Sunday, October 16

Dialogues with student photographers, part I

Over the past year, I've had a steadily increasingly number of independent questionnaires from students interested in street photography. Last week I had five of these emails, which was a record.

It's great to get these, and most of the question sets are well thought out and intelligent - occasionally I answer them straight away if they seem easy to do. But usually they fall into the file marked "will do, when I get time (i.e never)".

Of course, many of the questions are repeated, so I would save myself a load of time by creating a FAQ document to put on my web site. While I do this, I thought it might be "fun" to create a dialogue here, with the permission of the questioners, just see where it will lead... Maybe nowhere.

I hope that the questioners (and others) will respond, and I will use the question-and-answer format to create a more interesting FAQ than I would come up with myself. And maybe force myself to give more than the rushed responses that I have given below.

So here we go. The email below is reproduced with permission:

"I hope that it is okay that I am emailing you, as I am in my final year of a BA Hons in Fine Art and have been producing work very similar to what you explore in your photographs."

---- Hi there, I get quite a few emails from photography students (a couple a week usually), but never from anyone studying Fine Art before.

"I am very interested to know how you achieve such great images, and whether they are snap-shots or carefully considered, because as a young person with a camera in a public place, I often get frowned at!"

---- Both! They are carefully considered snapshots. I just spend hours walking around looking for good compositions.

I take them very quickly and move on. As a (I guess) young female, you probably should arouse less suspicion than me, a middle-aged man. Maybe try to look less like you are a serious pro and more like an amateur having fun.

"Is this something you have had to deal with [I often get frowned at], and if so.....please can you tell me how you do it."

---- I only occasionally get asked what I'm doing. I look for situations where I can get close to people without them feeling threatened - where people are lost in thought, busy or in a crowd.

There are videos online of serious photographers shooting - Joel Meyerowitz, Matt Stuart.

e.g. Joel Meyerowitz:

Or look at

"Street Photography resources" on the right-hand side of this blog, some way down.

"I'm hoping to do a shoot in a bingo hall next, but legalities keep blocking me out!"

---- Good luck.

"Hope you can get back to me, even if you really cant reveal your secrets of success!"

---- unfortunately "success" only in terms of producing results that some people like, and coverage in newspapers, etc. Which is great but it is very hard to make money directly from this sort of photography.

*** BTW, is it OK if I stick this on my blog? Verbatim, as above? ***

Tuesday, October 4

Brighton meandering via GPS

On Saturday, I went to Brighton for the day. I recorded my wanderings with a little GPS gizmo. The results are, to me, strangely fascinating.

If you're a fellow map addict, click here, chose "Map View" (i.e. the left-hand circle of the three on display), then zoom in to taste.

I guess this is not a novelty to people with new-fangled mobile phones with GPS capability but I'm about 10 years behind with technology. Like a human version of Comet.

I covered an impressive 181.21 km due to accidentally turning on the device at the beginning of my train journey from Weymouth to Brighton.

Friday, August 26

Melplash Show, August 2011

Some pictures from yesterday's Melplash Show (click images to enlarge):

All photos copyright Paul Russell 2011

Listen to the show, courtesy of artist Joe Stevens

Thursday, August 25

Bournemouth Rowing Club: Aide-mémoire

While photographing around the Bournemouth Airshow last weekend with artist Dr Stephen Riley, by chance we were invited into Westover and Bournemouth Rowing Club for a balcony view of the show. I wasn't planning on photographing the aircraft but the invitation into the building proved fortuitous.

The coastal rowing club was founded in 1865 and is not usually open to the general public. Unfortunately, the council has asked the club to vacate the building by the end of the month, and the building will be redeveloped. The building includes features designed by Bournemouth architect, H. E. Hawker.

The club's boats have relocated to Hengistbury Head but plans for a new club building in Bournemouth are subject to the club finding sufficient funds…

I've walked past the club, near Bournemouth Pier, many hundreds of times, so it was good to see inside before it closes.

All photographs copyright Paul Russell, 2011

Sunday, July 31

Weymouth’s stripy huts: going, going, gone...

