Category Archives: college projects

Under Pressure

*dumdumdumdadadumdum… dumdumdumdadadumdum…* Thinking of Bowie here. And that is actually an altogether far too cheerful start to this post than reality affords. The pressure is mounting. And if it weren’t for my fellow prisoners students, I probably would step into the usual trap of leaving things to the last minute. 
Hail, hail Social Media – it is thanks to the updates on Facebook that I am keeping track of what my classmates are up to. They are posting links to their portfolios in progress, celebrating the finalising of their edits, giving insights into their finished books. And they are very successful in evoking a massively guilty conscience in yours truly…
Picture content bears no relation to blog post. I just like it.
Whatever, I am at least one assignment down at this point. I have not only designed the business cards for my future photo business *ahem* and also built my own website but I have sent off my portfolio specific photo project for printing. As mentioned in a previous post, I concentrated on interior photography – kind of in line with my final photographic project. While the shoot had been finalised yonks ago, the mode of presentation yet had to be decided on. I finally came to that decision last night, sat down and redesigned my project there and then and sent it off to be printed. 
Photobook production is always a bit of a pig in a poke. It is extremely hard to tell whether the finished product is going to look and feel the way you envisage it. This depends on choice of format, paper, and colour reproduction. A lot of variables that may mean that I have just thrown about 26 Euro out of the window. If all goes pear-shaped, I will have to have a contingency – reprint my design as individual tearsheets and have them bound in the printer’s.
Rambling today, sorry. Multi-tasking is taking its toll. Or maybe it is just the effect of Friday the 13th. Good luck to you all.

Go and Shoot

Another weekend, another canteen shoot. This time it took me into a Dublin department store, courtesy of another one of my lovely friends in photography, J___. After shooting my main 4×5 shots, I preceded with my usual digital exploration of the places in question. And one shoot in J___ commented: “Oh, you are like me, you do just go and shoot.”
What you see below is a typical example of my policy of non-intervention. When I go on shoots for my canteen project or any other documentary-style shoot, I never touch my environment. I do not change anything around me. Just as my friends get me warts and all, I also shoot warts and all: I believe that reality can only be reproduced adequately if we do not intervene with its shape and form. Mind you, I am aware that me making a picture is already a form of intervention. Just the act of pressing the shutter release will result in only an interpretation of reality but not representation of reality. 
The truth of the matter is, of course, that I am a lazy slob. I just don’t like getting my fingers dirty and as a rule I do as little cleaning and tidying as I can get away with. Especially in places that I am not responsible for. Just kidding! I am of course a textbook German Hausfrau (although I wouldn’t really recommend anyone to eat from my kitchen floor… my standards have slipped after 13 years of life in Ireland…)! But when I am shooting documentary, prettying the environment up would alter its essence, would mean that I am interfering with its message.
Yes, I could have made this shot more symmetrical. I could have moved the two stools that are half visible at the left and right of the image. I could have taken the salt cellar from the left table and moved the table from the foreground. But messiness is a sign of life, of a place being lived in and used. This is a working canteen and not a showroom for canteen furniture. 
I like messy. It’s real. And so am I. (On both accounts.)

Curiosity Killed the Cat…

No! Curiosity drives the photographer! Don’t you think? 
I was already thinking along those lines when I was shooting at the last location for my college project on staff canteens. It took me into the canteen of a well-known British department store, located in a large shopping centre on the outskirts of Dublin. It was really quiet in there, people obviously not shopping but home after work, because it was already after 6.30 pm. The shop is open until 9 pm, though. But being in a quiet shop wasn’t what thrilled me . What I loved was being allowed to look behind the scenes, however mundane they may be. In this case it meant I was allowed to go through the “staff only” door and into the administrative and logistic vaults.
There is nothing special about the “behind-the-scenes” – if anything it looks worse than the front of house: no natural light, endless corridors, no fancy adornments on walls. What is special is seeing something that is usually hidden. (Ha, you could say that this is interior porn, I guess *rofl*. Rather hardcore, though… ) But if you are a curious cat then that is exactly the attraction – being allowed into spaces that are usually closed: warehouse areas, administrative offices, staff canteens, meeting rooms, catering kitchens, staff corridors…
Being a photographer gives you a reason and an excuse to go, to be anywhere. Because as a photographer you are a documentary maker – and noone ever questions that, as long as you have the camera to prove it ;-). You can follow your own interests and ask to get into places that are otherwise closed to you. And the added bonus of photographing such spaces is the inherent possibility that you may show what you have seen to others by way of your photography… and therefore satisfying other people’s curiosity in turn.
And so I am heading off to another shoot this morning. Today I am going to shoot the staff canteen of Dublin Bus, again a place that I am quite curious about. I am sure it will not be as fancy as the corridor above. But fancy isn’t needed at all – I am not looking for beauty. I am only craving to satisfy my curiosity, curiosity junkie that I am…

