The Compelling Image

TCI Launches iPhoneography Course and Life Will Never Be the Same Again

On July 11, The Compelling Image and acclaimed iPhoneographer Laura Peischl, ushered three eager students from various parts of the world across the portal into the incredible world of iPhoneography. As one of her fortunate students I can pull myself away from appamania only long enough to write this blog and to proclaim: “Wow! What a ride.” Thanks Laura

Sallie Kravetz: Psychedelic Art Opening

In case you missed it, Laura was featured in our last post.  A few weeks ago she was also featured on iPhoneography. the foremost blog for iphone artists in the world.

Even though this new medium is still very young, it is evolving with blazing speed and generating enormous interest. It is truly a perfect blending of everything about living in our digital age. But what is it about this object of desire that is causing nearly obsessive behavior by so many? Well, after nearly six weeks of playing around with the iPhone4 and iPad2 and the apps, I can understand its deep appeal. For many, finally they have found a way to joyously unlock their creative yearnings.

Robin Sweet: Seagull

This feeling is expressed perfectly by Robin Sweet, one of my fellow coursemates:

“I am a film producer living in Concord, MA working in NY and…anywhere else the job takes me…  and it is this new lifestyle of traveling that prompted my interest in photography.  It was a way to process, express, and document new experiences…

It was on a road trip in June that I discovered the creative possibilities of iPhoneography.  I was in the car for hours on end and began snapping photos and experimenting with apps.  Having no art skills whatsoever all of a sudden I could express myself beyond anything I’d ever dreamed of. “

Another coursemate lives in a town near Dusseldorf, Germany. Until now, cardiologist, Brigitte Bathgate’s experience has focused upon medical imaging systems: MRI, CT Scans, and 3-D histograms. As Brigitte explains: “I am just a total beginner, not only with this genre, but with photography. I never had a camera of my own… Because I have only little spare time, but still like to express myself, I wanted to learn more about iPhoneography.

Brigitte Bathgate: Loneliness

Brigitte is greatly enjoying Laura’s lessons and assignments but she also says…”I think it is also very much fun to interact among the course members. I can learn a lot just by communicating with [them]personally about pics, apps and techniques…For example I got a lot out of Laura´s comments for Robin´s landscape pic. I think that Laura’s idea of  iphoneography suits my way of self-expression very well.”

And what is that “way of self-expression?”  In critiquing a beautiful landscape by Brigitte, Laura encouraged her to go further, to get edgier, to take it out of the realm of  “ordinary photography.” In Laura’s words:

“iPhoneography needs strong emotions, colors, statements, that is why we have so many apps!!!! App every pic as much as you can, try as many apps and filters as you can on it, iPhoneography is like a trance, let yourself go and see where the apps will lead you!!! This is the fun of it!!!  The world of photography doesn’t need us, iPhoneographers, for beautiful pics like this[ed note:the landscape she was critiquing]. There are by far better cams for it! We are here to shock and rock the world of photography, to do something that no other classical photographer can do!!!! :)) “

Robin Sweet: Summer Love 2

As a “classical” photographer, all I can say is get ready for the revolution to gather even more steam because Laura Peischl’s passionate stance about the role of iPhoneography in today’s world is shared by tens of thousands, nay hundreds of thousands, of  fellow citizens across the iPhoneography community.

In the meantime, classical, shmassical. who cares? Join the fun. Join the revolution. Get lost in the trance in Laura’s course at The Compelling Image and bring your friends. I am having a great time getting inspired, learning the apps, and pushing the limits of my inner creative genius. But be warned, the one thing we agree heartily upon is that the apps are addictive and I am not kidding. As I said in the comments section of our “classroom”:

“I can’t stop. I am beginning to get worried. Maybe in a few months there will be a group called iPhoneographers Anonymous, like AA.”

Nobody disagreed, but nobody cared. We were too much in our app trance to let it bother us.

A big thanks to my classmates, Robin and Brigitte for their comments. By the way, Laura is in Malta and I am in Mexico…just to add to the international mix.

