Saturday, October 27, 2007


View from the ferry leaving Calais in France.

You probably thought I'd disappeared. Yep, it's been a while since I updated my blog. Longer than a week anyway, which is a record for me.

So what have I been up to? Well the usual pressures of work but I've also got ever so slightly addicted to Flickr. You can check out my profile here.

Magda (wife and fellow photographer) and I have launched a group too which within 48 hours had over 165 members, which I think is pretty good. Best of all it's a great bunch of people. The launch has proved time consuming though but well worthwhile.

I keep encountering friends and acquaintances on Flickr. It seems the whole world is on there! I'm amazed. I've tried several other upload and photo sharing sites in my time but none have had the scope of Flickr.

There are critics of the site. Typically the problems revolve around censorship and images being stolen by unscrupulous people and companies. Ah nothing is plain sailing unfortunately.

I am thoroughly enjoying the Flickr experience so I'll keep posting and commenting there. Feel free to come and join our group.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Advice for street photographers

This gentleman agreed to pose for me. He wanted to know whether my camera was digital or film. He said he would pose if it was digital but not if it was film. I am not sure exactly what his reasons were.

He was patient and followed my directions on where to stand. Several photographers have asked me how I get people to pose for me. Rather than repeating myself I'd like to refer you to an article I wrote back in May 2005.

I hope it helps you and as always your comments are gratefully received.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Street portrait project

This image of a young lady, taken in Leeds, UK, is from a series of street portraits which I'm working on at the moment.

The aim is to produce a series of powerful street portraits that immediately connect with the viewer's emotions on a deeper level.

I'm continually amazed by how generous people are with their time, agreeing to pose for me on the street. This young lady was no exception.



Thursday, October 11, 2007

The portrait photographer

The above images are from my gull portraits series. Both images have a strong sense of eye contact with the photographer (me). The gulls hung around and I had a sense of connecting to them. They were definitely aware of me and as they hovered in the breeze I had a sense they were posing (yeah I know it sounds weird ).

I've come to realise that in a sense all of my photography is about making portraits.

The strict definition is a likeness of a person. But the Roget's Thesaurus expands on this:
Main Entry: portrait
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: representation
Synonyms: account, characterization, depiction, description, figure, image, likeness, model, painting, photograph, picture, portraiture, portrayal, profile, silhouette, simulacrum, sketch, snapshot, vignette
(Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition)

Most of my images are portraits, in other words a representation, depiction, description, account or characterisation of the subject.

I suppose what it comes down to is trying to capture the essence of the subject on a deeper level and show a relationship between me and what I photograph. Does my use of the word portrait have any validity or is it just semantics?

I've always had a problem with putting photographers in little boxes like landscape, still life etc.

However I do think portraiture is associated with a certain approach to subject matter, which distinguishes it:
  • You want to show the unique nature of your subject
  • You want to reveal the truth and make an honest photograph
  • You are focused on the individual and what makes that individual special
  • You have a definite subject of which you are making the portrait
Can you make a portrait of a landscape or a city? I don't think you can really. However, a series of photographs could perhaps form a sort of portrait of an area or a town. I think that's stretching it a bit though. You also can't make a portrait of something generic like a perfume bottle or car.

You can make portraits of a specific flower, an animal and of course people. I suppose simply put portraits are about capturing the unique identity of the subject and that is certainly what most of my photography is about.

I'd welcome hearing your thoughts on this.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Great images may be technically flawed

If you look at the great masters of photography and their images, many of which have become iconic, you see that there is a distinct gap between text book perfection and what they've produced.

Most great pictures that touch our hearts have technical flaws. The technically perfect advertising shots will never have this kind of power and impact on humanity. There are so many examples I don't know where to begin. Look at Robert Capa's shots of the Normandy landing. Grainy, blurred, scratched (the negatives were trodden on in the darkroom during development) and yet all of that somehow contributes to their impact.

Even top modern photographers like the legendary Annie Liebowitz get away with publishing pictures which would be severely criticised or ignored by the masses of photographers critiquing each other's work on the Internet. For example in Annie's book, Woman, there are a number of portraits which are not perfectly sharp (the greatest sin that can be committed according to the hoards in pursuit of textbook perfection).

In many of the most highly regarded photographers work you will see errors like fingers that are cropped, blown highlights, lack of shadow detail, slightly out of focus, heavy grain, a composition that's a bit tight on room in one or other quadrant, a skew horizon and the list goes on.

But it doesn't matter because there's so much emotion and power in their images. People with an uncritical eye, who look and see like a child, who open their heart and mind to understand the image and what the photographer is trying to communicate, for those people the image is pure joy and rewards them with the feeling, "I understand, I feel, I see."

So here's the moral of my story. When you take pictures, take them with your heart, soul and mind. Try your hardest to get all the technical things right but know that at the end of the day an image that is really meaningful, that will touch people need not be technically perfect. If you have images like this and you've discarded them because some pedantic prick has said it is no good due to some minor technical flaw, then it is time to retrieve that image and show it with pride.

And to the viewers of images my plea is: look beyond the mere technical aspects. Open your heart and mind to the essence of the image. You will enjoy looking at photographs far more.

But also please be aware that what I write here is not to be taken as an excuse for shoddy craftsmanship. The great images that have technical flaws are still great images because they are powerful and capture something special. There is nothing worse than a technically bad image which has nothing to say.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Legal issues of street photography in the UK

Spotted by Magda and friend Marleen who became aware of me taking a candid shot of them as they as were chatting in the street.

David Toyne has written an informative piece on the recent verdict in the British courts which supports the freedom of street photographers to take candid pictures of people in public places.

Read the full story here.