Wednesday, June 16, 2010

photography on Radio 4

Although Radio 4 is not a visual medium, there is quite a bit of intelligent coverage of photography.

A previous blog was about Radio 4's coverage of the new Tate photographic exhibition, Exposed, while I write this I am listening to the Food programme which is running its' second programme on food photography. An interesting insight with one exasperated professional photographer saying how hard it is to make a living now that there are so many amateurs out there, thanks to the accessibility of digital photography. While he bemoaned the loss of general quality in photographic imagery, he also applauded the fact the medium can now be used by so many people.

Photography is about the eye of the photographer rather than the equipment he or she chooses to use. There are some very gifted amateurs around though. This is evident in the large number of food blogs that people are creating.

On thursday, I listened to the obituary programme to hear an interesting account of John Hedgecoe whose books I have read; in fact, an old book of his on portrait photography helped with this module since his remarks although addressed to analogue photography are still relevant. He was the first professor of photography in the UK and took the photograph of the queen that appears as an outline on all the UK stamps and hence is arguably one of the most widely printed photographs with about 25 billion estimated copies. Royal Mail tried to deny Hedgecoe had anything to do with the image which forced him into the courts to make a legal action which he won.

In the evening, David Bailey was talking. Whatever one might think of Bailey as a person, one can not help but appreciate the fact that while doing his military service, he had a Picasso as a pinup while all the other soldiers went for "page 3" photos; ironic perhaps, that Bailey went into photography rather than art! This decision was largely influenced by a Henri-Cartier Bresson photograph.

Another interesting programme that related directly to this People and Place module, was Law in Action, where the question of photographing buildings from a public space came under scrutiny. Usually, photographers are approached by security guards and threatened by the police if they do not stop engaging in an activity that is "welcomed" according to the law. Police have no powers unless they consider the photographer actually does present some kind of real danger as a terrorist in which case the officer is permitted to view the film/photographs. If the officer feels that the images do pose some kind of threat then the photographer can be taken to the nearest police station for further questioning. In fact, the photographer does not need permission to photograph from a public space anymore than the building needs permission to photograph using CCTV cameras.

People hide behind database protection legislation. No law to stop photographer photographing building from street but there can be extenuating circumstances e.g an abortion clinic where people are entering and leaving. Not an offence to take photographs in the street!

What about if people want to photograph one and keep those images on file? It seems they do not really have the right to do this unless they have reasonable grounds for doing so.

Exposed, the Tate Gallery exhibition, was also considered. There are extant surveillance photographs that were taken almost 100 years ago of the women's suffragette movement.

Questions of privacy likely to be a developing issue!

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