Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Digital photographers

Wednesday April 16 2014

The pictures below were taken on April 16th 2004, in (on?) one of my regular snapping zones, Westminster Bridge, from which, then as now, you get great views of both Parliament and the Wheel, depending on which way you look.

Most of the things I was photoing then haven’t changed that much, but … I was just then starting to realise that my fellow digital photographers were an object worthy of my detailed and prolonged attention, which they have been ever since.  That summer of 2004 was the moment when I first got seriously stuck into this category of photo.  There are still lots of pictures of people just wandering around, being people.  But, the photographers were just tarting to figure strongly in the archives.  It took me a while to realise that the cameras mattered at least as much as the people using them, that aspect getting steadily easier as zoom got zoomier.

The privacy concerns associated with just shoving recognisable pictures of strangers up on the internet have only grown since then, but I reckon that pictures this old are not such a problem in that way.  Recognisable pictures taken yesterday, that I tend not to do these days, or not so much.  But pictures of people taken a decade ago, well, I’m more relaxed about that.

The little squares zoom in on the cameras.  Click and get the original pictures as taken that afternoon, which would appear to have been exactly as sunny as today is.

Enjoy:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

Mostly silver rather than black, mostly much bulkier than the equivalent cameras look now.  But of course there is one exception to all that.  Picture 3.1 shows a kind of camera that looked then pretty much exactly as it looks now.  Black.  Shaped like an old school camera.  These are the cameras that are actually just regular quite good digital cameras, but which enable you think of yourself as the beginnings of a Real Photographer.  My kind of camera, in other words.  Cameras in this category look now exactly as they looked then.  Nothing has changed with those.

Except what they can do.

Friday March 21 2014

When I trawl through the archives, I keep coming across excellent snaps which for some reason I quite ignored at the time.  Here is one such, taken in July 2007, on Westminster Bridge:

image

The Thing on her bag, the Wheel, is behind her.  She is photoing Big Ben, unless I am much mistaken.

I think one reason photos like this one seem better now than when taken is because hiding the faces of my photographer subjects now seems more necessary than it used to.

The really good news is that the cameras in these old snaps are starting to look very old.  Soon, they will be totally out of date, and at that point my Digital Photographers archive will become a wonder.

Wednesday March 19 2014

imageIncoming from Sam Bowman in the form of an email, dated March 6th, entitled “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism - an apologia”:

Hey Brian,

Thanks for mentioning my Libertarian Home talk on Samizdata. I look forward to seeing you tonight if you can make it.

“Tonight” was March 6th (Simon Gibbs introductory spiel about Sam and his talk here), when Sam gave his talk at the Rose and Crown.  This is not yet available on video, but it presumably soon will be, because as always at these Libertarian Home Rose and Crown talks, a video camera was in action.  On the right is a photo that Sam took of me and him with his mobile, after he had given his talk.

And thanks for coming on Monday!

That was an ASI event, about whether prison works.  (Answer, with all kinds of reservations: yes.)

I typed out quite a long email to you but decided against it, because I figured none of it would be new to you.

Wrong.  Now that my hair is mostly grey and I no longer say everything I am thinking, other libertarians seem to assume that I now know everything that there is to be known, and because I own lots of books that I have read everything that there is to be read, about libertarianism.  None of this is true.  I do not read and have not read nearly as much as I have time to read and have had time to read.  I regret that Sam didn’t preserve this longer email.

Having said that, since it’s something we’re both interested in I thought I’d try to outline my position a bit more briefly:

Excellent.  I asked Sam, quite a long time ago now, if he minded me recycling what follows in a posting, and maybe then sticking bits of it up at Samizdata.  No, he said, post away.  So here it is:

I still hate the term ‘social justice’ (Hayek did a real number on me), and philosophically I’m not on board with the Rawlsian view of ethics. My moral position is preference utilitarianism – that people getting what they want is what’s good. Having said that, practically I think that ethical consequentialists and believers in ‘social justice’ are in basically the same position: both think that improving the welfare of the poor is a high priority.

I think it makes sense to treat libertarianism as being about means, not ends. Most political positions claim that they’re good because they will make people’s lives easier, happier, etc. (There are some exceptions of course.) I think many people make the error of forgetting that the world is complex, so they assume that differences of opinion about politics must be down to differences of opinion about what sort of world we want.

People sometimes also try to waterproof their beliefs by attaching moral claims to empirical arguments – eg, a supporter of the minimum wage, presented with strong arguments that undermine their empirical claims, may fall back on the argument that it’s just indecent for people to earn below £x/hour, and a decent society should simply not allow that, consequences be damned. Of course we libertarians often do this too – presented with strong arguments in favour of the minimum wage we may fall back on the claim that it’s just wrong to interfere with private contracts between adults. I think there’s some merit to both these claims (much more so the latter, obviously) but they shouldn’t be treated as unbreakable absolutes. If they were, were the earlier, empirical arguments just rhetoric?

