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Category : People

Worth a look…….Vivian Maier, nanny and street photographer……and The British Council film collection

Just a quick note on a couple of things worth looking at. The first is a clip from a WTTW broadcast on American TV called Chicago Tonight. It details the discovery of a collection of street photographs taken by a nanny named Vivian Maier, who worked in New York from the 1950’s through to the early 1990’s. The collection amounts to an estimated 100,000 negatives, and could be one of the most important photographic discoveries for many years. The work is largely unknown – even her employers through the years didn’t really appreciate what she was doing. But it is a fascinating document of street scenes and people in New York during the middle of the twentieth century.

The photographs were discovered by John Maloof at an auction in Chicago 2007, who bought just one of the lots offered for sale. When he discovered the quality of the work, he traced the other auction buyers, and bought their collections too. There are even boxes of unprocessed film, which is slowly being developed. He is currently working through the negatives, a monumental scanning task that could take many years. Ultimately the collection could prove to be worth a significant amount of money, and there are plans for exhibitions at the moment in the USA.

It brings up the oft quoted discussion of film versus digital – will it be possible in 50 years time to discover a box full of hard drives in an attic and still find that the technology works well enough to fire up and retrieve the data? In reality, it is probable with the absolute mass of material being produced digitally now, that discoveries will be made in the dusty corners of networking sites like Flickr or their successors – these organizations are less likely to delete data now that storage has become so cheap. With ‘Digital Clouds’ too, offsite storage will replace the general use of hard-drives. So will ‘discoveries’ become more common? And then what happens to copyright? Another argument!

The programme has been posted on YouTube, and gives a good account of something many photographers and collectors would dream about!

You can see some of the stills in this video:

The other thing worth a view is probably less significant, but nevertheless, still fascinating. The British Council is making 13 archive films from its collection publicly available for the first time. Some can be seen on Vimeo and one in particular comes to mind. The World Garden (1941) is a Technicolor film of Kew Gardens made during World War Two. Largely a morale boosting film, it takes you round the gardens and looks at the work of the people and it has a beautiful colour, reminiscent of the slightly saturated botanical books printed in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Thanks to my colleague, Sally Nex, for pointing this out on her BBC blog.
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Also, have a look at The Life of the Rabbit – a wildlife film from simpler times!

Gardeners’ Question Time Christmas broadcast

8 years, 10 months ago Gardens, news, People 4

Eric Robson at the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Eric Robson at the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

I’ve listened to BBC Gardeners’ Question Time for years, so when recently asked by Gardeners’ World Magazine to photograph the Christmas recording, I really looked forward to a behind the scenes view of how the show was put together. It was also the first time they had all panelists together for one broadcast.

Gardeners' Question Time panelists during a briefing before recording the 2010 Christmas programme

Gardeners' Question Time panelists during a briefing before recording the 2010 Christmas programme

Briefing before the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Briefing before the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording, with Matt Biggs and Bob Flowerdew in the foreground

The production company’s office is located in a small side road near Old Street Tube station, and like many London streets, the building numbering is a bit haphazard.  Whilst checking the address on my phone, I was approached by a very nice man who asked me, “Are you looking for something else.” Previous experience has taught me not to hang around in situations like this, but strangely, I found myself saying, “Yes.”

“I thought so,” he replied,  “I could see your tripod – you need the first door on the right.”

Somethin’ Else produces several radio programmes including GQT, and is involved with many other media activities too –  so  lost photographers in Brunswick Place must be a regular occurrence.

studio at the Christmas 2010 GardeneThe studio during the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recordingrs' Question Time recording

The studio during the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Some of the GQT team I had photographed before – either for magazine features or for my 43 Gardeners’ Hands project, so I knew them to say hello to – a useful icebreaker when shooting reportage pics. The only problem was the noise of my camera – I think it was expected that the occasional clack of the shutter and mirror would disappear into  the background chatter. Obviously the sound technician was hearing something much closer to a rifle shot, so I had a tap on the shoulder from from Howard Shannon, the producer, who asked me to wait for breaks. I think every whisper could be heard. In all the behind the scenes shoots I did for Top Gear, I was never asked to stop during filming. Perhaps it was just the noisy cars!

