BBC BLOGS - Viewfinder

Archives for October 2010

Your pictures of the week: Gaps

Phil Coomes | 10:29 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

Comments

Each week, we set a theme and ask you to send in your photographs; this time the theme was "gaps".

You can see the pictures I have selected here.

Thanks to everyone who submitted some charming pictures and well done to those that made the cut.

If your photograph didn't make this week's selection, why not send us something for next week?

The new theme is, Halloween

Interpret this in any way you see fit and send your pictures to us at yourpics@bbc.co.uk or upload them directly from your computer.

Please include the words "Halloween" in the subject line of your message.

The deadline is midnight BST Tuesday 2 November 2010, and remember to add your name and a caption: who, what, where and when should be enough, though the more details you give, the better your chance of being selected.

We will publish a selection of your photos this time next week.

If you want to plan ahead, you can see a list of the upcoming themes here.

Files should be sent as JPEGs. They shouldn't be larger than 10Mb and ideally much smaller: around 1Mb is fine, or you can resize your pictures to 1,000 pixels across.

Please see our terms and conditions, but remember that the copyright remains with you. The pictures will only be used by the BBC for the purposes of this project. Finally, when taking photos, please do not endanger yourself or others, take unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

Kodachrome: Final countdown

Phil Coomes | 10:27 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Comments

Time's running out. If you've got any rolls of Kodachrome lurking at the back of your fridge now is the time to load your camera as the deadline for processing is fast approaching.

For those of us in the UK you need to get your film to Kodak by then end of November, those who send direct to the US have until the end of December when Dwayne's Photo in Kansas shuts down its K-14 process line.

Anyone following this blog will know I have been shooting Kodachrome 64 for some time, publishing a frame each day on Flickr. The 64 week run is nearly over. It's been an enjoyable ride though there are now only 65 more pictures to be uploaded, and less than that to shoot.

For fans of the film you might like to know that the Association of Photographers (AOP) in the UK is planning an exhibition of work shot on Kodachrome, you can find out how to submit your work on their website.

The final roll of Kodachrome off the production line was presented by Kodak to Magnum photographer Steve McCurry who has travelled the globe with the film loaded into his camera, returning to places where he produced many of his iconic pictures. Many of which were shot on Kodachrome.

You can read about the shoot in an article published by the Seattle Times and how the last roll came off the processor in Kansas in the Wichita Eagle.

Your final frame

For most of us though the final roll will be shot closer to home and here is where you come in as I would like to publish your final frames of Kodachrome.

So, if you have a roll left, or indeed you've already shot the last one, then do send me a scan of the final frame. It doesn't have to have been taken this year, perhaps you stopped using Kodachrome many years ago, well dig out the last frame, scan and e-mail it over. I'll publish a number of them in this blog towards the end of the year.

Send them to Viewfinder@bbc.co.uk

Please include a few words telling me what the picture is but also how long you have been shooting using the film, and any Kodachrome memories - what do those tones mean to you?

So enjoy the last month of shooting and I look forward to seeing your final frames of Kodachrome.

Your pictures of the week: Fish

Phil Coomes | 10:24 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Comments

Each week, we set a theme and ask you to send in your photographs; this time the theme was "fish".

You can see the pictures I have selected here.

We had lots of inventive and indeed some funny shots this week, so I offer my thanks to those of you who sent in your pictures and well done to those that made the cut.

If your photograph didn't make this week's selection, why not send us something for next week?

The new theme is, gap

Interpret this in any way you see fit and send your pictures to us at yourpics@bbc.co.uk or upload them directly from your computer.

Please include the words "gap" in the subject line of your message.

The deadline is midnight BST Tuesday 26 October 2010, and remember to add your name and a caption: who, what, where and when should be enough, though the more details you give, the better your chance of being selected.

We will publish a selection of your photos this time next week.

If you want to plan ahead, you can see a list of the upcoming themes here.

Files should be sent as JPEGs. They shouldn't be larger than 10Mb and ideally much smaller: around 1Mb is fine, or you can resize your pictures to 1,000 pixels across.

