Tim Gander’s photography blog.

My Latest Camera

Regular clients will be delighted to learn I haven’t stopped investing in camera equipment, though they may be surprised that my latest Canon purchase cost me exactly two whole British Pounds. Yes, £2.00.

On Sunday I paid a visit to the Frome Wessex Camera Fair at the Cheese and Grain venue (where The Foo Fighters recently and very famously played a surprise gig).

There were no superstars on this occasion, but the entry fee was a mere £3.00 which I happily paid. So let’s pretend a portion of that should be considered part of the cost of the camera, but since I also bought a cable release (£3.00) and a handheld light meter (£4.00), at worst the camera cost me £3.00.

My reason for this particular purchase, a Canon Sureshot Supreme, is that this was a camera which came out in the 1980s when I was working at London Camera Exchange in Bath. It caused quite a stir at the time for its modern styling and fast, accurate automation of focus and exposure settings. There was a huge advertising campaign behind it, and though it wasn’t a budget model of its day, retailing as it did at around £120, we sold bucket loads of them.

I spotted this particular one on a table at the fair, but when I looked at it more closely I thought it might be dead (the battery level showed good, but the shutter wasn’t firing). So I negotiated £2.00 for it, took it home, popped a fresh battery in and BINGO! it worked. Clearly the battery level indicator is a die-hard optimist.

So then I thought, what can I do with this? Would it be possible to shoot a set of pictures which might present an interesting project? Does the camera actually work as a photographic tool, or might some part of the electronics or optical system be so old as to be non-functioning? Only one way to find out.

Loaded with a roll of Kodak Tri-X black and white film and with the help of my son Joe and his friends, I set about making a series of portraits that I hoped would make a mini series on skaters and their boards – battle scars and all (the boards more than the skaters).

I tried using the built-in flash in the outdoor setting to see what effect I could conjure with that, but it was pretty horrible, so I went with the daylight-only images in my selection.

My verdict on the camera is it’s not the sharpest lens in the world, but the exposure is good and the overall effect is quite interesting. Not bad for a 30-year-old pocket camera, the current value of which is quadrupled by the loading of a roll of film and a fresh battery.

The result is a series of portraits of these young lads, each standing confidently as teenage boys do with their skateboards acting as shields – to be fair, I asked them to bring the boards up into the frame. But each has their own way of confronting the lens. A couple look away, one would only be photographed blindfolded with his bandana, but I love the unexpected in a photo and if someone chooses to hide their eyes, avert their gaze, or perform some other unexpected motion which reveals something about them, I’m happy to include this as it says more than a straight portrait.

Whatever I like or don’t about these pictures, your opinion is more important and if you’ve a mind to, I’d love to hear what you see in these pictures.

Whether I’ll shoot much on the Sureshot, or just keep it as a museum piece, I’ve yet to decide, but heck, for £2.00 and a roll of film it’s been an interesting exercise.

Thank you to Finlay, Ben, Christy, Joe, Toby and Danni for your help. It probably seemed a peculiar request on the day, but I hope you like the results.

 

 

Latest on Routes

Screen grab of the archive thumbnail images from the Faces of Routes exhibition.

The brilliant people who sat for the Faces of Routes photo session.

Great news! Frome’s best and only youth drop-in centre, Routes, has been saved for at least another year following a concerted campaign to raise awareness and funds.

Local businesses have run various fund-raising schemes and events and these, along with my Faces of Routes project and exhibition, have raised over £60,000 in donations with a few more bits and pieces still coming in, plus the outcome of a National Lottery application which was started before the appeal was made.

Routes manager Sarah Stobbart assures me the bulk of the money was raised as a result of the exhibition, with a very large chunk being donated by an individual who saw the pictures during a visit to Cafe La Strada in the town centre. I don’t know much detail about who, but I believe the sum was £30,000, which is brilliant and I’m thrilled to know that the service has gained valuable breathing space.

Of course this isn’t the end of the story, but with such a lot of good will and awareness raised this will make future funding applications that little bit easier. I still believe Routes should be properly funded by responsible organisations such as local government, but perhaps this stay of execution will allow these avenues to be explored further.

Sarah got in touch to say, “I truly think that the portraits, the use of them and the associated press has contributed massively to the fundraising campaign for Routes being successful – you’ve no idea how glad I am that you got in touch to begin with!”

In the meantime it’s fantastic to know that youngsters from Frome and the surrounding villages have somewhere they can seek help, guidance and a listening ear. I’ll be keeping an eye on things and will update here whenever there is significant news.

To all my blog readers who donated, a very heartfelt thank you. This has been the best personal project I’ve ever undertaken and without so much support it could have been a very futile gesture.

Thank you.

