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.