BIG DOG BLOG

M/Y Spirit lifestyle shoot

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Pollença, Mallorca the location this week for a fab shoot on M/Y Spirit, a lovely 54m Amels yacht. The brief – to create a set of aspirational lifestyle images that show the exclusivity and privacy of a superyacht charter. Underwater, gopro, aerial and a beach bbq were among many of the elements required – really good fun!

Huge thanks to the crew that made everything possible and to our willing ‘family’ who managed to brave the cold and make a cold April look like warm July!

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Hello St Thomas!

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Another quick trip over the pond, this time to the beautiful island of St Thomas, part of the rather lovely group of US Virgin Islands. No sign of any virgins, but we did manage to shoot a fab superyacht, MY Katrion.

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This 48m luxury yacht was developed by The Feadship De Vries Shipyard in 1997. She’s a great looking yacht created by naval architects De Voogt Naval Architects and Guido De Groot. John Munford was involved in the designing of the interior which is seriously cool, with TV screens appearing from nowhere in almost every room!

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Great shoot as always, massive thanks to Captain Ben & the crew – have a great trip to Florida guys, and hope to catch up with you all again soon. Great birthday breakfast for Bex the stewardess while we were there too –  Simon those pancakes were fantastic!

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As a side note, if you’re travelling long haul via BA, note that there’s now a 32kg baggage limit per item, and don’t worry about putting padlocks on your cases if going through Miami, because those nice Customs Officers (the ones with the guns) will just cut them off and leave a little note inside your case to tell you they’ve had a look through your gear in case you’re smuggling small animals or herbal cigarettes, etc.

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Thanks to Charlie & the team at Y.CO Yacht – next stop Palma!

Lone Ranger

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If you’re a fan of classics like the Land Rover Defender or the Spitfire, you’ll absolutely love the go-anywhere character of M/Y Lone Ranger. Originally built by Germany’s Schichau Unterwasser in 1973 as a tug for towing massive oil platforms across the oceans, and salvaging distressed tankers, she was converted into a luxurious private yacht by Claus Kusch for a French owner in 1994, and named Simson S. Now named M/Y Sea Ranger, she has a 31,000 mile range at 12 knots, with Quantum stabilisers (installed in 2004) for greater comfort. In the last decade she has cruised the world several times, including a trip to Antarctica and the Arctic polar ice cap.

We caught up with her in The Bahamas this year…

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Vivian Maier – street photographer & nanny

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As Brian Levant’s mother, brother and sister were waiting to give him a ride home from the skating rink one day, the neighbours’ nanny appeared, pushed a camera through the open window and took a picture. Residents of the Chicago suburb of Highland Park were used to the nanny doing that, along with her French accent, her penchant for wearing men’s coats and boots, and the look and gait that led children to call her “bird lady.”

But her photograph of Carole Pohn and her children from 1962 is one of the very few prints the nanny ever shared; she gave it to Pohn, a painter, telling her she was “the only civilized person in Highland Park.” Pohn says she tacked the print up on a bulletin board “with a million other things”—an act that embarrasses her today. After all, she says, the nanny is “a photographer of consequence now.”

Indelible-Carole-Pohn-children-thumbThe nanny’s name was Vivian Maier. Wearing a twin-lens Rolleiflex around her neck, more body part than accessory, she’d snap pictures of anything or anyone as she lugged her charges on field trips into Chicago, photographing the elderly, the homeless, and the ‘forgotten’. The photographs reveal teeming streets, children at play in an alley, couples captured in a sleepy embrace, the intricate latticework of an elevated train platform, a drunk smeared in filth.

And for years, they were probably seen by no-one but the solitary Chicago nanny and amateur photographer who shot them.

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Maier’s recent, sudden ascent from reclusive eccentric to esteemed photographer is one of the more remarkable stories in American photography. Though some of the children she helped raise supported Maier after they came of age, she couldn’t make the payments on a storage locker she rented. In 2007, the locker’s contents ended up at a Chicago auction house, where a young real estate agent named John Maloof, working on a book about his NW side neighborhood and looking for photographs, came across a box of negatives. Maloof, an amateur historian, spotted a few shots of Chicago he liked. He bought the box of 30,000 negatives for $400. Although he wasn’t an art historian as such, Maloof felt compelled to buy more of the work and, having found other buyers of the work from the same auction, bought whatever he could from them too. Since then, Maloof has amassed an archive of Maier’s life and work. Stashed in the attic studio of his Portage Park home are her cameras, 2,000 rolls of film, 3,000 prints and 100,000 negatives, as well as many 8mm movies and audiotapes. Stacks of old suitcases, a steamer trunk of clothes and scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings are stacked against one wall.

Maloof knew the locker had belonged to someone named Vivian Maier but had no idea who she was. He was still sifting through the negatives in April of 2009 when he found an envelope with her name penciled on it. He Googled it and found a paid death notice that had appeared in the Chicago Tribune just a few days before. It began: “Vivian Maier, proud native of France and Chicago resident for the last 50 years, died peacefully on Monday.” In fact, Maloof would later learn, Maier had been born in New York City in 1926, to a French mother and an errant Austrian father; she had spent part of her youth in France (where she met a photographer friend of her mothers) but she worked as a nanny in the United States for half a century. The children she looked after described her as a Mary Poppins-like figure who took them on wild adventures and showed them unusual things. She managed to travel extensively and ended back in Chicago, winding down her career in the 1990s. She worked for one family in Chicago for 17 years and as they tell it, she neither made nor received a single telephone call the entire time.

On her days off, she would walk the streets taking photographs, poignant and humorous scenes from everyday life. A man sleeping on the beach, children smiling, a woman dressed in her finest climbing into a ’57 Chevy.

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In late 2008, she slipped on a patch of ice, sustaining a head injury that spiraled into other health problems. She died April 20, 2009, age 83.

Maloof started a blog and began posting Maier’s photographs on Flickr. Soon, people who knew more than he did about photography were telling him he had something special on his hands. News reports followed, then interest from galleries. There now have been Vivian Maier shows in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, as well as Germany, Norway, England and Denmark. Maloof has edited a book of her work, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, which was published in November, and has raised money for a documentary film about her that is in progress.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWEDOnBfDUI]

Maloof has now accumulated at least 100,000 Maier negatives, buying them from other people who had acquired them at the 2007 auction; a collector named Jeffrey Goldstein owns an additional 15,000. Both men are archiving their collections, posting favorite works online as they progress, building a case for Vivian Maier as a street photographer in the same league as Robert Frank—though Goldstein acknowledges that gallery owners, collectors and scholars will be the ultimate arbiters. A photography collector, Ron Slattery, a collector of photography and owner of BigHappyFunhouse was at the original auction and claims to have saved her negatives from landfill as the auction house was throwing negatives away.

Current professional opinion is mixed. Steven Kasher, a New York gallerist planning a Maier exhibition this winter, says she has the skill “of an inborn melodist.” John Bennette, who curated a Maier exhibition on view at the Hearst Gallery in New York City, is more guarded. “She could be the new discovery,” he says, but “there’s no one iconic image at the moment.” Howard Greenberg from the New York Gallery says, “I’m taken by the idea of a woman who as a photographer was completely in self-imposed exile from the photography world. Yet she made thousands and thousands of photographs obsessively, and created a very interesting body of work.”

What made Vivian Maier take so many pictures? People remember her as stern, serious and eccentric, with few friends, and yet a tender, quirky humanity illuminates the work: old folks napping on a train; the wind ruffling a plump woman’s skirt; a child’s hand on a rain-streaked window. “It seems to me there was something disjointed with Vivian Maier and the world around her,” Goldstein says. “Shooting almost tethered her to people and places.”

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Her street photography images remind me of Cartier Bresson and Helmut Newton, Elliot Erwitt and Walker Evans but they have an innocence about them, a lack of pretense and a sense of joy that being in love with photography and the ability to capture life in an instant can hold. Maier shot a huge amount of images (John Maloof still has 100’s of boxes of exposed film left to process) especially self portraits which are really stunning and intriguing, not only because we know a little about who she was now but also because they themselves tell us about the kind of person she was. She never smiles – the expression is always the same; slightly startled and always reflected in a mirror or window.

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For me, the composition of her work is beautiful – yes I love the square format and B&W images of the 50’s and 60’s, but the balance and framing is quite stunning.

Personally, I struggle with the idea of a few people potentially making a huge amount of money from this. Yes it’s legal (Maier had no estate or relations to pass copyright onto apparently) and yes, they would have ended up probably as landfill if they hadn’t had been bought at the auction so I guess I should be thankful, but it is altruistic nonetheless and I’m still slightly uncomfortable to have to credit the copyright in the images used in this post to the John Maloof Collection and Jeffrey Goldstein.

But thanks John – keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing the exhibition sometime soon. And yes, I promise to buy the book.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/45967951]

Malcolm

Images by kind courtesy of The John Maloof Collection
see also Jeffrey Goldstein www.vivianmaierprints.com

Splash!

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As with many ‘trade’ secrets, photographers in general are quite precious about the processes and techniques involved to arrive at the final shot – and quite rightly so, as often those techniques have been the result of painstaking tests, hours spent trying various lighting configurations and even longer hours spent in photoshop. A favourite topic on the Association of Photographers’ forum is ‘how to get the perfect droplet on a bottle of beer’ and, typically, there were about 50 tried and tested weird and wonderful techniques of how to achieve this, ranging from individual droplets of glycerine applied in photoshop, right through to my favourite trick using a light dusting of dulling spray and a fine spray of water. There’s always a fascination too, for ‘behind the scenes’ shots that reveal how it was all done – increasingly complex especially when cgi is involved, and I have to confess to examining every detail to see what cameras, lights and people are involved. Not that I want to nick the techniques, but more that I feel the constant need to keep learning and adding to my armoury. Honest guv!

I recently watched a clip of Andy Brookes presenting to an eager audience and revealing his painstaking process to arrive at the huge images he creates of landscapes, urban vistas and downright surreal cities in the sky. It’s well worth a watch – his images of Manchester’s lost underground world are really inspiring and I’m sure his talent and attention to detail will bring interesting commissions all over the world. Andy Brooks

I’ve always been fascinated by water or more specifically the randomness of the splashes – I’m sure there are scientists out there who will point to a given formula based on surface tension and so on, but when I was asked to create an image of food bubbling in water I had to resort to my old friend the gylcerine. About 20 litres of the stuff to be precise. In its natural state it’s just really thick liquid – transparent custard is quite a good description, but when added to water (about 30/70 in this case) it takes on an oily consistency and has to be mixed energetically with the water to create the right consistency for what was required. A combination of tubes and various cans of compressed air triggered simultaneously provided the right kind of bubbles and the food was dropped into the bubbling melée. Result. Client happy. Next day spent wiping everything down with soapy water.

