Wednesday 31 December 2008

End of year review 2008

West End Pub, London - My image of the year

As this is the final post of 2008, it's that time for me to have a look back at my work over the last year and choose six of my best images. 2008 has been a remarkably productive year for me - even stronger than 2007. It's a tough decision to pick six -there are so many images that i feel represent my best work this year. Anyway i have finally made a decision, so here are six of the best from 2008.

There was a strong start to the year when in February we had an usually bright and warm day with truly inspiring light. I was at Scarborough on the east coast of England and the mixture of bright light combined with haze created a wonderful mood. You couldn't move for seeing images. My favourite shot from this day was taken as i walked back to the car. The sun was getting lower in the sky and was diffused by the mist coming off the sea. The beach was full of people enjoying the sunny weather and in the background stood one of Scarborough's most impressive buildings - The Grand Hotel. The light in February was just stunning and lasted for most of the month. In late February, i had a trip up to Newcastle Upon Tyne where my next chosen image was taken.

All Saints graveyard in Newcastle was a surprise find for me. I walked around a corner and there it was. Walking through the iron gates into the graveyard was like going back in time. The age of the gravestones were part of the appeal. Many of the graves dated from the late 18th and early 19th century. When you realised the amount of history that had passed since those gravestones had been erected, it certainly put things into perspective. It was the nearest thing to time travel. One thing you do notice is how modern life surrounds this small churchyard. Office blocks, bungalows and modern luxury apartments overlook this small sanctuary of the past. Over the year i returned there a couple of times and I've always found something new to photograph. No doubt in 2009 i will visit again.

Norfolk has always been a source of inspiration for my work, and this year was no exception. The weather was excellent during the two week visit to the county and during my stay i managed to get some great images. I still have several rolls of film to process from that trip (oops) so there will be more to come in 2009 from this year's photo shoot. Most of the film is 120 roll film shot on the Bronica SQAi, a camera i have adored using. The square format is just wonderful to frame subjects with and combined with the speed grip, the camera handling has become so much easier. My favourite shot from Norfolk was taken on Sheringham beach with the Bronica. The detail, texture and look of the photograph is just how i wanted it to come out. From the pebbles in the foreground to the sky in the background, the image portrays the detailed dramatic beauty of the British coast. I just wish i could have captured the sounds and smells too. After a few years visiting Norfolk, I'm thinking about giving this project a break next year. Scotland's beautiful landscape looks as though it could be my destination for the summer of 2009.

My fourth image was taken in London in October. London is such a great place to take photographs - there is just so much going on that you can't help but get some fantastic images. I only took three rolls of film during the whole weekend i stayed there - i made some terrific images though. I took my Nikon F3 which turned out to be the perfect camera choice. First of all it was small - ideal when getting on and off the underground and not attracting attention. Secondly it was quiet. Just the sound of a shutter click when you take a picture with no whirring of a motordrive to attract attention. Thirdly it was simple to use which is ideal when taking photographs in a rapid documentary style. I was immensely pleased with the resulting images of which my favourite two make up the final images of the post.

Covent garden is a wonderful place to visit with a camera. It's such a lively place that you can't help but see potential photographs. During a walk to go and visit Chinatown, i noticed a juggler stood in the middle of the street with masses of people going by. Covent garden has a lively entertainment orientated culture, musicians, artists and street performers often perform there to massive audiences. I decided to grab a shot as i passed by. The first shot used a slow shutter speed of around 15th/sec which created a lot of movement blurt in the image. A second shot was taken with a faster shutter speed to capture the movement. The blurred elements of the first shot seemed to create a far greater visual impact than the second shot did. To me it captures the fast pace of modern life and how we have 'little time to stand and stare' these days. Everything happens so fast these days - maybe we should take some time to watch the jugglers.

And now to my 'favourite' image of 2008. This photograph was taken in a pub in the West End of London. My friend had left to take a phone call which gave me the opportunity to try and capture the scene inside the pub. The pub interior was lit by window light and overhead lighting which combined to give just enough shutter speed to capture the image. It was a gamble. If the man had moved during the exposure then he would have ruined the shot. Right after i took the first frame, he moved his position at the bar and the composition changed. It was a split second decision that worked well. It was part luck, part technical expertise combined with speed of execution that all added up to an atmospheric image inside a London pub.

So what about 2009? Well as I've mentioned before i want to get a regular photography podcast up and running for April 2009. As for the blog, well i intend to keep all the favourite segments going including the popular photographer profile posts. Photographer profiles for 2009 will include amongst others Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon and James Nachtwey. I intend to have a broader mix of profiles to include photographers outside of usual photojournalism topics. Other projects will include a book project that will present a number of challenges but should be fun. More news about that in the new year. Another project for 2009 will be to launch a range of calendars during the summer. As always news will be posted onto the blog as and when i have my brilliant ideas :-) The websites have undergone a small change as the company logos have been altered for 2009 - part of the rebranding of Richard Flint Photography.

