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Posted on 18th June, 2012

London Festival of Photography

and street photography.


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Max (on left) enjoying his wedding celebrations, with matePleased to report that things are looking up re the broken leg my wife suffered. She's now allowed to put weight on the leg, meaning that she's a bit more mobile: not much perhaps, but enough to allow us both to get around a bit more. Therefore, while she was chauffeured by a friend to one of her craft events on Saturday just gone, I took advantage by visiting a number of exhibitions forming the London Festival of Photography (LFPH). I went to seven sites in total: The Guardian Gallery (Steve Bloom's "Beneath the Surface"), St Pancras International Station ("The Great British Public"), Kings Cross Station ("Contemporary London Street Photography"), Only Connect Theatre ("Burn My Eye Collective"), Orange Dot Gallery ("Student Street Photography Award"), 3Space ("International Street Photography"), and Museum of London ("London Photographs: 1956 - 62").


It was a bit of a mixed bag actually, with the Guardian / Steve Bloom, Kings Cross Station, and Museum of London events standing out head and shoulders above the rest in my opinion. The Steve Bloom exhibition was an eye-opener in fact, and left me viewing him in an even better light than before. This is because I'd known him for almost exclusively wildlife work, rather than documentary / photojournalism, but his apartheid pics from his home country of South Africa were wonderful. At Kings Cross, there were many brilliant street photography images (eg from David Gibson, Damian Chrobak, Nils Jorgensen and Nick Turpin), but also too many that left me cold. The Museum of London had just 12 images on show, but they were all atmospheric and evocative in my opinion.


I have to say that I found it strange to see some of the images in these 'street photography' exhibitions, as in no way did they fit LFPH's own strict definition of 'street photography'. I don't necessarily agree with the LFPH definition anyway, but I would have expected them to at least stick to their own rules, especially as they appear so dogmatic about them. Not only that though, but many of the images confirmed my opinion that a long and widely-practised con-trick is going on re 'street photography', whereby any candid image is celebrated as wonderful as long as it's taken in the street: who cares if it shows nothing clever / special / interesting, who cares if it shows camera shake, subject motion, lack of focus, terrible contrast, terrible exposure, cut-off limbs, poles growing out of heads, etc, etc, etc? And I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I challenge anyone to identify the appeal of much of what we're fed as 'street photography'.


However, I know I shouldn't be too harsh on the LFPH, because Shoot Experience, who originated and organised it, also organised the 'Capture Waltham Forest' comp that I took part in. Not just took part I'm pleased to say, but actually won on 2nd June. I would have been even more pleased if the exhibition of winning and shortlisted entries at Vestry House Museum had also been part of the LFPH, but I'm particularly happy anyway that part of the prize is a 1-to-1 portfolio-review session with Katherine Green. Katherine is well-known for her photographic work in East London, and specifically for her project relating to surviving 1948 Olympians, which earned her a great spread in The Guardian.


'Capture Waltham Forest' was just one of two photographic 'activities' I managed on that same weekend, as the wedding of my nephew drew us to Shakespeare country on Sunday 3rd. Although the official tog herself registered that I was the only other person there with anything other than a compact camera, I did make a point of keeping well out of the way. In fact it was disco time, long after she'd flown, before I got started. Naturally, lighting conditions were poor, but I did manage a couple of decent shots where my flash and the failing daylight combined to render a reasonable mix of frozen and blurred action. When will someone invent a robust yet totally-portable answer to this problem of lighting a dark environment I wonder?


The wedding was the first chance I'd had to use the Neewer battery grip for my 400D, and very pleased I am with it too. Well, very pleased at the moment, and I hope that'll still be the case in a few months time. I say that because it does feel flimsy and un-refined at times, and I'm concerned that it won't stand up to even the light bashing I'll be giving it. Unfortunately though, I've not seen the Canon BG-E3 equivalent, so I can't be sure how they compare.


Whilst talking equipment, I thought I'd mention something interesting (to me anyway) that I noticed recently whilst using Adobe PhotoShop. I was looking at an old image I'd taken with my superb-quality, but heavy, Sigma 70-200 APO 2.8 EX HSM lens. Under 'File > File Info', PhotoShop shows that the image was taken with an 'EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM'! I have other non-Canon lenses, including a 24-70 2.8 EX DG Sigma, and there's no hint of anything Canon in their file info. Anything to declare, Mr Canon?


To wrap up the summary of my very little world of photographic activity, just a couple of shorts:

1. I've now received 2 editions of my Digital Photo magazine trial subscription. However, I've genuinely not come to a decision about whether to continue with it yet, because although it's had a couple of interesting comps that I've entered, it doesn't seem to hold too much useful PhotoShop info. As I suspected, I'm finding a bit too much esoteric and arty stuff, and less of the more basic help I feel I need. Even so, I will definitely wait until the 3rd edition before deciding.

2. In addition to the two Digital Photo comps, I decided to swallow my pride and enter the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. At £24 to enter one pic, plus the costs of having a print made, and getting it to them, this is a rash decision for someone who's as tight-arsed as I am. But with only 6000+ other entries, there's not much competition is there?


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