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I've been documenting London for the past 4+ years for free (ok, a cheap way for me to plug my web site... www.curiouslyincongruous.net). I don't think many people have the time it takes to put into this kind of project (though for older people like myself it makes a great retirement project.... you get exercise and you get to chat with people and you get to make piccies!) and I don't know that in a world where there are huge humanitarian needs that it would be wise to be spending money on scads of Walker Evans like projects. But that may not matter. The sheer mass of photographic interest these days may make up for this. Although its not a magazine, Flickr and sites like it must have a city group for far more towns and cities than would be practical or financially feasable to document in any magazine. Just search the keywords for the city or town of your choice and Bob's your uncle! I also remember that there's some web site which collects links to sites documenting cities. So in fact the so called democracy of the web is doing the job for free. I've been a magazine junkie most of my life but the problem with magazines is that they tend to repeat the same themes over and over and to hit some mass market sweet spot they tend to choose only a certain style and exclude some important subject matter. And the problem I see with "offical" documentaries of a city or of anything is that official "needs" fequently dictate the kinds of things which get recorded. Walker Evans work is, I would guess, more the exception than the rule. So, in this imperfect world, maybe we do have most of what you asked already online?
Toggle Commented Apr 4, 2008 on 'AH' in Decline at The Online Photographer
Paul, I don't recognise saying the words you tried to put in my mouth at the end of your post which you then go on to rubbish (nice technique). Is your point that all British police are vicious thugs or is it that you encountered a British policeman who was unfit to be doing the job? I do hope you reported him as you had eye-witnesses. You can do so here: http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/ Eric
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2008 on You Can't Picture This at The Online Photographer
I mentioned this on a recent comment to another of your provocative posts but like an updated version of the Joel Meyerowitz book technique I now carry a healthy selection of my photos on my iPhone so that I can show people (police who stop and question me, suspicious shop keepers who confront me) what I do. That helps (ie they think I'm weird but no longer dangerous). And of course they get a bit wowed by the iPhone and the diversion is useful. As is smiling a lot.
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2008 on Bag of Tricks at The Online Photographer
I've been stopped 4 times by police officers in London in the last 2 years. As unbelieveable as it might be the first time I was stopped was after shooting my first photo. I was in a park and some young woman had on the most outlandish boots imaginable and I shot them. About 10 minutes later 3 squad cars with sirens blaring came from 2 different directions and stopped in front of me and 10 police in flak jackets got out and surrounded me and said someone fitting my description had taken a photograph in the park. I said it was probably me and explained. They did an identity check and said it was because the woman who reported me said "a paedophile was photographing kids in the park". When I told them I was in education one chap had a look of ... aha, another teacher pervert... Anyway, after 20 minutes or so they apologised to me for any stress they may have caused (I was shaking) and said that they felt trapped by what the tabloids might report if the woman went to them and the publics' paranoia about paedophiles. During the whole interview I kept thinking how eerily similar the main cop looked to Michael Shumacher... go figure. It wasn't a particularly nice encounter but the police were never rude or authoritative, just professional. The second time was about 18 months later and I was photographing a battered English flag which was a few hundred metres in front of a large gas container (you know the ones that loom up into the sky and raise and sink as the amount of gas changes). He asked what I was shooting and I explained that I'm working on a collection of shots of tattered English flags in situ as a symbol of our national decline. He thought it interesting but continued to ask questions of me under the Stop And Account section of The Terrorism Act of 2000. We actually joked our way through the whole thing even though I said that while it was nothing personal, I was annoyed that he could think my actions were in any way terrorist related. But he said, "you never know..." a catch phrase which I guess permits a great deal of latitude and plays into an officer's own prejudices. Because lots of police have walked up to me and said things like... excuse me, I'm just curious, (for example) why are you photographing that tree or You Are Here sign and then seem genuinely interested in my project and then say something like... and be careful in this neighborhood with your camera... Anyway, the end result is that I have a nice 3 page Stops And Searches form 5090 under the Terrorism Act of 2000. The third time I was stopped it was in a raised part of the DLR (part of London's underground system). There was a huge fire in London that day and the plumes were darkening about 30% of the sky which was otherwise unusually blue and I took a few shots of the plumes. It was a female officer from the Terrorism Squad and she suspected I might be involved with the fire as its well known (she said) that arsonists are fascinated by the fires they light. She made me get off the train and continued her interrogation for about 20 minutes. Again it was a very non-confrontational and pleasant exchange with some laughter. The best bit was when she was filling out my second Form 5090 she asked my birthdate. I told her and she got a blank look as she did the maths and then she said something like, no really and I said no really. She said in such a genuine way... "blimey mate, I don't know what you're doing to look so young but what ever it is, keep doing it, you look great". Well that line alone was worth the hassle and we had a good laugh. The last time I was stopped was by a cop on a bicycle near Wormwood Scrubs prison. I took a photo of an old weathered sign announcing the prison and that was the offending act. He started questioning me and then had to call in to do an identity check. I said I realised he was just doing his job but really how could this be anything to bother with? He said (I paraphrase) This is ridiculous.I have to stop you on orders of anyone taking photos of the prison. I hate this job. I wanted to fight crime not hassle some photographer shooting a ****dy sign. He apologised several times and finally said after getting confirmation from HQ that I wasn't a pervert or terrorist, I could write up a form for you describing this stop if you want... its up to you... it'll take several minutes. I declined already having a few form 5090s. My point i this lengthy story is twofold. Yes, just being a photographer is now enough to make you suspicious in the eyes of "the law". But no, not all cops are aggressive or ego maniacs with superiority complexes. 