Sunday, 22 November 2009

Is freedom in cyberspace a con ?

The internet is more censored than it used to be . . . you knew that, I knew that, but it comes as a shock to see it written down. Bryan Appleyard (in The Sunday Times today, click on the post title above) says it's partly because what we used to keep on our computer is now out there on servers all over the world. 'Cloud computing' makes it really easy for the bad guys to see who we're talking to . . . Twitter has been turned on the good guys . . . it's really difficult, but NOT impossible, to get free.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Street Shooting

A photo-shoot out in the street may never end (click on the title to go to a Google-page link on 'Street Photography'). The shoot might take a long time if, like me, you're doing a 'Homage' project, and the photographer (Lee Friedlander) has been shooting loads of series over the last six decades. Trees (mature Californian Oak) , blossoming Japanese Cherry trees, sticks, thousands of street signs, war monuments, 'The Noble Worker', his friends, his colleagues, different sets of nudes at different times, and on and on. Oh yes, he incorporates his own shadow wherever possible, zillions of reflections onto windows, off windows, through shop-front glass, etcetera . . .
I'm getting to grips with the initially off-putting 'overlay' techniques he uses to build up and make tangential the 'real' subject of his imagery. I am loving it. Of course, I musn't 'copy' his work, but t's OK to do 'in the style of'.

I've shot loads of medium-format (I couldn't afford a Hasselblad as he used, but I borrowed a Bronica SQ-B which acts the same). I have learned to love Black and White again, and I've now got to go on a crash-course on 'Gelatin'Silver' printing; that's what he used, and apparently he prints ALL his own images.

I went to the British Library to look through a couple of his limited-edition portfolio 'books'. I was very impressed by the toning and very wide range of shades of grey, which are alarmingly good.
One of my images in this post was shot on a Sony-Ericsson 'phone, another on a Canon digital SLR, and the last is a film negative shot using a large-format 'portable' 5" x 4" camera.

ESSAY v. NOVEL . . .

I read Joan Didion in the 1960's, when I dreamed of going to California and living the emerging alternative lifestyle. When I got there, life was just actually discernable as the way she had written it. Bravo . . . . her Slouching Towards Bethlehem is still fantastic (re-published again last year !), although we've all moved on . . .

In The Revenge of The Real Zadie Smith in today's Guardian (click on the post title, as always) rolls out a defense of the essay as 'real'. In apposition to this perfect creation from the writer's mind is the more familiar novel.

Zadie, who continues to write super-successful novels, re-iterates that all novels are imperfect, creatures subject to the author's whims and shortcomings, ie. incomplete plots, inadequate dialogue, unbelieveable characters, etcetera. I mean, how can any sane person keep up the pretense of an imagined reality in a made-up novel from the start through to 'the end' ?
Read what Zadie has to say about the essay being pure, a realisation of a perfect ideal.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

100 years of great press photographs

I flipped through this in the Guardian, before breakfast. I would not recommend doing this, as the carnage and desolation explicit and implied may ruin your meal. Click on my post title to go there.
The images are arresting, and evoke very strong feelings. The one with the most impact, for me, was Leibovitz's; it shows a child's bicycle lying on the floor, a huge streak of blood adjacent. He was hit by a mortar, just in front of Leibovitz's car in Sarajevo during the siege. They took the boy to hospital but he died before he got there.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Against the Odds - a film about the Labour Party

AGAINST THE ODDS - Apparently it was shown at conference . . .a bit like a Hovis ad, if you listen . . . it's supposed to get us out and fighting for rights and jobs . . . I was unable to insert a direct link in my post, so you'll have to click on the post title above, or go to YouTube and get it from there. Two minutes long, brass band music . . .

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Barbican Library, City of London - bursting with photography books . . .

This is about the Barbican library; click on the blog-post title to go there. I discovered it a few years ago, around the time of a great exhibition just downstairs from it, In the Face of History - European Photographers in the 20th Century. Fab show, and the library's pretty cool too.
They have hundreds and hundreds of photography books (Robert Frank, Doisneau, Lange, Evans, Bailey, Atget, Donovan, Tillmans, scores of photographers I don't know after only four years of study at college. Gosh the list is endless).

