Assignment Three is entitled ‘A Photographic Commission’, and the ‘brief’ is, in essence, to come up with an area of interest, in response to which your tutor will brief you for a ‘commissioned’ piece of work. This follows a series of projects, written pieces, research etc around photojournalism, the photo-story, page layouts, and so on. Knowing that I was about to visit Paris Photo, I suggested this as a topic; but my ‘brief’ is more or less non-existent – my ‘take’ on it, a ‘self-directed’ assignment. That’s fine; I’m not complaining; but I do have to give it some thought and do some planning. Otherwise I’m in danger of falling into the same situation as Assignment One. My tutor did point me in a couple of directions – Martin Parr’s work at art fairs and an arms fair (including images in his ‘Luxury’ series) and Nick Cunard’s images of Crufts, which are here. This latter work doesn’t do a lot for me, actually, and I’m not sure how closely images of a dog show relate to Paris Photo – but it does make me reflect on the possibility of a slideshow outcome; of which more later.
The Parr work is a bit more interesting, albeit difficult to ‘pin down’. I haven’t looked at the ‘Luxury’ book and am unlikely to be able to get a sight of it before going to Paris next week, but I have dug out a few examples, via the Internet, with images from art fairs. This is a good example – typical Parr use of vibrant colour; a ‘clashing’ image; wit and observation; and there are others in similar vein. Then there is his visit to an arms fair in Abu Dhabi - here. There’s a longer collection of images on the Magnum site, but these show keen observation of ‘decisive moments’ and visually interesting juxtapositions. He did, as the Magnun set shows, take plenty of ‘simple’ photographs of people and things, but his own edit for the blog selects those that work most effectively. So, what I take from Parr’s work is that I must look for visually interesting images – juxtaposition; colour; visual puns; and so on.
Of course, one aspect of this is to consider what will be the eventual outcome. Is this photo story for a magazine, a newspaper, me, a photographic journal, an art publication, my friends and family, my tutor, OCA, fellow student, Uncle Tom Cobley? It seems unlikely – not impossible but unlikely – that a weekend colour supplement would be running a photo story on Paris Photo, unless I can find an angle that would be of interest to that type of publication. It isn’t the sort of story that one would find in a travel magazine such as National Geographic. Another factor to consider is that I have not yet had time to complete the exercises & projects – but since several of them are about layouts, they can be done afterwards, providing a create sufficient variety and flexibility of images. My inclination is to have two different, but no mutually exclusive, ideas in the back of my mind as I visit the show and make my pictures – a photo story/essay for a magazine publication aimed at art-based professional photographers and students who might be interested in what the Paris Photo 2012 was like and might be wondering whether they should go to a future event; and a slide show presentation that is Stan’s take, Stan’s response, Stan’s expression of his experience. It shouldn’t confuse my thinking too much to have both possibilities in mind, and at the same time, it leaves enough scope to create meaningful and personal images of the show.
I have had one or two other practical issues in the back of my mind as well. What happens if there is ‘no photography’ at the show? So, a search on images from Paris Photo 2011 reveals some You-Tube footage, which not only helps me prepare by getting an impression of the atmosphere but also shows individuals taking photographs. As far as I can tell, therefore, that isn’t going to be a problem. My second practical issue has been ‘which camera?’. The DSLR would be OK, if perhaps a little obvious when looking to take discrete photographs, but the D80 isn’t great in low-light, indoor circumstances. It’s acceptable, but one has to use relatively slow shutter speeds or put up with significant noise. My Ricoh compact is certainly very discrete, very handy to carry around, and I’m used to using it in all sorts of circumstances – but it suffers even more from the low light, high ISO noise problem. Problem solved – I’ve invested in a Fuji x100. Haven’t left myself an awful lot of time to familiarise myself with it before next week, but I’m sure I’ll cope. A new toy!
So, off to Paris on Monday and we’ll see how we get on!