Hold On Tight , It's 2019

Ready or not the new year is here !                                                                                                                                                                                     The fireworks have gone, so its important that your hangover from 2018 doesn't last for the next twelve months, its time to initiate new projects, bin the stuff that didn't work out in 2018 and  develop your ideas, this is not a rehearsal !  

How can you move your Street Photography forward this year ?

My search for change and progress is not based on dissatisfaction of my current practice, my search is  based on a journey of change and inquiry.  I may not be moving forward but I know I am not standing still, visual questions need to be asked and answered ?                                        Doing things how you have always done them will create the results you have always had !        Embrace and seek change, change your mindset ,  change your focal length , change the locations, change, change, change, change and don't fear failure , failure is the food of creativity, learning and progress.

Think like a student no matter how long you've been shooting "Street" !  Photographic technique is becoming easier to learn , don't spend your time pixel peeping, instead show a active interest in Art , the cubists, surrealists and impressionists have many lessons for photographers with curious minds.

Don’t let pride or peer group pressure get between you and your pictures, everyone talks the talk , very few walk the walk !

Look deeper , shoot  sets of pictures . Notice I used the word set not series , I understand that many photographers feel that the idea of shooting in series is pretentious and conflicts with purest principles of the "Street Photography Moment" !   Don't get caught up with the semantics , sets of images allow the author to develop a deeper narrative that can engage viewers on a different level to the sublime one off captures we usually crave. Shoot a set this year, just five or six pix, keep shooting it until it develops a rhythm and flow that works.

Care less about what others think , these are your images, this is your journey and this is your life . Should you wish to become a sheep become a black one, better still become a wolf, the world has enough sheep !    Be cautious of wolves dressed as shepherds !!!

The best advice I can give for 2019 is to stop taking pictures when your not feeling it, too many photographers create unsustainable workloads for themselves,  a dedicated street photography commitment is a huge undertaking especially when it is  combined with work and family commitments. Remember what is important to you and yours .

Ensure your photography is created on your terms and for the best of reasons . The greatest reward a photographer can / should expect is the thrill of a meaningful capture, everything else is just window dressing. 

Taking my own advice I'm going stop writing this now as I have some other stuff to do, best wishes for the next twelve months.

Keep it real in 2019 !

Go off piste now and then , follow your visual instincts ,this is your journey !

Go off piste now and then , follow your visual instincts ,this is your journey !

Looking Back At 2018

It took me a while to get going in 2018 although I did have a line of investigation I wanted to pursue, I rediscovered and re-evaluated a abandoned series, continued The State Of Britain series and might have made my most significant capture ever ?

I wanted to investigate the multi-exposure technique of stacking exposures on top of each other in camera , as I thought the technique had real possibilities and would bring a welcome slice of serendipity and freshness to my work . Knowing I was going off piste with this approach and risking the wrath of the Street Photography Police made the idea even more compelling !

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I enjoyed shooting these multi layered Suburban Views in flat light during the winter months but as the year progressed this project was subconsciously demoted to the back burner despite its early promise. I will pick this project up again in the months ahead , hopefully .

In April I was fortunate enough to attend the Martin Parr foundation 1970’s British photography seminar, this day was memorable for many reasons although the discovery of work by Marketa Luskacova shot on the beaches of North East England really resonated with me, as I was not aware of her North Tyneside work. I’m not really a photo-seminar fan but this day was different as it assembled many of the photographers who shaped my early ideas of good photography including Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen who kindly agreed to me making this portrait below. . I look forward to attending other events at the Bristol based Parr Foundation in the new year.

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen


The month of May saw a Royal wedding , this event fitted well with my the State Of Britain project and it did not disappoint , I shot this event in my local town in a Street style and have included a few frames below to give you a flavor of my coverage. Some of my favorite images of 2018 were taken on this Royal Wedding day especially these masked royal figures, that I found decorating a charity shop window. I also enjoyed a trip to the beautiful island of Sardinia in May for the Alghero Street Photography awards where I met some nice folk , managed a few shots and won the Street Photography Single capture award with “that head image” from my State Of Britain project. . .

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As England was caught up in World Cup fever in June, I started to notice a increase in the iconography of English nationalism which was fueled by the uncertainty of the Brexit situation and the football . The month delivered some great weather and some unusual captures as I watched all the football and ploughed on with my State Of Britain project.

