The Point Of Departure ?

Her reply ran counter to the idea of the heroic photographer wandering the streets in search of some kind of truth. Instead she said he had to have an objective and a destination, and then he might intersect with something worth photographing.

Dorothea Lange to a 21 year old Ralph Gibson

A Chat With Mr KILLIP

Those of you who read my British Photography Symposium piece last week will be aware that I managed a quick chat with Chris Killip at the event , I should explain that Mr Killip was director of Side Gallery in 1977 . I blame Killip and all things Side for my persistent photographic affliction !

Killips representation of the deindustrialisation of my everyday landscape taught me how familiar places looked when photographed , I also noticed that a photographic agenda could effect how often people smiled and determine if the sun would shine ?

I was more than a little confused when Chris described himself and the Tyneside work as none political , the famous quote from his In Flagrante (1988 edition) “Fiction about Metaphor” never sat well with me as a means of describing what I see as traditional solid documentary photography , is this Art Photography ? I never saw this work as Art at the time of capture, this work represented my reality !

I have to confess to seeing the Tyneside work as political , it was certainly critical , that was a large part of its appeal to me, this work fitted my natural politics, I naively read these photographic works as protest ! The “Prepare for revolution” graffiti did not seem unreasonable to me , the irony was that a revolution of capitalism had already started and I was in the middle of it !

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I must admit that the more recent edition of In Flagrante conflicts me less than the original. The pictures were never a problem to me as I believed they were made with integrity, although the words made me less comfortable.

It should be remembered that In Flagrante was published 2 years after Parr’s full colour, New Brighton project, The Last Resort , 1986. . The In Flagrante work was never cutting edge, however the safe monochromatic tones placed these views into a evolving documentary tradition that was moving towards colour and the expectations of a modern international Art Photography audience. These pictures evolved into more than a few historical Tyneside views !

When chatting with Chris, I discovered that he too had been a resident of Walker, a suburb to the East of Newcastle city centre, he once lived on Welbeck Road , this explains why a number of his views were so familiar, they were literally very close to home !

We discussed the local pub , The Scrogg Inn , and his move to Bill Quay on the South side of the Tyne , overlooking Swan Hunters Shipyard , one of his visitors HCB made a sketch of the shipbuilding view from his window. .

Another question I asked him was about a on-line sea coal picture that I believed was mistakenly credited to HCB a few years ago , it turns out that HCB did photograph the Northumberland sea coalers ! Killip arranged Bresson access to the sea coalers at a time when he was not allowed to shoot them, he introduced HCB as a French journalist and the sea coalers were happy to be photographed by a foreign photographer as they believed his pictures would not be seen in England , Bresson was in the NE for his Side Gallery exhibition at the time of his 70th birthday. I believe his birthday party was in Byker ! I’m unsure if HCB visited The Middle Club ?

Finally I had to discover why he left Newcastle to take up a position at Harvard , as I was disappointed that Chris did not stay on Tyneside and share his insights with new local photographers like me . He told me that he had applied for a lecturing post at Newcastle Poly and had not even been selected for interview ! The reasons for this were unclear although past conflicts within the Northern Arts scene may have been influential ? A few weeks later a job offer from America arrived ,Chris needed a job at this time , the rest is history .

It was great to meet another of my teenage heroes at the Parr Foundation , revisiting Killips Tyneside. pictures has brought back some very warm personal memories of this place and these times.

Until next time keep it real !

Killip Zines Here http://www.ponybox.co.uk/shop/publications-2/the-last-ships/ …





British Art Photography 1980's Symposium

It was time to fire up the Quattro in true Gene Hunt, Ashes to Ashes style and revisit a Britain that was led by Thatcher , and was at war with Argentina. The country was reinventing itself , trying to shake off a post war hangover ! British Art Photography was still growing from the seeds planted in the late seventies . This was a time of industrial and social change , a new photographic language was emerging in Britain from unlikely sources !

