Posts Tagged ‘BJP’

The Future of the Photographic Magazine

Thursday, February 10th, 2022

I seldom these days think or write much about contemporary photography or the future of photography, though it was something that was a part of my remit as a working journalist for some years a while back. Nowadays I seem to be too busy with my own work – both current and past – to think or write much about anything else.

But I’ve recently been intrigued by a Twitter thread by John Macpherson, better known as duckrabbit, a photographer and author of one of the few photography blogs I read regularly and admire greatly for the principled stance he has taken in recent controversies over Magnum and Child Abuse and other issues.

I have to admit I don’t actually take any real part in Twitter, never having found out how to sort the wheat from the incredible volume of chaff. I post (when I remember) tweets linking to pictures from current protests and events which I’ve posted in Facebook albums, but that’s about all. So the link to duckrabbit’s thread came to me by a ‘Your Highlights‘ e-mail from Twitter.

The thread is difficult to follow, but it seems that the British Journal of Photography has been sold or is in process of being sold and its Twitter account with 250,000 followers has been asset stripped from the company.

The sale appears to be to a company engaged in the promotion of NFTs, and BJP appears to be morphing into ART3A brand new platform bringing the best lens-based art to the metaverse” offering these as rather intangible Non-fungible tokens for sale through an outlet, OpenSea.

Having read and tried to understand what an NFT is, I still have no idea why anyone would want to own one. Certainly it is something far more to do with the art market than with photography. It’s worth reading the thoughts of Jack Lowe on them in his ‘Are Aspiring Photographers Being Used to Prop Up the Grave New World of NFTs?’

Magazines have played an important role throughout the history of photograph up until now. The BJP can trace its ancestry back to the 1854 Liverpool Photographic Journal, though it only became the BJP in 1860, but it wasn’t the UK’s first as the Journal of the Photographic Society (now the RPS Journal) has been publishing continuously since 1853.

Probably the most influential of all was Camera Work, published by Alfred Stieglitz from 1903-1917, which set new standards for photographic publishing and helped bring photography into the galleries and museums. Established firmly in the era of pictorial photography and promoting Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession, its two final issues launched the new Modernist photography of Paul Strand which was to become dominant in the following decades. The US-based Aperture magazine later became the most prestigious of all photographic magazines, though its book publishing is arguably even more important.

Here in the UK, several magazines have been important in our photographic history, including the illustrated magazines around the Second World War, notably Picture Post, which although based on photographs were not aimed at a photographic audience but a mass one. More narrowly when I came into photography at the start of the 1970s, Creative Camera was the Bible for many young photographers, introducing us to a new way of seeing, particularly from American photographers.

There were other influential British magazines too, including Camerawork, obviously named from the earlier US publication but with a very different approach, and many others, but for many years BJP remained at the centre of British Photography.

Part of BJP’s appeal was that it covered all areas of photography except amateur photography, being a trade journal, publishing exhibition listings and reviews, news items about new equipment, materials and services etc. Its reviews of cameras were always by professionals who actually used them rather than re-hashing the spec sheets and PR releases and while not greatly embellished by detailed charts or test results gave a very practical view. Many of the articles commissioned, particularly under the editorship of Geoffrey Crawley (1967-87) were by leading experts in their respective fields, and his example was largely followed by Chris Dickie and Reuel Golden.

For many of us working in photography it was essential reading to keep in touch with photography in the UK every week (from 1864 to 2010.) Like most other magazines mentioned above it then underwent a dramatic change, becoming a very different publication, appearing monthly and largely devoted to portfolios of images from the fine art fringe of photography. I didn’t bother to renew my subscription as I already had subs to several other magazines which did similar things but usually better.

In 2016, the BJP turned to equity crowdfundingto monetise our global digital audience, expand on our competitions and events, and sell access to our unique 160+ year archive.” Many of its subscribers responded and became shareholders in a company that was set up so as to retain control in the hands of its major shareholder. The company was asking for more investments as recently as June 2021, but the latest confidential e-mail tells them that for a total of £1.8 million invested they will only get £50,000 back – which if my calculation is correct is less than 3p for every £1 invested.

Finally, an article by photographer, educator and photographic author Grant Scott on his United Nations of Photography web site written in 2020 is titled IS THERE A FUTURE FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE? His answer after a lengthy look at how photography magazines have worked and his own experience is “Sadly, I don’t think so.” And his final two sentences:
You may agree with me or you may not, but whatever your opinion please answer just one question. When was the last time you bought a photography magazine?”


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A Small Landmark, Iran and Caste Discrimination

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

A Small Landmark, Iran and Caste Discrimination
Three of the protests I photographed four years ago on Saturday 20th January 2018.

US Embassy first protest – No to Trump’s racism

The US decision to move their embassy out of Grosvenor Square in central London to the rather more obscure area of Nine Elms was at least in part thought to be their hope that it would attract fewer protests and that these would be given less media coverage.

