I’m a Photographer, not a Terrorist – update

10 years ago news, photography 0

A quick update to the post in January, regarding Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the governments appeal against the ruling, which states S44 is in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. There are still ways the police can stop photographers, should they choose to do so, but it is a step in the right direction.

For more information, see the I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist website.

To continue with the campaign, another gathering of photographers has been planned for Sunday 4th July at 12 noon, outside Scotland Yard.

The Somme memorial at Thiepval

10 years ago photography 0
wooden remembrance cross at the Somme memorial at Thiepval

wooden remembrance cross at the Somme memorial at Thiepval

Two days ago I had the opportunity to visit the Somme region in Northern France whilst on an assignment. I have driven past the area countless times on car shoots, but  this time I made a particular point of stopping and visiting some of the World War One cemeteries.

The most moving was at Thiepval, which is the site of the largest British war memorial in the world. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and opened in 1932 by the Prince of Wales, you can see inscribed the names of the 73,357 British and South African men who fell at the Somme and have no known grave.

It had a real sense of calm, and judging by the reactions of the people visiting, it still has great significance. Whilst walking around, reading the names, I found a wooden cross with a dedication written by a child. It said, “In remembrance of E. Singleton, the bravest man I know.” This really touched me. Even after nearly one hundred years, new generations are still identifying with the waste of life that has become indelibly linked to the Battle of the  Somme.

After several Google searches I couldn’t find an obvious identification for E. Singleton, but would be intrigued to find out more.

the Somme memorial at Thiepval

the Somme memorial at Thiepval

detail of the Somme memorial at Thiepval

detail of the Somme memorial at Thiepval

Beth Chatto

10 years ago Garden Photography, Gardens, news 0
Beth Chatto

Beth Chatto in her gravel garden

This week I had the pleasure of photographing one of Britain’s best known and most respected gardeners, Beth Chatto. At the age 87, most people would be taking it easy, but not Mrs Chatto. She spent two hours being interviewed and photographed, before carrying out what is apparently normal routine in her garden – putting in new plants and doing general maintenance!

I photographed her once before, for my ‘Gardeners’ Hands’ project. On that occasion, I was in a queue behind a Japanese film crew, who were working with her before my appointment. Keeping busy must be her secret!

The Beth Chatto Gardens are situated in Elmstead Market, Colchester and are open to visitors. Started in 1960, on what the official website describes as an overgrown wasteland, they are now known to gardeners all over the world, particularly for the ‘gravel garden‘. It was here that Mrs Chatto innovated by matching plants to the specific growing conditions of the area, using drought tolerant plants in a part of the UK which has similar rainfall to some desert regions. For more details, see www.bethchatto.co.uk or her book, The Gravel Garden.

The full set of photographs can be seen in the July issue of Beautiful Britain Magazine.

I was very pleased to see that the copy of the photograph ‘43 Gardeners’ Hands‘ I sent to Mrs Chatto is now on display in the gardens’ restaurant.
43 Gardeners' Hands

43 Gardeners' Hands

It must have been a great day for photography!

10 years, 1 month ago cars, Garden Photography, photography 0
Paul Debois using large diffusers to soften midday sun

Paul Debois using large diffusers to soften midday sun

Whenever I speak to my mother on the phone, the conversation always drifts towards the perils of the weather, and the effects it has on photography. I think she still worries about me wearing a hat or that I remembered to take a flask of hot coffee with me! Unless it is sunny.

Then the comment is, “It must have been a great day for photography.” But no!

Whether I’m shooting gardens, flowers or cars, fierce, bright sun and a cloudless blue sky is nearly always a nightmare. Finding natural shade at the top of a mountain pass to park a sports car covered in chrome is nearly impossible. And wide landscapes with trees casting dark shadows over beautifully designed borders makes you look to the sky in desperation for help. Not for divine intervention, but for cloud. Even a little one. A few seconds would do!

Any photographer working outside will spend hours waiting for the light to change – it’s always too bright or too cloudy, much to the annoyance of whoever you are working with. On a recent  shoot for Gardeners’ World, a photograph was taken of me working under a tent created with white cloth suspended on light stands – all to capture an area about a metre square. Midday sun is very difficult to work in – especially for a journalist when lunch is imminent!

I know I’m lucky to be able to work outside of an office environment. But that perfect gin and tonic weather, when all you want to do is sit in a deck chair and listen to Test Match Special on the radio, is often not much use to a snapper. Unless the offer is a G&T!

Favourite cameras – the Baby Rolleiflex

10 years, 1 month ago photography 0

Baby Rolleiflex

Baby Rolleiflex

I have collected cameras for many years, and the display cabinets in my office have long been full of photographic detritus. Subject to many clear outs, the remaining equipment is an eclectic mix of stuff I have used over the years, or antiques I’ve taken a shying to.