I took this photo in March 2004 while a small team were struggling to erect the hut.* Weymouth has long had a posse of these stripy huts selling fast food and essential seaside tat. There were precise council specifications about building materials and colour and width of stripes.

The huts generally were erected at the beginning of the “season” and dismantled at the end. Except for this hut, which remained standing continuously from March 2004 as the owner, Pete Townsend, liked to trade over the weekends out of season (either that, or he couldn’t be arsed to take it down every year).

It was decided this year that the red, white and blue designs were a bit too loud and Non-Olympic, and had to be replaced by new designs. Weymouth beach was to get a Gok Wan style makeover. This hut was the last stripy hut standing, but was smashed up a couple of weeks ago. The day after, I rescued some small wooden red, white and blue remnants.

These valuable heirloom seaside artefacts from the last standing hut are coming to an eBay auction near you, with prices starting in the mid-thousands. Any takers?

*The photo was featured in the RPS’s International Print Exhibition 2005, which was my only success in this competition despite entering about 45 million times. In the end it dawned on me that they were only interested in pictures of poor people in India, diving seabirds and portraits of famous people. But that’s another story.

Saturday, July 16

Last chance to see... Street Photography Now

This weekend is the last for the Street Photography Now exhibition at 18 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE. The exhibition was initated by Third Floor Gallery and features one photograph by each of the photographers profiled in the Thames & Hudson book. The show is part of the London Street Photography Festival.

"From Manhattan's Fifth Avenue to London's Oxford Street, from Mexico City to Moscow via Bombay and Bournemouth, Street Photography Now also features the work of a truly global group of emerging photographers working the streets today."

The last day of the show is Monday 18 July!

Me and David Gibson sign books for imaginary fans

All photos by Rachael Ward

Friday, July 15

Shooting from the hip - street photography tutorial

My handy, 10-point "power guide" to (literally) shooting from the hip:

(1) Are
(2) You
(3) Crazy?
(4) Use
(5) The
(6) Viewfinder.
(7) (That's
(8) What
(9) It's
(10) For)

Video to follow.

Tuesday, June 28

The ongoing characters

I was just looking through some pictures from the weekend, and something seemed familiar about this couple.

Bournemouth, this Sunday, 26 June 2011:

Then I realised where I had seen them before:
Swanage, July 2007:

Tuesday, June 21

Michal Walczak - West Midlands street photographer

Michal Walczak is a participant in the upcoming street photography workshop in Bournemouth. He has been "shooting street" around the West Midlands for less than a year, but his work already shows great promise.

Barcelona (near Stafford)



Photos copyright Michal Walczak 2011.

Wednesday, May 25

Bournemouth Street Photography Courses

This is a unique opportunity to join two experienced street photographers in a vibrant coastal resort.

Paul Russell (In-Public member) and Justin Sainsbury (UK Street Collective) will be leading engaging one-day courses around the town on 11 and 25 June 2011.

Through personal, in-the-field tuition we will encourage you to develop your own style and create interesting and inspiring street photographs.

Aspects of the day will include:

– Looking at the practical factors to consider when taking pictures of people in their environment.

– Learning to anticipate and make the most of interesting situations.

– How to best utilise your existing equipment, plus hands-on assessment of specialist cameras – the Ricoh GRD II and the Fujifilm FinePix X100.

– Maximising impact and creating rounded photo stories through selective editing.

By having a maximum of four participants we will ensure that you receive a concentrated level of advice and insight into this fascinating and challenging photography genre. The course will take place in situ on the street but we will have this beach hut base camp close to Bournemouth Pier!

For course fee of £80.00 you will also receive the benefit of a review of some of your previous work prior to the day in Bournemouth. Following the day’s shoot we will also provide an in-depth review of your pictures.

Paul and Justin are known for their humorous and poignant take on everyday life. If you enjoy non-confrontational photography of people without relying on long lenses then this may be the course for you.

For more detail please contact

The one-day courses will run from 11 am until 6 pm plus assessment of your portfolio of best shots via the Internet and a review of your Bournemouth shots subsequent to the day out.

Bournemouth is less than 2 hours from London Waterloo by train and is served by two trains per hour.

