Understanding a photograph

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A new camera won’t improve my photography. I am under no illusions. A change from an SLR to a Rangefinder might change the way I look at something through the viewfinder. It might even change my approach to the medium but it won’t improve my photography. I’m not saying it can’t be improved upon. Absolutely not. On the contrary. I’m my own worst critic and that’s how it should be. Sometimes I look at my images and……well ? There’s a difference between want and need. I don’t need a new camera. I can manage without one. I just fancy a change, that’s all.

What might improve my photography is my continued attempts to understand the subject by reading around and within it. Books by authors whose capacity to think about things and elucidate their thoughts far better than I can. I’m currently reading Understanding a Photograph – John Berger (he died recently) –  Edited and introduced by Geoff Dyer (he wrote a good book on photography called The Ongoing Moment.

Here’s a paragraph which resonates somewhat with my own thoughts on photography being viewed as fine art and particularly with this continued assessment by those supposed photography experts who seldom get beyond discussing whether a photograph is well composed or not.

“We must rid ourselves of a confusion brought about by continually comparing  photography with the fine arts. Every handbook on photography talks about  composition. The good photograph is the well‐composed one. Yet this is true only in so  far as we think of photographic images imitating painted ones. Painting, is an art of  arrangement: therefore it is reasonable to demand that there is some kind of order in what is arranged. Every  relation between forms in a painting is to some degree adaptable to the painter’s purpose. This is not the case with photography (Unless we  include those absurd studio works in which the photographer arranges every detail of  his subject before he takes the picture). Composition in the profound, formative sense  of the word cannot enter into photography.”

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Over the next few weeks I will be adding my Photography Reading List to a new page on this Blog and I’ll welcome suggestions from readers for more.

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Afghan Hill – Lesvos

My dear friends and fellow photographers  Maria Falconer and Paul Hill are currently in Lesvos doing as much as they can for the humanitarian crisis which is ongoing and continues to unravel. You can read their experiences directly from one of the front lines here Afghan Hill

Ashes to Ashes

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Fun to funky ! The first album I ever bought was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I bought it on cassette. We’d managed, my brother and I, to persuade my Dad to let us have a Radio \ Cassette player. My Grandmother, Nana Rankin, contributed to the cost. We bought an Hitachi, it was expensive, we’ve still got it. This was around 1974 I reckon. I was about twelve. I don’t know what made me buy this album, how I’d got into it, where I’d heard it first. Now I write this it’s coming back to me. I reckon it was amongst a small collection of LP’s  he’d borrowed off a school pal. It was amongst the Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Yes and Led Zeppelin albums. I played Ziggy over and over again and when the album went back I had to own it for myself. When we finally got a player this was the first purchase. I can’t admit to any deep contextual reason why I bought it, the androgyny, the underlying sexiness of it,  the musical experimentation, the poppiness,  the artyness, the radical shift, the love songs  etc etc. I just liked the tunes, the melodies, the lyrics. The one song you’re up and the next you’re down. The fact that whatever mood you were in, there was a song on this album for it. There still is.  I was twelve for God’s sake, what did I know about such things ?  ” Satisfaction, satisfaction ! ……keep me satisfied “.
I can’t admit to being a massive, obsessive fan. Ziggy was the only Bowie album I ever bought. Some of his stuff I just didn’t get/like but, and here’s the truth !  David Bowie was always there ! Either at the front of music I listened to through the airwaves or in the background.  There was Rock and Roll and there was Bowie. There was Blues and there was Bowie. There was Progressive Rock and there was Bowie.  There was Punk Rock and then there was Bowie. There was Pop music and then, thank God, there was David Bowie ! A few years ago I was doing my Photography MA at University and downstairs from our Lecture Room  was Prof Martin Richardson  working with holography. In his studio was a holographic portrait of Bowie who it turned out had been working with Martin. I think Martin had signed some secrecy clause but talking to him I could see he was thrilled to have been working with Bowie. Me ?  I was bowled over by the fact that while Bowie had not recently been in the public arena he was still out there working on stuff as an artist and I’d had a sneaky preview.  He was an Artist, a true Artist in every sense of the word.

So last week I shed a tear for the death of David Bowie and it’s taken me a few days to realise why. I was shedding a tear for sentimentality, for nostalgia. My own ! An essential aspect of my past, a culture that I embraced, that kept me warm, kept me stimulated and in that sense, alive. When someone dies, you are reminded of your own mortality, your own fragile existence and it is this that I was shedding a tear for. Nevertheless I thank David Bowie for being around and giving us songs like Starman, Wild is the Wind. Suffragette City and others and perhaps most important of all reminding us that ‘We can be Heroes, just for one day ! ”

 

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They’re taking us for idiots !

