The Richard Flint Photography Blog

The Richard Flint Photography Blog

Launched in February 2007, the Richard Flint Photography blog contains a mixture of photography news, features and posted images covering a wide variety of subjects including news, website and video links and photographer profiles.

portrait of Michèle Breton on the set of Performance, 1968
Michèle Breton, 1968
This beautiful portrait of Michèle Breton caught my eye as i researched the film Performance. Unfortunately there is no photographer credit (it could possibly be one of the Cecil Beaton images taken on set that Warner Bros refused to pay for. Sandy Lieberson, Performance's producer, eventually paid Beaton's fee out of his own pocket ) for this image that acts as the holding image for the preview video on the Warner Bros Performance webpage. Surprisingly the page doesn't feature a photo of big name stars Mick Jagger, James Fox or Anita Pallenburg. No, they decided to go with a  fabulous image of seventeen year old Michèle Breton, who played Lucy, dressed in her Carnaby Street finery. It's one of the finest publicity portrait shots from the film, and yet of all of the main stars of the film, Michèle Breton's subsequent life after the filming of Performance finished remains one of the most enigmatic aspects of the film's history.

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
In late 1999, Mick Brown, a freelance journalist and broadcaster, released 'Mick Brown on Performance', a book that remains an essential A-Z guide for anyone interested in the movie. In the book Michèle Breton is finally tracked down to Berlin where she casts some light on her life. Oddly Brown starts with an error, stating that Breton's only film role was in Performance. This isn't correct. The French actress appears (aged 16) in Jean-Luc Godard's well regarded black comedy film Weekend made in 1967. Michèle makes an uncredited appearance as a hippie revolutionary in the movie, approximately an hour and twenty four minutes into the film, dressed in a white top, red jacket and skirt with knee length boots, carrying a wicker basket. Very thin, with short curly hair, slightly longer than she had it in Performance, it's unmistakeably her. On screen for a total of about one and a half minutes - one scene even includes her dancing - there is a very good close-up shot where Michèle is easily identifiable, assisting a blood soaked cook. She is also listed on IMDB as playing Atena in three episodes of the epic 1968 Italian produced TV series Odissea though unfortunately i have been unable to find any footage of her as Atena from the series to confirm this.

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
Michèle Breton's story really is quite an impressive tale of survival, both during the making of Performance and in the life she led afterwards, described by Mick Brown as 'a  life of drug-addiction, destitution and mental breakdown'. Reading through you want to know more about the remarkable and painful journey that she made. The making of the Performance appears to have been especially tough and bitter experience for the then very young, understandably delicate and insecure actress. Only James Fox gets a positive mention for his behaviour ('he was very gentle to me') on set, the rest being on 'a heavy ego-trip'. To a large extent that gentle relationship with Fox comes across in the film too. Stoned most of the time on set, Breton herself later stated ' I was very young and very disturbed. I didn't know what i was doing and they used me'. Was she exploited? The evidence certainly points that way especially when you consider how quickly she was discarded by Donald Cammell (with whom she had been in a ménage à trois, along with Cammell's then girlfriend Deborah Dixon, since 1967), shortly after filming had finished. Her relationship with Cammell had lasted over a year. Keith Richards' damning assessment of Donald Cammell's character in his book Life (pages 253-255) would appear to be a pretty accurate one.

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.

Author: Richard Flint
Posted: March 16, 2014, 5:21 pm


What do you get when you cross a film about London villains and the sixties counter-culture? You get the film Performance which, for some reason or another, has got its hooks well and truly into me recently. The 1968 film with its unique visuals and dark sixties counter-culture atmosphere seems to have hit a nerve, or maybe saying that it haunts you is a better way of putting it. From the books and website posts listed online, it seems it haunts other people too. What i find more perplexing in my case is why? What does this film contain that makes it so compelling? It could be the excellent cinematography of Nicolas Roeg whose work I've admired for many years, but it appears to be more than that, Yes, there is the superb soundtrack, great story, an interesting cast, a fascinating production history but there is something else there. Something unseen like a dark creative undercurrent or vibe that runs through the whole film. It's a puzzle or riddle. The film seems to leave you with more questions than answers. Without doubt, it is one of the best films of the sixties.