The Bristol based Martin Parr Foundation followed up on last years 1970’s British Photography event with the 1980’s speakers listed below

10.00 / Anna Fox
11.10 / Jem Southam
12.10 / Karen Knorr
13.00 / lunch
14.30 / Paul Graham
15.40 / Chris Killip
17.15 / panel discussion


Anna Fox started the day off with pictures that were critical of 80’s corporate culture and was followed by Gem Southam who spoke of the DIY ethos that existed at this time and the birth of The Over The Rainbow Gallery that became a important hub for British Photography in South West England . Mention was made of a less than complimentary comment left in the comments book by a then unknown photographer Paul Graham, I wonder whatever happened to him ?

Gem also reminded us of the significant early contributions of Newcastle based Spectro Arts , Side Gallery & Impressions Gallery York.

Karen Knorr shared her Belgravia work which became especially relevant at this time when juxtaposed with work like Killips industrial landscapes that were to feature in the afternoon session. Once again the important contribution of Creative Camera magazine was acknowledged in this golden period of British Art Photography, Strangely, considering the venue, Parrs , Last Resort published in 1986 barely got a mention ?

Mick Jagger told me a million times that I should never name drop or exaggerate so I won’t write of the folk I had the good fortune of meeting during the lunch break !

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I met this bloke who used to live near me in Walker, Newcastle Upon Tyne and was familiar with The Scrogg Inn public house , not sure who he was , you meet some interesting folk at the Parr Foundation.

The afternoon session kicked off with a jet lagged Paul Graham who reminded us of the sacrifices that are necessary to see projects through to publication , Paul spoke of adopting the Punk ethos of self production and publication in order to avoid the editorial limitations & costs of the publishing gatekeepers .He still seems to be scarred by the memories of cleaning the tar out of a 50 inch print processor he used back in the day !, The price of fame ?

Despite the adoption of the Plaubel camera by all of the speakers, I was left with the feeling of a make do and mend approach, projects were funded or underfunded by maxed out credit cards and other dubious debts, these were, pioneering days ! These guy’s were risk takers, visually and financially !

The final speaker turned out to be the bloke I had photographed earlier in the lunch break, he knew his way around the North East of England and a Linhof 5x4 camera , he shared some great views and stories , I have known the work of Chris Killip most of my life as this work reflects much of my early life, I grew up in Killip’s Tyneside !

The day finished off with a panel discussion which sadly ran out of time just as it was getting interesting, I hope to hear more of Gerry Badgers observations on the British photography scene in future.

I will share more of my conversation with Mr Killip in a future blog , one story involves HCB and the Sea Coalers ?

Until next time, keep it real !

Killip Zines Here http://www.ponybox.co.uk/shop/publications-2/the-last-ships/ …





Am I The Only One ?

I hope this piece is easier to read than it will be to write , I have touched on this subject before but the response normally involves tumble weed blowing across this blog !

As this is Easter weekend I thought I would raise the question of spirituality within the act of Street Photography , others describe “it” as being “in the zone”, “really seeing it” and being “guided” ? The state I am describing is when all the elements of your photographic capture experience come together , your seeing is deeper, your responses almost subconscious and the outcomes feel as if they defy coincidence , the state I am describing here could be described as a moment of life / photographic alignment . This state when achieved feels as if the decision making process is being driven by something else ?

Let me state for the record that I do not consider myself to be religious but have to confess to being more aware of the “something else” when my mental state , seeing and thinking combine to create a different level of consciousness that does not feel as if it belongs to me , this is a real feeling of connectivity with all things around me . Street Photography is the only activity that enables me to create this altered level of awareness and increased perception .

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The last time I wrote about this (ANALYSIS OF A MOMENT ! blog 2016) Mr Chris Wilson replied,

“There's a really interesting book called "thinking fast thinking slow" which looks at the two types of thought processes we have. The slow logical one and the quick emotional instinctive one. It's pretty interesting that our quicker thought process can be better in some cases especially when processing large amounts of data. Perhaps that's part of it ? “

This was really interesting and helped me understand that my “Auto Pilot” subconscious, spontaneous visual problem solving was probably quicker and more reliable than my deliberate considered picture making solutions !

