Everyone is a photographer now. This is what I’ve heard, and it’s kind of true on one level, if you don’t own a camera you probably have a mobile phone that has got a camera in it, but there is a big difference between owning a device and knowing how to use it. As one half of the Art Works tutors I’m aiming to deliver a program that will be intensely practical and challenging. In all of my years studying photography, all the theoretical lessons, all the lectures on semiotics, all the exhibitions and gallery talks, it occurred to me that the majority of the people espousing these ideologies rarely could take a picture themselves. What I’m getting at is that photography is a visual art form, you can talk about it all you want, but nothing can compare to doing it.
The late great Henri Cartier-Bresson said that your first 10,000 photos would be bad, with this in mind I took the group out onto the streets of Margate armed with a small Samsung digital camera and a three hour lecture in documentary photography.
Street photography is one of the hardest forms of photography to master, unlike the studio photographer who brings chaos and action to the stale plain white studio; the street photographer has to make order out of chaos.
Moments are fleeting; some people want to talk whilst some don’t. Some people are flattered by the attention, whilst others run away. Your first time out shooting street changes the way you look at life forever and the more you get out there the more you see the next time. Within the next few weeks the class will no doubt start to recognise what attracts their eye, like all lovers we covet what’s closest to us, but for now it is experimentation that’s the key.
I remember what it felt like approaching the first person I ever wanted to photograph a formal street portrait of, and what it felt like when they let me (and when they told me to get lost!) so am blown away by how many of the class so eagerly got involved with Christmas shoppers on the high street. With that baptism of fire out of the way it seems that all the class are fired up for the next photography workshop, and who knows what we’ll find out there!
Incidentally, if you’re into documentary photography Foto8 is currently featuring my series on battery hen farming as story of the week over Christmas.
Foto8 is a magazine/website/gallery in East London that is all about documentary photography and photojournalism, worth checking out.