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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Stephen Mayes on the Romance of Photojournalism

Stephen Mayes looked at 470,214 images as chair of World Press Photo - images that he says are a reflection of the world's media, not the world's photography.

As he states on the blog, Notes From Nowhere:


Every year, the jury is astonished by the repetition of subjects and the lack of variety in the coverage. From the infinity of human experience the list of subjects covered by the entrants would fill a single page, and (excluding sports as a specialist area) could be reduced even to three lines:

- The disposed and the powerless
- The exotic
- Anywhere but home (the American election would be one of the exceptions to this rule….)


This is the general view, the blurred impression of 470,214 images and of course there are many exceptions. But meanwhile hospitals and the sick (and especially mental hospitals), the afflicted, the poor, the injured are photographed way in excess of their actual numbers. And I have a feeling that there are as many photographers as drug users in the Kabul’s Russian House. As one juror said this year, “90% of the pictures are about 10% of the world.”

- Over represented: commercial sex, suffering black folk, Muslim women in veils, same sex couples kissing, holding hands

- Under represented: middle class, affluent drug users, real sex, personal sex, black culture and expanded vision of black life outside Africa.

.....

[It is] important to take innovative risk as well as physical risk. Capa’s famous dictum that “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” could be applied in this new context to describe an emotional closeness to ones subjects. By that I do not mean a sentimental display of warmth, but at least a real interest in the subject. The adherence to formulaic representation suggests a lack of connection with what’s truly meaningful to oneself and the impression is that many photojournalists photograph what they think they ought to photograph rather than what actually intrigues them.

“Heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized” defines photojournalism as represented by the vast majority of the entries. Where is the intimate, the personal and the real?



A full recording of Stephen Mayes speech on chairing the World Press Photo is here.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Adrian Arbib on Solsbury Hill and Thought Crime



























































































































"I guess I've always been interested in it since I was 16 when I was given a Nikkormat by my grandfather. A wonderful piece of solid machinery that was as much a mark of being a 'grown up' as anything else.

I did a Foundation Course in Art and the camera was always there. As I became more politically aware I realised how powerful ' the image' was and rather grandiosely set about trying to use it for social change. It was at that point I decided to go to the London College of printing (LCP) to do the BA course in film and photography.

To be honest it wasn't really that helpful for me and at that time the Inner London Education authority was being savagely cut back by by the government. Marxist based courses like the one at LCP were particularly affected.

I left the course after two years and went to work as an assistant for a London advertising photographer, a New Zealander called Russell Falkingham. Russell was a great teacher.

I also worked as a freelance assistant for a bit. Plus I also worked as an R type colour printer for a London lab called Presentation Colour in Hatton Garden. I then went travelling with my Nikkormat. I backpacked my way through Africa and when I got back I took a selection of pictures to Tony Stone (now Getty Images ) who immediately started selling my images and sending me cheques for the sales - there's nothing like that for encouraging a young aspiring photographer. I fear that sort of climate, sadly, doesn't exist these days .

I have known the Guardian columnist George Monbiot ever since I was a teenager and we used to plot together about how we would change the world for the better. How mad is that ?

He'd been working for the BBC wildlife unit in Bristol and getting a bit frustrated with things. He rang me up one day and said would I'd like to do an investigative travel book with him in a remote province in Indonesia called West Papua. The publishers needed pictures and would pay our expenses. I jumped at the chance.

I returned after a gruelling but inspiring year of traveling . The pictures were published in a book called Poisoned Arrows and in the UK broadsheets and in Holland and Germany.

I then worked with George again in Kenya a couple of years later on a book called "No Man's land' about about how the traditional herders were losing their land at the hands of agencies like the World Bank. Again this was more work centring on the environment.

I also worked and wrote a story on the San bushmen in Namibia ( working for Christian aid and Associated Press during the 1989 elections there). A bit later I worked for Christian aid and Reuters in Sudan. Nearly all the stories had an environment connection.

So when I returned to the UK in 1993 the road protest movement had just started and it was about the most interesting thing happening in this country at the time.

( Over the years the majority of my work has been with aid agencies on issue based worked - so I suppose that work could be called "environmental" - in fact for clarification it could be said that for environmental photography read social documentary. It's a pretty fine line between the two.)

I then got involved with the Solsbury Hill road protest. I think my pictures might have been the first in the national press on Solsbury Hill . Twyford Down had happened just before it and I guess the news media were quite excited to have a new "issue" to report on.