Christine Walkden, Bunny Guinness and Chris Beardshaw at the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Christine Walkden, Bunny Guinness and Chris Beardshaw

Chris Beardshaw and Christine Walkden the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Chris Beardshaw and Christine Walkden the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Bob Flowerdew trialing some grapes with Rosie Yeomans at the 2010 Christmas recording of Gardeners' Question Time

Bob Flowerdew trialing some grapes with Rosie Yeomans

Pippa Greenwood and Anne Swithinbank at the Christmas 2010 Gardeners' Question Time recording

Pippa Greenwood and Anne Swithinbank

What seemed to differ with a TV recording is the speed in which it was done, and how few breaks there were. It was finished in around 90 minutes, with large chunks recorded ‘live’, and not many stops for errors. Eric Robson controlled the discussion with the panelists like a conductor, with answers to questions unscripted, and a queue to respond. There was a genuine air of fun which interesting to watch. The programme will be broadcast on 26th December 2010 at 1400.

Pickersleigh Road motors

8 years, 11 months ago cars, People 0

I visited the Morgan factory in Malvern this week. I’ve never been there before, and it was quite refreshing to be able to walk around a car workshop without being asked to produce  a multitude of passes. A nod from MD, Charles Morgan, was all that was required.

Charles Morgan at the Morgan factory in Malvern

Charles Morgan at the Morgan factory in Malvern

Charles Morgan at the Morgan factory in Malvern

Charles Morgan at the Morgan factory in Malvern

My colleague Peter Nunn came to interview Charles Morgan for a feature – and with the outside hope of driving the new Morgan three wheeler. As this doesn’t appear until next year, the best we could do was have a look at the three wheeler pedal car. With a price tag of £3000, it’s a luxury Christmas present for all small petrolheads. Really serious ones. Actually, I don’t think my old SAAB was much more than this.

Paul Debois with three wheeler Morgan pedal cars

Paul Debois with three wheeler Morgan pedal cars

Instead we had a drive in the Morgan Aero SuperSports, a more than quick 4.8 litre, V8 engined, two seater. At £120,000, this is for serious adult petrolheads. Although not to my taste, it was fun driving around the Malvern Hills for a few hours.  It was a bit difficult to get in or out and I doubt the Lucie Clayton School of Etiquette would have had an answer for ladies, but it certainly turned a few heads.

Morgan Aero SuperSports in Malvern

Morgan Aero SuperSports in Malvern

Morgan Aero SuperSports in Malvern

A cornering Morgan Aero SuperSports in Malvern

Sir John Harvey-Jones in the BBC TV programme ‘Troubleshooter’ was aghast at seeing what he saw  as  old fashioned work practices in the Morgan factory. Fortunately Peter Morgan, Charles’ father, more or less ignored the advice given – so things are pretty much the same. The old Plus 4 bodies are still being produced, largely with wooden frames made from Ash, making it seem like a hand-crafted furniture workshop. Long may it continue.

Morgan factory in Malvern

Morgan factory in Malvern

Rain doesn’t stop play

8 years, 11 months ago Garden Photography, Gardens, People, photography 0
Acer at Batsford Arboretum

Acer at Batsford Arboretum

Mill Dene Gardens

Mill Dene Gardens

Just over a week ago, I visited Batsford Arboretum, near Moreton in Marsh and the garden at Mill Dene. I had a  great drive through the Cotswolds on fantastic Autumn day, to see trees at  their best. What a difference a week makes. On a shoot at Capel Manor a few days later, I had to create a large plastic tent to shelter from the wind and rain whilst  photographing garden products. Then today, I photographed journalist Sally Nex at her allotment. Despite the best efforts of the various weather sites, we couldn’t find a time slot to keep us dry. Even my camera had a fit of the vapours. I guess winter has arrived.

Danny Coope and me during a shoot at Capel Manor

Danny Coope, picture editor at Which? Gardening (left) and me during a shoot at Capel Manor.