July delivered one of my most memorable candid captures ever as the UK political climate and a serendipitous reality collided before me, to create a surreal symbolic image that reflects both the atmosphere of our country and the confusion of our times perfectly , sometimes the world really does align for the lens and blind optimism & perception is rewarded !

The deep symbolism of this candid capture really is very topical, it might be my favorite “Street” picture, ever ?

The State Of Britain , No 100 , 2018

The State Of Britain , No 100 , 2018



Following the Theresa May mask capture in July I had a quiet August , I wasn’t complaining as I knew I had used up a large slice of my annual Street Photography good fortune with that capture , I would have to build up my “luck” again and take my photographic failures on the chin for a while, philosophically speaking, the Well of good fortune was dry ! I knew another decent capture would arrive sooner or later if I kept on working and looking ?

Sometimes crazy candid captures just happen !

Sometimes crazy candid captures just happen !

Both of these captures occurred within 90 mins of each other ?

Both of these captures occurred within 90 mins of each other ?


September brought the opportunity to photograph a English Civil war event that I could not pass up !

I knew that with the right approach one or two captures could be made that had relevance to my British project , the parallels between the English Civil War and Tory Brexit conflicts were clear to me , symbolically at least !

The event delivered what I wanted , it also delivered a abstract view that has no clear narrative but seems to thrive on its anonymity and ambiguity ? This picture is definitely more jazz than classical and is richer for it , I embraced this opportunity to exploit the Tony Ray Jones half a horse trick here, which is never a bad thing ! The symbolism of a horses ass always puts a smile on my face.

I also managed to attend the Elvis Convention in Porthcawl this year , strangely another cardboard mask worn back to front featured in my work ?

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The Porthcawl Elvis Convention.

The Porthcawl Elvis Convention.

October saw me re-engage with my Tomorrow Was Created Yesterday series which I thought was behind me , until I passed the location that inspired this project . This project explores how urban regeneration relates to the past and how the evolution of our towns and cities is a continuous process that links us to those who lived before and those who will follow .

A early image from the 2016 series, Tomorrow Was Created Yesterday that got a face-lift in 2018

A early image from the 2016 series, Tomorrow Was Created Yesterday that got a face-lift in 2018


I photographed the 100 year commemoration of the World War 1 Armistice in November , I was proud and privileged to shoot the Ghost sculptures created by Jackie Lantelli at the village of Slimbridge , Gloucestershire, on Armistice Sunday before participating in the Pages Of The Sea event at Weston Super Mare , both tributes were deeply moving. I was delighted to see how a younger generation engaged with these informal remembrance events , they really appeared to capture the imagination and respect of the young.


WW 1 Ghosts, 2018

WW 1 Ghosts, 2018

As I write this the year is not quite complete , however, I will remember 2018 fondly photographically , my personal projects progressed and I smiled most of the time, what more can you ask for during these troubled times ?

I must thank all the folk who have visited this site and my Twitter feed this year , your support and interest is appreciated , I would also like to thank all the anonymous people who unwittingly feature in my work , although Street Photography is legal in the UK I still rely on a level of tolerance and goodwill from people in public places where I shoot , thank you for your trust.

Weston Super Mare

Weston Super Mare

The world and my country appear to be going to hell in a hand cart as the common sense reliability of democracy is breaking down , the rise of homelessness , food banks and division continues unabated in the UK as political incompetence becomes a global contagion !

Self centered capitalism has become a busted flush in 2018 and highlights the need for a new kind of socially driven politics, that should, at the very least combat rough sleeping and hunger in a established twenty first century “civilised” economy , lets hope for a basic level of competence and decency in 2019 from our governments . .

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and New Year .








Books this Christmas !

This week I thought I would share my thoughts on a few Street Photography books in the run up to Christmas , I believe these reads will make you a better photographer and enhance your Street Photography skill-set while increasing your understanding of the SP landscape globaly.

52 ASSIGNMENTS , Street Photography by Brian LLoyd Duckett Price £ 12.99 2018

This book delivers inspiration and know how to all photographers regardless of where you are in your personal photographic journey.

As the name suggests this book outlines 52 projects for togs to tackle during the coming year, the more experienced photographers might find some of the advice a bit tired but its all relevant and communicated clearly . I will be adopting and working through this book myself when my own inspiration drys up and my mo jo is low ,this book will definatley help you adopt the mindset of a student , buy this book if you want to keep your work fresh and fun in 2019 and adopt a process of photographic discovery.

