Monday, 31 December 2007

End of year review 2007

Bambrugh castle, Northumberland - my image of the year

It has been a very creative year for me and it seems fitting that the last blog post of 2007 should have a look back at the year.....and what a full and creative year it has been.

This has been the first full year with a digital SLR and its introduction has certainly made a large impact in 2007. Quite simply it has revolutionised my photography and combined with film cameras, digital will continue to be an important part of my photographic kit. Although it's been the first full year with digital, i have continued to use film. I just love both. As i went through the negatives and digital images i realised that I had loads of images to choose from for the favourite image of the year. It was a close thing but....phew..... i finally came up with a winner.

My favourite image of 2007 is of Bambrugh castle. It was taken with the digital Nikon D2H camera and has become a very popular image. The photograph was captured on the busy beach dunes during a rather changeable day in mid August. I had to time the shooting carefully because the dunes were busy with tourists but eventually the dunes cleared briefly and the image you see was taken. Considering the difficulties with the weather and the hordes of people...it came out perfect.

Early in the year i decided that i wanted to create a better online presence for my work. I decided to link my main website with others i developed which led to the myspace page, the Imagekind page and this blog. I plan to develop these projects and others during 2008 with another smaller photo website planned for launch in the spring. There will be a few alterations to the main website too which is in the first stage of its new look. I hope to get the next stage complete by the summer 2008. Any news about new projects and developments will, of course, be posted here on the blog first.

The blog has developed nicely over the last ten months and I'm really having fun writing and posting images. Over the last ten months I've posted 132 times - a lucky 13.2 posts a month on average. It's important to me that the blog remains interesting so i intend to keep the subjects covered in the postings as broad as possible - as always feedback is always welcome. The new year will see the monthly photographer 'profile' series of postings feature some of the big names of photography like Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Some lesser known photographers will also be included.

Several projects were undertaken during the year including photography in Norfolk, Northumberland and, more locally, York. I've decided to start the Year in York project from scratch starting in January. That way it works better as a series of images; the images will have a better narrative structure when the project is finally completed. The other photo projects remain ongoing and i hope to return to them next year. I do have some initial ideas for a couple of new photography projects that will start in the next few months. In the meantime I'm going to do some studio work including several images using 1940's lighting techniques from the Walter Nurnberg book i purchased during the summer. Details about these lighting 'experiments' and the resulting photographs will be posted in the coming weeks.

All in all its been a great year for my photography and i look forward to snapping away in 2008. Have a Happy New Year.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Poor light guide part II

Renault rally team service area 1998 - a subtle fill-in flash image

In the last poor light guide post i mentioned the use of a flashgun as a way of creating better lighting for an image. This post will continue on the theme of fill in flash and its uses for lighting in poor light. My definition of poor light is light that is flat and lifeless; typically the sort of light encountered during the winter months when the overcast is thick or during bad weather.

The flashgun is one of the most underrated pieces of kit that a photographer has and yet the creative possibilities are endless. With a bit of knowledge and some practice, a flashgun can be used to subtle effect so that you wouldn't know where the flash finished and natural light started. This is fill-in flash at its best - a balanced mixture of artificial and natural light to create a well lit image.

The flashgun you use does not have to be sophisticated or expensive, although many high range guns come with modes that help the photographer take fill-in flash images. I use a modern Nikon SB-800 and an older Vivitar 283 for flash work getting excellent results for both. The most important thing is to get to know how your flash works so that you can set it for fill-in flash work quickly - quite simply find the settings that work for you and try it in all lighting situations. With digital photography this is just a case of shooting and adjusting - for film its a matter of practice but most negative films will produce good results even if the exposure calculations aren't quite right.

Correct exposure is the key to getting a subtle fill-in flash image. The image above of the rally service area was taken ten years ago using the Vivitar flash to light the foreground. The light wasn't flat but some fill in was needed on the service area to capture the colour and detail. The flashgun was set to 50% power and the shutter speed was around 1/125th second. I can't remember the exact f-stop but it would have been somewhere around f5.6. The result was a well lit foreground with a dramatic sky. With no flash, the foreground became dark and lifeless.

Many modern cameras have TTL (through the lens) flash which is where the camera and flashgun 'talk' to each other and the camera controls the light output of the flashgun. When enough light has been released it tells the flashgun to stop. This makes the whole process much easier but the best way to perfect the technique is to practise and experiment. Start at the recommended flash sync speed for your camera ( usually 1/125th) and try going down the shutter speeds. The dramatic image of the rally car in part I was taken with a 28mm lens at 1/15th second. The aperture was f8 with the flashgun set at 25% power. The flash captured the movement but the slow shutter of 1/15th added some blur to give a sense of speed.

Fill in flash is one of the best techniques for creating well lit images in poor lighting condiitons. It can be used to subtle or strong effect depending on what is required and is flexible enough to be used in most situations. Best of all it can help create great images.

