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Macfilos, photography and the V word

Someting I thought I would never see in London: Panic buyers following the herd. If the emptiest shelves are any guide, I preume that most people will be dining on tomato soup, canned tuna in toilet-roll wrap and canned peaches.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been plodding on with photography posts. I’ve thought several times that I should mention the elephant in the room — Coronavirus. But it seemed to me that there was nothing I could usefully add. I reasoned that the last thing anyone needs is me voicing an opinion. We get enough of that from the general press. But I think it does need mentioning once, just so you don’t think I’m oblivious to what’s going on around us all.

All readers are worried by what is, frankly, an unprecedented set of circumstances. While I have been publishing stories, as usual, the pandemic is constantly at the back of my mind and there is no doubt that it does to some extent suppress creativity. I’m distracted, our contributing authors are distracted and, I’m sure, readers are feeling the same.

The situation is compounded by the fact that several of our contributors, including me, fall into the high-risk age group and some, I know, suffer from those “underlying health concerns” that we read about every day. Just a week ago I cancelled a planned ten-day visit to Germany and several friends thought I was overreacting. Now everything is being cancelled and I am sure that pretty soon leisure travel will cease altogether.

Staying at home

Here in Britain, those in high-risk groups are being asked voluntarily to self-isolate for three or four months and I will do my best to comply. I am already avoiding public transport for all but absolutely essential travel and, like many of you, I am becoming increasingly aware of the need for “social distancing”. So far, Britain remains largely open for business but other countries in Europe have already taken more drastic action. I have no doubt we will have to follow soon.

Someting I thought I would never see in London: Panic buyers following the herd. If the emptiest shelves are any guide, I preume that most people will be dining on tomato soup, canned tuna in toilet-roll wrap and canned peaches.
Something I thought I would never see in London: Panic buyers following the herd. If the emptiest shelves are any guide, I presume that most people will be dining tonight on tomato soup, canned tuna in toilet-roll wrap and canned peaches. Even the tonic water shelves were bare, just in case you thought a stiff G&T would take your mind off things

All of us, I am sure, will have fewer opportunities during this year to get out and take photographs, especially those travel photographs that we all appreciate.

Most of those events which provide material will not take place and city streets are already becoming deserted. Last week, the Photography Show in Birmingham was cancelled and I now have little doubt that photo fairs such as Photokina in London and Bièvres will not take place this year. Everyone is battening down the hatches.

While I should have more spare time in front of the computer, I could run out of things to write about, so I shall be digging into the archives a bit. I’m also encouraging contributors to do the same, perhaps recalling some pleasant excursions in less stressful times.

On a more positive note, I am looking forward to tackling all those little jobs that I’ve been putting off — throwing out junk, rearranging clothes, revising photo libraries and culling archives. I’m also planning to hone my rudimentary cooking skills since restaurants and coffee shops will soon be missing from our lives. I shall have to venture further than beans on toast.

Carrying on

Having now mentioned the virus and acknowledged the concern we are all feeling, I plan to carry on with general features. Be assured that I and our other contributors are not dodging the issue, we just feel that a little non-virus comment is welcome. So we will continue to agonise and pontificate, but only about lenses, cameras and photography (with the odd bit of technology thrown into the mix). If you like, think of it as a bit of escapism. It’s something we will need in spadefuls in the coming months.

Above all, I hope that all our readers and contributors keep safe during what is undoubtedly a very dangerous time — particularly, now, for us here in Europe, the new epicentre of the disease. I have many elderly photographer friends, both in the various Leica societies and in the wider world. Some I have never met, but many I’ve known for decades. Some are on the other side of the world. But I wish you all well and hope that we can keep up our discussions over the coming months.

That’s it on the pandemic, for now. Coronavirus mentioned, just in case anyone thought I was asleep. But from now, I hope, it will be business as usual on the blog. For the next few months, the frequency of posting might be a little less but I aim to keep going if I only for my own sanity. I’m glad to see that our little band of authors is already rising to the challenge, starting later today with David Babsky’s experiences with the 50mm Noctilux and some cheaper alternatives.


  1. Thanks Mike. We are more or less in ‘lock down’ here and it is St Patrick’s Day tomorrow. This will be a huge re-adjustment to the world and not just to the world economy. It will affect a lot of our modern lifestyle non essential items like travel, entertainment and, yes, new electronic goodies. It won’t just be new digital cameras that will get affected as supply chains close down, but also some more essential items. It will be a difficult time for all, not least the most vulnerable.

    Good Health and a Happy St Patrick’s Day tomorrow to all Macfilos readers.


    • I wonder why St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland William?

      I seem to remember that he is a son of Battersea in sarf London, so you would think he would be ours.

      Instead we seem to have acquired some chap from Turkey who likely never set foot here, if he even existed?

      Funny old world.

      Anyway, enjoy it as best you can under the new straitened conditions.

      On another tack, I was wondering William, whether you have heard of a photographer called Mike Bunn? I met him a few months back at the funeral of a cousin of mine in Ramsgate, seemed like a very nice bloke.

