The London Salon of Photography Exhibition… or how I stopped worrying and learned to love altered reality

(I just won’t let on to my wife)

John Cogan takes an irreverent look at the 102nd London Salon of Photography Exhibition 2013 shown at Durham Photographic Society 9th January 2014.

After a night of interesting images and some that were truly superb and some that were just… truly!  I’ve come to a conclusion.  Asked many times why I don’t enter competitions my usual answer is that I haven’t the confidence when my work is set against the high standard of the DPS members.  And that is true.  I also don’t have the ability to author an image that is pin sharp, nor the patience to wait till the right animal presents itself, let alone a lens of a size to match Michael Watson’s… then again, who has?

But, if I’m honest I have fears that I haven’t explored my chosen genre sufficiently.  The older I get the more I see myself as a writer who takes pictures and tries, in the words of Edward Steichen, to explain man to fellow man.  However, I now have a feeling that I might have cracked how to enter a couple of images for the London Salon International….  So, here, below, is the John Cogan easy guide to constructing a winning entry.  In so doing I’m apologising to all of you who have won acceptances and medals.  Just remember who is writing this article.

Item 1…. Make sure you buy all the available plug-ins and gadgets and filters.  This will enable you to convert a simple, single flower into something that resembles a Dutch, 17th Century masterpiece. 

Item 2…. Ensure that you have a bevy of photogenic females available and willing to pose… give them the right sort of outfit (or non-outfit) and consider some deep, arcane meaning and title for the picture… while they stand and shiver.

Item 3…. Add the face of a girl to the flower.

Item 4…. Import some mist, especially of the Scottish variety.

Item 5…. If you have a chance, turn the whole lot into either infra-red or HDR.

Now, all the above was written with my tongue firmly wedged into my right cheek.  Just remember that I’ve never used a Photoshop layer because I don’t know how to!  Hence my reliance upon NIK software!  If you get a chance, look at the images on the London Salon web site to see how many have been through one process or another.

Thinking back to the various images, I have to admire the delicate tones of one contributor who submitted the beach scenes.  These were very much in the vein of mid-20th Century English watercolours: light, subtle and engaging.  Derek Galon’s Bacchanalian feast with all that lurid flesh and deep, rich colours was a masterpiece of structure and construction.  The frosted gate and the field beyond were unusual and well-rendered.  Naoise (pronounced Knee-Shu… I know, but it is Gaelic) by Gabriel J. O’Shaughnessy was a sympathetic and “smooth” image with a certain mystery.  I have grave reservations about Clare Acford’s Waiting for the Train.  I worked with someone in Ipswich who had been a train driver until someone stepped in front of his loco.  Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes (From M*A*S*H for those of you too young to remember the song).  It did so for my friend.  Perhaps Clare had suicide in mind when she made the image… it’s ambiguous and as I’ve mentioned it, it’s worked!

Overall, I found it hard to see the point of some images.  Why exhibit a gnomic figure stuck in the midst of a river or the upturned shopping trolley amongst the waves.  Our own John Cummings’s discarded scooter is a far better image with more care and construction (and it’s in colour!).  In fact every image on the opening page of our website has power and skill and can stand proud amongst the submissions we saw last night.

However, it’s just possible that I might look closely at my suggestions for how to win and work on one of my own efforts, send it in and see how it fares? Mmmm! Now, there’s a thought! Mmmm!

John Cogan ARPS


Editor’s note: the opinions expressed in this article by the inimitable John Cogan are the author’s own!

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