Tah Dah!

Well I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, but I hope you’ll think it’s worth it. My new site takeagander.co.uk is now live!

The name comes from my Instagram handle, takeagander, and since that’s where I’ve been posting work from my personal projects it seemed fitting to create a website which tied in with that. I was also incredibly lucky that the business which was holding the URL takeagander.co.uk had let their subscription lapse and they didn’t renew it before it expired. Get in there!

So now I have a site where I can bring projects together and offer high-quality fine art prints of the images, which I hope will fund new projects in turn. Of course that’s the dream and it’s very early days, but with the site having been launched less than a week ago, I’m thrilled to have made sales already.

I’ve kept the offer simple for now, just two paper types and a range of sizes, but if there’s anything you’d like to see (framing options, canvas prints perhaps?) let me know and I’ll look into the possibilities.

The galleries are set to grow in size and increase in number as I add new images and entire new series, so I hope you’ll bookmark it for regular visits. You can even sign up for updates, which I promise will be kept infrequent.

Of course this is all in addition to my on-going corporate communications work, but I have found that personal projects have really helped keep me fresh and energised when tackling commissioned assignments. It’s great to have both sides of my career up and running.

Please do let me know what you think of the new site, or perhaps more importantly the photos on there. I have to say the quality of display is impressive compared to how images render pretty much anywhere else on the web.

Of course if you see something you’d like to hang on your home or office wall, I’d be thrilled to make your custom, but you’re welcome to just say hello.

2017 In Review

In keeping with a tradition which stretches back oh, at least some years now, it’s time for me to review my year in pictures. I hope you enjoy the brief selection of photos in the gallery below.

Actually, what an incredible year it’s been! I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a busy year since I went freelance 19 years ago, so I’m looking forward to 2018 more in anticipation than trepidation.

January was a total whirlwind as the Faces of Routes project went from conception to launch in less than five weeks. The reaction from Frome people and beyond was stunning (and I don’t often use that word) and the Routes service was saved for another few years. In an ideal world, this service would be centrally funded, but for now it relies on donations and grants.

The Routes project largely came about because I was itching to do a personal project with a bigger purpose, but it also gave me the boot up the backside I needed to spur me on to undertake more personal projects generally. So it was good timing when a neighbour offered me his old medium format camera and lenses at a very reasonable price.

I’d been meddling with film again in a lighthearted way, but finding myself well-equipped with a solid film camera, and having dusted off my old 35mm film equipment, something was starting to take shape.

After a couple of false starts, out of some random whim that I can’t now remember having, I acquired a freezer drawer full of expired film of varying types and formats and the Saxonvale project was born. It doesn’t yet have its own gallery in my portfolio, but you can spot some examples in my Personal Favourites section.

So far Saxonvale has largely been an Instagram project, but I’ll add more to my website in time.

Through all this, the paid work has just kept coming; January turned out to be much busier than I would normally have expected. In fact that pattern repeated through the year, including August when my diary would normally have tumbleweed blowing across it.

Now it’s mid December and things are definitely winding down a bit for Christmas, but it’s been another good month. So I’ll leave you with some highlights from the year and take this opportunity to thank you all, clients and casual visitors alike, for all your support through 2017.

I wish everyone a merry Christmas, happy New Year and all the very best for 2018. Oh and this will be my last post this year, see you all in January!


Will Instagram go the way of the telegram?

Happy New Year! I wish all my readers the very best for 2013. And what subject gets the first post of this year? Instagram of course!

As many of you will be aware there was something of a kerfuffle over a change to Instagram’s change of terms and conditions, which strongly suggested they would acquire the rights to sell users’ images to advertisers without permission or payment.

It was obvious from the moment Facebook had a fumble down the back of the office sofa for spare change and found $1 bn to buy Instagram that things would not stay the same. They’ll want their money back, one way or another, and the easiest way to achieve that is to have the ability to sell all the free content that is pumped into Instagram every day, not to mention a colossal backlog of images already there. The biggest library of mini images in the world.

Forget about whether the average Instagram photo is sellable or not, when something is that popular the infinite monkey syndrome kicks in. Among all the of photos of people’s pets and cappuccinos will be the occasional, arresting photo that might sit very well with a corporate ad. Don’t worry about image size either. Used small on a website, many smartphone photos will be adequate, and when the photo has zero cost to the advertiser, believe me adequate is more than adequate.

What interested me more than the nature of the T&C changes was some people’s reactions to them, specifically the reactions from people who have the opinion that if you’re an amateur your photos don’t matter, and if you’re a professional, why are you putting photos on Instagram or even on the web at all? Which I find an astonishing position to take.

I quote from one commenter (Shoogly Peg; real name I presume) on the BBC News website:

“Where, exactly, will these advertisers use your images when advertising? Where most people go obviously. Yes, social media websites, where you can already see an adundance [sic] of faces. Unless you are a pro photographer, no need to get bothered. And if you are a pro, why are you using this app?”

