Category Archives: London

London

Style (with a purpose) on Saturday

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Wandering around Hampstead yesterday, on a very pleasant and chilled Saturday, I came across this stylish lady collecting for the Children’s Hope Foundation.

She talked to everyone, catching some unawares, but always with a smile.

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She had a canny way of talking to passers by, with an infectious personality and a positive word to say about everything.

Everyone stopped.

And she had a style completely her own.

Hampstead

Leica M9 and Noctilux F/1.0 50mm, post processed in Color Efex Pro.

Street style

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I wrote this in 1970:

Home Town

The gang and me
we get along fine.

We drink together
and wander the roads
of our town
with youthful haste.

Without them
my home town
would have no meaning.

Which makes me think about the streets. It makes me wonder what it is we see when we take photographs on the street.

Are we seeing the people, or are we seeing the image of the people?

Surely, we don’t see the “gang”?

Does Gilden’s flash work for the viewer, or the subject?

On the Leica Akademie day, I took many pictures in London’s Chinatown. The gentleman above seemed to be chilling. Reading. Smoking. Smiling.

He could see I was taking his picture, and didn’t seem to care. Perhaps that is the price we pay when we hang out in a 21st century venue full of cameras.

In any event, my first look at the images of the day lead to the one above. Lots of detail, softly processed. I published the sequence on my main photo site, and got some pleasing feedback on various forums.

Then I looked again.

He might not be a member of my “gang”, but he is connected to me via the image.

Let’s try another process.

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Is that more “him”?

Does that make him more a member of my “gang”?

English Gentleman

English Gentleman

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first Leica Akademie event – and it won’t be the last.  A small group of us were in Soho and Chinatown, London, practising street photography.

I decided to use a single lens on the Leica M9-P – the Noctilux 50mm F/1.0. A classic lens – and somewhat scary to use as it is so sharp at point of focus! Of course, it also has beautiful bokeh. A gem.

In Berwick Street, I saw this English Gentleman. Others told me afterwards that he is often seen in that area.

I first saw him buying water in a store. He disappeared from view, and then walked along the road. So I ran back to take a series of images. He was apparently in his own world, oblivious to my camera – until this moment.

I would like to know his real story, and plan to go back.

You can see more of the sequence here

After processing the images, I then discovered a very vibrant set of Leica Groups on Facebook, such as the Leica Meet and Leica. Shame on me that I hadn’t seen them before.

At the same time, Flickr released a massively improved mobile app, which has now made it onto my home screen. So it’s been a great couple of weeks for my photography.

Posting the English Gentleman got quite a positive response online, for which I am extremely grateful.

To me, the image is more than “in your face voyeurism”. It is a story about a man and his environment. The eccentric, classic English Gentleman against a background of urban (and young) London.

Seems to me that is the one thing street photography should be about.

The real story.

M9-P and Noctilux 50mm F/1.0, processed in Silver Efex Pro

Communication

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Communication

talking without words
an instant impression
of time
the constant value
revealing itself
in the depths
of our hearts

Written 1969

It was a week of variety. There was a collection of toilet pods, pink for ladies, blue for men. Fun and funky, and who would have thought that images of toilets could ever look like an alien space ship, recently arrived in the Capital City at Sketch, a Mayfair restaurant..

The image pops out, telling us something new. Communication without words, just like the verse said all of those years ago. Photography is morphing into constant sharing, like a diary of everything we do. No words needed, just the image.

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Before that, an intriguing new hotel called 21C in Cincinnati, a museum concept where business meets art. When the image is of an image, there is a double impact. There are so many things to ponder, and images to share. The artist created the sculpture, and proudly set them in place. The hotel created an ambiance, and a mood, to show them at their best. And the photographer took a view that was unique. Images on images on images. It’s a visual world after all.

On the way home, the plane’s technology worked just fine, and you never will need that life jacket. The transfer from Cincinnati to Boston was easy. Delta’s seats had space and comfort, and the in-flight Wi-Fi helped us all to stay connected. The crew tried hard and smiled throughout.

Images in flight.

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It was pretty on the ground, and the air was clear allowing a few quick pictures. But inside the cabin, subtle things defeated a perfect trip. On a night flight, airlines sometimes offer their business customers a “quick meal”, to cut down eating time and to let them get more sleep. After all, the flight from Boston to London is only around 6 hours, and you loose 4 or 5 hours on the time zone shift overnight. It’s not called a “Red Eye” for nothing.

“Yes sir, I will bring you a quick soup and not the full meal, so then you can sleep”.

Nice promise, but pity it arrives at the same time as everyone’s meal. Just too hard to organise things I assume. But then, why say that it was possible? Words become promises, and promises that aren’t delivered lead to reactions and pain. So which will I remember most about that flight? The fleeting glimpse of the ground 35,000 feet below, which could have been on any flight, almost anywhere. Or the specific disappointment of insufficient sleep?

We’d all accepted a delayed flight, as we couldn’t do much about it, and the airline carefully explained what had happened – so we were all sympathetic. The words worked. Eventually the plane landed smoothly in London, and the pilot was pleased that we offered him our business. Rain welcomed us and an image beckoned of the airport around us.

