Joan Eardley: A Sense of Place

Just back from a trip to Edinburgh to see a very special show.
Joan Eardley has fascinated, inspired and influenced me profoundly since I first came across her work at Aberdeen Art Gallery many, many years ago. Like me she was drawn again and again to what appear, at first, to be two very different subjects: social documentary (in Eardley’s case of inner city Glasgow) and wild landscape (North East Scottish coast).
So excited then to see the first major show of her work in a long time at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
Much of the work on show is familiar from Christopher Andreae’s comprehensive 2013 book, but even then there are some surprises and, as ever, seeing paintings (and drawings, sketches and photographs) ‘in the flesh’ is revelatory compared with reproductions in books. 
The beautiful ‘Boats on the Shore’, 1963 (see attached) was completely new to me and whilst the exhibition is full of wonderful paintings any show is necessarily selective so if you want to see the monumental ‘High Tide, A Winter Afternoon’, 1961, you’ll still need to head up to Aberdeen. Of course that means you can pop in to Catterline en route and see the place that inspired so much of Eardley’s landscapes and seascapes.
The show is divided roughly between the two great strands of her work, the street children and tenements of 1950s Glasgow and the remote fishing village of Catterline on the East Aberdeenshire coast. 
Here then is a little taster….
....and my own (heavily influenced) picture of the Todhead lighthouse from Catterline made a few years back - part of the series 'Dreich'
 
https://www.nationalgalleries.org/whatson/on-now-coming-soon/joan-eardley/
http://www.aagm.co.uk/thecollections/objects/object/High-Tide-A-Winter-Afternoon?l
img_4799Eardley, Joan Kathleen Harding, 1921-1963; High Tide, a Winter Afternoongma-853todehead_from_catterline_2013

International Color Awards

Delighted to receive the news this morning that my picture 'Mr & Mrs McDonald, Scotland' has been selected at the International Color Awards in Los Angeles. Shot on a 1952 Deardorff in June last year as part of an ongoing series entitled '900 Miles'. color awards copy

Myanmar

Back from a fascinating trip to Myanmar in December. Amazing country, lovely people and a privilege to have the opportunity to work there. A longer blog post will follow with the commissioned pictures once they have been used by the client, but here's a little taster...easton_myanmar_01easton_myanmar_02 copyeaston_myanmar_03easton_myanmar_04easton_myanmar_05easton_myanmar_06easton_myanmar_07easton_myanmar_08

New prints

Just packaged up and sent a new series of five prints to a client in the US. All 30"x25" c-type prints, edition of 8. Giant Sequoia, Redwood National Park, California. easton_8927easton_8933easton_8944easton_8957easton_8929

Mary Ellen Mark

And so we must say goodbye and thank you to Mary Ellen Mark, one of the giants of compassionate and concerned photography and an inspiration to me and countless others. Mary Ellen Mark's work for me has always been a standard by which all great documentary photography can be judged: engaged and engaging, compassionate but objective, the stories she sought to tell were always captivating and her ability to get 'under the skin' of each subject was startling. Whilst the stories were often hard hitting and difficult, the photographs were always direct and to the point, beautifully seen without any need for trickery or unnecessary complexity. From the raw honesty of Ward 81, Falkland Road and Streetwise to the joyfulness of Indian Circus and her commercial film stills right up to the exquisite 20/24 polaroid portraits of 'Twins' and 'Prom'

One of the true greats has gone and will be sorely missed, but we must say thank you for all the extraordinary photographs she has left behind and for the flame that she lit in so many younger photographers of my generation and beyond.

Here's a tiny reminder.....

mem_02 mem_03 mem_04 ram-prakash-singh-with-his-elephant-shyama-great-golden-circus-ahmedabad-1990mem_05

On documentary photography and some current exhibitions

There’s certainly some good photography around in the UK just now. Especially if you can get a little bit off the beaten track. I had the pleasure last week to go to the opening of ‘Landscapes of Murder’ by Antonio Olmos at Rich Mix in London: a poignant and powerful reminder of the problem of violence in London. The work is presented as a series of landscapes of everyday places and street scenes: ordinary, familiar and unremarkable locations that serve only to heighten the tragedy that has happened in each. Reminiscent, of course, of Joel Sternfeld’s work ‘On this site: landscapes in memoriam’, Olmos photographed the site of every one of the 210 murders that took place in London from 1st January 2011 to 31st December 2012. One telling difference between the two series is that as a news and documentary photographer Olmos visited each site very shortly after the murder took place: after the media had left, but whilst emotions were still raw. Here we have lone bunches of withering flowers, torn remnants of ‘Police: do not cross’ tape, groups of once tough looking teenagers drawn together in their grief all amidst shoppers and motorists going about their daily lives. Life goes on in these landscapes, but there is always a disturbing reminder that life has been lost here too.

