Mark A Phillips: Blog en-us (C) Mark A Phillips (Mark A Phillips) Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:10:00 GMT Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:10:00 GMT Mark A Phillips: Blog 85 120 Sony World Photography Awards - commended I'm really pleased to have a Commended in the Open Culture category of the World Photography Awards.  Not bad considering there were over 300,000 images entered. The commended image (below) is from my project - 'Áreas Deportivas Urbanas', exploring sports areas created by regenerating derelict urban spaces in La Habana.

The 2018 award winning images are at:

My commended images, Hanging Free, was taken in Centro, La Habana.

Hanging free Basketball and workout area in Centro HabanaHanging free Basketball and workout area in Centro HabanaHanging free Basketball and workout area in Centro Habana. Off #cuba #habana #workout #cuba #havana #urban #documentaryphotography #socialdocumentary

]]> (Mark A Phillips) competition culture sport street travel urban Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:10:22 GMT
A Talk and LifeFramer Monday 15th January got 2018 off to a reasonably good start.  


I gave my first ever talk about photography to Guildford Photographic Society.  Many thanks to David and all at GPS for being so welcoming, and listening to me 'rant' about engagement.  The idea behind the talk is my personal journey to identify what I want to achieve to engage a viewer in my documentary work.   I find that many images whilst they may be 'nice' fail to do this (may its just me!!).   The shot below is the closing image and one from my Viewers series an extract of which won DPOTY2015. 

Mono Viewer 1EngagementThe closing image from "Engagement"

That day I also got the good news that I was a winner in the 'An Instant' competition on LifeFramer.  LifeFramer ( is one of two platform sites (the other being LensCulture) that I pan to use to try and get my work out to a wider audience.  I know there is a cost, but in the great scheme of things it works out to less than one coffee per week. To be honest, I've lost faith with Flickr. I prefer to use platforms that have some degree of curation, so that images do not get lost in a sea of....


So, my intent going forward is to maintain this website, and to keep up to date projects on LifeFramer and LensCulture and then use Instagram for regular updates.  Feel free to follow. 

Basketball, Cristo, Habana ViejaBasketball, Cristo, Habana ViejaBasketball practice Roadside court, Vieja, Habana. Basketball practice. #habana #cuba #street #cuba #havana #urban #documentaryphotography #socialdocumentary


]]> (Mark A Phillips) documentary engagement entary images lensculture' life framer Sat, 20 Jan 2018 11:35:23 GMT
PhotoScratch - Hotel Elephant, London - October 2017 PhotoScratch

I first heard about Photo Scratch when attending a Photo Forum event in late 2016.  I came along as a visitor in April 2017, mainly to get to see what it was all about.   That visit encouraged me to apply to showcase my own project. This is the first time I have tried to do something like this, but the instructions Hanna and Phil provide really helped (read them!).

It was whilst attending an academic conference in Cuba, that I was inspired to start the project I showcased: “Reparacion – the never-ending life of Cuban things”.   Having shown the work to several people I’d already done an edit (or, so I thought).

Domestic fan repairsDomestic fan repairsIvan repairing a fan at his workshop Ivan repairing a fan at his workshop #cuba #havana #reparacion #repair #workshop #documentaryphotography #photography #socialdocumentary #documentary #fan #orange #culture #sustainability #

What did I learn? – Firstly, people liked the project (!) and I got some interesting feedback about new insights it had provided and some possible outlets.  Secondly, it needed a much tighter edit and a much clearer narrative.  After listening to these comments and reading the feedback forms it was clear I actually had three projects and need to split them (or kill some).  For me the timing of Photo Scratch was perfect.  I am heading out to Havana again in mid-November, to do more work on the project(s).  But this time I will go with a much clearer idea of what I need to better tell these stories.  Thirdly, and despite my initial trepidation (as a first timer), it was fun and inspiring.  Fourth – read the instructions (again!) and make sure you prepare, it takes longer to set up that you think! 


So, I have already split the showcased project into three - a more general ‘Reparacion – the never-ending life of Cuban things’ which, based on the feedback, will aim to show more broadly the culture of repair in Cuba.  I am also going to continue working on two ‘spin-off projects’, which are more personal perspectives on the lives of Ivan and family who run electrical repair workshops, and Yalisan, who repairs cigarette lighters.  As well as these repair projects, I am also continuing to work on another ongoing project in Cuba, called  Zonas deportivas urbanas, it covers sports areas and their recreational and social use in urban Havana. Feel free to take a look.

And the final thing I learnt – there is lots of encouragement and (free) helpful advice out there … use it.  Thank you. 

