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Sheep's wool, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Sheep’s wool, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

I like the hidden ‘stories’ that reveal themselves to you when you start to get closer to landscape, and of course that is if you care to look. Like this little vignette of rock and lichen, wool and wind.

The fleece, caught by the roughness of the lichen and pulled from a passing sheep, has been frayed by the action of wind and rain. And then the loose strands ‘spun’ into a yarn by the wind, the fibres dancing around and around each other until they have created a perfect thread of wool.

It makes me wonder, did our ancestors learn from nature because they had a need to, a need we think we can forget?

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Conquering fear

Cafe Riviera, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 2014 © Amy Touchette

Cafe Riviera, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 2014 © Amy Touchette

 

“Her [Arbus’] photographs are in fact portraits of fear conquered: her fear of approaching strangers so unlike herself and their fear of revealing themselves to someone like her. Her respectful encounters made me realize that what I found frightening about taking pictures of strangers is not that I am stealing something from them, but that I am telling them, with my camera, that I like them, that I find them compelling, and that I want to remember them just as they are at that very moment. We so rarely express positive feelings towards strangers, but that’s exactly what’s at the heart of all well-meaning portraiture.”

A short quote from a wonderfully insightful and instructive article written by photographer whose work I have long admired, Amy Touchette. (Article is currently available on BagNewsNotes.)

It just reminds me yet again that the best (street) photographers of people do something profoundly simple with their images: express their respect for their subject.

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Lairg Lamb Sale is an event I’ve mentioned before on duckrabbit. No apologies for posting some more images. I love it.

If you like ‘atmosphere’ Lairg is hard to beat. The smell of sheep predominates, and their incessant bleating competing with the non-stop calling of the auctioneers, mixed with the buzz of conversation between the hill-farmers is a heady concoction.

It starts at dawn, and ends at dusk. It is the largest single-day sheep sale in Europe and on occasion up to 30,000 animals may pass through the ring. It is about sheep, and it also about people. About meeting old friends and acquaintances and swapping tales of the year past.

Fancy going? Well just fetch up, walk in and enjoy!

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

Lairg Lamb Sale, Sutherland © John MacPherson

 

 

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If you’d like to take your first steps in photofilm production then our acclaimed  3-day digital storytelling workshop in London is coming up! Join us from the 4th to the 6th of February 2015.

The course is designed for photographers, journalists, communications and PR professionals wanting to develop their skills in digital storytelling. If you’re looking to produce photofilms for yourself or your organisation to tell your story in a compelling and powerful way, this training is for you!

You don’t need to have photographic or audio recording experience – the training will include both these elements. Each group of up to three people will shoot and record a story on location and produce a draft version of a short photofilm during the workshop. We will give you the practical knowledge and skills you need to produce your own high quality productions.

To book your place, contact us by email at [email protected]

  • “It’s a real testimony to the quality of the training that I’m able to produce something to BBC standard only a few months after attending a duckrabbit workshop”  Ralph Hodgson, photographer.
  • “The guys at duckrabbit not only helped me gain skills in audio capture, interviewing and photofilm production, but also increased my confidence in getting closer to people, and hearing their stories.  I recommend this training to anybody with an interest in people, their stories and how they are represented.” Phil Lang, photographer
  • “Thanks for a wonderful course. I feel re-energised, re-enthused and raring to go. The MSF digital storytelling team is going to take Clerkenwell by storm and tell their stories – no one will be safe from our enquiring microphones.” Natasha Lewer, Editor, Medecins Sans Frontieres
  • “I loved this course by duckrabbit. I left full of enthusiasm and confidence. It must have worked because only my second attempt at gathering content for a photofilm made the front page of the Guardian website.”  Emma Wigley, Interactive Media Officer, Christian Aid

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Take one cow, on a cold day, and liberally sprinkle with sleety rain. Wait until rain soaks the outer layer of hair and starts to make it slightly curly. Photograph. Magic!

 

A wet cow © John MacPherson

A wet cow © John MacPherson

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'Phantom' © Peter Lik

‘Phantom’ © Peter Lik

 

Jonathan Jones is at it again. He loves to stir it. Writing in The Guardian about Peter Lik’s very expensive canyon photograph, he makes some grand pronouncements. I’ll let others take issue with Jones’ nonsensical “Photography is not an art. It is a technology.” comment. What I’ll take issue with is Jones’ description of the image as being of  “a grand phenomenon of nature”. Sorry Jonathan – but that’s a grand phenomenon of ignorance you display.

If it’s the canyon you refer to, then yes I’d agree, if it’s the shaft of light, well yes indeed, but if it’s the ‘phantom’ of the title, which is all that differentiates it from a host of other similar shots, then I hate to disillusion you but it’s artifice.

The ‘effect’ is obtained by tossing a handful of dirt from the canyon floor into the air in the shaft of sunlight. More organized photographers get a companion to lob the stuff down from above. Those with even less scruples lob a handful of talcum powder into the air, which more is uniform in size and lighter than dirt and floats just a little bit longer, making it easier to get a few frames; however that latter technique is also environmentally unsustainable and grossly polluting. Those with no scruples whatsoever set something on fire and send smoke up the shaft of light. Smoke is very light and floats better, but is less controllable. It can also leave soot residues and other toxins depending on what was burned.

Is it worth $6.5m as a piece of art? Well yes the buyer thought so. So I guess that’s that part of the debate settled then.

But I have to say, when I look at it, I just see something that is at best some careful artifice, or at worst crass environmental vandalism. I have no idea what method was used, and make no pronouncements about the author’s environmental credentials. It is what it is, and what it is, is most likely not natural.

Why am I concerned about this? Well the success of this image will no doubt prompt a rash of copycats. Some will take the unscrupulous route I’m quite sure. And the environmental consequences of that could be considerable. Art, I’d like to think, whether good or bad, should not destroy or pollute that which it celebrates. Time will tell, and I hope I am proved wrong.

Maybe a hint of sour grapes on my part? If you say so.

But…..do you want to see my own ‘phantom’?

Here you go then: Isle of Rum, a long hard climb through thick mist and misery to emerge on the summit ridge. In the distance the Skye Cuillin mountains rise up from the Atlantic, and closer to, a momentary glimpse of a swirling ‘phantom’ which swelled up out of the corrie opposite, outspread it’s arms and dived across the ridge, soaring off into nothingness.

$6.5m for a print of this? Aye, aye that’ll do nicely thanks, if you want to have it to grace your wall. I’ll even sign it.

But the reality – the experience of climbing hard, breathless, and being there to see something like this unfold before me, a true phenomenon of nature…….priceless. And you cannot purchase that.

 

Mystical image of mist shaped like a man spilling over ridge on

Mist phantom dives across a ridge, Isle of Rum © John MacPherson

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