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I’ve been thinking recently of starting a new blog or website ( a blog may be cheaper ) and calling it something like ‘They’re taking us for idiots’ ?

I seem to have gotten myself in a battle with Tesco’s who most definitely seem to be taking me ….for an idiot, and I’m not having it.

To cut a short story long Tesco have discontinued the olives on their ‘Create your Own Pizza’ counter. Slightly aggrieved for a while I was able to get round this because the very nice assistant who makes my ‘Create your own Pizza’ allowed me to grab some olives from the deli counter and she would apply to my pizza. That was until the day when a different assistant told me that I couldn’t do this any more and babbled on about olives skewing both the calorific value and allergy advice on the labels. This being the reason why olives had been discontinued.  “Bollocks” I thought to myself and requested to see the floor manager who pretty much told me the same thing but this time a little more patronizing. During the course of this conversation I told him that at my age ( 53 ) I’m not prepared for anyone to dictate to me about both the calorific value and /or whether my self selected ingredients on my ‘Create your own Pizza’ will give me an allergic reaction. I think  by now I pretty much know what will or won’t give me an anaphalactic shock and send me off into fluffy bunny land.
After about twenty minutes I managed to get olives on my pizza and I’ve got olives on my pizza from that day to this. Frankly I wasn’t prepared to leave the store with olive-less pizzas. I’ve become a bit like a dog with a bone on this issue. When I got home I decided to hit them where it hurts, on Facebook ! but of course Tesco being Tesco have got it tied down so that any derogatory comments are ( and here’s a contentious word ) ‘censored’.
Let’s tell it straight. This has nothing to do with allergy advice and calorific values. Tesco’s are currently experiencing a big slump in their profits. This is due to a number of factors, one of which is the competition from the likes of Aldi and Lidl and other supermarket chains and the other is quite simply they’re  ‘shit’. The discontinuation of olives is just one of their attempts to cut costs, save money and make it look like they’re regaining some lost ground in their profit margins to their bemused  shareholders.

Some of my friends on Facebook think my epic struggle is highly amusing. “let it go” one of them advised, ” go to Sainsburys” said another.

Here is a transcript of my Facebook conversation with this retailing giant.

Hello Zachary Re the message below Hi Andy, Thanks for getting in touch. I can totally understand your frustrations and concerns regarding this. Can you please private message me your name, address, postcode, email address and which store it was? Can you also private message me a description of my colleague? I’d like to get this logged and fed back to the store. Thanks, Zachary – Customer Care
I’ll try again !
 My email address is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  The store was Chesterfield. Sorry but I’m not prepared to give you a description of the store members because I’m not in the game of blame culture. In my opinion the two members of staff were acting on behalf of the Co and therefore it is a store / Company problem. I do not wish to get any member of the store into trouble. What I can say is that obviously I was not happy with the particular Manager’s response nor was I happy with the service of the person taking my order who was very reluctant to create me the kind of pizza that I’ve been used to in the past. Nor did she give me service with a smile. I actually felt guilty for asking if I could have some olives on my pizza from the deli counter. I felt as though the lack of topping and olives was down to a Tesco cost cutting exercise which in my opinion is and will be counter productive. Thanks Andy G

26 OCTOBER 08:37

Hi Andy Thanks again for taking the time to provide this information, sorry for the delayed response this is due to the significant volume of contact we’ve received. Sorry to be a pain, please could you Message your full name as well? This is to confirm Data Protection. Kind regards, Terri – Customer Care
26 OCTOBER 22:49
Hi Andy, Thank you for confirming your full name, what I have done is emailed over your comments to the Store Management Team so this can be reviewed. I have also logged your complaint on my internal systems under xxxxxx. This will also be fed back to our Store Management Team for their reference. Kind regards, Kai – Customer Care

27 OCTOBER 09:39

Thanks !
I did go to Sainsburys to check out their diy pizzas so you were in danger of losing yet another customer !

