Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Brian Micklethwait on Photographers by the river
Darren on Photographers by the river
Laban on Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington's Amazing Castle
Laban on Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington's Amazing Castle
Ed Harris on May 2005 was my first big month for photoing photoers
Mr.FC on An extraordinary coincidence
6000 on A smartphone wearing sunglasses
Brian Micklethwait on What writing for Samizdata should now (for me) mean
Brian Micklethwait on The Shard was looking very special today
Perry de Havilland on What writing for Samizdata should now (for me) mean
Most recent entries
- How David Irving put himself on trial
- Credit where credit is due (in France)
- Zorb football
- Palestra House – then and now
- May 2005 was my first big month for photoing photoers
- White cat – Mick Hartley’s photos and other photos he likes – black and white and colour
- Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington’s Amazing Castle
- Photographers by the river
- When David Irving called a British Judge “Mein Fuhrer”
- Tomorrow I will get out less
- London dragon
- Sunlight (selectively) on roof clutter
- A smartphone wearing sunglasses
- Out and about with GD1 (4): On the survival of professional photography
- An extraordinary coincidence
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Category archive: Digital photographers
May 2005 was when I first really started noticing my fellow photographers. My archives show that I had been noticing a bit before then, but that was when I really started taking photoer photos, to the point where there are now enough from that time for me now to choose only the ones where faces are not revealed, and still have plenty to pick the best of:
My favourite is 4.3, the penultimate one. The proof that I was getting serious was that I took lots of shots of this guy, which meant that the best shot was good of him and his amazing posture, and it was good of his camera, which like most of them, is of a sort you no longer see.
It is particularly noticeable how many cameras were silver coloured, in those far off days. Now dedicated cameras are mostly black.
We start (top left) with a view of a photographer on the Millennium Footbridge, and end with a clutch of photos taken on Tower Bridge. In between, I walk from the first bridge to the second, along the south bank.
As you can see, smartphone cameras continue to predominate:
As you can see, I am becoming every more careful to avoid showing recognisable - especially automatically-computer-recognisable – faces. I have even included one photo (bottom right) where the whole point and fun of it is that a passing car hid the lady’s face, and thus caused the resulting photo to qualify for inclusion in this posting.
Also, I like that effect you get with glasses (top right), where you get a more focussed version through them of the otherwise blurry background.
Just before taking these photos, on a very sunny afternoon earlier this month, I photoed this oriental lady, apparently using her sunglasses as some kind of photographic filter:
On the left, she is photoing the Wheel. On the right: Big Ben and Parliament. I have removed her face from what I am showing you, but it’s a shame I didn’t catch the picture she was taking on her smartphone. There would have been no harm done showing you that.
It was hard to tell if she had done this kind of thing before, shoving her sunglasses in front of her smartphone. As I say, it was a very sunny day, so maybe not. On the other hand, maybe yes, because it would seem that sunglasses are a very big deal for this lady, this next image being a close-up crop from the picture above, top left, of the lady’s painted nails:
Those are sunglasses, are they not? Or, aliens? Aliens wearing sunglasses?
But then again maybe she hadn’t done anything like this before, because if she had she might have gone straight to this excellent arrangement, instead of appearing only to arrive at it rather slowly:
I have not seen this done before, by anyone. This time I did catch the picture she was taking, reflected in her sunglasses.
That last photo is the money shot, or it would be if anyone were ever to pay me money for my photos, which they will not (see the posting immediately below).
As already related here, I had a delightful day out with G(od)D(aughter) 1, way back whenever that was. And I got as far as telling you that we had succeeded, with the help of our mobile phones, in meeting up, not (as I wrongly related (apologies to anyone inconvenienced or insulted)) at the “Manor Park” Cafe, but at the Park View Cafe. And I also wrote about how I nearly didn’t have my mobile phone with me, and about how inconvenient that would have been.
Once settled inside the
Manor Park View Cafe, GD1 and waited for the rain to stop, and conversed.
GD1 was full of apologies for the fact that she had kept on postponing our expedition. I, on the other hand, was rather pleased about these postponements, because they were caused by pressure of work, GD1’s work as a professional photographer. And I think that her being faced with pressure of work is good. Getting established as a professional photographer has been a bit of a struggle for her, but now the struggle seems to be paying off.
Another sign that GD1 is now photographically busier than she had been in former years was that she felt the need to apologise also about not having done much recent photoing for the sheer fun of it, as I constantly do, and as the two of us were about to do again. “You put me to shame” was the phrase she used, in one of her emails to me before this latest walkabout. But again, I see that as a good sign. I mean, if you have spent a day taking important photographs for a demanding client, and being sustained in your efforts by the expectation of money, would your idea of a fun way to wind down be to go out and take yet more photos, with nobody paying you? That she does rather less fun photoing than she once did means, again, that she is probably busier doing work photoing. Good. Under the circumstances, it was all the more kind of her to be willing to share a day with me doing this now, for her, ever so slightly uncongenial thing.
