Cutlass light


I’ve begun rummaging through my flickr sets to knock them into some sort of order. Deleted a whole set and half way through tweaking some others. Also creating a new set which is an edit from a brief phase of shooting in November outside Harrods. I found an intensely bright display squeezed in alongside one of the Knightsbridge tube station entrances. There were several small, church like windows underneath the darkness of the green Harrods awnings, advertising Chanel perfume. And the light was just beautiful.

frown-smile tiger girl girl standing chanel

In retrospect, in the process of reviewing the images, I realised I was interested especially in the women – mostly because of identifying with them. At first it was the light and just this abiding interest in the seductive power of window displays that motivated me. But something more has started to emerge. It’s to do with a feeling of intimacy in the pictures. I had a go at describing it in a submission that I sent through to fLIP magazine for their Spring issue on the theme of ‘Closer’:

“Get closer” is a mantric phrase for street photographers. It  brings to mind the slam in your face, flash closeness of Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden. But there can also be a gentler closeness. The three to four feet kind. One more suggestive of a tacit intimacy. It’s a mirage of intimacy that’s almost tangible.

Everyone and everything is just out of reach, connected by the filaments of a ragtail spiders web of common humanity and the seduction of flashy merchandising.

Although shopping is an absorbing pastime (even a thrill), it’s rarely venerated. Shops seem to represent slavery to greed, waste and homogeneity. The great cathedrals of consumption.

But I love the dazzle of the marketplace. It’s like a crazy festival where people are caught together in the relative intimacy of some sideshow of shared experience.

fLIP is distributed at the Photographer’s Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Serpentine Gallery bookshops amongst others (predominantly in London). It’s very well designed and edited, so it would be a real thrill for the submission to be accepted.

Saturday Night Risk Factor


I wondered if I’d lost my nerve on Saturday night.


What? Who? Me?!!!!

But I kind of warmed up and it was a giddy rollercoaster through a cascade of lights on Oxford Street arcade to the Wonderland where I met the Picker.


What will you call it? What do you think I should call it? The Picker. OK. What’s your name? Shadow. Yeah, call it Shadow.

But I nearly got decked on Oxford Street and I wondered what the hell I was doing.


Raised a hand.

You know, if you’re going to pick on people, it only seems fair to go for the hard looking perps as well as the daffy chaps.

So I wondered what I was doing. Was I picking on people? It’s the trouble with the flash. In some ways, you put yourself right on the line. You make yourself as vulnerable as people might feel they are when you ‘shoot’ at them. Because really you can’t hurt them with a flash of light on a street that’s a bristling with Christmas lights and security cameras. But they may not see it that way.

A lot of people don’t even notice strangely. Some are thrilled. Some are indignant. Just the same response as Chugger’s get I guess. Or Hugger Muggers (but they really are crims).

I want to photograph the craziness and the mesmeric thrill of the whole shoptastic charade. And that seems to mean flash. There’s part of me that gets hypnotised by the focus. And in that moment I don’t care anymore. I don’t care how I look (I land on my arse sometimes) I don’t care if I laugh aloud when Mr Red Tie dances on hot coals, or if everyone can see me standing on top of a bench for a better view.

Well, but I don’t pursue people. If they show they don’t want to be photographed then I leave it. It’s not the same as a paparazzi who just keeps on and on pursuing. I’m part of the experience. The drunk who lurches up to you selling you a red rose. Or a chugger who sticks you with a red nose.

But it’s thrills. To take a bit of a risk. A little risk in the grand scheme of things. To dance with anyone to talk to anyone. To ask for money from a stranger because you’re lost in a strange city. To live for a bit. Because always being safe is deathly dull and a half life.

Listen there was this woman who never went out. She was agoraphobic. Her family looked after her, bringing her things from outside. Eventually she never left her armchair. She lived a safe life. She died in her own excrement! In that chair.

Mainly my life is much too safe and cosy. Photography can be a cut through that.

The phoenix rises? Or is it just one of those pigeons with a gammy leg?

Word on the grapevine was that the London Festival of Photography formerly known as the London Street Photography Festival had gone bankrupt. Which was a hell of a disappointing piece of news.

What a terrific festival it was, especially in the first year. A quick look at the home page of the website and scroll down to ‘Photographers and Contributors’ reveals a fantastic array of portfolios from street photographers all over the world. The festival was very, very ambitious and passionate, with a genuine understanding and knowledge of street and documentary photography, and photographers and the issues they care about. For example, the Shoot Experience team behind the festival produced this excellent video which aimed to “test the policing of public and private space by private security firms”.

So, I hadn’t heard any confirmation of the rumour about LFP and was hoping it couldn’t be true… But yesterday, an email arrived in my inbox promoting the LFP’s international street photography award under another name (and organiser): Fotoura Internaional Street Photography Awards 2013. Which seems to confirm the rumour. However, I’ve email Brett Jefferson Stott, the festival director to ask him directly – if he replies, I’ll post the reply here.

[edit Saturday December 29 2012 message from Brett “yes the company went bust and the intellectual property sold to Fotoura so they may be resurrecting some aspects of the IP, exactly what I am not sure as I am not involved.”]

So what of Fotoura and the new award? The questions that come immediately to mind:

  • Who are the judges and are they respected?
  • What are the Terms and Conditions and do they respect photographers’ Intellectual Property?
  • What about the entry fee? How much and is it worth paying?

What about the entry fee? How much and is it worth paying?

I would say yes for the following reasons:

It will help promote street photography internationally and in the UK, especially in London. Which is where I live and work so I am biased – but I do really like that they’re going to exhibit a winner (by popular vote) from every country that is represented (so if you come from a tiny under-represented country you’re in for a good chance of being in a London group show!).

Blurb are still supporting it, so you can’t lose – you get a book worth what you pay in entry fees.

The first prize is generous, including £2,000 cash and a fancy point-and-shoot wifi camera.

Entry is half price before 1 January according to the email announcement (and you can update your entry later).

Who are the judges and are they respected?