My favourite  by far is the Baby Rolleiflex I bought on Ebay. Made in the early 1960’s, it is an example of great engineering. With precision wind on and a shutter that has a satisfying click, it is a world away from the clunk most SLR’s (digi or film) seem to have. A boy’s toy maybe, but it works as well now as it did when it came out of the factory! And it takes great pictures.

The biggest problem is getting film. 127 is a format which is basically obsolete, with just a few manufacturers producing small batches of colour or black and white stock. I’ve used 200 ISO colour negative made by Maco – a C41 film which did produce good results. But I did have a problem with one batch, where the backing paper was sticking to the emulsion – not through the whole length of film, but enough to lose several frames. And the spools tended to be fractionally too wide, meaning it was best to use an old metal spool in the take-up chamber to prevent jams.

You can also buy new Kodak film that has been re-cut and rolled using old 127 backing paper. I bought some at B&H in New York, and was alarmed to see it boxed up as Kodacolor X, a film last manufactured in 1974! The technician who processed the film was fairly cool with the C22 process label too – a disaster in the making for a modern processing machine had it been accurate.  So not for the faint hearted!

You need to be keen to use a Baby Rollei, but the images do have a ‘look’. Due to the erratic nature of the film supplies, it has now been retired to one of the top shelves in my camera cabinet! But I think I might consider a classic Rolleiflex at some point – 120 film looks as if it will be here for a while longer.

Empire State Building, New York

Empire State Building, New York, from the junction of Fifth Avenue and East 33rd Street, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

Brooklyn Bridge in New York

Brooklyn Bridge in New York, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

Central Park

New York Skyline form Central Park, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

View of Flatiron Building, New York, from Madison Square Park in Manhattan, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

Brooklyn Bridge in New York, taken with a Baby Rolleiflex

Empire State Building, New York

Empire State Building, New York, from the junction of Fifth Avenue and East 33rd Street, taken with Baby Rolleiflex

Some of the above images are available from Millennium Images

Garden and flower photography workshop

10 years, 2 months ago news, photography 1

For the last two years I have run various workshops on garden and flower photography, for both groups and individuals. On Sunday 2nd May this year, I teamed up with fellow Gardeners’ World photographer Jason Ingram, to host a course at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath.

We wanted a friendly atmosphere, so kept the whole day very informal. We discussed the equipment we use, as well as sharing some of the tips and tricks used by garden photographers. In the afternoon we ran a practical session, using a still life, to demonstrate the maxim, “Keep it simple.” With just a fabric background and a home made reflector, we shot the photos you see here. 

Lilac vase


clematis montana in vase


We also had a critique session, where we discussed the photographs brought to the course by the students. It was very interesting to see how Jason and I saw the images from different viewpoints and made different suggestions on how the work might be developed! 

The feedback we got suggested that everyone attending the workshop enjoyed themselves and felt they had gained valuable experience. As a result, we will be taking another course on 26th September.

The Digital Economy Bill – Update

10 years, 2 months ago news 0



stop clause 43

“Clause 43 was dropped from the Bill yesterday. Following further reflection, the Government will aim to reintroduce measures along similar lines when an opportunity arises in the new Parliament.” – Stephen Timms, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; Financial Secretary, HM Treasury –  [from a letter dated 8th April 2010]

A short update – the controversial clause 43 has been removed from the Digital Economy Bill described in the previous post. The problem has not gone though, so pressure still needs to be maintained. When a new Government is formed it could reappear.
For more information, see  www.stop43.org.uk

The Digital Economy Bill – Clause 43

10 years, 3 months ago news 0





The Digital Economy Bill is on the verge of being rushed through to the statute books before the general election later this year. It is a wide ranging bill, obviously aimed at regulating the digital economy – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

But it has a big flaw. Clause 43 would allow the use of “Orphan Works” – photographs, illustrations and other artworks whose owners cannot be found.

Originally intended to allow non-profit organizations to make use old archives, many corporate bodies have realized that with clause 43, there is a huge amount of money to be made with ‘unidentified’ work.

From the www.stop43.org.uk website:

Clause 43 says that if someone finds your photograph, wants to use it and decides that they can’t trace you, they can do whatever they like with it after paying an arbitrary fee to a UK Government-appointed “licensing body”. You’ll never know unless you happen to find it being used in this way, in which case you should be able to claim some money.

There’s more. Clause 43 also introduces “Extended Collective Licensing”.

This means that if someone finds your photograph and can trace you, they still don’t have to contact you for permission to use it. They can go to a UK Government-appointed “collecting society” and ask them instead. They’ll pay an arbitrary fee and be able to do whatever they like with the photograph. Your photograph. Again, without asking you first or paying what you would have charged.




Many MP’s have started to realize the Bill’s implications.  Austin Mitchell has tabled an Early Day Motion, asking for  it to be given a proper reading, rather than being rushed through in the last days of this Parliament. Let’s hope common sense prevails.

