Exploring with others

October 21, 2016


I have just returned from a three day course in London organised and taught by the Danish photographer Thorsten von Overgaard. He taught lightly and provided us with the company of other photographers in stimulating environments, so we could also learn from each other. I especially enjoyed the coincidence of finding myself with another photographer, Douglas, from my current home city of Oxford and another, Paul, from my original home town of Nottingham. Discovering shared geographical connections quickened the growth of a sense of belonging - helped me ease myself into the group.


Thorsten's introductory remarks emphasised our responsibility for our own work; also for exercising control over our workflow and not surrendering too much to the processing and cataloguing software provided by large corporations such as Adobe and Apple. I took this opening as licence to further explore what photography was meaning for me, especially in relation to my evolving style. What, if anything, was unique in my relationship to photography and the images I produced?


Independence of vision is made difficult in photography, because clients and others are usually photographers themselves with informed views about what they want done and what constitutes good work. This can be a bit overwhelming and discouraging of an independent eye. Yet without confidence in our own way of expressing what we see and feel we are unlikely to impress clients or others. They surely have a view, but they also expect us to have one too! Without confidence in our own eye we are likely to focus in on the purely technical aspects of the immediate figure and loose a feeling for the whole and its wider possibilities. 


As I considered what supported independent expression I reflected on the significance of staying open to the whole setting within which particular images were arising. How might we immerse ourselves into the scene while remaining aware of the the possibilities of the whole? Should we be mindful of our own felt states? Most obviously the photographic image is made up of a relationship between the visible parts, some in and some out of focus, but what about ourselves, the perceiver of the scene - how are we included?


The photograph above, for example, was taken in a Cafe where the group was taking a break from our long perambulation. What brought the camera to my eye was an intuitive sense of a relation between my fellow course members (Sky and Valentina) and my own reflective state. I was sipping coffee absorbed in questions about my own photography. From this introverted state I was aroused by a moment in which I imagined Sky and Valentina were similarly absorbed. Then I noticed the figure behind and experienced a sense of urgency - this moment seemed important and I released the shutter.


Did my own reflective state constitute a kind of immersion that readied me to see what then happened? Could we say that I was a part of this reflective moment and my picture was an expression of that prior immersion?


These questions push me along and give rise to others. I often feel, for example, that the world shows itself differently when I have my camera in hand. It's as if the camera might be tool for wiring me into the world - for seeing more fully than might otherwise be the case. Can the camera work like this for the photographer?




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