This introductory entry will stay at the top. The other entries will be in descending date order. This blog will track the activities and progress of my BA in Photography with OCA.
† Expressing your vision, the first course of the degree
I had forgotten that Boxing Day is traditionally a red-letter day for foxhunters and thus also for saboteurs. I was therefore surprised to find in the Times that a "sab" had been attacked in Elham, Kent. I live in Eltham (very close to) Kent and therefore misread it at first.
In Elham, Kent, a saboteur’s eye socket was broken when more than 100 people turned out to oppose the East Kent with West Street Hunt. Saboteurs said that the victim had been thrown in front of a car, punched and kicked by at least two men. A man was arrested on suspicion of assault. The Times, 27 Dec 18
More mundanely, but a lot more locally, there will be protests about the rises in rail fares at both Eltham and New Eltham stations on 3rd January. I will be at one or possibly both if I remember to get up for 7.
Finally, I have completed Exercise 4.1 today. Jolly good it was too.
And one of the London branches of the Humanists pickets the BBC at Portland Place every month on favour of inclusion in BBC R4's Thought for the Day on the Today Programme.
Further to this project which centres on marches, vigils and the like, as a person with a keen interest in national politics, I would like to extend the notion to politicians in action. I have written to the Labour, Conservative, LibDem and Green parties asking whether it is possible to get notification of speeches in the London area I could attend.
Other students (see the Links) are much better at finding and citing photographers that have influenced or inspired their various assignments. I think this adds authority, heft and an air of academic gravitas to their work. For Asg.3, given the context in the course and the title, The Decisive Moment, the obvious starting point is Cartier-Bresson, though while the images I have taken so far are on the street, they are chasing targets rather than the result of flâneurism: in Part 3, commenting on the Cartier-Bresson documentary, L'amour tout court, it was noted that at 1:01 he says, "It's always luck. It's luck that matters. If you want it you'll get nothing. Just be receptive and it happens."
The same applies to other toilers in C-B's field such as Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis (although in these cases there was more posing and even hiring of subjects), but really what I am aiming for is the documentary output of an anonymous jobbing newspaper photographer. Perhaps Ian Bradshaw and his great streaker shot would be more appropriate.
One influence I did have in mind on the outings so far was Weegee's alleged advice, "f/8 and be there". I did indeed spend a lot of the time in f/8 on the basis that this would give a usable depth of field and shutter speed on a reasonably bright day with the ISO set to max 1600. I was reading (i.e. surfing) around the subject today and found a blog at Jason D. Little's site lightstalking.com where the principle is discussed. It more-or-less concurs and also bangs on about zone focussing. There is an interesting reply posted by Robert Fisher in August 2017,
Unfortunately, as with the equally famous ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough…” quote, this one from Fellig has been equally misinterpreted.
Fellig worked with a 4×5 Speed Graphic, not a 35mm camera. He used a 127mm lens, not a 35mm, although the two have roughly the same angle of view. He used an aperture of f/16; which is close to the same 7’ DoF as f/4.5 on a 35mm camera, not to f/8. He also set a focus distance of 10 feet.
The settings Fellig used really don’t correlate to the way the the concept has been interpreted over the years. It really isn’t a mantra for zone focusing, and if he even ever made the statement, it was quite possibly an off-the-cuff remark intended to be humorous. Robert Fisher
I have been contemplating a macro lens during the Olympus Cashback offer. The new AmPhot has one of their periodic second-hand gear articles which always suck me in. In the camera cupboard there is a lovely Nikon D300, 3 lenses and accessories and this time they are recommending the D600 (5-600 notes) and the Canon 6D (same price). They are both 2012 models. I had just about decided to get a D600 (24MP, two card slots) but then got to Ken Rockwell's review of the 6D, which he much prefers. I have never owned a Canon, and therefore have no suitable lenses in that cupboard, so that will drive the price up, and while it is 20MP, it only has one card slot. So I have just about resisted the urge. If the 6D had had two slots, I'm pretty certain I would have gone for it. I love toys.
[3Nov19] I bought a D600 from MPB this week for £500.
As noted elsewhere, finding demonstrations to photograph is not easy. I have today written to City Hall and Scotland Yard asking if they maintain online lists of requests for permission.
A couple of smaller events I have found online:
1. veggies.org.uk highlights a demo every Saturday outside Canada Goose, 244 Regent Street.
2. networkforpeace.org.uk lists a regular women only (preferably wearing black) demo at the Edith Cavell Statue near St Martin in the Fields.
3. And that reminds me, I have often passed demonstrators outside Zimbabwe House on the Strand. I'll look into that - details here - every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 .
There's another tutor-led-visit on 12th January to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. Three other EyV snappers have applied - on the first one I attended at Canary Wharf were one sculptor, one textilist and one fine arter.
Last night's BBC Newsnight reported on Justice for Women and Children the "first female-led group with links to the far right". Their demonstrations are in the North and so cannot be a target subject but the report also included the Football Lads Alliance who do demonstrate locally. I had a look on the web, rather warily, and found some opposition groups, notably the Anti-Fascist Network, with which I am rather more comfortable. It is likely that wherever the FLA demonstrates, the A-FN is likely to turn up too, so there may be some photo opportunities.
I have received a positive reply from the WIB vigil group for 3rd January. No replies from the Mayor or the Met.
To town again, snapping just off ParlSq, specifically trying to get some shots of the demonstrators trying to get their banners into the background of TV interviews. This is happening less these days because the tent village of the broadcasters has been cordoned-off from most of the protesters, though their leader (Steve) seems to be tolerated, even with his extended placard pole.
Well, here's a thing, I have been spotted on YouTube photographing yesterday. The commentator is Jonathan Pie. Here's a snap and here's a link (skipping to 2:30 is recommended, bad language alert for the sensitive).
