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

From silver mine to wet plate


For the first 150 years or so, silver was an essential ingredient to photography, those little particles that reacted to light to create an image. Photographer Sean Hawkey decided to take his camera to the source and photograph the miners who extract the silver from the earth.

Of course Hawkey did not take a standard 35mm film camera, but lugged a mobile darkroom and laboratory, heavy antique equipment and lights, plus 20kg (3st 2lb) of metal plates for his large-format camera.

His passage through customs was an interesting one as nitric acid and diethyl ether are controlled substances, yet both essential in the production of photographic plates when using the wet collodion process.

What makes this project so absorbing is that Hawkey's beautiful pictures of miners at the Fairtrade certified Sotrami mine in Peru were made using silver dug out from its depths.

"I went underground with miners, drilling, blasting with dynamite, and disinterring the precious metal," says Hawkey.

Read full article From silver mine to wet plate

Serious Conviction: Photographs from Speakers' Corner

Speaker's Corner

A small piece of land in the heart of London has been the scene of heated debate since 1872 when the Parks Regulation Act gave permission for people to meet and speak out on any issue. The site, once home to the Tyburn gallows - a site for public execution - became known as Speakers' Corner, and earlier this year reopened to the public following refurbishment.

Photographer Jan Enkelmann is working on a long-term project on the area and here shares his thoughts on his work so far.

Read full article Serious Conviction: Photographs from Speakers' Corner

Brighton Photo Biennial

Vintage Scoops is the home of Betty, a 1973 Bedford ice cream van owned by Vic and Fiz McMullen who serve locally sourced traditional ice cream

The Brighton Photo Biennial is the UK's largest international photography festival and takes place this year across venues and public spaces in Brighton & Hove and beyond, from 4 October - 2 November 2014.

As you would expect there is a wide range of photography on show, from straight photojournalism to multimedia, and even live feeds from cameras attached to a boat as it makes it's way to the ocean bed, having been sunk to form an artificial reef.

Read full article Brighton Photo Biennial

Remembering the work of Shirley Baker

Ice cream van on terraced street, Manchester 1965
Ice cream van on terraced street, Manchester, 1965

One of the leading photographers of the past century, Shirley Baker, sadly died towards the end of September. Here Tom Gillmor, of the Mary Evans Picture Library, who are guardians of her archive, pays tribute to her work.

Shirley first contacted Mary Evans Picture Library in early 2008. From looking through the first few printed pages she sent to me, featuring a mass of small contact photographs, I was immediately struck by a body of work of terrific quality and amazing potential. Shirley's work in Salford and Manchester (shot mainly between 1960 and 1973) captured a time of rapid social and economic change in the lives of working class people in Manchester and Salford.

Read full article Remembering the work of Shirley Baker

Ten of the best Ryder Cup photos

Lee Westwood celebrates a putt

As the best golfers from Europe and the US converge on Gleneagles for the 40th Ryder Cup, Press Association photographer David Davies reveals what it is like to cover the prestigious golfing event and selects some of his favourites from past competitions.

Working as a photographer for the Press Association (PA) means my working day is far from the norm. Only this week I'll be sharing each day with some of the best golf players in the world, as I cover my sixth Ryder Cup and my fourth for PA.

Read full article Ten of the best Ryder Cup photos

Echoes of the Black Country


In the 1960s, Britain's industrial landscape was changing. Factories that were once the centre of the country's power and prosperity were shutting down. The physical landscape too was in flux, with derelict buildings dotting the once thriving industrial regions, some of which were now in decline.

Photographer Peter Donnelly set out to record these changes, having won a photography competition in the Daily Telegraph in 1962 with images taken near his home, around Birmingham and the Black Country.

Read full article Echoes of the Black Country

Urban kingfishers making a home on London's waterways

Kingfisher feeding it's young

Tomos Brangwyn has been photographing wildlife since he was a child growing up in south London and in recent years has turned his attention to taking pictures of kingfishers living in London's network of concrete water channels.

Here Brangwyn offers an insight into the project which is also part of a film for the BBC's The One Show.

Read full article Urban kingfishers making a home on London's waterways

Scottish referendum: The view from the border

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.

Read full article Scottish referendum: The view from the border

The vanishing islands of Kiribati

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 The vanishing islands of Kiribati

Soundings From The Estuary

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 Soundings From The Estuary

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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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