Posts Tagged ‘London’
by Gwyn Headley
I’m London Welsh, fiercely proud of both Wales and London WGC*, but even I sometimes get the feeling that Great Britain Ltd pays a little bit too much attention to the Great Wen.
London Wasps play their rugby in Coventry, 100 miles from Charing Cross. When Yvonne was flying, she flew me into London Lydd, which is 80 miles from Charing Cross in the opposite direction. That is a BIG city.
Wouldn’t it be easier for all concerned if England was renamed London? Just a thought. After all, the rest of the world knows this sceptred isle as England, with not a thought for poor Wales or Scotland.
I was driving through Belgium last October when I heard a radio sports announcer previewing the forthcoming Belgium – England Davis Cup tennis tournament. I wondered how the Murray brothers would like that.
Where am I going with this? It’s the news that the Royal Photographical Society’s archive is to be moved, along with 400,000 other photography-related items, from the National Media Museum in Bradford to the V&A in London, to be replaced by a light show.
Whatever the merits or demerits of this move, we can be sure that the 400,000 objects out of the NMM’s 3 million strong collection being taken from Bradford will be the pick of the crop, leaving behind assorted knurled focussing knobs from a few old Thornton Pickards and a couple of Box Brownies.
When the NMM opened in 1983 it was called the National Museum of Photography, and it was hailed as a brave new initiative to devolve a part of Britain’s artistic heritage out of London. I worked with them on a number of projects, notably with Brian Coe and the Kodak Gallery (there’s a Harlech connection for you — Kodak’s first UK boss George Davison built his summer house in Harlech).
Now the best of the best is being shipped to London, which already has more and better museums, theatres, art galleries and entertainments than anywhere else in the world, leaving Bradford with a light show, an IMAX and a couple of curry houses.
As a proud Londoner, I say it’s simply not fair. We’ve got enough down here. Why do we have to have more? Make Bradford a destination for all photographers!
London’s got it all. It doesn’t need this. Bradford does need it. Please think again.
*World’s Greatest City
by Gwyn Headley
Tags: 1834, acoustic, battleships, Bethlehem, Bethlehem PA, Book, British, Brussels, Buchmesse, C. F. Martin, cartoonist, clearances, common heritage, concept, D-35, Dreadnought, Dreams, fotoLibra, Frankfurt am Main, frankfurt book fair, George, German, Germany, guitar rental, guitars, Ideas, image licensing, immigrant, Judea, London, long walks, luthier, Magazine article, Mary and Joseph, music shop, Nasareth, national stereotypes, Nazareth, Nazareth PA, Nazareth Pennsylvania, New York, picture library, pilgrimage, Pont, price agreements, Punch, registered, rent, rent a guitar, RENT-AN-AX dot com, rentanax.com, road trip, SOUTH AFRICA, Strat, strum, The British Character, three continents, Trains, TV series, twentieth century, USA, Wales
What can be more conducive to reverie than a good meal, a comfortable seat and a long smooth train journey?
Last Saturday I travelled from Frankfurt am Main to London, changing at Brussels, on the way back from the Frankfurt Book Fair — my 36th. It was a good fair, with plenty of top-level discussions about image licensing and clearances, price agreements and long-term contracts.
It’s been a rough old time in the picture library business but we’re hanging on in there and I am convinced I can see a silver lining here or there amongst the heavy cloud cover. A week at the Buchmesse always boosts my confidence.
There was a lot to think about on the way home. My mind ranged through meetings, proposals, promises, developments, the way forward, new ideas and so on until I fell into a light doze.
Earlier there had been a slight altercation between a Canadian and a German Muslim over seat allocation, and I fell to pondering on national stereotypes. Meanwhile my reading matter for the journey was the account books of C. F. Martin, luthier, based in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century, not a page-turning thriller by most standards.*
So when I awoke there were three fresh ideas to make me smile.
Firstly, how about a series of picture books on national stereotypes? And before we all rush around tut-tutting and waving our hands in the air at such racism, it’s undeniable that a shared educational experience will produce a population that generally moves in the same direction and accepts the same discomforts. For example, most Americans are keener on owning guns than most Brits. Germans are generally more efficient than Greeks. Italians design prettier cars than the Welsh. And many of these attitudes could be illustrated by photographs — fotoLibra photographs, of course.
I suddenly remembered the pre-war Punch cartoonist Pont, and his series on The British Character. Wonderful, one-frame situation comedies, with captions such as
- Fondness for cricket
- Importance of being athletic
- Absence of enthusiasm for answering letters
- Preference for driving on the crown of the road
- Love of travelling alone
- A tendency to be hearty
- A fondness of anything French
- A tendency to learn the piano when young
You can imagine his drawings. So in my spare time I thought I’d rattle off a few observations on the national characteristics of the English, the Americans, the Spanish, the French, the Germans, the Italians and any other nation where I’ve had some experience of the inhabitants, each illustrated by a suitable fotoLibra image. If you have any suggestions for captions — and for images — please let me know. I’m looking for an affectionate and gently ironic tone. But I’m happy to offend, if it’s funny enough.
