Talking about all things photography at #BIRDIE14

competition winners

From as early as I can remember I’ve been passionate about photography. The concept and reality of being about to capturing a moment, an expression or a memory and giving people the opportunity to see my world through the lens of a camera have always felt like an incredible privilege and opportunity that I refuse to take for granted. Yes, I may take and share more photos than others care to see at times but through the imprint I’m making on history for current and future generations, I hope that that they’ll be able to understand and enjoy some of my images, and the stories behind them, as much as I do.

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With that in mind, you can imagine how excited I was to hear about BIRDIE 2014 – An event that celebrated the opportunity for photographers to come and share their photography stories and experiences. As Dan Rubin explained, this was not a gallery exhibition or trade show, this was a chance to meet the people behind the photos and learn more about their work, inspiration and motivation. And boy was he right!

Kevin Meredith aka @LomoKev – The change from amateur to professional photographer

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What I loved about @LomoKev, apart from the fact he reminds me of one the coolest dudes I know, @JimmyIcedCoffee was that through his journey from amateur to professional you could see his passion for the craft in everything he’s done. Personal projects have been at the heart of his success story.

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Experimenting with photos of shoes led to a commission from a festival shooting wellington boots in the mud, while playing with image prints to create montages of style icons and families led to an opportunity from O2 to be filmed shooting photos of Brighton, creating a wonderful collage of the city and capturing magical moments on the streets and with the Brighton swimming club down on the beach.

If there’s one thing to take away from Kevin’s talk it would be to do what you love not what you feel you ought to do and don’t work for free unless it’s something you would have done anyway. Wise words!

Tom Seymour interview with photographer, Dan Rubin 

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Editor of fltrTom Seymour talked to photographer Dan Rubin, about how instant sharing has changed the photographic community, and the future of photography. With the cost of photography going down all the time, more people have the opportunity to take photos, capture moments and express themselves but what social media has done is enable us to also share these images with a global audience. The biggest impact this has had is on the way we take and consider sharing photos of children. People are afraid of documenting the lives of children for fear of something terrible happening, which is incredibly sad. An entire generation will be documented in a way quite unlike those before.

In terms of technology, Dan touched upon the launch of the iWatch which he feels will have little impact for photographers at this stage, except for the fact it features a remote view finder. The proof of it’s ability to perform however, is yet to be seen.

When Tom, asked what improvements in photo tech, Dan would like to see, he explained that rather than post-production editing tools, he would like to see improvements to camera software to make the devices smarter and help us all take better photos.

Katja Ogrin aka @kogrin – The highs and lows of life in a photo pit

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From intimate gigs with bands you’ve never heard of to renowned festivals, Katja is there with her camera. A seasoned musician herself, Katja came to the decision that she was never follow a career in that direction. Instead she picked up a camera headed out to a sweaty jazz club, where she sat up close to the stage shooting pictures and started to realise where her future was headed.

Music photography can be incredibly challenging with lighting interfering with the quality of the image, artists bouncing around all over the place and security guards standing in the middle of a perfect picture up at the front of the stage. All this aside, Katja loves it but her passion is for the smaller gigs. In fact, one unknown band she photographed in the early days – ‘The Editors’ – have come to be quite a success now which just goes to show, the photos you take are more important that your subjects at the time. My favourite photo from Katja was also from an intimate gig:

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This was probably the first and the last time I would see a singer of a band hanging upside down while performing! – Katja Ogrin

Naomi Korn aka @NKorn – Copyright, photography and the digital age

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Naomi‘s talk was just fascinating. Listening to the intricacies of copyright law and intellectual property and how our legal system simply can’t keep up with the way the internet allows us to share and use photos effortlessly but without ownership rights, somewhat illegally. Is a retweet of an a breach of copyright? Or what about a screenshot of an image for a presentation?

By law, you own the copyright to your photos and can challenge the use by others. However many photographers have now opened up a series of low resolution images to the internet under creative commons laws, offering higher resolution or signed images as reserved rights images which can be bought. This freemium model is working incredibly well.

The recent case of the monkey who took a selfie on a photographer’s camera was a key example of no ownership of copyright. The legal system decided that the neither the photographer or the monkey owned the rights. By what do you think? I’d love to know.

