Friday, 30 November 2012

Fighting the Flood

Flood equipment stored near the closed bridge in Malton, North Yorkshire, UK | Photo by Richard Flint

Twelve years ago i took a series of images about a flood that occurred in the towns not far from me. Both Malton and Norton lie next to the River Derwent, and in early 2000 the sheer amount of winter rain caused a extensive flood. To keep both towns connected, a ferry was started using a tractor and a trailer which transported people back and forth across the main bridge and the flooded areas. 

This year the flood waters returned and severely tested the £10 million flood defence system with the water reaching to within two feet of the top of the flood defense wall. Hopefully the worst of the flooding is over and the waters will start to recede, yet those who live near the river are faced with the huge task of tidying up and getting on with their lives, in the knowledge that a wet winter could easily see it return.

A series of images covering the flood and posted to Instagram can be seen HERE

Monday, 26 November 2012

American Dream


Regular readers of this blog may remember Ian Ruhter's Silver and light video about the photographer who used his van as a camera, darkroom and transport all rolled into one. Like Harry Taylor featured in the last post, Ruhter was looking for something different and found it in the Wet Plate Collodian photography .

This second video follows Ian photographing people he has met in Los Angeles and the images, just like the stories he hears, are quite remarkable. The wet plate images do seem to capture the character of the portrait sitter rather well, but the process of taking the actual images is far from easy. Ruhter has it down to a fine art.

Best of all, the Ruhter wet plate van is hitting the roads around the United States to photograph the people and places. I, for one, will be keeping a close eye on what this photographer captures on his travels.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

American Tintype


After the death of his mother, photographer Harry Taylor decided that he had taken film and digital photography as far as he could and discovered a passion for the 150 year old process of Tintype photography. The equipment and Tintype photo process is fascinating to watch. I'd love to have a go.

This short film is beautifully shot and captures the passion of photography perfectly. We all work in our own way to create images and this film just happens to capture a photographer who needed to change his photography. Especially interesting is Harry's mention of digital photography being perfect. Is this maybe why we use the Instagram retro photo filters? A need to inject some imperfection perhaps?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Two Storms

The John B. Caddell, a tanker ship, ran aground on Staten Island during the Sandy storm surge |Photo by Benjamin Lowy—Reportage by Getty Images for TIME

Two storms have raged this week. First came the actual storm in Hurricane Sandy and then came the second storm about how it was covered by photojournalists who chose to use a certain iPhone app.

Much of the argument stems from this post criticizing the use of mobile photography during Hurricane Sandy. During a time when much of the infrastructure was down, people were on the move and people were after information - ANY information - mobile photography seemed not a bad choice of tool to use.

Let's not forget that Instagram is a publishing platform. Earlier today i re-tweeted a comment from @lpvmagazine who correctly stated :-

'The most interesting thing about Instagram IMO is that it's primarily a real time network/platform. Too much focus on aesthetics.' 
 Getting images out to an audience is what the Instagram network is built for. Forget all the vintage style photo filters. Forget all the photos of cats, food and family photos. Instagram is, at core, a real time publishing platform that can distribute imagery over a variety of communication networks. Then consider the challenging conditions facing people who were probably relying on mobile phones for most , if not all, of their communication.

How long does it take to process a DSLR image from the card to the net? Can you do it direct from the camera? How much gear/technology do you need to accomplish the task? Real time? Heck no.

Are we really that surprised that a device that can take photographs AND upload them in real time ( or damn close to it)to a waiting audience became the tool of choice for some photographers? I'm not.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Brilliance of W.Eugene Smith


The LIFE website really did come up with a masterpiece recently when the decided to produce an extended gallery of W. Eugene Smith's landmark photo story 'Nurse, Midwife'.

The story originally ran in the December 1951 issue of the classic magazine and followed the activities of a South Carolina nurse and midwife named Maude Callen who cared for patients in an area covering 400 square miles.When the story ran in LIFE donations flooded in that was used to build a clinic where Maude Cullen worked until she retired in 1971.

The photography is just brilliant. No other word for it. If you're wanting to study and develop the narrative skills for putting together a photo story, W Eugene Smith should be your first port of call. This photo story and the 1948 LIFE photo essay 'Country Doctor' are undoubtedly two of best you'll ever see.

The excellent 'Nurse, Midwife' by W. Eugene Smith can be found HERE

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The iDyssey


Last Spring Stefano De Luigi set out to retrace the Mediterranean voyage of Homer’s Odysseus. The photographer chose to capture the journey via Hipstamatic images and video footage shot using an iPhone. Along the way he also captured the sounds and voices of people he met along the way.

