Posts Tagged ‘photography’

The end is nigh!

May 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Last night, after something like four months of a group of us juggling diaries, we finally did the video shoot for a project I’ve had in mind since late last year. There’s more to do: some still photography, design work, and fitting the whole thing together. It’s been a steep learning curve because I’ve had to work out how to do video editing and various ancillary things, but the end is now in sight. Another couple of weeks and I should be able to show and tell…


While I’ve been ill…

January 6, 2011 1 comment

I’m getting annoyed and frustrated with being poorly sick. It’s gone on too long and it’s stopping me getting things done. Damn. Doctor’s in the morning, then…

However, I did discover today that Chriscaff has spent the last couple of days setting up a Zazzle store to promote her photography. Selected pics, including some she’s played with in Photoshop to turn into weird, almost science-fictionish designs, are now available on a range of products from key chains to mouse mats, mugs and T-shirts. Well worth a look.

This prompted another chain of thought, because scrutiny of items available in Zazzle (not Chriscaff’s, but some of the others) suggests it’s possible to get at around 120 words on a T-shirt. Someone has, for example, the whole of a Shakespeare sonnet on one. I take that as a sign that I should turn my attention to writing flash fiction – I like the idea that rather than having my work published in a conventional way, it’s available on a T-shirt, or mouse mat, or mug or whatever.

A day of running around

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

This is more a diary entry than anything else. It’s been a day of dealing with practical stuff – almost an hour to de-ice the campervan (inside and out) before we could drive to Leicester and do various chores, which themselves took a fair bit of time. Hence I’m just sitting down at 7 in the evening to start what I think of as my ‘day’s work’. That’s the nice side of being freelance – when you have to, you can rearrange your schedule in that kind of a way.

I was struck by the thick frost on the trees – pretty as a Christmas card, and unusually considering towns are a degree or two warmer than the surrounding countryside, the trees in town are frost-white as well. Strange abstract shapes against the the rather modernist buildings. Sorry, no pics though.

I did however manage to drop into Fabrika, where Chris Cafferkey’s photos are still hanging. The exhibition they were in is over and a new one is there, some extraordinary paintings of demons by Ruth Joyce that look very cool. Meanwhile, a lot of what was in the exhibition is now in the cafe area including Chris’s pics – look up, they’re hung high on the wall near the door. Excuse the picture quality, it was done on my mobile phone. Her originals are, of course, in focus and technically accomplished…

Chris Cafferkey @ Fabrika

Chris Cafferkey @ Fabrika

They’ll be there until mid-January, they tell me, unless someone decides to buy them in the meantime.

So now I need to see if I can write sensible things about social housing policy and the like. If there’s time later I’ll  go back to revise a couple of stories that have been hanging fire for a while as well. And that’s it for now. I’ll try to do a more erudite post about VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) tomorrow!











Fabrika, Leicester – Critical Mass

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Fabrika recently announced ‘Critical Mass’, an open submission exhibition and earlier in the week I dropped off four of Chris Cafferkey’s photos there. Earlier today we were in Leicester together and nipped in for a coffee, to discover they (and quite a few others, obviously) were in the process of being hung. Her pics are of course brilliant, though my pics of her pics, taken on my mobile phone, are rather lower quality…

Pics waiting to be hung

Someone else’s pic is at the back of the stack, behind the square ‘owl’ photo – no idea whose it is but it looked interesting.

Three flower pics

Three flower pics

Owl pic, still wrapped

Owl pic, still wrapped

Fabrika, outside

Fabrika, exterior

The pics should be up later today (Friday) and the exhibition runs, I think, until the end of next week.