Learn More
Join the iPhoneography – My Photography adventure (4 weeks)

Classes begin each week during July and August

View more of Laura’s work here

Create Beautiful Art In the Palm of Your Hand With Acclaimed International iPhoneographer Laura Peischl and TCI

Every photo is as good as the eye behind it. However, in the case of iPhoneography, the post processing paired with fantasy and a vision, can lead to works of art even when the raw picture is – perhaps – nothing thrilling and … this is where the big adventure starts.   Laura Peischl

iPhoneography by Laura Pieschl

Walking on Broken Keys by Laura Peischl

Ok I can hear some teeth gnashing from traditionally trained photographers, those of us who were taught to precisely expose and compose in the camera and not to tinker around with our images. Don’t expect this with iPhoneography because it stands everything we learned on its head. The name of this game is spontaneity and experimentation.

This new medium integrates all that has absorbed us into the digital age, including instant gratification and addiction to the need for the latest, greatest toys through the app store. In fact through the apps, every known photographic technique from tintypes to HDR has been replicated. It is easy to get seduced by all of this brilliance.

Memory of Light by Laura Peischl

In fact in some cases, it may be better to not be weighed down by old rules. Just go out with iPhone in hand and play. That is exactly what Laura Peischl did and now, in a relatively short time. her knowledge and work is in demand in galleries and blogs all over the web, the U.S. and Malta where she makes her home. In the next week or so, she will be the featured artist on one of the most important “go to” iPhoneography blogs in the iPhone stratosphere. And she will be teaching the rest of us how to do it through her TCI course, iPhoneography – My Photography.

I first became aware of Laura’s work through Pixels-The Art of the iPhone blog featuring iPhone artists exhibiting their work at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in California. It was jaw-dropping to see what these artists were producing, including Laura whose work on her blog intrigued me.

I am happy to be starting her course next week and was eager to learn her views about this exciting new art form.

Sallie Kravetz: Is there any particular theme, vision or style that you create from with your work? Do you aspire to a particular style? In fact do you think it can be possible with an iPhone?

Laura Peischl:  I have to start with the last question because the answer to it is YES, definitely. The apps already existing for photo processing on the iPhone and iPad offer such diversity that almost everything is possible.

As regarding my style, like all my fellow iPhoneographers that have been part of this new art form the very beginning, I went through almost every kind of theme. I, and all of us, grew photographically with the iPhone and we went through many different styles in order to find what attracts us most. I wouldn’t say that I have a special style because this statement would exclude other styles and I love to cross borders and experiment.

Sometimes I do get comments on my pictures saying “so Laura style” but I think it has more to do with my way of depicting emotions

SK: Can you explain the craze bordering on addiction with this new genre? What draws people to it?

LP: Oh, yes! I am an addict myself. And any other passionate iPhoneographer would describe him/herself this way. When it comes to what draws people to it, I think it lays first in the nature of the iPhone, a device that is always with you and can be used anytime. Furthermore, the existence of some apps that are easy to use and yet produce highly attractive results, like Hipstamatic and ShakeIt…enable anyone to get funky or stylish results in seconds.

iPhoneography by Laura Peischl

Smoking by Laura Peischl

Another very important aspect is the social aspect. One no longer takes a picture and then has to wait to get home to the computer, download it and than share it on a social media platform. Most apps offer the possibility of linking your account to all the major social media platforms and enable immediate sharing.

SK: What is your vision for your work professionally? Do you think that one could earn income  from this medium in some way? Or is it for the pure creative adventure that people get hooked on it?

LP: Well, this is a most discussed issue on many iPhoneography blogs. It all started as a big and passionate creative adventure and it has come a long way. Now it has turned into an accepted art form.

Fortunately, many galleries and museums got hooked as well by the amazing artworks of some great iPhoneographers and, with each exhibition, the possibilities of selling prints are growing as well. Many photographs taken and processed with an iPhone have made their way as book and even CD covers. Many are used for advertising purposes on web pages of different companies and there are already quite a few books showing only iPhone photos.

In my opinion, the iPhone and the iPad used professionally, offer unlimited creative possibilities and we are all working to promote this new and exciting form of art and to explore all it’s possibilities.

SK: What do you hope to teach your students through your iPhoneography course through TCI’? What do you hope to see in their work?

