Monday, 11 August 2014

Empire Strikes Back

From time to time we share our knowledge of literature, photography, film or any other form art. So when someone you follow and admire begins to share some literature, which is also accompanied by some of most prolific photographs of places, I have only ever heard of and not seen with my own eyes, well you begin to listen with ears pricked.

The context of the book is at first uncertain so I decide to look up the photographer, to get an idea of the person, I realise of course that the photographer is also published on Dewi Lewis Publishing, founded in 1994 its internationally known for its photography list.

I then investigate further and see a name I am familiar with after visiting the Open Eye Gallery, at Mann Island. That name is Charles Fréger he photographed a series of images that depict a link between man and beast and the cycle of life and that of the seasons too.

His work Wilder Mann is an outstanding piece of work, it focuses on the transformation of man into beast through the interpretation of traditional pagan rituals, these rituals differ slightly from region to region as do the images of the beasts.
© Charles Fréger

It reminded me of a conversation I had with British photographer Iain McKell, and the relationship between British identity and traditional beliefs. The conversation took place after meeting Iain at a seminar at Calumet photographic shop in Drummond Street, London.

When you view Iain’s works Beautiful Britain and The New Gypsies we begin to understand the link to identity and the way the people live, all photography is thus a documentary it is a portrait of life.

This style of photography has always had me hooked from the start; I guess it’s the learning process, the education of viewing another culture and learning from that experience through education and stimulation of ones intellect.

I like to think that is what drives me to progress further with my own photography, as I wish to produce much more work, work that will interest a future generation. Who knows it may become something much more than that. I also like to read other blogs too, though am the type of person who likes to censor what blogs I do follow or read, so I specifically choose something of which is relevant to the direction I wish to choose.

So if you’re into wildlife photography, you could follow blogs relative to that subject, so that you become more accustomed to that genre or style of photography work. It is the best way to interact with those you wish to follow.

Other books I found of interest on the list was one that Dougie Wallace had also shared on his own page, this book was relative to the identity of Britain and that of the Britishness that describes our tribe and associates that identity to the old empire, hence the title Empire, the book by British born photographer Jon Tonks is a remarkable collection of photographs that evoke so much emotion considering the current state of the empire. 
© Jon Tonks

Empire is a fascinating journey across the South Atlantic exploring life on four remote islands – the British Overseas Territories of Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands and St. Helena ­– relics of the once formidable British Empire, all intertwined through their shared history. - Christopher Lord

Now when I refer to the current state of the empire, I am of course referring to the possible independence of Scotland. Glasgow has recently enjoyed huge success with the commonwealth games. All these people from a wider colonial empire, and in some manner still representing a state of mind of a wider colonial empire whether it is from an Australian perspective or from an Indian.

It’s hard to think if you are only in your youth that Britain was once a huge empire that covered a quarter of the globes landmass. Since that time photography has documented so much and it is great to see that some British photographers, still think of Britain in such a way as to document its ever-changing face.

Which brings me on to the next piece of photographic literature and Dougie Wallace’s third book entitled Shoreditch Wild Life

The new book by Dougie is full of fantastic shots captured in the usual in your face style that has become Dougie’s inspiring, fresh, and evocative trademark. If any you follow his work you will know of his works including Road Wallah which is a fascinating look at the black and yellow Fiat taxis driven in what was known as Bombay now Mumbai, India.

The reason for this was the gradual phasing out for the new sleeker vehicles that would meet European Emission Standards. So those iconic cars had to be documented some how and so it was Dougie Wallace who takes up the mantle and thus creates an interesting look at the culture of Mumbai from a cab drivers perspective. 
© Dougie Wallace

With Shoreditch: Wild Life Dougie Wallace not only proves he’s here very much a street photographer, but a great photojournalist who has the inclination of capturing images that we can relate to in our own little mannerisms, we see ourselves in everyday life, those little nuances of humor we recognise in ourselves that seem to amplify, when captured at 500th of a second.

We begin to see time stop and these moments forever held with the incongruous and evocative style we have come to love from Dougie.

These photographs are very touching and quite dramatically so. If you have not seen his work I suggest you look at “Stags, Hens and Bunnies”. If you have ever been to Blackpool on a weekend for a night out or Stag or Hen weekend you will know how this is for so many couples across the UK and beyond. 
© Dougie Wallace

I myself am always bumping into Stags and Hens in Liverpool, Manchester, and London. I did a couple of trips around the United Kingdom last year for shots on my own book We The People I found Blackpool a great place to shoot as a street photographer, so if you ever venture north of Watford you're in for a great shoot.

