Is your head being filled with nonsense?


Ratio is a forum for popular science, held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Its goal is to promote rational, scientific, critical thought, through its lectures. These clever posters promoted the forum theme: “Is your head being filled with nonsense?”
Ogilvy & Mather Sofia produced them, with art direction & post-process by Emanuela Belovarski, and photography by Ivaylo Petrov. Found them on



A Kristian at work


Kristian Schullar, Strand II, 2010

Kristian Schuller is a fashion photographer working in Paris for prominent clients. His work is stagey and flamboyant, very feminine, and full of thin rangey models and extravagant costumes. He talks about the influence of Fellini on his work and you can see it in this beautiful image, inspired the last scene in 81/2.

I love fashion photography for the creativity and mad dedication of the people involved, not just the photographers. And every now and then they produce something really eye-popping – such as Schuller’s image Strand II.

See more work on his website which is itself a major production. In this video, he talks about the making of his book 90 Days, One Dream.


Looking up in New York


Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle, New York. Architect David Child, 2003.

This sharp Late Modern development went up on the then most expensive real-estate in New York, facing Central Park on Columbus Circle. David Child is the architect of the new World Trade Center building on the 9/11 site, he out manouvred Daniel Liebeskind in that venture.


Hearst Tower, Eigth Avenue at 57th St. New York. Architect Norman Foster, 2006.

This High-Tech building by one of the Sirs of British architecture rises out of a handsome Art Deco building from the 1930s. This original structure was commissioned by none other than William Randolph Hearst, the fictionalized Citizen Kane, as the headquarters of his dastardly Hearst newspaper conglomerate. It was the Fox News of its day, spreading yellow journalism all over America.

The new building is a highly original design which has won prizes for its green credentials. It’s one of the new landmarks on the Manhattan skyline, always glinting in the sun.


One57, 57th St. New York. Architect Christian de Portzamparc, 2014.

This is a luxury condominium that rises high over mid-town and is the tallest apartment building in the world. At the time this picture was taken, the penthouse was sold for $90 million. Tall as it is, another vertical streak about 30% taller is soon to go up a few doors down.


Ebay camera 10


This specially adapted Graflex 4×5 Speed Graphic Pacemaker just sold on ebay for $1824, a huge price for a Graflex. Why?

The Speed Graphic was popular with press photographers for many years until the 1960s. I have one myself which came with a standard issue 135mm f4.7 lens, ie its maximum aperture is f4.7 – see this post on it.


My Speed Graphic with its f4.7 lens

But the Ebay camera is different, it has been modified with an unusual lens, one that makes it weigh almost double mine, 11 pounds or about 5 kilograms. That is not something you would want to raise to your eye as a press photographer. The reason is the huge f0.95 lens, a massive piece of light-collecting glass with a diameter of about 140mm. It’s 4.5 stops better than my lens, a huge advantage in low-light situations. This lens is so strange it doesn’t even have an internal aperture diaphragm, a series of circular aperture plates are attached to the front element.

The question is, why? What was this expensive lens used for? Night photography, surveillance, astronomy? The seller is in Serbia, part of communist Yugoslavia when this camera was manufactured. So my mind turned to surveillance, espionage, Cold War derring-do. But no, the explanation is innocent, it’s an aerial camera, used for photographing the ground from an aeroplane.


Tall Poppies at Edmund Pearce


Amy Stein & Stacy Arezou Merfahr, Schoolchildren, New South Wales, 2010

US photographer Amy Stein says that when she first heard about Australia’s Tall Poppy Syndrome she just had to come here and see for herself. She did. With Stacy Arezou Merfahr she travelled around New South Wales photographing ordinary places and ordinary folk – the sort of folk who don’t fall under the title of “tall poppies”.

The Tall Poppy Syndrome cuts everyone down to the same height, preferably short. Anyone who visibly succeeds in money, achievement or fame is regarded as getting above themselves and needing to be brought down to the common level. It’s a cultural quirk unique to Australians and alien to Americans who “are taught to strive for success and celebrate those who distinguish themselves from the crowd.”

The Edmund Pearce exhibition makes it clear that this wry enterprise needs to be savoured in large prints on a wall. The smaller images on the web and in the nice accompanying book don’t convey the subtle humour, the deadpan comedy, the utter strangeness of this cross-cultural encounter. Click on the image above and you might see what I mean. The pictures of rural New South Wales are funny, very true, and they tell you something about yourself, if you’re an Australian. It’s not all good news.


Neville Brand’s eye


Frame still from Kansas City Confidential

Look at the pinpoint focus in this shot from the 1952 movie Kansas City Confidential. An over ripe crime melodrama, it features some of the most startling closeups I’ve seen.

The tough guy actor Neville Brand is staring down his opponent while Lee van Cleef looks on. What’s unique is that cinematographer George E. Diskant has focussed on only one of Brand’s eyes, while the near and far is out of focus. It was a fairly low budget movie so probably there was no time or equipment to get more depth-of-field. He has focussed on the better lit short side of the face, intensifying the cold stare.

