Passport Photos

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"Passport Photos" photo of a man with a fire next to him.

“Passport Photos” looks at one of the most mundane and unexciting types of photography. Heavily restricted and regulated, the official passport photo requirements include that the subject needs to face the camera straight on, needs a clear background without shadow, no glare on glasses and most importantly; no smile.

It seems almost impossible for any kind of self-expression.

The series tries to challenge these official rules by testing all the things you could be doing while you are taking your official document photo.

I love this weird, wonderful, and truly surreal photography project. Especially in this modern age in which a passport photo does not necessarily involve a photo booth – you’re often permitted now to trim down a conventional photo or even use a born-digital picture snapped from an approved app or via a web application – it’s more-feasible than ever that the cropping of your passport photo does not reflect the reality of the scene around you.

Max’s work takes this well beyond the logical extreme, but there’s a wider message here: a reminder that the way in which any picture is cropped is absolutely an artistic choice which can fundamentally change the message. I remember an amazing illustrative example cropping a photo of some soldiers, in turn inspired I think by a genuine photo from the second world war. Framing and cropping an image is absolutely part of its reinterpretation.

Darkroom Printing

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One of the benefits of being in a camera club full of largely retired people who were all into photography long before digital was ever a thing, is that lots of them have old film, paper and gear lying around they’re happy to give away.

Last year I was offered a photographic enlarger for making prints, but I initially turned it down because I didn’t think I’d have the space to set up a darkroom and use it. Well, turns out with a little imagination our windowless bathroom actually converts into a pretty tidy darkroom with fairly minimal setup and teardown – thankfully we also have an ensuite so my partner can cope with this arrangement with only minimal grumbling

My friend Rory tells the story of how he set up a darkroom in his (spare) windowless bathroom and shares his experience of becoming an increasingly analogue photographer in an increasingly almost-completely digital world.

Finding Lena Forsen, the Patron Saint of JPEGs

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Lena, then and now

Every morning, Lena Forsen wakes up beneath a brass-trimmed wooden mantel clock dedicated to “The First Lady of the Internet.”

It was presented to her more than two decades ago by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, in recognition of the pivotal—and altogether unexpected—role she played in shaping the digital world as we know it.

Among some computer engineers, Lena is a mythic figure, a mononym on par with Woz or Zuck. Whether or not you know her face, you’ve used the technology it helped create; practically every photo you’ve ever taken, every website you’ve ever visited, every meme you’ve ever shared owes some small debt to Lena. Yet today, as a 67-year-old retiree living in her native Sweden, she remains a little mystified by her own fame. “I’m just surprised that it never ends,” she told me recently.

While I’m not sure that it’s fair to say that Lena “remained a mystery” until now – the article itself identifies several events she’s attended in her capacity of “first lady of the Internet” – but this is still a great article about a picture that you might have seen but never understood the significance of nor the person in front of the lens. Oh, and it’s pronounced “lee-na”; did you know?

The Wedding – Unanswered Questions

The photos from Ruth & JTA’s wedding are coming soon, I swear. In the meantime, here are a few questions that I’m still puzzling over:

What kind of chord do I think I’m playing?
What does my mother think smells so good; and why does Becky disagree?
Why is Fiona kissing me?
Why is Chris saluting in this picture?
On what subject is Bryn pondering? And did his mighty brain come to a conclusion on the subject?
Why is Owen carrying Robin around? And is this truly the happiest day of Robin’s life?
Who choreographed Matt P and I’s dance moves? And why do we look so awesome?
Who’s just hit Matt R in the back of the head with a snowball?
To whom is Liz threatening fisticuffs? And does anybody other than Finbar even use the word ‘fisticuffs’?
What does that look on JTA’s face mean? No, wait… I know this one…
If Robin is interviewing Tom, why is he using an invisible microphone?
What has startled JTA so badly?

Some or none of these questions will be answered in time (and, perhaps, when you see the whole picture). Keep an eye on the wedding blog for updates just as soon as Ruth and JTA find the time to update it! And I’ll look forward to hearing your caption ideas for some of the “sillier” pictures.

Meanwhile, if you’re among the people who took photos at the wedding and who hasn’t yet given me nice, hi-res copies, please get in touch!

Pictures From The Weekend

I couldn’t (easily) post these pictures while out-and-about, so I thought I’d share them now:

The tailbackon the M6. That’s a serious amount of traffic at a complete standstill, and people million about on the carriageway. In the distance, in the first one, you can just about make out the tops of the emergency services vehicles, despite the low resolution of the picture.

Gareth and Penny’s birthday cakes. Gareth’s is decorated with a small place flying across a blue sky, while Penny’s is shaped like a fairytale castle.

This was the moment during their recollection of their boating holiday that Matt suddenly realised that what Liz was telling him about a “steaking incident” was actually true and not something he’d dreamt.

Claire, Jimmy, and Beth. I don’t think Beth approves of this photo being taken.

A fabulous example of BiCon’s non-assuming, gender-doesn’t-really-matter thinking, in the form of the signs on the toilet doors. Behind these, the secondary signs are the same, except the the “Toilets with urinals” sign has had appended to it “Standing up okay,” and the “Toilets without urinals” sign has had appended to it “Standing up okay, put you might end up pissing on the seat.”

Not only a transgender-friendly statement, these signs also function as a reminder that in an environment where your gender is one preferred by not 50% but closer to 95% of the people present, imposing privacy by something as arbitary as gender is even more pointless than it is in the rest of the world.

The organisers of BiCon run a census each year. I think this photograph of a small part of the survey really does reflect “BiCon thinking” when it comes to the definition of gender and sexuality. One question reads “What term(s) do you use to describe your gender?”, with the following options – female only, female mostly, female somewhat more, female/male equally, male somewhat more, male mostly, male only, none/no gender, androgynous, genderqueer, other (please specify). Where almost any other survey would provide in the region of two mutually-exclusive choices, BiCon’s survey provides 10, which can be used in combination, and the space to define an answer yourself if you’re not satisfied with those available.

BiCon attendees are encouraged to decorate their name badge with stickers showing their affiliation to various groups, causes, ideologies, relationship structures, fetishes, etc. These make really good conversation-starters, but the list on the first day – with about six different “codes” – tends to have no bearing on the final-day list, fully-expanded by people adding their own codes and encouraging one another to make use of them. Click on the list to zoom in.

Some Pictures From My Phone

Some pictures I just extracted from my phone:

ASSA Lock
ASSA are branching out. Not just (experi)mental music, they do locks, too!

Old Nightline Publicity
This sticker was found in the ladies toilets underneath the library on Llanbadarn Campus. I think it might be a little out of date… look at the phone number!

Paul & The Dragon
Paul & his dragon. I’m not sure whether or not the person who sent me this picture wanted it to be put online, so I’ll assume that they did…