Having decided to try photographing rallies and demonstrations and reluctantly concluded that a weekend in Paris snapping the gilet jaunes was too extravagant, a trip to town to see both sides of the Brexit debate marching in Whitehall was the next best thing.
The first problem was getting any information on what was happening and where. One might think that the Met Police and/or City Hall night have useful web pages on the subject of upcoming demo's (as, I imagine, both have to approve any such events), but none were found. I might be forced to open a fictitious facebook account and subscribe to left and right wing activist groups to keep on top of this subject.
As, in any case, I am not especially mobile and skipping along beside marches is beyond me, I headed for the destination of both Tommy Robinson's supporters and Momentum's Corbynistas, i.e. Whitehall. And got there far too early. While wandering around, I passed a chap with cameras asking a police Liaison Officer (they wear blue vests, or gilets bleu) for information and so joined in and received four pieces of paper issued under the Public Order Act, 1986. Section 12 of the Act covers marches and s.14 assemblies (the speeches when they get there), see figs. 1-4. They have maps on the back (fig. 5) and indicated that there was to be (what the US military used to call) a DMZ preventing approaches to Downing Street and that the right-wingers would be south of the Zone, and left-wingers north.
On the basis that there are more left-wing than right-wing marches (that is a perception, not a known fact) I first waited on the Tommy Robinson side, took a few photographs, flourished my Student NUJ press pass to enter the press area in front of the podium. An hour later nothing had happened, my knee was seizing up and, judging from the noise, the other march had reached its destination. There was no way through the DMZ and so it was quite a long walk along the Embankment, past a guarded New Scotland Yard to the other side where the speeches were in progress.
I stayed for some shots of the speechmakers and a few of the crowd (including one delightful chap in a purple suit, though I was shooting black-and-white, of course). And some of the defensive line of mounted police on the way back to Trafalgar Square. A quick look at the contacts suggests that there are a few useful shots there.
So what have we learned today?
1. find an information source
2. don't get there too early
3. refine the exposure setting
4. take a long lens too
5. use the motor drive on face shots.
Asg.3, The Decisive Moment, calls for,
Send a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’ to your tutor. Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day. A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.
You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time. EyV pp. 72-73
I have a plan,
I am going to change my whole workflow. I volunteered for the ArtUK public sculpture project a long time ago and have at last managed an invitation to a briefing session. Their methodology for submissions is shoot RAW, minimal editing (straighten and adjust clipping), save to JPG. That is what I intend to adopt for all work in future.
The other ArtUK guidelines are: use a tripod; minimum ISO; 1/125 sec minimum; f/8 for most things. I am less sure about implementing those for all projects.
A change of software will also be necessary as the old versions of Photoshop and Bridge I currently use will not interface with Adobe Raw. I will not pay Adobe's monthly charge unless I absolutely have to and so the solution is currently under investigation. Bridge CC is now free, so that's a start. [29Nov] Bridge CC will not open a file in Camera Raw unless the user has a subscription to Photoshop or Lightroom. [30Nov] Affinity will process all the RAW formats I have used [Panasonic, Fuji, Sony] will run the Nik filters and can be called from Adobe Bridge CC. I am busily reprocessing all my Assignment 2 shots in RAW through Affinity for submission on 1st Dec. [24Jan19] More details here.
I need perhaps two more visits to St Stephen to finish off the assignment. I hope to make one of those this week.
It took an extra week to get there. It was a dull day, so no sky interest. The leaves haven't fallen off the trees yet. Some good work accomplished inside, so nearly done with the option of one more visit next week.
One final visit on 26th, intending to get a shot with foreground interest and deep DoF and whatever other improvements might be possible. It was fun, but no new results/ The assignment is due in on 1st Dec.
I photographed the Amistice Day ceremony on Eltham High street. I am more used to static subjects where I can take my time over shots and so this was an interesting new experience.
Well, we all knew it had to come eventually and many of us were dreading the moment, but now it has finally arrived: the course material has mentioned Harvard Referencing (Bloomfield, 2014 p. 68).
Let me make it clear that I do not like Harvard, as I think it is unwieldy, unsightly, it interrupts the flow of the text and, most importantly, it is not suited to online pages. The Wikipedia numbering system (see here) is much more appropriate to online media.
It is not surprising that the OCA favours Harvard - it is the easy, almost inevitable choice because that is what universities do.
What will this mean for this site? In broad terms, sources will be referenced more assiduously from now on, in accordance with the OCA guidelines [accessed 8th November 2018]. Specifically:
Assignments - I accept that Harvard Referencing is appropriate for submitted assignments. It adds a certain dignity and heft to the writing and is even quite fun. In my view, part of its utility is that it forces the user to take the writing of academic assignments more seriously and that is why it should be used selectively - to differentiate periodic, formal academic submissions from routine, online jottings such as the blog and the learning log. The principle simply hasn't kept up with the media.
Blog & Log - we'll have to see how this plays out. I have made my views clear. My approach will definitely change and become more formalised but it might not (i.e. probably will not) match academic assignment standard.
Photographers Gallery - my initial thought are:
I at last finished my "review" of Jerry Thompson's Why Photography Matters last night. The original ran to more than 3,000 words, including extensive quotations and annotations and amounted to a (by no means brief) summary of the book. I have replaced that with a 46 word summary (plus quotes) but the original is still accessible. Now onto Dyer's Ongoing Moment.
The November edition of the RPS Journal features their 2018 awards and includes a piece on Juno Calypso (winner of the Vic Odden award). Calypso uses an alter ego, Joyce, to explore "female stereotypes and self-perception". This merits an entry in the BAPhot Photographers Gallery. This also remined me of the self portrait with a hare photograph, seen in the Portrait Gallery several times that I traced to Sam Taylor-Johnson so she has an entry too.