So you can boil my position down to this: if I was convinced that free markets and a high degree of individual liberty were not the best way of allowing people to get what they want, I wouldn’t support them. My libertarianism/liberalism is entirely contingent on empirical beliefs I have about the world.

I make explicit the fact that I’d be relaxed about redistribution of wealth from rich to poor if I thought it led to good outcomes, and indeed I think the libertarian empirical case is much stronger on regulation of people’s lives (in the broadest sense) and commerce than it is on wealth redistribution.  I also think that it’s where we have the most original things to say.

How this makes me any different to people like Milton Friedman and FA Hayek I am not sure, given that both were also explicitly supportive of wealth/income redistribution. Of course, any consequentialist libertarian would have to concede that, at least in theory, they would be open to the idea of redistribution.

Best,

Sam

Some emails, rather like some comments, can have particular expressive merit.  Because people are relaxed rather than mounted self-consciously on their official high horses, so to speak, they often communicate in this more informal circumstance with particular eloquence.  So, my particular thanks to Sam for allowing me to publish this.  More of his many thoughts here, although you may have to scroll your way past a huge photo of Sam in front of a brick wall.  (Odd.  Did anyone else have this problem?) I recommend doing this.

Saturday March 15 2014

Last Wednesday, I was finally able to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather London has been enjoying for last week or so, and walked down Victoria Street to Parliament Square, and then across the river.

And the photography is well and truly back in business.  There ought to be a nominated day, when photographers all gather to photograph the first grouse of the season.  What would be the urban equivalent of that, I wonder?

I photographed other things besides photographers, but mostly I did photograph photographers:

image image imageimage image imageimage image image

Those are just little square bits from bigger pictures.  Click to get the latter.

The fountain behind the lady photographer in 3.1 is the one in the garden of St Thomas’s Hospital, which doubles as the roof of a big car park.

Smart phones getting smarter all the time.

Thursday March 13 2014

Here is another of those postings where I stick two pictures up next to each other, in order to remember something in one or both of them better than I have been doing.  (I’m getting old.)

This time it’s another person whose name I am determined to stop getting wrong, who is called Christiana Hambro.  For no intelligent reason that I can think of, I have been getting the Christiana bit of her name wrong.  The good news is that I can’t now even remember what I used to say instead, because I have known for several hours, ever since I thought about doing it, what the rest of this posting is going to consist of, and because this posting is already doing the job of fixing Christiana’s correct Christian name, Christiana, in my head, even before I write the posting, never mind before I stick it up for others to read.

Christiana is the one on the left, of these two pictures:

image image

And the one of the right is Christian.  Christian Michel.  I have never got Christian’s Christian name wrong.  Putting these two people next to one another in my head has solved my Christiana Hambro problem.

Christian Michel will be speaking at my next Last Friday meeting, on March 28th.  This is what he just emailed me about what he will be saying:

In August 1938, a rich and talented American journalist gathered 36 economists and philosophers in Paris, in what has become known after his name: the Lippmann Colloquium. The objective was nothing less than a refoundation of liberalism, under attack by Marxists and Fascists. Participants only agreed in their opposition to command economies. Mises remained attached to unfettered free markets.  Röpke and Rüstow developed what became Ordoliberalism, still the official ideology in today’s Germany.  Einaudi, future president of Italy, remained faithful to the social teachings of the Church. Hayek tried to federate all these currents in the Mont Pélerin Society, to the point of dilution. In America, neo-liberals merged into the neo-conservative movement, whilst in France, Michel Foucault, in his insightful Birth of Biopolitics, reclaimed it for libertarianism (which he espoused in his last works, to the horror of the Leftist establishment). Today, for the likes of Naomi Klein and George Monbiot, the term ‘neoliberalism’ is a word of abuse, whilst it was meant to characterize the very ‘third way’ they so eagerly embrace. In the talk, I will go over the debates within the liberal movement of the last 80 years, which all revolve around the definition of this neologism: neo-liberalism.

In my thankyou email back to him, I told Christian that this piece alone makes an illuminating read.

Which is a lot of the point of talks these days, now that we can all know about everything that is happening that we even might be attending.  Yes, the small number of people who choose to squeeze themselves into my living room on the 28th will hear Christian’s talk, and very good and very detailed it will be, I am sure.  They will learn lots that will not be learned by others.  But meanwhile, many more will read the above spiel by Christian about his talk, and the ripples will spread out way beyond my living room.  If just half the people on the Brian’s Fridays email list read the above piece, when I send it out in about a week’s time, many of them will learn quite a lot.  I had no idea Michel Foucault ended up as a libertarian, until Christian started telling me about this.

I found the above picture of Christian Michel here.  I probably could have dug up a picture of him taken by me, but image googling was easier, given the state of my photo-archives.

