One of my plans for this module was to create some work that was informed by the main focus of my research project, yet had more a commercial appeal, with the aim of sending it to commercial clients. At the very start of the MA, I was contacting a number of local community groups to photograph the ways in which they create and connect to the idea of community. My research project has since evolved to become more about my own connection to place. Once the pandemic hit and the lockdown happened, much of these initial connections paused, however I still maintained contact with a local football team who run one of the largest inclusive teams in the country. My plan for this set is to work with the club and see if there are any opportunities for a short story such as this to be published to highlight the spirit of the team and people who support them.
The first shoot was useful to introduce myself to the group and get to know how they work. I wanted to do this primarily before I got into any serious image making. However, as the day progressed, I was encouraged to start making some images.
One of my key areas of development is not showing my work to enough people before trying to get it out into the work and published. I am also not a huge follower of football, so I felt that it was important to get feedback from others. Andrew Findley in my own cohort has been working on his research project on grassroots football, so I asked him for some feedback on my images:
“I really like the contrast of his face against the trees in the background. I like the focal length and the vantage point although I would choose not to include the goals in the background and the two markers towards the left of the frame. I understand that they say something about time and place but I personally think the football kit is enough of a story. I love his body shape and gesture. His top half tells me he’s a confident young man, almost like Ronaldo. His bottom half really says something about his insecurities, almost trying to ignore them by his folded arms. I’m thinking of a good link between self-consciousness and adolescence. Raising important questions about male body image. Love it” (Findley, 2020).
Andrew makes a great point about how not to over sell the point that we are at a football ground. I guess that this is something that could be hinted at over the whole sequence as opposed to trying to cram in as much football references as possible. This shoot presented a challenge to me and the medium I was using in that it was extremely sunny for an autumn Saturday, which meant that the black and 400 iso film was difficult to get down to a shallow enough depth of field. I did have a set of neutral density filters but the shadows were strong and would have benefitted from being diffused. Ideally, I would have liked to have had the support of an assistant who could have held such things. The sunlight also meant that I had to face a certain way to avoid it, limiting my options for a background. I actually agree with Andrew that the kit is enough and I think that for future shoots I should work more diligently to isolate the subject in this way.
I like this portrait, the house in the background maybe conflicts a little with the girl’s head. One step to the right of her would have created a clear separation. When I’m taking portraits now I always look to create that clear separation. Although it’s a bit easier for me because I shoot at 24mm which allows more versatility. I also try to avoid shadows on the face where possible. I think I read somewhere that it reduces the objectivity of the photographer. Her gesture is interesting and a bit awkward which again lends itself well to the adolescence stage of someone’s life. I don’t need the shadow to tell me another story if that makes sense. As a set image 2 is fine but image 1 is an absolute banger and I Iove it. (Findley, 2020)
I really like the subject in this image but not too happy about the way it looked for the reasons stated above. Andrew makes a great observation in the clutter of the background. Clearly the shadows are an issue – I even struggle to put these images together because of it but was keen to hear what Andrew had to say. It would be safe to say that many of the images here are unusable from a commercial point of view, which is fine in the knowledge that I would potentially go back and re-shoot. However, if this was a commissioned piece where I had one opportunity to shoot, it would be problematic and potentially rejected for publication. Noting above that I could have used a diffuser, or had an assistant to support wouldn’t be practical for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Covid, and secondly, in order to gain access to shoot the club, I had to provide a CRB check. Instead, I should also have considered the use if flash to be able to stop down and fill in the shadow. It would have created a different feel and aesthetic to the images but ultimately I would have been able to deliver a result.
There is a lot of space in the foreground although I like the line. I’ve shot similar images but I don’t know if I like my own. My advice would be to get as close as you can. Cemre told me to experiment with cropping these types of images. I think I had some success but I’m not sure how I feel about this type of image as a whole. (Findley, 2020).
