Archive for March, 2011

Patrick Forbes’ Haiti documentary

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

As part of the documentary project on UN peacekeepers that I’ve been trying to get going, I’ve been in touch with Patrick Forbes – neighbour and documentary film maker – who has just completed a film in Haiti.

The film centres on a project to rebuild the market in the centre of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince after the 2010 earthquake. The entire project was paid for by the Irish businessman Dennis O’Brian, but was hindered by some serious setbacks along the way.

It aired in the UK on BBC 2 in January, but there are some clips still on YouTube:

The BBC page for the film is here. I hope you can get to see it.

Colour street photography!

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
Peckam Multi-storey Car Park

Peckam Multi-storey Car Park

Okay, so occasionally I can’t resist taking the odd street picture in colour (or “color” – whatever) when the only camera I have to hand is my phone. I came across this one by accident just now. I rather like it. Taken in south London’s most notorious neighbourhood, Peckham – although I’ve never found it so bad. This is in the multi-storey car park at the end of last summer.

The Sahrawi project

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

The Aftermath Project, set up by photographer Sara Terry after her experiences in Bosnia, dispenses an annual grant to documentary photographers. The grant is designed to facilitate a documentary project on the subject of the long term affects of war. As I understand it the money usually comes from George Soros’s Open Society Institute.

Yesterday was the submission deadline for a new grant, funded this time by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, on the subject of the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara.

As usual, the brief is admirably open. The Aftermath people are interested to hear each photographer’s approach to the subject, what their work is like, and what their budget would be to realise the work. Simple. But it always takes me an age to prepare this kind of submission.

This time the subject was a very good fit with my long term project ‘Prisons of Conscience’, since the Sahrawi people were the victims of a campaign of ‘disappearances’ in the 1970s and 80s. Following the effective occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco, the Moroccan security services routinely abducted individuals from their homes and detained them for years, leaving their families with no idea what had become of them.

After the death of the Moroccan King Hassan II in 1999, and the succession of Mohamed VI, the surviving detainees were released. Their troubles weren’t over, however, since they often had no idea where their families now lived (and the families had no idea whether they were still alive) and their country was divided by the Sahara’s equivalent of the Berlin Wall. For a pretty good description of the current situation read this Amnesty International report.

After a bit of research I found the main sites where the Sahrawi were detained and the areas where the surviving detainees now live, so I was able to put together what I hope is a fascinating photographic journey. We’ll see if the Aftermath people go for it.

The on-line submission process for these grants is always different, and yesterday’s was certainly interesting since I could see all the other photographers’ submissions as they came in! I didn’t look though guys. Honest.

Studio fun

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Thanks to everyone who came down to Iliffe Yard last night for a Negroni, a chat, and to browse through some street pictures. Everyone seemed to have as much fun as I did! Special thanks are due to Eva, my patient wife, for all the wonderful food. And to James for his cocktail skills. I hope there aren’t too many thick heads around this morning.

Once again I got swept away so much with everything that I completely forgot to get some pictures taken, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

Of course the event had it’s serious side, and I believe I may have made a large stride in the direction of some funding for a pet project. More details later…

I’ve got the power!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

I love clichéd headlines.

Time for celebrations though, round here at my photo den – after six months of waiting I have my own electricity meter! I have my own, reliable power supply. I know it’s probably not as exciting for anyone else as it is for me, but I felt I must share my happiness…

Dance Academy: Vienna

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

I recently put together another slideshow in the form of a movie, this time with the pictures I took during an evening’s visit to the Elmayer Dance Academy in Vienna a few years ago.

Elmayer Dance Academy, Vienna, November 2003

Elmayer Dance Academy, Vienna, November 2003

I always try to be empathetic with my subjects, and I sometimes wonder whether I treat things too flippantly when the people in the pictures might feel I should be more serious. Perhaps you can be the judge.

Elmayer Dance Academy, Vienna, November 2003

Elmayer Dance Academy, Vienna, November 2003

The slideshow, in QuickTime format with a soundtrack, is here:

Dance Academy: Vienna

Make sure you turn the sound up. Hope you enjoy watching.

Visiting Lisbon? Visit

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Just had an email from Nick Gurney, a photographer friend, who moved from London to Lisbon last year at about the same time as I moved from Valencia to London. He’s part of a new enterprise in the gorgeous city of Lisbon called camerawalk, which strikes me as a great idea.

They take small groups of amateur photographers for walks through lesser known parts of the city explaining how to take better pictures, stopping off for the odd coffee at out of the way cafés, explaining the importance of good composition and how to achieve it, that sort of thing.

Sounds like a great idea that deserves every success. Visit their website to find out more.

Rudolf Koppitz, 1884-1936

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

One of the great joys of photography for me is the casual discovery of individuals from the history of the art (craft, practice, team sport… or whatever else you want to call photography) whose work I instantly connect with. It’s like a slap on the back, or a taste of great whisky. Francesca Woodman was the last to have this affect, and it’s just happened again with Rudolf Koppitz.

Bewegungsstudie "Motion Study" c. 1925

Bewegungsstudie "Motion Study" c. 1925

Someone who knows me pretty well has pointed out that I’m nothing but a big fat modernist, and that’s probably why the composition and narrative of this work really appeals to me, but it feels more alive, more vital, to me than any contemporary work I see in the London galleries.

Composition c. 1925

Composition c. 1925

I won’t bore you all I know about Koppitz – I don’t know much and anyway I’m sure you’re capable of using Wikipedia – but I can tell you how excited I am to have found him. What we need is a great, rehabilitating exhibition in London for me to revel in.

Dancer c. 1926

Dancer c. 1926

If anyone knows of a good collection of his work in book form please do let me know.