James Fox as the gangster Chas
For those of you who haven't seen the movie, i would recommend a viewing, although it is definitely one of those love or hate experiences. As Rolling Stone magazine once wisely advised you should not watch this film while on an acid trip. Actually it's pretty intense with just a cup of tea as a stimulant! Performance is really a film of two distinct halves, dealing with two very different cultures that clash in the middle of the movie. James Fox play Chas who is an extortioner for a South London crime boss called Harry Flowers. Chas is very good at his job but is a loose cannon in a criminal organisation that sees its role more as business acquisitions and mergers management rather than as a criminal enterprise. With Chas starting to become unruly, something has to give and eventually Chas ends up mixing business with pleasure and kills a new business 'associate' protected by Harry Flowers' firm. The line has been crossed and with the firm popping up on the radar of the police, inland revenue and others, Harry Flowers decides that the only option is to remove the problem. Find and kill Chas. To escape the wrath of his boss Chas needs to hide and through an overheard conversation, he ends up entering the gloomy, decaying, late sixties bohemian counter-culture world of 25 Powis Square, Notting Hill - the home of the fading, eccentric and reclusive rock star Turner (played by Mick Jagger) who has "lost his demon".

Anita Pallenburg and Mick Jagger in  Performance
At first glance, it appears to be the perfect hideaway and yet the poorly lit, decaying house exudes a deathly atmosphere which seems to saturate the film and the characters. Michèle Breton, who played Lucy, commented in a 1995 interview that when she watched the film in 1987 "I was feeling kind of sick looking at this. It was a feeling of death."  Even the décor retains an creepy evil presence right the way through the film although that could just be my aversion to sixties psychedelic art. There's definitely bad karma at number 25 and things are not going to work out for the better. Curtains remain firmly closed, rooms remain sombre and the colours somewhat muted, daylight seems to be shunned with Turner preferring artificial light. Patches of daylight amongst the darkness do appear occasionally and provide the same deathly aura of Colonel Kurtz's Cambodian jungle base in Apocalypse Now. Turner and his two female companions Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michèle Breton) appear to want to block the outside world out including the light and exist in their own little world influenced by music, art, literature and plenty of drugs. Then the world arrives at their door in the shape of Chas but it soon becomes clear that the violent and unpredictable villain is well out of his depth. The rest of the film deals with the consequences.

Anita Pallenburg and Michèle Breton in Performance
Performance was unusual in that it had two directors working on set. Nicolas Roeg was brought in to provide the visual style and technical skill, but it was Donald Cammell who would really shape the film; writing and developing his original story, selecting and coaching the actors, developing the project to the point where the lines between film set and real life would blur to become almost indefinable. The production was described by Marianne Faithfull, Jagger's girlfriend at the time, as 'a psycho-sexual lab’ and a 'seething cauldron of diabolical ingredients: drugs, incestuous sexual relationships, role reversals, art and life all whipped together into a bitch’s brew’.  It has to be said that the more you read about Donald Cammell, the harder it becomes to like him as an person. Keith Richards, Pallenburg's then boyfriend, never forgave the director for what went on during the filming, describing Cammell in his 2010 autobiography 'Life' as 'the most destructive little turd I've ever met. Also a Svengali, utterly predatory, a very successful manipulator of women. . . . Putting people down was almost an addiction for him." Cammell's talents successfully created the exact authentic psychological and sexual atmosphere needed to create the film, however the emotional toll on the actors appears to have  been considerable. Lost years of drug addiction awaited for the two female leads, James Fox left acting for ten years and joined a Christian sect in Leeds, Jagger's relationship with Keith Richards was damaged causing major problems for the film soundtrack and the Rolling Stones. Even Donald Cammell didn't escape completely unscathed, going onto a frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying career in Hollywood, directing just three more films before fatally shooting himself in 1996.

Memo to Turner featuring the great slide guitar work of Ry Cooder

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.

Author: Richard Flint
Posted: March 9, 2014, 11:50 am

Street Knights is a great documentary about chess on the streets of New York. These guys play for money and the amounts they have earned is surprisingly high. It's a side of the game that isn't really shown that much and yet these guys are pro players as much as the Kasparovs and Carlsons of this world. The individuals shown in this film are street grand masters who know themselves, their park and their game well. Look out for the photographer who doesn't ask permission before attempting to take a few photographs.