      • Thanks Stephen. We know Patrick was not Irish but he did bring us Christianity for which we are still grateful and that includes all Christian traditions on this island. We are not naturally xenophobic and I am sure you have heard the old saying that ‘in Ireland there are no strangers, just friends you have not yet met’.

        I have heard of Mike Bunn. I’m not sure on which side of the pond he now operates, but he has a very good reputation on this side.


        • Stephen
          Mike is English, but has operated here for many years, mainly as a fashion photographer. He seems to be based in Carrick on Shannon in County Leitrim, but as a working professional he is, usually, wherever the work is. He has also done some nice landscape and portrait work, including environmental portraits.


          • Thanks William.

            He lives in Ireland, but as I understand things he, my cousin and a third chap, Harvey, who was clearly suffering from something awful at the funeral, were like three musketeers from the rough back streets of Peckham, and they looked after each other throughout thick and thin, it is a bit rough in those areas.

            He had indeed trekked across both islands to Ramsgate to see his mate off.

            I was just impressed at his ability to engage an audience with nary a mention of where he fitted in, the three musketeers were soon to be one, but in his mind were still the same little boys on those wartime back streets, all watching each others backs.

  2. Over here in Delhi, schools are shut till the end of the month at least, colleges, cinema halls, malls, gyms are all shut. The IPL is postponed. The courts will only hear urgent matters. Nice to hear that Macfilos will resume normal service.

  3. The ONE thing which I’ve found the most annoying through all this “Coronavirus!-arrgghh!!” fuss is that NOWHERE, except on one page of the Guardian’s online presence, has it seemed to be explained exactly WHAT it does.

    News sites, TV and radio keep parroting “wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough into a tissue then bin it”, etc. But I want to know WHAT illness, exactly, this virus leads to. It’s like being told “Don’t touch the kettle!” ..but why not? “Because it’s hot!” ..but what does “hot” feel like? “Stop asking stupid questions!”

    Finally, I found on the Guardian’s pages – somewhere – that, essentially, this virus apparently inflames the tubes in one’s lungs. If some people’s immune response is over-stimulated – to try and get rid of the initial incoming virus – that can over-inflame the lungs, which then cannot efficiently transfer oxygen INTO the bloodstream and carbon dioxide OUT, as the tiny lung sacs – which effect this transfer – can fill with water instead.

    This state of lungs filling with water is known as pneumonia. Insufficient oxygen is transferred into the bloodstream, there’s insufficient capacity for other organs to work (without oxygen) so the whole body may die. MAY. But with a fully working immune system, and without there being too much inflammation resulting from the virus entering the body and reproducing itself, then a person just feels tired, maybe exhausted and ache-y, while their body’s ‘anti-bodies’ cope with and get rid of the invading virus, and then everything gets back to normal again.

    The main problem seems to be not the illness, so much as medical resources, such as Britain’s National Health Service, being unable to cope with those who are not sufficiently fit to recover by themselves.

    It’s the possible overwhelming of the Health Service – and in some countries the health services may be only rudimentary, or may have insufficient resources – which is the big problem, it seems. If people don’t pass on the virus to other incapacitated people – who may not be able to recover by themselves – and if it just passes between fit and healthy people, then – apparently – it’ll be an annoying inconvenience, like the ‘flu.

    I felt awful last Monday – but, I wanted to know, was that a psychological or psycho-somatic response to all the bad news, or was I really ill? – but I couldn’t get tested, so I just took a few paracetamol, went to bed early, slept for 12 hours the next day, just felt sorry for myself, and after five days I felt better again. During those five days I met as few people as possible: missed two birthday parties, and went only to the chemist’s to get some extra paracetamol and my usual pills.

    My son – whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of weeks or so – felt exactly the same, but starting last Thursday; so he’s at home doing nothing until it passes ..but that means no work; no income. (He was working on James Bond publicity, but that’s been put back by seven months.)

    If you’re fit, you will, it seems, just roll with the punch, then pop back up just as you were before. If your immune system’s weak, if you’re already ill, you may need hospital help to recover ..and it’s the anticipated overwhelming, and possibly unmeetable, demand for hospital resources – which may be needed by those who are not fit – which is causing governments anxiety.

    I’ve been breathing deeply, using my asthma puffers rather more than normal (..to keep my airways open..), scanning some film photos, watching a few DVDs, ordering a Waitrose delivery, paying the customs duty online for some lens I bought on eBay from Japan, taking a brisk walk, scanning some more old film, and doing a bit of maintenance on the car and on my Mac. It’s a pretty normal day here at home.

    Spare a thought, though, for the poor people in, say, South Africa, where only the rich (..who can also afford health care..) could afford to go off ski-ing in Italy, bring home the virus, which then spreads through groups of poor people who cannot isolate themselves sufficiently, and who – already 1 in 4 there – have the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (known as HIV), and who may get wiped out in their many thousands.