No behind the scenes shots on this occasion listeners, but I did want to share this link with you from artist Shinichi Maruyama who creates the most fantastic work by shooting water, often mixed with ink. The images do have a surreal quality but it’s also a fraction in time that is frozen, beautiful transparent or opaque shapes created randomly with the aid of mops, brushes and an extremely quick camera! The results are amazing and refer to Japanese calligraphy, but they have a compelling attraction and almost hypnotic effect on the viewer Shinichi Maruyama

Malcolm

Who do you think you are…David Bailey?

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David Bailey is an inspiration to many photographers including myself –  not so much his technique or work but they way he works and the passion he has for photography. I might have that wrong to be honest – he’s more a lover of art than photography itself and sees his work as an artform. Who am I to argue..?!

From Vogue magazine fashion photographer to filmmaker, painter and sculptor, David Bailey is a cultural icon who has been at the cutting edge of contemporary art for 50 years. A working-class Londoner, he befriended the stars, married his muses and still captures the spirit and elegance of his times with his refreshingly simple approach and razor-sharp eye.

Mick Jagger | Bailey 1963

Jack Nicolson | Bailey 1976

During the mid ’60s, no one personified swinging London more than fashion and celebrity photographer David Bailey, whose iconic images of everyone from The Beatles to Julie Christie were seen around the globe.

Growing up in war torn London, David Bailey was heavily influenced by films. “In the winter“, he recalled, the family “would take bread-and-jam sandwiches and go to the cinema every night because in those days it was cheaper to go to the cinema than to put on the gas fire. I’ll bet I saw seven or eight movies a week. The only cultural input was Hollywood. My whole cultural influence is really Hollywood—old Hollywood, ’40s Hollywood. We’d go to the cinema seven times a week; it was cheaper than staying home because you didn’t have to put money into the gas machine that kept the fires going in the house. I think when I was around 12 my heroes were Fred Astaire, John Huston, and an ornithologist named James Fisher. I thought Fred Astaire was the most glamorous thing in the world. And I thought John Huston was like a white hunter.”

Dyslexic and suffering from dyspraxia, Bailey was told at school that he was stupid and it seems that Britain’s greatest photographer wanted to prove he was brilliant at something.

Being dyslexic, I was told that I was an idiot all the time, but I knew I was smarter than the teacher so I was sort of arrogant. When you’re dyslexic it pushes you into doing things like painting and photography. Or bird-watching: At one point I wanted to be an ornithologist.”

In one school year, he claims he only attended 33 times. He left school on his fifteenth birthday, to become a copy boy at the Fleet Street offices of the Yorkshire Post.

“I had sort of discovered chemistry and photography when I was 10 or 11. I had my mother’s Brownie and I used to process the film down in the cellar. So I had an early interest in photography. But it was mainly a technical thing: I loved mixing up chemicals. Then I used to paint and draw. That’s the only thing I was ever top in at school. I had lots of jobs—you know, a kind of John Steinbeck syndrome. I was a carpet salesman, a shoe salesman, a window-dresser, a copyboy for the Yorkshire Post, a runner for 20th Century Fox. And when I was 17 I was a bad-debt collector. That was tough.”

Called up for National Service in 1956 then serving with the Royal Air Force in Singapore in 1957, the appropriation of his trumpet forced him to consider other creative outlets, and he bought a Rolleiflex camera. A keen artist influenced heavily by the work of Picasso, Bailey found a way of articulating through the medium of photography and became brilliant at it. While in the RAF, he developed his interest in photography and taught himself to read.

“I was a parachutist, believe it or not. I volunteered for jungle rescue because then I got excused… didn’t have to do anything. I could just sit in my hut on the runway and paint and read. I read about five books a week. I read everything—Tolstoy, Dostoevsky,… all of the Russians.”

Jean Shrimpton | Bailey | Vogue 1969

 

© David Bailey
Self-portrait with Picasso
pin-up at his billet,
Singapore, 1957

“I always painted because it was the only thing I could do. I saw some paintings by Picasso of Dora Maar and it was like getting religion. Suddenly my whole vision changed. What Picasso showed me in an instant was there are no rules. Discovering Picasso opened up a whole network of things. Then I played trumpet—rather badly—because I wanted to be Chet Baker, and I saw these wonderful record covers of Baker and all these West Coast jazz musicians that were done by William Claxton. And that re-sparked my interest in photography. But the picture that probably inspired me the most was that famous Cartier-Bresson photograph, “Kashmir, 1948, Muslim Woman Praying at Dawn in Srinigar.” So when I was 16 I started mucking around with cameras more seriously. Then I was caught by the British government, and they put me in the Air Force. I went to Singapore for two years—’56 to ’58. I still played the trumpet, but I lent my trumpet to an officer and a gentleman who never gave it back. As a private, I had no comeback. But Singapore was a tax-free port and when you bought a packet of cigarettes they’d throw in a camera practically for free. So I got a camera.

He was demobbed in August 1958, and determined to pursue a career in photography, he bought a Canon rangefinder camera. Unable to obtain a place at the London College of Printing because of his school record, he became a second assistant to David Ollins, in Charlotte Mews. He earned £3 10s (£3.50) a week, and acted as studio dogsbody.

“Then I wrote to every photographer in London I thought wasn’t bad, and it happened that the two most famous ones of that period both replied, both offered me a job. One was John French; the other one was Tony Armstrong-Jones [Lord Snowdon].Snowdon gave me tea from a silver teapot and said, “Are you any good at building room sets, because I do a lot of room sets?” And I thought, “I don’t like the sound of this,” so I said, “No, I want to be a photographer, not a carpenter.” Anyway, John French gave me a job as a third assistant. I was only there 11 months, but I worked up to first assistant.”

In 1959 John French (who he formed an unlikely bond with) helped him get a job at The Daily Express, then worked as a photographer at John Cole’s Studio Five before being contracted to his first commission from Vogue with art director John Parsons. His working class background (of which he’s extremely proud) defined him as an outsider, however French and Parsons were both homosexual and identified with the outsider in Bailey. Bailey’s ascent at Vogue was meteoric. Within months he was shooting covers and at the height of his productivity he shot 800 pages of Vogue editorial in one year.Penelope Tree, a former girlfriend, described him as “the king lion on the Savannah: incredibly attractive, with a dangerous vibe. He was the electricity, the brightest, most powerful, most talented, most energetic force at the magazine”.

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Vogue was looking to attract a younger audience and saw the energy and potential in a foul mouthed young photographer from East Ham. The world of fashion was changing – the foppish elite, typified by Cecil Beaton, who required no further grooming in etiquette to know which spoon to use at breakfast with the royals was about to be toppled by Bailey, Duffy and Donovan, aka The Black Trinity. His “take me as I am” attitude came fully formed: he insisted on shooting Jean Shrimpton, even though Vogue didn’t want her. Vogue’s Sheila Wetton once said “I worked in fashion for 57 years and in all those years I only cried twice: both times because of David Bailey.'”

Jean Shrimpton by Bailey

“The only way to be creative for me in the 60’s was in fashion photography – in an instant I knew there were no rules – that’s the lesson I learned from Picasso.” David Bailey

Well before he had released his pictures of Jean Shrimpton, his girlfriend for the first half of the 1960s, and stars such as Mick Jagger and PJ Proby (who appears in a crucifixion pose in the 1964 poster collection Box of Pin-Ups), David Bailey had transcended the photographer’s role as mere observer and taken centre stage. More than three decades after he starred in his first Olympus camera ad (where someone asks: “Who does he think he is – David Bailey?”) he remains the best-known British photographer, despite the stunning work of younger talents such as portrait photographer Nigel Parry.

Sue Murray by Bailey

“Looking back, I think they’re pretty good pictures. They look better now than they did then – I was groping around trying to find a way to go then. I just photograph what I can see. I don’t consider I take pictures, I make pictures.”

“The photographer that is closest to me is a French photographer, Nadar from 1860’s – I know what he knew. As soon as people come through the door I’m photographing them. I watch the way they move and shoot their space. That’s why I like my pictures – you can’t copy what I do because I don’t do anything. I just do it with dialogue by talking to people. I’m not really looking for anything I’m looking for that person, I’m looking for what they have. I want them to look like they have no limitations. I want to capture their personality. I don’t want anything else from them. It’s the accident that’s exciting.”

Women love him” in the words of Jean Shrimpton, who now runs a hotel in Cornwall. “Gays adore him. Children and animals run to him. Mothers dote on him. He is universally attractive, except to fathers.” Now that he has three children of his own with his fourth wife, the model Catherine Dyer, he seems to have softened somewhat in his behaviour towards straight men.

Abbey Lee | Bailey 2010

Naomi Campbell by Bailey for Vogue Brazil

Catherine Dyer – “he has a way of seeming flippant but one thing he’s not a joker he takes what he does very seriously. That’s part of it. And the dedication – he’s working at it all the time; he’s never satisfied. It’s always a disappointment. So he just wants to do better. His disappointment doesn’t make him give up, it makes him do more.” Persistence is the key to why he still works and is the oldest photographer to still be shooting for Vogue.

Benedict Cumberbatch by Bailey

Box of pin ups

The “Swinging London” scene was aptly reflected in his Box of Pin-Ups (1964): a clever form of marketing, the box of poster-prints of 1960s celebrities including Terence Stamp, The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Jean Shrimpton, PJ Proby, Cecil Beaton, Rudolf Nureyev, Andy Warhol and notorious East End gangsters the Kray twins

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Andy Warhol from Bailey’s ‘box of pin ups’ 1964

Bailey is still fond of film (Kodak Tri-X is his favourite) and believes that digital cameras and photoshop have taken away the personalities of photographers and photography. I have some sympathy with that and personally feel that the creative process has lost the opportunity for a ‘happy accident’.

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“Usually for portraits, especially men, I shoot on 10×8. There’s no set thing it just depends on the situation. If I do a location shoot like I’m in India in a couple of weeks, we’ll take digital because of the X-rays. It’s expensive to take a picture on 10×8, every click costs about £50. Actually more I think and Vogue get annoyed. Well they all get annoyed asking why I can’t use digital.