David Gibson and Peter Dench – both very respected street photographers (and probably both thought of as very down-to-earth hard workers who put in the miles); John Maloof, famous (OK within the niche of SP) for his purchase and promotion of the Vivian Maier archive and Richard (Rich) Garner, founder of Fotoura (fair enough).

What are the Terms and Conditions and do they respect photographers’ Intellectual Property?

The answer looks to be an easy and confident YES. The T&Cs look very favourable and include the following: “Fotoura supports Pro-Imaging’s Bill of Rights [] to protect the right’s of photographers.”  Interestingly, they also include a detailed specification (21) against photo manipulation which includes the words “You MAY NOT add or remove elements from your photographs.” Which sets the competition firmly within the ‘traditional’ street photography ethos.

I get the impression from the T&Cs and ‘definition of street photography‘  that this competition is not looking to blur any boundaries. You know where you are with it and it’s not trying to be all things to all people. Candid, and not staged or manipulated. I’m not against either of the last two, but I think it helps so set clear parameters. Some people feel that perhaps the original London Street Photography Festival lost it’s way when it expanded and dropped the ‘Street’. That may be true, as the zeitgeist seems to be many people responding to greater and greater choice by becoming more and more focussed on niche areas.

The ‘hometown’ theme is cutting straight back to essentials:

“The point is not to capture the things that are obvious or clichéd markers of a particular place, or even necessarily to capture those subjects that define a place to you personally; rather, we hope you will take this opportunity to find new ways of looking at familiar things, and to show how the camera has facilitated your engagement with these subjects.”

FAQ ‘Can I submit my holiday photos?’ Answer: “No…”

So I’m in and I’m going to enter now.

Well, after I’ve had my breakfast.

Erm brunch.

Saatchi Online – I’ll give it a go

I decided to try out

It’s an online gallery ‘shop’ associated with the Saatchi Gallery, which lets artists sell work direct to the public for a 30% commission.

Anyone can upload their stuff and it’s free (apart from the commission of course).

I had noticed the site a few years ago – I checked out the parent site when the Saatchi Gallery moved near to my house and from there, I noticed the free ‘open to all’ social section of the site. It was quite badly designed, and sloppy. Technically things didn’t work too well and it just seemed like a rather unshaped and unmoderated stream of content uploads including video, events and random art works. So although I was impressed that they’d decided to have this branch of the website, I wasn’t tempted to use it. It just didn’t look professional enough.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised recently to see the whole ‘free gallery’ setup revamped and rebranded as SaatchiOnline.

It has a clean and simple design with the option to browse images by genre or search by keyword. But there are two things that really changed my mind about getting involved with the site. The first is that they’re actively and very constructively promoting it and the second is that they’ve introduced flexible methods to highlight the best work that’s being uploaded.

The 100 curators project utilises a piece of functionality very similar to ‘Galleries’ on Flickr. It’s called ‘Collections’. So basically, you can go through the site adding images to a Collection that you create, and then you can share links and promote the Collection. To hammer this home and raise the game, Saatchi Online invited 100 respected curators from around the world to each curate one collection over a 100 day period. This was well promoted and obviously kept up the profile of the site for three months. Not to mention giving all the artists on the site a chance to be noticed by serious curators. There’s a nice feature here on Cool Hunting about it.

I like the way there’s still this mixture of typical social media naivety on the site, with some artists pleading brazenly for their work to be viewed “nice collection please look my portfolio thanks”. And at the same time, you’ve got artists who’ve been collected by Saatchi and others uploading their work on the social site too. So unknowns can sit alongside ‘names’.

On the topic of views… very paltry views having uploaded about four of my pictures so far: around 10 in two weeks : )

BUT I’m not to be daunted. I think that’s typical of social media sites including Flickr. You have to get involved and put some work in. You have to hang out a bit. It’s not just about people looking at your own work. With that in mind, I’m hoping to get some friends from Flickr involved. It would work well to make collections of each others work for sale and promote that around to friends / family / contacts generally, especially before Christmas.

Here are links to a couple of really great photographers from Flickr who are using the site:

Caspar Claasen (Netherlands)

and Robert Bender (US)

Is the new wave a river?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and I’ve tried writing about it properly but I really struggle with writing. I tend to knock out ideas fairly easily on flickr threads, but they’re easy as they’re like chatting. Somehow, I wish I could write like Joerg Colberg. Here’s an inspiring example in an article on Conscientious Extended, called Photography and Trust

Anyway, this thing I’ve been thinking about – it’s that I believe people are immersed in experiencing photography in a completely new way.

Flow is the new way of viewing pictures. When we look back in retrospect, we will be able to see clearly that we’ve been swept up in a new wave. A new wave in our experience of photography. The new wave is the river. It is a river of photos online, uploaded to social networks like flickr or tumblr.

On flickr there is a stat on the ‘photos’ page, which I viewed one day in March this year. It said:

“there were 7,512 uploads in the last minute.”

That could be 450,720 per hour, which could add up to a cool 10 million in one, single day.

Nick Turpin writes with a kind of horror about this phenomenon, in his response to a review of Erik Kessels installation ’24hrs of photos’

He seems to feel suffocated and experiences the mass of images, not as a liquid form, but as:

“a huge democratic ubiquitous cloud of digital imagery available to all continually expanding outwards, blocking out the sun, bigger and more stifling with each new day, no longer individually observable images with their own qualities but an amorphous unedited mass no longer thrusting upwards with power and energy and direction but spreading out, copying, replicating and engulfing everything.”

Turpin sees the mass of images as the negative aftermath of a century’s explosion of creativity. It’s all over and we are suffering the fallout.

However, I can’t help feeling hopeful and joyful about this mass of production, because to me it’s a liquid form. I think it might be a new beginning. The sharing and exchange, not just of pictures but of knowledge; the flow and the easy access. A plasma from which new life emerges.

I don’t get bored or overwhelmed with the river of images, because the river is like life. It rushes past, containing trillions of essential moments. It’s mesmerising and like a stream, I can watch it for a long time.

