Friday 31 December 2010

Happy New Year 2011

As the final blog post for 2010, it just remains for me to wish all of you a fabulous New Year. Thanks for following the blog this past year, even though in the past few months it hasn't been updated as regular as I'd like.

The Big Picture Photo blog has a growing collection of New Year photographs, taken around the world, as people celebrate the arrival of 2011. The fabulous New Year photos can be found HERE

Have a great 2011 :o)

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Out on the Edge

Could you do this photo shoot for National Geographic? Definitely one of those out-on-the-edge shoots. Some fantastic photography by Joe McNally and more information on the shoot can be found HERE.

Moving Forward

It has been so long since the last blog post. Likewise the podcasts have suffered too but I am gradually getting back into my usual workflow.  It has been a tough period recently that included the terminal illness and death of a member of my family. Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans. That John Lennon quote has been in my thoughts these last few weeks. Now I'm looking ahead to the New Year.

I'll be detailing the more subtle changes to my online presence in a later post, but I will mention now that the main Richard Flint Photography website will be re-launched using a completely new design in the next few weeks. The old website still looks good after two years of development but I've decided to use a Wordpress based system instead to make updating the website far easier. The new website will go online in the New Year.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Challenging Times

Student demonstration in Westminster, London - photograph via The Guardian: Photographer uncredited

This is an interesting and slightly disturbing time that we find ourselves currently living through, and with the distraction of the constant, ever growing showbiz hype of the Royal wedding next year, it's easy to forget that the British public are facing cuts that will really start to hurt. Today saw more disruption as angry students took to the streets to demonstrate about growing debts, tuition fees and cuts to education.

While i don't support any of the violent action, I do feel for the students who face rising debts as they try to get an education. My time at college/university helped me become who i am today, but is an education just about better future earning potential? I feel that it's important for the UK to keep investing in education so that it can maintain at least some foothold on the international scene. That needs to span across the divides from business to the arts. A country needs artists just as much as it needs bankers.

Today saw the last Harrier Jump Jets fly from the Ark Royal. The UK will now have NO carrier based strike capability for ten years. With these stories and others, it's no wonder that people have started to question the dubious direction Britain is heading. It reminds me of the early 1980's when Britain faced a similar economic problem. Massive social and economic change was underway, but the pain for certain areas of Britain took years to heal... if indeed it ever fully did. It feels like we are heading there again.

Next year i intend to do far more documentary work. I'm going back to my photographic roots. The change needs to be documented. Back in 1981, i was just a boy - now I'm a guy, in his late thirties with a camera. The country that is emerging from the swathe of cuts, enforced by increasingly unpopular politicians who are partly responsible for this mess, will be one that faces more protests and disruption. To photograph is to understand, or at least try and understand.

Next year i intend to do just that... photograph to understand.

Monday 22 November 2010

Outstanding Images

Over the year, I've gone on and on about how great the iPhone is as an image making tool. It enforces an attitude i've always held that the camera isn't important - the photographer is.

Another series of photographs taken in Afghanistan using an iPhone have appeared, taken by photojournalist Damon Winter and the images are just superb. Using the Hipstamatic iPhone app, the New York Times photographer has captured a series of stunning photographs while embedded with the First Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division in northern Afghanistan. Recommended viewing.

Damon Winter's images can be found on The New York Times Lens photoblog HERE

Thursday 18 November 2010

Lessons Learned?

As we head towards the end of the week, the news is still carrying speculation and supposition about a certain royal wedding. If there is anything that the media love most then it has to be a royal event - weddings especially.

Everything looks perfect, including the bride to be herself, and already that horrible pedestal building word 'fairytale' has been used more than once by certain sections of the media. If the lessons of Diana were learned over the last decade then it is now that they should hopefully come into play. The question is can the media regulate and control itself? Based on previous experience i doubt that. Back in the medieval era, king. queens and princes faced vast armies that would lay siege to their castles. Are we about to see the start of a modern day equivalent of that?  Is the medieval era trebuchet to be replaced by the 21st century Digital SLR? Has the vast armies of knights been replaced by a vast army of paparazzi, TV crews and reporters?  I don't know, but if photographs of the couple are worth good money that must increase the potential for intrusive behaviour from the media - especially those who are freelance and are after a great scoop that makes them big money.

Over three years ago, on the tenth anniversary of Diana's death, i wrote on the blog about what lessons I thought had been learned by all concerned. Much of what i wrote i still believe is relevant on hearing this week's news. I came to the conclusion back then that memories of Diana's stalking by the media were starting to fade quickly. The British media were returning to their old 'build em up... knock em down' ways. The British magazine buying public were (and still are) demanding increasingly more and more news about public figures - at the time I was writing that post in 2007, Kate Middleton had been met by fifty photographers outside her home after the news of her breakup from Prince William had been released. All fifty snappers were supplying someone with images. I also mentioned the public who love to buy the magazines that feature the top public figures stories and photographs. Diana sold and still sells magazines. LOTS of magazines! Kate Middleton will sell magazines. LOTS of magazines! The parallels between Kate and Diana are obvious, and the business markets for those photographs is bigger than ever.

The market for royal images versus the right to privacy is the big question never really answered after Diana's death. Will the market's demand for images of Kate take priority over other matters? We'll have to wait and see but Kate Middleton certainly looks like a tempting target for an increasingly intrusive and unrelenting media for many years to come.

Monday 8 November 2010

Error in Action

Errors. I'm not talking about the negative type of error that we all make that often lead to nothing. Nope. I'm talking about mistakes that help create good photographs. Accidentally taken pics that work as images. Maybe we press the shutter button at the wrong moment, maybe the camera, lens or flash is set on the wrong settings or our mouse wanders too far and we hit the wrong menu setting in Photoshop. How the error occurs doesn't really matter. What does matter is that we end up with a great photograph that we like.

The photograph above was a accidental shot. A small error. I had intended shooting video footage from the train window capturing traffic on the M5 motorway near Taunton in Somerset, but the iPhone was set to shoot photographs. The end result was this image. Does it matter how i got it? I don't think so. There are so many factors that affect the image taking process anyway. Skill and timing are just part of the equation when it comes to capturing that moment in time. Dare i say it, but luck, almost certainly, plays a creative role from the moment you press the shutter, to the moment the picture is saved onto the film or memory card.

