Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bye Bye Instagram

Bye bye InstagramLast night, The news that Instagram has decided to assume ownership of the content generated by its users with the view of possibly selling it on and make money from it spread through Facebook and Twitter like wild fire.

The change to the terms of use of the popular instant photography app took place very discreetly (if one excepts the online backlash already brewing). As a user I wasn't even aware that any change had occurred. And there is no option to opt out other than by deleting your account. We have kindly been given a month's notice to decide.

Instagram, which is now owned by Facebook, implementing a strategy familiar to its new parent company, is, it seems, already backpedaling, telling the BBC that "the updated policy will not change how it handles photo ownership or who is able to see a user's pictures". It's apparently all to do with better Facebook integration.

As far as I am concerned the damage is done, though, and I have decided to leave the app, as shown by my last post, reproduced above.

I started using the app at the end of March this year, out of curiosity rather than from a real urge to do so. To my surprise I did enjoy the experience and have found it somehow liberating. I got to experiment with the square format which I have grown to like and though I tend to use filters with moderation, they do sometimes help create some interesting effects.

In those eight months or so, I have gathered 252 followers, followed 43 people and uploaded 435 images.

Due to my enjoyment of the medium, I was a little reluctant to delete my account but, as luck would have it, Flickr, where I've had a paying account for several years, just happened to release its new app this week. It looks very good indeed and it includes Instagram-like functions (social media sharing, filters). This finally swayed me.

As one of my contact pointed out, deleting my account without really knowing how the new ToS would be implemented could appear to be a knee-jerk reaction. After all, Instagram may not actually plan to sell our images (most of which are probably not salable anyway) and even if they did, the chances of my own images being chosen are pretty slim.

However, beyond the facts that Instagram has recently been plagued by a lot of spam, that it is not really easy to see your images outside the app (ie online), and that I rather do like the idea of having all my images in the same place, there is a matter of principle at hand here.

For a company to lure people to entrust it with their images and at some point turn around and say that from now on that company will own those images and make money out of them is simply astounding and should not be allowed to happen unchallenged.

Things may have been different if that transfer of ownership had always been there or if they were offering to share the proceed of the potential sales. As it is they would be profiteering from the vision of other people without offering any real compensation.

This is simply not right and this is why I am saying goodbye to Instagram and I hope many others will do the same.

Update (18/12/12 - 22:39): Instagram's co-founder has released a statement explaining that it was all a big misunderstanding. Fair enough. For it's too late though, I won't come back. Because of it's limitations I don't feel a particularly strong brand loyalty to Instagram, certainly not as strong as the one I feel for flickr, which is now offering what I was getting from Instagram without any worry of future cock-ups. So Flickr, it is. It's good that content producers have been perceived to win though in this story. That should make other company think a bit harder before make similar moves in the future. fingers crossed.

Photoshoot - Ross


During the summer I stumbled on a photographic exhibition installed over the 21 floors of an empty office block in Vauxhall. I have to admit I didn't pay much attention to the exhibition so focused was I on the fabulous views of London I had been given access to. I was lucky to have my camera with me, and of course I took loads of pictures.

Having visited the website of the exhibition's organisers, I had discovered that they would be back with a different set of images in December and so, thinking this was too good an opportunity to miss, and despite not knowing if the set up would be similar, I decided to take the chance and bring a model with me for a spot of guerrilla photography.

Ross had never modelled before and was introduced to me by Mark, one of my previous victims, but he took to it like a fish to water. He's even asked for more, so watch this space.

We did get access to the top floor and the views, and it was a beautiful, light day out there, but we couldn't get to the roof. There were also issues with lighting. Knowing This could be a problem, I had brought parts of my lighting kit. Unfortunately, power had been cut off in most of the building and none of the plugs seemed to work. While I did manage to get some decent shots, the experience didn't completely fulfill my expectations. Something not uncommon in life, I hear...

The images can be viewed on Flickr, here.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

But is it art: A visit to the Klein + Moriyama exhibition at Tate Modern

This afternoon, thanks to a friend's generosity, I went to see the William Klein + Daido Moriyama exhibition currently being shown at Tate Modern. As the photographer I am striving to become, I found what I saw very thought provoking. 

I was totally ignorant of either artist before entering the rooms of the exhibition and I only recognised one image of all those that where on display, yet I didn't find myself in totally unfamiliar territory.

Perhaps due to the influence that those two photographers have had on our modern visual landscape, I found myself pointing out the Instagram-like qualities of several decade-old pictures. I was also pleasantly surprised to look at images, the sisters of which, by virtue of their subjects and compositions, adorn my flickr photostream.

I am currently at a point where, trying to take a more serious approach to photography, I am strongly questioning the quality of my output. A few of my pictures are reasonably good but I feel that the vast majority are mediocre at best. I am confident of my eye for composition but I feel let down by the technical side of things much too often.

I approached today's visit as a means to further my reflection on my own work by looking at that of recognised fellow practitioners of the art (however pompous that sounds).

It didn't really help.

It was amusing to see books on the rules of photography on sales at the end of the exhibition when it is evident that for Klein and Moriyama rules were made to be broken. I can't help but wonder however if they went too far in that direction.

