The fusions and confusions of a curious mind

Learning from the heart outwards, by kempspace

Category: photography

The World Press Photo Awards 2016: The Royal Festival Hall, London

The photographs for First Prize Spot News (Richardson) and Second Prize General News (Doumany) are beautifully tragic, candid images of trauma and war. Mine weren’t the only eyes brimming and I was grateful for that jolt in me, because the artwork of an outstanding discrete press photography image should be to evoke feeling and connection, where the gluttony of general media saturation with life’s darker side can leave you feeling numb. Numbness is of course one of the symptoms of trauma, a protective move to defend against the horror of what is witnessed and cannot be easily taken in. The dissonance of the Jazz chords playing in the Festival Hall after was apt.


World Press Photo Awards 2016

The Southbank Centre (including The Royal Festival Hall)

The London Jazz Festival

A collaboration


A new creative endeavor came and found me in the guise of a friend. These shots are straight off camera and pre-edit. They are an interpretion of my friend’s ideas currently under development. The innards of her project are informed by her understanding of the mind, I have an insight into what she is doing as we both trained as clinical psychologists at the same institution. It’s helped me to see into the early form of what she wants to develop and how I might represent that in images.
 
After our initial discussions on the day of the shoot, she trusted me to run loose through her ideas with my own for the camera. Tight for time, we flew through street photography haunts I felt would work, and as the half hours passed, tentative interpretations were shaped and solidified on the hoof. This process was as much a testament to our good connection, as to any of the skills either of us brought that day.

Street photography is a solipsistic pursuit for me, the connections I seek are striking moments in time between myself and the subjects I shoot. This time, the subject I shot was also breathing oxygen into the ideas behind the camera with me, expanding the perspectives on visions of my own. It was a revitalizing and magical experience this fusion of ideas. A collaboration indeed.

The Green Room with Fraser

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Fraser and I stood in the middle of the Green Room at The Bedford and cast our eyes over a treasure trove of band and rigging paraphernalia, temporarily put to one side. Well to all sides. Scribbled walls stacked with lighting heads, gels, mixers, cables, benches and chairs. A piano leaning dormant in the corner, a thick green glased bottle of gin under it’s stool – still standing stoic as if utterly assured of it’s sense of belonging here, it was soaking in years of musical wizardry and a last swig remained.

Perfect. We got elbows deep in it and set up for the photographs.

Here are the photos

For further information please see:

Fraser Churchill

The Bedford

Gordons Gin

 

 

 

Being A Roadie Photographer…

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…gives me an intimate view on the nuts and bolts of a band’s workings. I’ve followed Honey Ryder since the band began, and over the past year have had my camera to hand whilst doing so and happily lugged a few things as well.

I love the different photography skills I have to develop and draw on to do band photography. In live gigs, the ‘delights’ of having to calculate correct exposures in darkness with randomly flashing lights, trying flash and drowning in flat light, keeping ISO low for better quality and the scene not appearing at all…then which lens? Wide angle to take in the full band, but loose close up wrenched expressions of loss in a love song? Closing in on too many a mouth by microphone, pouted lip or glassy eye, and risk the sense that there ever was a whole band making the gig come to life? Phew…

So I ditched the flash, learnt to switch fast between lenses, fired off semi-automatic to let the camera manage some of the exposure calculations, and kept the ISO high accepting some grain is part of the live atmosphere. Sorted.

Or not quite. Then switch photography to candid backstage style and aim to ninja about (less seen) in the green room to capture nuance and interaction. Oh I forgot the initial rigging and sound check shots for the band at the beginning! I love it, and half the time I turn the photos over to black and white to keep a journalistic feel, because its a story.  Its a story of a band’s hard work, talent, creativity, dedication and relationships blooming in syncrony for the big moments on stage, and then deepening their experience together after it. It’s also a story of how I learn to interpret that in my images and my relationship with the band over the years. I’m a keen, close visual narrator.

