So What Would You Have Done…??

Blogged 21/02/11.  Unknown little girl in Kelsey Park, Beckenham

I’m feeling very unhappy about something that happened yesterday.  Picture the scene, local shopping centre in South London, bottom of an escalator in a shop.  I hear a young child screaming, and the mother screaming even louder.  I look to see what’s happening.  A little girl, aged 3 maybe, standing at the bottom of an upward escalator.  Her mother was at the top screaming for her to get on it.  The little girl was terrified, couldn’t get on alone.  I quickly walked over to try to take her hand, worried that she might have an accident.  At the same time the screaming mother runs down the upward escalator, picks the little girl up and hits her very hard repeatedly, whilst telling her what a stupid f****** child she was.  The mother dragged the child up the escalator, and I appealed for her not to hurt the little girl any more.  The mother turned on me and threatened me, telling me to mind my own business and get on with my own life…  I thought she was going to hit me.  I was in shock for a moment, just didn’t know what to do.  By this time they’re out of sight, but I could hear the shouting continuing upstairs, but I couldn’t see.  Maybe somebody else intervened, but chances are they didn’t.  I walked back into the shop and found myself in tears, not because of what the mother said to me, but because of the plight of the little girl.  Another woman who witnessed it, came up to me and we talked, but neither of us knew what to do.  By the time we’d recovered our equilibrium, the scene had ended.  The shop continued to serve people, as though nothing had happened.  The mother and child had gone.

I know terrible things happen to children everyday, but when confronted by such a situation, it’s truly shocking.  If I’d called the police, what would they have been able to do, the mother had gone.  I spent the rest of the day going over the scene in my mind.  What should I have done?  I found myself staring at parents with their little ones, scrutinising their behaviour, checking that others were being treated well.  So what hope for that little girl?  A man in the shop remarked that if that’s what the mother does in public, imagine what goes on behind closed doors.  I felt so sad, so helpless.  That tiny girl won’t be having a nice bubble bath tonight, with a long cuddle and a story before bedtime.  So what would you have done?

Colour Film Printing and Documentary Photography

This semester I have been doing my own 120mm colour film printing at university, using Documentary Photography as the medium to present it.  My last session of photo printing was with black and white 35mm film, so this was quite different.

I started by deciding on a theme for the series.  Over the weeks my ideas evolved, but it was always my intention to complete a project with my four teenagers.  Documentary photography needs to tell a story, but it doesn’t have to be like photojournalism. So finally I settled on taking portraits of them holding and looking at, or gazing past objects that used to be important to them when they were younger, but which are less important to them now.  I didn’t want them to look directly at the camera, I wanted them to look thoughtful.  I was trying to show a connection between their childhood and the fact that in the next couple of years they will all have left home to go to university.  I was trying to highlight the ‘transition’ from one state to the other.

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I used my Bronica SQA medium format camera to complete this.  The Bronica uses 120mm film which is approximately 4x larger than 35mm film, so the information and detail is much greater.  This camera was popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  It is completely mechanical and it’s necessary to use an external light meter to obtain the exposure, the camera doesn’t have one built into it.  It’s also useful to use a tripod, as it’s quite heavy and cumbersome.  The viewfinder is at waist level, so you need to look down into it.  The image in the viewfinder is the opposite way round from left to right, so you need to move the camera in the opposite direction to the way you would imagine – very confusing.  I also used a mechanical cable release, to avoid causing any kind of camera shake whilst depressing the shutter.  I used colour (C41) film – Fujicolor 160 ISO.  There’s no possibility here of peeking at the results on the back of the camera, so I also used Fujicolor’s instant film, which is similar to Polaroid film to test my exposures.  The Bronica has interchangeable carriers for the back of the camera, so it’s possible to use two or more films in the same shoot.  That’s possibly its only effort to compete with a digital camera!

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This was all quite time consuming, but I got better and faster as I progressed.  I ended up shooting 9 normal films (each with 12 images) and several Polaroid films (each with 10 images) to obtain the images I needed for my university module – photography is a very expensive pursuit!

My work at university needs to be conceptual, but it also needs to be understood by viewers.  The images will be in a university exhibition in June, so this is how I’m going to display them.  I decided to take inspiration from an extract from the Bible – in fact from the Corinthians:

“When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.” I Cor. xiii. 11.