Don’t Condemn the Photographer

I’d hoped to be writing about something else this week, but events…

Yesterday’s news will be written up as the worst terrorist attack to befall London since the July 7th bombings of 2005 and understandably it’s an event which is saturating our news channels and of course our social media feeds too. I learned of the attack on Twitter.

Twitter is also where Reuters published the incredible and upsetting photos taken by their photographer Toby Melville who just happened to be under Westminster bridge when the attacker ran his car into pedestrians before attacking and killing PC Keith Palmer.

I’m not going to re-publish the pictures here not because I believe they should be censored, but because I just don’t have the right to use them You can see some of them and read Toby’s account of what he witnessed here, though be warned they are stark.

What struck me as I started to see reaction to Toby’s photos on Twitter was how quickly people rushed to judge him for taking the photos, many believing he should have done more to help the victims. Well it’s easy to judge from the safety of a Twitter account, the comfort of a chair and without the chaos of a breaking news story physically surrounding you. As far as I can see, Toby did what he is professionally trained to do and once he’d called in the emergency services (as many others would have simultaneously done) he got to doing what he (professionally speaking) does best.

While others were already attending the victims and paramedics were starting to arrive, Toby recorded, as any professional newsgatherer should, what he witnessed. That he kept calm enough to compose and take photos that far surpassed any fuzzy phone photos taken by the public is testament to the difference between a trained news gatherer and a member of the public armed with a phone. If anyone had the required legitimacy to use a camera at this terrible scene, it was Toby. And if nobody had taken any images at all, well that would be incredibly peculiar and a failure to record a historical, if tragic, event.

But gathering the images is just the first part. Having filed them the next step was up to Reuters staff to edit and disseminate the images and one in particular raised strong criticism on social media. It showed the bleeding face of a woman who was clearly badly injured while a fellow pedestrian attended her. I notice in their write-up of Toby’s account they’ve omitted that particular photo.

The Editors’ Codebook suggests this particular image, by which I mean the publishing of it rather than the taking of it, could be in breach of the code of practice, but I italicise that because the code doesn’t exclude the coverage of such scenes and it would require some thoughtful consideration (not hot-headed social media condemnation) to decide if it was in breach of the code.

Going back to Toby’s part in this, we have to decide as a society what we’re willing to censor and we have to be cautious of condemning the professional photographer for being witness on our behalf. It is not the job of the photographer to decide what is too unpleasant to be photographed, but it is the job of the editor to only publish what is publishable.

We must also avoid hypocrisy; we might not like seeing pictures of dead people from conflicts and tragedies in other countries, or even in other times, but I see nothing like the same level of criticism when they’re posted online as when similar photos are shot and published showing tragedies so much closer to home.

My advice to Toby’s critics would be that they should do more to understand the role of the professional photojournalist and to take pause before jumping in to condemn those who bear witness on behalf of us all. If an incident such as this happens when a properly trained photojournalist happens to be on the spot, we should be grateful that bad news is covered properly and neither outlawed or suppressed by a mis-guided belief that our sensibilities should trump the truth except when the victims are on another continent.

 

Light Reading

I like to end the day with a little light reading (currently John le Carré’s The Pigeon Tunnel), but much of my work involves reading the light. Painful punning aside, what I mean is when I’m out taking pictures I’m studying the light; the quality, the quantity, the colour and so on.

Typically I’ll be in an office getting ready to take photos for my client and what I’ll be considering is the light source (window, overhead strips, or a mixture of the two), how much of it there is and what its qualities are.

Most office lighting is great as far as the client is concerned. To the human eye it will appear bright and white, but the human eye and brain are incredible feats of biological engineering and capable of filtering out all kinds of crazy colours and of seeing details which a camera simply can’t.

These two shots demonstrate a rather extreme, if non-typical, example of what I mean.

I was asked to take photos of a group of scholars for University of Bath at an event hosted at The Roman Baths in Bath (let’s see how many times I can work the word Bath into this blog post shall we?)

One of the shots required was a mass group of all the scholars, not too formal, but arranged along one end of the Great Bath. This was an evening job and being early February there was no daylight left. In fact the only available light was from spot lights pointing at the back wall, and a couple of gas torches either side of the pool.

Given this situation, I knew just from looking at it that whatever I did with the camera settings I wouldn’t get a usable image without the addition of flash. Since camera-top flash (which I hate anyway) wouldn’t be attractive and would probably just illuminate the steam from the water, I set up a pair of flashes on stands at the far end of the bath from me, one each side of the bath pointing towards the students.

The test shot (left) shows what the camera sees without the addition of flash. Obviously the students weren’t there for the test shots as I wanted to make sure they weren’t hanging around while I got the settings right, but my stand-ins Rachel and Chris did a fine job.