Gasp, the books are on loads of shelves, so you don't have to ask for them . . . you can cruise their collection on-line, as far as I know . . .
Joining is easy. Show them the card from your area, and they'll give you a City of London card. Easy-peasy. All the books you wanted the college library to stock (Hello, Jean at Paddington campus !) Late opening hours, if I remember correctly, and very helpful staff. Starbucks is not far away, and so is the Barbican Concert Hall, lots of banks . . .

Metropolitan Special Collection, Photography books in London . . .

It's a local library in Islington, but it happens to have hundreds and hundreds of books, all bought by the Greater London Council and other bodies, and all about photography. Very few people know about it, but I've been telling colleagues about it for years. It is
the Finsbury Library
245 St John's Street
London EC1V 4NB
t. 020 7527 7960
f. 020 7527 7998

To borrow books (luscious huge and not-so-huge photography books) you need only join the library. All you need for that, I believe, is a local library card from wherever you live in London, and you're joined up. MOST of the super books are in the basement (not many people ask for them do they ?), so you'll need to search on-line (once you've got your Islington library card), and order them on-line, and they'll call or e-mail when they're ready to pick up and take away. Yes, I've got a few on my coffee table from time to time. If you really want them to buy a book, they'll consider it, as the collection is not static, but they add to it.

Libraries - I could live in one . . .

Colette, our tutor, did suggest that we ought to be researching for our photography information at the British Library. it is 'just down the road' by Kings Cross, so I went there today.
To get a reader card you need to have the usual stuff, utility bill, credit card statement, etcetera, with the name and address. As well, you need the other one with the photo and signature, ie. passport, driving licence, credit card, etcetera. They've got a leaflet setting all this out.
You apply, and a few days later you get the card. Then you can research and order books to read on-line, and four days later your books are ready for you to read in person. All the things I carry around with me are banned. No cameras, food, drink, scissors, pocket-knife. You can take pencils, laptop and iPod, phones must be switched off.

The pay-off is a look at just the books you want to read. They buy every single book published here and abroad, and although it takes a few days to get them out of storage, how wonderful will it be to flip through a rare and priceless tome . . .or perhaps just one no-one wanted to pay for. It is F R E E . . .

Critical Theory of Photography

Tom Miles in his Photosmudger blog (click on my blog title to go there pronto) covers an explanation of John Berger's 'Ways of Seeing', Sontag's 'On Photography', Barthes' 'Camera Lucida' and 'Mythologies' (thank goodness, Barthes is VERY hard to read, even in translation !), also 'The Photograph' by Graham Clarke, whom I don't know, and 'Another Way of Telling' by John Berger and Jean Moir, which I'll try and track down at the library or second-hand book-shop.

This is not about reading, but understanding. What it is that a photograph, or a collection of photographs might mean, something about contextualisation, and so on . . . there's another Barthes book I'm ploughing through, 'Image Music Text' which is about narrative and seminotics.

'The Photograph as Contemporary Art' by Charlotte Cotton discusses ways that photographers today engage with photography to make art. 'The History of Photography' by Beaumont Newhall gives a narrative (from an American point of view) of cross-influences by photographers on each other.

'Photography - a Critical Introduction', edited by Liz Wells, is a reader on key debates in photographic theory. Very easy to read, but I find the ideas expressed need re-visiting, as they slip away unless I refer to them once in a while . . .

'Inside the Photograph' by Peter C Bunnell is a collection of essays on about thirty specific twentieth-century photographers. Bunnell describes the book as 'about photographs, not theories'. Splendidly written, and a joy to leaf through, but not a true critical theory book, more like fun.

The reason I'm writing this post is that I found myself at the British Library's exhibition of early photographs (breath-taking, do go if you can) and bought Geoff Dyer's book (the very last copy, but I'm sure they'll get more in) 'The Ongoing Moment'. He says he doesn't take photos, and doesn't own a camera. He transposes (American) photographs of the past century into comparisons, and metaphors, and he explains the identity of symbols and motifs in particular photographs.
I'm only on page 21, and I'm hooked. After this, I may finish the Barthes books . . .

And, I was unlucky enough to be in Foyles, where I found an un-put-down-able copy of 'How to Read a Photograph' by Ian Jeffrey. I've been doing a lot of writing down of my own interpretation of contextualisation for images I'm researching, and this adds to my analysis of particular images. It also tells me about Kertesz, Moholy-Nagy, Eggleston, Bourke-White, Shore, Shomei and another hundred more. It gives a bit about them and then really specific contextualisation of particular, usually iconic, images . . .

Oh yes, these sorts of books are not just for fun, they are part of the understanding we should acquire on the way to becoming fully-rounded photographers, on our pre-degree practical photography course, here in London . . .

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Bronica Medium-Format film camera. . .

I'm doing something new - I'm writing this blog post entirely on the iPhone. . . This one's about the difference between a Bronica SQ-B medium-format film camera, and a Bronica Etrsi medium-format film camera.

Yes, I know, the Etrsi is a 6 x 4.5 cm. image, and the SQ-B is a 6 x 6 cm. image. BUT, although I knew that, I had no idea that THE LENSES were different, ie. NOT interchangeable between Bronica bodies. Thanks to my buddy and camera repair-person Panny at Camera City (+44 (0) 20 7813 2100) for solving the problem (my Etrsi lens wouldn't mount onto the SQ-B body) . . . the reason is that because the two cameras' image area and shape is different (one's narrower than the other), the lens must compensate for the different image capture shapes . . . Simple, when someone knows what they're talking about . . .
The Etrsi is 'automatic exposure' if you attach the optional 'prismatic view-finder'. However if this is left on 'auto' for long, the battery goes flat, and you're left with a single default shutter speed of only 1/ 500th of a second, not good on a rainy afternoon . . .

So I'm using the SQ-B lenses with the SQ-B body, when I do my 'in the style of Lee Friedlander' photo-shoot on the weekend. . . As usual, click on the post title to go straight to a article all about the techy differences between Bronica models. . . I'll save the Etrsi for other non-square-image shoots . . . which is most of them, at the moment . . .

The one thing I could not do in this post on the iPhone was to re-size the image (I always make them 15 cm. wide, to fit the column width of blog-post text). I needed Photoshop, so I edited the image (using Levels and Curves, slightly tweaked for contrast) on the MacBook Pro . . . thats' it though, everything else was created on the iPhone tonight . . .

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Labour and Tories up against BNP

It is not that important nationally just yet, that 50 % increase in support for the BNP in a few constituencies. It WILL become VERY important at the national election by next May, however.

Read the excellent but short David Leppard Sunday Times article about why we are increasingly supporting the BNP instead of the traditional Labour and Conservative parties. I know from talking to people that this will be an issue in my own constituency, Islington North. It is shocking that some 'normal' people I know are saying they agree with views expressed by the BNP. What do you think ? Will the BNP have more support at election time ? Does it matter ? Will splitting the Labour vote allow the Tories to get in ?

I am worried and I will do all I can to campaign for a large turnout of voters in my constituency, in the UK elections . . . what do you want to do about the stealthy rise of 'fascism' in our 'more volatile' constituencies ? What happens when the BNP puts up a candidate near where you live ? We have a BNP MEP, and BNP local councillors in London and elsewhere.
Click on the post title to go to Leppard's article.

Is TONY BLAIR the right guy for the EU ?

Jonathan Oliver and Bojan Pancevski look at why Tony Blair might just be a stalking horse . . . or, is it the other way around ?? . . . at present the EU presidency is rotational between the different EU national heads of government.
There's a move to change that to a permanent position to represent the EU around the world. Should Tony Blair be that representative ? Click on my post title to go straight to the Sunday Times article . . .