Recently, I have began a journey of research to use the art and literature of the Pre-Raphaelite era as an inspiration to create pieces of fine art via the medium of photography, in that distinctive painters style. My first reference was to look at certain stanzas in the Keats ballad, written in 1819, “La Belle Dame sans Merci” that in itself is a reworking of the 15th century piece by that name by Alain Chartier. The stanza chosen was:
“I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful, a fairy’s child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.”
John Keats 1819
So, my Lady and I revisited a location we love, fully laden with a costume (although not in the colours I would have chosen) and props including beautifully crafted armour, and a head garland of white roses, that I had sat and made up the previous evening. The day itself was the third anniversary of us being together and what better way to mark the occasion than by doing something together we both love. Art & Poetry. Waiting for the ’sweet light’ of the day I took sufficient images to create the first test piece for my new collection.
Later that evening having completed the art piece, my Lady, unbeknown to me wrote a beautiful piece of what she has dubbed, ‘Micropoetry’ and Tweeted it to the world. It’s actually a perfect fit for the image and together I believe we have achieved what every artist and his muse desires, a harmony of vision and execution….
“I lavish in desire
for decay around me
in face or flower
cliff rock or body
or the sun setting on
another dying day”
© Katypoetess 2016
With great thanks to the lady and poetess in my life – Katypoetess. Please follow her on Twitter to enjoy more of her ‘Micropoetry’ @Katypoetess. Her first published poetry collection, “Of Lilith and Anthony” is available on Amazon.
© Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016
Some food for thought. What is a Professional Photographer in 2016? What should they look like? How should they behave? Three very important questions then, that need an answer, and probably answers that some will not want to hear. So, perhaps its better to face questions with questions that only one’s conscience can answer.
Isn’t professionalism in photography more about a demeanour than a ‘God Given Right’ to call oneself professional, as it is a sole source of income? Nowadays how many people do we know that have multiple income sources? Many of my ex-commercial photographer friends have had to diversify to survive and some have taken second jobs to make a living. It’s clearly a time for thought and how the professional organisations should be assisting and supporting those who have dedicated most of their working lives to the profession. Ivory towers are havens of fantasy, can fall and are often indefensible.
Surely a professional photographer should dress appropriate to the assignments they are undertaking? Is it therefore right for the photographer at a wedding where the guests are dressed smartly and elegantly in suits and dresses to turn up in jeans, T Shirts? How should one dress to shoot the MD of a blue chip company? As an equal or a tradesman?
Finally, on the subject of behaviour. Of all the ‘disagreements’ between a photographer and a client, the vast majority are caused by behaviour. Sometimes it’s contractual. ‘He said, she said’ scenarios, or at worst its ego’s that get in the way. Fear of criticism of their images to the point of being aggressively defensive when sometimes, those criticisms may be justified.
We are all judged continuously, not by a discerning market but on the whole, a market driven, cost conscious litigious one. Time for inward reflection and to remember, you are your brand.
© Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016
Its really not that long ago that it was the norm to have professionally printed, just about every image we took. Indeed since the advent of the photographic process, a print of some kind has always been made. Prints were valued as art, as memories, as legacy and as records. Without prints we would not be able to enjoy the earliest portraiture of Julia Margaret Cameron, a pioneer who loved to ‘hang out’ with the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movements and who was equally revered as an artist in a new and exciting medium. Books and publications abound illustrating the lives of people, their clothing choices, hairstyles and fashions, some of which are valuable historical documents and others provide sources of amusement and nostalgia. The importance of the printed image has affected every facet of our lives in living memory.
Then came the advent of universally accessible digital imaging and our world has changed, virtually overnight. So, are the warnings of the ‘father of the internet’, Vint Cerf being heeded? He warned of a “digital Dark Age” — a future in which there will be little record of the 21st century. “Old formats of documents that we’ve created or presentations may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed”
To me the message is clear as day. If I can’t hold it, stand back from it and admire it on a wall or in a book, I have nothing of any particular value. A ‘real’ artist of any kind, whatever they may say, wishes to leave a legacy. Legacies that are universally accessible and not confined to a PC, Mac, iPad, phone or other digital device. Don’t get me wrong, online services that aid sales in a universal market are an essential component of a modern photographic business but even their aim is to make a print!