This led me to thinking about staged self portraiture which seems to be the preserve of female photographers. While most male photographers make mirror self portraits (Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Bill Brandt and Stanley Kubrick, to name just thee in the gallery) some female photographers take a more elaborate, sometimes theatrical approach, Calypso and Taylor-Johnson as above, but also Claude Cahun (not yet galleried), Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman
Jeff Wall is an exception to this with Picture for Women and Ilse Bing and (later) Sally Mann sit somewhere between the two camps.
Is this generalisation valid and, if so, why is this?
It has taken all but a week to write up the V&A initial show, but now it's complete and integrated into the various indexes. The three highlights, for me, are:
If the V&A can be considered a cathedral to arts and crafts (and I believe that is precisely what it is), then Neusüss' Latticed Window is one of its holy relics.
Now back to work.
A first visit to the new V&A photography gallery. There is a new (and rather pointless) Thomas Ruff project reworking the C19th architectural photographs of Linnaeus Tripe as a first encounter, followed by a fascinating whistle-stop tour of some of the highlights of the V&A's collection. Many of the pieces on show are gradually being documented here.
I have noted that I need a polarising filter to suppress reflections for such occasions and I have nominated the Fuji X100S as the camera of choice. The filter should arrive today.
Entries in recent issues of fLIP, the magazine of London Independent Photography, span the spectrum of ideas from intriguing to absurd. Issue 39, with a theme of Memories, includes a piece by Ingrid Newton on her project Having a Whale of a Time. Here's Ingrid's web site. She writes,
Using my collection of vintage postcards of St Ives and photographs of the same locations taken with my plastic Holga camera, I have created collages of the old and the new, including a snippet of the postcard message. fLIP Issue 39 p. 25
That was the good idea. By contrast, the Exhibition Highlights section if Issue 40 includes an entry for a show by Pak Sheung Chuen at Tate Modern (it closes/closed in Dec 2018). This is described (paraphrasing the Tate web site) as follows:
The only way to see this installation is by using flash photography. This experience echoes how the work was created and encourages us to think about the relationship between vision and memory
In 2008, Pak Sheung Chuen travelled to Malaysia on a sightseeing holiday. He closed his eyes and wore dark glasses throughout his five-day trip. Unable to see his surroundings, Pak relied on his mother and fellow tour companions to guide him. He documented his time in Malaysia using a simple point-and-shoot camera, taking hundreds of photographs on 19 rolls of film. fLIP Issue 40 p. 54
This must be the daftest idea I have encountered yet.
The w/a zoom is a thing of beauty and a joy to use. I'll be posting the results here over the next few days.
I had a chat with the verger and asked about access to the tower to photograph the dome from above, but he said that because of the state of disrepair, no-one (not even he) is allowed up there. He took some photographs himself a few years ago which he going to send me - no use for the assignment, of course, but interesting nonetheless.
By gum that self portrait banner is a bit off-putting. I'll swap something new in later today. I would like to make it random like the gallery, but it is awkward to achieve that with the menu text overlaid. I will experiment when I have time. That's done - now a slice of the St Stephen mural.
The w/a zoom should arrive today and I might have the chance for a quick visit to St Stephen tomorrow (Friday). The plan for the next visit (whenever it is):
If there is a good general interior shot that includes and gives context to the main pieces, that might justify concentrating on details of the pieces themselves (the pulpit canopy, one figure from the font) rather than a more formal and traditional documentation.
The brief states "Decide upon a single format, either vertical or horizontal. You should keep to the same combination throughout to lend coherence to the series." and have always intended to shoot square (first noted 20th August). I had thought about including some "double square" (i.e. rectangular) shots for some obvious subjects, for example the exterior view is naturally vertical. With the w/a zoom this might be unnecessary.
Just a quick thought in the early hours, I wonder whether it would be possible to get the whole of the church reflected in Bloomberg's window. This was done with a part of the frontage on my first visit. A reflection could take the place of a normal front-on shot and explicitly demonstrate how the C17th church is now surrounded by office blocks. The shot might have to wait for the intervening tree to shed its leaves.
With a birthday on the horizon, I've splashed on a new lens - a second hand Panasonic 7-14 (14-28 equivalent). That should get the St Stephens dome in one.
Immense fun at the cyanotype workshop. Here's a Chatsworth Lion, after Fay Godwin. One day all photographs will be made this way.
Quite a decent day at St Stephen. The images are being processed. The contact sheets are here.
Tomorrow I am attending a Cyanotype workshop.
The spinning coin did not go well †: it is too uncontrollable, making a tight frame impossible. So I have temporarily acquired a Newton's Cradle which I snapped this morning and that was much more successful. Results to follow in Part 3. I think I need a decent flashgun. Birthday coming.
I failed to make it to the RPS bookclub and so did not take the traffic snaps either.
I plan to get to St Stephen tomorrow, with a tripod. A reminder of the target images:
I'll try to get front exterior, dome interior and the mosaic in the can. And perhaps another altar.
On the Canary Wharf walk I was the only one to like the Henry Moore in Cabot Square. I didn't get the chance at the time to defend my position and I wish I had persevered. I will explore that here at some point.
† Twelve hours later, having processed the spinning coin pictures, they were rather better than expected. It seems that the less a photograph looks like a coin (i.e. the slower the shutter speed), the prettier the image.
Three things to mention.
1. try photographing a spinning coin. This would combine exercises 3.1 and 3.2, hopefully freezing at one (shutter) extreme and depicting movement and the passage of time at the other.
2. an obvious and clichéd subject for 3.2 is moving traffic. I have a prettier idea, to do this from the sculpture of a newborn baby outside St Martin in the Fields, where the traffic is only visible in the middle ground. Again this can be explored with a range of shutter speeds. I am due to be in town on Wednesday and will try to fir it in then.
