Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for July, 2011

Authorship: Appropriation Of Your Images

A couple of weeks ago, The Telegraph magazine ran a piece called “Looks Familiar” (thanks to Deborah Pardoe for bringing this to my attention) about a series of images by Corinne Vionnet.

Image by Corinne Vionnet

The images are all very familiar views of very familiar landmarks – Rome’s Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa etc – but with a difference. Vionnet’s images are actually digital composites, assembled from up to a hundred separate images of each scene, layered to create a final picture which resembles an impressionist sketch or worn oil painting.

Image by Corinne Vionnet

This work gained considerable attention at this year’s Arles photographic festival, where it appeared as part of an exhibition entitled “From Here On“. The exhibition comprised contributions by 36 artists, all using vernacular (or “lifted from the internet”) images as their main source.

Image by Corinne Vionnet

Vionnet’s project was inspired, she explains, by the realisation, while on holiday and photographing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, that many other images were being taken simultaneously by other tourists of almost exactly the same scene. And so Vionnet set about acquiring as many similar, tourist-taken, images as she could from the internet and layering these to produce the undeniably beautiful images that she has.

So here’s your thought for the day: To what extent is Vionnet the author of these images, consisting as they do, of a great many anonymous “found” images? For instance, should credit be given to all of the photographers whose images were used? Or doesn’t it matter, when the images are brought together in such a way that individual photographs can’t be identified? And what is Vionnet’s role here? Photographer? Artist? Compiler? Curator? Technician? Editor?

For what it’s worth I love these images. I think Vionnet has achieved something very unique and beautifully realised. But, I do wonder about the questions this raises about authorship and the rights of the photographer especially regarding appropriation of images without consent (although I should say it isn’t made clear that no consent was sought/obtained in Vionnet’s case).

What do you think?

See more of these lovely images at


Latex – Without Jools Holland (not safe for work!)

Speaking of square images taken with a Holga – which we were, in my last post (See? I don’t just throw this stuff together) – I thought I’d show you a couple of images taken on my Holga during a studio session with the stunning Eliza Beth a couple of weeks ago.

Eliza came along to fotofilia for a shoot with myself and Christophe Dillinger, during which, Christophe and I experimented with some different cameras combined with lighting that they’re not necessarily associated with. I also shot some digital images as a kind of fall-back plan (I’d have hated to waste a shoot like this one). What I didn’t predict is that I’d much prefer the images taken with the Holga to those taken with my DSLR.

Christophe kindly developed and scanned my film and here’s the result, with only a smidgen of adjustment to contrast in Photoshop. In this case, I’ve chosen to display these two frames as a diptych…

Eliza Beth diptych, captured via Holga

Who’d have thought you could have so much fun with a beautiful woman, partially dressed in latex (Eliza Beth, not me – thankfully), in a darkened studio with a plastic camera? You would? Oh, yeah, okay.

Eliza Beth and

Christophe Dillinger

A Great Way To Display Your Square Prints

Been away for the last week or so shooting graduations but now back and gradually recovering from 60 hours a week of “grin and grab”. Apologies if its all been a bit quiet on the blog front. Now, back to business as usual…

If, like Christophe Dillinger and his disciples of SQUARE, you favour the squareness of the square format, have a look at these natty square image frames from Phlib

They come in various colours, display nine 3″ x 3″ prints (which can be changed whenever you like via the magnet system), can be hung alongside others to create a humungous veritable festival of squareness. Conveniently, each “window” is a whisker or two bigger than a single square frame of 120 film and so might also suit contact prints or cyanotypes shot on 120, as well as the obvious Holga and Lomo usage.

Get in early and order a pre-sale unit (they’re not in production as yet until they’re convinced there will be demand – ie. 30 units) for only £19.99 instead of the full eventual price of £32.48. At the time of writing, 20% of the initial batch have already been ordered and my order will boost this even more.

I think they look like an excellent and stylish way to present square format images. I’m even considering organising an exhibition/competition around images presented using them.

To read more about them and order, see×3

And did I mention they’re square?

A Permit To Photograph In The Park? Really?

Last Thursday, a group of CLUB and f2 members and myself went to Birmingham‘s lovely Cannon Hill park for a fun shoot with demurely-attired model Vera Ping. The rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the scene was set for some lovely portrait shots.