Please see our terms and conditions, but remember that the copyright remains with you. The pictures will only be used by the BBC for the purposes of this project. Finally, when taking photos, please do not endanger yourself or others, take unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

20 minutes of light

Phil Coomes | 09:27 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Comments

Photo by Katrin Koenning, part of the series, Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna

As photographers I'd guess we are all constantly watching the light, see it changing through the day, seeking out those magic corners of a city where the light seems to be so intense, or other worldly.

Katrin Koenning has taken this to its limit. Her latest series, entitled Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna is a startling series of pictures shot in Melbourne, Australia, of brightly lit faces emerging from a void. The prints entice the viewer into this work of light and dark.

What makes the series all the more interesting is the fact that the pictures are all taken in the same spot during a 20 minute period when the light reaches this street in the city's business district.

Luckily this moment of illumination coincides with lunchtime when office workers are hurrying to grab coffees and sandwiches making ideal subjects.

Katrin said:

"During these few minutes, a transformation happens - faces are illuminated, dust twirls through rays of sun, cigarette smoke glistens silver- blue against dark buildings. You can hear snippets of conversation and laughter between friends, and sometimes the muffled tum-tum of an iPod as if to draw attention to the lack of interaction between strangers.
 
"It's a 'mis en scene', a theatre stage on which people become my protagonists for an instant. Here, every minute detail counts. Blue coats, red ribbons and green bags become significant 'props'. Everything ordinary turns into something extra-ordinary, begging me to have my eyes wide open.
 
"We stare ahead, buried in thought. There is a fragile beauty in our distant gazes - as if inside, we were hanging on to something out of reach to anyone else, sacred only to us.
 
"In a way, these images are an invite to play the guessing game we all love playing - the Girl in Red, what is her name, and what's her story?

Katrin has revisited the street many times has revealed the routine of our daily lives as she has now photographed a number of people more than once.

But don't be fooled into thinking these are shot from far away, the alley is a narrow one and Katrin uses a standard 50mm lens, often rubbing shoulders with those she photographs.

So far no one has come complained, or she tells me even questioned what she is doing, indeed many don't appear to notice. She told me that she wants to be open: "It is important to me that people who I photograph can see that I am there - I think this is fairer."

"This is something I really was curious about when I started the project, I wanted to see
how close, how intimate I could possibly get while photographing in public, and to make images that remove those cold barriers of strangeness."

She adds: "I have a never ending love affair with the hustle and happenings of the city centre, and an obsession over what happens when strangers are thrown together in close proximity. Strangers intrigue me."

Her work draws the audience into that love affair in an attempt to get us to lift our gaze from our own field of vision and notice those around us.

Photo by Katrin Koenning, part of the series, Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna

Photo by Katrin Koenning, part of the series, Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna

Photo by Katrin Koenning, part of the series, Thirteen: Twenty Lacuna

Katrin's work can currently be seen at The Front Room Gallery in London, alongside the work of Schinster and Kurt Tong. The three were selected as winners of the Troika Editions/Format Exposure Award.

An interview with Katrin can also be viewed on the Troika website.

Climbing 'fast and light'

Phil Coomes | 09:29 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Comments

Climber Ueli Steck about to finish a line on the south face of the Pointe Lachenal in winter

Jonathan Griffith is addicted to mountains. He is a climber who not only records his expeditions with his camera, but also runs a website for keen like minded photographers to share their work and offer advice for anyone wanting to take to the slopes with a camera.

Jonathan has kindly outlined his approach and talks about how he manages to take such dramatic pictures whilst clinging to the rock face. He told me:

"In this modern era of Alpine climbing the new generation is all about 'fast and light' ethic. Forget Bonnington, this is all about shedding every gram so that instead of spending say three days on a route you spend one massive one. It involves taking the absolute bare minimum with you - two litres of water, some energy gels, a super light down jacket and some spare gloves. That's it.

"Backpack size is less than what most people cycle to work with on their back. Of course this means that the commitment is huge as once you start up these big north faces retreat is often impossible, and when you are going this light you cannot stop for the night as you don't have any sleeping bags and so on. You have to keep climbing through until you make it back down the other side of the mountain.

