Over at the Add to Set panel discussion and exhibition launch in the Waterfront Hall last night ...
Adam Turkington (Trans/Urban Arts Academy) chairing the discussion and asking the questions
Ciara Chambers (Archive Manager) and Pauline Hadaway (Director) from Belfast Exposed gallery. I hadn’t realised that Belfast Exposed grew out of an exhibition of community submitted photos of Belfast 25 years ago. There were no style constraints, with photos chosen on the merit of their content. Mostly black and white, the photos submitted reflected the photo journalistic style of the day. But it formed the basis of their political, social and historical archive. Around 3000 of the photos have been digitised and are available to view (as well as help categorise and comment on) in the gallery, and a subset of a few hundred are up on their website.
Hugh Russell is a former Olympic boxer who moved to the other side of the viewfinder and is now Irish News Pictures Editor. Digital technology tightened the media deadlines rather than relaxing them. Hugh Russell was glad that as part of his 27 years at the Irish News, he had the training and background in film, which gives the discipline and techniques that are still used in digital photography.
John Baucher (Moochin Photoman) says he is “documenting the present for the future”, taking on commissions, PR work, and gets the occasional shot into the press. He’s currently using a lot of TtV (Through the Viewfinder) where “old meets new” as he takes portraits using a digital camera to snap the image through an older camera’s viewfinder. A picture can explain TtV that better than my words!
Pennie Smith is a famed rock photographer who’s not particularly interested in music! The I-shouldn’t-be-so-surprised-but-I-was revelation from Pennie was that she still shoots on film, mostly in black and white, and is still working! And the thought of going back through her back catalogue of negatives and contact sheets and digitising is too painful to begin (except for occasional shots needed for exhibitions/books). While she recognises some of the advantages of digital – particular when shooting in low light conditions, her craft technique and experience with film seems to more than compensate. And while chatting to her upstairs at the exhibition, it was fun to discover that she had a Boots disposable camera in her pocket!
Most people present shared the feeling that we’re taking more pictures than ever, but then losing them as no one sees them when we leave them on hard drives and don't print them. Note to self: print quarterly. (Red Mum was recommending blurb.com last night for good quality photo books.) Second note to self: tag photographs on the day they're downloaded from the camera.
There was also a feeling that digital photography has made some people lazy (or perhaps bred a generation of lazy photographers). The decision making process has moved from the moment of the event to the moment of the edit. No more expectation to get at six good shots from a roll of film. Digital is cheap and people snap away.
Ciara explained that the Belfast Exposed archive find it hard to set their policy around ditching digital photos – particularly with the volume of shots taken by digital photographers, and the tendency for lots of not-quite duplicates to be submitted. Again, a feeling of hard drives filling up shared by the audience.
Hugh commented that with black and white, you don’t have the luxury of the medium of colour. Professionals setting up a shot will know in their heads what the final b&w image will look up like when its developed – it’s all about light and exposure. And Pauline added that the slower technology forces people to think before taking pictures, emphasising that photographers need to look at and analyse the shots they take and develop/edit to improve.
After the discussion, people moved upstairs to the second floor of the Waterfront to see the Add to Set exhibition. The photos from the eight (?) of us are randomly blu-tacked to the wall, and three projectors throw a continuous cycle of larger images onto a nearby wall.
It’s great to see some of the photos blown up so large. They really come alive – compared to the smaller (and quite dark) prints stuck to the wall. Though Adam, some lunchtime I’m going to appear with a guillotine to crop the white bands of some of the photos!
There’s no sign to explain what you’re seeing (at least I didn’t spot one last night), so if you wander up to the second floor, it’s a bit hard to know who or what (or even why) you’re looking at.
But assume it’s twenty or so random (non-themed) shots from Gingerpixel, Goodonpaper, Mark, Moochin Photoman, Phil, Red Mum, myself and at least one other. We're just a representative (?) sample, a range across the local photobloggers. Lots of other folk really deserved to have a place at the exhibition ... next year?