Focus 5: The Short Picture Story
Up to this point, the attention from week to week has been on the deconstruction of the photo story, whereby we’ve considered different visual elements independently. For this focus, we began to put into practice the combination of these elements and look at how they work together in a short story of 3-5 images. The task also included a written introduction and a caption for each picture. The relationship between text and image is an area that has always interested me; context, tone and the way in which text can influence the interpretation of pictures all come into play.
In my research and preparation for short story ideas, I had a Plan A and a Plan B. As it turned out, I ended up having to make and shoot a Plan C. Particularly when working with a quick turnaround time, it pays to have substitute options as the likelihood of things not going to plan can often be quite high. For the previous focus, I shot some portraits of a mixed martial arts fighter and I wanted to develop this set of pictures further as he had a professional fight at a venue in London Bridge. After organising a press pass and making the necessary arrangements, this option fell through. Deciding that my Plan B didn’t have enough visual and narrative potential, I then moved to a third idea – shooting the mixed martial arts fighter at one of his training sessions. At first, I considered trying to work in a very ordered way, thinking separately about the different photo story elements that we’ve looked at (people at work, human interaction, portraiture and so on). This felt somewhat mechanical, though – these elements have very blurry boundaries and always merge, so it’s difficult to categorise them that way (especially when shooting). Instead, I found it much more productive to shoot in a homogenous way where I was conscious of them all as I worked (but not too conscious), and where I didn’t necessarily set out to capture them each separately. My short picture story is below…..
Last week, Polly Braden, an alumni of our MA programme, spoke to us about her work. One of her comments was that she enjoys shooting with restriction – this is something which, in the last few weeks, I’ve also felt to some degree. At the moment, I have an affinity for fixed focal length prime lenses and the thought processes that they force me to go through when shooting, partly because they require me to physically move around more (as opposed to adjusting a zoom). That’s not to say, though, that a zoom lens can’t be used at fixed focal lengths if you’re disciplined and choose to work this way. I also attended a talk by a film-maker / photographer called Sasha Damjanovski, which I found really valuable. He spoke at length about his experiences as a working professional and gave his own really engaging, useful and down-to-earth perspective on some of the realities of the arts and journalism. Lastly, I went along to the Irving Penn exhibition mentioned in my previous blog. Most of the portraits on show were shot in studio environments and, I think, use light beautifully – sometimes in understated ways and sometimes more dramatically. There’s a stillness and subtlety in his pictures which I find really engaging, made stronger by good printing.