Sunday, June 28

A Long Exposure: 100 Years of Guardian Photography at Bridport Arts Centre

If you're in Dorset, there's an exhibition of photos from The Guardian's staff photographers upstairs at the Bridport Arts Centre.

The exhibition showcases work taken since the paper appointed its first photographer, Walter Doughty, in 1908 and features photos by Denis Thorpe, Don McPhee, Walter Doughty, Graham Finlayson, Tom Stuttard, Robert Smithies and Christopher Thomond. There's a reasonable number of largish prints, well printed and presented. Don McPhee's miners strike pictures will probably be familiar...

Thursday 25 June to Saturday 18 July 2009
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm, free admission

Bridport Arts Centre
South Street, Bridport DT6 3NR, UK

Event details
(Exhibition toured by The Lowry, Manchester)

Guardian slideshow here

Friday, June 26

Bruce Springsteen, Robert Frank and the dark side of the American dream?

As Glastonbury prepares for a rare weekend of sunshine, all the British papers seem to be offering a Bruce Springsteen primer for the younger festival goers. Picking up The Independent today, I was surprised to read that Springsteen may have owed inspiration for some of the darker side of his work to Robert Frank!

"Springsteen's ex-rock critic manager Jon Landau is credited with educating him away from the escapist street-romance of his 1975 breakthrough Born to Run. It was Landau who handed him a Woody Guthrie biography, and guided him towards Robert Frank’s 1950s photos of lonely roadside Americans and John Ford's film The Grapes of Wrath.

The idea that Springsteen was manipulated into acting out his mentor's literary fantasies is tempting, but the initial results can't be faulted. Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), The River (1980) and Nebraska (1982) are his work's core. The previously apolitical singer wrote Nebraska under Guthrie's influence, as a stark tour of the small-town America he grew up in, laid waste by Reaganomics. The River's title song remains his best. Its young married couple in a closing factory town have no future in a way more crushingly solid than punk's teenage mantra. "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true/Or is it something worse..." the man wonders, of an American Dream he has been forced awake from. It was a heartbreaking political song because it barely looked up from personal concerns; as good as Guthrie, but Springsteen's own."

Nick Hasted, The Independent.

The Guthrie and Grapes of Wrath influences I'm aware of, but Frank is news to me. Well maybe the cover of Nebraska and the video to Atlantic City were clues.

Wednesday, June 24

Country Show update

I've recently updated and tidied up a short edit of my country show pictures.

The photos have been taken over the past few years at the Dorchester County Show (recently renamed the Dorset County Show), The New Forest Show and the Melplash Show. I hope to add to the collection this year...

Jump right in here

Thursday, June 18

Jonas Bendiksen - Satellites Exhibition in London

Prints from Bendiksen's excellent Satellites book are being shown in London for the first time. Thanks to Chris Moxey for the photo of Jonas Bendiksen at the gallery.

24 June to 9 August 2009
Tuesday-Friday 1-5pm
Saturday 11am-5pm
Sunday 1-5pm

PM Gallery
Walpole Park, Mattock Lane
London W5 5EQ
United Kingdom

Tube: Ealing Broadway
Rail: Ealing Broadway
Buses: 207, 83, 607, E1, E2, 112, 297, PR1, E7, E8
Car park: Ealing Broadway Centre, access via the Grove from Ealing Green. Springbridge Road, access via the New Broadway.

Exhibition details

Travel details/opening times

Watch the Satellites slideshow on Magnum

Wednesday, June 17

The Olympus E-P1 – climbing Mount Improbable?

Olympus have generated a torrent of publicity and interest in this new digital camera, billed as a successor to the old film Olympus Pen.

On paper, the E-P1 looks to be just what a lot of serious photographers have been waiting for – a smallish, compact digital with a large sensor, and an array of small lenses in the pipeline. Not so small as to be fiddly, but not so large as to be conspicuous, and possessing decent manual controls and dials.

And as someone who has tried to use a digital with an LCD screen for composition but never really took to that way of working, the large external viewfinder designed to work with the small prime lens looks like a perfect combination.

The only dark clouds on the horizon seem to be mutterings about focusing speed. For example dpreview says, ‘the samples we’ve tried have very slow focus in anything but perfect light’. OK, these are samples and not the final cameras, but it doesn’t seem to tally with Olympus’s claim of 3 frames per second...

In theory, with the new pancake prime lens pictured above – which is about 35 mm in 35 mm terms – a manual focus to about 5 ft and f/8 would cover most bases, but according to, that doesn’t sound too promising either: ‘Manual focus allows you to set the focus distance yourself, though that can be difficult, since there are no distance markings on the lens, nor are any displayed on the LCD’. Hmm, curious...


Of course, we’ve been here before, with cameras that promised much but were let down by details such as the shaky build quality of the Ricoh GR digital cameras, and the general sluggishness of the Sigma offering. But Olympus have built this new camera up so much – and even reprised David Bailey as ambassador – that they must be confident in the E-P1, so here’s hoping its performance lives up to the publicity.

Meanwhile, Britain’s leading cartographer of the psychogeographic landscape is awaiting a review copy... Oh, and a black version would be nice.

**** Update, 23 June 2009 ****

More reviews coming in suggest that the focusing speed is similar to a fast compact, but not up to digital SLR standards. For example:
"In outdoor light at the wide end of the kit zoom, the E-P1's focusing generally felt as fast as a decent point-and-shoot, and at times maybe faster. There was some definite lag and hunt when shooting indoors, though – more than you'd expect from a DSLR. If action shooting, especially indoor sports photography, is a primary interest, the E-P1 (or any other MFT camera, to be honest) probably isn't the best choice."

It also mentions a "a great quick-shift AF to MF transition".

Digitalarts online are more forgiving
"When you turn on the E-P1, it's ready to shoot in about a second. Focusing is fast using its 11 focusing points, and shutter lag is minimal. Burst mode is 3 fps. In other words, it feels like DSLR when you press the shutter button."

**** Update, 6 July 2009 ****
A few more reviews I bumped into both flag up the focus speed. Doesn't sound good:

cnet reviews
"Sluggish autofocus" Gadgetwise Blog
"I found the auto-focus a bit imprecise and slow. In particular, it was difficult to focus on anything that was moving (even when using Continuous AF)."

**** Update, 9 July 2009 ****

I had a quick try of the camera with the kit zoom today, courtesy of Jessops in Bournemouth. After all the talk of less than stellar autofocus performance, it didn't seem too bad to me in terms of speed.