I was lucky enough to be walking through a flea market in Antwerp last week, taking a few images as I went and I came across a stall selling old family photographs in gilt frames, presumably so that people could throw the contents away and reuse the frames for their own memories (or maybe, sadly, create their own memories of the family they never had!)
It got me thinking about the value of the photographs we take, the history that they capture and the happy memories that are recalled every time we look at them. And yet sadly the use of phone cameras and other digital capture ‘tools’ such as the iPad make us much more likely to ever print those memories. The vast majority are never even downloaded from the capture device, living there until we regret their loss when we lose the phone or take more so the originals get overwritten. Where will the memories be for our own grandchildren? Will we be buying memories in a flea market in a foreign country just to give ourselves something to hang on to?
Old family photograhs and other momentos photographed in a flea market in Antwerp, Belgium.
A short time ago I worked with Southampton City Mission to produce some images of an outreach project into a local school. I chose to show these in b&w but they have since asked for 6 to be available to them in colour. All images were taken with the Fuji X-Pro1, and all processing was in LR CC. Here is the link to the images.
It has been a long time since I last posted here and for that I apologise. I will confess that there have been a dark days since my dear wife Pat died suddenly in Barcelona in September 2013, and it has taken me a while to get my life back on track and start living again. I am sure my readers will understand and bear with me. I thought however that it is time I did an update on where I am now.
I think I have become more politically aware these days, and looking back I guess I was always so but this had been sidelined through other events. However I do feel that in a so-called affluent city the need for food banks should not be necessary. I look around this place where I grew up and have spent virtually all of my life and I see a town centre which is full of empty shops, a town centre which is showing increasing signs of poverty. And yet virtually every day a number of massive cruise liners arrive here spilling their cargo of passengers on to our streets to spend their money. I also see some of the largest container ships in the world delivering ever-increasing volumes of consumer goods, and as I sit in my favourite cafe-bar at night cars worth thousands of pounds parade the streets. Something is basically wrong.
I am now working on a self-motivated piece of socio-documentary work trying to show the work of the five food banks we now have. Around 5% of the city population found it necessary to draw on their resources last year. It is a work in progress, and I am not yet in a position to publish any images as I am still shooting, but I want to thank Southampton City Mission for their co-operation on bringing this hopefully to public attention.
My other plans for the year are to shoot stock images in Belgium (end of July), New Delhi (early October) and then to return to Barcelona in November to work alongside one of the greatest street photographers I know, Lluis Ripoll, again. I will, of course, be shooting stock at all three places. In the meantime you can bring yourself up to date with my work on my web site.
Thanks for allowing me to rant, and I hope to keep you more up to date with my life and work from now on.
Ten years ago almost to the day I photographed the young daughter of an Indian friend eating some Indian food whilst wearing her smartest traditional clothes. I did this in response to a specific image request, and a model release was signed. The prospective client never chose the image but I kept it on file anyway, lodged it with a couple of agencies and, to be honest, thought little more about it.
It was taken on a Nikon D1X which was pretty ‘state of the art’ in those days using a Nikon 28 – 105 zoom lens, and a single flash held off-camera. It was a very quick session with little fuss so as not to upset the young child, and that was the end of the story.
Suddenly today I received a notification that the image has sold in Germany to a book publisher for a limited print run. Trust me, I won’t be retiring on the proceeds but it will pay for the coffees this week and just goes to prove that library sales can make a very useful supplement to the normal income. Oh I nearly forgot, here is the image:
Fifty years ago today people marched in Selma, Alabama, to protest the lack of voting rights for black Americans, and they were teargassed, beaten and had dogs set on them by the local police force. Two days later they were joined by Martin Luther King and thousands of others to continue the fight to end the disenfranchisement of black Americans and to continue the fight for equal rights for all. A total of 25,000 people marched to the state capital a few days later under the protection of federal troopers.
The above is, of course, a vital piece of history in the fight to end racism and I remember seeing the graphic images on television here in the U.K. very well. Just about every newspaper carried page after page about the events of that week, and ‘Life’ magazine and many others were full of horrifying photographs.
Today of course we can look back on those images and they help us to remember the brave fight of others so that we can all walk in freedom. But why, you may ask, am I writing about it here on this blog. It is because of the simple fact that we can look back on those images and remember. I strongly question whether images of the events of today will be as adequately preserved in the digital age in which we live. Fifty years down the road will hard disks still be accessible, will digital film (a contradiction in terms, but I could not think what else to use) still be on file at the TV stations or will it all be lost in hard disc crashes, computer glitches and the need for more and more storage space.
Sadly, I suspect much, if not all, will have gone. At the moment millions of people shoot with their mobile phones and digital cameras without even a thought of downloading anything to a computer let alone backing things up for security. People do not print images like they used to, nor do they make efforts to preserve their memories longer that the life of the telephone they are holding at the time (yes, I know I am generalising) and to put it bluntly it scares me.
I ask just one simple question, will we be relying on distorted oral history like our forefathers in the future?
The great British photographer Jane Bown has died at the age of 89. I had the great pleasure of meeting her once, and admired her work and tenacity. A diminutive woman in stature and yet a tremendous force in British photography who worked for the Observer newspaper for most of her life. Today is a sad day for me.