I probably won’t use the whole quote as a title, just an extract – ‘When I was a Child…’  By way of explanation, the subtext will state:

‘My teenagers contemplating the prospect of moving on in life from childhood and adolescence to leaving home and maturity. Looking at objects that used to be meaningful to them when they were young, but have much less meaning now. This is the beginning of many transitions for them – the passage of time’.

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The photos have been printed on 12×16″ photographic paper with a slight lustre.  The images are 10×10″, so they will be displayed looking like Polaroids, with a large border at the bottom, and small borders on the other 3 sides.  I have decided not to mount them for this exhibition, I think they will look good just hanging from bulldog clips attached to the top, in a horizontal row of 5.

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Colour printing took up most of my time!  I enjoyed it, but it was hugely frustrating.  I will never look at a colour print in the same way again!  I became mesmerised looking for colour casts in everything I produced.  An image would have too much cyan in it, so I would alter it and then it would have too much red… this went on and on for the whole semester!  I can’t begin to imagine how much money I spent on photographic paper.  At university we use the ‘subtractive’ system of colour printing, which only uses cyan, magenta and yellow filters to manipulate the colours, rather than the ‘additive’ system which uses red, green and blue filters (RGB).

Some major differences between black and white and colour printing include the fact that you can’t use a safe red light, all paper exposure has to be done in complete darkness.  I found that some of my other senses became stronger whilst doing this.  I often thought I could feel I was wearing my glasses, when I wasn’t!  In black and white you only use magenta filters, in colour printing you use at least yellow and magenta, and sometimes cyan also.

There is less control with colour printing, because you’re not using wet chemicals which you can manipulate.  In colour printing, the photographic paper is fed through a machine.  The paper still goes through various chemicals, but I had no control over that, the image appeared at the other end developed and even dry.  So the only control comes with eliminating the endless colour casts!  The process is somewhat scientific/mathematical, some calculations need to be made along the way.

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I think I became quite sickly spending so much time in the dark… but after a break I think I will go back in there and have another go…  but this time on my own terms and in my own time.  I found the pressure to produce the prints in this slow methodical way quite intense.  Highlights included sharing my darkroom with Pat – we laughed a lot.

After all that came the essay… 3000 words on a Photobook of my choice.  I chose ‘I’ve Lived in East London for 86 1/2 Years’ by Joseph Markovitch, photos by Martin Usborne.  But more about that another day.

For now, I’ve finished my 2nd year at university!  Tomorrow I’m going to stay with my son in Oxford for a few days before he starts his finals.  At home I have my twins doing A levels and my youngest son doing GCSE’s… roll on June 20th when we can all chill out!

 

Photo Collages

I’ve changed my blog theme again, but I never seem to be able to find what I want.  I suspect I’m going to have to apply some HTML or CSS to customize the blog as much as I would like.  Maybe I’ll get the opportunity to learn a little more about that in year three of my photography degree.

I really want to be able to create free form collages, not the standard gallery type, which I already have on here – I want a bit more freedom to play with my own ideas, to change photo sizes, duplicate, add my own borders, alter opacity, rotate, use blending modes etc.  I can do a lot of this on Photoshop, as I have in this image of my daughter, but currently I have to paste it onto a document in Photoshop, which then seems to restrict the publishing size here.

I also want to be able to write across the whole page, just one column.  I don’t like several columns and I hate cluttered pages with lots of social media icons etc.  I like to be able to change the colour of the background on my blog, which I’ve managed to do with this theme.  I love playing with layers and masks in Photoshop to create images like the one above, but I just wish I had a bit more freedom.

For this photo I created the background document in Photoshop and chose the colour.  The secondary background is a photo I took of a peeling wall somewhere – I altered the colour and opacity and placed it on the grey background.  The photo of my daughter I altered in many ways in Photoshop – I changed it to a black and white image first, then altered the opacity, orientation individual borders etc.

I would like to be able to do this directly onto the WordPress page, but with larger images and backgrounds.  I’d be grateful for some ideas.  Of course if I had a lot of money to spare, I could get someone to do this for me!

Deleting Posts

I decided to do some ‘tidying up’ on my blog.  I thought it would be a great idea to remove all the old photos stored on the blog’s media library, to make way for new ones.

Of course I tested this theory first, with a couple of photos, everything seemed fine some hours later.  So I decided to remove 200 photos, a job well done I thought.

