Posts Tagged ‘photographs’

London 1980 (6)

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

The sixth set of black and white pictures I took in London in 1980 together with the stories about them first published on Facebook.

Disused Wharf and gas holder, North Greenwich, Greenwich. 1980
24j-23: wharf, derelict,

Looking from the inside of the derelict shed you can see the two gas holders through the windows.

Machinery, Enderby’s Wharf, North Greenwich, Greenwich. 1980
24j-25: wharf, machinery

Enderby’s Wharf was where the cables that provided worldwide communication long before the age of radio and the satellites were made. The Telegraph Cable Works was established here in 1854 by Glass Elliott and William Henley, though Henley moved to North Woolwich. The company later merged with Siemens and were taken over by Submarine Telephones and Cables Ltd in 1979, later becoming part of Nortel and then Alcatel. The first transatlantic cables were made here and laid in the mid 1860s by the SS Great Eastern. Manufacture of cables here ceased shortly before I took this picture. There is a short length of cable by the riverside path and this piece of cable loading gear is still by the riverside.

Enderby House was built in 1830 for a member of the Enderby family, who were coopers in London and later moved into shipping and set up a patent rope, twine and canvas factory here, beofre losing their fortunes in the Antartic whaling industry. Grade II listed, it was deliberately allowed to deteriorate. As a condition of planning permission the developer were required to restore it to a decent condition and it is now incorporated into a larger building, though not I think as it originally was.

Disused Wharf, North Greenwich, Greenwich. 1980
24j-34: wharf, derelict, graffiti,

Another picture inside the derelict shed at Bay Wharf. Among the scrawlings on the wall was a rather better than averagely drawn chalked reclining nude, apparently signed by the artist, ‘John 25.5.80’, almost certainly the day before I took this picture on the Spring Bank Holiday, which that year was on May 26th. The view also shows some details of the building and its vaulted roof.

Sand and gravel wharf, North Greenwich, Greenwich. 1980
24j-41: wharf, sand, gravel,

Sand and Gravel at Granite Wharf. The site is now occupied by new and expensive flats. The whole area, including Greenwich Wharf, Lovells Wharf, Granite Wharf, Providence Wharf, Badcock’s Wharf, Pipers wharf and Cadet (or Paddock) Place is now known as Greenwich Wharf.

Sand and gravel wharf, North Greenwich, Greenwich. 1980
24j-42: wharf, sand, gravel,

More sand, aggregate and gravel at Granite Wharf, which remained in use by Tarmac until mid-2001. It was first let by Morden College to Victorian road builder John Mowlem in the 1840s.

Riverside path, River Thames & Sand and gravel wharf, North Greenwich, Greenwich. 1980
24j-43: wharf, sand, gravel, footpath, river

I think the massive concrete blocks were bases for cranes at the wharf. The inlet here where Cadet Place left the riverside path was known locally as Dead Dog Bay, Mary Mills suggests possibly because animals which escaped the Foreign Cattle Market at Deptford and were drowned washed up here.

THe whole area is no covered by recently built flats, The River Gardens, where a 2-bed flat will cost you a little over £600,000, and Cadet Place no longer exists. A walkway, River Gardens Walk, with steps up from Banning St opposite Derwent St occupies roughly the same position.

Pier, River Thames and view of Millwall, North Greenwich, Greenwich. 1980
24j-44: children, pier, river,

One of several piers on the riverside path, this may be at Primrose Wharf, but if so had been considerably modified since I took this picture. I don’t think the pier was officially open to the public at the time I made this picture.

Primrose Pier belonged to Amylum and was later opened by them to the public but in 1998 it was resurfaced and part-rebuilt by the Groundwork team, with reed beds being added on either side and disabled access provided.

More to follow…

My pictures on Flickr

Friday, December 27th, 2019

In typically perverse fashion I’ve decided to put an increasing amount of my work on Flickr just as it seems the platform is possibly going downhill fast, with a begging letter from the CEO which also includes a 25% off offer for the ‘Pro’ subscription to those with free Flikr accounts .

