Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘LCC

A few hiccups, but all in all a rather patriotic weekend

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Several weeks ago, just as the Diamond Jubilee weekend came into joyous but rather rainy fruition, I made my way down to the South West of England to an area largely controlled by the Ministry of Defence (this area is specifically dedicated to the training and study of tanks and tank warfare).

Whilst the nation mostly glued themselves to the TV screens and watched the pageant float down the Thames in bouyant style, I was intrigued with what kind of Britain I might see around an area so tied up with the Defence of our glorious realm. Here are some pictures of some of the things I saw:

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

Max Colson, britian, great britain, patriotism, jubilee weekend, diamond, tanks, countryside, mod, training,

[NB: this originally was a reconnaissance project for something which I am now putting on the back burner – but do watch this space]

The stories of Tyneham and Lulworth: initial thoughts on my Major Project

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The Village that Died for England - Patrick Wright

 

From the 1980s to the 1990s the historian Patrick Wright made many trips to Dorset. His targets were Lulworth and the valley of Tyneham, as part of the extensive research he was undertaking for his book The Village that Died for England: the Strange Story of Tyneham. His book concerned the fate of the small village of Tyneham and the surrounding area, a village that had been evicted during the 1940s to enable the MOD to train their tanks as part of the Second World War war effort. It was subsequently never returned to the villagers. Now still largely controlled by the Ministery of Defence for the training of tanks, the majority of the Lulworth area is a patch of British countryside that remains untouched by modern developments such as agriculture and heavy tourism (save for quite a few tank shells obviously). According to his book ‘it has lurked in the national imagination ever since as the symbol of a vanished England’.

 

With a keen grip on the history of the area and its ability to relate to wider themes within Britain’s development, Wright’s research trips allowed him to identify significant locations, people, and events that would help him put the pieces of his story together. In his hands Tyneham and the surrounding area was not only a story about a specific area in England, it was an area which allowed him to investigate the hopes and fears of Britain as it came to terms with the advance of the 20th century: his book “investigates the strengths and weaknesses of ‘organic’ visions of the English countryside. It is concerned with opposed expressions of patriotism, the fear and appreciation of technology and military power, the tension between traditional ideas of English life and the transformations brought about by the modernising State.”

 

I am interested in Wright’s work because it is not just a study of surface appearances but is concerned with tracing a story of Britain, by unravelling and joining together the layers of history hidden at symbolic locations. It is these ‘historical’ points that I want to try to identify and photograph. I’m interested in loosely re-tracing the footsteps of the historian around the area with the same inquisitive eye, trying to ascertain elements which could be used to piece a story together about what this part of rural England was and what it is today. I’m hoping that the kind of images I make will make something that will not just be about a specific location but will allow me to explore what aspects of this area have symbolic potential and why this is. What is it that makes us see something as symbolic? What is it about a site or a way of photographing a place that allows it to comment to the way we think about our country? Which sites are more relevant to our sense of Britain than others and why? Will these images demonstrate a wider significance to the everyone else or will they just say more about my personal point of view of Britain? And most importantly, will anyone actually buy the vision of England that I’m presenting?

 

I have a few ideas about how this project could look like but I will add these in the coming weeks in more posts. I will also be visiting the area for the first time tomorrow on a five day camping trip. The weather forecast is pretty grim but this is all what being a fearless adventurer is all about, right? Let’s hope I can get to grips with the tent and the good old camp stove. Grrrr.

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

Model Railway Club – Portraits

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I haven’t posted up any new stuff up for a long, long time I realise. I also have suddenly become aware that I haven’t really been using this blog to chart and discuss the development of my photographic ideas either; note to future self.

But here’s some new stuff I shot today – I was hanging out at my favourite model railway joint and I after catching up with some of the guys I took some portraits. These were all pretty quick, using available light (strip lighting from the ceiling). I want to experiment a bit more in the future.

David

Alan

Manus

Chris

Robert

Written by Max Colson

October 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Good ol’ coursemates

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A couple of weeks ago a large number of really cool people from my online MA course congregated in London for a stonking good few days of exhibitions, seminars at the LCC (our uni) and at the Tate Modern. We got lectured by Simon Norfolk, we saw excellent work on show from previous graduates on our course but most importantly we hung out and had some beers. Here are some photos that were taken when my camera was flying around.

(If you want to check out people’s work and websites just click on their names. They’re all really good so I’d definitely advise it!):

L-R: Becky, Veronika, Fjona, Bob, Christina, Moi, Italo

Veronika

A “Cor that’s a big lens” moment with Italo

Me and Linka

5 more portraits

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Boxer for Oxford University Varsity Team, Oxford vs Cambridge, 18.03.11

I’ve been shooting over the weekend at a couple of boxing fights and a modelling convention (as in minature models, not fashion ones). During the course of the shoots I tried some more portraits. I found I still need a bit more balls to direct the subjects, particularly in angling of the face against the light, but nonetheless I do like these.

 

Boxer for the Cambridge University Varsity Team, Oxford vs Cambridge, 18.03.11

Boxer for the Cambridge University Varsity Team, Oxford vs Cambridge, 18.03.11

Exhibition Attendent, Southern Expo Festival, 20.03.11

The portrait of anonymity (post about Roderick Henderson’s work)

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I came across the work of Roderik Henderson after my MA coursemate Simon Bates flagged his work up. I’ve been looking through his work and I just wanted to do a little post about some of his portraits because I think they are really great.

His  series entitled Island is comprised of images which are taken of people from a community in Holland, and are set in the lifts that they use to go to and back from work.  If you look at the images you’ll see that what he has  produced is a series in which he has intentionally given the viewer  almost no insight into who the people are,  because of the location that he has decided to shoot his portraits in and because of the way that he has positioned his subjects in relation to the viewer. The cold, metallic surface of the lift is the perfect place to situate a series of portraits so scarce in personal information.

