The Face to Face workshops, Symposium, Portfolio Reviews and this week’s collaborative projects have provided more interaction with other photographers than I have ever had before. The talent was extraordinary and caused me at moments to wonder if I belonged among this company and course. I was astonished by the varying perspectives photographers took in how they approached the same subject, and I was even more surprised at how varied the feedback was on my portfolio of work. I have to say the emphasis I put in on bird photography was beginning to leave me feeling a bit boxed in and I am thankful to Paul Clements who, in an informal review in which I also showed him some of my other work, told me to go in what ever direction I wanted and just because my admissions portfolio was wildlife and natural history based it didn’t mean that was what I had to do. Quite liberating that; and it opened my mind to some other possibilities.
Collaborations during the workshops and this week in the exercises showed again varying perspectives can contribute to an outcome. But as I got to thinking about photography and the stereotype of it being a solitary experience I began to realize it is never a solitary experience.
“Photography is conventionally understood as a practice engaged in by solo, even solitary, operators. True enough, typically only one eye and finger are responsible for pressing the shutter release. However, photography encompasses much more than button pressing, and many hands are often involved in the broader photographic process of printing, editing and distributing images. The popular image of the photographer as someone working alone — from the intrepid photojournalist to the introverted artist — is therefore something of a fiction.” (Palmer 2013)
We as photographers are always collaborating. We collaborate with our equipment. We collaborate with the light. We collaborate with our subjects. We collaborate with our consumers and we collaborate with everyone else in between who might be involved with bringing our image to a consumer. So while the notion of a lone photographer trekking off to a far away place to capture an image is romantic, it belies the degree of collaboration required to bring that image to view.
The project I am proposing to do will require a great deal of collaboration. It will require a combination of documentary photography, landscape photography and wildlife/ natural history photography to tell the story of the Coul Links project. It will require me to work with the team developing and constructing the project to stay attuned to their schedules and plans. It will require some collaboration with outside groups to understand their concerns and objections to the development so that I can if possible record the actual results of the development and its impact on the SSSI site and the species that exist there.
I can sense that I am evolving, and am beginning to better understand the overall objective of this course, and to find my voice. It finally occurred to me that that if I were doing a Masters programme in Organic Chemistry, I wouldn’t just be doing a set of elegant experiments to demonstrate reactions that were independent of each other. I would need those experiments to relate to each other in a way that would lead me to a evidentiary conclusion; that is to prove or disprove my hypothesis. Similarly then, a series of beautiful photographs without a story that binds them together would not answer the question being asked of me as an photographer in pursuit of an MA.
PALMER, D., 2013. A Collaborative Turn in Contemporary Photography? photographies, 6(1), pp. 117-125.