For more information, please visit: www.stop43.org.uk

19th century revisited – Photogravure

10 years, 4 months ago photography 2

A printing technique that has long fascinated me is photogravure, a black and white process developed in the late 19th century. Frequently seen in old books, the texture and tonality is beautiful, and very different to that you would achieve with silver gelatin printing. Often purposely dark and with lower contrast, the images may not suit everybody, but I was intrigued enough to attend a workshop recently.

With photogravure, an image is etched into a sensitized metal plate, which has been exposed to a large contact negative. The plate is inked and drawn through a press in contact with paper.  It’s not a particularly environmentally sound process, as the etching requires development in acid . But around 30 years ago, a new version was invented, using metal plates where images are etched into hardened polymer, and developed in nothing more than warm water. This new process is referred to as Photo Polymer or Polymer Gravure, depending on which side of the pond you are on.

Under the enthusiastic tutorage of Fiona Hepburn at The London Print Studio, I was taken through the various stages of the newer process with a small group of people. I was back in a darkroom for only the second time in ten years, so it was nostalgic as well as educational. It was great to operate a large printing machine again too. Though this one was different, a contact printer using ultraviolet light with the equivalent power of several dozen sun tanning beds! The original exponents of the process, such as Alvin Langdon Coburn, would have used the sun as a source of ultraviolet, with exposures lasting many hours. On dark winter days in London, this is not reliable, if not impossible – two minutes with contact printer is far more practical!

At the end of the day I inked up my plate and ‘pulled’ my first print in the huge printing press. Being a perfectionist, I probably reacted a bit like petulant schoolboy who had just scratched his favourite toy car, as there were a few dust marks around the edges of the resulting print! But after a few deep breaths, I realized that actually it was  a pretty good first attempt, as the overall image quality was fantastic.  A bit more care at the preparation stage will be needed, but with more experience I think I can use this process.

Hands - Paul Debois

Hands - Black and white polymer gravure or photo polymer print

The workshop also involved transferring illustrations onto the metal  plates, as many fine artists use photo polymer in their work. As a photographer, this came as a bit of a shock. The last time I remember drawing anything, I was 12 years old! But it was interesting to see how it was done. Honest conclusion? I think I’ll stick with photography!

experimental photo polymer print

Experimental photo polymer print

Chasing Rainbows

10 years, 5 months ago cars, photography 0
1964 Citroen ID 19 Safari with rainbow in background

1964 Citroen ID 19 Safari

Just before Christmas I started editing the hundreds of car photographs I took between 1989 and 1997 for a series of books. All classic cars, ranging from Austin 7 ‘Chummys’ through to rare Ferraris, it was interesting to see them again after they had been confined to a filing cabinet for many years.

During the process, I found images of my all time favourite car, the Citroën DS. One particular model was a 1964 Citroën ID 19 Safari,  captured in Yorkshire on a hillside, with a rainbow in the background. It had taken me 11 years to get this shot!

Spending much time searching isolated moor and coastal regions location hunting for car magazines, I was often battling against weather conditions not suited to any form of photography. During breaks in the weather, rainbows would often appear, but I was never in the right place at the right time to get a car positioned and cleaned before they vanished.

Until this particular shoot.  The job was scheduled for the next day and I hadn’t planned to do any photography as the weather was so bad, but the owner of the car was quite keen to show me around the area to find a location for the following morning. As we drove along a ridge from which he claimed there was a dramatic view, he pulled over. The rain had stopped, and it was still quite grey with a lot of cloud, but it was nice to get a closer look at the car.

As we chatted the inevitable rainbow appeared! A manic car cleaning session  ensued, and  I managed to shoot about 20 frames before it disappeared. Done without any help from Photoshop,  it was a satisfying moment –  I knew that I had finally captured this illusive image!

Citroen ID 19 Safari, 1964

Citroen ID 19 Safari, 1964

As the weather cleared we continued to work with the car and we were rewarded with a spectacular sunset an hour or so later. It was one of those lucky occasions where a significant part of a shoot had been completed in a couple of hours.

Alan Clark's Citroen DS23 Cabriolet - Custom built by Henri Chapron

Alan Clark's Citroen DS23 Cabriolet - Custom built by Henri Chapron

The last photograph is an indulgence, which I had to slip in! It is a Citroën DS23 Cabriolet which belonged to the late MP, Mr Alan Clark . Custom built by Henri Chapron on a 1973 DS23 saloon chassis in 1978, it is for me the ultimate Citroën DS! He even took me for a drive when I photographed the car at his home, Saltwood Castle,  in 1996 – with the roof down of course!

The photographs  were taken for  the book ‘The Original Citroën DS’ by John Reynolds.For more information on the whole series see Motorbooks, who took over from the commissioning publisher, Bay View Books, (now Herridge and Sons Ltd) and also Amazon, as several have been reprinted. The photographs will be available from the picture library Alamy and are currently being uploaded in batches as the original 6×7 transparencies are scanned.


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