Posts Tagged ‘Instagram’

Sharp Pictures

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Jack Sharp, (1928-1992), born in Bedfordshire became an engineer and moved in 1955 to take up a job at CERN , the European Organization for Nuclear Research which had been founded the previous year and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. CERN is now best known for investing the World Wide Web and as the home of the Large Hadron Collider, but this large scientific community also – at least then – had an amateur photographic club, which Sharp joined and which stimulated an interest in photography that lasted at least until 1970 when, for reasons unknown, he apparently stopped taking pictures.

In a self-portrait he looks a typical scientist of the time, with carefully brushed hair and bow tie, looking into the eyepiece of his tripod-mounted Asahi Pentax SLR camera, his other eye closed as he presses the short cable release. Sharp was obviously a man who took his photography very seriously – as you might expect from his scientific training – with details of each frame taken noted on index sheets.

Of course records such as this were common practice at the time, with photographic magazines and books publishing shutter speeds and aperture in the photo captions. There were special photographer’s Notebooks sold, and filing sheets to hold film negatives in binders often came together with paper sheets to record the details. Photography at this time was largely taught as a science rather than an expressive practice. At the end of Bill Brandt’s ‘Camera in London‘ (1948) is a section of technical data, listing his cameras, lenses and films and with a fold-out table listing each picture in the book with ‘Subject’, ‘Camera’, film speed, ‘Stop’, ‘Exposure’ (time), year and lighting conditions.

Even when I began to get pictures published you would often be asked for such details, though by the 1970s I think most of us simply looked at the picture and made them up. But when I started I carried little cards on which to record exposures even if I seldom used them.

I first read his story in a PetaPixel post, Man Inherits Treasure Trove of Unseen Street Photos From His Grandfather, which tells the story of how Sharp’s grandson, Dylan Scalet, a marketing professional who came to England 8 years ago to take a university photography course had time on his hands because of COVID-19 and started to look at and digitise some of his grandfather’s collection and found some truly interesting images.

You can see these images larger on the web site set up by Scalet, who is also publishing a new image each day on Instagram. Scalet estimates he has inherited over 5,000 of his grandfather’s images and has bought an Epson V850 flatbed to scan them. It isn’t a bad scanner for scanning film, though more suitable for larger formats than the 35mm used by Sharp. But I’ve made several books for friends scanned using this or a similar Epson model and used it to scan some of my own work.

Though much faster than a dedicated film scanner, using the Epson is considerably slower than photographing negatives using a macro lens and digital camera – and can’t match either the resolution or quality. But it is simpler and more or less foolproof and comes with reasonable software.

Sharp’s work – or what I’ve seen so far of it – is often interesting and certainly technically very competent as you would expect. It isn’t work that is going to change our view of the history of photography, fitting well into the general run of photography in the times that he worked and at least sometimes a delight to look at. But it does certainly bear out my often voiced opinion that the photography we know and admire is just the tip of a very large iceberg.


Community Guidelines

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Around ten days ago for the first time I got a notification from Facebook that one of my pictures had been reported as being against ‘community standards’ and had been taken off-line.

It was a picture in an album of pictures from the June 2018 ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ protest in London, I think this image.

Certainly one of the pictures from when the protesters were gathering in Trafalgar Square before marching down to a rally in Whitehall. This picture was taken from the North Terrace overlooking the square, after which I walked down and took a few more from the edge of the crowd, as well as a few closer pictures.

You can see more of my coverage of the event at Free Tommy Robinson on My London Diary. After the pictures in Trafalgar Square I photographed the protesters as they walked down Whitehall towards the stage for the rally, and was in the crowd close to Downing St when I was attacked by two men who tried to pull my camera out of my hands.

I struggled, pulling away and twisting and moving away through the dense crowd and they followed, one continuing to grab my camera and pull it away, and the other grabbing my other camera which was on a strap at my right side, and at my camera bag on my left shoulder. Fortunately the straps held and though the bag was pulled off my shoulder I had my arm through the strap and was able to drag it behind me along the ground, moving closer to the police at Downing St and the march stewards.

I think a few of the other protesters in the crowd were also telling the pair of thugs to stop, though none actually came to my help. But when they saw the police looking at them they let go of me and my cameras and rushed away. I was shaken but not injured, and the cameras were OK, and managed to take a few more pictures before I decided I really needed to move somewhere safer and recover.

I suspect that what had triggered the complaint to Facebook about the picture – I think the first of the set – was nothing in the picture, but that in the captions I had written about this attack on me. I’ve always tried to report accurately on protests, including those by right-wing groups, both in text and pictures, and this is anathema to many on the right. Some of whom are thugs on-line too.

Of course I requested a review of the removal – as the notification from Facebook had told me I could, and only 70 minutes later got a message thanking me for asking for review and informing me they had decided the image did not breach community standards and was back on line. Good to see the review system can work – but surely the system should look at complaints and see if there is any basis for them before taking action.

I mention this because I’ve just read a post by Jörg M Colberg on his Conscientious blog, Your Post Goes Against Our Community Guidelines: An Algorithmic Rewriting of History about the rather more serious censorship of his and other posts on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Like me he contested the removal of a picture he posted – one from the Abu Ghraib archives – and his post was also restored. In the post he points out the problems and dangers of internet censorship:

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a government that’s censoring photographs or the algorithms of a US corporation — censorship is censorship, and these kinds of developments do not bode well for us.

and gives a number of pertinent links, including one to his own earlier post Your Post Has Been Deleted – Censorship on Instagram which is also well worth reading.

I think there should be some control over content on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, to remove clearly illegal content. Things like hate speech, terrorist propaganda, threats of violence etc. It’s perhaps difficult to see how this could be applied in content that is shown in many different legislations, but that is a problem for those who profit from these platforms to resolve, and might involve serious changes in the services and their profitablity. But because it’s difficult doesn’t absolve them from their responsibilities, though it may demand different models.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.