Money

Money. The root of all evil. When the current financial crisis took hold of those who didn't expect it last year I wasn't surprised. I didn't believe anyone who said no-one could have predicted it (because so many people had been practically screaming predictions) and I routinely said that the banks should have been left to go to the wall. What I find amazing is the fact that people think that this financial chaos is the exception. It is the rule for at least half the world's population. Financial Crisis? My whole life has been a financial crisis but by comparison I am secure and wealthy. I have known what it is like to run out of food and electricity and have no home, but I have always had friends and family to provide when I could not. For many, when they have nothing, neither do their friends, family or neighbours.

What has this got to do with photography? Actually everything. Money seeps it's greedy little debt stained fingers into every aspect of our lives and I wish we were all free from it. I recently sat a table with several photographers, one of whom said that the job of a photographer was difficult for many reasons and to be a good photographer often requires a degree of competence - expertise even - in a vast range of subjects. I wholeheartedly agree. One reason I love being a photographer is that it gives me an opportunity and excuse to learn about the world. A photographer - especially a photojournalist - should be hungry for knowledge.

Even more recently I sat at a table with other, non photographer friends (who joke when they see my cameras that they all have them on their phones so why do I need that hulking great antique thing...) and discussed many things, as old friends often do. Weddings, kids, sex, food, future plans, old exploits, jobs, politics, economics, rude jokes and serious intimate exchanges all formed part of the conversations happening at the table. It was a truly great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

A few days before that another friend lent me a book entitled 'Confessions of an Economic Hit man' along with the recommendation that it is "Fucking Amazing". That recommendation was served up again at the table that Sunday, which prompted a discussion that lead to debate on the current financial situation and the possibility of an alternative system (They do exist).

Today I sat down to watch Zeitgeist Addendum. A documentary that I truly recommend. My hatred of money is once again fueled.

So what has this all got to do with photography again?

I want to make the world a better place, for myself, for my family, for my friends and - fuck it - for everyone else as well. Why not. The real question should be:

"How the hell do I use photography to do that?"

Step One: Identify the problem....



Fashion

Don't get me wrong. I understand the need - no wait, I think the word I mean is desire - for fine fashion. Food clothes and shelter are the human necessities right? And who wouldn't want to look good while keeping the elements at bay. For someone like me who usually wears clothes until they fall off from from being literally worn out then the world of fashion is a foreign entity only experienced through TV, magazines and the discount rack at the factory outlet store. My wife is forever holding up items of clothing that I usually respond to with a look that ranges from confusion to outright distaste.

I also find it interesting that when fashion weeks roll around, magazines and newspapers burst with heavyweight supplements. Must be all that advertising revenue. Let's hope it funds reporting on the more serious issues.

Which leads me to 'War Photographer Shoots Fashion'. The phrase has an intriguing ring to it, something that might appeal to the business side of Marcus Bleasdale's mind. This English photographer who traded a career in economics and banking to become a photojournalist (now why didn't I do that...?) has spent much of his time covering conflict but has just spent a month covering the international fashion scene for New York magazine. I think Marcus' work from the Congo in particular is fantastic so was naturally curious as to what the result would be with his lens trained on the catwalk. He does seem to make the whole spectacle look fairly dark and cold, but that could just be because that is what my perception of the fashion world generally is and also due to the fact that I am aware of his previous work. Some people might find it slick and glamorous, but to me it looks - to quote the sex pistols - pretty vacant. Check it out for yourself here.



G20 in Pittsburg

Ok people, you know the drill: massive Police presence, protesters of every ilk (for representation in the media; prefferably with odd coloured hair, shabby looking clothes and some sort of banner or instrument), boarded up Starbucks/MacDonalds/Gap, etc etc etc.

These G20 meetings seem to have become some sort of bizarre travelling circus, however I had not realised that the future of the world as portrayed in the 2006 movie 'Idiocracy' had actually already come about...


Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times

The Apocalypse


Dust blankets the Opera House at sunrise
Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters


The apocalypse will probably not be an amazing cinematic event occurring in minutes or seconds and accompanied by orchestral music and a handful of stoic heroes battling against the odds, rather it will be a drawn out series of seemingly unconnected random events that can only be averted with the efforts of billions of people working together....


But then again, it's quite possible that we shouldn't bother connecting the dots between economic crisis, climate change, oil extraction, earthquakes, resource mining, poverty, disease, cities, pandemics, greed, war, consumerism, weapons, profit, politics, corporate strategy, the entertainment industry (and so on and so on) because maybe, just maybe, a super massive solar flare will burn the planet in an instant after all....