More of my gig photography can be found at my kempspace photography gallery here

More about the band Honey Ryder here

Honey Ryder Fan Page here

 

Who is the portrait really of?

This was an interesting experiment for the photographers involved. The video shows how different contextual information about the person to be photographed may prime each photographer to produce quite different representations of the same person. Of course we know little of the usual style of each photographer and could expect differences between them, but it’s the photographer’s own reflections that are interesting. They respond to the direction to get to the ‘essence’ of the person, then seek to understand the person in the context of his (given) background to create the portrait. How they represented the person seemed unsteadying to them and revealing about how we work with information we are primed with.

As a psychologist in photography I want to think about how the knowledge I bring makes me see this. In cognitive terms, our perceptions and assumptions colour how we interpret information about others and the world outside of us. In psychoanalytic terms, our reading of the intentions and actions of others can often be skewed by our own unconscious projections. It becomes important to know that we interpret the outside world through our own internal world, without knowing this, we deny ourselves the hope of changing how we could see things differently when life gets difficult (by changing the bias behind our interpretations). How is this relevant in portrait photography? Who are we really seeing through our lens? Who is the portrait really of?

I believe that what we ‘see’ down the lens, and the image we create, is a blend of ourselves and the other. In a similar way, the therapeutic relationship and work is created of two minds in concert, that of the psychologist and the client. Whatever is created, whether a relationship or a portrait, is a meeting of the internal worlds of both involved. In the case of the photography experiment, much of the internal world of the person to be portrayed may have been assumed by the photographer due to the context given. How this influenced the image may have shown more about the associated concepts in the photographer’s mind than the ‘essence’ of the sitter.

I’ve learned that what moderates the extent to which we recognise the individuality or ‘essence’ of the other, is the extent to which we know ourselves. The more we know ourselves, the more we are able to partial out our ‘essence’ or associations and more clearly ‘see’ or portray the other’s. I wonder if these photographers felt quite exposed, but hopefully only insomuch as understanding that these processes are normal to us all.

Red Carpet Wood

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Under the shady trees rushing by to my left, a red carpet of leaves set fire to the woods. I pulled over to stare hard, it was stunning, but moments of light were eeking away into the dusk and I’ve never pulled my camera and Jack out of the car so fast. He ran around my feet while I tried my best to find the exposure that would work  – frustrated – I don’t want to have to pull this up so much in Post! Trying to keep my brain thoughtful in a fizz of excitement is a feat I’ve rarely managed. Figuring through the magic triangle of ISO, aperture and shutter speed, I found that very small part of my brain that deals with numbers threatening to bolt out the stables. C’mon… work it through…breathe (meditation helps in surprisingly diverse moments). Clicking through the stops I realise this one’s got to go manual to try to get what I see. I rotate the clicks to big scary ‘M’ in the hope I’ll get something before the sun says sayonara.

I still needed some of the magic dust of Post courtesy of Photoshop, but it was much less than before, but a light sprinkling of it. When I look through the frames, I can see I’m getting there.

Red carpet woods

Magic Forest

We walked with Jack along a low lying plain in the New Forest, our steps on the yielding mossy carpet punctuated by virulent gorse. In the distance, an autumnul forest dense with turning leaves, crouched under their weight on the horizon line. Lower to one side of us, a shallow river soothed its way through a boggy tufted mire, meandering as if time were meaningless. England was cast off it’s summer axis, the sun’s brightness was burnished and everything we saw was given a halo of gold.

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Eventually we reached the cool embrace of the forest. Sunbeams streamed into the shade to dance with lazy afternoon haze which wrapped the trees; caught up together, their steps set the undergrowth aflame into bursts of colour.

Dancing light in the forestFriend with Jack

For minutes at a time I stood to take in the scene in front of me. I became as enchanted as the child I had been long ago, a child who had believed in magic.

I had found it again.

