Blood is a drug

On the way home from the hospital at midnight (complete with appendix) I made the mistake of telling the cab driver that I still didn’t know my blood type. This led to the cab driver telling me about a blood biologist expert (who happened to be a Jehovah’s Witness….) who had pronounced that transfusion blood (even of the right type) would be a banned drug if it were ever tested. So what if we need a transfusion I asked? Well, apparently, safer artificial alternatives are available.

I wonder where on the list of dangerous drugs other people’s blood would fit. Below tobacco probably; but above alcohol?

And as for a safe alternative, albeit in moderation (of course), I add alcohol to my blood regularly, and it seems to be quite effective.

A missing week – previewing old age

It’s been a week since I last posted anything – my abdominals have been playing up culminating with a few hours spent on a surgical ward in a Brighton hospital while they decided whether or not to pull out my appendix.

They didn’t because they decided it wasn’t the appendix anyway. I’m 90 % OK now but there may still be more tests…..

Two things struck me when I was at the low points:

  • how physically difficult it can be to do simple things
  • how it became really quite difficult to be interested in anything (I have a pile of DVDs etc I always thought I would catch up with when laid low – managed to watch two but little more)

I’ve done shoots in old people’s homes – I considered it but I’m not going to use the images here. But you will know the score – the constant help needed to do simple things. The TV on but no one watching. This was my preview. 

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.”

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?

The morals of street photography

I was out yesterday on the streets of Brighton doing ‘street photography’ (which perhaps should be better known as candid people photography) I got back home and while skimming through Digital Photographer magazine found an article “Morals and photography, what are yours”?

I’m not going to discuss the article (which I felt was poorly illustrated) or dwell too much on what my morals as a street photographer might be. However while doing a little more research on the web, I was interested to read that Robert Doisneau’s classic photograph of a couple stealing a passionate kiss on a Paris street was set up by the photographer. That makes me now feel a lot better about this image which I got on Carnaby Street in London last year….

Street photo of a couple kissing

And this I think captures what a lot of my street photography is about because I think that this is an uplifting image, this is the real world – no models, no influence from the photographer, this is how we/you really are.

I learned that a rare print of Doisneau’s photo was auctioned by the model for over $200,000, the image really is so famous that it little matters whether it was set up or not.

Yesterday I took this:

Woman in North Laines, Brighton

Now it may seem to you that she must have had knowledge of me taking this photo, but I do not think she did. This was the pose before I manoeuvred into position to get the image and was the pose as I moved away. So no, she is not expressing disapproval!

Why do I like the image? Because like my first image, it makes me smile, albeit in a different way.

I’ve no qualms about taking and publishing either image.

Now here’s a final image which I think is more complicated:

Asian tourist on Westminster Bridge

Why is this more problematical@ In that I was working with the woman in the foreground, who was posing for me, there is not an issue. She’s not ‘real’. But the other people are real. The woman on the left is not looking at me the photographer, but at the model. How you interpret what’s going on is up to you, but I don’t think of this as an image to make me smile. But it does make me think.

I like this image because it’s a happy accident. The model is as I intended. The bus too. The moving people blurring, yes, them too.  At the time I did not even notice the other motionless people, I was concentrating on the position of the bus.  The motionless people are the accident.

The observational woman and the photographer in the background standing out so vividly make this a very busy picture. And that’s why I like it – there’s a lot going on, different elements to think about and a composition that works.

I’m not going out onto the streets to take photos of people that show them in a bad light, although some street photographers will do this. I’m not sure that the observational woman in this image will like this photo of herself – if it were a photo of her only I’m sure that I would not publish it but she is just one element of this photo which pleases me overall so I’m not going to hold back.

I think this image captures something of our times. That’s what all good street photography should do.