So if I’m coming to your office to shoot a series of “simple” pictures, don’t be surprised if I bring quite a lot of lighting kit even if the light looks fine to you. It’s rare that the available light on a location is already attractive enough to render the best photos, but if I can illuminate 100 students across a steamy pool of water on a chilly night, I can probably make something visually appealing in your office space.

Routes in the News

Yes, Routes has been dominating my blog lately, but this has to be one of the most important projects I’ve worked on in a very long time, so I hope you’ll indulge me a little longer.

This is just a round-up of where we are with the exhibition, donations and stuff.

I’m pleased to say I’ve had some really positive feedback about the exhibition from people I’ve met in the street, through Facebook and twitter, but what’s even better is that Sarah, the Routes centre manager, tells me people have been donating on the strength of seeing the pictures in Cafe La Strada.

We were a little worried that the cost of getting the pictures printed and framed wouldn’t be met, but with a local grant and donations from individuals we’ve covered that now. Phew!

Now it would be valid to ask why Routes spent money on an exhibition when the centre so desperately needs cash to keep going, but the fact is the portraits and case studies and the exhibition itself have generated a great deal more local awareness than could otherwise have been achieved, especially in the few weeks they have before the funding expires.

Take a look at the local press coverage just this week. Imagine what it would cost to buy a full-page advert in a local paper, yet this week we made the front page and a full-page spread inside. This is in addition to the coverage we had in the last couple of weeks on the launch of the exhibition in both local papers as well as an online article in one of the most popular photography sites on the internet.

With that in mind, I have to give full credit to Sarah for having the foresight to suggest the exhibition.

The latest news I have is that grant funding for at least a proportion of the running costs is on the cards. Fingers very much crossed that this comes through and for the balance to be covered by other funding bodies, but in the meantime if you would like to donate, you can do so by Texting MEND41 an amount from £1 to £10 to 70070, or by a cheque made payable to YMCA Mendip to ‘Routes’ Drop-In Centre, 1A Palmer Street, Frome, BA11 1DS. Donate online by clicking on the BT Mydonate button at http://tinyurl.com/j9jukt9 and select Routes as your chosen project.

Faces of Routes Launches!

Wow, what a rollercoaster ride that was. From concept to completion, a photographic exhibition launched in less that five weeks and that includes shooting the photos! I may have to give the Guinness Book of World Records a call.

You can now see the Faces of Routes pictures in all their glory at Cafe La Strada in Cheap Street, Frome, until the end of March and I’m hoping many of you will take the opportunity to take a look around the gallery areas and read the quotes before enjoying some quality refreshments.

06/02/2017 Faces of Frome exhibition at Cafe La Strada, Frome, Somerset. Photographer Tim Gander (back) launches his Faces of Routes exhibition at Cafe La Strada in Cheap Street, Frome, with (left to right) cafe owner Jude Kelly, Routes service users Laura Davies and Kieran Wason and Routes centre manager Sarah Stobbart. The exhibition features 18 portraits and quotes from those who use and run the Routes service.

(L-r) Jude of Cafe La Strada, Laura and Kieran with Routes manager Sarah and me at back

This really has been a Frome effort, obviously starting with the help and cooperation of Sarah at Routes and her colleague Silky, all the young people who so bravely sat for my camera and shared their very personal experiences for the case studies, right through Nik Jones who added the text to the images for the exhibition, Mount Art Studio who did such a fantastic job of printing them and Studio Prints who did the framing at breakneck speed so we could get the exhibition launched as soon as possible and of course thanks to Cafe La Strada for giving us exhibition space for two months for free!

Of course the whole point of this exercise has been to try to save Routes, and we’re not there yet. The hope is that the bodies which really should be funding this kind of service will understand how important Routes is to young, vulnerable people of Frome and that without it there will be barely any other resource to which they can turn when they’re in difficulty.

Fingers crossed then. In the meantime, if live in Frome and you want to help but haven’t the finances to do so, please consider writing to your local councillor or David Warburton MP. If the message is made clear that we don’t want Routes to close, we have to speak loudly.

 

 

Routes Update

The launch of the Routes exhibition inches nearer, slowly. We’ve been working hard to find sponsors for the printing and framing because even though we’ve been offered a fantastic deal on the printing by Mount Art in Frome, exhibitions aren’t cheap to do.

The exhibition is important because it will spread the message far and wide to those who need to consider funding for services such as Routes (the local MP, councillors and so on), so if you feel you’d like to donate to the costs of the exhibition or to help Routes continue its work, please text MEND41 £AMOUNT (between £1 and £10) to 70070, or donate via the website www.mendipymca.org.uk.

In the meantime I’ve launched the Faces of Routes portfolio page on my website which gives you a broad preview of the exhibition itself. There will be additional images on show at La Strada Cafe in Frome, so if you’re in the area, do pop in for a lovely coffee, a piece of cake or an ice cream and take the time to view the prints and read the stories of the youngsters featured.

