Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘criticism

Focusing

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max colson photography documentary backyard messy

Well it’s been a while.

I’ve been doing a lot of questioning of myself as of late. Being on an MA is pretty useful for that of course, but also the prospect of it ending and me then going out into the wide world has also prodded me into thinking what kind of photography do I want to be doing to help me onwards in my career. The possibilities are pretty wide. I need to narrow things down and focus.

Historically for me photography has always been a way of engaging with the moment. I’ve always tended to shoot first and to think second. My first ever project on cage-fighters and boxers didn’t have much planning or conceptualisation, it was born from raw curiosity and energy. Nothing was intellectualised. It was created from instincts, reflexes, and a lot of lucky moments. It was good training for a wide eyed enthusiast in love with Magnum era black and white reportage. However whilst it was successful, particularly as a homage to a genre, it is not the only way that I want to shoot.

Napoleon Dynamite was the first piece of work I handed in on my MA and had ambitions to be more conceptual than it was, yet it didn’t have enough of a visual idea to hold it together as a full photo essay. There were some nice images in there which were successful in their portrayal of the theatricality of the re-enactors history making, but there weren’t enough. And there weren’t enough because I hadn’t focused on that as the point of the essay. I was trying to shoot that as well as everything else. I needed more of a vision.

The re-think project that I just handed in marked a step in a new direction for me. Rather than focusing on a specific community / hobby / overly theatrical event it was born out of a process of walking. I walked through rural areas in England (Epping Forest and I walked a lot through Claverham near Bristol). I was interested in the goings on in these areas as well as their usefulness as places in which man and nature live side by side. Eventually I produced a dummy for a photobook out of this work. It marked a new step in my progress mainly because of the process in which it was made, as well as the fact that I shot most of it on medium format film. Where it needed more work was on the clarity of the idea and the relationship between that and the final images (that old problem again). There are some good frames in there but overall I think it needs streamlining. In my next project the research process will be more thought thorough and structured, and will need to start from a strong idea that I can explore and develop through photographing in the real world. I’ll also need to stick with to death this time. Oh focus, focus, focus!

max colson documentary photography swans

Historical re-enactment at home

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One of the main bits of feedback about my last photo essay (on Napoleonic historical re-enactment) was that although there were some nice single images they didn’t come together as a story that well. They didn’t really have a point besides showing that a particular hobby takes place. If you want to see what this piece of work looked like you when I submitted it you can see the website here.

My strategy with the first iteration of my re-enactment project was slightly misguided. After going through all of the images I had shot I saw that I had three categories of images (portraits, action shots, and anachronistic scenes) and so I decided to make sense of them by presenting them in their 3 simple categories. Obviously this was slightly silly; in effect my submitted piece of work was less an exercise in telling a story and more one in which I simply categorised some images of historical re-enactment. Nice if you want to look at a catalogue  of images, not so nice if you want an actual story about the hobby.

I guess what I’m interested in is giving the viewer a sense of the background on which re-enactment takes place, which is on the lives of women and men with historical interests in the UK. I will be doing this not only through some multimedia videos that I am currently producing but also through a series of portraits that I am doing in and around where re-enactors live. I will be using all of this to add another dimension to the images of the re-enactments taking place. Here are a few that I shot recently with the great Keri Tolhurst.

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Napoleonic Historical re-enactment Max Colson Photography Photographs

Ken dumps Barbie and Barbie gets locked up (Greenpeace’s latest protest video)

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Greenpeace have produced a YouTube video of their latest protest activity against the toy maker Mattel. In this video we find that *horror of horrors!* Ken has dumped Barbie because he is not happy that the packaging of her toys is made of paper culled from deforestation. In the subsequent PR stunt outside the Mattel HQ Barbie is eventually jailed by the Police for protesting against Ken’s claims and explains that:

“I’m Barbie, as long as I look good who cares about some tigers in some distant rainforest…”

I may be just a humble stills photographer but I take stuff like this as inspiration. This may have a nice big marketing budget behind it which has helped it become the PR stunt that it is, but at its core its just about sitting down and thinking simply about what you want to communicate, how you want to communicate it, the best location to communicate it, and pre-empting what you think the real-world effects of your activity will be and working with them (the person who knew that the Police could be manipulated to create the real-world arrest of Barbie is very, very on the ball.)

Really, really slick. And more importantly, completely sharable.

*I say thankyou to Benedict Pringle who writes the very readable and succinct Political Advertising blog for bringing this to my attention.