For me, too many of the works on display were blurred, too grainy, and not particularly well composed. I can certainly admit to regularly deleting many of those shots from my own camera. Perhaps this is where I am going wrong!

A random selection of Moriyama's 1972 work (Farewell Photography) only slightly made more unclear by my cameraphone.

This display of what seemed shoddy photographic work, nothing more than bad snapshots, felt at times like disrespect toward the viewer and toward other photographers who work hard to add technical quality to the artistic merit of their work. 

Hanging next to those images were also beautifully composed, razor-sharp shots; testaments to the artists' technical abilities. This was particularly striking in Moriyama's 1980s close ups, towards the end of the exhibition.

That the artists released those images proves that they were happy with how they looked and what they expressed but I was led to question what makes a "good image"; the eternal "my five year old could do just as well" dilemma. If it is at all possible to define one, which yard-stick 
can we use to measure the quality of a photograph? 

Has it to do with the technical qualities of the image; how sharp and well-lit it is? Has it to do solely with the subject? Has it to do with the artist's creative decision only ("this is a good picture" and so it is)? Is it a mixture of all this?

Or has it to do with the fame of artist? The cynic in me can't help but wonder how the public would consider the same shots if they weren't on display in one of the world's major art galleries, claimed by a recognised photographer.

The viewing figures of my more unorthodox output on flickr (which doesn't resemble what I say today), seem to indicate that such images generally elicit little interest.

Of course much of art's appreciation is highly subjective but it is one thing for an artist to decide that one particular piece is of value, and it is quite another to convince other people that this is the case and to build the type of consensus (however limited) enjoyed by renowned artists. 

Most probably it is only a measure of my own limitations that I failed to see merit in so many images displayed in that show.

Unfortunately, there were no answers along with all those questions I stumbled upon today and I am possibly even more confused than I was before. I am going to have to carry on looking for them and hopefully have fun creating interesting images in the process...

Friday, 9 November 2012

Photoshoot - Bruno

Bruno Firmly blaming the Gay Photographers Network (GPN), I recently took the step of buying a lighting kit to be able to do my own studio work at home. The kit includes three lights and ancillary paraphernalia (softboxes, barn doors, umbrellas, trigger, gels). I'll probably have to spend more money on some sort of background. The white sheet I am currently using is not ideal.

This week, after doing a few test on myself and other similarly boring objects, I had my first session with a live model.

Bruno is a fellow photographer I met at the last GPN meeting. During that meeting, I was intrigued by the way the light had been playing with his features, in a way similar to the picture above, so when he mentioned that he'd be willing to let me shoot him, I jump at the opportunity.

Aside from the image above I had another concept in mind for him: wrapping part of my background around his head. I am not totally happy with the result but Bruno's lovely smile makes up for the other deficiencies of those images. After that we just tried a few things without anything particular in mind.

I had a third idea which we didn't get to work on, so expect to see more of him in the future.

The images can be viewed on Flickr, here.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Measured religious reactions to marriage equality in France

Below is a non-edited version of my first comment piece for Gay Star News.

Just like in the UK, marriage equality features high up on the news agenda in France. And like in the UK, the most vocal voices against equality come from the right and usually with a religious flavoring.

From the fringes of the main conservative party, Sarkozy's UMP, there have been various mentions of paedophilia, incest or zoophilia as possible consequences of a change in the law. Brigitte Barèges, Christian Vanneste and François Lebel are the main culprits here.

A handful of Mayors have warned that they would disobey the law if it passes, and refuse to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Christine Boutin, who had already distinguished herself by the virulence of her homophobia during the parliamentary debates on PACS in 1999, has called for a referendum on the subject.

So far so sadly familiar.

Religious leaders have, of course, also made themselves heard, none more vocally than the Catholic Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who also went for paedophilia and incest.

Interestingly though, as the Chief Rabbi publishes a 25 page essay declaring his opposition to extending marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples, the rhetoric used by religious leaders seems much more measured than that used in the UK.

This may be due to the well-estabished secular tradition of the country that the arguments presented by the religious to oppose le mariage pour tous (marriage for all) seem to be contained within fairly legitimate and almost reasonable limits.

They seem to be more genuinely against a change in the definition of marriage than we find them in the UK where words usually quickly turn into a homophobic rants or hysterical protestations of persecution.

Even the Catholic Conference of French Bishops, who's leader has declare the idea a "mistake" and ordered a prayer to be read in all churches during a major festival in August this year, seems willing to consider some form of solemnised unions for same-sex couples that would go beyond PACS, as long as it's not called marriage.

The Chief Rabbi acknowledges that it is not possible to negate the reality of same-sex couples and refuses to judge gay people, placing homophobic hate crimes on the same level as racism and anti-semitism. He just can't see marriage being open to non-heterosexual couples for a series of religious and cultural reasons.

Muslims leaders declare themselves mildly "opposed" to the idea for, it seems, no other reason than that Islam forbids it. Again we are very far from the vitriolic statements we have heard here in the UK.

Because of the way marriage celebrations are arranged by the law, British religious organisations feel a keen sense of ownership on the institution. In France, where only civil ceremonies at the Town Hall have legal value (religious ceremonies are nothing but an optional extra), religious groups can not claim marriage for themselves so easily. This may explain the more restrained approached we observe.

