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 !


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 ?


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 …..


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.


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. .


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.


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 .


  • 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


    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


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




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 ?

A4 bookprint5_edited-600.jpg

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 .

Facing The Wrong Way !

We spend our childhoods learning the rules and how to fit in , we then as teenagers rebel a little against the establishment, our parents and whatever else gets in the way of our personal, quite often crazy life choices before going full circle and accepting the full responsibility and the inevitability of adulthood and the rules ! …… Unless ?

A few exceptions to the above principles are possibly madness , criminality or creativity , creativity is hopefully the one that those of you reading this are suffering from . A large portion of creativity within your soul is without doubt a blessing but it can also be a curse, especially if you want to fit in and just get on with the day to day. The ability to see “the other way” a “better way” is quite often unsettling to others and a pain in the ass if you possess a level of integrity that insists you must be true to yourself. !

I was reminded of seeing things in a different way to others yesterday as I made a capture of a crowd watching a event , as they looked beyond me I found them much more interesting than the Civil War Re-enactment that was going on over my shoulder . Not only did this crowd feature folk of different genders, ages and religions , it also appeared to feature a lady from the 1700’s which is never a bad thing for a 21st century photographer trying to create a project that deals with the here and now , as historical context is always welcome !


The point I want to make today, is that sometimes the reaction to the action can be more informative / entertaining than the event itself , as a street photographer looking the wrong way on a regular basis will payoff , these crowd scenes of spectators are part of a Street Photography tradition reaching back to the 1960’s New York Parades where the masters of our Art-Form developed their approach and skills . On one level these crowd shots are all a bit samey but thankfully as the times change these scenes become fascinating barometers of the social landscapes they reflect as the people featured over the decades adapt and change.

Don’t be afraid to reject the pressures to create clear narrative in your captures, embrace the power of ambiguity in your pictures and let the viewer interpret the image for themselves , don’t spoon feed the viewer everything , give them just enough to kick start their appetite and do some of the work , let the viewer find their own “meaning” !

Street Photography is no place for those who belong to the herd , a single minded personal approach will pay creative dividends to those who make new paths and reject the tracks established by the crowd !

If you want your pictures to be different you might need to face the wrong way metaphorically and literally !

Keep It real !


Is Grey The New Black ?

As its a British Bank holiday weekend and the heavens have opened already I thought I would share this photo-book whinge with you , I have invested hard earned cash in photography art books for longer than I care to remember , I enjoy the high production values of the best books almost as much as the photographic content within, but all is not well in my photo book world !

Strangely enough this whinge is not inspired by a badly produced photo book but by a beautifully created publication by Steidl that helped me realise that many of the digitally printed efforts I have acquired in the last few years are victims of lower production values, some pages are not much better than average photo copies , the disappointment is greatest amongst reproductions of works I have seen first hand or in older lithographic editions . Its not much to ask that black and white photographs are reproduced containing at least a tone representing a meaningful meaty black alongside clean midtone greys and bright clear whites !

One of the contributory factors appears to be a trend for full tonal range prints that can be created via a little digital jiggery pokery from digital scans and look quite anemic when viewed alongside the original period prints that quite often appear to have been made from slightly underexposed negatives in the case of Tony Ray-Jones , although I think the production of prints that were a little overprinted was quite fashionable in the 1970's .

I wonder if work created in the last century is being misrepresented by the 21st century printing process ?

I have just compared Grim Street by Mark Cohen with the more recent Frame by the same photographer , although the repro in Frame is not that bad it appears to be soulless when viewed alongside the masterpiece that is Grim Street . I believe Grim Street was created via a litho press and Frame via a digital workflow  ?  Those who know about book printing tell me that its all about the operator, as both processes are capable of great or awful results,  ?


I have to admit that the older books in my collection appear to possess higher quality reproductions than most recent acquisitions . A Day Off by TRJ is a interesting example of a book that appears to have been badly reproduced (Dark), until you see the original prints that were supplied to Thames & Hudson , recent digital reproductions of these works are richer in detail but lack the personality of the original work in my opinion .

Its great that more  projects than ever are making it into print,  however the quality of reproduction should not be compromised,as second rate publishing will lead to dissatisfaction and the demise of what is currently a growing market .

The book that inspired this piece is Arbiet / Work by Chris Killip and published by Steidl, the reproduction is stunning although the pictures of my home town still conflict me , as does the photographer who created them .

Keep it real !



Talking The Talk ?

I assume the increase in  none  photographic, photographic activity that modern photographers consume and create is connected to the digital age .  Confused ?  So am I , it appears to me that many modern photographers would rather write a book , create a pod cast, organise meet ups , teach novices, write a blog or invent a camera club rather than , dare I suggest it , take photographs !

Whats going on ?

Has the picture making process become so easy that everyone has so much time on their hands to participate in these none core activities or is the isolation of a digital workflow creating a increased need for a form of photographic social interaction that the digital world and social media are failing to supply in a meaningful way ?

Are modern photographers missing out on the rumors, whispers & general gossip that professional analogue photographers enjoyed as part of regular visits to the E6 and C41 Photo Lab back in the day , in short are twenty first century photographers feeling lonely ?

Don't laugh , I'm serious , the modern world allows us to shoot , process , print , frame, exhibit and sell our work abroad without ever speaking to anyone . We can even replace our cameras with the money from the sale and might only have to say "thank you" to the person who delivers the package to the door , are the social skills that many of the best photographers possess wasted in the world of new media ?

Just for the record this is not a plea for help as I still battle against the clock everyday to produce the work that my overly active creative mind creates for me .    I was reminded recently of my vulnerability and have finally got the message that I am not invincible and will not live forever , that is why I am highly motivated and value my time behind a camera so highly , its fun to talk the talk but its more important to prove to yourself that you can walk the walk on a regular basis .  

That said I must now go and make some pictures as writing blogs is just "Talking The Talk"  ?

Keep it real !


David Hurn , a photographer who can certainly walk the walk and talk the talk .