LP: When it comes to iPhoneography there are two aspects: the technical and the creative. What I want and have to teach the students first, is how to use and understand the apps, first one by one, and then, how to get the feeling for combining different features of different apps to refine their work and give it that special, personal touch that makes one’s style. And yet, like with any other camera, every photo is as good as the eye behind it but in the case of iPhoneography, the post processing paired with fantasy and a vision, can lead to works of art even when the raw picture is maybe nothing thrilling and ….. this is where the big adventure starts!

Learn More
Join the iPhoneography – My Photography adventure (4 weeks)
Classes begin each week during July and August

View more of Laura’s work here


Gmb Akash: Embodiment of Compassion with the Camera

“I am on an endless journey…to find a real world of humanity. This thirst is eternal. I will keep walking, touching every face I drop through my lens. I will show the world those unknown stories of suffering. If a single hand comes to give them shade, that is the real honor of my sweat” Gmb Akash

Gmb Akash:: Riding the Trains

Passion and compassion play a huge role in the life, work and teaching of Bangladeshi photographer, Gmb Akash.  In 1996, he discovered his passion for photography. Since then he has worked tirelessly, not only to feed that passion, but to use it to champion the cause of the unseen and exploited peoples of society, particularly in the Asia-Pacific area.

Today, his work has been featured in over 45 major international publications and has earned him over sixty prestigious awards. However, as Akash says: “I never do photography…to gain any award. My first rule is to capture what my eyes and heart catches. Taking photos to feed passion may be the most important invisible factor to win competitions.”

Behind Akash’s tireless dedication is his mission to use his camera, physical stamina and heart to speak for the downtrodden, mostly children, whom he calls “survivors.”

Gmb Akash: Child Labor in a Factory

On their behalf, Akash is currently racing toward the finish in one of his most challenging competitions thus far. This time the race is between time and funding needed to complete a ten year project entitled fittingly, “Survivors. The explanation of the project sponsored by Emphas.Is, a new public funding approach to visual journalism projects, can be seen in the video clip below.

In his statement at Emphas.Is, Akash summarizes:

 “Survivors” depicts the invincibility of the human spirit to survive against all odds. People who live on the edges of society have had a big impact on me and have been a great inspiration to me as a person and in my career… These people are deprived of even the basic necessities of life, yet they manage to live each day with a smile on their faces. In the project, I trace the lives of those whose existence is based on serving others rather themselves. They have no means to break the vicious circle, which is infinitely imposed upon them like a curse.”

As I write today’s post, Akash’s funding effort to produce his book and provide for special projects for some of  his “survivors,”  needs only $600 more dollars within the next 32 days to reach his goal. I personally plan to contribute and hope some of you will also.

Along with his heartfelt dedication to his people, Akash’s photographs are stunningly beautiful for their craftsmanship and their searing humanity. I was especially moved by the stories on his blog which accompany each photograph.

TCI is honored to have Gmb Akash as one of its instructors on our highly acclaimed team of international award-winning photographers. Akash teaches Street Photography: Classic and Creative and, as with his personal work, he looks to the heart when guiding his students. I was interested in his approach to the course. Here is what he told me:

“I believe dedication and unconditional love for any particular topic is the best choice for making or deciding subject/projects for students. A shot can not be perfect unless one gives his/her all possible devotion to the topic and. if not. it will be lifeless. We should not blindly follow someone, but should make versatile attempts. Also mostly we should work to feed a photographic soul rather than only work for another medium or persons.

For becoming a powerful photographer I believe the first quality needed is to take spontaneous shots without taking a rest and loving it. Street photography is a very interesting subject. Taking spontaneous photos can make students able to know what is interesting and what is not. Later they can cover stories based upon their experience, and trust me, they will be [amazed] by their ability to choose stories.”

Study with this amazing photographer and. if your heart is moved to do so, please support his project at Emphas.Is.

Learn More
Street Photography: Classic and Creative (4 weeks)
Classes begin every week during July

Visit Gmb Akash’s Website and Blog
Support Akash’s “Survivor” Project at Emphas.Is

Vlad Sokhin’s Obama Mania Story Appears in Russian Magazine

Villagers in Kenya
Vlad Sokhin: Kenyan Villagers Adore Saint Obama

Our last post featured Vlad Sokhin, the first alumnus of the Emerging Photographer Program offered through The Compelling Image. Since then, one of his stories has been published in Ogoniok, a well known Russian magazine.

