TUTORIAL_I with Homer Sykes

The first group tutorial or “crit” with our tutor Homer Sykes, Damian, Harmit and Andrea. The aim of the crits is to get together in small groups and review the photographs made over the last 2 weeks. Even though the tutor leads the session, it is intended that all members of the group actively participate in the discussion. This seems to be even more important with the online format, where the absence of approving nods and eye contact can be a little disconcerting.
Photographers are notably sensitive about their work, and I’m no exception to this. Like most photographers, I prefer to keep my contact sheets under wraps, feeling more comfortable showing only a selection of my work. In the a crit you present all of your images to the group. The aim isn’t to pick out a few nice shots and be told that you’ve done a good job. The idea is to reduce documentary photography to it’s basic technical elements (exposure, focus, framing, etc.), whilst at the same time trying to get a look at how the photographer’s brain ticks. By analysing the approach we take to photography, we can become more conscious about how we work, and hopefully start to take more control over the various decisions which all play a part in the photographic process.
The reality of the crit is not easy to prepare for. The ego can take a bit of a hammering, though I suppose it comes down how one interprets the criticism. In retrospect, I think it is a healthy (but not easy) environment to have your work reviewd.
One of Homer’s main concerns was our tendency to frame too tightly. By going in too close, sometimes even unintentionally cropping heads, arms and legs in unusual ways, we are in a way suffocating the subject. We should try to allow things in the frame to breathe, relying on good composition to lead the eye into and around the frame.
On reflection, I think that my photographic approach has been somewhat spoilt by digital photography in the last few years. I rely on the fact that a digital image isn’t as costly as an analoge frame (slide or neg.) and shoot accordingly a great deal more frames than I would have done with a conventional slr. My approach has become more rushed, less considerate and I often find myself forcing images by cropping tightly, tilting the frame, etc. All in all quite a bit to work on. Not something you can change overnight but more of process…

I look forward to the next brief – shall work on giving my subject more space to breathe.

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