Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Archive for April 2011

Cute T-Mobile Royal Wedding Advert

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I just thought that this recent advert by T-Mobile was worth a blog post to be honest. It’s playful on a few levels and really really works. It’s nicely irreverent and portrays the Royal Family as a cutely idiotic bunch without being too nasty. Obviously it’s appealing to everyone at the moment for a number of reasons.

Click the below to see why:

Inside the National Liberal Club (home of the Liberal Democrats)

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William Gladstone, served as UK Prime Minister four times (1868–1874, 1880–1885, February–July 1886 and 1892–1894 - -> more than any other person)

A couple of weeks ago now I was able to take some photographs at the National Liberal Club in London, the private members club and home of the Liberal Democrats (a significant UK political party currently in our Coalition Government for those non-UK readers). Although it’s a bit tough to photograph in there normally as I was photographing a charity concert there I was able to take these photographs without too much hassle. Full to the brim with beautifully decorated members rooms and political artifacts, it was the kind of society that I rarely photograph.

Significantly for me the National Liberal Club also houses Gladstone’s Axe which is the old axe that the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone used to hack away at trees at the bottom of his garden when he was working out the big stuff in his head. I LOVE THIS AXE: you really don’t understand how much. Here is an excerpt that Evelyn Ashley famously wrote about Gladstone’s axe, tree chopping, and their significance as dramatic symbols (excerpt taken from William Gladstone’s Wikipedia article):

“One afternoon of November, 1868, in the Park at Hawarden, I was standing by Mr. Gladstone holding his coat on my arm while he, in his shirt sleeves, was wielding an axe to cut down a tree. Up came a telegraph messenger. He took the telegram, opened it and read it, then handed it to me, speaking only two words, namely, ‘Very significant’, and at once resumed his work. The message merely stated that General Grey would arrive that evening from Windsor. This, of course, implied that a mandate was coming from the Queen charging Mr. Gladstone with the formation of his first Government. I said nothing, but waited while the well-directed blows resounded in regular cadence. After a few minutes the blows ceased and Mr. Gladstone, resting on the handle of his axe, looked up, and with deep earnestness in his voice, and great intensity in his face, exclaimed: ‘My mission is to pacify Ireland.’ He then resumed his task, and never said another word till the tree was down.”

Here’s the axe as well as other glimpses from inside the members club. I would like to photograph there more. We’ll see what they say.

William Gladstones Legendary Axe

Drinks in the smoking room

Man with tea (with a portrait of William Gladstone in the background)

Entrance to the smoking room

Even more smoking room

Loadsa smoking room

Motoki Hirai – concert pianist performing in aid of the Japanese earthquake relief

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I recently photographed the concert pianist & composer Motoki Hirai at a concert he gave in partnership with the Japan Society for the Japanese earthquake relief.

Motoki’s performance was incredible. I’m hoping there will be more opportunities to shoot him in the future.

I also have had a play with my water-mark. Not quite sure it’s there yet though.

Written by Max Colson

April 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Got some photos exhibited up norf

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(my images are the four along the top)

I had a nice piece of news the other day when I was told by Side Gallery up in Newcastle that they had decided to include four of my photographs from my Light Data series in their current exhibition on protest photography. It’s called A Luta Continua [Trans: The Struggle Continues]. As it’s all the way up norf I haven’t actually seen my photographs in situ proper as of yet, but I will be going up in May. Presenting work by established photographers alongside citizen journalism of recent protest events (ie me & other newer photographers), the exhibition attempts to place protest photography in history and document (& question) its development as a reporting method. To quote Side Gallery’s website:

“Who documents history? Why do they record events? For whom do they risk their livelihoods or lives in doing so? These are subjects of change and evolution: it is no longer the exclusive territory of a (usually) white Western male photojournalist to tell it as it is . The making of the news, the telling of the news and the interpretation of the news, are becoming activities in which all of us are involved. This is not without its inherent problems: it is just as easy to lie, or to misinform, as it is to champion the truth through our ever inter-related techno-driven world. Then there is the question of quality, partiality and impartiality: are the representations of the professional journalist more honest, valuable or insightful than those of the citizen journalist.”

I’m thoroughly aware of the limitations of the photographs that I made of the protests against the rises in UK university fees in late 2010. My lacklustre planning and foresight meant that the only images that I took where at the protests themselves and so did not place the visuals I had made of  fire, (inevitable) chaos, and (justified) anger in context at all. As a future warning to myself I wanted to use the photos to make an essay that really demonstrates how a group of images, taken without proper consideration, can be potentially really skew one’s impression of an event and the people involved. I’ve now put those images together into an essay called ‘Light Data’. I think it compliments the angle that Side Gallery decided to take in their recent exhibition. Check it out and let me know what you think.

