Vivian Maier

Extraordinary documentary on BBC2 last night about Vivian Maier, a nanny living in New York and Chicago who took stunning photos with her Rolleiflex. She never showed them to anyone, never exhibited them, never had any fancy prints made. She stored them in containers in a warehouse – tens of thousands of prints and negatives. They were only discovered when, in old age and without her job, she could no longer pay the rent for the storage space.  The contents were sold as job lots to a couple of dealers for a few hundred dollars. They didn’t know what they were buying…

Her website:

The BBC Imagine documentary is on iPlayer this week:…_Summer_2013_Vivian_Maier_Who_Took_Nannys_Pictures/



The longest day of the year / summer solstice.  There was a slight mist over the lake at Kenwood this morning, more reminiscent of Autumn. And it’s dull, shadowless. The sun is somewhere else today, not in London. Nine years ago on this day I was living in the Perche, a beautiful part of lower Normandy in France. A 15 minute car ride away was a 600 year-old oak tree, with a trunk that was over 4 metres around. I got up very early and stood under the tree waiting for the sun to rise, hearing owls hooting and little rustlings on the ground, realising how vulnerable small creatures like voles and mice are to hunting birds at night. The sky started to fill with light several minutes before the sun finally appeared in the east. It lit up a bead of water hanging from one of the oak leaves, silhouetted against the sky.


Endangered species

Following on from the swift sightings, I realised a few days ago that  telegraph poles have almost disappeared from the landscape, at least in London. It was common, when I was growing up (in Buckinghamshire) to see swallows lined up along the telephone wires – a photographic cliche.  This pole with its radiating wires, one to each house, now seems like an anachronism. 20130509_1264_small

International Urban Photography Summer School

International Urban Photography Summer School

Urban photography summer school 2013
Goldsmiths, university of london

Designed for photographers, artists and urbanists whose work address notions of urban space and culture, the international Summer School provides a highly intensive two-week practical and theoretical training in key aspects of urban visual practice. The course aims to offer participants a wide range of relevant skills resulting in the production of a photography portfolio drawn from London’s urban environments, combined with a collective final exhibition.

The programme has been developed in collaboration with Urban Encounters (Tate Britain), the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR), Photofusion and the International Association of Visual Urbanists (iAVU). The course is taught by experienced tutors from Goldsmith’s top-ranked Sociology Department and the international MA in Photography and Urban Cultures. The programme draws on the advanced theoretical, research and practical image-making specialisms of key practitioners in the field.

Summer School tutors include: Paul Halliday (MA in Photography and Urban Cultures Course Leader),Beatriz Véliz Argueta (Coordinator/Goldsmiths), Les Back (Goldsmiths), Caroline Knowles (CUCR Director), Mandy Lee Jandrell (Southampton Solent University/Goldsmiths), Peter Coles (Oxford/ Goldsmiths), Alex Rhys-Taylor (Goldsmiths), Manuel Vazquez (Goldsmiths), Laura Cuch (Goldsmiths) and Jasmine Cheng (Goldsmiths).

The programme will explore how the practice of urban image making informs the development of a reflexive and critical research perspective and will include assignments and guided fieldtrips focusing on(1) urban landscapes, (2) street-based photography and (3) material objects.

The Summer School will take place from 19 – 31 August 2013. Application deadline is June 10.

They’re back!

“Look! They’re back! Look!” wrote Ted Hughes in his poem “Swifts”. It was a 15 May.  While “walking the dog” over the past years, I’ve been noting when the swifts return from Africa to the streets around where I  live, in northwest London. And how many there are. It was, with surprising synchrony, on 15 May that I first heard them screeching overhead this year. And, even three weeks later, there are still just four of them. There were nine last year. Seventeen the year before. Which end of their migration is to blame? Disappearing nesting sites, here? Insecticides in Africa?

And, the elms he mentions are long gone, too, apart from a few in Brighton and here and there.  Maybe, one day, we’ll be able to say “Look! They’re back!” about them, too.


by Ted Hughes

Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts
Materialise at the tip of a long scream
Of needle. ‘Look! They’re back! Look!’ And they’re gone
On a steep

Controlled scream of skid
Round the house-end and away under the cherries. Gone.
Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together,
Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening

For air-chills – are they too early? With a bowing
Power-thrust to left, then to right, then a flicker they
Tilt into a slide, a tremble for balance,
Then a lashing down disappearance

Behind elms.
They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come —
And here they are, here they are again
Erupting across yard stones
Shrapnel-scatter terror. Frog-gapers,
Speedway goggles, international mobsters —

A bolas of three or four wire screams
Jockeying across each other
On their switchback wheel of death.
They swat past, hard-fletched

Veer on the hard air, toss up over the roof,
And are gone again. Their mole-dark labouring,
Their lunatic limber scramming frenzy
And their whirling blades

Sparkle out into blue —
Not ours any more.
Rats ransacked their nests so now they shun us.
Round luckier houses now
They crowd their evening dirt-track meetings,

Racing their discords, screaming as if speed-burned,
Head-height, clipping the doorway
With their leaden velocity and their butterfly lightness,
Their too much power, their arrow-thwack into the eaves.

Every year a first-fling, nearly flying
Misfit flopped in our yard,
Groggily somersaulting to get airborne.
He bat-crawled on his tiny useless feet, tangling his flails

Like a broken toy, and shrieking thinly
Till I tossed him up — then suddenly he flowed away under
His bowed shoulders of enormous swimming power,
Slid away along levels wobbling

On the fine wire they have reduced life to,
And crashed among the raspberries.
Then followed fiery hospital hours
In a kitchen. The moustached goblin savage

Nested in a scarf. The bright blank
Blind, like an angel, to my meat-crumbs and flies.
Then eyelids resting.
Wasted clingers curled.
The inevitable balsa death.
Finally burial
For the husk
Of my little Apollo —

The charred scream
Folded in its huge power.