March 2010

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Sunday March 21st, 2010 08:38 PM

James Hislop, un director de noche, Guardian, King's Place, London

James Hislop, el editor de noche, cambiando paginas. Guardian, London

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Roosevelt’s phrase was very much on my mind when, at the end of last year, I was in a “Where next?” and “What next” frame of mind.

Our seven years in London have been good ones. We’ve had a lovely home and neighbourhood in Brockley; been married and had two charming kids. And I’ve been proud and privileged to work at The Guardian.

A reporter for the past 12 years – a third of my life – and it is truly engrained in who I am. I’ve been fortunate to have an employer whose world values are not that different from my own. Every day has been different and saying good-bye last week was not easy. I’ll miss the access to those who make decisions which affect people’s lives, and trying to hold them to account. And I’ll miss many of my often-inspiring colleagues.

But I’m also lucky as, by having a Spanish wife, I’ve been aware for some time that there are other worlds out there. Places without seven million neighbours; where’s there’s always time for a glass of Rioja, and you don’t need to drive or take a train to escape the smoke.

And so it’s time for a change. Our move to rural Spain, not far from Logroño, will give me the chance to learn again. There’s the challenge of a new culture, improving my Spanish and working for myself as a photographer.

However, to me, my documentary style photography is not that different from my journalism. It’s telling a story through images rather than words.

Here are a few photos from my last week at the Guardian.

Meeting editorial de mañana, The Guardian, London

Reunión editorial, The Guardian, London

Prensa vieja, The Guardian, King's Place, London

Prensa vieja, The Guardian, King's Place, London

Edificio de The Guardian, King's Place, London

Edificio de The Guardian, King's Place, London

Edificio de The Guardian, King's Place, London

Edificio de The Guardian, King's Place, London

Portraits by Irving Penn (1917-2009)

Tuesday March 9th, 2010 02:29 AM

Blaise and Raymone Cendrars by Irving Penn

Irving Penn's portrait of Blaise and Raymone Cendrars

As someone who tends to take pictures of people “en su salsa” [in their sauce] as my wife likes to call it, it’s fascinating to see the work of Irving Penn.

The portrait and fashion photographer who died last year aged 92, devoted much of his life to photographing famous and not so famous people in his studio against a plain background. He spent long periods hoiking workmen and women off the streets of Paris, London and elsewhere for the photos that became his small trades collection.

In most of the photos on show at the current National Portrait Gallery exhibition in London the props are minimal. Maybe a cigarette, a pair of glasses or a hat. There’s no shortage of famous faces – think Dalí, Picasso and Grace Kelly. And a marvelous and witty portrait of the British photographer Cecil Beaton with a nude woman resting on the camera.

But I found that I was hooked by the contrasting expressions of the Swiss poet, Blaise Cendrars, and his French actor wife, Raymone Duchateau. The two met when young but didn’t marry until 30-odd years later. In this photo (above), taken a year after they wed, her expression to me says sad resignation and his pain. Standing in front of the photo, it’s a while before you notice his discrete wedding ring as he holds his wife’s hand.

Penn said:

“I invite my subject to the camera. I begin to search for an attitude and then begin to expose film. I follow my plan through to what may be a dead end or success… I have found that for me it is fatal to change direction radically in the middle of a sitting. I lose the subject.”

A new camera

Wednesday March 3rd, 2010 11:11 PM

St Paul's cathedral, Londres

St Paul's cathedral, Londres

I’ve bought a new camera. Now I’ve got seven, or eight if you include a disposable, nine counting my phone. Out of the original eight, I really only really use two. Both are SLRs used for work. The rest I keep because of the memories associated with them.

I guess most people take photos to remember key moments in life. I seem to collect cameras to remind me of different stages. The first was an Olympus XA2; a gift from my dad when I was 11 and we were on holiday in California. I’ve still got the photos I took of the Golden Gate. Small and simple, it lasted me for 10 years.

My first SLR was a second hand Canon A1 which was stolen in Barcelona in 1996. The upside was that I used the insurance money to buy a Canon EOS 5 – my first autofocus – which transformed the quality of my images. Five years later I traded it in for an EOS 3. That was, and continues to be, very special to me. I’m not sure whether my fondness is due its handling, proportions, how the world looks through its viewfinder, or the fact it accompanied me on so many journeys. Whatever, to me it is more than a sum of its metal, plastic, glass and electronic parts. It’s only fairly recently that I’ve started using a digital camera – a Canon EOS 5D Mk 2 – that comes close to producing the same pleasure.

And the latest one? It’s a Canon G11. It’s just as small as the XA2 from a quarter of a century ago and bought to have close to hand most of the time, in no small part with this blog in mind. I tried it for the first time the only day in the rain in London.

Viaje en bus

Viaje en bus

St Paul's cathedral, Londres

St Paul's cathedral, Londres

Bus de noche en Londres

Bus de noche en Londres