Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Blog Has Moved

As of October 2012 the blog has now been incorporated into my new website.

If you are not forwarded automatically you can see it here:

For those following me via RSS please update your feed readers to

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The story of a photo I put on facebook

I don't post photographs on Facebook very often, and if I do they tend to be ones I've taken with my mobile phone. I am completely aware that, once a picture is put up on Facebook, it is stripped of its metadata and it becomes an orphan work. This means that Facebook can do with it what it wants... including selling it to outside parties. Other users, too, can do what they want...

About a month ago, I posted this photo on Facebook. It was taken at a dance event (I do a lot of dancing, as regular readers will know) and it was taken with my "proper" camera. I decided to share it and some others on Facebook so that friends could see it. I had no idea it would be so popular, or inspire so many people.

©Bex Shaw

Firstly, a friend of a friend was inspired to use this photograph as a basis for a drawing. I liked this, and I was flattered that she felt inspired to make this lovely drawing. She shared it in the comments of my photograph and she has given me permission to post it on here, although she says it's just rough and needs more work. Her name is Bex Shaw, and you should spend a bit of time looking at her artwork on her Flickr site. It's well worth it!

Then, I noticed these. And I'm not terribly pleased with them. If I wanted this picture to be black and white, I'd have done it myself. If I wanted it to be weird washed out retro, I'd have done it myself. I'm a photographer, and I only publish photos I have retouched and am happy with; this is how I want them to be seen. I am annoyed that, because it's a photograph and in the public domain, someone feels as though they can change it to how they'd like to see it. They wouldn't dream of taking a  paintbrush to a painting which wasn't theirs, would they? They wouldn't turn the hem up of a dress which wasn't theirs... so why alter a photograph which isn't theirs?

The answer lies in this confusing medium we call photography. Wonderful because it is democratic; everyone can take a picture and everyone understands the visual language. But this is also its downfall; it is still not considered an art in the same way as painting. And the digital world has accentuated this; everyone is a photographer now, and everyone has access to filters and apps which can add a certain atmosphere or character to any photograph.

I also think that many facebook users are not aware of the sensibilities of the photographer, and how close we are to our work. I suprise myself, actually, at my reaction to seeing these. I am seething... and for what? She hasn't made any money from them, she is just having a bit of fun and perhaps experimenting with some new filters. Although she is getting the credit for them, which bugs me as she hasn't credited me in any way. But more importantly it's made me realise first hand how vulnerable we are to copyright infringement when it comes to posting images on the web. Something which I am telling my students constantly; perhaps I should practice what I preach.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Karen Cinema

A few months ago, I was commissioned to shoot singer Karen Cinema for her new album. Now it is released, I can show you some of the pics:

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Teddy Boys

I've really got back into the swing of shooting this weekend... here are some portraits I took of some Teddy Boys at a dance event I was at over the Jubilee. Not sure about the vignetting... thoughts appreciated.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Wonderful World of Kezia Argue

Spent a lovely Jubilee shooting these fabulous hats and headdresses by my very talented friend Kezia Argue. Here's a sneak peek... modelled by the stunning Miss Polly Rae...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The future is out of focus

I started this blog post a week or so ago, after I first saw the Saatchi show. Since then, I've read reviews by Ossian Ward from Time Out and Sean O Hagan from The Guardian that put my thoughts into words so much more eloquantly than I would, that I sort of gave up on it.

Basically, the show is, as it is titled, Out of Focus. If this symbolises the future of photography, then frankly, it's depressing. It is rambling, with too many photographers; it is dated, with some new names doing the same old thing (think John Baldessari style of thing); it is a hotch potch of different genres, without giving a smooth overview of the genres of photography (Michael Subotzky, for example, is the only nod to reportage); it is inconsistent, giving some photographers a whole room while others just have a single print.

If nothing else, it is worth the trek to the West End to see a whole room filled with portraits by Katy Grannan. She steals the show; her larger than life portraits of people she has come across on the boulevards of LA and San Francisco are hyper real and evocative of a more glamourous era. Each portrait seems to be a more crumbly version of a celebrity - there is Marilyn Monroe, here is Jimi Hendrix. A modern day Diane Arbus, she seems to have a knack for photographing true characters, and the harsh sunlight and pale backgrounds really put these people under the spotlight.
Katy Grannan
It was also nice to see a room full of John Stezaker work. Even though I had seen his show at Whitechapel Gallery, there was something comforting about seeing that familiar format again; it is so well conceived and yet so simple. Nice to see Elina Brotherus, too (but only one print!) and the discovery of the day for me was the work of David Benjamin Sherry. I was most excited to be seeing the Hannah Starkey work, but this was stuck up on the last floor, and squashed amid some complete tripe that made it feel really insignificant.

