As my pre-shoot posts revealed, I had some trouble with the set up of this shoot at a late stage and had to move location and factory to get a story. This was quite disappointing as I couldn’t get the larger picture as previously discussed with both my tutor and my Magnum mentor. I still think it would be an interesting project to follow to it’s natural conclusion. I was even scuppered at the last when I wanted to photograph in one of the outlets that stocked the sarongs. I was told politely but firmly that I would not be taking any photographs (they then followed me round the store). Unfortunately I had no come back as the owner had asked me not to mention her or the company when going in to the outlet. But this is all part of the trials and tribulations of these sort of stories. Nothing ever goes absolutely to plan so I just had to make the best of what I got.
In the end I was pleased with what I shot and felt that the story did ultimately do what I wanted it to do. The family felt at ease with me taking photos, especially on the second day when they were very relaxed and I think I got the most out of it at that point. I can see in the shots from the first day that they are not quite as receptive and relaxed, making the shots slightly more stilted although this may not come across in the final images.
I saw the benefits of planning ahead even if some parts of the story didn’t come to fruition. The brief shot list I compiled helped me through the shooting and meant I didn’t miss anything that I really needed. Technically I was lucky with the lighting as if it had rained or been dark then I would have had a job to show the detail that I was wanting to show. Fortunately the light was pretty much perfect for both faces and fabric.
Another area I wish I could have expanded on was that the family were joined by extended family towards the end of the last day of shooting. There evidently was to be a celebration the next week and all the men were in drinking coffee, smoking and chopping onions in preparation. It made for some great photos but after thinking about it long and hard, it just didn’t fit in with the narrative I was attempting to tell with the image numbers I was allowed. I daresay I could have gone over spec and it wouldn’t have mattered. However, the brief was there in front of me. If I had sent an article to an editor with 15-18 images for a 12 image brief, they would have been cut. So I decided to stick with the brief given. The same was true with expanding it beyond the ‘four’ walls of the factory. I thought about some general photography outside in the town but realised it would be just that, ‘general’. It would not have impacted on the story in a positive way.
I also wanted to get across that although this was hard work, it was not some sort of sweat shop that we all get used to seeing in the media. They were working for the family business (which of course can be the hardest), but the humour and apparent relaxed atmosphere really shone through. Hopefully this also came across in the series of photographs.
Technically I thought quite hard, in advance, about how to make the photographs. Which lens lengths to use and the style to employ in the main as the rest (lighting etc), would be out of my control. Of course this would be documentary photography. The main feedback throughout my Magnum mentorship was to get closer, be more personal (à la Robert Capa) and to take a few more risks (à la Robert Enoch, my AoP tutor). I have definitely got closer but have I taken more risks? In hindsight possibly not, at least not with my photography. My risk was more about taking on this project in the first place and getting out of my comfort zone personally. I suspect the risk taking in photographic terms will come along once I have become more comfortable with the personal risk taking, if that is not an oxymoron.
I now suspect I could have used photographs like the ones below. Less defined regarding the narrative (at least the narrative line I took), but slightly riskier regarding content. So, more graphic and less pretty.
While I’m still not sure this would have mad the final cut, I enjoy the different outlook that it gives. It shows the bruise on his back and the rips in his shorts. The muscular working arms and fingers are more pronounced, the fingers smudged with paint. The lack of personal attachment as I have neglected to get his head in to frame. If I look for a punctum here, the red underwear actually draws me in. Something about it disturbs the rest of the image, just the common workman-like appearance of the underwear showing I suppose. The image as a whole is much less romantic than the other images in the series which is probably why it wasn’t included, as my mind was set down a different road of explanation and narration.
The image above was much closer to making the final cut. I wanted expressive movement and expressive colour. This gave me both in a very graphic way. The triangle of black, top right, is big and quite appealing but for no apparent reason (technically it is a black hole which shouldn’t be there). There is a certain ‘yin’ and ‘yan’ in the set up of this graphic. Yet again, in the end, it just didn’t fit in with the narrative that I had decided to tell.
With both of the above I liked the individual photographs but using them and images like it in my final edit would have told a disingenuous story. It would have been far darker than my intention and indeed the reality which, in the end what I was trying to put across to the viewer.
In summary then, I was happy with my final assignment but possibly happier with what I have learnt along the way and from my assessment of it. The application of that learning is the next step.