What do you photograph?
I have recently seen “Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr” (21 September 2013 – 16 March 2014 at the Science Museum, £8), and Miyako Ishiuchi “Yokosuka story” 1977 at Tate Modern ( Part of “Transformed Visions”, Level 3) and been following a friends (Arnab Ghosal) photographic project “100 strangers”.
These works/exhibitions have made me consider how we photograph, and what we photograph. The everyday Photograph taken by most people (rather than photographers) has a tendency to be for the special, photographing happy memories, recording things that’s are important to our lives, or documenting a big change. These three selected works are about photographing the everyday, documenting a time,and recording people and spaces.
The exhibitions made me think about how photography is used to highlight an idea, and how the collections of multiple images make interesting discussion points. The exhibition also makes me consider that collections can give an impression of how something is, that is false, for example Only in England shows a quite surreal and eccentric England, it reminded me of Carry On Films,. I am not saying this is good or bad, I am merely considering how as a photographer, and artists, we play with the idea of reality, and what reality we are showing the audience.
Within 100 Stranges there is a diverse range of portraits, I find that it highlights the diversity of people in London, and makes me consider how a project naturally develops from an idea to a statement.
Having always studied, and worked in Art and Design, photography has always just been part of what I do, and something I am beginning to take more seriously as part of my professional practise. This movement has made me consider how and why people get into photography. I selected Arnabs work because I love the work, but thought I would take this opportunity to ask him a few questions about the how’s and whys:
I did a street photography tour in Argentina which is run by Foto-Ruta which I loved so much that I bought my first DSLR soon after coming back to the UK. One of the things I found really hard during this tour was to ask people for their portraits. I saw so many awesome portraits and really wanted to have a go myself but found it terrifying. Later on I found a blog post by Eric Kim about a street photographer named Danny Santos who had done this project. Seeing that he went through the same fears that I do encouraged me to get off my arse and do something about it. I found the “100 strangers” group on Flickr and joined them; they are a very encouraging group and tightly managed with committed members. I have now made some good friends from this group.
How I go about doing it:
I always have my camera with me just in case, but I find that I am more focussed if I go out with the intention of finding strangers to take portraits. Although, I sometimes go myself, I find doing it with one or more friends to be even more enjoyable.
When I first started, I found that I needed to get used to approaching strangers and so that’s what I concentrated on. My approach is simple and friendly. I explain the project I am doing and say exactly why I chose them. I find I have more success if I have more energy, which isn’t always possible.
I now find myself practising different aspects that I want to work on, for example, I am currently really interested in using colour theory and will then focus on that. That doesn’t mean that I won’t do anything else, since the streets are unpredictable and you have to take the opportunities when you can.
Groups can go either way, sometimes other people in the group can do your persuading for you.
What I love best about it is meeting people. We live in London where everyone is head down getting from A to B, headphones on, head buried in mobiles etc. As Londoners we have a reputation for being less friendly. This has taught me that if you can break through that initial shield there are some awesome people out here.
Last week, we met a group of people from various parts of Europe who all met in Botswana and had a meetup in London. They shared photos and stories of their trip which was voluntary in nature. Such a cool bunch of people that we would have never met if I we weren’t doing this. I have met people from all works of life and from all over the world – something which I wouldn’t have done.
I suppose the surprising thing is that I have not had one horrible rejection yet. I have had rejections but they have all been polite. I also thought I would find it easier as I got more experienced but that fear is always there, but now its a good fear, a buzz which means that you are more likely to go ahead. I have seen friends who are fearless, but I let a lot of strangers go because of fear disguised as looking for perfection – but this is getting better the more I do it.
I love it so much that I know that I will continue even after I reach 100 – well it gets you out the house doesn’t it 😊
One more thing, is meeting likeminded photographers who have become friends, re-meeting old friends and also learning that some of my friends were also into photography.”
(Images by Arnab Ghosal)
So to conclude this weeks addition:
Photograph is a way of seeing the world around and taking note, of creating questions and comments, of meeting new people, and re connecting with olds friends,
I want to start moving towards a more focused practise through selecting directed themes
(I need to see more photography exhibitions!)
So here are my new tasks, and a few images inspired by this discussion:
To photograph 100 objects that define me
To develop and challenge my photographic skills through a collaborative project
To research more photographers to help challenge and develop my work.
The <a href="http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/home”>Photographers Gallery, London
Lenscratch: Martin Luther King Blvd
This work is created by Sophie Mayer