A Paris day trip on film



Paris tableside grit and grain… old Agfa Precisa cross-processed

Having a cupboard full of old cameras and a freezer stocked with a range of old films has its plus points – the sheer number of combinations between camera and film, and the happy accidents that come from a certain camera using a certain film. Every weekend or photographic daytrip can yield a different result.

A few months ago, I spent the day in Paris with some of my workmates, mostly to catch the Pompidou Centre’s retrospective on Magnum founder Henri Cartier-Bresson. It’s ridiculous to think that this is the first time I’ve been to Paris since 2003.

Continue reading

Steve McQueen Memorial Rally 2014


Pirate portrait, taken on a Pentax ESII and Kodak E100VS slide film

Every August, somewhere in Denmark, a bunch of people indulge in a car rally with a difference. They’re not marked on the time they take. Their cars are not inspected to make sure they have the right safety measures. In fact, the only thing governing this race is that their car has to be have built during the lifetime of a certain iconic actor.

The Steve McQueen Memorial Rally only has three criteria for entry – a car built between 1929 and 1980, fancy dress, and a distinct lack of the kind of elitist snobbery associated with classic car clubs.

Continue reading

Harold Edgerton: The man who froze the world


Bullet Through Apple by Harold Edgerton, 1964 (MIT)

(This article first appeared on BBC Future; many thanks to the Michael Hoppen Gallery for their help with the article andpermission to use Edgerton’s pictures on the blog.)

Every time you use the flash on your smartphone or camera, you should give silent praise to Harold Eugene Edgerton. In the era of vacuum tubes and radios the size of tables, Edgerton created a way to stop the world; a bullet passing through an apple; a footballer’s boot connecting with a ball; the crown-like splash created from a single drop of milk. He was the first man to harness electricity to freeze time to an instant.

Edgerton’s iconic images would be difficult enough to create today, even with computers on hand to open and close the shutter and fire the flash. But Edgerton took his pictures in the days of analogue, recording them on a motion picture camera converted to shoot at previously impossible speeds, and lighting them with an electric flash he invented himself. Intricate geometries happening so fast the human eye is incapable of comprehending them were suddenly captured for all to marvel at.

Continue reading

How to take great beach photos


Beach and woman by Dennis Stock (Magnum Photos)

(I wrote this piece for BBC.com’s excellent arts site BBC Culture this week, and am reprinting it here. Many thanks to Magnum Photos for allowing the re-use of the photos on this blog.)

To millions of us, the summer means the beach. We pack promenades of pebbles and sand in our millions, roasting on beach towels and standing knee deep in crowded surf. We trek by bus and train and overheated car to coastal resorts – Brighton, Coney Island, Bondi Beach – or scrimp and save to see the world,for a few short weeks at least, from the vantage point of a deck chair.

On the beach, all human life is on display, and it’s no coincidence that for many of us, our memories of childhood are linked to the seaside. The potential for bright sun meant the camera that might have spent months kept in a drawer saw the light of day; our photo albums all contain faded pictures of us in swimming costumes with fixed smiles.

For many photographers, the lure of the beach is strong. Here people are relaxed, carefree and oblivious to the crowd around them as they snooze or splash. There is an unguarded freedom. For anyone interested in taking candid pictures, the beach is rich with subjects and possibilities.

Many of the leading lights of the Magnum photo agency – one of the most prestigious photojournalism organisations in the world – have been among them. What can we learn from them for the next time we take the camera to the beach?

Continue reading

Garry Winogrand: Five lessons from a master of photography

El Morocco, New York, 1955 (Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco)

El Morocco, New York, 1955 (Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco)

(I wrote this piece for BBC.com’s excellent arts site BBC Culture, last week, and am reprinting it here. Thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for allowing me to  include some of Winogrand’s images with this post)

Few photographers have lived and breathed their art with the singular devotion of Garry Winogrand. In a career spanning four decades, the Brooklyn native stalked the New York pavement with a Leica camera and a wide-angle lens, capturing New Yorkers at intimate quarters. His pictures capture fragments of ordinary life in an America poised between confidence and crisis: laughter in the sun of a summer street, the tang of menace from a bandaged figure in a convertible, moments of unexpected surrealism on an afternoon in the city zoo.

Winogrand would spend hours on the street every day, shooting a dozen rolls of black and white film – 400 or 500 images, day after day. Thirty years after his death, only now are we seeing anything approaching an overarching view of his material. Last week saw the launch of a new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the first major retrospectives of his life’s work.

Trying to emulate Winogrand’s punishing work ethic would be madness. But within his rich archive there is a wealth of wisdom for photographers to learn from.

Continue reading