Plymouth One Day Shoot: Full Write Up of Research, Ideas etc.

Produce 5 (no more, no less) images depicting an aspect of Plymouth that intrigues you. You will need to do research about Plymouth and find something that is interesting and executable within the time constraints of the shoot. It is your responsibility to explore and investigate stories that are interesting. We do not want to see images of the train station, the bus station or a taxi rank. Do your research before you go and have a plan.

Initially for my one day shoot I was hoping to collaborate with fashion bloggers and help them create content for their blogs which would allow me to shoot some more fashion and portrait photographs. However I contacted six bloggers and four replied who were sadly not free that Monday.

I then decided to research local restaurants, bakers and the fisheries in Plymouth to see if I could do a food photography shoot. Also at this time I researched local artists, studios and art shops to explore other potential subject matter and interesting stories in the area to do with craft and production.

In the end I contacted Victoria Sewart who owns Victoria Sewart Contemporary Jewellery Gallery. Which is located on the Barbican waterfront in the city centre. I took an interest in this gallery, shop and workshop because of Victoria. She has been a jewellery designer for over twenty years and has had this unique business on the waterfront for ten years now. She supports local artists from the south west through exhibitions and selling their work and she also teaches people of all skill levels to make their own contemporary jewellery pieces. In researching about the business I learnt more about Victoria's story which is one of ambition and perservearence. During the ten years she has run the business she was diagnosed with breast cancer and whilst receiving treatment continued to run her business as normal.

I contacted Victoria by email to explain the brief and the photographs I would like to take and that I would also love to use the photographs to write a feature on her ideally for Craft magazine as part of my PEP 160 work. She said yes to having her photographs taken and that I could also interview her about the business and herself.

To plan my shoot I looked at issues of the magazine to see what kind of photographs they use when doing a story on a business of artist for their publication. I found that portraits, product shots and interior shots of the business are necessary for multi page stories. So I decided to plan out all the different kinds of shots I would be able to take inside and outside of the shop by looking at photographs of outside and inside the shop online. 

Of course I know that my PEP 140 work will be a different edit to my magazine work so I really wanted to plan a range of shots that I could take of the business and Victoria herself that I would be able to use to tell her story through my captions. 

For the shoot itself I arranged with Victoria that I would arrive at 10:30 which is when the shop opens on Monday so that I would have plenty of time to shoot and then edit the photographs that day. In the end I spent most of the morning and afternoon there, as there are three floors to the shop as the gallery is on the second floor and the workshop is upstairs which allowed me to take plenty of photographs. I made sure to take portraits, product shots, interior and exterior shots, as well as detail shots of Victoria creating pieces of jewellery in the workshop. I was pleased with how the shoot went however I did struggle with lighting and in the end Victoria wasn't too comfortable with having her portrait taken.

When it came to the edit I did struggle as originally I thought I would be able to use a few product shots however when discussing them with my tutors I learnt that they wouldn't really fit into the five picture story as they are not so much about Victoria. In the end I went for an exterior and interior shot, a portrait and two detail shots. Which I think does showcase the business and Victoria well but I do feel they are lacking something and I am pretty disappointed with my edit. Despite showing a clear interest in what Victoria does and being able to stay and learn about her business for most of the day I do think I was lacking in confidence and didn't necessarily choose the right lenses etc for the job. As is the end the wide lens I took out was too wide and distorted too much (14mm) and I only had a 50mm lens to go with that.