Keep your wits about you, and you can progress onto greater things, one thought that always crosses my mind when I am shooting.

What I have learned from Dougie Wallace is be tenacious in your beliefs and you will be rewarded. The human condition opens up all possibilities, so many characters, and so many stories.

All the afore mentioned photographers have developed these skills and honed them to look for and capture the human condition, any gesture a couple hugging, a dog peeing against a piece of street furniture, a cabbie shouting. 

All these things add to the everyday drama unfolding in our lives.

Until the next time, keep clicking. 


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Street Photography Now...

A couple of weeks ago on Flickr, I decided to join the group SPNC. Great groups of street photography enthusiast’s people like you and me who have a love of photography. Although to be honest there are some photographers on there who exclusively just shoot street photography, there are some who shoot random style. 

These random style photographers do have a mind of their own when it comes to this kind of work, they look for multiple layers, negative space in certain locations. Those of you who know me know that too, I enjoy photographing geometry or geometrical shapes in certain situations.

Whilst my main sort of photographic composition, usually involves focusing on triangular and linear compositions, other photographers seem to have the knack of layering with shapes and others combine light and shadow into their work.
I have come to realise something lately, when I look at a past master photographers work, the question which is beginning to form in my mind is this: Is there work still relevant in todays marketplace?

So I go through my list of photographers’ books that I do own or have read their bibliography at least viewed some of their portfolio.  So I typically looked Robert Doisneau and AndréKertész, two very different styles although both shot black and white photographs, Kertész concentrated more on the artistic style of black and white photography photographing a lot of subjects.

Where as Robert Doisneau photographed a lot of street photography, he also shot similar locations to Henri Cartier-Bresson. He focused on shapes, however they’re a lot of photographs shot by Robert Doisneau that one could argue they are actually staged photographs in the street. Indeed one of his most famous photographs Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville)”, was staged although the photograph is not as iconic as Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Sailor kiss on V.E Day it is none the less a fascinating image.  

It is also surrounded by such a huge controversy in today’s street photography ethics; some photographers do not like the use of staging a street shot. Certainly in the case of Doisneau it lead to court battle.
However interesting debate does ensue in this case: 

What this has lead to is me asking more questions about other photographers works, after all those who have studied photography have at some point done some work in a studio.
So does that mean all the past master photographers staged their iconic and most memorable photographs, possibly to some extent.

The irony of it all though for me is if am serious about creating art or am I serious about creating staged art? It’s a dilemma to stage a photograph and make it look as though it is not staged or to shoot some street scene and await something to happen some story to rear its head in such a manner that it does not look contrived.

Such was the dilemma I found to create a photograph that was staged. I decided to try and create a photograph with a couple but not like Doisneau or Eisenstaedt, and re-create the kiss.

I wanted to shoot something like a couple pointing in opposite directions sort of like to imply a couple who don’t ask for directions but use the hands and gesture to each other which way they should go.

What this then states it that all couples eventually go their separate ways? It’s an observation and yes this was a lighthearted one but it is true nonetheless.

If you read the Eric KimStreet Photography blog, you will know that Eric is always focused on what past photographers have taught him by his own observation and study of those photographers.

Eric comes across, as some one who like me, is just as passionate about photography as you and me. This is great stuff okay I admit not every photographer I know owns a Canon 5D or a Leica M for example, two separate pieces of kit on so many levels. The 5D makes a great photojournalist camera, for street photography though it is not practical. 

If you look at the likes of Gilden, Mermelstein, and Meyerowitz they all use Leica cameras, owning a Leica does not make you a great photographer, capturing great moments in time, makes you a great photographer or in the words of André Kertész, it makes you an eternal amateur.

Incredible to think that such a man would consider himself in this way, when his works are still highly regarded today, but is that because to know photography, we have to understand the history of photography.

Yes of course it is, but if we fast forward fifty years or so, and we look at the works of Eggleston and Herzog, we can see that their influence are so far removed from what Kertész was shooting at the height of his career.
They relied heavily on the use of colour and shapes to inform of the world of an art form, which would open your eyes to a new perspective.

The use of colour has greatly influenced me I too have a fondness for colour film and colour digital however with digital I get my instant fix of viewing my images once I get home. Though with film it is a different process and that process of producing a print is one that will stay with you forever once you process your first roll and then produce a series of prints.
A few street photographers combine this art of splicing together a few prints juxtaposed against each other, which is the focus of the next instruction on SPNC.