Baron's film captures not only the characters who play in Washington park but it also show the game of chess in a different light, away from the usual clubs and professional tournaments. The chess often appears to be played in a blitz style - fast decisions and moves made against a short time limit. The conversations with the players also reveal a lot about them and their love for the game. Often they are almost poetic as they talk about the chess pieces and what they represent. 

Matt Baron's use of black and white is not only apt, considering the game involved, it nicely removes  any colourful distractions from the frame leaving the viewer to concentrate purely on the chess and paint a portrait of the players. Although money is often a key motivating factor with games, the lessons with the young players are especially touching as they encourage the young kids to play and win. 

Sadly the positive aspects of these park chess players didn't stop the park being closed. I just hope that it was opened up again or they found another place to play.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: January 24, 2014, 9:08 am

This wonderful photograph of the RMS Empress of Britain, being completed in 1930 by the John Brown shipyard in Glasgow, was found via Twitter - a great resource for finding new and old photography. 

The image itself is impressive and was featured on the historical pics twitter feed, but the photo just had a short caption without revealing the ship's amazing history, for the Empress of Britain holds a unique record.

In 193, the ship was launched and went to work on the busy Trans-Atlantic shipping routes, running from Europe to Canada during 1931 to 1939. At the time, she was the largest, fastest and most luxurious ship afloat nicknamed 'The World’s Wondership'. Probably the ultimate example of the 1930's liner reflecting the romanticism of the era, the Empress' real footnote in history however would occur during World War II.


The Empress of Britain was requisitioned as a troop carrier by the British government. Her time in service as part of the war effort was short. On 26th October 1940, the ship was attacked by Luftwaffe aircraft and set on fire. With most of the crew and passengers picked up by the Royal Navy, tugs attempted to tow the badly damaged ship back to harbour but a German U-boat, U-32 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Hans Jenisch, saw her and fired three torpedoes finally dooming the rescue effort. 

The Empress of Britain finally sank just after 02:00hrs off the coast of Ireland and after nine years of service at sea, entered the history books as the largest liner (42,348 gross tons) sunk by a U-Boat during World War II. She sits, upside down, in 500 feet of water with most of her deck missing due to the fire.

Author: Richard Flint
Posted: December 29, 2013, 3:24 pm
Sometimes a photography commission comes in that really makes you think. A recent one blended two passions of mine together - history and photography.

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.

Author: Richard Flint
Posted: December 14, 2013, 2:12 pm

Another England is a series of four excellent documentary films made by Maxy Bianco and set around the town of Hartlepool located in the north east of England.

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
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: November 17, 2013, 2:19 pm

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
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: October 24, 2013, 10:00 am
If you are allergic to sheep, Skye may be the last place you'd want to visit. They seem to be everywhere, little white slow moving blobs moving around on the side of cliffs, hills and mountains. Go for a walk and you are bound to find one, two or a whole flock.

Yet the sheep also act as a subtle reminder of the highland clearances where people were forced off the land in large numbers -2000 families in one day were not uncommon - the tenants shipped off to America, Canada or Australia to be replaced by the more profitable large intensive scale sheep farming. 

The very croft ruins that the sheep wander by and take shelter in, are a monument to the largely absentee highland lairds deciding to go with profit at the expense of the lives and culture of very own people. Sheep had a massive effect on the landscape and culture of the highlands of Scotland.

These days the sheep are part of the highland culture. Tweed, tartan scarves made of wool, blankets, sheepskin rugs are big business and popular with tourists.




Author: Richard Flint
Posted: October 1, 2013, 2:22 pm

This short film caught my attention recently, not only for the great photography but also the insights from Bruce Davidson himself. Listening to a photographer of this calibre, you are always going to learn something.

How often do you 'misrepresent and misunderstand what you are looking at'? I know i do but it seems to be a common human trait that not many photographers are willing to admit to. We tend to jump to conclusions far too easily from behind the camera just because of what we see.

My favourite shot has to be the subway mugging photo... because it isn't a mugging. It's an arrest.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: August 20, 2013, 1:41 pm

This week i finally made a decision about Flickr and my Flickr Pro account. I cancelled it. Sometimes you just have to work through the details and come to a decision. So back to a free account i went.