"The climbing style is very 'out there' for the moment. It's incredible how you can throw yourself onto a huge dark north face with such little kit with you. Training plays a massive part as well and it all comes together on these big mountain days when you can often find yourself climbing for over 20 hours non stop.

"On a recent climb we hadn't eaten anything apart from three chocolate bars for over 36 hours. However we still climbed the route in an incredibly fast time. It often takes two days to climb and descend the mountain by our route (it's a very serious undertaking though) but we did it in 21 hours.

"So my SLR kit weighs in at 1.8kg, which is almost two litres of water in weight. As you can see carrying an SLR on a route in this style is a lot of extra weight and therefore commitment. In addition we tend to solo on these big routes so that we can move as fast as possible, which means getting the camera out is even harder to do. However I'm addicted to mountain photography. I love getting shots that no one else has ever taken before - I really get a buzz out of it.

Jon Bracey on the 6c 'finger crack' of the Dam du Lac on the South Face of the Aiguille du Midi.

"No one has yet climbed all these hard classic routes with a DSLR in tow. I tried a high end compact briefly for the weight saving but stopped after two climbs as the quality is rubbish compared to the SLR. I like everything to be pin sharp and perfect. I don't do HDR (High Dynamic Range) or any of that PS (PhotoShop) stuff, as I don't think you have to if you put the effort in the first place.

"I guess I'm trying to push the boundaries of mountain photography in a major way and I'm surprised that no one else has thought to do the same. There are so many climbs and mountains in the European Alps that have yet to be photographed due to the logistics, and the fact that you have to be climbing at the top end level, so this is what I am aiming to do."

Do you feel that the work goes beyond a simple record of a climb?

"I'm no artist. I don't take images and try and find some deeper meaning in them. I think that kind of attitude is reserved for people who aren't actually very good at photography. People who take a close up of a snow flake and try and sell it off as art, saying that it represents the shattered fragments of our society or some rubbish like that make me a bit angry.

"Good photography should never have to be explained, it should speak for itself, and if you have to justify it and pass it off as 'art' it means you've done a rubbish job, that's just my view.

"So I don't try and say that my pictures represent a deeper struggle in man or anything like that, they just show climbers pushing themselves to a limit that 99.9% of people will never even be able to imagine.

"It's a limit not only of the body but also of the mind. Alpine climbing is incredibly mental as well. You have to be very calculated when you climb and have the mental strength to often do things that you didn't think were possible."

What came first, the climbing or the photography?

A brief clearing during a winter storm

"Well the climbing. I never trained in photography. I actually have a degree in Economics, Accounting and Spanish so nothing to do with what I do now. I started climbing and then started climbing in the Alps. No one I knew was into climbing at all so photography was a way of being able to show friends and family what it was like.

"It progressed from there really but I've always carried an SLR with me almost from day one. I didn't know how to use it then, but I knew that it was the only way to really capture the beauty of the mountains in any detail."

And what about your website for like minded photographers?

"I set up Alpine Exposures as a community idea website. I just wanted a really cool site that exhibited a lot of amazing climbing shots from around the world and not just my own. It's going well but I think Alpine Exposures and Jonathan Griffith as names are kind of synonymous in the climbing world now. The site gets about 400 unique visits a day on average, so it's not massive to be honest, but I also write and send pictures to a number of other climbing websites."

What's next?

Well I'm planning a trip to Patagonia in November.

You can see more of Jonathan's work in this gallery on the BBC, or on his website, Alpine Exposures.

Your pictures of the week: Ten

Phil Coomes | 11:40 UK time, Thursday, 14 October 2010

Comments

Each week we set a theme and ask you to send in your photographs; this time the theme was 10, to mark the passing of the date 10/10/10.

You can see the pictures I have selected here.

This was a tough assignment, so thanks to those of you who took the time to enter your shots.

If your photograph didn't make this week's selection, why not send us something for next week?

The new theme is fish.

Interpret this in any way you see fit and send your pictures to us at yourpics@bbc.co.uk or upload them directly from your computer.

Please include the words "fish" in the subject line of your message.