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The Street Photographers Manual by David Gibson Price £12.00 2014



This is a must read for anyone trying to increase their awareness of Street Photography & Street Photographers, it features profiles of photographers working now and their work. Gibsons writing style is both entertaining and authoritative , as you would expect from someone who really can walk the walk and talk the talk ., this book features many of his successful captures.

I have only recently bought this book and have to admit to holding it and its author in high regard , the book explores approach and the process of Street Photography like no other that I have read . Make no mistake Gibson is a scholar of all things Street Photography and is blessed with the ability to share his ideas . This Feininger quote really does cut to the chase.

“Photography can be taught only in part- specifically, that part which deals with photo- technique .Everything else has to come from the photographer”

I believe that becoming a better Street Photographer is about personal development and growth , this book could help you to grow as a person and a photographer .

Keep it real , buy it !




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Be Careful What You Wish For ?

Paid for photographic competitions are under attack from on-line photo communities , on first inspection its a easy hit, these photo competitions are perceived by many as exploitative financial ripoffs , however , I think exceptions exist , photographers need to examine their motives and expectations before writing them off. Some are definitely better than others.

In my view the best photo competitions prove to be good value if you are fortunate enough to be recognised , as the public relations teams should ensure that the successful participants , sponsors and work receives a level of exposure in print and on-line that is hard for individuals to achieve independently. Beware of awards that have a lower online presence after the awards ceremony than during the call for entry . Do a online search and see if last years winners come up in your search before this years call for entry ? Unscrupulous / incompetent organisers are taking the cash and not fulfilling the unwritten obligation to promote the winning photographers and the successful work after the event . Those who are successful with the Lensculture platform receive a high level of support and exposure in print and on-line and I can confirm that those single free entries do make it to the final !

Does My Bum Look Big In These , 2018 . A capture made on the island of Sardinia during a photo festival.

Does My Bum Look Big In These , 2018 . A capture made on the island of Sardinia during a photo festival.

I have never regretted participating in a paid photo competition or paid for exhibition call for entry , although I do not usually support the same project twice . I view my entries as a financial donation to a worthwhile new project that might raise my profile or /and the profile of Street Photography . Supporting a new festival or exhibition, win or lose is never a bad thing , hopefully the profile of “Street” photography and a few photographers is raised , which benefits us all , hopefully !

Let me state for the record that many of the paid for competitions are not worthy of support, especially from amateur photographers with limited resources , pro and semi professional photographers use funds from promotional budgets to enter, as the publicity can be far more valuable than the actual prizes .

I believe some organisations , galleries etc, are beginning to rely on competition revenues to stay open and without a doubt many photo festivals would not be viable without income from paid for call for entries . Do we want to lose the social & educational opportunities that the best photo festivals offer ?

Do we want smaller specialist calls to disappear ?

Rightly or wrongly, I see the best photo competitions as a form of crowd funding , certainly the biggest and best have major sponsors and do not need our cash but some smaller grass roots shows deserve support if we want them to grow . A cynical photographer could be excused their skepticism as many events fail photographers and make significant amounts of cash from photo-calls with very little financial scrutiny or transparency.

The best photography awards are usually free ,ironically in my experience the paid for awards I have experienced deliver least ! You pay your money and you take your choice , or not ?

Keep it real .


This piece is a response to the justifiable concerns raised by Lewis Bush and Jim Mortram recently.



The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum !

Don’t worry this is not another article about the “B” word , the title above comes from a capture I made back in 2016 which features a Boris Johnson clown like caricature against a backdrop of partying young people on the back of a carnival float.

I have to admit that I knew the picture was significant at the time of capture but I never imagined that the sentiments expressed within the artwork would come to life the way they have , this picture is not from a protest march or a political rally, this picture was made during a innocuous annual summer carnival !

A few days earlier I had photographed The Dickens Festival at Broadstairs , with hindsight this shoot now looks like a futuristic political gaze into the governments re-adoption of Victorian Dickensian values !

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Make no mistake the political and social changes occurring in Britain today are as damaging, if not more damaging than the de-industrialisation that occurred during the 1970’s , photographically the demise of the Ship Building, Steel and Coal industries were easier to depict than the current twenty first century demolition of working class community and social values. The poverty and misery created by a lack of political empathy, equality and opportunity still exists today , as it did in my 1970’s teenage years on Tyneside.

The State Of Britain project relies on metaphor , humour and simple documentary photography to record the times we live in now , This picture captures the greatest sadness of all , despite all the bright colours , loud music and teenage optimism, no one is smiling anymore !

