Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: Digital photographers
As usual, there’s lots of fun stuff at Colossal, of which a piece about the Chicago Bean attacking a tourist by dumping a lump of snow on them, is my recent favourite.
Go here to see the whole wonderful thing.
I like how people in Chicago call The Bean The Bean, rather than “Cloud Gate”. I feel the same way about how The Wheel in London is The Wheel, rather than the “London Eye”.
Last Friday was another of those first days of Spring, which are coming thick and fast now. Spring has very nearly sprung, in other words. So, I was out on Westminster Bridge photoing the tourists and their cameras like it was 2006. Here are my favourites:
I’ve always been fond of the baglady look, and we see two more examples of the genre there.
For some reason, I feel that a photo of someone holding up a Cool Britannia bag is a lot cooler than a Cool Britannia bag. And the other baglady, dressed as David Hockney, looks really good in front of all that appetising verbiage, on the food kiosk next to Westminster Bridge at the Parliament end, right near where this photo was also taken. A favourite spot.
As for the lady in black, I’m not sure whether was actually photoing. Maybe she was just checking text messages. I hope she is having a good life. Here is a recent reminder that burqas can be bad news for those who wear them.
As for the group self-photoing themselves with a selfie stick, it really is time that I gathered up all the selfie-stick photos I’ve taken lately, and posted a group of them here. (But, I promise nothing.)
The selfie-stick is the latest photoing device to incur the wrath of all of those people who divert themselves by getting wrathful about the newly acquired habits of others, especially when those habits involve photography, and especially when they involve self-photography. The last such fuss involved using tablets to take photos.
Although, it seems that selfie sticks have been around for a bit longer than you might think.
It often happens with me that, while rootling around in the archives for one picture, I stumble across another which strikes me as worth showing to the massed ranks of BrianMicklethwaitDotCom’s readers.
Pictures like this, for instance, which I took at the top of the Monument, in November 2012:
Small, blurry, totally recognisable. Definitely a Big Thing.
As for all that wire netting (which I believe dramatically lowers the cheese content of the above shot), well, here is another shot, of how matters at the top of the Monument used to be not so long ago:
I took that in July 2007. (Note the pleasingly dated camera.) The change from prison bars to wire netting, which happened soon after that, was presumably because of different versions of health and safety. Originally there was neither, just some waste high railings. See this hand-done photo “by Canalleto (after)”, whatever that means. (His production line, but not him, maybe?) And see also this picture.
Somewhere between posting a photo of totally recognisable strangers that you took without their permission in 1930 and posting a photo of totally recognisable strangers that you took without their permission yesterday afternoon, there is a line. I took this photo ...
… in 2007. Did I cross that line? Perhaps. But they just look so great, and so happy. When it comes to totally recognisable strangers who look bad in the photo I took of them without their permission, I think I’d give it another decade or two.
I love all the white space behind and around them. It makes them look, in combination with the signpost, like a piece of sculpture. That spot often does that. Which is why it is one of my favourite photographic spots in London, up the steps that are attached to Westminster Bridge on the north side, looking up over the road towards the Houses of Parliament.
Whereas yesterday was the first first day of spring, today is right back to being just another day of winter, cold, damp, cloudy, miserable. So I am back rootling in the archives for sunnier memories.
Here’s a good one, of me (in the middle), Goddaughter 2 (on the right), and (on the left) a suitably anonymised photographer photoing a suitably anonymised group of people:
Taken last August, on one of the Hungerford Bridge footbridges.
When posting this, I was informed of a previous posting here entitled shadow photography. Also fun. Less anonymised strangers though.
Me having written here about Anish Kapoor, he of the Big Olympic Thing, someone today emailed me about an art website which includes him. None of the pictures of Kapoors at that place strike me as very interesting. Certainly not nearly as interesting as the Big Olympic Thing, or as interesting as The Bean. So instead I googled for other Kapoor imagery, and found this rather excellent Kapoor photograph, of him posing in front of one of his creations, outside the Royal Academy, in London, in 2009:
Click on that photo to get a bigger version, which I recommend doing.
What I (of course) like is that you can see the little clutch of photographers, including (of course) the photographer who took this photograph, in the photograph.
Thank goodness for the I Just Like It! file. Today was yet another long and annoying day doing other things besides blogging, and yet, I want to stick with the habit, without being insultingly brief. That’s when some here’s-some-I-prepared-earlier snaps can come in really handy.
So here are a few snaps I picked out about a month ago from the archives, but never got around to posting at the time. The common theme is dancing. Two are males, dancing by mistake. The other two are of females, dancing on purpose.
Every now and again, I recommend that someone do a ballet about digital photography. All that posing both by photographers and the people they are photoing.
Although, one of the blokes is playing with a frisbee rather than a camera, and one of the dancing ladies is a statue. And a favourite object of my photographic devotions, as it happens. This time, though, with added airplane exhaust. And scaffolding.
Taken in November 2006, July 2008, September 2008 and February 2012. The one top right, July 2008, would, I’m pretty sure, have featured a very big Shard in the background, had it been taken more recently.