The deadline is midnight BST Tuesday 19 October 2010, and remember to add your name and a caption: who, what, where and when should be enough, though the more details you give, the better your chance of being selected.

We will publish a selection of your photos this time next week.

If you want to plan ahead, you can see a list of the upcoming themes here.

Files should be sent as JPEGs. They shouldn't be larger than 10Mb and ideally much smaller: around 1Mb is fine, or you can resize your pictures to 1,000 pixels across.

Please see our terms and conditions, but remember that the copyright remains with you. The pictures will only be used by the BBC for the purposes of this project. Finally, when taking photos, please do not endanger yourself or others, take unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

Your pictures of the week: The night

Phil Coomes | 09:17 UK time, Thursday, 7 October 2010

Comments

Each week, we set a theme and ask you to send in your photographs; this time the theme was "the night".

You can see the pictures I have selected here.

We had more than 150 entries this week, so I offer my thanks to those of you who sent in your pictures and well done to those that made the cut. If your photograph didn't make this week's selection, why not send us something for next week?

The new theme: As this week includes the date 10/10/10, the theme for this week is 10.

Interpret this in any way you see fit and send your pictures to us at yourpics@bbc.co.uk or upload them directly from your computer.

Please include the words "10" in the subject line of your message.

The deadline is midnight BST Tuesday 12 October 2010, and remember to add your name and a caption: who, what, where and when should be enough, though the more details you give, the better your chance of being selected.

We will publish a selection of your photos this time next week.

If you want to plan ahead, you can see a list of the upcoming themes here.

Files should be sent as JPEGs. They shouldn't be larger than 10Mb and ideally much smaller: around 1Mb is fine, or you can resize your pictures to 1,000 pixels across.

Please see our terms and conditions, but remember that the copyright remains with you. The pictures will only be used by the BBC for the purposes of this project. Finally, when taking photos, please do not endanger yourself or others, take unnecessary risks or infringe any laws.

Street photography now

Phil Coomes | 12:01 UK time, Monday, 4 October 2010

Comments

Bristol, 2007. Photo by Paul Russell

Photographing strangers in a public space is regarded by some as a little odd. Yet pictures of our daily life are what come to define an era and many of the great pictures of the past decade would fall into this category.

Street photography though is far more than that. It can be hard to define and many practitioners have their own ways of shooting. But what's fascinating about the street photographic scene is that it's open to anyone with a camera. You do not need special access; even the most basic disposable camera can be used. All you need is time, patience, shoe leather and a good eye.

As one of the great humourist photographers Elliot Erwitt said: "Photography has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them".

A new book, Street Photography Now, edited by photographer Stephen McLaren and Director of the School of Life, Sophie Howarth examines the role of the street photographer in society, through the work of 46 contemporary photographers.

Though the book has one theme, the photographers are from many different parts of the globe and have different approaches, from the subtle unseen observer, to those who like to go in close and record the reaction of their subject. Others look to use visual puns within the frame or include found text or objects to give meaning. Some pictures may make us pause and marvel at the ingenuity of the photographer, but all of them reflect a little bit of the society that created them.

These observations offer many interpretations, and as I've said before, a large percentage of that will be dictated by the viewer's own experiences as well as the context.

I asked Sophie Howarth to explain this and explain a little of how they came to select the pictures for the book:

"I'm not looking for street photography to teach any lessons.In fact obviously didactic stuff doesn't really appeal to me. I think the good street photographers are masters of observation without interpretation - holding a mirror up to our public behaviour - but not in judging. There are some quotes from photographers in the book - Raghu Rai, Nils Jorgensen particularly come to mind - which capture this idea succinctly.
 
"That said, interpretation is fine - indeed fun - when we come look at the pictures. Stephen and I had lots of fun with interpretation in the essays - the still life essay in particularly is full of narrative speculation. But what is wonderful about the photos is that they allow for any number of questions. What's the man dressed in a nightie doing? Why did the woman fall over? What's the boy running away from? And subjective interpretations - isn't it awful how she just turns her back on him, how laid-back people look in such and such a place, how depressing those drunken people are - precisely because they don't carry a fixed message."

