Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘reflection

Focusing

with one comment

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
Advertisements

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

with 2 comments

 

 

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