Photos copyright Paul Russell and Justin Sainsbury

Thursday, May 19

Street Photography at the Museum of London

A reminder that the Museum of London’s excellent exhibition, London Street Photography 1860-2010, is now on and runs until September 2011. I am lucky enough to be one of the 59 photographers chosen to represent the genre.

Over 200 images are featured, and photographers include Paul Martin, Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Humphrey Spender, Wolf Suschitzky, Bert Hardy, Roger Mayne, Tony Ray-Jones, John Benton Harris, Paul Trevor and Stephen McLaren.

In-Public are well represented, with Richard Bram, Adrian Fisk, David Gibson, Nils Jorgensen, David Solomons, Matt Stuart and Nick Turpin all included.

Entrance is free and the show has proved so popular that a timed ticketing system is currently in operation during weekends and school holidays. “Tickets can be collected from the Museum front desk on arrival, tickets cannot be prebooked. Entry to the exhibition remains free, please allow extra time for your visit.”

See the Museum of London’s site for more details

A short film featuring Matt Stuart, Polly Braden, Wolfgang Suschitzky and Paul Trevor is being shown alongside the exhibition, and there is a slideshow of further contemporary photographs including several of my own works of humble genius

Finally, there is a rather splendid hardback book showcasing the photos from the exhibition available at Amazon and larger bookshops. A softback version is available at the show itself (I think it’s still available).

The exhibition is curated by Mike Seaborne and Anna Sparham.

Sunday, April 17

Street photography and the Fujifilm FinePix X100

Is the eagerly awaited X100 a suitable tool for street photgraphy? Probably not, in its present state. In short, it seems that the autofocus isn't up to speed and the manual focus poorly implemented, with several turns of the focus ring required to get you from near to far.

Nigel Cheffers-Heard on this Flickr thread commented (my headings)

"The autofocus is leisurely to say the least, and for candid photography is a nonstarter (by the time it has locked on, the subject has seen you and the moment has passed).

Manual focus
"One alternative is to have the camera set in Manual Focus, and to momentarily press the AFL button to achieve focus. Frankly, too fiddly and time wasting. And the gearing! But more of that anon...

Another alternative is to set the focusing distance manually using the focusing ring and the scale on the rear screen. Sadly, the implementation of this is nothing short of disastrous. The actual linking between the focusing ring and the lens focus travel is electronic. So presumably you can have any “gearing" you choose to program in. For reasons best known to themselves, Fuji have programmed this so that to focus from infinity to minimum focus takes three complete turns of the focusing ring. Three turns!

I have to ask if they let any serious photojournalists used this camera during the alpha testing phase, because I cannot be alone in thinking this is not a good decision."

Street photographer John Goldsmith has written a detailed review on Street Reverb Magazine, and has similar misgivings (my headings):

"the autofocus is reasonably fast though not nearly as quick as my 5DMkII, even in great light. In short, I didn’t find the autofocus performance fast enough. In the case of the X100, the freezing EVF, the lack of a focus tool in the OVF, and the relatively slow autofocus, don’t leave any quick and reliable focusing options for speedily composing a street photograph. ...

Manual focus
"This focus ring, which seems to have been dipped in high-grade honey, can take as much as 5 full rotations to move to the opposite end of the scale. Fortunately, if I understand the mechanisms of the camera, the focus is electronic, or fly-by-wire, and this suggests that a firmware update could be an easy fix."

Tuesday, April 5

Format Festival in Derby, UK. Part 4: Monday

My last day at Format, and I bid farewell to the Kingsway Retail Park Travelodge at the crack of dawn. I have accumulated an array of portable food over the past few days – fruit and biscuits mainly – and the leftovers come in handy for a quick breakfast, as the hotel has no dining facilities.

The University is the main item on the agenda today – it is host to more than a dozen exhibitions, and is a little way out from the town centre. After getting the bus into town, I stop to study the outdoor Magnum display outside Quad in real detail for the first time. I get into conversation with a man with a camera who turns out to be Jack Simon – an excellent photographer whose work I have long admired online – who is exhibiting at the University.