2 last short points. To the Austrailian gentlemen who was so poorly treated, you have my sympathies and I imagine most Londoners would be shocked. Not to justify your treatment but I read that Trafalger Square had a problem when a paedophile on the register was caught doing photographs of young girls in the square which led to (from Amateur Photographer Nov 17 2005): Earlier this year [Mayor] Livingstone warned parents to be vigilant about strangers using digital cameras and camera phones to take pictures of children in London's parks and 'other public spaces' in support of police plans to crackdown on paedophiles (see AP 11 June 2005). Lastly, the 2 officers in the video footage above are Community Wardens and not police officers. They are far less trained and have limited powers. Sorry to ramble on so, very cathartic. Eric
Toggle Commented Mar 21, 2008 on You Can't Picture This at The Online Photographer
I'm a sucker for photographing quirky looking trees in an urban environment, tall mundane buildings which rise above non-descript urban settings like monoliths, You Are Here signs and the spaces between dwellings. This has been going on for about a year. I photograph other things too of course but I get really excited when I "see a good one" of one of the above. (fwiw examples are at http://www.curiouslyincongruous.net)
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2008 on Where Do You Live? at The Online Photographer
You: "Why is inaccuracy in color rendering simply a given, while a little blurring of fine detail resolution or a touch of noise in the shadows are so adamantly not tolerated?" In my opinion there isn't a contradiction here, they both actually speak to the same issue/problem: so many photographers have nothing else to say photographically except to make a "pretty picture" with impact. I call it Calendar Art. IMO, people with little or no background in "Art" find these kinds of shots with high dynamic range and tack sharpness very likeable because a) they intuitively understand the subject matter and b) they can sense the impact of the 2 techniques and thus can finally have an emotional reaction to something being presented as "Art". This of course runs counter to most people's reaction to modern art (I don't get it... what's it about... no I don't have an emotional reaction to this "Art", I don't even know what I'm seeing..." or some permutation of that like "my kids can do better than this"). With this analysis both "tack sharpness" and so called High Dynamic Range images are part of the same toolkit. They're perfect for the so called democratisation of photography through Flickr and photoblogs, etc. Without having anything to say, a photographer can use these two tools (HDR and sharpness) to create images which seem to have an "Artistic" quality yet are understandable and elicit an emotional reaction. Technicolor didn't make for better films but it was much easier to market than Wild Strawberries for the same reason. I think the equivalent of these two techniques in the artworld is the revival of 8x10 photography among so called serious artists. I've heard Joel Meyerowitz (and I really respect Meyerowitz) say something to the order of "...if you want your photos to have real impact, you have to work in large format" No wonder Robert Frank has moved to a remote area in Canada. Eric
Toggle Commented Mar 6, 2008 on Funny That Way at The Online Photographer
I've now read pages of speculation here and on Leica oriented forums on Mr. Lee's sudden departure. I've not read much that I can take seriously given my understanding of how the higher echelons of business operate. Despite the comments, the reasons for Mr Lee's sudden departure may have had nothing to do with new R v M cameras, quality control, the move to digital, the new web site, recent financial results or Mr Lee's recent magazine interview or maybe each along with a myriad of other corporate issues were involved. In my experience a sudden firing of a key management person is the result of a long series of disagreements, tensions or poor job performance results leading to a gradual loss of trust over time between the parties involved. There may well have been a last straw which broke this camels back but the posted comments that I've read tell me more about the commentators than the camel. Eric
A word of caution... The write-up here sounds v. interesting and the book is on a subject I"m interested in learning more about and I find myself very much in the situation of being a knowledgeable b/w photographer who always hungers for more... so I clicked on the link to the Amazon.co.uk store. There was one review and it couldn't have been more the polar opposite of the review above. In fact the reviewer said: "Unless you've never used a computer, Photoshop, and a printer, you're not going to find useful information in this book." hmmmm So I went to Amazon.com to see what the reviews there said. The first was by K. Tanaka who I believe is the same person known as Ken Tanaka who is a frequent contributor to this site. He said "Warning: This book is NOT for you if your primary interest is truly that of "mastering" digital black and white photography and printing. ... Any time a book title includes the words "mastering" or "ultimate" my smell-o-rama sensor automatically activates. Such sweeping and arrogant suggestions are always over-cooked. "Mastering Digital Black and White" is no exception." While he found some redeeming quality in the book, his impression was far different from the one above The other reviews at Amazon.com were more positive but I knew nothing about the level of knowledge of these reviews comparerd to K Tanaka. So although click throughs and purchases at Amazon help Mike and I'd be happy to help fund Mike's site which I read regularly, prudence suggests looking at the book in the flesh to determine how appropriate it is for the mind of the beholder. Eric