Even though Vlad was already a budding photojournalist before embarking upon the TCI program, I wondered if the TCI program had helped him sell the story. Vlad told me that David Bathgate’s course, Photojournalism: Telling the Story in Pictures, taught him how to produce a story from the first idea to a completed package ready for an editor’s desk.Vlad says: “I followed David’s advice and it worked with the Obama story. Barely two weeks passed from the last shot to when it was published in the Russian magazine, Ogoniok.”

Obama Tear Sheet

While the colorful photo layout seen above landed on the pages of the magazine,  Vlad’s letter to the editor tells a deeper story. Here are excerpts used with the photographer’s permission.

About a month ago…I was photographing in Nairobi, Kisumu town and Kogelo village, where Barack Obama’s relatives live…In Nairobi I met with George Hussein Obama, the youngest half-brother of the U.S. President. [Editor’s note: First photo top left in the tear sheet] George makes his living by selling the Obama name. He attempts to sell his own interviews and pictures and organizes visits to his ‘house’ in Huruma slum.

According to my taxi-driver, David Ngatuku, who has come to Huruma many times with tourists, friends of George Obama scare visitors on the narrow streets of the slum, demanding them to pay extra money for an ‘Obama tour.’

George Obama tried to sell me ‘inside information’ about Obama having a 1-year-old son about whom no one knows. ‘If you pay me 3.5 million shillings (about 50,000 USD) I will let you take his photo. Even CNN doesn’t have his picture. You will make much more money on this story,’ he said.

It was lucky that my fixer knew how to translate sheng, a strange bastardization of English and Swahili. He told me George Obama asked his friends to find a small boy so he could sell his photo for a big amount of money. All his speech has been recorded, and I have files proving my story. George Obama was drunk both times I met him.

My story is about how the Kenyan people love Barack Obama, how the youngest Obama cashes in on his half-brother’s name and why an Obama safari costs more than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

So far, no U.S. publication has picked up the story, but who knows, with the 2012 election right around the corner, it could provoke interest from either side.

On another story, Vlad used some good advice received during his Portfolio Review with Ami Vitali. She told him not to just show places of where he had been, but rather to show places and people that no one or few may have seen before.

In his Spirits of Mozambique project, Vlad has done just that. He spent nearly a year documenting the traditional beliefs and rites of Mozambicans. The project consists of three parts: Mozambican Traditional Healers; Gule Wankulu, the Great Dancers of Chichewa; and Exorcism in Zion Church.  Hopefully, a book will be published within the next year.

To get a feel for being there, take a look at Vlad’s dramatic video below of Mozambican Traditional Healers.

To wrap up this week’s post, here’s another piece of advice Vlad received from Ami Vitali: every single photo should have a well written caption. Sometimes editors don’t want to buy a whole story. They may have space for just one picture. If a caption is well written with enough detail, that one photograph may well sell as a stand alone image.

For more information about all of Vlad Sokhin’s projects, check out his new website here and his Facebook page.

For more information about the Emerging Photographer Program, click here

Vlad Sokhin Emerges Brilliantly from the TCI/Photojournale Emerging Photographer Program

Last November The Compelling Image (TCI) reported that it had teamed up with Photojournale “a key player in the future of visual storytelling and photography publication on the Internet.”  The partnership led to the Emerging Photographer Program. Several weeks ago, Vlad Sokhin, the first of TCI’s graduates emerged from the program…brilliantly.

Vlad Sokhim Maimed man photograph
Photograph by Vlad Sokhin from: A Time of Crocodiles | Human and Nature Clash in Mozambique

Vlad’s Photojournale exhibition:  A Time of Crocodiles | Human and Nature Clash in Mozambique explores the relationship between the crocodile-filled Zambezi River, a culture governed by ancient beliefs, government favoritism toward foreign hunters and an increasing loss of limbs and lives.

Like so many of TCI’s instructors and students, Vlad is a global citizen: Russian born, resident of Lisbon Portugal and about ready to return there enroute to relocating to Australia.  I was eager to know more about his work and experience as a TCI student so I contacted him in Tete, Mozambique with a round of questions.  Here’s what he had to say:

With such high quality stories already under your belt, what drew you to The Emerging Photographer program at TCI and how did you hear of the program?