Monday, 24 December 2007

A Merry Christmas

Christmas trees lights at 1/2 second

I would just like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

The final few posts are being prepared including a look at 2007 and the images taken. I've made life difficult for myself by deciding to choose a favourite photograph of mine taken during the year. That image will feature as part of the very last post of 2007 where i will review the photography of the year and give a few details of what to expect from RFP and the blog in 2008.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Poor light guide Part I

Fill-in flash used during a wet and dark rally stage in Cumbria

Light quality is an important factor in photography, essential for creating well balanced and visually impressive images. The winter months tend to produce days where the dark overcast sky and winter light can hinder taking photographs but there are a few ways of getting around the problems caused by poor light.

The first is to simply use a higher speed of ISO(ASA) in the camera. The higher the ISO, the higher the level of contrast and it's image contrast that's needed in any poorly lit situation. The trade off is in grain/noise that can be distracting for some people and in many cases even a fast speed will not produce the results required.

The second solution is the most popular one; to use a flashgun to illuminate a scene. I've used this technique along with the natural lit source in a fill-in flash role - quite simply the flashgun helps light the subject but it is balanced against the natural light source. This is most obviously used by press and PR photographers who use flash to create well illuminated image - essential for photographing people or events and for good quality reproduction in print. Sports photographers also use the fill-in flash technique to freeze the action, using the high speed flash of light to freeze any fast movement.

I've used lots of fill-in flash for two projects; the first was the Rally of Britain ( see top image) and the second can be seen in the speedway gallery. Both required a flashgun as a light source due to fading light caused by poor weather. These projects were done using film but digital now offers a preview facility to check out all shot images and adjust to changing lighting conditions. The photography is only limited by the output power of your flashgun which is usually around the 35 metres/ISO100 mark depending on the make and model.

Part II of this post will look at what sort of flashgun you need, how to use it for fill-in flash and how flash can be used to produce images like the rally photo above.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Look no wires!

Engrossed in a phonecall - York

Forty eight hours. That's what it's taken for me to get my 'easy' to use wireless internet system up and running. Frustrating....yes....exhausting...yes but finally i got there and this is the first post to use the wireless system. Yes i can now blog from anywhere in the house. Well almost anywhere.
A few wrinkles to iron out but the damn thing is working! Hurrah!!!!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

All change

Looking down Chapel Field Road, Norwich

In the last image i referred to changes to the environment due to our consumption needs. This photograph has a similar theme but from a urban perspective. The store on the right hand side of the image is the old Co-Operative building in Norwich.

For those people not familiar with this old British institution, the co-op was a large corporation that had fingers in all sorts of pies from shipping to funerals during the early 20th century. More recently they were known for large department stores selling everything from food to furniture. During the 1990's, household names like Binns and the Co-Op decided to start closing stores due to rising costs.

The last of these large stores finally closed about five or six years ago and they have remained empty ever since - all part of a cost cutting exercise that has left large areas of derelict shop space in many British towns and cities. In the age of the Internet shopper and out of town shopping, these buildings have become monuments to the old way of shopping.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Bigger and better

Baled field near Branton, Northumberland

Pylons cutting their way through the countryside near Branton village in Northumberland. It's an image that reflects the current climate debate and how the environment is affected by our constant demands for energy.

I rather like my landscape work and I'm seriously thinking about moving up to the 5x4 format next year. Like many things, it depends on the cost but i could probably pick up a good 5x4 camera for a decent price. I've used one in a studio and loved experimenting with various settings - they look complicated but compared to a modern digital SLR, they are really quite simple.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Picture purity

Black headed gulls flying about at Blakeney, Norfolk

There are loads of photography blogs out there, some of which i avidly await news updates from about photographers, their images or a new lens. There are also the other photography blogs that are run by certain photographers who have a great understanding and control of the technical side of photography but the pictures they take are rubbish.

A good metaphor was posted recently for these types of photographer who put technical purity before the visual quality of their images. The attitude and images of this techically obsessed set of photographers were explained as ' like having a perfectly tuned expensive grand piano and only playing chopsticks on it'. I rather like that metaphor.

Nothing bores me more than a weblog dedicated solely to the technical side of photography. I'd rather eat my own cameras than read some of the twaddle they write. Photography is not a purely technical exercise. Yes it does help create great photographs but it is only part of the creative equation.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Non place

Queens Road Multi storey car park - Norwich

Marc Augé, a French Anthropologist, coined the phrase "non-place" to refer to places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as "places." Examples of a non-place would be a motorway, a hotel room, an airport or a supermarket.*

*Wikipedia entry for Marc Augé.

I first heard the phrase 'non-place' some tens years ago nearly when i was at University. John, the fine art photography lecturer was commenting about some images of York railway station i'd taken and it's always stayed with me. It's an interesting phrase that i think is suitable description for this picture.

Friday, 7 December 2007

More control?

Photographs are an important part of any website. Some are good and some are bad but if you run a fansite for a popstar, filmstar or musician, the photographs form an important part of the website's indentity. That is no longer the case for fan websites of Prince who has legally demanded that ALL photographs of himself be removed from three of the main Prince fansites.