So it’s a completely different way of experiencing images. It’s not a few select pieces hung on a gallery wall, or edited into a book. There’s as much space as people want to publish as many pictures as they like. In some cases, that does mean an endless stream of detritus floating and lightweight. But after a while you learn how to tap into the richest veins. You discover the most amazing personal diaries, edited but constantly fresh and striving for meaning on a day-to-day basis. You can see individual photographers learning and growing and expressing. You can see the world through their eyes. It’s like the most amazing undersea world of images. You can just dive in at any time and swim and swim and beauty and wonder, just flowes past for you to see and understand.

But I’m not sure that everyone either realises this is happening or accepts that it’s happening, or really appreciates it, even when they are immersed in it. The other day I read a post on flickr by photographer Mike Aviña entitled cleaning house, burning out the brush and it began:

“I just went through my stream and deleted a ton of crap. It felt good. I was amazed at how images I thought had some merit, after six months, looked like shite. I hope that in another year, two years I go back and delete even more. As I just begin to learn to see I am satisfied with less and I purge more.”

I can understand that he is striving to improve his photography. But I think it’s a mistake to treat a flickr photostream as an edited presentation. It’s an alive stream – your life’s blood in a way. So many of the serious committed photographers just don’t see that. To the extent that some have even deleted all their photographs from flickr and left it completely. Drained their pools dry. They’ve experienced a disillusion with social media. More on that in another post.

Photography is moments in time. We used to steal them and frame them and put them on a wall or in shoe boxes, where they would fade and collect dust.

But really, moments aren’t stolen any more, because they’re free and they’re shared. The shared moments are pumped into the tributaries and streams and feed inexorably into a dirty great river and then into a sea.

Paying for it

I had one of those weeks this week, when I just had loads of drive and energy.

I’ve been using a couple of street photography crit groups on Flickr recently, called Grit & Grain and a recent breakaway group Street Crit.

To participate, you do a five minute crit on each photo in the pool and then you submit a photo. Additionally, you mark each photo ‘ditch’ or ‘keep’. Once 10 ditches or keeps have accrued, the photo gets removed from the pool and a keeper ends up in a show pool. There’s usually up to ten pictures in the pool at any one time. Here’s an example of the system at work on one of my photos.

Funnily enough, the very first street photography group I was ever involved with on Flickr was the same format, but I quickly left it because people were very slow to add pictures and do their crits, which were rather short and pointless.

The same happened with the HCSP crit thread – the crits became ridiculously short. The thread is swamped with total beginners and everyone has to make a huge effort to take a deep breathe and say something constructive (kudos to the admins though, who’ve been keeping it going).

Well G&G and Street Crit are currently very lively groups. So if you post a photo, it soon gets a batch of reasonably well-considered crits (for the most part). Sometimes too many… If nine people like the photo and nine people dislike it, you can end up with eighteen crits mostly saying the same thing which is a bit overkill.

So they are good groups, but they have their problems. One is that the real expert photographers don’t take part (with one or two exceptions such as Justinsdisgustin). The really good photographers who take part in general Street Photography discussions on Flickr rarely ask for feedback on their work or give feedback on others work in public. It’s more the wannabes who want that feedback. The experts already have their own peers to get feedback from. On top of all this, some of the better photographers and the pros especially, are very frustrated with social networks right now. Because their photos get ‘stolen’ or misappropriated on other sites and just generally get consumed in an almost bulimic kind of way, with no structure in place for the photographer to be rewarded monetarily for their work.

This situation of disillusionment with social media and the way expert photographers have been leaving Flickr altogether – or withdrawing by deleting lots of their pictures – has been on my mind a lot lately. Not least because I miss listening to those guys points of view and I miss seeing their photos in my favourites. I’ve been trying to write an article about my experience of viewing pictures on Flickr for the past year – a positive experience – and how it contrasts with that disillusion which I’ve seen expressed in articles and discussions. It’s proving to be rather a large topic to grapple with. First installment coming soon though.

So I had seen two needs and I saw an opportunity to meet them both and bring them together. I’ve started my own group: Street Smart Marks Out of Ten. It hinges on peer-to-peer crits, but it has one key difference – periodically we’ll commission expert photographers to come and do crits for us (probably using a crowdfunding platform).

As well as that key aspect, I’ve tweaked the format a bit by having marks out of ten rather than ‘ditch’ and ‘keep’. This means that you never have more than ten crits on one picture; people don’t have to be confused or feel bad when their vote is borderline and the photographer can get a really accurate idea of how the picture is valued by someone. The group is invite only so we can avoid taking on people who’ve don’t really have any clue what street photography is yet.

In just a few days, the group has got going with 30 members and about six photos posted to the pool. On top of that, I have two expert photographers who have expressed interest and think it’s a good idea (though they’re a bit skeptical that people actually would pay for crits). I’m feeling really excited about it. I believe it’s really important for experienced photographers to be valued and for them to remain an active part of the Flickr community.


Spotted a fluorescent light display on the King’s Road. In the window of a Calvin Klein underwear shop.

I took about 400 photos over six sessions and the final session was the best (yesterday – Valentines Day!) I have about six more to upload to flickr, but this is one of my favourites.

I really wanted to catch a clashing colours red coat* right in the centre of the heart display, and I just caught her coming in from the left. I’d been mostly following people coming from the right because I wanted to include more of the shop. In fact, some of the shots I took yesterday (Valentine’s day… well who needs candlelit dinners when you can lurk outside underwear shops with a camera?!) I prefer because they have more context. The poster right in the background pulls you in a bit.

*It would have been rather good if one of the Chelsea Pensioners had passed by.

The threads holding up the heart work quite well, just catching the light.

There’s a socket in the wall which connects up her ear plugs and makes her look as though she’s plugged in.

Apart from last week when it felt like -10˚ in the shade, it was much easier on the Kings Road at 6pm than Oxford Street. One person every few seconds compared to hundreds every few seconds meant less clutter, less overlaps and less stress. In fact it was quite relaxing which was a relief.

I wonder if I shouldn’t have uploaded all my favourite shots onto flickr out of that 400 as it ruins the mystique a bit. But on the other hand, it shows more of what I’m trying to do with this which is more than just make eye candy.