It's an excellent project and a very significant use of the iPhone to retell an epic story. Increasingly we are all trying to tell our stories through the variety of digital tools currently available.  I'd like to think that Odysseus would have used an Instagram account to document his adventures had he started on his epic voyage now.

The New Yorker article can be found HERE. Stefano has also uploaded some video footage to YouTube. There is no English translation but it makes interesting viewing nonetheless. The YouTube footage can be found here.

Monday, 27 August 2012

A portrait of crime

Police identification file for William Jones | Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums

One of the more amazing qualities of photography is its ability to constantly reinvent itself. A photograph is taken for one purpose but it takes on another role or purpose. That's what a series of photographs found in a junk shop by a member of the public have achieved - a metamorphosis from a working police identity photo to a significant historical document that provides valuable social information.

The collection of photographs feature ID photographs of criminals who worked in the north east of England,  around Newcastle Upon Tyne, during the 1930's. Donated to the Tyne & Wear archives and Museums, the images have been added to Flickr in the hope that more information may be received about the individuals seen in the mugshots. The Flickr archive also features some fascinating portraits of women prisoners brought before the North Shields Police Court between 1902 and 1916.

The portraits certainly make fascinating viewing, with the images show a surprisingly diverse set of people, some of whom wouldn't look too far out of place on a film set. Already some of the background to the lives led by the men featured in the 1930's collection is being revealed. William Jones, seen above, was killed after falling off a roof near the Benwell hotel in Newcastle. He was being pursued by police at the time. Jones stands out from the others due to his age and the conviction for shooting a man in America. Of all the men photographed, he appears to have been the most dangerous.

A charge that is often mentioned in the prisoner M.O is larceny, a crime involving the wrongful acquisition of the personal property of another person,  and one that was abolished in England and Wales back in 2002.

The Flickr archive for the Tyne &  Wear Archives and Museums, featuring a broad range of photographic work including some superb images of ship building, can be found HERE

The collection of 31 mug shots from the 1930's can be found HERE

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Echoes of Powder

Flying High by Geraldine Lamanna

I really love these images. Photographing dance is especially tricky to do well , but this image and the others by Geraldine Lamanna work beautifully.

More great Powder Dance images from Geraldine can be found HERE

Further details about the Powder Dance images can be found HERE

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Photographic Processes


Here's an excellent series of videos looking at the various photographic processes from the Daguerreotype to the Gelatin Silver Print. Certainly recommended viewing.

The series can be found at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4F918844C147182A

Monday, 30 July 2012

The tale of Mr Mieczkowski


Occasionally, just occasionally, an item will pass through my hands as part of my work that really makes me stop and think how fortunate i am to be a photographer. Sometimes I get to handle history, items that have managed to survive all the slings and arrows of misfortune that history can throw at them.

Very recently a client, who wanted some images copying and repairing, delivered a beautiful old family photograph album that just oozed history. The stories that this photo album could tell as it moved through time and changed hands would probably make a great film or book. When you think of the European history, and especially Polish history during the 20th century, it's just amazing that this photo album made it through - how many Polish family albums did not! Sadly the album will likely keep its story and secrets safe, however the images within the album remain extremely beautiful and in excellent condition considering their age.

The album appears to dated from the 1880's (although some images may be older) and include photographs by a number of Polish photographers. Among the names mentioned on the back of one photograph is Jan Mieczkowski, a photographer whose life story is as amazing as his photographs. Mieczkowski managed to build up a decent sized photography business empire in Warsaw providing photographic portraits to society, after studying daguerreotype and collodion processes of image making. He went on to own several shops and was an established part of the photographic community before bad investments in other businesses led to his second eventual bankruptcy in 1880 ( he'd gone bankrupt before in 1857 due to poor investing, worked around Poland as a photographer and then returned to Warsaw to start again).


This second meltdown of his finances in Poland didn't seem to put Mieczkowski off photography though. In 1880 he decided to make a bold move and transfer his entire family to Paris. They would relocate, he would build up a new photography business and work as a photographer in the French capital. The photographer had attended the Exposition Universaille à Paris in 1862 and also in 1878 when he won a Médaille D'or award for excellence, a fact that is proudly displayed on the back of the photographic prints he produced - he could make it work in Paris. The idea probably sounded good, but things are never that simple.

