Burn My Eye

This week saw the launch of a new Street Photography Collective, ‘Burn My Eye’. There is some really nice work on the site and the group feels like it has the energy and enthusiasm that the founding members of in-public had 11 years ago. There are a number of Street Photography groups online now but this one really stands out for me in it’s relatively tight choice of photographers and images.

Go and have a browse.

The Best Street Photograph Ever

The Best Street Photograph Ever is an experiment. I have set up a page that allows you to upload and rank Street Photographs from any Street Photographer made at any time. If enough people take part and the software works as it should, we should slowly see a distillation of the most enjoyed Street Photographs as the most popular rise to the top of the column of images and the less popular slip down the list.

Potentially we are able to compare and contrast street images from across 150 years and see how they are viewed and rated by a contemporary audience, as the rating progresses we may see trends and preferences appearing. Will the top 10 images be colour or black and white? Will they all be recent or vintage? Will they be complex or simple, humorous or tragic?

I anticipate that at the very least this process will result in a fantastic archive of Street Photographs that will be of great value to anyone wishing to understand Street Photography, be inspired and find out what has gone before.

Please help me make this work by taking part here…

The Best Street Photograph Ever

10 images from Format11

Earlier this year the London design company JohnsonBanks asked me to select 10 significant images from the Format International Photography Festival 2011, here is the piece I wrote for them.

FORMAT was established in 2004, by Louise Clements and Mike Brown, and is now one of the UK’s leading non-profit international contemporary festivals of photography and related media. The biennale programme celebrates the wealth of contemporary practice in international photography. The theme for the 2011 festival was street photography with the title of ‘Right Here, Right Now’: Exposures from the public realm. The Derby based festival which ran throughout March brought together for the first time some of the greatest names in street photography and reflected the current resurgence the approach is experiencing. Photographers converged on Derby from all over the world and included the legendary Joel Meyerowitz who acted as the festival patron. To wander the galleries was to experience the world in all its quirky variety and beauty, the images presented candid street scenes from different decades as well as from different continents. Often described as ‘the hardest challenge in photography’ street photographers work with the simplest of equipment to observe and record candid moments of magic on our everyday streets, literally making something out of nothing through the act of photography. It is my pleasure to select ten images from this years festival that highlight what is special about the street photographers approach.

01 Although primarily a photojournalist, the Magnum photographer Alex Webb has long been considered a street photographer at heart, his busy and colourful frames juxtapose numerous elements leaving your eye roaming around the picture unable to rest, discovering new details as it goes. His pictures balance carefully his subject matter, in this case Istanbul, and his own photographic virtuosity. His framing of busy street scenes, full of elements in motion is second to none.

TURKEY. Istanbul. 2005. Along the Bosporus © Alex Webb/Magnum Photos

02 Bruno Quinquet is a quiet Frenchman working in Tokyo, for the last four years he has been photographing the anonymous suits of corporate Tokyo for his Salaryman project. The candidly made images use various devices to avoid identifying the various businessmen he photographs, Bruno’s way of commenting on the increasing constraints being applied to candid portraiture and street photography.

Akabane - Nihonbbashi, from the series Salaryman Project by Bruno Quinquet

03 In 2009 Zhang Xiao left his job as a photographer at the Chongqing Morning Post to photograph the 18,000 km of China’s coastline. Xiao says the sea is ‘a place of strong emotions and rich imagery, it is the beginning of lives and dreams’. Shooting on film and hand printing in muted tones Xiao’s pictures have the feeling of aged images of the past but when one looks closer their subjects reflect the quickly changing China of today. This picture is typical of the quiet and the spiritual that pervade his beautiful images.

Coastline No 20 by Zhang Xiao

04 Glasgow born Dougie Wallace now lives in the East End of London but his pictures tend to be made on his regular travels across Europe and beyond. This image is from his series ‘Reflections on Life’ in which Dougie has photographed commuters on trams in cities including Sarajevo, Ukraine and Albania. The pictures blend beautifully the internal and external worlds, tram passengers are melded with the passing scenery and architecture. I admire his fearless approach in photographing strangers so closely through the glass.

