‘Masters of Photography’ the premise is echoed throughout the TV industry constantly metamorphosing to suit the subject. Twelve hopefuls compete against others to gain a considerable amount of money and be crowned winner. ‘Landscape Artist of the Year,’ ‘Strictly Come Dancing,’ ‘X Factor,’ ‘Spies.’ the TV is rife with such programmes and the reason is because they are so engaging, entertaining, motivating and inspiring.
Masters of Photography focused on twelve photographers who are top of their game and every week they chiseled the contestants down until only one was left. They were given an allocated time to take photo or series on a variety of themes, conveying the spirit of Rome, capturing the character of a famous actor or exploring Ireland to show a personal representation of the country.
I was especially interested in the episode where the photographers were sent to Ireland to capture the spirit of what Ireland meant to them. The judges spoke among themselves, they wanted the photographers to take into consideration as to whether the rich history of Ireland was visible in the landscape. Most of all they did not want to be shown predictable postcards. Instead, they were to show an essence of themselves.
This was something that had been explored from the beginning of the series.
On the very first episode, the photographers immediately reached the problem that is all too familiar. As the contestants presented their photos the judges did not hold back in their criticism. A summary of the general comments was “You have taken the photos for us, therefore, they are all mediocre.”
When you take a photo for yourself the only judgement is of your own, then you may show it to friends and family who will all see something different in the photo, some may love it, some may think it’s mediocre, some may plain hate it and not refrain from telling you. From the OCA perspective, we then show this image to the tutor, the assessor, and our mark relies on their subjective viewpoint. Students will never know who their assessors are so they can not create a photo especially to appeal to them. And this was something I struggled with at the beginning of the degree programme before I realised that you can never take a photo everyone likes, especially so if you are creating it with just one person in mind, therefore you must take this photo solely for yourself. Imagine that this is a photo to capture your soul, create a figurative or metaphorical self-portrait in every photo you do and then over time and with practise and self-criticism your photos will start to show the soul of who you are.
I feel this way of thinking, of creating is easier to do so in a portrait but a landscape is not physically part of you, it is a creation of nature and the photographer must work hard to strive to find their connection first of all before even thinking of pressing that shutter button. This is something I am constantly thinking of throughout the course. So far I feel a connection to nature and my love for that inspires me to raise awareness of its plight but also to communicate it’s power and strength.
With their individual photos taken every week the photographers would be given the support of a mentor, all famous names in the photographic field, the mentors would critique their photos and advise them to choose which image to submit. Time and time again the professional would give their advice and incredulously time and time again the photographers would stick to their guns and submit an image which the photographer thought was poor. For the landscape assignment, Franco Fontane, the psychedelic and revolutionary photographer was the mentor. As he went from one photo to the next his words flew like poetry from his mouth. I found myself constantly writing what he was saying. He could see what was right or wrong in an image and knew exactly how to formulate his words.
Some of Franco Fontane’s words deeply resonated with me and gave me the understanding for which I had been searching for since beginning Level Two.
“Where small is more important than big and when small becomes big and big becomes small then something magical happens. These are pictures taken with the heart. Mind and heart. They were not taken by the camera, they were taken by ‘this’ camera.” he said fondly patting the contestants head.
I could see the hurt in Franco Fontane’s eyes when the same contestant completely ignored his praise of the image choosing instead to choose a self-portrait of herself sprawled naked over the rocks which he had agreed was a much weaker image. Finally, we reached the last image, a stunning photo of the ocean with a dramatic foreground and encompassing violent skies. Personally, it felt reflective of one of Marcus Adamus’s stunning scapes but the judges were dismissal, “This is an ‘objective’ photograph, it is basically a mirror. Who photographs reality captures nothing. You must re-invent, re-enact reality to make it a new one.” And so this beautiful photo was classed the weaker of the set and the photographer was sent home.
It made me think, how the same photograph can be viewed in so many different ways.
“Photography is not the camera. Photography is the photographer. When I take a landscape picture, it is the landscape that takes a self portrait through me.”