Sadly, Jan Mieczkowski lasted only a year in Paris before financial problems, caused by fierce competition, a lack of French language skills and an embezzling lawyer, made him to go bankrupt yet again. The photographer then decided to return to to his native Poland in 1881 (remarkably though, the business name of Mieczkowski and Cie remained active in Paris using different photographers) managing to build up a new successful photography business again in Warsaw. Jan Mieczkowski died in Vienna in 1889 at the age of 59. That was just one photographer's story and over the next few weeks I'm going to see what i can find out about the other names mentioned in the album.

Holding such a wonderful album does make me think that the traditional family album has to be one of the biggest losers of late due to the introduction and rapid take-up of digital photography; how many families still put prints together for future generations to enjoy? We place our trust in the belief that websites like Facebook will be around forever, and we upload our images to the web without even thinking about the possibility of our valuable family 'data' suddenly vanishing. Family photography seems to be far less tangible than it was, as we access images through screens and websites, rather than pages and prints. So many extra factors come into play with digital data. My fear is that we will lose a great deal of valuable social history because of a need to digitally distribute and socialise the here-and-now of our family lives.

This Polish photo album has lasted over one hundred years, has been passed from one generation to the next and has survived numerous world events. Hopefully it will last another hundred years, at least. Can we really say the same about our Facebook galleries?

Friday, 13 July 2012

Colour and Pain

The pack rides past a field of sunflowers during the 199 km seventh stage of the 2012 Tour de France, heading toward La Planche des Belles Filles, on July 7, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

Yes, the Tour de France is currently going into it's second week with the usual ingredients of colour, pain and drama. How many sports let you get right up next to the action? You can get close, sometimes too close to the race participants as one ambitious amateur photographer found out during an early stage. 

After standing too far out and caught up in his own photographic thoughts, the photographer caused a crash after a bunch of riders, bunched together in the peloton, found they couldn't go around him. A peloton is a delicate thing. One rider fell and more followed. Somehow the photographer managed to escape the chaos. 

That close relationship to the spectators is what makes the Tour de France what it is. As most other sports  seems to want to add distance between the spectators and events, the Tour remains the same. Pick a place by the road on the Tour route... and wait. That equal access evens things up for any budding photographer. There aren't that many sports where the pro sports photographer and the spectator can get the same access.

That said, you have to physically keep up with the action over the length each stage. A motorbike is the essential piece of kit with the photographer perched on the back. Balancing on a speeding motorbike while trying to get a photograph of the yellow jersey , as you wrestle with the bulky zoom lens, dealing with all the changes in the weather, looks rather a challenge and maybe even perilous at times. 

Check out the thrills and spills of the current tour HERE (loads of great images but i especially like image number 32). For a more ambient look at the Tour de France, have a look at Brent Humphreys images taken back in 2007. The riders may change, but the eccentric nature of the cycling fans and the race atmosphere does not. Brent's work can be found at www.projectletour.com

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Frankencamera


Take a 1908 Wollensak Cine-Velostigmat f5 lens, stick it on a Canon 5D mkII and what do you get? Well a slightly soft, dreamy view of the world if the video footage is anything to go by. A great idea though, to combine two different eras of photographic technology.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Maggie the Indestructible

Margaret Bourke-White photographed on top of the Chrysler Building, New York, 1931

While browsing through the images on Tumblr, I came across this portrait of Margaret Bourke-White. I think it's a fabulous image. A vaguely glamorous photo of the youthful and talented photographer, and yet it seems to also perfectly capture the persona of a jobbing photographer, hard at work high up above New York.

Of all the posts i have placed on the blog over the years, Margaret Bourke-White's remains the most popular by far. I even received comments thanking me for profiling the photographer's work, such was the admiration for this woman and her work. Forty years after her death, she still inspires new generations of photographers.

The skill and diversity of talent she had as a photographer is obvious to anyone who sees her work. How many people could photograph Joseph Stalin's great aunt and capture the beautiful architectural lines of a dam? Commercial, industrial, documentary, portraiture, war - Margaret could shoot it all. 

Life produced a great page to commemorate Margaret Bourke-White's birthday last week, featuring some of her best images including a number I'd never seen before. It also explains why she was called Maggie the Indestructible :) The excellent Margaret Bourke-White LIFE article and gallery can be found HERE

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Eleven Year Career


Taking a quick look at the image above you may think that it's a great contempary portrait of a beautiful woman. It may come as a surprise to find out that the photograph was taken in 1864 and is of the actress Ellen Terry who was just 16 when the photograph was taken.