I’ve had a free Flickr account for a long time, simply because I needed one to subscribe to another, now defunct organisation. I put a fairly small number of pictures on it, I think around 75, and then forgot about it.

What made me think about it again was simply the fact that my web space is filling up and near its limit, not in terms of space but for the number of files. There is a limit on my account of 262,144 files and I’m currently at the 225,419 mark.

262,144 seems to be quite an important number in computing, which I’m sure is connected to the fact that in binary it is 1000000000000000000 (in hex 40000) and has some connection to the way in which the accounts are set up in Linux. It seems a pretty huge number, but I find that my web space currently contains just short of 200,000 image files. In November 2019 on My London Diary I added another 837 images, along with another 31 html files, and over the whole year over 14,000 files, while other web sites and this blog added at least another thousand or two. So things are getting rather close to the limit. Either I’m going to have to delete some or get another web account of some sort.

I don’t actually generate much income directly from the web, but make everything available free online and without advertising. I do occasionally sell prints or get repro fees because people have seen work on the web, but it hardly pays my costs (and certainly doesn’t repay the hours of work I put in.) I do it more because I want to share my photography and my thoughts with other people.

Importantly for me, there is a lot more work that I would like to share. Fifteen or twenty years of work in both black and white and colour, particularly on London, that has hardly been seen except by myself and a few friends and colleagues, with just perhaps just a few hundred of the probably more than a hundred thousand of the images having been published or exhibited. It includes several major projects along with much other work.

I had hoped earlier this year that a major institution would take ‘My London Diary‘ under its wing, enabling me to free almost 200,000 files from my personal account, but after some discussion and lengthy deliberation they decided that they just did not have the resources to do so. I’m open to offers from any other body that would like to host this unique record of around 20 years of London’s history covering protests and other events on the streets – and for that matter my earlier film-based work.

I decided to do a little research on ways that would be effective both in terms of cost and time in sharing my work on-line and thought seriously about two platforms, Instagram and Flickr. Neither seemed particularly suitable and both have interfaces that really don’t work well for what I want to do. I tried out putting a little work on each of them and in the end decided that for all its peculiarities (and it has a seriously dated and inconsistent interface) Flickr seemed the better for my purposes. So I’ve now signed up for a ‘Pro’ account that will enable me to put as many images as I like on line.

At the moment there are three new albums of my old pictures on Flickr: 1977 London Pictures

1978 London Pictures

1979 London Pictures

There are also a few pictures from the 2000’s, including albums on Paris and on Croydon’s Trams which I added in 2007 when I first set up my Flikr Account. Then I made the mistake of only putting on the files at a small size and low quality, using the images from my web site, while I am now uploading 2400 pixel wide repro quality files which display the work much better. Of course these may now be used by the unscrupulous who are prepared to ignore the copyright notice, but I hope that there are enough honest people around who will contact me and pay to make the risk worthwhile.

All of those London pictures in the albums above are also available on my web site, but you can now see them rather larger and better on Flikr along with the comments that I wrote when putting most of them on Facebook a day at a time.I’ll also probably at some time put the images that are on my Hull web site onto Flickr in hight quality, and then remove both the Hull and London sites from the web, leaving just a residual site which links to the Flikr albums. Together with removing a few other old sites this might give me space for another year or so of My London Diary.

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

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.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

London 1980 (1)

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

It may not have escaped your notice that we are approaching Christmas and the New Year. This is a time when I may not be at a keyboard every day and will be concentrating on other things than writing posts for this site. But also when those of you who read it (and about 4,500 pages are currently read each day) will perhaps want something to entertain you when suffering from an excess of Turkey and mince pies.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that for some time I have been posting an image and its story from my black and white work in the 1970s and 80s each day. But FB is pretty ephemeral, although it keeps a record of everything we post, comment or like to aid its profit-making activites, anything we posted more than a few minutes ago soon becomes hard to find. So as I’ve done previously I’ll post a series of digests here on >Re:PHOTO, where it is always easy to search the archives, and search engines should be able to find content. So here we go with the first set from 1980.