Hmm.. have i forgotten something? Oh yes ! As for image number six... Well it's a shot of The Sage at Gateshead in North East England.The photograph was taken from the Newcastle side of the river Tyne . The Sage is a remarkable building used for conferences and concerts. The mirrored surface of the building reflects light all over the place. I was rather pleased with this shot of the building. I love architecture like this and i want to expand into doing more architectural photography next year.

Thank you so much for the comments and support over the last year. I really do love hearing from you all. A number of problems have been dealt with recently regarding my over zealous anti-spam software accidentally deleting legitimate emails. My apologies to anyone who has sent me something during the last few weeks and not heard a reply - please feel free to send me another email.

It just leaves me to say.. Have a super New Year and i hope to see you all in 2009... Rich x

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Marlon & Frank

Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra on the set of “Guys and Dolls,” Los Angeles, 1955. Image by Richard Avedon

I just love this image of Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. It was taken by Richard Avedon, a photographer whose work I've really started to enjoy. I loathed Avedon's work during my student years ( i don't know why... i just did) but I've found that he is just one of many photographers whose work I've come to adore the older i get. The photography hasn't changed... i have.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Best of blogs

Wicker beach artwork - Salthouse, Norfolk, UK

As it's steadily creeping towards 2009, i thought i might mention a few of my favourite photography blogs that you might want to keep an eye on in the new year.

A great photography blog covering all aspects from camera reviews to featured photographers. Sometimes the posts can concentrate too much on technical issues but a recommended read nonetheless.

The year in pictures is a blog by gallerist James Danziger. I've really enjoyed this blog over the last year. Varied posting topics, great images and a healthy outlook on life makes James's blog one of my favourites.

This new blog was started by my friend Kat recently. It's well worth a look for the great photography and Kat's superb flowing writing style. An excellent blog to keep an eye on in 2009. Keep up the great work Kat ;o)

Lots of photographs and some interesting viewpoints on the world of photography. Tom White often has a unique perspective on photography and encourages readers to comment on posts too. A great blog.

I've linked this photojournalist's blog before but as its my favourite of the year i will link it again. I just love the work of Zoriah Miller over the last year. Powerful, thought provoking and often visually stunning, this blog should be on the top list of blogs for anyone with an interest in photojournalism. Zoriah has also recently started posting about his life as a photojournalist. A recommended read.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Post 302

The sun setting at Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk, UK

This post marks the three hundred and second post. It doesn't seem that long ago since it was post fifty.

The last week has been pretty hectic so i haven't had the chance to post anything on the blog. I've been going through a few ideas for the blog and have started on various projects that i want to launch next year. One of these projects will be the podcasts that i aim to start in April 2009. The podcasts will be released every few weeks in a programme format that i am still developing.

One project that i failed to develop this year was a calendar, shelved due to problems producing it to the exact image requirements i was after. I have since sorted these issues out and want to have a calendar available to order/send by the late summer of 2009. I may even produce colour and black & white versions if i have the time. The calendar will be part of a much bigger project that will be unveiled very soon.

I'll have some more news on website/blog developments in the 2008 photography review post that will be added to the blog on December 31st.

Monday 15 December 2008

Cliff hanger

Walking along the shore - Cromer, Norfolk, UK

Another image with a wave theme. The beach is the ideal place to have a think and contemplate things. It's an even better place to relax and empty your head of all life's distractions.

The wind was strong that day creating the wonderful waves that slammed onto the beach with such a roar. Wonderful stuff. Wandering along the beach, it becomes obvious that the soft sandy cliffs are in in a constant battle with the sea. Several of the static caravans, parked on the hill top caravan park just above the beach, were precariously close to the cliff edge - literally feet from the edge. They do have a good view of the sea though...... but for how long?

Saturday 13 December 2008

High street blues

Everything must go.... eventually

The British high street is under siege. One of the big news stories of the week in the UK has been the collapse of the Woolworths brand, a name that conjures up fond memories of their childhood for many people. The £385 million debt has finally sealed the fate of the shop chain and an estimated 30,000 jobs. It seems that we are entering another period of huge social change. We've been here before, in a different era and with different types of industry, but the same striking similarities nonetheless come back to haunt us.

