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.

Also, have a look at The Life of the Rabbit – a wildlife film from simpler times!

Gardeners’ Question Time Christmas broadcast

9 years, 6 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.

Garden Media Guild

9 years, 7 months ago cars, Garden Photography, news, photography 3

Last Wednesday I was invited by BBC Gardeners’ World to an end of term bash at the Garden Media Guild Awards. All very nice, and I was a finalist in the awards too, with a portfolio of eight images published over the  last 12 months.

Garden Media Guild Photographer of the Year Finalist

two images from my portfolio

Two images from my portfolio

Along with the award ceremony, which was held at the Brewery in Chiswell Street, there was a three course meal. This included a desert that baffled James Alexander Sinclair, who happened to be sitting at the same table. I hadn’t heard of a Blackberry Tendance either.

I wouldn’t normally go on about a lunch, but I was quite curious about the goody bag that one often gets presented with at large events. As a car photographer I  was lucky enough to travel all over Europe, the US and  Japan, where you would frequently be presented with mementos relating to a particular country – wine, pens, model cars, books and T-shirts to name but a few. But never an axe! It’s a very fine axe too. I sat on the tube rehearsing my statement to the police all the way home!

Should one squirt, spurt or spray?

9 years, 7 months ago film, photographic material, photography 1

I sold my first limited edition photographs as a student in 1982. They were C-type prints, in the days when a C-type was still a C-type. At that time, it was a very much a pariah process, as the archival stability was suspect. Probably with good reason, as about 20 to 30 years was the estimated life span.

Polaroid SX-70 - Palm leaf at Kew from 1982. My first print sale. The original was copied onto colour negative film and then printed on agfa paper, producing an image approximately 15 inches square.

Polaroid SX-70 - Palm leaf at Kew from 1982. My first print sale. The original was copied onto colour negative film and then printed on agfa paper, producing an image approximately 15 inches square.

OK. What is a C-type? Remember the faded prints you used to see in the window of your local chemist, showing happy, smiling people on holiday? A C-type. Slightly faded is probably being generous – they were more than likely faded to the point where only the darkest elements of the prints remained, probably with a horrid blue cast – in my memory at least. They were prints made from colour negatives. They still are. Only now, with improved papers and chemistry, they have a much longer life span – maybe 150 years or more.

According to Wikipedia, the name was introduced by Kodak – as a Type-C in the 1950’s. Perhaps a slight variance depending on which side of the pond you are on, but nevertheless, an understandable term.  Essentially, in common parlance,  C-type prints are from colour negatives – and latterly from digital files. (The only difference with digital C-types is that the images will be scanned first, before being printed onto traditional style paper and developed.)  In the UK, any professional lab would use this terminology – and they have done since I entered the profession in 1979.

So why the rant? I go to quite a few exhibitions, and I’ve noticed that the terms Chromogenic print or Colour Coupler print becoming more common. Not strictly incorrect, but it is a re-invention of the wheel. What’s wrong with plain English? I suppose it adds a bit of fluff to the description for customers in upmarket galleries who   pay a lot of money for photographic images. In reality, it leads to confusion and something that ends up being meaningless. So if you see either of these terms…….it’s a bloody C-type!

Then came digital. And inkjet printers. And inkjet prints. And the end of civilization. Only the term Giclée could rescue us from the abyss.

Wikipedia’s definition:  The word “giclée” is derived from the French language word “le gicleur” meaning “nozzle”, or more specifically “gicler” meaning “to squirt, spurt, or spray”.

I made my first inkjet prints in 1999, and I remember the term ‘Giclée’ being popular on photographic forums. It seemed to quickly fall out of use, and now most professional photographers in the UK refer to prints that come out of a digital printer, rather surprisingly, as an inkjet print. If it is printed on archivally stable paper, with archival inks, the term ‘archival inkjet print’ or ‘archival pigment print’ will probably be used.

Giclée is meaningless. Why the fluff? I went to a gallery two weeks ago, where some prints were listed as archival inkjet prints and others still referred to as Giclée’s. You need consistency and clarity. It’s like calling an oil painting a linseed and colour particulate image.  A spade is a spade, a C-type is a C-type and an inkjet print is not a Giclée. Let’s leave the term for the high street and be done with it.

OK. End of rant!

For further reading, have a look at Jack Lowe’s website and blog. Originally a photographer, he is now one of the most respected printers in the UK, producing work for many photographers and artists. He sniggered at the term giclee, telling me that one of his assistants was French – and the term was  a source of great amusement to him!

Kodachrome retrospective exhibition

9 years, 7 months ago cars, exhibitions, film, news, photography 0

As noted in the post on 30th August, Kodachrome processing finally ceases on 30th December 2010. To celebrate the end of an era, the Association of Photographers are staging an exhibition of work by AOP members taken on this classic film. I heard this week that two of my images have been selected.

BMW 5 Series, shot on Kodachrome 64 for Car Magazine in 1990

BMW 5 Series, shot on Kodachrome 64 for Car Magazine in 1990

Austin Healey rear badge

One of my last Kodachrome images from 1990 - Austin Healey badge taken for the book, The Original Austin Healey, by Bay View Books.

The exhibition runs from 18th January to 10th February 2011. More information, along with travel details, will be available on the AOP website, though as I write, the announcement has not been published.

Two new exhibitions: Shades of Winter at Fulham Palace, and Red Dot at the Association of Photographers Gallery

9 years, 7 months ago exhibitions, Garden Photography, photography 0

There are two new exhibitions where I have photographs on display, both in London. The first, Shades of Winter, is a joint exhibition at Fulham Palace, with photographer Caroline Ames. I have 10 of the Pinhole Impressions series on display (see previous postings) and Caroline has 10 photographs of Fulham Palace, taken last winter. A large version of 43 Gardeners’ Hands is also on display. This runs from 24th November 2010 to 27th February 2011. For more information and travel details, see the Fulham Palace website.

Pinhole Impressions 6 - Fagus Sylvatica Pendula

Pinhole Impressions 6 - Fagus Sylvatica Pendula

The second exhibition is the Red Dot charity auction at the Association of Photographers Gallery, where I have two images on display.  This is an annual event  where silent bidding starts at £40 for all prints. All profits from print sales will be donated to the charity Photovoice,  a multi-award winning charity based in London. Its mission is to bring about positive social change for marginalised communities, providing them with photographic training with which they can advocate, express themselves and generate income. You can view all images online, or see the images on display at the AOP gallery from 1st December 2010 to 13th January 2011 – Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm. Visit the website for travel details.

reflections, Grand Union Canal

Reflections, Grand Union Canal, on display at the Red Dot exhibition.

Cape Trafalgar, Spain, on display at the Red Dot exhibition.

Cape Trafalgar, Spain, on display at the Red Dot exhibition.

Pickersleigh Road motors

9 years, 7 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

9 years, 7 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

9 years, 8 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

9 years, 8 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…….


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