So I was very pleased to photograph what was I think the first protest at the new site, on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. It was prompted by his racist description of African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as ‘shitholes’.

His use of this word provoked offence and outrage around the world, and was a new and more offensive aspect of the racist attacks on black communities, migrants, refugees and the Muslim community.

Through Trump’s campaign and first year of office he has kept up his racist demands for a wall to be built along the Mexican border to keep out migrants (and demanding that Mexico pay for it.) Stand Up to Racism called for a wave of protests across the country on the anniversary to ‘knock down the racist wall’. They built a wall in front of the new US embassy which opened for business earlier in the week and at the end of the protest they knocked this wall down.

Trump had earlier announced that he had cancelled his visit planned for the following month to open the embassy – which would have attracted massive protests. And as I commented, ” Few doubt that it was this that caused him to cancel his visit, though Trump tweeted that it was a lousy building in the wrong place – and with his usual accuracy blamed Obama for a decision that had been taken by Bush.”

Architecturally I think Trump perhaps had a point. Basically the building is a cube with a few plastic bits hanging on three sides, perhaps its main redeeming feature its moat, though being only along one side this is not particularly functional. Though the mediocrity of the luxury flats around it which will doubtless largely be overseas investments rather than homes does make it stand out. The Grosvenor Square building by leading modernist architect Eero Saarinen was London’s first purpose-built embassy when opened in 1960 and attracted almost universal criticism when built, but was considerably worsened by the 2008 security additions, now being removed as it is turned into a luxury hotel.

Break UK silence over Iran uprising

The anti-government protests which took place in Iran in December 2017 were the biggest since the crushing of the 2009 Green Movement by security forces. Protesters opposite Downing St called on Prime Minister Theresa May to break her silence and call for the immediate release of the thousands arrested and under threat of the death penalty.

Unfortunately Britain has little or no influence on the Iranian government and has for years slavishly followed the US lead in relations with the country. Our relations with the country since oil was first discovered (and exploited by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, 51% owned by the British Government which much later became BP) have often been doubtful both before and after the 1979 revolution, which arguably came about largely as a consequence of US/UK policies.

The protest was organised and largely attended by members of the PMOI/MEK, an organisation which began in 1965 in opposition to the US-supported Shah and formed an armed militia. After the revolution it refused to take part in the constitutional referendum and in 1981 it was banned. The MEK sided with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88) and many MEK members were arrested, tortured and executed in the 1980s culminating in mass executions in 1988, when around 30,000 people were killed. MEK camps were bombed by the US during the invasion of Iraq and they were forced to surrender and disarmed, confined to a camp in Iraq. It was MEK provided information – some deliberately false – about the Iranian nuclear weapons programme – apparently given to them by Israel – that led to sanctions against Iran.

Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence

The Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB organised a march from Parliament Square to the Indian High Commission which was supported by various Ravidass groups, Amberdkarite and Buddhist organisations, the South Asian Solidarity Group and others following attacks in India on the Dalit community by Hindu fundamentalists and the continuing illegal caste-based discrimination there.

Dalits celebrated the 200th anniversary of a historic victory by Dalit soldiers fighting for the East India Company in the Battle of Koregaon on January 1st 2018. The victory has been celebrated since 1927 when celebrations at the memorial pillar erected by the British were inaugurated by Dr Ambedkar, the principle architect of the Indian Constitution, which made caste discrimination illegal in India. This year’s celebration was attacked by Hindu fundamentalists with many injured and one boy killed and the unrest and attacks spread to Mumbai.

Caste-based attacks on Dalits have increased greatly since the election of the Hindu nationalist BJP party under Narendra Modi, whose central vision along with the linked violent Hindu Nationalist RSS movement is for Dalits to remain at the bottom of Indian society. Lobbying mainly by wealthy Hindus in the UK led the UK government to abandon a 2013 promise to include caste as an aspect of race under the Equality Act 2010.

I also photographed a protest similar to that described in yesterday’s post about 19th January 2019 by Bolivians against Evo Morales being allowed to run for a fourth term as President.

More on all these in My London Diary:
US Embassy – No to Trump’s racism
Break UK silence over Iran uprising
Indians protest Hindu caste-based violence
Bolivians protest for Liberty & Democracy


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Lockdown, Legend and Value

Monday, July 20th, 2020

I have to admit that during the lockdown I have become very much centred around my own work and interests. Not feeling able to get out an meet other people and not being able to travel to my favourite areas have cut me off not just physically but also mentally from much of my outside involvements.

Because of my age and medical condition I don’t yet feel able to re-engage with the world in anything like the old ways, though I have made three short trips on public transport and visited when necessary several shops, of course suitably masked. And I am still in daily contact with many friends on Facebook as well as rather fewer through phone calls and online events,

But I still feel very withdrawn from many areas, and in particular from the world of photography. With very few exceptions I just can’t get interested in the various lockdown projects and online magazines and shows that have sprung onto the web. This morning I realised that it’s almost three weeks since I last went through the long list of web sites and blogs, many photographic, that I usually skim through every few days for items of interest or controversy and that in the past have often led me to express my thoughts on this blog.

