Friday, 22 November 2013

Only in England Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones Science Museum 2013

Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr
21 September 2013 - 16 March 2014

Fascinated by the eccentricities of English social customs, Tony Ray-Jones spent the latter half of the 1960s travelling across England, photographing what he saw as a disappearing way of life. Humorous yet melancholy, these works had a profound influence on photographer Martin Parr, who has now made a new selection including over 50 previously unseen works from the National Media Museum's Ray-Jones archive. Shown alongside The Non-Conformists, Parr's rarely seen work from the 1970s, this selection forms a major new exhibition which demonstrates the close relationships between the work of these two important photographers.

Tuesday 19 November 2013, 19.45–21.15
IMAX Theatre

Martin Parr reflects on the profound influence Tony Ray-Jones’s practice has had on his work and their shared interest in documenting English social ritual and behaviour, with Kate Fox, social anthropologist and author of Watching the English, and Sean O’Hagan, writer on art, culture and photography for the Guardian and Observer.

Just recently I went along to the Only in England exhibition and this week attended the Martin Parr talk about the same. I decided in advance to combine both experiences within the same blog post.

Firstly the gallery space; it seems to be the "in thing" for London Museums to have photographic exhibitions, first the Natural History Museum and now the Science Museum, with its new Media Space. I guess this shows the growth in the popularity of photography and how financially lucrative it must be for these venues to run them. Although it seemed a bit weird to be jaunting off to the Science Museum the gallery was rather impressive. Apparently the 525 square metres of space make it "one of the biggest venues for photography in Britain" with the huge space cleverly divided by wooden framed walls running down the centre; a bit maze like but it does make for more wall space and was beautifully illuminated.

Photography: Kate Elliott
Photography: Kate Elliott

The exhibition itself is split into three distinctive areas, the first comprised of 60 prints from the archive of Tony Ray-Jones, secondly the early black-and-white work of Martin Parr, and lastly previously 56 unseen pictures from the archive of Ray-Jones, selected by Parr from contact sheets and negatives. It was brilliant to see these contact sheets on display and from them have an insight as to how he worked; snapping a subject then moving around to improve the composition, or waiting for the scene to develop waiting for more people to fill a space.  Apparently Ray-Jones’s preferred technique was to carry two cameras- Leica rangefinders, one @ 35mm lens and the other @ 50mm. One he would hold at eye level, pointing it at something in the distance, this meant that the chosen subject would either ignore him completely or turn to look at what he was pretending to photograph. The other he would hold at waist level, that would actually take the photo.

Parr commented on the spatial look and feel of his images, how different subjects would be looking in different directions;no-one really over lapped, this became more apparent as he went through the archive of negatives. It seems really masterful that such spontaneity resulted in the amazing compositions he captured; pictures that look busy, alive with activity and motion, and full of smaller details. I especially noted the way he grouped people together who are clearly unaware of each another at the moment the shutter clicked.Still, moving, blank-faced, excited, young, old, the whole gamut in one image. This is something I will look out for when shooting my event for assignment 5. Although not sure how successful I'll be I can but try!

It was reassuring to see the odd white or black square in his contact sheets where he hadn't quite gauged the exposure! Also dotted around were notebooks, layouts, letters and lists – in vitrines and on the walls.

Another piece of ephemera that I found fascinating was a cardboard shape of a bear he had used when employing dodge and burn on an image, copies of before and after shots and notes saying where and how he would apply it.

For those of you who are new to Tony Ray-Jones a brief biography would run something like :

His father died when he was only eight months old and after his father's death, Tony's mother took the family to Tonbridge in Kent, then and finally Hampstead in London. He was educated at Christ's Hospital (Horsham), which apparently he hated. Ray-Jones studied at the London School of Printing, where he concentrated on graphic design then in the early 1960s he obtained a scholarship that enabled him to join Yale University School of Art. In 1963 he was given assignments for the magazines Car and Driver and Saturday Evening Post.

