Tuesday 30 August 2011

Cosmic Camera

Photography in space has a certain appeal. None of that dirty Earth atmosphere to get in the way of the light and you certainly won't get any interruptions from passing strangers. These days we take the photographs taken in space for granted but back in the early sixties the technology had to be developed to achieve photography in space.

This great little film documents how the Lunar Orbiter Camera started and advanced that process. The technology is remarkable. The orbiter features a 70mm dual lenses film camera, processing lab, analogue scanner and transmitter all in one. The film used was Bi-Mat which was similar to Polaroid.

The camera was designed to map the moon's surface to gain useful information for the moon mission that would follow some three years later. The camera did manage to photograph the Earth too - the first photograph to show the whole of the Earth floating in space.

Friday 26 August 2011

Sixteen Days

It's with a great deal of pleasure that i can announce the launch of my first photography book release called Sea, Sky, Sand and Street available from blurb.com.

Based on this year's Solo Photo Book month project, this brand new 7x7 inches (18x18 cm) photography book has been completely redesigned from scratch and features a new layout design, over 70 photographs including a number of new images and more.

For the next sixteen days (check out the book preview to spot why it's 16 days) the soft cover version of book will be available to buy for the introductory price of £16.95 plus £4.99 postage. The sixteen day period will end on midnight September 10th when the price will return to £18.95

The new Sea, Sky, Sand and Street book in soft cover and hardback can be purchased HERE

Saturday 20 August 2011

TateShots: Don McCullin

A short but wonderfully insightful interview with Don McCullin. I've always liked Don's humble attitude towards his career and work. A shame more photographers don't think like him. I did have to defend his work though on a number of occasions when i was attending the various photography re-education camps that made up my photo education some years ago now.

Ironically most of the criticism did not come from the students but from the lecturers who didn't like, what they believed to be, the artification of McCullin's work due to shows like the one seen in the film. The fact that his work was in a gallery seemed to make it, in their eyes, less worthy as photojournalism or even, dare i say it, less worthy as photography. Photojournalism had no place in a gallery where it could be perceived as art.

Selling out was a common complaint from various lecturers at different establishments. Selling out seemed to be a coded metaphor for success. Success made you weaker creatively and morally. Don McCullin and Sebastião Salgado were usually singled out for criticism. My argument to that was simple. You'd turn down lucrative offers from galleries and sponsors?

Of course they wouldn't.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Where Children Sleep

Joey aged 11 owns two shotguns and a crossbow and made his first kill – a deer – at the age of seven.

This work i  really like. I'm talking about the photography of James Mollison and especially his project 'Where Children Sleep' which takes a look at kids bedrooms from around the world. The results are fascinating.

You wouldn't believe that a bedroom could say that much but Mollison's photographs cleverly prove that theory wrong. The above photograph stood out for me, although many others were equally striking - especially those images of children whose bed is an old mattress or sofa  exposed to the elements.

The sheer scale of inequality portrayed in the photography is just breathtaking. Some kids have everything (too much in some cases!) and others have nothing. Remarkably It's not just the photographs of poor children's room that make you think. Questions come to mind viewing almost all of the photographs.

James Mollison's Where Children Sleep photographs can be found on his website HERE

A few images not included in his website gallery can also be found HERE

Thursday 11 August 2011

Photo'd Shop Looter

Faked... but funny. Number ten looters

Yes. The photograph above is a fake, but a rather funny and clever view of recent events in the UK. Bloggers, the public, the media and the politicians are now trying to get to grips with things and understand what the heck happened. Most seem out of their depth. There is a gut feeling that the answers aren't going to be simple ones. 

Comments are flying around in the media and on the web about how water cannons, baton rounds or live ammunition could have made all the difference. What seem like simple answers, only serve to prove that most people have no idea how to stop the tide of the criminal activity other than react with an equally violent response. Although the tough items of riot kit seem popular, in reality the most effective weapon available to the police looks to be have been the camera - mobile, CCTV video and stills.

This week the police started to publish images of the looters and rioters on Flickr and via the media. So far it seems that the 'mug shot' websites have been successful in bringing some looters to justice. The only worry for journalists is that in future, the photographer will be seen as nothing more than a 'police eyewitness' by rioters rather than a reporting of the event. The balance that has to be struck is very delicate, although some of the demand's by politicians for images to be handed over aren't helping matters. Like policing, journalism is done by consent. 

The photo of number ten being looted came from the brilliant photoshoplooter website. Look out for Darth Vader being photographed by police on page 3.... brilliantly done and very funny.

The Photoshoplooter website can be found at http://photoshoplooter.tumblr.com/

Friday 5 August 2011

Hipstamatic Photojournalism

Over the last year or so, there have been a few publicised and even published cases of the iPhone becoming a tool for photojournalism. Just last week the website for the magazine Foreign Policy published a number of stories featuring iPhone photography of Afghanistan by four photojournalists: Teru Kuwayama, Rita Leistner, Omar Mullick and Balazs Gardi. All of the photographs were taken using Hipstamatic: an iPhone photography app.

A couple of questions comes to mind: does it matter what the photographs were taken on? Does the obvious lo-fi photography aesthetic of the Hipstamatic images detract from the story and subjects? There has been quite a bit of criticism from those who believe that the aesthetic style of the photography is too strong and intrusive for photo-journalistic use. Purity of the image. Pure equals truth? Photography as truth has been around as long as photography has existed but it is a misplaced believe. For some reason, some photojournalists seem to believe that their photographs are not influenced aesthetically by their lens choice, angle, focus choice, framing. lighting etc, etc. It's as though photo-journalism has a lead lined get-out clause from photography's more interpretative aspects. The only thing that the iPhone images have is a more obvious stylized aesthetic than their DSLR shot counterparts do.

Obviously the photographers saw some potential in the iPhone photographs they were producing. The idea that they are less worthy because they were taken on a phone is rather missing the point: as is the term 'why not use a real camera' that has been bandied about by a few critics. The creative potential of the mobile phone is impressive. There are benefits to using one. Just yesterday the excellent Duckrabbit blog posted a link to brilliant film shot using a Nokia N8. Does the use of a mobile to make the film any less worthy? No, of course not. On the flip side of the argument are those who believe the mobile phone will completely replace the 'real' camera. There are just so many obvious reasons why that won't happen. The camera is such a flexible and sophisticated tool for a phone to compete with. In the end it comes down to what we (a) can afford and (b) what works for us - be it a Leica M9, a $20 Holga or a shoebox pinhole camera.

The iPhone photos linked in this post are great photographs in their own right. I can think of a number of  photographers who have used the iPhone to create good images and stories in the last year or so. I've even used one myself. There are lots of bad images out there, taken using phones, DSLRs etc, and i have no doubt that the iPhone 'photo style' will be overused and abused to death. Can't that be said for most other photographic formats too though? Does that make all iPhone photography, bad photography? I don't think so.