Sally Nex at her allotment

Sally Nex at her allotment

Actually this was Sally’s last day at this particular plot. Not only did she put up with standing around in the rain for a portrait – she took down a greenhouse in under two hours (smashing just two panes of glass), loaded a van with  tons of gardening paraphernalia accumulated over six years  and even solved a dispute over jelly babies and Jaffa cakes. Now here’s a woman who can multitask!

Despite frequent inclement weather, winter can actually be a great time to take photographs. The sudden weather changes offer many opportunities and trees and plants take on a new form. Unfortunately, commercial photography becomes difficult to plan. But this is far outweighed by the unexpected. I think the unexpected in this case was the fact that Sally kept smiling!

Away Pitch

8 years, 11 months ago exhibitions, Garden Photography, news, People 0
Away Pitch

Away Pitch - Pinhole Impressions photograph with Mick Grocott ©Vitor Azevedo

Earlier this year, I was invited to submit an image to an exhibition called ‘Away Pitch‘ at The Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton on Trent. Curated by artist Vitor Azevedo, the exhibition combined art and poetry. Works were placed with local sports people, who recorded their reactions and responses to them in the form of books, photographs and recordings. The launch was held in July 2009 at The Brewhouse, and included a dance performance combining sportsmen and professional dancers, a youth community dance piece and the unveiling of the Pitch exhibition. Over 170 people attended the event that was well received and has since continued to bridge the gap between art and sport in a positive way.

One of my Pinhole Impressions Series, Tilia Tomentosa (Lime tree), was placed with Mick Grocott, a referee, who was photographed by Vitor. All works were accompanied by text by poet and playwright Kev Fegan.

Other sports people included Alison Williamson, an archer for Team-GB, Jenny Booth, Gold medal winner at Atlanta 1996 for Paralympic Swimming, sprinter Alex Nelson from Stoke on Trent, Keiran McAvoy, Newcastle under Lyme’s Sports personality of the Year, BMX Four Cross Mountain bike rider and boxer Frazer Clarke from Burton Upon Trent.

Vitor is currently working on a book to accompany the exhibition, which will tour the region.

Hire a professional

8 years, 11 months ago news, People, photography 0

It’s interesting to see the flack that David Cameron has had for appointing a personal photographer to track him. Andrew Parsons has been put onto the public payroll to produce PR work for the Conservative leader and other senior cabinet officials. At a time when photographers are being put under pressure with a combination of cost cuts and a make-do attitude with the glut of cheap, second-rate photographs available, the Conservative leader can still see a professional job requires a skilled professional. As in any field. A good point made by Alan Chun on the Epuk forum, it is a strong message to those who commission photography. If you buy cheap…….

Eadweard Muybridge, the Muybridgizer and frightening chickens with a torpedo.

Last week I visited the new Eadweard Muybridge exhibition at Tate Britain. On leaving the gallery, I saw a note on the foyer wall saying visit the cafe and download the Muybridgizer app for your iPhone. I wanted it. But it wouldn’t download. I went home – no joy. I wanted it more. Several Google searches failed to find it. Did it really exist? Were the staff at the Tate pulling a fast one? Then I tried to convince myself that it probably wouldn’t be any good. This didn’t work. I still wanted it!

Finally, today it was there in the iTunes store. I rushed out with my iPhone to test it. Was it worth the wait? Probably not, but it’s quite addictive and fun to play with. So, my first results:

shadow 1

shadow 1

Shadow 2

Shadow 2

Polishing jewelry

Polishing jewellery

The exhibition was fascinating. There was a wide range of work on display and a lot was new to me. Before his experiments with time sequences, Muybridge made a lot of money in the United States from some of his landscape photography, particularly with stereographs. These were small cards with two photographs of the same subject, each from a slightly different perspective. Seen through a handheld viewer, the photographs were transformed into a 3D image. He also frequently worked with an 18×24 inch plate camera, and it was noted at the time that he cut trees down by the score in the quest for the perfect view! This has crossed my mind on more than one occasion in Richmond Park. It’s not specifically mentioned in the permit terms and conditions, so I assume it’s open to debate with the Parks Police.  Worth a go next time.

