Wednesday 31 March 2010

House Keeping

Morning light/cloudscape at the railway station

The end of another month. A good month though. The first Richard Flint Photography podcast was released (or escaped if you like) yesterday. This first 'show' takes a look at what i want to do with the podcasts and how i got into photography - i thought that a bit of background about me might be a good start. Fear not though, that was just the introduction. From May, the audio podcast will feature it's usual mix of news, comment and chaos. Work on the April video podcast starts soon and will delve into my work on the movie 'Christian'.

With the start of the podcasts this month,  i have decided to move the photographer profile series, which is about to start again on the blog, to a new slot in the first week of the month . The last series was released at the end of the month, but due to the podcast taking that position, it's a bit much to do both. So look out for the first of this series of profile posts coming up in the next week or so. We'll be starting with a brilliant portrait photographer.

Finally... i leave you with a link. A post or two ago, i mentioned the Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder who had used his iPhone to photograph the U.S Marines in Afghanistan. Well another photographer, Todd Heisler of The New York Times, decided to photograph Moscow using his iPhone and the shakeitphoto 'Polaroid' app too. A great gallery of Moscow images, and an article where Heisler discusses why he used the iPhone to take his pictures, can be found HERE.

Sunday 28 March 2010

Tough Call

The view from a train: A moment in time on Darlington railway station.

The great photojournalist Robert Capa once commented that working as a freelance photographer was like working as an actor. There are many similarities in lifestyle and work ethic; both have to deliver creative performances by plucking things out of thin air, find work amongst a vast throng of talented competitors and have the ability to ignore criticism/rejection. However, after attending the first actor auditions for the Whitby based vampire film 'Christian' yesterday, I've come to the conclusion that the photographer has the much easier job.

Out on a limb perfectly describes the audition process. Imagine standing before three strangers (I'm one of them, folks) and reading a part you may have never,ever seen before. No shield. No protection. No camera to hide behind. Nothing. All you have is your talent. Just you. That is a bit too up close and personal for my liking. My photographic work is often judged by clients, but over the years I've managed to emotionally distance myself from it. It is just a photograph, not part of me. You have to be able to take flak, because destructive criticism is cheap and readily available everywhere, delivered by bitter and twisted individuals who believe their viewpoints are the only ones that really matter - just look at most website forum sections for examples of that.

Distance is a luxury that actors probably find tough to achieve. They are the talent. They are the canvas/artwork. Photographers can go into many areas of work from photojournalist to advertising, but an actor will tend to get parts based on two factors - first their acting ability and, second, how they look. That's why most actors are very outgoing and confident. They have to be! I tend to think of people as either predominantly watchers or players and, naturally, actors are players. Photographers are usually watchers, but some can be both watchers AND players. The photographer Cindy Sherman is a great example of that. Me? Oh, I'm a watcher, definitely a watcher dear reader, and i imagine you are too.... no?

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Unique Lens

A U.S. Marine searches an Afghan farm compound in Marjah. Image © David Guttenfelder/Associated Press

The creative potential of the iPhone camera and the various photo apps available has been a pleasant surprise. I never really expected a mobile phone camera could have so much potential for creating striking photographs. It's not just the camera though, the iPhone photo apps are the major ingredient that make the smart phone, the flexible creative tool it is today. As you may have seen from this blog and my Facebook page, i use the iPhone's picture taking function a heck of a lot. I love it and it seems I'm not the only one.

David Guttenfelder, a photographer with the Associated Press, has put together a wonderful gallery of 'Polaroid' images taken with his iPhone while embedded with the U.S Marines near Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province. Sadly the photographer doesn't mention the iPhone application he used,  i did initially suspect that it could be my own personal favourite Lo-Mob, but apparently, according to the British Journal of Photography, it was an app called shakeitphoto. Not that it matters, I'm immensely impressed with the images David Guttenfelder has created - the photos ooze a wonderfully distinctive visual diary feel that beautifully captures the day-to-day activity of troops living, working and fighting in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan iPhone 'Polaroid' gallery is well worth a visit and can be found HERE.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Little Moments II

Taking in the view - Sheringham sea front, Norfolk, UK

Today has been spent catching up on email and looking for parts for a camera. At some point in the recent past, i lost the DK-17 eyepiece for the F3. It could be lost here in the house or up at Consett somewhere. It's one of those annoying little problems that you have to deal with from time to time. Anyhow I've ordered a new eyepiece online for the slight cost of around £13. It could have been far worse.

When I'm out and about taking pics, i follow my unofficial motto/rule 'ALWAYS work out of the bag'. I've developed the habit of working to that rule. If i put anything down, a lightmeter etc, i put it on, or more often, back in the camera bag. It's a simple, rigorously enforced rule that works really well and gives me peace of mind because i know that i won't ever leave anything behind on a wall or bench. Sadly some things you can't watch all the time - the eyepiece must have been loose and fallen off the pentaprism as i walked along.

On the other hand, i could have taken the eyepiece off the pentaprism to clean it and forgot put it back on...

Sunday 21 March 2010

Valley View

A wildlife pond, a great place for frogs and fireflies i'm told, on reclaimed industrial land overlooking the Derwent valley not far away from Consett in County Durham, UK.

Friday 19 March 2010

Eight Starfish

Starfish washed up on a pebble beach

The podcast is still on schedule and I've managed to set up a great studio podcast system. The sound quality should be absolutely superb. The only thing left to do is purchase the camcorder for video podcasting, and a USB microphone so i don't have to bother with the audio mixer. Just plug the mike in and away you go.

