I was going to entitle this angry little blog entry 'Here's Your Cup of Tea, Choke On It!' but I find the idea of brewing a cup of tea to just allow it to sit and cool and then go un-sipped whilst I photograph it abhorrent. Instead I've delved into my back catalogue and found something that is quite representative of a path I'm commonly treading these days in my photography.
Why the invective in the vetoed title? Well unfortunately it was brought on by the behaviour and narrow mindedness of some of the members of Walthamstow & District Photo Society last night.
Last night's presentation was by Katherine Green, a Walthamstow artist who uses portrait photography to document subjects like the 1948 Olypians, the Save Walthamstow Cinema campaign and the closing of Walthamstow Dogs. A St. Martin's alumni she works on commissions such as her work with the National Portrait Gallery & BT entitled The Road to 2012, more personal projects like her portraits of Take Away restaurants and artistic collaborations like the Meet project.
I find her work fascinating and I hope you find the time to click at least a couple of the links above. Her talk and the photography she showed was interesting and her passion for her craft and the affinity with her subjects is apparent in varying degrees and to varying effect.
Unfortunately, seen through the very narrow lens of 'Amateur Photography' or more accurately 'Photographic Society Photography', Katherine's photos are a collage of things which will upset competition judges and are not worth exploring in any more depth than asking (several times) which camera was used to take the shot, what ISO, which shutter speed and whether flash was employed. Each question rang out the sound of 'the point' being missed by a large margin and then aimless words ricochetting around empty spaces behind blank eyes before falling with derision to the floor with to lay beside provoker's artistic ambition. Hold up... I mentioned I was angry, right?
With good reason I believe! One of the questions was "Have you ever submitted your photo into a competition and received feedback from a judge?". 'No' was the answer, and 'why would she?' was my thought, Katherine's work has value without the approval of a judge, no matter how accomplished that judge may be.
What that value is should have been obvious to all the people in that meeting room last night, not because they're photographers but because they're from Walthamstow, many of them born and bred and all with a deep pride in their community. It's reproachful that a Billy-Come-Lately like me feels he has to point out that it's the way Katherine's photos represent their community, and the fact that they do, that should be admired. That fact alone should encourage people to look past their strictly enforced laws of thirds or threes and toward the emotional or artistic heart of the work.
It may not be your cup of tea, but to be so dismissive just because something doesn't fit easily into a very narrow definition of what is good and worthy is vexing to the tune of eight paragraphs!
'So here's your cup of tea...'