questions, questions

So, I’m starting to pick myself up off the floor, where I’ve been languishing since my last MA tutorial on portraiture. Bruising would be the appropriate word for how it was for me, but I’m definitely someone who responds better to criticism than praise. In fact, I’ve found most of my tutorials pretty painful so far – I’m an over-sensitive soul – and would say that my confidence levels are barely even on the radar at the moment. I’m asking myself lots of tough questions about why I photograph the way I do, how my own ticks and personality traits affect what I come away with and why I pick the subjects I do. The last question – the subjects I veer towards photographically – is one that is playing on my mind a lot. Over seven years, I’ve developed a niche writing about social justice issues that are not easy to sell to the mainstream media – refugees, Gypsies, regeneration, prisons, homelessness and the like – and have made contacts and developed an affection for and knowledge base about these subjects. On this basis and since photography is an extension of the work I do already, it seems natural to continue. Yet it sometimes feels like these are the ultimate photographer – or certainly photojournalism student – cliches when it comes to subject matter. There is little space in which to add anything new or illuminating and that is making me question my judgement and my own values. Am I a voyeur for picking these issues? Am I always looking for the negative or for the obvious? I don’t think so but the fact that so many documentary photographers seem to want to jump on them is really making me wonder. However, I think this is all kind of the point of this first term…to pull our approach apart, think through, reconstruct, and finally hopefully come back better, more creative and more considered.

Anyway, my original portaits  really didn’t cut it for John [tutor] and I have to admit he was right. I want to get as much as I can out of this course so am going to keep repeating the practice exercises as much as time allows…starting with portraits of a few friends to build my confidence…cheating, probably, but I have to begin somewhere. “Really explore the face” was one of the messages I took away from the feedback I got, so that’s what I’ll be doing. My big problem in this department is directing people – something which does not come naturally. In fact Aniko, above, pointed out that I actually hold my breath when I’m taking photos. This is not something I was aware of but thinking about it, I guess I get so engrossed in the picture-taking that it doesn’t always occur to me to speak. I’m going to have to work hard to overcome this because most people are very self-conscious in front of the camera and a silent, brooding photographer – especially one who isn’t breathing – will only add to the intensity of the situation. Yeah, something else to think about for sure. Ho hum.

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