Just a few images from around my rapidly gentrifying ‘manor’ in the East End of London. Images taken on phone, film, DSLR and mirrorless.
Two of my images are currently on show in the 2018 LIP Annual Exhibition which runs from today, October 2nd until the 7th at the Espacio gallery in Bethnal Green Road, East London.
Both images come from a set I have been making around ephemeral and temporary shelters and occupations by homeless people in the borders between hackney Tower Hamlets and the City in East London. An area challenged by increasing disparities in both wealth and lifestyle.
Both as a photography nut and a regular guy, I’m a sucker for man-bags and backpacks. I currently have an F-Stop Loka UL with a couple of ICUs, two Peli cases, a Billingham Hadley Pro and a Contax/CCS Heritage bag on the photo side. For the manbag I also have a leather manbag from Billy Bags and a Trakke Assynt backpack. I had been using the Hadley as my daily bag but getting older my back can be a bit tetchy so decided to go down the backpack route.
After agonising over assorted Sandqvists I stumbled on the Trakke Assynt on my doorstep in Netil Market’s Outdoor People stall. The Assynt comes in a a few colours, most notable the lovely shade of blue I chose, which contrasts so well with the signature orange interior. It’s Waxed cotton and seems to be well made using steel and wood as well as waxed canvas (more on this later).
I spent my student days wandering around with a waxed canvas fishing bag, which I foolishly gave away to a relative for actual fishing use. Ever since I have loved unstructured canvas bags because of the way they fit to the wearer contents of the bag. The trakke does this but also has a wee bit of padding down the back as there’s a slot for an iPad or (very) small laptop adjacent to wearer’s back.
The main compartment has a drawstring with a beautifully tactile spherical wooden toggle and then the lid is secured by stylishly utilitarian stainless steel buckles. There is also a zippered pocket on the outside of the lid which is well waterproofed and where my headphone and Digital Audio Player usually live. As well as the padded section for the iPad the bag also has a zippered internal pocket which is handy for pens, business cards or a compact camera like my Olympus XA or similar.
It’s not a photographers bag with no padding to the front, however, to load it with photo gear I use Domke wraps, which come in various colours and are invaluable for throwing gear into hand luggage cases when I travel. I have never had damage to lenses this way, but I try to avoid carrying TS-E lenses this way as the tilt mechanism can move.
Now to the reason that, unfortunately I cannot recommend Trakke. It’s a great looking, well designed bag however, unlike the waxed canvas bag of my student days, the Trakke hasn’t worn fantastically well. It rubs against the back and belt towards the base and, in my case, this means it wearing through completely to have a small hole after about 18 months of regular use. I wouldn’t mind so much but this is a premium product at around the £150 mark and should really last much better than this…
I have had a couple of images from my ongoing Hackney Road series selected to be shown in this years LIP Annual Exhibition at the Espacio Gallery, Bethnal Green Road. The Exhibition runs from the 2nd to the 7th of October 2018. Opening hours as follows: Tue 2 – Sat 6 October 1-7pm; Sun 7 1-5pm. The Venue is 5 minutes from brick lane, walking east and ten minutes from Shoreditch High Street the 8 & 388 bus routes also run past Espacio.
There are plenty of people who would suggest that you can’t shoot architecture with a 35mm and you need a 24mm or wider. I used to be in that camp too some extent but I have found that with a shift lens on a full frame body you can do a lot with a 35mm lens. It helps that I’m beginning to ‘see’ in 35mm for the first time in years thanks to starting my Little Chef project with the Zeiss 35/2.8 on a Sony A7r – partly because it’s a retro sort of field of view, typical of the compacts available in the chain’s 1980s heyday, and partly because it’s still my favourite lens for the system in terms of overall ‘feel’.
As well as having this very special lens I’m also lucky enough to live in a vibrant city with some amazing architecture and architectural events. So, when this year’s serpentine pavilion coincided with the launch of the V&A Museum’s new entrance I decided to challenge myself to shoot them both exclusively with the Zeiss PC-Distagon on a relatively new-to-me Canon full frame body.
This session was also the first time I’ve really shot architecture with intent for some time and I enjoyed both the lens and the challenge, though it’s slightly flawed. Having a very short throw between ∞ and 3m is bonkers in a lens that will be primarily used for critical shooting of buildings. Other than that the lens certainly wasn’t a limitation, easily matching the 50 Megapixel sensor of the Eos 5Ds when it was properly focussed and held steady – the latter being key as resolution increases. In all honesty I would place the Zeiss ahead of the Canon 35/2 IS for sharpness but perhaps that is to be expected as the Zeiss lens is designed for critical sharpness and low distortion where the Canon is more of a street shooter. The other issue is that when the PC-Distagon flares it’s not the nicest flare I’ve ever seen – one image in the Serpentine set shows this very clearly.
Architecturally both buildings are superb, although I do think that there is a lack of seating space in this years Serpentine Pavilion as the structure itself doesn’t have the perching places that some of the others have, so it’s not as enjoyable on a busy, sunny day as some of the earlier ones.