But street photographs and indeed the photographers themselves don't live in a vacuum, they are all shaped by their own personal experience and one of the strengths of this collection is its diversity.

Mexico City. Photo by Mark Powell

To explain further I asked photographer Stephen McLaren what it is that drives him to devote so much time to taking pictures that in the main won't earn him a living.

"For me, with my photographer's hat on, what keeps me doing this is a belief that one of photography's core purposes is to discover poetic moments in everyday life. From the invention of the medium, nosey parkers, journalists, voyeurs, and poets have used cameras to show us that this world is an intrinsically fascinating place to live in.
 
"Whenever I am feeling a bit jaded or un-inspired I do one of two things, I either take out my camera and use it to get lost in the city, or I pick-up a book by one of the great street photographers; Elliot Erwitt, Tony Ray Jones, Saul Leiter, Jeff Mermelstein, or Raghu Rai and their pictures remind me how open-ended and multifarious life is.
 
"I think street photography is more of a tradition than a genre and this is why it resists becoming merely a fashionable art form. This way of working, using only what you have in front of you, survives because photographers and the many people who appreciate this work, feel that these constraints keep photography honest.
 
"Yes, digital tools can create fantastical confections and troupes of models, stylists and lights can be enlisted for visionary ends but, in my view, the photographer who confronts life on a second-by-second basis with no props or specific sense of what they want to say is the richer for this simple approach.
 
"That's not to say the results are lacking in intelligence or insight. Who can look at Trent Parke's black and white pictures from Sydney and not see a rich and well-observed narrative from a singular photographic talent?
 
"The online tools we now have to disseminate our pictures and start conversations with like-minded photographers has certainly given street photography a boost. One of the biggest online communities, Hardcore Street Photography on Flickr has over 38,000 members and they are as passionate and knowledgeable a crowd as you can imagine. One of the great things about the web is that much of the history of street photography is now there to look at online without having to buy expensive books.
 
"All of a sudden I am hearing 20-year-olds discussing the genius of Robert Frank and Gary Winogrand, master photographers from the 50s and 60s who had almost become forgotten in our faddish, fashion-led image world. And when young photographers with their first DSLR see the poetry, mystery and artistic imagination that can be conjured out of great photographer with a small hand-held camera it inspires them to see and interpret their own life in a similar way."

Often it's this interpretation of our own lives that collectively form a social document, though context is all important. A single frame taken by photojournalist Maciej Dakowicz on the streets of Cardiff can be seen as a typical street moment of absurdity. Yet when you realise that he has been documenting the night-time streets of Cardiff since 2004 you become aware that these pictures of party-goers and clubbers are far more than a sensationalist and stereotypical view of society. Instead they are in the tradition of photographer Martin Parr's The Last Resort, or Tom Wood's Looking for Love series.

Pose. Photo by Maciej Dakowicz

As McLaren and Howarth say "Dakowicz's images capture the uneasy mix of bravado and vulnerability that characterizes the young clubbers of Cardiff... inviting the viewer to consider what drives this strange and sad compulsion to seek obliteration in the company of friends and strangers."

I asked Maciej to explain how he operates in an environment where the potential for clashes and confrontation can be high. Maciej said:

"For me this is the most interesting thing going on in Cardiff. I have been shooting on the same street for about five years now, not every weekend as there have often been long breaks between my nights out there.
 
"I was shooting many things in Cardiff when I moved here but after a couple of years I did not feel like shooting streets of the city during the day as I did not find them inspiring and did not feel comfortable, as people often look very suspiciously at a guy with a large camera.
 
"It changes at night, where people do not pay too much attention to me and there is a lot going on all the time, I can get close to people, often without being noticed as they are busy doing their things.
 
"I am rather discreet, so somehow I manage to capture interesting situations without getting into trouble. I am more an observer, I walk around with my camera on the shoulder, look what is going on and, if something captures my attention, I shoot.
 
"When people notice me they react in a number of ways: start posing, gather for group pictures, ignore me, ask what I am doing or tell me off. I can usually tell what kind of a reaction I might get and if I do not feel comfortable at taking a picture of someone or I think it will cause trouble I simply do not take the photo.
 
