Friday, 22 January 2021

The democratic medium?

Before I get into my 'thought piece' some photos. The weather this past week has been wetter than ever, so I haven't been out much - with or without a camera. Thursday I drove round my most frequent walking route on the moss to see what was what as I didn't want to get caught in one of the frequent showers. I parked up and walked back to take some photos and before I reached where I wanted to take pictures I got hit by yet another load of rain. 

The downpours had made a significant impact on land that I hadn't seen so wet before.


Today the rain had gone and the sun was shining, although the sun did its usual disappearing act when I went out in the late afternoon. I'd put my wellies on because the field path had been under more water than I'd ever seen on Thursday. When I got to the field the wellies were more than sufficient s the water level had dropped back to below the ditch top. It was the same on the moss with the water being mostly back in the ditches. What a difference a day made.

Sunset is getting noticeably later now making it possible to get work done and still manage an hour or more wandering with the camera. This wood often attracts my attention at this time of year when teh sun sets behind, or almost behind, it. This evening  the glow from the low sun and the towering clouds made it look as if the wood were on fire. Or maybe I just have a vivid imagination?
Next to no photographs, certainly none with any great utility, and loads of rain. A dismal week all round.

Having been put in a miserable mood I got all gloomy an started pondering, for the umpteenth time, who is it that looks at zines and photobooks. Who are the people making these publications making them for? Given the limited print runs of most zines and books, and let's face it anything under tens of thousands is limited, I can only conclude that the audience is predominantly (if not entirely) other photographers plus those involved in the photo-world - gallerists, collectors, curators. this most democratic of media is making publications for an elite.

If that wasn't bad enough when I look at the price of photobooks these days they are creeping up beyond what I can justify paying. I grudgingly coughed up £45 for a copy of the reprint of Paul Graham's A1 because it was a book I had wanted for some time. Okay, so it was cheaper than buying a first edition, but compared to some other books I've bought it was a bit pricey. This week I saw that his Beyond Caring is to be reissued at the same price. Another book I'd like to have on my shelves but this time I'm wavering over the price. Almost a ton for two books. I could buy a whole library of zines for that kind of cash. I'd get a load more photos to look at that way. If I'm feeling flush when the release date nears I'll probably pull the trigger. However, Beyond Caring is scheduled to be the second of a trilogy of reprints over three years, the third being Troubled Land. This one doesn't interest me. I've never been a completist so not having 'the full set' wouldn't bother me at all. No doubt the publisher's hope if that most people aren't like me and will have to buy the hat trick.

I'm sure that the collecting of sets instinct, which I admit is tempting, works for a number of small zine publishers who produce publications which are uniform in cover design. I don't really have a problem with that as zines are still pretty affordable. Although buying them on a regular basis can soon put a dent in the bank balance.

Perhaps perversely, while I'll happily cough up a tenner for a small zine I am loathe to hand a similar sum over each month for a magazine like the BJP. When it was in the region of six quid I bought it fairly regularly, but when it got into double figures (despite it's increased heft) it had to have a lot of content which interested me to part me from my cash. Eventually I gave up on it altogether. Way back when I remember (perhaps wrongly) that the BJP was very much aimed at commercial photographers. More recently it seems to be aimed at the photo-art world. Another example of catering for an elite?

If a tenner is getting into the realms of putting off a pleb like me then what to make of something flagged up on The Online Photographer? At first glance a print magazine of photojournalism would be my kind of thing. especially one harking back to the days of Life, Picture Post, and the likes of the Sunday Times Magazine's long form photo features. Even though it was US based I had to check out The Curious Society. Particularly as it is fronted by Kenneth Jarecke.

Great photography about important stories in a well produced magazine. What's not to like? How about $300 for four issues? Again I ask; Who is it for? It can only be fore photoworld insiders and middle class elites. It makes £45 for a book look like excellent value.

Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe I'm misjudging the average disposable income. It still doesn't seem to me that it's a good way to get photojournalism out to the masses. Which surely is what photojournalism used to do. If the venture succeeds with it's business model then it might succeed in its aim to pay photographers properly, as they used to be paid before print media began to be squeezed by the internet. But is that enough? I don't think so. Pictures like that need to be seen by millions, not thousands. I can't see it expanding the audience, just as I don't see worth projects like Small Town Inertia making a difference when it's audience is, once again as far as I can see, predominantly that photoworld elite.

Naturally I can't put forward a better way of doing any of this, but it does all seem a little futile and incestuous to me.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Bath time

Yet another week of dire weather keeping me indoors most of the time. One dry morning I took the opportunity to park in my accountant's car park and have a wander down a rough lane in search of sheep. I found sheep but they weren't up for having their photos taken. This lane is the kind of place I like looking at but, as with so many places I like being and looking, it's somewhere I find difficult to photograph.

But give me an object and I'll snap away. Unusually for this area the fields are mostly used for grazing, at least on one side of the track. Stock needs watering and old baths have long been used as water troughs for cattle and horses. for some reason a couple of baths down this track had been put in the hedges. Kind of surreal. So they had to be photographed. That then got me to thinking there might be a project to be had photographing other baths in the countryside. The idea didn't last long, but you never know, it might take over from Lost Balls Found when I finish that one off.

With nothing else to do that day I went out again in the late afternoon. I swithered about going for too long which meant that I was a bit late to get any really decent pictures of some ditch clearing work on the moss edge.