Fever of flu fluorescents

Yeah, I was spelling it wrong for a long time. Florescent, flourescent. I stand corrected.

So I’m currently concentrating on about four projects and one of them is looking at fluorescent displays. It actually started in February last year at the Harvey Nichols store in Knightsbridge. I’d just started using flash and I saw some examples of work with a slow shutter speed that I liked. Especially Charalampos Kydonakis AKA Dirty Harry and Charlie Kirk AKA Two Cute Dogs . So I thought I’d try it and mix it up with shop windows.

This is the first picture that got me really interested. I liked the environment appearing to slice into reality.

Flash photography with slow shutter speed.

Loved the vivid colours and fine detail revealed by the flash.

There were some fluorescent sculptures on show at the Saatchi Gallery, so I decided to hang around there for a while and see if I could get anything decent. It was a bit more difficult to catch people in front of the work because they assume you’re taking a picture of the sculpture and hang back. Or they realise they’re likely to be in the picture and duck out. But I did manage a couple of interesting ones.

I like the pale colours in this. In post processing it seemed to work best with a slightly green tint left in it – perhaps because of her red hair. And I like the floating necklace and trailing wiring on the floor.

Woman blending with fluorescent lights at Saatchi Gallery

Man in front of coloured fluorescent lights at Saatchi Gallery.

I was hoping that fluorescents would feature in some shop window display somewhere in London this Christmas and I struck lucky: Selfridges. I consider their displays to be the best in London and it was good to be back where I started with this whole photography fever, a year before.

I went out for about nine sessions each lasting between two and four hours. I have to say I found it hard because of the sheer volumes. It’s the most crowded place in London and the crowds were sweeping around me, running over my feet. And very noisy. Almost to the point of culture shock. Rickshaw bells ringing, sirens, shouting, megaphones, Hare Krishna songs. You name it.

There was also this second level of street life going on that I quickly started to notice. Beggars (one woman with a baby in wooden swaddling clothes) and the classic street gamblers with little silver cups and a ball hidden underneath – they really drew a crowd.

Street gamblers outside Selfridges, Christmas 2011

The results of these sessions were quite exciting but also frustrating. This is one of my favourites. If only the guy had an expression as interesting as the girl.

Couple in front of fluorescent lights at Selfridges 2011

And the shop window clawing in a new victim. Or crowning him. It’s a bit unbalanced. I faded out the object on his nose, but it still intrudes too much…

Man blends with shop window Selfridges 2011

Girl blending into lights

Here is a link to the whole fluorescents set as it stand so far. Hopefully there will be more to come.

Last week on Tuesday night I shared a viewing of these at the Shoreditch satellite of the London Independent Photography group and people were quite excited by them. So that was encouraging. And also a big thanks to Gerard Nicolas who expressed his enthusiasm on flickr (especially appreciated as I really admire his work) and the Grit and Grain group for their thoughtful comments at the start.

Note: I’m going to try and write more frequent posts – perhaps shorter. I often have conversations in my head for the blog but they seem to be really long and complicated. So I will try to jot down thoughts in a more fluid way.

Ask Bruce Gilden the collective noun for Street Photographers

Bruce Gilden, the infamous Magnum street photographer from New York was shooting at the South Exit of Oxford Street tube station last week. So I suddenly came face-to-face with him on Monday as I turned out of the exit. Not surprisingly, a lot of street photographers love Oxford Street, so lots of people saw him and one or two chatted with him. I did say hello and I asked to shake his hand. I got the finger! I mean he put his hand in my direction, but it was firmly wrapped around the camera, and the flash in the other hand, so I rather embarrassingly shook one finger. It was silly but brilliant to see him. I was wearing a kind of photogenic hat, and I swear I saw his eyes frame me up for a split second – he was in shoot mode. Tweets flew around from @twocutedogs @sbuckton and @shuttertrip about him being there. I imagined him swamped by a gang of street photographers or whatever is the collective noun for them (us).

Here is a lovely film about Gilden:

The parts where he bosses the public around are very funny. He seems to have this uncanny knack of making people feel like he’s doing them the favour.

Zdenek Lesovsky (who works using a similar method to Gilden) was there last week and posted a set of photos afterwards that he made showing Gilden at work. My favourite is this one (sharing switched off so I can’t post it here) It’s not a portrait of Gilden, but I like the portrayal of his way of shooting. It seems to show the buzz of the moment and to a certain extent it’s a bit of a thrill for people to be photographed as though they were famous for a moment. They are just as important as celebrities to a street photographer. It also conveys (perhaps a bit more successfully than the film) how you can blend into the street when you’re taking pictures. Even when dodging around like Gilden with a flash. However, his style is undeniably confrontational.

All in all, it was a serendipitous week for me. I ‘met’ Bruce Gilden, won a tenner on the lottery and then I was looking through Nils Jorgensen’s photostream and I saw my own brother in one of his pictures! In a whole year of looking at thousands and thousands of street photos, it’s the first time I’ve recognised someone I know. Anyway it was extra good as Nils kindly offered to send my brother a complimentary print.

By the way, what should the collective noun for street photographers be?

Nick Turpin street photography workshop – review

There was a discussion on HCSP a few weeks ago about the merits of street photography workshops.

Nick Turpin

Nick Turpin with one of the workshop participants

Is there any point in doing them? Are they worth the money?

Marja one of the curators of the HCSP pool, wrote:

“Even if flickr and internet exist, you cant really compare anything online to the possibility of meet up with people in person.
To discuss, or listen to someone skilled and insightful will do something real for your photography.
There has been a lot of workshops around this summer, many organised by photographers well known by regulars here in the group and in my opinion people interested in this would take huge advantage of participating.
Discussing work in person is a must and cant be replaced by internet-forums.( Not even close.)”
I’m very independent so I tend to just go out and tackle things on my own. But after a year of that, and inspired by Marja’s words, I thought it would be a good idea to talk to someone, in person, who really knows what they’re doing.

