Archive for October, 2011

More Cuts In The Arts?

As my last post attests, I’m a big fan of initiative and achieving great ideas, even when resources are limited.

Third Floor Gallery is one such Great Idea. Since February 2010, they’ve been producing some brilliant photography exhibitions showcasing a range of talent. And they’ve done it without ACE (arts council – UK government) funding.

Last spring, Joni Karanka from the gallery came up to Open Eye Gallery to talk about Third Floor’s work. Open Eye started out, just like Third Floor, as a grassroots organisation founded by dedicated photography fans who just want to share great work. That was in the 1970s. Open Eye are due this week to re-open in a new space on Liverpool’s Waterfront, and is considered a key photography gallery internationally, as well as a key cultural body within Liverpool. Joni is now cutting his hair in a bid to raise money to keep Third Floor Gallery open and brilliant.

So, I’m supporting Third Floor Gallery, by offering to also cut off 5 (or more) inches of my curly girly hair to raise money to cover running costs for the Gallery. And I’m asking anyone who has appreciated ST84Photo Blog to consider donating to this cause.

Here’s the relevant link, and it only takes you a moment to donate!

All money raised goes direct to Third Floor Gallery.

When it comes to ACE funded organisations, we asked the government to stop the cuts. Third Floor aren’t ACE funded at all so, for them, we’re asking you to give some money to start the cuts (hair only) and keep them going!

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Don’t Believe In Yourself!

ST84Photo Blog is taking a momentary step away from photo talk to bring you this…

The University applications organisation, UCAS, is urging that students should apply to university after they receive their grades.

One of the major reasons cited by advocates of this change in the televised/radio discussions of it is that students apply to the courses they think they might get into, instead of having the ambition to apply for the course they most want to do. In support of this, they also say that schools will discourage students from applying to courses they think they might not be successful in getting a place at.

Now, I have a problem with this line of logic. Partly, no doubt, because I was one of those students once. I’m from a “povvo” background and wanted to apply to Oxford University. My school didn’t think I’d get in, because of my background. I disagreed. I applied. I got my acceptance letter pretty swiftly.

While there are a range of issues with the current university applications system (not to mention with the current education system generally…), I’m concerned that we have advocates for UK youths who are essentially saying, rather than support young people to have sufficient self-esteem, ambition, and belief in their power to achieve their own goals and to change the society they live in by doing so, we need to change the current applications system, because without pieces of paper from us proving their worth they wont believe their own worth.

I have bits of paper from people like this. They have no real value to me when they’ve been awarded by individuals and organisations with such rank professional narcissism. The qualifications have nothing more than utility to me. I knew I was capable long before I ever received them. And it is that capability that has value, both to me and to society.

In a failing economy, and a world where technological advances mean that entrepreneurs will innovate to bring new products to market, and new jobs are being created requiring skills we don’t have qualifications for yet, surely fostering an attitude among the young that qualifications are the only arbiter for moving ahead with an idea is a dangerous path to take?

It is important to train, and it is important to listen to feedback. But it is also important to learn how to keep developing your own ideas and plans in the face of negative feedback, when you’re convinced that you have the capability to achieve something. That’s where progress and innovation comes from.

Or, as George Bernard Shaw once said, “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” What piece of paper does UCAS have for grading that?

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Seconds2Real: Siegfried Hansen

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This is part of an interview series with members of Seconds2Real street photography collective, in celebration of their recent exhibition in Berlin in October.A video of this exhibition can be viewed at the bottom of this post.

What brought you to doing street photography? How long have you been a street photographer? Why do you love it?

Before I started with Street photography I took ordinary pictures, like everyone else. 2002 I saw an exhibition in Tokyo by Andre Kertesz and was impressed by his pictures. This was the moment when I realized, that I would like to work as a street photographer. I am not working professional as a street photographer; it’s a hobby or more like a passion.

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Which photographers inspire you?

Andre Kertesz, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Ray K. Metzker, Ernst Haas. The most influence on my work is given to me by Andre Kertesz. I like his style how he had seen the scene and as well his creative thinking. I am as well an admirer of Ernst Haas, he has some wonderful pictures that I admire.

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Editing/selecting which images to show is crucial for a street photographer. Has being in a collective helped you with this process?

Yes, sometimes is it very good to have this collective. So different eyes look at the work. But most of the time you have to consider by yourself which photos your will publish in the internet, exhibitions or books.

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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?

Yes, I have recognized that Street Photography becomes more and more popular even in Germany. But the main towns for Street Photography are still London and New York.


Any tips or “words of wisdom” for other street photographers?

In my opinion he has to be curiously, open minded and has to capture the situation in a quick moment. A street photographer should learn to use the “2nd layer”. This means the game between foreground and background, otherwise the pictures does not look so interesting. And it is very important to train his perceptual memory, always checking the environment.

