Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for December, 2012

2012: The Best & Worst

As we slide inexorably towards the end of 2012, it’s something of a habit of mine to look back over the last twelve-month and try to weigh up whether it was, in balance, a good or not-so-good year for Fotofilia and photography on the whole. As the doctor said to the man who wakes up after surgery, “First, the bad news…”

  • The authorities used the excuse of the London Olympics (am I allowed to mention it yet?) to clamp down on anyone “sporting” a “serious” camera and many other dubious infringements on civil liberties. Readers with a particularly long memory may remember a police officer tried to prevent my group of students from photographing buildings in the St. Pauls Square area of Birmingham, saying we needed a permit because of the Olympics (oops! said it again!)
  • Closer to home, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, where I’ve been teaching photography part-time since 2004, sold off its Study Centre leaving itself with no suitable venue for photography courses.
  • Long-term Fotofilia assistant Simon Smith left us for “a proper job”. There’s still the possibility he may be back occasionally in 2013 though.
  • Again at Fotofilia, we had rather a lot of breakages, damage, and the occasional theft this year. This has meant that hire prices will have to go up slightly from 1st January. Regrettably, there are now 3 photographers on our “banned” list because of inconsiderate (and in one case, downright shocking) behaviour.
  • We had some great exhibitions during the last 12 months, largely curated by Dave Shepherd and Jack Nelson. However, most of the exhibitors simply didn’t have enough work to fill the 140+ feet of wall space and so only parts of the gallery were fully utilised. This has led to us developing new plans for the main gallery room while continuing to exhibit work in the lobby and corridor area.
  • We also took a significant hit early in the year when a company we were delivering training for went bust owing us rather a lot of money. Not a major disaster but it did cause plans for a second studio location to be put on ice for the time being.
  • Finally, who can forget the dismal weather which did its utmost to hinder every location event we arranged – or so it seemed.

But on the upside…

  • We attracted LOTS of new clients for all aspects of the business, from studio hire and courses to photography services. Among our new clients this year were BBC’s Panorama programme and Cirque du Soleil. And we continued a productive working relationship with some wonderful fashion designers (not least Georgina of “Mixidress” fame and corset designer Gillian Wesley)
  • 2012 saw very successful exhibitions by Fotofilia’s two photography clubs – f2 and THE CLUB. Both exhibitions were at Birmingham’s Custard Factory and saw club members pulling together to deliver truly inspirational shows. I’m sure they already know how proud I am of them, but its events like these that really make the training/club side of the business so very rewarding.
  • Speaking of the clubs, we welcomed some excellent and diverse speakers for both clubs’ meetings as well as arranging some fun practical events throughout the year.
  • We came up with yet more new and original courses and workshops, with new venues, new models, new tutors (like Julian M Kilsby, Paul Bonning-Tyers and Andrew Jackson) and new equipment. All this alongside the “old favourites” and a growing number of 1-1 tuition sessions.
  • I’ve had the chance to do a lot more photography myself this year, which is of course what I really love but is a side of the business that has been rather neglected in recent years. There have been some wonderful models, some fun band shoots and the opportunity to photograph people like Pete Williams of Dexys who was a photographer’s dream to work with. I’ve shot everything from fashion to boxing, cakes to yogis, and loved it.
  • We (along with the ever-wonderful Nettie Edwards) consolidated our position as one of the country’s leading providers of iphoneography courses and workshops as well as running the Birmingham Instagram Group. Exactly what will happen with the BIG in the wake of Instagram’s recent much-publicised dreadful policy decisions remains to be seen but we’ve met some lovely people along the way
  • In the autumn, designer and photographer George Gavalas joined us at Fotofilia, occupying the (no longer) spare office.
  • The courses that could no longer be held at the Botanical Gardens were held, in a slightly modified form, at Fotofilia instead and these have proved not only popular but if anything, improved.
  • And finally, here’s something that happened in the summer that absolutely revived my belief in the goodness of humanity: I was teaching a group in the studio when a family (mom, dad and daughter i think) popped in to see the exhibition. After showing them around briefly I offered them a drink and explained I needed to get back to my group and left them to wander around. When I finished the course, I came out of the studio to find near the door a £10 note with a scribbled note saying “Many thanks. We just wanted to leave a contribution”. Utterly humbled.
The actual note. There ARE nice people around.