More and more celebrities seem to wanted to take full control of the way they are seen and represented online and in the media in general. Quite frankly it's laughable and one of the best ways to antagonise fans that i can think of. Yet the fans still remain loyal.

Control is what its all about. Control of an image.....but why try?
Any image released on the web is open to abuse, theft or mis-interpretation. They always have even before the internet was invented, the net just makes it a global problem. Away from the internet you can run into all sorts of 'offers'.

The worse case i've encountered as a photographer was a TV production company offering me £1 ($2) for a photograph they wanted to use in a national TV show. I lost any rights to that image meaning that they could have launched a best selling book with that image on the cover and i would get NOTHING!

They didn't get the picture.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Quality control

Bambrugh Castle, Northumberland - Grainy or great?

Just recently i've been having some doubts about the quality of my black and white images. These doubts aren't about the style or content but the grain and sharpness of the work. What it comes down to is 'am i getting the best image quality possible'?

It's a common dilemma with artists to question the way they work and i don't suppose it's a bad thing. For me its mainly a film grain thing. Are my images too grainy? Is FP4 supposed to have that amount of grain in a image? Do i push my films too far? Is it all part of my style of image making? Questions, questions !

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Review: TMAX vs DD-X

Power lines near Branton, Northumberland

As mentioned in a number of previous posts, i have been conducting a number of film developer comparisons just out my own interest. For years i have used Kodak's TMAX developer and i have loved the results I've got but i decided to test Ilford's Ilfotec DD-X developer to see if Ilford chemical produced better results with Ilford film than the Kodak.

Both chemicals are priced the same at £11.99 from Jessops photo retailer. The TMAX developer is more economical to use developing up to 12 rolls per mix compared to Ilford's two film recommendation for the DD-X. That said, a DD-X 1-4 mixture can be used several times with increases in developing time if you want to be more economical. I used a single mixture to develop four rolls of FP4 with no problems - the second set of two films had 10% added to the standard 10 minute dev time. I wouldn't use the DD-X mixture to develop more than four or six rolls of film but that is just a personal preference as the developing times start to stretch out considerably.

The most important thing for me was the results of the processing and happily i was extremely impressed by the DD-X's results. Negative tone, contrast/sharpness and grain were excellent - in some cases better than the TMAX but not excessively so. For me the DD-X provides slightly better grain and tone results when developing PAN F, FP4 and HP5 than the TMAX does but again the difference is negligible. Overall i was immensely pleased with the DD-X results finding them very similar to the TMAX but with slightly less grain.

In conclusion i would say that the Ilford developer is certainly a match for the Kodak TMAX developer. I started using TMAX in 1991 and its been an important part of my black and white processing since then. You don't make changes very lightly when you have used something for that long but I'm so pleased with the DD-X that it has become part of my official developing arsenal.

The only recommendation i can make is to try them both if you use a broad range of film speeds and then make a decision between the two chemicals. If you only use film speeds of below 125asa i would recommend the DD-X as the developer of choice. The results are just superb!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Profile: Roman Vishniac

The Only Flowers of her Youth, Warsaw, 1938

Roman Vishniac's work is a new discovery for me. I came across his work after buying a secondhand book from a car boot sale containing articles written by various photographers. One photographer called Peter Korniss (the final featured photographer in this series of posts) had photographed a Hungarian community during the early 1970's whose culture and traditions had remained untouched for hundreds of years. One of the photographers that Korniss mentioned in his article was Roman Vishniac.

Roman Vishniac was born just outside of St Petersburg, Russia in 1897 into a wealthy family who manufactured umbrellas. The Russian revolution saw the Vishniac family move to Germany to escape the growing anti-semitism that was sweeping Europe in the early part of the 20th century. It was during this turbulent time in his life that Vishniac took up photography. As well as the documentary work that he did, Roman Vishniac worked heavily in the field of Photomicroscopy for which he gained many accolades, winning the best of show at the Biological Photographic Association in three consecutive years from 1952 onwards.

From around 1935 to 1938 Vishniac photographed the Jews of eastern Europe creating over 16,000 images ranging from portraits to urban landscapes. Initially he had been commissioned by an American Jewish committee but Vishniac had quite a personal interest in the project. Vishniac and his family lived in Germany and witnessed first hand the rise of Nazism. He realised that the world of the eastern Jew was to be eradicated by a growing threat that many still failed to recognise. The work he created during this period was released as a book called 'A Vanished World'. Vishniac later commented " I knew it was my task to make certain that this vanished world did not totally disappear". The images would document a way of life that had remained unaltered for hundreds of years until the arrival of the SS at the beginning of the war.

The task of recording the eastern Jews would have been immense and the knowledge that this world was marked for annihilation would also weigh heavy on the mind. Most photographers would love to get an exclusive world to photograph. You would be taking groundbreaking images of a people or place that are unique and when you add the fact that only you will capture it before its destruction, the pressure to do a complete and thorough job grows. In many respects Roman Vishniac and Edward S Curtis were on similar territory. Both realised that they had little time to capture what was left of a society and culture in decline they were viewing through the viewfinder. The main difference between Vishniac and Curtis was time - Curtis had thirty years to complete the work, Vishniac had substantially less.