I've always had a pragmatic view towards the photographs i take. A philosophy if you like. If a great photo has been taken, regardless of how or why, i believe that the photograph was meant to exist. Likewise if a photograph doesn't come out due to an error or technical fault, well, it just wasn't meant to be.

Friday 29 October 2010

Even Light

Looking over the rocks near The Minark Theatre, Cornwall

Light is a critical ingredient in a photo. It makes or breaks an image. I heard a lot of claims about how brilliant the county of Cornwall was during my stay. Many of them were based on personal preference or life style choice, but Cornwall certainly had one element to it that could not be disputed - the light.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post about the Cornish light but failed to mention how even the light is. The photograph above was taken at the Minark Theatre and has had NO Photoshop work on it. Nothing. It is seen here just as it came out of the Capture One software. No dodging or burning.

During a talk in a Penzance pub with a local artist, he mentioned that the light is even better in St Ives. Unusually it was put down to the sand on the beach which sounds a fascinating theory, but I'm somewhat doubtful about how true it is. Sadly i never got to visit  St Ives. Another time maybe...

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Fisher woman

Woman fishing at Porthcurno, Cornwall

Behind the Shield

I'm back home in Yorkshire after a rather quiet and pleasant trip up yesterday on the train. My thoughts during the journey were mixed. I'd had a superp time of seeing a dear friend, the beauty of Cornwall, some warm sunny weather and great photography/beer* (*delete where applicable), but the early return home was tainted with an large amount of regret.

They say that you usually hurt those you are closest to and, in my case, that was absolutely true. My good friend Sophie finally recognised a few things eating away at me towards the end of the trip, however, over the weekend I had put her through some unforgivable moody outbursts (most unlike me i might add) that stressed the friendship to near breaking point. Had i lost that friendship i would have been devastated. That feeling of 'being lost' has been creeping up on me for months (combined with other recent family issues) and finally it burst out. I aimed all my frustration at the last person in the world i would want to hurt.

I need to sort some things out in my life and then, hopefully, i will be able to return to Cornwall to take some more great photographs and visit a dear friend again...

Maybe, just maybe, I've been hiding behind a camera for too long...

Monday 25 October 2010

Surfing the Waves

Surfers enjoying the sun and waves at Portcurnoin Cornwall. Some people on the beach were even sunbathing - try that in Northumberland at this time of year and you'd get frostbite.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Artists at Mousehole

Artists painting in Mousehole, Cornwall

After an eight hour train ride from the north of England, i finally arrived in Cornwall on Wednesday night. It's my first visit here and what strikes you first is the quality of the light. It has an incredibly warm, clear quality and yet subtle. I've heard (from an artist in a Penzance pub) that the light in St Ives is even better! I should be heading that way next week.

Yesterday i started the day at Marazion visiting St Michael's Mount, continuing the journey on to Penzance with the final destination being the small harbour village of Mousehole. It was quite a walk but well worth the aching feet. The cloudscapes down here are also very impressive with a variety of patterns and textures forming in the sky, no doubt due to the influence of the sea.

I can certainly see why artists of all kinds head to Cornwall. More posts soon.

Sunday 17 October 2010

A Name to a Face

"Forcibly pulled out of dug-outs" is the caption used for this photograph in Stroop's report

Following on from the last post, i came across a rather good New York Times article last week, detailing work conducted into the identity of a boy photographed during the clearance of the Warsaw Ghetto. The photograph is one that many of us will be very familiar with, especially if you have an interest in modern history.

Dan Porat, an associate professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has tried to discover the identity of the scared looking small boy. It has to be said that he failed to come up with any solution to the problem and i imagine that the boy's name will never be known. The sad likelihood is that he died along with many others in one of the Nazi death camps. The look on the little girl's face on the far left of the photo is also particularly heartbreaking.

The photo itself was probably taken by a deeply unpleasant SS officer called Franz Konrad, nicknamed the 'King of the Warsaw Ghetto' and whose commanding officer was the even more despicable and notorious  Jurgen Stroop. Stroop put together a 75-page report for Heinrich Himmler following the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, illustrated with over fifty images - many taken by Konrad and featuring sickeningly inaccurate and misleading captions.

Three copies of the report were made and all three survived the war. In the end, the extensive report - complete with photographs - came back to haunt both Stroop and Konrad, acting as evidence against them at their war crime trials after the war. Both were hanged in 1952.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Banality of evil

 Portrait of an old man in Lodz Ghetto - Photograph by Walter Genewein

Two pieces of photography work I've seen this week, stand out as worth mentioning on the blog. Both works have the common link of the photography taking place in areas of systematic control.

The first link looks at the work of Tomas van Houtryve who photographed life in contemporary North Korea. The resulting images are superb with the paranoia of the North Korean regime ever present in every image. Tomas van Houtryve took quite a few risks to get these photographs but the gamble certainly paid off. There is something claustrophobic about the scenes he photographs. Control is the overwhelming feeling that you come away with when viewing these images. Everything is watched and scrutinised to detect any deviation from the system. Paranoia is systemic and a very effective control mechanism. - Secrets and Lies' by Tomas van Houtryve can be found HERE.

The second link takes us back to the dark days of World War II and the even darker events within the Litzmannstadt Ghetto in Lodz, Poland. Three photographers worked in the Ghetto. Two of them, Mendel Grossman and Henryk Ross, were inhabitants of the ghetto, while the third, a German called Walter Genewein, was the main accountant for the Litzmannstadt Ghetto. Genewein's work was shot in colour using Agfa's early colour slide film. This collection of slides surfaced in a second hand book store in Vienna back in 1987. It is a uniquely remarkable, if not cold and uncompassionate, visual colour record of ghetto life as seen from the German perspective. Henryk Ross' work really stands out as quality photojournalism with some truly stunning photographs. Mendel Grossman has a more personal 'this is the world i live in' feel to his images photographing his family as well as events around him.