Trudging out to the University – usually it would be a stroll, but my feet are still giving me gyp – I hear a Monkees song blaring out from a vintage clothes shop. Yes, them again. I pop into Vintage Romance to discuss the finer points of the Monkees career (including the experimental stuff) with the owner... She likes taxidermy.

I am tempted by these leftover chips but I had just eaten an egg, mayo and onion roll from The Cob Shop (awarded five stars by Derby City Council Food and Hygiene).

I spend about an hour at the University in the end – I wish it could have been much longer. The University is a very impressive modern building. Although a bit off the beaten track, the exhibitors generally have a lot more space here than at Quad. As well as Jack Simon’s pictures, of particular note are Andrew Glickman’s large subway pictures (within black frames but without glass – this seemed to be a great way to display prints), Alessandro Marchi’s large street landscape work, Stephen McLaren’s London work, and Laurence Stephens’s supermarket pictures. I chatted to Lawrence on the opening night, and he gets permission from the shop owners to shoot inside, but then takes candid close-up shots with a big SLR and flash, which must take a lot of nerve.

Then back to the town centre to see the In-Public show again, and then train station. I just make my 1 o’clock train.

UPDATE: Format is now officially over, although the exhibitions are still up at Quad and the Museum and Art Gallery according to the festival guide (please check before travelling!). The University shows are definitely no more.

Sunday, March 27

Format Festival in Derby, UK. Part 3: the opening weekend

On Saturday, after critically reappraising the exhibitions at Quad with Joni Karanka of Third Floor Gallery fame, we buzzed off to see the photo exhibits at the Silk Mill aka Derby Industrial Museum. Unfortunately, this interesting museum, which hosts temporary exhibitions, faces an uncertain future after Format: ‘The Silk Mill will be mothballed for a period of time after Sunday 3rd April 2011.’ Ouch.

Next, onwards with Joni to Déda, a dance-focused performance space type building to view some more exhibitions, including pictures by Kate Hooper. After bumping into a succession of great photographers who I had only previously had contact with online, the afternoon was spent critically appraising the beer at Ye Olde Dolphin pub. Several photographers who had attended the University opening party the previous night were now suffering from the effects of over-refreshment, which made me feel slightly less bad about missing out on that event.

Sunday – you can’t go home again
On Sunday morning I had a wander down by the River Derwent. Very scenic, and a nice weir. There seemed to be dozens of lifebelts in the parks next to the river – in the water, up trees, but just about none in their designated positions.

In the afternoon I got on a train and took a look around Nottingham city centre. Like the daytrip to Birmingham, this proved to be a bit of a mistake… Again, I had hoped to take some photographs but I found Nottingham city centre uninspiring. I had been a student there in the 1980s, and it was nice to see the trams for the first time, at least. I remembered the Hockley area as being a slightly ‘alternative’ area of the city, centred around the veggie deli Hiziki (no longer there as far as I could see) and the radical Mushroom bookshop (definitely not there – closed in 2000) but it seemed less distinctive now.

With no inspiration for photography I embarked on what I knew would be a pointless and slightly depressing nostalgia-fest, visiting some old addresses and favourite haunts from ye olde 1980s, such as Russell’s bar, which turned out to be a pleasantish bar called The Orange Tree. Could have been much worse.

Further out in Lenton, I checked two old addresses – 10 Teversal Avenue and 128 Harlaxton Drive – expecting to find my blue plaques, but they were conspicuously absent. For one long, glorious summer at the Teversal address, we were graced with the presence of the-then Trent Poly photography student Nick Waplington, but even this remains unacknowledged by the blue plaque people.

Moving back in the general direction of the city centre, I passed by another old local, The Happy Return. The pub looked less than inviting, which reminded me of the old landlord’s cheery farewell at the end of the evening, ‘now fuck off to your trendy student parties’.

By now, my feet were giving me real gyp. In a sitcom-type scenario, I had left my shoes overnight on the radiator of my suite at the Kingsway Retail Park Travelodge and they seemed to have shrunk. I hobbled down through the upmarket Park area in order to rest my limbs at the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub.

Despite being a major tourist attraction (carved out of solid rock underneath Nottingham castle, etc., etc. see website), I was pleased to discover that the beer was pretty cheap. As I was nursing my half pint in the atmospheric surroundings, who should walk in with a pint of foaming ale but Micky Dolenz. Yes, your actual Micky Dolenz, out of The Monkees!

