Blood and Glitter on BBC

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There is still time on iPlayer to catch Blood and Glitter – 70 years of the Citizens theatre.

In September 2015, the innovative Citizens Theatre in Glasgow marked its 70th anniversary. Blood and Glitter looks back at seven decades of pioneering productions and goes behind the scenes as the ‘Citz’ brings classics including The Slab Boys and Lanark to the stage.

Featuring contributions from some of our most successful stage and screen actors, including Mark Rylance, Glenda Jackson, Pierce Brosnan, Ciaran Hinds, Gary Oldman, Bill Paterson, Roberta Taylor and Blythe Duff.

I did some shooting for Kath Pick the Director/Producer on this show. It’s a well put together film highlighting the history and importance of this cultural landmark.

master of photography:Nadav Kander

Screenshot 2015-11-23 12.41.23 – DUST is being shown at the torch gallery Amsterdam

Nadav Kander traveled to the steppes of Kazakhstan four years ago to see the “closed cities” of the Soviet nuclear testing area, a network of cities all but invisible to outsiders until the arrival of Google Earth. The photographer ventured first to the town of Kurchatov—named for the physicist who developed the USSR’s first nuclear bomb—where he found a guard at a gate. Kander, with help from a local contact, convinced the guard to let him pass, checked into the town’s only guest house, and set about making photographs with his large plate camera. His haunting images of an eerily beautiful landscape raise questions about secrecy, transparency, and the universal human attraction to ruins.

“I like to photograph things that are quite difficult to look at, but in a beautiful way,” said Kander. “It’s something I keep doing and doing because it nourishes me. It makes the viewer uneasy and challenges your idea of what’s beautiful.” This is a theme Kander, who is based in London, explored brilliantly in Long River, his Prix Pictet-winning series about the Yangtze River. The closed cities series, Dust, is showing at the Flowers Gallery in London and in an iPhone app. His images also will be collected in a book to be released in November.

The Semipalatinsk Test Site, also known as “The Polygon,” outside Kurchatov was the Soviet Union’s primary nuclear test site. More than 450 tests were conducted there between 1949 and 1989, all of them well within range of the town’s residents. There was little official acknowledgement of the impact of those tests on residents or the environment until after the site was closed in 1991. Between  1996 and 2012, a team of Russian, Kazakh, and U.S. scientists worked together to secure the plutonium residue in the area. Still, Kander wore a Geiger counter while shooting to ensure that he avoided areas with the greatest radiation.

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Kander is not particularly interested in talking about the history of the place, or telling the stories of those who live there now. “I’m not a documentary news photographer,” he said. “Any group of pictures becomes a document, but that’s not my intention. This is about the dark side of all human beings, the stuff that’s within us all.”

In Kander’s images, the structures, set upon monotonous grassland against a foreboding sky, could be ancient ruins. There is little to give the viewer a sense of place, or even time, in the vast steppes just beyond the border with Siberia. “This the area where the Tsar exiled Dostoevsky,” Kander said. “It’s really the middle of nowhere.” The place was all but unknown to outsiders until the era of Google Earth and ubiquitous satellite imagery made it far harder to scrub towns off the map.

Like the landscape they portray, Kander’s images are nearly absent of human form. “There’s simply not very many people around,” he said. “Which made me a little uneasy about the project at first, but then I realized that the destruction shows the humanity. These are somewhat portraits of mankind—the ruins eludes to human presence.” He believes ruins like those of the closed cities are a rich subject because they provide a glimpse, even an understanding, of how things went on long before us. “It settles us into mortality,” he said. “We’re attracted to decay because it shows us death and we can’t find out what happens after we die.”

Kander made two trips to the area to make the images in Dust, but does not expect to return. “I got into a bit of trouble there,” he said. “I was held and asked questions and they don’t understand me photographing these odd things. I don’t want to go back and chance it again. It could easily go wrong.”

images ©nadav kander / flowers gallery

I love chairs and a day in Edinburgh scouting

And just sometimes we get to photograph them.

JG sh9 select-21 JG sh9 select-36 JG sh9 select-46 JG sh9 select-54

and then spent a day in Edinburgh finding locations for an upcoming film – always nice to get that luxury

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Salgado – The Salt of the Earth

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A few months back I went with the talented Chris Leslie I watched an excellent documentary about the life and work of one of our favourite photographers, Sebastiao Salgado, titled “The Salt of the Earth.” The imagery, narrative and range of this fascinating film make it a must-see for every photographer.

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One moment, in particular, caught my attention and set me thinking. The camera shows Sebastiao Salgado in the Far North shooting for the mega project “Genesis.” He tries to approach a group of walruses but they refuse to go on shore. On occasions he and his son retreat to a small shelter. In one scene, a huge, beautiful polar bear approaches them.

Most photographers in such a situation would go into non-stop shooting mode until the memory card is filled, but not Sebastiao Salgado.