I still find the level of coincidence, luck and the serendipitous nature of Street Photography hard to explain to myself, not only do these “unbelievable” scenarios happen, they happen in front of me , when i’m ready and looking to capture a moment ! I’m still unsure if I find these photographic opportunities or if they find me ?

Whatever is going on , long may it continue , I’m not sure I want to fully understand it ?

Every successful Street Photograph is a minor miracle to me.

Enjoy your Easter weekend.

Until next time keep it real !



Respect Yourself !

If you're walking 'round think'n that the world owes you something cause
You're here…

Is Street Photography (like Golf) a good walk spoiled ?

Lets be clear I’m not talking about walking down a road with a camera hanging around your neck and a head full of emptiness, no, no, no, ! The mindset of the walk I’m describing here is a full on mental engagement with your surroundings that is curious, receptive, respectful & reactive ! This walk with a camera involves preparation of kit and mind . This walk should be physically and mentally challenging !

What sort of thoughts should pass through the mind of a engaged long distance walking Street Photographer ?

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I find that a positive, optimistic and happy mindset is a great start to a “Street” shoot but a photographer is going to need a bit more than blind optimism and happiness to succeed ! A tool box full of compositional know how and kit familiarity is a prerequisite , these basics will get you in the game but won’t sustain your photo shoot for long , more mental substance and nourishment will be needed in the long term .

Where does the “Substance & Nourishment” come from ?

Indeed ! Where does the soul of your Street Photography come from , hopefully from you & your life , not from the tinternet or your recent photo book purchase, these sources will help you to acquire the building blocks you need to improve your ability to express yourself on the street but ultimately the visual solutions and subjects you select should come from deep inside of you , they should be meaningful to you .

Street Photography should be a personal vision of your world, not necessarily “The World” as we can only hope to reflect bite sized bits of our lives with wit and wisdom , the pursuit of a generic street style is best avoided, pursue a real connection with your surroundings and the work that your everyday environment inspires. This is your life, this will be YOUR work !



Don’t try too hard to show how something looks, instead invest your time finding a way to show how you feel about the scenario in front of you . Picture making should be personal , even though you are behind the camera you should be present in every capture !

The road that leads to meaningful “Street” captures is littered with failure on many levels , this failure should be embraced as a bi-product of learning not a reward of ineptitude , no one said it was easy !

My personal view is that Art is the best form of nourishment to feed your Street Photography , the real free thinkers are artists , photographers are obsessed with rules,regulations and self imposed shackles .

When all fails follow the light, great light is the cornerstone of great photography, above all, respect your own ideas and thoughts , explore them !

Don’t be afraid to walk alone & work hard .

Respect Yourself

The Staple Singers

If you disrespect anybody that you run in to
How in the world do you think anybody's s'posed to respect you
If you don't give a heck 'bout the man with the bible in his hand
Just get out the way, and let the gentleman do his thing
You the kind of gentleman that want everything your way
Take the sheet off your face, boy, it's a brand new day

Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don't respect yourself
Ain't nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself

If you're walking 'round think'n that the world owes you something cause
You're here…

Until next time , keep it real !

Art For Arts Sake ?

When does Street Photography become Documentary or Reportage photography ?

Never ? That would have been my answer until recently but recent events have made me question everything that I ever thought I knew about anything !

Let me explain , I have invested more time than I should have, trying to create a creative personal photographic record of my everyday life in Britain during the Brexit years . The State Of Britain project touches on the uncertainty, nationalism and politics growing out of the Tory governments policies of austerity & the EU referendum . Many of the Street scenes & people pictures within the series could be described as having a firm foot in the documentary photography tradition but I don’t really want to trouble readers with a definition argument here , the surprise for me has been how many of the unequivocal Street pictures appear to reflect the “crazy” mood within the UK during these “turbulent” times !

At the time of capture I thought that the images below were a bit of a stretch for a serious photographic project aiming to represent the changes of this country during the Brexit years . With the benefit of hindsight I wonder if these “unusual” Street Photography candid captures are more representative of my country than many of the more traditional images ?