Ray-Jones went to the Design Lab held by the art director Alexey Brodovitch in the Manhattan studio of Richard Avedon. There he got to know a number of New York "street photographers", in particular Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander who all influenced his later work. Snippet from the talk was that Joel Meyerowitz would often complain about his personal hygiene and make him shower when they worked in his studio!

Ray-Jones graduated from Yale in 1964 and photographed the United States until his return to Britain in late 1965.On his arrival the idea of a survey of the English at leisure gradually took shape, he wanted to document the way of life of the English "before it became too Americanised". His photographs of festivals and leisure activities are full of a surreal humour, influenced by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Homer Sykes and Sir Benjamin Stone. Part of this work was published posthumously in his book A Day Off (1974). There is a short video within the exhibition where Parr explains how some of the captions are wrong and they now know that certain places were not where they originally thought!

Described as eccentric and abrasive he once said to Peter Turner, the editor of Creative Camera, "Your magazine's shit".  He returned to the United States in January 1971 to work as a teacher but he disliked teaching, saying that the students were "self-centred and lazy." In late 1971, Ray-Jones suffering from exhaustion eventually sought advice, leukaemia was diagnosed, and he started chemotherapy. Medical treatment in the US was too expensive, so Ray-Jones flew to London on 10 March, was immediately admitted to the Royal Marsden Hospital where he sadly died on 13 March aged 31.

Back to the exhibition...

At a time of social change, Ray-Jones was determined to record anything that he saw as being particularly (or peculiarly) English before it disappeared forever. The street and the seaside were his main targets although he also captured the rituals of Eton boarding school and the Glyndebourne opera festival, as well as beauty contests and pop festivals. Kate Fox described both Ray-Jones and Parr as "social anthropologists with a camera" and Sean O'Hagan introduced both Ray-Jones and Parr as "capturing the spirit and mentality" of the English. Martin Parr commented while looking at TRJ's work that he was surprised by how English the English still are and how it is still possible to make work that can still be regarded as "terribly English." Ms Fox echoed this sentiment and said she can still see the English "tribe" today within the archival photographs.

It is wonderful how Ray-Jones managed to capture fine details in larger scenes, had the ability to snap the ordinary and make it interesting, the patience to stand and wait for something entertaining or quirky to occur and the skill to get close enough to a subject without them posing. His images have been described as "slices of life as seen through the lens."

Walking around the exhibition was appealing on many levels, as a slice of English history, of personal nostalgia and as a photographer seeing how he worked with and composed his images. Looking around taking notes I noticed a young man doing the same, obviously a student. I had to stop and ask him was he getting the same information/feelings from the images as me although we were from a different generation. I could remember things from my childhood in the 60's and 70's that struck chords. He said although he had no direct memories he could see things on the wall that were in his family albums at home and coming from the North the Blackpool shots and many of Martin Parr's early images were resonating.

Neither TRJ nor Parr (especially latterly) shied away from capturing the quirky or seediness of our seaside towns or events. His images of the festivals and people sitting on the marquees certainly show how Health and Safety has moved on!

Tony Ray-Jones Beauty Contest Southport, 1967

Tony Ray-Jones Blackpool, 1967

Tony Ray-Jones Glyndebourne, 1967

You then moved onto the work of Martin Parr. I have never really been a fan of his so it was enlightening to see his series, The Non-Conformists, made in and around Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire in 1975, just after he graduated from art school. The title comes from the Methodist and Baptist churches that dotted the region.

Parr gave his main influences as his grandfather initially, then Lee Friedlander and Robert Frank, he was also inspired by a talk given by Bill Jay who showed the work of Tony Ray-Jones while he was still at college.

The influence of Ray-Jones is really quite apparent in this early body of work although definitely not a direct imitation, Parr had his own perception of the world and photographer's "voice". His work also looks more considered and less spontaneous. One thing I must comment on about both bodies of work is how grainy they both were...I am always surprised by this but I guess it was part of the fashion at the time and part of the ethos that serious documentary was grainy black and white! Parr mentions again the use of gaps between the people being as important as the people themselves.

