So the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop is over and I’m swapping rainy Istanbul for rainy Manchester tomorrow. The River Irwell just doesn’t hold the same charm as the Bosphorus though, unfortunately.
I’ve been here for two weeks and have had a really positive experience. I managed to succeed with my first choice of story and am happy with the relationship I managed to build up with my Roma family in a very short length of time, despite our serious communication difficulties. I believe bringing the family prints of my pictures every day (see above), as well as small gifts like tea and sugar really opened a door, and is something I’d highly recommend. I got some portraits I’m satisfied with and became aware of areas I need to work on. I was less happy with the reportage shots I took but that’s something I’ve been feeling for a while now. I think the downside of doing an photography MA is that I now like very few of my pictures. I guess that’s all part of the process.
This was my second workshop and will probably be my last – in 2009 I attended a much smaller affair led by Ed Kashi. The Foundry’s a far different beast – staffed by tutors who give their time up for free, cheaper to attend and far bigger with over 100 photographers of very varied experience levels and backgrounds and nationalities, including many from central and south Asia. I expected people overall to be a bit friendlier than they were but still met some lovely people.
Last year’s workshop gave me a huge amount of direction, which for all my enthusiasm I didn’t previously have. With just six people in our group compared to 10 in my Foundry class – and no additional lectures – we got more shooting time and personal attention. It got me shooting small personal documentary projects, opened my eyes for the first time to multimedia – resulting in my doing some training with Duckrabbit a few months later – and ultimately made up my mind to apply for the LCC course that I’m now on. Without Ed’s enouragement I probably wouldn’t have applied.
What I gained from Foundry was far more subtle, probably because of where I now am as a photographer. It got me really thinking about portraiture, which is something I’m enjoying more and more. Admittedly I could have used the same money to travel independently to Istanbul and worked on a Roma story myself (and for longer), and that’s the way I’d do it next time because I feel I’ve probably got what I can out of the workshop experience. But it was great to spend a week working on a subject that interests me anyway, under the critical eye of someone who can pinpoint the holes (Rena Effendi).
Other highlights included a short portfolio review with Henrik Kastenskov of Bombay Flying Club. He had a few things to say about the outfits worn by the Appleby girls while helping me cut that set of images down to an eight picture edit but also made some useful points about ways I could improve my multimedia. Along with panel sessions on long-term projects and surviving as a freelancer, discovering the work of tutors Maggie Steber and Kael Alford – neither of whom I’ve heard of before – were other high points.
My new friends dressed me up as a Roma Gypsy and took pictures of me today. Fairly surreal…
I’m still feeling as though I’m making slow progress with my Gypsy project in Istanbul but a few nice images are starting to emerge.
My portrait repertoire is somewhat limited, I’m learning. I feel I need to start using some different approaches to just standing straight on and sitting down and looking at the camera and to the side, but I don’t really spot the opportunities. Using doorways, windows, steps or anything like that might help.
Taking the time to get prints done every day of the previous day’s shoot has worked a treat in getting the family to open up to me though. It’s a trick I use at home sometimes but in a family with so little the gesture really seems to mean a lot.
I’m still not feeling it hugely with my pictures from the Roma family in IstanbulÂ – while they’re being great with me I’m struggling to stop them posing, smiling and pulling odd faces in my portraits. I need to start shooing family members on their own and closer up. Hopefully tomorrow there should be someone there for a while who can translate for me.Â Two days to go until the end of this workshop so the pressure is kind of on…
I spent this afternoon taking some pictures at the shanty home of a lovely family of Roma Gypsies who live on the Asian side of Istanbul and whose original house was demolished – with all their belongings inside – by the authorities under an urban renewal scheme. Ahem. Two of my main subjects dovetailing into one there.
I got a few nice frames and am returning tomorrow…I did an audio interview with them – through an local activist who I really owe bigtime – the other day but communication was predictably difficult this afternoon. Embarrassingly they also took it upon themselves to try to feed me all the time i was there – humbling and awkward when you’ve already had lunch and your hosts can so little afford it.
I’m not sure whether they’ll be able to tolerate my presence all week though. I’m in Rena Effendi’s class at the Foundry workshop this week and the focus of our projects is meant to be telling stories through portraiture, something I’m keen to improve on. If you don’t know her work, check it out because it’s quite incredible.
I’ve been in beautiful Istanbul for three days and I’ve only taken about 20 photos so far…
I’m here for the Foundry photojournalism workshop, which starts tomorrow, and have been scratching around trying to set up a story to shoot over the coming week. I want to cover something journalistic of course and something relevant to my areas of expertise but the language barrier is significant here and is making life difficult for everyone at this point.
Today I did a little bit of sightseeing but the place is seriously heaving with tourists. In any case, the more I use photography for journalism, the less interested I become in shooting single images for their own sake. I just can’t get motivated any more to be the scattergun style snapper that I used to be…sparing is probably better though.
Although I love travelling and have enjoyed occasional work trips abroad over the past few years, I’m starting to appreciate that I’m more cut out for working in the UK. I’ve recently learned to appreciate that one of my strengths is getting close to people over a period of time, earning trust and learning a lot about their situations.
That is difficult when you need to rely on an interpreter (and they aren’t always so convincing) or when you actually can’t communicate directly with the people at all. It’s putting me right out of my comfort zone and inevitably means that whatever will come out of it will unfortunately lack the depth that in a perfect world I’d like to achieve. Then again there are of course limits to what is possible for anyone to achieve in a week.
Fingers crossed it’ll all come together.