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The Richard Flint Photography Blog
Launched in February 2007, the Richard Flint Photography blog contains a mixture of photography news and photographer profiles.
The blog has been rather quiet of late, but it's time to start posting again after a brief break away with three recommended photography links discovered while i was away. I'm going to be adding link posts a couple of times a month to the blog from now on as well as adding other new photo posts.
The first is from the New York Times Lens photoblog and looks into 'Debating the Rules and Ethics of Digital Photojournalism'. The core of the problem is the ease which digital images can be manipulated and changed. Its a discussion that has been long overdue and has yet to be resolved - maybe it never will be resolved. Another great article on the matter is by David Campbell. One aspect i found problematic was the number of photographers who thought of their images as the 'truth'.
The Atlantic photoblog recently did a three part series (part 1, part 2, Part 3) on the Vietnam War marking fifty years since U.S Marines landed in South Vietnam. Covering such a conflict in three sections is never going to easy especially as the Vietnam war was so extensively photographed, but many of the images i'd never seen before. The final part of series featured a great set of photographs by Eddie Adams.
The final link is a sad but thought provoking photo essay by Lisa Krantz, a photographer at the San Antonio Express-News, entitled 'One Man’s Lifelong Battle With Obesity'. Krantz spent four years working on the story that she initially thought would be about weight loss but it developed into something far deeper.
The interviews with the Government soldiers and clans men are especially well done with the camera focussing close into the worn faces and tired eyes of the characters. A cast of non professional actors did a fine job of portraying the men who took part in the battle, though it has to be said that Bonnie Prince Charlie, portrayed in the film as a weak pathetic character, is seen with a more sympathetically by modern historians.
Culloden went on to win a BAFTA in 1965, the year that Watkins filmed another of his docudramas 'The War Game'. The War Game was filmed in a similar manner to Culloden and looked at a nuclear attack on Britain and the effect on the population of Kent. The film was (and still is) such a terrifying vision of a nuclear attack upon Britain that the BBC banned it for 20 years. It went on to win an Oscar for best documentary film and the Bafta for Best Short Film in 1967. The film was eventually broadcast on 31 July 1985.
|Photograph by Chris Killip|
The film presents a group of images, much of it unpublished work (several images ended up in Killip's classic 1988 book 'In Flangrante') and also discusses the background to the images. It makes fascinating viewing. Credit must be given to Killip for having such a respectful and natural attitude to his subject matter. As Almereyda states 'The photographs embodied something essential about Chris’s relationship to his subjects, to the world.' Sadly not all photographers are this engaged with the people they photograph.
Especially touching are his reminiscences about the lads who worked on the sea, fishing just of the coast of Skinningrove. Sadly two of the lads featured in the Killip's photographs drowned when the boat capsized.
The excellent Michael Almereyda film 'Skinningrove' can be viewed HERE
The film looks at the the superb photography Tony Ray-Jones produced for the journal Architectural Review in 1970. Instead of using the journal's staff photographers, leading photojournalists were used on a themed series called Manplan. Tony Ray-Jones worked on the issue that looked at housing.
I was greatly surprised to learn that Tony Ray-Jones was refused membership of Magnum twice - the second time after a poorly received submission of his Manplan photographs. One comes away from the film with the opinion that the failure was all Magnum's for not recognising such a fantastic photographic talent.
|Michèle Breton, 1968|
Type Michèle Breton's name into Google and you can easily find links, photographs, articles about the film, and more. Michèle's name even comes up in the auto suggestions list, yet a vast amount of the information relates purely to her role as Lucy in the cult 1968 British film. Information about her life afterwards is scant, poorly sourced and most often wildly inaccurate, which has really opened my eyes to how appalling unreliable the internet can be when there is an information vacuum. The less is known the more it seems people make things up. No sources, evidence or links. Just assumption, rumour and innuendo dressed up as fact. It isn't particularly helped by the fact that Performance is a cult film and is closely connected with the Rolling Stones story. Keith Richards also knew Michèle, briefly mentioning her (page 254 where he also reveals her nickname was Mouche - which means Fly in French - is the nickname a reference to one of her lines in the film?) in his 2010 autobiography called Life. However even books can get things wrong.
