L'exposition est Ouverte!

 

All over in a whirl....

After all the preparation... the packing... the toolkit.... the spare hanging bits and pieces ... and about four hours of the Private View... the pressure is over – RELIEF!

I've had fantastic feedback from many different quarters, and the icing on the cake was selling a print (Child and Terrier) to a young couple who live in Paris. So even when the exhibition at Le Petit Choiseul ends on the 28th, there will be a corner of France where Under Glass continues to be shown!

 
Child and Terrier, Passage du Grand-Cerf. Ted Kinsey, 2014

Child and Terrier, Passage du Grand-Cerf. Ted Kinsey, 2014

From Adams & Atget to Edgy!

 

New York is proving to be a hub of great photography, this week.

A wonderful show of classic Ansel Adam images at the Robert Mann Gallery, in Chelsea – including a huge print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico and the iconic Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite. Sooooo expensive: “We don't publicise the prices”!!!

Saw some lovely Eugene Atget photographs of Paris accompanying a brilliant Toulouse Lautrec exhibition at MoMA. The Sebastio Salgardo Genesis show has made it to NYC at the International Center of Photography – seen in London at the NatHist Museum last year. Impressive monochrome landscapes, some slightly over-Photoshopped for my liking. The contrasts were simply not-believable.

For my own work, we visited two or three locations on the Subway before we found a good elevated section in a gritty area. The stretch along Livonia Avenue at the end of Line 3, in darkest East Brooklyn, provided a suitable backdrop for the types of photos I had envisaged. I took the best part of a roll of HP5 there, so hopefully the journey will have been worth it. Edgy photos in an edgy suburb!

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Ansel Adams, 1941

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. Ansel Adams, 1941

 

London, Paris, New York...

 

Only 10 days to go before Under Glass opens at Le Petit Choiseul, and every picture is framed and ready to go.  But my journey to France will be a somewhat circuitous one – I've taken some of my best images in New York over the years, so I'm really looking forward to spending seven days there... en route to Paris!

I have a wish-list of locations to visit photographically, and top of that list are several places where the New York Subway runs on an elevated section above ground – remember that scene from The French Connection with Gene Hackman driving “underneath” the train? A good one seems to be in Manhattan on the Q line, near Canal Street; another out in Brooklyn, where Line 3 runs on Livonia Avenue. We'll see!

Before I go to New York, I'm giving a talk to Pinner Camera Club on my previous project, City Shapes, photographed in London. I've enjoyed re-visiting all my prints in readiness.

So here, in my opinion, is the best of New York and City Shapes...

 
Crossing Madison Avenue...

Crossing Madison Avenue...

Chevrons

Chevrons

Defense de Fumer!

 

As a street photographer taking candid pictures, I’ve been well aware of the French privacy laws during my visits to Paris for my Under Glass project.

In brief, the law states that if a person is the “principal feature” in a photograph, then permission must be sought from that person before taking it. For me, this makes candid photography almost impossible.

I have one excellent image, taken in August, of a young woman enjoying a cigarette break that I’ve been pondering upon regarding the privacy laws. I’ve now decided that I simply can’t afford to risk hanging it in my exhibition.

So here I am – one picture short of an exhibition. And here it is – suitably stubbed out!

 
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Has the Roll of Film Ended...?*

 

It certainly has if you use Fuji Neopan 1600 ASA!

If you shoot on film, you buy it in bulk and store it in the freezer.

On my Paris trips to the Passages, I take two Nikon FEs: one loaded with 400 ASA for the "normal" lighting shots, and one loaded with Fuji Neopan 1600 ASA (a faster film) for those dark corners.

Just before my trip to Paris last Thursday, I took out a roll of Neopan from the fridge, then went to the freezer to replenish the fridge. Just two rolls left in the freezer, so I had better order some more.... Shock Horror. None to be found anywhere on the internet – it's been discontinued!

It is probably three years since I bought 20 or so rolls of Neopan 1600, and somewhere down the line I've missed the announcement of its demise.

And worst still. There is not another 1600 ASA film now in production. Either 400 ASA or jump all the way to Ilford Delta 3200 ASA. In future I'm going to have to shoot on 3200, stop down a couple of stops on my camera, then compensate for this when the film is developed. I foresee a few trial rolls being shot and developed until the right result is achieved!

