Undaunted Humankind Kabul, Afghanistan, March, 2016 — Steve McCurry’s Blog

•June 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Difficult to picture ‘hope’ but Steve McCurry manages it beautifully:

“A landscape might be denuded, a human settlement abandoned or lost, but always, just beneath the ground lies history of preposterous grandeur. . They are everywhere, these individuals of undaunted humankind, irrepressibly optimistic and proud. – The Carpet Wars, Christopher Kremmer Life in a war zone means that death is always present in the lives of children and […]

via Undaunted Humankind Kabul, Afghanistan, March, 2016 — Steve McCurry’s Blog

Bringing it all back home – another side of Bob Dylan

•May 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

JUDAS!(ref Manchester Free Trade Hall 1966)

It was in 1965 that Dylan lost many traditional fans and gained others as he moved from purely acoustic to a mix of acoustic and electric.

In England it was in 1966 at the Manchester Free Trade Hall.


Photos below capture other sides of Bob Dylan, many not seen before and thanks to the photographers and the Guardian for publishing them in a series of posts (as well as the photographers’ publishers)


dylan chessplaying

Playing chess with Victor Maymudes at Bernard’s Cafe Espresso, a favorite hangout spot in Woodstock, 1964.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen


dylan at home

‘He suggested I photograph him on the swing. His mood changed when he stood up and he pumped the swing higher and higher.’

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen



dylan pool

At a pool hall in Kingston, New York, December 1964.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen

dylan piano

‘It was obvious from the very beginning of the recording sessions that something exciting was happening.’

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen


dylan bringing

An outtake from the Bringing It All Back Home album cover shoot with Sally Grossman, Woodstock, January 1965.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen

dylan truck

One of several unpublished photos of Bob Dylan on 5th Avenue with Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, and the guitarist John Hammond Jr.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen



judas dylan

Soundcheck before the show, Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Queens, New York, 28 August 1965.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen


Bob Dylan With Top Hat Pointing In Car Philadelphia PA 1964

Having decided to photograph Dylan for his personal portfolio, it took Daniel Kramer six months to get permission from Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. Kramer told the Guardian that it was a labour of love as “in the beginning you couldn’t sell a Dylan picture … it was matter of a process to introduce editors to the idea.” Kramer accompanied Dylan on a roadtrip from New York to Philadelphia for a concert at Town Hall
Photograph: Daniel KramerBob-Dylan-Recording-00519645 recording

Bob-Dylan--002barry feinstein 25th birth

Bob-Dylan--001feinstein hardy


A backstage portrait of Dylan wearing white makeup.

Regan recalled Dylan saying: ‘I want the people way, in the back,to be able to see my eyes’


regan fur coat dylan

Visiting the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

It was here that Regan took a picture of the singer in a fur-collared coat, which would appear on the cover of the album Desire (Regan’s favourite Dylan album)

1975 dylan ali

The Night of the Hurricane benefit at Madison Square Garden, December 1975, where Muhammad Ali visited Dylan backstage and gave him a gift – a huge boxing glove.

The show was to benefit the campaign for justice for Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, the boxer wrongly convicted of murder in 1967



regan 1975


International Jazz Day 2016

•May 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Its that time again, April 30, when jazz lovers and aficionados remind others about the joy and creativity of jazz.

Although recorded jazz may be good to listen to , the ideal environment is LIVE jazz!


In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. International Jazz Day is chaired and led by Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, and legendary jazz pianist and composerHerbie Hancock, who serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The Institute is the lead nonprofit organization charged with planning, promoting and producing this annual celebration.


International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact; raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding; and reinforce international cooperation and communication. Each year on April 30, this international art form is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity; eradicating discrimination; promoting freedom of expression; fostering gender equality; and reinforcing the role of youth in enacting social change.


International Jazz Day is the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month, which draws public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage throughout April. In December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly formally welcomed the decision by the UNESCO General Conference to proclaim April 30 as International Jazz Day. The United Nations and UNESCO now both recognize International Jazz Day on their official calendars.