In the end I don’t think digital is any cheaper, the time spent fiddling about with it and choosing it and printing it. These things take longer. On 10×8 I’ve never taken more than eight pictures, sometimes six. We used to shoot on 11×14, then I’d only take two, one on either side. Then it’s easier to choose because ones out of focus or one, someone’s blinked on. With digital, you spend hours in front of a television screen. But I think for the general market (digital) is fantastic, everyone can be a photographer.

Same thing happened in 1890 when they brought out the Box Brownie everyone said photography was finished, but it’s not, it just makes it harder because now everyone takes the same picture. The problem with digital for me is that there’s no accident. You can’t make an accident, like Rankin he takes a picture then looks at the screen. He moves it over a bit then does another. For me, there’s no magic in that. I mean I don’t know what’s going to come back, it’s kind of if I make mistakes it’s part of the creation in a way because the only way you can get creative is by making mistakes. With digital there’s no mistakes, everything’s perfect.

You look at those photographic magazines and they’ve hundreds of fantastic, boring landscapes all the same. They do up the colour and it’s a picture of another tree. How many trees can there be that haven’t been photographed?”

 

Jude Law by Bailey

Bailey has also worked as a director of TV commercials & documentaries and flirted with film direction too, working with Ridley Scott  His works include ‘Beaton’, ‘Warhol’ (where he is filmed in bed with Andy Warhol) and ‘Visconti’.

His book Goodbye Baby and Amen is the complete record of his work and captures the decade he first flourished in, with portraits of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, as well as actresses, politicians, artists and writers of the day.

David Bailey, Archive One 1957-1969, published in 1999, includes the bulk of his early fashion and portraiture work, but also unearths some photojournalistic gems taken in the early Sixties, mostly of London’s East End. Today, Bailey’s still going strong and shows no signs of slowing down. His most recent work includes portraits and celebrity shoots for Harper’s Bazaar, Italian Vogue, The London Times and Talk magazine, among other publications.

He’s also slightly obsessed by death – his most recent photographs and paintings feature death prominently with images of skulls and bones, dying flowers and he says “…my only problem is the race against death. I’ve got the fucking reaper on my back all the time“.

Bailey’s reputation more than precedes him, it barges ahead, grabs you by the hand and asks you when was the last time you had a shag. Both physically and vocally he’s a barking presence in any room, not least when he’s working at his studio. Dressed more often than not in a dusty, unbuttoned flannel shirt thrown together with a pair of old baggy blue jeans, Bailey will flatter, flirt, disregard, insult, eye-up or even dance with a subject in order to get the picture he wants. It’s a disarming, if not bewildering, force.”  Jonathan Heaf/GQ magazine

Marie Helvin & Lily Cole by Bailey

Marie Helvin & Lily Cole by Bailey

Approaching his 75th year, Bailey is showing no sign of slowing up. In his London studio and his country home in Devon, he continues to inspire and create one of the most varied and pertinent collections of any modern artist.

Four beats to the bar and no cheating (2010)

Featuring interviews with art critic Martin Harrison, former wife Catherine Deneuve, current wife Catherine Dyer and close friend Jerry Hall, this is a portrait of a private man who bared the soul of the swinging sixties and seventies with his photographs and films. Grounded, honest, open and ferociously creative, Bailey makes art the way Count Basie once described jazz when asked to define it: “Four beats to the bar and no cheating” In his photographs, this approach leads to the transparent style for which he has become famous. If possible, we can even forget we are looking at a photo, let alone a beautiful, exceptionally composed or creatively arranged photo. All we see is the person Bailey has photographed, in all his or her nakedness. Bailey’s admirers also give their views, including his ex-wife Catherine Deneuve. No, he ever learned a word of French throughout their marriage. This is typical of the man: a rough diamond, even in his seventies. Directed by Jerome de Missolz for White Rabbit/ZDF.

We’ll take Manhattan

This drama tells the story of Winter 1962, and cockney photographer David Bailey and unknown model Jean Shrimpton are sent to New York for a prestigious Vogue photo shoot. A wild week, their love affair, terrible fights with their fashion editor – and how two young people with no such intention happened to change the world of fashion forever. Brilliant film featuring Karen Gillan as Shrimpton and Aneurin Barnard as the young Bailey, directed by John McKay (Reichenbach Falls, Life on Mars)

Massive thanks to David Bailey, Vogue, Conde Naste, BBC, The Independent and Wikipedia

All images © David Bailey

Cafe furniture shoot

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Probably not the first place you’d think for a location shoot but this new art gallery complex in Yorkshire was a superb backdrop for a new range of furniture for our client Allermuir – concrete and cool greys complimented the fab furniture perfectly.

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With thanks to OneLocations and Allermuir

It Couldn’t Be Done – the power of positive thinking

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I don’t pretend to know a great deal about poetry, but when Edgar Albert Guest’s poem ‘It couldn’t be done’ was recited by The Wire star Idris Elba at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards last week, it really struck a chord with me.

I’m sure everyone has come up with great ideas and fantastic plans only to be told ‘you can’t do that!’ or ‘nah, that won’t work’ but sheer grit and determination are the drivers behind the greatest achievements of all, and the willingness to take mockery and ridicule on the chin without losing focus or conviction is often part of that achievement.

By Edgar Albert Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

 

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

 

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

There are thousands to prophesy failure,

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

Personally, I find inspiration in achievements made in the face of adversity, and the people behind them. People like Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones and Steve Jobs have had a bumpy ride and had to weather the ups and downs of life & business but achieved through determination and sheer bloody mindedness. They all tried and failed a few times before getting it right. I’ve had a bumpy ride over the last few years but it’s given me a chance to refocus and understand where I went wrong so that I can learn from the mistakes.

We’re all used to watching sportsmen & women go out there and do there stuff whether it be football, rugby, motorsports or athletics, but few realise the commitment and pain that they go through to reach a point where they’re fit to even compete, let alone rise to the top of their sports and win.

Someone once told me that the difference between dreamers and achievers is discipline. I’d also add a sprinkle of luck into that mix but that’s not belittling achievement, as I think luck is self generated in a kind of ‘being in the right place at the right time’ type of thing.

My own experience whilst working with Utility Warehouse has proved invaluable – I wasn’t very good at selling gas or electricity unfortunately and decided to concentrate my efforts on building my own brands, but the culture of the company is positive thinking and enthusiasm which rubs off on you. Yes they use the lure of money and holidays and flashy cars which are desirable (as always) but they cultivate a desire to win and beat the big boys which is so powerful that no-one ever doubts themselves or considers that their efforts could fail. But over and above the material objectives, they use the top players in the company as a shining example and encourage you to emulate their achievements too, so what they end up with is a whole company full of positive thinkers and a company culture that encourages success and competitiveness.

I’m not trying to preach here but, for me and many others, the power of positive thinking works. A weekend in the company of Adrian Walton (founder of Icelolly.com) was inspirational for me, especially as we discovered we were mutual fans of the positive thinking theory and of books like ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari’ and ‘The Secret’.

I’m also privileged to know Denys Shortt OBE, one of UK’s leading entrepreneurs (and an old school friend) who has been phenomenally successful both in sport as a hockey international and in business, and lives by his motto ‘What you believe you create’.

Denys says “…living with a positive attitude promotes innovation and creativity – the keys to an exciting life. If for one minute I think of the worst things that can happen I simply would not move forward. Of course there are bad times and in those I say to myself ‘Stay calm and stay focused’  and that usually helps. My positive thoughts are key to everything I have done.  When I’m public speaking, people often say ‘you are always so positive – it’s inspirational…’ and that reminds me people get fired up and inspired by positivity.”

There are many, MANY inspirational quotes from leading entrepreneurs, philosophers, sportsmen and the like, but I particularly like this from ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ :

‘…to live life to the fullest, you must stand guard at the gate to your garden and let only the very best information enter. You truly cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought – not even one.The most joyful, dynamic and contented people of this world are no different from you or me in their make up. We are all flesh and bones. We all come from the same universal source. However, the ones who do more than just exist, the ones who fan the flames of their human potential and truly savour the magical dance of life do different things than those whose lives are ordinary. Foremost, among the other things that they do is adopt a positive paradigm about their world and all that is in it.”

On location in Shropshire

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Really enjoyed this shoot I thought I’d share – we recce’d quite a few locations before finding a beautiful stately home in Shropshire arranged by OneLocations – stunning place set in the Shropshire countryside and as it’s a shoot & stay location, we were able to stay there for a couple of nights (and try the fabulous Chalmondley Arms)

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Huge thanks to Anna Howlett, Stocktons for the hire of the fab sofa and to stylist Jane Sanderson

Linkedin 500+ now what…?

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Further to my previous post about Linkedin, I thought I’d update you all on my progress and offer a few handy tips I’ve gleaned along the way. Pleased to say I hit 500+ contacts earlier this year and now close to doubling that number, but did get to a point where I though ‘now what?’ seeing as there’s no ‘1000+’ badge!

Linkedin has fast become the default social media of business – there’s various ways of using it including links, portfolios (via Behance) and adding links & career CV. Recently, Linkedin has also added a Skills & Expertise section to allow your contacts to endorse you, adding credence to your profile and helping to build your reputation within your chosen industry as well as (hopefully) respect amongst your peers. LinkedIn is pushing endorsements to get you to log in more often. It doesn’t want to be just a place you go when you need a new job, or a new hire. It wants you to drop by every day and check in and update your status and poke around.

There’s also a feeling of achievement when you reach the 500+ club – no clubs exists obviously, but getting 500+ contacts is no mean feat and requires a great deal of time (not to mention gentle persuasion!) however, after the euphoria subsides, there is a feeling of ‘what next’?

Clearly it’s not possible to keep in touch with all contacts on an individual basis and, to be fair, that’s not how Linkedin is designed. Combine that with the various groups and companies you can follow, it becomes a pretty daunting process and one which, given other priorities, has to take a back seat sometimes and get filed in the ‘I’ll do that when I get free day’ section. If your days are anything like mine then life is hectic enough! I try to keep 3 brands updated regularly with blogs, and have facebook & twitter combined with my Linkedin account by using  Yoono  which is a pretty nifty little app that sits in the sidebar of your browser window (I tend to use Firefox but I guess it’ll work with Explorer or Safari?). Tweetdeck is Apple’s own free app which does the same job.

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So at least you can keep up to date with what’s going on in Linkedin and who’s connecting with who, group discussions and all that jazz. There are various arguments over quantity v. quality – on my way to increasing the number of my contacts I have to admit to accepting invitations from pretty much anyone, although I have now become a lot more selective and have had a serious pruning session so that the contacts I now have are people I actually know and/or am interested in what they’re doing and have to say. I’m also looking to convert some of those leads into future clients and, in true networking fashion, finding out about my contact’s contacts to see who they know and what, in turn, we may have in common.