It is the very ordinariness of each photograph that makes them all the more shocking: a powerful and fitting expression of the senselessness of murder on the streets of London.

Friends of Negus McClean gather near the spot where he was murdered on Sunday Night. McLean was stabbed to death by a gang of youths on Westminster Road in Edmonton, North London. McLean is the 4th teenager to be stabbed to death in London in 2011.

At Rich Mix, London until 30th May: http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/the-landscape-of-murder/

Book available here.

On a connected theme as part of the Look/15 photography festival in Liverpool is American photographer Richard Ross’s heartbreaking series ‘Juvenile in Justice’: a compassionate and powerful portrayal of a justice system that has gone very, very wrong. Ross has photographed teenagers and young people (as young as ten!) held in detention centres in 31 US states. In each photograph the face of the youngster is blurred, obscured or photographed from behind, magnifying the sense of isolation and fear they must feel. Accompanying texts in the young persons own words are desperate.

photo1

Both extraordinary and important bodies of work – documentary photography at it’s very best.

I fear sometimes that photographers can get too obsessed with the ‘idea’ or ‘concept’ of what they are doing or otherwise overplay the process – photography about photography. There seems to be a lot of naval gazing going on these days.

If, as photographers, we want to document and communicate, then surely we want our work to reach and connect with as wide an audience as possible. If we require that the viewer has a degree in visual anthropology or is extraordinarily well informed about the latest movements in contemporary art then we may be doing our subjects a great disservice. This is not to say that documentary, art and conceptualization can’t all work together and there are some fantastic examples of new and innovative approaches to what is essentially documentary photography where the results are challenging, engaging and very rewarding. I’m thinking here of Max Pinckers’ work ‘Will They Sing like Raindrops or Leave me Thirsty’, a small selection of which is at St Georges Hall in Liverpool as part of Look/15. The work is a mesmerising mix of Bollywood theatricality and keenly observed documentary interwoven with old torn newspaper cuttings - all telling the story of the ‘Love Commandos’, a small group of men in New Delhi whose mission is ‘to help India’s lovebirds who want to marry for love’, often against the wishes of family and the tradition of arranged marriage. A fine piece of work and well worth looking out.

Another compelling work that uses differing approaches is the intensely personal series ‘When I was six’ by Phil Toledano which was shown recently at the Format Festival in Derby and is available as a book from Dewi Lewis. The title refers to the death of Toledano’s sister aged nine when the photographer himself was six. Many years later after his parents died, Toledano discovered a box of his sisters possessions that his parents had neatly packed away after her death. The work takes the form of a series of still lives of items from the box and imagined ‘landscapes’ of outer space that occupied the young boys mind in the years after her death. Beautiful!

So, there it is: a very small selection of some great work that's out there just now. There are myriad ways of making powerful documentary work, but please, please, please, make it both accessible and compelling.

I'll finish with some words from Michael Craig-Martin, the great cheerleader for conceptual art and the Young British Artists. In his new book 'On being an Artist' he writes:

"I dislike jargon intensely and cannot stand people who think that complex ideas need to be expressed in a way that is obscure or rarefied. I believe the opposite is the case."

Here, here.

Heathrow Airport Campaign for Saatchi Masius, London

New work for Heathrow Airport, all shot on cold and blustery late winter days in UK! Brrrr. Commissioned by Saatchi Masius London

Many thanks to all the participants who braved the cold, the mud, the wind and the rain: Louis Barnett (Chocolatier), Martin Corr (Sound Moves), Paul Brown (MHI, Bristol), Anna Goodband (Liverpool School of English), Chris Baker-Brian (BBOXX), plus of course my super assistants Wayne Pilgrim, Peter Scarratt, Anderson Lamb.