I found the TCI web-site on the Internet a couple of years ago. It seemed very interesting to me, but I didn’t have a chance to do a course. Then, in the beginning of this year, my wife asked me what I would like to receive for my birthday. In the Mozambican town, Tete, it’s very hard to find anything to offer. I remembered about TCI and we checked it together and found The Emerging Photographer Program. I told her: “That’s what I want!”

Which courses did you take?

I chose the Documentary Photography / Photojournalism Track. This program has three parts: Photojournalism with David Bathgate, Street Photography with G.M.B. Akash and a Portfolio Review with Ami Vitale.

Boy Playing in Mozambique Photograph
Photograph by Vlad Sokhin: From 28th of February Project”

How was the experience for you? How did it compare to face-face instruction?

We are all accustomed to face-face lessons. But it looks like it will be a thing of the past soon. More and more universities offer their students on-line courses, including master degrees. As for me, it was the only option to learn more about documentary photography and photojournalism whilst already working with it far away from the civilized world. And I enjoyed the learning.

Did the way the courses are set up time wise blend in well with your already busy schedule? How much time did it take for you to complete the program? 

I was always late for my assignments. In the beginning of the course I had a motorcycle accident and was recovering from it for two weeks. Also my first story wasn’t very easy to shoot, so it took me extra time. In Africa nothing is fast, you have to relax and wait. It reflected in my assignments. The whole course took me about 4 months, but I finished it on time.  I do want to thank my tutors for being patient with me.

Describe the process of interacting with your instructors: email, critiques, skype? 

Usually I was messaging through the TCI web-site. Also we had email exchanges and I talked by skype with David Bathgate and, for the portfolio review, with Ami Vitale. She helped me a lot to understand what I actually have to show to the editors on my opening portfolio and what I need to do to produce deeper photo-essays.

What would you say is the main benefit of a program like this one? 

For me the biggest benefit was meeting new people from the photography world. I studied photography for two years and had a separate course in Photojournalism. In the TCI course I learned a different way of approaching the stories I was working on. The past courses taught me how to produce a photo-essay but in the TCI program, I have also learned how to package it and how to propose the story to the editor.

Who would benefit from this program?

I already worked in photojournalism for a couple of years and I found the Emerging Photographer Program very helpful for me. I would recommend it to beginners because of its simplicity for learning and to the advanced photographer who wants to improve his/her skills. And the teachers “adjust” their help and attention to a student depending upon his experience in that photographic area.

Hands knitting photograph
Photograph by Anne Salminen: Hands Knitting

Vlad’s rich experience will soon be followed by other Emerging Photography students.
Anne Salminen is Finnish, married to an Italian and living in Nairobi. She is doing a story on poor Kenyan women empowering themselves via a knitting co-op established by a Norwegian woman.

Kasandra Antoine is Haitian American teaching English in South Korea. Her story has to do with migrants from North Korea living and working in the South.

Boy in South Korea Photograph
Photograph by Kasandra Antoine: Boy in South Korea

We will delve more deep ly into their projects after they have completed them. As well, we will delve more deeply next post into Vlad’s experience and stories of The Spirits of Mozambique. Be prepared for the mysterious.

Photographic Portraiture as Visual Biography with Jon Mortimer

This week, we continue our conversation with Jon Mortimer.  Since online, interactive learning is still so new, I was especially interested in Jon’s take on the subject as it relates to his courses at TCI.

Photograph  ; Alessandro Nivola

Photograph by Jon Mortimer: Alessandro Nivola/American Actor

As a face-to-face instructor in London, and now online, aside from the “anytime, anyplace” aspect of online learning, what else do you think the online experience can offer?

Being a very hands on sort of person I was a little wary of the idea of on-line learning, but after really looking at how TCI course structures work and spending time developing and writing my courses I am a convert. I was at first worried that it would lose the personal touch, where the students would just feel like a cog in the machine and not that they were really being noticed and encouraged. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

“…but the chance to then upload and have a personal critique of your work is really where you start to learn about YOUR photography and YOUR vision. This is where you are then able to progress.”