 

Click here for my other New Forest photos

The New Forest National Park

With thanks…

There have been people over the last few months who have gone out of their way to help me with photography: connecting me with others who can help, encouraging me to find my own style and story, sharing experience of putting an exhibition together and hanging it, learning more Photoshop retouching skills, and thinking about the market out there! I would like to say thank you to them. As any beginner knows, things can seem like a tangled rush of information unless others with experience can shelter you for a moment, and point out the woods from the trees.

I realise there is only so much I can learn alone, and after 3 years of exploring and making connections, I’m now enrolling in courses at West Herts College to get some formal teaching and I couldn’t be more excited. For me, this beckons a potential life change and I know that I can check in with those I’ve met along the way, I wanted to thank them today.

I’m not sure what the future holds (it can’t be known), but I know I’m not ready to stop, the image ideas are coming thick and fast and invading my dreams, and I need to know how to realise them. This is somewhere I didn’t imagine I would be when I picked up my first Canon IXUS 60, or my Canon G12 bridge, my interest really caught grip when I held my first DSLR (Canon 60D) in my hands. Training my eye through the viewfinder on anything from the landscape glory of the Gower coastline to the cropped, close focus grit of Hoxton. I learned slowly from many mistakes and still managed to enjoy the frustration!

For all those wishing to take things further, I cannot recommend enough seeking out others who share your interest, who have two good ears to listen to your questions, a mind that is generous in sharing experience and a heart which reaches out and gives encouragement along the way.

Thank you…

Jason Arber

John Vaughan

Richard Kalina

Chris Shelley: Hertfordshire photographer and exhibitor

Suzanne Grala

Louise Paige

Syd Nadim

Lukasz Warzecha

Related links:

Bureau of Freelance Photographers

Alamy Stock Photography has a strong philanthropic agenda.

Canon

West Herts College

Photoshop

The Gower Coast

Dystopian Dungeness

Dystopian Dungeness

Dungeness was made for photographers. When they set down those boat wrecks just where they did, lay down a few of those disused, rusty, skeletal rail lines and festooned decrepit fisherman’s huts with holey fishing nets, clearly it was all for us. I’d seen some great shots and I’m a sucker for a wreck, so off I went with Jack the Russell in tow. Given that he has a pebble fetish, I looked forward to seeing a shingle beach give him some kind of mind boggling rush on a Sunday afternoon.

A stunning day, and people along the line of the coast were happy to point me ‘in the direction of the boat wrecks please’. My orienteering remains legendary.

I couldn’t decide whether to keep the beautiful colours or go mono, as both would have done justice to that dystopia by the sea (so close on hand to a lovely nuclear power station). SO i went for both, manhandling different colour channels in a way of not tried before.

I’m pleased with my experiment, but this was only one way of skinning that cat,I may return to the images for a different edit at some point. I hope you enjoy the shots, they’re here in my kempspace gallery. As for Jack, sheer overwhelm kicked him into narcolepsy on the drive home. I still admire his persistence in trying to find the one pebble I’d throw in a sea of others. There’s a life lesson there somewhere.

Related links:

Dungeness National Nature Reserve

The old lighthouse at Dungeness

Dungeness nuclear power station

Derek Jarman’s famous Dungeness garden

Edward Hopper and the High Keys

I look at the final edits of some of the photos I took at Southend, and I spy Edward Hopper jumping out from memories of loved posters on my uni room wall, and stamping himself on my images.

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It was one of those days where the in – camera settings, the light, and a newly discovered photoshop tool, allowed me to produce something in a style I love but had never cracked before.

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I looked back and found these black and white ones in a similar style from a shoot at the pier in Weymouth.

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There is something about the mannequin men and women.

This, and getting a favourite high key effect working on another image (the siblings on the beach) – has simply left me with a big grin.

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Here’s to sticking with the learning curves and bearing with the many shots you have to delete, because without this, you’d never recognise the keepers.

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