Ava at six eight months

Ava is now a little less than eight months old.

The pictures begin she was two months old (top left), then in the UK in May (top middle) and then back in Sweden (bottom row), in the last picture she is a little over seven months old.

Ava is working on her standing at the moment (she doesn’t seem to be taking to crawling, but standing is awesome). She likes hitting on anything that makes a noise and is fascinated by anything shiny.

Malin and I are working towards sleeping a whole night through, but it’s probably quite some way off.

three polaroids

After leaving my job at UCA I was mailed a mysterious package, containing miscellaneous prints and papers which I’d left in my former office. Amongst them were these three polaroids.

These were shot as examples during 5:4 camera workshops for 1st year students. The flowers were left over from a previous shoot, lost in the mists of time.

announcing Ava Kent

On the 14th February 2011 Malin gave birth to a wonderful baby girl.

She is our first child, we have named her Ava Kent.

Malin and I have moved to Sweden

In December 2010 Malin and I and finally upped sticks and moved from London to Stockholm. We looked around at some different areas as we negotiated the notoriously difficult Swedish property market, in the end we moved to Kista. So we’re a little outside of Stockholm to the west, but it’s pretty fast to get to downtown (especially if you compare it to travelling in London). The area we’re moved into is interesting, I’ll post some more about it (and more pics) in time.

Check out a map.

The formats are dead, long live the formats

For some years now I’ve been concerned, distressed even, about the loss of ‘the formats’.

Where a professional photographer shooting film would have likely had a number of different formats of camera to shoot different types of images; a 35mm for fast action and unobtrusive documentary, medium format for portraits and more controlled images, a large format sheet film camera for architecture or product shots.

Now in our post digital revolution photography world that doesn’t exist, a ‘pro’ camera these days is a high-end D-SLR, a Canon 5DmkII or a Nikon D3 / D3x. While these are made by different manufacturers these are broadly the same camera, their usage is interchangeable. A photographer with either of these cameras can shoot fast action sports, studio fashion, landscapes to be printed as big as a wall, product shots.

The many formats which would have been used by film photographers have disappeared, ‘pro’ camera design has homogenised on the D-SLR form factor and this is now used for the vast majority of commercial photography.

Is this a bad thing? Surely it’s helpful to use one camera for everything.
Less to carry, for a start.

My concern is that the different camera designs and their physical qualities lead (and sometimes forced) photographers to work in different ways, think in different ways, and ultimately make different images.

Many significant photographers have attained that rank through making work which is a direct result, the logical conclusion even, of the equipment they’re using.

blast furnaces of Germany photographed by Bernt and Hilla Becher

The large format camera; physically heavy, requires a tripod, slow to setup, allows adjustment of perspective projection and focal plane. You compose the image on massive ground glass screen which being difficult to see in daylight encourages the use of a darkcloth separating the photographer from the surroundings and encouraging careful study of the image.

Bernt and Hilla Becher, the result of large format camera design.

Catherine Deneuve by David Bailey, 1965. Copyright David Bailey.

The medium format twin-lens reflex. With the ground glass on the top of the photographer looks down into the camera, thus the camera is naturally held at waist height, no longer hiding behind the camera the photographer is free to have a more personal interaction with the model.

Thus, David Bailey is the logical conclusion of the twin lens reflex camera.

I could continue and talk about Capa being the result of the 35mm camera and so on, but you get the gist. Now with a single design of camera dominating the ‘professional’ world (nb. I’m not including ‘fine art’ photographers here), how can this continue? Perhaps a few photographers will attain this ‘logical conclusion’ for the d-slr camera, but then what, will photography just converge toward a reduced range of image forms?

Well, no, probably not.
My traditionalist brain seems to have prevented me from seeing what was right in front of me.
I still have multiple cameras which I use for different purposes; a DSLR (Canon 5DmkII), a compact (Canon G10), a phone (iPhone 3GS), and (when I’m lucky) a MF digital (Hasselblad H2D).
While I might try to shoot as much as possible with the 5D, inevitably sometimes I don’t have it so I shoot with the G10 or the phone. All of these cameras make images I enjoy and each of them pushes me to shoot in a different way.

As cameras have become smaller they permeate more of our daily lives and allow (or encourage depending on your point of view) us to make images never previously possible. It can be easy to dismiss these images as transient, trivial and often self-indulgent. But that is failing to recognise that just because they don’t look like the established idea of what Photography should look like, that only makes them more relevant for study. To make a prediction, it just means that that definition of Photography hasn’t caught up, this is the Photography of the future. To bring those ‘fine artist’ photographers back into the fold again I expect someone to be winning the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize with camera phone images within the next five years.

