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Putting self before art

Pawing through the Guardian this morning, I could not help notice the headline that Maria Schneider, Marlon Brando’s co-star in Last Tango in Paris, has died. She was sadly only 58 and the thought from the article is that the fame, or notoriety, from that film (directed by Bernardo Bertolucci) impacted her life in a negative way. Of course we will never know.

Schneider in a interview likened the experience in the film to one of being raped and said, in a quote that confronts someone like me,  ”Never take your clothes off for a middle-aged man who claims that it’s art”. 

Whether, when she was young, her mind told her to do it for art, fame or money we will never know. It certainly seems that like Brando, she was charmed by Bertolucci. 

What comes across is that she did not appear in this film for her self, that she did not have the motivating factor of an inner self driven by fame or money, so that all that came out of it was regret.

Is the film art? I think history judges that it is. Whether you consider my photography art or not makes no difference, but in the end I’m clear that, in casting myself as the subject 25 years ago and since, it’s helped me as an individual develop and relate to my self and lead a relatively stable, happy life. I can look back and see that for me, even if I did not know it when it all started, it’s been therapy.

Blogger, the DMCA and me…

The DMCA is the rather grandly titled Digital Millennium Copyright Act and it appears that the people at Google, who run the blogging site Blogger have acted on a notice that I issued them at the end of last month to take down some of my images that were being used on a blog without my permission.

I recently wrote about this unauthorised image use. Such a shame because the commentary was good and the images well chosen to illustrate my work. It seems I’ll never know whether the writer was choosing to ignore my small request or somehow it never came to his attention. It beats me how someone writing an intelligent blog can choose not to include an email address so that they can be communicated with.

Unauthorised image use, artist’s moral rights & it’s nice to ask…

Before Christmas I discovered a blog post about my more personal images which included five of my photos that had been copied from my sites and used without my permission. This blog article is quite a good post – as a short critique it understands what I’m about is was placed alongside articles on Francesca Woodman & Juergen Teller so exalted company – but really I would like to have been asked about using the images before publication!

There was no contact email address, so I made a firm and polite comment. “From your comments you obviously appreciate what is behind my work. Like most photographers however I really would like to be asked first! To use them I am asking what I would ask of anyone – that you amend the heading & label to credit Scott H. the name I use as an artist, like on my site, rather than my full name – the reasons are complicated but good.”

So why don’t I want my full name used?

Put my name into Google and you’ll find there are not many of me about. Right now the blog article comes up on the first page of Google and anyone searching for me by name (in particular a client wishing to reuse my services) could easily click through and see rather more than they expected to see! There have been two such searches and contacts in the last two days – no clicks on the blog as far as I know but it’s only a matter of time. Many of my older clients come from conservative backgrounds and that will cost me work. And for photographers, work is really hard to come by.

So that’s why I’m Scott H. here. And because I know about how Google works I know that this article I write here which includes my full name is not going to come up prominently. And my blogger could even leave my name in the body of that blog too but (SEO lesson..) it is the use of the name in the title and links that causes Google to index it highly.

I don’t want to hide, I’m proud of the integrity of my images and am open about them with online and real life friends, but just as I don’t run naked down the street in front of the neighbours I don’t want to do the equivalent on the first page of Google.

But the real issue here is one of principle. Asking first. To use my images in any way people should have a licence or specific permission to use that image. To ask respects  an  artist’s moral rights and copyright rights. I’m not asking for money in return for the use, I’m asking for the removal of a few letters from the title and tags!

While taking away my wish for partial anonymity, the blogger chooses to be anonymous to the extent that I can’t even send an email. All I can do is write a post on the blog. In the absence of any contact, a week ago I issued a DMCA take down notice to Google which the blogger hopefully will read with my comment (which perhaps he or she’s not seen) and make the amendment that allows the publication to continue.

Here’s a reminder of what I say on various copyright posts on this blog…

“All these images are copyright. None of these photos may be reproduced and/or used in any form without my permission. This includes blogging!

But please don’t let this stop you asking nicely – if your blog treats other peoples intellectual property with respect and is non-commercial (no ads!) then I’m likely to say yes. On Tumblr you are welcome to ‘like’ or repost with the usual credit (to Scott H. / Allablur) and link.

Thank you for your understanding.”

2010 – A year of radical change, when nothing much happened!

Nothing much happened in terms of my actual photography, BUT it’s been a year of physical relocation for my wife and I to Brighton and the year in which the second of my offspring went off to university. The radical change that these changes have brought on has been in my mindset, the freedom to be more open about my edgier work, even if not to do much of it!

In starting this blog, twittering and the facebook malarkey, even resurrecting my deviantArt account, I’ve decided to put myself about in new online communities and to the extent the community is local the physical community here in Brighton. In London my openness about the my ‘alt’ work was shared with a smallish defined community (fundamentally the London Alternative Photography Meetup group), in Brighton it’s now anyone who is active in the wider arts in Brighton or further afield.

Everything I do which is not for a commercial client or commercial stock photography may get featured in this alternative arena. So it’s not just about photographing fetish or the nude, it’s also about street photography, landscapes and the occasional more oddball image I might capture. It’s about photography as an artform to be enjoyed and an hugely important part of art is sharing and acceptance, not for producing easy art but something that can be more challenging, that causes people to think about the whole rather than an individual image.