Inside Jobs

I have often complained claimed that photography is a lonely business. True, essentially the photographer makes the picture alone – there is only space for one index finger on the shutter release button. But friends can be involved in the process of photography with more than sitting for portraits. (And I have taken my share of exploiting my friends’ availability as models.) But recently I am taking advantage of more than just their pretty faces.
This picture would not have been possible without the wonderful support of my friend B___ …
My final project for college involves shooting staff canteens.  A fairly straight-forward project – if it weren’t for the suspicions that a request for permission to take pictures in a canteen raises!!! Industrial espionage? Food inspectors’ front? MI5 drop zones? Canteen managers must be reading too many thrillers, otherwise I can’t explain why some of my requests for permission to shoot have been rejected. 
The safest way into a canteen – I have found out – is through the door by way of introduction through a company insider. And this is where my friends come in: I have taken advantage of my friendships by asking my friends to get me into their very own staff canteens. They have been very supportive and absolutely great. In fact, more than half of my shoots have been thanks to “inside jobs”! And moreover, my lovely friends have also given up their own free time to accompany me into their canteens after work – and taken some piss-taking from their co-workers as to why they are bringing a weird photographer friend into their (usually fairly non-descript) canteen, of all places.
So, guys, it’s time to be humble. I need to show a bit of appreciation here. Thank you all so much for getting me into your workplaces, for suggesting places I should go to, for giving me input and support. It is much appreciated. And I will make up for it, in some shape or form. I am very happy to have such wonderful friends!

One Way Street – No Entry!

Ok, on we go. I have calmed down considerably. Maybe it was a good advice to step away from that project? I nearly had a nervous breakdown last week, if I am totally honest. Well, that’s overstating it, but I had to let the effin’ thing lie for a while and just trust that things would eventually sort themselves out.
They have, to some degree. Well, at least when it comes to further canteens that I am shooting. I have permission to shoot in two more places, four if I finally get my arse in gear and finally shoot in the places I already have organised permissions in… Anyway, I immediately got on to my friend to see if he can assist me in there, show me around etc. We have scheduled our shoot for Friday afternoon.

Really looking forward to that now – I have to get moving again. And I am bloody stuck with the LF. Everyone is pushing me to continue with it. Yet I am still annoyed that I have that millstone around my neck. To clear this up: I LOVE LF photography. I love the outcome, the brillance, the clarity, the richness of detail. I love the process of setting up, of focussing, of shooting. I don’t find it difficult either, and my results have been good so far (apart from that one silly fuck-up), so I am not worried about my technical prowess here. What I am annoyed with is getting the bloody thing to my location!!! Because that makes me dependent on private transport, i.e. a car. I do not have access to a car all the time, and if I do there is still the issue of parking.

Well, however much I complain, it looks as if I am stuck with it. Well then, I better accept it and get on with it.

Sky’s the Limit

Right, let’s get out of lethargy and back into action. No time for stalling, really. And after a right old pep talk from my second tutor, K___, I am suitably fired up. Hungry for more, you could almost say. You see, the thing with me is that I need positive reinforcement. By that I do not mean a band of SAS soldiers, backing me up while I “shoot”. (Although… come to think if it, if John Porter leads the mission, I might reconsider…) Sorry, getting carried away here *sighs*. What I do mean, however, is that I react to negative criticism with general depression and paralysis while positive criticism spurs me on. The artist as a mimosa??? In my case you could say so. *um* 
I am constantly struggling with the fact that I know when my project does not work. But I cannot put my finger on the why. That’s where a second opinion comes in. Or a third opinion. And listening to my tutors, I immediately understand what they are pointing out and I take it on board. But every time it happens, it totally throws me that they see the solution to my problem and I can’t. Shouldn’t I know this myself? After all I am the most familiar with my project…
Ah well, overanalysing, as usual. I should just get on with it. And in this case that means I need to get more canteens on board here. I am still waiting for a few contacts to get back to me about permissions, but of course this is not something that canteen and facilities managers are particularly pushed about. I may have to go down another route, one that K___ suggested, which is widening the project and looking at any space used for communal eating.
Right, I’ll ring the Garda Commissioner now to shoot in the Garda canteen *ggg*. Well, the sky is the limit!

Fitness for Fotographers

Any more of these Large Format shoots and I am gonna be fit as a trainer! Seriously. I went down to Trinity again today – another re-shoot. At this point it is not even embarrassing anymore, it is simply funny. It was the fourth time in there, and the banqueting manager, K___, knows me by now. He has actually been the most supportive and yet easy-going manager to deal with. What a joy, especially as this is more or less the first location I had been shooting in. 
I went down there because it turned out that maybe there was something more conceptually interesting to be gained from photographing the East Dining Hall where the professors eat rather than the plush and conventional student dining hall. The latter has a touch of Harry Potter about it, as my V.A. assistant C___ told me last week. The East Dining Hall, however, is a bit of a 1950s timewarp. Somehow, against the splendour of the wood-panelled, oil-painting-ed main dining hall, it is quirky and modest. (Modest? For the profs? Well, apparently the profs have a very fancy and special art deco bar in their exclusive quarters, so they probably don’t mind…)
To get back to the fitness: While I caught a lift on my way down to the shoot, I was on my own when I wrapped up. Alone with my backpack containing marky Mark, the detached Cambo and the folded-up Manfrotto tripod. Two kilometers with Manfred Manfrotto on my shoulder and Cambo in my hand. Ouch. At least it fits my current diet. The funniest thing: The comments and looks from other people. Two van drivers in Trinity: “Oooh, look at that. Big camera.” – “Yeah, doing a Playboy shoot.” You wish, boys, you wish…