The courses are not just downloads that you read and then move on from. I think, and this seems to be the consensus of my students too, that the assignments are the real gem in this crown. By having an assignment that gets you out there putting into practice what you have learned is one thing, but the chance to then upload and have a personal critique of your work is really where you start to learn about YOUR photography and YOUR vision. This is where you are then able to progress. This gives it the feeling of a face-to-face lesson where discussions can begin and turn into steps forward.

You are offering three online courses through TCI: Digital Photography Beyond the Basics, Contemporary Portrait Photography and now a new one in development, Self-Portraits. What do you want your prospective students to know about these courses? 

I see The Contemporary Portrait Course as a great adventure of self discovery. Okay, so we look at a few technical matters, lenses and light but Portrait Photography is much more than that. It is a way of finding out how we see the world and the people around us. I like to approach portraiture as if I am that person’s biographer.

Lauren Laverne Portrait

Photograph by Jon Mortimer:Lauren Laverne/ British Radio and TV Personality

I look at what we try and accomplish through a portrait and then what we will inevitably end up with. As much as we try, we cannot tell the subject’s story entirely; we will however tell our story of that individual, how we see and perceive them. I also look at our most useful tools other than the camera and the lens; our ability to listen, our subject’s environment and time itself.

The Self-Portrait Course is in development at the moment but will be a fun look at the history and development of photographic self reflection and the ways in which we can capture our own stories. It will be a course on the visual autobiography if you like.

I also teach Digital Photography: Beyond the Basics: going through the process of working with the digital equipment we have at our disposal now. I address how we can harness the technology to take further creative steps and how to manage our digital work flow. It is a more technical course, but through the wonderful assignment structure, I bring in creative aspects where we don’t allow ourselves to lose our imagination and our creativity.

Tell us about your upcoming exhibition. Where, When, Theme?

The whole project is entitled “The Madness of St George” and it has begun its life as a living breathing mass… It comprises a pictorial journey through the England of my memory and dreams to see if it still exists in this age of the global high street…I believe England should be enjoyed for all its madness, eccentricity and quirks, whether they be sweet or maddening. This is the idea: a celebration of the spirit, individuality and heart of the people and their country and the history and the future of the areas that still thrive in my family’s old photograph albums.

The project will culminate in an exhibition and a published book. Along the way, however, I am chronicling the journey with a photographic blog. The plan is also to get interest in the project with a series of talks about the process and the idea along the way in galleries in the areas that will feature in the book. No dates yet but follow the blog and all will be revealed along the way.

Learn More
Digital Photography Beyond the Basics (6 weeks)

Contemporary Portrait Photography (4 weeks)
Classes begin every four-six weeks from
May 30, 2011- October 30, 2011

Visit  Jon Mortimer’s Website and Madness of Saint George Blog

Photographing Royal Wedding Street Parties: An Insider’s Look with Jon Mortimer

Neighbours Celebrate at a Street Party

Last Friday, people all over the world took a breather from hard-core reality to be swept up by the magic spell of love and beauty surrounding the Royal Wedding.  We wondered what London-based photographer Jon Mortimer had planned for the day. He told us he was on his way out to shoot a few street parties in connection with both the event and an up-coming book about the English entitled The Madness of St George. What follows is Jon’s heartfelt take on his countrymen and his and their responses to the day.

Can you give us a little of the local flavor. How did the whole sense of moment impact you personally?

This whole Royal Wedding to me was about the little stories that in the grand scale of life are the biggest you can find. I wasn’t really that interested in the big ceremony…but what fascinated me was the community angle. The working people of the nation, in these arduous times could quite easily have turned around and said “Hey, come on, we’re all struggling to make ends meet with the financial crash and the sorry state of the economy here, losing our jobs and scraping around for scraps of money and you Royal folk are splashing everyone’s cash on a big unnecessary knees up,” but they didn’t.

In fact the event had quite the opposite effect. Why? I have no idea but it actually brought everyone together and lifted their spirits far above their worries of everyday life. And this feeling on the day, of unity, community and kinship had the most powerful effect on me. I remember standing back a little at one point, looking across the street scene in front of me and thinking: “this is actually beautiful.” I had no idea really why this was happening but I just knew it felt like a wonderful moment.

In an earlier email, you stated: “I am fascinated by the way the English people are embracing the occasion.” What about their “embrace” fascinates you?