Call me old fashioned, out of date or an industry dinosaur. I don’t care! Having just achieved a pivotal Historical Research Fellowship with the BIPP I had to make my own prints. Not just prints but canvases. I could have gone to my favourite lab, One Vision Imaging (they did print my ‘evidence’ books!) but this control freak sourced superb inkjet products from Permajet (huge thanks to Robin Whetton, Alex Cullen and the team at the Imaging Warehouse) and output everything myself on a pair of printers. Finally, the shop window on the world. My all new Zenfolio website (Adam Edwards, thanks for making this happen) where I gave the design team the task of creating an art gallery site to actually sell prints! Vanity? Legacy? Practicality? Whatever your motive, it’s what we should all be doing – Make a Print!
© Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016
There have been so many changes in our industry since the halcyon days of the 80’s and 90’s. I well remember a day rate as a commercial & advertising photographer commanding £5000. How things have changed and clearly, from our perspective, not for the better! But as consulate professionals we do have a worth. Indeed we should be commanding respectable fees for our work. All to often I hear and see discussions with tales of woe describing just how much our fees have dwindled to across the board.
Weddings are a prime example. Fees in the thousands used to be commonplace but we are told that due to the advent of the smartphone that we simply cannot command such figures. But there are some that still do. Perhaps its a case of understanding your true value and holding your nerve. Much easier if you have a unique presence and style of course.
In portraiture I well remember fees in excess of £1,000.00 for a portrait sale. Wall portraiture was at a premium. Photographers simply wouldn’t sell loose prints, and as for giving away one’s captures (negatives now digital files) it was unheard of. Almost a capital offence linked to either giving away part of one’s soul or copyright. In either case a bad move that today has become commonplace.
To put things in some perspective and show that not every profession has similarly suffered, a solicitor, and not a principal I might add, commands a fee of around £2,640.00 per day or an hourly rate of £330 Inc VAT. So perhaps it’s time to up our game and recognise our worth as an industry. I for one will be reviewing my fee structure for Mentoring, training and legal representation & conciliation services. Not everything in life, or our industry, should be for free.
Its been over four months since my last post and my mind has been diverted with completing several pivotal projects but from next week…it’s back to business as it should be. More posts, more information and more news as I progress on the next leg of my journey. Watch this space…
As I am constantly travelling and delivering education, training and mentoring of a global basis, I thought I’d give some thought in this post to the differences of delivery to the dff, the world’s second oldest organisation for professional photographers. So here goes….
A synopsis of the two different level workshops.
- Qualified Master
The Workshop for aspiring ’Masters’ (BIPP and MPA Licentiate equivalent) covers the minimum basic requirements to qualify as a dff “Master’ photographer. The key elements of camera craft, lighting, composition and posing (where appropriate in people photography) are examined and developed in a mixed theory/practical workshop. Demonstrations are given in posing and handling groups in particular. Simplistic but effective lighting techniques are demonstrated and discussed illustrating the better known and used lighting patterns. Individual appraisals are undertaken of each applicants work and in group format, planning, presentation and layout for a digital submission is introduced as another essential element for success.
The Workshop for aspiring ‘Qualified Masters’ (BIPP and MPA Associate equivalent) examines not only the more substantial requirements to achieve a higher level of qualification but also instils the need to understand and practice self appraisal in a constructively critical manner. This is not simply a ‘top up’ of the M workshop as it requires a fresh start by all candidates where there can be little or no reliance on a current and past portfolio. Attaining a higher degree of qualification requires a serious commitment and investment in your future. Increased standards of imaging and ethics undoubtedly result in a better client experience. There are obviously a few areas of common ground between all levels of qualification but these escalate exponentially as the levels and requirements rise. This is a dynamic workshop integrating discussions and planning sessions focussing on personal continuous professional development. Lateral thought will be encouraged and a better understanding of the importance and implications of one to one Mentoring discussed. Your trainer will also explain in detail the systematic approach to conceptualising, planning and executing a person project as the base of your qualification.
If you’re interested in progressing your professional qualifications or simply improving the standard of your imaging, contact me.
First a quote from this young lady rationalising her photography and the motivation behind it.