Jesus, Mornington Crescent, Camden, 1980
23i-15 factory, graffiti, horse-trough,

I didn’t see this graffiti until it was faint, though its message was still clear, on the southern corner of Mornington Crescent. The wall is still there, though I can see no trace of ‘JESUS’, and the wall is now kept in better condition, doubtless having been painted several times since – and there is now a gate at its left.

The game ‘Mornington Crescent’ had made its first appearance on ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ in August 1978, around 18 months before I made this picture, and it was doubtless in my mind on my wandering walk from Central London via St Pancras in February 1980 which took me to the street from which the Underground station and the great game were named.

The wall is at the end of the ‘Black Cat factory’, the former Arcadia Works of the Carreras Cigarette Factory, one of the finest remaining Art Deco buldings in London, controversially built between 1926-8 on the communal garden of Mornington Crescent. Designed by M.E and O.H Collins and A.G Porri, the long building (168m) was where Craven ‘A’ cigarettes were made, and the logo of the company, a rather domestic looking black cat, was reflected in two large Egyptian cats on each side of its entrance. High along the frontage, above the Egyptian-style pillars were a row of the trademark-style black whiskered moggies. But back when I made this picture, the factory was in a poor state, the decorations stripped when it had been converted to offices in 1961. The two giant Egyptian cats, representations of the Egyptian cat god Bast had been shipped out when the factory closed in 1959 to stand in front of other Carreras factories in Basildon and Spanish Town Jamaica. Apparently Carreras had originally planned to call the factory after Bast (aka Bastet) but then realised that everyone would refer to it as Bastard House.

Years later I got a shock when sitting on a bus going up the Hampstead Road, and had to rub my eyes and pinch myself to be sure I was not dreaming as I passed the factory restored to its former glory (almost) and with two black cats again guarding its entrance. The factory had been bought by a new company in 1996 who had restored it to an excellent replica of its Art Deco original. And had doubtless painted out any remaining traces of ‘JESUS’.

Fire Engine, Mornington Crescent area, Camden, 1980
23i-21: graffiti,

Situsec seems to be a company which supplied asphalt and similar materials and made road repairs, but I can’t remember exactly where this picture of one of their yards was taken, though earlier in my walk I had been on Phoenix Road in Somers Town and a couple of frames later I was photographing painting on a fence on a corner site on Mornington Place for the Albert St Carnival. This yard was somewhere in my wandering between the two.

The walls are tall and thick, with buttresses; that in the foreground appears to have been built up with a thinner extension, which can also be seen on the rear wall, above which another brick structure, with arches roughly doubles the height to something like 20 ft, suggesting a building on a truly giant scale, which in this area suggests it was a part of some major work connected with the railways, either around St Pancras or Euston.

Clearly the wall on which the fire engine was painted has been fairly crudely breached since it was painted to provide or widen the entrance to the yard, where some cars are parked and notices on the wall read ‘Soft Sand’ and (I think ‘Sharp Sand’, though only a couple of letters of this are visible.)

Is Innocent O.K., Mornington Crescent area, Camden, 1980
23i-22: graffiti, shop,

In 1974 the message ‘G Davis is Innocent, OK’ began to appear on walls, bridges and elsewhere across the country, protesting the innocence of the east London minicab driver jailed for his part in an armed robbery. Police were caught out as having lied to get his conviction, making up a statement he was alleged to have made, fiddling the results of ID parades, deliberately ignoring evidence. His conviction was clearly unsafe, and almost certainly he was innocent of that particular robbery at the London Electricity Board’s offices in Ilford for which the police had fitted him up – and for which he was the only man convicted.

Of course, though innocent of this particular crime, Davis was a villain, and within a couple of years of his release in 1976 by Royal prerogative he was back in jail again, this time admitting his guilt, for an armed robbery at the Bank of Cyprus on the Holloway Rd.