Yet it seems that the temptation is still too difficult to resist and religious leaders just can't help sharing their views on the subject with the world.

The tendency, however, seems to be to forget that the propositions only affect civil marriage (it is the same in the UK). As such they have nothing to do with religion. Further more, all those arguments we hear from the French religious only hold if taken in the context of the faith in which they are expressed.

While religious leaders are, of course, welcome to express their views, they shouldn't expect to be given too much credit by a government who seems thankfully determined to press on with the bill and move away for the segregationist regime those people want to perpetuate so dearly.

Separate but equal is, emphatically, not equal.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Equal marriage, the Nazis and Lord Carey's irony bypass [UPDATED]

UPDATE: Since I wrote and published this, I have been made aware of the fact that things may not be quite as they have been reported in the press (and I saw several reports before taking to my keyboard). It's seems that Carey didn't quite say what everyone says he did. Of course much of what I argue below is still relevant but some of it is now also wrong. An amended version of the post reflecting the above has been published in PinkNews.

Yesterday during a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party Conference, a 1000 or so Tory militants gathered to hear speakers vituperate against marriage equality, thus showing the world that, ten years on, Teresa May's Nasty Party is alive and well.

Aside from David Burrowes, the backbench MP for Enfield Southgate, and former MP Ann Widdecombe, Lord Carey was at hand to share his views on the subject. And the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the once leader of the established Church of this country, could not resist getting on his favourite hobby-horse: bemoaning how British Christians are being persecuted.

Going much further than that other prelate, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who earlier this year said that David Cameron is acting like a dictator by "forcing" marriage equality on the UK, Lord Carey, when asked about opponents of gay marriage being described as "bigots", said:

“Let’s have a sensible debate about this, not call people names,” he said. “Let’s remember that the Jews in Nazi Germany, what started it all against them was when they started being called names. That was the first stage towards that totalitarian state.”

"And that was the first stage towards that totalitarian state. We have to resist them. We treasure democracy. We treasure our Christian inheritance and we want to debate this in a fair way."
We already knew that Carey had problems with keeping a sense of perspective or even possibly a grasp on reality. Someone as ensconced as he is in the establishment of the country thanks to his faith, complaining that he and his fellow Christians are being discriminated against is quite risible. However his latest tirade shows him as not only hysterical with paranoia but also perniciously mendacious.

It is ironic of course that Carey should start by calling for a "sensible debate", asking for the avoidance of name-calling, only to immediately abandon any pretence of being sensible and, yes, call people names...

Putting aside the fact that the good Lord doesn't seem to be aware of Godwin's Law, of how offensive his comments will be to families of deportation victims and their communities, or of the fact that someone invoking Hitler and the Nazis sounds very much like they have lost the argument they are so badly trying to make, the most cursory examination of Carey's statement shows us how much liberty he is ready to take with history to try and make a very weak point.

In that short statement, Carey conveniently brushes aside the fact that, unlike Christians, homosexuals were at the receiving end of Nazi attacks (A regime on whose activities the hierarchy of Catholic Church turned a blind eye).

He brushes aside the fact that even after the war, homosexuals carried on being victimised; concentration camp survivors being sent directly to jail, since the law criminalising homosexuality in Germany (Paragraph 175) was still extent (and remained so until the 1988).

He brushes aside the fact that to this day LGBT people are not only the brunt of name-calling much worse than what "bigot" can represent for him and his ilk but that all too often the verbal violence becomes physical.

He brushes aside the fact that such violence happens because the perpetrators feel empowered and justified by statements and stances like his.

Lord Carey also told the meeting at Birmingham Town Hall that re-defining marriage would “strike at the very fabric of society” before asking the question: "Why does it feel to us that our cultural homeland and identity is being plundered?"

If we are going to play that hideous little game of who is more like the Nazis it seems to me that Lord Carey is on very dangerous ground indeed. His rhetoric and that generally used by various Christian hierarchies when it comes to gay people is very much in danger of sounding like it would not have been repudiated by the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion.

Another thing that the former Archbishop fails to understand in his blinkered gesticulations is that he and people like him are quite probably doing our work for us. The more extreme and ridiculous their statements become, and goodness knows that they are little else these days, the more people are likely to realise where the reasonable and reasoned arguments are.

We can only hope for our sakes and for that of Carey's mental health that the government presses on with its plans. The sooner marriage equality happens, the sooner the mad barking will stop and the sooner everyone will realise that things are carrying on pretty much unchanged for most, except for a society more welcoming for all and that much further from that totalitarian state Carey fears so much.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Studio shoot - Steven


On Saturday I found myself trying to make my way to Brighton and the studio of Manel Ortega for a photoshoot with my friend Steven. As last time, the trip was not the most straight forward but I finally made it more or less on time, even after missing my train. It took me longer to get to the station by bus than it would have walking there!

Once we got started, things went very well indeed and Steven seem to enjoy himself a lot after the usual period of nerves.

I got a good crop of very decent shots. However, for some reason due solely to my incompetence, lots of the shots turned out grainy. They look fine viewed in small sizes but not so good when you start blowing them up. I'll have to figure out what I did wrong there.

On the whole, I am happy though. I think the images have moved a step or two further than those of previous shoots in terms of quality.

I need to find more victims to sit for me now...

The images can be viewed on Flickr, here.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Nick Clegg and the bigots

The following piece appeared in PinkNews.co.uk and was later picked up by i.

The Daily Mail, there’s a surprise, is leading the charge against Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg about the supposed “fury” at the use of the word “bigots” in a draft speech to describe opponents of marriage equality. The offending word has now been replaced by “some people”.

The new version of the speech was delivered last night at a celebrity-studded event marking the end of the consultation on proposals to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples.

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, is quoted in the Mail as saying that “many Christians and non-Christians […] will be highly offended to be called bigots” adding that they “should not be treated in such a way”.

While he stops short of making his usual deluded claim that Christians are persecuted in the UK, this is clearly the subtext here.

He also has the gall to claim that he is “totally for equality” while in the same breath saying that same-sex couples should be excluded from marriage. How is that equality, exactly?

Right-wing Tory MP Peter Bone and Colin Hart, of the Coalition for Marriage campaign group, are also asked for their wisdom on the subject. One calls for Clegg’s dismissal, the other claims that the DPM is attacking the British public as a whole and should concentrate on fixing the economy.

Nick Clegg has now reassured every one that this is a word he “had no intention of using, would never use. It is not the kind of word that [he] would use.”

There has been claimed on social media that the inclusion and retraction of the word from the speech had been planned all along. Whether that was the case or not, it certainly put the cat among the pigeons.

But what is a bigot exactly?

According to Merriam-Webster, it is “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.”

Since the government announced its intention to open civil marriage to same-sex couples, the usual phalanx of religious leaders, mostly, have been highly vocal in airing their opposition to the move. They cite their deeply held beliefs on the subject as reason enough.

The Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the attacks, sometimes using some rather questionable rhetoric in the process.

For example, Cardinal O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, has described marriage equality as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.” The Pope has said that it is a threat to “the future of humanity itself”.

There are many more examples of such outbursts and never are the slightest rational arguments ever produced to support those farcical claims.

If this is not hateful prejudice stemming from obstinate devotion to an opinion, then I don’t know what is. Carey and Co may not like the word and could probably find others they prefer but the cap clearly fits.

The only reason why parts of the hierarchy of some religious groups are so vociferous, can, I think, be found in the consistent erosion of religious influence in the social and political life of the country.

A survey of young people published only today shows that only 4% of 16 to 24-year-olds said that having religious faith or beliefs is the most important moral issue for them.

Could therefore attacks on LGBT people be a last-ditch attempt at regrouping and unifying a dwindling and disparate flock by targeting an easily recognisable, perceived threat?

LGBT people are, sadly, one of the last identifiable groups that it is still remotely socially acceptable to attack. Thankfully mentalities are evolving fast and this will hopefully not be the case for much longer.

In any case, let’s not forget that the proposals only concern civil marriage. The views of religious bodies are therefore far from relevant to the debate and should certainly not be given the prominence they enjoy in the media.

Coming back to the Daily Mail and Lord Carey’s mock outrage at being finally publicly called what they really are, it is important to remember that the consistent attitude and words of those that listen to them are often much more hurtful than the one-off use of a word that seems to describe them fairly accurately.

Around the country, LGBT people are daily submitted to very real abuse, sometimes physical abuse. The complaint that offensive language is being used against opponents of equality would perhaps be taken more seriously if those people also rose against the offensive language so regularly thrown at LGBT people and if they refrained from employing such language themselves.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Panoramic views of London

Shard and Strata
On Saturday I had decided to spend some time wandering around Vauxhall with a friend.

After meeting at the RVT, we walked across the Pleasure Gardens, having recently seen an exhibition on the former attracts that used to stand on the site. After a quick look at the animals of the Vauxhall City Farm and a cup of tea in a local greasy spoon, we moved back towards the river.

As we were passing an anonymous office block, I noticed a couple of sign on the pavement advertising an exhibition of photographic portraits. After some hesitation we decided that the images must be on display inside that office block which looked abandoned. We walked in and were informed that the exhibition of 200 images was indeed using the 21 floors of the empty building.

The exhibition is organised by The Photographic Angle, a charity that "holds free exhibitions that travel across the UK transforming otherwise empty spaces into temporary galleries".

We took the lift directly to the top floor of the building where views on the whole of London welcomed us. I am ashamed to say that I paid very little attention to the few portait we came across, so focused was I at shooting my own images.

I had planned to return on Sunday for the exhibition itself but I didn't get to do that in the end.

My images can be viewed on Flickr, here.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

An interview with... me

I have been asked by one of my contacts, who is a journalist, to answer a few questions as a French gay in London for an idea he wants to pitch to an editor. Some of these I found difficult to answer, as will be obvious by the brevity of my answers.

I have no idea if and where it's going to be used, so I thought I would share it here anyway, in case anyone is interested.

Update: A version of this interview has now been published on Têtu's blog.

