This week I attended an online webinar with Craig Easton and Colin McPherson who are members of the 6 by 6 photography collective. The purpose of 6 by 6 is to ‘start conversations, debate and grow a network of documentary photographers in non traditional spaces’.
The specific webinar that I attended was entitled ‘Desert Island Pics’ and took the form of an interview between Easton and McPherson, whose task was to discuss 6 of his favorite photographs explaining why they were so important to him. The opportunity to listen to a working photographer who is relatively local to me was an excellent opportunity and on a human level, it was good to gain an insight into his influences. The first photograph that was discussed was Alfred Buckman’s ‘Areal View of Edinburgh’. McPherson spoke quite emotionally regarding this photograph explaining how it evoked his childhood and memories of growing up in the same place. This was interesting in relation to my own project as I have gravitated towards taking photographs in an area where I spent my own childhood. For reasons associated with objectivity, I felt that this was unstable ground for my own research project and in exploring my feelings deeper about this, I am led to consider my own feeling and motivations. As McPherson moves on to discuss an Image taken by Robert Frank, he refers to the idea of being an ‘outsider’ and how Frank was an outsider when he took the photograph. An idea that resonated with me to some extent on a range of levels.
Although my project is rooted in the place where I spent my childhood, I very much feel like an outsider when in the area of Reddish which is peculiar as I still have many connections. This led to deeper reflection as to why I feel this way. As a result I began to consider my own connections with the location, my own relationship with the project theme of lower level football and the connection I have not yet challenged which is the influence of my Father. As a child, playing football, my biggest supporter in addition to my biggest critic was my Dad. Born in Glasgow, adopted to a family in Motherwell, a small town outside Glasgow, my Dad left the army and arrived in Manchester with a friend who convinced him of opportunities for work in the area. I was always curious about my Dad’s lack of connection with Scotland and although he was a proud Scotsman, he spoke of family but never really appeared to have any close bonds with them.
In later years of his life he often spoke of the importance of ‘putting down roots somewhere’. A piece of advice that I will always remember. And a statement that is revealing itself to be a statement which is important about my own intentions in the sense that the project is about my own feelings of being an outsider as my Dad clearly felt.
Moving on with the webinar, McPherson then began to discuss an image taken by Paul Graham from his project ‘The Great North Road’. A stunning photograph which has echoes of Stephen Shore. McPherson made a number of pertinent observations about how the photograph made him feel. In relation to the light in the background, McPherson referred to the photograph as being ‘animation by light’ which I thought was a poignant remark and an excellent assessment of the use of light and colour in the photograph. Further comments referred to the sense of momentum and progress from the vehicles toward the right of the image. Upon initial research of the work of Graham, I am drawn to his excellent combinations of composition and colour in addition to his vernacular subjects. McPherson on a number of occasions referred to the craftsmanship of photographers that inspire him. The subversion of conventions as illustrated in the work of Robert Frank, light and metaphor in the Paul Graham image in addition to the vernacular landscape and decisive moment encapsulated in the Jeff Wall image ‘Sudden Gust of Wind’. The discussion inevitably turned to the constructed nature of this image with some debate over the ethics however I agreed with McPherson in the assumption that the intent and the vision of making something spectacular out of the vernacular and banal.
To conclude this post, I really enjoyed the webinar and being part of something not directly associated with the MA course offered an element of freedom to think and listen without the burden of trying to get as many notes as I could. It was useful to listen to Easton and McPherson talk passionately about their influences and it served as a really good example of working photographers speaking in a photographic vocabulary that I am now becoming confident with. Reading the images while still very much learning but with a new, informed method of contemplation.