This image was taken by Julia Margaret Cameron who was a celebrated photographer during the Victorian era. As well as shooting her own work based on Arthurian and other legendary themes, Julia Margaret Cameron was also a celebrity photographer photographing such people as Charles Darwin and others. Incredibly Cameron's career only lasted 11 years, with the photographer only picking up a camera when she was 48.

I just love the timeless quality of the images - especially that of Ellen Terry. A great post by the Photography News website has further images by Julia Margaret Cameron. The Victoria and Albert Museum website also have a very informative page about the photographer worth checking out.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Walk in the Park

A portrait of Rehman by Lana Slezic 

The image above comes from a superb series of portraits of Delhi street kids who all frequent an area of ground called 'the park'.

As the photographer Lana Slezic explains 'The street kids I photographed in Old Delhi call the place where they live “the park.” Not a strand of grass has the misfortune of growing there. The ground reeks of urine and burning rubbish. Sniffing glue is the center of this world. Shoeless children play happily in the scorched dirt, flicking marbles for money so they can eat, their tummies grumbling with hunger. This park bears no resemblance to that of my youth' 

What dignity is displayed in the faces of the children. They are tough... they have to be! Yet we sense the character and strength that they all possess is combined with a fragile quality. Many look confidently, almost defiantly at the camera. Overall though, you come away from viewing the images with a feeling of immense sadness. No child should have to live like this.

 Lana Slezic's excellent series of portraits titled 'A walk in the park' can be found HERE

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Photographing Oil

Bonneville #1 Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA, 2008

The Guardian website recently featured a great gallery of work by the photographer Edward Burtynsky who has spent fifteen years working on a project looking at the complicated world of oil.

What didn't come across in the small selection of 16 images featured on the Guardian, was the sheer depth of the photography project. Burtynsky has divided the project into four distinct sections - Extraction and Refinement, Detroit Motor City, Transportation and Motor culture (from which the above image is taken) and the end of oil. Virtually every aspect of our relationship, our dependence and our addiction to oil is covered in this extensive project. Even the design office of the Model T Ford has been photographed.

Shipbreaking #13 Chittagong, Bangladesh, 2000

The impact on the environment seems a common theme thoughout the project. Images of the Oxford tire pile taken in California in 1999 gives us an uncomfortable reminder that there is a hefty price tag for consuming oil - often a price we choose to ignore.

Many images from the 'the end of oil' gallery have the distinct look of a post apocalyptic world, a landscape of waste not that far removed from scenery in the Mad Max film series. Mountains of waste litter the tire dump and a beach in Bangladesh is covered with the strange metal debris sculptures of scrapped ships.

Edward Bertynsky's photography provides a fascinating broad insight into the world of oil that we are all consuming in some shape or form.  The photographs provide a chilling visual record that we waste, destroy and contaminate huge amounts of our planet and its resources, just so we can fill up at the petrol pump. What's worse is that the demand for oil is growing daily.

Sadly there are no direct URL links to the various galleries, but you can find the oil series of images along with more great industry related photography projects in the works section of the photographer's website.

Edward Bertynsky's photography can be found on his website at http://www.edwardburtynsky.com

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Insights into Photojournalism


If you have any interest in photojournalism, then this discussion with Jamie Wellford is a essential listening!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Old Life


If you enjoy documentary films, then a click over the Side TV website may be worth your while. It certainly has plenty on offer to watch.

Several documentary films, made during the turbulent years of change in the North East of England, are available to watch there. Especially recommended are the films 'Launch' about the launch of an oil tanker called 'World Unicorn' in 1973 and  'Ship Tyne Main' which focuses in on a pub on Tyneside in 1967.

Launch captures the activity around a shipyard in Wallsend and features a marvelous scene with the oil tanker sliding out of view in a scene framed around a terraced street. People lived and worked under the shadow of these giant ships, so the launch was an important day for the community. Looking at the footage you realize that we have very few events these days, if any, that take place on a similar impressive scale.

Ship Tyne Main focusses in on The Ship Hotel pub on Tyneside on a somewhat dark and wet Sunday. The film beautifully captures the various characters who drink in the pub and the industrialized surroundings of the busy river Tyne. We see into a world that was starting to disappear as the industrial and economic decline started to take hold in the 1970's. Gritty it may be, but this is how many people lived at that time.

Both films give a brilliant insight into the communities and lives of people living in North East of England - a way of life that has long since vanished. As social documentary film making goes... you can't get much better. The films on offer change each month so make sure you catch both of these documentary gems before they vanish.

Side TV can be found at http://www.sidetv.net/

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Perfect Storm


Some moments you'll remember forever. You raise the camera to capture the shot, but you'll always remember the thrill of just being there and experiencing the moment. This photo always reminds me of that..