3. I might have a day free on Friday to continue with St Stephen Walbrook.
A result this morning on exercise 3.2 with what I have described as, "2 hours of not very much with a brief firework display at 8:18:15".
I happened to be documenting Bill Brandt yesterday and one of the images I chose for display was 'Northumbrian coal miner eating his evening meal', 1937. In the night it struck me that this is a good example of initial reactions to an image being dependent upon a number of personal characteristics, including age, race and gender.
Brandt (1904-83) was a British photographer (although born in Germany with one German and one English parent) who worked with Man Ray in the 1930s before coming to London. In a long career, he proved an absolute master of several genres, social documentary, portrait, landscape, nude with a little artistic abstraction too. He is arguably Britain's greatest photographer.
The image of the Northumbrian miner and (presumably) his wife is a fine example of how a viewer's interaction with a photograph will be affected by its subject matter. For example, as a 60-something, Welsh, white, male the thoughts that sprang to mind unbidden on seeing this are,
1. The Aberfan disaster which happened in 1966 when I was eleven, living 30 miles away. I remember my uncle that evening driving to the area with food, clothes and blankets collected locally.
2. The miners' strikes of the 1980s.
3. But these are modulated by memories of Python and Beyond the Fringe sketches mocking Northern working class lifestyles.
4. I have a vague memory of controversy concerning pit-head baths but superficial subsequent research suggests that these began to be introduced in the 1930s. I also wondered why he did not at least wash his face before eating.
When I then examined the contents in some detail after the initial rush of thoughts, I wondered,
5. Why is the wife not eating?
6. Why is that handbag hanging on the wall (my wife thinks it is a school satchel and, having looked again, I think so too).
7. Regarding the photograph on the wall behind the hanging washing, the subject in the small section that is visible seems to be peering round the clothes. I thought that this must have been deliberate by Brandt who almost certainly adjusted the picture and/or the clothes to achieve that effect. Then, perhaps the unwashed face was also deliberate.
This chain of thoughts arises from my background. A few people, probably of about the same age, might react similarly, but not many.
I hesitate (well, no, I don't really) to speculate on how other people might react or why, but to give some examples,
Anyone born in Britain after 1980 is unlikely to have met a miner, unless, of course, they come from an area affected by the wholesale closure of the pits, in which case they might have stark views.
Anyone who served in the UK police force during the 1980s is likely to have a very different take on it.
A woman might give more thought to how the (presumed) wife is depicted.
A person of colour might regard this as an example of 'blacking up'.
To town this morning when the time lapse currently running has finished (this is Day 3, none of them sunny enough yet). The plan is to get to the Photographer's Gallery before 12 (while entry is free) and get a snap of Tish Murtha's OM-1 before the show closes. Then to my favourite church for another round.
I'm travelling light with the Fuji X100S (fixed 35mmm) with the Sony for backup if I need a zoom.
Here's the OM1 to be going on with. The church photographs are in progress. What a lovely camera the X100 is. [5Oct] The church images are coming along now.
A first run for Part 3, trying to capture the destructive moment for a bursting balloon. Not particularly successful.
And the G20 is set up to record 3 hours of time lapse images of the morning sun on a Mondrian stained glass window. The weather forecast is not great, but it does improve later in the week and it will do for a trial run.
[2Oct - hope for some sun tomorrow.]
I am reading Geoff Dyer's The Ongoing Moment (while waiting for the hotel to return the copy of Why Photography Matters I left there). There's a great passage where he describes Walker Evans' advice to his friend Ben Shahn who was taking up photography, "Look Ben, there's nothing to it. F9 on the shady side of the street, F45 on the sunny side, twentieth of a second, hold your camera steady!" (no indication of the source of the story). And I learned today the the RPS London Book Club is currently discussing the Dyer book in four or five chunks. I missed the first session but have booked in for the next.
It is rather early to comment on Asg.3 when I have barely started Asg.2, but there you go. I am working on Part 3 of the course and have just finished my first read through.
It seems to be a little quaint to set The Decisive Moment as an exercise when the course material describes and then criticises the concept as "something of a stylistic cliché" (p.69) and "it somehow just misses the point of our contemporary situation" (ibid.).
I have always thought the concept to be rather a gimmick, especially when (as I have no learned) the key, iconic shot (right) was entirely fortuitous (ibid. p. 67).
Cartier-Bresson was an early master of Oskar Barnack's 35mm Leica (links to Wikipedia), first sold in 1930. As noted in the course, for the previous 100 years of photography, the sensitivity of films had gradually increased, as had the speed and versatility of lenses: equally important for this new style of photography, with the Leica, cameras were suddenly less cumbersome, allowing impulsive and impromptu street photography. This was the first time that photographs of "the moment", decisive or otherwise, had been possible. The innovation lies more with Barnack who enabled the concept, rather than Cartier-Bresson.
I thought that the tutor’s feedback and my responses might be an ongoing dialog, but that’s not the case, Rachel replied, "Good work on the reflection, your thoughtful responses will really help you moving forward" today.✓done
I have started Asg2 at Walbrook and that will progress with future visits when time allows.
I still await a response on the Part 1 exercises which might need some rework. ✓ Received 2nd Oct, no rework needed.
The Part two exercises are “submitted” with Asg2 and I am inclined to go along with the target date of Dec 1 rather than Oct 31.
Now I’ll make a start on the Part 3 coursework and exercises, shutter control. That includes some new photographers to document.