In short, the message of this show to me was that the future of photography was going backwards, with photographers once again exploring analogue means of creating an image, and manipulating their work in the darkroom. This harks back to the talk I chaired at Photofusion, which I wrote about here; but to me, those artists I talked about experiment with photography in a much more 21st century way, and if there is a future of photography I consider it to be more like that. But what about reportage photographers? What is the future there? Again we arrive at the same old question of photography vs art. The Saatchi show is full of artists, not photographers. When will this distinction ever end?

Monday, 14 May 2012

My first bit of journalism

Recently, I was asked by the Redeye Network to cover their National Photography Symposium, held at Somerset House in conjunction with the World Photography Organisation events. They asked me to write a blog post on one of the talks, and I chose to summarise the talk on The Print Market, which you can see here. It turns out that I got a few of my facts wrong, as Bill Hunt pointed out in his comments (but I'm pleased he took the time to read my post!) but the article seems to have sparked quite a few interesting questions and points by readers, which they have voiced on Twitter. Many point out the success of The Photographers' Gallery and their print sales, and it's true that this was never brought up at the talk. And there IS a flaw in the theory that photography only sells in art galleries; the success of the Michael Hoppen Gallery proves that. So I have been thinking about this, and I think it's more how a photographer markets themselves; if they see themselves as an artist, then they are more likely to sell. A colleague once recounted a story that he'd heard regarding an American gallerist who was showing photography. When a client asked him if the maker of the works was a photographer or an artist, the gallerist asked why he wanted to know. The client said, "If he considers himself a photographer, I won't buy one. But if he considers himself an artist, I will."
True story... Obviously the gallerist told him he was an artist and it sold.

On another note, it's worth checking out the book WM Hunt has just published, called The Unseen Eye. It's a beautiful, thought provoking collection of photographs in which the subject is not looking at the camera. A truly fabulous collection.

Friday, 9 March 2012

I better get blogging!

Yesterday, I saw a copy of a new book on research methods, written by Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana, called Behind the Image. I feel very honoured as my blog is featured as resource, complete with screen grabs of some of my posts. But also feeling the pressure slightly, as now I better get blogging some good stuff...

The book is not available just yet, but you can pre-order it on Amazon. I didn't get a chance to look at it properly, but it's a nice layout, with lots of visuals, and seems an ideal resource for students.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sun sculptures

It seems apt that I should write this in what seems to be the first weekend of Spring! Tom Lovelace's new work is exactly what it says on the tin; sculptures created by the sun. Such a simple idea, and stripping photography back to its basic principle.

These are found objects; old noticeboards which have been faded by the sun. The bare principle of a photogram, naturally conceived; the darker patches indicate where the notices have been placed, and the baize around them has faded over time. I love the simplicity of these, there's a real sense of layering and of the passing of time. They are aesthetically beautiful, too, the orginial fabric a deep green colour which fades in varying hues. They are exhibited in floating dark wooden box frames, which complement the colour and make them feel precious somehow.

This is a bit of a departure for Tom, whose work up until now has been highly constructed images of machines which he has built himself. They are being exhibited as part of Free Frame, a group exhibition which is well worth seeing at SON Gallery in Peckham, until 31 March.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Experimenting with Photography

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of chairing a talk on the theme "experimenting with photography". I organised the talk after I noticed that this seemed to concern quite a few of the members who entered this year's Members exhibition at Photofusion, which I curated. Photographers are making photograms, experimenting with colour and paper in the darkroom, writing on photos, manipulating them digitally to create something else... it is almost as if, with the ubiquity of digital imaging, photographers are striving to create something new and original.

©Chloe Sells

This trend was reflected in the final selection for the exhibition; four out of eleven of the exhibitors are experimenting with the photograph in some way. Jeremy Akerman takes pictures of landscapes or urban scenes, cuts them, and then pastes the pieces back together in a different order. The resulting images are still recognisable as landscapes, but something has happened to them; the act of destroying the surface of the print and then re-creating them adds another dimension to the image. Chloe Sells creates large colour prints in the darkroom, in which she plays with the light with prisms to create blocks of coloured light leaks. She also manipulates the surface of the image by folding the paper while printing, so concealing parts of the photograph.