What makes this project really remarkable is that Roman Vishniac took many of his images secretly to avoid trouble with the authorities and locals. He often traveled around disguised as a fabric merchant and carried the camera ( he used a Leica and a Rolleiflex) under his coat or under a scarf. The photographs do have that candid feel which adds to the quality of the work - this WAS the world he had entered to capture. Cameras alter the way that people behave - remove the camera's influence and a more natural look is captured in the faces and actions of the subjects. They are themselves.

Vishniac left Germany in 1939 and eventually emigrated for America the following year where he continued to work as a documentary and scientific photographer. He also taught the philosophy of photography at an institute in New York City. Roman Vishniac died on January 22nd 1990 but his photographic legacy remains visible in his documentary and scientific work. Some have criticised his Eastern work as being technically flawed and amateurish. I think that the criticism is flawed and the work is of the highest value as a historical record. He was working against the authorities and in many cases, the very people he was photographing, hence his need for taking images covertly but Vishniac knew he had to take the images. For him it was an absolute necessity to photograph these people and their doomed world. This work remains their legacy as much as Roman Vishniac's.

Weblinks

The international Center for Photography/Roman Vishniac

http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/vishniac_roman.html

http://www.mocp.org/collections/permanent/vishniac_roman.php

Images: All images by Roman Vishniac

Top - Since the basement had no heat, Sara had to stay in bed all winter. Her father painted the flowers for her, the only flowers of her childhood. Warsaw, ca. 1935-38

Left top - Berlin, 1922 by Roman Vishniac.

Right top - Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow, ca. 1935-38

Left middle - Old Man. ca 1935-38

Right bottom - Apples for sale on the Gesia Ulica, one of the main streets in the Jewish quarter of Warsaw, ca. 1935-38

Friday, 30 November 2007

Multi story II

Looking towards All Saints Green, Norwich

This second photo was also taken from the top of the Queens Road multi storey car park in Norwich. This was the view at the direct opposite end of the car park to the previously posted image. The impressive looking roof on the left hand side of the image is the roof of Norwich's busy bus station.

For the technically curious it was shot using Ilford Pan F film (50 asa) in a Nikon F3HP fitted with 35mm Nikon F2.0 lens. I decided to use the F3 without the motordrive to keep the weight down making the camera easier to handle.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Multi story

Looking up St Stephen's Road in Norwich

This image was taken from the top of a multi storey car park in Norwich. The weather had turned rather thundery and it had started to rain quite heavy, but every now and again the sun would shine through, before another stormy downpour appeared.

I suppose that i was looking for a new perspective of Norwich and thought about looking down. It's a well placed car park with a great vista of the city on almost every side. I 'm not really a fan of heights but i can tolerate them so looking down on the street below was rather interesting.

This photograph reminds me slightly of the work by British photographer John Davies whose style has obviously influenced me. Not surprising really as i think his work is brilliant.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Same spot

Bikers have a break at Bambrugh, Northumberland

This image was taken in about the same location as a John Tordai image of Bambrugh taken as part of his book 'Northumberland'. He may have been a bit further forward than me but our cameras point in the same direction.

In the credits at the end of a movie you see the words 'no animals were harmed in the making of this picture'. It's true that no animals were hurt but sadly my trusty old photographic thermometer was mortally wounded by being squashed/snapped by a dev tank!

I've had that thermometer since, well i can't remember when but it has been responsible for temperature measuring at hundreds of film developing sessions and was with me throughout my student days. It will be sadly missed.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Developing nicely

Round bales near the village of Branton, Northumberland

A few months ago, i posted a blog with details about how i was testing out Ilford chemicals with Ilford film. This image is taken from the first roll of film to be processed in Ilford DD-X rather than Kodak TMAX developer. I must admit that I'm impressed and I'll continue to use the Ilford Developer alongside the Kodak TMAX.

This image was taken near a village called Branton, not far from Powburn in Northumberland. The hills in the background are the Cheviot hills, which form part of the Northumberland national park.

Some more images from Northumberland will be posted over the next few days.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Animal magic

Tony and Ernie - Photograph by Tony Mendoza

Photography is often about relationships and there are none more fascinating than one between a human and an animal. Photographer Tony Mendoza moved into a rented loft with a fellow artist who had a cat called Ernie.

Tony photographed Ernie everyday for two years making around 10,000 negatives. In 2001 Tony Mendoza published a book of the Ernie photographs and he has added a website featuring selected images from the book with details on how the photographs were taken.

I just love these images. Cats and dogs certainly have their own unique quirky character traits and Ernie's has been lovingly captured in Mendoza's photographs.