And I need to conclude my jottings on Why Photography Matters by Jerry L. Thompson [28Sep - left the book in the hotel - hopefully it will be in the post soon. ✓ the book is back]
The first visit was quite successful. My stated goal prior to the visit was to go through the list of shots for this assignment (see notes here) and use this location as the factor that makes them cohere. Last night I had a better idea - document the church photographically (first priority) and make sure I cover the brief's technical requirements while doing so (second priority). That is more satisfying.
Before the course, I would just have snapped the outstanding features that were readily accessible and given no thought to trying to explore and reveal the subject as a whole.
Before the next visit, consider the aspects and features of the subject that need to be photographed and then tie those up with the technical requirements of the brief.
1. Chatsworth was fun, lions found (they are now indoors in opposite corners with no nude in the background requiring depth of field considerations), but, as expected, no assignment or exercise work done.
2. There is some tidying up to do on the web site arising from my tutor's comments on Asg.1, notably add the contact sheets online. The sheets arising from Asg.1 have all been created and just need to be added. The images for all the exercises have been stashed in folders and so need formatting and adding to the site. My comments on the feedback are on the same linked page.
3. Part 1 Exercises - I am waiting for the tutor response. There might be some rework needed.
4. Part 2 Exercises are to be submitted with Asg.2.
5. Asg.2 Collecting - I am heading to St Stephen Walbrook today for a first take.
6. Part 3 is all about shutter priority. There are two main exercises, fast (3.1) and slow (3.2) plus the perceptual 3.3. There are also additions to the list of photographers to research.
7. I would also quite like to replace the site banner, currently Rush Hour.
To Canary Wharf on Saturday for my first OCA tutor-led event, a sculpture walk with Gerald Deslands and three first-year students, one sculpture, one textiles and one Foundation: see if you can guess which is which. It was a fun day with lots to see, but it confirmed that I was hopelessly optimistic about getting any serious photography done - that takes time and has to be done alone. The same will apply to Chatsworth this weekend.
The other students shared my confusion over how to organise an OCA web site. All the others, the students and, of course, the tutor, were fluent in Art-Speak, being able to trip off three suitable adjectives for whatever confronted them - a facility I lack. Here's a cheat sheet.
Regarding Assignment 2, my principal target remains St Stephen Walbrook. Given the requirement for cohesion in the set of images, a single subject, such as a specific building seems a good plan. It is perhaps unusual for a card-carrying humanist to take delight in photographing churches but that, as Forrest Gump might say, “is all I’ve got to say about that”.
I have a vague list of shots (some defined in technical terms, some in subject matter) which will apply to any subject. There is an OCA tutor-led walk in Canary Wharf on Saturday which might yield an alternative pass at the assignment. And next weekend there is a planned visit to Chatsworth, aiming to look for Fay Godwin's lion. That too might offer an alternative set.
To town last night for a talk by Simon Roberts. He has been working on a project , creating collage hoardings for the Tideway excavation sites and Tideway kindly funded the presentation. In addition to discussing this work, he also talked about his work on the 2010 general election and Merrie Albion.
More details here.
And the Times this morning ran the obituary for David Goldblatt who had died on 25th June, aged 87.
The Times describes Goldblatt as an "uncompromising South African photographer who chronicled apartheid yet shied away from violence."
More details here.
Jottings on a quiet day at work.
I have just bought a book called “Why Photography Matters” by Jerry L. Thompson and will summarise its arguments on the Books page in due course. I intend to write a companion piece, titled something like “What’s important about a Photograph” and hope to finish it by the end of my first year. I will give it its own page. This book has a page, too.
My motivation is two (or more) fold.
Some other relevant points:
a) Blog 3Jul18, regarding Napoleon, "to understand a person, you must know what was happening in the world when they were 20"
b) Maybe the course covers this later.
c) The jury is out over whether techniques and media are important. Arguably it is just the outcome (i.e. the photograph) that matters. Against that, an image created through “alternative processes” might get special consideration, depending on the viewer – e.g. if they are aware of what a cyanotype is. This might be something to do with the amount of effort involved and how far it is removed from the point and click digital age. Again, Tina Barney is a case in point, taking family snaps on a 8x10 field camera. It probably also means that pre-digital workers gain automatic brownie points and respect just for using analogue methods. E.g. it doesn’t matter what Fox Talbot photographed, the fact that he invented the process and “that’s the first ever snap of a hay rick” give it interest and gravitas. Knowing that Atget turned down the offer of a Rolleiflex from May Ray, preferring to stick with his 18x24 plate camera is important for some. BUT ALL OF THIS only if you know about and care about the history of photography.
The deal has been done: out one Olympus EM10ii and one Lumix GX7: in one Lumix G80 for a net £100 (when the cashback arrives). A third-party battery grip is on order costing £39 rather than the £249 Panasonic's original. The first image will be up when the battery has charged.
I kept the Fuji MX1+ zoom as it is worth a lot more as a tool than the £100 Park Cameras thought. So the Fuji / M43 question has been kicked into the long grass and I still await the XT3 announcement.
Rounding off Ex 2.7. Results satisfactory.
The last photo-outing for Part 2 might be this afternoon.
A few shots for Ex 2.7 grabbed on a cinema visit. They were nearly successful. One more outing is planned to an Eltham park. That will wrap up Part 2 exercises.
Every road appears to be leading to alternative photography at the moment: AmPhot had a piece on Cyanotypes and Meetup has a Cyanotype workshop I might go for. The former recommended Shadow Catchers by Martin Barnes which is on its way. Amazon popped up with a suggestion of Experimental Photography by no-one in particular which arrived today. This is the most fun I have seen between two hardback covers for a long time: I recommend it absolutely. I have a pile of books on AltPhot but rarely have a chance to dabble: the course is a bit constrained for such approaches at the moment but later, either on this or a subsequent course I will deploy some of the techniques.