The graffiti in this picture was clearly inspired by this case, though who was innocent I clearly intended to remain anonymous, with only the final ‘OUS’ of the name in frame, next to the former shop at no. 54. Which street this was on is also something of a mystery, and I think the house in question has probably been so altered as to be unrecognisable.

Circus, Mornington Buildings, Camden, 1980
23i-24: graffiti,

Mornington Buildings were on Mornington Place, I think at its corner with Mornington Terrace, and were in process of demolition when I photographed this painted fence. At its left are two posters for the ‘Albert St Carnival’, too small for the details to be clearly read, but which had I think been on the 14th July, probably from the previous year, 1979, and for which I assumed the painting had taken place.

The 2nd Earl of Mornington was the elder brother of the Duke of Wellington and became Governor-General of India, defeating the French there and making it a part of the British Empire. During the Napoleonic wars, by now Marquess Wellesley, he became ambassdor to Spain. By the time this estate was being developed in the 1820s he was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

FB comment by Ken Bates: There was 2 separate blocks for Mornington Buildings, the larger block was on Mornington Terrace (now Clarkson Row), this block went right up to the corner with Mornington Place. There was then a gateway into the grass area behind it before the smaller block that was in Mornington Place.

Corner Cafe, Phoenix Rd/Midland Rd, Camden, 1980
23i-32: cafe,

It should be easy to locate an image which contains a street sign and a street number, but although the street sign says Phoenix Road NW1, this is misleading, and this picture was made at the corner of what is now Brill Place and Midland Rd. The 1894 OS map actually calls the road Phoenix St, and shows a railway line crossing it – which I think the arch at extreme left was supporting – leading to the goods yard now the site of the British Library and Francis Crick Institute.

The Brill was the area between Euston Square and Kings Cross Station, getting its name from a tavern there and had a Sunday market where the many navvies in the area would come to buy their boots and clothing. Why the pub was called ‘The Brill’ seems a mystery; perhaps it was from the fish of the same name, or some connection with the Buckinghamshire village (there is a Brill in Cornwall too as well as Den Briel in the Netherlands, and it is also a Dutch family name) or was the word ‘brilliant’ just too long to fit on the inn sign?

Corner Cafe, Phoenix Rd/Midland Rd and gas holders, Camden, 1980
23i-33: cafe, gas holders, traffic light,

A second picture of the Corner Cafe makes its position clear, showing both the gas holders on the corner of Wharf Rd and Cambridge St (now Camley St) and the road under the railway lines from Midland Rd that led to them, though the scene has now changed completely with the rebuilding of St Pancras Station to provide a shopping precinct which makes the walk from the Underground platform to get on a train much longer, something I curse every time I use the station.

The site of the cafe is now a rather neglected piece of land at the edge of the parking area for Neville Close. The gasholders are no longer on their original site and have flats inside them and St Pancras station now extend much further to the north.

Shop fitting, Camden, 1980
23i-52: plastic sheet,

Much of what people think of as central London is a part of the London borough of Camden and I think this shop being fitted out was somewhere in the area roughly between Trafalgar Square and Monmouth St, and the next frame on the contact sheet (not shown on this site) is in Monmouth St, with the name board for ‘Neon’ and the ‘ghost sign’ next door for B Flegg, saddlers. This picture could well also have been in Monmouth St.

I walked around this are fairly often when visiting the Photographers’ Gallery, then on Great Newport St. In 1980 it acquired a second space a couple of doors down from the original premises. As well as showing some great photography (and particularly in later years some rather less great) it also had a cafe where you could sit and look at one of the shows, as well as meeting people.

Somehow it seemed a much friendlier place than the much improved new premises on Ramillies St, and I often met people – staff and other visitors I knew there, and it seemed rather easier to talk with strangers, who were always a part of a wider photographic community.

