Monday, November 29, 2010

English Defence League protest in Preston

This past Saturday the English Defence League (EDL) formed a protest in Preston City Centre, which was  countered by the Unite Against Fascism (UAF). This of course created a huge Police presence, where the forces called in other Police from surrounding areas.

I thought it would be a good chance to get some front line pictures. I had no opinion about this protest, although the 'fear' factor that the local media caused was annoying. They kept telling people to stay out of the city centre, and repeating that it could be dangerous. I think at one point I was out numbered by Police, and the shear presence was overwhelming. If anything it was a day for crime anywhere outside of the city.

I thought I'd try and approach my pictures with Robert Capa's famous quote in mind, 'If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough'. So I decided to find the EDL and get close in the group. I managed to find a pub they had arranged to meet, and start from there. I did encounter a mixed reaction to my presence. I got told, 'f**k off you're not taking my picture' - to groups wanting pictures taken. I managed to get a good feel for what was going on, and if anything if I did feel slight anger I'd move on and find someone else to capture.

- On a personal note I do not agree with opinions expressed by others in these images. I merely attended the day from a reportage point of view - I'll post more on this day soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Calumet/Canon day

I spent my morning researching materials for a presentation due for a class. I did however attend the afternoon session for Canon and Calumets video techniques. I don't really think I have a need for this in my practice, however I felt it was a good opportunity to get some hands on; and more so ask the experts what their customers applications are.

When I did get into the studio a whole table of EOS1 Digital MK4 lay ahead of me, with a huge range of lens from 24-70 f2.8, 100mm f2, 200mm f2 and so on. We were given memory cards and sent of to shoot some video. I was in a group of four other photographers, one from the 2nd year, and two from the 3rd year. It felt quite strange as not many of us had shot video, and with our minds set to capture one image - capturing a whole moving image is completely different. However after some messing about we came up with some clips to edit.

The first thing that struck me about the footage, was that distinct quality (depth of field) where the background was completely blown out of focus. Then also seeing the clips running how smooth and distinct the colours looked. Audio wasn't bad either considering we didn't use an external mic.

I did however question how does this fit into a photographic practice? If I am a commercial photographer, why do I want to learn to shoot video?  What are the benefits of this technology for me? I did ask one of the experts on hand. I posed the question - 'why wouldn't I buy a good video camera and shoot that way?' - her answer summarised was as follows, 'lens choice, the ability and range available. A camera that you already have and know.' - again it didn't really sell it for me.

So who uses this at present? From talking to a sales rep. from Cambo he explained that one client in the North West shoots Weddings. During his shoot he'll capture a short clip - say people talking, cutting a cake' - this is possible as the camera will switch between video, and still within a second or so. He then puts together a disk, with all images and the short video clips. The result? his clients love it. - Okay so I can see an application here. I'll not argue the usefulness of it, but it is a selling point - and could be the reason why you'd get the booking over another photographer. Personally speaking - I can't multi-task switching from one to the other is impossible.

So the next application? still product shots. Say we have food shots, the meal is brought hot to the table. A picture is captured, with steam in view. However quickly a switch to video and we can record a shot clip - edited and formatted for you tube, and you have on-line content. Why not feature that on your restaurants website? Okay I can see I'm getting somewhere now.

But finally a product that stood out in my mind was this. A Cambo X2-PRO (link for video)

Essentially it's a view camera movement for your D-SLR. The way it works is the bag bellows sits between your body, and then a lens is attached (best bit follows) you then have all the movements you need to correct converging verticals, shift focus, use the Scheimpflug plane of focus to gain a flat perspective on angled products. All in it's a great tool. The best part, well aside from it fitting a D-SLR it's the fact you can use a variety of lens from other camera. For example in this image a Hasselblad is attached. The way this is so great for a start no need for 5 x 4 camera, size and ease of use is so much better. The images are instant and exposure is easily adjusted. For example once the image is set, correctly adjusted why not shoot video? these clips can then be used by the client. How can you shoot a corrected image on video?

