Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Caravan Gallery

On Thursday evening I went to the Caravan Gallery talk by photography team Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale. I thought this would be very useful for me as I've been working on the RSA stamp project - to design stamps that represent the contemporary cultures of each British country.

The name Caravan gallery comes from a little Caravan they adopted and painted yellow which travels round with them as an exhibiting space. What could be more British? The pair travel to different places in the country and spend some time photographing what they see, 'trying to capture the essence of a place' as they put it. They explained they often spent the day photographing and then after a visit to Asda or Boots 1 hour photo service they would exhibit the photos in the caravan for people to see.

Looking at many of the photos they've taken, you can see that photography is just a way to document for them, many of them are not great photos in terms of composition or quality, but what they have is a keen observational eye. They capture real moments of time, sometimes extraordinary moments which you could never have conjured up. I like the idea of documenting and exhibiting the photos so quickly, from what they said it seems that the caravan is a very accessible place that many of the locals feel comfortable visiting. Through doing this they can build relationships with the subjects of the photographs and this makes the photos even more special.

I'm glad I went to this talk after a long day at uni! They're work has inspired me to do a little project about my own village over Easter. I moved there when I was 13 and have never really liked it - it has never crossed my mind to photograph the place, and as my parents could be moving to France any day now, I'd like to document it in a similar way before I have no reason to go back their! It has also given me a new angle to think about what I could do with my stamp project and how I could maybe take it in a different direction once I've designed the stamps.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Jonny Hardstaff portfolio crit

Today I had my portfolio crit with Jonny. I spent yesterday afternoon re-doing my portfolio to make sure I was happy with it. I didn't think that I had enough projects to fill it out, as I haven't yet finished anything I was happy with this term, but it turned out I had 6. I tried not to think too much about how I was laying it out- I just wanted it to be simple and clear. I feel my portfolio presentation was not as good as I hoped it would be for the January hand in, and looking back I can see where I went wrong. I put quite a lot of thought into editing down the images and text and making sure I presented the bare minimum that I needed to put across the projects.

Jonny's approach was very different from Ian's from what I've heard. He was a lot more interested in the portfolio itself, the work you'd done and chosen and how it reflected you and what you wanted to do in the future. I think this bode well for me as I have put a lot of time and effort this year into choosing the right projects and working on things that play to my strengths.

After listening to the first two crits I have to admit I was a little more nervous than I was when I went in - He wasn't mean but quite brutal (although it was all constructive and he made a point of drawing out the good things and potential), and I have never felt totally confident with my portfolio, mainly because I would work on a project and feel really pleased with it, then get negative feedback in my marks that I couldn't really understand until I could reflect back, by which time my confidence was knocked.

However, I could not have prepared myself for how positive Jonny was! He was so enthusiastic about my work, and seemed to love all my projects (the ones he picked out as slightly weaker I would have taken out if I'd had anything to replace them with so I totally agreed with him). He had nothing negative to say at all - the only advice he gave me was to keep working towards that all time amazing wow project that will just blow people away! ''The project that can go out and pull all by itself and then come back and tell you about it'' so to speak. He also told me that I should consider applying to the Watford advertising course - run by Tony Cullingham, it's considered the best course in the country and a golden ticket into the industry. I found out about this course when I was in London from Dave Trott, and although I had thought about it, it is so difficult to get on I don't think I would have ever applied through lack of confidence. Jonny basically recommended I apply and thought I had a good chance of getting on, such encouraging words to hear!

I can't even describe how much it has boosted my confidence to finally have someone validate my work so enthusiastically. I know this line of work is so much based on opinion and personal taste, but I've felt up until now I've never had quite the response I've been hoping for from the tutors, and to finally get some recognition from someone like Jonny Hardstaff has just put me on cloud 9. Suddenly I feel excited about the rest of the term, and determined to better myself. I am also now going to act upon trying to get some work experience at Love, somewhere I've had my eye on for a long time and would love to go for a placement when we finish, and have been putting off because I didn't feel confident enough.

Thanks Jonny =)