Category: Graham Kidd’s Blog

Revelation!

It’s not long since the world discovered the work of Vivian Maier, an unknown but brilliant amateur street photographer, whose work in the tough districts of New York and Chicago have quickly reached legendary status.

I have the privilege of volunteering at the Oxfam shop in Bangor, and the added gift of sorting the incoming donations of books, music and video. Last week threw up two wonderful books of the work of two quite different photographers, one of whom I was familiar with, and the other I had never heard of.

The former of these was a collection of the works of Angus Bean, an eccentric portrait photographer, whose most familiar image to most people would be the cover photo for the Beatles’ 1963 debut album, “Please Please Me”, which features the four moptops leaning over the rail of a balcony in a Liverpool block of flats. This image was later recreated for the cover of a compilation album, with the four looking older and wiser.

McBean’s approach was never stereotypical – not for him simple moody lighting effects. He created complete settings for his portraits. Intricate sets, with detail attended to and costume to suit the individual being photographed – which was often himself. But his photographs exhibit a very wry humour at work, and their eccentricity sets them apart from the crowd.

However, wonderful though this book is (I bought it, so I  must have been impressed), it was the second book that really caught my attention.

It was “Street Photographs Manchester and Salford” by Shirley Baker.

Like Vivian Maier, I had never heard of Shirley Baker before although, unlike Maier, she is an established photographer. This book documents, as its title suggests, the streets of Salford and Manchester in the decade between 1963 and 1973, mostly in monochrome, but a few in colour.

This was a time of huge social upheaval in cities such as this. I grew up in Liverpool, and would have been about 10-20 during this period. The images are very striking, and show the city in a state of decay and dereliction that was soon to be swept away, to be replaced by a different form of community. Although the images show huge levels of poverty and deprivation, there’s also dignity and a sense of community that was lost when the demolition was over. Huge numbers of people were dislocated, and the cities would never be quite the same places again.

What really struck a chord with me in this book was that I am old enough to remember the sorts of places and people that the images in Baker’s book portray. Indeed, I was born into a street in Liverpool that was not too far removed in character from the places in the book, although it wasn’t quite so bleak. (The street and houses are still there.) The conditions documented here are more akin to the 19th century than the 21st.

If you’d like to see a selection of pictures from Shirley Baker’s book, there are some here – coincidentally, from a blog entry for the Oxfam shop in Wilmslow, which had received a copy of the book by donation. Simply Googling for Shirley Baker will reveal lots of others, too.

I recommend it – you’ll be surprised at the power of the images.

The book itself is highly prized, and will fetch a considerable price – more than I can afford, sadly, so it will go on general sale soon.

Where did StreetSeen come from?

This post is merely a reflection on how StreetSeen has developed from a standing start, less than 12 months ago into a thriving group of eight like-minded street photographers, few of whom previously knew each other well, or even at all.

The seeds were sown unwittingly in late 2012, when Roy Barry placed an ad. on the local Freegle group, asking if anyone had any old film cameras that they no longer wanted. I replied, saying that I had a surplus 35mm Ricoh rangefinder. Roy came over from Rhyl to Llanfairfechan to collect the camera and, by chatting about our photography, we soon found some common interests, so we exchanged Facebook details.

Not long afterwards, Roy put a message on Facebook, asking if anyone in the area was interested in starting something (unspecified) around the idea of street photography. I’ve always been fascinated by it, so I replied stating my interest. We chatted around the idea, and got the basis of this web site up and running fairly quickly.

In the meantime, I’d recently seen some of Roj Smith’s work through a mutual friend on Twitter, and was convinced that his work was consistent with my and Roy’s interests. It seemed logical to invite Roj to join in and, happily, he accepted.

Meanwhile, Anne Muth and Keith Jones, who knew each other by being members of Bangor University’s Photographic Society, became aware of what we were doing, and asked if they could join in with us. We welcomed them to the group in late June 2013 – not very long ago.

By this time, Roy, Roj and I were already planning our first StreetSeen exhibition. Anne was keen to join in by exhibiting, which she eventually did. Bearing in mind that none of us had exhibited our work before, and we were still relatively unknown to each other, it was quite an exciting time. What were we letting ourselves in for?

As the exhibition drew near, Sam Lock and Aquilino Moreno, who knew of Roj via another local group, Welshot, asked to join and were welcomed to the group.

I’d also read of Llinos Lanini’s work, which seemed to fit into StreetSeen’s ethos very well, in a regional newspaper article. Llinos was invited to join us, and is now also part of the group.

