2. Blog

Initial thoughts

[10Nov20 🥂] While wrapping up Asg.1, getting up steam on Part 2 and contemplating the book of the course, I need to start laying the groundwork for Asg.2.

England is currently in Lockdown-Lite(ish) for Covid-19’s second surge, but the likely availability of a vaccine was announced yesterday. One idea that came up with Asg.1 if charity shops hadn’t worked was vicars (etc.) and churches. I’ll try that for Asg.2. I have a list of local churches and will draft a letter to their leaders, suggesting a few photographs, outside and in, which should approximate to the brief.

 ChurchContactEmailReplyAppt.Done
1.Bethel Tabernaclemeets at Eltham CofE Primary School, Archery Road, SE9 1TR
person ?
office@newcom.church
    
2.Novar Christian Fellowship6 Novar Road, SE9 2DN
person ?
info@novarcf.co.uk
30Nov   
3.SS John Fisher and Thomas MoreArbroath Road, SE9 6RR
Father Richard Plunkett
richard.plunkett@wellhallcatholicchurch.london
30Nov   
4.St Albans Church132 William Barefoot Drive, Mottingham, SE9 3BP
Revd Ian M Welch
ian@standrewandstalban.org.uk
30Nov1Dec13Dec in situ noshow 
5.St BarnabasRochester Way, SE9 6PH
Revd Steve Cook ✓
cooksca@aol.com
30Nov30Nov6Dec in situ7Dec
6.Eltham United Reformed ChurchRev. Ian Gow ✓
contact – https://www.elthamurc.org/contact-us
15Nov18Nov21Nov29Nov
7.St John the Baptist ChurchEltham High Street, SE9 1DH
Reverend James Bryson
no email
    
8.Christ Church229 Eltham High Street, SE9 1TX
Fr. John Fricker CRE ✘
eltham@rcaos.org.uk
15Nov, 30Nov1Dec refused  
9.Eltham Park Baptist Church32a Westmount Road, SE9 1JE
Rev. Lucy Wright
minister@epbc.org.uk
15Nov, 30Nov   
10.Holy Trinity Church59 Southend Crescent, SE9 2SD
Father Brett Ward ✓
fr.brett@ht-e.org.uk
15Nov17Nov23Nov29Nov
11.Rhema Miracle Centre AOGmeets at Eltham Park Methodist Church
office at 90 Eltham Green Road, SE9 6BH
person ?
info@rhema-aog.org.uk
    
12.Eltham Park Methodist ChurchWestmount Road, SE9 1XX
Rev’d Richard A. J. Grocott
no email, Rev’d Richard A. J. Grocott: 58 Mottingham Lane, Lee, SE12 9AW
    
13.RCCG New Hope Sanctuary parishCrown Wood College, 145 Bexley Road, SE9 2PT
person ?
communications@rccg.co.uk
    
14.Eltham Green Community Church542 Westhorne Avenue, SE9 6DH
Pastor John Watson ✘
enquiries@egcc.co.uk
30Nov9Dec refused  
15.St Luke Eltham ParkWestmount Road, SE9 1XQ
Revd. Liz Oglesby-Elong
use this
15Nov   
16.St SaviourMiddle Park Avenue, SE9 5JH
(Vacant) Parish Evangelist: Capt Nick Russell
Nick.Russell@churcharmy.org
30Novafter Xmas  
17.Europe for Christ MissionElibank Road Eltham, SE9 1QJ
person ?
use this
    
  Added 30th November    
18.St Lawrence’s, Sidcup1 Hamilton Road, Sidcup, DA15 7HB
Father John Diver
johndiver@rcaos.org.uk
30Nov   
       

Dear Rev [name]
I am a mature student studying for a photography degree and the course is currently concentrating on portraits.
Finding subjects is proving difficult. For a recent assignment I photographed volunteers in Eltham’s charity shops, now closed, of course and a couple of examples are attached.
I would like to photograph a series of local church leaders and wonder whether you would be prepared to participate. I understand that under the current restrictions services are not allowed, but individual access is permitted (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november).
If possible, I would like to take a few photographs, inside and/or outside your place of worship, and if you wear any specific clothing for services, then maybe include that, but I will happily accept whatever is possible.
Please let me know if you would like to be part of the project and, if so, when it would be convenient to meet you there. Avoiding Tuesdays and Thursdays is best for me, as we childmind my grandson on those days.
Yours sincerely,
Nick Blackburn
attachments:
1. June, Frances and Rachal, Demelza, 16th October
2. Susie, Red Cross, 17th October


[15Nov] The research is as complete as I can make it. There are some posts vacant and some do not have specific individuals or local web sites, others do not have an email address, just a contact box on their web site. I will contact 5 or 6 and see how that goes and if that fails, reconsider my approach. My initial batch (chosen mostly because they are easy to get to) is:

Eltham United Reformed ChurchChrist ChurchEltham Park Baptist ChurchHoly Trinity ChurchSt Luke Eltham Park.