27 OCTOBER 11:38

Hi AndyI am sorry to hear about your experience and thank you for letting us know.I hope we can be your pizza buddy again smile emoticon

Kind regards
Gemma – Customer Care

27 OCTOBER 18:40

Dear Gemma Well you can if you get the lass who served me to make them right by putting on enough topping. My wife had to add more cheese at home to stop the rest of the topping burning in the oven. I got the feeling that the lass behind the counter didn’t like me for some reason. Well she didn’t smile or be polite with me. I got the feeling that my presence was a distinct inconvenience to her and as such she took her feelings out on the construction of my pizza. Now I don’t mind the possibility that for some reason she took a dislike to me but what I do mind is that she allowed that to cloud her judgement and serve me poorly. It’s immature and frankly discriminatory. Tesco clearly need to train some of their staff do you not agree ? Thanks Andy G ps. someone called Zachary has already dealt with this and given me a reference number.

27 OCTOBER 21:24

Hi Andy, Thanks for your reply. I completely understand your frustration regarding this matter. Please rest assured my colleague Kai has passed this onto the Store Management, of our Chesterfield Extra store to investigate further. Kind regards, Dan – Customer Care

THURS 11 December 16:27

Once again ( for about the third time ) I find myself having to negotiate to get olives on my Create Your Own Pizza. Despite being given a reference number for my earlier complaint you clearly have done nothing about it. Once again the staff were jabbering on about olives being discontinued due to food allergies etc etc. During the course of the conversation I find out that you actually pay somebody to go around making sure how much of the ingredients are placed on these pizzas because God forbid that you should not make enough profit on them. Is there any wonder that Tesco’s profits are down ? Can you please pass on to me the email address of the Chairman because quite obviously he needs some serious consultancy work doing ? Going in to your store has become very unpleasant and a little traumatic knowing that every fortnight I am likely to have to enter into some protracted fraught conversation just to get some olives on my Pizza. Once again can I inform you that Pizzas are of Italian origin and the Italians invariably have olives on their pizzas.
Hey Andy, I’m really sorry our store service has been sub optimal. I know how frustrating this is for you. I’d like to contact the store and discuss this further with them. For data protection reasons, I’ll need to reconfirm the information please? Can you please private message me your name, address, and email address? Can I also ask which store this happened in, as well as the time and date please? Finally, can I ask for a full description of my colleague? Thank you so much for your cooperation and feedback, Ben – Customer Care Yours extremely irritated once again Andy Greaves
Ben – As you can probably see from my previous correspondence this is not the first time. This again happened in the Chesterfield Store. My email address is xxxxxxxxxxx and my address is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I’m not prepared to give you a description of the member of staff because I believe this is not a staff issue but a management issue and a Tesco policy issue. As you lot failed to do anything about it last time I have little faith you will do anything about it this time ?

10:37

I’m still waiting for my reply and interested to know what you’re going to do about it and how you might recompense me for my distress ?
Chat conversation end

C is for Cat

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C is for cat.  – C is always for cat. So I’m sat in the vets yesterday and this young woman escorted by her mother walks in carrying a cat in a basket . The young woman was huge ! I mean enormous! Sits next to me and spent the entire time looking at more cats on her mobile. She wanted another cat. Her mother told her she didn’t look after the one she’d got. “Here’s one in Goole” she said. ” I’m not going all the way to Goole to get you a cat” replied her mother.Then she looks around the room at all the assembled dogs and declared to her mother she wanted a dog. She’d always wanted a dog she said. Her mother sighed. Ten minutes later someone walks in with a goat and yes you guessed, she wanted a goat. She’d always wanted a goat she said. Is it me ?

C is for camera – This is after all, primarily a photography blog. Photography is not about what camera you have, it’s about how you use the camera you’ve got. The most expensive camera in the world won’t take the best images. It’s not the camera it’s what you do with it.

C is for Capitalism – Capitalism doesn’t work. The essential ingredient of Capitalism is that we are continually invited to part with our money to buy things that we don’t need and won’t use. Everything must be run at a profit and if it doesn’t it will cease to exist. In order to keep the wheels of  Capitalism going  round those of us who can work must work. As such there becomes in our Society, winners and losers. Capitalism and those who support Capitalism are not interested in losers, the elderly and infirm unless of course money can be extracted from them.

C is for Communism – Communism doesn’t work. Communism is all very well and nice on paper but it does not take into account the human being’s weakness for greed and fecklessness.

C is for Curriculum – Curriculum’s are usually set by Governments. A curriculum determines what people will learn and how they will learn it. Governments usually set a curriculum such that it’s people will be able to work effectively and efficiently to produce the wealth for the country it governs. In the curriculum therefore will be what that Government will want you to learn and know and also not in the curriculum will be what that Government does not want you to know.

C is for Culture – C is for Culture.

C is for Creativity – Everyone has the ability to be creative.