I like Flickr and I'll continue to use the service but paying for it makes little sense now. I mentioned in a post back in May about how i thought the new business plan made no sense. Where was the money to come from if the free deal was so great?  For a number of years i had a Flickr Pro account with the benefits that came with it. The changes that took place at Flickr a few months ago mean that there really is no incentive to pay for the service. It's as simple as that.

In the list of new pro benefits, Flickr note that users have 'unlimited uploads'. To me that term is pretty much meaningless. The free account offers one terrabyte of storage that will be more than enough for me and probably most people too. To be honest i wouldn't really like the idea of storing one terrabyte of my hard earned images on Flickr anyway. It leaves far too much on the online system to loose. 

No adverts was another noted plus, but again the adverts aren't intrusive and it is certainly not worth paying the $50, or even $25 pro subscription, just to remove them. Even the ad free blurb has to refer to 'All the benefits of a free account' when listing benefits. It is hardly inviting people to pay! Back to the benefits of the free account many people will go just like i did.

So where will my money be going? Flickr's loss will be 500px's gain. I will upgrade my account there and upload more photography over the autumn and winter. A 500px paid account actually gives useful extra bits and pieces. As for Flickr, I really do wonder at the business thinking at Yahoo. One photographer going looses them $25 but how many others have done the same? Magnify that by a factor of ten, a hundred, or a thousand and the business income model starts to look rather sick. Or maybe they have a cunning plan!
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: August 3, 2013, 6:38 pm

Ever fancied exploring the ocean on a single breath? No, me neither, but a series of beautiful images by free diving photographers Christina and Eusebio Saenz de Santamaria really do show the magic and freedom of diving up to 82 metres on just a single breath.

The free diving duo have a great website packed with remarkable underwater photography that can be found HERE
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: July 11, 2013, 1:52 pm

There's nothing like an interview with the boss of a company to help reveal the thought processes behind a business. I'd imagine that if you asked the average Instagram user to name the boss of the very service they were using, many wouldn't be able to. I didn't! The Instagram CEO is actually called Kevin Systrom.

In an interview for the business magazine Fast Company, Systrom reveals quite a lot about how he feels about photographs and the people who take them. It doesn't make comfortable reading. Systrom mentions using Instagram to find beautiful things which for him means 'rare top-shelf bourbons, aviator sunglasses, and celebrity selfies'. Who says the man has no soul? I just wonder if they actually value high quality content from professional photographers?  They appear to want to encourage users like the rich Russian teenagers who seem to infest the service and love to flaunt mum and dad's wealth via their iPhone photos.

To be fair, Systrom does briefly mention the app's 'untapped gold mine' ability to discover new content creators only for the journalist Austin Car to make the barbed retort in his article ' The first example he cites is a curious and slightly naive one: a behind-the-curtain peek at life inside North Korea'. Oops. Obviously the journalist hadn't heard about or seen any of David Guttenfelder's excellent work from North Korea. As far as the rich vein of photojournalism on Instagram was concerned though, that was about as near as it got.

A telling and also rather worrying paragraph refers to the terms of service issue of December 2012 which angered users and led to many closing accounts. Described in terms like 'a minor media freak-out' and 'the changes were revoked and the fire-storm quickly passed' by Austin Carr, the difficulties of late 2012 were swept under the carpet and under-estimated the damage inflicted on Instagram. Maybe they don't care. The issue has certainly not vanished, with many users, myself included, keeping a watchful eye for further attempts at abusing the terms. Some have even gone as far as building their own alternative app.

Trust is a very fragile thing and photographers always like to keep their options open. Instagram isn't the only photo sharing service. There are alternatives such as Flickr, EyeEm app and the impressive looking Pressgram app due in August, that enable photographers to keep control and rest easier. But then if the interview with Kevin Systrom is to be believed, Instagram isn't really about photography or even aimed at photographers. It's about lifestyle, brands and celebrities. No wonder the rich Russian kids love it!