Dougie Wallace

05 Garry Winogrand died in 1984 leaving behind nearly 300,000 unedited images and 2500 unprocessed rolls of film, most of this now held by The Centre for Creative Photography in Arizona. Shooting in New York and America during what is considered to be the ‘Golden Age’ of street photography between the late 1950’s and the 1980’s, the vast majority of Winogrands work was made in black and white.
The Format festival were able to obtain a selection of rare unseen colour images that were edited for the festival by Joel Meyerowitz. These images speak to me of a less self conscious and more naive time, a time when maybe identical twins still dressed a like.

Early Colour work (1958-1964) by Garry Winogrand ©Estate of Garry Winogrand

06 Joel Meyerowitz is a legend for many of the current generation of street photographers, he has a generosity of personality that is evident both in meeting him in person and in viewing his pictures. There is a lust for life and it’s unexpected richness that is evident in his images. He was an early pioneer of colour street photography and has championed the medium for many decades. Joel was co author of the street photography bible ‘Bystander’ that was published in 1994 and has been a huge support and influence on my own street shooting and that of my colleagues. I chose this image because it symbolises for me the energy and joy for life that Joel Meyerowitz still has now in his 70’s.

From the Car, New York State Thruway, 1974 by Joel Meyerowitz

07 In January 2010 I bought a book on a whim from a small Tokyo bookstore called ‘Citizens’, when it arrived I was delighted by my little gamble. The book contained some of the best contemporary street photography I had seen by a virtually unknown Japanese street photographer called Jun Abe. I took the liberty of scanning some of the work and posting it online which caused a huge stir as, for many, it was the first time his work had been seen outside of Japan. Over the subsequent year Jun’s work has gained a great deal of respect and the Format Festival gave him his first public exhibition in the West.

From 'Citizens' by Abe Jun

08 Between August and December 2008 Frederic Lezmi travelled between Vienna and Beirut, a journey from The West to The Orient, the resulting photographs explore where one ends and the other begins. The project was published as the striking book ‘Beyond Borders’ which unfolds to a length of 11 meters and was displayed in its entirety on the gallery wall at Format. This lovely image of a cleaning lady taken through a net curtain has always been a favourite of mine, the photographer looking from the street into a private world unseen by his subject. The outside world is reflected in the glass while she herself is reflected in the mirror she cleans, all rendered in a subtle palette of pastel colours. Frederic has elevated a simple cleaning lady into a classical thing of beauty.

From 'Beyond Borders' by Frederic Lezmi

09 The Slovakian photographer Martin Kollar is a favourite of mine from the current generation of street photographers, his quirky moments from off beat local cultural events around Eastern Europe were published in the book ‘Nothing Special’. Kollar manages to create a series of images of surreally unconnected scenes that are held beautifully together under the umbrella of his own strong personal vision, a trick that many street photographers fail to achieve. The result is that each image stands wonderfully on its own, containing its own narrative while also being one element of the whole series and book.

Martin Kollar, from the series Nothing Special

10 The in-public international street photographers group has played a significant role in promoting street photography since it’s formation in 2000, the group displayed over 60 images at the Format Festival alongside a documentary film following it’s members on the streets of New York, London, Rotterdam and Melbourne. The group has three Australian members and I have chosen to include this image from Adelaide based Narelle Autio. Many of Narelle’s images feature the beach or the Ocean and take advantage of the extraordinary Australian light, her heightened sense of colour often makes the images resemble early colour postcards.

Spotty Dog, Narelle Autio.

The Format Festival will return with a new theme in 2012 but if your appetite for street photography has been stimulated, you can see more at a number of events this year.
The Museum of London’s ‘London Street Photography’ show is on until the 4th September and The London Street Photography Festival runs between 7th and 17th July around Kings Cross.




Garry Winogrand unseen Colour

Most of you will be familiar with the extraordinary talent that was Garry Winogrand, a street photographer renowned for his portrayal of mid-20th century America who died in 1984. Winogrand has been an enormous influence on subsequent generations of street photographers and there is now, understandably, a renewed interest in his work. Winogrand is very much associated with black and white street photography but a large body of colour work does exist from the period 1958-1964 but is very difficult to locate.

Single colour street images by Winogrand have tantalisingly appeared here and there, the first picture below from 1963 was published in Bystander but the subsequent images have largely never before been published as far as I am aware. So it is with great pleasure that I am able to present them here on sevensevennine.com.

