Archive for September, 2011
I recently got a modestly decent sum of money. I was (seriously) planning to spend it on a new Nikon camera, and a couple of lenses. I’m happy with my current camera for some work, but did think the new gear would be useful for some specific work I plan to make very soon.
Yesterday, I was at a masterclass taught by Simon Roberts. He’s a great teacher, in addition to producing interesting work, and I got a lot out of hearing him talk about his work and development, and also from seeing the projects submitted by other participants.
Simon advised me to spend some time really focussing on a few specific things, and it’s advice I’m thinking about on the train (ST84Photo goes on tour! a mini-tour, mind, a very mini-tour).
So today I log on to TheTwitter. And everyone is talking about Nikon. And not the good talk, either. My god, I think, are people still complaining about the Nikon 1 magic auto-photograph function? No, they’re talking about something else. Nikon’s wonderful marketing ploy to convince us all that the latest flashy gear is what makes a great photographer.
The day after I got some really helpful advice from a guy who makes his photographs on a large format camera. With no Nikon badge. And when he critiqued my work, his comments were about what I was trying to achieve and how I could improve my practice to do that. He didn’t say anything about me needing a new camera. He didn’t say anything about the gear I had been using at all.
Nice one, Nikon. Think I’ll spend that money on creating the time and logistics to follow Simon’s advice instead of buying a camera and some lenses from you. Great marketing technique!
It’s like checking the back of your film camera for the live preview and histogram.
Owing to my need to get some sleep, before a super-early trip to Manchester tomorrow followed by a trip to London the following day, ST84Photo Blog will be returning to your interwebz this weekend.
The return will involve some frankly awesome (and hopefully very useful) posts, followed by another Seconds2Real interview on Monday!
The return will, therefore, be bigger, stronger, better, faster!*
Sorry for the scheduling error, but this blog is something I do in my spare time, and I’m presently on minus spare time so anything I write for tomorrow will be garbage.
So I’m saving new posts for the weekend, when I’ll be lucid. 😉
* Please note: ST84Photo Blog will not be held legally responsible for any failure to be either bigger, stronger, better, or faster. Particularly faster – some things get better with more time…
I was thinking recently about the best photographs I’ve ever made. Images pulled from the depths of my archive. Frames you could only ever dream about. The sort of thing you just barely catch flickers of as you drift off to sleep at night.
The best photographs I’ve ever taken are from way back, when I was only 6 or 7 years old. I remember well how the various family cameras would be used on holidays or key occasions. Coming back from holiday, there’d sometimes be a spare roll or two of film lying around. So I’d use it all up.
But those rolls never got developed. And I have no idea what I made with them. I just have that feeling, that childish curiosity about the world, and that total indifference to making something that would fit any concept, demand, brief, or trope.
They’re frames you can only dream about because they don’t exist in any form other than memory. Like some kind of strange reversal of what photographs are often thought to be for. Instead of taking a photograph to record a memory, my memory recalls having taken the photograph.
And the first time I shot a roll like that, I didn’t know that the rolls wouldn’t get developed. But even when I’d learned the lack of outcome, I still persisted. I don’t know why, I just know what I did. Or some of it.
They’re the best photographs I’ve ever taken, because they were about absolutely nothing other than the act of taking them.
It’s a feeling I try to find again every time I pick a camera up.
This is part of a weekly interview series with members of Seconds2Real street photography collective, in celebration of their forthcoming exhibition in Berlin in October.
What brought you to doing street photography? How long have you been a street photographer? Why do you love it?
I’ve always been photographing mainly in public space since I’ve started photography around the year 2000. I took me some years to get closer to people but basically it has always been some kind of street photography.
What I like about taking unstaged pictures of people in urban surroundings is to do my very own kind of “personal journalism” about the society we live in and how I see it. I’m working in other photographic generes from time to time but I always return to street photography, also because of the fact that the results can never be planned – I think I just like accidents. And I like taking long walks. I prefer finding pictures that surprise me instead of staging up everthing in advance.
