Thursday 6 June 2024

Eleven Pictures


American troops land on Omaha Beach on D-Day. June 6, 1944.  Photograph by Robert Capa

Eighty years ago Allied forces waded ashore on the Normandy coast and started the liberation of Europe. Quite a few photographers accompanied the armada across the Channel, but the D-Day photographs that get talked about most usually belong to a certain Robert Capa.

During my years at college studying photography, the images came up quite a few times. Given that the images are iconic I was often surprised by the critical reaction from my fellow students and even the occasional lecturer. It often appears fashionable to criticise iconic or popular images to some extent, but the critics just missed the point. It usually ended in rather a good debate though.

The eleven Capa photographs from Omaha Beach certainly captured the moment. The images were taken during the second wave landing by the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.  From a personal point of view, I prefer Capa's later images during the Allies' fight through Normandy including the image of prisoners 

In recent years there has been further close examination of the images and the story behind the photographs. One thing is certain. The stories surrounding the making of the photographs just make Capa's images more intriguing.

Monday 27 May 2024

Just a Number


Lost running shoe - Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk - 2016

There is a moment when you suddenly realise that your photography has aged. Those images you printed up in the darkroom, ah it seems like just yesterday, are in fact suddenly 25 years old. The very age you were when to took the photographs. It's a sobering thought.

Moments stay with you. I wrote on my main website blog about a personal important photography milestone over thirty years ago. The photograph was of the seafront at Colwyn Bay and it marked that moment when the camera and darkroom skills all came into line. I saw the image in my mind's eye and took the photograph using my camera and darkroom abilities. I still have that 10x8 black and white print framed on the wall.

Since then, many photographs have been produced, trailing behind like a ship's wake. I can divide the images into eras. The 1990s were the black-and-white film years, the 2000s were a roughly even mix of black-and-white and colour, and the 2010s were like the previous decade but with digital colour gaining dominance and mobile photography added. The jury is still out about the 2020s.

I think what I'd like to do in this 'era' is return to shooting a little bit of film. Probably not on the scale of twenty years ago, but a few rolls of HP5 or FP4 film through the F3 or F5 would feel good. 

As for the photographs getting older, you just have the nostalgic moment and carry on with the journey. After all, the age is just a number!

Sunday 17 March 2024

Feeding the Photography


Small Field on the Isle of Skye, Scotland - 2015

The last few weeks have seen me search for new sources of photography news after significantly reducing my use of social media these past couple of years. With the removal of Twitter (X) from my day-to-day life, I suddenly realised that I was feeling rather cut off from photography news. No news. No new photography. No sources of information at all. It suddenly dawned on me that needed to do something about that. 

A couple of weeks ago I found an old OPML export file in a Dropbox folder, made in late 2013. The file contained a list of all of the websites and blogs that I followed starting after 2007.  I have to be honest. I wasn't sure if the file would work or if the RSS feeds listed were still active! As it turned out, around 80% of the feeds were either no longer of interest, no longer active or had just disappeared completely. There was, however, a core of photography blogs that were still active.

The process of creating a new feed list has, though, been a great insight into the state of blogging in the world of podcasts and social media feeds. It certainly seems quieter but the dedicated blogger activity is still there. Several veteran blog names stood out on the RSS list, and to my amazement, these feeds were still active over a decade later. They may not post as often as they used to, but then that is probably to be expected.  

So far the new list seems to be working well. It needs building up a bit but the core feeds I'm interested in are there. If following these feeds also boosts my own blogging, I'll be happy with that too.

Saturday 24 February 2024

New Bert Hardy Exhibition


Bert Hardy - The Gorbals Boys, 1948
Photograph by Bert Hardy - The Gorbals Boys, 1948

You can't really talk about British documentary photography during the mid-20th century without talking about Bert Hardy. So it's fantastic to see that The Photographers' Gallery in London is having a long overdue retrospective of his work.

I first came across Bert Hardy's name during the early 1990s when I managed to buy the fantastic book 'Great Photographers of World War II' by Chris Boot. Along with the usual names like George Rodger and Robert Capa, the book also looked at the work and lives of some of the lesser-known combat photographers including Bert Hardy.

Hardy had been working for the Picture Post when he got called up and it was where he returned to after the end of the war. He stayed at the Picture Post until 1957 when the photojournalistic magazine closed due to falling sales caused by the arrival of television and other factors.

The photographer moved to being an advertising photographer due to the lack of work opportunities for photojournalists but by 1964 had left the industry completely to become a farmer. His images though have become iconic with the day-to-day life of people in post-war Britain probably among the best images shot during that period.

