Eves Arnold: In Retrospect

I was up very early today and so spent some time catching up on photography related documentaries I’ve recorded from the tv.  BBC4 recently repeated the 2006 Omnibus documentary on Eves Arnold.  This covered the full range of her work from early days in Harlem to her more well known work in Russia, China, South Africa and with celebrities such as Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe.  Some of the points that I picked out as interesting were:

  • Arnold states that the difference between an average and fine photographer is ‘the wit to take advantage of the accident’.
  • Some of those she photographed, Angelica Houston for instance, commented that they never saw Arnold capturing the moments that appeared in the images. Arnold herself stated that she starts behind the scenes with the hope that by the time the action takes place, they will have forgotten she’s there.
  • Arnold came across to her subjects as modest and self-depracating – she ‘receded into the background’ but, this turned to her advantage with her subjects become more willing to suggest ideas and engage, (with the exception of Margaret Thatcher who took this to the extreme – Arnold stated Thatcher was her most difficult subject within her career).
  • Michael Arnold, (her grandson), commented that the most important thing he had learned from Arnold was “to know how to look at something rather than photograph something”.

All-in-all an interesting documentary and an hour well spent.


Ian MacDonald

I just spend an enjoyable half-an-hour watching ‘Shooting Time’ a 2007 film about the work of Ian MacDonald. MacDonald photographed the industry and people of his native Middlesborough working in 4 x 5.  He has published a number of books and his work has been exhibited in The Photographers’ Gallery amongst other places.  Decaying industry has long been a particular interest of mine and Ian’s monochrome prints certainly hit the nail on the head in capturing decades of dramatic change in the north east

Life Magazine

Last night BBC4 showed ‘America in Pictures’ in which Rankin covered the story of Life Magazine. It covered the work of:

Margaret Bourke-White
Alfred Eisenstaedt
John Loengard (interviewed)
Burk Uzzle (interviewed)
Bill Eppridge (interviewed)
Larry Burrows
John Shearer (interviewed)
Harry Benson

The documentary also covered some of Life Magazine’s seminal photo essays including W Eugene Smith’s Country Doctor. What was striking about the photo essays was the ability of the photographers to seize the extraordinary out of the ordinary and generally mundane.

Rankin’s own views about the documentary and the views of other viewers are available on the BBC blog