After the thaw and rain three days later I woke to frost and fog. I couldn't face walking far in that so I drove round my most frequently tramped mossland route hoping to see something worth making a picture of. I pretty much failed so stopped and took a boring picture.

Feeling as though the moss is probably best left alone as the returns are diminishing I still couldn't think of anywhere or anything else to photograph so it was back there again this afternoon. To my surprise I saw a few things which I either hadn't thought of photographing before or things which had appeared since my last wander around the route I took.

The patterns made by the trailing pumpkin stems (or whatever they are called) struck me as otherworldly.

One of the flooded field wasn't as wet as it had been for weeks. This was partly due to a drainage channel having been dug to the nearby ditch. I made two pictures of this channel. One as an abstract, the other in vertical orientation to show the scene in full - and explain what was going on.

The vertical shot has given me the idea to make more pictures in that orientation of the mossland landscape. Something else I'll probably forget about...

I seem to have a thing about diesel pumps. Although I've photographed this one before it hasn't had a leak before.

The print making has got started. How long it will last is another matter. However, the albums work well. I've populated one with a set of prints from my short canal project. It took a bit of messing about to work out the layout for the first page but now I have a template it'll be easy to make variations on the theme.

Using 270gsm paper I have 23 sheets in the album and reckon a couple more will fit with ease. 

Going forward I intend to add a clear coversheet for the front page to protect what is visible through the hard cover. The snap-in page loading has also given me ideas for including other material along with the photo prints, and maybe also to use double sided photo paper.

Recently I've added a couple more books to my library. Photo Work was recommended on The Online Photographer. It was reasonably priced and the concept appealed to me. Forty photographers answering the same questions about the way they approach project based photography.

It's a book to dip in to, or read in bursts, rather than from cover to cover in one go. This is because it's a little repetitive. I'd have liked it more if the photographers hadn't been mainly American, and had been ones whose work was familiar to me. One I'll dip into again.

The other book is the third edition of one of my favourites, Paul Hill's Approaching Photography.  This is a significant update and worth having even if you have an earlier edition.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Problems, problems...

Buy cheap buy twice. I've never believed that always applies. On the other hand there really is no such thing as a free lunch. When I was thinking of making a website to showcase my wonderful photographs I was overjoyed to find my business site's host provided a free software install to do that which integrated with Lightroom to make uploading sequenced galleries easy. It worked just great until a week or so ago. Now when I log in to the admin page everything is black.

The host says it's not a problem with that side of things, so it was time to contact the software people. Alas their contact pages throw up a 'page not found' alert. Try Twitter. Their Twitter account has seen no activity for two years. I await, without bated breath, a reply to my direct message seeking advice. On the plus side my website is still live and functioning. I just can't update it.

This is annoying because I've made a small selection of wintry pics taken locally which work quite well together. Here are a few.


After the run of night-time sub zero temperatures winter has reverted to form. Heavy cloud cover, low light levels and the inevitable rain. This inspired me to have another bash at scanning my old fishing photos. A tedious task which soon lost its appeal. Then I found a photo album I'd intended to start using to put prints of pictures from a project in. That got me thinking that I really should do what I've threatened myself to do for ages - make more prints.

I dug out some paper and made a start printing them on 5z7 paper. I set up a template in Lightroom to put a border round the pictures and print the date. Smashing. hastily I went on-line and ordered more paper and two albums in the same size.

Ten minutes later, looking at the A4 prints in the album I came top the conclusion that the image area was too small on the 5x7s, but A4 was a bit big. What to do? Get the guillotine out and chop an A4 sheet down to 8x10. With some fiddling that gave me an image area that Goldilocks would have liked. Not too big, not too small. Just right. Luckily the paper and album people were happy to change my order and my goodies are due to arrive tomorrow. I already have plenty of ink. All that remains now is for me to be disciplined enough to make prints on a regular basis to populate the albums. That might be a challenge too far!

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Cold snaps

At long last the rain stopped. Sort of. Despite sub-zero temperatures arriving the precipitation which fell round here was either hail or rain. Which made for slippy road and pavement surfaces. Gradually the showers became less frequent and I got out and about looking for changed scenes. With some success.

The first frost was followed by a warmer couple of days and I went to the canal to photograph bridge 5A from above. It was less interesting than I'd remembered from doing similar some years back. But I added a couple of pictures to the canal project - which may or may not be on hold, or even done with.

With the icy mornings making it treacherous to walk the few yards to the field I have been delaying my ventures out. This has meant missing out on the chances for frost covered scenes. But I can live with that. One afternoon I did find myself being enveloped by a rising mist towards dusk. Better still I was close to some things which would make for foreground interest. That's if you find diesel pumps and tractor tracks interesting.

Or farm trailers with small birds perching on them.

Another frosty wander gave me a chance to make a compare and contrast picture of the carrot harvester which I'd photographed one warmer and sunny afternoon.

Apart from that it has been a case of photographing the frozen land and remaining crops.

In other news the zine I was planning fizzled out. When I made a PDF to preview it the pictures didn't work together. They were more successful as a grid. It was either start again with a different selection of pictures or scrap the idea. I scrapped it. I'll try to rework things with a different approach sometime. Maybe not even in print form. A slideshow might be the way forward seeing as a large grid is an unwieldy thing to make/display.

The freezing night-time temperatures are supposed to go away this week. I might manage an early walk or two. Or not...