Some of the photographs I felt were my strongest

Exterior of Victoria Sewart Contemporary Jewellery Gallery, Plymouth, UK, 13th of February 2017

Interior of Victoria Sewart Contemporary Jewellery Gallery, Plymouth, UK, 13th of February 2017

Victoria Sewart poses for a portrait at Victoria Sewart Contemporary Jewellery Gallery, Plymouth, UK, 13th of February 2017 

Victoria Sewart stacking rings in her workshop at Victoria Sewart Contemporary Jewellery Gallery, Plymouth, UK, 13th of February 2017

Jewellery workshop at Victoria Sewart Contemporary Jewellery Gallery, Plymouth, UK, 13th of February 2017


SDA Brief and Initial Ideas

Taking single pictures is easy. Telling a story through the intelligent edit, layout and construction of a series of images is an integral part of becoming a successful press and editorial photographer. Using your knowledge of the building blocks of editorial photography you are now being asked to complete a number of assignments with strict restrictions on the number of pictures that can be submitted for assessment and getting used to producing quality work within short deadlines. These two assignments are an opportunity to find stories and subjects you are interested in and passionate about. Through weekly tutorials and critiques you will become aware of the editing process and story construction. 

For the next brief we have been tasked with creating two sets of five picture stories. The first being a more focused five picture story and the second a self directed assignment that should sustain you throughout the semester as you explore the subject matter and how you want to photograph it. 

For my self directed project below is a list of some my current ideas for subject areas...

- Artists, studios, arts education in Cornwall
- Dance studios, circus companies

- Gardens of Cornwall
- Conservation projects

Cornish Culture
- Producers of Cornish Food
- Fishing Industry
- Sports
- Ship Wrecking

- Ghosts
- UFOs
- Spiritualism

I have taken a particular interest in the more paranormal subject areas that I could explore with my work and have spent a great deal of time researching these possibilities so far. I have looked into different groups that investigate the paranormal in Cornwall and those who have claimed to have seen UFOs and it isn't taking me anywhere. I contacted the people who arrange a paranormal meet up in Truro however they told me they already have two photographers for the event. So I have decided to leave that subject matter for now.

I also like the idea of doing a project on arts organisations in Cornwall however I feel that is a subject matter I would like to dedicate a lot more time and energy to than I am able to do with this brief. The same goes for a project on local food producers in Cornwall, spiritualist churches in Cornwall and conservation projects.

Instead I want to explore finding a way to create a picture story still about the paranormal in Cornwall but instead of UFO phenomena I want to look at hauntings as I have found loads of statements about hauntings across Cornwall. I want to find a way to join different stories up to create a study of claims of paranormal sightings to investigate patterns or the kinds of places where hauntings tend to occur. To explore the psycho geography of hauntings in Cornwall. 

Vivian Maier

After watching a documentary on the life and work of Vivian Maier I have decided to look at her street photographs to inform my current thoughts and approaches to the relationship brief. Maier was a mysterious American nanny whose photographs remained undiscovered until her death in 2009. She is now considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. While looking after other people's children she would take to the streets with her Rolleiflex camera at her waist to photograph the public.

One thing that is particularly evident when looking at Maier's monochrome square street photographs is how incredibly observant she was. Noticing small details in shop windows for example and dresses blowing in the wind. I love the photograph above for example because of this pattern she noticed of these men wearing their hats and reading their newspapers. There is a real sense of rhythm created through the repetition in this photograph, illustrating that people like this are the rhythm of this city. 

Maier's photographs of people are her most memorable often because of the way she interacted with her subjects. Holding her Rolleiflex at her waist she would stand and stare at her subjects which is why we see these really interesting expressions from the people in her images. Which often looks to be confrontational but there is something calm about the way her subjects react to her presence. To me it feels as though Maier used her photography to express how she felt like an outsider. It is as though she has briefly entered these people's lives to try and understand people, and herself. 

Maier also took a lot of self portraits and photographed her own shadow often. The presence of the photographer being so overtly demonstrated throughout her different photographs I find really intriguing, and it really allows you to connect to the subject matter in a different way. You aren't just seeing what is directly in front of you, you are able to understand more the photographer's place in the photograph and the relationship they have with their subject matter. 

Her approach and style often veers towards that of other great photographers such as Weegee, Robert Frank and Richard Avedon. However there is a unique sense of gentleness in her photographs which is often paired with high emotion. I think the way she is able to turn these often passing shots into such transient moments is incredibly special and is why her work has been so well received by people in the past decade since its discovery. 