1) How was growing up in Dijon?
Although I was born and later I went to uni there, I didn't actually grow up in Dijon but in a big village some 50km away. My childhood was fairly uneventful if somewhat untypical for a country kid. Fairly early it became apparent that I was different and although the other kids weren't nasty about it they weren't all that welcoming either. 

Soon as I learnt to read, I took refuge in books, reading more or less any novel that came my way. I only really looked up when I got to Uni, over a decade later, and by then, years spent in my own head hadn't prepared me well for that socialising malarkey. To this day I am very much the loner, despite my best efforts.

2) When did you move to London and why?
Somehow I ended up studying English at uni. This means that visiting a native-speaking country is always more or less at the back of your mind. Eventually I spent a week in London visiting a guy from my neck of the woods who'd moved there a few years previously. He was working, so I spent much of my time wandering around on my own. 

Pretty soon it became clear that, as corny as it sounds, I had fallen in love with the place, its chaotic energy, its vibe. I still remember a feeling of relief, almost physical, like a weight had been take off my shoulders, at being there. 

I went back to uni, went through ten months of national service and then I had to make a decision as to whether I would go back again to uni and study to become a teacher (something I didn't want to do) or move to London, at least for a while. 

One early July morning in 2000, I got in my car, which was filled to the gills with my stuff and I made my way to the big smoke. I haven't really looked back.

3) You photograph men for a hobby. Did you photograph any men back in France?
Photography is one of my creative outlets, and it seems to be taking centre-stage at the moment. Until recently I was a member of a choir (see below). I also write a little and contribute to various publications. The only reading I seem to find time for these days are the books for the reading group I have been moderating for over 11 years.

Photographing men is something I have only started doing very recently, after joining the Gay Photographers Network. I only really discovered photography in 2002 after I bought a small compact digital camera for a trip to Sydney with the choir. Before that I was interested but somehow my pictures were always rubbish with an old-fashioned film camera.

Digital photography really freed me and the intervening years have been a slow learning process, shooting mostly building and things that don't move. A process that is still a long way from completion, if there is such thing. 

I have had some of my images used by various organisations (some quite prestigious) and this year through the Network I had work displayed in two exhibitions. Since the members (some of whom are professional togs) do a lot of portraiture and male form photography, it seemed natural for me to give it a go. I am rather enjoying it but the need for a model and ideally a studio don't make it any easier.

4) How do gay men in England seem to differ to gay men in France?
I am not really sure. I am guessing they aren't that different though. I had very little contact with other gay men when I was in France. My only experience of a French gay scene was that of Dijon, almost 15 years ago. It wasn't very developed. 

By the time I left, there were a couple of night bars, a few gay-friendly restaurant and a club doing gay nights on Sunday evenings. Not to forget a couple of cruising grounds and a sauna. Since then it seems to have shrunk back to even less.

The club was called L'an-fer (a not-very-good phonic pun on enfer (hell)). The inside was made to look like a Metro station. It was very good with, I think, an international reputation for electronic music. I saw Carl Cox there and Daft Punk when they were just about to make it big. Laurent Garnier, who became quite famous for a while, is supposed to have started there as a DJ. I met my first failed attempt at a boyfriend there.

5) You're a member of London's Gay Mens Chorus. Have you encouraged them to sing anything in French before?
I have now left the Chorus, after over 10 years spent as a member. I didn't really have to encourage them to sing in French. The Chorus is musically quite adventurous and we have sung in a variety of languages, including Polish, Catalan, Italian, German and of course French, several times.

6) You work for an anti-smoking charity here. Do you think the situation is better or worse in London? French bars often have smoking booths etc.
The UK has some of the best tobacco control regulations in the world so a comparison is perhaps unfair but I think that France is catching up.

7) What do you miss most about France?
I can't really think of anything.

8) If you move back to France? what would you miss most about London?
The longer I stay here the fewer reasons I have to go back, if any. London is home for me now and there would be much to miss should I have to leave it.

9) Which sights in London would you recommend to a French visitor?
London has so much to offer, catering for virtually all tastes (apart perhaps for sun-lovers). I think my suggestions would very much depend on what I know of the person I would make them to. Walking around the place and observe what is happening is usually great fun.

10) And finally, who's your favourite Spice Girl?
I don't have one.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Straight boy

Following my shoot in Brighton in June, Mark, the model, introduced me to one of his friends, the lovely Richard, to have a similar treatment inflicted on him.

Last Saturday, we finally met for a few hours of fun. Without access to an practical enclosed space, the shoot was in the urban wilds of Waterloo. I had made a quick reconnaissance the week before for what was my first proper shoot alone with a model. Just us, the clothes (some), the light (whatever Mother Nature would give us) and the location... Oh and my camera!

While not being outstanding, the results were quite satisfactory. After the initial stiffness, we soon relaxed enough to create a varied set of images of decent quality. The feedback I got from fellow photographers and friends was quite encouraging.

The added fun to the day was to get a straight guy to take his top off, put on eyeliner and eye shadow, and wear pearls. And kudos to him for letting himself be queered with such good grace.

