Monday 31 May 2010

Reel Reality

Looking back towards Cromer from the pier

The final films shot in Norfolk last year were developed this week. Yes, not before time i imagine you'll say and it's true, those films should have been processed ages ago. So why weren't they? I don't have any great excuses, but i will admit that processing large amounts of film can be problematic for me. I'm just not geared up to develop more that ten 35mm rolls at any one time. For 120 film that figure drops to four.

The problem is drying developing tanks and reels so that they can be loaded again. I have no way of speeding up the process because i don't have a drying cabinet, so i rely on natural drying which can take forever. If you try to dry tanks/reels with a cloth then you often get an increase of dust and hair fibre marks on the negatives. My solution has been to buy more tanks and i'm going to buy some more this year.

I currently use four, however, i want to raise that to six or seven. I could get a really big developing tank that processes five, six or even ten films at a time, but i prefer working with the smaller (approx 700ml) 35mm reel tanks. They are far easier to handle and the quantities of chemical needed to fill the tank are also much smaller. I prefer to process two films at a time anyway - it's the way i've always done it.

Two more developing tanks will make all the difference. It will increase my workflow and the number of films i can process in a session. So it's off to eBay to try and find a few bargains. If i can find some tanks at the right price i may even splash out and buy three or four.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Thanks Dennis

The photojournalist from Apocalypse Now played by the wonderful Dennis Hopper

Yesterday brought the sad news that the actor Dennis Hopper had died at the age of 74. He had been ill with cancer. For me, Hopper will always be the enigmatic photojournalist in Apocalypse Now, the 1979 Vietnam war movie made by Francis Ford Cappola.

Dennis Hopper's portrayal of a burnt out, partially insane photojournalist really captured the persona of a number of Vietnam war photographers from that era. Two that spring to mind are Sean Flynn and Tim Page who both had a tendancy to push their luck when it came to getting the shots. Page was mentioned by Cappola as a main influence for the photojournalist character.

Hopper had some memorable lines in the film, but the one that i love has to be where the photojournlist remarks that if is the middle word in life. So true.

Monday 24 May 2010

SoFoBoMo decisions

The weekend has been hot and sunny. You have to make the most of that weather combination if you live in Britain. The photograph above was taken as I slurped through a pot of tea in the garden. Just a quick shot on the iPhone. Speaking of which...

I've finally decided to shoot my Solo Photo Book Project on the iPhone using the Polaroid style photo app Shakeitphoto. The subject will be involve documenting the making of the vampire film 'Christian'. Cast, crew and locations will all be photographed to create a photo scrapbook of the production. A mixture of portraits, landscapes and documentary photography will be used.

As i did last year, some of the photographs will be 'previewed' on the blog along with the story of how i came about taking them. The SoFoBoMo project starts, for me at least, on June 7th.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Blow Down

Thousands of trees in the North Fork Toutle River drainage area are shown blown down by the force of the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St.Helens.

The recent volcanic activity in Iceland has been in the news a lot recently, and the series of photos of the eruption and it's impact on various parts of the world have been fascinating to see. Even this week, flights in parts of Europe were suspended due to concerns about volcanic debris in the atmosphere. Nature, every now and again, makes sure to remind us who is really in charge of the planet.

The Eyjafjallajokull Icelandic volcano eruption is nowhere near the cataclysmic scale of the Mount St. Helens eruption that took place thirty years ago yesterday. Fifty seven people were killed and 230 square miles of forest were flattened during the huge volcanic explosion that took place on May 18th 1980. The image above shows the devastating effect on the landscape - it has a very creepy symmetry about it. The way that the forests have been blown down just shows the force behind the blast, and how it eerily followed the geography of the land. Mudflows, caused when the glacier ice melted, also caused a huge amount of damage.

The photograph above was found via the fantabulous Big Picture photoblog were a selection of 37 photographs tell the fascinating story of what happened when Mount St Helens erupted with such force. You can find the Mount St Helens photos HERE.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Profile: August Sander

Loop at the Rhine near Boppard, 1936 - Photograph by August Sander

The first post of this year's photographer profile series, looks at the fascinating portraiture work of August Sander, a photographer who dared to continue taking images even though the Nazi authorities constrained his life and work. His crime was of trying to form a photographic archive covering the diversity of the German people during the 1920's and 1930's.

August Sander was born in Herdorf, a town in the district of Altenkirchen, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. His father was a carpenter working in the mining industry, and it was while Sander was working at the mine that he was introduced to photography when he assisted a photographer who was working for the mining company. With financial help from a member of his family, August Sander was able to buy the equipment necessary to start taking his own photographs. After serving in the military as a photographer's assistant (1897–99), Sander moved around Germany before settling in Austria (1901) where he worked in the Greif Studio. Sander was eventually made a partner in the business with Franz Stukenberg as the Studio Sander and Stukenberg. Within two years, Sander had started his own studio which he sold in 1909, when he moved to Cologne to set up another photographic practice which he accomplished in 1911.