On another note the gallery has recently just lost all of its arts council funding which is pretty serious. It’s a really old institution (opened in 1977) and is the only gallery in the country which is fully dedicated to documentary photography. As this is obviously quite an awful thing please sign their petition to get the Arts Council to recognise that they have made an immense, immense mistake

Some thoughts on iPad apps & coffee table audiences Pt.1

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If photojournalism is about getting people to care about the stuff that the photographer cares about then the  ideal is to make sure that as many people as possible see the photos isn’t it? The more people that see the photos, the more people who can be potentially effected, which results in a higher number of people caring (and hopefully doing whatever it is that needs to be done for the cause). This is the ideal but obviously in the real world people have things called budgets and you have to be more strategic & targeted about it.

Previously I guess that there were two main tactics in getting people to see photos, with photographers probably siding with the first because of the various barriers to distribution (do correct me if I’m wrong):

a) Getting a small group of people to understand the facts (more of a tactical approach i.e. using select locations & print titles)

b) Getting a large group of people to understand the facts (more of a broadcast approach i.e. using national newspapers, TV)

The approach that you took depended in part on funds available + what the project objectives were I guess, e.g. The Red Cross in the aftermath of an earthquake has completely different targets from a project by Martin Parr on arms fairs (no pun intended).

This is all fairly straightforward. At the root of it it’s all about making sure you are hitting as many of the right people within the budget that you have. Right?

In light of all of this it was interesting reading the interview that Chris Anderson (the Magnum photographer) gave in the British Journal of Photography, which included an exchange over his new iPad app and its price. In the interview the BJP asks rather incredulously, “Why $4.99 [for the app]?”. The photographer responds,

That seemed to be the threshold for my when I buy an app. I think it is underpriced in this case, but I did want to lean toward underpricing rather than overpricing. For me, above $5, for an app and I want it to serve me coffee in the morning.” (my bolds)

Before the digital copy publishers were able to say that it cost a fair bit to print photobooks on paper. Colour inks and nice paper are really hard to source and produce and stick together and all that. So they printed the photobooks, made them hardcover, and then wacked a nice £40 price tag on them. With the digital copy you obviously can’t really justify that kind of price tag. Which is nice for everyone who isn’t able to afford those nicely polished coffee tables to display the books on just as yet.

Whilst the traditional print industry (newspapers & magazines) gradually ceases to become the main source of funding for project documentary photography, another opportunity is opening. Anderson in the interview acknowledges that

“I imagine that the audience will be slightly different than book collectors. I do imagine photo students, for example, or this might even be a way to easily incorporate the book into an academic curriculum. I also think that the price might allow people with a passing curiosity in the subject matter…people who are not even photography fans…to purchase it.”

Whilst we haven’t reached the point where the mobile screen has become ubiquitous I would conservatively predict that a large percentage of us will have a mobile screen thing in 6/7ish years , or whenever the prices go down. NB – it’s worth pointing out here that Morgan Stanley’s tech guru Mary Meeker has predicted that sales of mobile devices will surpass that of the PC in 2013:

The potential of this kind of photo distribution is significant not only because of funding potential but because of audience size. ‘Normal’ people who don’t buy photo books will actually be a potential audience for project photography. And they will probably expect to download a photo project for about £3 whilst they wait for the bus to take them to work. Now I don’t know about you, but if the point of photojournalism is to get as many people to see the photos as possible that’s a light at the end of the tunnel which shines more brightly than someone’s nicely polished coffee table and a £40 price tag.

A telling portrait?

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I’m currently hooked like a devil on The Passage by the US author Justin Cronin. The book is basically about the apocalypse, hardcore ultra-violent zombie vampires, fragile humanity, courageous last stands etc and reads at a fast paced fashion which is probably akin to popping crack into one’s mouth like popcorn at machine gun speed. It is absolutely A-MAZING.

The author also had a portrait shoot which produced the below, which seems to have rendered him less bookish author more Ralph Lauren styled outback adventurer. Maybe he fights bears and chops wood behind his log cabin in a really clean-cut/wholesome kinda fashion?  (I think it must be the rocks and the leather jacket – killer combo)

I Googled some more of his portraits to see if they shed light on his character:

Well I can confirm that he does like books, working from home, and casual suits.

Wow, portraits. It’s like almost being a spy.

Written by Max Colson

April 5, 2011 at 12:38 pm

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Oxbridge Varsity vs Pro Boxing (2 x 5 Picture Photo Essays)

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Whether it’s the well-to-do crowd at the annual Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity match or the Friday night boxing faithful at the York Hall London’s East End, the effect on people is always the same: we are transfixed.

I shot two boxing fights: the annual Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity boxing match and a Friday night pro fight put on by a well known promoter in London. Each event had its differences and similarities. Both were absolutely fantastic events to watch; there truly is nothing like being at ringside. Here are 5 pictures dedicated to each – the first 5 are from the Oxford vs Cambridge evening, the second 5 are the pro event.

Many thanks to Spencer Fearon and the Cambridge Varsity boxing team for making this happen.