The Fast Company Article about Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom can be read HERE
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: June 20, 2013, 2:44 pm

Rather a fun little video this. If you have a PhotoShop wizard, a bus stop and a bunch of hidden cameras, you get an advertising board featuring adverts with YOUR face on it. The reactions are brilliant.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: June 9, 2013, 5:38 pm
Photography+talent = Money. It's a tough equation at the best of times. The value of good photography is a common theme when I'm talking to clients and often it doesn't get anywhere near the high priority that it should. It usually comes down to cost. I regularly see local adverts where the image, if I can even call it that,  for a large advert has been taken by someone with.. er.. let us say... limited skill. The irony is, of course, that after handing over a lot of cash to get the advert done in the first place, it ends up ruined because they didn't want to pay for a decent photograph.

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.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: June 4, 2013, 8:53 pm

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.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: May 25, 2013, 1:40 pm

As you may have gathered from my posts a couple of weeks ago, i do adore the photography of Chris Killip enormously. Killip really should be a far bigger figure in UK photography but he isn't and its difficult to work out why. Maybe, as the photographer himself states in the video, the photography from the north east of England during the 1980's has too much baggage when viewed in Britain. 

On the other hand Chris Killip has never been the showman that Martin Parr has been. I tend to think of these two photographers, both of whom were in the limelight when i took up photography in the late 1980's as the opposing ends of the documentary photography spectrum. I've always liked Chris Killips's warmth towards his subject matter opposed to Martin Parr's cold and critical eye.

Whatever the outcome of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize this year, it's just great to see this important work from the north east being shown and discussed. Killip's work had political overtones when it was first shown and its relevance to current UK economic and political events still makes it essential viewing.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: May 2, 2013, 10:16 am

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.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: April 20, 2013, 10:40 am


This is a great video showing how lighting dramatically alters the face. It's a simple enough idea, and certainly not a new one, to have a revolving light going around the subject but the results are quite brilliant nonetheless. The music is pretty darn good too.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: April 19, 2013, 10:04 am

Thatcher. One name that conjures up love or loathing. Her recent death has whipped up many of the old emotions about her. Those people outside of the UK have been surprised to find out how hated she was. No other British politician has ever really inspired these emotions as much as Margaret Hilda Thatcher does.

I've always had a fascination with dereliction. It stems from my childhood and the visits to my grandparents in the north east town of Hartlepool during the 1970's and 1980's. For years we used to pass the shipyard at Haverton Hill where huge ships towered above. It seemed biblical in scale to me as a six year old boy. Then one day the yard was quiet. Empty. Barren. The shipyard site was so huge that it didn't really fit any other purpose so it stayed quiet and empty until 2008. It could be said that I was politicised from then on. I saw the consequences to the actions. Thatcher didn't close the yard  - it closed in February 1979 - but the damage done through a lack of investment and re-development during her time in office haunts the area to this day. During my early student years I was able to see more of this derelict industrial sites around the north east town of Middlesbrough. I even got a pass from the harbour authority to photograph sites. These places and their workers had powered the empire, supported the country through wars and done exactly what had been asked of them. All it earned them was a quick, but totally painful end.  The workers, their families and the communities, like the derelict work places, were left to rot and decay after the industries were finally closed. No help. No investment. No compassion. No hope. No wonder there is still anger.

If you really want to see monuments to Margaret Thatcher's time in office then I would recommend having a wander around certain former industrial areas of the UK. The Midlands, South Wales, Scotland and the North East were just some of the places that found themselves in the firing line. All was definitely not equal in Thatcher's Britain. Far from it. A series of tough monetarist economic polices took an immense toll on many industries and their communities. Some areas like Hartlepool only started to recover after receiving serious investment from the European Union re-development fund starting in the early 1990's. It was true that the industrial decline had been going on for some time and that it was inevitable that many industries would close, but the real bitterness and hatred aimed towards Mrs Thatcher stems from how the closures were done. The fact that some militant unions had caused havoc in Britain shortly before Thatcher's rise didn't help matters. Maybe she saw the closures as dealing with two problems at the same time - killing two birds with one stone as it were. The end certainly came quickly for many industries but the communities ended up facing a damned existence. As a child growing up in Thatcher's Britain during the 1980's,  I saw the effects first hand as a wave of decay and disintegration set in. Chris Killip's images, featured the books 'In Flagrante' and 'Seacoal', look very familiar to me and reflect many of my childhood memories.