So, looking back, StreetSeen has become airborne very quickly. Given that neither Roy or I had a particularly clear vision of where it would lead to, it’s gone remarkably well. As a group without a defined structure, just a shared love of our subject, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve already achieved more than any of us had envisaged. We intend to keep the momentum going.

But what has come out of it, and is equally important, is a new friendship and co-operative spirit that I hope has enriched everyone involved, not least me. And for that, I am very grateful to all of my StreetSeen colleagues.

Street Photographer Wins Payout From Police

A 15 year-old photographer has won an out-of-court settlement from the Metropolitan Police for their treatment of him after being arrested for taking pictures (lawfully) at a Police Cadets’ parade in Romford Essex.

It seems that the Met. are either not aware of, or are failing to adhere to, their own guidelines for dealing with street photography, as discussed here in a previous post…

The full story is on the Amateur Photographer magazine’s web site.

Catch them while you can!

The BBC has aired some wonderful programmes featuring the work of three iconic photographers in the last couple of weeks.

The first was in the “Imagine” series, presented by Alan Yentob, and featured the work of the amazing Vivian Maier, who has become a new favourite of all at StreetSeen. This until-recently unknown street photographer, whose day job was being a nanny to well-to-do families in New York and Chicago has only come to light in the last few years. She took tens of thousands of incredible pictures, many of which she never saw herself, as the films were unprocessed, but which were nonetheless the equal of many renowned masters of the genre. She had no formal tuition, and very little equipment – just a Rolleiflex TLR, with which she got very close in o her subjects, who were often in very poor and quite dangerous districts.

Also in the “Imagine” series was a programme about the utterly incredible Don McCullin, almost certainly the definitive war photographer. He, single-handedly, redefined the medium, and raised awareness of the horrors of wars in remote places, until Rupert Murdoch’s takeover at the Times installed Andrew Neill as editor of The Sunday Times, and its subsequent sad re-focusing on lifestyle rather than reportage.

The last of the programmes was a documentary about the current challenging, but life-affirming Rankin exhibition, “Alive: In The Face Of Death” at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Nobody could watch this, or see the exhibition, and not be moved and uplifted by it. Simply wonderful.

Links to all of these broadcasts are included in the text above. I’d urge everyone to watch them all, but hurry – they won’t be on iPlayer for very long.

Flickr Announces One Free Terabyte Of Storage Space Per User

Flickr, the photo-sharing web site, has been bought up by Yahoo!, the venerable but ailing content and web services provider.

In what looks like a bold attempt to steal a march on its competitors – Instagram, Google, Facebook et al – it seems they’ve announced (as discussed on the Tech Crunch web site) that they are offering a full terabyte of data storage, free, to its users.

This sounds excellent, and in all respects but one – as discussed in Roy’s recent, cautionary blog posting “A Black Day For Photography” – it probably is. But a terabyte? Seems a little excessive!

It seems that not everyone is happy, though – “Pro” users are facing a price hike.

Yahoo! giveth and Yahoo! taketh away.

The origins of StreetSeen

How did StreetSeen come about?

Only a few short months ago, the three founding members, Roy Barry, Roj Smith and Graham Kidd, weren’t even aware of each others’ existence.

The first unwitting step came in the autumn of 2012 when Roy, being a collector of old photography equipment, advertised on a local Yahoo-based Freegle group forum, asking if anyone had any old cameras they no longer wanted. Graham spotted his ad., and having an old Ricoh 35mm rangefinder camera sitting on a shelf gathering dust, replied.

When Roy came over from Rhyl to collect the camera, the discussion that followed established that there was a considerable overlap in not just photography, but in many other aspects of their respective world-views.

Contact was maintained via Facebook, and Roy’s seed of an idea about a collaborative street photography venture that was planted in these early discussions finally sprouted in April 2013 in the form of this web site.

It was always intended to expand beyond the two initial members and in the meantime, Graham had become aware of the quality of Roj Smith’s work via a mutual friend on Twitter. Invitations were issued; Roj graciously accepted and was welcomed to the StreetSeen fold at the beginning of May 2013.

Real, in-the-flesh meetings have since taken place and enthusiastic discussions about where to take StreetSeen from here are well under way. Early momentum has been established and it has already become a friendly, co-operative and forward-looking group, with lots of ideas to explore. There is a bright future ahead for our group, without a doubt.