Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for February, 2011

24 hours. 24 photographers. 24 images. 24 years.

I thought you might be interested to hear about this amazing photographic project I stumbled upon. The idea is simple in concept: 24 photographers (all post-grads from Central Saint Martins College of Art) set out to document the first 24 hours of each new year for 24 years – in just 24 images.

Eyrie by Guy Bell

They’ve covered the first 8 years already so only… (removes shoes and socks to calculate)… 16 more New Years to go. Here’s the story in their own words:

24:2011 – A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square

As the sun sets on Berkeley Square we can’t guarantee a nightingale singing, but there will be magic in the air as 24:2011 celebrates the milestone of reaching its eighth year. One third of the way through the ambitious project that will not be complete until the next decade and we’re still going strong – creating a social commentary that will last for generations.

The idea is simple: 24 photographers, documenting the first 24 hours of every New Year for 24 years.

Each individual is tasked with capturing a single moment within their allotted hour, creating a unique collection of images linked only by time. The original 24 photographers met while studying on a postgraduate photography course at Central St Martin’s in London. This year we take a candid look at New Year’s Day.

24 hours. 24 photographers. 24 images. 24 years.

– What a great concept! Part of me wonders what would happen if, god forbid, something should happen to one of the participants before the project is completed – after all, 24 years is a long time, even for young student-types.

The resulting images are now on show in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London. The show began – you guessed it – on the 24th of February. It runs until 19th March.

Liminal Space by Sarah Lucy Brown

And to top it all, the resulting images are fantastic, and must ultimately reflect not only the changing styles of the photographers but also changes in their their own lives and a constantly evolving society.

Say Cheese by Enrico Vietti

This project has inspired me to finally kick-start a long-imagined project that I’ve been mulling over for over a decade. Good luck to the 24Photography project – it has to beat watching Jools Holland’s blimming Hootenanny every year.


Chaos in the Gallery!

Most photographers whose work leads them to photograph on the streets of the UK nowadays can expect to occasionally meet with a hostile, if not hysterical, reaction from the people that find themselves in the viewfinder. And so one would think that interesting subject matter for the street photographer becomes even harder to access.

There is, however, a “street photographer” (his description, rather than mine) whose sheer nerve in pursuit of his images occasionally leaves me dumbstruck. His name is Gareth Jukes and I’ve known him since we began studying together in 2004. Since then, we were co-members of the photographers group “5 Go Shooting“.

Image by Gareth Jukes

Gareth is currently an MA Fine Art student and still as fearless when behind his camera as he was when I first met him. Like many street photographers, he freely acknowledges that his field is extremely unilkely to lead to high volume image sales or fame and fortune, but he continues to shoot at a prolific rate whenever possible, funding this work (as  many do) with more commercial types of photography.

Gareth has the very rare gift of being simultaneously bold and unobtrusive. Shooting at three successive EDL (English Defence League) “demonstrations”, or riots as they became, in Dudley last summer, he somehow managed to align himself alongside the police, young asians staging a counter-demo, and even the EDL’s middle-aged skinheads in order to get the angles he wanted. This is all the more surprising when you realise that Gareth is a young black male.

Image by Gareth Jukes

I am proud to announce that “Chaos“, a solo exhibition by Gareth, will commence at Fotofilia from next Tuesday (1st March). The title comes from early discussions with Gareth about what aspects of his work to include. I suggested one shot, taken in the back streets of Istanbul, and another amazingly close shot of the Pope’s Birmingham visit, to which Gareth said, “But where’s the chaos, man?” Chaos is certainly a feature of the exhibition, but so too is spontaneity, and real beauty. 

Image by Gareth Jukes

Expect images from any or all of Gareth’s photographic expeditions, to the USA, Turkey, France, Ireland… and not to mention many of the major cities in the UK. Gareth’s approach is akin to that of Robert Capa – get in close, shoot fast and keep your head down. His images have the same sense of atmosphere and energy, sometimes at the expense of technically perfect compostion, focus and exposure – something that Gareth refuses to correct in post-production (even though he has excellent Photoshop skills).

Come along to Fotofilia over the next couple of weeks and spend some time looking at, and beyond, these images. The real story is often hidden beneath the surface. Come along on Tuesday 1st March (6:30-9pm) and Gareth will explain them to you personally.

CCC: The Crap Camera Challenge

In October 2010, I handed the ever-so-lucky members of THE CLUB (Fotofilia‘s photographic society), a free camera!