*See my blog, July 06 for comparison...

 
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The Dark Arts...

 

Just finished a darkroom session printing up just three images from one roll of film (36 exposures) from my last trip to Paris. You might think that three is not very many from 36, but ask the digital photographers out there and... that's not a bad hit-rate!

One of the images, a long shot down Passage du Grand-Cerf with a girl, sitting and having a cigarette outside her place of work, posed a familiar problem I've had during this project. Namely, balancing skin tones with the bright, sunlit, tiled floor of the Passage, and the glass ceiling.

In the darkroom I might make 9 or 10 test strips until I achieve the right balance – not just the length of the exposure, but also the grading (the contrast levels of the photographic print). The test strips were on different areas of this image. On the girl’s skin tones, the tiled floor in the foreground, and lastly on the glass ceiling in the upper background. As I have three different exposure times for this one print, I use the “Dark Arts” of Dodging (lightening areas) and Burning (darkening areas) under the enlarger light to produce the desired photograph.

And then there is the “Dry down” factor. Dry down is the phenomenon responsible for many fibre prints being sent to the waste-bin. The wet print looks bright and glows, but the following morning the highlights in the dried print are dull and the print lacks the contrast and punch from the previous evening. My experience in using Ilford Multigrade IV Fiber Glossy Paper tells me to subtract about 8% of the enlarger exposure time – once I think that I've achieved the right result on the wet print.

I make notes, both on the back of the final print and in a notebook, of the exposure time, the enlarger aperture number, the contrast grade, the developing times (developer and fix), and the date. Also, in the notebook, I record the enlarger height and the temperature of the developer.

Fibre Paper will buckle unless dried correctly. After washing for 45 minutes, the wet print is dried in the darkroom, pegged from a Sheila Maid clothes airer until 95% dry – this takes about 90 minutes. Then it is flattened overnight between sheets of rigid blotting paper in my 20 x 16 inch Ademco dry-mounting press (switched off).

The next morning I open the press to examine my work. Will it be back to the darkroom?

 

Rites of Passage

 

Last Wednesday marked my penultimate photo-journee in the Passages. I expected Paris to be a bit quiet – everyone knows that Parisians take their holidays in August – but it seems that tourists do now, too! Many shops and cafés were closed. The vast majority of shops in the Passages are laissez-faire, sole-owner outfits, and the hand-written notices were everywhere: Fermé au 2 Septembre.

In some ways, the emptiness of the Passages was not all bad news. Of course, the sheer nature of my photography requires a human element: I need people in my shots. But they need to be the “right” people, and in just the “right” amounts – too many figures and the image can become over complicated. Hence the hanging around that is involved, waiting for just the right moment.

And then you need a bit of luck. As I approached the entrance to Galerie Vivienne, I noticed a taxi pulling up, and out stepped a newly married couple with a photographer – the bride complete with white dress and bouquet; the groom in a smart suit. These were to be the post-wedding photographs taken in a picturesque location. So I hot-footed after them, (hopefully) capturing the bizarre scene of the newly-weds posing among the few tourists, diners, and shoppers, as the tranquilty of the Passage was shattered by the whirring of the photographer's motor-drive, hammering out its digital frames.

I hope I shot some good frames too, though obviously I don't have the benefit of “chimping” the back of my camera to check, as he did!  I await the development of my negatives in anticipation...

Photo: Charlie Gardner

Photo: Charlie Gardner

 

A Dynamic Duo

 

Next week I’m off to Paris again for the day, on what will be my penultimate trip before my exhibition. I know that, currently, I have over 30 prints (maybe 35) that I could hang, but I’m now at the point when I’m starting to think about what images I've got – and, more to the point, what I haven’t!

In my opinion, an exhibition needs pace or dynamics. By dynamics, I mean that the photographs on show will need to vary, and not just in content: vary in composition and in style; vary in depth of field, in shape and form, in light and shade... the list is a long one.

So the prime purpose of my next two trips is to try to complete the exhibition dynamic by filling the visual and/or photographic “gaps”. The trouble is, of course, I’m taking candid photographs with a human content. Despite my best intentions, and perseverance, nothing is guaranteed.