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I am beginning to wonder if modern photographers might be better served by introducing a more interpretive approach to the real life historical events they shoot, I believe the younger tech aware audience for contemporary editorial photography is becoming more sophisticated & media savvy. They enjoy reading into the symbolism, iconography and metaphors within our photographic works !

Dare I suggest that a deeper engagement with the political narratives of the day by Street Photographers might lead editors to use photography in new less descriptive ways ? Showing how something looks is not enough anymore, bring more of yourself to the party !

Form a partnership with the viewer , leave room for interpretation !

Don’t worry I’m not suggesting Street Photography is in danger of going mainstream any time soon as the gatekeepers only commission established documentary photographers for serious stories , Street Togs are a bit too lightweight , aren’t they ?

Until next time, keep it real !

Ah, the answer to the question at the top of this piece is , when the money’s right !

We Can't Have It Both Way's !

Why is Street Photography still seen by the Art Photography community as the poor relation ?

Despite the high numbers of committed talented practitioners Street Photography still appears to suffer from a credibility problem with many galleries and curators. Why ?

This piece was inspired by a complaint I read on Twitter, in short the tweet implied that the judging panel of a current call for entry should be made up of more Street Photographers , blindingly obvious and a reasonable shout I thought on first reading , however , I thought about this a bit more the next day and decided that the worst people to judge Street Photography competitions were Street Photographers ?

Yes you read that right , In my view Street Photographers should not be trusted to judge photo-comps , lets make it clear I’m NOT casting doubt on integrity, motivation or ability, I am questioning the criteria that we (Street Photographers) use to asses and value street photographs ! The truth is that the inward looking Street Photography community and the work most of us produce has not exactly knocked down gallery doors , curators are not beating a path to our doors and offering us fists full of cash. We are failing to maintain the interest of the general public, (our potential market) , it is all becoming a bit self indulgent, art for arts sake ?

Here’s the thing , the activity of Street Photography is hugely popular , but the inconvenient truth is that the consumption of Street Photographs by the public at large and the Art buying public is verging on zero, the only folk seriously buying Street Photography are other Street photographers, sadly !

We have to admit that the digital new wave era of Street Photography has failed as a serious contender within Art Photography circles, unless we become valued here we risk becoming irrelevant hobbyists . I’m not aware of a Street Photography show at the Format Festival , this year ? I don’t want to open the old Street Photography definition debate or blame the ambiguity of definition for lack of progress , no , I wonder if SP pays a high price for its incestuous inward looking mentality , the current Street Photography influencers are creating a “Hotel California” scenario ,”we are all prisoners here of our own device !

Does Street Photography need to see itself through fresh eyes ?

Does Street Photography need to see itself through fresh eyes ?

Its one thing being trapped in the current SP ethos but we should be encouraging visitors to enter the SP house and bring big cakes with files hidden within to help liberate togs and remove the creative cuffs !

We should be welcoming seasoned visual professionals regardless of their area of expertise into the SP bubble in the hope that their fresh eyes will help to take Street Photography and Street Photographers to new places ,visually and geographically. It is no surprise that the surprises within our pictures are failing to surprise anyone anymore ! Street Photography as a collective art movement is currently going nowhere new !

I have to admit that “Fresh Eyes” will certainly raise eye-brows with their “winning” selections, but that’s okay if it gets us to move away from the well lit, technically excellent, beautifully composed, soulless masterpieces that are defining our art-form at this time. The Turner Prize was famous for its head scratching winning selections , creating fantastic PR and artist awareness .

We should not be questioning the qualifications of Street Photography Competition judges , in my view we should be questioning their sanity for wanting to enter the madhouse that is competitive Street Photography. !

The self curation of street Photography has not moved us forward, we need to become more gracious and accept the help of others in order to progress ..

Despite all this I will maintain my interest in the worlds best Street Photography calls for entry and the National Lottery !

Until next time, Keep it real …


Escaping Tony Ray Jones ?