Tony Mendoza's Ernie: A Photographer's Memoir can be found HERE

Website found via a posting on The Online Photographer

Close interest

York Art Gallery

The bad weather has so far stopped me shooting any more images for the 'Year in York' project but hopefully i should get some new images shot in the next week or so - weather permitting.

I especially like this image of the art gallery taken from the last set of images shot for October. The man in the red sweater on the extreme right of the picture is obviously quite interested in what i'm doing.

Poor light

Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk - where Lord Nelson learned to sail

It's a bit dark and rainy in Britain at the moment. Typical British winter weather with very poor light. I'll have to start doing more studio work.

It has been a week of upgrading for Richard Flint Photography. First was the DVD-writer purchased so i can store all of my digital images on DVD disc. Next came the broadband which I've decided to upgrade to a faster speed because i use it so much. The Internet has revolutionised my photography and how i display it. I actually enjoy taking photographs more now than i ever have and i have various other photographer friends who i can talk to if i need any help.

The one thing i did miss from my college days was talking to fellow photographers. One minute you are surrounded by friends whose opinions you can take into account with work - the next thing you are out on your own with no lecturers or colleagues around to talk to. Self employment is a lonely business but thanks to the Internet, its not so lonely anymore.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Critical defence

Angry fishermen vent their anger - Wells next to the sea, Norfolk*

Criticism. It's something that anyone working as an artist has to face at some point in their career. Art has a major drawback in that it is a very personal form of expression and to many artists an attack on their work is an attack on them. I have never held that believe because, by and large, i believe that most critics don't know what they are talking about.

During my HND Photography course, i had two lecturers that helped me become the photographer i am today. The first called Simon was just a great teacher of photography - the type of person who can see your strengths and encourage your creativity. He was tough to please but if you got good marks you at least knew that it was good work. There were no compromises with Simon's high standards.

The second lecturer was Jim who, for a nice way of putting it, was a complete b*****d during critiques of work. Students feared his critiques but respected (sort of) the opinion given. We would all go to the college canteen and curse the day he was born but he did us all the biggest favour imaginable.

I learned from those critiques to not give a flying fridge about anyone's opinion but your own. That's not to say that you shouldn't listen to any opinions given but to take any criticism personally is definitely a no-no. In some cases you need to ignore the good comments as well as the bad - if you believe one why not the other?

Most important of all is you MUST defend your work if you believe in it - I certainly did and still do!

* DEFRA stands for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This is the British Government ministry department that governs the farming and fishing industries.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Everyday interest

Crossing the road outside York Art gallery

This was just a point and shoot picture but i really like the different elements of the photograph from the bus passengers getting on and off the bus to the couple talking near the crossing. It always amazes me how interesting the everyday events of life can look when photographed.

I will be working on my 'a year in York' project again this weekend. I must admit i can't wait to photograph York at Christmas! The lights and decorations will add that extra bit of colour.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

On the shelf


Just recently i moved my bookcase into another room to get them away from the bright light of an nearby window. It was during the move that i realised how many photography books i've collected over the years. Many of then stem from my college and university days but i still buy at least five or six each year, depending on the cost and quality of the book i'm looking at.

More and more books on photography are appearing on the market making the process of choosing a book even harder. I would say that this is a golden time for purchasing affordable books about photography and photographers but in the UK it can be tricky to find a bookshop that stocks a large photography section. In York there is only one place to go - Borders.

I don't blame the bookshops. Photography books can be expensive and they will never sell in the quantities that the Harry Potter or celebrity biographies do. For many people (including myself) these books help improve their photography. It also gives them access to work that they may only see in an art gallery - for some people, a rather daunting place where they think they have to 'understand' the work on view.

My best buy this year has to be a collection of five books, many of which out of print, purchased for under £10 ($20) including Don McCullin's fabulous 1979 book called 'Homecoming' - a rare find at a car boot sale!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Discretion required!

Press photographers photograph a funeral

As i was out and about this week i visited my local town to bank a cheque and have a look round. Passing St Michael's church i noticed a funeral going on - nothing unusual about that, i myself have been to a funeral at that very church. Then i spotted these two snappers photographing the congregation of mourners from a very discreet distance. Instantly you knew it was a VIP's funeral.

As i went back to the car i thought about the photographers and wondered why images of the mourners were needed by the newspaper. Surely just a nice description of the service & congregation would have done. What function does a photograph of a funeral actually serve? In my opinion none whatsoever!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Near miss

The International market - York

This shot was nearly deleted. I had my finger on the delete button of the D2H, ready to consign the image to oblivion. I'd been concentrating on the two young ladies - yes, definitely one of the benefits of the job - and I'd missed the decisive moment of them concentrating on a potential purchase.

"Damn" i thought and probably muttered to myself as i looked at the screen but then i noticed the passer by to the extreme left.

The look on her face is hard to fathom. is it surprise? is it boredom? is she being insulted? You could interpret her facial expression in any number of ways and make a story to fit.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Limited creativity?

Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

An education in an art form limits your creativity! A somewhat big statement and one i came across in a craft fair in Helmsley of all places. A photographer from Leeds was selling her work and her artist profile leaflet stated that very fact.

After reading that and some of the other 'words of wisdom', i actually came away liking her work less than when i 'd initially seen it. She had some terrific work but her attitude to photography and her fellow photographers stank! Maybe it touched a nerve with me - after all, i did six years in the very photography education system that, she said, limits your creativity.

No, i think that what really irritated the hell out of me were the massive presumptions she was jumping to. Photography is for us all to enjoy and each photographer has their own way of seeing and creating images. Its what fundamentally makes photography such a diverse and popular art form - you can show people the world as YOU see it. There is no right or wrong way to do it and there are many ways of learning image making - it all depends on the individual.

Photographers, whether professional or amateur, photography educated or self taught, can all make huge contributions to the art of photography. The IMAGE and only the image matters -if the photograph is a great one, the educated/ self taught bit just becomes an irrelevant detail.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Profile: Edward S Curtis

Sioux sub chief Red Hawk - Oasis in the Badlands, South Dakota, 1904 - Edward S. Curtis

Edward S. Curtis was born in 1869 in the US state of Wisconsin, the son of a preacher who visited his widely scattered flock on day long horse and canoe journeys. The introduction to the great outdoors and the common sight of native American Indians tribes people like the Winnebago and the Chippewas, had a huge influence on the young Curtis. He took up photography at an early age using a home made camera, acquiring knowledge from the text book 'Wilson's photographics'.

In 1890, the battle of wounded Knee took place marking the beginning of the decline of Indian culture - Edward S. Curtis was 21 years old. Around the same time, Curtis lost his father and he decided to move to Seattle to work in a photographic business; it would be a business that he would eventually take over. Although Curtis is best known for his images of The Native American Indian, he was held in high regard as a landscape and portrait photographer. Later in his career he was summoned to the White House to photograph the President's son.

Up until 1900 Edward S.Curtis worked primarily as a commercial photographer photographing landscapes, people and accompanying the Harriman expedition to Alaska where he served as the official photographer. It was during this expedition that Curtis became interested in the different ethnology's of the northwest coast and the Indians in particular. Curtis decided to photograph every tribe in the United States - a massive undertaking for any photographer. Eighty tribes of North American Indian were photographed over a thirty year period in a project which Curtis regarded himself as an artist and a scientist. The images cover a broad range of subject matter from portraits to landscapes; the photographer recognising that the land played a vitally important spiritual role in an Indians life. The portraits are just beautiful pieces of work and the faces of the sitters are amazing to look at. Many show a sad resignation, as though they know that Curtis is photographing the end of their way of life. The Navaho girl image is especially haunting - she is a beautiful girl and yet she had such sad looking eyes.

Over 40,000 negatives were taken but Curtis didn't stop with the still-image. Stories, legends and myths as well as tribal histories were all written down and recorded using the early Edison wax cylinder sound recording system. The Indian tribes had no written language and relied on the spoken word to pass on tribal histories. More than 10,000 songs alone were recorded and documented.

With the Native American Indian project well underway, Edward S. Curtis managed to get sponsored by the railway tycoon John Piermont Morgan but due to the immense size of the project, it was a constant battle for Curtis to remain financially solvent. Curtis received no financial support from any official body or government organisation during the whole project - most of the early work was financed from personal funds. It is estimated that the thirty year project cost around $500,000 in total but some estimates have the figure at $1.5 million - a significant part of the costs coming from the 17 people that Curtis employed during the thirty year venture.

The project was finally finished in 1930 when the final volume of Indian tribe images were published as part of a limited print run of only 25 sets of 30 volumes. Some 300 original prints were also made. The end of the mammoth project led to Curtis suffering severe emotional and physical exhaustion from which he never fully recovered. In 1952 Edward S. Curtis died at the age of 84. Such was the lack of interest in his work at that time, that The New York Times obituary for him came to just 76 words - a sad reflection of how Curtis and photographic history was viewed during the 1950's.

The images were rediscovered during the 1970's and the work of Edward S. Curtis has amazed and delighted photographers from all over the world ever since. Curtis recognised that the native American Indian traditions and culture, he was viewing, was facing annihilation due to the increasing demands of the modern world. Curtis knew he had to document it before it was all over - even it it took a lifetime to do so. To his credit he produced a thorough piece of work that continues to influence photographers to this day. His work offers a fascinating insight into the traditions and life of the Native American Indian.

This post forms a series of three looking at photographers who photographed unique cultures -many facing extinction. The next photographer in the 'photographer profile' series of posts also recorded a unique culture faced with annihilation. He's a great photographer I've only just come across recently. Roman Vishniac photographed the Jewish culture in central and Eastern Europe in the late 1930's before the holocaust. The profile on Roman Vishniac will be posted in November.