Maier's approach to street photography I find so inspiring, particularly in the way she considers her own position in taking the photograph. I feel that despite capturing other people she is capturing a part of herself and what fascinates her. Her eye for design and composition in her images is also a strong element of her photographs, some of her images even seem like editorial fashion shots despite being candid photographs. This approach that creates such clean and beautiful photographs that are so atmospheric is really inspiring to me and I feel I need to go out more and just work on taking candid photographs with film, just to get a feel for this kind of photography. 

Andre Kertesz

“André Kertész has two qualities that are essential for a great photographer: an insatiable curiosity about the world, about people, and about life, and a precise sense of form.” – Brassai
The next photographer I have decided to look at is Andre Kertesz as I came across his work in a book the other day and was left feeling really inspired by his style of photojournalism. Kertesz was a Hungarian photographer who is best known for pioneering what we now know as candid photography. 

What made Kerteszs' photoessays so unique was the simplicity and abstract nature of his photographs, that were taken either close up or far away to isolate subjects. His photographs of the backs of or small details of people in the streets of Hungary and Paris show a disinterest he had in cities, unlike many other photographers. His images show us that he sought to show typical moments of people in the cultures he photographed. 

This particular aspect of his work has made me think more about how to record occurrences and moments in relationships in different ways. As Kerteszs' photographs often look more graphical and abstract. The relationships captured often form the entire composition, giving a very psychological and subjective aspect to his work. His images are deceptively simple however; I read that the Editors of Life told him that his 'pictures talk too much.' This refers to how symbolic his photographs are and the messages of which are clearly well thought out. Yet his photographs are so ambiguous leaving you wondering what exactly is happening inside and outside of the frame and often asking questions about the ways people interact with one another.

“Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph”
– Andre Kertesz
Kerteszs' photographs often bring a viewer in uncomfortably close. The photograph above for example of the woman with a hand on her shoulder is incredibly close up, making us think very much about this possessive gesture; possibly from her male partner. The anonymity of this other person makes this a rather haunting photograph yet this is a very quintessential action. It is the composition of this photograph that changes completely how we respond to this moment between these two people. 

To me his photographs are about the holding a mirror up to every elements of the human experience allowing us to observe them closely. His work feels like a unique mix of documentary and abstract photography that allows us to view other people's lives in an introspective manner. The way he photographs people shows a real sensitivity he had as a photographer, as through disarming his subjects they often feel familiar to us.

Looking at Kerteszs' work has really allowed me to see just how broad documentary photography and photojournalism can be in its presentation. Kertesz captured human relationships in a very different manner to the other photographers I have looked at so far however his photographs say just as much about people and how they interact with one another. 

Initial Experiments

After identifying that I would like to try some street photography for this project I decided to bring my camera with me on my travels and just try photographing people to see how comfortable I am and what I can produce where I live. Something that seems impossible to ignore in Cornwall are people's relationships with the beaches here, so I decided to try photographing families and surfers on some of the beaches I have been to in the past few weeks. I have learnt that you have to be very patient and it is very hard to be covert when photographing on a beach rather than a busy high street. I think there is a feeling of warmth to the families in these photographs and I think the anonymity works because it allows the viewing to put themselves in these relationships that we all experience. 

The affection shown is the final photograph of the mother and daughter above is my favourite and on this day I was using a longer lens so I could get closer to my subjects. I am not happy with these photographs if I am being honest though. They don't really comment on anything and it is obvious I have kept my distance which I guess is fair enough with this subject matter. I really appreciate the confidence that is needed for this kind of photography and it is something I would like to continue working on. However I know if I used this kind of approach to take my final photographs I would not be happy with the result. 

I am starting to think more about the Gary Winogrand photographs as events photography is something I have been doing a lot of recently and I think it is an interesting way to look at relationships. I just need to find my focus right now because I have a lot of ideas but nothing is grabbing me just yet.

Marc Riboud

Anshan (China), 1957
London, 1954
"I am not either a war photographer or news photographer.. I have always been more sensitive to the beauty of the world than to its violence and monsters."