It was taken in 1999 during a very memorable couple of weeks in Norfolk. The weather was, for the whole time i was there, very predictable. Beautiful sunshine with blue skies until around 4 o'clock in the afternoon then the clouds would gather and all hell would break loose. For an hour or two, a storm would rage, throwing rain, noise and light all over the place. Then, it seemed to burn itself out; the sun and tranquillity would return and all would be well again. Nothing like a good storm to clear the air.

The photograph above was taken after a day out and about. I was having a wander around at a place called Burnham Deepdale just before heading back to base, when the clouds started gathering. Mother nature was going to put on a floor show. First of all you heard the sounds - deep rumbles could be heard coming nearer and nearer. As i watched i could see the storm make it's way along the coast, the flashes and deep rumbles giving you the sense of watching a moving floating battlefield that was making it's way towards you. It moved very slowly indeed and the whole display made you feel very small in the scheme of things.

Somehow being on the outskirts of a storm makes it seem more entertaining. You get to see the whole production play out before you.What surprised me most is how quickly they change direction - or at least appeared to change direction. I spent around ten minutes watching how things played out, got this shot using the TMAX 3200 loaded in my camera and then headed back to the car as the storm came closer. The rain came some five minutes later followed by the usual rumbles and flashes. I loved ever minute of it!

I've had a print of this photograph on my wall for around ten years or more. It's among the last photos i printed in my darkroom before switching to scanners and Photoshop. It could even be the very last photo to have hit the developer tray. There aren't many images that i can vividly remember taking , but this is certainly one photography moment that I'll remember for the rest of my life.

A framed version of this photograph can be purchased HERE

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Wet Plate Photographer


Wet Plate Collodian looks to be a very labour intense process, if the video by LA based photographer Ian Ruhter is anything to go by. It is great to see an old photography process being kept alive, and better still delivering fantastic results. I especially love the portraits.

The photographer uses 36x24 inch large metal plates to record images. The costs of each Wet Plate photograph are not insignificant - upwards of $500 per shot. Ruhter's has developed a complete self propelled Wet Plate photography system using his van. It's the camera, the darkroom and the transport system for his photography.

Why does he choose to do photography this way? Well an interesting comment by the photographer brings it back to being apart from the crowd. Ian Ruhter says 'everyone around me has the same camera, and has the same signature. I'm going to go out a build a camera that no-one has!" 

He's certainly done that!

A gallery of Ian Ruhter's images can be found at http://ianruhter.tumblr.com/

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Framed


Here's a beautifully shot movie made using an iPhone and Apple Final Cut Pro. Just goes to show what can be achieved with a little imagination and a minimum amount of gear. Best of all, it left you wanting to know more. Did the photographer know the girl? Why did he have her camera? Was she a ghost? Oh, the questions!

I love this little film and i also love the camera used by the photographer - a Yashica 124. I have a Yashica 124 too, although mine is a more recent version - the 124G. Sadly I've never seen anything out of the ordinary while looking through the viewfinder. I've taken some great photos with my 124 though - photos like this one here.

Anyway, sit back and enjoy this great short story...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

On Creativity

In the midst of all of my current problems with technology (the laptop has broke and my iPhone battery is faulty) I spent an enjoyable hour listening to Bruce Springsteen talk about creativity and music at a keynote address made at Austin's annual South by Southwest music festival..

First of all, i will add that i think this talk is a must listen for ALL creative types, regardless of what format you use. The advice that Bruce gives to young musicians is just as valid for film makers, photographers, graphic designers, fashion designers etc.

Several comments stood out but the one key section of the talk that i really thought summed up my thoughts on creativity was Springsteen's comment on the creative process:-

"The purity of human expression and experience is not confined to guitars, to tubes, to turntables, to microchips, There is no right way, no pure way, of doing. There is just doing."

Change the musical terms to reflect other creative areas like photography, painting, film making, etc, and the quote is just as relevant for those areas of creativity too.

Bruce Springsteen's excellent SXSW keynote speech can be found HERE

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Frank Larson Website


Sightseeing tour, NYC - October, 1952 | Photograph by Frank Larson

In May of last year, i posted about the work of Frank Larson, a photographer whose excellent photography only surfaced when his family discovered a cardboard box containing around 2000 negatives.

I'm extremely pleased to see that a website for Frank's superb street and portrait photography has been established featuring even more of Frank's great photography. There's a broad collection of photography displayed on the website, but I especially like the fascinating portraits of ordinary working people - a favourite is the image of a Sign Painter in Times Square just going about his work.