Watching the polar bear approach them, his son asks, “What do you think, Dad?” Sebastiao answers, “It will be complicated to get this story.” He continues, “It’s not just a matter of getting close to a bear and taking a picture. If the framing is poor, you will just show the bear but it won’t be a photo. This spot is not good. There is nothing in the background, nothing to compose a well-framed picture.”

That is exactly why he is such a great photographer. Today, the ease of taking a photo along with an almost unlimited number of exposures (unlike in film days) cause many photographers to shoot just in case, thinking one of them will turn out well. This mentality leads not only to a plethora of mediocre photos but most importantly it strips away a photographer’s visual sensitiveness. S/he produces digital file but not a real photograph.

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While watching the work of many great photographers you would conclude that every single small element of their photograph works in harmony. Sometimes this harmony appears almost unreal – out of this world. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Such rare images require a lot of visual effort, which is accomplished only with discipline and concentration – attributes which are never present in the blind, machine-gun style of shooting.

In fact, the best images are often created after a series of NO’s. Even the best photographers in the world rarely capture a great image the first time on an assignment. It is a long, tiring, and sometimes frustrating process of saying NOT THIS TIME, which eventually leads to a great photograph.

Filming autumn

It’s been a busy few weeks at Precious – filming a Tennents Brewery film then straight into a 4 week post production job for the BBC on a beautiful documentary which is released later in the year.

Finished that edit on Friday then drove straight down to the Scottish Borders where Richard was filming for BBC on the adventure show. An early 6am start and a big bag of mixed weather.

Shooting on rented-in canon XF305 – although we are not the biggest fan of these cameras with its inability to change glass and get beautiful bokeh …. They do certain jobs very well – in this case being very portable for following ultra marathon runners in the 3 peaks run. And felt that the effort we had to make paled compared to the 36miles!!!! These competitors ran.

The BBC adventure show will be on the BBC in the next month or so – there were a few cameramen on this job so look forward to seeing it come together …..

Only 10miles from the finish

Apple using people in their films

creative review When the Apple Watch launched back in April, early ads for the product attempted to position it as a luxury fashion item. A 12-page spread of ads appeared in the March issue of Vogue, in the style of jewellery advertising.

Later in the year, excitement was caused by the announcement of Apple doing a tie-up with Hermès, and releasing an Apple Watch Hermès (which is now available to buy). With the watch featuring a classic-looking face with hands, it appeared to be more evidence that Apple wanted consumers to see the product as primarily a fancy new watch but with amazing hidden technical extras.

A new series of films, launched today, place the Apple Watch back in traditional Apple ad territory, however. The spots, shown below, see the Apple Watch in use, demonstrating its sat nav, Apple Pay function, activity trackers and more.

Apple has long used product demos – beautifully shot, of course – to market its wares. And with items such as the iPod, iPad and iPhone, this was enough. These products were so exciting, that really all we needed to see was what they did, set against a nice background.

But we’re used to Apple products now, and the Apple Watch doesn’t quite have the wow factor on the tech side that the brand’s previous products had. With speculation growing around the success of the Apple Watch so far (sales figures have yet to be released though The Atlantic recently described Tim Cook as sounding “desperate” when talking about the watch at the brand’s September Apple event), these ads could be seen as a way of broadening the watch’s appeal outside of the luxury market. But without a USP that you can’t already get on the iPhone, do they do enough?

Was colour film designed for white people only?

I remember being at college and remember battling with what i thought was exposure but now after watching this was more to do with colour sensitivity. Whether this design was racist in intention I cannot comment on but it does seem that technology is sometimes not tested widely enough. Watch this …

VOX – For decades, the color film available to consumers was built for white people. The chemicals coating the film simply weren’t adequate to capture a diversity of darker skin tones. And the photo labs established in the 1940s and 50s even used an image of a white woman, called a Shirley card, to calibrate the colors for printing:

Shirley 02

Concordia University professor Lorna Roth has researched the evolution of skin tone imaging. She explained in a 2009 paper how the older technology distorted the appearance of black subjects:

Problems for the African-American community, for example, have included reproduction of facial images without details, lighting challenges, and ashen-looking facial skin colours contrasted strikingly with the whites of eyes and teeth.

How this would affect non-white people seemingly didn’t occur to those who designed and operated the photo systems. In an essay for Buzzfeed, writer and photographer Syreeta McFadden described growing up with film that couldn’t record her actual appearance:

The inconsistencies were so glaring that for a while, I thought it was impossible to get a decent picture of me that captured my likeness. I began to retreat from situations involving group photos. And sure, many of us are fickle about what makes a good portrait. But it seemed the technology was stacked against me. I only knew, though I didn’t understand why, that the lighter you were, the more likely it was that the camera — the film — got your likeness right.

Many of the technological biases have since been corrected (though, not all of them, as explained in the video above). Still, we often see controversies about the misrepresentation of non-white subjects in magazines and advertisements. What are we to make of the fact that these images routinely lighten the skin of women of color?