I just thought this was rather interesting given what I’ve been trying to do with the portraits on my current course assignment; I’ve chosen people with locations that will suggest something about them and what they do. But how much does this actually say about them as a person, besides the visually obvious? And when does this excercise become not worthwhile?

I thought Henderson’s intention was a provocative place to come, given my portrait assignment. It’s fascinating to see an artist who has worked so hard to make sure that what is visual does not actually give that ‘window into the soul’ that the portrait so often tries to convey.

 

 

Written by Max Colson

March 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Boxing kids and cage-fighting men

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As part of the relationship assignment I decided to go and photograph a teenagers’ boxing session at an MMA and boxing gym in London. Inevitably, after the kids boxing had finished I felt myself drawn towards the fight training going on inside the MMA cage. Funny that.

I have to say that I found this photo session quite difficult; fast moving action is always going to be hard to capture and in a gym like this you are restricted in where you can go (you can’t get that close up relationship picture inside the boxing ring for example). This was certainly a criticism in my tutorial that I took on board. But even if I was allowed in the ring, with a skinny ass frame like mine I’m still not stepping in – especially not to get beat up by a bunch of 15 year olds!

 

Post sparring session

Watching a sparring session

5 minutes of push ups

An MMA fighter is corrected by his coach

The coach and the student go through the drills

Another drill inside the MMA cage

The Theatrical Backdrop (more thoughts on the street photograph)

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I was reading Uta Beyer’s post on street photos (which also has some lovely images and can be seen here). Aside from her images the other thing that I respond to is her enthusiasm for the ‘theatrical backdrop’ approach to taking the photo.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, snapping a moment is incredibly difficult. I’ve tried walking down the street snapping people literally in the face and to be honest it really doesn’t work for me at all. It’s not very nice; I’m not Bruce Gilden enough; I don’t like fights; it’s also an inefficient use of a frame. It’s a bit like cold calling I guess, because in that context people are really not expecting anything. In addition, sticking a camera directly in their face is a fairly violent act. I’m sure Gilden doesn’t think so, but it is. (At a public event I feel it’s quite a different matter however – more on that in a later post.)

But the backdrop approach I find to be much more pleasant, and enjoyable even. 1. You’ve worked out your frame, you’ve worked out the appropriate settings, and you can wait for everything to form in front of you. 2. You’re also not targeting particular people, which you are consciously doing in the street walking approach. 3. You are not disrupting other people’s space; people are only drifting into your frame. (But then I have also previously commented on Jo Ellicott’s blog that street photography is also slightly creepy, so obviously my views on this practice are slightly contradictory at the moment.)

The only thing that this approach drains from you is time.

I’ve been walking through quite a few museums this past week and a half, but the place where I think I found the nicest spot was the British Museum. I don’t think that these images are quite there yet, perhaps there could be more going on in them perhaps, but I do like their simplicity.

Mobile Phone Camera, British Museum

 

Passers By, British Museum

 

Head, British Museum

Written by Max Colson

February 6, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Street photos: acting, tourists, and memories of the banlieue

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Couple, Regent's Park

 

Capturing the spontaneous moment is difficult. It says so on the tin (and if it doesn’t then some poor sod should carve it in with their nails in frustration). I’ve been thinking on the things I should be aware of for next time, and the variables which give a decent chance of a street photograph to happen. I give you:

Max’s Street Photography Suggestions for Max

**Go to places at the times where the people are, don’t wait for them to come to you.

**Try not to look as if you are seriously taking these photos. Try walking around, do whatever —-> squint your eyes and act as if there’s some funny dust in the air slightly near where your subjects are. Do some acting. Just don’t let them know that they are the main subject (unless you want that to be a key part of the photo that is.)

**Try to look unfocused, even if you are on a seriously frustrating LCC course assignment and especially if you are trying to frame kids in your photos —-> (looking rather intense whilst sneakily taking pictures of someone else’s kids AIN’T a good look Max, especially in Britain!)

**Don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Getting the shot is hard enough, so if you don’t feel that you’re blending in then it’s even harder. (Unless you’re Bruce Gilden – but then you think he sits in the ‘different’ box anyway).

You can make yourself less noticeable by tweaking with the following variables:

  • The size of your camera
  • Your dress
  • Your people skills on the day (obviously don’t be confrontational, and if they’re checking you out then smile at them and they will be less likely to think you’re weird)
  • Your acting & movement  (move around a lot, pretend you’re looking at other things – it’s kinda important to make think that you’re not taking a photo of them)
  • The kind of location you’re shooting in

**Location is really key, especially if you are you and are shooting with a large  “HEY GUYS! **WAVE, WAVE** LOOK AT ME, I’M A PHOTOGRAPHER!!” kind of DSLR. Tourist areas great to shoot in because:

  1. Everyone else has a camera the size of yours – they’re less likely to notice that you’re strapped with gear
  2. Everyone is taking photos of each other – this is perfect camouflage for your snapping
  3. Tourist spots are tourist spots because they are usually visually interesting landmarks. These can provide interesting backdrops to your ‘moment’
  4. There are tons of people walking willy nilly about. And they are moving and floating into all kinds of weird and wonderful arrangements in front of your lens.

Oh yeah, the last thing is quite important too – try and not go into areas that you don’t feel safe shooting in. Max, do you remember that time back in the day when you thought you needed to go to the banlieue in Paris in order to get some authentic ‘street’ shots? Thought so :-p  !! There’s enough of the above to stress about as it is without adding anything else onto your brain…

I don’t think this checklist is by any means comprehensive at all, so please feel free to chip in with your comments and experiences if you have any…

Written by Max Colson

February 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm