Friday, September 21, 2018


There are photographs you take, but don't show, not because they're 'bad' for technical or aesthetic reasons, but because you've crossed a line. It could be giving away too much information about yourself (the wonderful scene in 'Three Days of the Condor' between photographer Faye Dunaway and spy-on-the-run Robert Redford when they're discussing her black and white photographs). Or it could be plain bad taste. But I'm thinking of those occasions when you stick your camera where it's not wanted...

Taken recently, with my latest purchase from eBay, a little Fuji DL-150 80s point and shoot camera. I snapped the image in a narrow shopping alley in Sheffield, and carried on walking. Behind me I could hear female voice shouting, 'That man just took my picture!' I hurried along, not even glancing back. The woman in question, with heavily tattooed forearm and carrying two half-full Coke bottles is followed by her mother, grandson in arms. A surprised shopkeeper looks on.

A companion image to Glenda!, this was taken in the print finishing room of Derek Ritterband Photography in 1970 where I worked briefly as a black and white 'line and tone' printer. Glenda was an ex-model turned receptionist. Dave was the young assistant (also seen in the Glenda pic).

This photograph goes with the last of the images in The figure obscured, of an 'in-flight dustbin (trash can) lid'. So now you can see what caused the trouble.

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, Soho, London some time in the early 70s. (Note the young woman's floppy hat and clunky shoes.) Another 'shoot and run' scenario.

A blustery day in Sheffield some time in the 80s. The woman could be shielding her eyes from the bright sunshine reflecting on wet paving stones. It would be consistent to read the photograph that way, regardless of what actually happened. Does that make the image OK?

I was curious about this little photography shop and didn't notice when one of the staff appeared in the doorway. After I explained what I was doing, it seemed to be OK. 'I like your Leica,' she said, commenting on my plastic camera.

This photograph belongs with the set Sheffield Lanes. Snapped in the main shopping street in Sheffield around Christmas time, this fur-coated shopper is clearly not used to mixing with the hoi polloi.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Photography and the uncanny

This is no mere faint shudder or tremor, or a momentary shadow crossing your mind. I'm talking about the feeling you get when an invisible hand grabs hold of your guts and twists them. Or when you sense that you are falling, faster and faster, and everything around you becomes a blur.

When Death smiles at you...

Helpful lady at the Sheffield Google pop-up website advice centre. It was Halloween so she let me take a photo of her in her mask...

Just a telephone kiosk, except that you've travelled one thousand years into the future after all human life has gone — and nothing has changed...

In Starting Point: An Introduction to the Dialectic of Existence Robert Denoon Cumming devotes a section to the 'wiggling bottom'. This one didn't wiggle at all...

Two seconds after I snatched this photo, the infant flopped out of its mother's arms onto the paving stones of Sheffield's Peace Gardens. — I hope not.

A tableau/ shrine constructed around an old newspaper cutting — and another image of death. I don't know whether the addition of a teddy bear was intentional or not, but that's the element that gives your guts a twist.

You probably won't get this. It doesn't matter because I get it. It's what I'm after.

I read somewhere that all photographs are uncanny. It's their irreducible, recalcitrant contingency. The difference is that contingency is what these photographs say as well as show.