In the UK, the Conservative party is sometimes referred to as 'the nasty party'. They are often seen as cruel, harsh and lacking compassion. It is a reputation they are still trying, rather unconvincingly I might add, to shake off.  Much of this feeling stems from the Thatcher era and the political attitudes many Conservatives had during the 1980's. This radical thinking took its clearest form with the ruthless de-industrialisation of areas around Britain, a process that had been slowly happening for a number of years before the conservative victory of 1979. The new Tory government stopped the subsidies to certain industries and sped up the closure process. The idea was that the free market would fill the void left by ship building, steel works and other industries. To a certain extent this did happen but it took a generation or more for many towns to even start the slow process of recovery. Regeneration of an area is an extremely slow and costly process that can take decades to complete. The town of Consett in County Durham still clearly visibly bears the scars of the closure of the steel plant back in 1980 - even after years of  regeneration via Project Genesis. The heart was just ripped out of the town in one knock-out punch. Workers went onto the benefit system and mostly stayed there. Unemployment in Consett during 1981 peaked at 36%. It is still higher than the national average in the town over thirty years later.

The title 'winners and losers' for this post seems apt. There were plenty of winners in Thatcher's Britain. Many of those who venerate her, gained either socially, economically or both. She gave hope to some and snatched hope away from others. Those who lost out through no fault of their own  - through having the wrong job or living in wrong part of the country - understandably have a different view of the 'iron lady'. A great leader is someone who unifies a country rather than divides it - especially during a time of national crisis. Mrs Thatcher was certainly no Churchill. The North/South divide widened during her reign and still remains a major problem that modern politicians just don't want to be bothered with. When Mrs Thatcher was entering Downing Street after her 1979 general election win she said 'Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope'. Many would say that she failed on all counts; especially the last one. A friend of mine, at college with me in the mid 1990's, utterly despised Mrs Thatcher because of the experiences he'd had as a young man. His unemployment, and that of many of his generation, were seen as a sacrifice worth paying for the smooth implementation of various monetarist economic policies. Three million unemployed. My friend never forgave her for it. Hope? What hope???

Today the funeral, which is a state one in all but name, took place and there will be plenty of people praising the politics and vision of the late Prime Minster of Britain from 1979-1990. I won't be among them. I will be thinking of certain images created by Chris Killip and the Amber collective in Newcastle upon Tyne documenting the other side of Maggie's Britain. Martin Parr photographed the Britain Maggie wanted to see - Chris Killip did not. With the request to be respectful towards Margaret Hilda Thatcher often mentioned, it would seem that many journalists and politicians have forgotten that the Iron Lady had very little respect for large parts of Britain. Many parts of Britain certainly haven't forgotten her. They still bear the scars.

Images

  • Top: Wallsend, Tyneside - Chris Killip
  • Top left: Ship Launch at Haverton Hill 1972
  • Middle Right: Haverton Hill shipyard 1992
  • Middle Left: Disused Railhead - Middlebrough 1992
  • Bottom Right: Political posters - Middlebrough 1992
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: April 17, 2013, 5:49 pm


It's not often that we get an great insight into a photographer but this superb film 'The Magnificent One: Philip Jones Griffiths' does just that detailing the man and photographer that was Philip Jones Griffiths.

This moving documentary features great interviews with photographers like Elliott Erwitt, Eugene Richards and Gilles Peress that reveal Philip Jones Griffiths passionate attitudes to photography and life. The section covering the Vietnam Inc work is especially fascinating.

There are plenty of wonderful moments such as the poem about welsh rugby and i especially liked Philip's rather clever, if not extremely powerful, use of a Boeing 707 landing light. Its definitely recommended viewing. So grab a brew and watch this great film about a truly great photographer.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: April 10, 2013, 1:13 pm

Zombies. Walkers. Rotters. The dead coming back to life have been rather popular of late with TV shows like 'The Walking Dead' even appealing to those who aren't fans of the zombie genre. Just like those TV shows where a character dies and comes back, the photo retail chain Jessops has returned from the dead; thankfully looking in a leaner and fitter shape than it did before it passed away.

Originally the comeback, only made possible by the efforts of entrepreneur and businessman Peter Jones, was to be an online only operation, but it has now been revealed that 40 stores, possibly rising to 48 at a later date, will be opened around the UK. One store will open every day during April. An order online and collect in store service appears to be one key area that the new Jessops company are keen to promote so the location of the stores will be key to the use of the order and collect service.