I’ll explain why I use Instagram. It’s fun. As a professional, am I excluded from having fun? Shoogly’s view isn’t an isolated opinion though. Whenever this kind of issue has popped up in the past, there have been comments about how professional photographers shouldn’t use the web to promote themselves, or that if they do have the audacity to do so, they should fully expect their work to be copied and used without permission or payment.

derelict building exterior in Frome

Sorry for having fun. I should leave that to amateurs

Clearly this argument is a nonsense. I get a fair bit of work through having a website, and I use the web to deliver images to clients. Am I not allowed to show my work without it being stolen?

Back to Instagram and their T&Cs, after patronizing us all with a statement telling us Instagram were sorry we were all too stupid to understand a legal document and not to worry our pretty little heads about it, they do appear to have reigned things back somewhat. The question is, what will they do to make money if they can’t sell user content? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough, but I’ve seen a few users empty or delete their accounts. I’m fairly certain Instagram won’t disappear, but I think it might lose much of its sparkle and will have to change into something it wasn’t intended to be if Facebook want to make money. Perhaps “the internet” is learning that you can have free or fun. Not both.

An Instagram Update

Those of you who pay attention will recall I recently wrote about my first foray into Instagram. I said it was more about the filters and effects than the content of the photos and I now think I was wrong.

It’s true many people shoot and edit their images in Instagram, but the beauty of Instagram is that it is primarily a way of sharing images. The pictures themselves don’t have to be shot in Instagram, or even on an iPhone to be shared this way.

I’ve uploaded images from my professional portfolio as well as more fun pictures from my personal life. A more recent fascination for me has been the introduction of the Panorama mode with the new iPhone operating system. Not only can I now shoot panoramas using this function, I’ve also been experimenting with it to see what weird effects can be achieved by panning in a way the phone and software don’t expect and seeing how they deal with it. As an example, see my “torn” ukulele photo below my more standard panorama.

panoramic photo of heathland near Bournemouth, Dorset

A fairly standard panorama, though I’m impressed with the iPhone’s quality here.

photo taken using the iPhone's panorama function to create an abstract photo of a ukulele

Torn Ukulele effect using the panorama mode on the iPhone4s


Other Instagrammers build up massive followings and the most successful of them do it by shooting in a very consistent style – whether on their iPhone or by uploading images from their SLR cameras isn’t always clear, but consistency seems to be the key issue. I personally prefer to share a mixture of portfolio, experimental and personal-moment (drunk in the pub) snaps. I might take a photo of some recently published work and share it on Instagram so people get a better idea of the kind of work I do. I simultaneously share my Instagram posts on Twitter and sometimes Facebook too, which means I can reach an even wider audience.

If you’re on Instagram look me up @takeagander and let me see what you do. One account I’ve been especially impressed with recently is @tonytanktop who creates larger images from tiles of individual ones. A brilliant way of using the technology and the sharing platform in an unexpected way. I suggest you look him up too and prepare to be dazzled.

I think it’s fair to say, I’m starting to understand Instagram a lot better. It’s becoming a business tool as well as a way to have fun. My initial cynicism (and I’m a natural cynic about these things) has given way to greater curiosity to explore more boundaries.

Reputation Gone in an Instagram

This week’s massive news is that I finally succumbed and upgraded to an iPhone 4s. I know the iPhone 5 is on the horizon and it’ll probably have interchangeable lenses, hover mode and a function for printing money, but I don’t need those things.

However, anyone who thinks I’m behind the times in mobile phonery should consider I got my first mobile in 1990, a barely-pocketable Phillips for which I paid about £500 up-front just so I could make calls at a cost per minute that would make a lawyer envious. I made very few outgoing calls.

You wouldn’t believe the similarities between the iPhone and the Phillips of yore. Both mess up the shape of your smoking jacket when carried in the pocket, and both have a battery life shorter than Jimmie Krankie’s inside leg measurement, but among the thrilling features not found on the Phillips is the camera.

People rave about the iPhone 4s camera and the various apps you can use with it, the most popular being Instagram. With a few friends already using Instagram I had to give it a go and early indications are I will have to watch my step or become hopelessly addicted to photographing flakey old doors, kittens, funny signs and the sun as it shines through translucent leaves, cobwebs and dandelion heads.

I think it’s fair to say though that Instagram is more about the filters and effects than about the content of the images. You can take a photo that previously would have been fit for the bin and make it quirky and interesting by fiddling around with it, adding a vignette and a sepia cast or whatever you fancy.

Is it still photography? Well, yes I suppose it is. It might not be photojournalism. Much of the time it might not even result in an interesting photo, but if photography is about looking at the world in a different way, Instagram seems to be about looking at photography in a different way. I’m not a huge fan of the billions of images uploaded to the web every second of every day, but it’s not a tsunami that will stop any time soon, and I’m now responsible for a small share of that.

Exit road from Longleat with road cones down the centre

Is it art? Who cares?

What iPhonography (yuckword) and apps like Instagram allow me to do though is step outside of being a professional photographer and explore a less serious side. If I wield an SLR people expect me to take great pictures of whatever I’m looking at. With an iPhone I can join the party and use photography as a bit of fun and no one will expect me to produce stunning art. Either that, or they’ll see my Instagram efforts and think it represents my professional work.

Now that I think about it some more, I wonder if that Phillips still works? It might just save my reputation.