All three photographers documented the lives of people in the Ghetto in different ways - Ross as an official Jewish photographer appointed by the Jewish Council working within the Ghetto, Grossman as a clandestine photographer trying to avoid detection by the Gestapo, and Walter Genewein as a talented amateur photographer living outside the Ghetto, experimenting with Agfa colour material. Only Henryk Ross and Mendel Grossman's photographic work contain any feeling of compassion for their subjects. Genewein images have a 'banality of evil' feel to them. Everything is ordered and as it should be. There is no questioning of the morality of what is being done, no questioning about the living conditions, no compassion at all. The images are just a systematic recording of what the Nazi photographer deemed ordinary.

Photographer Colin Pantall's excellent blog post about the Lodz ghetto photographers can be found HERE

Sunday 3 October 2010

The Month Ahead

Bullet time vision provided by lots of Canon 5D MkIIs

Life delivers all sorts of surprises. Some of them not very nice. The last couple of weeks have focused around a member of my family who has been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is a  little word, but one with a hugely devastating effect on families. You will understand my absence from the blog this last couple of weeks. This month, however, will see a larger number of posts starting around the 20th.

Cornwall. Sea, sky and photography. As many of you may already know from the September podcast, it will be my first visit to the county and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll even be recording a podcast while I'm there. At the moment I'm thinking about gear. The digital camera is going, naturally, and I'll also be taking a 35mm SLR shooting black and white film. A good mix of formats. Next time I'll take the big gear for some serious 6x6 black and white photography.

Finally I'll leave you with a couple of great photography links. First, we have the photographing of some surfers by 52 Canon 5D MkII cameras to create a Matrix style bullet time effect. The results are most impressive and can be found HERE. Second, we have a very good photo story on female Marines in Afghanistan who can access areas of Afghan society forbidden to their male counterparts. A great piece of photo-journalism by Lynsey Addario of The New York Times that can be found HERE.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Big Yellow Blad

Big Yellow Hasselblad - Gorgeous!

It's been a day for hearing about expensive cameras. First of all it was the limited edition Leica M9 Titanium that was on offer for a cool... well hand over £20,000 and they'll give you a bit of change. Leica are making just 500 and are expecting those cameras to go quickly. Some people obviously have more money than sense. I'd rather buy a ordinary M9 for a fraction of the price and use it for its intended photo taking purpose.

The second camera i spotted was the one I'd go for. A 'built for NASA' Hasselblad MKWE kit going for the small price tag of $33,751 on eBay. Brand new, of course. The looks of envy on other photographers faces as you bought this baby out of your camera bag would be well worth the expense. As you may have already figured out, this is one Hassleblad that I'd buy - and I'm not a Hassleblad fan. It is a cool bright yellow though... and useful if you ever need to take photographs in space...

Finally, as you all may know, i do like Twitter, but i realise that many people just find accessing Twitter difficult. Well now you can enjoy some of the many great twitter photography links via my 'The Photography Daily' online daily newspaper - an online webpage that is 'printed' daily and contains the best Twitter photography links in a readable newspaper page form. Check it out HERE.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Welsh Farmer

Mowing a hayfield - North Wales, 1994

This photograph was among the first on the roll. Again it was another Agfapan 25 shot taken during the same stroll out and about as the portrait of the lovely Welsh horse that i posted yesterday.

The camera used would have been my trusty Pentax Program A which i must admit was a terrific camera. I loved it to bits and used it for most of the 1990's. It was light, compact and well made. Combined with the superb manual focus lenses Pentax did, it was a great system to learn photography with. I still have that camera, retired when i bought my Nikon F4, along with the Pentax Super A and MX i used too. Great gear.

My developing notes tell me that i processed the film in Agfa's own Rodinal developer. At the time i was using Rodinal purely for processing Agfa work, with TMAX developer used for the Kodak/Ilford medium and fast speed film. I used to shoot a lot of TMAX 400 film back then, but these days i use Ilford FP4 or HP5. I just decided, after around ten years of using TMAX, that i preferred the subtle contrasty tones of the Ilford films to Kodak's more creamier tones.

A few more of the Agfapan 25 shots will be posted on the Darker Skies blog over the next few days.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Welsh Horse

Welsh Horse, 1994

Going through the negative archive i came across this picture. It was shot in North Wales, in the wonderful countryside just outside of the beautiful Welsh town of Conwy. I vividly remember photographing the horse. It was 1994, the year that i was to start studying photography at HND level. To me, this image marks the point where i began to make the journey to finally becoming a professional photographer.

Even though it was late July, the light was starting to fade when i took this photo, and i wasn't helped by the fact i was shooting  using Agfapan 25 - a gorgeous quality, slow ISO 25 35mm film that, for a couple of years, was one of my favourite films of choice. The film was discontinued around ten years ago. It wasn't the easiest film to shoot, or process now i come to think of it, but i did capture some great photos with Agfapan.

This blog post is number 500, so to celebrate reaching that milestone, I'll be posting another Welsh Agfapan image tomorrow that will take the honour of being post number 501.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Book End II

Applying make-up

I've finally decided to put the extended version of the Making Movies book to rest. The book captures a rough timeline of six summer weeks working on the vampire film Christian. I thought that adding any images taken during the forthcoming November filming would not add anything new. Time to move on.

There are 68 photographs in all in the extended version of the book. I do love the original SoFoBoMo version that was released in early July, but i did take quite a few more images on set after the 31 day deadline of July 8th. It is a very loose documentary of the film making. If anything, it documents the places we were filming around more than the movie making itself - especially towards the end of the book.

Nevertheless, I feel the project worked very well and demonstrated nicely that you don't need a expensive high mega pixel camera to create a good photo book. I may release a redesigned version of the book that will be available to purchase at later this year. Now i just have to come up with an idea for SoFoBoMo 2011. Next year's book will probably be shot using film. Maybe 6x6?

