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The Photographic Flâneur

I have long been interested in the concept of a flâneur as it has a relationship to my mindful approach to photography. Whilst the dictionary definition of it as an “idler or a lounger” is of interest, Charles Baudelaire’s interpretation of a flâneur is more relevant. He described a flâneur as someone who is a detached observer of city streets, someone who is attuned to the seeing. For him it was not an act of loafing about, but one of sauntering along city streets whilst absorbing the visual feast. So when it came up as the WordPress Discover challenge this week I decided to dedicate some time to living the life of a photographic flâneur.

What follows below is a selection of photos that were created whilst sauntering through the streets and sights of Swansea. I wandered for about 4 hours, stopping for a cuppa and then meandering on. I followed my own 4 stage seeing practice that uses what I see as my anchor; the one thing that I return to when I notice my busy mind has itself wandered off.

Perhaps the concept of  being a flâneur is a useful analogy for your active mind. You follow the streets and practice attending to what you see, then a sight leads you down a thought stream and you are away on some exploration of the past or invention of the future. Somehow you notice, maybe it is another sight that brings you back to the present, and in that moment you are immersed in the seeing.

You raise your camera to your eye, photographic thoughts swirl: where should you frame the scene, what f stop should you use? You notice this, return to the sight that stopped you and somewhere between controlling all the photographic knowledge and being completely present you let the decisive moment to press the shutter emerge in its own time. A photograph is created. You saunter on.

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Lead Creative School Projects

It has been a hectic couple of weeks. The Lead Creative Schools (LCS) scheme has taken off in earnest with consultation events at both of my Primary Schools.

I work as a Creative Agent on this Arts Council Wales scheme. Whilst this is the most fabulous job title I have had to date it is also fascinating and challenging fun. I am working with two quite different primary schools who both have an interest in outdoor education. One is Ysgol Bryn Teg just outside of Llanelli and the other is Pennard Primary on the Gower.

I have worked with the LCS team at each school to set up consultation events with stakeholders (parents and governors) and the pupils who are going to be involved. Being a creative project these consultation events made great use of creative activities and challenges to explore what was important about learning for each group, and how they thought learning could be most effective.

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We used exactly the same activities and games at each school for each group. So the adults got to play and explore and the pupils got to explain how they felt they would learn best. It was all great fun, entertaining and informative.

From this base I then sat down with each team to develop and write the Project Outlines. These are then used to invite Creative Practitioners from any artistic discipline to apply and explain how they would meet the brief. You can view and download the Project Outlines by clicking on the links below.

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Pennard Primary

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The closing dates for expressions of interest for both projects is quite soon and then we have interviews to arrange, which will involve stakeholder, pupil and staff representatives working together to choose the creative practitioners who they feel would create something engaging, imaginative, inspiring and sustainable at their school. Not much pressure there then!

Interesting times are ahead. Delivery of each project is during the Spring Term, so there is a lot of work to be done between now and the end of this term.

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1 to 1 Tutorial

Seeing in colour

I had my first 1 to 1 tutorial for a while last Saturday. Mia is a 15 year old interested in art and photography and her Mum felt that my approach to photography might be something what would help her.

We met on a very wet morning at the bandstand in Porthcawl and spent the first few minutes discussing what she knew and how we could progress whilst the heavens opened. Mia had brought along her sister’s robust compact camera, so I decided I would swap cameras with her. This meant that I was able to set the DSLR up so that she had to use the viewfinder, not the screen and could not review the photos she had just taken.

The first task I set challenged Mia to create photographs that had colour as a theme. I asked her to think about how a camera sees, not knowing the name of anything and respond instinctively. Meanwhile I followed the same task with the compact camera. I was really enjoying the creative limitation when the battery failed! Meanwhile Mia carried on and after a while we reviewed photos at a shelter near the harbour.

These are some of my favourite photos from Mia’s photos

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Mundane can be beautiful

After the review I set the next task and asked Mia to create 20 photos, no more or less, of anything within the vicinity of the shelter. She had 15 minutes for the task, could not see the view screen and was challenged to ‘give the mundane its beautiful due’ (John Updike). She then, after reviewing her photos, was allowed to choose one favorite. This is it.

It is interesting to review someone else’s photos, see what they like and consider what they are drawn to create and what might be missing. I am looking forward to our next exploration in seeing.

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I did the same challenge, but this time with my mobile phone camera. I do like a creative limitation! Here are my favourite photos from the task.

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Tree

Funny this word should come up today as the WordPress prompt. Last night I dreamt that I was walking along a path with friends and found a young tree in my hands. I turned to my friends and passed it to them. They dropped it and it lay abandoned on the floor.

Those of you who like a metaphor could have a field day with that one. But I was left more with the thought that we take trees for granted. How would our world be without them? It would not exist. We would not exist. Trees are the lungs of the world, the breath of all life.

So I decided to look at my recently uploaded photos to this website and include the last 10 photos that show trees in all their variety, invisibility and vibrancy. Here they are.

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