Marianne Faithfull's 1994 autobiography called Faithfull: An Autobiography is a perfect example of how an assumption or rumour can be made to appear as fact. So much so that it is still often quoted. A paragraph on page 155 mentions Breton which reads 'Michèle Breton didn't fare so well either. She became a heroin dealer in Marseilles shortly after the film and is, I think, probably dead by now' The last line is the interesting section, where Faithfull uses the 'and is, I think, probably dead by now'. It's hardly a definitive statement of fact, which was fortunate as things turned out, although you can't really blame Marianne for thinking that way. The drug casualty rate after the late sixties was horrific as addiction took tight hold and reaped its deadly toll. Faithfull herself suffered many lost years of drug addiction, well documented in her book, but there does also seem to be an fatalistic attitude amongst writers, especially those who lived through the sixties, who just assume survival isn't a likely outcome. Many didn't survive - Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Gram Parsons, were just a few of the names who succumbed during the early seventies - but others, like Marianne Faithfull, did eventually recover. They did survive.
|James Fox and Michèle Breton in Performance|
Regardless of that small error, Brown's book is very revealing about Breton's life. Born and raised up in a small town in Brittany, Michèle, just aged sixteen, was given 100 Francs by her parents, put on a train to Paris and told by her parents that they never wanted to see her again! Drifting to St Tropez in 1967, she ended up meeting Donald Cammell who would later cast her in the role of Lucy. After Performance had been completed in late 1968, Cammell drove her back to Paris, let her stay two or three days and then said that he didn't want to see her any more. For five years she drifted around France ( according to writer Robert Greenfield, Michèle visits Nellcôte where the Stones were recording 'Exile on Main St' in 1971. Srangely Greenfield lists Michèle as 'missing in action and presumed to be gone as well' at the end of his 2006 article without giving any details about his search for her or why he presumes she's dead!) and Spain, being busted for drugs on the island of Formentera, from where she flees back to Paris on the run from the police. It was then that she decided to head east, following the hippie drug trail, arriving in Kabul, Afghanistan, regarded at the time as the Paris of central Asia, sometime in the mid seventies. For a year she stayed there shooting morphine, even selling her passport and possessions at one extreme low point, before finally deciding to quit during an LSD trip. After three months in hospital in India, she returns to Kabul, then Europe via Italy before settling down in Berlin in 1982 where Mick Brown finds her thirteen years later.
|Michèle Breton as Lucy|
Mick Brown's book shows Breton alive and in Berlin up to the release of the book in late 1999, and yet the rumours of her death and suicide still persist. Robert Greenfield hints, in a Faithfull like fashion, at this in his 2006 Rolling Stone article and even the Guardian in 2004 clearly state that 'Pallenberg and Breton succumbed to heroin, Breton fatally so.' No obituary source is mentioned - the journalist Michael Holden probably just used Faithfull's brief mention of Breton as evidence. Holden's Performance article is further undermined by further errors including the death of cast member John Bindon, who the article says was stabbed to death in a nightclub, but who actually died of liver cancer in his flat in 1993. Poor research seems the likely culprit but misinformation like this spreads online, especially from 'trusted' sources like the Guardian. It's one of the reason why i wanted to create this post and state the known facts about Michèle Breton from a reliable source - Mick Brown's on Performance. So far THE only reliable source I've found.
An extensive search online (as of the time of writing - March 2014) relating to the possible suicide, overdose or death of Michèle Breton (since the Mick Brown interviews took place) has revealed absolutely nothing. So where next? Hopefully a read of Paul Buck's 2012 book 'Performance: biography of a sixties classic' may bring things up to recent times. If Michèle Breton is still alive, and i have absolutely no evidence yet to suggest otherwise, she will be 63 years of age. She told Mick Brown in 1995 'I've done nothing with my life. Where did it start going wrong? I can't remember. It's something like destiny'. I just hope that in the time since Michèle's last interview, the years have been kinder and more generous towards her.
|James Fox as the gangster Chas|
|Anita Pallenburg and Mick Jagger in Performance|
|Anita Pallenburg and Michèle Breton in Performance|
In the end Warner Brothers hated the film when it was delivered to them. The executives thought they were getting a Mick Jagger film that would appeal to sixties youth like the Beatles 'A Hard Days Night'. Instead they got a drug and sex riddled Performance and they despised everything in it. It took nearly two years, numerous edits and a change of executives at the studio before the film would finally get a release in August 1970. It received a mixed reception on release but has, over the years, gained recognition as a classic British film and as Marianne Faithfull observed, the film 'preserves a whole era under glass. Even Mick Jagger's official website recommends it as THE Jagger film to watch. Thankfully due to this classic status, and it has to be said an intriguing production history and cast, there is plenty of research material out there for interested film buffs like myself, with at least four books detailing the history, production and references within the film - the most recent book being released as recently as 2012. So I'm going to start with 'Mick Brown's on Performance' which, according to the reviews on Amazon, details everything that you'd ever want to know. If I learn anything revelatory, and find my demon, I'll let you know.