My favourite image, by far, was one of the sequences. Not one of the horses or athletes, which had the appearance  of  scientific experiments. Or the lady in a hat, jumping over a stool. Or even model 95, described as a 60 year old ex-athlete, who turned out to be Muybridge himself . ‘Frightening chickens with a torpedo’ must have been one of those tests carried out on a Friday afternoon for the sheer hell of it! It wins hands down for its pointlessness  –  and humour.  Good job Leland Stanford, Muybridge’s patron, had a lot of money. Unfortunately , at the moment, I can’t actually find a link to the image.

The exhibition is at Tate Britain and runs from 8th September 2010 to 16th January 2011

Car Photo – a classic magazine from 1985

9 years ago cars, People 7
Car Photo Magazine

Car Photo Magazine, with Ferrari Dino 246GT ©Richard Davies

A couple of weeks ago I was handed a copy of Car Photo by my friend and colleague Ian Dawson. A supplement to Car Magazine in 1985,  it was the benchmark of automotive photography at that  time, and certainly influenced the way I worked. As a rooky photographer on What Car? Magazine, with barely three months under my belt, I remember flicking through a copy in my local WH Smith and thinking bloody hell!

Ian was one of the contributing photographers and he kindly searched out his last spare copy, as mine had disappeared after several house moves. What is great about this magazine is that the photographs could easily be published today in any car title – the only thing that gives them away is the style of the car. Unfortunately for Ian, as I unkindly reminded him,  the new cars of 1985 are now classics and could probably slip into the pages of Classic and Sportscar in 2010.

The contributing photographers were: Colin Curwood, Richard Davies, Ian Dawson, Dougie Firth, Mervyn Franklyn,  Martyn Goddard, Graham Harrison and John Mason. The Art Director was Adam Stinson. Some still work with cars and some have moved on. For any car enthusiast seeing a copy for sale on Ebay or wherever, do buy it – it’s well worth a read.

Lotus Esprit Turbo, shot on Kodachrome 64 ©Ian Dawson

Lotus Esprit Turbo, shot on Kodachrome 64 film ©Ian Dawson

The Lotus Esprit shot above was one of the most important for me, despite it being one of the simplest in the magazine. It made me  realize I had to persuade the editor of my magazine that driving 20 minutes down the M3 to a location at a test track near Chobham,  Surrey, would no longer do. Another favourite is the Citroën Visa pictured below – not a particularly exciting car, just a great photo! Both were taken on Kodachrome 64 (see the posting on the demise of Kodachrome).

Citroen Visa

Citroen Visa, shot on Kodachrome 64 ©Ian Dawson

The last shot is by Richard Davies – a Ferrari 250 GTO. The caption made me laugh when I saw it again –  ‘Two useable frames out of 108 exposures shot.’ I remember thinking at the time that shooting 108 frames to fill one page in a magazine was the height of extravagance. But with hindsight, three rolls of Kodachrome seems modest. Once  I was regularly involved in cover shoots  or big group tests requiring lots of action, I would think nothing of shooting four or five times this amount!

Ferrari 250 GTO on Kodachrome 25 - ©Richard Davies

Ferrari 250 GTO on Kodachrome 25 - ©Richard Davies

As an aside, I thought I’d mention a personal project that Richard  has been involved in for several years. He has been photographing  Russian wooden churches in the bleak north of the country,  documenting the efforts to save and restore these important buildings. A world away from Ferrari’s but well worth a look!

Helen Yemm and Thorny problems

Helen Yemm

Helen Yemm - and her thorny problems

Last week I had the pleasure of photographing the Telegraph gardening columnist,  Helen Yemm for a project I had just started. After we had finished, we chatted over several cups of coffee in her kitchen, where  I noticed a large wooden sign behind a door. It turned out to be a souvenir from a Q&A session she did for the Telegraph, and  I believe it will take pride of place on a wall somewhere, once a space has been found. In the meantime, I thought I had to get a snap of her with her prize!

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