23rd November, Rev. Ian Gow, URC

[24Nov] I thought both my appointments were on Wednesday 25th, but Ian Gow of the URC had requested Monday 21st. Fortunately, he wrote on the Sunday to confirm the arrangements. I attended on the correct day. having replied,

Hi Ian
The assignments this year are all about styles of portrait so, ideally I would like you to wear whatever you do when conducting a service. For the background, I would like an exterior shot showing the architecture of the church and if it is possible to get inside, a background of any key architectural or decorative features.
Thank you again for your co-operation in this. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow at 3.
Regards, Nick

email to Rev. Gow, 22nd Nov

Ian was a nice chap and as helpful and co-operative as one might wish. I took the Fuji X100S, hoping that I could continue to just use that for assignments. I have been reading up on using the internal flash in Mullins (2014) and Phillips (2014). On using the built-in flash, Mullins (p.164) says that the Slow Sync option ‘tries to capture both the ambient light in the background and the subject’ but might use very slow shutter speeds. That sounded useful, though the results were not always as sharp as I might have liked. I made 20 images (contact sheets), concentrating on the small stained glass window, the pulpit, the alter and the front door which boasts a rather attractive tree.

A problem with the X100S is that it will not AF on faces and so when I had a trial run with Mrs B., kept loosing focus when I reframed. I switched to manual focus but I’m not sure I always got it right – this combined with the lower shutter speeds resulted in a disappointing loss of sharpness.

I am processing the images in 3×2 format initially to make some prints for Ian, then reverting to 6×7 for submission.


25th November, Fr. Brett Ward, Holy Trinity

[25Nov] Given the limitations found with the X100S, I decided to take the XT-2 instead. Especially in the context of distancing regulations, a zoom lens makes a great deal more sense at the moment and sticking with the fixed 35mm equivalent lens is a pointless and absurd hair-shirt approach. It was a good decision and this run of pictures was more successful. Although Anglican, Holy Trinity is at the Catholic end of the spectrum and has Stations of the Cross, a new set recently commissioned and installed. Father Ward has agreed that I can return and photograph them †.

I think I will probably upgrade the XT-2 rather than the X100S.

Both subjects agreed that I can use the images in follow-ups to my initial requests and in new requests to establish my bona fides.


† I might have a new project, photographing sets of Stations. I have not found any books on the subject (the subcategory equivalent of Betjeman’s Best British Churches (2011) or Jenkin’s England’s Thousand Best Churches (1999)), but I only started looking this afternoon. There must be lists and any priests in churches which have them will have an interest and local knowledge.


30th November – 2nd round of emails

Chaseups

Christ ChurchEltham Park Baptist ChurchSt Luke Eltham Park.

Example text

Dear Rev. [name]
I emailed a while ago, as attached, asking whether I could take some photographs of you and your church but did not receive a reply. I have had two volunteers so far, Fr. Brett Ward of Holy Trinity and Rev. Ian Gow of the URC. I attach a few examples of the results, having been given their permission to do so.
If you do not want to take part, please let me know and I’ll cross you off my list. If you might be interested and would like further details of the project, please reply with any questions.
Regards, Nick Blackburn, Eltham


I do not have an email for St. Luke’s, there’s a contact box on their web site and the Captcha box on that page was not working when I tried it today (30Nov), here’s the draft.

Dear Rev. Oglesby-Elong

I emailed a while ago, as below, asking whether I could take some photographs of you and your church but did not receive a reply. I have had two volunteers so far, Fr. Brett Ward of Holy Trinity and Rev. Ian Gow of the URC.
If you do not want to take part, please let me know and I’ll cross you off my list. If you might be interested and would like further details of the project, please reply with any questions.

