Over the last two weekends I have delivered photography workshops to talented young people in Bridgend. This has been organised by Criw Celf and Arts Active, organisations who provide high quality art activities and experiences. My aim of the workshops was to encourage the young people to develop their photography skills: particularly to develop their ability to see a photo. All of the photos in this post are from them.

I planned to deliver the same course for different groups each weekend, and then adjusted the content to meet the students’ needs. The central theme and starting point of both weekends was ‘Seeing’ a photo. As Jeff Berner said, “Looking is a gift. Seeing is a power.” Seeing is more than looking and one of my key themes was to encourage the students not to look for a photo, but to wait for the photo to find them.

If this Zen like aim seems slippery then you are in good company. It is challenging to walk out with your camera intending to create photos, but not to look for a photo. At the heart of this instruction is the requirement to see the world, to really pay attention. To see not just the things, in fact even to try and not see and name the things, but to see the colours, shapes, forms, lines, patterns, textures, space, and of course light. In fact, to see like a camera.

Here is a great example produced by August, one of the students. This image sub consciously picked up on many of the compositional ideas shared in the photos of great photographers I started with. In an initial slideshow of these images I asked the students to decide whether they liked, disliked or were ambivalent about a range of photos. This photo from August seems to echo some of the ideas from Lee Friedlander and Vivian Maier, demonstrating how we see things without realising they have been absorbed.

Later in the session, for both weekends, I worked with the students to see what wasn’t there. This is one of the superpowers that a camera has, to see things that we cannot. The idea I challenged the students to ‘see’, was the creation of ‘landscape’ scenes in a multi-story car park by using slow shutter speeds. The motivation for this was the students’ self chosen theme for the weekend of ‘Landscape/Nature’, a challenging theme when situated in the middle of an urban pedestrianised shopping center. Here is a great example created by Lily, which we converted to black and white to enhance its otherness. It has the look of a charcoal creation and a sense of foreboding.

The students’ chosen work will be exhibited at Arcade, a professional artist run gallery in Cardiff city centre from Saturday 17th August and on Wednesday 22nd, Thursday 23rd, Friday 24th, Saturday 25th, Wednesday 28th, Thursday 29th, Friday 30th August. This will include the other arts shared at Bridgend – illustration and textile design as well as other art works from some of Criw Celf’s other Summer Schools.

Details: Arcade web link Address: Arcade, Queens Arcade, Queen Street, Cardiff, CF10 2BY. Unit 3b, by New Look, down the escalators.

Red Sea – Olivia
Life in Nature – Mia

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