During my childhood, i witnessed the final stages of the disintegration of British industry in the North east of England. I remember regularly going to visit my grandparents and seeing a vast army of men leaving the ship building yards at Haverton hill near Middlesbrough. So many men came spilling out of the gates at the end of the shift, that my Dad had to slow the car to a complete stop. It was an awesome sight for a eight year old boy and one I'll always remember. These men lived and worked in the shadow of the countless huge ships they constructed until the yard was finally closed in the early 1980's. After the closure, the yards stood grey and silent like vast decaying monuments to a great industrial heritage. During the early 1990's, i spent a considerable amount of time photographing the ghostly remains of these once busy industrial locations. Only now, some 25 years after they closed, are some of the yards starting to come back into use but with far fewer jobs than before.

Like those shipyards of the early 1980's, my local town is in the grip of decline. Most of it is due to short sighted stupidity of greedy local landlords, poor town planning and/or supermarket expansionism. Now the economic downturn will just add to the problem. The cattle market that brought in Mr Farmer, his wife and the rest of the family, has gradually shrunk over the last decade to a fraction of its size and the town has not compensated for this loss. Supermarkets, out of town retail parks and online stores have all encroached on the retail territory that once was the domain of the market town. Quite simply they are becoming less appealing places to visit, devoid of the variety and character that they once had.

You may have noticed that i've not mentioned the name of my local town. Well the name of the town is irrelevant really. The problems mentioned in this post also reflect the situation of market towns and high streets throughout the UK. My biggest fear is that we end up with towns that are largely bypassed by the public - basically the Woolworths problem but on a much larger scale. Charity shops, cafes and hairdressers already make up the bulk of the shops in my local town. Many shops, including a number of long established ones, have closed during the course of this year and the number of empty shop fronts is becoming embarrassingly obvious. Can the rot be stopped? A tough question to answer but i can't see it improving anytime soon. It will, however, be interesting to see how my local town endures the financial storm over the next year or so.

Monday 8 December 2008

Pebble down

Waves roll onto a pebble beach at Sheringham, Norfolk, UK

A 6x6 Bronica SQAi shot taken looking straight down onto the pebble beach - i was up on a lifeboat ramp. It was an experimental shot but it came out OK. I wanted to capture the detail of the pebble beach while keeping some indication of the rolling wave movement.

The waves were quite strong due to the strong wind blowing onshore that day. Just a shame i didn't capture the wonderful sound of pebbles moving and the sea rolling in.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Glamour girls

The sea front walk at Sheringham, Norfolk, UK

Every now and again, i fondly think back to when i was just getting interested in photography. In 1986, photography magazines were often the best places to get up to date information about my new hobby. My favourite UK photography magazine was Practical Photography, closely followed by Amateur Photographer. Both were excellent reads and full of news, reviews and advice for getting better photographs. There was, however, one small thing that constantly filled me with dread. Buying the magazine!

You see, the problem involved the cover photographs on the magazines. Both magazines had a tendency to put a glamour photograph on the cover. Sometimes these images were pushing at the boundaries between hobby magazine and the top shelf publications. It was a regular thing too - virtually every issue it seemed. Most of the covers featured some sort of scantily clad 'lovely' to the extent that Amateur Photographer magazine earned the nickname 'Amateur Pornographer' during the late 1980's.

Did the magazine believe that sales were seriously affected by the lack of a girl on the cover? Maybe they were. It seemed rather narrow minded to me, considering the vast variety of photographic subjects that photography offers. Fortunately, some 20 years later, it's a lot better now - the magazines feature a much broader range of visual topics. You certainly don't see as many red faced and embarrassed fourteen year old boys waiting to be served at the newsagent as you used to!

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Quiet demo

Peace demonstration in York - Summer 2008

The demonstration just stood there, holding their many placards as they quietly listened to a pianist wrench out of an old stand up piano, a rather poor rendition of the classic anti war song - John Lennon's Imagine. No one attempted to sing the great lyrics. They probably didn't know the words.

No shouts, no catchy chants, no anti war rhetoric. They even seemed mildly surprised when i took their photograph. Something was seriously lacking here. Passion. Demonstrations, like artists, require passion to drive them to greater things. Without it you have nothing.

Sunday 30 November 2008

Leaf & bottle

Leaf and bottle on a Church wall

Another shot taken in the All Saint's graveyard in Newcastle Upon Tyne. This still-life was just feet away from a set of gravestones. It seemed an odd place to have a drink, surrounded by the old, worn and decaying gravestones. I suppose that someone just wanted a quiet place to have a drink.

Friday 28 November 2008

London lights II

Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap - over 23,000 performances and still going strong

As we searched for Chinatown, we walked past a number of theatres including this one - St Martin's Theatre. The Mousetrap has been performed over 23,000 times since it opened at the theatre in 1952.

The St Martin's Theatre, located in West Street, was designed by the architect W G R Spraque in 1913 as a companion to The New Ambassadors Theatre which is next door to the theatre. Although The New Ambassadors Theatre was completed and opened in 1913, the out break of the First World War put the building of The St Martin's Theatre 'on-hold' and it was not completed until three years later in 1916.