On the commercial side with all the changes it’s not been a great year. But then I’ve not been pushing. I still don’t think I can mix the alt side in with the commercial ‘Light Touch’ photography because of the nature of that commercial photography – if it were fashion (say) then there would not be an issue but the people who buy my services are generally rather conservative types and I really do think that images of Japanese bondage or naked men would be too much! (Mental note; must update the portfolio for the more fetishy stuff).

So what’s ahead?

I’m not really a fetish photographer. Unless you pull in the self portraiture and call that a fetish! That’s more about easy access to a compliant model:-) But it’s an important element of what I do even if I’ve been making myself a smaller part of it. For the next year what I want to do is get out into the environment with an accomplice (or two, or three, or ten!) to do more environmental nudes, making the body/bodies a small part of the landscapes, because in the end that’s all we are.

I would like to do some of the more personal nude photography of others I practiced about three years ago. With Brighton in mind the tag ‘straight eye for the gay guy’ has occurred to me! Finding the right person(s), either sex, is an issue because I don’t want outright exhibitionists as models (all too easy to recruit!) or indeed established models but people who are pretty confident in their skins and have ideas of where they want to go with self expression. Self portraiture with a half decent photographer to make sure that the photography side works is how I’d describe it. Whether that makes sense to anyone else is another thing!

The landscapes lie ahead – they don’t need people, clothed or otherwise. And the streets; they need people. And maybe an excusion again into what I called ‘people panoramas’. And I have a small stock of 120 film!

2011 lies ahead and I’m excited. And a little nervous. But if I was just excited and not nervous then I know I wouldn’t be pushing myself…

Photography Xmas present to me….

Those following my earlier post on digging out the Pentax 645 and shooting off a film may wonder where the results are. Well after managing to get chemicals delivered, I’ve not been able to find my developing tank. 

I have just given up looking & have ordered one which if it arrives will be my annual photography Xmas present to me from me. If it arrives…..

Pulling out the Pentax…..

I used to be a big fan of Pentax. We’re talking 70s and 80s now! I still have two 35mm SLR’s & a couple of lenses (inc 50mm f1.4) & am not getting rid of any of it. But don’t use it.

The coming of the Pentax 645D (only £10K) reminded me that I do have another Pentax. So I pulled out the Pentax 645 which I must have last used about 6 years ago. And there appears to be a film in it – only 1 exposure taken.

Like an idiot I stated playing with the controls, including the ISO dial. Ha! mistake! This isn’t digital – I need to know what speed film is in there…..  From memory it’s probably Fuji 160 asa print or slide but I’ll have to wait until opening to see.

Click. The wrong sort of click. Trouble? Change the batteries. Nothing. Press a few more buttons, still unsure what’s what. Click. The right sort but now weird winding sound that does not stop. Turn off. Secure the film back properly (I’d had a fiddle). Click. Very quick whirr… It seems OK!

This camera has been in a warm but dry loft. The film will be crap I’m just going to fire to the end to see if it gets there and what it is.

I’m testing as I write. The high pitched winding noise recurs as I get towards the end of the film. Turning off the camera and on again seems to solve the problem. 

The film turns out to be 100 asa Provia. I wonder what such film stored in an oven and shot at 160 asa looks like? No, I won’t bother…..

I’m going to have to get some very cheap out of date film off eBay to test this out. The sort which I could get 10,000 rolls of for the price of a Pentax 645D!

Taylor Wessing at the National Portrait Gallery

A casually explicit image by photographer Panayiotis Lamprou entitled “Portrait of my British Wife” has been awarded second place in this year’s Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize – selected entries for which will be on show at the National Portrait Gallery in London for the next few months.

The British Journal of Photography published the outcome of this year’s contest today showing both the winning image (by David Chancellor) and the second place image in its report. Strangely the NPG are not upfront about the image that they had selected for second place, choosing to crop the lower half of it out completely in its presentation on its website inviting the viewer to click though to see the full image.

I like the image. It’s forthright and intimate. There’s some chatter about it not being erotic or pornographic but some people say that to excuse themselves liking such an image. In my view the subject is pornographic – however in its style and presentation, it hits me also as art.

So why am I writing? I’ve 2 issues:

  • If the NPG don’t feel that they can present the image properly then they really should not have chosen it as second prize in the most prestigious photo competition that there is in the UK.
  • The title – “Portrait of my British Wife”. The idea of the photographer showing off his possession instantly comes to mind. “And here is her vagina. Do you approve?”. You are left wondering about the motivation – is he just being doubly provocative?

It’s cool to have an essentially erotic portrait do well, but please not one with that title and next time don’t sensationalise it by censoring it. I like the image but it’s surely not strong enough to come second in such a prize.

With grants from government declining am I being too cynical if I suspect that the NPG have hit on a way of boosting publicity, attendances, and income?

North Laine hangout

Two guys hanging out amidst the graffiti art in Brighton’s North Laine. One that really has to be in colour. I’m not sure if they were trying to claim credit…