Helen Levitt

Photographer Helen Levitt died on Sunday the 29th March. Described by some as a visual poet she is most well known for the decades of street photography from her home town of New York.

When I look at many of her photographs I often think - "how did she see that, let alone manage to photograph it..."

To hear her speak in a short NPR profile click here.

Many of her photographs seem to me to be those moments that I glimpse out the corner of my eye, or see just as they are happening, too late to even press the shutter on my camera. Photographing on city streets is incredibly challenging. It is a rare thing to get a truly great shot. Thankfully for us, Helen Levitt managed to record a great number of these rare moments for us to enjoy.


Beacon & Anthony Suau

Last month I spent a couple of days in Beacon, a town about 50 miles north of NYC on the Hudson river. I was photographing some small businesses and general scenes on main street for a Times article on the economy. One place not on my shot list but that I visited anyway was Fovea. This small independent gallery was showing a selection of work by Anthony Suau, who just won the world press photo of the year - for his work on the economy.

Forgetting the economy for a moment, I looked at the photographs on display from his work over the last ten to twenty years, much of which I was unfamiliar with. There is some really powerful stuff. You can check it out in his archive here.

In any case, Beacon has some really interesting people and places and is well worth a visit.

On a final note, I can't help but share an old/new juxtaposition; the former Matteawan Station House photographed by myself in February 2009 and below in a photograph taken in 1933, when it actually served a railway - it's currently apartments and shops...

I love old photos...

Internet Links

The internet continues to grow and grow and grow. So, naturally does the link list on everyone's site, blog and bookmark tab. Don't forget to check these occasionally to see what people are searching for and finding. One recent gem for me that has sprung up is the Medicins Sans Frontieres photo blog. I'm also liking the new Deep Sleep online magazine and the new Visura online magazine. Also, while waiting for my printer to spit out pictures I'm catching up on some internet radio shows (but that's not for this blog...)

Isn't the internet wonderful?

Stéphanie de Rougé - Photographing Broadway.

Broadway cuts a diagonal slash through Manhattan. It goes from the south of the island right through to the northern tip taking in many many different neighbourhoods on the way. I have often wondered how to go about photographing the whole length of this street in a way that would be coherent and interesting but now I don't have to. Photographer Stéphanie de Rougé puts a holga to good use, overlapping the frames and creating a mosaic of street shots that do a damn good job of giving us a fine impression of what it's like to travel the 15 miles of street that is Broadway.

Check it out here.

Satomi Shirai - print auction

My friend Satomi has been busy recently - not content with having her work in the National Portrait Gallery in London, a portrait competition run by the Smithsonian and a group show in Arlington, she is also featured in an online art auction presented by Daniel Cooney Fine Art.

Fortune Telling, from the series New York in My Life, 2007

You can see the work at the gallery and you have until March 26th to bid on the print. Click here to see the auction page.

Police vs Press; more on London Gaza protests.

I've written before about the way Britain is becoming less and less of a free society. Not long before I left the country I was walking along Whitehall, no bag, no camera, not even a jacket, when I saw a protest up ahead. Not too unusual. there are often protests outside the gates to Downing Street, but this time I was approached by a Police Officer who told me Whitehall was closed and I would have to go around. Ridiculous I thought. I asked what the protest was for and got the vague answer that it was a protest and a repeat of the claim I would have to circle round. I could actually see people walking around Whitehall going about their day's business and pointed this out to the officer, asking if I could at least stand on the street and watch what was going on, at which point I was pushed up against a wall and asked for my personal details. I asked why and was given the reply that I was 'taking too much of an interest in the protest'.

Now I know you cannot yet be charged with curiosity so I refused to give my details and pulled my arm free of the officer's grip. I said I was going to walk around and after being followed a few steps I was left to my own devices. I was in no hurry to get where I was going anyway.

My point is, if you can get harassed for showing an interest in a demonstration from a distance then we have reached a very sorry state of affairs. As I have said before, the more a state tries to control it's people, the more it will radicalise and aggrevate those who disagree. This can only lead to an escalation of confrontation on all sides. These days, it is clear which side of the fence the Police place reporters, and that will not endear the Police to the press.

Today I was looking at a video on the guardian website which showed Police surveillance footage of people and press entering a protest site known as the Climate Camp in the UK. This is an event that takes place at various locations throughout the year. The video shows how the Police pay attention to members of the press and the comments made show a particular disdain; one officer says of the press "I trust them less than the protesters".

Featured in this video is freelance video journalist Jason N. Parkinson, whose work I have been following for some while. A particularly good example is the footage from the protests for and against the Israeli attacks on Gaza which occurred at the start of this year.

Check out part one here.

Check out part two here.

What you will see in these videos is much more revealing and a lot more involved than most of what you will see on the nightly news. I believe they call it 'reporting from the front line'.

New York Photo Awards

The New York Photo Festival 2009 is now accepting submissions for the New York Photo Awards. This is to be the festival's second year and being the closest festival to my New Jersey home I'll most likely be heading down there and checking it out. To read some of my thoughts on last years offerings click here and here.

For submission information go to the Festival website. I might even submit something myself this year...

Art Fair at Michael Mazzeo

A while ago I got an email from photographer Sebastian Lemm, introducing himself and his work - some of which I really liked, especially from his series 'strata' and 'traveler II'.

Sebastian Lemm - traveler II # 6

From Wednesday the 4th March, he is included in a group show at the Michael Mazzeo gallery in New York. Other names on the bill are Juliana Beasley, Alison Carey, F&D Cartier, Caleb Charland, John Chervinsky, Rachael Dunville, Lucas Foglia, Jefferson Hayman, Yong Hee Kim, Chris McCaw, Leah Oates, Cara Phillips, Josh Quigley, Christopher Rauschenberg, Robin Schwartz, Will Steacy, Lacey Terrell, and Terry Towery.

So there should be something for everyone. Check it out...

Smith and Monk (favourite album covers #2)

Thelonious Monk is one of my favourite musicians and composers. I like the fact that his manner of playing is not perfect - I once heard it said that his hands were too big for the piano and as a result he often used to hit two keys instead on one, adding an atonal twist to the timbre of some of his notes. I can (and sometimes do) listen to his music for hours.

In late 1958 and Ealy 1959, Monk was rehearsing for a concert at Town Hall in New York. His rehearsal space was in a loft at 821 Avenue of the Americas, where composer Hall Overton lived and helped Monk to prepare for the concert. Monk was not the only musician to pass through the place and many many sessions took place at this address.

Another resident of the building was photographer Eugene Smith, who was in the process of obsessively documenting the building, with much of the same enthusiasm that he brought to other projects, notably his insane desire to photograph Pittsburg - All of it.

Not only did Smith photograph compulsively, he also wired the whole building with microphones and recorded something like 3000-4000 hours of material. How's that for some raw bones for a 'mulitmedia' slideshow.

Having just read about this in a couple of places I wondered why I had not heard of it before and where could I check it out. Turns out the entire archive is in the possession of Duke University in North Carolina and they are busy compiling a radio series and a book from the photographs and recordings. Both should be ready by the end of the year.

I am waiting in anticipation....

Incidentally, the cover of Monk's eponymous 1964 album is one of my favourite portrait photographs. It was taken by Eugene Smith and if someone gave me a barrel full of cash to start a vintage photograph collection this would be my first purchase.