In comments on the nature of the language to be used in funding applications and accompanying biographies and general statements Katrina made the interesting observation that funding and competition applications are opportunities for exposure, even if you don’t win or get shortlisted.
The made the point that you cannot rely on spectators to immediately understand what your photographs are about, ‘to understand your visual language’. To communicate we need to understand exactly why we took these photos and recognizes that we are in a position of privilege holding a camera to do this. We should note this ‘power dynamic’ and respect the responsibility that comes with it. The more we understand our reasons, the easier it is to articulate them to others. We also need to be truthful.
A number of useful pointers were given. Such as the importance of always carrying a notebook and being open and receptive, and not placing too high an expectation or pressure on yourself or your process. A trap I often fall into. Good background through research and list collection was stressed, and the comment made that this should not be restricted, look outside and at the work of others for ideas.
Finally Katrina finished with the point that simplicity is key. Text need not be complex, ideas should be able to be expressed in just a few sentences. To avoid misunderstanding a caption can be helpful. Question whether items are really needed. Katrina gave quite a lot useful pointers on the use of social media and websites. But the key points stayed the same, keep it simple, be positive, be professional, be truthful, reflect yourself. I made a lot of notes.
After the presentation by Katrina we were instructed to conduct a simple peer review. To do this we split into small groups of three or four, to make up for slight disparity in number one person covered two groups in a couple of cases. Each portfolio was passed around and each person had to write their comments on the accompanying slip, background on the nature of the work was not provided until afterwards, if asked. It was suggested we split our coments into: Emotional, what we feel, and the literal, what we see. Finally the feedback from each reviewer was passed back to the portfolio owner.
In my case the following feedback was obtained. Note that this wasn’t the ‘final cut’ of my portfolio,there were a number of images from the same subject in some cases. I’ve kept the comments for each reviewer separate, but tried to group what appear to be related observations:
Traditional, craft, portrait, diversity, skill, shopkeeper
All in colour, Older generation, ambition, complex, individuals, cultural heritage
Humanity,, pride, life, happy, contentment, lovely, leathery
Britishness, honesty, intensity, resilience, delicate, atmospheric, grime
Urban, multi-cultural, comfortable
People, intimate, portrait, domestic, posed, centered, various depth of fields,
Inconsistent light and colour
?<Couldn’t read their writing> - Placed
Eye contact, Positive, Self-confident, Caged, Eye-to-eye
50mm, Natural light, artificial light, Average (people), Formal, craft, Landscape/portrait ?
Caring, Pride, Independent, Busy,
Personal ?, Environmental, Multi-cultural, Native, Humane, human, active, caught
Broad, Shopkeepers/business, Environmental portraits
Some feel more relevant ‘in the moment’ than others
Colours & tones of the edit differ – could be more cohesive
Upbeat, Commentary, Action Shots
Some very captivating/curious/intriguing
Some stronger than others
Alive, Humanity, personal insights, New perspectives, Kind, warm, connected
Not all reviewers are probably equal in weight, I know reviewer three had quite a respectable background in documentary photography.
On the positive side quite a lot of the narrative I was trying to communicate came across, much more than I expected to be honest. Particularly the breadth and hands-on nature of most of the businesses I was covering, as well as the diversity in the individuals themselves. It was noted by one reviewer than none were young, but this probably is reflective of this type of small business enterprise, younger folk are more likely to be employed by others rather than run such a business at this time in their career, maybe… Their independence and positivism was picked up, an important trait for any independent proprietor.
On the negative side there clearly was felt to be inconsistency in the impact of the images, as well as the style and way the image had been captured. The final cut is going to be important, a few of what seem my best image for some subjects is quite a different sort of portrait to others. Probably going to have to be a compromise, the design of the hanging will need to take this into account. Having a reasonably large number of individuals to show should help on this.