Click on the image or here to take you to a YouTube tutorial for more about Linkedin Groups.

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Join group conversations

The trick of using Linkedin seems to be in joining group conversations – not something that comes easily to most of us (and again, time is an issue) but bearing in mind that group conversations are also used by search engines, it’s all positive stuff leading towards raising your profile and that of the brands you represent.

Look for groups that fit your target or industry, those with lively discussions and invested members. Do you see a niche that needs to be filled? Create your own group. Either way, you have to add value by joining in or initiating discussions that showcase your expertise. LinkedIn groups are all about sharing your experiences, advice and tips to make a connection. This is valuable to group members because it provides a forum to be heard, an environment of camaraderie, and insights into new tools and advances. But don’t just join groups serving your own industry – think globally and join groups that may serve your future clients.

Manage

  • The most important thing is to be an active manager. Every registration needs to be manually approved, preferably with a welcome email telling them how they can use the group, interact with you and how to get in touch with you.
  • Regularly contact members directly with helpful (not sales) information.
  • Scan Linkedin and your other networks for likely members and invite them through InMail or get introductions from members
  • When a user becomes prominent as a poster support them and encourage them. These are the catalyst to a thriving group.
  • Even if somebody is a bit obstreperous, unless they openly attack someone they can be good to stimulate the community. Handle them with care and they can turn into evangelists.
  • Are people continually posting off-topic discussions like jobs? Give them a place to post those and point them to the jobs board in the group.
  • Contact non-linked in members and ask them to join your group (did you know Linkedin requires this in the group agreement?)
  • Linkedin offers a host of useful tools to manage your Linkedin contacts.
  • Export your Linkedin contacts to outlook

Engage

  • Remember this is about COMMUNITY not YOU. You should participate by all means, but to support the community not sell yourself or your services.
  • As the group grows think of other ways to connect people. Meetups, teleclasses, webinars and online chat are great options.
  • Periodically take the temperature of the group. Poll or ask questions.
  • Listen to discussions and see if users are looking for added feature, if there are ways you can offer assistance yourself or point them to assistance off site. The goal is to become a source users rely on, not make the whole show about you.
  • In the development stage of the group, or later if discussion slows down, start discussions. These should be open ended posts to stimulate discussion, not statements. Give the users room to add their perspective
  • Brainstorm with your key community members within and outside of the group to get new ideas flowing.
  • Remember to thank people for their participation to the group. Feature people on occasion for their contributions.

Share

  • When new features are added to Linkedin, share how to use them with the group, ask for success stories and examples
  • Make connections and suggest connections between users where appropriate
  • Take the time to point out new features on Linkedin and how to use them for best advantage
  • Create a way for users to showcase their talents. Sharing Slideshare presentations, Visual CV‘s links to new work if appropriate to the group’s goals

Promote

  • Promote your Linkedin group via Linkedin itself by sharing it with your Linkedin network and ask users to do the same
  • Post the group URL on your website and related social media sites to encourage growth
  • Create a badge for users to put on their websites linking to the group
  • Talk about the group and feature conversations (with permission) on your other networks (Twitter, Facebook etc)
  • Use both Facebook and Linkedin Ads to promote your group
  • Whenever your do a presentation or attend a conference spread the word about your group

Have fun. The whole idea behind starting a group is to create a place where you, your peers and friends learn together and share ideas. Do take the time to enjoy the group and the people in it.

I know this just scratches the surface of what you can do with Linkedin groups. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

With thanks to Janet Fouts

Floyd shoot

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I really enjoy shooting animals although it can be quite a challenge sometimes, but this old feller made life very easy!

The trick with horses seems to be to let them know who you are so after a polo mint, a stroke of the nose and quick sniff of the lights & yours truly, Floyd the horse was happy to let me into his menage and shoot.

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I have to admit to being really fond of horses and used to ride regularly, so I do know a bit about them. One of my favourite books is ‘Equus‘ by reknown animal photographer Tim Flach – he has a brilliant understanding and knowledge of horses, as well as a superb technique when it comes to lighting them.

Thanks to Katie & Floyd.

More cats & dogs!

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Couple of shots from a great lifestyle shoot for fab agency Clock Creative and their client, Petsafe.

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Shooting animals is always a bit of a lottery but using experienced handlers and trained animals does make life a little easier!

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Benson & Hedges

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When health warnings first appeared on packets in 1971 and the rules for cigarette advertising rules were changed, tobacco companies were faced with the challenge of maintaining brand awareness and driving sales in a market made more aware of the risks than ever before.

The change in rules, coupled with a fresh approach to advertising in general, gave birth to a unique genre of advertising that neatly ticked the boxes of the rule book yet created an art form. As with Surrealist art, these ads aimed to surprise and intrigue the viewer by replacing the objects people expected to see in a particular scene with something incongruous – in this case, a packet of cigarettes.

Collett Dickenson Pearce was tasked with the advertising for Benson & Hedges in 1973. CDP, lead by the indefatigable John Pearce (who famously once fired Ford, then CDP’s biggest account, because the car-maker kept trying to change the ads) was also the place where many now famous people would cut their teeth on campaigns for Hovis Bread, Cinzano and Birds Eye. Lord David Puttnam, Sir Alan Parker, John Hegarty, Charles Saatchi and Sir Ridley Scott to name a few.

The story goes that Frank Lowe, Managing Director at CDP in 1977, had two finished campaigns to present. After much debate, he took both campaigns to CDP’s Creative Director, Colin Millward, and asked him his view.

Colin said “…one will let you sleep at night, the other will make you famous.” Thankfully, both CDP and B&H decided not to sleep at night. The rest is history.

Art director Nigel Rose and his team at CDP (including John Emperor who designed the packet logo, and Alan Waldie) were tasked with creating a campaign which turned the familiar golden packet into an iconic emblem, with ads that played with their audience and challenged the mind, whilst neatly positioning the brand to represent culture, sophistication and cool. No people were allowed to be shown so an abstract style evolved without a word of copy, except for the obligatory health warnings.

My previous post on Brian Duffy showed some of his work for B&H, other photographers’ work included greats like Graham Ford, Max Forsythe, Rolph Gobbits and the late Jimmy Wormser.

Ants 1986 Nigel Rose (AD) Graham Ford (photographer) Terry Kemble (model maker)

Magnet 1986 Rob Morris (AD) Graham Ford (photographer) Terry Kemble (model maker)

Goldfish 1985 Nigel Rose (AD) Graham Ford (photographer) Terry Kemble (model maker)

Graham Ford: “I was into point-source lighting at the time, and tracked down the smal­lest most powerful tung­sten lamp I could find — a 1.5cm square reflecting 500W pro­jector bulb, the most effi­cient point source that I ever found, and I used it often after­wards. It gave a light very sim­ilar to sun­light when used at the cor­rect dis­tance and was powerful enough to give a reas­on­ably short exposure, between 30–90 seconds at around f45 on 10×8 film.
We did a basic setup which looked prom­ising, but the cat was very crude and uncon­vin­cing. The agency art buyer found a bril­liant animal illus­trator who came to the studio and made a beau­tiful card­board cutout. We softened the edges slightly with bits of fur and plastic pondweed.

I thought we should give the pic­ture a sense of time and place and chose beau­tiful Basildon on a sunny morning. Hence the dia­mond pat­terned win­dows, net cur­tains, Artex-style wall­paper, kidney-shaped glass dressing table on nylon. It went very well with the gold­fish bowl. The hard light, strong shadows and refracted light looked won­derful — the cat came to life.’

The pho­to­graphy of this shot was fairly straight­for­ward. We blurred the cur­tain to sep­arate it from the cat shadow using lines of very fine wire attached to dif­ferent parts of the cur­tain so we could con­trol the move­ment accur­ately. I had an armoury of tech­niques which I would add to each time a problem had to be solved. I used mul­tiple expos­ures often, this was not a problem with film, you could keep adding dif­ferent parts of the image on to the one sheet of film. Exposures were some­times ten minutes long with twenty or more flashes, bits of black velvet being shoved in and out, lights being moved around.

It was less usual in those days for the client to reject or demand changes. To do so would be expensive too, as changes would require a re-shoot. Retouching was a very spe­cial­ised busi­ness before com­puters, and there were few who could do it well. It was often used in a minor way, or to achieve effects that could not be done in camera, but my aim was always to do everything in camera if possible.”

[interview with Graham Ford by kind courtesy of Ken Sparkes click here to see full page]

Chameleon 1986 Nigel Rose (AD) Max Forsythe (photographer) Terry Kemble (Model maker)

Max Forsythe: “The finished shot looks very much like the original layout, but the struggle was how to light it. No conventional lighting seemed suitable.
After about 2 days of messing about I finally settled on sunlight coming through the studio window with a bit of BBQ grill to cast the shadows.
The Chameleon and the pack were both models, we did get a real one in the studio, but soon realised that it was not possible to work with it (it kept disappearing). They were about 5 times real size which made it possible to shoot on 10×8.”

Escapologist 1980 Nigel Rose (AD) Jimmy Wormser (Photographer)

Pyramids 1978  Neil Godfrey (AD) Jimmy Wormser (Photographer)

Swimming pool 1978 Alan Waldie (art director) Jimmy Wormser (photographer)

Inspirational stuff  especially when you bear in mind that these shots were created entirely in-camera long before Photoshop was a twinkle in Adobe’s eye!

With the current laws on tobacco advertising (ie. it’s banned) it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a repeat of these ads. As a student, these ads took pride of place on the walls at college and continue to inspire me with their composition and beautiful lighting. No wonder it’s often referred to as ‘the golden era’ of advertising. We’ve definitely lost an art form and (without getting into a debate about smoking) I’d love the opportunity to be involved on a campaign which takes the product as an art form and turns convention on its head.

With huge thanks to Julian Gratton at RedC, Ken Sparkes, Graham Ford, Jimmy Wormser, CDP, Benson & Hedges, Max Forsythe, Wikipedia and Advertising Archives.

Icelolly.com

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Another trip to the sunshine, this time courtesy of Icelolly.comand AGW Racing to shoot the racing yacht Icelolly. Fuengirola, Spain was the destination this time with baking temperatures and perfect sailing conditions – great company too with Adrian Walton at the helm and Prodigy blasting out across the bay!

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With Icelolly well underway, I shot from a speedboat on the Phase One – not my first choice of gear but I wanted to get a combination of uber hi res, saturated colours and B&W shots and knew the PhaseOne would deliver both – what I didn’t realise is how waterproof it was!

