Another exhausting week.
The week began with my scheduled early morning interview with ian of Headjoints in his flute repair workshop with a short large format (5x4) photoshoot. This went well, completed within the time window promised. Everything is now booked for me to develop and disk-scan these colour negatives at Halmouth University’s Institute of Photography over the weekend. I’ve decided to travel down on the ‘sleeper’, allowing me to be at the University just before the photographic facilities become available at 9am. Staying overnight and then completing my scans and any re-scanning on the sunday before heading back mid-afternoon.
Above are 2k pixel sized copies of the scanned 5x4 images captured. Whilst a slight amount of movement has softened the wider lens shot on the right of Ian testing the flute he’s just repaired, I prefer it to those that I’ve taken before of him digitally and with my 6x6 film Hasselblad.
The interview went well, here is a link to an unedited recording of it.
.In the evening after Ian’s shoot I attended a special‘Photoscratch writing workshop organised by Hanna-Katrina Jędrosz, one of the founders of Photoscratch. The aim of the two hour workshop is stated as: to: “help you communicate your ideas and advance your projects. It will be a chance to understand how your work is perceived, how you can communicate better and how to promote your work with greater clarity.” Sounds rather useful at this key final stage of my FMP.
The talk was fully booked, as I’d expected, held in an Arts building I’d heard of called “Hotel Elephant Studios” situated about half-way between Elephant And Castle and Waterloo. We’d been asked to bring examples of our work in either printed form or on a tablet or laptop. I’d plumped for A4 colour prints of some of the better images taken of my ‘Enterprising Croydon’ proprietor collaborators. I’d compromised on cost so the prints were on a slight mix of paper, most on either the cheaper matt proofing or the more expensive Oyster, this may have influenced feedback, but given the nature of it i suspect not.
Katrina gave a presentation based on one she’d recently given to an MA photography cohort of London College of Communications. She stressed the importance of where the work is to be presented and something of her own approach to building a language around a project. A key point being ‘saying what you mean - meaning what you say’. The name of the project should also be given careful consideration.
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.
On the next day I was able to get a large format shoot with Nick Tanner, founder-proprietor of ‘Taps’, shoe and key repairs. His shack is close to the entrance to the busy railway station at West Croydon, and is probably the business part of that London Road retail area. Setting up the camera on it’s tripod got a few comments, but not the sort of negative reaction that I’d feared in this very sensitive area of Croydon. I’d had to do this in the station yard and move it in front of Nick s at an opportune time when he wasn’t serving a customer. The pavement was just too busy to do it outside his shop.
I took two shots, to be developed and scanned at Falmouth at the weekend. They turned out fine, here are 2k sized copies of the two images:
I should note that Nick is blind in one eye but does not mind me showing the effect of this. I have his permission to do show these images. The left-hand one I quite like.
The last event of the week before heading on the overnight ‘Cornish Express’ to sleeper train to Falmouth was presenting a portfolio of my work at Photographer’s Gallery.
Sited in their Elanda Gallery this afternoon event started with presentations by Professor Steve Macleod and Polly Braden. Steve gave a short introductory presentation, stressing the need to be friendly to our critics.
Polly’s was the main presentation, starting with her experiences working in China, the work for her Lee Valley book and her more recent work creating a book about those with learning disabilities. Polly often works with writers and enjoys collaboration. Getting the right moment in street photogprahy can take many hours , citing her Square mile project as an example. Polly said that in her experience it can take years between project and publicity, so much depends on topicality, old work can suddenly gain attention in the light of new events such as BREXIT.
At 2pm the doors were opened to the public and I had the opportunity to present a selection of my work to number of people. I presented prints from my Enterprising Croydon project on one side of the table and prints of a few of the better pictures I’d taken at London Fashion Week in February on the other.
The feedback was uniformly positive though several people, including Steve, made the comment that the fashion work was more cohesive. The main comment on the project was that I needed to keep to one lens system and that the work was a little mixed in standard. Polly’s closing comment to me was that I should do what I enjoy.
The journey to Falmouth went smoothly, I was at the Photography Institute before the staff.
The only disspaointment was losing my Francesco images due to the negatives sticking to the inside of the box, spotted too late. Need to keep count in future! On the much more positive side I was able to further developed by technique, I seeon was using the FlexScan’s scanning software much more effectively and getting a much improved colour range on a number of previously problematical images.. Because of this re-worked may of my existing 5x4 and 6x6 negatives on the Sunday.