....or not, as the case may be....




Building on the past

The start of this month was marked as the 8th anniversary of the destruction of the twin towers of the world trade center in New York. While the event has lost none of it's awesome power (and I use the word awesome in the original sense, not the sense American teenagers use it) I can't help but feel that the legacy of this day is much bigger than the thing itself. Just before watching a compilation of footage called 102 minutes that changed America I watched a Dispatches program by David Modell on British Soldiers struggling from varying degrees of Post Traumatic Stress on their return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq then a few days later I find myself reading about the English Defense League.... And so it goes on.

In any case, the mess that the world is currently in with regard to the 'War on Terror' involves a lot of backward looking and backward thinking. Not many people are looking forward - or so it would seem - and it is refreshing to look at photography that documents some positive moving on from the events of that September 8 years ago. That is the case when looking at the work of Nicole Tung, who has been documenting the rebuilding of the WTC site. I was introduced to Nicole earlier this year and have been meaning to post a little about her work for a while. The other day she posted a few photos on her blog which seemed timely. They are taken from inside the building site at the WTC, looking out through the fencing onto the street and the passersby with their curious stares and cameras, or even their indifference to the whole thing.


Photographs by Nicole Tung

On yer bike fatty

I saw this in a gallery of winners from the Ciwem environmental photographer of the year 2009 competition. The environment and the way we affect it is often a difficult subject to photograph without resorting to cliche's and usually a theme lacking in humour. Some great shots from the winners and important subjects highlighted, but this one made me laugh and think, both things we should probably do more of.


Burn Fat Not Oil by Pornrutai Lohachal, England
Photograph: CIWEM

National Media Museum, Bradford - Don McCullin Exhibit and Animalism.

Today I went to the National Media Museum in Bradford to see the Don McCullin 'In England' exhibit. McCullin is one of my great inspirations, not only in his photography but in his attitude and it is always great to look at his work. A couple of things I hadn't expected to see included the page from the Observer newspaper with his first published picture and some contact sheets of a photoshoot with The Beatles. There's a couple more weeks left of this exhibit so still time to make the trip to Bradford and check it out. There is also a fantastic mini site and internet resource to accompany the show which I have mentioned before and is well worth exploring.



Towards an Iron Age hill fort, Somerset, 1991 -

I also took a look at the museum's Animalism exhibit, which had too many dogs on show but was worth it for Jill Cole's compelling pictures of birds trapped in nets on a nature reserve on an army base, Brent Stirton's photographs of executed Gorillas and Pieter Hugo's Hyena Men portraits. Jill Cole's work was the only one of these three that I hadn't seen before.


Bird #1, digital c-type, 2007, 24" x 20", edition of 25

FOTO 8 'Best in Show'

Well, it wasn't me. Nor did I get the people's choice award, and as you can see from the photo below of Host Galley staff member Harry (lovely chap) rolling up my unsold print for me to take home, I didn't sell anything either. (Damn this economy is tough on us freelancers...)


Not that I will lose any sleep over this though, as I managed to get a look at most of the work in the show as they were taking some of it down the day after I arrived in London and I reckon that I was in pretty good company. I'd seen everything on the FOTO8 website but that didn't really do justice to some of the gorgeous prints on display. Among the work that caught my eye were pieces by J Carrier, Samuel Hicks, Oli Kellet, Charlotte Rea, Erica Shires, Corinne Vionnet.

I am told it was probably the gallery's most successful show in terms of attendance - the two friends I gave my opening night tickets to also said that night was great (and packed) so all in all I think it's a pretty healthy showing for photography, fine art and the documentary style.

Oh and best in show? Torben Weiss. People's choice? Sofie Knijff. Congratulations.

As a consolation, I get to share a page with Torben Weiss in the catalogue and when I discovered this I of course allowed myself a little smile. Why not eh?

Censorship at Noorderlicht

According to this press release, Stuart Franklin - one of the curator's at this years Noorderlicht festival - has removed his curatorial text after being threatened with legal action by the AP.

Apparently the text was critical of Israel's actions in the attacks they carried out on Gaza at the start of this year.



(Thanks to Robert Stevens for posting this up on facebook where I came across it - isn't social media great...)

Shooting for The Fader

The Fader is one of those cool magazines. Great photographs, hip music coverage and lots of 'I've got my ear to the underground' writing.

One of my close friends Gabriele has written a series of blog posts on what it's like working on assignment for them. Check out parts one two and three.

I know he works really hard but it sounds like a blast to me.