AS CHRISTMAS APPROACHES I cannot help but feel rather satisfied with myself this year. I closed the Canvey Beat file to concentrate on a more lucrative project; took a long break at Brighton’s Grand Hotel to be fed and pampered by their admirable staff while my girlfriend and I recharged our batteries – and finally transferred all my remaining transparencies and negatives to digital when I returned home.
Of course, it rained in Brighton. It always does when we visit the Lanes in search of jewellery bargains (as if it portends its proprietors’ reactions to having to strike a deal with the softly spoken woman accompanying me). She always begins with: ‘Is that your best price?’ – and I normally take that as my cue to leave and smoke a cigarette on the pavement outside; because I hate to see grown men cry…
The recession has made everyone hungry. Brighton’s jewellers were bedecked in second hand gems alongside their normal retail stock in order to attract some custom – and the prices were rock-bottom as shops vied with each other for the passing trade. It is a buyers’ market in all luxury trades and, if you are fortunate enough to have some spare cash, it is relatively easy to strike a hard bargain and walk away with some very beautiful, valuable assets, which can only appreciate when the economy stabilises (or emigration becomes a serious choice).
Few people expect there to be any improvement in Britain’s economic climate next year; unemployment is the highest since the mid nineties and, with the Euro crisis set to pull the rug from beneath the feet of all EU members, 2012 is likely to be a further bleak year – with more bad news for taxpayers; and no respite for those whom chose to put something aside for situations like this.
Britain finds itself rudderless, led by a coalition government that spends the majority of its time leaping from crisis to crisis – and undermining its own strategies. Last month it reneged on its support for community housing in its proposals to double the discount available to council tenants wishing to buy their homes – raising it from £26,000 to £52,000 and encouraging a further deterioration in stock. At the same time, it undertook to subsidise the production of 16,000 new homes by providing £400 million of taxpayers’ money to property developers, and have taxpayers guarantee mortgages for first time buyers to reduce the deposits that the mortgage companies now require. Having previously admitted that house prices were unsustainable, and in the face of mortgage lenders failing to provide loans for new builds (which they believe to be heavily overpriced) the coalition has now set its hat at propping up those inflated prices and exposing its citizens to even more debt.
How our politicians arrive at such ludicrous decisions must forever remain a mystery; but perhaps it has something to do with maintaining the level of their own property prices, which taxpayers have largely paid for.
For the photographers amongst you, the above inclement shot was taken on a Coolpix P7000, hand-held at around a second and relying upon Nikon’s image stabilisation technology. I was torn between investing in a spare DSLR body or a small compact that could be used less obtrusively – and the Coolpix won. It is a little slow when recording low light RAW images when compared to the D300S machine gun; but its small size and light weight is ideal for those situations where you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.
Last month, CNN laid-off a number of photojournalists from its US bureaus because, they said, they could now rely upon citizen journalists to provide them with the images they needed. Funny old things: time and recessions. When I first started out, it was impossible to be taken seriously if you submitted 35mm transparencies; but now it seems that even humble mobile phone pictures are perfectly acceptable.
Quality no longer holds the position it once did in a market struggling to contain its costs, and I wonder how long it will be before the two-page spread photo is replaced with a series of contact-size images whose fuzzy recollections rely upon the journalist’s skill to describe what actually took place?..