Posts Tagged ‘photographers’

Japanese hand colour

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Although I knew something about the history of Japan and of photography in the country in the nineteenth century, and had written a little about it and in particular the work of European photographers such as Felice Beato, the video in ‘How colorized photos helped introduce Japan to the world‘ from VOX which was featureed on Digital Photography Review with a useful introduction showed me much that I hadn’t previously known. It was particularly interesting to see the comparisons between some of the photographs and Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings.

The introduction of photography led to redundancies among Ukiyo-e artists (as it did to miniature painters in Europe) and some found new employment using their skills in photographic studios hand colouring prints in a much more subtle manner than in other countries. Soon some of them were becoming photographers too and setting up their own studios. I haven’t read Photography in Japan 1853-1912 by Terry Bennett which the video credits, but it looks an interesting volume.

Japanese art was in the same period being taken back to the west and had a strong influence on many western artists, and I think largely through them on photography around the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the 20th century which can clearly be seen for example in some of the work exhibited by members of the Photo-Secession some of the best of whose work was published by Alfred Stieglitz in his fine magazine Camera Work.

Recent years have seen a new interest in hand-colouring of old pictures, now made much easier by digital means. It’s something that while it may add some life and a greater sense of reality to old photographs I find rather upsetting when applied to many well-known images. As a photographer I feel that there is a disrespect in changing what was a carefully considered black and white image into one in colour and I imagine the photographers turning in their graves at how their work is being done to their pictures.

It also bothers me because the digital recolouring is creating a false reality – as hand colouring could also do. For a long time we had on a mantelpiece a hand coloured picture of my wife sitting in a Manchester park wearing a red jumper; it had been hand-coloured and although the grass had been coloured in a fair approximation to its actual colour, her green jumper was not. It’s a trivial example, but what the colouring produces is false colour and fake reality. For most subjects it probably isn’t a great problem but it seems to me to undermine one of the fundamental aspects of photography, the physical link between subject and depiction. The camera with our help lies but it doesn’t invent.


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


Bill of Rights

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

If you’ve not yet seen it, you might like to look at the ‘Photo Bill of Rights‘ which has been written by people from a number of US based groups involved in visual journalism and editorial media, “the Authority Collective, Color Positive, Diversify Photo, The Everyday Projects, Juntos, the National Press Photographers Association, Natives Photograph, & Women Photograph.

There is little in it that I have any problem with, and much that has long been policy among groups such as the NPPA who contributed to it and have long had a code of ethics, or my own union, the NUJ.

It’s perhaps useful to restate the principles, but only if action follows, and although there are some well-known and well-regarded photographic organisations who have added their support to the over two thousand individual signatories I cannot find a single organisation that I or other photographers I know have actually worked for. And it is largely these organisations and the editors and buyers they employ who are responsible for unfair and discriminatory practices that still exist in the industry despite many years of work by photographers and photographers’ organisations.

It’s interesting to read the response to the NPPA by self-confessed “aging white male” photojournalist and long-term NPPA member David Burnett, who vehemently takes issue with the suggestion ‘that I, and the photojournalists of my generation, both women and men, set out to “colonize, disenfranchise, and dehumanize” either our photographic subjects, or other photographers, especially newcomers‘ and points out the the NPPA has through “virtually its entire existence” had in its Code of Ethics substantially similar underlying principles.

Burnett, a highly respected photographer and one of the co-founders of Contact Press Images, also points to the remarkable Trailblazers of Light web site which set out to put the record straight about the many hundreds of “professional women working in photojournalism for decades, both as editors and photographers“, created as a response to a not dissimilar ahistorical claim to this latest initiative.

He is “dismayed by the attitude of those who created this BoR, since it does little to honestly address many of the hiring inequities, and seems filled with triggering language which focuses instead on people in the field who have been working for decades. We do not, unfortunately, hire ourselves. As freelancers, we rely on editors and researchers, most of whom work for large companies (or the shell of those companies) and over which our power of persuasion is, more often than we’d like to admit, rather limited.”


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


Belgicum

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Can you name a Belgian photographer?

It’s probably a question most would struggle with, though there are quite a few. Dirk Braeckman, Martine Franck, Harry Gruyaert, François Hers, Tomas van Houtryve, Léonard Misonne, are among those who have Wikipedia pages that I’ve heard of – and Agnès Varda though I only know her as a film-maker (who can forget ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’ and more.)

I’m not entirely sure why, according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Belgium is the rudest word in the Universe, as well as being by some strange coincidence, also the name of a country on Earth.  I’ve only visited it briefly and found it a slightly odd experience, but that may just have been the beer (and there is chocolate too), surprisingly well-ordered for a country with two language groups who at times seem hardly to speak to each other.

But one outstanding omission from Wikipedia’s list is that of Stephan Vanfleteren, born in 1969 and recognised as one of Belgium’s most celebrated photographers whose rather surreal view of his country and its people was published in 2007 in the book Belgicum (the Latin name of the country), “A melancholic trip to a country that for the most part no longer exists.”

I was reminded of this work yesterday by an e-mail from 28 Vignon St, a new curated online art platform, named for the Paris address of the first gallery opened in 1907 by the famous art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884 – 1979) who was one of the early supporters of Picasso, Braque and other modern artists. They have an online show of his work, with a link to a video from FOMU (Fotomuseum Antwerp) where Vanfleteren’s current show ‘Present‘ is now also only virtual. You can watch a series of three videos beginning here on Vimeo where they have English subtitles.