“Photography is another world to me. It allows me to live different lives of different people. It allows me to stop moments in time by capturing them to show the world the beauty that possessed my heart and soul and make it last forever. I wish I could affect people’s lives with this magnificent art.”
Fatma Fahmy – Cairo, Egypt
For this post I have decided to review a number of images submitted to me last month. The collection are well crafted and composed showing a variety of content that adds credence to her statement. They are a combination of what in the west we would call ‘Street Photography’ and more controlled, observational portraiture.
This image entitled “Eye Contact” does exactly what it says. It directly engages with the viewer with a delightfully captured expression that shows the happiness of a child no mater what his domestic environment, social background, living conditions or wealth. Simplicity is golden here and one cannot fail to empathise with this little boy. If one of the tools of a photographer is to create images that contain a story, then the story of this child’s life is is to be written by the viewer based upon its content. In truth, the off centre composition is not particularly necessary and does not add power or dynamics. The subject could have been centrally placed for that matter as the viewer finds it virtually impossible to stray their gaze from those eyes that express a simple, joy of life.
As a contrast, quite a lot of work has gone into this image, photographically with good control of depth of field, compositionally by careful subject placement and in post processing where the problems lie. My best advice to Fatma is ‘less is more’ and although this is a good composition, a clear storyline, convincingly engaged subject, the processing has left a few artefacts and issues that could easily be resolved. When such processing issues are visible they can detract from the all important content contained in the image, the subject themselves and the narrative.
Martin Grahame-Dunn 2016
This intimate, hands on workshop will take you on an exciting journey of creating beautiful themed costume portraits inspired by classic romantic literature, on locations in the stunning Peak District of Derbyshire. With only two places left its a perfect opportunity to expand your knowledge and skills under expert supervision.
“I will instruct you how to see and use beautiful natural light, control it and create visually powerful images that will be transformed from your camera, into photographic art. Using the themes of period romantic literature I will teach you how to pose your subjects, placed within rugged and dramatic locations, to not only complement your subject but to tell your story.”
- How to plan your shoot and tell your story
- How to use natural light and shade to create stunning images.
- How to select backgrounds and environments to bring interest, emotion and drama into your photographic artworks.
- How to find flattering and interesting perspectives through the art and science of physiognomy.
- Getting it right in camera.
- Which lens(es) to choose and why.
- Effective techniques to create a rapport with your subjects with true storytelling images.
- How to create a unique portrait experience in your day to day work and look to compliment each subject’s personality and style.
- How to use wardrobe and posing to bring out the drama and personality of your subjects.
- How to create ‘Photographic Art’ through creative processing techniques.
- A DSLR with a full battery and empty memory card and a reasonable understanding of how to use your camera and its settings.
- A laptop to download and edit your images
- Any lenses or accessories you want to use.
- A handheld reflector if you have one.
- An umbrella if it looks like rain.
- Practical clothes and shoes you can easily move around in.
- WHEN – Sunday 24th & Monday 25th July 2016 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day
- WHO FOR – Any Photographer or Aspiring Photographic Artist, Painter, Poet or Author wishing to expand their skills
- WHERE – Locations in The Peak District National Park, Derbyshire.
- WORKSHOP PLACES – are available at only £495.00. Secure yours with a £100 deposit today. Only TWO LEFT!
- email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next in my series of constructive critiques of the work of young Egyptian photographers. When I asked Mohamed Mahdy to arrange this I could not have hoed for a more enthusiastic group of young people.
This image entitled “Break Time” shows great insight and a natural flair for composition in its simplistic, documentary approach. It just goes to show that his opening statement is humble as he clearly demonstrates a budding talent with a good eye for an image.
Even thought there are differing points of subject engagement and interest, Ahmed has worked hard on subject placement within the frame and constraints of his DSLR. All to often we hear the terms “fill the frame”, but to do so effectively one should ensure that the content is properly constrained. He has grasped the premise that space around subjects is golden. To enable them to live and breathe giving life and credibility to the animation. ‘Street’ images of this kind are not all about exercising absolute control of your subjects. Rather to affect the composition by placing yourself in the right place and controlling the content of you capture. Well done Ahmed, I can some great images will emerge from this young image maker.
Martin Grahame-Dunn – April 2016