My aim here was to try and mix the portraits with some action images, although I am no sport photographer. Cropping is a great idea as at the time I felt that I wanted to get in closer but was limited by the Pentax 6X7’s 105mm lens. Cropping the medium format negative would potentially be acceptable, owing to the size but also it wouldn’t impact the quality of the image itself. Experimenting with different cropping is something worth remembering for any of my future shoots – football or not.
I love this, it reminds me of PE lessons in school when you had to do a sport that you hated when all you wanted to do is play football. I wish I’d took it and will definitely be stealing this idea in the future. (Findley, 2020).
As I am not an expert in football photography, it is great to hear feedback that Andrew may want to create a similar style of image.
I submitted a similar image in my last WIPP and Cemre criticised me for it. I thought it was as close to poetic as I’ve been and I believed in it. I like the detail, texture and light. Maybe slightly overexposed but I feel that this type of image is good to control the pace of a viewing experience. It’s as vernacular and quiet as football gets and that’s why I like it. (Findley, 2020)
Too obvious, the corner flag is better. It may work without the ball but that’s just a personal thought. This type of shot is too easy for you and I know your voice is far more sophisticated. (Findley, 2020)
Potentially, my inexperience in photographing football is most evident in Figures 5&6 where I have gone straight to the clichés. This is important to understand and consider for any kind of commercial shoot where the expectation would be to look at the subject with a new perspective. Falling into this trap is doubly frustrating as someone who is not familiar with football because there is potential to view it from an outsider’s lens. Andrew is very complimentary and I was drawn to it because I though the grass and the side light would make a great textured image, but I also take the point he raises about Cemre’s critique of the need to move away from this kind of image. Seeing it now, I know that these are both obvious images. Again, from a commercial perspective, this kind of image should be avoided. Having worked as a freelance and editorial photographer, usual practice would be to google search the subject to see what the most common images are, which seems obvious but is a quick initial way to think about avoiding the clichés. I was so focussed on the community aspect of the shoot I failed to think about the obvious and the vernacular nature of football. Something that I clearly need to consider for any images I am making.
Love it. I’m thinking of Casper from the film Kez. Just think about the shadows on the face although the quality of the photo overpowers the shadow. Love the stains on the shirt and his hair is brilliant. His hands matched his ears in a strange way. Just watch the reflections to the left of him and the white object. My eye is drawn to them but that would be an easy fix. (Findley, 2020)
This is my personal favorite image from the set, even with the strong shadow. I have an alternative, which I quite like too where harry is looking down with less emphasis on the shadow, but the straight into the camera gaze is the better image. I may even include this one in my wider research project with a link to the place he was photographed (ongoing developments pending). I definitely take Andrew’s comments on the distracting highlights, which are the sun hitting some parked car in the background and I have edited this out of a later version of the image.
Loving the black and white, It feels like you are preserving the memories of my past PE lessons in the 90s. I look at Michelle Sank when i’m making portraits, she’s a tidy photographer and is great at isolating subjects often taking a slightly lower vantage point to achieve this. Alex Webb talks of finding a tension that creates a type of peace. That’s my favorite quality about Sank and what I try to achieve. I use a flash to eliminate shadow on faces and having that clean light on the face is important to my practice. It wasn’t initially but is now.
I’m loving Zed Nelson’s portraits at the moment and I think he has a variety of approaches which I like. (Findley, 2020)
I am wondering whether I have the time to properly develop this story as I create work for my research project. I am keen to continue it however but feel that it deserves a great deal more attention than potentially I am able to give at this stage. This exercise has been incredible valuable however, as it points out the need to share work regularly and with those who have experience with it. I have walked blindly into a number of clichéd images that if done commercially, could have meant the rejection of the set. I must bear this in mind even for the work that I am doing in my research project.
I started to share my work for the first module, which was on the Somerset Carnival circuit. I still believe that this project has some commercial applications and potential to get published. Perhaps it would be beneficial to test the commerciality of my work by creating a better edit of this existing set and sending it out as I intended with the football images. That way I can then return to this set with the developed knowledge to make it a success.