Didn’t exactly get to go underwater with it but a few hefty dollops of Mediterranean quickly mopped off didn’t seem to do any harm (although I did make sure everything was wiped down with distilled water later!) and seemed to add to the drama!

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Great shoot and fantastic hospitality with massive thanks to the inspirational Adrian Walton and his family.

After a hard day's work...

After a hard day’s work…

Team AGW is crossing the Atlantic in December for Focus 12, a charity offering a superb programme of residential care, therapy and support to clients with drug and alcohol problems. You can follow their progress and make a donation here

Thanks guys – great trip and really pleased with the results too. Bon voyage in December, we’ll be following your progress!

S/Y Ice Lolly

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The owner of this yacht is a good friend and an inspiration to us at Big Dog Media, so we were delighted when he invited us to his fab home in Spain and shoot his new yacht, Ice Lolly.

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I miss Polaroid!

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Ok I admit it but it’s true, I miss Polaroid! The conversation today revolved around film and how mad it would be to go back to processing (not that anyone’s suggesting we should!) when we’re all used to the speed and ‘efficiency’ of shooting digitally and yes, it would be hard to get back into shooting on film again, certainly for the kind of work I do and for clients that have to have shots emailed for approval, etc.

I tried explaining how film worked to my teenage daughter recently – she was interested for about 5 minutes then started laughing when I explained the dip and dunk process. By the time I’d got onto mounting trannies and tranny bags she was hysterical and couldn’t take any more. Kids of today…

But Polaroid was a faithful friend and yes, I do miss it. I worked with Peter Lavery whilst at college – he was (and still is) an inspiration to me with his energy and love of photography, and he would rub his Type 54 furiously for well over 2 minutes to make sure it was fully ‘cooked’ before tearing the paper apart to reveal the enclosed print. I even miss the ‘ching’ of the 5×4 roller processor as the metal clip was pulled through the rollers. But the smell. Oh that smell! Type 59 (colour) was good or Type 55 (B&W with negative you could also use) had a great smell too – not sure what it was and it was probably highly toxic but it smelled good!

It is still possible to buy (Fuji make a good alternative too) and it’s still being used by some photographers, especially fine art snappers like Barbara Cole who have created the most beautiful images with Polaroid and taken it to another level, creating photographs that look like classic masterpieces by Da Vinci or David. Such as this set, called Painted Ladies, by Bar­bara Cole. The self-taught pho­tog­ra­pher not only chal­lenges our real­ity, she does it all using Polaroid film – I bet she has the odd niff too.

If you’re interested in Polaroid then take a look at The Impossible Project where they have a small stock of refurbished SX-70 & 600 series camera and their own range of films.

Impossible started with a small team of the very best 10 former Polaroid employees who shared the passion as well as the belief in The Impossible dream. Every single one of them has a long time of expertise in the field of instant film production – more than 500 years accumulated experience and knowledge. Without their work and support the Impossible Project would not have had the slightest chance to make the Impossible possible. The Impossible Project currently employs 25 people in the factory in Enschede, Holland.

The film range includes PX 70 Color Shade for SX 70 cameras which tends to overexpose, especially in bright sunlight. With a little experimentation and adjustment of the lighten/darken wheel on your SX 70 you’ll find the right exposure setting for your camera.

This slightly high film speed (600 ASA) will give amazing color and tones in your correctly exposed SX 70 pictures, but it also opens up the opportunity to use this magic material in your 600 camera without the need of any additional filters. Simply insert the film in your Polaroid 600 camera, if necessary, add a little lighten adjustment and enjoy.

Also available is PX 680 Color Shade for Polaroid 600 cameras (as well as SX 70 camera equipped with ND filter and PZ680 for Polaroid Image/ Spectra cameras. ) and a rather nice looking PX black & white film for aspiring Helmut Newtons.

Also available is a Dry Age kit to protect the film from fading, due to the nature of the cheeky chemicals used, with a whole host of accessories for cameras.

If I’m honest, I don’t really see the point as everyone’s so used to shooting digitally and using apps like Instagram and Shake it that it seems irrelevant, but I have to confess I’d love to ‘shake it like a Polaroid picture’ again, and if they brought out a Type 55 version I’d be first in the queue, complete with dusty Sinar. If only to hear the ‘ching’ again…!w

Available online via The Impossible Project or from those crazy guys at Amercian Retro

Incidentally, if you fancy a trip to Manchester and want to spend your hard earned money on an old Polaroid camera, The Real Camera Co have a stock of used (some still in original packing) bodies, and Fred Aldous stock Polaroid equivalent Fuji film, along with some fab looking Holga and Lomography gear too.

Thanks to Barbara Cole for use of her work www.barbaracole.com

Lindisfarne

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Quick trip to the wilds of Northumberland this weekend to recce a few locations there for OneLocations.com but we decided to make a weekend of it and brave the best the North Sea could throw at us!

Inspite of having spent 3 years at college in Middlesbrough, it’s the first time I’ve been there and I was blown away by the raw beauty of the place – Lindisfarne & Bamburgh Bay especially.

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Bamburgh Castle has been used as a location for all manner of film productions from Ivanhoe & Mary, Queen of Scots through to Robin Hood and a recent Time Team dig, but its solitude and dignified stance on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking the North Sea is pretty stunning. Lindisfarne’s a strange place – with its religious history & significance I think I was expecting to come away feeling a bit Holy but actually it’s littered with old boats and a photographer’s paradise!

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Couldn’t resist getting the iphone out and putting the Instagram app to work again! Seem to be set on the lo-fi setting which boosts the colours & contrast. Yes I know I should take the Canon but…sea, sand & hairy dogs…?!

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Part of the recce was also to see Alnwick Castle – fantastic location (recently used for the first 2 Harry Potter films) and one which we’ll hope to seeing more of soon.

Thanks Northumberland – we’ll be back soon!

 

Benson and Hedges

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When health warnings first appeared on packets in 1971 and the rules for cigarette advertising rules were changed, tobacco companies were faced with the challenge of maintaining brand awareness and driving sales in a market made more aware of the risks than ever before.

The change in rules, coupled with a fresh approach to advertising in general, gave birth to a unique genre of advertising that neatly ticked the boxes of the rule book yet created an art form. As with Surrealist art, these ads aimed to surprise and intrigue the viewer by replacing the objects people expected to see in a particular scene with something incongruous – in this case, a packet of cigarettes.

Collett Dickenson Pearce was tasked with the advertising for Benson & Hedges in 1973. CDP, lead by the indefatigable John Pearce (who famously once fired Ford, then CDP’s biggest account, because the car-maker kept trying to change the ads) was also the place where many now famous people would cut their teeth on campaigns for Hovis Bread, Cinzano and Birds Eye. Lord David Puttnam, Sir Alan Parker, John Hegarty, Charles Saatchi and Sir Ridley Scott to name a few.

The story goes that Frank Lowe, Managing Director at CDP in 1977, had two finished campaigns to present. After much debate, he took both campaigns to CDP’s Creative Director, Colin Millward, and asked him his view.

Colin said “…one will let you sleep at night, the other will make you famous.” Thankfully, both CDP and B&H decided not to sleep at night. The rest is history.

Art director Nigel Rose and his team at CDP (including John Emperor who designed the packet logo, and Alan Waldie) were tasked with creating a campaign which turned the familiar golden packet into an iconic emblem, with ads that played with their audience and challenged the mind, whilst neatly positioning the brand to represent culture, sophistication and cool. No people were allowed to be shown so an abstract style evolved without a word of copy, except for the obligatory health warnings.

My previous post on Brian Duffy showed some of his work for B&H, other photographers’ work included greats like Graham Ford, Max Forsythe, Rolph Gobbits and the late Jimmy Wormser.

Ants 1986 Nigel Rose (AD) Graham Ford (photographer) Terry Kemble (model maker)

Magnet 1986 Rob Morris (AD) Graham Ford (photographer) Terry Kemble (model maker)

Goldfish 1985 Nigel Rose (AD) Graham Ford (photographer) Terry Kemble (model maker)

Graham Ford: “I was into point-source lighting at the time, and tracked down the smal­lest most powerful tung­sten lamp I could find — a 1.5cm square reflecting 500W pro­jector bulb, the most effi­cient point source that I ever found, and I used it often after­wards. It gave a light very sim­ilar to sun­light when used at the cor­rect dis­tance and was powerful enough to give a reas­on­ably short exposure, between 30–90 seconds at around f45 on 10×8 film.
We did a basic setup which looked prom­ising, but the cat was very crude and uncon­vin­cing. The agency art buyer found a bril­liant animal illus­trator who came to the studio and made a beau­tiful card­board cutout. We softened the edges slightly with bits of fur and plastic pondweed.

I thought we should give the pic­ture a sense of time and place and chose beau­tiful Basildon on a sunny morning. Hence the dia­mond pat­terned win­dows, net cur­tains, Artex-style wall­paper, kidney-shaped glass dressing table on nylon. It went very well with the gold­fish bowl. The hard light, strong shadows and refracted light looked won­derful — the cat came to life.’

The pho­to­graphy of this shot was fairly straight­for­ward. We blurred the cur­tain to sep­arate it from the cat shadow using lines of very fine wire attached to dif­ferent parts of the cur­tain so we could con­trol the move­ment accur­ately. I had an armoury of tech­niques which I would add to each time a problem had to be solved. I used mul­tiple expos­ures often, this was not a problem with film, you could keep adding dif­ferent parts of the image on to the one sheet of film. Exposures were some­times ten minutes long with twenty or more flashes, bits of black velvet being shoved in and out, lights being moved around.

It was less usual in those days for the client to reject or demand changes. To do so would be expensive too, as changes would require a re-shoot. Retouching was a very spe­cial­ised busi­ness before com­puters, and there were few who could do it well. It was often used in a minor way, or to achieve effects that could not be done in camera, but my aim was always to do everything in camera if possible.”

[interview with Graham Ford by kind courtesy of Ken Sparkes click here to see full page]

Chameleon 1986 Nigel Rose (AD) Max Forsythe (photographer) Terry Kemble (Model maker)

Max Forsythe: “The finished shot looks very much like the original layout, but the struggle was how to light it. No conventional lighting seemed suitable.
After about 2 days of messing about I finally settled on sunlight coming through the studio window with a bit of BBQ grill to cast the shadows.
The Chameleon and the pack were both models, we did get a real one in the studio, but soon realised that it was not possible to work with it (it kept disappearing). They were about 5 times real size which made it possible to shoot on 10×8.”