As well as visiting to see the shows, as entry was always free you could drop in while passing for another look – or just to have a coffee or even just use the toilets – I also used to go with some of my pictures to a ‘young photographers’ group which met regularly there and to which sell-established photographers often dropped in to give their opinions too. Though we learnt much and enjoyed it, these meetings were clearly something the gallery’s education officer, who was responsible for them found an ordeal, with much questioning of some of the gallery’s practices and more. When London Independent Photography came along in 1987 she clutched to them as a lifebelt to end the group.

To be continued…

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

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.

More Canal Pans

Friday, September 27th, 2019

Photographing protests and other events generally keeps me pretty busy and for some years I’ve had little time for anything else, along of course putting some of my earlier work online and writing this blog and keeping My London Diary almost up-to-date. But one project that I’ve managed to do a little work now and then on is making panoramic images of London’s canals – and I hope to use a few of these in a show next year.

My first panoramic project, back in 1992 when I bought my first panoramic camera was on the DLR extension then being built from Poplar to Beckton. Prints from this were shown at the Museum of London back then, and a few are now in their collection – and one is in the current show, Secret Rivers at the Museum of London Docklands.

I’d chosen to work in panorama (using a Japanese Widelux camera) because I thought that the essentially linear nature of the railway was particularly suited to the panoramic format, and it seems to me that the same applies to photographing the canals. I’m now working of course with digital, and the pictures I’m making don’t natively come in a panoramic format as the camera sensor is either 3:2 (with the Nikons) or 4:3 in the pictures I’ve made with the Olympus EM5 MkII.

The character of the cylindrical perspective that I’m currently working with (others are possible) means that the image curvature required to give the wide angle of view (around 145°) increases towards the top and bottom of the image, and using a 4:3 or similar format makes it more noticeable than a more normal panoramic format such as 2.5:1. So I often crop the images to a more panoramic aspect, often 1.9:1 which can give a more natural look.

Cropping the image also has another advantage. In making these images it is important to keep the camera level – aided by indicators in the viewfinder at bottom and left of the image. Doing so means that the horizon will always be a horizontal line splitting the image into two equal halves, and this can make a set of images a little monotonous. When cropping the images, it is possible to move this above or below the centre line. In days largely long past, landscape photographers used cameras with a rising or falling front to acheive the same goal, and for much of my black and white work on film I used a 35mm shift lens which could do the same.

These pictures were taken between the end of a protest in Hackney and my visit to an Open Studio event at the Chisenhale Studios in Bethnal Green to which I walked. I began the walk along the canal in one of my favourite spots where Mare St becomes Cambridge Heath Road and goes over the canal and then walked east along the Regent’s Canal towpath to the junction with the Hertford Union Canal. I had time to go a little beyond the studios before turning around and returning to leave the canal and make my way to the studios. By the time I got there the rain was beginning to come down fairly steadily and I’d walked around a mile and a half.

More pictures at Bethnal Green Canal Walk

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

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.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

The Falling Man

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Most if not all of us remember what we were doing when we heard about the tragic attack on the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11, the 11th of September 2001.

I was just getting my bicycle ready to leave college after a morning’s teaching – I was then working part-time and had finished for the day – when a distraught colleague rushed up to me to tell me the news. She had grown up in New York, and had just seen pictures on her computer showing a plane flying into one of the towers. We shared our horror at what was happening, and watched for short time together unable to beleive what was happening.

After a few minutes I left her and got on my bike and cycled home. I couldn’t eat lunch but began to search for more information on the web, finding both the pictures on the news channels and also a number of posts of mobile phone pictures and video taken by those close to the events, including some making their way out of the building. It was these pictures, with their rawness, often blurred and indistinct that really brought home the horror to me, and I sat and wrote an article linking to them and to some of the professional imagery.

I don’t know that it was a very good article, but I clearly saw the event not only as a terrible act of terrorism, but also as a clear indication of the power of ‘citizen journalism’, perhaps the first major world event where the story was told and illustrated most immediately and effectively by those caught up in the tragedy rather than profesional journalists. And it was a story that attracted around a million views in the next 24 hours or so.