At the Park View Cafe, GD1 and I discussed the fact that, although becoming an established professional photographer may be a struggle, this line of business still most definitely exists.
Not that long ago, some were predicting that the ubiquity of cheap-and-cheerful cameras, wielded by cheap-and-cheerful photographers like me, would drive the formerly professional photographers out of business. Well, it did drive some of the old pro photographers out of business. But the world now is at least as full as ever it was of pro photographers, including many who started out as cheap-and-cheerful digital amateurs.
Yes, there have been big changes in the photography business, as my friend Bruce the Real Photographer long ago told me, when digital cameras first started catching on. And change often registers first as bad news for existing practitioners, who then have to adapt fast or go out of business. Because yes, lots of the kinds of photos that Real Photographers like Bruce used to charge for are now taken by amateurs instead. Family portraits, for instance. If you take photos of your kids constantly, you are pretty much bound to get lucky with some of them, and that’s all most people probably want.
And yes, amateurs like me can sometimes take nice wedding pictures. But, would you want to rely on the amateurs to take those crucial never-to-be-posed-for again wedding moments, just for the sake of a few dozen quid? I think not.
Or consider the house-selling trade. The phrase “false economy” is the one that best explained why there will always be professional photographers alive and well in that line of business. Imagine you are trying to sell a house, perhaps for several million quid. Does it really make sense to rely on some fun-photographer like me to try to make the place look its best? No it does not. A crappy set of house photos or a flattering set of house photos could be the difference between sale and no-sale, a difference that could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds or more. So, not spending a few hundred quid making sure that the photos are non-crappy is … a false economy.
In general, whenever the economic difference made by good photos dwarfs the mere cost of good photos, then good photos will be demanded, and good photos will be paid for.
Here is a rather crappy picture which I recently took, of a non-crappy picture of a house interior, a house recently featured in the Guardian, a house which is (fingers crossed, for it is now (or was until very recently) owned by a good friend of mine) about to change hands for several million quid:
That’s a photo of a glossy brochure, devoted to this one, highly desirable house. The house-sellers paid quite a lot for that glossy brochure. For the same reason, they paid quite a lot for the photos in it. Why would they not? My friend described the mysterious things the photographer did with light when he visited. “Ambient” light, was it? I can’t even remember. A simple way of putting it would be to say that if a muggins photographer like me had taken the photos, the garden would either have been invisibly white or the rooms would have been invisibly dark. Plus, more generally, and for reasons I don’t even understand, it wouldn’t have looked like nearly such a desirable place. No wonder the guy who took this photo makes a living at it. And I’ll bet he doesn’t any longer go out fun-photoing in his spare time, any more than GD1 now does.
So, in the short run, Bruce the Real Photographer was suddenly faced with a hoard of crappy photographers like me, taking all the “good enough” photos that he had been taking, and he had to adjust to that by finding other photos to take. This was not fun for him, at all. But meanwhile, the same digitalisation-of-everything process that was making such miseries for Bruce the Real Photographer was also creating a whole new world of internettery where photos are now required. Most of these photos need only be “good enough”, so Bruce the Real Photographer can no more make a living doing them than he can make a living with the many of the photos that he had been taking for a living in his younger days. But, GD1, after a struggle, is finding work, illustrating all that internettery, for all those people - people like my friend’s house-sellers - for whom only very good is good enough.
If only because there are now so many more photos swirling about in the world, if you want your photos to stand out from the crowd, they need to be really good. And really good costs.
My guess is that the photography profession is now several times bigger in number than it used to be, before cheap digital cameras erupted.
I say similar things from time to time (for instance towards the end of this recent posting here about the changing context within which Samizdata now operates) about the impact of the internet on the old-school news media. Despite many individual failures to adapt to the new digital dispensation, and despite similar prophecies of doom at the start of the digital age, the Mainstream Media are in much the same sort of healthy state as, to adapt that phrase, Mainstream Photography. And the current non-plight of the Mainstream Media is not only analogous to the non-plight of Mainstream Photography, but yet another cause of that non-plight. After all, one of the biggest customers for Mainstream Photography is the Mainstream Media.
On September 19th 2004, Goddaughter 1 and I visited the inside of the top of the Gherkin, on that year’s London Architecture Open Day, or whatever they call it.
But my camera (a Canon A70) was not very good at doing views, and the best pictures I took were of, guess what, other photographers. And the most interesting other photographer was, I think, this one:
Proof (a) that selfies were being taken before the word itself had caught on, and proof (b) that I had already noticed.
I also like that the camera there looks seriously clunky and out of date. That’s because it was then seriously clunky and is now seriously out of date.