Before and after perusing the remains of that demo I chanced upon yesterday, I was photographing photographers. Here are a few of them:
As you can see from the top left snap, he is photoing Westminster Abbey, and those two dramatic crouching shots, top middle and top right, are of photographers wanting to get the upper reaches rather than the lower reaches of Westminster Abbey in the background behind their friends.
Several quite good additions to the Interesting Hats sub-directory there, especially the gent, middle left, who looks to me like he’s in The Hunt For Red October. Is he being post-modern and ironic? Or does he, perchance, actually mean it? Either way, I don’t like it. I mean, do people now wander around London with swastikas in their hats? But, if you were guessing who the spy was, you’d have to pick the one in the Union Jack hat.
The lady bottom middle is a bit out of focus. But, her hat gets her included nevertheless.
And the gent at the bottom left is not very bald, but he is a bit. He makes it into that sub-directory.
At that demo a week ago today, there were, of course, and abundance of smartphones being used to soak up snaps:
And there were tablets being used as well:
But more intriguingly, and this was a first for me, I saw smartphones …:
… and tablets …:
… being used actually to demonstrate. And as you can see, I wasn’t the only one who was interested.
I’m not sure what this means. I simply note that it was happening.
Here’s a nice coincidence. There I was writing about how I went from being, in my teens, a bad pen-and-ink picture-maker to, from around 2000 onwards, a far happier digital-photographic picture maker. And here is a picture that captures that kind of metamorphosis perfectly:
It’s one of these pictures by Christoph Niemann. Niemann’s pictures bring to mind that phrase used by one of the alter egos of Barry Humphries, Barry McKenzie, who described paintings as “hand done photos”. These pictures really do only work as photos. Until they are photoed, the job is not done. But the hand-done bit is essential to what they are.
One thing about these pictures that I particularly like, apart from the basic fact that I like them, is their very favourable effort-to-impact ratio. For my taste, too much of the picture-making displayed at Colossal consists of stuff that is quite nice to look at, but which took an absurdly huge amount of time and effort to contrive. Also, there is often no logical or even meaningful connection between how the pictures are contrived and how they end up looking. So, you’ve made a table cloth out of seeds. Clever you. But, why? Niemann’s pictures answer this question perfectly.
But then again, the internet being the internet, if your elaborately pointless pictures catch people’s fancy and thousands glance at them, then I guess that, if you put in a lot of time and effort, you may well reckon than all the time and effort was worth it, especially if you had fun spending it and doing it. And of course it is digital photography that transforms a laboriously produced one-off item of visual art that took far too much time and effort to do, into a mass experience that it made sense to spend a lot of time and effort doing. But, most of these intricate sculptures and pictures at Colossal are just sculptures and pictures that were then photographed. Niemann’s pictures are real Hand Done Photos.
As for me, between being a bad pen-and-ink picture maker and an okay-to-good digital photographer, I endured a big interval during which I made hardly any pictures of any kind. My pictorial enthusiasm expressed itself in the design of pamphlets, and graphic design generally. Basically I became a desktop publisher. (I even earned money doing this.) First I just did publishing, on a desktop, paper-scissors-glue-photocopier. Then computers arrived, and I was an early adopter of “desktop publishing”. Then the internet arrived, and drew a big line under all that stuff. I shovelled all my pamphlets onto the internet, and became a blogger. And, I bought my first digital camera. At first, blogging and digital photography did not mix very well. Now, they mix very well indeed.
Indeed. Behind the photographer is a coach:
Passing buses and lorries make fine backdrops for photos I find. I especially like this because the picture on the coach (in aid of this enterprise, I presume) is so bizarre. This is exactly how the picture emerged from the camera. No cropping, no rotating, nothing. It was taken last September, outside Westminster Abbey, looking away from the main entrance and towards Parliament Square. None of which is even at bit clear, because of the coach. Unless you are a railings spotter.
I spent the day building CD shelves, hence the need for a quota photo.
At the end of November 2014 (on the day that I also took these photos) I made a small pilgrimage to Tower Bridge, the excuse being that I might be able to photo up someone’s skirt through the observation floor that they had recently installed at the top of that bridge, and the reason being that I simply like to go on random pilgrimages in central London, for the sake of what I might see on the way there, there, and on the way back.
As often happens with these small pilgrimages of mine, I got there not at midday, but towards the end of the day. By which I mean just before and during the ending of daylight. And the ending of daylight is a very good time for taking photos, especially with a digital camera that is good in low light conditions, and especially if you are someone who likes taking pictures of other photographers in ways that don’t show their faces but do show the screens of their cameras. At dusk, those screens tend to show up particularly well, as a number of these photographer photos illustrate:
The more I photo, the more I find myself liking to take categories of photos, photos in sets. At first, my photos of photographers were just photos of photographers. But soon I was subdividing that huge category, into photographers taking selfies, photographers looking at the photos they’d taken. Recently I have found myself making further subdivisions, often of photos I have been taking for some while but which I had not been putting into a separate category in my head, if you get my meaning. So, above, in addition to all the photos of photographer’s camera screens, we see contributions to the photographers taking selfies category (subdivision: couples taking selfies), to the photographers looking at the photos they have just taken category, but also a good addition to the bald blokes taking photos category, and two for the photographers with interesting hats category.