It was the most interesting thing going on at the time in the UK. Having seen all the chaos in Africa and Indonesia largely due to global capital investments asset-stripping countries in the guise of development - or " globalisation" as it later came to be coined, it was refreshing to see a group of people on the protest sites who appeared to know what was going on. And were at least doing something about it.

I guess I'm sounding a bit partial here. It should be made clear that the level of mistrust of the press by the protesters was quite a significant hurdle to get over. I had rocks thrown at me at Twyford Down.

The truth be told it's taken me 15 years ( the time since I took the pictures) to achieve a level of trust that makes me feel comfortable to actually publish them in book.

I don't remember the police being that involved. It was generally the private security that were the ever present force and the ones that did the removing of protesters from the site, often violently.

The police generally cared not to get involved, even when someone was injured.

It was the protesters and security guards that didn't want their pictures taken. Of course when things became heated people didn't care about having their pictures taken so quite a few of my images are from the thick of it eg a protester being dragged off site.

I always think the quieter moments make the better pictures - but that's often when people say " don't take my picture". I guess I became pretty obsessed with getting the story so I spent probably in the region of three months on and off site . Living up the trees and on the ground I became a more familiar face and consequently was trusted more by the protesters. I hope that is reflected in the images.

I suppose I am still involved in environmental photography, but more by accident than anything else.

I worked as La Repubblica's photographic correspondent in London for over six years trying to get away from protest because it was making me physically ill with all the stress .

Not just the stress of the actual actions but the stress of selling the pictures and getting the stories into the media. A media that was becoming more and more celebrity orientated by the day.

However when I moved to Oxford I did a story for the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph on a community canal boatyard that was being sold off by British waterways to to be turned into luxury investment properties.

And then I got very involved in the campaign to save it (www.jcby.co.uk). That was six years ago and I'm still at it. We've been through and won 2 planning inquiries and now were are hoping to buy it back for the community.

Also I was covering a local story for the Guardian and BBC wildlife on Radley Lakes where N Power were filling much loved wildlife lakes with waste fuel ash from their power station at Didcot . Masked security guards and lawyers issued me with an injunction to stop me taking pictures. This was subsequently taken up by the NUJ and I ended up on Channel 4 News


Yes things have changed. It's all got very Orwellian these days and security is one of the largest growth industries that we have in the UK.

They film everything and we're not allowed to take pictures anymore. Police are obsessed with evidence gathering. You go to any demo these days and the police are filming everything. And one wonders when they get the time to look at it all.

The recent demos at the G20 in London were responded to with incredible force once the media had left. The police stood by as the RBS bank was smashed up, I'm sure this was allowed to justify a violent response later.

This was all within weeks of the report on policing and protest from the Government select committee on Human rights. It was a flagrant and arrogant dismissal of its findings ( which in themselves were pretty weak) .

The key environmental issue in the UK at the moment is climate change. As we all know world leaders consider this to be the greatest threat to mankind yet those who protest against government inaction are being locked up as criminals.

I understand that currently the trend is for arresting people for "conspiracy to commit" a demonstration. i.e. thought crime.

The mere thought of an "action at a coal-fired power station" is enough to have you locked up overnight and possibly /probably face a custodial sentence. The argument that you are doing it to stop a greater crime no longer cuts any ice in the courts... and of course if you were a photographer covering this you would also be arrested and have your camera equipment confiscated."

But it's not all "climate change" there's also been an ongoing sustained undermining of our communities for profit at the hands of a broken and corrupt planning system ie loss of pubs , loss of shops, loss of community space . Anyone who stands up against this is seen as a domestic extremist.

Things are changing now that that economic model has faltered. The political parties are talking about "communities" now. Perhaps it's just talk but it's certainly our job to make sure that they stick to their promises.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

All Photography looks alike: Stephen Mayes and Self-replicating Pictures

Paul Lowe quotes a fascinating speech by Stephen Mayes, director of VII and recently retired as secretary of World Press Photo. Mayes questions why people photograph in a way that replicates - why do photojournalists photograph like 'photojournalists', why does 90% of their work come from 10% of the world.

By the same token you could ask why do art or documentary photographers photograph like 'art' (with a small a) or 'documentary' photographers? Why does everyone copy each other in other words? As Mayes puts it, photography (he said photojournalism but so what.) "...investigates a very limited series of tropes in a very limited series of visual approaches, becoming a self replicating machine that churns of copies of itself in perpetual motion."