The new stores opening is great news but they do need to be relevant to the broad demands of the modern day photographer. Whether it be digital, video or film, the stores should reflect the diverse nature of 21st century photography. One reason for the death of the old Jessops brand was it focused on a very narrow market - a market that quickly moved onto using smart phones for their photography! The retail needs of other photographers tended to be ignored. Hopefully this new Jessops enterprise will be a true photographic retailer where digital, video AND analogue photographers can shop in the same retail space.

So will i use it? Well yes, in fact i will be placing my first order next week using the website, buying photographic chemicals and a few other bits and bobs. What the future has in store for this new enterprise is another matter, but with reduced costs and a better business plan it could have a bright future. Maybe.

The new Jessops website can be found at www.jessops.co.uk
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: March 29, 2013, 11:37 am

Over the past weeks or so, I've been watching with some interest the Tumblr activity connected to the photograph above. The photo was taken last year at Strome Castle in the Highlands of Scotland and posted onto Tumblr later that day - so it has been on my blog for around seven months. Over that time the image has been liked and re-blogged nearly 150 times. The other Strome castle image has managed just 10.

OK, so 149 isn't a very high number, but the interesting factor has been the whom behind the re-blogging of the image. Virtually all of the affection has come from what i respectfully call the 'Tolkien brigade'. These are individuals with an interest or passion for the 'olde' world that ranges from Celtic and viking culture through to Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones fans. Is the general subject matter of the castle, lochs and old stone walls the appeal or is it the actual photograph and an almost timeless view through an old castle wall? It's probably a combination of both. Whatever the appeal, the image seems to capture people's imagination.

The likes and re-blogs also have another interesting trait. They tend to come in waves usually starting with an individual finding the photo, liking or re-blogging it and the cycle starts again as their followers do the same. It's like the photo is caught and blown along by the wind. How long this will continue is anyone's guess but if the photo can still be found seven months on then i see no reason why it can't keep tumblring onward.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: March 26, 2013, 2:56 pm

Have you ever looked up into the clear night sky, stared at the stars and thought how insignificantly small we are as a planet? We are just a fleck of dust in the cosmos compared to the majestic star fields that stretch out across the dark sky. As you watch this great video you get the same sort of  feeling.

If your internet connection is up to the task then i'd recommend viewing in HD and full screen. I especially love the movement of the stars as the night progresses. It gives a rather intense visual feeling of the speed of 'our' little planet as it spins and moves its way through space.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: March 14, 2013, 11:53 am

Reenactment at Gettysburg, PA. 2012 | Photo by Michael Falco

There are a few photographers covering the current anniversaries of the American Civil war but the superb colour images by Michael Falco especially stand out by having quite a unique haunting quality.

Michael has been using his own large format pin hole cameras to capture the action at various civil war reenactment events that will be going on until 2015. The resulting images have quite an authentic feel to them but i especially like the blurred movement contained within the images. The flags on the battlefield take on a life of their own, often looking tattered and worn from intense battlefield wear and tear.

We tend to want everything sharp and clear in this digital photography world. Usually that's OK, but modern images can sometimes be seen as rather too clean as other photographers have mentioned. Falco's work has character, feel and most of all atmosphere. You can almost hear the flags fluttering in the wind.

It would be interesting to do some English Civil war reenactment images in a similar style, even if it was historically totally inaccurate. Photography in the England of 1644 would probably be regarded as witchcraft so you'd have to be careful.

Michael Falco's excellent pinhole colour photography can be found on his website HERE
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: March 7, 2013, 1:05 pm

The eyes say all you need to know in this image of the chaining of a young pig-tailed macaque as it is displayed for sale in Padang Pariaman, West Sumatra, Indonesia.  Fear, uncertainty and even a sense of 'please help me' can be seen in those eyes. Of course if it were a cobra being chained up the image would lose all of its power. Cobras don't have that awww factor about them.

This image by Rivo Andries of Associated Press was featured in last week's best images on the Time/Lightbox website. It can be tough going through the images each week but strangely this one stood out. Maybe it represents so acutely the darker side of human nature. Looking at this image i thought of Agent Smith's rather accurate appraisal of the human race. Maybe he has a very valid point.
Author: Richard Flint
Posted: February 25, 2013, 1:52 pm

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