To be continued

Thursday, March 17

Format Festival in Derby, UK. Part 2: Friday

Warning: contains no Format content.

As I was at Format in Derby for several days, I thought I’d use the opportunity to take some pictures at other places in the east Midlands. On Friday, I rose early from the splendour of my suite at the Kingsway Retail Park Travelodge, got the bus into town, walked to the train station, and made the short train journey to Birmingham. I hadn’t been there for about 20 years.

Funny old day
It turned out to be what modern philosophers call a “funny old day”. I could see that Birmingham city centre is a modern, vibrant place but somehow we never really clicked. As I wandered round the neat retail zone and later a bit further out around the canals, cubey glass-fronted chain restaurants, pubs and glassy high-rise hotels I struggled to engage with anything at all, either photographically or emotionally. I began to pine for the messy bits of Derby I had seen out of the bus window on the way into Derby city centre that morning.

Where does time go?
Late afternoon I enjoyed a quick visit to the Ikon gallery, then popped into a canal-side pub/café with a great view, and ate a cheap and crap snack meal. Several hundred young people wearing Justin Bieber T-shirts streamed by. I had planned to get back to Derby early evening for socialising, etc., but having wandered so far from the train station, I then spent ages looking for an Internet café to check my emails. In the end, I arrived back in Derby at about 11. I don’t know where the time went. In short, I cocked up on Friday.

Back to Format proper tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 9

Format Festival in Derby, UK. Part 1: Thursday

I’m currently nursing a couple of very sore feet from just having spent 5 days walking around the excellent Format photography festival in Derby (plus some other parts of the East Midlands).

The theme for this year’s festival is street photography, “Right Here, Right Now: Exposures from the Public Realm”. Headline names include Bruce Gilden, Joel Meyerowitz, Miss Aniela, and an In-Public group show in which some of my humble photos are featured. The festival runs from 4 March until 3 April 2011.

As a sometimes journalist and writer, I was mindful of my responsibilities and took some notes over the Thursday to Monday of my visit, which straddled the opening weekend. However, reading through them now they seem to consist mainly of a list of things I ate, which in turn seemed to be mostly baguettes from the excellent Spar inside Derby’s new bus station. Hendersons Relish flavour Yorkshire Crisps and Spar’s own Jaffa cakes also feature prominently.

Anyway, rather than give a detailed account of the festival that I will probably never get round to finishing, I’ll just dive straight in and give a quick impressionist sketch of the few days that I was there.

Thursday – openings
After a frantic train journey up from Weymouth to Waterloo (late due to a fatality on the line) and then up to St Pancras for Derby I somehow arrived in Derby on time, and wasted no time in dumping my stuff at my hotel, the Kingsway Retail Park Travelodge.

Situated two miles from the city centre, the hotel is ideally located for the out-of-town PC World, Homebase and M&S Food, and has good connections to the city centre via the Mickelover bus that runs late into the night (£1.40). It was also the cheapest hotel I could find that didn’t have horrendous reviews on TripAdvisor. (Naming no names – Heritage Hotel – don’t drink the water.) I stocked up on some provisions at M&S Food, where all the beautiful people in Derby seemed to be shopping, and headed back into town for the In-Public opening.

The In-Public show looked great – the 20 members of the collective each had several pictures, all well displayed and arranged. Nick Turpin and David Gibson had done a sterling job for In-Public in taking care of the logistics over the long road to fruition of the exhibition. Nick had also invested a huge amount of time producing the In-Sight film, an excellent documentary featuring many of the In-Public members in conversation and photographing in situ. The documentary is being shown continuously during Format, and I’m sure it will run and run elsewhere.

The In-Public show is in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, right next to the Bruce Gilden exhibition.

Bruce Gilden and Nils Jorgensen at the In-Public show.

Next, I moved on to the Quad building to view the exhibitions. What a fantastic focal point a modern, well equipped building like this is for the arts and for Derby. If only there could be one in every town and city. We can dream.