Mayes solution is that people should photograph what intrigues them, what fascinates them, what is personal to them, a point echoed in the piece by Nan Goldin who says, "I think you can only photograph your own tribe."

Which begs the question why do people photograph something that doesn't interest them? What is the point of making a name for yourself from something that holds no interest to you, of doing something just because some German or American or Japanese or British obsessive did it first but in a better way? What's the point of that?

If we do that, we might as well go and work in a call centre or flip burgers because there is more passion and feeling and depth in that than replicating someone else's work and vision, than doing something we have no real involvement with.

The replication is the thing though. Why do we all replicate other people's work? Perhaps one of the reasons is this is what we are told we should do - by newspapers, magazines, our professors and lecturers (they have to do something to keep their students minds of the fact that 90% of them aren't going to make a penny from what they have studied for 3 years), the blogosphere and things like portfolio reviews.

Ah, portfolio reviews. These are expensive things and I can't afford them and don't know if I would want to even if a had that massive bag of £50 pound notes that I still dream of finding some day soon. But if I was loaded and did want to, which I don't, I would make my way to Birmingham at the end of July for the annual Rhubarb-Rhubarb Festival. The reviews costs £460 for 3 days of reviews (that's about 800 of your Canadian dollars). The reviewers come from a variety of sources - magazines, newspapers, museums, galleries, agencies and so on - and are very good, with years of experience and so on.

But at the same time, you do get the feeling the whole reviewing thing is a bit of a Ponzi scheme, a low-key pyramid industry which is part of the self-replicating mass Mayes refers to. And you do wonder about the reviewers and how this reflects back on them, whether at some point the charging for access to opinion will start seeming more of a money grubbing scam for something that once was, and perhaps still should be, provided for free. Perhaps it is less about providing a leg-up for people that can afford it than about closing off access to people who can't afford.

The other interesting thing about the festival is who is booked up - all the gallery/fine-art people are filling their buckets with reviewees with the one of two photojournalistic people, the reviewers with the widest and most profound experience ( Stephen Mayes) surprising free of booking. Mysteries abound!

Anyway, from Paul Lowe's story on the Foto8 blog.


Stephen Mayes gave a valedictory speech as his retirement gift to WPP, beautifully presented and illustrated with over 200 of his own intimate behind the scenes images of the judging process over the last few years. With a wry smile, he offered 3 golden rules on how to win an award at WPP:

Rule 1 Is to enter! Don’t try to anticipate the jury and how they will think, just put in your best pictures.

Rule 2 Bad pictures don’t win. The discussions about winning pictures are always between good pictures

Rule 3 Get published the jury will pull out unrecognised unknown pictures but being a little familiar does sensitise the jury


But of course, he did note that statistically your best chance of winning is if you are American, male and shoot in black and white.

Stephen laid down the gauntlet to the Awards, however, and by extension to the profession, in analysing the trends he has observed over his time as secretary. Quoting one juror as commentating that 90% of the pictures submitted were about 10% of the world, he questioned why most photojournalism investigates a very limited series of tropes in a very limited series of visual approaches, becoming a self replicating machine that churns of copies of itself in perpetual motion, which he described as a ‘feeling that photojournalism, rather than trying to reinvent itself its trying to copy itself ‘, and that the industry is in essence reactionary and unrealistic in its understanding of the changes in global media and society. Too many photographers are ‘reflecting the media not as it is but as we wish it was’ and assuming that it is the world that must come to them, not they that must go to the world. Bemoaning the surfeit of stories about the ‘Dispossessed and powerless, the exotic and anywhere but home’ he encouraged photographers to ‘photograph what really, really intrigues you’, commenting that ‘In general what is really missing in photojournalism is work that is really intimate and personal’.


Monday, 18 May 2009

Haiti, slaves and satirising photojournalism

picture: Alice Smeets

This article on Haiti in the Sunday Times Magazine caught my eye because it meant there was something worth reading in the Sunday Times for a change - turn up for the books there.