At the end of November i supplied a couple of images for a documentary about World War I due to go out on BBC 2 next year to mark the hundredth anniversary of the conflict.
The programme called Long Shadow looks at the legacy of World War I and the far reaching consequences that have carried on through the generations. We continue to be haunted by it.
ClearStory who are making the TV documentary state on their website :-
'Tracing the legacy of the Great War through a hundred years and eleven different countries, historian David Reynolds explores how the war haunted the generation who lived through it and builds a powerful new argument that the conflict unleashed forces we still grapple with today.’It certainly sounds like a fascinating watch. More details will follow nearer the broadcast time.
Viewing these films, lots of memories came flooding back. Hartlepool was where my grandparents lived so i got to know the place very well. The industrial landscape were always fascinating to me as a child, especially at night when Seal Sands would be lit up like something from a science fiction film. Only later did i discover that Ridley Scott had used that very same landscape as inspiration when he was making Blade Runner.
Each of the beautifully shot films takes a look at the people and landscape of the town. I especially loved the third film Black Beach that looks at the “Tantobies” and their horses and carts, working hard to make a living from a coal-covered beach. Twenty years after the pits closed, the coal still appears on the beach. It reminded me of the great Seacoal photography work by Chris Killip shot over thirty years ago. I didn't realise that the 'tantobies' still existed or could still exist after the closure of the mines, but they do.
The superb Another England series can be found on Maxy's Vimeo page HERE
You don't have to go far on the internet to find a well known photographer talking about his work these days, but this week a terrific find was released onto the web - the voice of Robert Capa.
Found on eBay, the recording, a radio interview made in October 1947, was quickly purchased by the International Center for Photography who have now released the full 23:40 audio recording on their website. Robert Capa talks about his work, about the reviews of his book 'Slightly out of Focus' and more, but it is the insights into a couple of iconic Capa photographs that really makes the interview an insightful listen.
One fascinating aspect of the recording dealt with the image of the death of a loyalist soldier (seen above) during the Spanish Civil War. To say that Capa's story about that photo has a interesting revelation would be somewhat of an understatement. The recording, with details coming directly from the photographer, certainly does provide some good evidence that the falling loyalist soldier image is not a fake as some often allege.
The audio recording of Robert Capa talking about his work, photography and more can be found HERE
The steady changing pace of professional photography broke the surface in a variety of ways over the last few days. The first was the tale of the Chicago Sun laying off its entire photography staff. Twenty eight photographers, some of whom had worked for the paper for decades, lost their jobs in what was described as 'a tough decision'. For a well established media organisation to get rid a key elements in communicating a story seems extremely desperate. Tragic even. All that expertise, experience and talent gone in a flash to be replaced by, at best by a freelance photographer, or worst of all, and more likely, a reporter with an iPhone.
A recent event nearer to home underlined the problem and it involved my local paper. A truck going along the nearby dual carriageway caught on fire after a tyre blew. The fire was so intense, due to the truck's extremely flammable cargo of tyres, paint and rolls of tape, that the road surface had to be replaced. For most of the day the road was closed. The story got the headlines it deserved and with the text was an small photograph of the truck ablaze shot by a local resident on a smart phone. Just ten years ago, the paper would have dispatched a photographer to capture the flames engulfing truck. Today a member of the public does it for them for free - the reward is not financial but to have your glorious name alongside the image.
You might think that this practice is just restricted to local newspapers after a cheap story, but recently The Guardian newspaper launched an iPhone app called Guardianwitness which they cheerfully describe as 'GuardianWitness: our new home for content you've created'. Well that's big of them isn't it. The benefits speak for themselves for a newspaper in an era of dropping circulation, lower revenues and changing business models. You get the public to create the content, give them a credit and NO money has to change hands. Who needs journalists or photographers when the costs can be reduced to virtually nothing.
Yesterday morning, the excellent Who Pays Photographers? Tumblr blog posted about a band offering a potential photographer access to the band for one day during their tour for $150. Yes, the photographer would have to pay the band to photograph them and not the other way around. After receiving a massive amount of flak on their Facebook page from pro photographers, the band eventually pulled the offer claiming that they meant a fan with a camera. It certainly didn't come across like that in the text.
“Are you an aspiring photographer? Come take pictures of us all day at Warped Tour! We will provide you with the access, and experience you need. We will also take your pictures and put them on our Instagram page, and give you full credit for it. This is a great package for anyone who loves taking pictures, whether its for a hobby or professionally.”