Of course we soon saw a great deal of fine coverage from the professionals, particulalry of the later stages of the event, but these lacked the rawness and immediacy of those first acounts – which their technical shortcomings emphasized (as does the grain and shakiness of Capas D-Day pictures).

Esquire Magazine has published a long and very interesting feature about the photographs of people who fell from the burning towers, and in particular the ‘Falling Man’ captured in a series of images taken by photographer Richard Drew. Originally published on the front pages, it quickly became the subject of controversy, and disappeared from view except on some insalubrious web sites. As the feature reveals, it caused considerable distress among at least one family of a man who died and was apparently wrongly identified as the man in the picture.

The story by Tom Junod is an interesting one, which also raises many issues about the use of these and other photographs, and about what photographs can tell us about what they depict. He concludes that this image of one of the perhaps 200 men who jumped from the upper stories of the WTC rather than await the death that seemed inevitable is of the man who “became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen.

July 2019 on My London Diary

Monday, August 26th, 2019

Finally my pictures and comments for July 2019 are online. It should have been easy as I took the last week off with various family events, which even if they get photographed very seldom get shared publically on-line. But somehow I’m finding keeping up with things rather difficult, and for various reasons I think My London Diary is likely shortly to come to an end. But at least a few months more…

As usual in July I went to the annual Procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at St Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell and managed to get all three doves leaving the basket in the same picture – always a challenge.

July 2019

Boris J is not our Prime Minister
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
No to Boris, Yes to Europe
Requiem for a Dead Planet at Daily Mail

Students march for climate
XR London Tax rebellion
GLIAS 50th anniversary walk
St John’s Wood – Paddington Basin
Extinction Rebellion Waterloo

XR Summer Uprising procession
XR call for Ecocide Law

BEIS workers begin indefinite strike
East London Extinction Rebellion March
Vegan for Life Parade
Belgian Army Cenotaph Parade
IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor
XR East London marches for clean air
IWGB demand living wage at LouLou’s
Bring Back unlawfully deported ‘PN’
London’s Sinister Arms Trade
Pride is a Protest
Give Me Five days
Protest French police attack on XR
XR Carmen’s Carbon Procession
End Inhuman Electroshock treatment

London Images

St Ann’s – End of an Era

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

Although the ‘stars’ of photography so far as the media are concerned tend to be those who fly into trouble spots around the world to report on various crises – usually backed by the big international agencies, much interesting documentary work is carried out by people who never get an international reputation, and whose work is made inside communities in which they are embedded, sometimes for years, occasionally for a lifetime.

I’ve long believed that there is a huge unseen body of work out there which has never attracted museum shows, publications or any real exposure, perhaps just seen by a few friends or shown in a local library. Of course now, it may appear on Facebook or Instagram, but tends to remain hidden among the dross and the cat pictures. Of course there are some good cat pictures, probably at least three a year.

My thoughts were directed to this by a Facebook post linking to an article in the Nottingham post, Photographer reveals unseen images of St Ann’s before demolition, about work in the area of Nottingham which was being comprehensively redeveloped when then student photographer Peter Richardson was working ina temporary summer job as a labourer on buildings that were replacing the Victorian housing.

Now, around 50 years later, the freelance photographer has put together a book with 98 photographs that show a real insight into the crowded neighbourhood before demolition. You can see rather more pictures from it in the preview of St Ann’s, End of an Era on the Blurb website.

As well as the quality of the work, the book has other interests for me. At the time when Richardson was taking his pictures I was heavily involved in a similar redevelopment in a similar area of inner-city Manchester, not as a photographer but as an activist. Groups working in the two areas made contacts and learnt from each other – and I think were the first two areas to bring ‘planning for real’ modelling exercises which had originated in Sweden to local community groups in the UK.

I regret very much that I was not at that time an active photographer, being penniless, unable to afford a working camera and lacking any practical training in photography that would have enabled me to work on a shoestring – both things that were remedied a couple of years later. But Richardson’s pictures remind me very much of the people and the homes that I met in Moss Side.

