Archive for November, 2005

It was 69 years ago today…

..that the Crystal Palace burnt down. BBC Audio recording off it here. This year the park’s getting an ice rink – woo hoo!

Mind you there’s uproar at the moment with the proposed developements via the LDA. See here for some other thoughts. The local community are split on the decision, with some shop owners for it, and other residents against.

Tom Ang gets out of the wrong side of the bed…

Link: Guardian Unlimited Technology | Technology | Seeing the big picture.

…resulting in a grumpy article bemoaning the rise of digital photography, despite him presenting ‘A Digital picture of Britain‘ a few month ago on the BBC. A show that only really worked because of digital photography.

Reading past his comments about 7/7, and tech milestones, we get to this The arrival of each new model offering more features and more quality at lower prices means that consumers are the winners. That’s a good thing right Tom?

Next up he talks about the restructuring of the professional side of the industry…To join the digital world, these professionals not only have to abandon large investments in equipment and experience, they must retrain to use computers and imaging software. eh? Any professional who couldn’t see the oncoming of digital needs to get out of the darkroom a bit more.

After all says ol’ Tom.. The industry has now dumped ultimate responsibility for image quality on the lap of photographers – amateur and professional alike. All the quality control processes formerly ensuring that you got good results when films were developed and printed now sit in your hands.

That’s a good thing surely? Besides Tom seems to be doing rather well in authoring books that help you do just that. Amazon lists 46 books by him, including Tao of Photography and… ahem Private Album: How to Take Your Own Nude Photographs, surely that’s cashing in on the ‘biggest’ driver in ‘self developed’ photography, know wot I mean?

This bit made me laugh…The working day suddenly grew hours longer: with nightfall, we can’t put our feet up. No, we sit at the laptop downloading images, captioning and backing up. Blimey, someone fetch the man his slippers.

I guess I’m slightly let down by Tom on this, and the bloody Guardian, who’d love people to send in images to their I’ve been theresite. I though he’d be one of the people realising that this is the most interesting time in consumer photography since the mass production of colour film. Printing won’t die, it’ll just go specialised, they’ll still be people (mostly men) who want to spend hours in dark rooms that smell of vinegar.

interestingly enough I’ve been rather swayed by Kodak’s new adverts. For the average Joe, it pushes all the right buttons; plays on the fear of fire, rousing score, friendly fat American etc. My only thought was they should regionalise them, but that would be a lot of effort for each region.. but behold, they’ve done it on their websites! (well, they’ve redubed the English guy). I wonder how much they paid for all the right clearance for all the classic images that appearing in the ad, like this one and all the Muhammad Ali ones? It’s worth noting that they don’t appear in the online app.

Fairytail of New York

They say that everything is bigger in America, everything that is, except New York hotel rooms. We stayed at the excellent Mansfield Hotel, w44th Street between 5th & 6th. (free wireless internet was a big plus). We also upgraded to a suite for an extra $100, which was worth it as we got a whole extra living room and a little desk, and a slightly better view of.. other rooftops.

There’s a big wodge of photos on my Flickr page, but highlights include the following.

this shot summed up much of NYC for me. It’s remarkable the lengths people will go to for the dollar… There’s this weird Brit habit of not really talking to much about money or success, it’s seen as showing off. For example on the one night it rained, I only had a jumper on, and so went into a bar, and fell into conversation with these two women, neither of which knew each other. We all got talking, and one of them just blurted out how she was responsible for the introduction of Alessi products to the eastern seaboard. She just announced this, and the other woman followed suite by telling us about her successful Broadway achivements.. I politely waited for the ‘and what do you do?’ but it never came…

I’m never going to be a wildlife photographer (no patience and my lens is to short) as this shot proves, but Central Park was amazing, and hiring bikes is a much better way to see more of it than you can on foot… cheap, healthy, and not exploiting animals like those horse drawn carts. Why people hire them I don’t know, they’re not romantic as they stink of horse shit.. Bikes are much better, though whilst riding up a hill, me and mrs e were overtaken by a power jogger listening to his iPod shuffle whilst texting on his Blackberry, I kid you not.. how very NY.

