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.