Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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
R Richard Schweitzer on The Shard was looking very special today
Brian Micklethwait on Keeping up appearances in Sydney
Most recent entries
- 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
- Phil Tufnell paints cats!!!
- A man taking a Selfie before it was A Thing (and me taking a picture of him)
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we make money not art
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Category archive: My photographs
Today, from an advert in Shoreditch High Street, I learned of a game which is new to me …:
… Zorb football. As I have already told you, in the heading of this.
The website in the picture.
Video of people playing Zorb football.
The tackling reminds me of this.
I like Palestra House, outside Southwark Tube. It’s a bit trashy and seventies looking, but I like it. Especially in nice weather, as it was when I recently photoed it, on the right here:
On the left is how Palestra House was looking on March 31st 2005. There was a faked-up picture of what they thought it would look like on the outside of the site, but you never really know these days, by which I mean for the last three decades or so. Although, there was an early clue, in the form of the beginnings of the glass cladding, as you can see.
One definition of Modern Movement modernism sixties vintage (as opposed to the later and more stylish versions), would be to say that when it was being built you did know only too well what it was going to look like. It was going to look like … that. And that … was not good.
I think that Palestra House, on the other hand, turned out quite good.
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.
When G(od)D(aughter) 1 and I left the Park View Cafe, the weather was still grim, as you can see in this picture, which is of an amazing building which we encountered just a few yards down the road:
I was amazed. But so amazed enough that I forgot to take a closer photo of all that signage so I could look it up later.
What is it? And more to the point, what was it? Because nobody says “We need a place to do indoor pretend rock climbing” and builds themselves something like that.
For a small district, Stoke Newington is endowed with a generous amount of open space. To its north, there is the extensive West Reservoir, now a non-working facility, but open for leisure and surrounded by greenspace, at the entrance to which is the architecturally bizarre Castle Climbing Centre, once the main Water Board pumping station. It was designed, by William Chadwell Mylne, to look like a towering Scottish castle.
There should be more fake castles of this sort. Why don’t people build such things now? You’d think with all the current fascination with fantasy movies, Harry Potter, and so forth, there’d be rock and roll royalty queueing up to erect more stuff like this. Do they not even try? Or, do they try, but are they then rebuffed by boring local planning committees, frightened that if they allowed such things, before you knew it, everyone would be building whatever they liked.
“Castle Climbing Centre” ought to mean a Centre where you learn to Climb Castles. But, it doesn’t.
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.
Busy day today, so another photo taken yesterday evening, at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge:
You can find lots of pictures of these dragons, but not so many photos that look the way mine does, with a blurry Big Thing and a blurry crane in the background.
Today I went on one of my regular walkabouts. But it was different from almost all other walkabouts I can remember, in that this time, this time, I returned home convinced that I had taken a lot of, by my reckoning, really very good photos. I knew that this time, I would not have to go through the usual ordeal of looking at them, becoming depressed, only returning to my clutch of photos a few days later to rescue whatever photographic merit I might then find. So it has already proved, only a couple of hours after me getting home. I looked at the photos and an amazing number of them were … really very good. I think.
Here is just one, for now, one among many that I already know that I like:
Big Thing, tick. Roof clutter, tick. But what I really like is how some of the roof clutter is dark, while some of it is sunlit, and the sunlit stuff has an obligingly dark Big Thing behind it, to set it off.
I didn’t meander about making this happen. It just happened. (Although, I did have to do a little bit of rotating. Sorry about that. I can only assure you that this will almost certainly happen again because the combination of me and my camera (with its twiddly screen) seems to make me rotate pictures when I take them, a lot.)
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.
Another of those Wicked Camper vans, from the same fleet as this one:
It was never a totally White Van, but someone has painted some white on it.
I recently saw another of these vans with something like “Chuck Norris is the only person who can slam a revolving door”, but my photoing reflexes were too slow to capture it. When I do photo this, I’ll try to remember that I said I might put the picture up here.
I agree with you. Yes, it is a good marketing strategy. Both of us are right about that. And I see that these arseholes have been helping.
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.
At the time, all I thought I was photoing was a slightly amusing van. One of those supplied by this enterprise. Photoed by me earlier this evening in Lower Marsh.
The van is nothing to do with the shop. It was just backing into the small Wicked Campers park next to it.
I had this complicated posting in the works, but, as often happens, it got too complicated. Usually, in these circumstances, I fob you off with a quota photo of that Pavlova statue. This time I thought I’d fob you off a quota White Van instead.
Learn more about the enterprise in question here.