Last night I went awandering along the river, as I so often do, and outside that excellent (even though it’s fake) Globe Theatre, I saw all this:
As you can see, I concentrated on the guy with the very, very complicated camera. And I post pictures of him here, entirely recognisable ones, because, frankly, what he was doing was performing in public, just like the people he was filming or videoing or photoing or whatever it was that he was doing, “digital filming” being my preferred guess. He was smiling (1.3 - top row right). He was part of it. And there was a big crowd watching all this. He reminded me a bit of the guy who fronted this excellent TV show. But the funny thing is, because he was clearly enjoying himself so much, I can’t tell if this guy is a Real Photographer, or an amateur much like me, who has merely hired a Real Camera.
The event, according to snatches of conversation that I happened to hear, was some kind of charity do. The queue contained many rich-looking couples dressed to the nines. And the camera man was busily immortalising everything.
What go me posting all these pictures, just like old times here, was partly the sheer pleasure involved in doing something really complicated with Glorious Godot, so fast and so solid (such a contrast with wade through sewage little Judas). And partly it was picture 3.3, middle row on the right. I love that pose, like he’s crapping by the roadside when on a really awkward holiday in an awkward country, except that obviously he’s not doing that. So, what is he doing? The fact that we cannot see his camera means it all needs explaining, and I thought, well, better put in another picture to show what he was actually doing, and then I couldn’t choose, and then I thought … this will be easy with Godot and there you go.
I still have lots of catching up to do, so what shall I do tonight? I know I’ll go to a Barbecue at Chateau Samizdata. Which they invited me to. I didn’t just ring up and say I was coming round and would be using their barbecue.
I need to get out less, and this weather is not helping. I spent last night shovelling pictures from SD cards onto Godot (my mainframe computer) who has now returned, all the while revelling in how fast everything is, again, like wading through a vacuum. And now I have about a dozen catch-up type postings rattling around in my head, many of them involving recent photos, which I want to post all at once. But the weather out is just too good to ignore. Which means that by the end of today I will probably be even further behind.
But, I will now do one of these postings, which happens also to illustrate the excellence of the weather in London just now
Last night, on Westminster Bridge, I photoed a particularly excellent Bald Bloke Taking Photos. These two snaps of the gentleman in question make a nice pair, I think:
Excellent Bald Bloke Rift Valley on the back of his neck there.
For most of today I was without my computer, and yesterday I could only use it in “safe” mode, the most obvious and lamentable effect of which was that I couldn’t see or manipulate pictures properly. So, I couldn’t do pictures for the best part of two days.
Pictures like this one, which needed cropping because to the left of this young man (as I looked and snapped) was a close-up of another young man’s face, with nothing in the way and hence totally recognisable:
What I liked about this picture at the time when I took it, on Westminster Bridge two days ago, was that the guy’s smartphone had a banknote on it. And what I liked even more about this picture when I took another look at it just now with my restored computer is that the man on the banknote is Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin, an enthusiastic inventor, would surely have loved the idea of his face being, two and a quarter centuries after his death, on a portable instantaneous communication and computation machine, with the ability to create and transmit instantaneous likenesses of one’s companions and one’s surroundings and to record and transmit verbal messages, and to perform many other tasks and wonders. Or: whatever he might have called a smartphone.
My rule for violating anonymity here at this blog, by sticking up recognisable pictures of strangers, is that if they are making a spectacle of themselves, then it is okay for me to carry on doing what they started. Someone wearing a weird costume in public or doing something weird in public, or just very deliberately looking spectacularly beautiful in public, are fair game.
There is nothing weird about this guy’s costume, whom I spied at Oxford Circus tube station last night, but he was behaving rather weirdly. So I photoed him, and here he is:
He, I am sure, had no idea that I was photoing him while he was photoing. Any more than I would have noticed if someone else had been photoing me while I was photoing him. Which it would have made perfect sense, to me anyway, for someone else to do. If I saw a bloke photoing a bloke photoing in the tube, I’d have photoed the pair of them like a shot, and what a shot it might have been.
Maybe a Real Photographer would like the lack of advertising in the advertising spots there, preferring arty grunge to vulgar commerce. But I reckon that adverts might have added even more fun to those shots, especially if there had been some relevant slogan or slogans involved. But now I’m just being greedy.
You can tell that the bridge is Blackfriars Bridge because it has that written on it.
And then, moments later, I photoed someone else with the same combination of ideas:
Both photoed at that magic hour in the evening when everything is lit like it’s in a movie and when pictures on other people’s cameras show up in my pictures . Movie people call this magic hour “Magic Hour”, or so said a book I read a while back called Magic Hour.
Photographer on the upstream Hungerford Footbridge, me not on any Hungerford Footbridge:
Photographer on the downstream Hungerford Footbridge, me on the same Hungerford Footbridge:
Me on the downstream Hungerford Footbridge, photographer not on any Hungerford Footbridge:
The first picture is the most visually dramatic, but the third is the most mysterious.