    Think of our own situation, we well-heeled first-worlders, who can spend thousands on a camera, or lenses.

    Think of the poor people who cannot afford even basic health care. I’ll be selling my lenses, and sending the money to Medecins sans Frontieres.

  4. Thanks Mike. I’m confined at home and waiting for our president’s speech tonight. All the schools are closed here as well and we may expect a stage 4 confinement tonight for 45 days at least. Take care and good health


  5. A timely article, MIKe, with your usual well balanced commentary on the world.
    Last afternoon I took the last flight out of Bergen before Norway closed down for Schiphol which was like a ghost airport and then the last flight to Manchester before closedown in Holland. It is very good to be back home.By the skin of our teeth, Mrs B and I completed our round trip from Bergen to Kerkenes and back to Bergen on the Kong Harald of Hurtigruten. Self isolation seems ideal for going through my pictures and writing an article for Macfilos.readers.

    • We will all have to show them that there’s life in that thar bunker! Congratulations on getting back in time. I read that there are tens of thousands of Britons stuck in Spain. One couple in Gran Canaria were advised by their (closed) airline to seek bus and train alternatives to get home.

  6. Glad you put that out here, now problem shared is halfway to being solved. So anybody getting antsy, cabin fever, stressed out, know there are a lot of people in the same boat. Keep comments going and if you get urge to reach out or scream do it thru here if Mike will allow. It’s better than taking a hammer to your roommate. Here in upstate NY is under Emergency — schools closed till April 14. Other annoyances include panic buying, but spring is coming, I am at camp and going to stay here, just going home for doc appts get $ get my microwaveable smart ones meals, little Johnnie Black. Plot what I going to photo when I can. Remember Winston’s words after his first visit AMERICA WHAT DID HE THINK…

  7. Thanks Michael, I have just been watching a “youtube” on Saul Leiter, which was a nice way to waste an hour. He spent most of his life on the Lower East Side of New York, and lived in the same apartment for well over sixty years, yet said that everything is a photograph waiting to slip into the frame, he felt no need to go anywhere.

    SWMBO just informed me that the toilet paper thing is apparently to do with our collective disgust at the dirty virus, there is a desire to be clean, even though the disease as David tells us, affects other areas where unless one is really daft, toilet paper will not go.

    For me, with the opposite complaint to those with HIV, i.e. my immune system is so powerful that I take drugs to keep it at bay in order to stop it attacking me. I have even stopped taking those drugs in the vain hope that my addled lungs will fight the good fight. I am not sure whether this is a good idea, the mainly US forums that are discussing this, but to my logic, the idea of breaking the immune system seems a bit crazy at this time.

    Of course, toilet roll is going to be a real problem for someone like me, who lives about four feet away from the big white telephone, I have to go and discuss life there upwards of fifteen times a day (and night).

    Never mind there are always dock leaves.

    • Dear Stephen: Suddenly, life in the bunker under Macfilos Towers seems a whole lot more bearable. I wish you well and hope that your systems cope with whatever Covid-19 throws at you (if it gets the chance).

      • Thanks Michael:

        To be honest I am not panicking, which was why I was thinking of bathroom alternatives in order to stay clear of the shops, and other places where there are many peeps.

        However it has not and will not stop me and mine from taking long walks in the fresh air, breathe in the ozone… and relax. We are fortunate to have about three thousand acres to roam, which is accessed by a gate at the end of my little garden.

        Which is far preferable to our local municipality, where we have no deaths yet from Covid, but about ten unfortunate casualties of “street surgery” so far this year.

        I would counter the advice of the top brass and avoid the herd like the plague.


  8. Hi Stephen,
    In the Middle East the people wash using a watering can, or installed shower head or bidet, instead of paper. A plastic water bottle works also. They are held in the right hand and the left is used for washing. That’s why if a left hand is placed in a dish of food the whole dish is thrown away. Hope this helps. Kevin

    • Thanks Kevin, this is something we do up in the mountains of Catalonia, where we often rent a little casita.

      Only water is at a premium there. 🙁


  9. New York is like a ghost town; us old ones are on self-isolation; any little cough induces panic; and even more panic is caused by the fact that all our students are back home waiting for us to get up to speed on Microsoft ZOOM in order to teach them for the rest of the semester on-line. Im preparing packages of lectures on power point, and hoping to contribute a “voice off” as they go. Camera stores closed so GAS is not a palliative; but lots of post-processing and printing seems to be in order.
    Wishing all at Macfilos the best health possible, and Mike stay well in your bunker.

  10. I’m on a not for profit board, I watch the $ coming back into our county.the board is Off Track Betting, horse racing we can’t declare a profit all monies that would be called profit are split between 16 counties that are members and are upstate. Well the Gov just directed the gaming commission to close all our branches, only wagering on horses that will be done is online gambling or our stand alone EZ BET LOCATIONS, and believe tomorrow Churchill Downs is making statement going tobe moving Kentucky Derby. Going be rough year.


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