Art Directors: Ian Otway/Tom Kennedy

Copywriters: Richard Carman/Laura Fullerton

Production: Sharon Daly/Luke Jackson

Post Production: Michel Groot/Craig Easton

Liverpool-School-of-English-ad2 louis-barnett-chocolate-ad_dps sound-moves-ad_02 BBOXX_ad_dps mail-handling-advert_dps_02

For behind the scenes videos by Barney Edwards/Kalectiv please visit:

http://your.heathrow.com/soundmovesuk/

http://your.heathrow.com/bboxx/

http://your.heathrow.com/lse/

http://your.heathrow.com/louisbarnett/

http://your.heathrow.com/mailhandlinginternational/

 

Game of Thrones

Been shooting some landscape work around Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland. Mostly using PhaseOne kit, but fortunately for this one I was using an old Nikon D3X - they take some battering those cameras!!! Ballintoy Harbour, Co. Antrim....

Ballintoy_01
and half a second later....
Ballintoy_02
more to follow....

Two extraordinary people.

These last few weeks have seen the deaths of two extraordinary people that I consider myself to have been very fortunate to have met back in my newspaper days. Doris Lessing 1919-2013 and Nelson Mandela 1918-2013. Both made the world a better place and both were incredibly generous with their time to a young photographer barely out of short trousers. Mandela, I met twice - once when I was still at college when my friend James Miller and I talked our way into a press conference during his first visit to London after release from prison in South Africa. He took time out to talk to these two young students and was genuinely interested in what we were doing, telling us (even at that stage) that it was important work. James went on to become a superb TV news cameraman and documentary film-maker and was tragically killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003. He did some incredibly important work and I know that, like me, he cherished that first meeting with Mandela. Doris Lessing was photographed at home in London in 1992 for The Independent newspaper. Usually these newspaper portraits were done in a few minutes flat - a quick hello, assessment of the environment then a photograph and on to the next assignment. With Doris Lessing, I recall it was different. Like Mandela she was genuinely interested and we spent a couple of hours at least at her home talking about everything under the sun over numerous cups of tea.

Two iconic figures of our times. Rest in Peace.

Doris lessing

Nelson Mandela

Paris and Dusseldorf with InterContinental Hotels

So....that was fun.... Just back from Dusseldorf - the last of the three Travel Photography Masterclass weekends with InterContinental.

Und.....es regnete.

But we've been getting used to that and it did give us an opportunity each time to look at shooting in bad weather (I'm worried I might get a repution) After all if you've gone for a weekend away your not going to hang out in the hotel just because of a bit of rain are you?

Here's a few pics from the weekends in Paris and Dusseldorf. Once again a real mix of guests from as far a field as the US and Peru and again with a broad range of experience and interests, so it was great to chat, look at ideas and ways of seeing and challenge a few accepted 'rules' (there aren't any!). And whilst some guests wanted to take better pictures of their husband/wife/kids/girlfriends etc others wanted to get away from a rut they felt they were in and we even got into discussing the Dusseldorf school and it's influence on contemporary photography.

First up though, I'm must mention the chef at the hotel in Dusseldorf who, on my arrival, had made a chocolate 'photograph' of the skyline for me. Complete with picture frame and set on the table in my room - cool eh?

The Madness of the Dusseldorf Christmas market...

Here's the rather grand 'Le Grand' in Paris....

and finally....won't someone mention to the Dusseldorfers that their buns are a bit small? (but the Alt beer is fab!)

Travel Photography Masterclasses at InterContinental Hotels

I am running a series of Masterclasses at InterContinental Hotels this autumn. Next up is Paris this coming weekend 2nd and 3rd November. The events are free of charge and available to guests staying on the InterContinental Hotel Weekend  Escapes Package. Pre-booking is essential via www.intercontinental.com/weekendescapes and there are just a few places left.

Each day starts with a meeting over coffee at the hotel where we explore some ideas and ways of looking which will hopefully bring a new perspective to guest's travel and holiday photographs. Then armed with expert location tips on the cities hidden gems from the hotel's concierges, guests are free to explore the city and put some of the ideas we've discussed into practice. Later in the day, I meet up with the guests in the city at a pre-arranged time, look at some pictures and have some one-to-one time photographing the city and I shoot some portraits of the guests at our chosen location. In the evening there will be another opportunity to look at the work we've done during the day and talk further.

The first session in London last month was great fun despite the pouring rain and heavy grey skies (it did give us opportunities to look at shooting in bad weather - see one of the guests series of St Pauls below) and the next two are Paris le Grand: 2/3 November and Dusseldorf 30 Nov/1Dec.

