Last two meetings covered this week as the commonalities are as illuminating as the differences. Week before last was the showing of the mini-groups outings to Castle Park, Keynsham, Leigh Woods and Weston-Super-Mare and the last meeting was presented by club members Steve Dyer and Myk Garton on organising photo-shoots, both of which cover a common angle on story-telling, which, to your non-surprise, is our topic this week.
Yes we have been to this destination before but this is a bigger topic than a thousand or so words can do justice too. It is also constantly evolving. This week the New York Times published six sets of photographs by six (travel) photographers, with very different outlooks under the heading Voyagers. The sections on Tokyo – where the photographer, inspired by the film Lost in Translation, didn’t leave his room for five days, instead used sites like Craigslist for Tokyo to make aspects of Japanese culture come to him – and Italy on historical theatres and includes an observation on the relationship between stills and film that may actually be what a colleague’s daughter of the philosopher Daniel Dennet calls a “Deepity“, particularly struck a chord. It’s been written before on this blog but it is worth repeating, all photographs tell a story. What we saw over the last two weeks were stories being told from different perspectives and with different ideas in mind, either pre-planned to varying degrees or opportunistically, often taken within seconds of each other, of the same subject but with very different outcomes. We have also looked at the way “luck” falls to the prepared.
We have discussed too, a number of times, the idea of the decisive moment, and that comes from the single frame that is presented as the finished work, unlike in a video or film where frames are strung together to make a story, hence the fascination with the deepity mentioned above, viz: “Suppose you shoot a whole movie in a single frame?’ he asked himself at the time. ‘You get a shining screen.” The flow is different in each of these and the motives of the photographer/director are peeled away like the proverbial onion skin through different conventions and interactions.
But those have a script and life, as we mostly know it, isn’t scripted. How are we going to do that? The range of responses to that are from “F8 and be there” to improvising a script. The mini-groups were mainly of the former and Myk and Steve’s about improvising the latter, about providing the opportunities for the shots to happen and through the application of collective improvisation, both stressed the partnership angle with the models and photographers, about “Yes, and“. The mini groups were all around locations that were more or less known by the photographers who chose to attend, but in like minded company. This allows for discussion and thinking and trying the shots that others see but with your own spin. Both are good learning opportunities. The planning is more immediate and comes from what the environment presents than on an organised shoot but in any case there is no substitute for looking closely. The club offers these sort of opportunities in other ways too, you just have to be an active member.
So what is a story? Well it has a set of events that are linked together by a context. That context won’t be exactly the same for photographer and audience because both project their own emotions, preferences and experience upon it, so whereas they may be able to agree the subject, the narrative (the cause and effect we interpret) will most likely differ. The appropriate cliché may be “Slice of life” or “Work of art”. In this case the photograph is an invitation to engage. What we create as a club are opportunities to engage with our hobby through interacting with like minded people. This then goes onto our own story telling.
With the mini-groups we started with a location. Steve and Myk’s shoots take a lot more planning and working with people you know certainly makes things easier, and involving all the people involved has a multiplier effect. That’s the improvisation element. There are a set of practical considerations, of course. You need a default position, a theme, a start point. Steve and Myk have done Zombies, Fantasy, Woodland, Period and many more. The start point is exactly that. The models contribute, photographers contribute, props, models etc can be sourced. There are certain things that they related that make the shoots easier now and then If you start with a basic idea you can use it as a warm up, use it as a measure to judge your images against, you can have a story background. Scout your location, this will affect the whole mood of the shoot and dictate what you can and cannot do. Props are extremely useful, a theme can help narrow the field to the more useful or in character. It is, essentially, photography with a purpose and doing things purposefully increases the chances of getting better results.
Being creative and taking chances within these bounds definitely helps improve our individual photography as long as we are prepared to be open minded and remember not to remain rooted to the spot. Lighting can be varied through simple use of reflective surfaces, flash on camera or off, direct, bounced and or suffused, single. You don’t need complicated set ups, a single light is always a good start. Doing so in the company of others and in sharing the results with others boosts our opportunities to learn.
N E X T M E E T I N G
WEDNESDAY 30th September 2015@ Exchange meeting at Hanham Photographic Club, Hanham Methodist Church, Chapel Road, Hanham, Bristol, BS15 8SD. 19:30 for a 19:45 start, bring 8 to 10 photos to talk about.
THURSDAY 1st October: Posing for Portraiture. Practical. Bring your camera!