]]> (Mark A Phillips) Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:24:07 GMT
Photo Scratch (October 2017) I am please to announce that one of. my current projects (work in progress) will be shown at the upcoming Photo Scratch event on Monday 9th October at Hotel Elephant, Spare Street, London.   Thank you Phil and Hannah....

I will be showing some work in progress from 'Reparacion - the never ending life of Cuban Things' which explores the ongoing repair culture in Cuba, seen largely through the eyes of one family.  With the ongoing US embargo and lack of imported goods, repairing and re-using what technology they have remains an important part of Cuban culture. 


]]> (Mark A Phillips) documentary project repair social documentary" photo-scratch preview urban Wed, 13 Sep 2017 07:55:49 GMT
Magnum's First (October 2016, Monschau, Germany) Magnum’s First - KuK Monschau, Germany

A recent listing on Facebook mentioned that the first ever exhibition of the work on Magnum’s photographers was being re-shown in Monschau, Germany.  A quick inspection of Google Maps indicated it was in the far North West, very close to the Belgian border (not so far!!).   It is rare that an exhibition is re-stage several decades after its original showing, but given the content and the photographers, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.  As I had (an excuse) to go to an academic conference in Berlin, a ‘small’ detour looked like an interesting option. 

Until fairly recently, it was thought that the earliest Magnum group exhibition was the one curated by L. Fritz Gruber for the Photokina in Cologne in the autumn of 1956. However, Magnum’s First, originally named, Gesicht der Zeit (Face of Time) was initially presented in five Austrian cities between June 1955 and February 1956. It was rediscovered in an Innsbruck cellar in 2006 and after months of restoration work, the original 83 prints are now being re-shown.   The main theme was photographic humanism: people and their living spaces, photographed without sensationalism, and true to the ethos of Magnum photojournalists who believed in educating and bettering the world through their authentic documentation of it.

The latest exhibition was housed in a small regional gallery (KuK).  Free to enter, and during 2016 it will show works at different times by Ken Heyman, Will McBride, Berenice Abbott and Magnum’s First (so if you are ever in the area, it’s probably worth a little detour). 

Magnum’s First is a restaging of that first ever exhibition in 1955 by the collective of Werner Bischof, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ernst Haas, Erich Lessing, Jean Marquis, Inge Morath and Marc Riboud.

The images were shown newly framed but still on their original mounts, with simple surface mounting onto colour coded card, quite roughly cut mounts, and images often not straight or central.   By today’s standards or expectations, they were very simple, almost crude and unlikely to pass an RPS assessment day.  Having said that, I really liked the mounting, with original pencil marks, photographers’ names and signatures and the occasional ‘odd mounting’.   It added to the interest, and maybe we pay too much attention to mounting ‘perfection’..? It is the combination of image and make that we see, the mount can play a part that is more than a simple, nondescript supporting role.

Most of the photographers showed images in a coherent theme, or project.  Marc Riboud, who sadly passed away in August, had a set of images from ‘Dalmatia’, depicting rural and urban life, mainly in and around Dubrovnik. Robert Capa had a small collection of images of the Basque culture in France taken in 1951. Bearing in mind this exhibition originally opened only a short while after Capa’s untimely death in 1954, the limited selection is not surprising. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s display contained the famous images of Ghandi and many images of his funeral in 1948.  Ernst Haas’ work was probably the most ‘quirky’ covering the film set and making of the film the ‘Land of the Pharaohs’. Jean Marquis with works from Hungary, Erich Lessing who exhibited urban images from his native Austria, which could be described today as classical street images, and Inge Morath also showing street images from London, from the early 1950s .  The exception was Werner Bischof, with a diverse collection of images from travels in Japan, India, Peru, and Cambodia.

I thought that seeing the HCB, Capa and Riboud’s images would be my highlight, but I was pleasantly surprised; good as they were the really ‘stand out’ images, for me, were by Erich Lessing.  Still alive, he is probably less well known than other Magnum ‘greats’.  His images are classic street and documentary, showing life in his native Austria in the post-war years, and not long after Austria’s independence.  Another personal discovery.  

Many of the images (apart from the clothing and fashion) in terms the composition, and visual aesthetic would not look out of place today, over sixty years on.  

]]> (Mark A Phillips) Wed, 13 Sep 2017 07:44:44 GMT
Book Review - New Documents (Arbus Friedlander Winogrand, 1967) Book Review: Arbus Friedlander Winogrand: New Documents, 1967 (MoMA 2017)

Fifty years ago, John Szarkowski, the then Director of the MoMA Department of Photography organised what was to become a seminal exhibition of 20th century photography and chart a new course for documentary photography.