It was interesting to hear Parr say that to enable this body of work to be produced he immersed himself into the lifestyle of the people and became very involved with the community but realised that this in some ways was a mistake; some of  the elders of the village mistook his professional interest as a personal interest and expected him to stay and take over certain projects.

I have to admit to not being a huge fan of Parr, due in part to his use of flash and garish colour saturation in some of his imagery. I don't know an awful lot about his work so need to look at more before I can state outright "I don't like Parr." Some of his observations are spot on and is it his fault that capturing real life makes people look weird? We aren't all air brushed, we don't all live in ivory towers or holiday in exotic climes. This is what he shows, raw England. It was very telling however, that this first body of work is missing the undertone of mocking cynicism seen within The Last Resort. Instead The Non-Conformists portrays the community with sympathy, empathy and affection even whilst capturing the surreal humour of some of the situations. I enjoyed this body of work so much that I bought the book and queued up to get it signed by the man himself.

from the Non Conformists Martin Parr

from the Non Conformists Martin Parr

The final gallery returns to Tony Ray-Jones and the selection carefully chosen by Parr, a tricky enough job choosing your own first selects let alone deciding for someone else. Parr acknowledged that there’s no way of knowing if Ray-Jones would have ultimately approved. Here all the background information and notes really come to the fore and help us understand  the working methods and motives behind the photographer.

An exhibition I would strongly recommend.

Moving onto the talk I have lots of quick jottings, comments made by both Kate Fox and Martin Parr, chaired by Sean O'Hagan. A very entertaining evening although not possibly for all the right reasons...I went along with a former tutor and two others who were his former students. We have all kept in contact and are good friends so was a chance to catch up and giggle at certain aspects that we really should have known better about! That aside, several pertinent comments were made during the evening; once we had established that Martin Parr had previously been a train spotter and Kate Fox, as a baby, had been strapped into an Indian cradleboard and propped up around the house by her father (get the impression the conversation strayed all over the place??).

Things like:

  • We are not a classless society.
  • Parr has discovered the joy of shooting films; whilst listening to the banter between people he realised he couldn't capture that, so in some ways a photograph cannot tell the whole story.
  • He was also inspired by Tony Hancock who succinctly caught and gently mocked the pomposity of the English and this was what he tried to do with his later bodies of work.
  • He saw similarities between himself and TRJ in the respect that both had lived outside of the UK for a while and on returning saw familiar things from a different point of view.
  • As a nation we endorse the stereotype, are attracted to clichés, that although we may sometimes buck against a stereotype they are truisms, used as a starting point and given a twist.
  • The French like Parr more than we do, they like to laugh at us! Also they like photography more.
  • Due to the brashness of the modern world the only way to capture it meant it had to be in colour.
  • Try to use the whole frame for the story, not just the main subject in the middle.
  • Documentary photographers actually are no good at capturing the everyday as they want nostalgia and the quirky. Something Parr admits to doing himself in the past.
He was quite disparaging about photography students relying on clichés and that he had a list of these on his blog, again admitting to using some of these himself and actually responding to imgery containing them. However he warns against adhering too closely to what is familiar as it can be "as restricting as it can be liberating."

Then followed the typical question and answer session which I found to be a little on the predictable side with people asking stuff they could probably have found the answers to by googling them! Why, when you have the man himself in front of you ask boring questions?

My friend Natalie asked how could students be bolder and try different things when at the moment there is a problem with accessing sites due to more and more restrictions, or the general public not liking their photo taken. Did he think that the clichés he was seeing was due to the problems of access? (The irony being in a world where more n more technology exists and more and more images being taken in some ways it is harder to achieve) His response? "No-one said it would be easy. Try Harder. Get out of London." Hmmm I had to laugh, when you hold down a full time job, have a family, and your photography doesn't pay its not that simple. Hey, I guess no-one said it would be easy. When Natalie bought a copy of The Last Resort she asked for the dedication to read "You must try harder!"

Hmmmmm I wonder how hard his daughter had to work to get him to agree to this I totally acknowledge that it was her hard work that has enabled her to pursue her career nor is she a student but would the public in general have such access to Mr Parr? How many photography students would have been able to give away full sets of postcards or have Mr Parr attend their event? Am I being too cynical?

Martin Parr in conversation with Kate Fox and Sean O'Hagan. Photograph Michael Wayne Plant

Microphone in hand I asked him about the funeral selfies, I had read the story a while ago and then saw it had been picked up in a weareoca blog post.

I was interested to discover if he found them disrespectful because I didn't? Although you had to wonder at the motives behind some of the more scantily clad young ladies talking about their sadness over departed grandad, I could fully empathise with the grinning young man who reported that if she was seeing his image "gran would have been grinning away" to know he was having fun and with her sense of humour she would have loved it. My mum had been the same. She didn't want sadness or people dressing in black at her funeral, we had fun, bright colours, non conventional music and pictures uploaded to facebook prompted queries from people as to "that looks fun were you at a party" errrrm no it was my mum's funeral....

Martin Parr thought along similar lines, he thought it was more our own straightlaced moral upbringing that made us feel it was wrong to photograph at funerals (if you're wondering I have shots of her coffin and the vegetables...yes vegetables...placed in a basket on top) He had in fact had the suggestion of a body of work along those lines rapidly dismissed when he had put it forward. I find it quite strange that we have no worries when pointing a camera at dignitaries and onlookers at state funerals but baulk at the thought of doing it closer to home? I am not suggesting photobombing or intruding upon a stranger's intimate moment but that's what the press do on a regular basis so why the issue when people do it on a personal level? Maybe this is my own eccentricity revealing itself lololol.

There the evening ended with the book signing and the train journey home....

Martin Parr book signing Natalies book, photography Michael Wayne Plant.
Thanks to Michael for sending the images, cropped out Natalie as she hates her photo being taken. Typical photographer who likes to be behind the camera not in front!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Death in the Making - Photographs of War by Robert Capa - Atlas Gallery June 2013

What can I say? I was so lucky to be invited along by a friend to see this exhibition. As I said in an earlier exhibition review it isn't often you get the chance to see first hand images created and printed by icons of photography.To mark what would have been his100th birthday London’s ATLAS Gallery curated a diverse exhibition to celebrate his life and work. Not only were numerous rare prints on show but you could also have sight of his Leica camera. Robert Capa was co-founder of Magnum Photos, of which ATLAS Gallery is the official UK gallerist. Owner Ben Burdett said: “It is indeed a rare honour to host such an exhibition. Capa’s unique mixture of energy, devil-may-care bravery, humanitarian concern and enormous charisma has always been a massive inspiration to me.”

I went to see the eyewitness - Hungarian Photography exhibition and it was super to be able to see more of his work on display here. I had forgotten he was born was born Andrei Friedmann!

In 1954 Capa answered Life’s call for a photographer for the Indochina front. Having sworn he would never report from another theatre of war he was eventually persuaded to accompany a French regiment into action. On May 25, 1954, he was killed by a land-mine while covering their advance in the Red River Delta in Vietnam. The rest is history... More information and pictures of the gallery space can be found on Atlas' Facebook page here:

Most people are aware of Capa due to the 11 frenetic, splashy and blurred  D-Day landing shots he took, those and the infamous Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936, which is accused not only of being staged but also of being taken by another photographer; Gerda Taro - companion and professional partner of Capa. Indeed these photographs are on display and if you had deep pockets you could have bought one, varying in price from as low as £1500 for one printed in 2007 through to those priced at £11000.00, for example Mothers of Naples 1943 bearing the artists credit stamp, LIFE photo stamp and annotations on verso. Others were marked P.O.A so I dreaded to think what they were asking for those. Some were signed by Cornell Capa.