We headed initially for the park’s victorian bandstand (thinking that if it did start raining again, at least we’d be under cover) and began shooting, trying to avoid getting the bandstand’s two sleeping-bagged homeless people in the background. We stayed there for a while until the sun really came through and headed off to a location where we might better be able to take advantage of the beautiful (if unexpected) early evening light.

So we found a bench a few hundred yards away and started using that. The low warm light and reflector produced some gorgeous images of Vera. At this point, a man on the next bench, who had been watching us for a few minutes walked away, only to return to the bench about five minutes later. Shortly afterwards I was tapped on the shoulder by a park ranger, asking what we were doing. I explained that we were a group on an outing from a local photography club to take some pictures in the park. He asked me if I had a permit to take photographs in the park. I said I was unaware that a permit was needed.

He asked me for ID or a business card, which I gave him, and said I could expect a call from a Mr. Cooper (presumably at Birmingham City Council) who was the person that I would henceforth need to contact for permission to photograph in the park.

I asked if it was really forbidden for people to take photographs and he said “well, it is for professionals”. I explained that I was the only professional there and I wasn’t actually taking pictures (a small fib – I’d taken about a dozen). He said it wasn’t a problem this time but that I needed a permit in future. I explained that I was a photography tutor at mac (which is situated in the park) and regularly used the park for classes – was I to take it that I would no longer be allowed to do this and all future courses should be held completely indoors? The ranger, who gave his name as “Sergeant…” (exactly how he came by this pseudo-military rank when working for the council I have yet to work out) then left, after saying goodbye to the man on the bench, who it seems might’ve been the one who alerted the sergeant to the nefarious and scandalous use of cameras in the park.

Not the actual sergeant

In the event, we had more or less already finished by then, as the sun dipped behind the trees and it began spotting with rain. We headed inside.

There were no children around, and if there had been, the assembled photographers were better placed than most members of the public to compose images so as to exclude them from shots. The backgrounds for these shots were, mainly, trees, so not exactly potential terrorist targets.

My problem with this situation, apart from becoming an all-too-regular occurrence for photographers in the UK, is this…

  • Where was the sign displayed stating that photography (by professionals or anyone else) in the park was forbidden?
  • I am a professional photographer 24/7. Am I never again allowed to take photographs in a park?
  • Why were we singled out when there were people sleeping in the bandstand, and gangs of youths effing and jeffing within earshot?

One can only imagine that the notoriously skint Brum Council have now sunk to the level of demanding a form of “protection money” from photographers, who are, let’s face it, a nice soft target. Or perhaps, as was the case in a similar incident with English Heritage last year, they don’t want anyone taking the same pictures that can be bought at the gift shop, or taken at one of their own photography events.

Perhaps I should have been prepared and downloaded a “Bust Card” from those nice peeps at “I’m a Photographer, not a terrorist”

Get yours at

QUEER’ists: Next Exhibition at Fotofilia

Our next exhibition at Fotofilia is again a collaborative project. Photographer Marta Kochanek is the founder of the “QUEER’ists” project and curator of the exhibition which also features the work of Violetta Jara, Anna Szlandakowska, Dora Bauer, T.R.Robertson, Jak Flash, Julia Frost, John Yeadon, Ben Webb, Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes.

The project’s aims in Marta’s words are: “to explore ideas of gender, identity and art through photography and multi-media. Photographs, which aim to take a look at Gay, Lesbian and Queer individuals expressing themselves through the art and other creative ways of living.” This is an ongoing project which continues to seek participants and subjects.

The inspiration for QUEER’ists, comes from “long hours of monologue when she found herself between the past and the present comparing abusive attacks towards LGBT people that still happen. She then decided to create platform to keep creative and emerging LGBT Artists together in one place.”

Marta’s own work “has been shown several times in both group and solo exhibitions, including Mall Galleries in London and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. She recently exhibited in New York as part of the Verge Art Brooklyn. She recently coordinated work on a large, independent archival project for Annie Leibovitz“.

Marta’s work has appeared in numerous publications, national and international professionals honorably mentioned her works through the most important and prestigious photographic competitions like: Px3 Paris, International Aperture Awards, International Photography Awards, as well as Art Kudos.