Friday 3 September 2010

The Demanding Mistress

Gone. This summer has seen two of the first photo blogs i ever followed fold. In both cases the authors had run out of creative steam so their blogs had ended with a last post. Both photo bloggers also used the phrase 'experiment' when talking about their blogs final end. For something termed an experiment, they had certainly managed to collect quite a following. Both bloggers seemed troubled and looking for new direction.

The ironic thing is that i didn't much like either photographers work. Some photographs stood out among others, but generally speaking a lot of their work i regarded as not technically very good. Dull.. So why did i subscribe to their blogs? The writing and enthusiasm for the subject. Plain and simple. I admit here that I'm not the greatest of writers but hopefully my enthusiasm compensates for that fact. Enthusiasm for a topic can, however, come and go like the tide, especially if the person is going through a torrid period. Many photographers have, indeed, talked about photography being like a love affair with all the ups and downs associated with those emotions.

Photography can be a demanding mistress though. I've always thought that photography is more addictive than the most potent drug. Once you are bitten, well that is it my friend. No antidote. It is a pastime/profession that we get very emotionally involved with. We ARE photographers to our very core. Our very being. That said, sometimes passion just isn't enough. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on his blog how his love of all things movies had gone, burnt out by the rough time he'd had on the set of his first film. I knew exactly how he felt.

In mid 1998, I left university creatively burnt out. Photography.... bah! I'd had the stuffing knocked out of me, partly due to my own mistakes, but also (with hindsight) because I'd chosen the wrong university course. My confidence as a photographer was at rock bottom, as was my interest in the subject. My love for photography returned gradually, slowly at first and then with increasing speed. Bad times are  part of the course, part of the development as a creative person. The key is to overcome and learn from it.

As for closing blogs, well my advice would be think twice about it. Rest it, mothball it, or crate it up and put it in that warehouse that's at the end of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. Ignore it even, but don't delete it. You never know what tools might be needed to come to the rescue and help restart the love affair.

Tuesday 31 August 2010

Normal Service

Posters near the Whitby Pavilion complex

Technology. Great when it runs smoothly but a pain when it doesn't. The blog has been quiet these last few days due to some computer problems. Fortunately nothing too serious, however, i did have to reinstall ALL of the laptop software and start from scratch. Important data was backed up so I'm just about back to a normal level of service. Nothing lost apart from a bit of time.

I'll be recording the podcast tonight and uploading straight away so i imagine it should be ready to download by 10pm GMT. So much to do and so little time. August has been an important month for the podcast though. A coming of age, so to speak, with the podcast's inclusion in iTunes. It's building up a nice steady following which is heartening after two years of development. More improvements will come over the next few months.

Finally, i have a dilemma I'm pondering over in the shape of the extended 'Making Movies' photobook. Filming won't commence again until November and I don't know whether to end the book now OR continue the image taking in November. Keeping the book's summer filming angle sounds like a good idea so I may be looking to release the extended photobook in September.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Herman Leonard 1923-2010

I'll finish this week with this superb little documentary that gives a great insight about the photographer Herman Leonard, who died this week. Although known as a jazz photographer, Herman Leonard was much more than that, but i imagine that it will be the jazz images that he'll be best remembered for. I don't suppose Herman would mind that considering his love of photography and jazz.

I've always had a soft spot for this photographer's work. I was introduced to the great jazz photography of Herman Leonard by a friend during my early student years. Yes, my friend was a huge jazz fan, a live music photographer, so Leonard was, naturally, his hero. The photography was just beautiful and we would study the images carefully whilst listening to jazz classics. It certainly was a great way to get an education in music and photography.

Like the musicians that he photographed, Herman Leonard was a one off, a master of his craft. Regardless of whether you love jazz or not, Herman's images captured the mood and the music perfectly. Not many photographers can claim that. A book of the photographer's work called 'Jazz' is to be published in the UK in November.

Thursday 19 August 2010

America in Colour II

Remember this lady? Another great shot from a large colour photography archive. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer
Photographers are very lucky to have the internet. For searching and discovering new work it just can't be beat. I was checking through some of the photography blogs i subscribe to and, hey presto, a blogger happened to mention that a vast collection of the American colour photos (i mentioned a while back) were available on the a Library of congress Flickr page. Brilliant!

After a look through the vast collection i came across a photograph of a familiar face. The very lady whose photograph featured in the first America in Colour post. This time though, we get a great portrait of the lady herself. This collection of colour photographs is huge, around 1,615 to be exact, and cover a wide range of subjects dating from the late 1930's into the 1940's. The quality of the images are just first class.

The Library of Congress: 1930s-40s in Color can be found HERE

Monday 16 August 2010

Profile: Martin Parr

New Brighton. 1985 - Image by Martin Parr

Photography very much relies on personal opinion. It is one of the residing strengths of visual communication and it can also be its major weakness. Over the last few years, I have posted a number of blog profile articles about photographers whose work I admire. This profile, however, looks at the work of a photographer whose photography has helped create new colour documentary styles... and yet his photography polarizes opinion. In this photographer profile post, we take a look at the work of Martin Parr.

Martin Parr was born in Epsom, Surrey in May 1952. From around the age of fourteen, Parr wanted to be a photographer and credits his grandfather, who was an amateur enthusiast and encouraged the young teenager's photography, as an early photographic influence. During the early 1970s, Parr studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic (later Manchester Metropolitan University) and finally became a professional photographer during the mid-1970s. By the early 1980s, Parr was already recognised for a couple of books, shot in black and white, documenting the north of England. In 1984, however, Parr switched to colour photography and commenced (in 1985) on the project 'The Last Resort' that would see him become a rising star in the photographic scene and something of a controversial figure within the photographic community. Right from the start, many photographers took a dislike to the work for a variety of reasons.

The Last Resort featured colourful images taken in New Brighton, a popular beach resort suburb of Liverpool.  I first came across Martin Parr's work from this project in 1987/88 when I saw a number of the photographs in a photography magazine advertising the release of the book. The combination of pin-sharp, bright contrasty colour and witty observation certainly made the photography interesting to view, but even then, I detected what I believed to be a condescension of the subjects. It seemed to visually personify the era of the brash selfish eighties. It's a pitiless representation of the north of England, summed up by one reviewer who described the 'victims' in Parr's images as “a sitting duck for a more sophisticated audience". Even as a young novice photographer it seemed rather unpleasant to me too. Almost instantly, Parr's work divided opinion in the photography world. Some critics loved the work and its 'witty and humourous photographic style'. Others (like me and many of my fellow documentary photography students) failed to see the joke.... or like the photography style much.

