black and white

Thoughts on the Sony World Photography exhibition

After my slightly disappointing press view of the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition, when I didn't have the opportunity to take in the photos, I made a return trip to Somerset House yesterday to rectify this situation. I had much more time to wander through both the East and West Wings, admiring the images and pontificating on the judges' choices. Visiting an exhibition that has cherry-picked from vast numbers of photos submitted from across the globe by both amateur and professional photographers gives you the chance to look for trends and fashions, garner some inspiration, and importantly, look through a window into other people's worlds. I enjoyed my saunter through the rooms and Sara Naomi Lewkowicz's l'Irs d'Or winning series Shane and Maggie stands out a mile. I loved Sophie Gamand's wet dogs, which won the portrait prize, Guy Martin's photos from the Gezi Square protests told a defiant story, and I was drawn to the deep and dark photos in Salvatore Di Gregorio's series An Old Fight, which won the sport prize.

Winner of l'Iris d'Or: Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for her series 'Shane and Maggie'. 'Shane and Maggie' attempts to show domestic vilence as a process, as opposed to a single incident.  (Sara Naomi Lewkowicz (USA) Finalist, Contemporary Issues Professional Competition 2014 Sony World Photography Awards)

What, though, were my overwhelming thoughts and questions as I left the exhibition?

The professional category was dominated by black and white images. That is a comment made as neither praise nor criticism, merely as an observation. It is worth noting, however, that l'Iris d'Or winning series comprised colour images and that the photos that have stuck with me are those shot in colour. Maybe it is because they were my preferred shots, or perhaps it is because their colour makes them stand out amongst the monochrome, but it does pay to be different.

Protesters against the government of Tayip Erdogan and his plans for a shopping mall and pedestrianised area in the centre of Instanbul - Guy Martin (UK) Current Affairs Professional Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

Writing of daring to be different, I think I might've reached Indonesian cow-racing photo saturation point. It's a stunning spectacle that produces stunning images, but there have been examples in the professional or open categories for at least the last three years. It's almost as if their inclusion has become obligatory. I'd appreciate being able to gaze upon something new in future years.

Salvatore Di Gregorio, Italy, Winner, Sport, Professional Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

Finally, I was surprised by the profusion of manipulated images in the open category. From HDR, to composites, to painterly-type blending, it had it all, and this extended beyond the 'Enhanced' division, which is devoted to manipulated images. As the author of a book on surreal photography, this might be regarded as an unusual comment, but it does present some important questions. First, how much manipulation is too much manipulation? Second, to what degree is photo-manipulation now regarded as an acceptable element of photography? And consequently, at which point does a comeptition become one of photo-manipulation rather than photography? All of these are questions for another day, but ones to ponder.

Wet Dog 2, Sophie Gamand (France) Portraiture Competition, 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

The exhibition runs until Sunday (18 May), and if you have to be in London or its environs, it's worth an hour or so to take it in. I'd love to know what you think.

Sony World Photography Awards exhibition, Somerset House, London, until 18 May 2014.

Only in England - now at the National Media Museum, Bradford

After its brilliantly successful run as the debut exhibition hosted at Media Space in the Science Museum, Only in England, Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, is now open at the National Media Museum in Bradford. Running from 28 March until 29 June 2014, it gives anyone who didn't manage to make it to London an opportunity to take in an exhibition that feels quintessentially English. The exhibition features 50 vintage prints as well as 50 previously unseen images from the Tony Ray-Jones archive, held by the National Media Museum. It was Martin Parr who helped to select these new prints from a selection of over 2,700 contact sheets and negatives. Martin Parr's works includes 50 rarely seen early black and white photographs from his series The Non-Conformists.

Blackpool, 1968 by Tony Ray-Jones

I enjoyed my morning moseying around the exhibition in London and while I did find it a little unwieldy to navigate, the photos were charming. My particular favourite, the image that made me smile and say 'Yep, only in England!' was Glyndebourne, 1967. All dressed up for the opera and having a champagne picnic with cows in the background? Of course it's Glyndebourne.

Opening times and visiting details are available on the National Media Museum's website. But the good news is that entry is free.

Oh, and if you'd like a little taster, we have an exlusive video of Martin Parr taking a look at some of Tony Ray-Jones' postcard collection!

No more Fujifilm FP-3000B?

I woke up this morning to the plaintive cries of a small but dedicated group of photographers who are lamenting the loss of the next in Fujifilm's line-up of films that has hit the discontinuation wall. Apparently, Fujifilm is winding up production of its FP-3000B instant black and white film. This peel-apart film was renowned for being quick to develop and being highly sensitive to light with an EI of 3,200. With its axing, there will be no other 3×4 black and white instant films available. For anyone who shoots medium format and uses instant film as a quick proof, it's a loss. And of course it's a loss to the people who just enjoy taking photos with it.

If you're particularly concerned by the loss of 3000B, a petition has been established to request that Fujifilm reconsider the decision. There's also the #fuji3000b hashtag to keep interest levels up. But in the meantime you might do well to stock up on the remaining supplies.

As I've not seen any official correspondence on this, I have emailed Fujifilm UK to confirm. I await its response.

Update: Fujifilm US has issued confirmation via Twitter.

Analogue films crash into the 21st century with the LomoKino


This has to be about as simple as film-making gets. It’s Lomography’s inspiredly-named LomoKino – a movie camera that works on 35mm film. There’s no sound, no post-production, and no special effects: just somewhere around 40 seconds of footage shot at 3-4 frames per second on a camera that uses a hand crank.

The LomoKino has a 25mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6. Focusing is between one metre and infinity normally, but at the click of a button it can do 60 centimetre close-ups.

If you’re wondering how on earth you can watch your cinematic masterpieces of baby’s first steps in over-saturated cross-processed wonder, Lomo’s already got that covered. In addition to the LomoKino, you can pick up the LomoKinoScope, which’ll let you watch your homemade movie, turned by a hand crank, too. Get them digitised and you can share them on the Lomography website, naturally.

The LomoKino takes any 35mm film, whether that’s slide, colour negative, or black and white. You just have to remember to ask the lab not to cut them when you have it developed.

Normally I look at toy cameras in despair. There’s something about paying money for nasty plastic and even nastier glass that makes me shudder. This, however, this made me smile. I’m not likely to go out and buy myself one anytime soon, but I’d be unlikely to look at someone with thinly veiled horror if it were given to me for my birthday. (But don’t, please, anyone, get any ideas.) It’s £65 (US $79) for the LomoKino by itself, or £89 (US $99) for the LomoKino and LomoKinoScope package.

You can take a closer look over on the Lomography website.