Everything’s normal…

April 20, 2010 6 comments

It just struck me I haven’t posted here for over a week. Nothing momentous to report, no flashes of insight into the meaning of life, just solid nose-to-the-grindstone work.
Well, sort of. I’ve been marking distance learning scripts and musing about how we can motivate students. I’ve had conversations with others involved in the marking, to discover that ideas I put forward at the back end of last year are actually under active development. I just didn’t know about it because the person doing the development work is one of my colleagues who has more computer skills (the developments I suggested involved setting up various forums and website add-ons that are his expertise, not mine).
I’ve finished off and dusted down a short story, sent it off to its uncertain and fragile future. It’s a strange one for me in that it’s not horror or scifi or fantasy, but based on a conversation I had with a very depressed person and some of the more or less standard self-help advice that’s on offer. The advice, generally speaking, is very good: it revolves around realising that the world isn’t perfect, there isn’t a binary ‘everything’s perfect/everything’s shit’ scenario, and if you don’t succeed that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. There may be room for improvement but you can also take credit for what you have achieved. The ‘USP’ of the story is someone for whom the advice brings unanticipated results. Not having written anything quite like it before, I had to do quite a bit of poking about on to find a possible market, and we’ll see. If the place I sent it to don’t like it, I haven’t failed, just not succeeded yet. But I probably won’t find out for months.
In the in-between times I caught a programme on BBC about young and struggling artists, and another one on fashion photography in the 60s.
The first tried to open up the question of ‘what is art’. One of the lessons aspiring artists are taught, apparently, is that they need to be able to network, talk about their work and explain what their art is about – what it ‘means’. And it struck me that if you could do this and the explanation was sufficient, what would be the point of the art? On the one hand, there’s a qualitative difference between, say, being told that an artwork is ‘about’ some issue or concept, and seeing the actual product, the real object, with your own eyes. Art often does ‘make a statement’ but it’s not necessarily one that can be easily encapsulated in language. Surely that’s the point?
The second programme wasn’t ‘about’ the point I took from it. There was a segment of maybe ten seconds in which someone contracted Allen Jones with Brian Duffy – the former an artist who made strange, fetishistic artworks but was generally regarded as extremely sensible and normal in his private life, and the latter a photographer whose work was widely seen as exciting but in many ways ‘straight’ though whose mental processes and social relationships were (apparently, but I haven’t read up on this so I’m relying on what was said) very strange. The point was that it’s not possible to make an assumption that strange work is made by strange people. Zen-like poise can be the product of chaotic turmoil and vice versa.
Quite what I want to do with this insight I don’t know. But it already sounds like the starting proposition for a story. I’ll add it to the list – I’m slowly plodding through ‘to do’ list of things I’ve been meaning to write, some of them for months now.

Photography, writing and terrorism

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

I keep meaning to write about professional development. Instead, here’s a rant about photographers, writers and terrorism.

It seems yet more photographers have been stopped, searched, question and briefly arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000. The link to this particular story is in The Guardian, 21 Feb 2010. The way this Act has been implemented has caused a huge amount of friction with photographers. Mostly they’ve been newspaper photographers but stories have also covered fine art photographers, academics taking pictures for architecture studies, amateurs (as in this case), and even the occasional tourist. There’s been a running dispute between the police on the one side and the National Union of Journalists, civil liberties organisations, etc. on the other and the crux of this has been Section 44 of the Act.

Essentially, Section 44 allows a police constable who is ‘authorised’ (within the meaning of the Act) to stop any person, vehicle, or person in a vehicle  and search them, their possessions and the vehicle if it is considered ‘expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism’. Section 45 states that this power can be ‘exercised only for the purpose of searching for articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism’ but ‘may be exercised whether or not the constable has grounds for suspecting the presence of articles of that kind’.

The upshot has been a huge number of people taking photographs in public places who have been stopped and questioned by the police, occasionally searched and sometimes arrested (if usually released shortly thereafter). In response to this the Home Office last year issued a circular that was supposed to clarify the law, though appears largely to just re-state it. And senior police officers also promised to apply the law more sensibly.
Incidentally the current state of play on photography in public places in the UK can be found at UK Photographers Rights by Linda MacPherson; the relevant bits of the Terrorism Act 2000 can be found here.