There was a mix of war imagery, political rhetoric -Trotsky Speaking in Copenhagen, 1932 - and those affected by the events happening around them - Tired Little Girl Amidst Refugees, 1936. Not all show despair as the laughing Two Republican Volunteers Resting, Barcelona, 1936 will testify.

With Remembrance Day just gone and next year being the 100th anniversary of WWI it is honestly, for the majority of us, really difficult to truly appreciate the horrors of war, or to have lived at a time when Western political leaders were so terrifyingly commanding. Capa’s photographs seem to succinctly capture what happened at the time, record what both soldiers and civilians went through and have subsequently become important historical and sociological documents, every human emotion seems to have been preserved for posterity within his work.

Also part of the exhibition were a number of images by Russian war photographer Dmitri Baltermants, who was operating on the Russian front at the same time as Capa was reporting from World War II.

Having never heard of him before I did a little research. Baltermants was born in Warsaw, Poland. His father served in the Imperial Russian Army and was apparently killed in WWI. Originally a maths teacher he became a photojournalist in 1939 at some point becoming an official Kremlin photographer. During the Second World War he covered the battle of Stalingrad, and the battles of the Red Army in Russia and Ukraine when he was twice wounded. Working for the Kremlin undoubtedly meant many of his images were censored but luckily they became public much later on during the 1960's.

Dimitri Baltermants Grief 1942 
This is one of his more famous images, called "Grief", depicting a Nazi massacre of Jews. It shows the grief of village women as they search for the bodies of their loved ones. The sky was apparently burnt in during processing to add more drama. More info can be found on the website below but you need to hit translate!

Some of his images resemble closely those of Capa, but they would do given the subject matter, technology available and the conditions they were shooting in.

Dimitri Baltermants Attack 1941

Once more blurred, grainy and full of action, he captures the moment perfectly.

Dimitri Baltermants Crossing Oder River 1945
Dimitri Baltermants Playing Tchaikovsky 1945
Maybe it is only me that hasn't heard of him but the more I look at his work the more it draws me in, he too had a knack for telling a narrative, capturing raw emotion and energy. If it hadn't been for the Russian propaganda black out and the death of Capa maybe his name would also trip off the tongue when discussing great war photographers?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Assignment 5 - Coverage of an Event Practice 4 Spa Valley Railway in Association with CAMRA Beer and Cider Festival

I've marked this one as a practice as I wasn't that happy with my selection of shots or the number that I need for this assignment, 12-20 first select images and about 20 second select. Maybe I am being too fussy ...I dunno....

I did all the prior research into CAMRA and the Spa Valley Railway also the Beer and Cider Festival which was into its 3rd year which I found initially through looking online at events in Kent.

Did all the checks and planning, which I won't outline here as I am chalking it up to experience :)

The day itself dawned WET! I see a pattern here for my outdoor shoots. Wet, wet and VERY wet spring to mind. The festival was running over three days, with beer at various stations along the line, being served on one of the trains with 4 more beers being served in the buffet car at Tunbridge Wells. Due to work and other commitments on the Saturday I had no option other than to go on the Sunday. On arriving at West Station Royal Tunbridge Wells I discovered a few things that upset my pre-planned images. Firstly the festival had been such a roaring success that despite the 70 plus beers and ciders available they were almost drunk dry! The other stations had no beer, the four beers in the buffet car were gone, the train serving beer was on its last dregs and the Engine Shed at Tunbridge Wells was almost out as well... the image below is one taken from their Facebook page showing full racks... They started with 65 firkins of beer and had 6 left. Iain Dalgleish from CAMRA told me they sold between 3000 and 3500 pints. CAMRA has been campaigning for about 10 years and the popularity of real ale was growing fast.

Compare this to my shot taken Sunday morning before the crowds arrived.....