I have a friend from many years ago. He picked up on this video-DSLR years ago. He has his practice based in video edit and production. At the conception of this technology he was very excited, and now the more I see of it. The more I am understanding why. I'll not run out and trade in my camera, I'm a photographer. I see in that 'decisive moment' I strive to capture that one image. This however is another tool, an area which I can see some exploitation. I'm not an adopter of this at the moment - but perhaps as time moves on I think I'll have a little more of an understanding. Until then I'll be calling upon my friend Dave - it's his bag and I'll shoot the stills!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Painting with light

Last night after I finished work, I found myself driving back through the city centre (Preston) and came across these lights. I knew I wanted to capture these, so tonight again after work (9.30PM) I returned with my camera and recorded this event.

 I believe what is happening is that across the country? they are painting buildings with light? I'm only questioning this as I was approached by a few couples that had been out looking at them. I was asked, 'was this on the TV this morning where they are making buildings fall apart with light' - I wasn't sure,but another couple told me they'd seen approx. 6 other building in the city centre light this way.
 So these are the lights covered in these waterproof domes, and supplied by generators for power.

 It was at this point I knew I'd capture light trails from car headlights. But what I didn't expect was some girls pass by offering me pictures of their chests... this is another project in the making. Idea pending from the past!
 This time another site. In Winkley Square Preston. The building wasn't that interesting so I turned the camera on the street.

And then finally on the sky. All of this again gives me ideas and ways I would like to explore light at night and in more diverse aspects of photography

Glass pt.3

Just some more images to add to the expanding project. No real progression here just some quick snaps

 You can see how these images have been constructed by following the sequence they've been taken. I'm still enjoying exploring the abstract nature and how they are produced. This might well morph into my contemporary modern dance piece (link). looking at light and dark created by human and nature. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Changing Role of Government in the Arts

So this week I'm catching up on reading and looking for references to cite in forth coming papers/assignments due in the next month or so. One of the papers we had to read was this one, 'The Changing Role of Government in the Arts' - 'Changes in Public Policy under Reagan and Thatcher' it's taken from the book 'Privatising Culture' by Chin-tao Wu.

Although I've not found references that I can use yet in my current projects, I did take something profound from it. I'll be the first to confess that I've always considered myself a 'Tory' - certainly from the days of Thatcher. Although voting in each election, I've not always followed that way and in fact the last was not for the current administration. Rather ironically when I lived in America I followed the Republicans (Conservatives in the USA), and rather controversially was a registered Republican in the state of Kentucky. I never make a point of expressing my political lean publicly, like ever it falls under that taboo umbrella of religion and many other (lets not talk about with friends subjects).

However in this case reading this it really makes me disband any allegiances I have what so ever. The premise of this paper reports the facts of Privatizing the Arts. Like many other areas the government chose to make budget cuts in, this was hit the hardest. Reagan's idea was to start offering pre-tax profit cuts to big business if they donated, or sponsored the arts; thus moving the expense from the public, to the private sector. He did this rather well, and held many fund raisers and created a corporate culture of Arts spending and supporting. This doesn't sound that bad, but once then the business look for revenue by either buying or selling art, or indeed dictating and restricting the enjoyment then it suffers. Like any US - UK government changes one follows, and indeed Thatcher followed suit.

One example with rather amused me was when Peter Palumbo (then Chairman of the Arts council) was looking to seek funds, ventured into cash in on the collection of our Art. He didn't loose sight of the market value of the collection, tried to sell a Francis Bacon painting (est. £3.5 million) but didn't, this wasn't due to the fact it was public property, or an insult to a 40 year collection. Just the fact the proceeds would have gone to the Treasury. A rather Ironic twist on the whole Privatizing cultures that had been developed.