There is one shot that I know I want to try to capture, as it would complement a photo I’ve already taken: namely, Audrey Again, Passage Vendôme. The “Audrey” referred to is the well-known Audrey Hepburn canvas print, sold by IKEA.

A very similar “Audrey” print is on the wall in Little Séoul, a Korean café in Passage Choiseul – just a few shops along from where my exhibition will be. Will the café still be there...? Will it be open...? Will the print still be on the wall...? And even if those answers are in the affirmative, will the other required components of the shot be there? 

Required components??? The truth is I simply won't know until I get there and start waiting for everything and/or anything else to fall into place around the Audrey print, with me poised to click the shutter.

And that might be a very... long... wait...

 
Audrey Hepburn. Pjätteryd canvas print by Phil Handley/IKEA

Audrey Hepburn. Pjätteryd canvas print by Phil Handley/IKEA

Farewell to a Mayne Man of Monochrome

 

Just read on Film And Darkroom User that one of my heroes, Roger Mayne, died on June 7th.

The first time I came across the work of Roger Mayne was in (for me) an eye-opening exhibition at the Barbican in 1989 entitled Through the Looking Glass – Photographic Art in Britain 1945-1989. The exhibition featured superb images by Bill Brandt, Tony Ray-Jones, Fay Godwin, Don McCullin to name just a few. I bought the catalogue and it has been well-thumbed ever since!

A few years ago I attended a wonderful lecture at the NPG that Roger gave, talking eloquently and passionately about the splendid images he took on the streets of North Kensington in the mid 1950s. Even though Colin Macinnes commissioned Mayne to provide a cover image of disaffected youth for his novel Absolute Beginners, he was a photographer who never really got the recognition he merited. His monochrome photographs of street life in the area around Southam Street were both edgy and arty.

Hopefully, someone will now show a big retrospective exhibition of his work, which he thoroughly deserves.

 
Boys Smoking, Portland Road, North Kensington. Roger Mayne, 1956

Boys Smoking, Portland Road, North Kensington. Roger Mayne, 1956

RIP FE

 

The demise of an old friend...

Since I started serious photography in 2006, I’ve used my all-black Nikon FE, which I purchased in 1979.

Last September, the tripod it was fixed to (for a shoot on my City Shapes project) toppled – the camera hit the ground and bent the prism housing slightly. Since then the shutter has jammed occasionally, but on the recent roll of HP5 shot in Provence, it jammed maybe six or seven times.

So that’s it: my trusty friend of 35 years is not so trusty, anymore; sadly, now destined for the “spares” box.

I’ve always kept a back-up FE, an “excellent condition” body  from Grays of Westminster, which I shall be using on my next day-trip to Paris, in August.

RIP my Nikon FE...

RIP my Nikon FE...

 

A Photography Festival Extraordinaire!

 

The 50 exhibitions of  Les Rencontres D'Arles 2014 are housed in over 20 locations: in halls, churches, unoccupied office buildings – amazingly, in a set of vast disused railway sheds. Then there is the “fringe” – 60 shows listed as Voies Off (Voices Off) in empty shops, cafés, even the cellar of a private house. And then the very unofficial – in a disused garage, on some railings – even prints strung between two trees on a washing-line in a park. And every wall, tree, lamp post, and hoarding is covered in flyers and posters advertising the hundreds of exhibitions. All this appears to be accepted happily by the town. The narrow streets are full of photographers walking from one show to another.

My highlights were: Lucien Clergue, who showed some lovely prints from the 1950s of gypsies in the Carmargue – a real class act; the Spaniard, Chema Madoz, who produced dynamic, graphic surreal monos of still-life stitched-together images – think dinner plates not placed vertically on a draining rack but in the grilles of a street drain cover, and you've got the idea; and American Mitch Epstein, who showed big prints of singular trees shot in New York City (again in mono).

A nice surprise in Voies Off was a show entitled West Coast by the Parisian photographer, Hedge. His images of colourful beach scenes were shot in Biarritz using a digital pinhole camera. The short exposures produced slightly out-of-focus prints that had a real ’60s feel. Excellent.

Sadly, the only living darkroom photographer we came across (apart from Clergue) was Boris Hazoume. Shooting mostly on Tri-Ex from a Nikon FM or Leica, his well-crafted monochrome street images were, for me, a breath of fresh air amongst the surplus of contemporary conceptualised colour around the town.