In Bystander Joel Meyerowitz says that…

“Garry also shot a lot of color, but on assignment and on trips and things like that. He didn’t see it as a major force”

When I asked Joel to elaborate a little on what Garry’s relationship with colour was, this is what he said…

“Garry was comfortable with color and didn’t have any strong feelings against it. I think he used it mainly for his commercial work as he often carried a Nikon with a long lens on it to make what he called “schmaltz” which means in Yiddish, fatty, or sentimental, or sweet, overripe…etc. For example, violinists who play at weddings usually render “schmaltzy versions of love songs.” But he also was carrying a second Leica with color in it and he loved showing slide shows of that work, once even showing it at MoMA when John did a show of Garry’s work. My guess is that since the times didn’t support color printing very easily he simply didn’t see any reason to emphasize it then. perhaps if color printing was as it is today he would have been thinking in those terms more frequently, but who knows?”

Many thanks to those who assisted me in acquiring these images, I think it is historically important that they are available to excite and influence those of us continuing to work like Garry Winogrand today.

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

copyright Garry Winogrand

A Selection of Garry Winogrand’s Colour images can be seen at The QUAD Gallery at The Format International Photography Festival in Derby until the 8th May.

Meyerowitz 1981

This film has been posted on in-public for a couple of weeks and dates from 1981. Filmmaker Robert Gilberg followed Joel Meyerowitz and writer/curator Colin Westerbeck on the streets of Manhattan as they discussed street photography and Joel’s photographic practice. The film was never shown until now and was only rediscovered on Gilbert’s death. I’m enormously grateful to Joel for allowing us to give it an audience now.


I’m sure many of you are aware of the forthcoming FORMAT 11 International Photo Festival taking place in Derby between the 4th March and the 3rd April 2011. The theme of this years festival is Street Photography with the title ‘Right Here, Right Now: Exposures from the Public Realm’. The Street Photographers group in-public will be exhibiting over 60 prints at the Derby Art Gallery and Museum along with a documentary film I have made over the last few months. The film has taken me to the streets of London and New York whilst my second camera person Marieke De Bra has filmed in Rotterdam and Melbourne.

The aim of the film has been to show the members of in-public making their photographs on the street with no models, no posing, no flash…in fact no intervention of any kind if at all possible. In a festival with such an all encompassing view of Street Photography as FORMAT, I was very keen to use in-public’s gallery space to demonstrate the continued importance of creating a candid record of modern life and the importance of the moment at a time when literally un momentous photography is the fashion. In filming ‘in-sight’ I have used miniature HD cameras to ride along on the hotshoe of the Street Photographers camera giving an intimate view of the picture making process.

The film will be shown first at FORMAT and then perhaps online in some fashion but that has still to be discussed and agreed with all concerned, in the meantime, here is a trailer to wet your appetite and give you a sense of what’s in store.

On the 4th March I will be speaking about the ‘Inspiration of Street Photography’ at the Format Photography Conference, along with Bruce Gilden, Amy Stein, John Maloof, Michael Wolf, Yumi Goto, Sophie Howarth and others.

On the 5th March I will be doing Portfolio reviews and would love to see and discuss your own Street Photography.

One year with Leica’s M9

It’s almost 12 months since I picked up my shiny brand new Leica M9 and wrote my first review of it here on sevensevennine . This is a brief update to that review having used the camera in earnest on the streets and in particular in the shooting of my current project The French which is completely shot on the Leica M9.

Having used Leica M series rangefinders since 1997 I am very familiar with what to expect from them and the M9 has delivered on my expectations in most ways. The camera has given me the confidence to initiate a major personal project and 1 year in, I am extremely happy with the way it has performed in the hand on the street and very much with the picture results it has produced. I have travelled with it around France and have felt comfortable using it in crowds and intimate public situations, it is as quiet and as unthreatening as its predecessors which gives me the confidence to raise it to my eye and make images in many situations I wouldn’t have with a Canon or Nikon DSLR.

The M9, a familiar friend in the hand.
The M9, a familiar friend in the hand.

