Friday, August 22, 2014

Snaps, snaps, pictures, and snaps / just for a laugh, just for the craic

When I was younger and still idealistic, I developed an interest in photography. It began with trying to take pictures with whatever crap camera was around, and in those days they were crap, with folk even making do with 110mm format film, which for quality was even worse than the old box Brownie. But because the pictures most folk took in those heady days of holidays on the Spanish costas - horribly posed group shots of folk gurning as though their life depended on it just to prove what a good time they were having, or pictures of beautiful sunsets which turned into underexposed photos of nothing - were crap anyway, it really didn’t matter if the resolution was appalling.

My pictures were the same, but I was disappointed again and again and wanted to create the pictures I had intended, which I never did, and bit by bit got deeper into photography, inch by sorry inch. I was, however, a slow learner, though I did eventually teach myself developing and printing, which meant I wasn’t spending an arm and a leg getting some lab to develop my films and I could now reproduce the pictures on 10 x 8 paper.

I finally decided I wanted to ‘become a photographer’ in the dangerous time in every man’s life when they decide to throw over the traces and do what they think they were put on this earth to do. It happens when they have turned 30; I have no idea what similar existential crisis women face. Perhaps it is that they finally decide they want to have babies (if, of course, they don’t already have them.) Some think it is to ‘write my novel', others fuck off and open an antiques shop somewhere, others still decide to re-invent the wheel. So I threw over my job as a sub-editor and enrolled on a photography course at West Bromwich College. (As for ‘writing my novel’, I must pass on Peter Cook’s story. At a party of some kind he met some guy and asked him what he was doing. ‘I'm writing my novel,’ the man told him. ‘No, neither am I,’ said Peter Cook, who was nothing if not honest. Well, at least I’ve done it. It might be complete shite, but at least I’ve done it.)

I lasted just two terms because ran out of money, but my interest continued. I had, anyway, learnt quite a lot in the two terms of a two-year course I managed, particularly on the theory side of photography, most of which, of course, I have since forgotten. I also found a job working in an advertising photographic studio for three months, and although I picked up a bit more there (and dropped one particular howler twice when I and another assistant were allowed to use the studio after hours to do the girlfriend of a friend a favour).

After being unemployed for 11 months, I found another job, again as a sub, but I carried on with photography. This was all in the days before Photoshop and digital cameras (which don’t seem that long ago to me, but are probably ancient history to you), and I used to buy B&W film by the 30m can and load my own 35mm canisters. I also used to develop my own film and, naturally, print my own pictures.

I didn’t stick to B&W because I preferred it - and still prefer B&W pictures - but it was also a damn sight cheaper. I did do a little bit of colour printing at college and your more or less have to work in the dark, although your eyes do get used to the almost complete absence of light sooner than you might believe. I can’t say I am much good, but I do know enough to spot when a photographer does know what he is doing. There again the definition of ‘good’ is so flexible that as near as dammit a conversation about what is a ‘good’ picture and what isn’t is neigh-on pointless.

Yesterday my cousin showed me some of his pictures he has posted on a blog, and I thought that as I still have several knocking around, I would do the same. So here are some, although one picture in particular has mysteriously gone missing. I shan’t give much detail or any explanation. I am hugely sceptical of those photographic exhibitions of so-so pictures which are really nothing special, but which are acommpanied by an A4 sheet of explication, explanation and I don’t know what else justifying what is otherwise a pretty ordinary picture, usually about poverty in the Gambia, Aids in Rwanda, deprivation among the Australian aboriginals (can’t for the moment think of the PC phrase, sorry), inebriation among the Inuit (know that one, won’t catch me writing Eskimo) etc.

Of the following, all were taken between 1982 and 1990. How’s that for keeping up to date?

Here are some:

In a pub in Balsall Heath, Birmingham


My guitar, since stolen, in my house in the Maypole, Kings Heath, Birmingham


My neighbour in Kings Heath with her newborn. I like this picture because it is not just a picture of a mother and her child - one and a bit - but with the baby staring straight into the lens, it is a picture of two people


Somewhere in France, Bordeaux area I think. I used to take a look of natural light phtotography using fast film but balancing the different elements when printing up was a real bugger


Somewhere in Birmingham, at night (Never!)


My niece (now recently married and 31) feeding the ducks in a park in Cologne. She is the one who doesn't look like a fairy-tale witch


Very proud, very fat motorcycle cop in New York, June 1989. I think obesity was in in that year, at least a great many of the Yanks I saw were following that trend


North coast of Germany


North coast of Germany (I think)


St David's Hall, Cardiff. I snapped three rolls of film - 105 exposures - and got only three even halfway decent shots. I now have a great deal of respect for the sports photographers of the early part of the 20th century who used plate cameras and had about eight plates with them


My cousin from Hamburg, taken when I went to stay with her


New York, June 1989


North coast of Germany


Although all these pictures are monochrome, they all seem to have a slight brown tinge. That, I think, is because they have been tucked away in folders for these past 20 or 25 years. Just for the craic, here are two pictures taken more recently.

BMW in London (a city in the United Kingdom)

A  door in France with a can of Heiniken


Mind, does this look better. I must admit I prefer it, but as I am one of a dying breed who grew up in black and white, that’s not too surprising.

Same door without the colour. It's what we call 'desaturated on those rare occasions when there is someone around we would like to impress with big - well, bigger - words

. . .

 It’s not just the Daily Mail which has the obsession with ‘being middle-class’. It is shared by the Daily Telegraph. Take a look at this in the ‘middle-class’ Telegraph (motto: No Barrel To Deep To Be Scraped). Mind, given the most recent circulation figures, one does wonder exactly who the Telegraph is aiming this story at: according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures, the Telegraph is now down to a pitiful circulation of just 514,592 copies in June 2014. This is down from 950,105 in 12 years, but to put it into even better context, not so many years earlier it was selling almost 1.5 million. That’s some plummet by anyone’s standards.

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