Toxic slime on New York Streets! A kind of Marvel Comic book version of the of Cartier Bresson’s Classic. I’ve no idea what this was.. paint or something, still it was amusing watching people jump over it…

Food, we had two great meals, one, lunch at Les Halles, I had snails and the special, onglet, aka as a hanger steak with blue cheese mash, it made a nice change from fries, mashed potato is food of the Gods, but sadly in America it is the unhealthy fry that rules. Service was rather good, with Mel our waitress having a clear understanding of what was on the menu despit my constant badgering about every dish. Then another fantastic meal down in the East Village, at a tiny bistro called Lucien with the lovely Chantal and Andy, inventors of the ‘Purple Martin’ (Ice, Vodka, dash of lemon, pomegranate  juice, soda top ©them ). Plus there was some time spent in a diner across from the hotel as this shot proves. This old guy reminded me so much of Sgt. Bilko base CO, Colonel Hall, (played by Paul Ford), alas he died in 1976 so it can’t have been him.

Work wise, I paid a visit to the BBC New York office, just as the Conrad Black story broke, it was great seeing them swing into action, including Gito Harri doing peices to camera for News24 then doing a down the wire job for the World Service… and he even put on his own make up. What a pro.
I also visited to give a talk on some of the cool things we’re doing here at the BBC.. as well as having a nose round their R&D dept, all very impressive.

A trip to NYC wouldn’t be complete without a trip to B&H photographic store.. It’s incredible, it’s predominantly staffed by full on Orthodox Jews (closed Saturday), not that that’s odd, but when you factor in the strange buying system, and the crazy conveyor belts ferrying the good around the store, it did feel a like some sort of magical workshop.

And finally this. Tourists don’t understand NYC…who does?

New York siddy… it’s raining.

Crikey it’s been a while since the last post.. That’s because I’m in NYC, only it’s chucking it down outside and we’ve got 20 mins for we have to be somewhere else, so I’ve got time to put finger to key.

First off, just before I left to come here I went to the BJP’s Vision conference as a portfolio judge for the third year. The standard was very high this year bar a few stinkers, but most of the students seems very corporate focused. I guess that’s the way it is these days, none seemed to be doing photography for the love of making images… Mind you with college debts no topping 10,000+ the halcyon days of further education are long gone. Strangely enough there were one or two adult photographers this year, people with complete books, past commissions and proper equipment. The only thing they lacked was guidance… Which I felt silly offering in one case to a guy who’d been a photographer for over 15 years but who’s book seemed frozen in the early 90s…’erm, get some new work’ is had to pad out to 10 mins.

I had the following Friday off too, as I had a mate coming over to watch a certain trilogy… but before that I wandered up to the shops to get some supplies. 11am was fast approaching, and I’d left Morrisons so wasn’t sure quite where to observe the 2 min silence. As it happens the CP war memorial is just by the side of Morrisons and I saw a few veterans assembling there.. So I went over and stood with them, after we’d paid our respects I got chatting to one of them, a Mr Jack Russell, who’d lived in south London most of his life, and who saw action in the far east.. we were chatting away and I thought what the hell, so I said, let me buy you a drink.. the pub across the road had just opened so we went there… I then spent an hour listening to the most amazing stories of this old man.. He spoke of how they’d all come to the Crystal Palace for a treat as a boy, and the things he saw in the war. I think he was just happy that some one ‘young’ had come and remembered, and that he had someone to talk to. He’d also submitted his story to the BBC People’s war archive, with the help off his grand daughter. He was, in short, a truly nice old man.

Anyway, after I got home my mate Dan came round at noon and we watched all the Lord of the Ring’s films in one go.. my head was mush by the time we finished at 1am. That’s what they fought for…

NYC calls.. the rain’s stopping, big post to follow.