Escapologist 1980 Nigel Rose (AD) Jimmy Wormser (Photographer)

Pyramids 1978  Neil Godfrey (AD) Jimmy Wormser (Photographer)

Swimming pool 1978 Alan Waldie (art director) Jimmy Wormser (photographer)

Inspirational stuff  especially when you bear in mind that these shots were created entirely in-camera long before Photoshop was a twinkle in Adobe’s eye!

With the current laws on tobacco advertising (ie. it’s banned) it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a repeat of these ads. As a student, these ads took pride of place on the walls at college and continue to inspire me with their composition and beautiful lighting. No wonder it’s often referred to as ‘the golden era’ of advertising. We’ve definitely lost an art form and (without getting into a debate about smoking) I’d love the opportunity to be involved on a campaign which takes the product as an art form and turns convention on its head.

With huge thanks to Julian Gratton at RedC, Ken Sparkes, Graham Ford, Jimmy Wormser, CDP, Benson & Hedges, Max Forsythe, Wikipedia and Advertising Archives.

The man who shot the Sixties

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The name Brian Duffy is not as well known as it should be – more synonymous as the photographer that burned almost his entire collection of transparencies and negatives in 1979. The son of an IRA man who did time for murder, Duffy grew up running wild on the bombsites of 1940s London, until he was enrolled in an ­experimental school that believed in rescuing delinquents through art. It worked, though he remained notoriously irascible: once, when a model smoked cigarettes carelessly in Duffy’s studio, he tipped the ashtray into her handbag. “Difficult” is how Bailey describes his great pal: “Duffy and aggravation go ­together like gin and tonic.”

Duffy never intended becoming a photographer. Studying dress design at Saint Martins College of Art, he pursued brief stints in fashion design and illustration before deciding to try photography, starting at Carlton Studios in 1955, working with photographers such as David Hurne, Ivor Sharpe and the legendary Ken Russell, then left to become fourth assistant to Adrian Flowers. Duffy picked up his first commission from the Sunday Times in 1957, the year that he started at Vogue. Quickly becoming a Vogue favourite, Duffy’s avant-garde style was instrumental in pushing the formerly society-led magazine to remain relevant as the teenage revolution ensued. Duffy was one of the ‘terrible trio’ of photographers in the Sixties whom society photographer Norman Parkinson called the ‘Black Trinity’, and who helped to capture (pun intended) the shape and vibrancy of the London fashion scene, along with fellow Eastenders David Bailey and Terence Donovan.

They were great mates but also great competitors working at the cutting edge of the ‘Swinging Sixties’, redefining not only photography but also the image of a photographer. They pushed each other to new heights creatively and often technically, spending many nights talking, living and breathing photography. Their inventive compositions were looser than the stiff, stuffier studio portraits of the 50s. Duffy later explained: “Before 1960, a fashion photographer was tall, thin and camp. But we three are different: short, fat and heterosexual. We were fairly chippy and if you wanted it you could have it. We would not be told what to do.”

Brian Duffy quickly became one of the leading fashion, glamour and celebrity photographers of the time, documenting society figures like the Kray twins as well as celebrities Michael Caine, Bridget Bardot, Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston.

The iconic image of David Bowie (Aladdin Sane 1973) is stunning not just for its simplicity but also its starkness – the naked torso of Bowie with his eyes closed contrasts with the flame red mullet and red lightning streak (created by Duffy himself using lipstick). Philip Castle, famous for his artwork for Stanley Kubricks film, A Clockwork Orange, was enlisted to work on the portrait, create the silver air brushed Aladdin for the gatefold, and place a tear-drop in the collar bone.

Duffy’s commercial work is often overlooked but is, in my opinion anyway, as important – work for Benson & Hedges and Smirnoff is as iconic as his fashion work, and started the surreal/abstract ball rolling for the B&H ads, working with Collet Dickison Pierce (CDP) especially, creating a whole genre that would last for many years and inspire people like Graham Ford, Stak, David Puttnam and Ridley Scott.

The Benson & Hedges ads were to be created in Duffy’s studio in London’s Swiss Cottage. The first one of the series showed a cigarette packet outside a mouse hole in a skirting board, in the place where a mouse trap would normally appear. Duffy shot the scene using four or five different lighting set-ups before he was happy with the image. It established the style of the campaign and he moved on to the next image, ‘Birdcage’.

Duffy’s son Chris, who was an assistant on all the B&H shoots, remembers that the unreal, slightly distorted sense of perspective in these images was partly created by his father’s choice of kit. ‘Duffy had taken a Cambo 5×4 and had custom-built a fitting on the back that took Mamiya 6×9 press rollbacks,’ he says. ‘It was his favourite camera and he used about 12 different lenses on it, all taken from other specialist cameras.’

The ‘Birdcage’ image showed what appeared to be a green-painted room bathed in late-afternoon sunlight. To the right of the image was a cage with a B&H packet on the perch, but the shadow on the wall behind showed a bird in the cage.

‘It was a very simple set,’ Chris continues. ‘We lit it with an old Rank projector light and through it we projected an image of a bird that we had reversed out on a negative.’

Two more images in the series followed: one showed a matchbox with a bird’s egg inside, out of which had ‘hatched’ a B&H packet; another featured a gold ring with a cigarette packet set into it.

Commenting on these images in a rare interview in 2009, Duffy said: ‘I changed the colour and scale of everything, which looks pretty weird today. I played with optical illusions, since I know enough about what lenses can do and plate cameras and changing perspectives… They’re real photographs and it’s quite complex to do things like that, which look like trick photography. They’re not phoned in from the coast, it’s all done in the camera.’

The campaign was an instant success and the images were regularly shown in newspaper and magazine spreads and on advertising hoardings. These images became regarded as some of the most original in the history of  advertising and garnered a number of industry awards.

The BBC documentary  ‘The Man who shot the Sixties‘ is a sensitive feature on the photographer and his work, and revisits the site where, fed up, he burned his negatives in 1979. At the time, he said that he had said all he could say through the medium of photography. He recognised later that it was a breakdown but did not have regrets – “life is life and things happen”. The fire was stopped by a Camden Council official after complaints.

“The thing with negatives is they don’t burn as fast as you think they will. I’d thrown them into this fire bin and I just had to stoke them and I was pouring white spirit in to try and keep it going. It was, to be honest, making pretty stinking black smoke.”

And that was it. Brian Duffy didn’t pick up a camera for about 30 years, preferring to live in relative obscurity – even his children were unaware of his work and its importance until, in 2007, Duffy’s wife suggested he might like to do something with all the shoeboxes full of un-burned negatives cluttering up their home and his son Chris began going through them. “He started looking through them and said, ‘Wow, there are some really interesting things here, didn’t realise you did this or that”. Duffy said it had not really occurred to him that people would be interested. “What’s happened over the last 20 years is that photography, which was a trade, has now become art.” He said he had always considered himself a craftsman, albeit a very good one.

Sadly, Brian Duffy died on 31st May last year, having lost his battle to pulmonary fibrosis.

David Bailey told The Sunday Telegraph “I will deeply miss arguing with him. If you said ‘Good morning’ to Duffy, he’d question it, that was his charm but I could do that Cockney thing with him of defusing it with humour. Cantankerous was a word made for Duffy, it was just his character. You always knew it was never going to be dull with him, because he was always going to pick an argument somewhere down the line.”

The Man Who Shot the Sixties (full length film)  by BBC, directed by Linda Brusasco.

Brian Duffy

A new exhibition of his work features more than 160 images which have been painstakingly rediscovered by Chris Duffy, and feature top icons from the 1960s and 70s. Michael Caine, Brigitte Bardot, John Lennon, David Bowie, Jean Shrimpton and Joanna Lumley all feature in the show.

Duffy runs 8th July – 28th August 2011 at Idea Generation Gallery, www.ideageneration.co.uk.

The first ever book devoted to the work of Brian Duffy will be published by ACC Editions in July. Duffy: 9781851496570, £45. To order a copy call 01394 389977 or go online at www.accpublishinggroup.com.

with thanks to Amateur Photographer, Chris Duffy, BBC, Wikipedia & Idea Generation Gallery and Creative Review

All images © Chris Duffy & Brian Duffy

Instagram camera?

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Instagram may not be making a camera with its US$1 billion from Facebook, however, someone else might.

Design and communication company ADR Studio has created a concept design of a realistic camera based on the popular photo app.

Called ‘Instagram Socialmatic’, it is a flat touch screen camera with a built in printer and 16GB of storage capacity.

It comes equipped with two different camera lenses—one, your typical camera lens; and the other, for filter shots.

After you’ve taken a picture and printed it out, a QR code will be produced on your picture what allows other users of the camera to follow your future works by scanning the code and even has its own WiFi and Bluetooth functions, meaning you can directly share it with your friends through Facebook, without having to print the pictures out.

It may only be a concept design thus far, but hipsters would definitely be eager for this camera to start production!

Who’s up for the production of Instagram Socialmatic?

with thanks to DesignTaxi.com

Loch Rannoch

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Managed to get away for a few days over Easter to share some quality time with my family at last! Loch Rannoch is a bit of a family tradition in the Birkett household – my parents have had a timeshare lodge there for 30 odd years and it’s great to escape there, walk the dogs and just enjoy the peace and serenity of it all.

My girls with Grandpa!

Japanese tourists impression!

Instagram camera?

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Instagram may not be making a camera with its US$1 billion from Facebook, however, someone else might.

Design and communication company ADR Studio has created a concept design of a realistic camera based on the popular photo app.

Called ‘Instagram Socialmatic’, it is a flat touch screen camera with a built in printer and 16GB of storage capacity.

It comes equipped with two different camera lenses—one, your typical camera lens; and the other, for filter shots.

After you’ve taken a picture and printed it out, a QR code will be produced on your picture what allows other users of the camera to follow your future works by scanning the code and even has its own WiFi and Bluetooth functions, meaning you can directly share it with your friends through Facebook, without having to print the pictures out.

It may only be a concept design thus far, but hipsters would definitely be eager for this camera to start production!

Who’s up for the production of Instagram Socialmatic?

with thanks to DesignTaxi.com

you want to be an assistant?

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Over the years it’s fair to say I’ve worked with a number of assistants. Some good, some bad, some ugly.

As the industry changes, the role has to change as well which means tasks like loading 10×8 film in pitch black, stuffy darkrooms and fiddling over a 120 back trying to poke that bloody paper through the bloody spool while holding an umbrella for the photographer in the bloody rain AND keeping a bloody polaroid book up to speed are no longer required. And you try telling kids of today….!