I’ll update you all once the exhibition goes live!

Routes to Exhibition

Happy New Year! Ok, so 2016 might not have been your favourite year, but the bright side for me was lots of great work with wonderful clients and some personal highlights I won’t go into here.

To make sure my 2017 kicked off with a January-blues-beating personal project, I’ve launched into one which is exciting in a number of ways; I was able get it under way quickly, it’s local, it has a finite duration, has a tangible purpose and perhaps best of all it looks like it’s going to culminate in a local exhibition.

It all started when, just before Christmas, I had been trying to formulate ideas for a personal project I could launch in the New Year. I wanted something which would not only please me, but also have some kind of impact either on those involved, or on its audience.

Then I saw a tweet from Routes, the youth drop-in centre in Frome. I’d always been vaguely aware of their work with young, often vulnerable people in the town, but didn’t have much detail beyond that.

Routes tweeted that their funding is coming to an end in March 2017, after which they would have to find a new source of revenue or close. While I can’t afford the £80,000 + per year to keep them running, I felt I could help them publicise their plight so I got in touch with the centre manager Sarah Stobbart, an absolute ball of energy and a real doer.

The idea was simple; I would take portraits of those who who either use or had used Routes and the pictures could be used for press releases and grant funding applications. Sarah added the idea of holding an exhibition of the portraits somewhere in the town, and so the ball got rolling.

I started shooting on January 3rd because there’s no time like the present, and with all those willing to participate we now have 13 youngsters, Sarah and her colleague Silky shot for the project.

The local press have picked up the story and one local paper is looking to publish the portraits with case studies as a series, while a local cafe/art space has agreed to host the exhibition for free for two months.

At some point I’ll create a portfolio gallery of the final images on my website, but I’ve included a couple of examples here to give you a taster of the work.

The main purpose of all this is to get funding for Routes to continue their work, so I’ll leave you with this plea from Sarah:

“If you would like to show your support and help to keep this vital service operating for young people in Frome, there are a number of ways you can help our appeal. By Texting MEND41 an amount from £1 to £10 to 70070 Or by a cheque made payable to YMCA Mendip to ‘Routes’ Drop-In Centre, 1A Palmer Street, Frome, BA11 1DS. Donate online by clicking on the BT Mydonate button at http://tinyurl.com/j9jukt9 and select Routes as your chosen project. By holding a fundraising event to help raise funds and awareness! Or become a ‘Friend’ of Routes!- Contact Sarah Stobbart (Routes Project Manager) on 01749 679553 Ext 5020 or e-mail sstobbart@mendipymca.org.uk”

2016, a personal review

Normally I’d post a “year in pictures” round-up just about now, but I’ve decided to do something a little different this time just because.

Instead I’m going to focus on the more off-beat, off-diary photos I’ve taken. You’ll have seen most of them, but not all, in various blog posts through the year, but it’s fun to pull them together into a single gallery to enjoy again.

So sit back with your cuppa and your mince pie and enjoy…

 

 

Right On The Button

Earlier this year I was involved in covering the Summer graduation ceremonies for University of Bath, my principle role being to generate images for rapid turnaround for social media use by the press team.

So when they asked if I could do the same for their Winter graduation ceremonies this week I was delighted to be able to help.

It was a hectic task because I was there on Wednesday to cover three ceremonies and turn pictures around after each one, but it did remind me a little of the old press days of having to beat deadlines. It involved some very tight editing to ensure the best pictures got sent as fast as possible; no real time to “umm” and “ahh” about which pics to pick because by the time I’d selected, captioned, edited and delivered, the next ceremony was about ready to start.

When I’m doing this I tend to put on my social media hat (figuratively speaking since I don’t actually own an actual social media hat) and go for the pictures I think will work best on Facebook and twitter. This means setting aside the more formal shots in favour of less posed, more spontaneous ones and of course this requires me to be more attuned to those kinds of shots as the event is unfolding.

The awarding of an honorary degree to retired Formula One racing driver Jenson Button added an extra frisson and urgency to the second ceremony of the day. Luckily I’d managed to get some shots of the local hero (and, I believe, international heart throb) arriving which I was able to file before the ceremony started so the press team could tweet fresh photos before he’d even gowned-up.

Before the third ceremony started I’d filed more photos of Jenson as well as photos of students celebrating their graduations, then I was straight back in to covering the final ceremony of the day which again I filed straight after for the press team to share.

By the end of the day I’d shot about 800 images, but everything went smoothly, the feedback was great and when I got home I took a look at the responses on Facebook and Twitter. It was good to see people had been following the feeds, liking, commenting and sharing, which was of course the point of my being there.

On a slightly different note, time allowing I’m going to do one more blog post this year which will probably be my round-up of 2016 in pictures. After that I’ll take a bit of a rest until January 2017.