However, no catalogue or exhibition publication was produced to accompany it.   This new book compiled by the current Director, Susan Hermanson Meister, along an essay by photographer Max Kozloff, addresses this gap.  The book not only provides the equivalent of the exhibition catalogue, with a page dedicated to each of the 94 monochrome images, but also provides some insights into the exhibition, its planning and how it was received. As such it represents an important documentary record of an important milestone in documentary photography.

As a collector of photobooks, this had to be in my collection. For anyone with an interest in the history of documentary photography and its development this is one of several books that are essential reading or viewing.

The book opens with John Szarkowski’s introductory wall text for the exhibition, itself an insight into the progression of documentary from showing what was wrong with the world, in an attempt to change it (for example the images of Lange and others in the FSA project) towards a more personal approach, not to ‘reform life’, but simply to ‘know it’. They display the ordinary, the exotic, elegant metaphors, and even vulgar depictions of human society.

The book contains examples of documents from the planning and installation stages, showing how the intent morphed into actuality: the loss of eleven colour transparencies of Gary Winogrand when a projector caught fire, the theft of one of Diane Arbus’ images from the gallery, the opening, the opening party and entertainment budget, through to the close and the return of images to the photographers. These documents alone provide an interesting insight into the challenges.

Just as interesting are the reviews. Chauncey Howell writing for Women’s Wear Daily in March 1967 described Friedlanders work as the least interesting, Winogrand as more interested in man as a lonely social animal, but that ‘a few of his pictures are memorable’, and Arbus as having an eye for the grotesque! More praise-worthy reviews came from the New York times (March 5, 1967) and the Newark News (March 5, 1967), but both appear to prefer the work of Arbus.

At just over £20 it is a bargain and worthy of inclusion in any documentary photographers library.



]]> (Mark A Phillips) Wed, 13 Sep 2017 07:39:35 GMT
Previous Exhibition Reviews (to June 2017) For some reason the previously posted Exhibition Reviews have disappeared....(probably user error!!).  All reviews and blogs previously published in the RPS Documentary Group - Decisive Moment -


Harry Gruyaert - Western and Eastern Light - (The Photographers’ Gallery)

A small commercial exhibition of, Magnum Photographer, Gruyeart’s well-known images.   There are only a dozen or so images on display, but they represent some of his major works.

Harry Gruyaert was born in Belgium in 1941, and studied photography and film-making. He made a few films for Flemish television before turning to colour photographs in his adopted Paris in the early 1960s, where for a while he was assistant to William Klein. In the 70s he travelled widely and was influenced by the Pop Art movement. As a result, he moved away from journalistic approaches and adopted a more ‘artistic’ approach.  He was one of the early European photographers to work in colour, already adopted in the USA by the likes of Joel Meyerovitz, Saul Leiter, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore.

He was quoted in a recent BJP article (27 July 2015), “There is no story. It’s just a question of shapes and light”. Gruyaert is interested in all the elements in a photograph: “the decor and the lighting and all the cars: the details were as important as humans”.   This is evident in the images in this exhibition, where the people are often incidental, their faces often unseen and something else, a balloon or stand or a dog are the focal object. The non-narrative images are complex with dense compositions, saturated colours and bold graphics. They can be seen as ‘documentary’, but not “journalistic” in nature.

Harry Gruyaert - Western and Eastern Light  is at the Michael Hoppen Gallery, 3 Jubilee Place, London, SW3 3TD until 27 June 2017.



Upstairs at the Michael Hoppen Gallery is an exhibition that presents two photographic series, made over forty years apart, that explore aspects of adolescence.

Sian Davey and Jospeh Szabo – Untethered until 20 May 2017.

Joe Szabo began his Teenage series when he was an art teacher in Long Island in the early 1970s. He started photographing his pupils as a means of engaging with them. Szabo’s students became his on-going subjects for the next 25 years, as he photographed them at school, at home and at play. The resulting images provide a snapshot of the seventies and eighties and teenagers. 

Martha is an on-going collaboration between British photographer Siân Davey and her step-daughter Martha which explores their evolving relationship as well as the lives of Martha and her close friends as they journey through their later teenage years in rural Devon.   Siân Davey’s Looking For Alice is an award-winning project by British photographer Sian Davey, which tells the story of her daughter Alice and their family. Alice was born with Down's Syndrome, and is available from Trolley Books (

Soon to open is Neil Libbert from 8 June until 21 July 2017.  It is Libbert’s first major solo exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery. He has worked as a street photographer and photojournalist for nearly 60 years and the exhibition will focus on key works made during his earlier career.

At the nearby Saatchi Gallery, currently showing is From Selfie to Self-Expression, a nirvana for narcissists.   The exhibition publicity describes it as: “… the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from Velazquez to the present day, while celebrating the truly creative potential of a form of expression often derided for its inanity. Showing alongside examples of many influential artists' work are selfies that have quickly became icons of the digital era – from the beautiful and sublime to the mad, bad and downright dangerous”.   Photographically worthy of note are the works of Cindy Sherman and Juno Calypso.  Also exhibited are ‘Saatchi Selfie’ competition entries and winners. 