Edward S. Curtis Links


http://www.edwardscurtis.com/

http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/

http://www.sil.si.edu/Exhibitions/Curtis/

http://www.afterimagegallery.com/curtisnew.htm


All images by Edward S. Curtis

Top image - Edward S. Curtis

Image 2 - Chief Joseph, or Hin-Mah-Too-Yah ("Thunder Traveling to Loftier Mountain Heights"), was a hereditary chief of the Nez Percé. In 1877, Chief Joseph surrendered with these now-famous words: "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." Photo taken in 1903 by Edward S. Curtis

Image 3 - The storm -Apache. In the high mountain of apache land just before a storm breaks.

Image 4 - A young Navaho girl

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Autumn gold

Picnic in the park, York

The light just seemed to be perfect on Sunday morning. The autumn light was delicate and golden - exactly the same as it was two weeks before when i was taking images.

York was very busy for a Sunday. An international market made up of stalls from Italy, France, Germany and many other countries were busy selling their wares to the large crowds. The sights and smells, combined with the sound of French and Italian music, made a small piece of York seem very continental indeed.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Pavement drawing

Lizzie's pavement drawing

This is another photograph taken from my year in York project. A school outing had been to the Barbican Centre and had left their mark - the pavement outside the centre was decorated with brightly coloured chalk drawings.

The day to day activities of city life were starting to take their toll on the pictures but the lively colour drawings still remained vibrant and bold, adding that bit of colour to the drab looking pavement.

A new gallery is being constructed to display the images that will be updated on a regular basis. The images will also be available to view on the Richard Flint Photography MySpace page.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

A year in York

Looking down at Bootham Bar

I've just started a new photographic project that will run an entire year with new images being taken each month. The subject matter is the city of York - one of the most photographed cities in the UK. The photograph above is taken from the first series of images for October.

The project has just one simple rule: the images must be taken within, on or in sight of the old medieval city walls. The walls stretch around most of the inner part of the city and form an important part of the city's identity. The project is to be shot digitally and in colour.

The first gallery of images for October will be uploaded soon.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Macro world

Green mushroom

Its amazing how you see the world differently when you look a lot closer at things. This mushroom was growing in the garden lawn and looked pretty ordinary, but focus in close with a Nikon Macro lens and a whole new fascinating world opens up. The textures are just superb - it almost looks alien - and the mushroom was only three inches (75mm) tall! Nature at its best.

New domains

The new Richard Flint Photography website has been online for a few weeks and has been getting some very favourable comments about its design. More work on the website will continue over the winter. The website has also been given two more domain names for future promotional use.

The main RFP website can now be accessed via the two brand new http://www.richardflintphoto.co.uk/ and http://www.northyorkshirephotography.co.uk/ website addresses.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

The eye, the heart, the head

Cley next to the sea, Norfolk

London. Early 1950's. The Magnum photographer Ernst Haas is discussing what makes a good photographer with the legendary war photographer, Robert Capa. Haas suddenly turns towards Capa " Do you know the arab oath?" asks Haas. Capa remains silent as Haas explains. "The arabs swear by three things: the eye, the heart, the head - that's all you need to look for in a photographer".

I don't know if the arab oath Haas quoted is real but it certainly makes it much easier to define what makes a good photographer.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Ways of seeing

Saturday morning 10:25am - Chesterfield Market, Derbyshire

On the motorway coming back from a family get together, my eyes looked across towards the distant twinkling lights of Sheffield and i thought it is so sad that cameras can't see things like we do. I wanted to capture those twinkling orange and green lights there and then but i couldn't.

The human eye is a very clever piece of kit. It can filter and process light brilliantly, function in very low light levels and colour correct with ease. I have no doubt that digital cameras will develop at a rapid pace and who knows; maybe one day the camera will start to work more like the human eye but its a long way off.

All of us have seen images that we couldn't take due to any number of reasons. We miss that moment and the photo has gone - a dreadful feeling for a photographer. I've always wondered what it would be like to have eyes that could take photographs or video. Photography would take on a whole new dimension.

Friday, 12 October 2007

On approach

Cessna coming into land - Burnham airfield, Norfolk

I sometimes wish that I'd started my photographic education much later. I was a bit of a photography purist at college and university, my views on colour photography, photoshop/digital imaging and certain photographers were, shall we say, rather negative.

The purity of the image was all that mattered to me. NO cropping, NO digital manipulation and not much time for colour work either. I wasn't alone - my HND documentary group were of a similar mind. We were like a photographic Taliban who couldn't be swayed from our staunchly held views on photography and photographers. What I can't work out is whether it was a reaction against the tide of progress or because i was naive. Both i think. Photography was changing at a fast rate and i didn't like it.......at least i thought i didn't!

It's been nine years since i left university and in those nine years photography has changed immensely. I came out of a film based photographic education into a world that was starting to go digital. Yes we did have computers and a digital camera on the degree but film was still the main medium. These days universities have photography students who know nothing of the pre-digital days. Darkrooms, enlargers and film are things of the past to many of those student snappers.