However, good assistants are worth their weight in gold and I’m happy to say the majority of mine have been good. A few have been exceptional. The exceptional ones are now successful photographers.

The work I shoot is pretty varied – one week I’m shooting roomsets in the studio, next I’m hanging off the side of a 120ft crane shooting a ship, a day retouching, then we’ll spend a couple of days on a location recce and so on…always busy, always pushing, always looking for a great angle or waiting for the light…! My assistants need to be motivated – one point I always make at interview is that, despite popular conceptions, being an assistant really isn’t  glamorous (well, not all the time anyway) and it is hard work. In fact it’s really hard work – the hours can be unpredictable, there’s a lot of pressure sometimes, it’s physical (try carrying a strobe pack to the studio) and you have a lot of proverbial plates to keep spinning whilst keeping a smile on your face!

typical kit packed for a location shoot

typical kit packed for a location shoot

Of the assistants I’ve employed over the years, the most important qualities have been motivation and enthusiasm. I’m not that interested in fancy portfolios or prima donnas. Assistants who greet me with a smile and a great coffee in the morning, are organised and tidy to the brink of being obsessive, know when to give their opinion (and when not to) and are always asking to test or for my opinion on an idea they’ve come up with…they’re the kind of assistants I like.

A few tips if you want to make the grade

Shoot as much as you can yourself – practice using all available equipment and cultivate how you like to do things and slowly build up a folio and a nice set of reliable photo gear.  Once you start thinking like a photographer you should become a better Assistant; able to anticipate and be a real asset.

Be reliable, discreet, loyal, unobtrusive but helpful and decisive when necessary.  Being adaptable, easy-going and good company helps.  Don’t underestimate how important good social skills are in being a good Assistant.  Each photographer is different, some will prefer you to be gregarious and take the pressure off them with models and Clients etc. However, be aware that others may hate that!  You need to read people and their needs pretty well.

Ask if you don’t know how to do something. Never just muddle along and then end up breaking a piece of equipment.  Though not too many questions, or you will make the photographer nervous!  If you can, ask someone else who might know an answer (other Assistants or people who work at the studio if it is a Hire place?).

Learn skills from everyone else connected to the shoot.  Watch how they work as part of a team, how do they conduct themselves and use their skills?  Be helpful to everyone;  yes it is a nice way to be and it can lead to other contacts and work.  Network and cultivate useful contacts yourself and make recommendations should someone come looking.  What goes around comes around.

Keep good notes and contacts of anything you learn including lighting diagrams, etc. You think you will remember it all but you won’t.

Create an ideas and influences book. Read, visit and study other photographers.  Come up with a shortlist of your favourites from the emerging to the worshipped.  Analyse why you like them.

Never forget your main role is to support – you are all part of a team, don’t try and take over but a useful suggestion at the right time can be invaluable.  Cultivate showing the right amount of initiative, don’t always be waiting to be told what to do.

Always be a little early, NEVER be late. If, for some reason, you will be late then phone ahead and let the photographer know. And NEVER turn up with a hangover.

Be available should the photographer need you, “busily hovering” is a very useful skill.  If you go off to do a task then let the photographer know.

Dress to blend in, you’re a creative; you can be stylish but practical.

Be keen and able to drive a car and a van, try and have a clean licence.

Keep your private life out of work, put your phone on silent & vibrate. When you are on a job, don’t take other work calls unless absolutely necessary. Make your calls & texts at a suitable moment and leave facebook, twitter etc until the end of the day.

There’s nothing more off putting to a photographer than to turn to an assistant to see him or her with head bowed over their phone, obviously not concentrating on the shoot.

Don’t approach or show your own work to a Client on a job.  If you fancy collaborating with a Model, Make-Up artist or Stylist then agree to meet up some other time.  It might be nice to let the photographer know of your plans as they did put the two of you together in the first place and it could be better than them finding out from someone else.

Get feedback on your work, listen to advice, enter competitions & awards but always read the small print.

Above all else – love what you do and never lose your passion for photography and creating perfect images!

I’m currently looking for an assistant

You need to have a degree (or similar) in photography or related media and preferably a couple of years experience, a clean(ish) driving licence and a desire to work hard. No prima donna’s please – you’ll have to have excellent photoshop skills and experience of working with Capture One, Premier & Final Cut.

In addition, if you haven’t got the relevant degree but want to train to be an assistant, we are offering internships this year.

So if you think you’ve got what it takes, email your CV and anything else important to vacancies@malcolmbirkett.com

with thanks to Gill Moore

I like you Pinterest, but….

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Keeping up to date with the numerous social media and sharing options available is pretty time consuming and, frankly, can also be a bit mundane (sorry facebook) however I’ve been using Pinterest for a month or so now and find it’s far more relevant to the way I work with mood boards, concepts, tears, etc.

I really like it and judging by the swathes of new members it’s enjoying as a sharing platform, so do nearly 6 million others although the demographic is interesting as 95% of members in US are women are seem to use it as a way of sharing ideas for wedding, baby showers and interior styling. In the UK & Europe so far the demographicis more even, 55% of members are women.

If you haven’t come across it, Pinterest is basically a pinboard of whatever you want to share – fashion, cars, food, animals, etc. You can view other peoples boards, like them facebook stylie and you can pin their images on to yours. You can also upload your own images and other people can pin your images on to their boards, blah blah blah…

But there’s a problem. Actually there are two problems and they’re fundamental to the way that Pinterest works.

Firstly, the terms and conditions are quite brazen when they state that by uploading your own images to Pinterest you’re giving them the copyright (correct me if I’m wrong but my understanding of copyright is that it cannot be given away – there has to be a transaction involving the exchange of money in order for copyright to be transferred) which in itself is worrying enough but then you’re told that you (ie. the uploader) have to have permission from the creator of the image to upload.

And this is where it gets really scary, because should you get prosecuted for copyright infringement (and there are now lawyers that have spotted an opportunity to make a lot of money out of specialising in this area) then not only can the owner of the image sue, Pinterest may themselves claim for any damages caused!

Secondly, any images uploaded have all metadata stripped so that any info embedded in the file info crediting the creator of the original image is lost, meaning that there’s no way of finding out who the image creator is if credits and links have been removed.

Pinterest has gone some way to allay the concerns of creators by supplying a code that can be embedded into the website that basically stops anyone ‘Pinning’ your images (in the same way that Flickr does) but that obviously doesn’t stop screengrabs or scanning, so it’s safe to say there’s a lot of suspicion around the whole raison d’etre that is Pinterest. They have assured members that they will not be operating as an image library and they’re feeling their way, but, that being the case, why do they feel the need to state in their T’s & C’s “…By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services. Cold Brew Labs does not claim any ownership rights in any such Member Content and nothing in these Terms will be deemed to restrict any rights that you may have to use and exploit any such Member Content.”

So, to create a paralell, what we’re essentially looking at is a scenario where someone legitimately steals your car because you didn’t have a sign on it saying “this is my car – do not steal it” and make pretty damn sure it’s impossible to steal. Impossible? Hmmm…where there’s a will there’s a way.

Pinterest has published its own ‘Pin Etiquette’ which includes a bit of advice on crediting the original source but only in the context of making ‘Pins most useful’

With the hype surrounding the site it’s difficult to understand exactly why they should want, let alone need, to have such rights when it defeats the whole concept of sharing – a Google image search will bring up thousands of images, sure, but Google has not snatched the rights and in fact doesn’t break any copyright rules as it only hosts thumbnails that are linked to the original source.
Pinterest, on the other hand, stores the original files and probably copies them onto various servers in order for other members to pin…or so we’re led to believe.

Pinterest does state that it will remove copywrited content, but only if the owner goes through the list of steps on its site for every single piece of content they want removed.

I’ve started several boards – as mentioned previously, I like the concept of creating and sharing boards and find it interesting to look at other member’s efforts too, but, in order to test the system, uploaded a few of my own images and received a nice email from them

Hi Malcolm,

Pinterest likes your pin ‘My shot for Anaglypta’

Happy Pinning!

– Ben and the Pinterest Team

Curious – they haven’t liked anything else I’ve pinned from other members boards…?!

So until the reasons for rights grabbing are better defined (or preferably amended so the rights stay with the creator) then I’ll be watermarking my lo res images so that it’s clear to anyone
who wants to pin my work that I have the originals and, if they’d like to know about how to commission me or see other examples it’s all there to see!

The issues re. copyright and Pinterest are not going to go away and there’s potential here for an action against a site which is actively promoting copyright infringement – you only have to look at what happened to Napster to realise that copyright is a hot potato, and, to assume that because society is becoming more and more visual every day with a constant demand for stimulating images, it’s ok to ignore or grab copyright is going to end in tears.

Much has been said about Pinterest’s use as a marketing tool and, if the links to the main site are kept on the images, I’m sure it’s another way of spreading the word and creating a buzz about company’s products and services, but The Fancy is hot on its heels as it offers a facility to buy what you see. However, TheFancy also grabs a right to use license and states “…You own all of the content and information you post on Fancy. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Fancy (“IP License”). We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Fancy, but you understand that we may use them without any obligation to compensate you for them.”

Interesting times, however with the sharing culture that is the internet, is copyright as straight forward as it seems? Users of the Instagram app for iPhone may have glossed over the T’s & C’s in their enthusiasm to have the app, but the terms are similar “…you hereby grant to Instagram and other users a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels…”

Indeed, Facebook (with a mammoth 845 miilion monthly users) has a similar policy to copyright, although their rights for using images ceases if you delete your account.

So the big picture here is confusing and it’s tempting to think that 845 million users can’t all be wrong, however they’re not making a living from supplying images (well not all of them anyway) so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens here. The bottom line is, if you don’t want your images to be used on the internet or you don’t have the time or inclination to track each and every image, don’t upload them.

Digimarc is a nifty piece of software that watermarks your images and enables you to keep track of their use online. “A digital watermark embedded in your image carries a unique ID and can link to contact information or a website for viewers interested in learning more about you or purchasing your artwork. The watermark stays with your image regardless of the path it travels across the Internet. No matter where your digital image ends up, others will be able to determine your copyright ownership and find you.”

Digital watermarking best practices guide for Digimarc for Images

To my knowledge, Pinterest can’t strip Digimarc data as it’s embedded in deep in the content of the image, so maybe the answer is to protect your cherished images with this software if copyright infringement is a concern, and let Pinterest know if your images are used without your permission.