I suppose all of this is just a small piece of a huge picture, something I'll never comprehend. What it does leave me feeling is dishearten and numb to what a mess our countries are making of our society. In terms of debt, which is where all of this comes from. Then we can paint a simple picture. If I had a leaking roof, I wouldn't start in the basement. I wouldn't replace the carpet, taking it up putting a cheaper one down. I wouldn't start by re-plastering the ceiling above, nor replace that carpet above. Or indeed the ceiling above that and so on. I'd climb onto the roof of the house. I'd find the hole and fix it. I wouldn't look at moving the house to a country where it doesn't rain. Or fix a plaster (band aid) over the hole, I'd make a proper full on attempt at it. SO why, why do we not look at the 'World Banks' and start looking at the top of house, see if we can find the holes there. I am being too simplistic or ideal?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chronicle of Summer (1960)

During one of yesterdays lectures we studied 'Chronicle of Summer' a film by Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch. It was of the period of Observational Cinema - certain style of documentary film making. Refers to film movements 40-60 early ’60 cinema verity - in USA direct cinema. Slightly different - Cinema Verity - against documentary as propaganda. As it came from WW2 - fed up with the War movements, Germans, Russians even Americans, documentary was about the opinions. ’45 onwards looking at ways to engage, ways we would explore the world, rather than being told the way it was.

They looked to search for a new freedom of making documentary. R. Frank, J. Kerouac the restless spirits, what they tried to do get away from the tag. Line. Robert Franks - started to get away from the anchor of the tag line. Walker Evans did this in (let us now praise famous men (soon to read) and it helped photography get recognized as an Art

To Anchor images is the way through text. (J.Berger) - Photographers in 1920-30’s visual images spoke, then sent to editors they’d add a tag line. How the the linguistic message is repressive to the photographers creative nature.

The old documentaries of before had a commentary - acted like the tag line. ‘The voice of God’ (voice over) - the correct no other way. i.e. This is man walking over the ice plane.

Film makers trying new techniques get away from telling the way people wanted to. 16 mm camera after the war, lots of film so they got to buy cheap and play.

Then the Italian neo-realism (fiction films) after WW2 make narrative fiction films, all made on location. If you make a film about film about Rome go to Rome, then rather than actors use real people. Some times used famous people. Emphasis on the everyday. Incredible focus on the normal boring everyday life things - waking up, boil a Kettle, smoke then drink coffee. - Not a novel - basic emotions. Take as it source the texture of everyday life. 1940’s inspiration to photographers, and film makers. Inspired people interested in realism - how can they show the mundane things for so long. All about small details.

In France Cinema Verity got nearer to the real world. ‘cinema truth’ just films people - rather then make them act just films what happens. Direct Cinema in America, much like the fly on the wall. Made a film on mental ‘Titicus follies’ - by Fredrick Wiseman, force feeding, beating mental patients. Just following someone and taking pictures.

Cinema Verity is provocative. Wiseman made very long films, rather than using edits thought they’d cut out the truth. They set up the subjects to talk about things, and see what happens. “Chronicle of a Summer” - made my Jean Rouch, and Edgar Moran. The everyday life reader, project he did on a French village - rolled with reality. They got closer to get on with what was happening around Paris, 1960’s. French atrocities dividing the public, Algeria conflict - soft racism seeing what happens by putting the people together. They kept stopping the film, and got people to watch the film and evaluate how they feel and how it talks about the subject. Good bad etc. Reflective documentary. Observation and reflective nature. 

For myself on a lighter level the film just reflected on everyday life, despite the supposed undertones of the Algerian conflict. And indeed when they confronted an couple of Africans, to a Jewish (not known at the time) lady, she expressed she wouldn't date an African although she enjoyed their dancing. To me this wasn't a racist statement, in was just a matter of fact for her. But then Morin or Rouch expressed they'd look at the woman's arm. They of course had taken offense that merely French people on a whole, enjoyed Africans dancing and nothing else. At this point upon her explaining her tattoo was a Jewish mark, along with her concentration camp number, they fell silent. Perhaps this could have been considered a racial statement, but the format and the overall format of the film lent otherwise.