The Frank Larson website can be found at http://www.franklarsonphotos.com

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Capturing the Super Natural


Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, Northumberland, England 

Just by chance, a couple of weeks ago, i came across a copy of photographer Simon Marden's  'A journey through haunted France' in a bargain book shop. The quality of the photography, sublimely haunting photographs that are dramatic, dark and often very grainy due to the frequent use of infra red film, and the ridiculously cheap price of the book made it a must have purchase.

It has to be said that I'm not really into the ghost and super natural stories contained within the book, however the superb quality of the black and white infra-red images more than make up for that. Marsden himself stated on his website that:-

“It is not my intention to try and convince you that ghosts exist, but rather to inspire you not to take everything around you at face value; to show that what we are conditioned to believe is 'reality' may not be quite all that it seems, if only we take the time to inquire".

I suppose the tales of super natural encounters no doubt nicely help sell the books. The idea of a 'ghosthunter' photographing a spectre of the super natural has captured the imagination of many, ever since photography began, although getting a ghost to sign a model release form is probably fraught with problems.

Marsden's images work though because they just portray the aesthetic of the super natural without actual having to show an actual ghost. Like the best horror movies, Marsden's images give a strong hint of the possibility of super natural activity, then let the viewer's 'dark and scary' imagination do the rest of the work.

Sadly Simon Marsden passed away in January of this year, but his archive of images and the many books he released will continue to influence new generations. I, for one, will certainly be buying more of his books.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A City at War



This video is probably one of the best reports to come out of Homs in Syria. 

Taken by a French photographer, who uses the name Mani to protect his real identity, the footage has been put together by Channel 4 News in the UK and follows the fierce fighting between the Free Syrian Army and the security forces of the Assad regime. It is a remarkable piece of reporting.

An interview with Mani can be found here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Long Hard Look


Photograph by Samuel Aranda

There's been plenty of discussion and criticism of this year's World Press Photo winner.  A great couple of posts dealing with the subject can be found on the Russian Photos Blog and on David Campbell's blog. A read through the comments is also recommended. If anything, Samuel Aranda's image has stirred up a debate that goes to the very heart of photojournalism and photography itself. 

Personally, my attitudes to the photo have changed over the last week or so. I wasn't that taken with the photograph when i first saw it, but the composition of the image does work for me now. The way we view and understand images is often a complicated process. I often revisit work to try and figure out why i don't like it. Usually i come away with my verdict unchanged, but the Aranda image started to work the more I viewed it. I just had to look harder and make the effort to understand why the image worked.

I had similar problems with Martin Parr's work. I still have some reservations regarding certain Parr images  but at least I've changed my attitude to the composition of his photographs. I do admire Martin Parr's skill as a photographer now, though it's taken me the best part of a decade to fully turn around my opinion. Simple, photography ain't. Sometimes it takes time and effort to fully understand.

A great collection of links discussing Samuel Aranda's image can also be found here.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Best Photography???

General News, 3rd prize singles, Toshiyuki Tsunenari

Congratulations must go to all the World Press Photo (WPP) winners announced today, but I do have a number of reservations about this year's winners.

I have a routine where, each year, i go to the book store to potentially buy the current World Press Photo year book. I open up the book, carefully look through the photographs and if the photography makes an impact, I'll buy the book. Somehow I don't think that this year's WPP book won't be on my bookshelf.

I've never have been the biggest fan of competitions - probably because i never win anything - but the release of the winning photographs from this year's World Press Photo left me somewhat underwhelmed - I'm especially thinking of this year's World Press Photo of the Year by Samuel Aranda. Photo of the Year? Really??? Does it have that special emotional and visual power? It seems I'm not alone in thinking that it does not.

There are great images among the winners (like the photo above), but for a while now, I've thought that the winning photography has become increasingly formulaic in nature. Even the usually strong sports photography category seems rather dull and lifeless this year. With over 101,000 images submitted to the contest, are the winning entries REALLY the best press photographs from around the world???

Check out the 2012 World Press Photo winners HERE

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Pigeon Recon


Not a bad photograph... for a pigeon! Don't believe me?

The Photography News have a great blog post about the fascinating pigeon camera and its inventor Julius Neubronner. These feathery aerial photographers were used for aerial reconnaissance during the First World War and later.

Check out the pigeons, their amazing cameras and the great aerial photos they took HERE

Monday, 30 January 2012

In the Picture

Visiting Willie Fishing by Bootsy Holler

We've all seen those scenes in the movies. It's the one where one of the film's cast will pick up a photograph that shows the main lead with the President, the Fuhrer or some other historical character equally vital to the complicated character back story. Is that you with..!