The plan for the next shoot for course exercises is Monday at the Tibetan Peace Garden and the Imperial War Museum. I'll try to wrap up both 2.6 and 2.7 and to generate some material with the Research Point in mind.
[27Aug] A disappointing day at IWM. Think beyond museums and galleries. If it were Spring and entry were free, I'd try Eltham Palace but neither pertain. If it's not raining tomorrow I might try the graveyard in Old Bexley.
[29Aug] The graveyard went quite well.
I called into Park Cameras to look at the G80: it's ok and I'm sure it would do everything I need it to do, but it did not inspire. I'll see what they say on the trade-in values. I did buy (despite saying they are too small) a Sony RX100 Mk3 - the £150 cashback was too good to ignore.
Thence to the British Museum for some work on exercise 2.6, long lens, shallow focus. It was not as successful as I had hoped, but some progress. There are further comments on the exercise.
I am suffering from a bout of gear lust at the moment. It stems from the fact that I would like a longer zoom. My current camera of choice is the Fuji X-M1, a basic model bought on eBay in April. It came with a 16-50 zoom (24-75 equivalent) that was just right for my earlier incarnation of sculpture photographer, but not long enough for the course. The Fuji "superzoom" is 18-135 (27-200ish) which would be just about right but costs £700 retail, £4-500 s/hand and the Fuji primes are also expensive, as would be upgrading the X-M1 body. There is some great M43 glass that comes at a fraction of Fuji prices.
I have carried a tiny camera with me at all times for years. In my bag at the moment is a Nikon Coolpix S3700 which is a remarkable device for its size but it probably hasn't been used in over a year because my iPhone is always closer to hand. I am tempted by miniature marvels such as the Sony RX100 series (I think the Mk2 is probably the best value) or a Panasonic rival as a step up from the phone, but I find them just too small to be usable. [The Coolpix is even smaller, but that cost £50 s/h.]
Following a recent discussion with an acquaintance who has switched from decades of DSLR use to a bridge camera and wished she had done it long before, I have been looking at these. The Panasonic FZ1000 (following my usual policy of buying the previous version) seems good value with the FZ200, the current model, currently being discounted. Then I read this review which criticises the lens and argues, quite reasonably, that,
The FZ2000 is mostly impressive but there’s no doubt that the lens is the weak link in the chain. It’s by no means disastrous but it may prove to be frustrating, especially when most rival cameras at this price have the option of interchangeable lenses.
The Panasonic GH4 is currently available body-only from John Lewis for under £1,000, but you’d need to spend a good deal more to stock up on suitable lenses to pair it with. However, the Panasonic G80 costs £800 with a 12-60mm lens. Add a 45-200mm lens for £380 and you have a broadly similar camera to the FZ2000 in terms of optical specifications. You’d lose certain features such as Cinema 4K, the ND filter and the ability to perform slow zooms across the 20x zoom range, but gain the option to add other lenses in future. When you're spending the best part of £1,100, I believe that flexibility is worth having. expertreviews.co.uk
Which leads us neatly to the G80 (AP review). Launched in 2016 at £700 body only and so probably up for renewal, the rumoured replacement is rumoured to be coming in at £1,200.
The G80 with a 12-60 (24-120) is discounted to £599 until 10th September. I could trade in the GX7 and XM1 for (probably) a couple of hundred †. The G80 offers: 16MP, Focus Bracket, WiFi, IBIS, GPS sort-of), weather sealing and 3rd party battery grips from China for £40.
Incidentally, the top Panasonics are: G9 (stills, £1,200), G5S (video, £2,000) GH5 (both, £1,400)
I might take a look at one on Thursday. The only flaw in this possible plan is that Fuji might announce an irresistible X-T3 in September, but the Fuji glass will still be too costly.
†I hate selling old cameras. I still mourn the Fuji X10, the only digital camera I have traded in. And don't get me started on the Pentax 6x7.
Good progress on the portraits. What's left is two exercises on shallow DoF (2.6) and Deep DoF (2.7). To be started on Thursday if the weather holds.
Several batches of work done:
1. At a wedding near Ludlow, the first exercise for Part 2
2. Back in Eltham, two outings for subsequent exercises, neither decisive.
I have been giving some thought to the second assignment, Collecting, due at the end of October, logged here.
Little has been achieved in the last week. A couple of days away in prospect and so that might change if the weather holds.
I have noticed in several EyV posts that other students mention systematically documenting photographers - the famous ones, any mentioned in the course work and any encountered in exhibitions etc. I'll make a start.
This is all but complete, just one image left to take. I then have to submit the learning log to my tutor. The exercises for Part Two have been documented,
I bought a copy of 20th Century Photography (Taschen, 2001) for pence on Amazon. It is a cut down version of an earlier and much larger book on the Museum Ludwig Cologne's collection. It is clearly a good book because it includes what are probably my favourite two snaps, Ilse Bing's self portrait and Otto Steinert's Pedestrian's Foot.
It is also introduced me to to several photographers I was previously unaware of, notably Jean Dieuzaide, one of the founders in 1963 of the Libre Expression group who favoured "subjective photography" and were followers of the above Otto. The links are to Wikipedia (or elsewhere if Wikipedia is sparse).
A brief daytrip to Brighton and a few snaps taken for the exercises. I have switched to square format as that makes matching groups of pictures easier.
I am uncertain whether the grid exercise 1.4 refers to a grid of 4 or 9. I am inclined to assume 9 and will deliver eight images, one for each slot.
Due in town for a workshop on Saturday and I'll try to wrap up this series of exercises then.
I am a devotee of the Great Dr. Miller and currently reading On Further Reflection, yet another compilation of his writings. It includes a transcript of a long interview with Ernst Gombrich, art psychologist. They discuss Caroto's Portrait of a Young Boy, a striking C16th painting I had not seen before. The boy is holding a child's sketch and it is remarkable how these have not changed in 500 years. I'm not sure how this is relevant to the course, but I may be able to work it in somewhere.