The images can be viewed on Flickr, here.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Hot chocolate muscles

The Gay Photographers Network was having its monthly meeting on Wednesday night. For the second time this year, the event was dedicated to "meeting the models" (you can see my pictures of last time here). This time rather then the free-for-all we had last time, slots had to be booked in advance to be able to shoot one of the models on offers.

Feeling that I would be too self-conscious with people around, I had not booked but on the night some slots had become available and I decided to give a go. I was paired with lovely young black man with a very impressive physique indeed. Daniel has very lean, define muscles and a lovely silky skin which reflects the light beautifully.

Despite my worries, I quickly got engrossed in the job at end and, while there was little opportunity for being really creative, and this being only my third foray into studio work, I think I managed to produce a fairly decent set of images in the 20 min or so that I was with Daniel.

The images can be viewed on Flickr, here.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Complaint to BBC News for its coverage of the marriage equality debate

As the Catholic Church produces yet another letter try and bolster support among its flock for its opposition marriage equality, the BBC (Radio 4 in any case) is giving the "news", once again, much prominence in its news bulletin. This has prompted me to make the following complaint.

I am very disappointed by the way the marriage equality debate is covered across the BBC news channels. It seems that the subject only makes it to your headlines when a religious body (usually the Catholic Church) somehow acts to oppose the proposals.

Certainly no similar coverage, if at all, is given to positive news from supporters of the proposition. I am not simply talking here of having someone criticising the actions of said religious body when the news is reported.

In any case, the propositions only concern civil marriage, the views of religious bodies are therefore not directly relevant to the whole debate and should certainly not be given such prominence as you deem fit to give them.

Finally, please note that you should be talking about "marriage equality", "equal marriage" or "extending marriage to same-sex couples". "Gay marriage" implies something separate and different to the current institution, which is not what is proposed. Also this extension of marriage touches people who are not or do not identify as gay (lesbians, bisexual people).

I trust this will help the BBC, which has often come under criticism both for its deficiant coverage of LGBT people and the emphasis it puts on religion, towards a less biased reporting of the issue.

Update: I have now received a cut and paste response that doesn't really answer my points. Thanks for nothing.

Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC News.

We understand you felt our coverage of the marriage equality debate has been biased.

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Thursday, 12 July 2012

Boy George doesn't like my pictures

I spent most of Saturday taking pictures of Pride London - World Pride, having been commisstioned to do so by VisitBritain.

Boy George at World Pride

They had arranged a press pass for me, which gave me access to the press pit at the front of the crowds on Trafalgar Square, just next to the main stage.

At first all was going pretty well, though I had to fight with the light that was forever changing, but when the turn of Boy George to get on stage arrived, we (the assembled togs) were asked to sit down by a member of the security team. This was in my view unjustified and unpractical. This also meant we had to shoot the artists at difficult angles.

After spending many hours sorting out the results of my day of shooting and editing a selection of the 1000 or so images I had taken, I posted some on flickr as I usually do and tweeted some of them. One of my tweets was about the pictures of Boy George I had taken and included his tweeter name.

Not long after, I received a response from him. And not a positive one! Without really saying what, in his view, was wrong with them, he made it clear that he didn't like my images.
“You should edit with more consideration! I did not give you permission to shoot me and then put them online?”
When I answered that I had a press pass, he asked, rather cryptically, if this was akin to being in the Territorial Army. An information I could unfortunately not provide, having only been in the French army and being totally new at the press thing.

Soon after that he blocked me and as he kept ranting about the situation, eventually made his tweets private so that journalists could not read them.
“If you are shit photographer keep your work to yourself or get a fucking ladder!"

“Twitter should have heat gages [sic] so that I can prove I actually don’t give a flying ming vase about unimportant stuff!”

“I might be in full war paint with a big glittery hat cocked to one side but that don’t mean I am ready for my close up! F**K off!

“I don’t like photographers, well, maybe about 5. I’ve said it now – fuck off! Some people hate spiders I hate cameras! Except polaroid!

“I reserve the right to [sic] ugly in private and in public! Lol! Mousecake!”
Unimportant stuff, indeed!

It was too late however, the Streisand effect had kicked in. The editor of PinkNews saw my tweets and retweets and decided to write it up as a story.

The reactions I have seen have been unanymously supportive of me and, to the exception of a couple of people, condemning of Boy George. My flickr photostream got over 14000 hits yesterday and over 2700 today, as I write. Only a few hundreds at most would normally have seen those pictures. I have also gained several followers on Twitter. I would like to thank Mr O'Dowd for all that.

And for another lesson on how not to use social media.

I am sorry he didn't like my work. I enjoyed taking the pictures and watching his performance on the day. My advice to him, however, if I may be so bold, would be not to stand on a stage in front of several thousand people if he doesn't want unauthorised pictures of him to be taken.

I also can't help wondering what he will think of those pics of him at the same event, if he didn't like mine.

You can view my pictures of Pride London 2012 in this flickr set, including those at the source of this controversy. More images will be added in the coming days.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Is gay pride really a bad thing?

This post appeared in Pink News under the title "In defence of Pride".

In PinkNews today, Topher Gen writes to explain how he believes that modern Pride parades perpetuate an image of gay people as 'hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants', and that drunkenness and drag don't make the bold statement some might think.