One of the most bizarre shows was from a Dutch guy, who had shot exactly the same car parking space, presumably taken from the window of his first-floor flat. Each huge print – and there were easily 20 or so – showed a different car roof and bonnet. Probably to be seen soon at the Photographers Gallery in London!

Nicest moment was meeting an Italian, Beppe Bolchi, who was walking the streets wearing a sandwich-board. Hacked off with the fact that there were never any Italians showing at the official Festival, Beppe proclaimed “Italian photography is alive. Long live Italian photography!”  It will be interesting to see if any Italians are included next year?

Arles has something for everyone, photographically. The festival, which runs until 21 September, is well-organised and varied. From the iconic, the beautiful, the vintage and the contemporary, through to the totally conceptual and almost insane, it is all here. Only the French could put on a show like this!

Beppe Bolchi – justifiably bolshie?

Beppe Bolchi – justifiably bolshie?

Only the French could put on a show like this!

Only the French could put on a show like this!

 

Stardust or Star Rust?

 

Spending a few days in Provence at the Les Rencontres D’Arles Photographic Festival and distributing a bundle of flyers for my Paris show!

The line-up is a bit too “Photographers Gallery” for me, but out of the 20+ exhibitions I certainly want to see Youngsoo Han, People in a Period of Discovery – b&w shots of the civilian aftermath of the Korean War in the 1950s; Lucien Clergue (a show of more than just his classy nudes); and someone with whom I’ve had dealings. Daile Kaplan. Daile is the Head of Photography at Swann Auction Galleries in New York, and she is showing her Pop Photographica collection – 3-dimensional objects (cushions, furniture, cups...) enhanced with photographic images. Sounds interesting?

One exhibition we will be giving a miss is the headline show, David Bailey's Stardust. I saw it at the NPG in London earlier this year; and though his 60s cut-to-white-background portraits were just brilliant, everything after that was extremely average (and in some cases, poor). For the NPG this was a massive exhibition, taking up the complete ground floor. A shame they couldn’t have just given Bailey one room and used the rest to show the work of other iconic 60s portrait photographers as a comparison.

 

Has the Role of Film Ended...?

 

Just visited the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – last year they had a complete gallery full of photography, including an information notice that said something like, “Photography has always played a big part in the RA Summer Exhibition...” This sign was an insult to photographers, as the previous year the few images that were on show were hung, literally, on the back of a panel screening the exit door!

So this year was to be no surprise: out of 1,250 artworks on show, I would think maybe only 15–20 were photographs!

My entry for this years Summer exhibition was not in fact a photograph – even though it was made up from 35mm film. The work (nearly a metre square) has the words “Has the role of film ended?” – the letters being made up of small rolls of 35mm film. As a darkroom photographer, I was indeed making a statement – a statement that obviously went right over the heads of the judges (who, no doubt, were sculptors/printmakers/artistes etc.) as I didn't even get past the first round!

An artist friend of mine describes the whole RA Summer exhibition thing as a “cash cow”. At £25 per submission, and a limit of (only!) 12,000 entries from the public, I think I agree!

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In the Footsteps of Doisneau...

 

Spent some time reading my Robert Doisneau book about his experiences photographing the Passages from 1975–1980. He said:

“In this aquarium of light, all of these people were preserved as if under glass ...”  and “The magical side of things is invisible for people who are in a hurry, more interested in mechanical things.”

My aim is to capture the ‘magical side of things’ in the Passages, albeit in the 21st century. There is too much to look at for me to be in a hurry – using my 1979 camera!

To think that I bought my Nikon FE that I still use, when Doisneau was shooting his project.

 
Hotel Chopin, Passage Jouffroy. Robert Doisneau, 1976.

Hotel Chopin, Passage Jouffroy. Robert Doisneau, 1976.

Real Photography...

 

Reviewed some of my prints and decided to print two of the best at 20 x 16ins – the largest I can in my darkroom. From a 35mm neg they have enlarged beautifully, though of course all my enlarging notes from the smaller prints were useless. However, that's the joy of film and darkroom. It is REAL PHOTOGRAPHY!

 
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