The Bert Hardy retrospective will be on at The Photographers' Gallery in London from 23 February 2024 - 02 June 2024.

Details about the exhibition, opening times, etc can be found HERE

Saturday 11 November 2023

Marsco Manoeuvres

It's been a week or two of veteran bands making a return to the spotlight. Even The Beatles released their final song which I actually thought was a wonderful finale and liked a lot. The band I want to talk about though is Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark who are currently in the album charts with a new album Bauhaus Staircase. Well, more accurately, I want to talk about the excellent image on the cover of their 1980 album Organisation. An album that I've enjoyed listening to for more than forty years.

The album cover (designed by graphic designer Peter Saville) for Organisation remains one of my favourites. Never has an image visually better summed up the album's dark and moody sonic landscape and yet for years, I had no idea where the photograph had been taken. It turned out that I'd actually visited and never known the connection! It is only thanks to the internet that I now know where it is - the photograph was shot by Richard Nutt and is of the cloud-covered peak of Marsco in the Red Cuillin mountains, on the Isle of Skye.

A quick search online and sadly Richard Nutt doesn't seem to have much of a presence, although it turns out there are plenty of other Richards producing landscape work - myself included! Did the photograph have an influence on my photography? I think most definitely although probably at a more subconscious level than other photography sources. I've always had a soft spot for dark moody landscape photography. Maybe this image is where that all started.

My next visit to Skye will definitely include a visit to see Marsco... and maybe take a photo in homage to the OMD Organisation cover image. Now there is a creative challenge!

Sunday 15 October 2023

Linda's Memorial Garden


Sometimes we judge things before we actually get to see them. I did that many years ago with the photography by Linda McCartney. I blame naïve youthful ignorance and also the massive Beatle hype bubble that will go on existing until the end of music.

I never was a big fan of the Fab Four. Age has made me more tolerant and open to their music but I always preferred other sixties bands. The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and other big rock acts. I've always tended to avoid things that are too popular. I can do pop as long as it isn't too big or hyped.

In 1998, I came across a great photography book called Linda McCartney's Sixties. Looking through I was surprised and impressed by Linda's documentary style of portraiture and the subject matter also appealed. As Linda Eastman, she had photographed some of the biggest acts of the 1960's. She was friends with many of the acts and especially liked Jim Morrison of the Doors. 

I knew that Linda had a memorial garden in Campbeltown. Both her and Paul had moved to the Mull of Kintyre after the end of the Beatles. The local community accepted them and years later, after Linda's death in 1998 decided to build a memorial garden complete with a bronze statue purchased by Paul.

Sadly I only managed a brief visit but the peace and tranquillity of the place could be felt. My stay was unfortunately interrupted by a couple of women chatting and having a cigarette. I'll hopefully return to Campbeltown again at some point and I'll definitely be soaking up that beautiful, colourful and quiet place that is Linda's garden again.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Old Haunts


Claymore Swords - Edinburgh Castle, 2015

It's been catch-up time over the past few days regarding the blog. A tweak or two to the design and a new background and the site is ready for another few years.

Looking back through the old posts was a strange experience. It was like reading an old diary and seeing a glimpse of a previous life. So much has changed for me in the years since this blog started.

The level of enthusiasm for posting can be seen by the total number of posts for each year. The peak was 2007, closely followed by 2008. I do not intend to get back to those levels, but I would like to post at least once a week if possible.

Finally, I would like to apologise for an issue I came across this weekend. As I checked through the various areas of the blog I clicked on the comment section and noticed 34 comments awaiting moderation. I'd received no notification or emails to say that a comment was waiting.

All of the comments have now been published on the website and I would especially like to thank those people who left some feedback about the Billingham bags and Michele Breton posts that I posted some years ago now. I also received some wonderful comments about the blog. Sorry, it took so long to add these to the site. I will check regularly from now on.

Hopefully, I can get the old blog back to something like its old self from a few years ago.

Thursday 31 August 2023

Changing Track


Maersk shipping container on the west coast mainline network
Maersk shipping container on the WCML rail route - November 2015

It's been a long time since i posted on this blog, but what goes around comes around and the blog isn't closed quite yet.

I've posted on my Darker Skies blog about the changes to Twitter (or X as it's magnificently called now) and how the blogs will benefit from that decline. I'm fed up of social media and have been for some time. The honeymoon is over for me at least.

My plan is to use my blogs much more from now on. Last year this blog published NO new posts for the first time since it launched in 2007. That needs to change.

So keep an eye on the blog for new posts coming over the next few weeks and months. It's time to get back to the blogging :)