Then I contemplated Herr Martin, German immigrant to New York in 1834 and his subsequent move to Nazareth, PA, where the company he founded still makes fabulous and sought-after guitars. I discovered that Nazareth was a suburb of Bethlehem, PA and I thought that would have made Mary and Joseph’s life a little easier, having to travel 10 miles instead of 110. But there’s a Nasareth and a Bethlehem in Wales, as well — and they’re the same distance apart as the original Nazareth in Judea and Bethlehem.
There we are! How about a pilgrimage across three continents? A description of three journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem — one in Israel / Palestine, one in Wales, one in the USA. It would be a road trip, maybe even one short and two long walks, discovering the sights to be seen and the wonders to be shared in three such different environments, all with a common heritage. TV series? Book? Magazine article? I have yet to decide. But an agreeable concept.
And then Mr Martin and his lovely guitars. I am fortunate enough to own one, a 1972 D-35 Dreadnought acoustic, named for the British battleships of the early twentieth century. When I’m away from it, my fingertips get soft and itchy, and it’s not really practical to lug it around. Why couldn’t I rent one while I was in Frankfurt so I could have a quick strum before bedtime?
Eleven years ago I spent three weeks in George, South Africa, rocking on my heels. On the second day, fearing I might go stir crazy, I found a music shop and asked the owner if he would consider renting me a guitar for three weeks. He looked at me as if I was black. Then someone renting my house in Wales asked if there was a local shop which could rent him a guitar for two weeks. There isn’t.
Why not? Don’t be silly, I told myself, there will be a giant corporation which has this sewn up. I just haven’t heard of it yet. RENT-AN-AX dot com probably has depots scattered across the world where tired businesspeople can have a Strat delivered to their hotel room when they check in. Blindingly obvious. Ah well.
I got back home, and looked up rentanax.com. No such website. So I registered it. I am now the proud owner of rentanax.com.
Now what do I do? Anyone want to start a guitar rental company?
Me, I’ve got a picture library to run.
*Fascinating nonetheless: C F Martin & His Guitars: 1796—1873, by Philip F Gura, Centerstream Publishing, Anaheim Hills 2012.
by Gwyn Headley
We’re busy with our final preparations for fotoFringe London 2012, the picture buyers’ fair which is being held tomorrow in King’s Place, a newish office block and conference centre where The Guardian have their offices, near King’s Cross.
And it’s an article in The Guardian that I want to write about. A friend in Euskadi alerted me to this one (thank you Peta) because it’s one of my favourite topics — the freedom of photographers to use their cameras.
Stonehenge, Trafalgar Square, National Trust properties, a whole bunch of places in the USA — the list of places where photography is banned or restricted lengthens daily. Now, unsurprisingly, we can add the Olympic park in East London to the list.
I’ll never get to see this place because all my ticket applications have proved unsuccessful. However I am permitted to contribute substantially towards it through a hike in my London rates over the next ten years. So I’d like to see some pictures of it.
The Olympic venues are technically private property (purchased using our money, but when did that ever restrain our dear leaders?) so control can be asserted over what can and can’t be photographed within the precincts. But not on the public spaces surrounding the venue, of course.
The Guardian thought this could be interesting, so they sent a couple of photographers and a video to test the temperature of the waters. They struck lucky straight away when they ran into an incompetently and incompletely briefed security guard whose debating skills and command of English were no match for the fiercely well prepared Guardian hacks. He simply attempted to stop them filming in a public place. They refused. Reinforcements arrived.
And here — well, you know I’m on the side of the photographers, but this was outright provocation and harassment. The Guardian hacks were milling around, pushing for a reaction. But they came up against an intelligent, articulate and reasonable security supervisor who conceded they had a right to photograph on public land but as this was a sensitive area — the Olympic Park’s security centre — it would be most awfully kind of them if they could possibly desist.
The Guardianistas hectored and interrupted. They tried to photograph the armband name badge of an old fart security guard who looked worryingly like me, and he tore it off to prevent them. Bad move. The hacks loved it.
I want photographers to be able to photograph what they want when they want where they want, within reason and without causing offence, upset or danger. Yes, there are security concerns. Yes, there are privacy issues. I’m less impressed by the “we own it, therefore we should profit from it” brigade. I personally find papparazzis distasteful, and I believe they were the major contributing factor in the death of Princess Diana.
Our cause isn’t helped by photographers manufacturing an incident where none existed. But every movement needs an obnoxious vanguard.
Doesn’t it? What do you think?
by Gwyn Headley
Every day hundreds of thousands of innocent fotoLibra photographers are hauled off the streets of London and incarcerated in foul, dank dungeons with no hope of release for simply snapping a cop brutalizing an illegal immigrant, or some other harmless pastime.
OK, that may be a mild exaggeration but it’s nothing to what might happen if [insert name of your most loathed political party here] comes to power.
In the event of this happening — or in any event — fotoLibra members might like to read the Metropolitan Police’s official line on taking photographs in public places.
It is not what the scaremongers would have you believe. In general, you’re allowed to do pretty much what you like. And the police have NO POWER AT ALL to delete your photographs.
All the same, if you’re taking photographs in London, better print it out and keep it in your camera bag.
by Gwyn Headley
This isn’t strictly fotoLibra business, so I’ll simply refer you to the fotoLibrarian blog where this fantastic free offer is soberly and modestly described: http://fotolibrarian.fotolibra.com/?p=251