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What would be your ideal gear for doing street photography with?

A noiseless small camera with a quick autofocus, which makes good and quality photos.

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Seconds2Real made this video of their recent exhibition in Berlin.

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Britain’s Photographic Revolution?

On a day when The Observer’s Sean O’Hagan writes about what is, in his opinion, a revolution in photography in Britain’s galleries, we’re also treated to an article by Source Magazine called The Invisible Gallery, lamenting the chronic inability of photography galleries to develop an online presence of any standing.

Source rightly note that very little of Britain’s large photographic archive (newsletters, periodicals, exhibition outlines, etc.) has been digitized, nor do most of the galleries even have something as basic as a Wikipedia entry to their digital name.

That’s before we even consider matters like understanding social media well enough to be able to use it in a constructive way. Most galleries are little more than broadcasters here. But it isn’t just the galleries who still don’t seem to ‘get’ social media – agencies are equally poor, with tweets at the height of the Libyan Uprising from photojournalism agencies celebrating their ability to take fun photographs of Americana, being just one #epicfail I’ve seen lately. It’s a bit like sitting in a pub where your mate is proudly talking about his new baby, and responding with “I watched the football last night”.

Digital media is being hailed as the new frontier of photography, but I’ve seen little from the photography institutions (not just the galleries) to demonstrate an understanding of any of it beyond the ability to use Mail Chimp combined with the Tweetdeck auto-tweet function to spam provide photography fans with exactly the same content by email and by social media.

So, we have a few new job positions specialising in photography (with an emphasis on collecting prints for their archives) at the big London institutions (no mention of any organisation outside of Zone 1 in O’Hagan’s piece…sorry Open Eye, sorry Side, sorry Stills, sorry Impressions, sorry Third Floor, etc), and no talk at all of any of the numerous photography festivals, let alone talk of grassroots developments and what they’re up to.

Still less any talk about how to navigate the digital world. This has been a popular topic at recent conferences, seminars, lectures, and festivals. But again, it mostly boils down to key organisation representatives sipping water and saying, “we don’t know how this will develop, and we don’t know how to make sense of it yet…but it’s really exciting!” Advice to photographers? Get involved in this new fangled way of doing things as much as you can! Just don’t expect us to have any clue what you’re doing, how to evaluate it, or even how to find it. We’re still wondering why Steve Jobs hasn’t put an “off” switch on our computers!

If there has indeed been a revolution in British photography at all, I rather suspect it is known more colloquially as “the spinning beachball of death” on a Mac computer.

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A Note

For some reason, for me, good doesn’t cut it. I yearn for great. I’m trying to figure out what this means to me. Part of it is about having a very strong sense of what you’re doing. Whether that’s sophisticated or emotional (articulate or visceral), that integrity has to be there totally, or I’m not interested. So much work I look at and think the composition is good, or the colours are nice, or something like that, but no more. The people I really rate – Parke, Norfolk, Graham, and so on – they all have this intense sense of intent.


Architecture of Conflict

Today, ST84Photo Blog is in sunny Bradford, for the Architecture of Conflict seminar being held at the National Media Museum.

As you can see from the seminar programme I’ve added below, there are some great speakers lined up. I’ve also pre-blogged this entry, so it’s probably also grim and raining, and not sunny at all. Which makes the (presumably) scintillating debate a welcome distraction from my shivering. Or something like that.

Depending on how it is going, I might currently be taking some notes on what is being discussed to post up here when I return to Liverpool.


11.00 – 11.15
Introduction by Brigitte Lardinois, Deputy Director photography and the Archive Research Centre, University of the Arts London

11.15 – 12.15
Donovan Wylie, Photographer
Introduction to show + In Conversation with Greg Hobson, Curator of Photographs

12.15 – 13.15
Lunch and opportunity for delegates to see show

13.15 – 13.45
Hilary Roberts, Head Curator Photograph Archive Imperial War Museum
Cecil Beaton’s use of structure and form in his work as a Ministry of Information official photographer during the Second World War.

13.45 – 14.15
Melanie Friend, Photographer
Melanie will be talking about her new project, The Home Front, which focuses on the marketing of war and the relationship between militarism and leisure.

14.15 – 14.45
Paul Lowe, Course Director, MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, London College of Communication
Paul will discuss how his work as a photographer in Bosnia and Palestine has explored the spatial and geographic aspects of conflict zones that much news photography ignores.

14.45 – 15.00

15.00 – 15.30
Richard Daniels, Senior Archivist/Assistant Manager, University of the Arts London Archives and Special Collections Centre
Using material from the Stanley Kubrick Archive Richard will explore how Kubrick created Vietnam in an abandoned industrial estate in East London.