First gallery is of the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, by Amanda Levete Architects and the second Gallery is of the Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré…
Gallery One – V&A Exhibition Road Quarter & Entrance.
Gallery Two – 2017 Serpentine Pavilion
A couple of years back I stumbled on a fun little camera at a car boot, a Konica Eye complete with it’s funky logo which i couldn’t resist. It turned out to be a half frame camera, which was something I’d never tried before so I thought, why not give it a shot. I put a couple of rolls through it but on the second one most of the exposures were ruined because I’d accidentally set the camera to ‘B’ and overexposed everything. This put me off the camera but the idea of getting pairs of images side by side and seeing what the contrasts are remained kind of seductive.
More recently while poking around on eBay I came across a £10 half frame SLR – A modified Yashica FX-3 Super 2000. These Yashicas were popular choices to be modified as ‘Mugshot Cameras’ for police use. I’ve read a bit about ‘mugshot’ cameras since buying it my FX-3 fits quite a bit of what is out there with the following mods;
- Shutter Speed Fixed to 1/125
- Mask in the film chamber – this appears to be glued in place and is quite thin, it has therefore bent a little in use.
- The viewfinder is also masked.
- The wind on has been re-geared to suit the half frame use.
So, the main down sides of the camera are the fixed shutter speed and the lack of metering, which would be understandable in a fixed studio situation. The positives are as below;
- The lens is not fixed to the body, which is a huge relief.
- Even better, the aperture on the mounted lens actuates so I have some exposure control.
- The self timer mechanism is in place and working – not something I care about but a nice to have.
- Everything works properly, though the wind on is a bit wobbly, and the cosmetic condition is decent.
The included ML 50/2 was in very good shape and free from fungus – dabbling in the Contax/Yashica system for a few years now I’ve tossed a couple of mouldy ones. All in all a worthwhile £10 . So what was it like in use?
I downloaded a Sunny 16 app to my iPhone and went out to try it. Everything worked well and the cheap Yashica 50/2 on the front proved a very decent performer. Check out the images below…
What seemed to me a fairly curious sighting on my tour around the UK’s Little Chef sites; Adverts over the Urinals for a company’s paternity tests in the Male WCs in a motorway services. In my mind it links with the trend for sex shops in former little chef sites along the A1 and in some other locations. However, this is apparently big business as, in the increasingly litigious society we live in in the UK, Paternity is liable to matter a great deal in the context of divorce and child support. The website offers a handy set of standardised options including – ‘Children (2) and Alleged father’ or ‘Child and Alleged Fathers (2)’ with a 4 day turnaround or a premium 2 day service. In case you were wondering, yes there is a DadCheckGold, but that’s only suitable for Professionals.
Delving a bit further this seems to be quite a large scale industry now. For example a competitor brand who supply tests for the ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’ have a £4.99 DNA testing kit on sale at Home Bargains, which you send off with a £99 payment to get your results back.
One last couple of stats, while around 4% of children will have a father they don’t expect but about half of of the tests prove that the expected father is not the genetic parent.
It’s amazing what one can learn by looking and questioning, even in the most banal of locations.
A few weeks back I started to follow Mark Power on Instagram. I already had ‘The Shipping Forecast’ his brilliant 1996 book of black and white photographs. (I was lucky enough to pick this up in Oxfam for a couple of quid). At the time I started following he was posting a series of images which struck accord with me. As it turns out they were from his recent project “Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment.” A series from a number of road trips the photographer had undertaken with a poet Daniel Cockrill.
Looking at the stream I felt the images were indeed a reflection of the direction of travel that the country has been on as pointed out on the purchase page on the Mark Power website.
Intrigued by the images and the description I decided to buy the book, which only seems to be available from the bookstore on his website. First impressions are good, it arrives with a wrapper and the style is a bit like a Moleskine type notebook – befitting the fact the book is a collaboration with a writer. The book also has an embossed cover and a wrapper which when you fold it out and flip it over reveals a Concréte Poem in the style of a map.
So far so good, then. On opening the book the positives continued, I think the poems are on point and reflect the work well. Some of the presentation of those poems is very clever and relates back to the photographic work. I particularly enjoyed the sequence around a couple of smokers outside a bar called Smokie Mo’s where graphic the language of the signboards is employed for the writing, inviting the reader to consider how the words and images have been created together on Power and Cockrill’s trips.
So, I really enjoyed the book and in general the images and the words are both strong and they do have a clear relationship and, of course, those are key to any book of this kind. I am, however a little ambivalent about the design of the book; while it works in the example above, probably because of the clear relationship between the graphics and the images, I’d have preferred a less fold-outs and whatnot. That said I have returned to the book a several of times in the couple of weeks I have had it.
@the former Little Chef at Hellingly on the A22 in Sussex.
This is the former little chef site where Paul Graham made this image from his A1 series. The Little Chef itself has been demolished within the last few years and the petrol station forecourt enlarged so it’s not possible to re-photograph the view which is slightly disappointing in the context of my current photo project.