This morning when I woke, I was thinking about pictures – this is not unusual for me. I think about images a lot – and this morning I thought about what makes a good picture. I take pictures – not so many under Covid restrictions because I work mainly on the street – but how do I know it’s a good picture? Firstly, I suppose, you have to define what constitutes a “good picture”, and as we are all different, then what makes a good picture to one does not to another; yes, it’s personal, as they say. There is no simple answer.
Like many others I guess, I edit pictures whilst listening to music. I always have done, ever since my darkroom days. I even write whilst listening to music – though there cannot be any vocals, too distracting. Often the music dictates what I edit and indeed the way I might edit it. And, of course, some pictures just call for a specific genre or mood of music.
Generally I make it a principle not to talk about cameras. However, today I want to make an exception. Over the many years I’ve been taking pictures I’ve used many cameras, both film and digital. And yes, I’ve spent, some might say wasted, a lot of money in satisfying my interest, again, some might say, obsession, with cameras. The problem I have is that I genuinely like cameras. Not just the use of them but the whole thing, aesthetics, mechanics, even the smell, of cameras. This obsession led me down many roads. I switched to digital fairly early – I even bought (arguably) the first digital camera, the game changing but dreadful Casio QV-10 which I still have in my collection. I moved into high end Nikon digital gear*. I loved its immediacy.
In late 2017-early 2018, The Collection – a modern extension to Lincoln’s Usher Gallery – held a small exhibition of the photographs of Harry Burton. Who? You may ask. The Story of Harry Burton. Without doubt Burton, himself an Egyptologist, was considered the finest photographer of antiquities of his day. It was natural, therefore, for him to be chosen by Carter as the photographer who would document the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings near to Thebes – modern day Luxor. Harry Burton – on the left of the picture above – is shown with Howard Carter at the dig site in the Valley of the Kings. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Who was Burton? Where did he come from?
Wall of Death rider and audience, Lincolnshire Show Ground, August 2009.
Three ladies and their dogs. A misty autumn morning in September, drinking tea sitting on the Greenwich Meridian near Cleethorpes.
Work by Lisa Ross. Lisa Ross is a New York based artist. Her work in this exhibition shows images of holy sites of its indigenous Muslim Uyghur population in the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, western China. The exhibition is beautiful. Any pictures of the show, even those on the gallery website, and my small attempt by way of illustration of the elegant basement of the Argentea Gallery above, fail to portray the glorious reality of the prints. They exude a quality of light which is mesmerising. As a photographer I stood in front of the images admiring the sheer technical expertise of the photographer and of the printer. If that is all you go to see this show for then so be it. You will not be disapointed. However, these are not chocolate box or even travel images. There is another aspect to the images. They document part of a way of life of the Muslim population of this part of China which is under threat, indeed these shrines no longer exist and access to …
Three Brutalist building in Birmingham. Two of which have gone. The first is the now-demolished Birmingham Central Reference Library designed by John Madin and constructed in 1974. It lasted 41 years before its recent destruction. The second is the signal box at New St Station (comprising 2 images), designed by Bicknell & Hamilton and W.R. Healey and completed in 1965. This is listed and so remains. The third is 103 Colmore Row, the Nat West Tower, as it was known. Designed by John Madin. It opened in 1975. It was demolished in 2015-16 and is to be replaced by another, taller tower.
Back in the late 1970’s, I would wander around my home city of Birmingham, camera in hand. At the time it was all Black-and-White work, self-developed and printed in a makeshift darkroom. I had different cameras to choose from, nothing exotic. I used twin lens reflex and 35mm. These images were from my 35mm camera probably on *400asa film hence the grain. *(I must check as I have the original negatives somewhere) The images below were from a sojourn to an impromptu fairground, many popped up like this around the city. This one appeared in Hay Mills, adjacent to the A45 near to Small Heath.