Not many, I know. I am delighted by the quality of those followers though because they include at least two dozen photographers whose professional and personal work I admire along with a small number of picture editors and commissioners of photography. Sadly, the young picture editor whose comment triggered this project still hasn’t added herself as a follower but that’s probably just as well because out of those sixty-nine images only eight have the hashtag #newwork which I’m using to indicate brand new pictures shot since I established my account. It has been great going back through archives to find the others and I’ve still got a dozen or so #archivephoto options that haven’t been posted yet. (more…)
Over the last few years I’ve posted a few pictures from my own filing cabinet when they have had some relevance or when there is a specific anniversary. This picture was taken twenty-five years ago today as I went for one of my regular wanders around bits of London that were near Metro – the 24 hour laboratory where we all got our E6 transparency film processed. It was about a mile and a half from our Hoxton office (before it was trendy) and it took about twenty minutes to walk there or five minutes to drive. Sometimes there would be other photographers around and we would adjourn to a local cafe for a cup of something and a sandwich and at other times I’d take myself off for a walk around one of the many fascinating side roads and markets that made up the Clerkenwell/Farringdon/Smithfield area and take a few personal and/or stock pictures whilst the film made its hour and three quarter journey through the system and the ‘soup’ at Metro.
On this particular day I went to Whitecross Street with a couple of cameras and a couple of rolls of Kodak Tri-X film. It is amazing what you remember when you start to think about a day and a place and my memory of this day is that I was half an hour into the walk when I bumped into another photographer (there were three or four agencies close by) and we had a coffee anyway!
The man in the photograph (who said his name was Frank but I’m not sure he was being 100% honest judging by the cheeky look in his eye) had been a stall holder at the market selling books and a few magazines for many years. Trade was brisk as the workers from the many offices on the edge of the City of London were having their lunch hours and I didn’t really finish my conversation with him.
Anyway, another ‘archive’ picture that brings back happy memories and brings a smile to my face. This was, quite literally, half of my lifetime ago and I still love the photograph.
Techie stuff: Nikon FM2 camera with a 135mm f2 Nikkor, Kodak Tri-x film.
Ever since I started using the EyeEm photo sharing site I have been trying to shoot more pictures “just for the fun of it”. The platform allows you to add your pictures to albums and one of my favourites is entitled “Out Walking”. I often shoot with my Fujifilm X20 with and Eye-Fi card in it, convert the RAW fils to Jpeg using the neat film simulation modes before uploading them to my iPhone and going through the process I described in my Eye-Fi Workflow post a week or so ago. I also vowed a while ago to get better at black and white. I’m not sure that’s going quite so well but I often combine the two. It’s great fun and even mildly addictive!
Anyway, for no other reason that I want to share them, here are some of the images.
If you believe the old saying, “there is more than one way to skin a cat” and if you want to carry that thought over into photographic journalism there is definitely more than one way to shoot a story. If you listen to some debates about photojournalism you would find that hard to believe but regular readers of my opinion pieces about photography will know that I am a big fan of the ‘black to white, left to right theory of just about everything’.
The idea goes like this: imagine a line from one side of a page to the other and that one extreme of something is placed at the left hand end of that line. Now imagine that the opposite extreme is placed at the right hand end of that line. For illustrative purposes, let’s make those two extremes black on the left and whit on the right. What have you got in between? Every tone of grey that you could imagine. You can have one smooth gradient or you can have it in steps – it really doesn’t matter but what you will have is a smooth transition from one extreme to the other. Salt to sweet. Short to tall. Narrow to wide. It really doesn’t matter.
So how does this translate to different ways of shooting photographs? We are talking about photojournalism here and so I’d like to place “observational” at the left hand end of our imaginary line and “interactional” in the middle with dictational at the other end. That’s the easy bit. What exactly are these three approaches and what else sits along our line?
Observational photography can be defined as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ approach where the photographer is an almost ghost like figure who tries to have little or no impact on the situation and their subject matter. Some types of street photography where the photographer tries their best to remain unseen and unnoticed are classic examples of observational photography. Some would argue that a lot of sports photography fits these criteria too – after all, the cameras are there but nobody is changing their behaviour for them for 90% of the event. By definition observational photojournalists don’t seek any meaningful contact with their subjects whilst they are shooting and most would eschew contact once they have finished taking the pictures either.
Good photojournalism is nearly always accompanied by good and accurate captioning – which is easy if you are photographing a Manchester United game or the Olympic 100 metres final because the participants have names and/or numbers on their kit and they are all famous athletes. If you are taking pictures of people running from an approaching storm then you would like to know who they are and where they are heading but the only way to find that out is to ask. I can remember a number of occasions where I’ve shot lovely street photos whose value as works of curiosity is pretty high but whose value as a piece of photojournalism is a lot lower because I didn’t have the details of the people in the pictures. When I was young and keen I regularly followed people and plucked up the courage to get their name. These days I tend not to shoot the picture if having no details for the caption devalues the image.
So that’s observational photojournalism dealt with. What about it’s interactional cousin? This is where I’m happiest. Shooting pictures with the full knowledge and either permission or acquiesence of my subjects in ways that allow me to interact with them whilst maintaining the integrity of the pictures is, for me, the gold standard. You can tell stories, relay passions and miseries and generally get under the skin of people. Interesting people. By interacting with your subject the nature of your pictures changes and they will have a lot more of you and a lot more of your subjects soul in them.
Back to that pesky scale… you have observation at one end and interaction in the middle and dozens of shades of whatever you would call it in between. Then there’s the final form of getting the pictures: dictational – where you tell your subjects what you want them to do and then shoot it but I’d find it hard to label that as photojournalism at all. I’ve put it there on our scale miles away from observation and a fair distance from interaction too.
Let’s say that observation is the black on our scale and ‘dictatorial’ is white. What colour is interaction? 18% grey of course! (photographer joke – if you don’t get it, I apologise)