Following my recent re-post and popularity of my “Subliminal Influence” piece , I thought I would write a follow up. This whole project was intended as a personal investigation of TRJ’s influence on me and my personal work., I wanted to understand how deeply my TRJ “subliminal” seeing ran ?.

The Another Day Off project was shot between the years 2012 -2016, following “that” capture in Majorca which admittedly is a strange place to start a English series.!

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To be honest I’m not sure that too many of the shots in Another Day Off display the obvious Ray Jones influence that I was trying to understand & explore when I started this project (thankfully), however , I think the locations I visited that TRJ had photographed previously , ( Durham Miners Gala and The Broadstairs Dickens Festival ) really echoed the great mans approach, especially when I removed the colour from my humble efforts and printed them a little dark ..


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Strangely my visit to Durham Miners Gala was part of my Unite the trade union activities and not a pre-planned Another Day Off photographic jolly, although it was a great day and it was great to re-visit the North East .

As the series progressed I concentrated more on the subject of English leisure time , I almost lost sight of the TRJ influence, I did not read A day Off during the lifespan of the project for fear of visually corrupting my approach. I actually thought i had subconsciously left it behind at one point, which would be no bad thing, as we should never consciously aspire to become a photographic tribute act of our photo-heroes, although conversely I don’t think we should deny or hide our photo influences , as we are all products of the photographs & photographers we consume & admire.

In 2016 I planned to finish the series by shooting the Dickens Festival , I believed I had grown photographically during the project and had the TRJ thing under control , how wrong was I ? The truth was that I was shocked and shaken by the feeling of de-ja-vue as I framed up the shots in my viewfinder in Broadstairs , this was spooky ! , The Dickensian characters that populated my pictures felt and looked so familiar, although these folk were strangers, I believed I had met them before on the pages of my favorite 1974 photo book , It was at this point that I felt a deeper connection to this very special photographer who had photographed this very same event almost fifty years earlier, I knew then that my work here was done, it was time for me to move on, creatively & photographically !.

The Dickens Festival, 2016

The Dickens Festival, 2016

This project had given me so much and has completed the circle, my relationship with the work of the late great Tony Ray Jones has been explored and I have discovered a lot about myself as a person and a photographer , the first image of this series had intrigued me enough to take my personal work more seriously, Some of the images from this shoot surprised me as they taught me to rely less on the learned visual tricks of my photographic hero !

It is now time to trust my own aesthetic instincts more !

Keep it real !

The work Of Tony Ray Jones will be exhibited at The Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol later in 2019

Dodho , Thank You !

I was contacted last week by a Barcelona based photography platform Dodho and given the chance to share a few images from my State Of Britain series with its global audience . Interesting to note that every bit of help , recognition & encouragement this British series has received to date has come from outside the UK , not sure if this is due to national embarrassment , Brexit fatigue or something else ? What a international readership must think of the UK at this time is anyone’s guess ?

Special thanks to Maxim Panes for giving me this opportunity.

Always interested to hear from those who can help me move this project further down the road .

Keep it real !

https://www.dodho.com/the-state-of-britain-by-david-barrett/

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Photographer Changes Lens , Shock !

I have to confess to using a lens of a different focal length this week , I know “Photographer changes lens “ is not a big deal but it is for me, I’ve been shooting and seeing with a 28mm equivalent perspective for ages., zoom lenses and choice just bamboozle me !

It is rare for me to “see” in a different focal length, but I knew immediately that the view below would benefit from the compressed perspective of a short telephoto lens,, especially on a misty morning .. (longer lenses visually amplify weather conditions like fog & heat ).

This piece is not really about the lens change , my intention here is to advise others that a standardisation of approach, kit etc, might help your “successful” capture ratio improve as you will begin to see the world with the same perspective as your lens .

Sometimes you have to adapt to what your seeing but sticking with a fixed focal length will help the work look more consistent which can be very useful when shooting in series.

This Street Photography shenanigans can be and should be very simple .

Enjoy your weekend and keep it real !

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