Deck chairs on a deck makes sense, but why is there a pretend lawn on the deck? And why did the man need to be in the middle of the pretend lawn to take his photos?
I do not know.
One of my happier fancies here at this blog has been a category of photos called: I just like it! And I just like this:
The point being that the sort of things that I write about here, and investigate, and then photograph very purposefully and self-consciously, often begin just as things that I like. When I trawl through the photo-archives, I find things that I thought I only started noticing quite recently cropping up casually, years back.
So, what do I like about the above picture? It certainly isn’t how well those leaves have come out. (Although in my opinion out-of-control light in a photo at least tells you that it was very sunny.) Do I think the RSC is GENIUS? Only a bit. No, I think what I like is the way that the advert is about as pompous as it is possible for an advert to be, yet life goes on right next to it and indifferent to it. Or maybe not. Maybe something else completely.
It’s the top of one of those open top double-decker buses, by the way. And below that, the advert is for a show called Matilda.
Photoed by me a few days ago, in the Houses of Parliament area:
Like so many photographers these days, this lady is using a smartphone, and like so many smartphone users, she has a smartphone in a pretty case. I try to collect these, photographically I mean.
I like how I manoevred my way around this lady to make her face unrecognisable - at least, I hope, to a face recognition system. And I like how she’s wearing a pair of spectacles, by which I mean two pairs of spectacles. (A pair of pair of spectacles doesn’t sound right at all.)
But now, I want to ask about another pair that this lady is wearing. What I want to know is, what are those rubbery things on her hands? Are they something to stop her thumbs moving too much? That there are an exactly matching pair of these devices says to me a condition, rather than a pair of coincidentally matching injuries. But what might that condition be? Something like arthritis? Or am I way off with this guess? Anyone?
I only saw these rather strange manual additions when I looked later at the picture. As so often, my camera sees more than I do.
One of my favourite buildings that I’ve never seen is the recently completed (quite recently completed - 2008) Oslo Opera House, which looks like this:
Sooner or later, some big public building was bound to be built like this, with a roof that doubles up as a big public open space, where you can walk to the highest spot on the building’s roof, without once having to go indoors.
Oslo Opera has become a new landmark for the city and proved an instant success with both locals and tourists.
And of course, that roof doesn’t have to be the bland and featureless desert that this one is, in this picture. Sooner or later, it will acquire roof clutter! Perhaps it already has.
As entire cities compete with one another for tourists, buildings like this, with walkabout roofs, will surely become ever more common, as ever more tourists search, as I search, for places up in the sky from which to take tourist snaps. It is no accident that I found the above picture and quote at a site called Visit Norway. (Although sadly, this Visit Norway site fucks with the links and causes them not to work, and these fucked links also fuck with subsequent links which are none of Visit Norway’s damn business. This caused me major problems, until I just stripped out all Visit Norway linkage, at which point sanity was restored. So if you care, you’ll have to find the damn place for yourself. I think Visit Norway was trying to help. It failed. Norway, sort this out.)
Even as I praise this building, I make no judgement about what goes on inside it. The point of these “iconic” buildings - horizontal Big Things - you might say, is that they are fun to visit, regardless of their mere indoor contents. See also: Tate Modern. After all, one of the advantages of a roof like this is that the roof can be enjoyed even as the inside of the building can be entirely ignored.
What got me writing about this Oslo building was a recent posting at Dezeen, featuring another proposed building by the same architects, Snohetta (which has a forward slash through the “o") which uses the same trick, of people being able to walk up to the top in a big zig zag. This time it is a museum in Budapest:
And oh look, I went to the Sn o-with-forward-slash hetta website, and here is another Snohetta proposal, using the same trick, for another opera house, this time in Busan, South Korea:
With the design of the Busan Opera, the opera is no longer a passive playground for the elite but becomes interactive, democratic space, responding to the public’s ambitions and interests.
This is architect speak for:
People can walk about on the roof and take photos without having to sit through some stupid damn opera.
And oh look, again. Snohetta have also proposed that a new media centre in Vienna should look like this:
Look again, and you encounter the Barack Obama Presidential Center:
These last two are not so zig zag, but the principle is the same.
London awaits you, Snohettans.
And I don’t mean Twiggy.
I love it when a bald bloke photos a London Big Thing. So I loved it when this fashionably bare-headed gentleman photoed lots of little London Big Things:
This big old London model is in the process of being refurbished. If all goes as advertised, a big new London model will be ready to view at the end of this month.
People often say “I can’t wait”, when things like this are in the offing. What do they mean? That by the time it arrives, too much time will have elapsed and they will no longer be interested?
I know, it’s just what they say. They don’t really mean it.
I can wait, and I will wait.