I’m not a professional photographer so fortunately I don’t have to think about profit when I go out photographing, do an exhibition, publish a book or whatever.
What photographers inspire you?
Of course there are some classic photographers we all know like Winogrand, Erwitt, Frank, Parr etc. who definitely have an impact on my work but what might be even more inspiring are contemporary fellow photographers I know in person.
Editing/selecting which images to show is crucial for a street photographer. Has being in a collective helped you with this process?
I have some close photo friends whose work I’ve followed for many years and vice versa. I think it’s always an enrichment to discuss your selections with other people who have a sense of what you are doing, no matter if they are photographers or not. The bigger a project gets the more important it is to look at your work with more than your own two eyes. My book ALEX e. g. was strongly influenced by Andreas Rost who helped me a lot in questions of editing and sequencing the photographs.
In the UK, street photography has become very popular over the last year (the Street Photography Now book published, Format Festival dedicated to street photography, the London Street Photography Festival, your work on show at Look11, and lots of popular workshops). Have you felt that street photography has also been more popular recently in your own country? And do think that street photography will continue to be popular in this way?
I think the term “street photography” is not as fashionable in Germany as it seems to be in the UK today, but I think there is a tendency towards a more authentic photography in general. But anyway – I don’t care too much about trends and labels and there is a lot of photography described as “street photography” that I find quite boring because it’s just repeating the same clischés over and over again. Generally I am interested in strong photography and like photographers who have something to say with their pictures and not just babble around.
Any tips or “words of wisdom” for other street photographers?
Find your own story and speak your own language.
What would be your ideal gear for doing street photography with?
The ideal gear would be a combination of the size and weight of a Lomo LC-A + image quality and handling of a EOS 5D + the high ISO qualitiy of the latest Nikon SLRs.
– Note about the attached images –
In the last few years I concentrated on photographing in the city I live in. These pictures were taken in Berlin in 2010 and 2011.
Well, a new class is coming up, and I’m encouraging you to consider signing up.
The new class begins 20th October until 10th November, and Mimi says….
The Workshop theme is “Edges of the City”.
And Special Guests (99% confirmed) are Helene Binet Photographer, Kate Edwards Picture Editor The Guardian Weekend Magazine and Johanna Neurath Commisioning Editor T&H
I’ve worked with Mimi when he supplied an Instruction to participants in the Street Photography Now Project, and I was quite involved in seeing the planning and implementation of his first Photowrap class last spring. Both times, Mimi was really hands on, engages with his students extremely well, and does everything he can to make sure his projects are fair and serious value for money.
He’s extremely supportive in helping photographers develop photoessays and is also a great teacher of technique and making strong single images.
I love it when I can type something like this up, and say that I can’t recommend his workshop highly enough, without it being hype at all. It’s just the truth.
If you’re looking to improve your documentary photography, this is one workshop that is seriously worth considering.
But consider fast, because places are limited and they went like hot cakes last time. 😉
Today, British news, including the BBC were forced to hand over all unbroadcast footage of the summer’s riots in England. This came after they were served with production orders from the courts, and the police hope the footage will assist them in bringing convictions against rioters.
ST84Photo Blog hails from Liverpool, where some significant public disorder occurred. I think the events nationwide are morally abhorrent. I also believe both that participants should face prosecution and that we need to look seriously and deeply at the range of factors that prompted these events, taking action to prevent a reoccurrence.
The two beliefs conflict when it comes to reacting to the news of the production orders being delivered. Obviously, I want successful prosecutions of those who are guilty, and the news footage may arguably be useful in achieving this. Yet, I am deeply uncomfortable about the demand on news organisations to hand over footage.
The state, acting through the police and the courts have, in serving production orders, stepped into the sphere of regulating journalistic practice. There are times when this is necessary (e.g. in developing libel laws, to prevent the news from fabricating stories about individuals and organisations) but, at other times, necessity isn’t so clear, and the importance of a free press as a key element of a civilised and civically engaged society deserves consideration. And that is precisely the case here.