Surprisingly, they weren’t quite as delighted as I might have hoped. Perhaps it was because the camera in question was a very cheap and nasty disposable camera. Or that I wanted them to use this camera to make photographs that would then be entered into a competition – a competition I imaginitvely called “The Crap Camera Challenge“. 

I added insult to injury by confining their shots to the theme of “My Birmingham“. What’s not to get fired up about?

THE CLUB includes photographers with a wide range of experience, ability, and of course, equipment. I reckoned that it would be interesting to see what images could be produced when the playing field was levelled, equipment-wise.

The camera’s used unknown-branded 200 ISO film and had two exposure options – flash on, and flash off. Participants had a month to shoot ther images before the cameras had to be handed back for processing (by Dunn‘s) and scanning onto cd. I then gave the digital files back to the group for editing as they saw fit before submitting for the competition final on Tuesday 9th February.

The images were judged in two ways. Guest Judge Christophe Dillinger, himself something of an afficionado when it comes to low-tech cameras, chose his own three favourite images from the 46 entries. His winner, Valeska Hass recieved a small prize – a very small prize – another crap camera. 

Christophe's winner by Valeska Hass

The main judging, however, was by the members themselves, who were asked to pick their top 3 too. Here are the winners…

1st Prize by Ania Machacek

2nd Prize winner by Mark Cruxton

3rd Prize winner Mark Dodds

4th place went to Ken Hudson

This image by Ines Siddour would have been my personal choice

Seeing these images, and the qualities inherent in even the nastiest and cheapest of films, made me positively misty-eyed about the days when we had no choice but to shoot film. I’ve found myself buying another film camera. Now then, how does one load a film again…?
…and Judge, Christophe Dillinger

“Collektive Exposure” at Fotofilia

I’ll be wiping a small tear from my eye as I take down my “Pride of The Black Country” exhibition on Saturday, and putting them down for a few months’ rest, all snuggled up in their bubble-wrap duvet. Hopefully, in the summer (probably August), they’ll be brought out of their hibernation and dusted down for a trip to Viewfinder Gallery in Brixton. Of this, more details soon.

In the meantime I can at least gain some solace in the knowledge that the wall-space they’re vacating is to be occupied by a whole raft of great photography in the coming months. First up, barely before the filler dries, will be “Collektive Exposure“, a 22-strong group of photographers based at the University of Wolverhampton, and their exhibition “Freedom and Control“.

Image by Nigal Goodship

This is probably the most diverse selection of work to be seen at Fotofilia and I’m sure they’d be very keen for you to come along and see it. The show starts next Tuesday, the 15th February. I believe this kind of group show offers a fascinating insight into the future of photography as a whole so get along as soon as you can – it’s only on for a couple of weeks. Oh, and the Private View event on Tuesday evening… well, it’s not so private after all. In fact, you’re invited!

Here’s a very small sample of what you can expect…

Image by Evans Cheuka

Image by Alice Jones

Image by Natalie Galloway

And here’s a linky to their blog…

The Trouble With Models…

One of our regular studio hire clients at Fotofilia, who usually books the studio for a whole or half day at a time, will often book six models for the day – fully expecting at least one to show up hopelessly late, and another to not show up at all.

There have been other instances where clients have booked the studio and neither of the two models booked have shown up – leaving the unfortunate photographer with a studio hire bill for a shoot that never happened.

Now, in what other occupation would you put up with, or even factor into your workflow, that level of unreliability? Can you imagine calling an ambulance three times in the hope that at least one would show up? Buying two phones, expecting one of them to never work?

Fotofilia fave - Jenny

Many photographers (at least those working on lower budgets as most are) now rarely bother with traditional modelling agencies, preferring to use the vaious online model-photographer interface sites such as Model Mayhem and Pure Storm. I also use these sites quite frequently as a starting place for finding models, but these sites have a distinct disadvantage when compared with agencies: anyone can sign up and offer their services as a model, whether they have a genuine interest in modelling or not.

Fotofilia fave - Mark

Sometimes, there’s a clue in the profile information. Here’s my interpretation of commonly used expressions…

  1. I love partying/going out with friends = Going to arrive late and need services of a very good Make-Up Artist.
  2. I thought modelling would be a confidence boost = Not at all interested in modelling, just wants to see if anyone thinks she’s pretty.
  3. People tell me I should be a model = Gullible.
  4. I always give 110% = rubbish at maths so cant be relied upon to work out train timetables.
  5. It wud be gr8 to wurk wiv u coz I luv ur pics they’re awesome!!!  – (an actual email I received) = semi-literate and so unlikely to find studio.

