Monday, November 21, 2011

Cops with gun cameras

Police marksmen could be fitted with miniature cameras on their guns to record contentious incidents. The Telegraph tells us, it's a bid to restore public confidence after recent shoot-outs including the killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, North London.

Scotland Yard say the policy is 'under development.' The paper goes on, 'similar technology has been used for years by combat troops and Special Forces, but this would be the first time that matchbox-sized cameras have been attached to guns.' Guns and cameras have existed side by side since 1882 when the Scovill Manufacturing Company released the Kilburn Gun Camera for $27. The stock was an extra $5. It was a 4x5 wooden plate camera mounted on a shotgun stock.

Later in 1882 came the Revolver de Poche or pocket revolver, which is, in fact, a camera.

In the '30's, in the lawless American towns, Police used Colt .38 revolvers with black & white roll film cameras attached to ID the bad guys if they got away. Pure pistol cameras have been around in many guises over the years, too.

In 1954 Mamiya released a pistol camera as did the Doryukamera company, using 16mm film and Nikkor lenses.

The Military have used camera guns since the 1914-1918 war. The Hythe Gun Camera MK111 was built like a Lewis gun and used to train pilots in gunnery in open cockpit fighters. In WW11 the Bell & Howell company developed a 16mm gun camera with a 35mm lens. The camera fired when the aircraft guns fired. All that brilliant footage of dogfights in that world war comes from them.

Not a new concept - but this time technology will make them vastly superior to the past.

Revolver de Poche
Colt .38 police revolver with camera
1954 Mamiya pistol camera

1954 Doryukamera Company
The Hythe Gun Camera Mk111 fitted in the cockpit of a WW1 fighter

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Feed the bears at your peril

In the Bering Strait off Alaska the USA and the Russian Federation rub cold shoulders only a 100 miles apart. The town of Nome is well known on the Alaskan side. Lesser known is Anadyr, the capital on the Russian side, a freezing town with 11,000 population. Life in this very eastern part of Russia is severe with temperatures that drop to minus 40C in wintertime. Curiously -40 celsius is also -40 fahrenheit.

One way the polar bear population survives is by begging, a dangerous occupation for bear and man alike, but the locals and the bears seem to get along. Or so these pictures that appear on the English speaking Russia site seem to show. You can see more on the site.

It has an eclectic collection of quirky Russian pictures and any reader with a fascination for old Soviet Russia photographs (like me) with too much time on their hands can while some away browsing its snapshot collection.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A brilliant portrait of Muhammad Ali

My good friend photographer Michael Brennan has a superb exhibition of his work with the legendary Muhammad Ali opening in November at the Artworks Gallery in Pasadena Los Angeles. It will be Ali's 70th birthday.

The centrepiece is a stunning close-up of Ali, taken in 1977 and is described by the gallery as 'capturing the fighter's vitality and determination.' I think it does more than that. The fighter himself describes it best. When he first saw the picture, Ali said of it, "I can feel the texture of all the sweat and hard work. I can feel my life."

Michael describes taking it: "He (Ali) had been sparring and a television guy had been in the ring with him shooting film but for a few seconds he came into the corner of the ring where I was and I saw the expression on his face. I could see everything that lay behind it. In a hundredth of a second I shot the picture I had always dreamed of. Ali used to joke that he gave me access I could never expect from Barbra Streisand or Frank Sinatra." It was typical of the man that Ali wanted to be helpful to a young photographer making his way.

I met Ali at a press conference at the Piccadilly Hotel at the height of his fame and can only describe meeting him as a shock and awe moment. He exuded an aura I've never experienced in any other sportsman or celebrity. He riveted a crowded room and you knew you were with someone very special.

A limited edition of the portrait, signed by Ali and Michael Brennan, will be available for sale and a portion of the exhibition proceeds will go to The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Movement Disorder Clinic.

This winter the portrait will be inducted into the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian as part of the permanent collection.

In addition, there will be on display a very rare collection of Brennan's photographs from a series entitled "Ali and his Educators" taken in 1980. Michael travelled extensively to locate and photograph those elite few men who had actually faced Ali in the ring. Most have fallen into obscurity since their moment with the most famous boxer of all time. Their careers varied from a chief of police to a building contractor, a convict to a CEO.

Brennan has photographed some of the most iconic personalities of our time including The Queen, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, Pele, George Best, Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, Mother Teresa and John Lennon to name just a few. In 1970 he was awarded British photography's highest accolade, "Photographer of the Year," presented to him by Princess Anne.

For those in Pasadena the exhibit opens at Design Within Reach on 8070 Beverly Blvd from 10th Nov to the 17th when it moves to the Artworks Gallery.