“Relationship Photography”

This brief was set in order to illuminate for the photographer the practice of negotiating ones way into a situation whereby human relationships and emotions can be played out in front of the camera. The photographer would be an observer in this scenario and would not direct action or attempt to manipulate the scene(s). The angles and points of view of the photographer in relation to peoples eyes and hands as expressive tools in picture- making are important in showing emotion. This type of shot is often a staple of the photostory or documentary. We were instructed also to make use of context but to make sure that the main focal point was about the relationship between the protagonists in the frame. The viewer must (ideally) feel something.

Thoughts on the process: This was a difficult brief to fulfill and in fact I failed it. But because of this fact I feel that I have learned the most out of all the briefs we have tackled so far. We were asked to complete three shoots of three different situations and to spend a good amount of time with each situation; fully exploring the range of emotions and ‘facets’ of relationship. The shoots would ideally be negotiated and, counter to the “Street Photography’ brief of last week, a certain knowledge aforethought and a ‘contract’ was required to gain access, maintain the concentration to achieve a range of shots and to allow people to feel comfortable with your presence. I began by e mailing some possible contacts – The Salvation Army, a Health Spa, and a ballet class for beginners. The only person who got back to me was the ballet teacher and I am including the shoot below in my gallery.

I felt equally excited and paralysed by this brief. I wanted to do something that was of worth and did justice to the content and meaning of the brief. Patrick said in a tutorial that “you don’t have to negotiate yourself onto the street” and this is a clue to the qualititative difference between ‘Street Photography’: candid, swift, essentially quirky and the ‘Relationship Study’: present and close, considered and thoughtful, exploring a universal emotionality.  After being rejected by contacts. I was very tempted to go out into the street and try to make something happen but knew that would fail the brief, and be failing myself. I finally fulfilled one of the three shoots for this assignment.

Thoughts on the ‘brief’: I think that as I have been writing assignment briefs as a teacher for 18 years I have (unwittingly) become a slave to them! I feel that I over-complicated matters and over-thought the instructions. To the point where I became quite confused about the inherent issues as real potentials. I now have a clearer idea of how students feel and think when they are troubled by a set of instructions and attempt to find a process in a single word or a practice in a phrase. I had a clear vision of the sort of thing that was required, understood the historical examples, could articulate a set of processes for achieving the vision but was finding it difficult to get into those situations which would allow me to make it, to actually do it. The educationally set brief is primarily (at Masters and BA level anyway) a set of guidelines, a framework within which each student will produce work against a set of outcomes. I hope to be able to operate in the future without taking these guidelines as ‘gospel’ and to resist allowing them to over-ride the important thing – which is to go out and take photographs!


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