Luigi Ghirri and other stuff

Nikon F3 + 40mm f2 Voightlander, Kodak Portra 160, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400, Clacton-on-sea

Well, I guess its time to update this site especially as I haven’t got a single response to the photo walks. I will be partnering with Kodak on their next photo walk and taking over when Stiv (Kodak guy) heads back to his office.

So I haven’t been doing too much lately except looking for work in my previous guise, HTML/CSS coder, with no success I might add. I’ll do anything to get some cash into the house as they say, anything, I’m not proud!

Luigi Ghirri has been the focus of my attention as of late. I’ve always admired his work and although any books by him are rare and expensive I have recently acquired “The Map and the Territory” published by Mack books just a few weeks ago. Definitely a book I would recommend as it has a lot of his writing and images that I haven’t seen before. I do have others of his, such as “Its beautifull here isn’t it” sadly I purchased some 7 months ago before it went into reprint and can now be purchased at a fraction of the price I paid for a first edition. Still welcome to the photobook world! Speaking of which I came across another of his books, a collaboration with Aldo Rossi the architect, but once burned twice shy as they say, its available at £295.00, so I’m going to wait for a reprint or at least until I win the lottery!

Nikon F3 + 40mm f2 Voightlander, Kodak Portra 160, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400, Clacton-on-sea

I’m not sure how to say this without being pompous but my work has paralleled his but without the accompanying thoughts that he has articulated so well. I have been looking at the same things in the same way and I thought I was alone but I guess there must be lots of us out there, closet LG admirers or at least people that think and see the world as he did. He is so under appreciated it’s sad really.

On an equipment note, I purchase a 40 mm f2 Voightlander for my Nikon F3 and couldn’t be happier. The first time I went out and about with it was very revealing for me. At no time did I even consider needing a different angle of view it just never occurred to me, it suit my vision perfectly! As for its qualities it’s a very nice lens, very old school Nikon in looks and feel with a very smooth rendition of the scene. I do like it and at this moment do not feel compelled to get anything else. The 2 shots accompanying this post were both shot with it.

Photo-Walks #01

Chinatown, Central London

The last photo-walk I took was a very cold and exceptionally windy London day and there were about seven or eight of us. The leader was Stephen (Stiv) from Kodak.

I took the walk out of curiosity and a desire to meet other people interested in film photography. Mostly we were film-based users except one who was sporting a Fuji digital x100 camera. We didn’t go very far and we were limited to one and a half hours as our leader Stiv had to get back. When he left, the group wanted to keep going but were unfamiliar with London, consequently I took over and helped them get around to areas in the city that they were interested in. So this started me thinking, what if I gave photo walks around London… maybe I could earn enough money to pay for my film addiction!

Needless to say, that thought kicked off several other thoughts, such as how to advertise it, what would people want to get out of a photo-walk (guided tour) and what could I charge?

Who am I

Firstly, I have been shooting film for approximately 50 years in all formats 35mm to 8×10. I have worked in the Photo Lab industry for 10 years in various capacities such as Custom Black and White printer, Custom Colour Printer and a few other rungs on the ladder up to and including Lab Manager for Canada’s second largest Custom Photo lab (no longer in business, as digital knocked a lot of analogue companies for a loop).

I have been walking/traversing London to and from all points of the compass for well over 10 years now and almost know it like a Black Cab. Although, I don’t do remembering street names unfortunately, otherwise I could do the Knowledge that all Black Cabs have to take. So I feel well placed to take people to areas rich in what they are looking for, such as people, architecture, street shooting etc. You can see the results of the past 10 years at the following url’s.

Now with that in mind I have created three different walks, each with their own characteristics. If you are interested in participating on any of the walks you can contact me at: tom.ricesmyth@gmail.com.

NB = F* indicates full

Soho, Central London

NB = F* indicates full

Walk #1 ICA to Photographers Gallery (2-4 hours, cost £15.00 per person)

Dates:

  • May 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th
  • June 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th

To secure a spot contact me at: tom.ricesmyth@gmail.com.

Itinerary

The walk starts at the ICA and concludes at The Photographers Gallery via Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Sq., Chinatown and finally around Soho.

Carnaby Street, Soho, Central London

Chinatown, Central London

Soho, Central London

EXCESS BAGGAGE 02

4×5 Arca Swiss, Schneider 120mm Super Symar

I thought, it maybe about time I talked about photobooks.