In practice a digital M camera has some advantages and some disadvantages over its film forerunners, the main advantage I see is that I can leave the house with three tiny memory cards and three batteries and shoot a huge story, if I am in town and a major news event occurs I could photograph it until the following morning or beyond. Three batteries and three 16gb cards give me something like 2400 frames, which to put that in perspective would be about 66 rolls of film. The main disadvantage of the digital M9 is probably the life of the batteries and the speed with which they die without warning, this can lead to the ultimate Street Photographers nightmare where you put the camera to your eye, push the button and nothing happens. The second problem I have is that the camera may be set to be permanently ‘on’, but this setting will drain the batteries if you forget to turn it off, if you select the ‘auto off’ setting, then you find that you need to bring the camera to life before exposing a frame by gently touching the shutter release. This is not a big problem because you get used to waking the camera as part of your set up for a shot in the same way that you did to meter a shot with a film M series machine….but it can take getting used to.

The main education of the last 12 months has been in the fantastic sharp image quality from the M9 and the development that can bring to your Street Photography. Once you have seen those big detailed files on your monitor you are filled with confidence in making bigger, wider, busier pictures because you know the files can hold it. A year later I am still amazed at the picture information gathered by this little camera, the combination of high image quality and small physical size is inspiring. During my travels round France I have been taking advantage of the M9’s detailed files and standing back from the scenes I am photographing, building up the scenes, letting more and more action fill the frame because I know I can get away with it, I would have needed at least a 6×7 negative to get this amount of information on film. The M9 trounces its film forerunners for sharpness, detail and sheer information resolving power.

Contrevoz, France 2010 from 'The French'
Contrevoz, France 2010 from 'The French'

Grenoble, France 2010 from 'The French'
Grenoble, France 2010 from 'The French'

Lac du Bourget, France, 2010 from 'The French'
Lac du Bourget, France 2010 from 'The French'

The camera has performed well in low light and even night situations where I have been able to hand hold it down to an eighth of a second reliably. Walking at night in Le Touquet in Northern France, I found a number of situations I wanted to make images of and the small M9 did a very respectable job of all three.

Le Touquet, France 2010 from 'The French'
Le Touquet, France 2010 from 'The French'

Le Touquet, France 2010 from 'The French'
Le Touquet, France 2010 from 'The French'

Le Touquet, France 2010 from 'The French'
Le Touquet, France 2010 from 'The French'

If your camera of choice does one thing then it should be to instil confidence, you need to know you can rely on it to perform both physically and optically. As a companion around France so far it has been exemplary and I have always felt that I could reliably attempt to record anything I saw. The project so far has cost me quite a bit in petrol, hotels and days not working commercially, not to mention the time I have committed to it…..this would all have been wasted had I chosen the wrong camera. As it is, the work will be shown at the Eurostar Terminal at St Pancras station, the departure point for France by train, in July 2011.

I have left my most major concern about Leica’s M9 until last and that is because it doesn’t affect my work as a photographer with the machine but it is more of a concern in terms of the camera as an investment financially. The M9 is not the investment proof camera that its film predecessors were. I sold my 5 year old Leica M6’s for two thirds of the price I paid for them new but I know that is not going to be the case with my equally expensive M9 and this is for two reasons. The first is that the cameras specifications and chip will become outdated and surpassed much more quickly than the film cameras feature set did and this is a big problem for a camera that costs this much. When you buy an M9 you know the arrival of the M10 is going to decimate its value much more than the M7 did to the M6.

The second reason is that the M9 is simply not built to the high quality of its film forerunners, I have had mine for 12 months from new and with only moderate and careful use it is already losing its lettering and numbering. This has nothing to do with it being digital but it does cause more problems for a camera with so many black buttons. Who will buy a second hand M9 when you can’t tell what the buttons do because the paint has worn off?

1 year old Leica M9 backplate with disintegrating lettering.
1 year old Leica M9 backplate.

Shutter speed dial showing paint loss.
Shutter speed dial showing the paint loss.

I always justified the cost of these cameras by their quality and in many ways the M9 is a quality camera but I also justified their high price tag by the knowledge that they would hold their value and their sale would contribute to my next camera. I fear that unlike Leica’s lenses, the M9 is not going to retain its value and that is a big worry for me and for Leica. When I sold my 5 year old M6 cameras the lettering on them was still perfect and they went round the world with me. The M9 has just been around France in 1 year and it is already beginning to look unsellable because of the lettering paint loss. This problem makes the M9 a questionable purchase even for a professional photographer like myself, and its one that you could not really have imagined when you stood in the shop and bought it. You need to live with a camera to really review it accurately and that’s why I decided to add this post to my original excited review of 12 months ago.