Regards, Nick Blackburn, Eltham

Previous email

Dear Rev. Oglesby-Elong

I am a mature student studying for a photography degree and the course is currently concentrating on portraits.
Finding subjects is proving difficult. For a recent assignment I photographed volunteers in Eltham’s charity shops, now closed, of course and a couple of examples are attached.

I would like to photograph a series of local church leaders and wonder whether you would be prepared to participate. I understand that under the current restrictions services are not allowed, but individual access is permitted (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november).

If possible, I would like to take a few photographs, inside and/or outside your place of worship, and if you wear any specific clothing for services, then maybe include that, but I will happily accept whatever is possible.

Please let me know if you would like to be part of the project and, if so, when it would be convenient to meet you there. Avoiding Tuesdays and Thursdays is best for me, as we childmind my grandson on those days.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Blackburn


To Novar Christian Fellowship 30th Nov

Dear Novar,
I am a mature student studying for a photography degree and the course is currently concentrating on portraits.
Finding subjects is proving difficult at this time because of Covid restrictions. For my previous assignment I photographed volunteers in Eltham’s charity shops, currently all closed, of course.
I am now trying to photograph a series of local church leaders at their places of worship and wonder whether you would be prepared to participate. There is no particular leader named on your web site and I am not sure how the Fellowship is organised, but I would be happy to photograph any church members who would like to represent Novar in this way.
I have had two volunteers so far, Fr. Brett Ward of Holy Trinity and Rev. Ian Gow of the URC. I attach a few examples of the results, having been given their permission to do so.
Please let me know if you would like to be part of the project and, if so, when it would be convenient for me to attend. If, on the other hand, you do not wish to, please reply so that I can take you off my list of
possible subjects. Yours sincerely,
Nick Blackburn, Eltham


To Fr. Plunkett (SS John Fisher and Thomas More),
Revd Ian M Welch (St Albans Church),
Revd Steve Cook (St Barnabas)
Pastor John Watson (Eltham Green Community Church)
Capt Nick Russell (St Saviour)
Father John Diver (St Lawrence’s, Sidcup)

Dear [title] [name]
I am a mature student studying for a photography degree and the course is currently concentrating on portraits.
Finding subjects is proving difficult at this time because of Covid restrictions. For my previous assignment I photographed volunteers in Eltham’s charity shops, currently all closed, of course.
I am now trying to photograph a series of local church leaders at their places of worship and wonder whether you would be willing to participate. If possible, I would like to take a few photographs, inside and/or outside your church, and if you wear any specific clothing for services, then maybe include that, but I will happily accept whatever is possible.
I have had two volunteers so far, Fr. Brett Ward of Holy Trinity and Rev. Ian Gow of the URC. I attach a few examples of the results, having been given their permission to do so.
Please let me know if you would like to be part of the project and, if so, when it would be convenient for me to meet you there. Avoiding Tuesdays and Thursdays is best for me, as we childmind my grandson on those days. If, on the other hand, you do not wish to, please reply so that I can take you off my list of possible subjects.
Yours sincerely,
Nick Blackburn, Eltham


That’s all the local churches for which I have a name or an email, plus one just up the road in Sidcup that might have Stations of the Cross.


2nd December – progress

[2Dec] We are quorate with a 5th positive reply from Revd Ian Welch, Rector, Mottingham St Andrew with St Alban.

Hi Ian
Thank you for replying. You are my fifth positive responder which means that I should have enough to complete the terms of the assignment, but I hope to get more: only one refusal so far.
The two I have completed, images from which I sent you, opened their buildings for photography; one has said ‘wait ’til after Christmas’; and I am attending a service this Sunday to take my third set.
I am happy to photograph you on whatever basis is convenient for you, so please let me know your preference and we can set a time and date.
Regards, Nick


6th December, Rev. Steve Cook, St Barnabus

[7Dec] I was a little nervous about this appointment but it went well. It is always good to learn and so let’s state:
1. photographing in services produces more interesting images.
2. use manual focus for a sermon.
3. 1/7th secs gives a pleasant motion blur of hands.
4. exposure will probably need tweaking for the large expanses of sunlit blank wall.

It was easy to become distracted by the Hans Fiebusch mural or the Stations of the Cross designed by a former church member and created by her widower and I hope to return to photograph both more successfully in due course.

I particularly like the motion-blurred hands in fig. F5.


13th December without Rev. Ian Welch at St. Albans

[13Dec] St Alban’s is paired with St. Andrew’s – today I went to a deserted St. Albans while Rev. Welch and the congregation went to St. Andrew’s on the other side of the Coldharbour Estate. I’ll try again next week.