Tonight’s University Challenge & Poppy-watch

Well the Gipsy Hill Polytechnic of further imbibement scored a 140 in tonight’s show, beating the losers Sheffield by some considerable margin.

In other BBC news, I’m on high Poppy-watch alert, eyes scanning the lapels of every presenter to see who will fowl up and be caught in sans fleur. I don’t think it happened last year, mind you, remember the fuss when Peter Sissions didn’t have a black tie on when the Queen mum died… Honouring the war dead is very important, but if a presenter accidentally forgets to wear a poppy it shouldn’t be seen as disrespectful.

Incidentally all the poppies sold through-out the UK are made in a small factory in Richmond, see the bottom of this page.

The twin towers… Of Crystal Palace

On Saturday I finally got round to doing something that I’ve been meaning to do for ages, it started with a picture of Westow Hill, Crystal Palace.

But first, a little history… For those of you that don’t know, there once were two huge 275 ft water towers used to power the fountains at the Crystal Palace when it was relocated to the area after the Great Exhibition. Built by the Great Isambard Kingdom Brunel they afforded amazing views of the surrounding area and dominated the landscape.

In the 30s John Logie Baird used the southern tower to broadcast his early developments in television. Searching around I even found a set of Baird’s lecture slides, Powerpoint on Glass! There’s also this great article on the history of early telly showing Baird demonstrating his invention at Selfridges in 1925, as well this one which I’ve linked to before. Fire claimed Baird’s facilities on the 30th November 1936 and his developments came to an end shortly after that. The Television Advisory Committee, appointed by the Postmaster General and made up of seven members of the Post Office and the BBC had decided to use the rival EMI-Marconi system. (Bags more early TV, including watchable content here)

The end came for the towers a few years later during WWII, as it was feared that German bombers could use them as a guide when coming in on bombing runs. There’s a short Movietone style news reel in the Crystal Palace museum showing the North Tower being dynamited with a typical patriotic narration along the lines of ‘yeilds up it’s steal for Spitfires’. However the southern one had to be taken down brick by brick due to it’s proximity to nearby buildings on Anerley Hill.

But what if the towers hadn’t had to be taken down? What would the Crystal Palace skyline look like?

Well that’s what I wanted to know, and so here’s a very large (1.5MB) animated gif started with an Edwardian Image of Westow Hill and fading to the present day. (Flash version to follow..maybe) It’s great that the frontage of what is now the Crystal Palace cafe, next to the ugly looking Woolworths, has remained releativly unchanged, apart from some chimney shortening.

Look at all the street furniture in the present day version, lines painted all over the road, lamp-posts, for sale signs, shop signs, traffic enforcement signs. It just looks a mess! Now perhaps the Edwardian version has had some re-touches, removal of horse shit, street urchins, who knows. Anyway, an interesting exercise for a wet Saturday afternoon.

Zzzzzzz – Not the Bee’s Knees…

Link: Red Bee? I’m not keen on the new name for what was BBC Broadcast.. According to this Digit article The spelling as ‘Bee’ came from an internal brainstorm when we were looking at nature’s expert navigators.. Hmmm, I’m sure there’s better species at navigating than bees, makes you think what they discarded… I spent this lunchtime with colleagues thinking up other colour/animal combinations, we got

Ochre Gnu
Ultramarine Platypus

Thing’s people have said around here.
1. It looks like Uniqlo’s logo.
2. Bee’s arn’t red
3. Bee’s sting you, and then die
4. We’re all Communist drones
5. Pam Masters, CEO of Red Bee Media, is now known as the queen bee
6. It sounds like a Shoreditch start up company

Then there’s The super hero – The Red Bee. When I first saw it, slapped on my office which we share with BBCB, I thought it was R-D-B-E, with some sort of symbol in the middle. My main problem is that two of the three E’s don’t look like the other one… It’s fundimentally flawed as well as a bit shit. Still, a name change was part of the conditions of sale. Only time will tell if this goes the way of Consignia et al…

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
November 2005