foundry: my verdict

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.

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