Friday, June 20, 2014

To grow as a photographer you need constructive criticism

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/210
Team Photo Story?

Today I saw the work of seven teams who were assigned themes and had to find a story on the Big Island of Hawaii to do as a team. I have never seen this done before. Usually in photo schools they give each person a story and they work on it alone.

The purpose of this class is giving young people a Discipleship Training School where they spend a month preparing to go to another country to work on a project. Some of these projects are orphanages, sex trafficking and a few other social justice issues.

To help teach everyone how to engage with people cross culturally they are using the camera to help teach this skill. Most of these Discipleship Training Schools do not use photography.

Paul & Suzi Childers [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/160]
Paul and Suzi Childers had this vision of using photography for a DTS. Suzie is a professional portrait photographer by trade and saw this would work to help teach cross cultural skills and help the students make connections.

What I taught this week was how to get permission in cross cultural settings to take photos and how using photojournalism techniques would help them to really get to know people.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/250
Working as a team they were able to potentially shoot different angles and also let one person concentrate on doing most of the talking. Another person could take notes and gather content using a recorder or video on their camera.

One group let the subject tell their own story and they used photos that they set up to help illustrate some of the concepts.

One group used an illustrative/conceptual approach of photography and combined this with them reading to the group the story.

A few of the groups wrote captions and put those up on the screen and then put the photos in a sequence that was more photojournalistic in approach.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/220
After each group presented, their peers then gave feedback. The leader asked they give some positive comments as well as things that they could improve. Please don't say you just don't like the photo, tell them what they could have done to make it better.

Earlier in the week I put up a coverage of mine, which I didn't tell them until we were quite a ways into the critique. I asked each person to look at a photo and tell me what they see as something wrong with the photo. Each person was given the microphone and each got a new photo to look at that the others had not commented on.

Manny, one of the students, said one of my photos looked amateurish. Well the point of the critique session was to teach them how to give constructive criticism. I didn't let him off without him taking the time to tell everyone why it was amateurish and what he think would make it better.

Some of the students at first thought we were arguing. What they all learned was sometimes you have to ask someone to clarify their comments. Even when they are saying your photo is crap. Why is is crap?

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/3.2, 1/500
I would offer to them if they paid my expenses and make up for all the income for the next two months to join them and critique every day, but that just isn't practical. What made much more sense was to help them understand how to look at photos and talk about why a photo worked or didn't work.

What they really were learning was how to listen to feedback in life. Hopefully this process will teach them how to build community with each other and grow in maturity as they learn how to serve one another.

I can't wait to see their work from around the world. They divide up to go to Panama, Turkey, Germany, Thailand and China.