Screen actors have to act from their marks, a point in space which the camera has been focussed on. With depth-of-field of about one inch, Brand must have had good body control and steady nerves. Cinema is about faces.


Allan who?


This is a screenshot from an episode of M.A.S.H. It’s a very familiar show but who’s that guy on the left? If you don’t know this story you’ll be surprised to learn it’s the husband of Diane Arbus.

Allan Arbus was a well-born Jewish New Yorker who married Diane in the early 1940s. Her name was Nemerov, of the department store Nemerovs, and she fell hard for Allan. She married him, had two daughters, set up a successful fashion photography business (Vogue, Seventeen) and then eventually moved apart in the late 1950s. Is was not acrimonious.

While Diane set about becoming one of the greatest photographers who ever lived (this is not hyperbole), Allan drifted away from the photography studio and into the acting studio. He eventually made a solid career of it, mainly with M.A.S.H. but also with  many TV and movie credits. It was a long and successful if undistinguished career which you can see here on IMDB.

Allan Arbus was born in 1918, a long time ago, and he’s 95 years old now. My uncle Henry died last Thursday at the same age so I know how old it is. Allan’s last credit was on Curb Your Enthusiasm in its first season in 2000. Now that’s how you finish a career!


CCP Salon win


Installation at the CCP Salon. My picture, bottom left, has won a prize at the CCP Kodak Salon, for ‘Best Use of a Found Photograph’ (gift voucher from CCP Shop, $100).

The image is called “1931” and is from a snapshot of my late mother, a schoolteacher, with her students in rural Victoria in 1931. The image has been heavily blurred to create a distancing effect, and because of the tones in the original photo, the blur looks like a distorted skull.



Face/Time at Tacit


Installation shots of my current exhibition, Face/Time, at Tacit Contemporary Art. It runs until December 23. Face/Time is a two-person show with my colleague Kirsten Perry, her image on the left above. The exhibition is a form of self portraiture as our own faces are the source of the imagery,

The word time refers, in my work, to the process of decay, literally through the time sequence that produced the images, repeated photocopying resulting in a form of information decay. Time is also present in the idea of physical decay implied in the fading, dissolving faces.


In Kirsten’s work, the duration of time produced the faces through long ‘performances’ of gazing at an image of her face. A special camera recorded her eye movements and software plotted the lines. They are fine drawings of an abstracted face gradually gaining more detail in each print..






Just as I do a post on the surviving film cameras on the market one of them drops off the twig only hours later. Petapixel reports that Zeiss is getting out of the rangefinder camera market. This is a loss as they are reputedly very good cameras coming from a rich tradition. They are fine objects – a Volkswagen or maybe a BMW – and don’t come cheap but they are definitely an object of desire. B&H has the body + f2 Planar lens for $2100. Is that so much? Leica is the next step up the food chain but a body alone will cost you $5000.


The silver age


How many film cameras are still on the market? Is the analogue age continuing or has digital killed it dead?

What you see above are the main film camera models on the B&H website. These are 35mm and medium format SLRs and rangefinders, panoramics, large format field and studio cameras in 5×4 and 10×8. I’ve left out the myriad Lomo and instant film cameras, and pinholes.

The advance of digital technology has been faster than anyone imagined fifteen years ago, witness how Kodak was caught unawares. But there is still a considerable market for analogue photography, Rollei has just announced a new line of black and white films, and Lomo, makers of Holga, are rumored to be a potential buyer for Big Yellow’s film business.

The brands shown are Nikon, Canon, Vivitar, Voigtlander and Zeiss, Mamiya, Rollei, and Hasselblad, Linhof, Wista, Toyo, Arca and Horseman, all worthy of survival. But who does that leave out? Pentax, Minolta and Bronica are among the casualties of the last 10 or more years.




Greg Neville, GoooOg, 2012

The Stockroom gallery in Kyneton is holding an end of year show called Span, artists exploring connection, distance and the passage of time.

This image is one of two I’m putting in the show, from a new series derived from Google Earth satellite views of various cities. The images show highways endlessly looping in decorative patterns, a tapestry of roads, parks and suburbs.

Regional Victoria is not exactly blessed with private art galleries. Most of them show various degenerate forms of craft, what I called the ‘Artesque’, painting or sculpture that looks like art but is really kitsch. The Stockroom is one exception to this rule, its three spaces show work that might be seen in ‘serious’ galleries and project spaces in Melbourne.



CCP Salon 1931

Greg Neville, 1931. 2011.

The CCP Kodak Salon opens on November 22 and runs until December 15, the tribal gathering of photographers in Melbourne.

This is my piece, a pigment print based on a photograph of my mother and her students in a country primary school in 1931. It may be at Terip Terip, near Euroa (Victoria). It’s from a series exploring my family history through old snapshots. Some were shown last year in 5 Miles from the Sea, and this year at Richmond Town Hall.

You need to click on the image to see what it is.

News: Since writing this post, the image has won a prize at the Salon –  Best Use of a Found Photograph!