During the late 1980's Parr had a couple of projects completed including One Day Trip in 1988 following day-trippers to Calais and decided to photograph the middle classes in Thatcher's Britain (The Cost of Living 1989). In Parr's defence, it can be said that the images were shot in the same of the subject as his working class-based 'The last Resort' had been. He later remarked about The Cost of Living that it was "very much examining my own position as a middle-class person who had flourished in a political climate that I felt somewhat opposed to”.  For many, if the photography's message was supposed to be critical, then it seemed to have been lost in transit. The photographer's images from this period seemed to celebrate rather than make any criticism of an era of self-indulgence and selfishness. It's pretty unfair to link Martin Parr's work with politics without knowing something about the photographer behind the work, however, some critics of his work did just that, believing falsely that Parr was celebrating Thatcher's Britain. It didn't help that the then prime minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, was a fan of his work.

By the early 1990's Martin Parr was THE contemporary photographer of the moment. During my years in photographic education, i would repeatedly come up against lecturers who adored his work. Parr was the influence of choice during those years, especially for those student photographers who preferred working in colour. 1994 saw Martin Parr join the Magnum photo agency, but the members voting provided some evidence of the sharp divide that Parr's work generates. The members of Magnum bitterly argued over Parr's admission for membership for six years! The photographer finally achieved the necessary two-thirds majority by the narrowest margin ever - just one vote! His work was not popular with the likes of Philip Jones Griffiths and one of Magnum's founding fathers, Henri Cartier Bresson. The legendary French photographer described Parr as "coming from another planet”. Philip Jones Griffiths went even further commenting on Parr's work that "Anyone who was described as Margaret Thatcher's favourite photographer certainly didn't belong in Magnum. His photographs titillate in some way, but the fact is that they are meaningless." That wasn't the worst quote either.

Ironically, Martin Parr has become one of Magnum's most commercially successful photographers, if not THE most successful currently. Recent work has included subjects such as luxury, photographing the rich and super-rich and holiday resorts in South America. The majority of his commissions, around 80%, come from overseas, and yet Parr still hasn't won over many of his critics back in the UK. This has been put down to the level of success that the photographer has achieved and the resulting bad feeling. According to Parr's supporters, envy is the key problem. Photographers envy his success. While that may be partially true, many photographers will have already made their own minds up about the photographer's work right from the start. Martin Parr as a photographer hasn't changed his style drastically and his influence has been immense. His style, use of colour and attitude has been favoured by many young contemporary photographers for years. Much of the criticism of the work may also stem from the easy way Parr's photojournalism work has been embraced by certain fine art photography circles - that can be an uneasy issue for many photojournalists For most people though, it is the photographer's work that remains the basis for the sometimes intensely critical regard that Martin Parr receives in his own country. Is he laughing at us? To be fair to the photographer, Parr seems to regard his subjects in the same manner regardless of geographical location.

A couple of posts ago, I commented on how I was trying to formulate why I had no liking for Martin Parr's photography. I don't hate it, in fact, I rather like some elements of the visual style of Parr's work, it's just the message the photography often conveys that I dislike. I don't see the humour. Often I just see detached cruelty, especially in his early work. I  have to admit that some of the contemporary photojournalism, taken by photographers who are often strongly influenced by Martin Parr, also leaves me cold. So in answer to the question of why I don't like photography, it comes down to the photographer's message, attitude, approach, call it what you will. I could maybe come up with other reasons too. I would be very interested to hear from blog readers about what they think about the work.  Whatever your thoughts on Martin Parr's photography, his commercial success and influential appeal reflects the fact that LOTS of people really do love his work. As an influence on contemporary documentary photography, young photographers and the culture of photography in general over the last twenty years, no other photographer quite frankly even comes close.

All Images by Martin Parr

Top Left - Martin Parr, 2004: Portrait by Bill Jay
Top Right - The Last Resort [ice cream girl] 1983-86
Middle Left - Badminton Horse Trials, Gloucestershire from 'The Cost of Living'
Middle Right - Auchan hypermarket, Calais, France, 1988, from "One Day Trip"
Bottom Left: - Russia. Moscow. Millionaire's Fair. 2007
Bottom Right - Hollywood, attendees at a charity function, 2000

Martin Parr Portfolio/ Magnum
BBC Genius of Photography
Martin Parr/ The Sunday Times
Magnum Photos Blog/ Martin Parr
The Guardian/ Photographer Martin Parr's best shot

Books by Martin Parr

The Last Resort
Small World

Thursday 12 August 2010

The Red Coat

The much imitated red coat scene from Schindler's List

Schindler's List is certainly not an easy film to watch. Good cinema rarely is. I recently sat and reacquainted myself with the film again after a number of years since the last viewing. At three hours long, it remains a fiercely powerful film that mixes a moving story with beautifully shot visuals. The cinematography is just superb and the little girl in the red coat amongst that violent sea of a black and white Krakow street remains a classic moment in cinema.

However, this post isn't about the film's brilliant cinematography, but the use of photography within the movie. One scene from Schindler's List stands out for me as a photographer. It conveys the whole evil purpose of the Nazi final solution in one camera shot and it uses old photographs to do it. The scene moves from the suitcases left behind on the Krakow railway station platform to the inside of one of the station buildings where the contents of the suitcases are being systematically processed by the SS.

Anything of value is being taken for the Reich. There are piles of glasses, shoes, watches, jewellery, children's toys and as the camera finally pans along, the film suddenly cuts to a massive pile of old family photographs in large suitcases. Even these unique family photographs, with incalculable sentimental value, are being processed. In that one scene it shows how the Nazis intended to wipe out the Jews complete with their history, their culture and even their memories. No past. No trace. Nothing.