For more information please email: WeekendEscapesExperience@ihg.com

Here's a few pics (some mine, some guests) from the first weekend in London....

It would be great to see you in France or Germany.

Cameras I have known and loved

Look what I found gathering dust in a corner of the studio....I can still smell the fixer now as I begin to reminisce about film, dark rooms and red lights. Miscellaneous collection of cameras used over the years and now (mostly) redundant. Although the old Hasselblad lenses work a treat on the Phase One 645/IQ180 system. First up, the old workhorses from the newspaper days: Nikon F3 and two FM2s. Built like battleships and took some battering too (as you can see) - although fortunately they never had to 'take a bullet' like McCullin's old Nikon F. Which reminds me, you must check out Jacqui Morris and David Morris' film 'McCullin' - released last month and well worth seeing. A reminder of what great photojournalism can be and why it is so important. Both the F3 and the FM2 were superb cameras designed for hard work and never let me down. Seen better days now though!

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And the two that were permanently on my shoulder from those days until fairly recently: Two Leica M6's. I'd had an M4 when I was just starting out (couldn't afford the M6), but as soon as I got hold of these I was never parted from them for 20 years or more. Still use the lenses on the M8. Once shot a picture on one of these that was given the whole of the front page of the Independent newspaper in the UK. As I recall it was hand held at 1/4 sec at f1.4 on Kodak Tri-X pushed to 1600 - and still pin sharp. Was there ever another camera that could be handled like that?CF001564

Another classic, the Hasselblad 500C. Either with a waste level finder or the prism viewfinder the 6x6 format was a joy to work with. For me one of the key things about different cameras is that you take different pictures. The way it feels in your hands (or on a tripod) completely changes the way you work. I feel the same now about the Phase One and the IQ180 - an absolute pleasure to use and image files are second to none - once again it feels like a camera designed by photographers for photographers (takes the old Hasselblad V lenses too which is a little bonus).

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When I was shooting for Rick Stein's Seafood Lover's Guide, we decided that we needed some wide panoramic images across double page spreads. I picked up this Toyo Art Panorama 170 and had a lot of fun with it. It was a bit tricky to use and due to the wide nature of the format the lenses needed a centre weighted graduated filter. It was a nightmare to focus and kind of awkward in the way you had to wind on the 120 film and sort of guess where the next exposure should be made, but the results were fabulous. I recall shooting a whole series of panoramic landscapes on the Isle of Colonsay in Scotland as artworks for the hotel and also using it for portraits in a metal bashing factory in New Jersey. One of the last jobs it was used for a was a big Barclays Bank campaign. It got about a bit! CF001566

But for unrivalled quality and versatility, the old Sinar Norma was the one - heavy though and once my Ebony field camera had been stolen, I even used it for some landscape work believe it or not!CF001572I've seen this next one described as the 'best camera ever made' - The Mamiya 7ii. An extraordinary idea in that they took the Leica rangefinder principle and applied it to a 6x7 format camera. This made it incredibly easy and fast to handle and the image quality was getting close to 5/4 film. Of all the cameras though I have to say this was a bit of a luxury. It sort of went against the point I made earlier on in which you make different pictures with different cameras. To all intents and purposes this handled like a Leica (ha ha, I'm a poet!) but gave you massive 6/7 negs. The problem was that it was not small and inconspicuous like the Leica and when I wanted the bigger negs or transparencies it was generally for work that I would prefer to shoot on the Hasselblad or 5/4. People still love the Mamiya though and I'll maybe not ebay it just yet!CF001570and finally....

this one was from way before my time but I bought this little beauty from a friend who just had it in a cupboard. Leica iii g with collapsible Elmar 5cm lens. To be honest it's had more use as a prop than a camera, but it's a fine piece of engineering and I like to see it in the studio. I did use it a few times and the lens quality was second to none. Not a battery in site either!CF001576

Look what arrived in the post this morning.....

Well, how about that. A BIG thank you to the good people at Cutty Sark Whisky who have very kindly sent me a lovely package to 'introduce me to the brand', before I head up to Scotland to meet Kirsteen Campbell, the Master Blender, to learn all about the whisky blending process and to shoot a commission for them. All part of the TPOTY prize and something I'm really looking forward to. In the first instance however, I think I better unscrew these caps and begin the voyage of discovery... Cutty_Sark