Perhaps now we can celebrate more music days -such as Blues Music Day

On August 17, 2011 an online petition was launched advocating for the establishment of an International Blues Music Day.


Within a few months the petition-group was joined by thousands of members from around the world, comprising of blues enthusiasts, musicians, celebrities, and promoters.  After reaching 15,000 members, a  formula for an annual date to celebrate IBMD was established as the first Saturday in August of each year with the inaugural celebration on August 3, 2013.  The initiative was the brainchild of world renowned blues musician Johnny Childs who also stars in the film The Junkman’s Son and serves as the President of the NYC Blues Society.  

Anna Atkins – witness to an important moment…

•January 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

As seen from other posts, I have an interest in early photographic processes.


Anna Atkins was an important witness to the ‘birth’ of photography in Britain.


Anna Atkins, not only experimented with cyanotypes but produced the first book illustrated using only new processes in photography -i.e. cyanotypes.



Pages from her book Photographs of British Algae can be viewed here  from the digital collection of the New York Library.


The V&A photographic department also holds copies of Anna Atkins work, such as this papaver:




As a botanist and early photographer, Anna Atkins quickly realised the benefit of using the cyanotype process to record specimens of plant life, such as this poppy. Cyanotype was invented by the astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842. The following year, Atkins became the first person to print and publish a photographically illustrated book, British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions, part 1. To make a ‘photogram’ with the cyanotype process, the photographer laid an object on paper impregnated with iron salts, then exposed the paper to sunlight for a few minutes. When washed in water, the area where the plant had blocked the light remained white, but the area that was exposed came out a rich blue.



and one of my own cyanotypes nearly 180 years later:

Plant in Blue




Paul Lamb – British Harp Supremo

•December 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

paul lamb

Many know Paul Lamb as a blues harp player, who in his early years learned from Sonny Terry:





What you may not know is that Paul is using his experience and skills to teach others:

First a demonstration




Then some lessons:





and some more live blues from Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes (Don’t answer the door)




and here Paul shows his virtuosity when playing with Louisianna Red


He also shows his enthusiasm for playing!


More live playing at the Hideaway in London.

Note the next generation -Ryan Lamb (Paul’s son) on guitar.




and a more acoustic session with Chad Strentz (again note the Sonny Terry influence) -The Underdog


A great and recent version of Preaching the Blues:


and getting back to Paul and his pure sound playing a Duke Ellington tune:



Get to see Paul play live – gigs on his web site  – where he is termed “Undisputed Master of the Blues Harmonica”

Cyanotypes – making paper negatives

•September 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I have written before about Cyanotypes, particularly about processes.

While waiting for a new box of acetate sheets , which I normally use as digital negatives, I explored the use of paper negatives.

The process is straightforward and gives peoiple more flexibility when using different domestic printers, as some printers are not ‘acetate friendly’.

Firstly, produce a digital negative, by inverting your image and flipping horizontally using photoshop or gimp:

the result can be printed as usual.


The digital negative

spray olive

Oil (olive in this case) is rubbed on the back of the neagtive to make the paper translucent.

Baby oil and other oils may also be used -just experiment!


After spraying I gently smoothed the paper to allow complete and even coverage.

Surprisingly the paper does not stay too oily -in this case it becomes quite dry. Some people use white bees wax as an alternative, but I did not find it so easy to apply.


The negative was used to expose on sensitised paper and the result then washed.


The final print – a little underexposed. This is common while experimenting. The oiled paper negative does not allow so much UV in as an acetate negative and you may have to allow up to 4 times the exposure time as an acetate negative.


The paper negative


Paper negative ‘oiled’ and ready for exposing in the sun on sensitised paper.


The result, still a little under exposed. Still experimenting with times as each negative has different qualities and allows different amounts of UV light.

Worth trying!

Processes such as the above, will be further explained during the exhibition of cyanotypes between 24th and 28th September 2015 , where there will be workshops and demonstrations.