Does this photograph scene hit me more because i am a photographer? No.  Family photographs transcend value compared to other items like gold and jewellery. Family photographs show where we are from, our past, who we are, where we belong, and to erase a people of its past only sends out one message, a message that should be fought vigorously wherever it's found.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

America in Colour

A riveter working on a Vultee A-31/A-35 Vengeance dive bomber in Tennessee, February 1943. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer

America in colour is a fantastic collection of images featured on the Denver Post photo blog. The photographs, taken by photographers for the Farm Security Administration and the War Information Office, cover an important period of U.S history from 1939-43, the era when America started the transformation into the industrial super power we all know today.

Much of the photography from that period was shot in black and white. Good quality colour shots are a very rare commodity from this period, but i have to admit that the image quality of these photographs is sublime - I imagine that they were taken using Kodak's then recently developed (1935) Kodachrome film. It really is a shame that Kodak stopped making such a brilliant film with such a rich and diverse history.

The last roll of Kodachrome 64 to come off the production line was ceremoniously shot by Magnum photographer and Kodachrome shooter Steve McCurry. There can be no doubt that this superb film was a victim of the digital photography age and the general decline in sales of colour film.

This collection of images is really well worth a look, as is the Denver Post's photography blog.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Fishing for Answers

Fishing for crabs - Wells-Next-the-Sea, Norfolk, UK

Currently I'm engaged in the writing of the next photographer profile post that will be released around the middle of the month. Over the years I've written a number of profiles and I've really enjoyed exploring the photography and life of the great image makers featured. This month's profile marks a first for the blog though, because the profile is about about a photographer whose work i have no real liking for.

So why do it? Well, the photographer in question has probably been one of the most influential photographers of the last twenty five years. His work has received critical praise and has helped create a new stylistic output for documentary photographers. He is successful...and yet in the many years I have been viewing the work created by this individual, i have never really warmed to his work or the way he shoots his subject matter. It wasn't just me either. His photography was disliked with a passion by all of the members of my documentary photography group at college.

What is infuriating is the fact that i can't figure out exactly after all these years what i don't like. Is it the photography style or just the way he treats a subject or topic? The topics he chooses? I don't know!!! There are many photographers whose work i have come to appreciate in my 'older years'. I have already posted about my stupid lack of respect for Richard Avedon's work during my somewhat ignorant photo purist student days. Maybe the blog post will provide some of the answers I've been looking for.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Recycle Time

Boat undergoing renovation - Morston Quay, Norfolk, UK

The final finishing touches have been made to the new blog layout. Considering that I never intended to alter the blog's design, i think it looks a lot better. It's modern looking, fresh and, dare i say it, easier to read now that it fills the screen more. I'm glad i started fiddling with the blog's setting now, although it could have all ended in disaster. It wouldn't be the first time that I've altered a website a tweak too far. Fortunately everything went smoothly.

Last Sunday i was shooting portraits for the vampire film. The light, however, was terrible due to thick overcast/rain clouds that covered the sky over York very quickly. The light dropped so fast that my only option was to get out the Nikon flashgun to light the actors. The only problem i had was the recycling time. Modern flashguns really do draw a LOT of power very quickly so the internal battery pack is only good for ten minutes shooting at medium power... if that!

I really will have to buy an external  battery pack to cut down the recycling times during shoots. I have one in mind that will reduce the recycling times by 66 percent and enable me to work quicker. It will also save me money in the long run. Perfect.

Sunday 1 August 2010

All Change!!!

After over three years online with the same design, I've decided to make some visual changes to the blog page. It's still a case of getting settled in to the new look and there are bound to be a few subtle changes over the coming weeks. Some aspects need tweaking but overall I rather like the blog's new layout look.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Salthouse Horse

A horse goes to water - Salthouse, Norfolk, UK

After a deluge of iPhone images on the blog these last few weeks, I've decided to add a few black and white film images to balance things up. I've already started to think about what i'd like to do next year during the Norfolk shoot. It looks likely that I'll be shooting large 6x6 colour film images alongside the usual b&w. A new angle for the project to work alongside the tried and tested.

I have so much to do next year including starting the hunt for a new DSLR. A few tough decisions may have to be made that even include postponing any potential purchase until 2012. I'm seriously thinking about a Nikon D4 which will be, when Nikon eventually release it, stupid money. I am keeping an open mind about things, but the constant upgrading of digital camera gear and the hype around it really bugs me.

Maybe that's why i love film cameras (oh heck i love digital too, just certain elements really annoy me) so much - no upgrading required.... well not much.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Numbers Game

Vacant beach hut space number 40 - Sheringham, Norfolk, UK

A few little ideas have started to become a bit more labour intensive than i first anticipated. The first is an official 'Norfolk Light' calendar that will be launched next month, and the other is an actual photo book release. I'll talk about the projects in more detail on my podcast which is due to be recorded in the next couple of days. 

Talking of photography books, I've been looking at David Bailey's ' Black and white Memories', a book published in 1983 that i managed to pick up recently (yep a secondhand book store ) which looks at Bailey's groundbreaking sixties work. The photography is, of course, superb and it's a diverse mix of styles. Photographers can sometimes become typecast as just fashion or editorial specialists, especially if they become famous, when in fact they do a wide variety of work.

I especially loved Bailey's early documentary work taken in the East end of London around 1962. Most of the photographs are of empty street, more than likely taken early on a Sunday morning. The old shops look almost Victorian , emphasised maybe by the worn old fashioned look decorating many of the shop fronts. The photograph captures a world long gone where high streets had diversity and character.

Bailey says he would like to be called a photographer, rather than labelled as just a fashion photographer. I think a lot of photographers think along the same lines. We just photograph what's around us and what interests us... just like David Bailey did in the East end of London in 1962.

Friday 23 July 2010

Booked Up

Looking through my collection of photography books, i realise that I've acquired quite a few pounds worth of books in nearly twenty years of collecting. The first true photography book that i bought was John Tordai's 'Into the promised land', a gritty and stylish book featuring black and white photography documenting the Palestinian intifada of the late 1980's. I bought it at the Bradford TV, film and photography museum (now called the media museum) shop for the very reasonable price of just £9.99.

