Jonathan Worth asked the class whether we think of ourselves as photographers, oddly few raised their hands. He then asked us what is a photographer? The discussion varies between a ‘professional editorial photographer’ to an author, telling photographic narratives. They say that there are a thousand words to every picture after all. How much can we as photographers tell a viewer without words? Or how could words completely change a perception of an image? These are questions I thought about during the first part of the lecture.
Jonathan shown us a video by the founder of VII magazine, Stephen Mayes, and how he wanted to change the attributes of a photographer from ‘supplier’ to ‘publisher’ so that the distributors no longer mediated the photographs to their own views, but the photographer has their own voice. This is an important point, as the paradigm shift between film and digital is almost over, the next hurdle is between photographic suppliers and photographic story tellers; anyone with the equipment and basic understanding can create beautiful images, but it is the underlying message. We have the power to reinvent photography to brand ourselves and express what our personal values are, for example. Jonathan himself said that he was commissioned to photograph 9/11 victim’s families with their voice recordings; but he rejected it, because he reserved the right to not tell that story, because of his own morals.
So how do we as photographers get these stories from people we don’t know? Jonathan shared with us different stories he found out from people and then had to react photographically in the best way to suit the subject’s voice. Photography can be very aggressive, putting a camera between two people somehow distorts conversation, for the subject to not see the photographer’s eyes as they are talking is uncomforting. Steve Pyke talks about this and how he uses a Rolleiflex camera so that photography is more passive, therefore being able to negotiate with the sitter. Photographic negotiation is a conversation, an ‘exchange’.
I feel that I learnt a lot from this lecture, how as photographers we need to approach people with a camera in a sensitive way. We need to be sensitive to a stranger’s or anyone’s story. Jonathan set the #Picbod task “Negotiation” as we had to photograph a stranger and get a story; however, with my photographic theme being ‘intrusion’ I wanted to have a discomfort from the sitter, therefore needed to make this boundary.