...and the kegs that were there were not very full! Luckily they managed to source some more cider and beer from local breweries which kept them afloat as outlined in the blog below. So my plan for full racks of beer barrels etc didn't quite pan out...Looking at images from last year the beer was set up in the shed in front of an engine which made for a better backdrop and this was another similar image I had planned which couldn't then use. (BTW this shed image is the first HDR I have attempted..not sure what to think of it tbh) The organisers were really lovely when I explained what I was trying to do and gave me access to the barriered off staircase which allowed for this high vantage shot. They also gave me glasses to play with and didn't mind me wandering around with my tripod.

Iain busy serving customers.

There were also two groups of Morris Dancers planned to be travelling up and down the line and dancing on the stations, The Gong Scourers and Brooms.Bricks and Bowlers. They were there but due to all the rain most of the time had to dance inside, this meant no space to stand to get photographs, lots of clutter about and also contending with poor lighting. I did have my tripod but low light and fast action meant a lot of blurry shots which looked blurry, not planned action shots. See below for one semi decent inside shot...

I still think I came away with a fairly decent selection of shots, but not sure if good enough for I being too would be good...

Then another blow, some of the trains that were supposed to be running then didn't due to mechanical had to laugh really my take on the day....

Opening shot which summed the day up really, beer (or lack of)  trains (or lack of) and rain (no lack of). This shot was taken inside a railway carriage and I stuck the leaflet to the window with the condensation!

For £10 you got a beer glass and tokens to buy a couple of pints. You could buy more but this was the "starter kit". At the end of the day you could keep the mug/glass or return it and get £3 back. You may notice that the beer glasses were not only Spa Valley or CAMRA ones, they also started to run out of these and had to fetch glasses from previous festivals.

Beer inside the Engine Shed in the dry.....

Cider outside the Engine Shed in the wet......either could be cropped if needed.

One of the last few beers being served from the train....

Desperate times call for desperate measures, practically wringing out the bag of cider....

One of the few beers left....

Looking at the it still available?

"I don't care, I got my beer...and no-one else is touching it!"

Still if you were hungry you could choose from a variety of things cooked on the BBQ which ran from 8am in the morning starting with bacon butties mmmmmmmmmmm. By Sunday the BBQ had made just over £2000 selling 400 burgers, 400 sausages and they were not sure how many bacon rolls.

The rain did pause for a while for some dancing to occur outside....but to a small group of people indeed.

Mick on the accordion (well that's what he decided he was going to be called this day lol)

More can be found out about both groups from the links below

Again a lovely bunch of people quite willing to chat, give details and pose for pictures.



Oops I didn't find out!

10 year old Daisy.

The rain held off for people to drink outside for a while!

Women are the largest growing sector for cider and real ale, so much so CAMRA are now making 1/3 glasses.

Bringing back the empty barrels from down the line...

Poor Station Master Brian Halford trying to work out what train was running at what time...

The die hard enthusiasts snapping away at the steam engine as it came in.

Hopping on the train to go back down the line to Eridge, once more the heavens opened, as you can see no crowd to enjoy the dance but that didn't stop the Gong Scourers.

And the day ended as it had begun.....

Very wet indeed!

Once more a fantastic day out and a good learning curve, felt more at ease chatting to people, had my pen and paper and took notes of names and statistics for captioning, missed a few names so need to make sure I don't do that again if I have the chance to ask. Think I need to practice taking photos with faster movement and try and get over my dislike of flash, if needing to cover events for real it is limiting not to use one, so I think I will look about for homemade diffusers or reflectors....

I'll probably contact the various groups, they may want to have some of the shots for Facebook pages or websites..who knows! 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Assignment 5 - Coverage of an Event Practice 2 & 3 Kew Gardens & Eagle Heights

These were really personal projects/days out where I thought I could once more practice skills I need for the actual assignment and get used to what equipment does what how and when. Think about composition and close ups. I still treated it like an assignment, checking full battery, empty cards, clean lens, thinking ahead about what shots I wanted and if I could market the images. I also found out information that would be useful for captioning the images.