From Selfie to Self-Expression is on at the Saatchi Gallery from 3t March until 30 May 2017.


Roger Mayne - (The Photographers’ Gallery) April 2017

Roger Mayne (1929-2014) was a significant documentary photographer working mainly in the 1950s and 1960s.  His work, recording urban images and candid shots are regarded as a milestone in British photography. They provide a documentary record of Britain emerging from the years of austerity following the war, to the ‘hopeful’ early 1960s.

The opening sequence is from his highly acclaimed Southam Street series. Shot between 1956 and 1961, Mayne took around 1400 images before the area was demolished to make way for Erno Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower.  Other images include picture of Teds and gangs, the Rayleigh factory in Nottingham, and work from Leeds and Sheffield Park Hill estate.   An audio-visual installation ‘British at Leisure’ is also restage for the first time since 1964. 

His quote’ Streets have their own kind of beauty, a kind of decaying splendour’ is probably just as appropriate today for the modern street photographer.

Influenced by Hugo van Wadenoyan, these exhibited works are pure documentary, offering a ‘candid, detached vision’.  He viewed abstraction as ‘empty’ and photojournalism as simply ‘bearing witness’, and aimed to take images that were about the human condition. 

His first solo exhibition was in 1956, at the ICA.  That year he was also exhibited in the US, with working being acquired by MoMA and had a front cover for The Observer. According the New York Gitterman Gallery, Mayne ‘consciously printed with high contrast to emphasize the formal qualities of his work and increased scale to have a further dialogue with the painting of the time’.  His vivid photographs appeared as covers for several Penguin and Pelican book, including Colin McInnes’ Absolute Beginners in 1959. Some examples of this work are also exhibited.

As well as his images, there are extracts of correspondence he had with various arts bodies to get ‘modern photography’ exhibited in major galleries. Something he battled with during the mid 1950s as an organiser with CS (Combined Societies), an alliance of regional camera clubs).  Using forceful language to explain that the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Paul Strand, Edward Weston and minor White had all had major exhibitions before anything similar was stage in Britain.

For those interested in documentary photography this is a worthwhile visit.  Much of the history documentary photography is characterised by the works of Cartier-Bresson, Capa et al above.  This work precedes those of Tony Ray-Jones and Don McCullin, and provides an understanding of a little of its British roots.  Curated by Anna Douglas, who also curated the recent, acclaimed Shirley Baker: Women and Children, the exhibition has powerful images, plus insightful examples of other work and correspondence that help piece together an influential British documentarian.

Roger Mayne is at the Floor 2, Wolfson Gallery, Photographers’ Gallery, London W1, Friday until 11 June;



Dana Lixenberg Imperial Courts - Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation 2017 (The Photographers Gallery) until June 11.

Four projects are shortlisted for this year’s Deutsche Börse.   I am only going to review one, which I previously saw in Amsterdam last year at Huis Marseilles. Dana Lixenberg’s Imperial Courts is a complex community project, spanning over twenty-two years (1993-2015). It documents the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Watts, Los Angeles.  Of the four shortlisted, this is the one that is most clearly ‘documentary’ in nature.

The genesis of the project was in 1992, on assignment from Vrij Nederland, a Dutch weekly magazine, to south Central Los Angeles, for a story of destruction and rebuilding after the Rodney King riots.  Following an introduction to TB, the unofficial ‘godfather’ of the community, and ‘Crips’ gang leader she got agreement to take pictures.   Renting a 4x5 large format camera she set about making portraits.  Working only with available light, and photographing outside, the project and exhibition is predominantly portrait based, but also includes urban landscapes.   As the project progressed, in later years, Lixenberg used a compact digital camera to capture moments, as film scenes, and a soundtrack.

The project captures the inhabitants through three generations.  There was initial reluctance to being photographed, but working with a large cumbersome camera and shooting Polaroids maybe helped, in Lixenberg’s view, to win some people over.   By bringing the results of the previous days shoot and spending a lot of time ‘hanging out’ with people, she eventually gained their trust.

This is social documentary and portraiture on a grand scale.   In terms of timescale, the commitment, the number of images and the scale of the images (4”x5’ blows up big!). This is probably one exhibition where the book cannot do it justice.



The Radical Eye – The Switch House, Tate Modern (10 Nov 2016 – 7 May 2017): The Tate only began collecting photography recently and, as such, has missed out on artworks now owned privately and selling for unattainable prices.  In fact some previous Tate photography exhibitions have been extremely disappointing so, I was not sure what to expect. Fear not.

The Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection has rightly, already received many great reviews.  This major exhibition covers many classic images from the early 1900s through to the 1950s. If you have any interest in photography in general, then I’d recommend at visit.  These are classic images from a formative era in photography.   If you cannot find inspiration here, then …

The five galleries are arranged to cover portraits, experiments, objects, abstracts and documents.   There are images by renowned artists including Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Robert Frank, Edward Weston, André Kertész, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Berenice Abbot, Rodchenko, Paul Strand, and Norman Parkinson, the list goes on and on.  This alone is reason to go, a diverse collection of some of the greatest photographers of the mid 20th century.  As well as seeing well known and great works close-up, it is always interesting to find new discoveries; those artists unfamiliar to you.

The exhibition is dominated by portraits, sometimes of the famous, like Dali, Duke Ellington, Noel Coward and Gloria Swanson, but others just stunning portraits in their own right.

Not only are the images stunning, but they also seem to be of exceptional quality.  There are a few images here that I have seen recently in other galleries, and somehow he has managed to acquire the better print.

The exhibition focuses on ‘modernist’ imagery, but there is also a small section on ‘Documents’.  Here images by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, from the Farm Securities Administration project, along with images by Robert Frank and André Kertész provide the focus.   A new personal find was Helen Levitt, with four images of New York from 1938 to 1940. Further research indicates that she was particularly noted for "street photography" around New York City, and has been called "the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time" (David Levi Strauss, 1997), sadly twenty years on I find myself thinking similar thoughts and making a note to seek out more of her work.

Like the Guardian reviewer, I don’t find the picture frames complementary; they are somewhat intrusive and over-elaborate, with lots of gilding.   In my opinion it’s not required, but to be fair to Sir Elton, it’s a minor criticism, his dedication to putting together such an important collection and allowing it to be shown is to be congratulated.   Furthermore, this show marks the beginning of a long-term collaboration between the Tate and Elton John and David Furnish, who have agreed to give works to the nation. Thank you!!

It is worth taking time to see the video as he explains how he got “hooked” on collecting and to see the works as housed in his Atlanta apartment – almost every wall is covered.  It is also clear that Elton is more than just a mad rich collector hoping to make some money out of it – from the video it is clear he has really taken the time to explore and understand the images, and their authors.

While you are there – don’t miss:


Living cities – Tate Modern

If you decide to go to the Tate, I’d also recommend you squeeze two other free exhibitions into your itinerary:  Boris Mikhalov in Living Cities, a collection of eighty-four images depicting Soviet life in Khariv, in the north-east of present day Ukraine.  Every one of the images contains the colour ‘red’ the inclusion of which is inextricably associated with, and symbolic of, Soviet visual culture.   The second, in the entrance lobby to Living Cities, is by, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen and records inner-city Byker, in Newcastle, taken over twelve years and before much of the demolition and redevelopment. The images are classic documentary, depicting the humour, hardship, hospitality, and resilience of the locals. Drawn to the lives of the local community, she took up residence there and is still active in groups that she helped found there.


Saul Leiter - Retrospective (The Photographers’ Gallery) February 2016

Representing a major retrospective of his work in early monochrome and colour photography, together with sketches, notebooks and a small selection of painted artwork; this exhibition is not to be missed.  

Saul Leiter (1923-2013) was given a camera at the age of 12 by his mother and at the age of 23 moved to New York to pursue a career as a painter.  He continued his photography and worked almost exclusively in his East Village neighbourhood, studio and New York’s streets. 

His early work in black and white, could be considered ‘quiet’, with candidly observed images.  But he adopted colour early on, in 1948, and began to experiment and use it with inventiveness, with photographs taken, for example, through frosted or rain splattered windows, creating an impressionist like image. In the 1950’s the art director Henry Wolf published Leiter’s colour fashion work in Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, and examples of his fashion work are included in the exhibition.  His approach, unusually for the time, is abstract and painterly with innovative compositions and use of bold colour.

His imagery does not represent ‘decisive moments’ or the reality of social events, but is impressionistic, using composition, shape, colour, blur, depth of field to convey a sense of tension and mystery. Although his work is associated with street photography, it does not possess the hard edged or graphic imagery often associated with this genre in late 20th century New York, instead the images seek beauty or an almost poetic nature.  They depict a vision of New York that is unusual, unique, yet still unmistakable.

Despite late recognition, particularly for his pioneering work in colour, Leiter’s work has more recently been influential in a number of areas, notably influencing the colour design in Carol (Todd Haynes’ acclaimed 2015 film).   His published books, Early Black and White (volumes 1 and 2), Early Color and Retrospective (reissued for this exhibition) provide a reference source for photographers seeking ideas on composition, colour and aesthetics – challenging and inspiring.