When The St Martin's did finally open on Thursday 23 November 1916 did was described as "a very cosy and distreet little place, all soft-coloured wood panelling and peacock-blue hangings, with no touch of gilding except on the lamp brackets." The warm polished wood interior remains down to today and is unique within London's West End theatres.

Text from

Tuesday 25 November 2008

London lights

The impressive V&A Cafe area

Oh dear. A bad dose of flu has finally caught up with me and zapped my energy. Time for a London photo to cheer me up. This is one of my favourites images, taken on the Sunday just before we both set off on the long trip back home.

The food was superb in the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum cafe but little did we know that another treat was just around the corner. It hit you as you walked in - the most beautiful ornate Victorian decor and architecture.

Take the people in this photo out of their 21st century clothes, dress them in some fine Victorian clothing and suddenly you are back over 100 years ago. Wonderful!

Saturday 22 November 2008

Digitally yours

Looking at a digital camera or a phone? Maybe it's both!

Communication is THE big sell now. From buying a iPhone to getting a mobile broadband connection, 'staying connected' seems to be the mantra of the early 21st century. I aim to be connected more during 2009.

During 2009 i'd like to start posting from out in the world, out in the field as they say. The technology is in place for me to do this quickly and reliably; it would also be a new challenge. I'm even thinking of doing some podcasts, an idea that i had some time ago but still toying with.

To be honest, i think it would be fun to do some podcasts if they could be produced to a high enough standard. The trick is to get the right format of podcast programme - developing that will be the immensely difficult part. A photo technical podcast does not appeal to me - i think i'd go for a photostory type of thing, the people, places and stories behind them.

I'll only start this it if i think the podcasting idea will work though. More brainwaves about that idea and others will be posted as and if/when i have them. Any ideas and/or recommendations are always welcome :o)

Thursday 20 November 2008


Air Raid Over Moscow ; The Kremlin silhouetted by German Luftwaffe flare - July 26, 1941
Photographer:Margaret Bourke-White

It's great to see the vast collection of LIFE images have been added to the web for viewing. LIFE magazine was one of the most important magazines for photojournalism during the 20th century. Many of the photographers who worked for the magazine have become iconic figures, representing the golden age of photojournalism (late 1920's to mid 1950's) when the public demand for human interest stories was high.

Looking through the collections of photographs you can soon come up with some real gems. One striking image i like is above and shows an air raid taking place over Moscow. It certainly captures the intense 'lightshow' of an air raid. Margaret Bourke-White claimed in her autobiography to have been the only western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union during the war, however, she was only tolerated for a short period time before being asked to leave by the authorities. The images she took during her stay provide a fascinating look at the Soviet Union in the grip of the first weeks of Operation Barbarossa - the German invasion of the USSR.

I especially love the portraits of soldiers and Soviet citizens which, ironically, have a similar look and style to the images by Bourke-White's Soviet propaganda photographer counterparts. The heroic style of framing, the photographer looking up towards the subject from a low viewpoint, was used heavily by Soviet photographers keen to convey a heroic, almost superhuman quality to the soviet people. Maybe that similarity is just co-incidental or, more likely, Margaret Bourke-White had to work within certain visual rules of photography set down by the Soviets.

A whole assortment of images, dating from 1860 through to the 1970's, can be viewed at the LIFE photo archive which can be found at

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Good advice

Abandoned sun hat - Hunstanton, Norfolk

We all want to know how to become better photographers and a recent post by the Magnum blog has come up with some good suggestions. The advice seems to be aimed at young photographers wanting to enter the terrifying world of professional photography, but it's equally useful to those who are just looking to improve their photography.

Most of the advice is common sense, and one key theme seems popular. Study photography, paintings and movies that you admire to help improve your own image making. Simple really. Other suggestions are more quirky. This fascinating blog article can be found HERE.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Ninety years ago

One of the most famous British Army recruiting posters ever - Lord Kitchener needs YOU!

Ninety years ago today, the First world war finally came to an end. At the time of writing, Britain has four elderly veterans of WWI remaining, not many... but it goes to show that 'the war to end all wars' wasn't that long ago. It is still in living memory... just.

Posters were an important recruiting tool during that period. The Lord Kitchener poster is one of the best known recruiting posters of the era. A good selection of WWI posters can be viewed HERE. It's rather interesting to see how propaganda has changed since the early 1900's. To the modern eye, these posters look rather unsophisticated, and yet even after 90 years, a number of them remain striking pieces of art.

