Last Friday I travelled down to London to attend Vision 2006, an event run by the British Journal of Photography. Held next to London Bridge, under the railway arches, various photography companies touted their goods and design organisations recruited new members. The congregation looked very arty, moving between the tables cigerette and coffee in hand, looking cool and intense; there was a very high level of black attire and berrets. I must say that the event itself was a little disappointing, but to be fair it really was aimed at the design student and professional photographer rather than a novice like myself. The cameras on show were way beyond my reach and I didn't dare approach the recruitment consultants. However, I did pick up an excellent book on digital photography and after a chat to the guy at the British Freelance Photographers stand I'm considering joining up to see if they could flog any of my photos.
The real reason I went however was to take advantage of the portfolio review facility. Take along your best pics and have a proper, real-life, experienced photographer offer their wisdom and constructive criticism. Disappointingly Kodak Online did not deliver my portfolio quality prints I had so carefully picked out and ordered weeks ago, but not to be defeated I popped into Boots and printed off some bog-standard 5 x 8 glossies to take along. Felt a bit of a muppet when I turned up and everone else had big black portfolio folders rammed with A3 prints on satin paper finish. Sheepishly I pulled my Boots photo wallet out of my bag and presented them to 'Dillon' for review. But Dillion wasn't really bothered by the display medium - "A picture is a picture". He lay out all 10 photos on the table and instantly put a few aside as no-nos. He put the rest, bar one, into three piles. "I see you have a commom theme here" he said, "circles, squares and triangles", "mmmm yes" I replied, not realising I had a theme and not wanting to sound stupid. He picks up my Little boy on the rocks and my Clouds on glass photo. "I love how these are so different yet virtually the same" he continues, I look closely at them and realise they are, kind of. The macros of flowers, the oxford bike, the elephants eye - "A circle theme - great!". The Eiffel Tower shots - "triangles!". How can someone else draw a theme out of my pictures I never knew were there? "I've seen a lot of snap shots here today" he says "but these are not snap shots, they are photography, so don't be embaressed about bringing them along" (I turn slightly beetroot). He turns to the "bar one" that didn't get put into a pile. "But this is the one that really stands out" he says, "it has composure, composition and atmosphere". I look at the photo he referring to. Very embaressingly it's a picture of myself, I don't tell him this, as it's taken from behind, so he would never know. In Tarifa with the sun shining down I'm sat on the beach facing out to sea, my hair wrapped up in a big scarf and, erm, blush, no top on (but you can't see anything). It's highly staged, or "composed" I guess is the correct term, and taken with an old no-frills cheapo canon digital then photoshopped black and white. I'd never seen this photo in print before, I've only ever seen it through a computer screen. I included it because it was popular in my flickr gallery, but I must say it looks better in print, even in Boots instant glossy print. I was suprised."I look at this" he says "and I don't know what it is that stands out, "the girl, the turban, the shadow, the sea. A good photo should make you look, continue to look and wonder why you like it. This could be a poster". Well perhaps not, that kind of freaks me out, my naked back being on someone's wall. But it has made me think that I should print more of photos out, because things look different, have a different effect, on a different medium. That I should do more staged shots. Look more carefully when I take a photo, at the shapes it captures, at different angles, take many shots of the same thing to see what works. Sharpen my eye and keep snapping away.