The historian (could that be why it's worth reading?), Alex von Tunzelmann, describes the slave background to the island, the revolt that gave the island independence and the reparations France demanded for er, losing the war or what exactly? Surely the normal thing is the loser pays the reparations, but then Haiti had the mark of loser on it from the start. Von Tunzelmann writes:

"The slaves’ life expectancy was 21 years. After a dramatic slave uprising that shook the western world, and 12 years of war, Haiti finally defeated Napoleon’s forces in 1804 and declared independence. But France demanded reparations: 150m francs, in gold.

For Haiti, this debt did not signify the beginning of freedom, but the end of hope. Even after it was reduced to 60m francs in the 1830s, it was still far more than the war-ravaged country could afford. Haiti was the only country in which the ex-slaves themselves were expected to pay a foreign government for their liberty. By 1900, it was spending 80% of its national budget on repayments. In order to manage the original reparations, further loans were taken out — mostly from the United States, Germany and France. Instead of developing its potential, this deformed state produced a parade of nefarious leaders, most of whom gave up the insurmountable task of trying to fix the country and looted it instead. In 1947, Haiti finally paid off the original reparations, plus interest. Doing so left it destitute, corrupt, disastrously lacking in investment and politically volatile. Haiti was trapped in a downward spiral, from which it is still impossible to escape. It remains hopelessly in debt to this day."

She also describes the reaction of locals to her camera in a village devastated by last year's hurricanes.

"Not many strangers come here, and they are intrigued. Even in the middle of horrific poverty, the people have not lost their sense of humour. I raise my camera to take a picture, and an old woman immediately begins weeping and howling. Shocked, I lower the camera, and she points at me and roars with laughter. It was a joke, and a clever one: she was satirising the usual news-agency photos."

It's not the complete story but it's a fascinating one for a part of the world of which I know nothing. And the pictures by Alice Smeets are rather good too.


Chinoiserie


I was going to do a How not to... post on Channelling other photographers (you know the kind of thing - mini Alec Soths: they've got the beard, they've got the camera, all that is missing is the talent). And one of those photographers people channel is Daido Moriyama.

The trouble is when I see work that reminds me of Moriyama, I almost always like it - as in these pictures of China by Wayne Liu. Actually these are very different in many ways to Moriyama, more attached and distant at the same time.


You can see more of Wayne Liu's work here and his fashion here.

It's anniversary time in China right now; the Sichuan earthquake happened just over a year ago. Boris Austin has a slide show of before and after images from the earthquake - it's a little unwieldy at times but there are some great images in there.

Also check out how government corruption is being covered up in the survivor's search for justice in this story - China's quake cover up.

And while we are in China, it's 20 years since the Tiananmen Square events got under way. See images and links to images (as well as references to Ma Jian's fantastic novel on the events, Beijing Coma) in this previous posting here - Tiananmen Square and Ma Jian. It's always good to remind ourselves of certain events, especially when those responsible for them are so keen on forgetting.



pictures: Wayne Liu

Thursday, 14 May 2009

I've got a scanner and I'm going to use it continued




























Further to my post on scanning, and I'm a sucker for scanners, both Charles Klein and Matt Chung sent me links to my work. Charles using the scanner as a low-tech digital back and Matt does body scans and large scale scans of the Detroit landscape.

Charles also sent me a link to The Scanner Photography Project and Michael Golembewski's work. He makes scanner cameras - pictured left is one of his later models but I prefer his early ones made with tape and string. Also shown is one of his fucked-up scanostreetoramas.

The question is how far can you go with this kind of thing and what exactly is the point of it? I'm not sure but it's inventive and perhaps that's enough.

Matt Chung happily explained the difference between photographing things using film and using a scanner.


"The main difference I see is on the technical side, the scanner interprets space differently and does not cause traditional distortion of space that a lens based camera would cause. Also the scanner provides its own light source creating unique photo fidelity, resulting in a highly detailed duplication of the surface. The texture and information that a scan provides allows a new look into the marks, layers, and interactions of the surface and I hope inspires deeper contemplation of the commonplace."

Monday, 11 May 2009

Loretta Lux photographs Isabel









































pictures: Loretta Lux



A few years ago I did an MA in documentary photography. I don't get out much any more so most of my photography is of my immediate family, in particular my daughter Isabel. So the dissertation I wrote for the course was on photography of childhood, as seen through one photograph, The Rose Garden by Loretta Lux. I chose this because it balances landscape, costume, posture and aspects of the gaze all in one image seeping with art historical references. And it was shot on a 3mb Nikon Coolshot. And there are DDR echoes in there. I could go on and on. In fact I did go on and on and you can read it all here in my dissertation, The Lux Effect, Real or Imaginary.

