Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Has war on street photographers jumped the pond?

Here's an alarmist lead to a Memphis, TN newspaper story:

"A man walking through Tom Lee Park pauses to snap a photo of the iconic Hernando DeSoto Bridge. Another man shoots pictures of numerous downtown buildings.

"Many would assume the men are tourists taking in the city's sights, but law enforcement officials say they could be terrorists staking out possible targets."

The story, Tourist or Terrorist? appeared recently in the Memphis Flyer, and goes on to describe how Operation Sudden Impact, an alliance of 54 law enforcement agencies, is targeting photographers as potential Al Queda operatives.

"One of the things discussed in the al-Qaeda manual is conducting surveillance of your target," one official is quoted as saying.

While there have been no reports from Memphis of photographers being hassled or detained by police, after reading this article it only seems like a matter of time.

US street photographers, beware...and keep a copy of The Photographer's Right with you just in case you need to prove that what you are doing is protected by the first amendment of the U.S. constitution.

If there's anthing reassuring about this news item, its the reader comments, such as "I'm an amateur photographer and plan my vacations around interesting areas to photograph. Thanks for helping me cross Memphis off my list." and "Whoever is suggesting this "plan" is the terrorist" and "None of this has anything to do with preventing terrorism...What this has to do with is getting citizens used to obeying arbitrary commands."

Enough paranoia!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ansel's assistant speaks

Andrea G. Stillman was Ansel Adams's assistant in the 1970s. The New York Times has just posted a multimedia presentation where Ms. Stillman talks about working with Ansel, and discusses the stories behind some of his best-known photographs. She also explains why Ansel insisted in shooting in B&W when Kodak asked him to take some photgraphs on Kodachrome.

A must-see and hear!

Ansel Adams's Yosemite

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Is this a play?"

This just happened:

My 11 year old daughter's friend was standing in the hallway in my house, looking at some of my street photos. She pointed at the photo above and said, "is this a play?"

"Yes it is," I responded. "Only the people in the pictures are real people, and they don't realize they're acting."

New look for Blog and White World

I decided it's time for a new look for Blog and White World, so here it is. Blogging tools make it incredibly easy to do this. Just press a few buttons, and voila! A whole new look.

What do you think? Like it? Hate it? Leave a comment!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

UK Declares War on Street Photographers

With this poster, the Untied Kingdom Metropolitan Police has started a "public awareness" campaign asking people to be vigilant about people taking pictures. It seems the latest form of terrorism is when a photographer armed with a big Nikon DSLR has the audacity to take pictures in public places.

Since we all know photographers are at the root of Islamoterrorism, the police have taken this "awareness" campaign even further, surrounding photographers, hassling them and, according to some reports, even causing physical harm. According to Carolyn E. Wright, Esq., proprietor of the excellent Photo Attorney web site, the UK's Terrorism Act 2000, section 44, lets police "randomly stop someone without reasonable suspicion, providing the area has been designated a likely target for attack." Apparently, UK police officers have been randomly stopping street photographers for doing what they've been doing for decades in England.

OK, understand that we do what's necessary to safeguard the public, but is hassling street photographers and starting a campaign that will serve to increase public paranoia going to make the public safer, or simply limit freedom of expression and hand a little victory to Al Qaeda? After all, one of any terrorist organization's goals is to disrupt people's lives and alter their behavior out of fear, and the UK is playing right into this.

I will make this as clear as possible:


Whether we are taking pictures on the streets of London or New York, we are not terrorists.
We are exploring our world, looking for humor and images that grab our interest. We are not terrorists.
We do this because our creative urge compels us to. We are not terrorists.
We follow in the footsteps of Garry Winogrand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Frank. We are not terrorists.
We are on your side. We are not terrorists.

Anyone want to make a poster out of that?