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Unfortunately the dock wasn’t ready, as though Heathrow had never had a plane arrive before. We all paid intent attention to those essential messages on our smartphones, and even took a picture or two. We all managed to avoid the outside world. Still, a little annoyance about the dock overshadowed things. It wasn’t the words or images. It was the lack of words. Of warning and sympathy. No words could reassure.

Whatever images inspire, if the simple words of communication disappoint, it all falls apart.

Sketch was a very cool restaurant, designed to be a visual treat. Art meets food. The staff was immaculately turned out, and everything was very professional.

Did they need a little too much “push” to change us to a better table? “I won’t comment on that, madam”. So we all moved on.

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The food was excellent, served quickly and with a little panache. Looked and tasted good, too.

The sommelier asked

Would you like a drink, madam? Certainly, madam”.

[Not that I approve of the way you are drinking my wine … but I will try not to let that show on my face].

Of course when he forgot to bring the drink the whole effect was spoilt. Words of apology become words of reaction.

The negative words overtook the positive, if only for a few moments.

Images are so diverse, so strong, and so creative. And there are an infinite number of them. What is this do you think?

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It’s a light at Sketch – abstracted. To the artist, it doesn’t really matter, as the shape and colour is all. But to others, knowing what it is needs words. And if the words disappoint, so does the image.

Great intentions let down with small mistakes. Beautiful images lost because of simple words.

Images can’t cover for words or deeds.

Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” Peter Drucker

Coffee, whisky and reflecting icons

Levitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Way to go, way to go, isn’t it?

What happens to the pond when the stone falls into disrepute?
And what happens to the stone when the water turns to vapour?
Is an Icon real or is reality an Icon?

People meet by chance and the diversity sits heavily on their shoulders, but placed by others.
People meet to discover their reality and truth by their own hands, but touched by others.
People meet to stare and concede the dark necessity of their contact, but hidden from others.

Is an Icon true or truth an Icon?
Way to go, way to go, isn’t it?

Extract from a poem written in March 1999

It happens all of the time. Everywhere on earth, the “catch up” meeting is a ritual. Let’s have coffee, outside, somewhere so daily work does not intrude. Much is practical – what’s going on, what should we share, what can we learn? We have work to do, and the rules get in the way. But much is about Icons.

There were many bars in Japan. There were evenings of peace. Evenings of excitement. Evenings of pain.  Yet every time, the rules changed. Tatamae became Honne, expected opinion and public facade became truth and personal fact. Whisky fuelled the conversion. Arguments ensued, and laughter became tears. Painful futures were hammered out across the table, hostesses supplying the fuel. It went on into the small hours, until the last train called.

Hardly a catch-up. More a catch you. More a catch them.

London might not be Tokyo. New York is not Moscow. And how do you translate from Japanese?

The Icon realises the one consistent truth. Catch Up. Honne. Tatamae. It’s all about staying connected with Icons. It’s circular.

Smoke needs a chimney to go up” Michael said, many years before. And he is still right. Icons are chimneys for smoke. Icons are respected, feared, looked at with awe and also dismay. Icons provide context and focus. Icons can create. Inspire.

Yet Icons can also be destroyed. The stones of Tatamae can be brushed aside by the flows of truth. Honne can turn the water to smoke and vapour. Icons are moved around like flotsam on the tide. Some recover, some crumble. They navigate as best they can around the stones, across the waves.

In the early morning, on the train, the mind changed. What was said was then. Today is now. Today is always Tatamae.

The Icon is still safe, then. Intact, no change visible from the outside. But inside, it’s different. The smoke has been absorbed into the chimney.

People expect you to know what you are doing. Not surprising, really. And they make you an Icon of truth, of practicality, of ideas.

But if you are a poet, or a musician, people don’t want to “touch base”? Yet you are still an Icon. Artists are Icons to admire, to copy, to learn from, to compare, and to hold in your mind.

To inspire.

Did any of them ever have “catch up” meetings? No. Yet are they smoke or chimney?

They are both.

Picasso said

“I am only a public entertainer who understands his time.”

And Warhol noted

“In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Both are icons. Beacons of ideas and inspiration. Definers of new truth. Pathways to the soul. The Honne of art set against the Tatamae of daily life. And their chimney made them into smoke.

Rothko is an Icon. Turner. Proust. Tolstoy. Icons are of the moment. Diana. Lennon. Gandhi. Mao. Yet Icons stand forever.

Richard the Lionheart. Saladin. On opposite sides yet their histories stand intertwined. Icons defined by each other. Both noble and chivalrous, enemies yet respectful. Defined by reflection.

Constant yet ever changing. Smoke and Chimney. Tatamae and Honne.

Icons. Respected.

Reflecting.

…………………………….

Wikipedia:

Honne refers to a person’s true feelings and desires. These may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one’s position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one’s closest friends.

Tatemae, literally “façade,” is the behavior and opinions one displays in public. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one’s position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one’s honne.