April 2020

Every thing we encounter today has a conspiracy theory attached to it. Political, religious, military, and scientific events are all drawn into internet speculation. There is always a party, guilty or other wise, a hidden organisation, and a convoluted explanation for whatever's in the headlines. And any number of those eye-catching headlines will get you clicking through the fat-burning pill advertisements...

That's a question that leads off onto a number of roads; are we talking about what social imperative drove you? Or what muse inspired you? Or what fee was offered to you? Or are we asking for more pedestrian info: what camera did you use? A lot of artists in other disciplines would deal with the first three questions and find the fourth one puzzling or irrelevant. A successful writer might not know the name of the typewriter or word processor that they used to bang out their Pulitzer winner. A novelist might not know whether they wrote with a ball-point or fountain pen. They'd have remembered a Texta on the back of a chip packet, but...

I'll have to qualify that last statement. Nearly everything is a lens. I have owned some examples of optics from 1950's that were made in East Germany that were probably re-purposed Typ 15 bomb fuses. In our homes, however, there are a lot more things that an be used to take pictures than we realise. Let's close the equipment cupboard after taking out one camera body and go exploring. We'll leave the prime lenses and the zooms, and see what else we can peer through. a. The office has a magnifying glass. A cheap Indian-made thing that is more decor than utensil, it still has a simple lens that will let you examine a stamp collection or set fire to dry grass. It will have more chromatic error and focusing problems than you can shake a stick at but the very centre might take a decent closeup image. Attach a toilet paper tube collar to your camera and hold the glass to the front of the collar and go exploring. b. That was awful - this may be better. it's a lens that...

Well, have we got good news for you. Now you do. For the next however long it takes until the government blows the all-clear siren you have all the time you need to do it. It? To make yourself into a work of art. I know lots of people who have been doing that for decades and in some cases should be hung in galleries. Now it is time for others to join them, and it has become a thing. Throw off your inhibitions and join in. I was once a part of a costumed society whose members were enormously talented as clothing and accessory makers. They concentrated upon historical themes and were therefore a rich source of talent for re-creating versions of historical art in my studio. The heading image is one such result taken from an annual society dinner - it was a life/art feast. The faces of the participants were as much a find as the costuming. Well, with the current viral lockdown, people all over the world are recreating art scenes with things found around their houses. Draperies, bedsheets, fruit,...

The landscape and tabletop photographers are doing quite well right now. The wedding and sports shooters are not. We can't do much to make a difference in view of the health crisis in the world, but we can look at the equipment cupboard and speculate: a. The wide-angle environmental lens is going to be pretty quiet for a while - the events that saw its use were pretty close-run and crowded affairs. There was no social distancing then, and you needed the 14mm to get enough of the crowd in. b. On the other hand, this would be a good time to go away and do landscape pictures of distant scenery with the wide-angle...

Okay, you've gathered up your courage to make a video selfie.Now you have to figure out why, and then what to do. WHY This is a big deal in your life - this time. You weren't alive for the Spanish Flu in 1919 but you are for this pandemic. And if you are taking the advice of the government and medical authorities, you are staying home and away from other people. Hopefully you'll never have to do another of these things, so it makes sense if you remember this one. You have thoughts - some of which may be sensible and some of them reprehensible. If you express them to others in person or over social media you may live to regret it - opinions are always potential weapons against us. But you still want to express them. Well, express them to yourself in the video. Tell yourself the story of what you are experiencing, and be as honest with yourself as you can be. Just saying it out loud can relieve a great deal of the anxiety of what you're going through. You...

Because here's where you climb over the barbed wire and stand up. We all take selfies. Even old-school shooters arrange the lights in the good old main/fill/hair pattern, attach the camera to a tripod, and attempt to take a good self portrait. It can be a wearing experience - trying to get most of the bald spots and wrinkled areas to agree with each other. ( Note: hair lights are for people with hair. Eventually they become superfluous...

You'll have to refer back to previous columns to see how the digitising of the slide collection started - the equipment and the discoveries. It is still going steadily, and this apparently is a good thing - a number of photography advice sites say that establishing a routine during a lock-down is a good method of maintaining sanity. I'm not sure if sanity and slide digitising in the same sentence is realistic, but so far I haven't heard voices. The silver elephant in the room is not actually colour slides - it's negatives. I started making these seriously in 1965 and that's not an inappropriate word. After serious came chronic, then grim, and it got worse before it got better. I was a person with money to buy a variety of films - and this meant that I chopped and changed about in emulsions all the time. The driving force was not necessity or skill - it was novelty and the blandishments of the advertisements in POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY and MODERN PHOTOGRAPHY. It was exactly analogous to the business of continuously switching powders,...