It took quite a while to skim through hundreds if not thousands of articles and posts, though for most a quick glimpse or even the headline was enough for me to move on. There were just a few that interested me enough to stop and read more, and just a few to the very end. Military historian Charles Herrick in a 3 part post on A D Coleman’s Photocritic International comprehensively demolishes another of the confabulations about D-Day photographs, the legend of the duffel bag full of film from the beaches being dropped and lost at sea during transfer to a ship. As usual there are also other posts on the site of interest.

Joerg Colberg too almost always has something worth reading, and in normal times I would probably have wanted to add my pennyworth to his piece The Print, the book, the screen. I can’t bring my mind to it, but here is one sentence which might encourage you to read and think about it and the value of any photograph:

“In the world of photography, the value is almost entirely based on commerce and on a generally unspoken and widely shared sense of elitism.”

As someone who has never been a part of that elite I can only agree, though I think there are other communities outside that of commercial art dealers and the associated museums of the art photography world that value photographs. But as Colberg makes clear, he is focusing on art photography ‘When you see the word “photography”, you will always want to add “art” in front of it.’

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that there were so many of the other photographs and articles I looked at briefly and felt entirely superfluous; ephemeral, inconsequential and with little to say.

But one particular feature from the British Journal of Photography, published around a week ago did attract me, Marigold Warner‘s article ‘Hackney in the 80s: Recovering a forgotten archive of working-class life’ about the 2016 rediscover in the basement of the Rio Cinema in Dalston, established as a community non-profit arts centre in 1979, which in 1982 set up a radical photography project for local unemployed people, teaching them to use a camera and sending them out to photograph the local communities. Their pictures were put together as newsreels and screened as a part of the cinema programmes, before the commercial ads.

Unfortunately the Kickstarter fund-raising for the production of a book of these pictures finished on the same day as the BJP published the story, but by then over £32,000 had been donated to finance it and it will appear in November – you can pre-order ‘The Rio Cinema Archive‘ now from Isola Press for £25.

It seems good value; in my scale of things, the value of these pictures is rather greater than at least most of what sells for high prices in expensive galleries.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Shot in Soho

Thursday, October 31st, 2019

It’s a while since I’ve been to the Photographers’ Gallery, which once used to be a regular place to call. I was a member for many years, probably more than 30, and used to attend most of the openings there, as well as dropping in occasionally when I was in town, perhaps to have a coffee, lock and the pictures and browse in the bookshop, as well as attend some of the lectures and workshops that took place there.

Back in the old days the gallery had an extensive library, mostly I think donated by photographers and run by volunteers, and it was a good place to visit and study books that were no longer available or too expensive to buy.

Back in the 1980s I was a member of a photographers group that had regular meetings there mainly looking at work that others had brought in, and some well-known photographers would drop in and show a portfolio and comment on our work. It was a part of the gallery’s education programme that that was needed for their charity status, but one that their education officer found hard to handle, and was very pleased to be able to drop in 1987.

I also worked at one time with a group set up to produce educational material there, getting some time release from the college where I was working. I’m not sure that we ever produced any material but it was interesting and fun to do.

There was a different atmosphere to the place in the old days. I used to go to the bookshop or café not just to look at books and drink coffee but for intelligent conversation about photography both with staff and other users. This just doesn’t seem to happen any more.

In those days the gallery was in Great Newport St, just a short walk from where I often find myself with some spare time in Trafalgar Square. Nowadays I tend to go into the National Gallery or the National Portrait Gallery instead. Since 2009 The Photographers’ Gallery is now a little further to go in Ramillies St, but mostly I gave up going because so many shows there held little interest for me.

I continued being a member for some years, even though I only went very occasionally until one year the cost of membership increased significantly for me and others of advanced years when they removed concessionary membership rates. Of course I could have afforded it, though I’m not rich, but the jump in cost made me think whether it was worth it.

What got me thinking about this was an on-line post on the British Journal of Photography web site. Again I was a BJP subscriber for many years, when it was a weekly trade journal and as well as publishing some well-written reviews of equipment and exhibitions had a useful listing of exhibitions. Then the BJP was an essential guide to what was happening in photography in the UK, but at some point it morphed into a monthly doing what other photo magazines already did, often better, and sometimes mainly featuring work which was of little interest to me. There seemed little point in continuing my subscription.

Of course it does still publish some interesting articles on good work, and the article I read on the web site by Marigold Warner, Anders Peterson on Soho, Cafe Lehmitz, and intention is a fine example. 18 images by Peterson are in the show ‘ Shot in Soho‘, along with work by William Klein and several others at the Photographers Gallery, London until 09 February 2019 (more pictures, some rather boring on the press release) and I will be finding time to go along and see the show, probably after 17.00 when entry is free. Usually the gallery closes at 18.00 but stays open until 20.00 on Thursdays.