Wednesday, February 2, 2011

People and Place - In retrospect

When I came to the end of TAOP I was quite jubilant to have completed the course and excited to be submitting my work for examination, been over 20 years since the last time I have done anything similar.  However, with People and Place I am quite sorry to be completing this course, because of what I have learned and the pleasure I have taken from the activity.

When I first embarked upon PaP I was very concerned about the idea of photographing people unaware and this became a source of much worry once I moved out of the initial portraiture driven work.  However, once I got the bit between my teeth I found that I started to enjoy the thrill of bending rules or grabbing a candid shot of an unknowing subject.  Early on I was challenged when photographing near a supermarket, the staff were quite aggresive and threatening.  My initial reaction was shock and a desire to drop the course.  I took a deep breath, gave myself a break from the camera and then returned with more confidence and a "if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger".  Now completing the course, I wish I could afford a Leica rangefinder and head out into the streets emulating the work of Joel Meyerowitz or Garry Winogrand.

So what did I learn from the course, in no particular order?
  1. To look at the world around me and explore its photographic potential - In my study of Haidhausen I saw more of that district through the lens of my camera than I had living there for 12 years.
  2. To take time to properly understand any opportunity, consider the different angles and compositional possibilities before shooting.
  3. To work around any brief, if asked for 4 themes, develop 10 and select the best.  For most of the assignments I have taken a stepwise refinement process, not only of the images, but also the conceptual base.
  4. That it really is better to ask for forgiveness than permission - a cliche, but in this day and age a critical attitude for anyone photographing in public places
  5. To study practicing photographers, learn from their success and try to adapt some of it to my own style.  Stephen Shore and Andreas Gursky were strongly influential in my choice of subject matter and approach during this course.  The drawback is that my bookshelves are getting heavy.
  6. To think about photographs as they relate to each other, I have tried very hard to deliver photographic essays, not simply the best individual images for the assignments.
  7. Oddly, to take a break from photography, put the camera down for a few weeks and then start again.  Prior to Christmas I was suffering from overload, being unable to shoot for a few weeks has reinvigorated my desire and view.
I still have a huge amount to learn, clearly this is a year 1 undergraduate course, however, my biggest takeaway is a significant increase in confidence and a feeling of being able to handle pretty much any subject matter now.

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