Christiana’s relevance to all this is that she is one of a number of free-market-stroke-libertarian activists who have been putting some organisational juice behind spreading these ideas to British students.  She is based at the I(nstitute of) E(conomic) A(ffairs).  I took that photo of Christiana at the Liberty League Freedom Forum 2013, which she helped to organise, and “helped” may well be a serious understatement.

I hope to organise a Brian’s Friday at which Christiana and/or one of her colleagues describe the outreach work they are doing at the IEA.  In my opinion it is the biggest single piece of news about the spread of libertarian thinking in Britain.  The British public continue to be indifferent to libertarian ideas, as is their habit with so many ideas.  But the British student libertarian movement is now growing from insignificant to … significant, and it is to a great degree thanks to the work of people like Christiana.

Tuesday February 25 2014

Mick Hartley’s latest little clutch of photos illustrates one of the things I particularly like about his photography, which is his relish of colour.  He even points spells this out in the title of his posting.  I have nothing against black and white photography, especially in the decades when it was that or nothing, and neither does Mick Hartley.  But there is something rather fetishistic and fake-arty about how black and white photography continues to be worshipped, long after colour photography became easy to do.

Often colour is deeply embedded in the story that the picture tells, as in this photo.  This is not one of Hartley’s own, but he constantly picks up great photos done by others on his radar (this one being number nine of these twelve):

image

No prizes for seeing why I particularly like that one.

But it’s not just the photography aspect that I like.  I also like that the anonymity angle is also covered.  I more and more tend to prefer anonymity in the pictures I take myself of other photographers, and post here.  Often it happens because the camera covers the face of the photographer I am photoing.

I went rootling through my archives for a snap of someone whose face is partially hidden, and found this snap, of which I am very proud.  Here, the anonymity job, albeit only partially, is done by a big pair of sunglasses.

I also like the colours in that photo.  Snobbery about blackness and whiteness, and especially about blackness, also extends to what colour cameras ought to be, doesn’t it?

Sunday February 09 2014

Yes, it’s another posting about photographing London’s Big Things from a high up place.

On July 27th of last year, I found myself at the top of Kings College, London, and a week later I posted a few of the photos I managed to take from that vantage point.

Many of the photos I took looked like this:

image

In other words, general, semi-panoramic views, just hoovering up whatever was there to be seen, to be looked at in more detail later.

But after taking that photo, I realised that this view included what looked like another very promising vantage point:

image

When I got home, I did some googling, and found out that this place must be the Radio Bar at the top of the ME Hotel.  The ME Hotel is at the westerly spike of the Aldwych semi-circle, so to speak.

Here is another good picture of this place, and of the kind of views that may be had from it.

So, I had a go at visiting this soon after finding this out, in August, but there was a queue, and I am not good with queues.  Queues mean waiting in the queue, and also mean that when you finally get there, there will be lots of people in the way of my photographing, and worse, that they may be in a hurry to get rid of you (especially if you are a photographers), rather than glad to see you.  So, I decided to try it again when the weather was nice, but colder.

And recently, on January 25th, I did this.  Me being me, I took lots of views, and lots of views with fellow digital photographers taking shots of the views:

image image imageimage image image

I also cranked up the zoom, and took lots of views like this:

image image imageimage image image

This Radio Bar is one of the very best places I know of to look out over London.

With views that touch the clouds and include Tower Bridge, the Shard, London Bridge, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Somerset House, Southbank, London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and the theatre district of Covent Garden, the rooftop bar at the ME London raises the bar on the enjoyment of social life whilst having a drink in the lounge.

Boastful but fair, although I think I marginally prefer, for the way it is laid out, One New Change.  But the views from this new place are an order of magnitude better.

On January 25th, I purchased not just the one over-priced (actually a blazing bargain, given what I was really buying) drink, but, after I had finished taking snaps, another.

I returned to the ME Radio Bar just over a week ago, but … later.

Saturday February 01 2014

Definitely my favourite recent photography related photo:

image

Here via here.

Pity about the car.

Popography
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Digital photography as telepathy
Taking photos with Big Flat Things
Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
Digital photographers holding maps
Polish girls in Moscow doing a selfie
Sidwell (and me) on selfies
Wedding photography - old and new
Here are two photos I took earlier
Photoing each other - and photoing stuff in the canal
Google Nexus 4 wedding photography!
Cassette iPhone photographer
Phablet news
Google Nexus 4 photos
Pictures of LLFF2013
More March 5th photographers (and more spaces between pictures)
Wandering about afterwards
Digital photographers outside Westminster Abbey
An earlier tablet photographer
More photographers photographed
Halloween flash!
Piccadilly Halloween
Patrick Crozier has just arranged for accessing ancient comments here to be much easier
More digital photographers
Celebrity photoshoot?
Usain Bolt takes photos of photographers!
The top of the Shard
Bomber Command Memorial pictures
A camera in each hand
Snaps (in Paris and London - and of the Millennium Footbridge)
Photographers at Eros and Art in the tube