This party is over ?

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The State Of Britain project is almost complete and considering publishing / exhibition opportunities for spring 2019.

Keep it real !

Remember Them

The links between the here and now and my grandparents & parents generations appears to diminish more as each year passes, it falls to us to keep their memories alive and acknowledge those. who sacrificed all , protecting the freedoms we all enjoy now .

As photographers we enjoy a freedom of expression , a freedom of speech and a freedom to be, because of those we never met , remember them, …always.

We are here because of them …..

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Demise Of The High Street ?

Is internet shopping having a adverse effect on Street Photography , I noticed last weekend that the footfall in my local city was way down and decent photographic opportunities were harder to find as a result. Street Photography is quite often a numbers game, greater numbers, create more & better photo opportunities , as Street Photographers we have a vested interest in the well being of our urban and retail environments.

Ultimately the internet, poor political leadership and a lack of insight is killing the heart and soul of our towns and city’s ,which is basically the life blood of Street Photography, mass Saturday afternoon shopping activity is becoming a memory in all but the larger city’s .

The Street Photographers of today are unwittingly recording the demise of both a social and retail revolution that shows no loyalty or sentiment for what has gone before, as the very fabric of our lives is exchanged for a growing need for charity shops and faceless mail order warehouses that are owned by multi-national tax dodging, rate avoiding corporations.

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One of the reasons my personal photography is based around events rather than urban landscapes is that I need to work in surroundings that are well populated . The lone silhouetted figure walking through a shadowy scene might be a cliche but photographers are waiting longer than ever before for these lone figures to show up !

Austerity has certainly effected the behavior & spending power of normal families in the UK, it has also effected the ability of local councils to deliver services . All in all the UK seems to lack confidence , direction, insight, unity and optimism at this time , perhaps we should be shooting life with more of a documentary objective view over the next few months, as we are certainly living through “interesting times” !

Strange how creativity appears to be linked with a inner feeling of happiness, genuine happiness seems to be thin on the ground at the moment as is my creative mo jo .

Maybe, in the future our pictures will help us to understand what just happened ?



Keep it real !









“Does the world need another sunset photograph” ?

One of the most searching photographic questions I ever heard, was arguably the simplest , as Parr asked the question above , he was working on his “Signs Of The Times” project..

This simple question shook me to the core as I realised that this question is not anti - sunset it is much further reaching than that, as it challenges photographers to search out a personal vision that hopefully values a level of uniqueness over a predictable pictorial ism that is “very nice” but as dull as ditch water with few exceptions.

The problem with this question is that it throws down the gauntlet to photographers to stop treading water in the same way as many photographers always have, and engage with the here and now in a deeper, thoughtful and more challenging way. Take responsibility and ownership of the images you make as extensions of you / your life rather than being reflective records of the places you once visited and prove little more than you once passed through this place. .

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Perhaps we should be ignoring the warm cosy sunsets of tomorrow in favour of captures that represent the cold light of day and moments that might have more significance ?

The realisation that the subjects and views that you leave out of your compositions are arguably more important than the compositions that you invest in, is quite refreshing, as this is the first and most important content edit of your photographic life and your times.

This Bresson quote might help me make my point as it seems especially relevant now , “The world is falling apart and Adams and Evans are out there photographing rocks” !

Enjoy your weekend, share a sunset with someone special , please don’t share it with me !

Keep it real .

Special thanks to David O’Flynn for inspiring this ramble !

Re-Inventing Elvis In Porthcawl !

As a photographer who has been shooting the British & British leisure time for years, I thought I had seen it all , I had not !

I had the privilege to attend The Porthcawl Elvis Convention yesterday and I’m pleased to report that it exceeded its billing in every way, this annual event might look like any other tribute weekend to outsiders but those in the know, know better. Photographically this event is special and has restored my belief that the traditional British seaside town Renaissance is real !

My current project The State Of Britain gave me the excuse to finally explore this event, as the temporary Americanisation of this small Welsh town is loud and proud, although the Coney Beach Fun Fair is a permanent fixture and dates back to the 1920’s . This Welsh seaside town embraced the “American Dream” theme years ago and is literally richer for it.


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This event would be a easy shoot for a photographer with a cynical, sarcastic eye who wanted to sneer at the working class “Kiss Me Quick” culture but this would be to miss the point and misrepresent all things Elvis ! Embrace, enjoy and depict the madness that this event celebrates and you will come close to representing and understanding the spirit of this huge crazy themed party . This event is not about nostalgia as the past is re-invented here with its tongue placed firmly in cheek !