Having got through all this, it appears that in the Accrington case reported by The Guardian, the police officers informed the photographers they were being questioned under the Terrorism Act, but then, as the photographers appeared to know their rights, changed tack and alleged that (in the words of The Guardian) ‘the way the men were taking images constituted “antisocial behaviour”‘. All this, and the suspicious and allegedly antisocial pictures were of a Christmas street parade involving people in fancy dress, a band, and a Father Christmas.

By way of a digression, antisocial behaviour is described by the Home Office as ‘intimidating or threatening activity that scares you or damages your quality of life’ – and by this point I’m tired of providing references – the headline law is the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 but several more recent laws also deal with it. Yes, there are ways photography can be antisocial, such as where it constitutes harassment: but intimidating and scaring people and damaging their quality of life because you’re photographing a public event?

So where am I going with this? I think there are a couple of obvious points and a non-obvious one.

Firstly we all know since the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 (and probably before) that terrorists might be interested in taking pictures of potential targets, obstacles, etc. And they might pose as tourists for this purpose. But are they going to hang around in the way photographers tend to, looking for the right composition and waiting for the right light? And are they likely to use a biggish pro camera or the one on their mobile phone? It seems the people being stopped are those who have the hefty pro or pro-consumer cameras and who are being obvious about what they’re doing.

Secondly, something like 80% of us carry mobile phones and about 80% of these have cameras in the phone (I just googled these figures using terms like ‘proportion of population with mobile phone’). So that’s around 64% of the population at any given time who have the relevant equipment on them, day to day, to qualify as suspects. And think of the number of people, especially young people, who take pictures of each other in public…  In Accrington there must have been literally hundreds of people on the streets whose use of photography equipment (i.e. their mobiles) was equally ‘suspicious’ and ‘antisocial’?

But thirdly, while the furore has been about photography, the Terrorist Act (and for that matter relevant bits of the antisocial behaviour legislation) are much more wide-ranging. So if, for example, I’m sitting in the centre of town on a bench writing notes for a story (which I have done, because I had a notebook and pen and a sudden idea) could that be seen as suspicious or potentially antisocial? There certainly wouldn’t be many people doing it. What could I be writing? How about if I’m reading a book in a public place and sat there for a long period of time? How about if the book is, say Melanie Phillips’ ‘Londinistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within’ (2006) which I could have just borrowed from the local library? Would reading it in public make me a target for being labelled as a suspicious person of some kind?

I have some sympathy for the police and intelligence services, because there are threats out there and a good chunk of police work in this area, like many others, involves sorting out the 99.99% of irrelevant material from the 0.01% of significant stuff. Equally, there are plenty of stories of significant things being discovered purely by accident – the serial murderer discovered because he got stopped for a traffic violation and such.

But at the same time, the legislative structure and the way it’s being implemented seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, identifying potential threats in a particularly lazy way (especially, as in the Accrington case, if they know their rights and challenge the police – the details are in the Guardian link above), picking on easy targets, and challenging the rights and liberties that the state is supposed to be protecting.

It may be the Accrington case, and many others, is an example of a police officer getting huffy because the people they’re dealing with aren’t immediately compliant – the underlying story might thus be the old one known in criminology as ‘contempt of cop’. There are obviously a whole bunch of possible undercurrents running that may well never come into public view. But my take on it is that it’s photographers now, and the rest of us in the near future unless we reach some new way forward.

I could support this argument with a review of the literature on how the ‘War on Terror’ has been used in other ways to justify laws and controls that have relatively little to do with terror (if you’re interested try chapter 24 of the latest edition of the Oxford Handbook of Criminology – or just google ‘Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000’). But when I started the rant I didn’t think it would turn out this long.

How we negotiate, or renegotiate, this situation I don’t know. Maybe my traditional liberal/libertarian values are just becoming obsolete. But I do think that it needs to be handled with some sensitivity because  if the state itself starts to be perceived as the problem, rather than the solution (and I suspect many people already think this way) we’re going to be for a rough ride.

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