A side effect of this was I got to visit Loretta and she photographed Isabel several times. Photography is a random process so the first few times nothing came of it. But in the end something did and they are the pictures above. I love them for the beauty, the mystery, the exhaustion and the way they don't impose a reality on Isabel, the way they bring her to the fore as a conscious, thinking, understanding child. They don't project adult values or perspectives on her but show her as a being in herself. Very few photographs of childhood do this, but that, more than anything, is what distinguishes the really great photography of childhood. It might sound strange, but this is as real as it gets. Thanks Loretta, they're fabulous!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Something Disappointing from Richard Yates (and not disappointing from Least Wanted)



































After all those How not to... posts, I should write something uplifting and spiritual but I've been reading a Richard Yates collection of short stories, so it is difficult.

From his short story Liars in Love, Yates describes London as....

"...big and drab and unwelcoming; you could walk or ride a bus for miles without seeing anything nice, and the coming of winter brought an evil-smelling sulphurous fog that stained everything yellow, that seeped through closed windows and doors to hand in your rooms and afflict your wincing, weeping eyes."

The main character is Warren, an American who has an affair with a Scottish prostitute called Christine. Warren finds subtle pleasure

"...in considering all the pathetic things about her - the humorless ignorance, the cheep, drooping underwear, the drunken crying."

And that's as good as it gets for Warren. He goes back to his wife at the end, the story, like all Yates stories, resolved in a cheerless kind of way, with a sense of chronic dissatisfaction and overwhelming misery rippling beyond the ending.

It's not just Liars in Love. Every Yates story seems to start with disappointment, failed expectation, dashed hope or small dream gone to seed. And each story ends with the same disappointment of those same dreams gone to seeds. There's not even the consolation of the dreams being ripped to shreds, that never happens (ok, almost never), there is just a recurrent bathos of mundane destiny being met.

I wonder what photography captures these snippets of gloom, but can't quite think of any. So instead, via the fascinating Prison Photography, here are some of the Mark Michaelson's (aka Least Wanted) wonderful archive of crime-related pictures.

Monday, 4 May 2009

How not to Photograph: The Last Post

picture: Colin Pantall - The Photographer and the Subconscious Portfolio Review

There are so many more posts in the How Not to Photograph series; Night Timezzzzzz, Long Exposures, Double Exposures, Multiple Exposures, Self Exposures, Look at the Quality, Don't Look at the Quality There Isn't Any, Functional Family Values, Me-Myself-I, My Addiction and Me, My Body and Me, It's Not About You it's About Me, My Beautiful Pictures, I Really Should Get Out More Parts 8-22 and my own personal favourite If Velasquez Had a Camera He Would Be Me.

But I'm feeling kind of lazy and I've got a bonfire to burn so you'll all have to fill in the gaps.

Happy Snapping and thanks for all your visits, comments and encouragement.

How not to Photograph: I've got a scanner and I'm going to use it

picture - Colin Pantall: I scanned my arse but it was too nasty so here are some dandelion seeds instead

If you work in an office, you may have attended an office party. At the office party, you may have drunk excessively and acted inappropriately. You may have photocopied your body parts, and displayed the photocopies around the room. The next day, there is good chance you felt embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated.

What you didn't do is put all the photocopies of your body parts together into a portfolio turn it into an end of office year exhibition. You didn't make a book of your photocopies or enlarge them and frame them. This is because you, like all right-thinking people, know that a picture of an arse is a picture of an arse is a picture of an arse.

Now imagine that you don't work in an office and you don't have a photocopier. Instead you are a photography student and the proud owner of a flatbed scanner. You don't have to get drunk to photocopy your arse. You do it with a sober face etched with the knowledge that the scan you will make of your arse is no longer just a picture of your arse. It is something more; a project, a series, Art. So you do make a portfolio of your pictures, you do put them in the end of year exhibition, you do make a book of them and enlarge them and frame them. It's your photographic education etched in scanner stone.

But goddamit, they are still just pictures of your arse!

It used to be that photograms were the thing - ferns, dresses, children's clothes, swimming babies, the debris of war or rubbish dredged up from a canal. The best photograms are magical pieces, shadowlands that have been touched by the thing they represent.

