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

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.

The photographs, devoid of the human form, show a world of few colours, one that feels chilly and inhospitable. Yet the landscapes are littered with signs of life, from abandoned defensive positions through to an old barbecue.

Despite this, there is a beauty in the pictures and you can see why Watson's walks with his camera would draw him to the area over and over again.

The region is of course one ripe for potential development, from the proposal by London Mayor Boris Johnson for an estuary airport on the Isle of Grain to more local development, some of which will affect the ecology and environment and others that will change the landscape forever.

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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.

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A community's tales

25 July 2014

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.

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Chinese foot binding

16 July 2014
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.

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Tour de France and the selfie

7 July 2014
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.

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American always, Scottish forever

30 June 2014

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.

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Outlaws on the open road

19 June 2014
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.

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Exploring the George Rodger archive

18 June 2014
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.

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Photography Today

4 June 2014

Is photography art? Today the answer is simple, indeed photography is more popular than ever and arguably the visual art of choice for the masses, but half a century ago the debate still raged.

In a new book, Photography Today, writer, artist and lecturer Mark Durden analyses more than 500 works by 150 artists from the past 50 years, exploring the impact of various genres, from pop art to documentary.

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Sunday soldiers

3 June 2014
Squadron Sergeant-Major Nick Gibson, Royal Engineers

This week sees the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces landed in northern France and began the campaign that would end the conflict in Europe against Nazi Germany the following year. American photographer Daniella Zalcman moved to the UK recently and began a project to make portraits of people who take part in military re-enactment. Here she talks about the work.

When I moved from New York to London in November 2012, I immediately began looking for a photo project that would allow me to get to know the UK. I grew up in the Maryland/Virginia area of the US, where civil war re-enactment is an exceedingly common hobby, and I loved the idea of it — though I found it slightly ironic that most participants' families probably weren't even in America yet during the Civil War.

A table with gloves and chess pieces

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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.

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