First, I need to get something off my chest re the naming of photobooks. People seem to be racking their brains for anything that might be obtuse, opaque and altogether only relating to the images in a post-rational way. I collect photobooks, not in the way, say, someone who is wealthy but I do have a library of about 100 or so books and as time goes by the titles have become so much more abstract and as such could relate to any images that are between the covers. I find this practice to be very off putting although; it hasn’t stopped me from buying them.

Actually I will talk about the books I have bought in the last six months, not in an in-depth way, just in terms of would I bother buying them had I known what was between the covers. I usually buy on the Internet based on recommendations.

The following list is the last 6-8 months, which turns out to be a bit scary, as I have bought way more than I thought. I think I should now keep my hands in my pockets. The list is in alphabetical order.

Recent book list:

You will notice I have gone a bit overboard with Luigi Ghirri. I did this based on first reading his writings which were published by Mack. I haven’t regretted it once and continue to source as many as I can afford. Unfortunately most are out of print and those that are available can get quite pricey, case in point was the Luigi Ghirri, ‘It’s beautiful here, isn’t it…’, an Aperture publication and you will see from my links above it is very pricey at least for me. If you haven’t seen his work I would recommend getting his book titled Kodachrome, it’s a really good primer and covers a lot of his early work.

In the mean time a few words about my Nikon F3 + Tri-x + Rodinal project. I have 3 more rolls to develop and I will post scans from them as soon as I can. A few words on the Nikon F3, did I say it was a Tank? Well it really is a tank, heavy clunky and for me a bit inhibiting. So I’m now looking for an FM2n, smaller and less brick like. Actually missed out on one on eBay last night, got beaten by a late bid it was £5 more than my bid?!@?”.

Will start next time with either the F3 project or review of some of the books listed above. Also please forgive the amazon links above, if you do buy from my link I’ll get a few pennies towards more books which is very helpful.

EXCESS BAGGAGE 01

Canon 5D, Covent Garden, London

So… the title above will in future denote a post about everything that is swirling around in my head. Sometimes it just gets overwhelming and you just have to have a BIG DUMP, switch that pinball machine off and drain the life out of it, just so you can start again with a clean slate.

This world seems to be in a fucking terrible state at the moment. Mother nature is trying to tell us to smarten the fuck up, if you know what I mean. Really, we have natural disasters happening everywhere in the world, it’s a bit terrifying if you really think about it.

Then there are the prevailing governments of the US and UK. I realize compared to the US we are small fry here in the UK, but dam we make up for it in stupidity! Where are all the visionaries and why aren’t they leading us into the future, are there none around at all. Here’s an example of the type of politicians we have, our PM and Mayor for London are all about banning diesel cars and replacing them with electric cars. So if that isn’t short sighted, it’s the same as when they touted diesel as the future fuel. None have looked to the future and thought about what it might lead to.

An example would be the battery pollution. The disposal of batteries is the elephant in the room, even if they developed a battery that lasted years and years, because at some point the car owner will trade it in and then it becomes worthless junk and goes to the scrap heap plus its battery. Also where the hell are all the electrical points to plug them in on the streets? London house design does not really allow for cables from each house stretching across the pavement and if it did just think of all the fun teenagers could have with a cable cutter! The power points won’t sprout like mushrooms overnight and who pays for it (there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity!) and where does all that additional electricity come from? Do we build more nuclear plants with their inherent waste fuel problem?

If they were visionary they would have the answers already but the don’t because they are only reactive politicians not proactive. All I ever hear is we have heard the voice of the people and we are going to do something… what? They will say and do whatever keeps them in power and while in power they tell you why you cant have what you voted for!

Thinking out of the box I would say, that they should legislate that all new homes that are built starting from now must be electrically self-sufficient. The builders would be obliged by law to provide, install and sell solar panels along with the house just as they pay for the shingles on the roof. It would just be another building material. I’m sure that would eventually go a long way to lessening the strain on our existing energy grid. They would also be required to install an outside electric car power point on every new house. This will lead to a future not reliant on dwindling fossil fuels. All this can be done starting today and for those who have existing houses like myself, the cost of installing would be deductable on my personal taxes and the materials would come out of the government. I think that there would be a very tidy profit for the government when you consider the financial costs and waste disposal issues of nuclear power plants.