OK, i admit that some time before that i had purchased the Don McCullin autobiography 'Unreasonable Behaviour', but i categorize that as a biography and not a true photo book. Like many photography students, i started to collect books featuring work by my favourite photographers as part of the learning process, to see how Salgado would frame a portrait, or how Capa would shoot a scene. I realise though that there is another more subtle aspect to my book collecting. Memories.

I can distinctly remember where I've purchased virtually every photo book I've ever bought, however, the secondhand ones seem to have especially burned their way into my memory. These books have replaced how i used to feel about buying music on vinyl. Remember the great old record shops? The good old fashioned album has far more sentiment attached to it than a emotionally cold CD or MP3 file. I'd get rid of all of my CDs tomorrow rather than sell my record collection, such is the strength of  the emotional ties and memories associated with much of my vinyl.

Books have that same emotional hold especially if you buy them from a great old eccentric secondhand bookshop. Amazon website doesn't quite offer the same sort of atmosphere as a old, cramped bookshop packed full of books. The best book experience? So many to choose from, however, finding a 1940 copy of the classic lighting book ' Lighting for photography' by Walter Nurnberg certainly rates high... literally! I had to climb right up a very rickety step ladder in a book shop/antique shop in Wooler, Northumberland to get that. Absolute bliss.

Monday 19 July 2010

Recent Developments

A number of improvements have been made to the portfolio area of my website. I'm still, however, a long way from being satisfied with the page as a whole.

My online portfolio needs a lot of work to become the broadly representative online gallery of my photography that i crave - something that i am to focus on developing during the latter part of this year. New slide show software will be used to improve the viewing experience of galleries and to also help me with the multimedia work i aim to develop next year.

Some of you may have notice a few subtle changes to the top menu on my website. This is, again, a work in progress attempt to add a few features to the website. In the multimedia section you will find a listing called video pods. These are short video podcasts i occasionally do from my iPhone. It is still experimental but it has potential to be developed further.

Over the coming months i want to do some more short edited videos, so as you will have read, the main website continues to develop.... slowly.

Sunday 18 July 2010

C'est la vie

A portrait of the film character Christian played by actor Carl Isherwood

It has been a tough week, not made an easier by the fact that i had to make a really tough decision this weekend about my involvement in a film. In the end, i made my decision and decided to quit as the Director of Photography on the vampire film 'Christian'. The reason is a simple one. The job was non-existent.

The Director of Photography's job on a movie is a pretty straightforward one. You help the director create the film's visual style using lighting and via the use of camera angles, framing of scenes, colour palettes etc. I've been increasingly consulted less and less about those issues, and after a number of weeks of deliberation... i reluctantly and sadly decided to go.

C'est la vie as the French would say. I may return to set as a stills photographer for this last week of filming in Whitby.

Monday 12 July 2010

Profile: Margaret Bourke-White

Diversion Tunnels, Fort Peck Dam 1936 - Image by Margaret Bourke-White

Margaret Bourke-White's story reads like something out of Hermann Wouk's The Winds of War novel. As a documentary photographer, she travelled extensively during World war II, met many of the leading figures of the era and was the only western photographer to work (briefly) in the Soviet Union during the start of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. She was a household name and regarded as one of the best photographers of her generation.

Margaret Bourke-White was born as Margaret White in 1904 in the Bronx, New York. Her father was a printer and inventor who had a love of machinery and from whom she claimed to learned perfectionism from. Her mother was a homemaker whose resourcefulness gave Margaret White a desire to constantly improve as well as the additional Bourke name. Margaret Bourke-White's brother describes their parents as 'free thinkers who were intensely interested in advancing themselves and humanity through personal achievement'.  Looking back at Bourke-White's life it seems obvious that she inherited much of  her parents hard working ethos. Unlike many photographers of her generation, Bourke-White had a university background (pursuing a degree in Herpetology - the study of reptiles) finally graduating from Cornell University NY with her B.A. in 1927. During this period, Margaret Bourke-White was taking photographs as a hobby, but her passion for photography eventually led to her going professional. She began working as a commercial, architectural and industrial photographer in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the late 1920's she undertook a commissioned to photograph the Otis Steel Company. The assignment had its problems with access and attitudes towards women photographers just being two of them to deal with. After some initial technical difficulties due to the films colour sensitivity and lighting within the steel plant, Margaret Bourke-White managed to produce some of best steel factory pictures of that era by using magnesium flares as a light source. Her ability to work of with people (her second husband, Erskine Caldwell, described her as "very adept at being able to direct people. She was almost like a motion picture director. Very astute in that respect") and a great technical know how paid off and gained her national attention. Much of her technical expertise was gained from her father's interest in cameras and the technical side of photography. This knowledge would later become incredibly useful for Margaret Bourke-White as she worked in some of the most adverse conditions imaginable. One impressive photograph has her using her camera atop of the Chrysler building in New York.

In 1929, Margaret Bourke-White made the move from industrial to documentary photographer when she was recruited by Editor and Publisher Henry Luce as a staff photographer for Fortune Magazine which chronicled the world of U.S. business and economy. The keen editor and publisher had seen the photographer's work and realised that Fortune magazine needed those types of quality images. The following year, Margaret Bourke-White became the first western photographer to be allowed into the Soviet Union to photograph Soviet industry. When Henry Luce started LIFE magazine in late 1936, the first front cover featured a photograph by Margaret Bourke-White. The photographer's fame had been building before LIFE, but the new magazine added further to her appeal. She even appeared in photo stories in the magazine itself documenting how she took the photographs for a magazine story. Before long Margaret Bourke-White was a household name that endorsed products as diverse as coffee, phonograph records and wine. 

It is as a LIFE photographer that the photographer is best remembered, but Margaret Bourke-White only served as a LIFE staff photographer until 1940 when see left to become chief photographer for another magazine. During the war years, however, she would return to LIFE magazine, now and again, until a permanent return occurred in 1945. From that point on until her semi retirement in 1957, LIFE magazine would be her work and her family. In the late 1940's Margaret Bourke-White became a target for Joseph McCarthy and the House of Un-American Activities Committee. The FBI had been making a file on the photographer since the mid 1930's due to her 'political activities' (Bourke-White had an interest in documenting racial inequality). She only managed to avoid a cross examination by the House of Un-American Activities committee by writing a statement confirming her believe in democracy.