The actual note. There ARE nice people around.

A few linkys:

The Mixidress – http://www.georginaclothing.co.uk/#/mixi-dress/4554637507

Gillian Wesley Design – http://gillianwesley.co.uk/

My new courses at Birmingham Botanical Gardens – http://www.birminghambotanicalgardens.org.uk/education2/adult-learning/courses-spring-2013

Andrew Jackson – http://writtenbylight.com/

Julian M Kilsby – http://www.jmkphoto.co.uk/

Cirque du Soleil – http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/welcome.aspx


Tumblr: Thief or Pirate? A Cautionary Tale

Here’s a nice story to warm your seasonal cockles – not.

Imagine this: a friend emails you and sends you a link to an image on popular site Tumblr saying “This photo just looks like one of yours!”. So you look, and it is indeed one of your photographs, except the one that has been posted has been (badly) converted to black and white, and your logo has been clumsily removed.

You are understandably a tad disgruntled and contact the person who posted the image as well as host site Tumblr to complain and… NOTHING IS DONE!.

The stolen and apparently "photoshopped by a chimp" version of Andy Wayson's original image.

The stolen and apparently “photoshopped by a chimp” version of Andy Watson’s original image.

So a bastardized version of one of your own carefully crafted images, of the sort that you as a professional photographer sells to various magazines, has been used without your permission on a major website – and, you are given to understand, may also have been submitted to publications by the person who posted it, passing it off as their own.

Well this is what happened to one of Birmingham’s best contemporary fashion and music photographers Andy Watson of DRW Images (http://www.drw-images.co.uk/ and http://www.facebook.com/drw.images#!/pages/Drw-Images/280703695157).

My copy from Andy Watson's original image

My copy from Andy Watson’s original image

By the very nature of Tumblr with its re-posting and recycling of images and information, there’s no way of knowing exactly who is responsible for the hatchet job on Andy’s image, but this particular person seems happy enough to sit back and allow praise to flood in for an image that isn’t theirs with little or no attempt to establish its provenance which is just as bad in my book.

In the spirit of fair play, and as a gesture against increasingly widespread copyright theft on sites such as Tumblr – perhaps you would join me in contacting the thief of this image by following this link and leaving an appropriate comment…http://cookiepuffy.tumblr.com/post/18445061746

Thanks to Andy Watson for bringing this to our attention and for permission to use these images.


If You Can’t Beat Magritte…

I recently realised that I’ve been using the same avatar for my Facebook and other sites (including this one) for something like the last 18 months. And so when the model in that image, Emilie Walt, came in for some fresh headshots last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to update my profiles with some new shots.

I started by taking some new versions of the old shot, using a single light and a reflector, but this time with Emilie wearing virtually no make-up. But then, Emilie never actually needs any. As I’ve said rather a lot in my blog, Emilie has the most flawless complexion I’ve ever seen on a model and so the image seen here is virtually straight out of camera.

Emilie Walt. Copyright David Rann 2012

Emilie Walt. Copyright David Rann 2012

I’d asked Emile to bring along a bow tie (which she duly “borrowed” from her dad) and… a moustache. I had a vague idea about creating a pastiche of Rene Magritte‘s “Son of Man” painting…

I already had a bowler hat at the studio (it’s a long story) and brought in my own black jacket and white shirt. However, in my mind I imagined the character in the painting wearing a bow-tie when in fact he was wearing a red tie. I had also imagined what he might look like without the apple in front of his face and somehow decided he would have a moustache. I now realise I may have been confusing him with fellow Belgians from the Tintin stories.