In so many ways what was shown of Parisian life in the 1960's has not really changed today. At the end of the screening we were asked, 'could you make a film like this today' ?? from my own opinion I don't think you can. We have been polluted with some many docu-soaps and fly on the wall, that we are now a culture of the X-factor, Big Brother show... we all deserve our five minutes of fame, indeed Andy Warhol predicted this "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."  way back in the 60's. SO by the nature of this style of film making, people are too keen to become the next celebrity and the element of truth is far too complicit and contrived. Maybe I'm wrong and perhaps we would see a great deal of honesty, but for me the biggest revelation in the film was in it's conclusion. This was where they gattered all the subjects together, then screened the movie. Once it was over they were asked what they thought, some were moved, others disgusted. This was a great moment in a reflective practice, and something I am looking to employ in my latest project to be completed before Christmas this year. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Glass pt.2

I've been given more thought to my Glass project (link) although it's something that is in the process of exploring I still find images from time to time.

 I was reading some material set my John Atkin, 'Photography and Sociology - by Howard S. Becker'. When I found this exert of interest.

"To be sure, something real has to emit light rays in order to produce an image on film or paper, and whatever is real that is emitting light rays where they can go through the lens will make some kind of image" 

But my question is what do we see, and how do we know it is real? Photography has always been the silent witness, never falters in recording what it sees. But do we see? to repeat the ever famous John Berger quote;

"The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled"

My question then extends to the thought of 'memory' contained within an object, do we see that for examples bricks composed of sand, rock compressed hold onto water, humidity, carbon, bacteria. I always find myself stopping and thinking of time. How many people have stepped on this stone, who lived in this house before me. I have a keen bent towards history and enjoy discovering elements of the past, trying to feel the empathy of those who lived before me. This is something that I will be following up in another piece of course work, in the form a photo essay. I'll post the final draft as a blog once it's completed. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Walker Evans exhibit London

I was fortune enough to view an exhibition of Walker Evans prints from his American Depression collection, this was housed and exhibited in the HiGate Gallery, South Grove, London. only what seemed to resonated an old victorian village hall.

What was very special about this was being able to examine print quality, and feel the stories unfold as they've been placed in a certain order. One thing that struck me was the print imperfections, that we now would throw away in modern printing. Despite this the quality exuded from print, contacts made from 10 x 8 inch negatives (negative placed directly onto the paper surface). 

I also reflected upon a print titled 'Steel Mill and Company Houses, Birmingham Alabama, 1936'  It reminded me of stories I had relayed to me from men of that era living in Kentucky. They told me of mining days where communities and small towns had formed around mines. Many of the mine workers would rent houses from the mine owners. They had a system set up where they were not paid in US dollars, but in 'mine dollars' say for example the daily wage was 5 mine dollars, a daily rent would be 2 mine dollars, and more importantly the food, clothing, cigarettes all were sold in a 'mine town store' the prices fixed by the mine owner, so all the money they could ever earn was only worth the value controlled by the owner. These small towns eventually either crumbled or slowly developed away from these controlling factors. The unions came in and greater US government powers took play. However especially in Eastern Kentucky, many small mining towns still exist, now facing high levels of unemployment, drug addiction, unemployment and interbreeding.

Many of these images that I have seen also still play a part in small towns of today, the streets, layouts, even the building still exist. Small town churches that are in the middle of nowhere, long dirt tracks, and run down housing. So in some ways did the pictures of Walker Evans reach that far? The small town that I lived in the US was one that had an older generation, that of the time of Walker Evans study. It is still a 'dry county' where the sale and consumption of liquor is prohibited, in the words of one man, 'Morgantown wasn't a fit place for a woman to walk alone in' - referring to the fact people drank heavy, fought and cursed on the streets. Thus they never moved on from prohibition in the 1930's. I'm in no way citing this a reason why this small town never moved on, in fact it's conception was once born from industry in the area, and like many places today suffered once again from the recent depression.

