People and Place

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Documentary Workshop

Participated in a great workshop at Foto8 on Saturday.  Four very different high profile speakers.
Simon Baker, photography curator from the Tate. It is great to learn that photography is now regarded as an important genre for big galleries like the Tate to add to their collections.  The problem though is that they will concentrate on buying work of the older established photographers before they all die. I would have liked to hear that they would have at least an occasional exhibition of new and emerging photographers.  Still at least photography is being taken seriously by the establishment at a time when many think photography is losing importance as an art form because "anyone can take a photo".

Polly Braden presented her work. I loved her approach to work I felt closer to the way she operates than any of the others.  Her long term projects in China were wonderful, but it is her more recent work in London that I got the most out of.  She has been photographing the square mile for several years now and has some wonderful images and stories. Having spent a lot of time photographing the streets of London myself you are always trying to work out how to get a better image, how does someone get that really special image. What Polly does is position herself for 4 or 5 hours observing.  I am absolutely going to try that. I thought an hour or occasionally two did it. I've never spent a whole day in one spot. When I get to the street photography section of this course that is exactly what I am going to try. Be really interesting to see if it works for me.  I'll also diarise my experiences.

The next part of the day we broke up into four groups and were allocated one of each of the speakers to look at our own work.

My group was with  Raphael Dallaporta his very French accent made him difficult to understand. He also focused on how we presented our work rather than what we presented. As a group we were slightly disappointed, however after I heard his talk and how he approaches his work I changed my mind. Fortunately I took lots of notes and re-read them with a different view. I can now see he was trying to get us to see things differently. Very differently. One of the suggestions he offered to us was to print our photos in black and white on any old printer. Absolutely not good quality. Cut them out, lay them out. View them upside down, sideways, any other variation. He told us "you will see things you don't see in a lovely finished image".  He also told us to stick our failures in a scrapbook. Write all over them what you did wrong.  Revisit it frequently.  Only then will you stop making the same mistakes.

It was his presentation which was next on the agenda that opened my eyes to what he was trying to teach us.
He has done some incredible things. For example photographing body parts in a mortuary minutes after being removed from the body. The craziest work though is his collaboration with a team of archaeologists using a camera attached to a drone based on sketches made by Dellaporta in the 16th century to enable him and his team to photograph in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. They really did discover some new historical data. He also made us laugh at how he lost concetration for a moment and his drone crashed. The tales of the extraordinary efforts they went to to get locals to help them find the drone. Successfully I might add!
Raphael really does encourage you to truly think laterally. He is quite unique. I will be following him for sometime.  Not for wanting to take pictures like him.  I don't actually want to take pictures of any of the things he does, but just to follow how he gets his inspiration. It is not from photos. His work isn't even about photos, it's about ideas.  This is something that I am beginning to realise.  Photography is merely a tool to express your ideas.

The final speaker of the day was  Geert van Kesteren  the majority of his work is as a war photo journalist. His work is powerful not as a front line journalist but as someone who brings you the stories about the ordinary everyday lives of people in war zones. For me it makes the effects of war more personal. What horrific things are being done. If you can relate to people as if they are your own brother, sister, friend, you see it differently.  The emotion he achieves in his pictures is what I aspire to in mine.

I made a couple of friends on the day and am really enthused to try to take pictures that matter.       

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