World War One was not a broadly photographed war, compared to later 20th century conflicts. The technology of the time wasn't up to the fast movement of a modern conflict. Photojournalism and the 35mm camera had yet to appear so photographers were restricted, by the closed in nature of trench warfare, about what they could take. Photographers focused on VIP's visiting the front, the treatment of the wounded and captured soldiers, as well as other static/controllable scenes. Large cameras were still the main tool of the photographer at that time and they required time to set up and more time still to take an image. Hardly ideal when trying to photograph an advance across no man's land.

The best images from this period tend to focus in on the men and the aftermath of war. The images of the troops, in the various trenches and dugouts at the front, provide a valuable insight into the men and their living conditions. Likewise, the photographs of the dead show the true cost of the conflict on a generation; the ravaged battlefield landscape, littered with the debris of battle, bodies and swathes of mud, are popular subjects for the WWI photographers. The vast majority of photographs were taken using black and white film, but a number were taken for the French army using the relatively new colour autochrome process, developed back in 1907 by the Lumière brothers.

A number of websites have a good selection of World War One photography :-

Finally i'd like to dedicate this post to

PRIVATE JOHN W MARRINER, 12037, Durham Light Infantry, 2nd Bn.

Died 9th August 1915 at Ypres


PRIVATE GEORGE MARRINER, 25/1406, Northumberland Fusiliers, 19th Bn.

Died 16th April 1917 at The Somme

Both were under 20 years of age. Both have no known grave. Both were great, great, uncles of mine. Gone but not forgotten.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

A new dawn

Barack Obama by Richard Avedon

Did Richard Avedon (1923 -2004) see the potential for a future 44th president of the United States when he took this photograph in 2004? Probably not, but no doubt he did recognise that Barack Obama would be a central figure in 21st century politics.

This image is part of an exhibition called Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power. The exhibition has approximately 250 images of important figures who have worked in politics during the last 50 years. Portraits of Power will run through until January 25th at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

The next president?

The next president of the United States? Photo credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP.

I don't often comment on politics but this is probably one of those moments that will affect us all. It's looking good but who knows what will happen. The one thing i do know is that Barack Obama certainly seems more composed and president like for the cameras than his opponent John McCain, from the images I've seen over the past few months.

That makes life slightly easier for the photographers following Obama, during the travelling circus that is the Presidential campaign. Will it help win an election though? Somehow i think it will and America may be about to enter a new era. A positive, more forward looking era. Sadly I can't vote but i know who would be getting my vote today if i could... the photo might give you a hint :-)

Sunday 2 November 2008

Objectivity in focus

Magnum Photo's Christopher Anderson on QTV has a lot of things to say about photography in the 21st century. Most of which i agree wholeheartly with. I especially like his comments about the term 'photojournalist' and the future of documentary photographers in the digital age.

Found via the MAGNUM blog

Thursday 30 October 2008

Old railway line

A country track along what used to be the route of a railway line until the Doctor Beeching cuts of 1963. The cuts, implemented by the Beeching report called 'The Reshaping of British Railways', are still a hot topic of debate to this day.

By the end of the 1960's, over 6000 route miles of railway had been cut throughout the UK rail network. Ironically, a small number of these closed railway lines are being considered for reactivation due to current transport and environmental considerations. Sadly though, this line has more than likely seen its last train.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Sunday 26 October 2008

Changing armour

Tank driving day out - Weybourne, Norfolk, UK

It wasn't that long ago that the main enemy of a photographer was dust. Getting dust on the wet developing film could seriously jeopardise image quality and the move to modern digital technology hasn't changed that fact. Dust just shows up as black dots on the photograph, rather than white, when debris gets on the digital sensor. If that isn't bad enough, now we have to watch out on our computers for viruses, ad-ware, rootkits, etc etc.

After ten months. I've finally managed to get a stable and fast wireless Internet connection installed in the house. It's great, but the need for keeping my computer protection up-to-date has increased drastically, now that the computer is constantly connected to the net. I've just swapped from one Internet security system to another after finding a few 'nasties' residing on my computer. Not a nice feeling especially when you consider how much we rely on computers these days.

Anyway, now i feel slightly safer with my new security system up and running. If the computer was wrecked or incapacitated by a virus.... well it would be a disaster. Maybe i should get a separate backup drive for all my images to go onto. Hmmm....

Thursday 23 October 2008

Reporters De Guerre

Of all the photographers i admire, the one i would have most liked to have had a drink, and a chat with, is Larry Burrows. Just an hour with the man would have been great, but sadly he died in February 1971, just over a year before i was born: one of 135 photographers killed during the Vietnam war.

This short extract of video gives an important insight into Larry Burrows the photographer, but it also shows us some of the man behind the lens. The film was part of a documentary called 'Reporters De Guerre' by Patrick Chauvel. Especially interesting is Larry's take on the whole Yankee Papa 13 story, which is widely regarded as one of the best photojournalism pieces of the Vietnam war.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Time and Light

11.50am in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK - 18th October 2008

Time and light. The two factors involved in exposure, both of which can create and destroy an image. Place a photograph in bright light and it will slowly fade to nothing. The paradox of photography has always been that light can give and take away in equal measure.