15.30 – 16.00
Jennifer Pollard, Senior Lecturer, History & Theory of Photojournalism & Documentary Photography, London College of Communication
The fallen ‘twin towers’ as central symbols within the photojournalistic convention of substituting bodies with buildings (or ‘cityscapes of flesh’) in the reportage of urban catastrophe.

16.00 – 16.30
Stephen Graham, Professor of Cities and Society, Newcastle University
Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism Cities have become the new battleground of our increasingly urban world. From the slums of the global South to the wealthy financial centers of the West, this talk will trace how political violence now operates through the sites, spaces, infrastructures and symbols of the world’s rapidly expanding metropolitan areas.

16.30 – 17.00

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Drifting Visually With Wolfgang Zurborn

Wolfgang Zurborn has a new show, Drift opening in Belgium, November 12th.

The show is at 44 Gallery, and runs until December 4th, in case you happen to be visiting the country then.

More information about this work, and some images from it, can be found here.

Wolfgang Zurborn – Drift

November 12th – Dezember 4th 2011

Opening: Friday November 11th, 7 p.m.
Introduction: Sofie Crabbé, Art Historian, Critic

Dezember 2nd – 6th 44 GALLERY at LINEART ART FAIR GENT

Genthof 44 – 8000 Brügge, Belgium
opening hours: Sat, Sun 2 – 6 p.m.
contact: Luc Rabaey
+32 489 552663

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Thanks To ST84Photo Subscribers!

Last week, I gave a big shout out to various people who had inspired me or helped me out in a jam.

This week, I just want to say a little thanks to everyone who has subscribed to this blog, left comments, shared it with others, and generally checked it out.

I mostly write the blog for myself – I decide what to post about based on what I’d like to read, or what I think needs discussing. Or, I post about exhibitions and talks I’ve been to, or books I’ve read, to “pay it forward” a little by sharing what I think of them. The idea of having an audience here is still a fairly vague entity in the back of my mind as I write.

So it’s really cool when someone subscribes to the blog, and I get a little note from WordPress reminding me that I’m not the only person reading this thing.

I’ve been doing this for about 6 months now, and I still feel like the blog has yet to “take shape” as it were. But I hope that, as it does, you’ll enjoy it enough to stick around.

As always, if you have any comments, don’t be afraid to leave them below posts. I promise not to bite. 😉

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Seconds2Real: Guido Steenkamp

“The most exciting aspect of Street Photography for me is that there is nothing you have to prepare and almost nothing you could plan. All you have to do is to step out on the street and have your camera ready.” Guido Steenkamp

This is part of an interview series with members of Seconds2Real street photography collective, in celebration of their forthcoming exhibition in Berlin in October.

How did you begin doing street photography, and why do you love it?

I started Street Photography in 2006. I wouldn’t say I consciously decided to focus on Street Photography, it’s more that I stumbled into it by accident. I like walking in the streets and I like to watch people. At some point I started to capture the moments when I noticed something unusual or funny – just small details of daily lives.

The most exciting aspect of Street Photography for me is that there is nothing you have to prepare and almost nothing you could plan. All you have to do is to step out on the street and have your camera ready. It needs a lot of patience, experience and mostly luck to get a decent shot. But when this happens, it’s fantastic – nothing beats that.


And how do you pay the bills?

I am fortunate enough not to have to earn my money by working as a photographer. I work as a head of a consulting department at a Berlin based software company. That’s not the most fun job in the world but at least I am free to photograph whatever I want to in my spare time.

Which photographers inspire you?

I admire the works of Alex Webb and Trent Parke, I own every single photo book they ever published. There are also some less known (Street) Photographers that I found to be very inspiring, Lukas Vasilikos and Jack Simon just to name two. (ST84Photo notes – Jack Simon was recently announced as one of the winners of the Street Photography Now Project, a year long project run by The Photographers’ Gallery)


Editing/selecting which images to show is crucial for a street photographer. Has being in a collective helped you with this process?

Indeed, editing and selecting images is the hardest part. As you may know the Seconds2Real members live in different cities, some in Germany, some in Austria. It happens only once or twice a year that we meet in person. Most of the editing is done via the internet. We use a forum for discussions, Dropbox to manage and edit our picture pool and Skype whenever something needs to be clarified short-term.

We all know that Flickr is certainly not the best place if one is looking for serious comments. That’s why I show my work to other Seconds2Real photographers whenever possible. Of course honest criticism is hard to take, particularly when it comes from friends, but it’s always very much appreciated.


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?

That’s true. The recent one and a half years have been truly awesome for the Street Photography community in the UK. From my perspective all of this started when in-Public published their book ’10’ in 2010, followed by ‘Street Photography Now’ and the different festivals this year.