With both of the venues you have to gain permission for photography hence this is why I was not planning on using either as my actual assignment piece.


It was interesting to note that you can if well organised etc get access to certain areas:-

Photography at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Non-commercial photography that is deemed to benefit Kew Gardens - i.e. by publicising its scientific work, its festivals, or its status as a visitor attraction - is handled free of charge by the Press Office. The following guidelines outline the service provided by the Press Office and what is required from applicants in return.
  • A detailed itinerary must be submitted before any photography in the Gardens is agreed. Location, plant or interview specifics and an accurate estimate of timing must be included. This allows us to arrange access to the required areas and make sure that everything is in place.
  • Due to the size and diversity of the site and volume of information that can be found at Kew we strongly recommend that you do a recce before submitting your itinerary.
  • location release must be signed by us at the stage of a recce. A copy of your insurance agreement must also be supplied.
  • Once your proposal has been accepted by the Press Office it must be adhered to. Additional time may be offered at our discretion but please bear in mind that we receive numerous ad hoc photography requests throughout the year.
  • On the agreed day please arrive at Cambridge Cottage Offices, 37 Kew Green and ring the marketing bell unless otherwise agreed.
  • No vehicles are allowed into the Gardens. We therefore advise that you bring a trolley to transport your equipment around the Gardens.
  • It is Kew’s policy that press photographers are accompanied at all times whilst in the Gardens. Your filming is dependent upon staff being available.
  • It is your responsibility to supply personal/parental release forms and obtain signatures prior to photography. If prior consent is not gained in the form of a signed document, no photography will be possible.
  • Kew is a major visitor attraction and our visitors expect a quiet and peaceful environment. We ask that you respect this and discourage interaction with the public. It is essential that you consult us if you intend to interact with the public, and if we give prior agreement that personal/parental permission is gained.
I couldn't find an obvious link with regards to commercial photography but it seems implied that for this there would be a charge, therefore not something I am in position to do at the moment!

Eagle Heights

Photography is permitted inside the park for personal use only. Photos taken on our land or of our animals may not be used commercially without written permission from the Directors. Please email to gain the relevant permissions

Again if this was something I wished to pursue there is a way to gain permission.

Kew IncrEdibles Images

The problem with commercial photography for Kew is that it is a very well known and established UNESCO world heritage site and the competition must be huge, also not very original but it gave we a wonderful opportunity to play. As my luck seems to run at the moment it rained this day, When it wasn't raining it was very overcast and grey. However I did my best, upped my ISO used larger aperture or used my tripod and snapped away. 

A bit of an "obvious" opening shot of a display all about pumpkins, Farley Hill Place Gardens supplied the pumpkins on display and owners Tony and Margaret Finch were there to talk about pumpkins sell pumpkins and carve pumpkins! But taking the photo gave me details of the gardens.

Over 75 types were on display in and around the Waterlily House completed in 1852, and at that time the widest single-span glasshouse in the world.

The Pumpkin Pyramid inside Kew's Waterlily House. It rises 4 metres up out of the central pond. 75 different types of pumpkin, including the fairytale-titled Cinderella, Munchkin and Peter Pan varieties, were used in the installation.

A closer shot from a different angle which shows the corner display "portraying ingredients and recipes from around the world (each corner representing one of the four corners of the globe). there are signs describing the species found in that part of the world along with mouth-watering recipes, from Pumpkin Tempura to Pumpkin Pie."

Leading into the Waterlily house many of the pumpkins were painted with designs that echoed their names, Turks Turban, Cinderella, Harlequin, Ghostrider etc.

Outside children could sit with pumpkin scarecrows for a photo opportunity, gaze at grinning pumpkin faces or watch them being carved.

Moving away from the pumpkins (of which I have MANY more images) I discovered The Seven Slate Towers. It has been there a while and in all my visits to Kew I have NEVER come across it! Wider scene establishing shot.

Designed by Dan Harvey, with assistance from Heather Ackroyd, Dan Knight and Paul Wilkins.
Commissioned by Sir Robert and Lisa Sainsbury for the Secluded Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. The fountain forms the central feature of the Secluded Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

The towers are constructed from hundreds of slates, each layer specifically cut, and placed to create a spiralling tower. The top of each tower is finished with a bronze bowl cast from copper sulphate crystal forms. Water is pumped up the towers filling the bowls slowly, and then trickles back down to the pool below. Originally created without a surrounding fence but due to fears of potential danger the piece was fenced off against the artist's wishes.

Closer shots showing details and using different shutter speeds to capture the trickling water. A lovely piece to explore. All three could be cropped if needed.

Many wild and domestic birds can be spotted at Kew including the quite tame peacocks, well tame enough that you can get quite close for photos. Only issue I had was it kept moving, so out of the many shots I took quite a few were blurry, vain enough to pose, cheeky enough to not allow me to capture the beauty! Wide establishing shot.

Closer in and also chance to play with cropping.

Closer in still.

Capturing people unaware near the Sackler Crossing.

Experimenting with extreme depth of field to create an impressionist effect of autumnal colours.

Lots more images were taken, some of Tom Hare's new willow sculptures of fungi but failing light and rain clouds conspired against me so think I will just have to go back at some point. I also wanted to get shots of children running around them but despite being half term not many were about, think the rain made people stay away :o/

Eagle Heights Images

Eagle Heights is one of the UK's largest Bird of Prey Centres, currently we have a collection of approximately 150 raptors. This includes over 50 species, many of which are now breeding at the centre or can be seen flying in our daily demonstrations. We're also an expanding Wildlife Park for many different species of animals, including cheetahs, meerkats, snakes, lizards and much more!

Eagle Heights is situated in the stunning Village of Eynsford overlooking the idyllic views of the valley and the rolling hills of the countryside. These beautiful views can be seen from the Tearooms where you can admire them with a warm pot of Tea!

We are fully accessible to the disabled and welcome all group types and sizes. We offer Falconry Experience Days, Animals Experiences Days, Animal Adoption etc! All of which make fantastic gifts! Please see the Experiences section for full details!

As mentioned earlier in the post if I wanted to use any shots commercially I would have to gain permission however there could be a possibility they might want to use them directly in their website, any promotional literature/leaflets. They do offer Experience Days and have images on these etc. Unlike my day at Kew on this occasion I had the opposite problem of a lovely bright sunny day offering dark shadows, contrasts and only being able to photograph in one direction when outside....

There are 2 different playgrounds which cater for different ages. Although my wide shots for the birds flying display were all pants for a variety of reasons the playground shots were in the shade with lovely diffused lighting and came out fairly well.

Likewise I was quite happy with some of the "action" shots where the various birds flew down into teh crowds and I could capture some reactions.

At one point in the afternoon you could also meet and greet two out of the 25 huskies kept at Eagle Heights.

Striated Caracara

Iguana in a glass "cage" gave challenges of dirty fingerprints and glare, same with the bearded dragons below. Light was also fairly low.

Bearded Dragons

Sea Eagle

Harry the Vulture... I was after a really good close up of his eye which I got, I had hoped more beak would be in focus but not to be...

Sakir Falcon

Kayla the Bald Eagle, she is Crystal Palace FC's mascot and has also been used for the Kings of Leon album Only By the Night.

Magic the barn owl used at weddings to carry wedding rings.


A good day to experiment with different lenses, testing the limitations of my 17-55 for capturing the animals from a distance but the limitations of the 70-300 for anything closer and not being able to go so such a small aperture.

Two good days out and what did I learn? That research beforehand is always a good thing, find out what time displays/events are going to occur, take different lenses if you have them for different photo opportunities. Don't just focus on the animals/event, look at crowd reactions. Portrait shots don't just have to be of people! Most importantly with these two venues was the permissions, allow time for gaining permission and think about who would want to use the images, are you going to be in a larger field of competition?