Viewing the Blues

•August 5, 2015 • 1 Comment


Viewing the Blues will be exhibited on 24th-27th September 2015.



What was the origin of the exhibition?

My love of Blues music was the starting point (notice the blog posts on this site).


Secondly –  the origins of the Blues, starting in West Africa, through slavery and past emancipation.


Thirdly – the cross-over, after emancipation , to new opportunities for -ex-slaves, to develop and enjoy their music (see Juke joints etc).


Fourthly –  the interaction between ex-slaves and new indentured labourers (mainly coming from the Indian sub-continent).


Fifthly –  my interst in photography,particularly image making using the cyanotype and anthotype processes.


Sixthly  – Sita Harris, my talented wife, invited me to join her in the same space as her exhibition of watercolours


and her website:



The content of my exhibition will focus on three dimensions:

i. Slavery and emancipation



The slave trade was driven by a huge demand for agricultural labour. Whether it was the USA, the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean islands, plantations of sugar, tobacco and cotton enslaved thousands of mainly African peoples to a life of hardship and sometimes beatings and particularly harsh punishment.


on paper


on cloth


ii. Blues  and blues musicians

Blues music has its roots in Africa, in the sounds that travelled the slave ships and that evolved during the black people’s struggle in the Americas.

Beginning in the seventeenth century and extending into the nineteenth century after emancipation, the unaccompanied vocal music and call and response singing that slaves brought from West Africa meshed with a variety of other elements –including European church music, popular minstrel songs ragtime music to create this new sound that came to be known as the blues.





toned print


Maybe our forefathers couldn’t keep their language together when they were taken away, but this-the blues –was a language we invented to let people know that we had something to say. And we have been saying it pretty strongly ever since.

BB KING at Lagos University , Nigeria 1973.

Bending the Blues The King


iii.Indentured labour, mainly in the Indian diaspora




It was slavery that brought West African people to the Americas, brought their music , language and song.

It was slavery that forced these West Africans to keep some semblage of culture by using it in their field hollers and call and response singing.

It was  emancipation that allowed these same people to join together in Juke joints and enjoy playing and singing music that had roots in a number of West African countries.

It was emancipation that brought indentured labourers to work on sugar and cotton plantations.


The exhibition starts to weave these connections together.

During the afternoons of 27th and 28th September there will be two hour workshops on the cyanotype process.

Participants will learn about cyanotypes by making their own. If they are pleased with their work they can frame their work of art on site.

Each workshop costs £5 which includes the cost of the sun printing light sensitive paper. This will cover the costs of two pieces of sun print (cyanotype) paper, per participant. Email curator@bhavan.net to reserve your place with your name and phone number.


Notes on the Cyanotype process

Cyanotypes were discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842 and are created using a solution of iron compounds to produce a cyan blue print. A variety of effects can be achieved by varying the substrate (watercolour, cartridge, cotton cloth) the amount of sensitiser , time under UV and toning.

Initially the process was used for reproducing diagrams (coining the term “blueprint”) and was only later used for photography. One of the first people to use cyanotypes for photographic printing was Anna Atkins who produced the first photographic book of cyanotype prints in 1843.

Paper, card, cloth, glass or any other naturally absorbent material is coated with the Potassium ferricyanide and Ferric ammonium citrate and dried in the dark. Objects or negatives are placed on the material and exposed under UV light and processed by rinsing in water to remove the unreacted iron solution.

Cyanotypes and ‘Alternative’ photographic processes.


Alternative processes have a lot to offer in terms of creative freedom, experimentation and beauty. The subtleties offered in tonal variation within blues and after toning, browns and even pinks make each print unique.

I have made them the foundation of my image making as a photographer and teacher.

As well as cyanotypes I have experimented with Anthotypes (using plant and fruit extracts as sensitisers) and the use of recycled materials.

The final image, its beauty and its mystery, can be the objective but personally I also find the practical process, involving experimentation, particularly satisfying.

Some background to the Cyanotype process:


You may have missed the exhibition at the Barbican -but get inspired by watching this: