Photo Essay - Ron Frampton FRPS
A Photo Essay Project - Ron Frampton FRPS
To see, to record – and to comment
A photo essay or documentary project provides visual evidence and information, setting it apart from the everyday portrait or landscape. The photography must have a general significance: the character or emotion is recorded in a socially significant context. It tells us something, and makes us think. The subject matter is virtually unlimited.
When undertaking a photo essay you need to identify a topic, write a narrative, including an historical perspective, plan, undertake and evaluate the topic. You then finally present a finished portfolio – words and images, for display or publication.
Twelve points to ensure good practice:
1. The photo essay project must be image-driven and well-presented.
2. It must be well-researched, recorded and factually accurate. Use libraries, the internet, and local knowledge – speak to the people around you. Talk to the older (and younger) generations.
3. Any documentary article should itself be unbiased, and not take an extreme view, though the subject itself may be divisive. It does not preclude a project on controversial subjects, such as the supporters of blood sports. Witness’ comments can be quite biased, and should be recorded as such – do not soften an extreme view, or beef up an insipid comment. Try to maintain a balance in the general discursive presentation.
4. Some subjects are ‘one-offs’ so be flexible and prepared to seize the day and hour. Try to be at the right place at the right time.
5. Some topics are seasonal, and need special light or time of day, so plan accordingly.
6. The contemporary becomes historic tomorrow. Keep good records of subjects, dates, locations and other relevant documentation.
7. Build up trust with whoever you are working with, both the subject, and any colleagues associated with the project.
8. Explain the context to a subject, and provide subsequent feedback.
9. Use discretion and respect throughout your project.
10. Courtesy – punctuality for appointments, and setting up meetings.
11. Retain all documents giving consent to photograph when permission has been granted.
12. Get someone else to check the facts – often a copy to the subject is sufficient – dates, the spelling of names and the spelling of places are often miss-recorded in a hurry. Recollection of national or international events may need to be date checked
General points to take into account when taking documentary photographs:
1. Current Privacy Law and other current legislation
2. Pay due regard to confidentiality.
3. Social restrictions, such as care homes, drop-in centres, schools, playgrounds, some street photography. These days, note the problems parents have with photographing children in school plays. Unfortunately, this does limit the opportunities at the family stage of our society. In many cases communication in writing, to seek and obtain access and information, should be made and filed.
A rural project could include any one of the following:
* an old chapel or church
* a water mill, flax mill, river or stream
* a lane, or a street
* a hamlet, village, or rural town
* a religious or alternative community
* an island community
* an artist, or arts community
* a farmer, farm or farm estate
* a boatman or fisherman
* a village shopkeeper
* young musicians within an island community
A conservation project or campaign
This is just a small list; there are unlimited opportunities
The project format:
* identifying a topic/project
* writing a narrative
* including an historical perspective
* planning the project
* undertaking and evaluating the topic/project
* presenting a finished documentary portfolio
When planning and undertaking your project – ask yourself the following:
a) How would you approach this project and what initial research would you undertake?
b) How would you begin in terms of research and communication?
c) Where would you start with the practical photography, what difficulties would you envisage?
d) How would you evaluate and present the photographic element?
e) How would you evaluate and present the written element?
d) How would the project be stored, and archived for the future?
e) What social and historic value would the project have, now and in years to come?
Every topic is different
© Copyright: Ron Frampton, 2009
The comments section is for you to leave suggestions, ideas and even a description of projects you have done that might interest others.
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