Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘Photojournalism

A few hiccups, but all in all a rather patriotic weekend

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Several weeks ago, just as the Diamond Jubilee weekend came into joyous but rather rainy fruition, I made my way down to the South West of England to an area largely controlled by the Ministry of Defence (this area is specifically dedicated to the training and study of tanks and tank warfare).

Whilst the nation mostly glued themselves to the TV screens and watched the pageant float down the Thames in bouyant style, I was intrigued with what kind of Britain I might see around an area so tied up with the Defence of our glorious realm. Here are some pictures of some of the things I saw:

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

[NB: this originally was a reconnaissance project for something which I am now putting on the back burner – but do watch this space]

Historical re-enactment at home

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One of the main bits of feedback about my last photo essay (on Napoleonic historical re-enactment) was that although there were some nice single images they didn’t come together as a story that well. They didn’t really have a point besides showing that a particular hobby takes place. If you want to see what this piece of work looked like you when I submitted it you can see the website here.

My strategy with the first iteration of my re-enactment project was slightly misguided. After going through all of the images I had shot I saw that I had three categories of images (portraits, action shots, and anachronistic scenes) and so I decided to make sense of them by presenting them in their 3 simple categories. Obviously this was slightly silly; in effect my submitted piece of work was less an exercise in telling a story and more one in which I simply categorised some images of historical re-enactment. Nice if you want to look at a catalogue  of images, not so nice if you want an actual story about the hobby.

I guess what I’m interested in is giving the viewer a sense of the background on which re-enactment takes place, which is on the lives of women and men with historical interests in the UK. I will be doing this not only through some multimedia videos that I am currently producing but also through a series of portraits that I am doing in and around where re-enactors live. I will be using all of this to add another dimension to the images of the re-enactments taking place. Here are a few that I shot recently with the great Keri Tolhurst.

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

The Battle of Waterloo, its re-enactment, and some images of it

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As mentioned in my previous post I went to a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo on the weekend. Here are some of the other images. Rather bizarrely (and annoyingly) the aesthetic and the idea that I had for some of the project run closely parallel to the work of another photographer who has only just been unearthed to me. Not ideal at all. I need to go back to the drawing board and re-arrange my thoughts perhaps…

(yep I realise that there is some dust on my sensor too – haven’t had a chance to cleanse the images yet!)

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' '94th regiment of the foote' 'old scotch brigade' waterloo deserters

Some deserters

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' waterloo 'calvary charge' calvary

Napoleon's cavalry charge the English

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' waterloo 'old scotch brigade' '94th regiment of the foote'

Skirmish in the forest

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' waterloo napoleonic general

Senior officer from Napoleon's army

'max colson' 'historical re-enactment' waterloo napoleonic general

Peering into the dark

Role-playing

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I just got back from a trip to Belgium where I was part of the re-enactment of the the Battle of Waterloo.

Although I was out on the battlefield with the men I was also living in an 1815 style military camp with the rest of the Allied forces trying to learn the ways of the 1815 military, light fires, follow orders, and hold muskets. Serious thanks to the brilliant 94th Old Scotch Brigade for allowing me to be embedded whilst they were part of the 1000 man re-enactment. Unfortunately I didn’t get to fire any weapons but we’ll have to save that for next time.

More to come but I thought I’d give you my self portrait of me being the action hero first. I have my mean face on and everything:

max colson photographer re-enactment

Self-portrait with musket and 1815 English military 'red coat' uniform

Messing around with perspective: historical and otherwise.

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Firstly my congratulations to Irina Werning for winning Burn’s emerging photographer award 2011. She is so cool. Here are some of her wonderful photographs from her series Back to the Future:

20_lali-web irina werning

LALI IN 1978 & 2010, Buenos Aires [photograph by Irina Werning]

MARITA & COTY IN 1977 & 2010, Bueno irina werning

MARITA & COTY IN 1977 & 2010, Bueno [photograph by Irina Werning]

IAN IN 1984 & 2010 Irina Werning

IAN IN 1984 & 2010, London [photograph by Irina Werning]

PANCHO IN 1983 & 2010 Irina Werning

PANCHO IN 1983 & 2010, Buenos Aires [photograph by Irina Werning]

She is obviously very wicked.