Like Richardson too, I’ve also published books on Blurb – with 16 of them still available. It isn’t an idea way to publish, but does give you the freedom to do so at relatively minimal expense and being print on demand comes with no problems of storing and distributing editions, and the print quality can be good, though not state of the art.

But the problem is price. A single softcover copy of this book costs £44.99, plus an excessive postage charge. Authors can benefit from fairly large discounts offered from time to time by Blurb (and don’t pay any author’s markup), but even so the books are expensive. It makes it impossible to sell through bookshops, where a realistic price would need to be at least £75. There is a cheaper EBook for £9.49 which is more reasonable, and I always advise people interested in my works to buy it in electronic form, though I also sell most of my books direct a little below Blurb prices.

Personally I’ve been thinking for the last couple of years of abandoning Blurb for any new publications. Perhaps publishing a small short-run print book, but making my work available free as PDFs or at higher quality on the web than my current web site. I do make a little from Blurb sales, but hardly enough to notice. For me the point of publishing is to share my work, not to make money.

Philip Cunningham’s East End Portraits

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

I don’t always want to switch on the computer in the morning. I spend far too long sitting at the keyboard these days, very much feeling a slave of the machine. But of course there are many things I want to do – including posting here – which make it necessary.

But of course there are compensations. It’s good to hear news from some of my real friends – people I actually know off-screen – and to see what they have been doing. And occasionally among the mountains of gloom and despondency that make up the news there are some tiny gleams of hope.

One of the small pleasures of each morning is an email from Spitalfields Life, a blog which often presents an interesting view on some aspect of London, usually East London, and particularly at times some interesting art work or a fascinating interview with an aged character.

There are sometimes some fine drawings – such as those by Danish Illustrator Ebbe Sadolin (1900-82)  whose elegant wandering lines show scenes from post-War London including a number of familiar places. And while often the photographs to articles are rather functional rather than inspired, doing their job as illustrations, there are occasional posts of real photographic interest.

One such a few days ago, was Philip Cunningham’s East End Portraits, taken in the 1970s when he lived in the area first as a Youth Worker and then a probationary teacher. These, as the article states, are “tender portraits of his friends and colleagues” and show a real warmth and affection for the subjects. The pictures also tell you a lot about the area and its people.

The subjects include a few people I’ve known (and a couple I’ve photographed in much later years) as well as several others whose names I recognised.

Streets & people

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Thanks to PetaPixel for bringing to my attention the video 1838-2019: Street Photography – A Photo For Every Year with 182 photos — one photo for every year between 1838 when Daguerre set up his camera overlooking the Boulevard du Temple and 2019 with activists hassling an MP outside Parliament in London.

It’s a curiously hypnotic experience, with each photo appearing for around 6 seconds, with a musical soundtrack that reflects the changing decades, and a rather strange selection of images by Guy Jones, taken on streets around the world, though majoring on the USA. I found it rather annoying but I couldn’t stop watching, though I did turn the volume right down.

Almost all of the pictures certainly are taken on streets and show people, but it rather reflects the lack of any real integrity in the term ‘street photography‘. And while the pictures do reflect the changes in technology over the years, any real historical oversight is entirely prejudiced by every picture from the 20th and 21st century being presented as colour – which for most means a recently colorized version of an original black and white picture. Some colours were rather less than believable. This is faux history in the making.

You’ll probably recognise a few of the pictures, and some of the photographers, but mixed in with these are some rather anonymous postcard views, press images and amateur holiday snaps, which don’t always seem particularly appropriate to represent the year in which they are taken. It’s in a way a very uninformative video; often I found myself wanting to know more about why a particular picture was taken and what it it shows. And for those taken in more recent times I did wonder whether Jones has permission to use the images from the copyright holders. I hope so, though I saw no closing credits to indicate this.