Thanks to Pinterest, Digimarc and Instagram

It’s not every day you meet a billionaire

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Quick trip to Hamburg this week to shoot Schmidt Ocean Institute’s refurbished research ship, Falkor.

Bristling with technological wizardry (including the coolest sonar system and deep sea sub I’ve ever seen!) the ship was renamed at the Peters Schiffbau shipyard in Wewelsfleth, makers of the fabulous Al Mirqab.

Eric Schmidt, ex CEO of Google, and his wife, Wendy, came to the ceremony and met the team that worked for over 3 years on the project, and the crew of Falkor. She’s a beautiful ship – really well designed by the YCO team and destined to unravel secrets of the deep oceans via the work of her crew including scientists, physicists and generally rather clever chaps.

Have a look at the Schmidt Ocean Institute site to see what’s been happening – great shots by Heidi Elaine, SOI crew photographer.

Good luck guys and bon voyage – thanks to the YCO team for their help with the shoot.

Getting all arty

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Well I just couldn’t resist a peek behind the scenes at this fantastic location we were using in Northumberland – it’s an old Georgian manor house which the owners are gradually renovating but, with the Shot up North awards looming again this year, I thought I’d test a few frames on my trusty Phase One in the old bathroom.

Fantastic light in there too. Reminds me of old college days tramping around the backstreets of Middlesbrough with a big Sinar Norma, tripod and a bag of film loaded into old darkslides (most of them fogged due to me being crap at loading then!)

Take a look at www.onelocations.com to see more

Made up

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Nice little job shooting images for a new online makeup etailer launching in the summer –

Shot entirely using daylight – bloody love my studio!

Kodak

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It’s sad to see a long standing icon in an industry on its way down. Kodak may shortly be seeing an end to its era, or at least in its current state. During its heyday, Kodak was considered as the brand synonymous to everything that has got to do with photography and still pictures. I for one have managed to get through shed loads of Kodak film (EPR, EPP and Tri-X mostly) before becoming a loyal follower of Fuji – call me a philistine, but I was never a huge fan of Kodak to be honest, although I acknowledge the company’s importance in developing the industry and introducing Kodachrome (inspite of the hassles of having to send the film away in its trusty envelope).

How such dominance managed to ultimately fail will be the subject of discussion for many years, but maybe Kodak just couldn’t keep up in the face of such rapid changes in technology and consumer taste. In 1985, Polaroid won a huge victory against Kodak in federal court. A judge ruled that Kodak had violated Polaroid’s patents for instant photography. The decision ended a nine-year legal struggle between the two photography giants and in 1991, Polaroid was awarded $925 million. In addition, Kodak was forced to replace all its instant cameras with Polaroid cameras or re-imburse the consumer at $50 per camera. For nearly 50 years, Polaroid had built and dominated a worldwide market for instant photography. But digital photography dealt the company a blow from which it could not recover and in 2001, it too filed for bankruptcy.

The changing economic times as well as technology may have spurred a change of direction that the company has not prepared itself for. After several years of trying to regain what may be left of its old glory via CD production, its own range of digital SLR’s and huge investment in CCD’s Kodak may finally be on the verge of closing shop as it files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

But all is not over yet for the Eastman Kodak Co. as it still tries to survive an operate. After all, a company that has been around for around 131 years may have hope yet. It is still in the market and trying to source out bank financing to keep it afloat. It is also making efforts to put up its patent portfolio for sale for interested parties. It is said that the preparations for Chapter 11 filing is just an option that they can consider in case the current plan does not succeed as the company expected.

But still, it’s quite a reversal of fortune for a company that was once considered as a the leader in its industry. The photography pioneer led with a number of innovations that made them the top company in the industry for several years.

Kodak, whose slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”, was once considered as the source of innovation that pushed the field of photography to new heights.

There also seems to be a twinge of irony in this story, in that it was Kodak that first invented the digital camera in 1975.  And it’s quite unthinkable that the company was not able to take advantage of the technology that has since become the accepted standard in photography today. Film photography has faded in terms of popularity over the years, a standard that Kodak still tries to stick with. Not being able to follow the current trend may have led to the revered company’s eventual downfall.

Hours after Kodak announced it was seeking bankruptcy protection, the Rochester-based imaging company was quick to reaffirm that its film division will survive the company’s restructuring as long as it remains profitable.

“Film (still and cinema) remains a profitable business for Kodak, and we have the broadest and most respected portfolio of films in both segments,” Audrey Jonckheer, Kodak’s worldwide director of marketing and public relations, told the BJP. “We have taken steps to sustain the business as it has declined, and we know that there are hundreds of passionate fans of film for the artistic and quality reasons they cite.” Now I’m not party to the figures involved here, but I’d suggest that hundreds may not be enough. At best, film photography will be a niche market – I for one hope to see it continue (nostalgia maybe?) but for commercial use (include press and editorial in that too) both photographers and clients are used to the speed and convenience of digital and in this fast paced shoot’n’share world we live in, I doubt whether it would realistic to see it used commercially very often.

If Apple is successful in establishing ownership over any of the patents Kodak has asserted against Apple and others, or licensed under agreements with other competitors, Kodak’s last-ditch effort to gain value from its patent portfolio going into a bankruptcy restructuring plan could be severely hindered. Although a judge has already “approved initial availability of $650 million” in financing for Kodak, there will be more to hear at the first court date for bankruptcy hearings on February 15th.

Bloomberg is reporting that Kodak is trying to receive more than $1 billion in royalty payments from Apple and RIM. The patent involved has to do with previewing an image on a camera phone.

Chairman and CEO Antonio Perez stated that Kodak “deserves to win” and there is “a lot of money, big money”. Kodak has won a similar case against Samsung and LG previously for the same patent bringing in nearly $1 billion.

But given that Apple allegedly has over $100 Billion in the bank, it may turn out that if Apple should win or lose, Kodak’s patents and perhaps its whole digital division will be bought up by Apple, the new leader in consumer imaging.

Maybe that’s a good thing – it might just save the Kodak brand for ever. We’ll see.

With thanks to BJP, The Verge, New York Times, Kodak & Polaroid.

Sorrenti shoots for Pirelli

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Pirelli have just released their 2012 calendar shot by Italian fashion photographer, Mario Sorrenti, the first time an Italian photographer has been commissioned to shoot for this prestigious brand. Giving photography’s top tier a restriction free showcase for their talents has resulted in some incredible imagery over the years and for the 39th edition, Pirelli enlisted one of the true modern masters.

Best known for his spreads of nude models in the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Sorrenti has shot campaigns and directed commercials for Calvin Klein, and has shot ex-girlfriend Kate Moss for the Calvin Klein Obsession ads. He has also worked for Lancôme, Paco Rabanne and Benetton and is currently signed exclusively with the agency Art Partner.

Models also include Isabeli Fontana, Milla Jovovich, Joan Smalls, Guinevere Van Seenus, Lara Stone, Natasha Poly, Saskia de Brauw, Malgosia Bela, Edita Vilkeviciute, Margareth Made, and Rinko Kikuchi. The statuesque beauties pose nude in mostly all black-and-white frames captured among intimate nature settings.

Sorrenti’s calendar is peculiar in that each woman is not assigned to a month; instead, the calendar is constructed as a canvas-lined portfolio of 25 prints, which can be mixed and matched with a given month: Milla for March, Lara for May, whatever you fancy.

Sorreti says that the calendar, shot on a farm in Corsica, was originally going to be an in-your-face sort of explosion of naked women’s bodies — after all, that’s normally what the Pirelli calendar is. But Sorrenti decided somewhere along the way that even although his models would be naked, they didn’t need to be overtly sexualized.

“I didn’t want them to be posing and arching and like sticking their boobs in my face or anything like that. I thought that’s what I wanted, that it would give the most immediate impact, but then I realized that wasn’t important….I was trying to just really focus on them and the environment and let that blossom together somehow.”

If Sorrenti’s calendar (a very lovely series of portraits of some very lovely looking naked women, inspired, he says, by Edward Weston) is a little less high-concept than Karl Lagerfeld’s Greek and Roman mythology-inspired effort of last year (which also boasted a few naked men), it’s also easier on the eyes than Terry Richardson’s bizarro Brazilian vacation (2010) and Peter Beard’s African safari (2009), which was memorable mainly for the shot of a crying Isabeli Fontana posing with a giant insect on her face!

thanks to Mario Sorrenti, Pirelli, Styleite.com, chunkitblog and NYTimes magazine.

Polaroid a Day. Jamie Livingston 1979-1997

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On March 31st, 1979, Jamie Livingston received a Polaroid SX-70 camera and took a picture of his then girlfriend, Mindy Goldstein.

He was a 23 year old student studying photography & film making at Bard College, and a member of Chris Wangro’s circus troupe The Janus Circus founded by Wangro at Bard College. He noticed after a few weeks that he was taking about one Polaroid a day, and so the Polaroid a Day project began.

Jamie Livingston carried his SX-70 Polaroid around his waist. When the mood struck him, (a red wall, Coney Island in afternoon light, walking through sparkling cars in a parking lot) he’d take a photograph.  Bracing his camera against a wall or setting a tripod on a bench, he’d ask you to stand perfectly still.  As the Polaroid developed, he’d stamp it with a date, slide it into his camera case and take it home to add to the other photographs he’d taken, one every day, for eighteen years. The Photo of The Day was his ritual. He collected unusual places, strange angles, curious things, loyal subjects, beautiful times of day and committed them to memory.


The project continued when he moved to apartments in New York City including the circus memoribilia-filled loft on Fulton St which he shared with his best friend, Hugh Crawford.

Livingston’s Polaroid a Day charted his experiences with a brain tumor, and his subsequent engagement and marriage. Crawford cited the “everyman quality to the photographs” as part of their appeal, with the collection documenting everything from Livingston’s lunch that day to the discarded Kodak and Polaroid packaging in a bin to TV screens showing presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Because Livingston took only one picture and kept it regardless, the day-to-day often took precedence over more unusual subjects.

In October 1997, at 41, Jamie died and left behind a rare memoir: every day of eighteen years of his life.  Six thousand, six hundred and ninety seven photographs, dated, in sequence, which, lined end to end, would stretch half a mile.

The last Polaroid taken on the day of Livingston’s death.

Weirdly, Jamie can be remembered for precisely the things he wanted to remember: daily ordinary joy. Photo of the Day is a work of light, color, laughter, pain, travel, beauty, won ton soup, afternoons, coffee, hanging out, love, life in its entirety. It’s the masterpiece we all create. It’s just that Jamie thought to take its picture.

With thanks to OTBKB and Photoshelter

All images © Jamie Livingston