There is another talented artist who also produces work which playfully deals with how the photograph can be used to visualise a sense of ‘history-ness’ and create nostalgia. His name is Michael Paul Smith*. Michael Paul Smith is a model maker whose mind is full of mid-20th century Americana. Using his considerable model making skills he has been creating small scale sets of an imaginary American town called Elgin Park that he cannot get out of his mind (it is reportedly located somewhere near Pittsburgh where he was born). After making the sets he then sources locations in the real-world which provide the background to photograph them against. These late naughties photographs of the 1960s look bloody REAL. Here are some examples of his work. Fantastic stuff:

MIchael Paul Smith - Elgin Park

 My Childhood Home [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Newspaper photo - Corliss Dink's '37 Studebaker - Michael Paul Smith

Newspaper photo: Corliss Dink’s ’37 Studebaker [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Edge of Town - Michael Paul Smith

 Edge of Town [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Michael Paul Smith

Michael Paul Smith with one of his sets and a background behind him

The NY Times wrote an article about him and there’s a paragraph that I think summarises the attempt of his work very nicely:

Driving Mr. Smith’s creation of Elgin Park were his memories of Sewickley, Pa., a real steel-mill town a few miles north of Pittsburgh. He spent his first 17 years there, and it still holds his heart. “Elgin Park is not an exact re-creation of Sewickley,” he explained, “but it does capture the mood of my memories.”

*My very talented illustrator friend Phoebe Dickerson told me about Michael Paul Smith. If you want some visual inspiration check out her very cool, and very funny, Tumblr blog.

Re-creating what happened…

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Although I’m really excited by the work that I am doing with railway enthusiasts at the moment, I’m also becoming fascinated by historical re-enactment. I’m very interested in the idea of using photojournalism to explore the re-creation of the past and capture the collaboration between imagination and reality.

Here’s a selection of images I took last week with some re-enactors. More coming this way soon.



Written by Max Colson

June 4, 2011 at 10:46 am

Simon Norfolk at the Tate Modern (a Tate video)

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Bullet-scarred outdoor cinema at the Palace of Culture in the Karte Char district of Kabul - Simon Norfolk

Bullet-scarred outdoor cinema at the Palace of Culture in the Karte Char district of Kabul, 2002, Simon Norfolk

“I’m trying to photograph my disappointment. When I came [to Afghanistan] in 2001 I was angry with what the Americans had done, I thought it was a mistake…Ten sorry miserable years have gone by, half a trillion dollars have been spent on this country and it looks worse than it was…It’s a disappointment of ten years of warfare. Tens of thousands of Afghans murdered. Lots of Americans and Europeans killed as well. Billions wasted and nothing achieved: nothing, nothing, nothing achieved…” – Simon Norfolk

If you’re reading this in the UK you may have seen that the Guardian did a big feature on Simon Norfolk’s new Afghanistan photographs and their relation to John Burke’s Afghanistan photography in the Weekend magazine a couple of weeks ago. Personally I think Simon Norfolk is easily one of the most important photographers around right now (and if you don’t agree with that then you must agree regarding photojournalism at least).

Here is a 17 minute video produced by the Tate in advance of his exhibition of new work at the Tate Modern which is entitled, Burke + Norfolk: Photographs From The War In Afghanistan. Working on the understanding that Afghanistan has been the location of an imperalist intrusion for many decades Norfolk has produced a collection of photographs which link the current war with those from its past and asks the powerful question (amongst others): What has changed?

Narrated by the artist himself this video explains the work, puts the current Afghanistan war in the context of the country’s war torn history, and likens  the “billion pictures per hour” photojournalism that is pouring out of the country right now to a “sewer pipe with a crack in the side of it”. He also  comments that “beauty is a useful tool.” He then says lots more.

This is rational, conscious, and incisively critical photography of the highest order. Really, really worth watching.

Diary – Tim Hetherington

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I’ve watched Tim Hetherington’s Diary a couple of times now and it’s really made me aware of what a loss his death was. There are obviously many war reporters on the front line and in the thick of things, but it’s rare to find a reporter who felt that it was worth making a statement about their subjectivity by publicly questioning their own practice. His sensibility is a massive loss.

Tim Hetherington – Diary

Written by Max Colson

May 2, 2011 at 9:44 am

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

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.