But in the meantime, let us examine the magic of Photoshop’s context-aware fill facility which disappeared the bollards and bin – click fig. G1. I used to spend hours trying to achieve this with a PS paintbrush.



8th January 2021 Impasse

[8Jan21] The project is stuck and without a prospect of unsticking in its present form under the current Covid lockdown rules (Tier 4 in London). And so it is time for a change of plan. This has been forming in my mind for a while and coalesced with yesterday’s antics at Capitol Hill, Washington which many of the papers headlined ‘Anarchy in the USA’ as shown in fig. H1 (see credits below),

As was discussed during C&N under Late Photography (Blackburn, 2019), David Campany, in his essay Safety in numbness (2003), noted that as far back as the 1970s, most still images for news reporting were taken from video sources and there was a widespread example of that in newspapers for 7th January. Given that many churches are broadcasting services to their congregations, I can pick up the project from these feeds, just like the newspapers. There is a self-imposed fundamental ground rule that I can only do this with subjects I have already contacted.

I will reconfigure my presentation of the project as a consideration of portraiture under the various degrees of constraint that have applied with additional discussion of the matter of authorship. My feeling on the latter is that given I have been photographing the clergy while they conduct their services and that limits me to a single viewpoint, namely a specific pew (albeit I have some choice in the matter) the only major difference between producing a photograph directly on the camera and by intercepting the video feed is that the latter offers the faciity of replay.

I will investigate the available options and proceed.

† 7th January 2021 front pages of the Scottish editions of the i, the Metro, the Times, the Daily TelegraphThe ScotsmanThe CourierThe Press and Journal, the Daily Express, the Daily Star. Images from BBC News.


24th January, Rev. Ian Welch, St Andrew with St Alban

[24Jan] The plan worked for Ian Welch. The quality of his camera and lighting for the online service was surprisingly poor (my experience of Zoom meetings has been restricted to the OCA IP group and the London Chapter of the Institute of Money Advice), but it is what it is: that is reality..

I am sick and tired of photo essays entitled Life under Covid / Lockdown and endless variations on that theme but given the circumstances, I will have to mention it.

Perhaps something like The Clergy of Eltham: three phases of exclusion and explore the portraiture, the enforced limitations, correspondence, response rates, technology, authorship, appropriation, deadlines and maybe the OCA’s lack of enterprise. But drop the last part.

Here is Rev. Welch and his church (figs. J1-7), next week it’s St Luke’s, Eltham Park and Revd. Liz Oglesby-Elong who married my son (cue old joke) in 2016 (fig. I1).


31st January 2021, Revd. Liz Oglesby-Elong, St. Luke’s
and Father John Diver, St Lawrence’s, Sidcup

[31Jan] Video stills for the last two subjects figs. K1-13.


I&P Asg 2 References

BBC News (2021) Scotland’s papers: ‘Anarchy in the USA’ and over-80s vaccine delay [online]. bbc.co.uk. Available from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-55570573 [Accessed 8 January 2021].

Betjeman, J. & Surman, S. (2011) Betjeman’s Best British Churches. Glasgow: Collins.

Blackburn, N. (2019) Aftermath and aesthetics [online]. baphot.co.uk. Available from http://baphot.co.uk/pages_cn/cn_part_1_p2.php#camp [Accessed 8 January 2021].

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place . Barnsley: Open College of the Arts. [I&P]

Campany, D. (2003) Safety in numbness: Some remarks on the problems of “Late Photography” [online]. davidcampany.com. Available from: https://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/ [Accessed 19 December 2019]

findachurch.co.uk (year) Find a Church: The UK church directory [online]. findachurch.co.uk. Available from https://www.findachurch.co.uk/search/?address=Eltham [Accessed nn November 2020].

Jenkins, S, (1999) England’s Thousand Best Churches. London: Allen Lane.

Mullins, K., (2004) Fujifilm X100S, from snapshots to great shots. San Francisco,: Peachpit Press.

Phillips, T. (2014) Mastering Flash with Fujifilm X Cameras, The Friedman Archives Press [online], available: https://tonyphillips.org/product/mastering-flash/?v=fdd13832cd81 [accessed 21 November 2020].

Wikipedia (2020) Hans Feibusch [online]. wikipedia.org. Available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Feibusch [Accessed 7 December 2020].