Should we photographers be alarmed, even if we're not street photographers, and even if we're not in the UK? No, but we should understand our rights, which are basically the same in the US, UK, Australia and other countries. Carolyn Wright lists several PDF files that outline your rights. Print out the relevant one and keep it in your back pocket to show the authorities (politely) if the need arises:
The Photographer's Right (US)
Street Photographer's Rights (Australia)
UK Photographers Rights

Finally, if you're in the UK, there's hope, in the form of the following Early Day Motion (EDM) currently tabled in the House of Commons:

"That this House is concerned to encourage the spread and enjoyment of photography as the most genuine and accessible people's art; deplores the apparent increase in the number of reported incidents in which the police, police community support officers (PCSOs) or wardens attempt to stop street photography and order the deletion of photographs or the confiscation of cards, cameras or film on various specious ground such as claims that some public buildings are strategic or sensitive, that children and adults can only be photographed with their written permission, that photographs of police and PCSOs are illegal, or that photographs may be used by terrorists; points out that photography in public places and streets is not only enjoyable but perfectly legal; regrets all such efforts to stop, discourage or inhibit amateur photographers taking pictures in public places, many of which are in any case festooned with closed circuit television cameras; and urges the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to agree on a photography code for the information of officers on the ground, setting out the public's right to photograph public places thus allowing photographers to enjoy their hobby without officious interference or unjustified suspicion."

Write or email your MP asking them to support this EDM.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New street cam?

I'm always looking for a good street camera for my students and others who can't afford a Leica M-series camera (especially the $6K Leica M8 digital rangefinder.

Here's what I look for:

1. Size: It should be small, fit in the hand easily, not a huge monster that will intimidate people.
2. Weight: Light is good.
3. Quality: I don't want excessive noise. That rules out just about every compact camera out there--although I've had good reports about the Canon G9.
4. Manual control: That, too, rules out most compact cameras.
5. Speed: Although I focus manually using a tab (and teach how to add a tab to any lens in my street photography course), AF speed is important.
6. Sound: Shutter release should be quieter than your typical clanky SLR. Mirror slap must be well damped.
7. Durability. My Leica M3 film camera has been by my side for 30 years, and has only been in the repair shop three times although I've run thousands of rolls of film through it. That's durable.

Many cameras fulfil 4 or 5 of these qualifications, but not all of them.

Currently I'm intrigued by the Olympus E-420 with the 28mm f/2.8 Pancake Zuiko lens. It clearly meets my size, weight, and manual control requirements. In a conversation with a fellow camera reviewer who has had his hands on this camera, I feel this camera is small enough and light enough for street use. It has a large enough sensor so at 10MP image quality is probably OK. Sound and speed will require a field test, which I'm hoping to do soon. I'm reasonably sure, however, that it will fail in the durability department.

For $700, getting 6 out of 7 would be very nice.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Better black and white with the ColorMunki

Northlight Images notes that while ColorMunki, X-Rite's color management tool, is primarily designed for (duh) color workflow, it's also well-suited for black-and-white digital printing. Their article shows you how to build a B&W ICC profile, measure prints, and use QuadToneRIP, a $50 shareware program, to create Quad Tone prints.

Worthwhile reading if you're into serious digital darkroom printing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

100th post!!!

Just want to get this post out of the's my 100th, and I'm celebrating it by letting you know that USA Today got it right about street photography.

In her technology column, Kim Kommando (gotta love that name!) asks and answers frequently-asked questions about when it is and isn't legal to take pictures in public places. While she uses different terms, street photography is fine; photographing (insert name of celebrity here) with a telephoto lens as she's getting dressed in her bedroom is not.

Thanks, Kim!

On to #101 and beyond...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Street Photography Class--register now for spring course

My class, Street Photography: Finding Order in Chaos, is getting a great response from the students taking it. If you've been waiting for warmer weather before taking the class, now's the time to register for the next session. The class starts on April 25, which means you'll be able to shoot in the nice warm May climate, a great time for street shooting.

Visit my web site, The World At Street Level, which showcases my students' work (and yours too, if you take the class and do all the assignments).

Visit the Perfect Picture School of Photography for complete course details and to register.

Photo credit: Daniel Epstein, former student.

Will Ilford save Polaroid B&W film?

OK foks, this is a rumor, from a source which has gotten two major news stories wrong so far this year, so take this with a grain of salt...

The British photo weekly Amateur Photographer today claims Polaroid is in talks with Ilford over the possibility that Ilford would produce Polaroid B&W instant film in an Ilford factory. The article stresses the talks are very preliminary, and my reading of that is there's a pretty good chance that this will not happen.

But for the legions of photographers who were left high and dry when Polaroid abruptly discontinued all film production, this offers a slight glimmer of hope, and a reason not to dump their SX-70s just yet.