Nick Turpin was hosting a street photography workshop at the School of Life, so I booked up. It was actually a lot cheaper (less than half the price per day) than the 6 day Guardian Masterclass that kicked off the discussion on HCSP.

Nick manages to be pretty focussed but easy going at the same time, which is a good mixture for getting along with a group of 20 different people. He’s also very articulate so he’s able to convey clearly his ideas and thoughts. I felt he was very generous with his time over the weekend workshop, as both evenings we finished late, what with the dinner on Saturday and heading for the pub on Sunday evening. The School of Life make a big effort to make their events sociable so they serve a tasty dinner at their headquarters (a shop on Marchmont Street near Russell Square).

In fact, they pepper the weekend with tasty treats like vodka cocktails and fresh coffee and muffins on Columbia Road market. Which you can’t complain about!

A picture I took at the British Museum location

The basic structure of the workshop was slides and talks plus six ‘shoot on the street’ assignments. We went to some photo friendly (I guess touristy) locations where it’s common for people to be carrying cameras and you don’t stand out. I think really, the workshop was aimed at people who want to give street photography a go for the first time. At least, it assumes newbies will be there. It may well have said that in the course description, but for some reason I jumped to the conclusion that everyone would be the same as me… In other words I assumed that it would be a workshop for street photographers rather than a ‘try street photography’ workshop.

I wonder if he got up in the morning and thought 'I'll dress like a fountain today'.

I can safely say it was well worth the money but I think perhaps a workshop that focussed on editing and on existing work might have been more useful for me. I’ve done 38 of the Street Photography Now Project assignments, so another six that were much the same thing, and effectively involved just going out there and tackling it on your own (sort of but Nick was on hand) weren’t just what I needed. However, I did shoot at a different focal length the whole weekend and I started using continuous shooting and those two things alone were a departure and have led to some pictures I was pleased with. But yes, editing and getting feedback on existing pictures would have been really useful for me.

On the second day, Nick invited a colleague, Sean McDonnell to show us his work. I loved it: very beautiful and dramatic. Even though I generally prefer colour. It was very colourful black and white!

So I would recommend that particular workshop if you want to try street photography. And I’d conclude that workshops are worth doing, as connecting with people face-to-face is somehow very important. It’s hard to explain but I suppose it’s the way you can pick up on the feeling of inspiration from people who really care about what they do.

On the way to the Covent Garden location I stopped at Neals Yard.

It’s in my nature to just do it by myself and find my own way most of the time. And I think with creative work that’s deeply important. But sometimes input from someone experienced just makes a difference.

Here’s one or two more pictures. They’re all from the first day. I think I was just too knackered on the second day.

Not sure if there are places left, but Nick’s next workshop in association with the World Photography Organisation is (glamourously) in New York

And, Nick continues in his mission to promote street photography with the release of in-sight, a new 38 minute short film this week via Distrify ‘a pioneering way to allow independent film makers to charge a small fee per viewing of their film’.

It’s good (especially the Gus Powell interview) and it only costs a couple of quid to watch.

[Edit Tuesday 27 September]
If you’re interested in photography workshops AND travel, check out the trips offered by Maciej Dakowicz. I expect most people reading this will know Maciej’s work, but if you don’t it’s fantastic. Very fresh, ‘spontaneous’ and above all, compassionate. It so often it appears that he’s greatest friends with the people he photographs.



Feeling tired. Spent a lot of the day discussing the riots with colleagues and friends. It really triggers ‘fight or flight’ feelings and thoughts.

Police advised shops and businesses to shut down after 2pm today. About 4pm I was on a conference call and loads of people from upstairs went whizzing past me on their way out. The business had decided to close down but they hadn’t told my team! There’d been rumours of a couple of gangs moving in our direction. Anyway, I’m not sure if  the rumoured gang materialised because I headed home. No reports of any trouble in London so far and I can’t hear any sirens. It seemed to work asking the shops to shut early and everyone going home.

Pissed off though. I felt why should I be under curfew?! Missed going to my first London Independent Photography meeting on Hoxton Street. Back home I went out for a drink with my neighbours. By a twist of fate about 20 years ago, I live in the middle of one of the most affluent areas of London. Saw about eight shops with smashed windows outside my place.

Anyway, all is quiet tonight. But I think if this carries on every person fit enough should go out in the street and just stand together in long rows down the streets. It’s like it has to be everyone out or everyone in to keep things calm.

If needed I’ll go on Friday to help with the #riotcleanup movement.

p.s I can’t actually believe it’s been two months since my last post. In the meantime I’ve been to the Spanish Pyrenees, organised (with others) and exhibited in a group show in a tattoo parlour in Brixton, taken lots of pictures and dropped my camera. I have a strange perverse or maybe inverse relationship with time…

They were bored

With regards to my Royal Wedding photos, I don’t think other people have been quite as excited about them as I was. Surprise surprise. My sister admitted that she got bored about half way through and assumed that the set was unedited. It was such an interesting experience for me that I’ve found it much harder than normal to seperate the experience from the actual content. I put one on the HCSP crit thread and people were so uninterested that it didn’t even get trashed. Although the portrait one got a better response (though limited as the thread is not focused on that type of photography).

Best approach is to re-edit at a later date and relegate certain pictures to my Rejects set. It seems to be filling up rather fast.

I had a brief discussion with David Solomons about possible ways to approach an event like this. I took particular notice of what he had to say as he is very experienced and respected. He was talking about the ‘typological’ approach. Which (I just discovered) means taking multiple pictures with the same ‘settings’. Both in camera and in composition and so on.

“Frankie: The typology approach is by far the simplest and often the most effective approach to shooting any project. I for one wouldn’t want to spend another 10 years trying to figure out how to shoot another ‘Up West’ series. ”

Here’s an example he gave ‘A Royal Picnic’ by Tiffany Jones. I did find these a bit boring but I think that’s just because the people’s faces aren’t included and I was skipping through to get the overall idea. I like this Vegetable Sellers in Paharganj better. The extreme opposite of just randomly shooting. So I think David went to the event with the aim of catching the expressions and attitudes of bored people amongst the crowd and including the crowd (my guess from checking out his pics). But he said he was frustrated when he got kettled outside Clarence House.

