Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Invention of Photography

William Henry Fox Talbot, The Open Door, 1843
If you are looking to brush up on your early photography history then a podcast available on the BBC website might just be of interest.

Back in July, the BBC Radio 4 show 'In Our Time' recorded a 45 minute programme where the topic of the invention of photography was discussed by an expert  panel. The lives and work of Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot are talked about in some depth along with the effect that early photography had on society. The various early photography processes, many of which used toxic ingredients that caused ill health for the pioneer photographers, are also discussed in some detail.

The podcast description on the website states:-

'Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of photography in the 1830s, when techniques for 'drawing with light' evolved to the stage where, in 1839, both Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot made claims for its invention. These followed the development of the camera obscura, and experiments by such as Thomas Wedgwood and Nicéphore Niépce, and led to rapid changes in the 1840s as more people captured images with the daguerreotype and calotype. These new techniques changed the aesthetics of the age and, before long, inspired claims that painting was now dead.'

It wasn't surprising to find out that early photography was a pursuit of wealthy gentlemen. Photography in the 19th century was an extremely expensive and time consuming business. Even having your photograph taken by the early 'pro photographers' was an expensive luxury few could afford - 300 guineas was charged for a portrait (One Guinea is £ 1.05p) taking it well beyond the reach of the average person.

The podcast is available to stream via the BBC site and there is also a MP3 download which means that anyone outside of the UK should be able to access the programme.

The Invention of Photography pocast can be found at

Monday, 12 September 2016

Last Letter from Aleppo

I re-tweeted this video a few days ago on Twitter but it is such a sad, touching and emotive film by Channel 4 news (UK) that i will add it here too.

Shamel Al-Ahmad, a Syrian photographer and activist who was killed along with his wife, documented the atrocities in his city of Aleppo.

The experiences and feelings reflected in the letter not only speak for Shamel but also portray what many Syrians have been enduring over the years of war within Syria.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Just Resting...

I thought it was time that the blog received some love after being ignored for some time, so I've changed the template and made a few other tweaks as well. I think the site looks lighter, brighter and a lot fresher now - the old darker design had been running on the site for around nine years!

As for new content, well that is on the way too. I haven't posted in over a year but its time to put that right. The site was never closed... just resting. A new post will be up in the next week or so.

It will be great to be back :)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Gerda Taro – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Unidentified Photographer, Gerda Taro, Guadalajara Front, July 1937

The excellent photoblog 'Fans in a Flashbulb' have posted a great profile on Gerda Taro, the photojournalist who was the love of Robert Capa's life and probably the biggest influence on his life and career.

Over the years Gerda's photography has been overshadowed by Capa's. but in recent years the interest in her photography and life has grown. The two photographers worked closely together and their work was published widely but sadly Gerda was killed in July 1937 while covering the civil war in Spain. 

'She returns to Madrid a few days later, then travels with Ted Allan to a battle site located between Villanueva de la Cañada and Brunete. There, on July 25, one day before her return to Paris, Taro and Allan find themselves in the midst of a panicked retreat. They jump onto a moving car and are both hit when a Loyalist tank crashes into the car. 

Taro dies early the next morning in a field hospital of the 35th Division at El Escorial. She is the first female photographer to be killed while reporting on war.'

Robert Capa never really recovered from the loss.

The excellent Gerda Taro – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow can be found at:

Friday, 10 April 2015

Three Recommended Links

The blog has been rather quiet of late, but it's time to start posting again after a brief break away with three recommended photography links discovered while i was away. I'm going to be adding link posts a couple of times a month to the blog from now on as well as adding other new photo posts.

The first is from the New York Times Lens photoblog and  looks into 'Debating the Rules and Ethics of Digital Photojournalism'. The core of the problem is the ease which digital images can be manipulated and changed. Its a discussion that has been long overdue and has yet to be resolved - maybe it never will be resolved. Another great article on the matter is by David Campbell. One aspect i found problematic was the number of photographers who thought of their images as the 'truth'.

The Atlantic photoblog recently did a three part series (part 1, part 2, Part 3) on the Vietnam War marking fifty years since U.S Marines landed in South Vietnam. Covering such a conflict in three sections is never going to easy especially as the Vietnam war was so extensively photographed, but many of the images i'd never seen before. The final part of series featured a great set of photographs by Eddie Adams.

The final link is a sad but thought provoking photo essay by Lisa Krantz, a photographer at the San Antonio Express-News, entitled 'One Man’s Lifelong Battle With Obesity'. Krantz spent four years working on the story that she initially thought would be about weight loss but  it developed into something far deeper.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Camera at Culloden

Take an historical battle that took place decades before the camera was invented, and reimagine it through a documentary camera crew filming the event. It was an idea that was used to great effect in the docudrama 'Culloden', a film made by the BBC in 1964 and directed by Peter Watkins.

Culloden deals with the battle between the Jacobite army led by Charles Edward Stuart and the British army led by the Duke of Cumberland, the youngest son of King George II. Based upon the book 'Culloden,' by John Prebble, who also acted as an historical advisor, the film covers the events of the battle and the characters involved using a TV documentary style that still looks fresh and dynamic fifty years later. Around 85% of the camera work was hand held and camera angles were planned to make the most of the small cast.

The interviews with the Government soldiers and clans men  are especially well done with the camera focussing close into the worn faces and tired eyes of the characters. A cast of non professional actors did a fine job of portraying the men who took part in the battle, though it has to be said that Bonnie Prince Charlie, portrayed in the film as a weak pathetic character, is seen with a more sympathetically by modern historians.

Culloden went on to win a BAFTA in 1965, the year that Watkins filmed another of his docudramas 'The War Game'. The War Game was filmed in a similar manner to Culloden and looked at a nuclear attack on Britain and the effect on the population of Kent. The film was (and still is) such a terrifying vision of a nuclear attack upon Britain that the BBC banned it for 20 years. It went on to win an Oscar for best documentary film and the Bafta for Best Short Film in 1967. The film was eventually broadcast on 31 July 1985.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Chris Killip on Skinningrove

Photograph by Chris Killip
If you're looking for a superb photo film to watch that I'd have to recommend the Michael Almereyda film 'Skinningrove' in which photographer Chris Killip talks about his excellent work in the North Yorkshire fishing village during the 1980's.

The film presents a group of images, much of it unpublished work (several images ended up in Killip's classic 1988 book 'In Flangrante') and also discusses the background to the images. It makes fascinating viewing. Credit must be given to Killip for having such a respectful and natural attitude to his subject matter. As Almereyda states 'The photographs embodied something essential about Chris’s relationship to his subjects, to the world.' Sadly not all photographers are this engaged with the people they photograph.

Especially touching are his reminiscences about the lads who worked on the sea, fishing just of the coast of Skinningrove. Sadly two of the lads featured in the Killip's photographs drowned when the boat capsized.

The excellent Michael Almereyda film 'Skinningrove' can be viewed HERE

Monday, 30 June 2014

Tony Ray-Jones Video

This excellent video was linked on Twitter a while ago but i thought I'd mention it again on the blog because it is such a fascinating watch.

The film looks at the the superb photography Tony Ray-Jones produced for the journal Architectural Review in 1970. Instead of using the journal's staff photographers, leading photojournalists were used on a themed series called Manplan. Tony Ray-Jones worked on the issue that looked at housing.

I was greatly surprised to learn that Tony Ray-Jones was refused membership of Magnum twice - the second time after a poorly received submission of his Manplan photographs. One comes away from the film with the opinion that the failure was all Magnum's for not recognising such a fantastic photographic talent.

A good collection of Tony Ray-Jones weblinks can be found HERE

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