As I drove back to my home in England with a huge grin, I tried to reconsider what I had just witnessed / photographed and understand why this event punches way above the sum of its parts ? , then it hit me ! “The people” , the people I met were fun, friendly and warm , that is why this event works ,the local folk make this event unique. This is not “The Last Resort” this is probably the first of many resorts that will reject the trend for aspirational bollocks and re-invent the future by reinterpreting the past and involving local communities as vital assets of tourism !

I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year , until then I’ve got a few hundred pix to edit.

Elvis never left the building, he just relocated to this “Welsh Vegas” !

Keep it real .


What Is A Portrait ?

I’ve just been looking through the Portrait Salon 2018 entries and have to admit to being a little disappointed , I was hoping to see more works that challenged the traditional definition of portraiture, instead I was met with too many very competent formal editorial style pictures of people created by authors who appeared to be thinking deep “inside the box” ?

I thought this show was about contemporary portraiture and maybe it is, although if this is representative of creative British contemporary portraiture in 2018 I am saddened by the lack of progress, as I see few new approaches here.

The generic fine art flat portrait lighting is well represented here , the cliche lives on and is thriving.

This is what the Oxford English Dictionary definition has to say .

NOUN

  • 1A painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders.

    ‘a portrait of George III’

    as modifier ‘a portrait painter’

    More example sentences

    Synonyms

    1. 1.1 A representation or impression of someone or something in language or on film or television.‘the writer builds up a fascinating portrait of a community’More example sentencesSynonyms

  • 2usually as modifier Denoting a format of printed matter which is higher than it is wide.

    ‘you can print landscape and portrait pages in the same document’

    Compare with landscape (sense 2 of the noun)

    More example sentences

Origin

Mid 16th century: from French, past participle (used as a noun) of Old French portraire ‘portray’.

Pronunciation

portrait

/ˈpɔːtreɪt//ˈpɔːtrət/

As modern creatives I would expect a more informal approach to be adopted , especially by those who are shooting in a Street Photography style. Definition 1.1 appears to be the most useful to those of us hoping to adopt a interpretive less literal approach , dare I suggest a abstract interpretation ?

Remember that a few carefully selected sentences are capable of creating a descriptive portrait , portraiture does not even have to be a visual work , does the subject of the portrait have to be present at the shoot in order to capture a “successful” likeness / representation ?

Let me put my cards on the table I’ve made more than my fare share of portraits in the past, motivated by money , as soon as a portrait becomes a commissioned work the creative visual cuffs are on , especially if your client is the subject ! Portraiture is weighed down with the expectations of formality, history and vanity, we need to shake this off in order to explore and realise the creative potential of contemporary portraiture.

Some of you will be familiar with the picture below, it is a genuine street capture and features a passing stranger , the surprise for me is that I see / interpret this as a selfie ?

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Self Portrait Of A Stranger , 2014

I have entered one of my more challenging portraits into the Portrait Salon , not because I’m in search of glory, but because I hope to motivate myself & others to explore the definition of “Portrait” and help redefine how we approach the photographic representations of others, our efforts do not have to be reflective as huge opportunities of interpretation and representation exist in this field.

A portrait could define a country, a group or a moment in time , the ambiguity of definition should be seen as a opportunity to investigate the gendre, photography describes how things look by default , therefore as photographers we should be bringing more than photographic description to the party , we should be bringing more of ourselves to our photographic interpretations of others , or conversely learn from the John Myers school of portraiture and maybe bring substantially less of ourselves ?

We have a obligation to move things on for those who follow, we can’t go on producing and consuming portraits that are still influenced by the visual sensibilities of Renaissance Art and aesthetics that existed before photography was invented. We are living through a time when photographic depictions of others and ourselves are part of everyday culture, this frees serious photographers from having to record the mundane and should create opportunities to make work with a deeper significance .

I apologise to those of you who came to this blog expecting a answer to the “What is a portrait” question, as I have no answer to that question, although I’m having great fun exploring the question with my Street Photography . I’m not sure I have ever written a piece that contains more question marks !

Good luck to my fellow contributors and organisers at Portrait Salon for the 2018 project.

I have deliberately not added my entry here as the vote is still open .

I hope your next portrait shoot helps you to rethink, reshape & redefine your personal contemporary portrait definition .

Keep it real .