Okay, so I’ve been a bit flippant, but it really is sometimes possible to spot the time-wasters from their profile info. If they say they’re only interested in hair shots, chances are they’re after a free makeover before the club.

What really makes me laugh are the profiles populated entirely by grainy phonecam images shot in the bedroom mirror and which state the model is amateur but that they will accept only paid work. How is a photographer to have any idea what he’d be paying for?

Fotofilia fave - Kat

But I’m still often caught out: just this weekend, my booked model (who IS very reliable) was going to have trouble with public transport as she was coming in from a different location, so I suggested finding a replacement for her on this occasion, thinking it would be easy. None of my tried-and-trusted model were available and so I began contacting some of the newer models I’ve worked with, and yippee! found one!

Two hours later, I had an email (an email, mind you – that I normally wouldn’t be accessing until the day after the shoot) to say that she too was unable to work, after all. So I sent a few more texts and found a replacement for my replacement. She’d love to do it! Phew! I could sit back and prepare for the next day’s shoot.

…An hour or so later (about 9pm on the evening before the shoot and I’ve settled in front of the tv with a bottle of pinot grigio), a text arrived. Replacement No. 2 can’t arrange childcare – sorry.

Grrrrrr! So I dash back to the PC and place a Casting Call on Pure Storm asking, pleading (somewhat desperately) for a local model to be Replacement No. 3. After a flurry of replies from models from those well-known areas of the West Midlands such as Glasgow, North Wales and Derbyshire, I start getting replies from local models offering their services.

Within half an hour I’ve found someone I feel fairly confident will show up – and lo and behold – she did! Organizing studio tuition groups is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Over the last few years I’ve built up a nice little list of great models that I know will never let me down, will turn up (more or less) on time (usually because I tell them a start time half an hour before they’re needed), and will rise to any task I give them with a smile, providing great images every time.

These models are few and far between, and the nature of this business being as it is, they sometimes move on, move away, move into a different league, or simply start a family. And so I continue to try to fill the void left by departing dependables as well as bringing in “new blood”  for regular attendees of my courses and workshops.

Working with a good model is a real joy, a collaborative creative experience towards a common aesthetic goal. Working with a bad model is a draining, one-sided arrangement akin to pushing a grumpy elephant up the stairs…

…if she shows up, that is. 

Pure Storm (more of this in later posts) –

Model Mayhem

Michelle G – one of the best.

Tina – smiles even when freezing!  –

Omie – my gorgeous 60s muse –

Marvin – utterly professional –

…and not to mention Jenny, Mark, Kat, Sophia, Gemma (heck, you know who you are)

Magnum Photographer Arrested in Black Country!

On Tuesday I attended a lecture by one of (I reckon) the world’s most influential living photographers – Martin Parr – at the University of Wolverhampton. Parr has recently completed the first stage of a project documenting The Black Country in his own inimitable (though many try) style. The results of his forays into the wilds of Sandwell were exhibited at The Public, West Bromwich’s over-priced, over-ambitious and chronically under-utilised “white elephant” arts centre.

From The Black Country" by Martin Parr

During this very interesting lecture, Parr showed rarely-seen examples of his very early work, as well as his colection of Saddam Hussain watches(!) and spoke very candidly about his journey in photography. Here’s my favourite snippet of wisdom from the man…

When asked how much he cropped his images he said “I crop with my legs. That’s what they’re for”.

Parr made it quite clear that some of the images that he shot twenty or so years ago, such as those from “The Last Resort” about fading british seaside resorts, and especially those that feature children on the beach, he simply wouldn’t be allowed to shoot nowadays.

From "The Last Resort" by Martin Parr

I sneaked a bit of footage during the lecture where he explains this…

I asked him whether this had had an adverse effect on the way he works. He replied that (and I’m paraphrasing of course) that on the whole, people were still very amenable about being photographed in the street, although there was one incident while photographing “The Black Country” that he was arrested in Wednesbury for photographing in a public area where children were present. Parr was, obviously, well within his rights and was eventually “un-arrested” and given an apology.

So it seems that even famous Magnum photographers can fall foul of over-zealous public guardians. There’s hope for us all.

Martin Parr’s website

The Public