"You need to look like someone knowing what you are doing and not act in a suspicious way. If you are too sneaky they will approach you asking what you are doing or tell the police that there is a strangely behaving guy with a camera. So it is quite tricky to shoot at night, but I still like it."

The perception of photographers has been an issue in the news for sometime now. Some feel that they have a right to point a camera at anything they wish, others are opposed to this and believe that the publication of a picture, or for some, the very act of taking a picture without the subjects permission, is something that should be controlled.

Photographer Andrew Glickman photographed strangers on the underground system in Washington DC and noted that, although you would expect to be noticed in the act of taking the picture, he found that most would simply return to what they were doing rather than react to the photographer.

Glickman thoughts back up Dakowicz's point that you have to believe in yourself as a photographer and act accordingly. He said:

"When I began to think of myself as a street photographer, I began taking more risks and chances. Photographing people, particularly people you don't know, is inherently an aggressive act. I had to break through my comfort zone to make some of the pictures I've made. You can't worry about whether you have permission or whether you may be inside your subject's comfort zone. Believing completely in what you are doing is critical."
Standing Man, Seated Woman, Washington. Photo by Andrew Z Glickman

Another of the photographers featured in the collection is Nick Turpin, on whom I have written before. Currently he is working on a project in France where privacy laws prohibit the publication of a picture of a person in public without their permission.

I asked Nick about the work:

"I see France as a nation that is culturally under siege from the globally pervasive influence of Anglo-American culture, as a minority language country with a strong and distinct cultural history, it is a good place to observe the homogenisation of nations and their cities around the world.
 
"Since 1996 French radio stations have had to play French songs 40% of the time but French cinemas are full of dubbed Hollywood films, there is a McDonalds on every out of town roundabout and line dancing is popular at rural French country fetes. Like for so many nations, modernisation is costing France its cultural identity. As a street photographer I believe I can see the results of these changes on the pavements and in the public places of great French cities.
 
"The problem I have is that it is illegal in France to publish a photograph of someone made in a public place without their permission, which means that in the very birthplace of street photography it is now very difficult to make street photographs. I have decided to try and reveal the un-enforceability of this legislation by publishing the book of my project everywhere except in France. This means that it will be available to purchase in Dover but not just across the channel in Calais. There is an important point here, as for any democracy; everything that occurs in a French public place should be a matter of public record."

At present this is not an issue that will affect most of us and, as the authors point out, the most prolific street photographer today is the Google Street View system, or indeed the CCTV camera on our street corner. It's also a time when we are sharing more and more of our lives online so perhaps these mysterious moments caught by the street photographer should be seen as something to celebrate, rather than something to fear.

Let's end with a word from photographer Matt Stuart who offers any prospective street photographers some good advice:

"Buy a good pair of comfortable shoes, have a camera around your neck at all times, keep your elbows in, be patient, optimistic and don't forget to smile."

If you fancy yourself as a street photographer then why not join a year-long collaboration between The Photographers' Gallery and Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren, authors of Street Photography Now. Each week, one of the photographers featured in the book will issue a weekly instruction and you will be able to upload photographs on that theme to a Flickr group.

To find out more see the Street Photography Now Project website. I'm going to give it a go. Hope to see you there.

Street Photography Now can be seen at the Third Floor gallery in Cardiff from 10 October to 14 November, 2010.

Here are a few more frames from the book, Street Photography Now, which is published by Thames and Hudson.

Night walk, China. Photo by Polly Braden

Chisinau, Moldova. Photo by Carolyn Drake

London. Photo by David Gibson

Notting Hill. Photo by Nils Jorgensen

Bond Street. Photo by Matt Stuart

Blood Red Shed, Sydney. Photo by Narelle Autio

Life below New York. Photo by Christophe Agou

Street photography is currently very much in the frame and this continues into 2011 with London Street Photography, a new exhibition showcasing the Museum of London's collection of street photographs from 1850 to 2010 opens in February.

Then in March the Format photo biennale in Derby opens, concentrating on street photography, Right Here, Right Now: Exposures from the public realm.

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.