A ‘must see’ for 2016.

Saul Leiter: Retrospective is at the Photographers’ Gallery, London W1, Friday until 3 April;


Alec Soth - Gathered Leaves (Science Museum)

This exhibition covers a decade of work by the acclaimed American photographer and Magnum member, Alec Soth (born 1969).  It brings together four major works – Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006), Broken Manual (2010) and his most recent work Songbook (2014).    The title Gathered Leaves is taken from a line in the American epic poem Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself (1855), cataloguing the diversity of the nation and also a reference to photography as sheets (leaves) brought together.

Much of Soth’s work is in collaboration with others; journalist or authors, providing a narrative to complement the images.  His style, described as lyrical documentary, is in the tradition of photographers such as Robert Frank and Stephen Shore.

Displayed as projects in separate rooms, the large gallery images are juxtaposed with his note books, collected artefacts, drafts and mock-up books.  The images are diverse, ranging from: large landscapes of the vastness of the wilderness or majesty of Niagara Falls, urban images of small towns and suburbs, to portraits of the characters inhabiting these spaces.

Sleeping by the Mississippi, his earliest work, shows in colour, the communities living along the aortic, central river.  Niagara, in a similar tradition, explores communities around the Niagara Falls region. Monumental images of the falls, are juxtaposed with images of the ordinary, urban.  Broken Manual, takes a different approach, a journey into the wilderness and unknown to explore the worlds of America’s ‘hermits’ those who have discarded society and chose for various reasons to live in isolation in the wilderness. His latest project, Songbook, offers a further change, with a move to exclusively monochrome images.

For the aspiring documentary photographer, the exhibition provides an insight into his working methods- with evidence from his note books, collected artefacts and ephemera, early layouts and mock-ups of books and texts.  It shows an approach to long term and immersive projects that go beyond mere photo essays into “photo novels” that provide a rich and diverse narrative.



]]> (Mark A Phillips) Wed, 13 Sep 2017 07:38:10 GMT
Competitions I've never been a big fan of single image competitions.  But June provided me with some nice, but unexpected, news when in short succession I had an image shortlisted for the Magnum Awards Gallery, 2 images selected for the Magnum Swap Shop and 2 images shortlisted for the RPS IPE 160. I must be doing something right..? 

]]> (Mark A Phillips) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 17:00:59 GMT
RPS Biennial images This year, have two images selected for the RPS Biennial, with is currently touring the UK. Both images were from recent Infra Red Street projects. although an experimental project, it seems to have worked!!

RPS 2017 Biennial website:

]]> (Mark A Phillips) IR infra mono red street Tue, 18 Apr 2017 21:59:55 GMT
What is real? Another project, this one has been 3-4 years in the making (and is still not complete).  

We all recognise what’s real ,…  or at least hope we do., including tools, buildings, books, cars, money…

But as we increasingly digitise our music, books, images, video, or ‘hailing a cab’ or ‘booking a room’, or buying with our mobiles, the boundary between what we consider ‘real’ and digital, or ‘virtual’, blurs. 

What are the consequences for the current ‘real’? What will be the new ‘real’?

I plan to add to this project over the coming weeks to illustrate physical and digital, virtual and real.  This area has interested me for a while.  The trend towards digitization looks inevitable, but there are counter-trends, notably the recent resurgence in 'analogue', such as film and vinyl.  Then there are challenges to the pervasive nature of digitisation, with 'wifi free' zones and calls for people to have a 'digital detox'.




]]> (Mark A Phillips) digital images real society technology urban virtual Sun, 28 Aug 2016 21:21:42 GMT
Information, favourite websites and generally useful stuff (July 2016 Update) Here is an update of list of websites I have found useful or interesting or simply inspiring.   I've decided to update it, as it was looking a little out of date and there was so much more I wanted to include.

My own working style has really changed over the past few years.   I used to focus exclusively on street and travel, but I find I am increasingly  working on Projects.  I find that this provides a greater opportunity to explore, revisit and interpret.   Most projects are long running, some now over 3 years.  



Someone once told me it was worth investing in more photo books than in new photo gear.  How right they were!! So many ideas (and so much cheaper)!  

Here are some on-line sources I use:

Other favourite haunts:


It would be really hard to compile a list without feeling I'd missed someone out.   But as a starter, here are some inspirations, in no particular order:   Alex Webb, Alex Soth, Trent Parke, Stephen Shore, Peter Mitchell, Walker Evans, Robert Doisneau, Seamus Murphy, Don McCullin, Josef Koudelka, Garry Winogrand, HCB, Daido Moriyama, William Klein, Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, Joel Meyerowitz and ....closer to home- Dougie Wallace, Matt Stuart and Stuart Freedman... and I could add more..... (and will do in due course).