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Image credit: Magazines and Getty Images

Tools are only as good as the people who use them. The learned preference for lighter skin is ubiquitous in many parts of the world, and it starts early. That’s an infinitely tougher problem than improving the color range of photo technology.

here is something from NATGEO which is part of the solution


Nothing is Lost – a plug for sometimes collaborator Chris Leslie

Document Scotland REBLOG

Chris Leslie, who has been working hard these past three years photographing and documenting Glasgow’s East End and the transformation underway there. Chris has been working with 2 other artists and has recently published Nothing Is Lost, a box set of books. Interview by Jeremy

Nothing Is Lost - the box set.

Nothing Is Lost

“Glasgow’s East End is synonymous with poverty – some of the worst in Europe. With Glasgow’s winning bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games came a promised legacy of change and regrowth, of rebuilding, economic and cultural investment – of a new East End, where gap sites were filled and populations returned.

Nothing is Lost: Three artists, three artforms, one city, a shared sensibility. Alison Irvine, Chris Leslie and Mitch Miller set out to document the East End before, during and after the Commonwealth Games. They met market traders, travelling showpeople, playworkers, community activists, cafe owners and local children. They gathered stories and sought out images from the places changed by the Games, those largely untouched, and those left behind.

Nothing is Lost is offered both as a question and a statement – Are things better for the East End? Worse? Much the same? Nothing is Lost offers no neat answers or comforting fictions. It offers up hope, complexity, nuance and doubt – a way for the reader to work out the truth of the post-Commonwealth city for themselves, through words, photographs and dialectograms.

Alison Irvine provides the words. Alison is a novelist who weaves stories from intensive research. She teases out stories, testimonies, moments, follows networks of friends, relatives and acquaintances. In her spare but textured prose the characters speak in select, but eloquent voices that speak from, and of the place itself.

Chris Leslie’s photographs chronicle Glasgow’s changing fabric. His beautiful, yet unflinchingly stark photographs document the breaking and remaking of the city, its broken bones, lost relics, inconvenient remnants.

Mitch Miller makes dialectograms, illustrations as idiosyncratic as the word suggests, the edges of the city drawn from on high, but as those at ground level see and live it – an intricate, entangled and glorious mess – place as something made up as we go along.

'Showman's Yard' dialectogram, © Mitch Miller, 2015, all rights reserved.

The story they tell takes us from the glamour of the Barrowland Ballroom to the hidden communities caught in the crossfire of major regeneration. It taps into the hopes, fears and dreams of East End youth and the fading memory of demolished districts and East End entrepreneurs. We meet Games volunteers and visit the Adventure Playground built by Assemble Architecture in sight of the new Athlete’s Village in Dalmarnock. We find an East End of many faces, and many possible futures.” – Nothing Is Lost

The Barra's Market in Glasgow

The Barra's Market in Glasgow ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.

And of of his own approach to the photography, Chris tells us  “A two year residency to ‘document’ the impact of the Commonwealth Games on the culture of the East End’ was always going to be a tall order.  In reality these photographs only scratch the surface on what could have been a long term / full time project on each area I looked at.

I photographed The Barrowland Ballroom – the 1960s decor jewel in the crown for the East End and its music culture. The Market – documents the Barra’s market in its long prolonged demise and The Wasteland shows the transformation of the historic Schipka Pass to the ‘temporary’ Barrowland Park.

I had expected many things to change over the period – the way the media bigged it up – the East End was to become unrecognizable and a new utopia. Whilst some places disappeared altogether (Schipka Pass) – much of the Barra’s Market and Ballroom remained the same throughout the residency.

But change for the market is already underway – artist studios and pop up exhibitions are taking place so perhaps these photographs will become ‘dated’ and more important if you were to photograph the same locations in 5 years time.  Perhaps that will be my next project – I hate the idea of only ‘scratching the surface’….”

The Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.

The Barra's Market in Glasgow ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.

You can see the Nothing Is Lost website and order the limited edition box set here.

Adventure Show BBC and a trip to uncle Sam land

Just back from 2 weeks in the US where I was in Washington DC for chats but also got to spend a week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The weather was amazing and we had glorious sun which has been hard to find in Scotland this year. if you ever have the chance to go there – try make it happen.

seashore flora

seashore flora

last light

last light



I arrived home a day late to catch the Adventure show going out on BBC – luckily for those in UK you can see this on iPlayer

click this LINK– still here for 28 days. it shows some of the filming and interviews i did with the Atherton’s in Wales last month.

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A busy week

Filming for the lovely D8 again – studio this time

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and then the next morning at 3am the alarm goes off in order for me to get through to Edinburgh to shoot some early morning GV’s and timeless around the city.

5am on the clock

5am on the clock

And then a day doing interviews and some interesting photographic portraits for Nikko Asset Management.

NIKKO AM EDI portrait-3

Looks like a straight portrait until you notice the Diptych style and the strange repeated background

Looks like a straight portrait until you notice the Diptych style and the strange repeated background