Unfortunately Street Photography in Germany is not as popular as in the UK. There are virtually no contemporary Street Photography exhibitions in Germany. Besides the very strict publication laws we have, I do believe the main problem is that there have never been such strong Street Photography advocates in Germany like you have in the UK with supporters like Nick Turpin and Matt Stuart. Hopefully this will change soon, at least we are doing our best to improve the situation. In the recents six months we already did Street Photography workshops in Hamburg and Berlin and we are working on two group exhibitions in Berlin and Vienna.


Any tips or “words of wisdom” for other street photographers?

I don’t think I am the right person to give advice on this, but I am happy to summarize what worked for me:

* A good way to start Street Photography is to attend public events or to visit touristic spots. Photographers are expected at these types of events or places and no one will bother you when taking pictures.

* Learn to use hyperfocal focusing. A lens with a depth of field scale marked on it will help (like most Rangefinder lenses have).

* Learn to get close to the subject. Don’t make yourself think that a picture of someone’s back will look good – this is usually not the case.

* Find places with lots of people, know the times when they are present and the light is good.

* Make sure to read “Ways of working” at 2POINT8

* Learn to accept that getting a decent Street Shot is just a happy accident. As you get better you have more happy accidents.


What would be your ideal gear for doing street photography with?

Ah, the Inevitable gear question. I guess I am now supposed to say “It’s the photographer, not the camera!”? This of course is true, but I am quite gear head too. Now then, I did about 95% of my work with a Leica M6, loaded with Tri-X and using Summicron 35mm or 50mm lenses. I must admit though that I found myself using digital more and more recently.

With analog the choice of camera is very easy, get a Leica and you are done. With digital it’s way more complicated. Either the camera sucks because of poor battery life, like the Leica M9 I owned for some months, or it’s unusable because it’s too big/too loud to be used on the streets.

My current digital gear consists of a Nikon D700 I use at bigger events and a Nikon D7000 that serves as my carry-with-me-always camera, both with 35mm/35mm equivalent lenses. The Nikons are decent cameras but they are not ideal for Street Photography. For me it still feels wrong using a DSLR on the streets. Camera-wise I certainly enjoy Street Photography the most when using my 25-years old Leica.

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Thank You! Yes, This Means YOU…

Taking a cue from these lovelies, ST84Photo is taking a moment to say a round of thanks to a bunch of people who have helped me out with various pernickety questions and the such that I’ve had to deal with lately…

First up, a shout out to Duckrabbit and David Hoffman, who were really great at providing oversight when I had to field requests from the police about images I might have shot. Appreciated being able to check in with them that I’d acted in a professional way to protect the privacy of my subjects. Turned out to be a minor issue, but it was a first for me, so I was a little scared I’d miss something out.

Next up, a big holler to McGrory Creative who run Antler Studios in Liverpool. I’ve recently been shooting on a Leica S2, which was on loan to John Davies, a landscape photographer I assist. Shout out to him for leaving the S2 with me while he was away for a social event. 🙂

The camera is ideal for studio shoots. Which is something I never do. But, I teamed up with Rob who runs both McGrory Creative and Antler Studios, for a day of trying it out in that setting. He arranged some models and make up for the shoot, and we had a really fun day getting to grips with the S2 in studio settings. The team are down to earth and chilled out, and made me feel completely comfortable in my first studio session. They also make some frankly amazing pictures on a regular basis for some very high-end clients. But you’d never guess that talking to them, as they’re completely ego-free. I’m looking forward to doing more studio work in the future, and Antler Studios and their team will be my first port of call for this.

And also a big shout out to Nick Dunmur for some much needed and very impromptu professional development and business advice recently. When I look around at colleagues like him, who have so much experience in the industry, I feel like a total baby to photography. But it’s great to have a supportive network of people I can get in touch with when I have specific questions, and Nick has been great at making me feel a less like I’m working in the dark when I get surprise requests that I don’t know how to handle. Appreciated. I’ve been looking at his work for a while now, and suggest you give it a browse too, for commercial photography the guy really knows what he’s doing. And, just like the team at McGrory Creative and the others I’ve given a shout out to here, is proving my theory that the people at the top of their game are also often the nicest.

Other shouts outs…

Graeme Vaughan photographer about to depart to Berlin, for scintillating conversations about photography that always inspire and humble me in equal measure, coupled with some top quality humour. Will miss that when you leave *books plane ticket to visit Berlin in 2012*

Leica and their awesome team who graciously loaned John Davies the Leica S2, have been very supportive throughout, and generally been an absolute pleasure to deal with in my work for John.

Phil Coomes for documentary photography discussions that I value really highly, and David Campbell and Harry Hardie (HERE) for raising the bar I set for myself.

Simon Norfolk, for Ozymandias.

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