While we are on the subject of dwindling fossil fuels, when was it in the best interest of the population to put all our energy needs in the hands of a few profit generating private interests, even more so when those private companies are foreign owned! I would have thought, that from a simple-minded security perspective, it would have been in our interests to keep our electric generation and drinking water under one umbrella to protect us from any disaster, war etc. .

I want my leaders to be dynamic, thinkers who know history and can think for them selves, within the sphere of making a better place to live for everyone! By everyone I mean all black, white and yellow and every shade in between and surrounding, ALL the people on this planet.

I don’t want leaders who I’m either ‘embarrassed for’ or ‘find embarrassing to me’. I want them to be motivated by a genuine goodness for the people and not what they can suck out of the people.

Now to my photographic dump.

First I must state that I shoot digital about 97% of the time and analogue the other 3%. So I have come to realize and accept that when I’m gone there will be no remains of my life’s work, or my family growing up. Perhaps there will be the occasional print that I had made but that’s about it! No one will be able to go to a car boot sale, in the hopes of picking up some ones photo album. All there will be are used and abused and deleted hard drives, nothing you can look at, nothing you can touch or smell, nothing, nothing at all.

However, I do love the air and colour of optical analogue prints from analogue negatives. All you have to do is look at some of Luigi Ghirri’s prints. This does NOT include digital printing on analogue paper.

So does that mean I think analogue is the way to go. Not sure either way, it’s a hugely wasteful medium, water in particular and silver polluting of the ground water. It’s not too cool for the environment. I used to work as a lab manager for a commercial custom photolab in Canada and the amount of water that went down the drain each and every day was obscene.

I just came back to this post a few days later. I’m going to have to finish it later. I’m too fucked off with the world today.

To be continued…

Alicante, Spain

Alicante, Spain. Playa De San Juan Fuji XPRO-2, Tom Rice-Smyth

Alicante, Spain

Sorry for the lack of posts, I have been on my annual vacation with the family. Every year we flee this sodden town of London for blue sky and warm sunshine and our fill of vitamin D and when we got back to London I was gripped around the throat by laziness! It was probably a reaction to the cold and monsoon rain here.

Alicante, Spain, was this years’ destination. We have always gone to Spain for our summer holidays mainly because of cost, it’s cheap and the guarantee of sunshine. This year was no exception; we basked in 36-degree weather with a beach that just couldn’t be beaten it was a paradise.

There were a few things about Alicante that took me by surprise. I was expecting to see a traditional Spanish town and I was quite looking forward to photographing it over my holidays, but it isn’t. I have to mention this is the first time we haven’t rented a car for the duration so we were stuck in the city. Although I have to say there is practically no street parking so that was the upside. On first inspection it looked like the whole place had sprung up since 1950, mostly ugly multistory apartments rarely a house and a few squares that did have old trees in them. Why? I’ll answer that soon, it was nothing I had ever thought. However, after reviewing my photos when we got home I did find a few that were interesting.

Anyway, lets get on to the good parts of Alicante. There were more good restaurants than one could ever want for (it’s a Spanish holiday destination), at least 20 within a 5-minute walk from our apartment. The apartment was in the old town. My wife soon found a restaurant with fresh mussels, which she loves almost as much as oysters and it was approximately 3 minutes from our front door, bonus! And my daughter found an ice cream shop that sells artisan ice cream called Laneu, which was just below our apartment.

Then there was the main city beach that was 10 minutes walking from our flat, although it was very crowded as it was at the bottom of the city. We went there twice and then found another beach that was 15 to 20 minutes by tram (Note: the trams are air-conditioned) and the beach was paradise on earth.

Playa De San Juan is an amazing beach. The journey started at the Mercado tram station and we got there via Tram line; L3: Luceros-El Campello. It cost approximately €4.35 one-way for 3 of us and we got off at the Les Llances stop. You pay for your return journey on the tram from a machine that takes coins, paper and cards. The beach was right there only feet from the tramline. We rented 3 lounge chairs and 1 umbrella for €16 per day, which is cheaper than we have ever paid in the past. We were no more than 20 feet from the water and by about noon we had the beach practically to ourselves it was marvellous. I’ll post a pic or two of the beach.

Restaurants as I mentioned earlier were plentiful and here I come to some favs;

First up was Alma Del Sur, a small hole in the wall, it seats about 7-8 people in a pinch but the fries and the seafood are amazing especially the calamari and the proprietor is extremely helpful, she even left her restaurant to give us directions.