With an attitude like that, it's no wonder that they ended up feeling the wrath of pro photographers on Facebook. Sadly a few comments showed support for the band and ignored the fact that the band were potentially going to exploit someone for their own gain. Was it down to ignorance or was it knowingly going to exploit some poor photographer? The band seemed genuinely surprised by the bad response and they did quickly remove the offending offer, but only because they were exposed to a intense barrage of criticism.
The last few days has seen all sorts of accusations hit the web about the Chicago Sun decision. The internet is killing photojournalism being the over simplistic, headline grabbing war cry of some. The discussion has centred on photojournalism but the core issues around of the devaluing of photography affect the whole of the photography industry and not just certain sectors. Technology brings solutions and problems. The impact of digital cameras, the internet and software that simplifies processes will continue to have unforeseen good and bad consequences. The key issue behind the loss of jobs at the Chicago Sun comes back to money and the newspaper's lack of it. Technology provides another solution. The photographer is replaced by iPhone.
Are we really that surprised? Some people see taking a photograph as the mere pushing of a button, ignorant of the skill and talent involved. No doubt some newspaper board members think this way too. I could say that this attitude is all down to Instagram, the internet or digital cameras but it's always been there. I'd be lying if I said that people never quibbled about the cost of photography back in 2001 when I first started out. They undervalued it then and they still do undervalue and quibble about cost now. They always will.
It has been quite a week for Yahoo. In a fevered burst of activity this week, they purchased Tumblr for just over $1 billion to inherit the younger audience that apparently congregates there. Then, to top it all off, they decide, after years of neglect, to revamp Flickr which Yahoo themselves modestly state is 'almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.' Well maybe.
The Tumblr purchase annoyed quite a few people who hadn't forgotten Yahoo's lackadaisical attitude to appropriating new website services. Just like a young child given a new pet, Yahoo do have a reputation for being very enthusiastic towards their new 'pets' only to loose interest later. I rather like Tumblr and was relieved to hear that the service will remain independent of Yahoo. How long that promise will last though is anyone's guess. I expect that adverts and maybe even a paid Tumblr Plus account may appear in time.
The real story of the week, however, was the Flickr upgrade that was spectacular in a number of ways by wowing and horrifying photographers in equal measure. I've started to get used to the new design but the business model does leave me wondering how Flickr will make money for Yahoo. The old model had the Flickr Pro account that delivered a few extra perks for those who signed up to it. There was an incentive to pay for a Pro account but not now. All the great bits are now free including the one full terabyte of storage, full resolution images and many of the old Flickr Pro perks. Great... but what about upgrading revenues?
The old Flickr Pro users have been looked after... well at least most of them have. Those lucky enough to have an eligible pro account keep the current $25 rate of renewal. Newcomers to Flickr will have to pay more and here is where Yahoo's upgrade model looks weird. The paid format in place is not at all appealing. Fifty dollars gets you no adverts. That's it! No extra space or cool features. With a significant jump from $25 to $50 it's hardly a compelling deal! Why upgrade? Most people will just choose to stick with the generous free options and live with the adverts that, to be honest, are barely noticeable.
The Thatcher post from earlier this week provided me with a reason to smile. It wasn't anything to do with the iron lady herself but one of the photographs i had used in the post. A memory came to mind.
Student life had many fun moments but one aspect that isn't often talked about is the boredom. During the week you would have course work and other distractions to entertain you, yet i found filling the time over the weekends could be tricky. You can only read so much. To counter this, I created a circular walking route that I would do most weekends. During my years as a student I had routes in each of the towns I lived in but the Middlesbrough walk always remained my favourite. It was dark, gritty and industrial but beautiful too.
The River Tees runs past Middlesbrough and I had a walk that went through the centre of town, followed the river from the iconic Transporter bridge to the Newport bridge, and then cut through the terraced streets back to my house. I imagine that the walk must have been around three miles in length (note: just measured it using Google Earth - it was five miles so I was well off with my estimate). Often the route was quiet apart from the occasional dog walker or runner, but one hot June day i came across the family seen in the photo above.
The photo was taken just off the rather glamorously titled Depot road that I had to follow between the two bridges. The location hasn't changed very much at all in twenty years, but the once open space now has a security fence that makes access near impossible. The rail track itself ran down to the dockside, although by the look of it, a train hadn't run along those tracks in years. Making their way along this overgrown bit of railway line came a man with his young son and daughter.
"Look Dad, he has a camera" remarked the young girl pointing to the Pentax Program A i was carrying. "Yeah" replied the Dad in a rather confident tone of voice "but my camera is better than his!" I just smiled and carried on walking my route. What camera he had I don't know. Unlike me, he didn't have it with him.
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