In 1953, Margaret Bourke-White developed the first symptoms of Parkinson's disease which eventually stopped her from working as a photographer. In semi retirement, she decided to write an autobiography of her adventures called 'Portrait of Myself'  which took eight years to complete and was finally published in 1963. After a number of operations and procedures to halt the progress of the disease, this remarkable photographer, who had travelled the world, photographed Stalin smiling and taken one last image of Gandhi shortly before he was assassinated, died at the age of 67 on August 27, 1971. Sixteen months later, on the 29th December 1972, LIFE magazine was published for the final time. It marked the end of a remarkable era for photojournalism.

All Images by Margaret Bourke-White

Top Left: Margaret Bourke-White
Top Right: Margaret Bourke-White on the Chrysler Building, New York 1934 - photo by Oscar Graubner
Middle Left: Bread Line during the Louisville flood, Kentucky 1937
Middle Right: Prisoners at Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1945
Bottom Left: Nuremberg 1945


Margaret Bourke-White at Masters of Photography
Margaret Bourke-White/ LIFE image archive


Margaret Bourke-White: Her Pictures Were Her Life

Margaret Bourke-White: The Early Work, 1922-1930 (Pocket Paragon Series)

Purple Heart Valley: A Combat Chronicle of the War in Italy

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Book End

Apologies. It's been a bit quiet on the blog this last month or so. I've been a very busy bee. A number of blog posts are on their way including one that has been delayed far too long due to work. Everything seems to come at once and time just vanishes. One of the more urgent projects that needed completing quick was the Solo Photo Book Month book.

Well good news! It's finished. I managed to get everything in place today, so i uploaded the completed book a clear 24 hours before the finish deadline. The photographs and book look great, so much so that an 'extended' version of the book will be coming out soon featuring even more photographs.

My Solo Photo Book Month 2010 book (9.5Mb) can be downloaded at:-

Sunday 27 June 2010

Final 40

A sunset at Whitby - North Yorkshire, UK

I'm coming to the final stages of my Solo Photo Book Month project 2010. I have just over a week to shoot more photos and design the book. Plenty of time. So far, I have around 47 image so far and i think I'll get more photographs this week to make the number of final working book photos come to around 60. From that, I'll edit it down to the final 40.

The photographs I've taken have been a great mix of styles that i described in an audioBoo podcast as 'snapshots'.  Maybe not a totally accurate way of describing the image capturing process, but it's close enough. Has the project turned out as i expected? Yes, better than I'd imagined actually.

My SoFoBoMo project book 'Making Movies' will be uploaded on July 7th and a download link made available on that day from the blog and my website.

Friday 18 June 2010

Staff Only

A 'Staff Only' still life found on a door at Goathland Railway Station, up on the North Yorkshire moors.

I love the red shades of colour mixing with light and shadow, the lines within the door, the various marks on the door from years of use and the fact that the keyhole cover sits at a jaunty angle.

Sunday 13 June 2010

SoFoBoMo Week One

The film's director lines up the camera for a take

The Solo Photo Book Month project has started strongly. I need a minimum of 35 photographs for my book detailing the making of the vampire film 'Christian', and i already have around 9 that i am pleased with. The Polaroid look works great too, creating a familiar laid back look to the images. The book layout and design will start next weekend, ready for me to easily add photographs later this month. Alongside the photography, I'm also shooting video on the phone with surprisingly good results.

More photography is on the way. This week, I have a load of promotional photography to take of the various film characters for the posters, website, DVD box cover, etc, etc. I'll be using a combination of digital and film to get those, although it will be the b&w film shots that I'll be paying extra attention too. A mixture of 35mm and 6x6 film will be used for the portraits that will have a Gothic flavour to them. Lighting at night will be tricky but I'll use available street light, portable lights and flash as and when needed. I always adore a lighting challenge.

The weekend has seen me working to rid myself of a bad cold ASAP. I may, or may not, make it to Monday night's shoot. I don't know yet if I'll be fit enough yet, although it seems to be going.... slowly. I suppose that I'll make that decision on Monday morning. Colds are easy to catch, and sadly, less easy to shake off. Fingers crossed i can loose it quickly. I don't want to infect the entire cast and crew with my cold.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Vampire Nights

Actor Carl Isherwood (Christian) through the movie camera viewfinder

The filming of the vampire movie 'Christian' commenced yesterday and i have to admit that i had quite a lot of fun. As the director of photography it's my task to help the director with the visual style of the film. Lighting and the framing of scenes are really the essence of what a DoP does. I love lighting stuff.

The shooting will continue during weekday nights for around four weeks, possibly longer depending on the weather/technical problems etc. The film' website can be found at . Check out the movie's Twitter feed too for audio and video podcasts, photos and updates direct from the film set.

Friday 4 June 2010

All that Jazz

Dexter Gordon, Royal Roost, NYC, 1948 - photograph by Hermann Leonard

Long ago, when i was a student, i had a housemate and friend called Andy who was a massive jazz fan. Andy was a photographer who had combined his passion for music with his photography resulting in a superb collection of jazz portraits/concert photographs. The jazz clubs and festivals in Newcastle Upon Tyne acted as the perfect place to develop his portfolio.

A big influence over Andy's work was Hermann Leonard, an american photographer who photographed many of the jazz greats of the 1940's. Leonard's work fused the atmosphere of the smokey jazz clubs with the performance and persona of the artist he was photographing. The resulting images are among the greatest photographs of pro musicians at work ever taken.

As i wandered through the internet today, i came across Hermann Leonard's website, and his magnificent images in the portfolio section brought back all kinds of great memories of late night photography discussions as a Miles Davis album played in the background. Great days. Even if you aren't a big fan of jazz music, I'd recommend taking a look at Leonard's work. It is the work of a true master.

Hermann Leonard's website can be found at