I often forget how important photographs are to people. They are, in many cases, irreplaceable and priceless items. A connection to a time, place or person long gone. The older we get, the more we seem to cling onto them for comfort. Our memories are converted into a flat piece of photographic paper to be retained for future reference.

I once did a photo restoration job for an old lady whose only image of her mother was fading due to the photograph's age. The old Edwardian photograph was in it's final phase of fading and cracking due to the strain of nearly a hundred years of handling. I can still remember the look of happiness/relieve on her face. What is an image worth? More than we often care to realise!

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Lichfield retrospective

A retrospective exhibition of the late Patrick Lichfield's photographic work is currently on at Nunnington hall near Helmsley in North Yorkshire.

Nunnington Hall has exhibited various photographic works in the past, in the wonderful surroundings of a picturesque Yorkshire manor house. It's a superb exhibition by a one of Britain's best photographers and comes highly recommended. Click on the poster image for more details.

Sunday 12 October 2008

Tube city

On the Tube en route to Kensington High Street

This is the final image from this week's London series of images. It features, of course, the best mode of transport for looking around the city - The London Underground or 'The Tube' as it is affectionately known.

Its not the easiest transport system to understand. We got a number of things wrong during our stay but that was part of the fun. Quite simply it is just the easiest and most affordable way to see London but it's more than a transport network. The Underground has become as much part of London's identity as the other landmarks of the city have - even though other cities around the world operate a similar type of underground system. Just like the red London bus and the hackney carriage taxi, the Tube has become an integral part of the London experience.

I've been pleased with the photographs produced during the trip and i hope to have another journey down to the capital soon. Although this is the last image for this week's series, more will appear over the month on the blog. A gallery of images can also be viewed on my MySpace page at

Saturday 11 October 2008

Finding Chinatown

Ancient Chinese emperor desert, Dragon Beard Candy demonstration, Chinatown, London

Finding Chinatown wasn't that straightforward but it was well worth the effort just to experience the place. Even the bin men, driving the dustcart along the street and taking away the rubbish, took on an exotic tone.

We had searched for, well nearly an hour i would imagine, to find this small part of London that is so colourfully Chinese. It wasn't marked on a map from what we could see, so it was the usual case of asking for directions. The signposts for Chinatown seem to be either a bit contradictory or just vague but finally, after a bit of luck and a few directions, we went along a street and... bingo !

A big colourful Chinese sign announced that we had finally found it. The colours, sounds and smells also made it clear just where we were. It was busy too. People walked along taking in these sights and sounds, stopping ever now and again to view cooking demonstrations like this one. Dragon Beard Candy certainly sounds an interesting dish.

Friday 10 October 2008

Victoria and Albert

Trajan's column at the V&A museum, London

The Victoria and Albert museum was huge. To look around it properly would take a least! The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts that include jewellery, metal ware, furniture and photography.

The photography section was smaller than i expected but the images were well worth a visit. My particular favourite exhibited photograph was by Chris Killip but another that got my attention was Robert Polidori’s 'Auditorium in School #5' image. It's a very chilling photograph of a abandoned school auditorium taken from a series made in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine. Abandoned in 1986 because of the radioactive fallout, the school hall has decayed, faded and taken on a rather haunted look; part of a horrific monument to a nuclear disaster that took place over twenty years ago.

The image above was taken in the Cast court of the V&A where huge casts of Trajan's Column dominated the vast room. An awesome sight. It's not surprising that we never got to see a fraction of what's on offer at the Victoria and Albert museum. A return trip is definitely required.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Pencil fence

Along the Bayswater road, opposite Hyde Park

A good map is essential when wandering around London. One street leads onto another and before you know it you're lost. Fortunately we never got lost on our trip... but there were a few times when we didn't know exactly where we were. :-) On one such occasion we ended up finding this Pencil fence.

I love this fencing/billboard type of thing along Bayswater Road in central London. It's a novel idea to make it look like a line of pencils. I'm not sure if its an advert (it could be) or a piece of outdoor art, maybe it's both, but i love the idea anyway. You have to admit that it looks far better than a boring old wooden fence.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Bent and twisted

Juggler entertains the passers by at Covent Garden

Dodging people on the streets of London could be made into an Olympic sport. It reminded me of the asteroid field scene in the film The Empire strikes back ; you had to dodge and weave, in, out and around the asteroid field of people moving along the street. Covent Garden was one of the busiest areas and there, to entertain the crowds, were people like this juggler.

The diversity of talent around Covent Garden was astounding but the creativity was especially impressive on the market stalls. Many of the stalls sold hand crafted items like jewellery, some of which were made from ordinary cutlery, bent and twisted to form beautifully ornate bracelets.

More images from the London trip will be posted every day this week.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Fighting the light II

Man waiting at the bar of a West End pub

Here's another image taken during the London weekend trip. Sometimes images happen because of an event or circumstance. In this case, it was Sophie answering her mobile phone that gave me the opportunity to take a couple of images, while i waited for her return.

This was another of those images taken quickly in less than perfect lighting conditions. Like the underground image posted previously, the light in this image comes from the bright lights above the bar. Some natural light is present but it was nearly dusk outside so the window light was subdued. The light was harsh and typical of most bar and pub environments.

I took two images. This one caught to mood of the pub. The shutter speed was slow, around 1/8th sec, so i rested the camera on the table to keep it steady. The viewfinder prism of the Nikon F3 was removed so i could use it like a waist level viewfinder. Any quick movement by the man would have ruined the shot. Fortunately he didn't move from that stance for a couple of seconds.

Monday 6 October 2008

Fighting the light

Fighting the light - London Underground escalators

My decision to take the Nikon F3 was a good one. It worked out really well and the fast Nikkor 35mm lens was very useful indeed. The extra few f-stops of speed that the lens possessed made it slightly easier to shoot in the low light of the London underground.

Human eyes have a great ability to even out light emissions. Cameras sadly don't and this makes the harsh lighting from the flourescent strips, located throughout areas of the tube, a challenge when it comes to getting photographs.

The image above was taken at 60th/sec, F2.0 on Ilford FP4. 125 ISO film isn't the best choice for that type of environment but i managed to get away with it. It was just the film in the camera at that time. Thank goodness for fast lenses!

Sunday 5 October 2008

Weekend away

Shoppers at Norwich Market - June 2008

By the time that you have read this post i should be back from a weekend in London. At the time of writing I'm finishing the final stages of packing an overnight bag and have come (finally!!) to a decision not to take the digital SLR camera with me.

I'm taking a Nikon F3, a Nikkor 35mm lens and a few rolls of film. I don't know if I'll regret taking just a film camera with me but after a bit of thought it seems to make more sense. The F3 is light, compact and easy to carry. Digital does have the big bonus of not having to carry film; get a large capacity memory card and you can snap away till the cows come home. However, the problem with my digital camera is its big, heavy and attracts attention. So it's staying at home.

The forecasted weather has played a part in the decision too. The weekend looks overcast and wet, so the image taking possibilities may be limited. That said, it will be interesting to see 'what i can see' even with the rain. Stay tuned for some London images this week.

Tuesday 30 September 2008

Profile: Steve McCurry

Steam train passing the Taj Mahal, India, 1983 - Image by Steve McCurry

If you are an avid reader of National Geographic magazine then you may be already familiar with the work of Steve McCurry. His evocative portraiture style and distinctive use of colour have guaranteed his place as one of the world's best photographers.

Steve McCurry was born in Philadelphia, USA in 1950. He went onto study History and Cinematography in 1971 which led to a exhibition of images as part of a group show called Envisions at the university's Zoller gallery. After graduating, McCurry worked as a photographer for a local paper until in 1978 he left to become a freelance photographer, departing for India that same year. It was around this time that McCurry first started to use colour film. In May 1979, Steve McCurry entered into a rebel controlled area of Afghanistan, just before the Soviet invasion of the country. The images he would take of there would among the first to cover the remote conflict. A year later he would cover the war for TIME magazine for which he was awarded the Robert Capa gold medal. That same year McCurry was offered an assignment position with National Geographic magazine. For the next few years, Steve McCurry worked extensively in various countries around the world but it would be on the Pakistani border with Afghanistan that he would take one of his most iconic images.

While on assignment for National Geographic in 1984, McCurry entered a girls school set up in an Afghan refugee camp established in Peshawar, Pakistan. He asked if he could photograph some of the pupils. One of them was Sharbat Gula whose portrait has become one of McCurry's most recognised images. The image has all the hallmarks of a typical Steve McCurry's image. The powerful use of colour is just one distinctive element to a image. The green eyes of Sharbat seem to pierce into you as you look at the photograph. They make a deep connection to the viewer. It's not surprising to find out that Sharbat's mother and father had been killed in a bombing raid on their village. Some seventeen years later, McCurry managed to track her down and was pleased to find out that she had a family of her own. ' Her skin is weathered; there are wrinkles now, but she is as striking as she was 17 years ago' comments McCurry on his website.