The image is taken from a 2010 article in the Independent.
It will look the same when the upload has taken hold but there is a new domain name, BAPhot.co.uk. LCN had a 1-day 1p sale and so it's mine for a year. Next July it will be £8.99 + VAT (or so) to renew and I'll take another bargain domain name. Swapping domains like this is not any way to retain a regular readership, but I do not expect many takers anyway. I will have to update the links on my coursework before submitting it.
I took the camera shopping in the hope of starting the Church Congregations project and also producing some sequences suitable for the first exercise. No congregations were encountered and so I snapped two sequences of Kevin instead. I intend to rerun the exercise with a congregation later.
Having finished the Square Mile (to be submitted on 1st September), I have been trying to organise myself and this site for the rest of the course. There is a timetable here. The intention is to create a separate page for each of the five parts of the course and for each of the remaining assignments. The first page for Part 1: From that moment onwards is here.
The front page of today's Guardian was a shocker as it bore a strong resemblance to my Canary Wharf shot at the weekend. It is described as "[a] walk in the (parched) park. The Old Royal Naval College from Greenwich Park hill in London yesterday" on the font page. Online, a very similar shot is dated 19th, described as "Parched grass in Greenwich, south-east London" and attributed to Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock. But we know the truth.
It is fair to say that the image on the front page is more pleasingly composed than mine as it shows the symmetry of the Naval College that I had cropped out, there again, the purpose of my shot is to show Canary Wharf.
This was my first visit to the gallery since starting the course. There are two very interesting and nicely contrasted shows on the the moment, Alex Prager: Silver Lake Drive and Tish Murtha: Works 1976-1991.
Prager produces seriously large photographs of elaborately and meticulously cast and staged tableaux with a hint of Hitchcock. It is not a genre I could ever be involved in but I admire the craft and glory in the output from afar. I took some iPhone snaps of the display.
Tish Murtha could scarcely be more different, conceptually. Born in Newcastle in 1956, she went to Newport (South Wales) in 1976 to study documentary photography at the Art College. She died, suddenly, in 2013 on the day before her 57th birthday.
While in Newport, she photographed a notorious local pub, the New Found Out. As thorough readers of this page will know, I was born and brought up in Newport. My father was a governor of the Art College. I have said for years that I wished I had gone there to study photography in the 1970s rather than starting an economics degree. I am a couple of years older than Tish Murtha: my schoolchums and I sometimes called into the New Found Out at the end of an evening drinking in town: I think we favoured their rough cider. It was a dive, used by serious drinkers. I recall entering the toilet once to find a very old prostitute (there were several who plied their trade there) working on one of the regulars. This would have been when we were 17 or 18, so around 1972.
I hadn't thought of any of this for decades - it came to mind when the pub was named in articles about the exhibition in AmPhot and in the RPS Journal. It was a delight to see the photographs from this project that brought it all back. There are several projects in the show [list from the TPI web site Newport Pub (1976/78); Elswick Kids (1978); Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979); Youth Unemployment (1980); London by Night (1983) and Elswick Revisited (1987 – 1991)] . I thought it significant how much more I was affected by the Newport images (nos 1-3 below) than any of the others (nos 4-9), which I found, by comparison, interesting but not engaging.
One other point on the Tish Murtha show which brings us back to Alex Prager, although they are nearly all reportage, a few of the images (nos 7-9) seemed staged.
And she used an Olympus OM1 - my favourite film camera. It was on show with some other artefacts including her Durst enlarger - I should have taken a snap of that too.
The last shot is in the bag, Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park. Over the next week I will aim to make the final selection of images and then write the text.
A few thoughts arrived in the gym today:
The next chance to progress the shots will be Friday 13th. I'll try for:
1. Canary Wharf from the park outside Eltham Station (trees obscure the view from the platform)
2. Kidbrooke again, attempting irony with the "Village" label and the building project behind
3. Lewisham again with the highrise towering over the houses.
After that, there is one more planned shot, Canary Wharf from Blackheath.
Then write it up. Submission is due in September as my tutor is taking time out to work on a doctorate, so I'll get on with the coursework.
[13Jul] That went quite well.
A few ideas clicked into place this morning. A newspaper quoted Napoleon as saying,"to understand a person, you must know what was happening in the world when they were 20" .
This brought to mind the image from South Bank where the iPhone panorama of the skateboarding produces a pleasing artefact. Most photographers seem to avoid artifacts wherever possible, but I have always enjoyed them.
Coming back to Napoleon's point, I suspect that my artefact. affection might stem from the vogue for deconstruction and demystification in my early years. I was a profound admirer of Jean-Luc Godard, loved Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii and was even excited by a Status Quo video that included the rails in an extended tracking shot. I appreciate and aspire to photographs that illustrate or convey an object but also remind the viewer that they are photographs.
1. The Times, Young Corbynistas will find a new champion, Hugo Rifkind, 3rd July 2018 [accessed 3rd July 2018]
I cannot capture in a contemporary image of Kidbrooke the sequence of events I would like to illustrate (or depict, or convey). Ten years ago, it was a impoverished and run-down estate of mid-rise blocks of flats. Following the redevelopment of Canary Wharf, when the Docklands Light Railway was extended to Lewisham, that allowed the expansion of (relatively) inexpensive apartment buildings south of the river. Now Lewisham is nearly full, the process has been extended further out from London to Kidbrooke where the squalid 60s and 70s flats are being replaced by new, "compact", overpriced, but again relatively inexpensive apartments and the former residents have been moved further still. A photograph of Kidbrooke "Village" today just shows a building site and cannot capture its context or its social or historical relevance.