Then a few years ago came scanners. There is fabulous scanner work out there, and the best scannograms are also objects of beauty (look at Elaine Duigenan's Nylons and Nets), the result of craft and collecting made apparent on a glass plate.

The worst are lazy scans of random body parts accompanied by mumblings about Jenny Saville or John Coplans. God help us if they are flowers (and I can never really get past flowers) or bugs or anything two-dimensional because then you are just talking photograms done on the cheap. And things done on the cheap have a nasty habit of looking like things done on the cheap. They're cheap.

Scanning your sandwiches can be good fun, in fact scanning anything can be good fun (including random body parts) and that is the main point about scanners. They are quick, they are easy and they are fun. You can make little things look big, and big things look little. Mess with the scale, then mess with the colour, curves, saturation and the hue because what are scanners for except experimentation in photoshop gone wrong.

What scanners almost never do (unless there is some massive back story as with Duigenan's work) is present anything profound. They are two-dimensional in every way, the artificial flavouring of the photography world. The apparent speed, ease and fun results in something cheap. And the best word to go with cheap. Nasty!

So there you have it, scannograms, the photographic equivalent of photocopying your arse, with all the class, dignity and beauty that this implies. Cheap, nasty and thoroughly pointless. But somehow marvellous as well.

Friday, 1 May 2009

How not to Photograph: I should get out more Part 7: The world of interiors

picture: Colin Pantall - That's what friends are for!


If you don't want to photograph people in the street, why not get away from people altogether and photograph at home. The advantages are endless. We don't have to pay to get in, we don't have to worry about the weather, we don't have to ask permission, we can go naked and when all our energy and ideas have disappeared we can look our old photobooks and, find inspiration from photographers who have photographed interiors and use that to rationalise whatever it is we're planning to do.

The disadvantages? Just one, but it's a biggie. There's fuck all to photograph.

There may be fuck all to photograph but there are so many ways to photograph it - all of which are doomed to failure. At one extreme is the ultimate expression of slackjawed waste of film; those pictures where we photograph our own feet. This is Tourette's photography where we just can't help pressing the shutter despite our best intentions. It is the photographic equivalent of yelling "Arse" in the fruit and veg aisle at Morrisons; mildly rude but completely pointless and nothing good will come of it.

A step up from photographing our feet is the domestic World of Interiors shoot. In Charlotte Cotton's fine book, The Photography as Contemporary Art, there is a chapter called Something and Nothing where Cotton talks about how everyday objects "can be made extraordinary by being photographed".

It's true - the ordinary can be made extraordinary. Something can be made out of nothing. The problem is it's a long shot, right up there with Elvis being discovered alive on Mars or the Loch Ness Monster getting down with Godzilla live on BBC News.

Because most of the time you start with nothing you end up with nothing. Even when the nothing turns into something, the ordinary-turned-extraordinary isn't really that extraordinary at all. We have a quiet meditation on our world of interiors, a short haiku on the streaks on the window pane or the angle of the wall. It's quiet, it's gentle, it's meditative and curiously fascinating if we look at it long enough. And that's a big if.

Most of the time though, our attempts to make the ordinary extraordinary fail. Our ordinary stays ordinary. Worse than that, it becomes less than ordinary. Three-dimensional (a light bulb for example) ordinary is ordinary enough for most of us, but at least it has three dimensions. We can feel a light bulb, we can turn it in our hand and wonder at its full, round lightbulbness. In two dimensions, it becomes less than ordinary, the light bulb becomes a picture of a light bulb, a flappy, scrappy bit of nothing. It doesn't matter if we mix our light bulb up with a lampshade, a cup of scummy tea, a bug in a dirty sink and a plate of sweetcorn (just a few of my personal favourites) - we still end up with is a mundane repetition of the squalor and tedium of our domestic life.

But we stay in our flat or our house and still we do it. We look at William Eggleston's wanton light fittings or Uta Barth fall-of-focus and believe we can do the same in the comfort of our own home, but it's a darned good bet that we can't.

The general tenor of these how not to postings is to have a subject, mention some photographers who do phenomenal work around that subject, then say that they do it well because they are obsessed, hard-working and unrelenting in their vision but that if we try to scoot along and copy them without the obsession, hard work and relentlessness our work will be doomed to failure. It's normally easy to think of photographers who fit the bill for a given subject, but for the world of interiors, especially unpopulated interiors, I have a blind spot. It really isn't that interesting or perhaps that's just me.