Sometimes the 'cut n' paste' quality of these mock up images in the movies are laughable, and other times the photograph will look thoroughly convincing. It's an art to put yourself into an old photo and Los Angeles based photographer Bootsy Holler seems to have got it down to a fine art.

Bootsy has added herself to a number of old family photos scenes quite convincingly. Some images may work slightly better than others, but many of the photographs look totally authentic - especially this portrait.

Check out more of her fascinating work HERE

Friday, 27 January 2012

Review: SlideShowPro Director

Editing an album within SlideShowPro Director 

Around twelve months ago, i heard about the content management and publishing application called SlideShowPro Director while reading through a photographer's blog. The post featured a glowing review of the features and abilities of the software. Recently, while updating my website, i decided to buy the application myself. After around six weeks of using the platform, I thought i'd add my opinions about this content management system to this blog. Here is my review.

Login Screen
Galleries. There, I've said it! That little word has caused me no end of aggravation in the past. While most of the plugins, add-ons and 'gallery engines' pledge that they have been designed to make the job of putting together a slideshow an easy task, often they do the exact opposite. Building a gallery should be easy. Straightforward. Simple. A photographer shouldn't have to spend his time fighting with the very system that is supposed to be helping him. When it came to a recent re-design of my main website at the end of last year, i wanted to completely update the gallery system on the website. I remembered SlideShowPro Director and decided, after a look around at what was available, to use that publishing platform on the new site.

Upload Screen
Purchasing is very straightforward and the download process went equally smoothly. The self install is priced at $59, which works out at just under £40 for any Brits reading this. I should mention at this point, that i did pay for my own copy of SlideShowPro Director. No paid or sponsored endorsements here.  I decided to go for the self hosted version of SlideShowPro, but a hosted version at slideshowpro.com is also available. The license for the self install applies to one domain name only and the activation key is quickly emailed to you on confirmation of purchase. If you aren't technically minded or don't like the idea of hosting the platform on your own server, then the SlideShowPro.com hosted version may be the route to go. Prices are very reasonable at $49.00 per year, $80 for two years or just $29.00 for six months.

Snapshot Screen
Installation was simple. If you can install WordPress or Drupal onto a server, then you will find have no problem installing SlideShowPro Director. I was surprised that the download file was a very small 6kb in size. A very useful and intuitive install wizard guides you through the install process, making sure every server setting is correct. As soon as MySQL databases are set up, username and password selected,  the small installation file will install the SlideShowPro Director software direct to your server. The demands on the server were something i was slightly concerned about, but so far the impact on my server host has been minimal - more space has been used and there has been a marginal increase in bandwidth use.  SlideShowPro Director can upload large images with the default (it can be altered) on my installation being set at 8Mb, but to conserve space on the server, I've limited my image file sizes to around 1Mb. You are then ready to start creating your own photo albums and embedding them onto your website.

Albums Overview
To access SlideShowPro Director, the user goes to a login page, enters their username and password - you then enter the management system. After login, the first screen you arrive at is the 'snapshot' page that gives you an overview of recent uploads, recent gallery/album updates and SlideShowPro news. In the top left hand corner is the tap navigation that helps you get around. As well as the snapshot and user area, there is a help section and most important of all, two sections concerned with the uploading and management of images. The one that you will spend the majority of your time in is the albums sections. Here you are offered standard and smart albums. The standard album format is simple enough - place images in an album, move them around via drag n' drop, then embed the code into your website page to get your slideshow. Smart albums offers a more controlled, smarter display option where rules can be applied to image display, the most common in use being the 'recent' and ' past month' galleries displaying recently uploaded material. The system does enable more sophisticated edits to be made so that an image or collection of images can appear and disappear whenever required. The galleries section simple determines which albums are shown together within the embedded media player. This offers the viewer the ability to go from one slideshow to another easily and it's a great way of grouping related work together and navigating through it all.

Embed options Screen
 SlideShowPro Director embeds a Flash version of the slideshow AND a useful HTML5 version for iPhone, iPad and Android visitors to your website. Viewers access the different versions of the player depending on the device they view the website with. Embedding the slideshow is easy enough. After choosing from a range of style options, you then just simple press the 'copy embed code' button, and paste the javascript code to the chosen page. Simple. One thing to be aware of though, is how some website restrict the use of embedded javascript code. For example, self hosted WordPress websites should be OK, but WordPress.com hosted sites don't allow embedded javascript. The best method to find out if Director will work with your current website is to try the free 14 day trial, and test it with your set-up before purchasing a license. SlideShowPro also provide a small file that you download to your server to test server compatibility with the software. Most good server hosts should easily conform to the requirements needed to access SlideShowPro Director. If in doubt, download and use the14 day trial to test all the features.