To follow my previous idea;

David Guttenfelder's iPhone images of the war in Afghanistan

The camera phone; small, unobtrusive, with you all the time. Used by so many people so often that it raises fewer eyebrows than any other camera.

Perhaps David Guttenfelder is the result of the camera phone ?

The traditional formats may have largely disappeared, but the new tools have given up a set of new formats waiting to be explored. More fool us for complaining about the loss of the old rather than shooting and defining the new.


This post is a continuation of the ‘Photography’s Evolving Tools‘ series.

[EDIT: a couple of typos and changed some phrasing for clarity]

archiving a WordPress blog to flat html files

For the last few years I have running WordPress blogs for ‘the Setbuild Project’, which lasts 3 months each year, the blogs are only actively used for that short period and since it’s a new group of people doing the project each year I end up making a new install of WordPress for each year. This is ok, but has left a lot of mess on the server and has an growing maintenance cost.

I want to keep the old journals available for reference as an archive, but need them to be entirely ‘locked’ and protected from being attacked or vandalised. Wouldn’t it be great if I could simply flatten the WordPress/php/mysql down to a bunch of static html files?

Read More »

Photography’s Evolving Tools. Introduction

This is the introduction to a short series of articles discussing my ideas about the developments of photographic tools in the last fifteen years.

I’m pretty much “Yay digital!” all the time.

I’ve been shooting pics for almost twenty years, and teaching others how to do it for the last nine. I learnt photography the traditional way; a 35mm film camera and a black & white darkroom. Then colour, medium and large format, lighting etc. Once I had a pretty good grasp (I thought at the time) of film photography in 2002, digital cameras came along and I learnt all over again. Tens of thousands of frames on digital cameras of all shapes and sizes later. I have no doubt that the best images I’ve ever made are these I’m making now with these new tools. Shooting digital has taught me more about light, tone and colour than I ever understood with film.

The technical specification, reliability and usability of these cameras is astonishing: as small and light as a 35mm film camera, more frames per second than almost any film based stills camera, image quality better than medium format film, low light sensitivity is 3 stops or more greater than the fastest colour film, full-auto if you want it, never run out of film, hell you can even shoot movies on them (not clips, actual frickin’ feature films).

The modern D-SLR camera really is all things to all men.

These cameras are awesome, yes. And all this power is moving photography in new and unexpected ways? maybe.
The speed and flexibility of these cameras is making every genre of photography better?
Well, and here’s my point, I don’t think it is.

From my own shooting, assisting and teaching I have a developed a few ideas about what modern cameras do to the process of making photographs and what this means for Photography. I’m not going to be exclaiming that we all should go back to mixing our own chemicals and coating glass, but with technology developing so fast we need to consider what this has done to how we make photographs, and in a wider sense how the tool that we use directs and to some extent defines our creativity.

driving the herd, with thanks to Eldhestar

Last summer whilst in Iceland I was invited along with some members of the Eldhestar tour company to ride with them while they drove a herd of loose horses from the field they had been grazing to a corral about 30km away. Now, I am able to ride a horse but I’m far from an experienced rider, and even farther from the level of skill you need to control a herd, so I rode in the Toyota. Icelandic horses have astonishing natural colouring and when the sun peeked out they looked beautiful trotting (yes, and tölting) along the road. Eldhestar guides Anna and Sigrún rode at the front and rear of the herd and kept everything under control. I jumped in and out of the 4×4 and shot these images.

Huge thanks to Hró∂mar for inviting me along for the ride, also Anna, Sigrun, Lena and all at Eldhestar.

These images are rather ‘inspired’ by Tim Flach‘s work, so after looking at these, please go take a look at his astonishing photographs of horses (many in Iceland) and other animals.

JOI 2010, Åre

The Jon Olsson International 2010, a big air jibber jump contest setup by shiny toothed Swe free-styler Jon Olsson.

These are some shots I made from the crowd (I had a 40D and a 70-200mm, what else was I meant to do ?). My particular favourite is the big J O himself (in the blue) looking absolutely terrified as spots his landing.

Some photo-nerd notes; sadly in these shots my 40D shows its less-than-fantastic low light performance.

After looking at these, you should check Jon Olsson’s blog and the gallery of excellent ski films shot for the JOSS event which took place last year at the same time, which he also organises (ya’know because training for the next winter Olympics just isn’t keeping him occupied).