Sunday, January 25

The art of picture editing – John G. Morris

As I mentioned in my post on Friday, I use long train journeys to catch up on reading old newspapers and articles that I've torn out of newspapers but never got around to reading. On the train on Saturday, I came across a Guardian article from 8 January (2007!) about legendary American picture editor, John Morris, who worked for the New York Times, Washington Post and Magnum.

As a picture editor for Life, Morris worked out of the London office on Dean Street, Soho, and in the Guardian article he talks briefly about his dealings with Robert Capa and Cartier-Bresson. The text by Robert Stummer is online:

What the Guardian piece doesn't mention is that Morris wrote a book about his eventful life, "Get the Picture: A Personal History of Photojournalism", which is currently available on and I haven't read the book, but since Morris seems to have spent time with Capa, Cartier-Bresson, Chim, Werner Bischof, Erwitt, Salgado, W. Eugene Smith, Ernst Haas, Lee Miller, Eddie Adams, Doisneau, Brassai, Marlene Dietrich and Ernest Hemingway, it's unlikely to be dull...

There's another interview with Morris here:

Friday, January 23

Essential supplies for a photographic day trip – what's in your bag?

I usually forget one item every time I get on the train for a photographic day trip, so I just made a useful definitive list. It can all fit in a Lowepro Slingshot 100AW bag, with the exception of newspapers, which can be carried in a carrier bag and discarded en route.

Here's the list:

– Bottle of tapwater – 500 ml
– Some food, including banana

– Plasters – in case of blisters
– Diarrhoea tablets (any brand) – you can't be too careful, can you?

Camera stuff
– Blower brush – currently lost
– Lens cloth
– Digital SLR (Nikon D90) plus kit zoom
– 28 mm lens
– Spare memory card

Et cetera
– A big pile of really old newspapers that I never got round to looking at. For reading on the train, and useful for creating that mad-person-on-the-train vibe.
– Map (if I have one of the place I'm visiting). Very important – an index of possibilities.
– Mystery item
– MP3 player. Sometimes. I like music but don't like listening to it on headphones, so it’s mainly for emergency use on long journeys; for example if the train carriage is invaded by pissed-up Pompey supporters or someone with an even louder MP3 player.

Footnote. If travelling on First Great Western trains from Weymouth to Bristol, extra equipment is necessary, such as a torch for when the lights fail, extra food in case of delays and, in winter, emergency clothing for when there's no heating. Tools can come in useful when bits of the train fall off, as in my last journey where the door between the two carriages could not be opened as the guard had kept the door handle for safe keeping. Also the one toilet may be out of order for the 2.5 hour trip, so a large bottle can come in handy in emergencies...

I think that's it.

Friday, January 9

Back of the head

The ultimate aim for my web site is that it will host several sets of themed photos that make sense to me. I used to have quite a few themed collections on the site, but I was unhappy with some aspects of the collections and have taken them down to give them a spring clean. In the meantime, an old and incomplete edit of the Country Show series remains along with a recent OK selection of the seaside shots, which need sequencing. I find it hard to do a “definitive” edit of the seaside shots for the web without a definite aim in mind, partly because I have so many of them...

On the other hand, when I exhibited a selection of the shots for a show in Antrim (a specific task) I selected 36 prints and a sequence and was pleased with the results for that particular project. There’s probably only a dozen shots from the seaside series that are “untouchables” and on a different day and mood, I may well have picked a load of different additional shots for that show. Of course, an edit for a book (Blurb or otherwise) would be another completely different task. With that in mind, I’ve just uploaded an alternate edit of 30 seaside shots that I put together for an application (another specific task) that I think work quite well as a series. It’s not a “greatest hits” of the seaside shots – in fact I have sacrificed a load of the stronger pictures to create a sequence of photos that I think works quite well, like the Antrim series. But different.

I’m sure the few “back of head shots” will not be everyone’s taste – but they are actually there for a reason that makes sense to me in the narrative. I’ve shown the seaside series in various forms to dozens of people whose views I respect and got dozens of different opinions about which shots should and should not be included – always helpful, but always different! So, of course, in the end you have to make your own selection bearing in mind the task in hand, a distillation of the dozens of conflicting pieces of advice you have been given, and, most importantly, your particular vision of the project!

Edit (21 January 2009): and, as if by magic, in the last couple of days I've been asked to provide an edit of the seaside photos for another project. Time to dig into them again...

Wednesday, January 7

Pentax K10D camera for sale (UK)

OK, this post may be a little low on details while I sort out a picture and research a reasonable price, but I am selling my Pentax K10D, with the kit lens and a couple of spare batteries. For convenience, within the UK (or EU).

I've recently bought the Nikon D90, so can't really justify the two cameras, although the waterproof nature of the Pentax K10D is handy.

So, if you're vaguely interested in this great camera, please email me to express that interest at, and save a load me of arseing around on eBay. Thanks!

Friday, January 2

Farewell to Woolies (rearranging the deckchairs)

The UK version of Woolworths has gone bust after 100 years of trading in the UK.

I visited a branch couple of weeks ago, expecting to feel a rush of nostalgia for the old place, but I couldn’t feel much attachment. I popped into another branch on New Year’s Day and did feel very sorry for the staff on the tills at least – it must have put a curb their New Year's Eve festivities for a start. And for what? The store was more or less devoid of customers but the three of them manned their posts in case of a sudden onslaught, despite the empty aisles. The shop had been reduced to a vast aircraft hanger space of empty shelves and fittings (all for sale).

In the absence of anything else to look at, I found myself noticing all the jolly overhead display photographs for sweets and toys for the first time. A tiny smattering of stock remained in one corner of the shop but a few staff were busy rearranging it, in case any gaps made it look untidy. Deckchairs ... Titanic, and all that.

An excuse for some Nanci Griffith