A repeat early-morning visit to the station produced what looks at first sight to be a repeat of the first effort with little or no improvement. Then to the South Bank for some brutalist architecture. The images will be developed here.
I notice that the instructions for Assg1 include "keep to basic image corrections (at least for assignment work), without significantly changing the image as seen through the camera viewfinder" [p.13]. This is something of an issue as my default is to bracket exposures, HDR where useful, straighten and crop most shots and add a frame to the final version. I'll turn off the bracketing, but I'll stick with frames unless told not to.
An innovation for 19th June was to adapt an old 2-section monopod to double as a walking stick, thus reducing the amount of clutter. I lost the thread adapter somewhere on Platform 2, hobbled back home without it and have bought a pack of 5 so that I will have spares in future.
I'm at Wex tomorrow (Saturday) for a short workshop on Time-lapse, Hyper-lapse and Long Exposure with Nige Levanterman and that should allow a little time for some assignment work before or after. Next Monday is also free to repeat Rush Hour with a longer lens and travel to town to cover some other targets. I snapped most of the targets from the train on my phone on 19th and I'll post those here when I have the chance, if only to evidence that they can be seen on the journey and legitimise the base concept.
p.s. I have chosen an initial logo, a detail from the East Window and noticed the resemblance to Munch's Scream. [25Jun18] especially when mirror-reversed.
Snaps from 19th June.
Progress today on the first assignment with the start and finish shots, rush hour and St. Martin's East Window. More details here. The intention had been to continue on to the South Bank for some architecture but time did not allow.
I have decided, for now at least, that Assignment criteria provide "jumping off points" rather than rigid constraints. I recall a joke that went the rounds during the privatisation of the railways, that British Rail was one of the largest landowners, though it was mostly in very narrow strips: my square mile (by area) is an elongated one.
The distinction between Subject and Object in art is an issue that has confused me for years. I intend to reach a conclusion on this by the end of the course. This is Ambition 2, following on from the Ambition 1 of a satisfyingly effective technique.
My initial reaction to Y Filltir Sgwar was something akin to revulsion. As a Welsh person who has spent more than 30 years avoiding the principality whenever possible, the notion of an affinity to my home town is anathema.
It is necessary to overcome that and reinterpret the assignment because Wales is objectively irrelevant to the matter. The aim will be to photograph the essence of Eltham, South East London, Kent border. Another more parochial, interpretation could be to illustrate my more immediate surroundings, including, for example, a snap of Kevin (the cat) but that I reject (though see right).
Six to twelve (interesting, relevant and meaningful) images seems a stretch but it will have to be done. A glance at the Wikipedia entry on Eltham is little help. I will accumulate ideas here:
1. The obvious, immediate cliché is the contrast between Eltham Palace and, a mile down the road, the monument to Stephen Lawrence. It is obvious but it cannot and should not be avoided.
2. Eltham's genesis was as a commuter suburb and that is still a principal attribute that will be documented.
3. More vague notions include the changing face of the town as people are forced from more costly areas of London. This ties in with the rich and poor contrast which could be explored further.
4. An analysis of the course material's suggested references may help.
A second thought. If Eltham can be considered "just a commuter town", could I get away with a series of shots of what can be seen on a typical commute (the options being to Cannon Street, Charing X or Victoria). This brought to mind a recent issue of RPS magazine that featured a distinction panel consisting of blurred images documenting the changing sights and seasons. Here's a link to something similar - I don't think it is the one I had in mind.
I would not take a through-the-window approach, but visit and photograph things that can be seen on the journey.
Here's a link to a mention in AP, it was Robert Friel. And here's an RPS page.
Some possible subjects - the commuters (as above); St Martin in the fields at the end (for Charing X); brutalist South Bank; NOT the London Eye, too clichéd; NOT the Shard or Parliament, same reason; Lewisham's many medium-rise miniature flats (and/or the same happening at Kidbrooke "village"); Canary Wharf in the distance (a bit clichéd but it will pass); Tower Bridge and/or the Mayoral monstrosity. This is definitely looking more interesting than the first notion even if it does stray from the brief.
I called into Eltham Palace this evening. Admittance to the grounds used to be free but now it is £15, so that is no longer a target.
A preliminary note on why I am doing a degree in photography, distilled from the contemplatery pieces on the course initiation: I will, no doubt, return to the subject.
My main reason is to instil some discipline into my photography, the hope being that a long series of specific and targeted exercises will teach me to slow down and think more. I find it difficult to concentrate simultaneously on the many aspects of a shot. These include framing, composition, exposure and extraneous detail (e.g. misplaced lampposts and cranes). Part of it is age and infirmity (juggling a walking stick with camera gear and my reduced brain power), but given those constraints, I need to develop a stronger technique.
The essentials of the site have been set up. Stylistically it is rather a mess but I became aware that I was getting bogged down in the detail and should be concentrating more on the real work. The structure is in place: the fonts and colour scheme can wait a few days.
Tomorrow [Sunday] I intend to make some initial notes on the first assignment. I have a window on Tuesday and might start snapping then.
Need a logo ✓ 22Jun. Need a banner. Lose the green. ✓ 17Jun Lose the tricksy fonts. ✓ 17Jun
This is the first week of my degree. I have contacted my tutor, started reading the course material, started planning the first assignment and decided to build this web site to house my output. It is a course requirement to maintain a blog and there are also references to other recommended online activities. I would prefer to keep it all in one place and the control and development in-house.
At first BAPhot will hang off another site, and share many of its attributes. When LCN.com have their next £1 domain sale, I'll buy BAPhot.co.uk (or something else) and that will be its new name and address. A year later, when the prices have shot up again, the name will probably change.
One key outstanding task is to come up with a logo. And choose some new fonts.