Photography that Intervenes with Prof. Paul Hill, FRPS, Maria Falconer FRPS, MA and Hugh Hamilton MA

11 September 2017

Region: East Midlands

Photography that intervenes was the subject for yesterday’s Royal Photographic Society meeting at Whatton in Nottingham (September 10th 2017).

Prof Paul Hill FRPS and Maria Falconer FRPS spoke at length about their recent project where they photographically documented the events and their time spent as volunteers in the refugee camps on the Greek Island of Lesvos on the border of Greece and Macedonia.

Their work was a very high quality, exactly what you would expect of two experienced photographers (and Fellows of the RPS). But, that said their work was not being offered as something to consider aesthetically, this was work that had potential to stop you in your tracks.

There was mention of documentary and photojournalism and the images certainly showed the story of the refugee’s plight. In mainstream media, we are used to seeing refugees fighting at borders and trying to get into lorries at checkpoints. Paul and Maria’s work did have one or two images of people trying to scale fences, but they showed a much bigger story, a current day New Topographics, a natural landscape changed by lost humans who through no fault of their own were not sure where to go or what to do. They actually showed very few images of people so as to protect the identities of the refugees. The images they took showed the footprint around them.

We saw a world of humans from of all backgrounds and languages who all shared a commonality in that they had lost everything. Their homes and kitchens and local favourite shops were now gone and they could often find themselves queuing behind 2000 other people for food. They have had to learn to rely on the charity of others for essentials such as clothes and shoes.

I got so spellbound by the story I forgot to interrupt their talk for a coffee break. I found myself imaging how I would react if, as I left the hall we were in my car had gone, and then my phone stopped working and my whole surroundings became hostile. Where would I go, how would I look after my family. As I sat looking at the images and listening to the talk, just as you are reading this I thought of all the thousands of people out there, in that predicament. Paul and Maria’s images most definitely intervened in my thinking.

After lunch Hugh Hamilton, another professional photographer and the course leader for MA Photography at Nottingham Trent showed us his portrait and rural documentary work, as well as how he interacts and uses social media to develop his audience.

Hugh took on social media when he realised it was where his students spent a lot of their time. He has developed a working process where with a few strokes of the keyboard he populates his vimeo and youtube channels, writes posts on his blog and then shares them all on facebook, twitter and Pinterest.

He very generously shared all his secrets and methods and pointed the audience in the direction of the apps he found worked for him.

The final part of the day was a newish concept for the East Midlands RPS region. It comprised of a panel of Paul, Maria and Hugh and the audience who all exchanged ideas on the subject of photography that intervened and other photographic topics.

Report by Stewart Wall ARPS

East Midlands regional Organiser