Places to go:

I tend to do most of my photography in London, but really enjoy photographic in any city and when travelling, but I have to highlight add Arles.  Rencontres d'Arles is 'an experience' and provides plenty of ideas (  There is also the "fringe' event (    I'm hoping to get to VISA soon ( 



Most of my post-processing is minimal.  I tend to use Lightroom CC and Silver Efex 2 (for mono).  

A useful tool is Lightroom Sharpening Presets for Fuji:   I know Adobe have recently upgraded their Fuji raw processing, so will experiment over the next few weeks.



I do most of my printing myself using an Epson 3880.  I mainly print on Permajet papers - Oyster and FB Distinction.

But for commercial printing I'd recommend theprintspace in Kingsland Road.  Excellent quality and fast turnaround.  They also hold regular and interesting exhibitions and their First Tuesdays events are worth checking out.  


Equipment and Kit Bag: (for those interested)

These days, more often than not, I shoot with a Fuji.  For street photography I usually use a Fuji XE-2 with a manual lens (currently an Elmarit 28 / f2.8 on an X-mount converter).   For more general urban photography and travel, I'll also take an XT-1 with a 16-55/f2.8.   All in a small discrete black Billingham. 

On occasions, and when I'm feeling in the mood, I'll take out an old Nikon F3HP with a 50/f1.4 and also give an old Nikon rangefinder an airing.   I have also taken to using an old Hasselblad 503CW, it provides a completely different look and feel, and completely slows you is invariably Kodak 400TMax or Fuji Pro 400H. 

My kit bag used to be exclusively Nikon.   I still use a Nikon D800, but mainly for studio or shoots where I don't mind going out with a backpack and am probably going to use a tripod too. 


]]> (Mark A Phillips) APS Epson Equipment Fuji Hasselblad Nikon Photobooks Photography Projects RPS Street Urban photoforum theprintspace Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:43:39 GMT
Arles 2016 Have recently returned from the Opening Week of Rencontres d' Arles.   Another great week of diverse photography.    I was particularly impressed by the Don McCullin exhibition.    

As last year, I also took the opportunity to take/make a few images myself.   This year, having tried a few experiments, I decided to take a larger number of infra-red.   Some classic scenes of country, trees, skies etc, but many more in the urban environment using IR for Street Photography.  The effect is sometimes unusual and adds an unreal character to the image.  There is a new gallery under Travel - Arles 2016 IR lithesome examples.  

]]> (Mark A Phillips) Arles Street Urban infrared Wed, 20 Jul 2016 16:09:46 GMT
First photobook

As an avid collector of phonebooks, I felt it was time to create my own.  A simple, magazine style publication to start with.  


]]> (Mark A Phillips) blurb photobook shadows Sat, 28 May 2016 17:47:26 GMT
Private Agenda Something different this month.  I got the opportunity to shoot behind the scenes as a band, Private Agenda, ( shot their new video.  Great to see all the young talent working as producers, directors actors and filming, lighting, make-up, extras, props.... as well as the band. 

This is just a small selection of the images.  More to follow ....


]]> (Mark A Phillips) Private Agenda Fri, 27 Nov 2015 20:18:59 GMT
RPS Documentary Photographer of the Year - Under Parr I rarely enter competitions, especially those based upon judging a 'single image'.  However this years RPS DPOTY was based upon a set of five images, and a short narrative.  Much more appealing. So, I duly entered.....and won.   The images are currently being exhibited at the The Rag Factory, Spitalfields Art Market, 16-18 Heneage Street, London E1 5LJ.


The five images are taken from my 'Viewers' project:

TakingTakingParr Taking Under Parr 1Under Parr 1Under Parr FlaggingFlaggingFlagging

                    Viewer imagesViewer images Mono Viewer 1Mono Viewer 1Non-conformist Viewer

The statement accompanying the images was:

Under Parr

Picture the scene: it is mid-afternoon at the height of Summer in Arles. Lethargic bodies traipse around Martin Parr's exhibit, 'MMM', amidst the sweltering heat.

'Under Parr', the title of this collection serves a dual purpose, implying both a reflection upon the demeanour of the individuals depicted, whilst echoing too, Parr's penchant for witty social commentary and alternative visions. From peoples’ expressions and appearance here, can we assume they were unsatisfied?

Shot in mono, so as to avoid capturing the bold colours in Parr's images, an alternative gaze of the exhibition is provided. A combination of the uncomfortable heat, lighting, props and architecture provides a backdrop to my images, which resonates in peoples’ expressions: at once inspired, but seemingly underwhelmed, relaxed but looking lethargic – or perhaps just a little under par(r)?