Throughout the 1980's McCurry worked on various assignments including coverage of the war in the Lebanon. By 1986 he was a contract photographer for national Geographic and was winning awards for his work in the Philippines. Other assignments saw him work in Cambodia but it was in the disintegrating Yugoslavia of 1989 that he was nearly killed. The light aircraft he was traveling in came down in a lake after the pilot was blinded by the light reflecting off the water. Fortunately Steve McCurry and the pilot managed to get free of the sinking plane and were picked up by fisherman but his photographic equipment stills resides on the bottom -60 feet underwater. The early 1990's saw Steve McCurry cover the war in the gulf where an image of a burnt body near to a knocked out tank reflected the true nature of modern warfare. The eerie orange glow from the burning oil wells adds an extra apocalyptic edge to the photograph's poignant message.

In 1992 Steve McCurry joined Magnum as a full member after six years of nominee status. He also returned to Afghanistan to document the rebuilding of the country after the war ended.
McCurry has continued to cover the Afghan people ranging from the children to the workers of the country. The trust and respect comes across in the images. McCurry is trying to understand the person and capture the experiences of the soul. It is like the entire life is reflected in the face of the subject. Many of the images show the ravaged landscape of war, seen through the eyes of the people who live there. On September 11 2001, McCurry was in New York having just returned from working in China. His images of the events that day were exhibited at the New York historical society. It is another image of McCurry's, taken at a high mountain lake at Band-i-Amir in Afghanistan in 2002, that have a strange haunting presence. Two towering pieces of rock can be seen, looking not unlike the World Trade center twin towers, as a wild horse runs of to the right of the photograph. A magical image with haunting tones of the turbulent past. Just another wonderful image taken by one of the world's greatest photojournalists.

All Images are copyright of Steve McCurry
  • Top left - Steve McCurry
  • Middle right - Afghan girl (Sharbat Gula) near Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984
  • Middle left - Painted boy, India, 1996
  • Bottom right - Landscape with horse, Band-i-amir, Afghanistan, 2002



Saturday 27 September 2008

Rain drops..

This turned out just how i wanted it. A mass of rain drops had run all the way down the window and formed large droplets at the bottom of the window i was near. I sat and watched them form up and drop for ten minutes or so before i decided to photograph them.

Capturing that decisive moment as the droplet made its final plummet to earth was what i was after. It pretty much sums up visually, the dismal rain drenched weather experienced in Britain over the late summer months of this year. Weather for ducks indeed.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Wet, wet, soaked!

Walking towards Wells next to the sea, Norfolk, UK

You could see it coming. Clinging to the coastline, rolling along and cutting the visibility in half along the coast. A massive black cloud made its way towards me as i walked back to the car park. 'If i move quick' i thought 'I'll make it back dry' but the rain obviously had other ideas and started to come down HARD halfway along this walk.

About five minutes after this photograph was taken, the skies darkened further and the rain lashed down. It was wet, wet, wet. Norfolk is often like this in June and July. Dry, sunny and bright one minute but then dark and stormy the next. For photography i think its the perfect type of weather. You get a nice bit of sun combined with a texture filled sky. For cloudscapes and detailed atmospheric stormy skies, i can't think of anywhere better in the UK.

I was during this walk along the harbour that i came across an old lady totally absorbed in her photography. She had a 35mm disposable camera which she used, quite skillfully, to photograph the bright wild flowers that lined the banks. The look of concentration and the smile on her face as she took her images said it all - she was having a wonderful time.

Friday 19 September 2008

Question of ethics

Crossing over the Millenium bridge, Gateshead, UK

Jill Greenberg's 'portraits' of presidential candidate John McCain have created quite a storm on the photography blogs. Some commentators write about the freedom to express yourself as an artist but for the most part many think it's just incredibly unprofessional. So do I.

Jill Greenberg's
attitude seems to attack the bond of trust placed in photographers. It is a trust thing. A photographer is hired to do a job, and therefore physically represents the company or person they are working for. If you are working for someone and you behave badly, it reflects on them as much as you. In Greenberg's case, she represented Atlantic magazine who had commissioned her to shoot a cover image for the magazine. She did get that cover image shot but obviously had a completely separate agenda of her own. A strange attitude considering the number of magazine cover assignments she has shot - you'd think she'd know better!

I was once asked whether I'd work on a commission where i didn't like the person or subject. I replied that in business you have to make a choice but that financial implications usually have the final say. You have to be mercenary in your approach and, yes, maybe some of your own ideals have to be re-examined or put to one side. I'm no fan of politicians but if i was offered a commission to photograph one of the main political parties.... I'd do it probably.

Whenever someone asks me about starting in professional photography, i always tell them to imagine what their ideal customer would be like. Maybe a second question should be asked too - what client WOULDN'T you accept a commission from on the grounds of ethics, dislike, etc? An oil company maybe? A weapons manufacturer? A political party?