Slideshow Navigation
After six weeks of use, i've come to really love SlideShowPro Director. It's easy to use, powerful and flexible. I've added galleries in minutes and best of all it's improved the visual dynamics of the website immensely. Images are easier to find and manage, and the viewing experience, especially when using the full screen option, is now excellent. The application has been well thought out to include more functions than you can shake a stick at. The fact that you can also embed video to your website using this package makes Director an ideal presentation solution for any photographers using video too. I haven't tried that function yet, but i intend to at a later date. Customisation of the media player is possible using some of the components and plugins available from the SlideShowPro website. If you want to style your own universal media player to suit the design of your website, the tools are there so that you can achieve that.

In conclusion, I've found SlideShowPro Director to be a delight. Maintaining slideshows is easy and because the application is based online, i can add work, create new presentations, etc from wherever i happen to be - all i need is the laptop and an internet connection. The fact that Director can handle video and has HTML5 support for viewers using mobile devices is just the icing on the cake.

Highly Recommended 5/5

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Distant View

Copyright 2012 DigitalGlobe.  Produced by UNITAR/UNOSAT

There have been plenty of galleries featuring images from the Costa Concordia news story, but it's this ghostly satellite image that really stands out.

Maybe it's the unusual angle or the use of black and white, but there is something haunting about this photo. The ship almost looks like a beached animal, awaiting assistant to take it back to sea.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Dakar Rally 2012


Spain's Nani Roma and co-pilot Michel Perin of France drive their Mini Monster during the 10th stage of the fourth South American edition of the Dakar Rally 2012 from Iquique to Arica January 11, 2012. (Jerome Prevost/Reuters/Pool) 

 My interest in certain areas of motorsport have dwindled over the years. I used to be a huge formula one fan back in the 1990's, but then the interesting characters started to disappear from the sport. The business of Formula One, rather than the sport, seems to be more important these days. I imagine that the partial move to SKY sports in 2012 ( BBC show nine races live and SKY sports nine too) will finally mark the start of Formula One's move to pay to view.

About the only motorsport i've remained keen on is rallying. The sport seems to have a great mix of speed, noise and unpredictability. I've photographed rally events and loved every minute of it. Stages can usually be be easily accessed and are often located in places of great beauty. Best of all, as a spectator experience, rallying offers the sights, sound and smell of motorsport at your finger tips.

The Dakar Rally is one event I'd love to photograph. Although named the Dakar Rally, the events themselves take place in South America, moved from Africa and Europe due to concerns about terrorism. Chile, Peru and Argentina, do however, offer some terrific terrain for rallying. Mountains, deserts and rivers challenge the drivers who can be racing in trucks, cars, quadbikes or motorbikes.

Photographing the event is tricky. As well as the usual photo kit, a helicopter is pretty much essential for keeping up with the action. A number of the big photoblogs have put together great collections of images from this year's Dakar Rally, including InFocus, The Big Picture and The Frame.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Photojournalism Links


If you love photojournalism and you need to find the best links on the web, then a blog you should definitely take a look at is Photojournalism Links, edited by photographer Mikko Takkunen.

Mikko describes Photojournalism Links as 'a website dedicated to sharing all things good and interesting in photojournalism, documentary photography, and beyond. Updated once a week.' 

It's certainly is a website not to be missed if photojournalism is your thing. It's a must follow blog!

My main website was linked on the site back in October. A big thank you for that Mikko :)

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

4,748 Self-Portraits and Counting


I hate photographing myself. For some reason, those George Clooney handsome good looks I have, don't seem to make it onto any of my self portraits. I blame the photographer.

Jeff Harris, however, has photographed himself 4,748 times (up to December 31st). Instead of using the same old setting, Jeff has got out and about, resulting in a broad and fascinating collection of self portrait photographs.

If you do visit Jeff's website, do check out the journal section where people write about a day from their life with an image from Jeff's archive from that day -the full extent of the human experience can be found there.

There are quite a few images that catch the eye - one photograph I spotted from Jeff's collection appears to have been taken by Gene Simmons from the rock band KISS.... at least that's who it looks like.

Visit jeffharris.org to see the project in its entirety.
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