The Mall by David Solomons

I’ve started a Flickr Gallery of other people’s Royal Wedding photos that I’ve selected from Flickr.


Instruction #32 Gallery

On you can create selections of other people’s work in groups of up to 18 photos. They’re labelled galleries (as opposed to sets and collections which you can use to organise and showcase your own work).

Since I’ve enjoyed being included in some of the galleries that a few people have created each week relating to the Street Photography Now Project, I thought I’d create one myself from the submissions in the 32nd week.

All the photographs in this selection were created within one week, in response to the following quote by respected street photographer David Gibson “Follow lines of movement for a graphic journey”

by Marian Grozos

This reminds me of fashion and style in iD magazine when it first came out in the 80s and a designer called Fiorucci. The subject is very stylish and the kind of person who’d be stolen for a Benetton ad. It makes me think of globalisation and that phrase ‘cultural melting pot’. It makes you wonder how much people have a cultural identity anymore in major cities. I feel they do, and I feel she does. But this graphic journey takes you around the world and back.

by Justin Vogel

It’s great the way her arm and shoulders create a perfect horizontal. A lot of people try to do spots and stripes on zebra crossings but a zebra on a zebra really cracks it. Her open bag is curious as you can’t see what’s inside but you like to imagine briefly what’s in there. Her drink held aloft, it’s one of those cultural things that’s so contemporary – you just think of how dated the word ‘frappacino’ is going to be a few years down the line. New York is very exotic for me and this stripey Statue of Liberty street perpetuates that in my mind.

by Tom Percy

Had to include this one, as I feel it breaks through the spiral staircase cliche. Mainly because the cliche rarely includes people and is neater and more shell like. This one is a fusion with a spaghetti junction and perfectly it says ‘shopping journey’ on the side. I’m curious to see this in colour.

by Daniel G. Marchand

How to take cold grey water and make it warm and show the intrinsic aliveness of inanimate concrete. And at the same time, an elegant graphic design. The water took me by surprise when my brain first registered it, perhaps because of the flattened graphic effect where you see stripes of grey. I think I would have corrected the tilt on this one though!

by Clarence Loi

This takes me back to childhood in an instant journey of nostalgia. I guess it’s not as strong on the graphic element, but the most graphic part – the chairs – is essential for the story and it IS a train! I love the way the Dad figure looks a bit bored but indulges the children who are delighted. Really touching and joyful.

Regent Street
by Duncan Scoble

I rather like the way this is a little over exposed. If it hadn’t been, it might have seemed too photo library, too perfect. And it matches the hot lemon colours – you could be in Southern Spain or I imagine Italy. And absolutely perfect use of these Selfridges bags which are like a fluorescent rash in Oxford and Regent Street shots in London.

by Canonac

What a lucky encounter! I love the contrast between the wet super saturated yellow and the grainy concrete and dirty clothes of the painter. Nice touches with the tape measure and the stripes framed by the rail in the corner. Corners can often be boring! Perhaps it would have been even better with tape forming a perfect curve on the right. Appropriate shop title as a quest is often integral to a journey.

by chocolate girl

I like the way the force of nature is driving right to left like the diagonal lines in the foreground. This is a picture I could really live with, perhaps because the horizon is so calming. The chimney on the horizon reminds me of a power station so for me the picture is about energy, power and forces and the graphic elements and movement help illustrate that.

by Yanick

What a beautiful picture. The layering is literal with the mesh and stripes on the glass and the two main slices of inside and outside. The interior is appealing for the way the kids are so absorbed in their reading and it gives the feeling of the way their minds are moving through the information. Then when you look out you have the bold graphics of the plane and you think of the airport, the centre body of those spidery plane route maps. It’s one of those pictures that works well aesthetically but leaves you plenty of room for your own imagination.

by Magnus Fröderberg

It’s like a giant Gulliver looked at an ordinary scene and leaned forward and just bent things a little out of shape. As others have pointed out, the double green man is unusual. The sphinx parked next to the street cleaner is a lovely surprise. The elegant background. The flagpole and broom echoes. The man’s costume with the big black patches. So much in there and a great use of vertical, especially with the pavement lining up perfectly on the left edge.

by Kevlin Henney

A lego landscape. Everything is ordered and neat. Then the guy in his splayed and ridiculous pose. And I like the way he’s literally hooked into a connection with his surroundings. Balance of detail, action and space (water) is good and the colours are a harmonious range of steely blues, terracotta and mossy greens.

by Susan Barwood

OK, technically a bit off with the blur and I would have cropped out the bike wheel lower left. But very nice lines. The guy’s hand is perfectly horizontal and you can feel his balance, you’re really with him looking at this. The sheer slope behind contrasts with his stillness. As with Daniel’s above, I feel this brings life to the hard inanimate elements, especially how the metal matches the human skin tone.

by Adam

The graphic lines tell this great story of the keystone cops moment that occurred just before the shot. The composition is simple but not boring and the path and flower bed look just like a race track. It would have been lovely if the figure was a little clearer to see – white trousers or something.

by Mathieu Jaïs

This was Mathieu’s B-side rather than the actual shot selected for the assignment. However I really love it for the extraordinary saturated emerald colour, turned up to the max with the bright grass and yellow dandelions. The gesture of the man makes me feel like he can hear the volume of that green. Joyful zest.

Carried Away
by Rense Haveman

Some problems here with the composition – very tight top and bottom, and ‘telecom’ on his head, but a very clear (graphic?) portrayal of the nightmare and dream that being a parent seems to be. All the closeness, affection, responsibility and stress in one picture. She’s a cute little monkey clinging on with a very indulged sulky look. I like that her toy looks like a banana and the father figure has this bag full of bananas that looks about to burst.

onwards and upwards 32
by Maxine Moss

The deep velvety blue of her jacket with the synthetic velvet on the seats attracted me. And the total exposure of the woman in sleep. The whole train is organised graphically so it makes great sense for the instruction.