Conor MacNeill aka @thefella – Chasing the night sky

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One beautiful photo, does not a moment take when it comes to night sky photography. Conor MacNeill travels the world to remote and unique locations to capture seas of stars, the aurora and the setting of the moon. He job has taken him to some amazing places including the wilds of the african desert sharing the sands with poisonous snakes! Patience is one of the biggest skills a night sky photographer needs, as you could be waiting for several hours in sub-zero temperatures to get that one perfect shot.

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On the night that Conor took these stunning photos of the Aurora his mind was blown. You could tell by the look on his face these were taken on what will always be a unforgettable evening. With that, he told us all not to wait to put things on our bucket list but instead, get out there and travel. I totally agree. Some of my favourite photos were taken in places like Cambodia, Argentina and Corsica. Don’t get me wrong, I love city photos but there’s something about nature that takes your breathe away.

Stevyn Colgan aka @stevyncolgan, a verified QI Elf – A Quite Interesting alternative history of photography

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It’s not often you get to be in the presence of a verified QI elf is it! Stevyn Colgan is a fascinating and wonderfully funny man who talked to us about the history of photography. Covering everything from the very first photo and selfies to the tales of Victorian babies who’s mother’s would hide under sheets to hold their children still! We often think of Victorians in sepia and black and white but this is simply because that’s the impression we have from the images they’ve left behind. What we learned from Stevyn is that the staid and serious faces were the result of the long exposure times that meant smiling was painful! In the digital age, we’re familiar with the long exposure mostly through the use of panoramic photography were we often see body parts or people missing from pictures as they were moving too much. It was the same back then.

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As a QI elf, Stevyn gets to meet some marvellous people including the likes of Buzz Aldrin who features in one of the most debated images of all time, the moon landing. Looking Buzz in the eye, Stevyn dared to ask if the moon landing and indeed the photo were actually real. Buzz told him that if the US landing hadn’t been real, China and Russia would have been the first ones to shout about it, implying that it did happen. The photo however, is still a mystery. Let’s face it, that image is far to brilliant to have been taken on the moon… or is it?

Agatha A. Nitecka aka @_agatha_a – Film on film

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Many people dream of being on set among celebrities and famous directors. For fine artist photographer Agatha, it’s about capturing the characters and the magical moments, and all this on 35mm film. Unlike the digital photographers that take thousands of photos each day, Agatha takes her time, studies the scene, reads the scripts and takes her photos at exactly the right moment. She reminded me of that wonderful feeling you get when you used to send off you film to be developed and you’ve no idea really, how your photos will look until they are printed. This is feeling many of us have forgotten and lost in the digital age.

Agatha’s recent work includes photographing Wuthering Heights and taking this stunning picture of Sir Ian McKellen. I was lucky enough to walk away with a copy of a print newspaper of her works from Wuthering Heights when I posed a question to her about how she translates her analog works into the digital and social media world. Agatha explained that she now, quite recently, has begun to see the value in sharing work on social media and although it’s not her primary focus she enjoys engaging with her fans and contacts to talk about her photos.

Chris Wild aka @theRetronaut – Holding a smile ’til the sun goes down

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Last but not least was Chris Wild, curator of retronaut.com and the newly released book. All the content is sourced and contributed to showcase photography over time but the one common theme, over 200 years of photos, was that human behaviour when cameras are involved, simply doesn’t change. Photobombs, selfies, silliness, thinking we’re cool are all traits that even from the early days of photography remain the same.

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One set of photos that were recently on his website included those of 90s women in a shopping mall. Big perms, denim jackets, strutting along like they were the bees knees – where does that phrase ‘bees knees’ come from? Answers on a postcard please! The scenarios in shopping malls these days are consistent but fashion has moved on.

We’re just an earlier remix of ourselves – Chris Wild

In conclusion… 

BIRDIE 2014 has to be one of the best conferences I’ve been to in a very long time. White October did a fantastic job of running everything smoothly, Ruth and Dan put together a wonderful line of speakers from a range of different backgrounds with wonderful stories to tell. I think the whole event was best summed up in a single tweet from Javier Arranz yesterday when he said:

Would I go to another BIRDIE event? Of course! Please tell me that I don’t have to wait until next September though!

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