So what can you expect to see? Work that brings “emerging as well as established artist in one place, artists that have achieved high levels of success within art, the project is designed to be a platform to all LGBT artists and art lovers. The project is to gather wise, creative people whose activism and existence brought something important into LGBT world as well as queer artists whose work not necessarily must have that “activism” attached. The project is to explore ideas of gender, identity and art through analogue medium-format as well as digital photography. The idea is to photograph and interview LGBT Artists as well as promote creative existence of homosexual individuals.”

The private view for QUEER’ists is on Tuesday 12th July, 6-9pm. The exhibition runs until 6th August.

Read more about Marta and the project at

They Eat Witches, Don’t They?

We strive to find exceptional speakers for our CLUB/f2 meetings at Fotofilia and I think we once again struck gold this month when Grenville Charles travelled down from Sheffield to speak to THE CLUB (and a few f2 members too).

Grenville’s talk, teasingly entitled “They eat witches, don’t they?” was a fascinating combination of beautiful photographs (taken variously on Leicas, 5″x4″ and Canon DSLR) and equally enthralling tales of the tribes and people of West Papua that he lived among on his various trips to the region.

The slideshow was divided into sections – one for each of the very different tribes: the Dani, the Mek, the Asmat, and the Korowai and Kombai.

By the end, one’s head was briming with images and tales of penis gourds, tree-climbing dogs, stone axes, bat-wing earrings, self-inflicted amputation, boar’s tusk nose jewellery, snakes, and – gulp – sago grubs.

All of this was delivered in a very understated, matter-of-fact way. Why is it that the photographers I speak to who have seen the most amazing things are the least likely to jump up and shout about it? 

And these scenes are amazing. A diverse, remote people speaking in hundreds of distinct languages, united only by their threatened way of life and common enemy – the Indonesian government’s intention to wipe them out and replace them with non-Papuans (if that’s the right noun).

Grenville brought along some of his self-published books but I have also seen his large and beautifully printed black and white prints which better display the subtle tones of this often dark, jungle world.

Thank you Grenville for a great evening.

If you’d like to know more or see more work, please visit Grenville’s website and blog –  and

The Trouble With Models: Hi Chaperone

I’ve heard some pretty harrowing stories from (female) models over the years about photographers making sexual advances or other inappropriate and unprofessional conduct. The forums on modelling/photographer interface sites such as Pure Storm regularly feature this as a topic and so it is clearly a very real and ongoing problem for models. And let’s face it, photographers have long been the butt of jokes about their less than honourable intentions. 

Perhaps not surprisingly then, some models prefer to take a chaperone – a parent, partner or friend – along to shoots with them. But some photographers actually forbid models bringing along a chaperone. Here is my summation of the argument on both sides…

The model’s perspective:  Who in their right mind would go off to meet a near stranger in an unfamiliar location, or even a photographer’s home without taking someone along for safety? What’s wrong with having someone else there at the shoot? Surely, if a photographer objects, he must have something to hide. Having someone there will save me from being put under pressure to work to levels that I am not happy with. If the photographer isn’t alone and you end up being assaulted, it’s just your word against theirs.

The photographer’s perspective:  Having a partner or parent in the room can greatly inhibit the whole mood of the shoot and might actually prevent me getting the shots I want, and might even be paying for – I don’t want the model looking over to dad/boyfriend to gain approval for every pose I suggest. If model and photographer are both alone and the model claims to have been assaulted or harassed, its just one’s word against the other’s, but if there are two of them and the photographer is alone, they could could make allegations and the photographer would have no-one to back him up.

It’s a tricky one. Personally, I have never discouraged model’s from bringing along a chaperone and in fact they can come in pretty handy as coffee-makers/fetchers, reflector-holders and kit-carriers. They are also sometimes a good way to get real smiles and laughter from a nervous model. However, I have known a situation (only one – a group shoot) where a chaperone, in this case a clearly disapproving and/or jealous boyfriend, has cast a gloomy presence over the model and definitely hindered the shoot. But perhaps this one-off situation is a small price to pay for the safety of young women – and it’s women that I’m mainly referring to here – in this industry.

In my experience, only perhaps one in about eight-to-ten models brings along a chaperone and it is very rarely ever a problem. But with an increasing number of photographers of all levels choosing to work from home studios, one might expect that models will have more and more reason to want to take along someone they trust to shoots with photographers they don’t know.

I’d be very interested in hearing your views on this, whether you’re a photographer, model,  parent/family member of  a model – or anyone else.