To view all 351 submissions for that week, check out the Instruction #32 Group

Gil Scott-Heron died

I only found out about him recently, but for nearly ten years I’d been playing his song/poem on the Blackalicious ‘Blazing Arrows’ album. And there was another spoken song on some random compilation. Each had exactly the same mesmerising effect. But it took me ages to click they were the same person.

He seemed so alive, even though you could see his age. I love the way he laughed about things and didn’t seem to care for fame or money. You can see a recent interview at the end of the video (about half way down the page) here It seems weird when the interviewer asks him if the time in prison affected his ‘career’. I don’t think it was only a career, it was his life. BBC interviewers are such pompous pricks sometimes.

Video for his recent album. It reminds me of the first time I ever saw New York. I landed on Halloween night.


Spectator Sport – The Royal Wedding

I thought that April 29 would have been the big day but as it turns out the snap and crackle do come before the pop. Thursday 28 was actually my best day’s shooting.

The scene outside Buckingham Palace on Wednesday evening was fascinating. A huge and very tasteful green condominium of TV studios had been erected for the best views of Buckingham Palace. Each studio had a large window through which you could glimpse the presenters facing camera and lights. I rather like the BBC’s panoramic image of this which is such high resolution you can probably spot a fly on the wall. Reminds a bit of an eBoy poster.

I had a go at photographing one of the Euro presenters who was interviewing passersby in front of the condo. It got a bit complicated, since she was trying to get (or set up) shots of people photographing the condo and each other in front of the condo and I got roped in. In other words, everyone was shooting each other shooting. It was also quite fun throughout the whole event, trying to work out who people were. Under cover cops, over cover cops, presenters, off duty presenters or innocent bystanders?

This man, for example, may have been a hippy on his way back from a meditation class and the guy behind him may have been a window cleaner…

Really, I couldn’t get enough of TV presenters, it was so interesting being able to get close to them. They arrived en masse like some kind of rare bird flock on their way to Summer breeding.

I tagged this photograph ‘welly’ and it attracted a funny man. I’m not going to link to his flickr photostream right now but perhaps you can find it if you search for ‘rubber’.

An executive presenter type:

However, the main spectacle was the spectators themselves, camping out at Westminster Abbey. When I saw them, I really thought ‘fish in a barrel’ and then I thought ‘PG Tips monkeys’.

They were fenced into a special enclosure and they all seemed to be drinking nice cups of tea and wearing fancy dress. The police had organised a one way system so that spectators of the spectators could walk around it all anti-clockwise. At the back of the camp was a tiered series of platforms bristling with TV cameras, presenters and film crew. It was quite hard to photograph, mainly because there was so much choice – I kept turning from one thing to another. And the police were hustling everyone along, but it was easier at the back. Here’s a nice one that has a bit of everything in it:

It’s funny how you get serendipity in life, because as I write this I can hear monkey screeches coming from the downstairs flat!

Here’s one I quite like post wedding. Trampled daffodils:

Here is a Royal Bedding shop window display designed for a Chicago sex shop, by Lee Kay who I met on flickr (commented on one of my shop window pics).

I’d be interested to see any cool sets of Royal Wedding photos that other people have taken – post comments with links if you like.

The photographs in my head

Today has been a very Eckhart Tolle sort of day. Everything just seems to be in the right place. I feel like I took some kind of chill pill. I had this lovely bus ride which I wanted to last forever. Everything out of the window seemed to be a perfect photographic or cinematic moment. A glance view of a dark shop with an open door and the wind shivering a sequin chandelier. A woman hoovering outdoors. In my friend’s garden: green strawberries.

So it reminded me of a post I’d thought of writing. I’m not sure it’s really of interest to anyone else, but I feel I need to print the photographs in my head. Since I picked up a camera and became absorbed in that, I realised I’ve saved some pictures mentally in the past and they’re still vivid. At first I thought there were only one or two, but others have come to mind. They’re different from other memories because they’re framed and very much of a moment and not a story. And visual. Just now I can only remember two. I’ll have to update this as the others surface. Probably while I’m doing the washing up or something.

I’m not exactly sure how to write about them without being boring or writerly since I’m not trying to be a writer. It’s just a list I have to get out of my head:

1) Upper Thames Path (I think) early nineties or late eighties. I was working as a cycle courier. I saw a man dressed as a ball of fur, like one of those guys collecting money for charity. As I got closer, I realised he was transporting mink furs complete with heads and tails. They were strung together to make a giant pom pom.

2) At a pedestrian crossing, Waterloo Bridge (a long time ago). An old lady, so crippled by a hunch back that she had to use a tiny mirror to see where she was going. She must have viewed the world upside down, except for feet. I wonder if she achieved perceptual adaptation?

edit 28/05/11
3) Riding in a trip boat past the Design Museum. It’s raining and sunshine. A rainbow bigger than Wembley Stadium transpires in perfect symmetry with a foot in North London and a foot in South London. Stern centre.

edit 28/05/11
4) Tube train late at night. Almost empty. A big lumbering man is stretched out cold across four seats with his arm and head dropping right off onto the floor. A dignified and very tiny prim lady holds on of his feet in her lap and stares ahead unblinking.

edit 28/05/11
5) 1998. Transatlantic flight. Return. I can see fireworks from above. The tiniest daisy splinters sprinkled across the Home Counties.

edit 29/05/11
6) Searing hot day. Eton Square. The rejected shiny heart of a shocking pink chocolate box tops a pool of melted luxury chocolate.

edit 12/03/12
7) Oxford Street, years ago. A pane of plate glass flipping over in the sky.

edit 22/04/12
8) Valentines day. In a night club next to the Trocadero, Piccadilly Circus. It’s a singles night. It’s quite dark. There are large gilded mirrors with displays of deep red roses. The room is full. In the centre of the crowd is a buxom girl with a low-cut top. She looks bewildered. She has CUNT written on her chest in lipstick.