Ignoring, for a moment, the presumably substantial amount of footage acquired through state cctv, the private cctv systems of shops attacked, and the Police FIT squad, the attacks on journalists during the riots shocked many. Unsurprisingly so, given we hold the idea of a free press being key to a liberal society as an important and fundamental idea.
These attacks indicate that there already exists a suspicion of reporters among some sections of the public. As a photographer, I worked in Toxteth prior to the summer riots. It was a personal project, and I grew up in the area, yet I still experienced great wariness from the community in conducting my work. People would approach me to question if I was with the police or the press. And both were considered equally suspect. When I work on long term projects, I frequently give my subjects my word that I wont publish the images anywhere (even on social media sites) without first showing them the images and agreeing with them that certain images are acceptable. In some cases, when I’ve photographed illegal immigrants, or photographed drug dealers, it is the only way I can work and it is only an effective working method so long as I can gain the trust of my subjects.
Every judgement like that delivered today erodes the scope of trust between journalists and the public. Other events, most recently and notable the phonehacking scandal, also erode this trust and journalists are far from being perfect. But the profession in its widest sense demands both that journalists hold themselves to account and add value to the profession before they consider damaging the profession to advance their careers, and that the state recognise and respect the extra-legal importance of the press.
I am not a journalist; I’m a documentary photographer and I don’t work for newspapers. But still, the journalistic ethic applies to the work I do. And journalists become ethically compromised by the seizing of documents – how can a journalist ethically and honestly assure a source that their identity won’t be revealed if the state shows a willingness to intervene and seize documents when it is deemed to be politically opportune?
Further, how can we hope to unpick the complex and multi-faceted causes of events like these? Because as much as I believe the participants in the rioting need to be punished, convictions will do little to address the various contributing issues to what happened. In this sense, prosecutions seem a rather glib response.
And this is highly relevant to the unease I feel about the production orders served upon news organisations today. The issues involved in the riots happening are complex, and a rush to prosecute and forget does nothing to show respect for the wider society of Britain that was affected.
There are times when we agree that individuals need to be “made an example of” – instances of justice as publicity, where the punishment of one individual for their crime is used not merely to punish them and try to prevent them reoffending, but also to signal to others that committing that crime will not be tolerated.
But justice as publicity arguably cuts both ways, and there ought to be times when we recognise that the pursuit of justice undermines itself when it reaches so far as to encourage more of the crime it is supposed to prevent. I believe that, when it comes to news organisations handing over footage of the riots, this is one of those times. After the teens of these riots have grown up, after the broken windows of the shops have been repaired, and after individual records get expunged, compounded by further crimes, or mitigated by future good behaviour, the long term effect of today’s judgement is a further erosion of the craftmanship and integrity of good journalism. And, with it, an erosion of the scope for positive progress in British society.
There’s two things you should know about me: I’m lazy, and I’m terrible at being organised. It sounds like a recipe for total failure, right? But it’s what causes me to sit down and do things like organising my DAM (digital asset management) so I’m spending as little time on it as possible, and don’t have to sit there at 3am cursing as I edit new copies of images because I need to submit them for a Call For Submission I’ve only just heard about. I’m not perfect, and nor is my system; it’s a process of continuous evolution. But I’m hoping this series helps to put my thinking on DAM into one place, and a place where you can also use it.
This will be a weekly series of posts covering: an introduction to DAM, discussion of software and hardware options for managing your media files, how to name files and create sensible folder structures, backing up work, keywording and metadata entry (and what it’s good for), and why all those flags and coloured labels are in your cataloguing software, plus a few other things. The idea isn’t to sell you a magic bullet DAM system that I can guarantee will work – there isn’t one. The idea is to give you a framework based on my own system development that will help you create a suitable workflow for your own files.
Introduction to Digital Asset Management
Wikipedia helpfully defines DAM as, “Digital asset management (DAM) consists of management tasks and decisions surrounding the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets. Digital photographs, animations, videos and music exemplify the target-areas of media asset management (a sub-category of DAM).”