I came across the work of French photojournalist Marc Riboud in the book A-Z of Photographers by Michael Koetzle, which I often sift through when looking for inspiration for my photography work. His work grabbed my interest in particular when I came across his photographs in The Concerned Photographer (1968), edited by Cornell Capa. Which is a collection of photographs showing post war crisis from 8 of the most prominent photojournalists at that time, including Don McCullin, Bruce Davidson and Marc Riboud. Riboud's photographs were taken in Eastern Asia in countries such as China and Vietnam, and show a real compassion and desire to show the human struggle. As many of his images sensitively captured manual labourers and working class families, in places that had just been through periods of war and violence.

What interests me about these particular photographs of Riboud's that are shown in The Concerned Photographer is the more humanist approach he took in representing these areas experiencing periods of war and violence. I like that his approach to photojournalism steered away from the more gritty war photography and instead focused on communities and cultures. As this is a perspective that reveals even more about the violence in my opinion in terms of the wider context that these situations have occurred in. 

"To understand and appreciate Riboud's aims, one need only to review the subjects he has chosen to photograph. Once examined, a definite pattern takes shape indicating that here is a man who is concerned with people, their unique portion of the earth, and their continually intense interaction upon each other." - Charles R. Reynolds, Jr. 

In Marc Riboud (Photofile) he talks about what he refers to as the pleasures of seeing. That he feels a "double tension" in taking photographs; "the fear of destroying an intimacy by approaching it and at the same time the strong desire to photograph as close as possible". By this he is referring to the appeal of photographing something up close that you wouldn't dare stare at and when looking at his street photography it is very clear what Riboud is referring to. He seems to have a curiosity for intimate moments yet captured them in a removed way and doesn't interact with the subject while photographing them.

His photographs reveal to us a modest approach to photography and a constant searching of truth, stories and intellect in his subjects.

One of my favourite photographs of Riboud's is Young Girl With a Flower which shows seventeen year old Jan Rose Kasmir holding a chrysanthemum up to a soldier’s rifle bayonet. At the Pentagon in Washington D.C on October 21st, 1967; the location for one of the most influential demonstrations against the war that was taking place in Vietnam. Not for its crowds or levels of violence but because of the impact it had on the American population and government’s perspective on their involvement in the Vietnam war. What I think is so potent about this photograph is the tenderness that we get from young Kasmir who appears to be pleading with these soldiers of a similar age to her. 

This image shows the determination Riboud had for finding Bresson's decisive moment. The emotion and symbolism captured in this image is so telling of the circumstances at this time and to see such a young girl standing up for what she believes in is incredibly powerful. We see Kasmir’s flower, a symbol of peace and innocence being put at a knife’s edge across a bayonet. This could be said to represent what America was doing to its own people in Vietnam and the lives at stake over the entire conflict. The watch on Kasmir’s wrist could also symbolise mortality being threatened by the control of forces, and that time is so fleeting when human lives are on the line. For Riboud to get so close to this moment and yet still manage to capture it in such an intimate way without interrupting it shows a real skill Riboud had as a photographer in terms of the presence he made around people.

France, 1987

Houston (USA), 1987

Istanbul, 1998
Villeurbanne, 1984
Looking at Riboud's work has made me think a lot more about my presence as a photographer when taking candid and street photography. It's clear that you need to spend a lot of time with your subjects but also be quite removed. They need to feel comfortable enough around you that they don't notice you. Something that can be difficult when doing street photography for example as if your presence seems overly cautious or malicious that is when people will begin to feel uncomfortable and notice you more. I don't think this kind of photography should be voyeuristic however and I would really like to build my confidence in taking photographs of the general public. 

I'm still not sure about my relationship photographs. Events photography is really appealing to me because I can be removed from my subjects in order to capture candid moments showing relationships and people also wouldn't take issue with me being there. I do events photography for AMATA so I may try and find a way to do a project on maybe certain kinds of events or an element of events that interests me.