On the whole the exhibition was excellent and just like viewing great masters paintings in major galleries, viewing photographic prints in the flesh, beats books hands down every time!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Katie Price part 2.

A tale to two tales.... well something happened that day which I thought was rather paradoxical. I had been up and down the line, photographed people from a distance then closer, and finally in a candid manner to get more natural looking shots. I then got talking to one of the press photographers, he was from the Lancashire evening post. He was very friendly and offered advise that we'd get a chance of taking Katie's picture, as she normally allowed a few minutes before the signing. Although this wasn't my aim, I thought I wouldn't want to miss out. I then went over and tried to start a conversation with the paparazzi - this was somewhat forced and I was looked at as an outsider. I didn't really care as I chatted to fans waiting, security guards and anyone else. I'd try and glean any information, and look at all angles.

Then suddenly I noticed these 'Pap' boys running down the side street following a silver BMW 7 series, this was it Katie's side entrance. It wasn't hard to figure out, and would it be a trick? as I charged in pursuit I fixed my SB900 to my camera, set it to manual high HZ for continuous shooting. I found myself blocked off by the press, so I held up my camera high and angled it down. Suddenly the door opened and out came her stylist, the security guard then barked, 'get back' - as we already stood some 8-10 feet away, I couldn't really get his attitude. Replies chanted 'we are back' - and 'how far away do you want us' (in a sarcastic tone) He looked p*ssed at us and gave a menacing stare (now glad of my barrier) I stood my ground and laughed, then suddenly a smiling Katie sprung out of her car, and with a blink of an eye - flash guns blazing she'd gone!
 I walked back and heard murmurs and looked at photographers reviewing images. It was great I'd come so close to seeing her, and experienced what no doubt these guys get on a daily hit. I separated myself from this group and slide inside the store. I thought I'd use my non-press status to get some candid shots. It was great seeing all the fans jumping, shrieking as news travelled that she'd arrived. I skulked around inside Waterstones avoiding the security - for some reason they'd got it in for any 'professional looking photographers' - using bullying techniques. I'd already be-friended one and was chatting away to her. Then suddenly we were told to leave, they said they were closing the store to all non-Katie Price customers? this was crazy and just like a pub closing time they herded everyone out. Slowly letting cueing fans filter through.
 When I was outside I found myself lining up with these photographers. I waited to hear the sentence to be delivered by the store. This girl had come out and said, 'Katie doesn't want any photographers in the store, and no pictures to be taken of her signing'. This of course made all these guys mad. I didn't care as I wasn't there to photograph her. I mean I could understand their frustration as many had travelled from as far as Southampton. The reaction was typical of paparazzi - 'well you as Waterstones look stupid, you don't get advertising. We will just write up a story saying Katie has a hizzy fit and closes book signing down'.

Once she'd left this lad came along. She wanted to know what was happening. Again aloof the photographers ignored her questions. But I didn't and as she asked everyone to take her picture, I though yeah sure. So I did.
 I guess the difference was that these guys had to get a picture. The sole aim was to capture an image of Katie Price, then sell it to make money and earn a living. For me the real story was the fans and the energy that the event carried. Seeing how people reacted, the excitement, the waiting (some since 6.30AM) that was the real story, reactions, people touched by an idol to themselves.
The Irony was to this whole tale, I spoke to that same lady who delivered the news to the paparazzi. She explained that the reason why Katie had changed her mind, was due to her arrival being attacked my photographers. So by their very own actions they killed any chance of that illusive picture. And in response to this they will print stories of retaliation, thus fuelling media/celebrities love hate relationships. I will admit I was a small part in flash guns blazing - but really for one day would you not want to try?