Photography

Darkness and light to draw us into a deeper emotional experience

What is the relationship between subject, photographer and audience? Is it more than just keeping a record of a scene or is it about sharing something much more personal??

The experience of seeing a scene through the choices of the photographer sets up an emotional connection between the two parties. The photographer is not simply creating a record of what is in front of him or her but is, in fact, opening a dialogue with the viewer.

Thoughts, feelings and observations become a shared response to a specific setting and context transforming photographer and audience together. A collection of images presented by the photographer can over time represent a deep level of personal disclosure and vulnerability.

Art

Saltaire Arts Trail and creative legacy of the Bradford mills

Today we went to the Saltaire Arts Trail. The arts trail is wonderful and captures the spirit of creativity and craft skills on which the city of Bradford was built. The houses are opened up as art galleries and organised as a trail. This event is deeply associated with the identity and history of Saltaire.

If you don’t know, Saltaire is in Bradford West Yorkshire and was a village built in the mid 1800s by Titus Salt. Around the mill he constructed housing for the mill workers along with a school, chapel and hospital. Salt took care of the needs of hundreds of workers and managers who were dedicated to the manufacture of textiles –  including a worker and poet named James Waddington. Titus Salt imposed strict moral standard in his domain including the prohibition of alcohol.

I really can’t imagine what life was like being so dependent on the vision and benevolence of a single mill owner but it does seem to follow a pattern of paternalistic landowners and industrialists who generated their wealth by owning the lives of the working class.

Up the road at Samuel Cunliffe-Lister’s mill there was a different approach. He was one of the richest people in England but had a reputation for treating his workforce poorly. Through a period of unrest at Lister’s mill the roots of the trades unions and labour party began to form – quite a legacy! My entire family history is tied up with this industry. My mother’s side is linked to the Lister empire and my dad’s dad was co-owner at Dean Clough mill in Halifax.  My great, great grandfather is on the far right of this photo, John Dean Waddington.

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Stonegate Listening

I am sitting in the beautiful little church of Stonegate in the heart of historic York. I don’t have a camera with me so you will just have to imagine. Ancient architecture darkened with time but enriched with a sense of history. Outside there is a busker sininging ave maria operatic style. It is a creative place where memories unfold into the present day multi dimensional culture.

My meeting at York University ended about thirty minutes ago. We have been talking about how we serve people at the most deprived end of the UK’s social scale, specifically the homeless.

The aim of the conversation was to determine what kind of change steps are needed to ensure those vulnerable to homelessness find a pathway offering hope. Financial security, food, shelter, safe spaces are the basics but what then?

We discussed the concept of “home” and whether this needs to be a much richer concept than simply having a place to go or a family to belong. We imagine home as a place where memories are made and celebrations are held. The walls of a home, like this church in Stonegate, tell the family story which is constantly being retold and enriched. When you find yourself at home your history and culture will change the fabric of the place and new layers of memory laid down.

Going from being homeless to being at home is a profound thing.  We felt that deep listening was a good place to start – without the ability to listen. individually and as a society, we will all be poor. When we listen we are doing so in order to allow others to be heard. We are saying let’s appreciate who you are, we want you to be part of us – and more than that we want to be changed by you.

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Talking about Talking

A day talking about talking. First of all in Keighley looking at how the town understands the difficult issue of sexual exploitation. This is a scourge that afflicts every community almost without exception. The consensus seems to be that this is something we must learn to talk about.

Discussing difficult issues is more that simply daring to speak. It is the very nature of the subject which holds us back from conversation not necessarily an unwillingness. As in many important areas of life we sometimes fail to find the language and the confidence to speak. In the case of sexual exploitation there is a fear of the facts, some of which are unclear and clouded by prejudice. We lack the confidence to speak because we worry about the consequences or the complexity of the issue and wonder if we have properly understood.

The second part of my day has been immersed in the discipline of Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry provides a framework for asking questions in a way that exposes the positive. Rather than asking about problems and weaknesses we ask what has been exceptional and  search for those golden nuggets which we can discover and refine. Apologies if this simplification betrays my inexperience of this.

The broader idea for today is that good dialogue requires space, framework, sensitivity. How we ask questions is as important as what we ask. The tools can seriously influence the answers you get.

Creating a safe and fair space for properly examining our work and issues is vital. We know from the General Elections that debate can be manipulated and steered in way that is outrageously manipulative. There were whole communities and issues that were not heard in the run up to the elections – and largely because some of them would have been problematic for any potential government.

To create a properly open space for conversation requires the courage to confront the answers you get. If we are being truly open then we have to set aside our inclination for confrontation and defensiveness. True dialogue will reveal that issues are often not as black and white as we might like to think – and that those we might condemn as being wrong may require understanding and accommodation.

A stimulating day.

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Shooting People – schools and businesses

On an ITV camera course I was on a couple of years ago the point was made that the most common shooting situation was the interview. So what are the skills?

Shooting people being interviewed is one of the most fundamental activities of TV production.  Of course shooting people doesn’t only require technical skills – soft skills are vital.  How do you get someone to feel comfortable? How do you ask the most important questions in the right way?  There are many other considerations like appropriate locations and potential legal problems.  The technical aspects of shooting interviews include lighting, sound, angles and composition; use of cutaways and cut-ins.  There’s a huge amount of skill and planning required to get even a simple interview to look good.

I’ve been doing some edits on a promotion for the dating site Christian Connection.  This involved me shooting interviews solo with my Canon 5DMk2 camera.  The challenge of shooting solo was that I had to really concentrate on all aspects both soft and hard.  I’ve been quite pleased with the results, but mostly the learning.

In the schools I have been working with, interviewing workshops have been great ways of introducing this range of skills to children – planning, speaking and listening, photography, vocal performance and a whole lot more.

Since the activity of shooting interviews is such a rewarding and fundamental activity I’ve decide to focus much more on this and I’m actively looking for opportunities to explore this in both the schools work and the commercial work.  

So this really is a pitch to any schools, businesses or production companies who would like me to shoot some interviews or facilitate interview workshops.

Here you can down load a PDF of a few prompts for the preparation of a filmed interview.