Thank you to the RPS Documentary group and all those involved in judging, setting up the exhibition and providing prizes. 



]]> (Mark A Phillips) Documentary RPS Street Sat, 31 Oct 2015 23:58:47 GMT
Infra Red... in Street and Urban? After deciding I needed something smaller and more discrete for my street work (I'd previously been using full frame Nikons), I experimented with a Fuji XE-1.   I liked it so much that I captured most of my RPS A Panel on it.  But now, having upgraded to an EX-2 and also a Fuji XT-1 (for more general work), my XE-1 was just lying on a shelf.  So, this summer, I decided to do something about it. 

After some discussions with Fuji X-Photographer, Simon Weir (, I decided to get the trusty XE-1 converted to infra red.  

I decide that I wanted to focus on B&W, so got it converted at ACS (, with an 830nm filter.  The 830nm filter blocks all visible light so the sensor only sees infra red light from around 800nm up to about 1040nm where the sensor drops off.  It's still possible to work hand held in the street, although I need a slightly higher ISO. 

Most books and guides will talk about infra red in landscape and occasionally for artistic urban photography.  But they just sound (to me) like 'rules', and represent an opportunity to try something different (i.e. break the rules).  So in yet another experiment, I'm planning to use my IR adapted XE-1 for street and urban photography. I know some of it will look weird, but why not? ....the image and the light is there, it's just filtered (and most cameras or lenses have filters anyway) it's still 'true'.

In due course I'll add a gallery of images, but for now, much more experimenting to be done... here is a starter.

DSCC1188.jpgDSCC1188.jpg  Shoreditch, London Sep 2015


]]> (Mark A Phillips) infra red street urban Fri, 16 Oct 2015 07:00:00 GMT
London Salon 2015 I'm not a big fan of 'competitions'.  But occasionally, I do enter a few images into exhibitions in the hope of getting something accepted.  This year for the first time I had an image accepted at the London Salon of Photography (   The exhibition, in now in Edinburgh, after starting in London (Croydon) and then moving to Smethwick. 

Here is my selected image - the 'Eavesdropper', which is from my 'Shadowlands' gallery.

EavesdropperEavesdropperThe listener?

]]> (Mark A Phillips) London Salon shadow street urban Wed, 07 Oct 2015 21:37:22 GMT
Sequences A single image can say so much, or say so little and thus create mystery.    

Recently, I've been experimenting with sequences of images, typically 3 to 5 images.  Here is a short set, handheld, no set up, candid , taken in Arles.   One of my first such experiments.   The setting is a gallery about images on LP Covers (vinyl and analog!).   

The Water Hoarder ... the final image makes the set, but would this alone really tell a story, or create a fiction? 

Water hoarder 1Water hoarder 1Water hoarder 1 Water hoarder 2Water hoarder 2Water hoarder 2 Water hoarder 3Water hoarder 3Water hoarder 3

I've added this as a gallery, and will add to it in due course. 

]]> (Mark A Phillips) Candid gallery sequence street urban Wed, 07 Oct 2015 20:52:23 GMT
Street SpottedSpottedSpotted

Although most of my work is 'street' based, I had not until now, put a general Street category on the site.  This is now fixed.   An eclectic collection has now been added.  i'll continue to add to this over time. 

I adhere to the views of people like Matt Stuart when it comes to street photography.   Although I shoot mainly digital (and the occasional film on a old Nikon F3HP), I do very little post-processing, usually limited to a conversion to mono (using Silver Efex Pro), a few minutes of adjustments to tone etc, a little burning in or holding back or cropping (if needed).   Any movement or blur is captured 'in camera'. 

For those interested in technical details, the more recent shots (and most here) are captured on a Fuji XE-1 or XE-2 usually with a manual lens, (I'm currently using an XE-2 with a Elmarit 28mm, f2.8 on Fuji X-mount adaptor). I generally shoot wide open or stopped down to f4-ish, but rarely beyond, as I want to try and isolate any main subject.  All shots are generally pre-focused.  My intent is to try to be invisible and capture 'natural' shots.   Occasionally I will take a few street portraits, but in the main, I'm just looking to capture things as they are. I'll shoot from hip, chest or eye level depending on the situation. 

]]> (Mark A Phillips) candid street urban Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:23:43 GMT
Viewers Under Parr 3Under Parr 3Under Parr #3

Another recently started project ... 'Viewers' focuses on those attending exhibitions and galleries.  As ever my interest is in something a little different, maybe the fatigue, boredom, interest ... just just capturing the movement and flow.  This project is in its early stages.   More later. 


]]> (Mark A Phillips) Exhibition Galleries Viewers Mon, 24 Aug 2015 21:30:07 GMT