©Eva Stenram, ©Judith Lyons

Judith Lyons and Eva Stenram use digital techniques in order to create their work, although they have both used analogue processes in previous projects. Lyons uses images of ova, sperm and foetuses to create digitally constructed montages, one for each month of the gestation period. Stenram's image, Drape, is a digitally manipulated vintage pin-up photograph, in which she uses digital technology to lengthen a curtain in the image, so that it drapes over the model and conceals her assets. Last night she also introduced us to new work, in which she finds hard core pornographic images on the internet, and removes the bodies to create the scene as if they were never there.

All photographers seemed to agree that their processes were about questioning the inherent meaning of truth which is linked to photography, and yet their reasoning for this was varied. Judith Lyons challenges the relationship between the image and the subject matter characteristic of photography; the fact that you can't photograph something which is not there. Eva Stenram is interested in the fact that photos can be changed again and again, and that, even if they don't pretend to be real, viewers tend to look twice.

For Jeremy Akerman, his cutting and pasting of photographs is a quest to get back to the physicality of the picture. Quoting Susan Sontag, who back in 1977 mentioned there were too many images in the world, and that was before the advent of digital photography, Akerman pointed out that the photographic surface was dead; most images we see nowadays are on a screen. For him, and for Chloe Sells, it is the surface of the photograph which is interesting.

This theme of experimenting with photography was also being explored at London Art Fair's Photo50 exhibition, curated by Sue Steward. I was excited about seeing this exhibition, entitled The New Alchemists - a reference to the old fashioned, analogue methods of photography - and I was expecting great things. But I was disappointed.

©Noemie Goudal, ©Jeremy Akerman

Many of the photographers I was familiar with; Julie Cockburn, Noemie Goudal, Joy Gregory and Esther Teichmann amoungst others. And maybe it's for this reason that nothing surprised me, nothing wowed me. Even Cockburn's work, which I love but had never seen in "real life" disappointed me. The highlight was Noemie Goudal's image, which certainly does trick the eye and successfully comments on the belief that a photograph is authoritative proof.

This idea of playing with the surface of the image and of creating camera-less images is nothing new; the Surrealists were all over it in the 1920's and artists have working in this way ever since. But there does seem to be more experimentation these days, and if I had the task of curating an exhibition of artists working in this way, there are ones that I would have chosen that are exploring the surface of the image in new ways. Carolle Benitah, for example, with her embroidery over old family pictures. I also think that the digital "alchemists" need to get a look in, too; it's not just about collage, or mixed media, but it's about experimenting with new processes in the way Eva Stenram and Judith Lyons do.

©Carolle Benitah

At the end of the talk the other evening, I asked the panel whether they considered themselves to be artists or photographers. They all said they were artists, which I found interesting. But of course they are; there's no decisive moment in their work, they use photography to create something else. And it got me thinking; could this distinction be as simple as Artists Make, Photographers Take? Or is it a way for photographers to get into the art market, as we all know that photography struggles to sell...

Whichever it is, I'm pleased some people are doing it. The work is challenging, inspiring and refreshing in this world of digital imagery. Get crafting, I say.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Watch the Birdie...

For a while now I've wanted to get some wedding images onto a tumblr site. I don't necessarily want to market myself as a wedding photographer, but I've been getting a few enquiries and it's a nice way of presenting work.

I've called it Watch the Birdie, inspired by one of my favourite songs to dance to:

Any feedback welcome!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Firstly, I'd like to wish you all a rather belated Happy New Year. Only two weeks into 2012, and yet life has well and truly kicked in again after the lethargy and well earned break of the Christmas period. I seem to have done loads already this year; not all photography related, but there is one thing worth mentioning; three of my Retro Girls are being exhibited at Silverprint!

If you don't know it already, you should get to know it. Silverprint is the store for analogue photography supplies; film, photographic paper, chemistry, film cameras and some digital supplies. The welcome wall often features a small photographic exhibition, and when I used to go in there as a student I always thought it would be a cool place to show work. So when they asked me I was delighted, and didn't hesitate to accept.

Retro Girls are up in the store til the middle of February, so if you didn't get to see them in all their framed glory at Collyer Bristow Gallery last Summer, now's your chance! Silverprint is based behind the Old Vic theatre in Waterloo, on Valentine Place.
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