I was given another reminder of Vanfleteren’s work this morning when my day started unexpectedly with digging a small grave in the garden. On his web site you can view his series Nature Morte, (Still Life to Anglophones) with the bodies of dead animals tastefully posed. The body of a fox we found at the bottom of our garden was rather messier, killed in a fight probably with another fox, its stomach opened and flesh and fur missing, not a pretty sight. I didn’t feel like photographing it.


Magnum Turning Points

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Lensculture’s selection of images from Magnum Photos, each with a personal story is an interesting collection, though I have to say that there are a few I find distinctly unimpressive among them. Even photographers good enough to have their work distributed by Magnum don’t always take great images.

I’m sorry (not really) that I’ve posted this link too late for you to take advantage of Magnum’s Square Print Sale, which offered these and others as “archival-quality prints, signed by the photographers or estate-stamped by the estates, are available for just $100.” You can see them much better on screen, and in most cases rather better in books than in the small prints on offer, more or less postcards. You pay for the signature or stamp. There are better ways to support photography and spend your money.

There are some truly great images among those featured here – and Magnum photographers have certainly taken many more. It’s worth also reading what the photographers have written, sometimes more interesting than the pictures.

And after reading these, do spend some time looking at the Lensculture site, always packed with interesting photography.


A bargain for Bergamo

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

News today in a Facebook post from George Georgiou who is one of the many photographers taking part in a splendid initiative to help the Giovanni Paolo XIII hospital in Bergamo, the city most affected by the coronavirus in Italy, which has been inundated with patients.

The prints, on 30x20cm paper, large enough to hang and frame on your wall, are a great bargain at €100 each, and include work by some really great photographers. As well as those George mentions I noticed pictures by Susan Meiselas, Stanley Greene, Michael Ackerman, Christopher Morris and Ami Vitale as well as a number of other intriguing works by photographers less familiar to me. This appeal began with a hundred Italian photographers, but roughly double that have now joined. The big problem is deciding which to buy. Even if, as George is doing, you buy several.

Here is his post from Facebook:

Vanessa Winship and I, alongside a number of other photographers, including, Alec Soth, Mark Steinmetz, Paolo Pellegrin, Claudine Doury, Paolo Ventura have donated prints in international solidarity with Bergamo, the city most affected in Italy. The campaign was started with 100 Italian photographers, in 5 days they have collected €350,000, they have now added 50 international photographers to the list. All the money apart from printing costs will go towards providing new resuscitation and intensive care units at the Giovanni Paolo XIII hospital, which has been inundated with patients. All prints are at €100, there are at least 3 or 4 that we will buy.

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Please think about donating to this cause if you can afford it – and you will also get a fine print for each €100 donation. The prints, unsigned and on Canson Baryta Prestige paper, will be made and posted as soon as the LINKE lab in Milan, one of the finest in Italy which is making them is able to resume normal work. The lab will take only the production and delivery cost of €11.50 from your €100 donation which can be made by Paypal or credit card – the rest will go to the hospital.

Swansong

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Another blog ends, along with that of Lens I wrote about yesterday.

I was very sorry to read that David Secombe has written his last post for ‘The London Column‘, a blog I’ve occasionally read over the years and which has featured the work of several people I know, mainly photographers. It’s “Pictorial reports from the life of a city 1951 to now” began in 2011 and they make some interesting reading, featuring “contributions from some of the best writers and photographers from the past sixty years“.

Swansong, published a couple of weeks ago, but which I only came across yesterday, takes a look at the work of Marketa Luskacova, with her pictures from Spitalfields in the late 1970s and early 80s along with her earlier pictures of middle-European pilgrims and the villagers of Sumiac, a remote Czech hill village, both of which featured in her show which closed last Sunday at Tate Britain.

It’s a show I mentioned on >Re:PHOTO in February, though really only in passing, in a piece mainly about the anti-Brexit SODEM protesters. In it I wrote:

‘Finally arriving at Tate Britain I had to find the show, which wasn’t easy – the gallery does really need to look at its signage. Finally I asked one of the gallery staff who didn’t really know but gave me a map and pointed in roughly the right direction. The show does continue until May 12th 2019, so if you start now there is some chance of finding it by then.’

This was echoed at the start of Secombe’ post:

‘Anyone staggering out of the harrowing Don McCullin show currently entering its final week at Tate Britain might easily overlook another photographic retrospective currently on display in the same venue. This other exhibit is so under-advertised that even a Tate steward standing ten metres from its entrance was unaware of it.’

But Secombe goes on to write at some length about Luskacova’s work, around eight well-chosen examples, concluding with the statement “It seems appropriate to close The London Column with Marketa’s magical, timeless images.”

So far as I can recall, I’ve never met Secombe, though we share many interests and his ‘Blogroll’ is largely of web sites which I visit at least occasionally and I’m sure we must have at least occasionally found ourselves at some of the same places at the same time. I do hope that he keeps the site online, as there is much on it that remains of interest.

Keeping up a blog like ‘The London Column’ takes a lot of time and effort – as does this one, and even more so, My London Diary (a blog in spirit though all my own website code, started back when blogs were in their infancy) I’ve often thought about bringing both to an end, but while this still gets a few thousands of readers everyday it seems as useful a way of spending my time.