And of course, there is that vast category that has hove into view in the last few years, of people taking photos with their mobile phones. No less than seven of the above twelve snaps are of people doing this. This was not a decision on my part, merely a consequence of me picking out nice photos of people taking photos.
My favourite photo of these is the last one of all, bottom right. The light is nearly gone, but that means that the view of the shot he is taking (with his mobile phone) shines forth splendidly, as strongly as what he is photoing. And I love that I got what he was photoing as well as his screen picture of what he was photoing.
It was the essentialness of posting that one photo, very late but not never, that made me, while I was about it, also stick up the others, all twelve having already been subdivided into a separate little directory.
Back when I took these two pictures (September 15th 2007), this was the camera that most impressed me, because its screen was so big:
More and more postings here, I predict, are going to be of pictures I took a while back.
Nothing, apart from this, here, today, but I did manage a posting at Samizdata entitled Anton Howes on the Golden Age that never stopped.
I say nothing, but here is a picture I took of someone in a woolly hat taking a picture at Piccadilly Circus:
Gotta love that Golden Age we’re living in.
When I got to that ASI Christmas Party the other night, I was already in a grumpy mood, on account of not being allowed to bring three Opera Babes to the party. That’s right. The Adam Smith Institute didn’t have room for three glamorous young women, two of them at the Royal College of Music (Goddaughter 2 and her friend) and one of them (another friend of Goddaughter 2) who was auditioning for the Royal College of Music (having already been accepted last year by the Guildhall). I had already arranged to bring Goddaughter 2, but the ASI having spurned her two glamorous Opera Babe friends, GD2 not unreasonably preferred to be with them. I don’t mean that the ASI said: Opera Babes? - No thanks. I mean that they didn’t even allow me to say that they were Opera Babes, so oversubscribed were they. Or so she said. The ASI lady put their names on the subs bench list in case of cancellations, but your guests only get on the pitch if the ASI tells you so beforehand, and I heard nothing.
So instead I went to the ASI Christmas Party with Goddaughter 2’s glamorous elder sister. When I got there, it was clear that although there were many persons present, there was most definitely room for three more Opera Babes. But, too many mostly very non-operatic males of the species had already signed up to be there, and they needed room to stand around in all-male groups and shout their opinions at each other.
So there I was at the ASI Christmas Party feeling grumpy, looking around the room and recognising hardly anyone, and feeling bad about having dragged GD2’s sister to this ghastly do and being so grumpy about it, and for about the first half hour of being there, I continued to be grumpy. Three things, however, cheered me up.
First, I bumped into someone I did know, Anton Howes. And it turns out that he has a new blog. How very last decade, I said, but really, I was truly delighted to hear this, and started to feel that the evening was not going to be a total write-off after all. I had actually learned something of genuine use and interest to me. Cheer-me-up Thing Number One.
Cheer-me-up Thing Number Two, I got my camera out. I think I saw some other person taking photos and I thought: time for me to do some soul stealing. Was this uncouth? Probably. Would I look like an old prick? Presumably. But I was feeling like an uncouth old prick anyway, so out came the camera anyway. And immediately I cheered up. Suddenly, people cheered up when I approached them, and ceased from only talking about what they were talking about and instead started presenting themselves to my camera in a way that would make them look approximately as good as they were capable of looking. And, if they ignored me, well, that’s fine, because when people ignore you and just carry on enjoying themselves, that, if you are a photographer rather than a human being, is good.
Cheer-me-up Thing Number Three: Eamonn Butler saw me taking photos, and approached. Oh dear. “Brian, could you please stop being such an uncouth old prick? And if you do insist on photoing, could you please make a point of not photoing him, or him, or her.” Paranoid rubbish like that flashed up in my brain in between Eamonn being clearly about to say something and Eamonn actually starting to say it. And what did he say? He said: “Could you please send us a few of your best photos?” or words to that effect. Hah! I was now an officially designated photographer. I was someone. Instead of me fretting about not knowing anyone (and about not being allowed to be The Bloke Who Brought The Opera Babes), everyone else had to feel bad that they didn’t know me. Hurrah!
And actually, when I bustled my way through the throng some more, snap snap snapping, it turned out that actually I did know quite a few of those present.
Here we have, I think, another impact of digital photography. Digital photography cheers up people like me when we go to parties. But, shame I couldn’t photo the Opera Babes.
All of which began life as a mere intro to me showing you lots of the photos I actually took at this do. But, people who might google their way to - or maybe even be steered with a link towards - such photos won’t be wanting a long ramble attached to them about how I felt before and during the taking of them. So, I’ll stick them up in a separate posting. This I promise.