Note: I do like Eckhart Tolle. Having searched for his name just now, I signed up to watch his video talks for a month. He’s great. He dresses in this really nerdy way which perfectly suits him, because the last thing he would probably care about is fashion and making an impression. Reminds me of a librarian’s dress sense: a shirt buttoned right up to the collar with a knitted grey vest. You switch on the video, and you feel like you’ve wandered down to the bottom of the garden and the friendliest garden gnome with the naughtiest smile has come alive and started talking about inner space and the present. Not that I mean any of this in the least bit of a sneering way – he really does come across as endearing and trustworthy with an agenda of people being happier. I liked it when he said something like “you don’t think your thoughts, in the same way you don’t beat your heart.”

22:27 further note

Just been listening to Tolle’s video guide to meditation: what is the point of it, how to do it, pitfalls etc. It’s good, but long. He never says ‘um’. He burps a lot. Has a great sense of irony. It’s funny. It’s the main video on the taster ‘try before you buy’ offer

This is incongruous. Interesting to see him interviewed on a pop chat show. I wonder if he specifically asked to be able to explain things without being interrupted, or if the interviewer was just rapt?


Breaking through the barrier

I guess it’s a bit like breaking through the sound barrier. You look around and the world out of the window actually looks pretty much the same as before. But your toes do tingle and you actually feel quite good and you find yourself smiling. I got a photo accepted into the HCSP pool! Since they reject most of what’s submitted, and it takes some people more than a year to do it’s not bad going after three months of trying. The first few pictures in the pool are still up for discussion by the curators, so I wasn’t sure if it might get axed. But still there after a couple of weeks : )

Glamourous girls at souvenir stall on Oxford Street

How? Why? Well I have been making pictures for the last 40 years or more so that obviously helped. But not photos really (apart from documenting my work) and there is this thing with photography where you imagine there’s more in your picture than there really is. You get a distorted view, because your mind tends to merge the before and after moments, the back story, the feelings, the sounds and smells of the moment, and the memories into the experience of looking at the photo. Which no-one else gets because they weren’t there.

So every week I submitted a photo to the image critique thread and this gave me objective feedback on my pictures, practice analysing photos and helped me understand the aesthetic of this Hard Nut To Crack group. Also read some of the articles on Street Reverb and the discussions people were having in general about photographers they enthused about.

The photo is from an amazing sunny afternoon spent on Oxford Street. It wasn’t actually my favourite from the set, but I figured it was the most suited to HCSP.

This was probably my favourite picture and this got accepted into Candid Revelations another one of the tightly curated groups, but sadly I think it got deleted out again : ( Perhaps it was the expanse of pink and blue striped shirt on the right?

Flash shot of man and woman on Oxford Street against the light.

And I have a couple in Color Street which I’m quite proud about. One is from the same set:

I sometimes worry that I spend far too much time on the HCSP group commenting reading and thinking. I just enjoy it. I get up in the morning, make a cup of coffee and check in there. Which makes me late for work and does it use up too much of my time? Well my work and understanding have improved so why not?

My other secret worry is that I might only be infatuated with photography. It was such a weird thing to happen. One minute I was heavily involved with cartoons and character design and the next minute I just got totally swept off my feet by photography. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to pick up that camera and go out and just become completely immersed without any pain or writers block. It’s meant that I’ve got so much work done.

It would be great if I could somehow marry the two. Or maybe that would be bigamy?

But how about this:

Look for the eyes. Maybe too subtle.

Road Kill

I would love to take a great picture. A thrilling picture, or something deeply moving or conveying mystic or intrigue, or poised in a euphoric moment. In street photography it’s always just around the corner. It’s a moment away, it’s just behind the very ordinary person, blown out by the flash, who’s in front of the camera right now, blurred. It’s being carried off at a fast pace by a woman with freshly dyed neon hair while I fumble with my camera.

But for some reason, it’s not frustrating. It’s like scuba diving. All these colourful fish flitting past in shoals. You feel mesmerised, you feel in the flow of things. Ugly things are beautiful. It’s a thrill.

But you have to deal with the road kill.

This may be my ugliest most horrible and shocking attempt at street photography so far.

Really bad photo of a commuter doing a cartwheel

iPhone road kill

Oddly, you get an emotional attachment to a photo and sometimes you can’t see that it’s bad (not that one, I knew with that one). You were there and you remember how it felt. You saw the subject’s good side before they turned to face your camera and you overheard a funny weird snippet of their conversation. You smelt the popcorn. Your photo triggers the memories and it lives for you. But no-one else has the memories and you conveyed none of that in the photo.

You have an imagination and when you look at your photo it takes you to another place. But it doesn’t take anyone else. It leaves them cold. Freezing cold, on the side of some backwater road with no train or bus connection. Or worse – it actually hurts their eyes to look.

Smudgy woman in front of video screen

Brain Waves Woman

I posted this on the HCSP crit thread.

“Frankie, it actually hurts my eyes” and (trying to be kind) “Why dont you delete and start over? I dont think anybody will mind, and it will be easier on the eyes in the long run.” justinsdisgustin

“It’s an earache in my eye” and “it’s super ugly” Flat5

“blue halo looking hideous” oscar juarez

They may be partly right. I am proud to say that the photo was accepted by Flickr’s Ugliest Photos Group and they don’t accept photos everyday. The funny thing is I still like it.

Poagao does the best satirical crits on the thread.

Million mile stare, 4 train, New York by Lee Gillen

Lee Gillen He is silently castigating you for not using a slower shutter speed and a smaller aperture in order to increase the DOF and include him in the in-focus party you’re holding at the back of the train. Also, that was really rude of the ghost hand on the right to pull your camera into that tilted angle, but hey, it’s a ghost hand; not much you can do about a ghost hand.”

If the road kill doesn’t come back to haunt you, the near misses will. In February the sun shone a couple of times. During one of those exhilarating moments, this scene was available to be photographed for about half an hour.

A Sort of a Sun Beam

I then learnt that landscape shots are better, and it’s nice when you can see the faces of the people. So I stole another moment a few days later and I got this.

Another Sort of a Sun Beam

And this.

Another Other Sort of a Sun Beam

Fail fail fail. But as Winston Churchill says on

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”