Kickstarting Vivian Maier

Most of you will now be aware of the extraordinary archive of photographs by Vivian Maier acquired at a furniture and antique auction by John Maloof in Chicago. Around 100,000 negatives mostly from the 1960’s and 1970’s are being scanned by John who is working extremely hard to make Vivian Maiers images available online. The work is now to be made available as a book and John is also seeking funding for a documentary film through the Kickstarter platform.

Having met John in London last year I know that he feels the burden of responsibility for sensitively disseminating this wonderful work, he asks himself if it is even something that Vivian, an intensely private person by all accounts, would have wanted. It was also apparent that Vivian’s work could not have fallen into safer hands and that his careful approach to producing a book, exhibition and now film will ensure their success.

Vivian Maier’s work is a joy to see, its a revealing window into another time as well as this eccentric and independent woman herself.

Please support John in his work and help fund this wonderful film project.

Watching the ball, missing the game.

fleeing mugger as an example of a picture that was made so quickly that I only knew that 'something' was happening when I pushed the shutter. I have also written about the blinkers one wears when out on the street shooting a project or subject, the loss of openness to all comers, the way the brain intervenes and you lose that 'mugger catching' instinct.

I recently came across an amusing demonstration of the way the brain misses things when it is engaged in looking for something else, how distracted it becomes by the task, the subject....at the cost of general awareness and openness.

China Between

in-public launched its 10 book at Photofusion, Polly Braden was launching her book China Between at The Photographers Gallery. Polly kindly sent me a copy of the book that is published by Dewi Lewis and contains 63 color photographs taken by Polly over a decade in China. The book also contains texts by Pollys husband David Campany who is reader in Photography at the University of Westminster and by Jennifer Higgie who is co-editor of the London-based contemporary arts magazine, Frieze. The book has some connection with The Arts Council of England but it is not clear what that is.

The hardback book is traditionally but nicely designed and the image reproduction is very good. The covers feature the faces of two of the women in Pollys photographs painted by Tim Braden, it is not immediately apparent how this is relevant to the contents or aims of the book though.

The painted cover of China Between by Polly Braden[/caption]

China Between are self contained, they require the company of the others and the book format to work. This feeling is starkly illustrated when you do turn the page and come across one of the gems that are certainly hidden in the book, 'Night walk, Xiamen, September 2007' shows an elderly woman walking with a stick, her arm appears to be bandaged and in a sling as she passes down a very contemporary looking, recently constructed, shopping street. She is framed beautifully by the lighting and a dark area of wet road that almost holds her in place, she seems to be contemplating the crossing of this simple barrier to her journey. One imagines this neighborhood has changed dramatically during her lifetime and she seems out of time with the western dresses in the shop windows beside her. Life seems hard for her as she carries both her groceries and walking stick in her remaining good hand.

Night walk, Xiamen, September 2007.[/caption]

Xiamen, August 2007[/caption]

This image of a young woman on a mobile telephone is another good example, its composed, the play of scale works nicely, she is diminutive in the frame beneath a large tree and wall. Behind her is a view through the wall to the street beyond, she squats, her hands to her temples in concentration. You sense she has sought out this quiet spot amongst the oppressive noise of the city to make her call, the shot conveys its message beautifully, there is no need to flick to the index and read the caption.

Restaurant staff gather for a pep talk, Xiamen, July 2007[/caption]

"Modern streets have a particular way of registering transition. They belong neither to 'home' nor to 'work'. They are communal and yet official, very public but private too. The street is where little truths point to larger ones if you can attune yourself. The way human bodies tell of the conditions of work. The way faces carry or attempt to mask history. The way the very fabric of the street attests to the pace of things. The way signs, clothes and even moods are the result of minor and major forces"

City of a Hundred Names. If you are interested in China and its extraordinary development and change and what that looks like at street level rather than in photographs of its grand industrial projects then you will enjoy China Between. I bought Alex Webb's Istanbul book as much for his photographic dexterity and vocabulary as I did to see what Istanbul was like. For me at least China Between is a book about China rather than a book about photographs of China but in that context it is very successful.

China Between is available to buy on Pollys site.