Sander established himself as a successful photographer in Cologne, delivering work to a vast array of clients from the world of industry and trade. He was, in every regard, a commercial photographer undertaking advertising commissions, and not just a portrait photographer even though that is what he is best known for. Landscapes and architecture photography were also a big part of Sander's creative output - many of which are just as great as his portraits. The first elements of the idea that would become his documentation of German society 'People of the 20th Century' came about while photographing farmers near to World War I. These images started Sander developing the bigger idea of documenting people as part of a much larger project. It was around this time that he became involved with a group of left wing artists called the Cologne Progressives led by Heinrich Hoerle and Franz Wilhelm Seiwert.

By 1924, August Sander had created his People of the twentieth century photographic project, in which a broad section of German society had been photographed. He divided the huge portfolio of work into several sections ranging from farmers to artists. Sander would continue to work on this project, off and on, for a number of years, but it's progress was interrupted by the rise of Nazism within Germany. August Sander published a book featuring sixty of his portraits in 1929 called Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time). The book successfully managed to portray the diversity and individuality of German society, however the Nazis had a far more simplistic and romanticized view of the German people, mixed together with an blond, blue eyed Aryan ideology that was far from the reality portrayed in Sander's images. The Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, and Sander's book (Face of Our Time) was banned in 1934 - the printing plates for the book were also smashed by the Nazis authorities. Many feared that August Sander would be banned from working as a photographer, but this didn't happen, partly due maybe to the photographer's decision to start choosing photographic subjects away from portraiture. Architecture, nature and landscape photography work (landscapes mainly around the Rhine river) were where he focused his attention.

Sander still continued, however, to quietly produce portraits (more likely commissioned customer portraits via his photographic business) during the late 1930's with sitters even including a member of Adolf Hitler's personal bodyguard. The war resulted in the near destruction of Cologne and the loss of the photographer's studio along with part of his archive. Many were saved however due to Sander moving to a rural location in 1942, away from the bombing. After the war, roughly 25,000 to 30,000 negatives still stored in the cellar of the Cologne apartment were destroyed by a fire in January 1946. The postwar years saw August Sander resume his portraiture and record the forlorn bombed ruins of Cologne. These images were used to create the haunting book 'Köln wie es war'.The photographer had spent many pre-war years recording the city's beautiful old streets and elegant buildings, much of which had been destroyed in the Allied bombing campaign.

By 1945, August Sander's portrait archive came to a staggering 40,000 images with the series is divided into seven sections: The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People (homeless persons, veterans, etc). He continued to work in the post war years mainly on landscape and architecture photography, but never really returned to his portraiture work with the vigour of the pre war years. The final years of Sander's life saw the photographer study the nature and development of photography from virtually every angle, looking at technology, choice or composition of subject as well as use and context.

August Sander died in 1964 with his People of the twentieth century project unfinished. In the course of his seventy year career, Sander managed to produce a body of work of such broad artistic, social and cultural importance. The task of taking all those images was huge, and in many respects, it was a photographic project that would have been impossible to complete. The fact that so much wok was done is a mark of how great a photographer August Sander was. The great collection of images from the People of the twentieth century photo archive was brought together by Sander's son, Gunther in the early 1950's. Since then, August Sander archive has been exhibited widely and the portraits continue to fascinate new generations of viewers to this day.

All Images by August Sander

Top left - August Sander, 1925
Top right - Gamekeeper, 1911-1914
Middle left - Circus Workers, 1926-1932
Bottom right - Member of Hitler's SS Guard (Cologne 1938) 
Bottom - Political Prisoner, 1941-1944

August Sander collection at Amber Online 


Monday 10 May 2010

Acres of Sky

This was taken as an experiment but i like the resulting image. To give you an idea of the perspective, the aircraft and vapor trail at the top of the photo were directly overhead (nearly behind me!) when i took the image using the Video Panorama iPhone app.

As it was taken using an iPhone, the image quality isn't anywhere near on a par with a proper panoramic camera like the Hasselblad X-Pan, but with a bit of practice and experimentation, i think the iPhone will produce some distinctive panoramic pictures.

Saturday 8 May 2010

RAW Deal

Pleasure trip heads out to sea at Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK

That's the election over and done with...ah.. well not quite. I still have to vote due to one of the party constituency candidates dying during the run up to the election. The voting was delayed, so i go and vote on the 27th May. Something to look forward to.

I'm still clearing out old files from the computer, and surprise surprise, the vast majority of the room is taken up with old photos. Already i've recycled 12Gb of space after removing various imported camera RAW files, many of them from last year's Norfolk trip. I am treading very carefully before i delete them. It would be tragic to remove images only to find they were the only copies. I believe that a final total of 35Gb of hard drive space will be freed up by the time i finish dealing with the photo section. 

I mentioned some time ago that i needed more storage space for my digital files. The spring clean of the last week has made my decision to buy an external hard drive, a more urgent one.