There are far too many noteworthy displays in Quad to mention them all. I’m sure Peter Marshall will be listing them all on his blog at some point. Ones that stuck in my mind were Dougie Wallace’s tram window pictures going up the stairs, the HCSP slideshow, and the Garry Winogrand slideshow of (to me) largely unseen colour shots selected by Joel Meyerowitz. The Winogrand was an unexpected bonus – as far as I could see, this was not even mentioned in the programme. The only minus point for the Quad displays is that many of the advertised exhibitions consist of a small number of pictures, so if you are going for, say, the Jeff Mermelstein you might be disappointed to find only (I think) four pictures. I suppose this is a consequence of having so many well known names in the Quad building (Kollar, Mermelstein, Griffin, Orville Robertson, Meyerowitz, Amy Stein, Brunelli, Lezmi for a start).

At 7.30 pm the brave ventured outside into the cold for funny and eloquent speeches by Brian Griffin and Joel Meyerowitz. Over the evening I bumped into David Gibson, Peter Dench, Kate Hooper, Nils Jorgensen, Laurence Stephens, Andrea Hadley-Johnson, Kate Kirkwood, among many others. At one point I found myself gushing to a suited stranger about how friendly the locals and organizers were and how great the Festival was - the stranger turned out to be Format Co-Director Mike Brown, so it was lucky I had only good things to say...

10:21 pm Thursday

For late-night quality food and service I can recommend the chips at Nads Fast Food Takeaway, 3 Morledge, Derby, DE1 2AW.

And that's the end of Thursday. To be continued.

Friday, January 14

Some UK street photography dates for your diary

Possibly you know the old saying “You wait ages for a bus, and then you get eaten by a semi-amphibious swamp creature called Derek”.

Well, it so happens that in 2011 Derek is tenuously reincarnated as a strange conjunction of street photography happenings. Namely, two major exhibitions and a street photography festival. The bare basics are sketched out below for your naked enjoyment.

18 February to 4 September 2011
London Street Photography exhibition, Museum of London (with accompanying book/catalogue).

Free entry.
It says: “This major new exhibition at the Museum of London showcases an extraordinary collection of London street photography with over 200 candid images of everyday life in the street. From sepia-toned scenes of horse-drawn cabs taken on bulky tripod-mounted cameras to 21st century Londoners digitally ‘caught on film’, explore how street photography has evolved from 1860 to the present day.”

The 59 photographers featured include Valentine Blanchard, John Thomson, Paul Martin, Horace Nicholls, Wolf Suschitzky, Roger Mayne, Henry Grant, Paul Trevor, Paul Baldesare, Nils Jorgensen, Richard Bram, Stephen McLaren and Nick Turpin. I am very pleased to have a print in this show and the accompanying book.

4 March to 3 April 2011
“Right Here, Right Now” – Exposures from the Public Realm
Format Photography Festival, Derby
It says: “This year’s programme is curated around the theme of street photography. It consists of exhibitions, portfolio reviews, workshops, commissions, screenings, mass participation, talks, photo collectives, publications, a summer school, conference and much more, all focusing on showing new work premiering in the UK, alongside the best established practitioners in the world.”

Highlights include a show of commissioned work from Derby by Bruce Gilden, and an In-Public exhibition and film.

7 to 17 July 2011
London Street Photography Festival
A street photography festival based around the Kings Cross area. More details to follow...

Thursday, January 13

Eighty-two per cent of statistics are made up

Fascinating total web stats for the year 2010
125 832 unique visits*
287 175 page views

This blog
4876 visits
7829 page views
I bet Blake gets this in a day...

*About the same as 2009
126 174 unique visits
282 005 page views

Monday, January 10

Live from the goat trials - uh

Imagine my surprise to come across this well known photography blogger moonlighting as a judge in The Dorset Show goat competition.

Sunday, January 9

Street Photography Now in the Big Issue (Australia)

I have received some nice spreads of an article about the Street Photography Now book that appeared in the Big Issue in Australia (dated 27 December 2010 to 3 January 2011). Thanks to Jesse Marlow for tracking it down.

The article contains pictures by Mimi Mollica, Matt Stuart, Jesse Marlow, Polly Braden, Arif Asci and me.