I think Mr Gen is quite mistakenly focusing on the wrong elements of Pride. It even seems reading his words that his only experience of such event comes from mainstream media coverage which does seem to linger on the more colourful and exotic aspects of the parades.

Little, if at all, do we see the hundreds of "normal" people who do take part in the marches. The families, the pensioners, the volunteers with various charities. For them it's not an occasion to get pissed (that usually happens after the parades anyway) or drag up, it is a moment of affirmation and empowerement. For a few hours it's an opportunity to take the streets over, to be what they normally are not: the majority.

Mr Gen also seems to believe that Pride events are the only occasion that straight people find themselves in the presence of gay people. This may have been true thirty years ago but not any more. With so many people out and proud everywhere, straight people are bound to be confronted by the greyness and monotony of everyday gay lives, being shown how little they differ from theirs.

Following, Mr Gen's reasoning perhaps we should cancel all carnival. Surely St Patrick's Day, which does seem to be mostly about drinking, gives a very bad image of the Irish. The Notting Hill Carnival with all those arrest and that violence can be good for how Afro-carribean people are percieved.

As for the the rainbow flag, it is most certainly not a stereotype. it is a unifying symbol for the community. it speaks of its history and its stuggles. Just like the million Union flag hanging all over britain following the jubilee. Are these stereotypes to?

It is also interesting that Mr Gen only singles out what may be described as the gender bending aspect of Pride marches. Nothing about pumped up naked bodies or leather-clad buttocks, which could just as much been seen as gay stereotypes. They have however the “merit” of being “masculine” and this leads me to thing that Mr Gen may be evincing symptoms of that old friend of ours: Internalised homophobia. Mr Gen is embarrassed by that which is different, he wants to pass, and he is sadly not alone in this backlash against the camp and the effeminate, lately.

And he may not be the only one wanting to conform (after all the current quest for marriage equality is in some part at least linked to that) but many others in the community don’t want to live as straight people do. they want to remain individuals with their own way of doing things.

Trying to stifle those aspirations seem to me very similar to those of the homophobes, who can not abide something different to their view of the word. As persecuted minority (although thankfully not in the UK), the gay community generally is accepting of differences and it should remain that way.

Live and let live, I say. Only those who want to be shocked will be shocked by what happens at Pride.

Friday, 22 June 2012

One Night Stand

Like the gates of an earthly paradise, an Eden made flesh, ajar,
one night, he tempted me into a bewitching dance. 

For a few undeserved hours the luscious fruits of his body were mine to feast upon, 

our limbs writhing together, our breaths melded into one. Hopes awakened.

But soon the cruel dawn sundered and cast us apart.
The pearly gates slammed shut.

Ever since, fallen, I lie bereft, more alone than before; an errant ghost, an empty shell. Hopes fatally awakened to be more thoroughly crushed.

Returned to a new banality, I long and pine for what wasn't;
what could have been; will never be.

Thursday, 21 June 2012


In a few day, the 3rd annual exhition organised by the Gay Photographers Network will open its doors at the Strand Gallery in London.

This will be the second exhibition I will be taking part in this year (and ever). This time I will only have one image on display but with the work of almost 60 other artists on display, everyone should fine something to look at.

So here are the details:

The Strand Gallery
32 John Adam Street

26th June to 8th July Open hours: 11am to 7pm Mon to Sat / 11am to 6pm Sun. Early close on Sun 8th July.
(I will be manning the gallery on the 2 and 6 July - 11 to 3)

Website: www.f20-12.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/gayphotographersnetwork
Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events/383529118364952

Monday, 18 June 2012

Fear and Loathing on a Monday Morning

This morning's Monday blues comes with added misery. The realisation that my social ineptitude is taking roots ever more deeply.

Since last night, Facebook has been awash with pictures, videos and comments about the Chorus's retreat which as taking place this week-end. This is awakening ugly feelings of envy and fear in me.

I didn't go the retreat partly because of the presence of The Young Man I mentioned in this post, but mostly because of my experience during the trip to Belfast with the Chorus (a lonely affair for me) and my general dismal track record with groups of people who know each other.

Judging by Facebook, everybody seemed to have a great time. Although I guess, only those who did have a great time would be posting.

Thinking a bit more about this and examining my feeling further, I am as I said envious. Envious that those people can actually find themselves into a group of other people they variously know, if at all, and look forward to it. Envious that they can even enjoy the experience and create new bonds. Envious that it should be so natural and easy to them.

Let's face it, I am also envious of The Young Man; of the adulation he has been getting there (though the term may be slightly hyperbolic, he is clearly liked by many); of the others, who were able to be and interact with him (nope, it seems I am not over that story yet!).

Something I don't envy, is the fact that they most probably all got drunk to various levels. But this is another barrier to my taking part in social occasion like a "normal" person, since I virtually don't drink.

And then comes the fear.

Imagining myself taking part, I am gripped by visions of awkwardness, of inadequacy and loneliness in the middle of a crowd, a happy crowd. This is a fairly new feeling but one that has been growing in strength in past couple of years perhaps as each (rare) invitations to joining a group of strangers in a pub for drinks or some such gathering. More often than not I have made excuses. The view times I haven't have not been the most positive of experiences. A reinforcement of the apprehension.