The image above was taken in Norfolk, but i just can't remember where. Maybe looking at the negatives will give me some ideas. Last year, along the coastline for about a mile at Holme beach, over 20,000 starfish were washed up due to the tides.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

A Difficult Task

The humble news cameraman isn't often able to give his side of a story, however, Channel 4 news have kindly given their camera person, Stuart Webb, the ability to video blog his adventures in Afghanistan. His commentary and footage offer a fascinating insight into the difficult task of filming a news story in a war zone.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Little Moments

Taking in the view - Sheringham sea front, Norfolk, UK

Another of my 'quietly taken' shots. I doubt if they even knew i was there. The man was talking to a friend on the mobile phone and both were engrossed in the conversation.

I love capturing moments like these but you have to work quickly and quietly. In this case though, the phone call held all of their attention, so i could snap away unnoticed.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Podcasting Soon

The tide returns - Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk

The website is finally starting to take shape with certain elements within the site due to come online over the summer. After around eighteen months of trying to find the right solution for my podcasting needs, i've finally managed to come up with the answer with a podcasting service that had the simple setup i needed. So in the coming weeks, i'll be working on my first full on podcast, a ten or fifteen minute affair that willl be released at the end of every month and look over the world of photography. A few small issues need to be sorted out over the coming weeks, otherwise we are ready to go.

The podcast page on the main website has been added and contains a brilliant player so that the viewer can access any podcast they like. The podcast service supports both audio and video so expect some video podcasts too. I'll make them around five or six minutes in length and they will focus around a subject or place. One of the first will focus on my work on the vampire movie 'Christian' which is due to start filming soon. Subscribing to the podcast is easy if you use iTunes. I've also provided an mp3 feed too. Podcast episode number one will be released in the last week of this month.

Sunday 7 March 2010

V for Vendetta

Parked motorbike - Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk, UK

'All we have to fear is fear itself', once declared Franklin Delano Rossevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. His words were aimed at the economic situation affecting America during the 1930's - the Wall Street Crash - but those words have added meaning in this age of fear. Age of Fear - it sounds like a trashy thriller novel, but what I'm referring to is the growing sense of unease that seems to be affecting our way of life and , most important of all, our freedoms. Public photography, usually a good visual indicator of how free a country is, has come under threat from increasingly bad legislation and poorly trained law enforcers.

Somehow you get the feeling that the terrorists, helped along by other social fears, have won a slight victory in changing the British mainland into a more nervous and fearful place. Not only does a photographer run the risk of being treated as a terrorist, he can also be accused of taking too much of an interest in children if he/she isn't careful. The wonderful photographs of children playing on a street etc, taken by humanist photographers like Doisneau and Cartier Bresson, mark an innocent era long gone. Even parents can get into trouble whilst photographing their own kids. Everyone is regarded with suspicion and that isn't a healthy mindset for a society to hold at all.

During my student years in the early 1990's, I remember talking to some American tourists who were travelling back down to London on the train. How are you enjoying Britain i asked. 'We love it here' was the lovely reply, 'but why don't the railway stations have any trash cans'? 'Terrorism' i answered. It was then that i realised that by the stations removing rubbish bins, the IRA had achieved at least one tiny victory over the way the British lived their lives. It was the tiniest of victories, but a victory nonetheless. What concerns me most however is there seems to be no stop to the abuse of laws originally set up to protect us.

In the graphic novel (and later a movie) V for Vendetta, Britain has become a totalitarian state due to increasingly stronger and more draconian security measures implemented due to an increased public perception of terrorist attack. The terror risk we have is real but we need to balance security and liberty needs better. As V for Vendetta illustrates, the path between keeping our liberties intact and infringing them, due to bad security laws and political incompetence, is a narrow one. One thing i do know for certain: photography is NOT the enemy!

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The M Word

Cliff erosion: a wartime pillbox, built on the clifftop, rests on the beach at Cromer, UK

Manipulation is a word that many photographers try to avoid using. The word represents a process that photographers, especially documentary snappers and photojournalists, do not recognise as being in their photography. The definition of manipulation varies depending on who you ask. Some image makers can be very purist and take these pure thoughts to extremes, like always producing images without any cropping. Full frame or nothing at all. I just about fit into the full frame category of photographer, although I'm not particularly a die hard enthusiast. I do crop images now and again, and have no qualms in doing so. What a photographer does to a photograph is down to the individual's ideals about image purity. Some barely touch a photo and others hack into the photo using the darkroom or Photoshop as yet another creative layer.

The photography grapevine today brought the news of the disqualification of a World Press Photo runner up who had removed elements from one of his photographs. Photojournalism prides itself on being as truthful as possible so the photo was dumped. Rightly so. For a few years, the World Press Photo competition had 'Eyewitness' as a subheading. Photographers working on photo stories are exactly that - eyewitnesses for the world telling the story they see - they are there because we can't be. Photojournalists rely on being trusted and the 'truth' of a photograph needs to be upheld at all costs. Manipulation is there though, even if it's just in small amounts. Photography itself, is a manipulation of a scene, like it or not, into a photograph. Unless you're invisible, your presence is bound to have an impact of one sort or another. Photoshop has taken this process to a new stage where images can be easily altered to the point where reality bares little resemblance to the fiction contained in the photo. Think celebrity photographs.

Lens choice, camera choice, film choice, colour or b&w, lighting, filters, viewpoint angles, personal viewpoints, emotions and politics - all of these things can play their part in any photograph taken. I have never believed in a neutral photographic viewpoint. Something always resides behind it. Photographers are people and, as such, are complicated individuals full of their own stories, emotions and opinions. My own manipulation using Photoshop is very low level. It stems from my documentary photography background. I use Photoshop like a digital darkroom -dodge, burn and retouching mostly, but then how could you tell if I was lying or not? The image above could have been tweaked substantially and who would know apart from me. You have to trust me, as the creator of the photo, that the image is 'real'. Well you do trust me don't ya???