So why not take a look and get involved, you may remember I talked about the photographer Ray K. Metzker and his combination of splicing together these composites, his works would focus on light and shadow, he would over emphasise the subject matter in such a way that makes it abstract, the overall composition would be focused on shapes depicting a story which included some human element.

Not always did it feature a human element but he concentrated on the geometry of linear, triangular and curves, at differing angles to give a very artistic new wave of interpretation of street photography.

What I would suggest is to look at a series of works by these photographers, then implement it into your own work.

Practice these techniques; look for the groups on Flickr.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Which Way Is the Front Line from Here The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington...

As a passionate photographer, I felt the need to share my thoughts on working photographers particularly those who unquestionably devote their interests in the human condition of rights. I watched the film by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington entitled "Restrepo" and am going to be watching the sequel Korengal.

The title of this post above is the film about the life and time of Photographer, Filmmaker, and Human Rights Activist Tim Hetherington. He was born in Birkenhead and studied at Oxford, from the film you get to see his generosity and his belief that people, no matter what your colour, creed or nationality. We are all connected.

I like the warmth that the statement and thought process brings, I am a photographer whose interest in photography and social documentary will hopefully have such a rewarding career and life as Tim Hetherington’s in this chosen vocation.

We know through history that photographers who take up this route of or rather this genre of the medium become hardened to some degree, however they are not without some form of self-imposed torture. The photographers mind in this context is to get the story without question, the reason because we must inform and educate.

The loss of many a journalist is always a sad and tragic loss, however what they leave behind is a legacy to all photographers and journalists alike. 

So is that a plausible reason to continue to follow this field of work, this genre of photography?

Yes, of course it is. I can remember the mandate to which I signed a declaration to join the United Nations Forces. Whilst I was they’re often patrolling the so-called buffer zone.
One day in fact the month of August 1996, was a perfect example of how protest leads to death. The Greek Cypriot Solomos Solomou was fatally wounded by gunshots to the head.
He attempted to take down the Turkish Cypriot flag.

This took place during the protests it wasn’t the only incident to have taken place during 1996.

It was my first real insight into how protest works for the greater good; the Greek Cypriots believe that the Turkish forces do not have a right on Greek soil.

It was not the first death I had witnessed though, however it did make me think that this person truly believed in what he was doing.

This was another reason for wanting to get into journalism and in particularly photojournalism. Witnessing events like this I felt powerless even in a UN uniform, holding a rifle.

Though I spotted many cameramen, men and women holding cameras some 35mm others medium format documenting this event-taking place. I remember viewing the images the following day in the newspapers.

The story unfolding actually impressed me; this was my perspective on this world. When I eventually left the UN forces, I came back to the UK however I worked for a company in the fashion industry and really didn’t give photojournalism much thought, I still took images now and again, but nothing worth reporting.

That was until I met an Australian guy named Sean he was adventurous and so upbeat it was hard not to like him! We became close often going on climbing trips on our days off, I took him to places like Brighton too.

It was fabulous and this reignited my love of photography once more, I took a couple of street shots, and met so many people. We decided to go back there and work for the summer. Sean showed me some places he had visited in his life, I was totally enthralled by these wonderful sights, and he had worked his way from Australia to the UK via Thailand and India.

The photographs were amazing and so too was the diverse culture I was viewing in the images. Though it was many years before I would go to the Asian continent I opted for the American continent instead, it was great and I could see many people photographing the sights, but this was not street photography.

I then witnessed the aftermath of 9/11 when I visited ground zero; I was almost overwhelmed with the scale of destruction that had taken place.

Seeing it on the television was almost like watching a Hollywood movie, it did not seem real but when I found the very battered remains of the Koenig Sphere in Battery Park in 2003, it all seemed so very obvious.

Having later travelled to Asia, and gaining the dizzying heights of the Annapurna region, of the Himalayas I came back knowing that I wanted to photograph not just for me but for others. I wanted to become a photojournalist.

 So just like in the spirit of Tim Hetherington, I want to make a difference the right way. The way of informing and educating people about what is truly happening in the world raising awareness of the very fact of war, famine and disease.

This may sound all a bit grim, however that is not what I want share, because they’re many stories out there that also come positive from these events. Tim was a great humanitarian a peoples champion and that is the way, we should remember him.

Here is the film am sure you will enjoy the kindness shown in the film by the photojournalist Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros who also lost his life believing in the principles of journalism.

I would like to thank the makers of the film, Tim Hertherington and Sebastian Junger their efforts are greatly respected in the making of this film.