In short, that’s everything from capture to archiving your work. It matters because your images have value. That value could be personal – the family photographs of your kid’s third birthday – or professional – that image of the Olympics that just keeps on getting reused by every publication around the globe. You want your images to be easy to find, easy to work on, and safe. And that is what DAM exists for.
DAM is everything from your personal habits, to the software you use to process and catalogue your images, to the hardware those images are stored on. So a good DAM solution needs to involve personal habits that you can stick to, good software for the specific tasks you complete (and an awareness of that software’s inevitable limitations), and quality hardware for storing and backing up files (you should have three copies of everything of value).
Let’s kick things off with a few questions that I think it’s important to keep in mind before and during planning your DAM system.
(1) Who/What Are You Shooting For?
You might be a photojourno who also photographs his family for personal memories, or a documentary photographer who also works with audio and video files, or a fashion photographer with a side-hobby in taking iPhone pics.
Whatever it is, get clear about what kinds of images you shoot regularly and who they’re for. This will matter as we come to make decisions about…………………………..
(2) What media do you frequently work with?
Regularly shooting RAW and exporting jpgs for your family and flickr? Or do your clients demand TIFF files? Just image files? Or audio too? You’ll benefit from considering this when it comes to choosing which software to use for managing your files, and how to plan your file-naming and directory structure. If you’re regularly working on projects involving a mixture of media formats, you’ll want to be able to track all of them from one software programme.
(3) What “finished files” do you regularly produce, and what are they for? How much time do you usually have to produce them?
I don’t make major adjustments to my images, but I do find I often have to reproduce images in a range of different files sizes and usually with scant time to do it in. So, for me, a cataloguing software that allows me to find these images, do minor adjustments where needed, and save exported images easily is a must.
On the other hand, I also like to work with a range of media files – images, audio, and video. So a software that can handle all of these is also much needed.
Choosing your software needs to be based on a clear idea of how you need to use it.
What hardware/software system are you currently using? How adequate will this likely be in 6 months? One year? Beyond?
As a general and important rule, all DAM systems should be scalable – it shouldn’t matter that you change computers, start using hard drives with twice the capacity, begin working on the road a lot, or change your software; your DAM system should be able to survive all these changes.
Overview of Cataloguing Software
There’s a range of cataloguing solutions, from the very basic “just keep an organised folder structure and hope for the best” approach up to
hiring your very own DAM ninja to do all this for you specific cataloguing software.
I use two of the three programmes I’m going to talk about here. I’d encourage you to look around at other programmes if these don’t fill your needs for keeping your work organised.
Expression Media 2
This was bought from Microsoft by Phase One back in 2010, but I’m using a copy from the Microsoft days. It’s crucial for me because of the ridiculous variety of files it handles. Jpg? Yep. Raw files? Sure thing. Audio? No problem. InDesign files? Just as manageable. Text documents? Right there and accounted for. If you work on projects using a range of files like I do, you will love this aspect of EM2. Alas, since being bought out by Phase One, it seems to be moving into more direct competition with Lightroom and Aperture, by concentrating development of the software on introducing basic image editing features. If they can nail this and still support a wide range of files, that could make an excellent programme but, somehow, I don’t hold out great hope. For me, Expression Media 2 gets used at the end stage of my work – managing projects once the basic edits have been done, and collecting different media together by project.
My personally preferred software for doing basic edits, managing my files before I’m done with editing and processing them, and my go-to software when I’m asked for “that image, but in black and white, and at 72dpi, please”. Lightroom will catalogue video files, which is great, but doesn’t offer support for other files types I need access to for projects – .wav, .mp3, InDesign files, and other stuff. If they can introduce this, I’d be inclined to give up Expression Media 2.
The alternative to Lightroom. Like Lightroom, it allows you to log video files but is limited when it comes to other media types. I’m not going to recommend using Lightroom instead of Aperture other than to say I just learned the Lightroom interface more rapidly and, seeing how Apple have “dumbed down” Final Cut Pro, I’m cautious about moving my image processing and initial cataloguing to Apple software that could end up going the same way. The Apple fangirl in me is kicking me for having to type that, but it’s true.