Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Focus on Imaging

Two week's ago I went to Slide, the ski, skate and snowboarding trade fair at Manchester Central. It was a well-organised show, but not too busy.

On Monday I went to Focus on Imaging at Birmingham's NEC. It was packed. You couldn't move. There were some dazzling stands, much merchandise being premiered and some unusual gadgets.

I particularly liked the fitted waterproof camera covers by Kat (bogenimaging.co.uk at £50) and the Eizo ColourEdge CG211 monitor (£800 but not in production yet).

As a writer and occasional contributor to several photography magazines, I was particularly interested in the publishers stands - but they were little more than unglorified newsagents.

While retailers like Jacobs could take cash off punters fast enough, the most impressive stands were the printer manufacturers - especially Epson's centre-piece stand. The quality of prints these days is as staggering as the size of some of the machines.

Of course, the difficulty in choosing the right printer is as mind-boggling complicated as ever. I liked the Epson Stylus 1400 for its A3+ prints, then I liked the Epson Stylus Photo R2400 for it’s A3+ and B&W capabilities, then I liked the Epson Stylus Photo Pro 3800 with it’s A2 ability, then I liked the Epson Stylus Photo R1900 for its new colour processing technology, then I realised I don't really know what I’m on about.
I came home empty-handed.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Flashes to Ashes by Garry Cook - buy the book now

It’s taken a while but at long last my book Flashes to Ashes is available to buy.

Described as having ‘larger-than-life characters presented in loud, vivid colour’ this photo essay shows the impact of the smoking ban had when it was introduced in England on July 1, 2007.

Shot across several towns and cities, including Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and Preston, Flashes to Ashes goes into pubs, bingo halls, working men’s clubs and nightclubs to document smokers as they light-up indoors for the last time.

The smokers are then followed as they go outside, laughing, defiant, drunk and aggressive.

This 80-page full colour book is exclusively available to buy through this blog for just £13 (email for foreign currency conversions).

It’ll make you laugh - or your money back.

Email Flashestoashes@hotmail.co.uk to order your copy

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gallery Review

This is a review of Bolton's Photojournalism and Travel Photography MA recent show at the Richard Goodall Gallery in Manchester. I suppose I should say it was taken from the redeye.org.uk website. I didn't ask permission to use the review, but I'm sure they won't mind (if they do, they're just silly).

Bolton University MA Photography Show
Richard Goodall Gallery, Manchester, 7th - 12th January 2008

Now in its third year, Bolton’s MA in international photojournalism, documentary and travel photography provides a strong local alternative to the handful of longer-established postgraduate courses on offer around the country. Uniquely, the programme is also run at the University of Dalian in China, and students in both locations have an opportunity to move between the two centres. The latest UK cohort has produced a surprisingly eclectic mix of quality work, beautifully presented for one week only in Richard Goodall’s prestigious new gallery space.

As you might expect, issue-based projects are prominent, such as Amy Crozier’s sensitive images dealing with her friend’s breast cancer and Mark Scholey’s monochrome work on foot-and-mouth, a quiet and beautifully printed portrayal of rural communities left empty and desolate by the disease. That said, several of the photographers prefer a more art-based approach, such as Tom Steveton’s depiction of five decades in a single house. Beate Mielemeier’s calm, gentle river-themed series and Garry Cook’s look at the English smoking ban, with its larger-than-life characters presented in loud, vivid colour, both underline the huge variety of subject matter chosen by the photographers.

Foreign-shot folios give the course a very international feel, but Annie O’Neill’s view of the Chinese art scene and Peter Walker’s personal images of Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses are nicely counterbalanced by Jonathan Hardman’s affectionate Liverpool-themed documentary pictures. Styles and methods range widely: Caroline Edge’s small black-and-whites of Lourdes are in classic street photographer mode, pleasantly out of step with the current photographic fashion for large colour prints; Rob Thomas’ colour participatory project in India, where he taught photography to a group of children, is an entirely different line of attack, with its own challenges and rewards. Talking of children, Daniel Jordan-Killoran reminds us that an adult photographing them is still not taboo, producing a series of joyous pictures made in a local primary school.

Any spelling or factual errors above should be blamed on the alcohol freely available at the packed launch event, where the near-tangible enthusiasm spoke volumes for this course in particular and for photography in general.

(Review by Simon Bowcock)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Don't photograph me!

It was the worst abuse I have experienced.

"You better not be taking a photograph of me. I'll come up there and smash your camera if you're taking a photograph of me. You can't take a photograph of me. It's illegal. I'll rip you're head off if you take a photograph of me."

He went on (at the top of his voice).

"Right, I'll come up there now and smash your f***ing camera. Don't you dare talk to me like that. I'm going to knock you're f***ing head off. Come on, I'll have you now."

Admittedly, by the time this 50-year-old man told me not to talk to him like that I had called him a kn*bhead about six times, an idiot more than once and had invited him to come up and join me on the upper level of the precinct so we could discuss the matter further.

The strange thing was, this wasn't a drunken smoker or heavy drinker at 11.30 at night. It was 11.30 in the morning in the drafty concrete courtyard at the back of Gateshead Indoor Market.

I had been invited onto an organised trip to the top of Gateshead car park and was taking some pictures around the shopping centre beforehand. Both are scheduled for demolition within weeks.

My camera, on a tripod, was pointing across the square, taking in both upper and lower levels (through a Sigma 12-24mm wideangle lens, if you're interested).

The occasional shopper on the open-air lower level wandered into frame, but were nothing more than specks in the frame. As was Mr Furiously Angry, the man who walks around Gateshead giving Geordies a bad name. Thank god we don't get any tourists here.

In my defence, and I should stress that angry responses should be treated with good manners to reduce the chance of escalting violence, my first words to this man were 'you don't have to be so rude'.

But this bloke was so angry. He was shouting at the top of his voice before I had even see him. The two or three pensioners who had been close to him before his outburst dispersed so quickly you'd have thought they had spotted Daniel O'Donnell coming out of the the Greggs opposite Tesco's

I was genuinely shocked at this man's reaction to my camera. I was genuinely shocked at this man's attitude. And his vitriol.

When he dropped his bag to the floor and gestured that he was about to run towards the stairs I thought I might have a situation on my hands. But I just could not stop myself calling him a kn*bhead. Quite frankly, he was. Of the highest order.

If someone doesn't want their photo taken, that's fine by me. But I don't think anyone deserves to be spoken to like that. I wouldn't do it myself, I won't accept it to myself.

* And if you're wondering, Mr Furiously Angry is the tiny body who is furthest away in the photograph above.