the new dual carriageways, though most of these have become unusable for cyclists because of lack of maintenance and widespread use as parking areas.

More recently we’ve seen more cycle paths and shared paths between cyclists and pedestrians, though many of these are half-hearted and essentially unusable for anyone for whom a bicycle is a means of transport, riddled with ‘give way’ signs and injunctions to dismount and sometimes ending abruptly with no place to go. In part it has been poor implementation, but it has also been due to guidance (doubtless from the now privatised Transport Research Laboratory that still saw cyclists as second (or third) class road users.

It’s a perception still held by many motorists – like the driver, who aggrieved I had beaten him to a mini-roundabout by a yard or two, kept beeping his horn as he drove behind me for the next hundred yards or so as I rode a safe distance beside a row of parked cars, or others who have swerved past me shouting ‘Get off the road!’ often rather less politely. And by government transport minister Chris Grayling who recently knocked a cyclist off his bike by careless opening of a car door, and argued that cyclists didn’t count as road users. It’s an opinion that should have resulted in his resignation.

But some things are changing a little in London, with a few advances even under Boris as Mayor, with the introduction of a few ‘cycle superhighways‘ and some other local schemes. There has been a huge increase in cycling in London, particularly since the introduction of Ken Livingstone’s cycle-hire scheme (Ken’s Cycles doesn’t have the alliterative attraction of Boris Bikes.)

Cyclists and pedestrians are still getting killed on London’s roads, largely by drivers who fail to see them, either because of poor vehicle design or failure to make proper observations when turning left over them. The London Traffic Deaths Vigil took place a month after London got a new mayor, and it was a month in which 3 cyclists and 8 on foot were killed by drivers on the streets of London. The aim was to persuade Sadiq Khan to take the problem seriously and take the urgent action needed to protect people on London’s streets. Unfortunately there seems to be little sign he is so far doing so.

These deaths are not accidents. As I write in My London Diary:

It’s wrong to think of these deaths as accidents; they happen because road users make mistakes, often made harder to avoid because of poor vehicle or road design. Many of them result from a lack of proper facilities for pedestrians and cyclists in a road system which prioritises getting motorised vehicles from A to B as fast as possible rather than safety. Some are caused by the failure of police to enforce road traffic law – for example on advanced stop lines at traffic lights. 

 London Traffic Deaths Vigil