A vicious circle. I don't know how to break it.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Another photoshoot - Mark

Some months ago, I joined the Gay Photographers Network.

This has allowed me to look at photography and my practice of it a little more seriously. To the point in fact that in February I took part in my first exhibition (showing two pictures and selling one!). I will be taking part in a second exhibition, f20-12, later this month (only one image this time).

Last February, at one of the Network's monthly meetings, I had a taster of studio work with models and I was keen to further the experience. So when one of my Twitter contacts mentioned that he needed to pictures of himself, I offered my services and a date was set.

To help me with this, one of the members of the Network, Manel Ortega, who seems to have taken an interest in me both as a photographer and a model, had offered access to his studio in Brighton.

The results of my side of the shoot (Manel took pictures too) is now online on Flickr and can be viewed here.

Some of Manel's pictures of me which he allowed me to edit myself are available here.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Stuck in the Middle: The Consequences of Falling

At the end of January this year, I had a one night stand. It happened, quite publicly at a party organised by the choir I am a member of. There were several remarkable and highly unusual elements about this, but perhaps nothing more so than the fact that it happened at all.

The other party, a young(er) and most comely member of the contingent of "fresh flesh" just delivered by that season's new intake of chorines, did all the chasing, thus popping my 10-year-old Chorus cherry.

In the morning we parted on amicable terms and electronic correspondence ensued in the following days. However, it very quickly transpired that, to use and paraphrase images of the song that gave part of its title to this post, his pulse didn't quicken like mine, his wishes were not the same as mine and that I was clearly alone in this. "This", being a desire to explore the connection further and see where it could lead us.

Since then, due to circumstances, there has been scant interaction between the two of us. When there has been, it has always been on the most civil and friendly terms but always very short and superficial. Nothing particularly surprising and untoward in all this, you might think.

Yet, four months on, I still find myself pining for what never was. While the part of me stuck in the middle of this is flailing miserably, the bit of me sitting in the stalls with a bucket of pop-corn and incredulously watching this pathetic overflow of bathos is trying rather unsuccessfully to make sense of it all and move on.

One thing is certain: this whole sorry business has little, if anything, to do with the young man (not) involved, who turned out to be merely a catalyst for this combustion I have to contend with. While there is evidence of physical chemistry between us, my inkling is that an intellectual connection would prove much more elusive.

Because of the circumstances of our meeting, I foolishly way-led myself up a blind alley and I haven't found a way to make a u-turn to the main road. I failed to notice the road signs pointing towards Casualville. And somehow a part of me hasn't realised that this IS a blind alley. My problem is the lack of what American sitcoms call closure.

And so, four months on, I still find myself facing the consequences of falling. If anyone has to be blamed in this, it is my inner prepubescent schoolgirl.

Though I had successfully managed to gag her, tie her up and lock her up in the deepest closet at the back of the attic of my mind (please don't call the RSPCC), she has somehow managed to free herself and she is back with a vengeance, starved eyes flaming with anger, forked dried hair snaking in the wind as stormclouds gather around her, anorexic, graceless body bedecked in pink, demanding for romance. Demanding someone special to burden with her crappy life and make her feel better about herself, less alone.

And, as is the case for so many prepubescent schoolgirl (let's call this one Britney), the idea of romance is far more appealing than actual imperfect romance. The appeal of what could have been with its red roses and violins, is very strong indeed and difficult to foreswear.

Envy, in her green, flowing robes, is also hovering close behind Britney, egging her on. The bright flame to which she burned her wings, like a clumsy moth, is good-looking, friendly, and popular, with lots of friends, sending into stark relief the barren cave where she stumbles daily.

It's as if Britney had been given the key to a warm and colourful make-up shop; as if she had been taken on a quick tour of it only to have said key snatched back immediately away from her imploring hands, to be kicked out in the cold, damp, grey street. All this at a time when she felt she was particularly in need of warmth, colour and make-up. Now, she is howling, as the rain runs down her emaciated cheeks: "Why not me?!"

Hopes have been awaken that I had successfully stifled until that fateful night. Hopes I should have known better than to allow flight, for I know it is easier not to have them, and, based on my track record, they are unlikely to ever be fulfilled. Hopes I am only too eager to stuff back into their box and rebury at the bottom of the garden like the decaying corpses that they are, before going back to being alone with my imaginary cats, those that will eat my face when I die.

If only I knew how.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Photoshoot - Meet the Models

Last night, the Gay Photographers Network, which I joined a few month ago, was holding one of it monthly events. In addition to being a social occasion, there is also a more didactic element to the meetings. 

Last night's event offered me the opportunity to take part in my first studio shoot with models. Accomplished members of the group had been invited to bring and introduce models they work with. Also most seem to be content to simply mingle, we managed to coerce four brave souls to pose for those interested. 

The lighting had been set up for us and it pretty much stayed the same all the time. This was very much a free for all with half a dozen people shooting at the same time. Not ideal for optimal results but a good taster for me nontheless and a fun evening, indeed. 

The results of my efforts can be seen in this set on my flickr account. Enjoy! 

(model: Jonathan Hall)