10th July 2014 – Goodbye to the Old Place and the stories it could tell

Last meeting at the old primary school, though it might have been a little more timely announced by the City Council and the new premises won’t be available till September 4th. We will be out and about in the interim. At least they told us on the day of the meeting and not the day after I suppose. Never mind, time for some location photography, starting next week at Clifton Suspension Bridge with the foul weather alternative the ever steady Langton Court Hotel.

 

This week, though was a time to practice that which has certainly been preached in this blog, critiquing our own and others photography. Split into groups we all peered very studiously at the donated images from club members which Mark S. had valiantly circulated. Thanks to Mark and thanks to those who brought in their laptops and tablets. The evening was run by Dan E and he gave us the brief of general impression, evidence for that impression (technicalities like exposure, focus etc), suggested alternatives and conclusion framework to with.

 

As I mentioned in the two WCPF blogs there is no one way to critique a photograph or other art work, but there are general guide lines that are aimed at getting a consistent result in the appreciation of an art work. This doesn’t just apply to fine art, or western fine art. It doesn’t just apply to one era, geography, class or cultural system but it is separate from the rather lazy “I know what I like” school of art critiquing that is generally code for “And I don’t like that”. As photographers “I don’t like that, because…” is part of our own learning processes. We can incorporate, exclude, re-interpret as effectively from that knowledge as we can from “I like that because….”. It is a small but very significant  step. We can then use the equipment and facilities at our disposal to create other images. Our images. The processes of inclusion and exclusion, the ability to see the image in the first place some people never seem to acquire. Mostly though it is a matter of trial and error and practice, practice, practice. Those of you here last week may remember our speaker, Damien Lovegrove, saying that he shoots about a thousand frames a week. Then that is his job.

 

For all that if the image in front of us doesn’t have a plot, it does not succeed, for the most part. The story is the most important thing if we are to make the emotional contact. The story, the strength of the story – not note it’s veracity (truthfulness) – is directly relational to the success of the image (in general). The story can and will vary from viewer to viewer, but that is really the point. It’s what we invest as individuals. Note that no differentiation is being made between the photograph as record and the photograph as theatre. There are expectations on both sides, there is a contract that what is represented is  “A truth” not necessarily and in an increasingly cynical world, “The Truth”.  There will be a relationship between objects, people, flora, fauna, space. Sometimes this relationship is in shot and sometimes it is out of frame. Even when it’s a straightforward documentary shot of something you found interesting in a display there will be a narrative that has been presented. There will be a structure.

 

Structure doesn’t happen by accident. That isn’t to say that there cannot be some happy accident in the relationship of objects that draws the photographer’s attention in the first place, but structure in the way that the photographer chooses the view. See the previous posts on serendipity below this article.  The structure will isolate the subject in some way, giving it a focus, it will always work better when there is some tension between subjects (again seen or unseen) and that tension will be created by eye lines, diagonals, lead lines, thirds, direction, body language and so on. Tension, if you will is a relationship of the relative gravities of the objects in your image, determined by their pull and sequence on your attention. These are all clues to the rest of us as viewers, we need your help! The tension in a photograph is also enhanced when we can relate to a “Decisive moment“, the tipping point in a series of interactions, framed captured and presented by the photographer.

 

That doesn’t exclude the idea of a number of frames telling a story. This is probably closer to reality and can be very strong in itself. It doesn’t have to be about something that is complicated. It is very easy to set up and try yourself. So two contrasting suggestions. Take something that you are interested in that requires  series of steps. A drawing, baking bread, packing your kit bag for a day out. A bit like those extras on film DVD’s , “The Making of” only in stills (or videography though that is a whole different set of processes). Essential details and steps need to be isolated. sequenced and documented. Try using this 3+1 formula suggested by Michael Freeman. Then try telling a story, maybe the same story but with human or other interaction using the two principles of isolation and candid. by candid I mean natural, off guard, uncontrived as opposed to formal – decisive moments of the same subjects using two different wayd of thinking. It’s a good way of putting all these things together.

 

Oh, yeah and have fun doing it ….!