A couple of weeks later I realised that this had been a major disaster and that I’d deleted ALL THE PHOTOS ON MY BLOG…!!

Obviously it had taken more than a few hours to delete my test photos. The moral – leave well alone.  My son said that it should be a lesson to me to stop meddling and endlessly wanting to clear and tidy things.

So now I’ve embarked on the enormous task of replacing the 200 photos, which at least I’d kept and backed up.  So far I’ve worked my way back to the end of 2011, but I have a few more months of images to replace yet.  So bear with… if you see ‘question marks’ you will know what’s happened.

Meanwhile looking forward to Spring and this is just a photo of me playing with photo apps on my iPhone, I think it was ‘Fotor’, but may have been a combination of edits.

Brixton

I did a couple of photography courses at PhotoFusion in Brixton a few months ago, so I found myself hanging out in Brixton Village, part of the market, for breakfasts/lunches.  This isn’t far from home for me, and I also go through Brixton whenever I’m travelling on the train to London Victoria, my normal route into town.  A wonderful place to buy cheap, fresh, delicious food, mainly Caribbean/African.  Needless to say, lots of wonderful loud reggae too.  Quite a lot of middle class white people around Brixton these days also, it’s changed a lot from when I lived there in the early 1980’s when the riots were in full swing. I took a lot of colourful photos of the market in 2004, with my point-and-shoot camera, the place was vibrant back then too.

Brixton is also very lively in the evening, and has the wonderful independent Ritzy Picturehouse cinema.  This links by membership to other Picturehouses in London: Clapham, Notting Hill Gate, Greenwich, Hackney and Stratford East.  Of course here in Crystal Palace there is a campaign to re-open our old Rialto cinema, which the Picturehouse group made a bid for, but lost out to a religious foundation in 2009.

For a long time I’ve intended to take a good photo of the Railway Tavern pub clock tower, which is best seen from the high level platform on Brixton train station.  The pub, below the clock at ground level, was more infamously known as Brady’s in the 1980’s.  It’s been covered in this graffiti for years and together with the male bronze passenger statue on the station (out of sight here), would have made a good photograph.  Sadly, I’ve missed my chance, the structure is now covered in scaffolding waiting to be cleaned and repainted.  At least I got this iPhone picture.  There must be a moral here.

Brixton

Here you can just about see the male bronze passenger statue on the left, and if you look carefully, there’s a female bronze statue on the right – the other one on the right is a real human sitting and waiting for a train…

Film Stills

I did two photo projects last semester, and the first one was digital. The idea was to imitate Film Stills from the cinema, taking photos depicting a narrative, or significant moments in a film.  I’m including some of the outtakes here also, photos of my son Oscar, messing around mostly!

UofW - 'Film Stills' project.  Blogged 26/01/14.

I used a Nikon SB900 Speedlight for this project.

My final project was entitled ‘Parallel Lives’ essentially the story of twins (guess whose!) separated at birth – they didn’t know the other existed.  Then one found out about the existence of the other, traced her and arranged to meet.  The outcome was that they discovered they had music in common.

A simple story I know, but the point was the lighting really.  That wasn’t so simple.  Again, using one Nikon SB Speedlight, my main problem was preventing camera shake and blurred images.  I was using a tripod, but often in awkward corners on a carpet, not so stable.  They were also long exposures as it was subdued light, and as I only had one speed light to freeze the action, any slight movement they made or I made resulted in blur.  Not too bad in the end though.

Catching Up

A break… back with renewed energy and a new look to the blog. University and family seem to have been all consuming over the last six months.

I’m now half way through my second year (out of four years) at university,  with deadlines for essays and photo projects     looming already. A few general photos here, many taken with my iPhone.  I’m hoping to use my iPhone camera more this year, to create an ongoing journal for photo and project ideas, so they may seem a little random, and not the best quality, but they may be the grain of something new.  It’s an invaluable   device to carry around for unexpected photo opportunities. Also a good deal of editing can now take place before the images leave the iPhone.  Together with a notebook in my bag, I’m hoping to be inspired.  This tangle of telephone wires was part of an exhibition at university last year.

A rare photo of my teenagers…

My teens... from left: Tom, Rosa, Oscar, Kate.  Blogged 26/01/14.

Experimenting with multiple images from Brompton Cemetery,  in Photoshop