But here’s the final full image which has become my new avatar just about all over the place…

My homage to Magritte featuring Emile Walt. Copyright David Rann 2012

My homage to Magritte featuring Emile Walt. Copyright David Rann 2012

AND, if you’d like the opportunity to photograph the lovely Emile for yourself, I can reveal now that I have asked Emile to be our model for a special Model Day at Fotofilia on Saturday 16th February. As Fotofilia regulars will know, Emilie is a trained dancer and so if you’d like any ballet or musical theatre-styled images, this is your chance. She is also blessed with one of the most photogenic faces you will ever photograph. An hour with Emile including studio hire/lighting and technical help costs just £33. Contact us to book.


4am Project – The Sequel

I recently posted a few iphone images from the recent 4am Project meet-up in Birmingham. Well, here’s my DSLR images from the event. You may remember that it rained. It rained a lot.

From left: Geoff, Ken, Jonathan, Andrew, and me.

From left: Geoff, Ken, Jonathan, Andrew, and me.

Self-portrait with shutters

Self-portrait with shutters

Andrew? Or possibly Jonathan? At the Custard Factory.

Andrew? Or possibly Jonathan? At the Custard Factory.

Digbeth

Digbeth

Selfridges in the dark. And the rain.

Selfridges in the dark. And the rain.

...and the traffic lights change to stop, when theres nothing to go.

…and the traffic lights change to stop, when theres nothing to go.

The DSLR version of one I posted last time

The DSLR version of one I posted last time

These will shortly be posted to Flickr with the 4am Project’s hashtag. See more at http://4amproject.org/


There’s a 4am?

Many many moons ago I blogged about the (now international) phenomenon – The 4am Project – the brainchild of the mightily astute and creatively canny Karen Strunks. To cut an old story short, Karen’s nocturnal photographic expeditions have inspired individuals, and groups of individuals from all over the world, from Brum to Bangladesh, to periodically push aside the duvet, take a hit of espresso and head off into the night with camera and tripod.

The Custard Factory at just after 4am. In the rain.

The Custard Factory at just after 4am. In the rain.

Karen originally started the project in Birmingham and we were lucky to (at last) have her to speak to our two clubs (THE CLUB and f2) this month. I knew that Karen would be shooting in Nottingham so in order to represent Birmingham in our own way, I decided to invite members of THE CLUB and f2 to participate in the event scheduled for the wee small hours of Sunday 25th November. I also (fearing a poor turnout and worse weather) decided to also make this an official Instameet for the Birmingham Instagram Group for which I am co-administrator. As far as I know this is the first time that an Instameet has been combined with the 4am Project, officially anyway.

So as I sat in my car at 3:45am last Sunday, wrapped up like a… wrapped-up thing, watching the torrential freezing rain bouncing off the windscreen I admit to having wondered if this was the wisest thing I’ve ever done. But reluctantly I climbed out of the car, cradling my camera, tripod and iphone and by the time I’d reached the meeting place at the Custard Factory I was already pretty well soaked through. I waited as one, then another, equally soaked, equally crazy, tripod-wielding yeti scuttled out of the shadows. In all, from 2 clubs plus the combined might of the West Midlands Instagram-using community, and despite a plethora of “Yeah, count me in!” and “Sounds like fun – I’m there!” messages recieved, the final number of brave expeditionaries amounted to… five. Yes, FIVE. Under the circumstances, this was actually a reasonable turnout – or so I kept telling myself.

Amother bit of the Custard Factory just after 4am. Also in the rain.

Amother bit of the Custard Factory just after 4am. Also in the rain.

After loitering around the Custard Factory for a while, fending off the attention of various drunks, club-leavers and security guards, we headed up Digbeth High Street towards the iconic Selfridges building. Looking like survivors from the rain-forest leg of the Shackleton expedition, we somehow struggled forth into the horizontal rain. Walking the other way, were hordes of t-shirt-wearing club-goers apparently oblivious to the somewhat inclement conditions.

Before long it was 5am and time to put the cameras away until a more civilised photographic assignment. But it was actually great fun! Many thanks to Jonathan, Geoff, Andrew, and Ken for being my partners in crime.

The images here are just the iphone images. I’ll post the DSLR images when they’re edited and all of them will go onto the 4am Project’s Flickr group. Read more about the 4am Project at http://4amproject.org/

Would I do it again? DEFINITELY.

Yep, still raining.

Yep, still raining.