Since returning to photography after 12 years absence and starting to take photos of any kind a little over 12 months ago, I have gone through a bit of a whirlwind transition of finding my feet again with a camera.
See, thats my foot. So I guess I have found at least one of them right... End of post??
No... There will be a little bit more of a serious statement to be made, stay with me. One of the many things that I have found myself drawn to as I immerse myself in all things photography, is assisting in various ways some different platforms on the web. One of these is Urban Picnic Street Photography. I am an editor of the page, and my main task there is to manage the collaborations with artists who are regular contributors to the site.
Rob Hill (one of the founding curators of the site) and I started to chat soon after he started the site. It was an interesting time for me, the site was new, I was new to being back with a camera, and things just worked out I guess. Rob and I talked for a while about a way that we could do a featured artist section on the page a little differently. Not the usual interview type deal, ask a few questions, and then show some shots that were already likely on the site anyway. We wanted something a little different, and we wanted to build the community nature of the site.
So the collaborations were born. Pretty simple concept really. We either have guys approach us interested in participating in something, or we go to guys ourselves who we think would work well. We then let the artists have some time to get to know each other a little if they dont already have a relationship. They come up with a theme to shoot to, and then take about 3 weeks to shoot to the theme. The two people that are working together are usually on different sides of the planet, in different cities, and immersed in different cultures. The key concept behind the idea was to see how two photographers would view a theme, shoot to the theme, and based on them being in very different places on this massive planet, they will generally come up with very unique and contrasting ideas to fulfill the brief.
Its an amazing process for me to be involved in actually, and one that I really enjoy. You can see some of the results that we have been able to achieve over the last year here. The first thing that Rob and I did was to test the process on ourselves, so the first of the 8 that have been published thus far is our work.
Thats a pretty long lead in for this post, but I wanted to set some context before getting into the meaty section. I have been so lucky to have been able to work with some amazing guys thus far, and I am sure that this is going to continue as well.
I am a massive advocate for the learning process that is tied up in this photographic process that I am currently undertaking. So, I guess there is a bit of a disclaimer here as well. This is something that I have found works for me, it may not be right for you. I have already posted about the learning, as well as the fact that the right way for one person may not be the right way for the masses.
What you can learn from the process of working with someone else, no matter if they are more skilled than you or not, is not something that you can achieve in other ways I dont think. There are a couple of things that you get from this process.
- The ability to work with, and learn from another artist whilst working towards a common goal
- The ability to be forced to shoot to a brief where you go out of the house with very specific goals in mind to get a specific image
I dont know which of these is more important. I know for me, I sometimes have a lot of grand ideas for photo projects. I go out to try and get some images, and get caught up shooting something else that distracts me. When you are accountable to another person, youre forced into concentrating on the task at hand, knuckling down, and searching out the image. You also have a fall back point in the person that youre working with. Somone that you are able to bounce ideas off to help you if you hit a rut and fall in a bit of a creative hole.
I found the process of completing mine very rewarding, and I also find the process of helping other complete their projects. And then reading about the different artists, and taking in the different takes on the same idea. Its really an interesting thing how two people on different sides of the world attack a joint problem. The results from different eyes are so unique.
The process of learning for others is something that has been ingrained in the art of photography, as well as other art forms, for years. The master in the studio, with the apprentice following in his footsteps is a well worn trail in all forms of visual art. From the painters of old, to the pioneers of photography, and something that maybe dying a little in the modern age where people think that they can learn what they need to from the internet.
It might be that the actual process of taking a photo, and developing a film, and making a print has been diluted a little with the growth of digital. This may in turn mean that people have an assumption that they dont need to learn these technical aspects of the craft so are free to experiment on the compositional aspects of the craft themselves. Its not like taking an image costs anything with a digital camera.
It may be, that this is another of the things that work well for one person, but not as well for the next. Im not professing to have the answer to how to become a great photographer here. I am not a great photographer, and I may never be one, but I will enjoy the process of trying. I am also not trying to say that partaking in a quick 3 week project with another artist is going to solve all the issues you might be having with your craft. But it will form what could be a lasting relationship with someone. It will mean that youre able to use social media for what it should be used for. Socialising. It might mean that youre able to have someone out there, ongoing, that you can throw ideas at, and ask questions of.
Its a small world that we live in. There are a mass of people out there that do what you do with a camera at the moment. Gaining the knowledge of many can only be a good thing in my eyes.