Pure Colour

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

I’ve long been something of a fan of Joerg Colberg’s Conscientious Photography Magazine though I often find myself arguing with his opinions and sometimes wondering why on earth he bothered to review some publication. But it’s always good to see some critical thinking about photography, even when I feel he has got it completely wrong.

His review of Pure Country by Bill Sullivan is perhaps a good example of what both interests me and to some extent infuriates me. Colberg begins with a rather interesting discussion of colour in photography, considering 25 reproductions on-line of William Eggleston‘s ‘ The Red Ceiling‘ (aka Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973) a picture that if you have any interest in photography you are doubtless familiar with (click on the link to see a not very convincing version of it on Wikipedia should you need a reminder.)

As Wikipedia reminds us, this is a picture about which Eggleston himself has commented “I’ve never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction” and I suspect he may be even less convinced by most of the reproductions online. As well as viewing it on-screen, I also own various reproductions of it it books and magazines, as well as having viewed the “original”, Eggleston’s approved dye transfer print, at various times in exhibitions.

Colberg reproduces not the picture, but 25 versions of it averaged out into a single colour, with 25 slightly different red tones, and he asks what is the proper colour. Actually in this case the answer is fairly clear, and implied in Eggleston’s answer – it is the colour of the dye transfer print.

And at least dye transfer prints are pretty stable, though they will like anything else look different depending on the illumination they are viewed by. Eggleston went on to talk about the ‘blood-red’ of the original print, so if you want to know what it should look like, you might just prick yourself and compare.

I don’t actually consider Eggleston a good guide to colour. Most of the images in my 1989 copy of ‘The Democratic Forest‘ appear to me to have a colour cast, usually a slight yellow or perhaps pale orange. Many of his actual prints – the C-types rather than the dye-transfers – that I’ve seen in exhibitions seem to have degraded a little over the years even further in that direction, I imagine they were printed on Kodak colour papers which don’t generally age well.

Back in 1985, when I largely moved from colour transparency to colour negative in my work, part of the reason was that Fuji had come out with new and improved colour papers, giving cleaner colour reproduction and promising longer life. They also enabled you to control printing more easily, allowing burning and dodging with no colour shift.

Colour has both a scientific and a subjective, personal and emotional aspect. We can measure accurately in terms of hue, saturation and brightness, look at the spectral distribution of reflected light and use measurements such as these to determine how accurate the reproduction of colour is through particular materials and processes. But accuracy of reproduction isn’t always the goal, and there are always colours which are outside the range of any particular reproduction.

Personally in my own work I like to aim for reasonable colour accuracy and try to avoid any colour casts, though I don’t always succeed. There is always a temptation to make things just a little on the warm side and I normally succumb. I generally don’t like photographs that clearly distort colour, something practicised by some photographers to achieve a personal style.

Colberg goes on to state “Maybe it all comes down to the fact that there really isn’t such a thing as the world in colour. There’s just what you make it look like, plus there are basic facts such as women being able to see more colours than men.

Objectively I think he is wrong, confusing colour as a measurable, physical property describing how objects interact with light, with our subjective experience of colour. What I see in my mind as red or blue may be nothing like what you see as these colours, and we may have very different experiences and emotional reactions to them. We may even use different words to describe them – I often argue with my wife over whether something is blue or green, and while we all still talk about the rainbow having both blue and indigo, it is a distinction that has been lost since someone first coined “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain”.

Colberg goes on to discuss Bill Sullivan‘s book Pure Country, which I’ve not seen. From his review and the page images on the publishers web site, I suspect it is not something I would like and certainly not something I’d fork out $80 plus shipping for, although the included “74 page pictorial index called the Pure Country Graphic Index 1659-2018 people, countries, color photography, worlds fairs & expositions, paintings, Suprematism & The Bauhaus. The index functions as a graphic timeline of dates, information, and images that inform the book set along an historical timeline with a major focus on the evolution of color image-making and photography spanning the last five centuries” does sound mildly interesting and at least in the couple of pages shown reproduces its images in more or less correct colour, but it appears to lack any real depth that might make it useful.