Phil Coomes, Picture editor

Phil Coomes Picture editor

Exploring the world of photojournalism, photos in the news and BBC News' use of photographs, including those by our readers

Scottish referendum: The view from the border

12 September 2014
Marshall Meadows Point

Anyone travelling overland across the border that divides Scotland and England would be hard-pressed to note where one begins and the other ends, though it was not always so - the remains of a large wall are testament to that. But whatever the outcome of the Scottish referendum on 18 September it will be just one more twist in the often violent history of the border region between the two countries. Scottish photographer Alan Knox has produced a fascinating piece of work, entitled Debatable Land, in which he explores the paths that run along and cross the border.

Here Alan Knox offers an insight into his timely project.

As Scotland seeks to question its relationship with the United Kingdom and Europe in 2014, my intention in photographing the core paths of the Anglo-Scots border was to represent them as ones which may be continually re-read in a political climate where regional sovereignty comes increasingly into conflict with European federalism.

The Debatable Land took me on a journey through the four border counties, encompassing numerous return trips over a period of six months. The overwhelming sensation I felt whilst photographing much of these remote border pathways was of a deafening silence. In September 2013, I had photographed the rally for independence in Edinburgh where the roar of the crowds echoed the excitement millions of people in Scotland feel at the prospect of independence.

Walking these rural ditches, rivers, B-roads and bridges, the eerie calm meant this debate sometimes felt like it was taking place in another world, yet it is these very roads which could come to mark the physical embodiment of the democratic will of the people. It was this sensation of silence I hoped to convey in my series, allowing the viewer to reflect on the memories of division and reunification these paths contain.


Read full article

The vanishing islands of Kiribati

5 September 2014
Atoll seen from above, En Route to Tarawa

The Republic of Kiribati is probably best known as being the first inhabited place on Earth to greet the new millennium, yet these low lying atolls are under threat from rising sea levels, something that drew photographer Giulietta Verdon-Roe to spend a month documenting daily life on the slowly vanishing islands.

The 33 atolls, of which 21 are inhabited, are found in the South Pacific and were formerly known as the Gilbert Islands before gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. They stretch nearly 2,500 miles (4,000km) from east to west and more than 1,200 miles (2,000km) from north to south.

Read full article

Soundings From The Estuary

11 August 2014
Hoo St. Werburgh, 2009

The Thames Estuary has drawn photographers to its shores for many years, each one looking to capture the wide open skies and the remnants of past industrial sites.

Photographer Frank Watson is one of these, and his long-running project, Soundings From The Estuary, is about to be published.

Read full article

Found Cambodian family portraits

7 August 2014
From the series, Found Cambodia

It can be argued, fairly strongly I believe, that the social history of the 20th Century is held within the family photo album.

These precious memories are often lost to us for one reason or another - but even when removed from the hands of the people whose lives they portray, there is a wealth of information to be had for anyone caring to look hard enough.

Read full article

A community's tales

By their very nature, portrait photographs are silent, mute, allowing the viewer to layer on their own meaning and even to conjure up the personality of the sitter. One photographer, Damian Drohan is tackling this by creating a sound-portrait, which is simply an audio recording of the subject shown alongside their portrait. He has used the technique on his latest project that looks at residents of Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland, and here he explains what it is about this approach that appeals to him.

Richard Avedon once famously said: "All photographs are accurate - none of them are the truth." He recognised the limitations of the medium, or at least its descriptive abilities. He pushed the descriptive abilities to a level seldom, if ever surpassed.

Read full article

Chinese foot binding

Bound feet

Close-up shots of people's feet may not be the first choice of subject for a photo project, but Jo Farrell's pictures of the last remaining women in China with bound feet act as both a link to the past and a fascinating portrait of those involved.

Foot-binding is believed to have begun during, or just before, the Song Dynasty in China around the 10th Century, and became widespread within a couple of hundred years. Bound feet were seen as a status symbol for wealthy women who did not need to work, although eventually the practice became widespread.

Read full article

Tour de France and the selfie

Katie Holroyde took this selfie with the two Tour de France favourites
Katie Holroyde took this selfie of the two Tour de France favourites from the side of the road

For fans of any sport, close to the action is where you want to be. Why watch from a distance when you can reach out and touch your sporting hero?

For some events, that's not practical - but in others, there has always been a desire to get close, one being the Tour de France.

Read full article

American always, Scottish forever


On 18 September, voters in Scotland will be asked in a referendum whether they want the nation to become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom. Yet, across the Pond, there are many Americans with Scottish ancestry, something celebrated at California's Highland Games season. Here photographer Stephen McLaren sets out his take on the event and shares some of his portraits.

Despite President Obama's hopes for Scotland to remain in the UK, the Scottish cultural spirit - which includes pipe bands, sword-dancing, tossing the caber and sheepdog trials - is alive, well and independence-minded in California. An annual calendar of around 20 Scottish festivals and Highland Games brings a mix of recent Scottish emigres and those for whom Scotland is an approximate but proud source of their family heritage.

Read full article

Outlaws on the open road

Crossing the Ohio, Louisville. (c) Danny Lyon Courtesy of Etherton Gallery (USA) & ATLAS Gallery London

In the 1960s Danny Lyon photographed the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club, not as a passive observer, but in close, as part of the gang. The resulting photographs capture a subculture from the inside and form one of the defining photographic documents of that time, influencing many photographers who went on to record the decades that followed.

Lyon was born in New York in 1942 and first started photographing in the early 1960s as a staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at the University of Chicago. His earliest photographs were published in a book on the southern civil rights movement, and since then he has continued to produce work that aims to shape and change opinion.

Read full article

Exploring the George Rodger archive

Kordofan, The Nubas, Sudan. 1949

Photographic archives hold a fascination for photographers and those interested in the medium, not just for the images they preserve, but the background information that goes with them.

One student who has been delving into a number of photographic archives, both online and hard copy, is Kate Green, who, for her course at Coventry University, has focused on the material held in the George Rodger Archive.

Read full article

More Correspondents

  • Will Gompertz, Arts editor Will Gompertz Arts editor

    A view from the wings on the world of the arts

  • Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

    How technology is changing the world and shaping our lives

About Phil

Phil has worked in the photographic arena for many years, as both a photographer and picture editor, primarily at the BBC where he has covered news stories, features and audio slideshows, both in the UK and abroad.

He obtained a BA (Hons) in photography from the University of Westminster where he studied under Andy Golding, Tom Ang and Gus Wylie, the latter of whom instilled in him his love of the colour photographic document and street photography.

Despite the obvious advantages of digital photography in news, Phil can often be found running film through his old cameras and spent 64 weeks shooting a project to mark the end of Kodachrome in 2010.

Phil is a member of the British Press Photographers Association.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.