As for me? Well, in the nine years, i've become more aware of photography as an art and my approach to viewing photography has changed too. I've freed up my perspective and my photography has improved as more of my work is influenced from new directions. I think getting older has played a large part in the process. I've mellowed with age and my photography and music tastes have mellowed too. The youthful purist constraints of my photographic Taliban days are long gone.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Horse to water

Horse making its way to the water for a drink - Salthouse, Norfolk

The coastal road from Hunstanton to Cromer goes through the small but busy village of Salthouse. There are a couple of places to eat so its a stopping point for many people travelling along the road.

In this photograph you can see the sea defences in the distance which are popular for walkers who stroll along the long coastal path. The path stretches right along the north coast, weaving its way around and through the marshes, reed beds, clifftops, sand dunes, towns and villages that make up the diverse north coast of Norfolk.

I've always wondered what this part of the Norfolk coast would be like in the winter. Maybe the whole ambience of the place changes when the last of the tourists leave. One day I'm going to find out.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Coastal dwellings

Houses on the coast at Weybourne, Norfolk

A few hundred yards along the coast from where the last image was taken are these houses, perched on top of a slowly crumbling cliff face. There are five houses in the row, some looking a bit weather beaten which wasn't surprising, but all unique houses with broad spectacular views of the sea.

There were one or two tell tale signs that the houses had been used by the Royal Navy. Near to where the pillbox was located were the concrete remains of a gun emplacement - maybe the navy used the houses as an area HQ.

The end house nearest the sea has lost some of its garden, five or six feet of the stone garden wall hanging precariously in the air over the end of the cliff. Was it years or just days since the cliff face gave way? You couldn't tell; but there can be no doubt that eventually these houses will suffer the same fate as the garden wall. When? That's anyones guess.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Perfect peace

Weybourne mill with WWII beach defence in the foreground

Weybourne beach was an place in Norfolk that I'd never visited, even though I'd passed the road entrance many times before. The beach is typical of the Norfolk coast - secluded, quiet and peaceful. The perfect place to escape the modern world.

One rather interesting feature of the coast are the wartime pillboxes that stretch along the entire coast. To the casual viewer they seem to be placed at random but they were built as part of a sophisticated layered system of defence to protect the Norfolk coast from an invasion from Germany. Pillboxes were also constructed at various strategic points inland (i.e road junctions and bridges) to try and slow the advance of the enemy troops.

Norfolk was the nearest part of the UK to Nazi Germany and it was thought, until the invasion of France, that a German invasion of Britain come via Germany. Norfolk had the flat beaches ideal for amphibious landings and later those beaches would be used by the allies to practice for D-Day.

Fortunately the invasion never came but the pillboxes remain a potent reminder of the Nazi threat that Britain faced in 1940.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Developing problems

Down by the Ouse

The blank look on the face of the shop assistant said it all. Anyone would have thought that I'd asked for a small nuclear weapon by the puzzled look he gave but all I'd asked for is a bottle of Kodak TMAX developer to process some film. " We don't stock liquids anymore" he said in a matter of fact kind of way. A photographic shop with no dev !!!! The saga of the high street photo retailer continues down its sorry path.

Over the summer, the UK based photographic retailer Jessops announced that it was closing over 80 stores with the loss of 550 jobs - 26% of its stores. To be honest i wasn't surprised as the store has declined over the years from the great stockist of photographic materials that it was, to the Jessops of today - a store that stocks virtually nothing. The amount of times I've been in to purchase some materials and found that they had none or only a fraction of the items,that at one time, they would have had in abundance. Yes i could use the website ( and i do!) but that adds postage costs and delays to the order; some things you want immediately.

Film has been swept out of the Jessops chain, to be replaced with digital. Fine but the problem with digital is it is self sufficient as a process. You take an image on your camera, take it off the camera and wipe the card to start again. Nothing needs to be replaced or replenished apart from batteries, and only then if you can't recharge them. Film was much more friendly to the retailer as chemicals, film and photographic paper all had to be replaced - Jessops was the place to do that. In their defence i suppose the retailer has only gone with the market but to me, a photo retailer should stock both film and digital supplies to support both forms of photography.


During the summer i purchased a new camera bag from a rather good independent photographic shop called Dents of Chesterfield. The shop has everything from film to digital cards and they stock LOADS of bags, chemicals, books, gadgets etc. Jessops should look and maybe learn a thing or two from them.

Lost in thought

Lost in thought

This guy was in a world of his own. Just watching the river and the world go by on the Low Ousegate bridge. Several people stopped, had a quick look and were off again but this fella took his time and just stood taking in the view.

I took one frame of him lost in his thoughts, trying not to disturb him but he was in a world of his own. Why rush! It's a sunday morning.

Sunday morning snap

Sunday morning in the park next to the river Ouse, York

It was a beautiful autumnal morning today in York. The light was gorgeous - very delicate with a hint of gold in its rays - almost like the golden leaves on the trees were reflecting the light back.

I decided to have a wander around to see what i could photograph. I didn't take that much, maybe twenty images at most, but i got three or four images that i really liked. This is one of them.
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