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.