Speeders

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I’ve started loading some of my images back onto Flickr. For a while I left it and took off all my images. There’s millions of images on there. Whose gonna be interested in mine ? Is it worth it ? This time it’s a question of what the hell. I’ve got nothing to lose, everything to gain and it’s free. Like the lottery, you’ve got to be in it to win it. Woo hoo !  one of my images has had about 199 views already. An image of a man on crutches would you believe.(  That’s quite possibly more people have seen my image than would view it if it were hung in some crummy photo gallery for which I’d paid through the nose to exhibit my work ) . This time however I’m not joining any groups like Hard Core Street Photography and I’m not following anyone unless I kinda know them personally or they’re exceptionally good. I just haven’t got the time and it’s all part of my tidying up my life streamlining, anti depression policy.

The trouble with popping into town for a couple of hours with the camera is that I nearly always end up buying something and not just a cup of coffee and doughnut. This time I was in Oxfam where every so often you can pick up some decent photography or art book and maybe a classic piece of literature like Steinbeck or Chester Himes. At one time I used to buy my books from Waterstones but these days prefer to borrow them from the library or get them cheap and clean from Oxfam. Read them and sell them on or give them back to charity. Makes me feel good about myself for ten minutes. So, I got me a copy of The Andy Warhol Diaries for £2.99. Bargain ! It’s a Penguin Modern Classics copy, a bit of a thick beast so I hope it’s good …… ‘ May 17th 1980…. woke up, had breakfast, phoned Mick Jagger,  did another Marilyn screenprint, went to a party, sat on the dog in the name of art’ …that kind of thing.

“Don’t get into any fights” said the wife as  I set off out the door. I’m getting too old for rolling around the floor with some scruffy imbecile who thinks he’s the sheriff of the town and in his dystopian world photography should be banned because a man with a camera is either a  terrorist, a paedophile or both in his single celled brain.

A man stood outside the pub with a pint in his hand thought I was a policeman. It was, he said,  the only pub in town ‘The Market’ where he could stand outside in the sunshine and enjoy his drink. I told him I wasn’t a policeman, I wasn’t working for anyone and I didn’t give a flying fuck where he drank his drink. Politely of course. Him and his mate let me take a photo of them.

So three more very young lasses from London have supposedly buggered off to Syria to join Islamic State. I can’t think for one minute what on earth they think they’re going too. Maybe some kind of Islamic Disneyland with fluffy bunnies, helter skelters and chocolate fountains.  My heart goes out to their poor parents. Perhaps the best that could possibly happen to these stupid  befuddled girls is that someone tells them that they’re not needed and best if they pissed off back home. Somehow I doubt it. What concerns me is why alarm bells didn’t ring at Heathrow airport when they left; “why are you going to Turkey?” “what hotel are you booked in to ?” ” why aren’t you at school?”, “we’re just going to ring your parents to check out your story”. One of them though left using her older sisters passport. They must have looked alike.

Superstition

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Superstition can be a real pain the in the arse at times. It’s Friday the 13th ! The wife advised me to stop in bed for as long as I liked. Not because of the date but because it’s bloody dull and cold outside and it’s drizzling with rain. Not much to get up for on the face of it. My dilemma ? Should I take the dog on our normal route or should I, as I rather fancy it, go for a walk along the canal ? As it’s Friday the 13th am I asking for trouble by going a different walk or if I go on my normal walk am I still in for a bit of bad luck anyway. Ya see you can’t win with this superstition malarky. Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t ! Bollocks ! I thought I’m going along the canal, I fancy a change. So we’ve been for a there and back along the canal. It was nice.

There weren’t many people about. We got to the cafe at Hollingwood and turned around to walk back the way we’d come. The man fishing had disappeared. I looked around for him thinking he’d maybe gone in the bushes for a crap. One of his fishing bags was gently blowing away so I got hold of it and tied it around his chair and carried on walking. It then occurred to me that maybe someone had chucked him in the canal. I did see two dodgy looking Herberts on bikes about five minutes earlier. That now there’d be my prints on the bag and I’d thus be a suspect in the subsequent murder trial when the bloke finally surfaced and they fished him out the canal.’Why had I photographed him ?’ they’d ask. ‘What kind of a nutcase was I ?’  ‘Do you frequently photograph complete strangers ya fruitcake?’ as I sat there in the quivering cell. I was banged to rights and no mistake.

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I walked on and our fisherman appeared further along the canal. Nobody had thrown him in the drink. Panic over.

A friend of mine has just bought this print, posted it on Facebook and been reported and had it removed. I mean, really !!!

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