Second up was Bodhigreen. It’s a vegetarian menu but is so worth a try as an island of green from the majority of fried Spanish food, reservations are necessary and they are quite busy so book a few days ahead.

Why is Alicante just 1950’s apartments and newer even in the old town? This riddle was solved by chance. My daughter spotted a coffee shop called Canada Coffee . So of course I had to try it (I’m sort of Canadian but living in London, a long story), anyway, I started talking to the Barista who turned out to be from Kamloops BC, Canada. His name was Shawn, again someone who was immensely helpful, solved the mystery. He had been living and working here for 5 years and it turns out he went on a small tour recently. It seems that Alicante was the very last holdout against Franco during the revolution and he asked Hitler to carpet bomb the city. Of course he obliged and they turned the entire city into dust! Now the city is plagued with poorly built buildings from the 1950’s, which are slowly being pulled down and replaced with well built but modern apartments. Unfortunately the apartments are international in style so the Spanish character is slowly disappearing.

This was somewhat of a disappointment for my wife and I as we do enjoy looking at architecture and galleries. The only gallery was the Museum of Modern Art but when we went there the current exhibition turned out to be very good especially for me. Just before leaving for Spain I had ordered a book by Gabriele Basilico, ‘Bord de mer

Lately, I have been collecting books by Luigi Ghirri and his contemporaries that he collaborated with in Italy in 1970’s-1980’s. Anyway, their current exhibition included the Berlin photographs of Gabriele Basilico and someone I hadn’t heard of Horatio Coppola (HC). HC had some wonderful B&W that were done in 1933 Argentina.

Just before leaving for Alicante I decided to start a project in B&W. I purchased a Nikon F3 and a Nikon 28mm f2.8 and a brick of TRI-X and decided to have another go at Rodinal. I have never had much luck with this combination but Rodinal has some charachteristics that I really love so I have decided to give it another try. I took the F3 and TRI-X with me to Alicante so that I could shoot of some test rolls. I’ll report on my progress and the F3 on my next post. I would like to mention that this is the first time in my life that I have bought used gear so will report on my success or lack thereof in my next post.

Enjoy the photos and see you next time. All images taken with XPRO-2 and a combination of 23mm f2 and 35mm f2.

HOME

Isla Plana, Spain. Fuji X-100, Tom Rice-Smyth

Hello

So this is going to be my new blog in which I will post photos, essays, tips, and insights about B&W and colour photography. I will also review books as I add them to my library. These reviews will not be formal reviews as I’m not a writer but will be based on my response to the book and what it has to offer.

I want to dispel a lot of myths and bad practices about B&W film processing and printing. My first article will be a 5 part ‘How to’ for all B&W film shooters. It will go into choice of film, developers and what to use and how to develop you film for a classical look (full-scale image). You will then be so familiar with the process that you will be able to manipulate the entire process to get the look you want.

There will be articles about getting started, how to calibrate film and best practices as I see it, along with descriptions of the kind of random marks on film from processing. I will get into film choices ‘where and why’, chemistry choices. You may see it differently so please chime in with your comments. I would like to build up a community of film and digital lovers as I see both co-existing, with both having plus and minuses.

Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think and what suggestions you think I could incorporate!

So I will start with an overview of film processing and how you should start this journey.

All the best and I look forward to our future journey together.

I’ll leave today with a quote from Luigi Ghirri, an artist who’s work I admire greatly.

“When I travel, I take two kinds of photographs: the typical ones that everyone takes, and which, in the end, I’m hardly interested in; and the others, the ones I really care about, and the only ones that I really consider ‘my own’. In this second category of photographs, the subjects are every day objects, things found in our ordinary field of vision – images that we are used to looking at passively. Isolated from the reality which surrounds them and presented in a photograph as part of a different discourse, these images become laden with new meaning.”

“When I travel, I take two kinds of photographs: the typical ones that everyone takes, and which, in the end, I’m hardly interested in; and the others, the ones I really care about, and the only ones that I really consider ‘my own’. In this second category of photographs, the subjects are every day objects, things found in our ordinary field of vision – images that we are used to looking at passively. Isolated from the reality which surrounds them and presented in a photograph as part of a different discourse, these images become laden with new meaning.”

L. Ghirri (2016) The Complete Essays 1973-1991

Mack: London Cardboard Landscapes: 1973, Luigi Ghirri.