Although I approached this with an open mind, there was inevitably the question in the back of my mind: “Why do Royal Weddings bring the nation together and stir up so much loyalty in the common working Brit?” Everything that the Monarchy stands for could be seen as divisive. The notion of a group of people that is held up as our betters purely by the chance of birth should grate with the average working man and woman. But it doesn’t.

And here it was clear to see that a whole nation was being lifted and cheered by the Royal Wedding in an atmosphere reminiscent of the stories I have heard about the street parties of the early 1950’s when the Queen was crowned just after the end of World War II. Maybe it is our chin up attitude to difficult circumstance or maybe we just like a good old knees up and a beautiful Princess. I still don’t have an answer to my question but what I do know is that within those street parties on Friday afternoon a whole host of communities arose from their arm chairs and met the neighbours. Can that really be a bad thing?

How did you prepare for the shoot?

The idea for photographing the street parties came about during research for my latest book project about the English and their eccentric traits. I felt that the street parties being arranged all across the land were a particularly English phenomenon. They may not have invented them but they do them very well. So I started researching where they would be. I wanted to cover a few to get a good cross section but I obviously needed them to be all in one area for logistic reasons.

This research was more difficult than I imagined. For various reasons local councils didn’t seem to feel the need to publish lists…so I had to start trawling through Facebook pages, asking at local pubs, calling friends and knocking on doors. Eventually I found four wonderfully friendly and inviting streets that welcomed me along for the ride.

The main one I covered was quite a big affair with around 200 people but still had a wonderful community spirit with everyone from the neighbourhood and the pub and the church and the school all working together and linking arms to bring the community closer. And not just for the day but creating new bonds and friendships that will run and run.

What is your approach to shooting?

When I shoot my documentary pieces and actually even my portraits I like to work in a relaxed and low key way. With documentary I don’t want to be noticed, or actually I don’t want to stand out as a photographer is more the point. So I don’t have a big zoom lens, I generally work with a 35mm wide angle and no flash and I talk to people and listen to their stories. The more connection I have with my subject the better the images I will end up with.

Sometimes we are all too keen to start snapping every where we go, but if we don’t actually have an emotional link to that moment and place then our images are going to be soulless. So…the experience was important and wonderful too, like being at a mini wedding reception that you knew was being lived out thousands of times over, all across the land and at that very moment, a fabulous feeling of family and community.

London Street Party_2

Details of the Day

For many the Monarchy really sets England apart. After this experience, how does the whole idea of “The Royals” sit with you?

Ideologically I should be very cynical about the whole thing. The Monarchy in theory should divide the nation and can only really be negative in the assurance of class differences and privilege lorded on a family purely by the accident of birth. And this is where my fascination kicks in. If truth be told, after my experiences this weekend at the street parties in the backroads of this merry England, the Royal Family appears to be the one thing that is binding the people of this nation together.  Creating the idea of Community in far better ways than any modern day voted in political idea of a Big Society could ever do. My eyes have been opened and my cynicism sucked dry. The whole project was all about the little stories within the local communities and as it turns out, these stories have joined together to form a much bigger story than I could ever have imagined.

Next Post: Information about Jon’s online, interactive courses at The Compelling Image

 Learn More
Digital Photography Beyond the Basics (6 weeks)

Contemporary Portrait Photography (4 weeks)
Classes begin every four-six weeks from
May 2, 2011- May 30, 2011

Visit  Jon Mortimer’s Website and Blog

With the World in Crisis, How Can Photography Help?

House damaged in NZ quake

Photograph: Piedad Barillas

The future role of photography was the focus of a recent conference presented at the Foam Museum of Photography in Amsterdam. The keynote speaker was Fred Ritchin eminent professor of photography at New York University and author of the provocative tome After Photography. As reported recently in The British Journal of Photography. Ritchin posited the idea that…”what’s next for photography is less important than what’s next for the world and how photography can contribute to it?”

He added that he had attended an earlier conference that week …”listening to Kofi Annan describing the state of the world – floods, oil spills and radioactivity. With 1bn cameras already in the world, it’s clear that it’s not enough to ask about the future of photography and make more images. We have a responsibility to ask how photography can help.”

Several weeks earlier in New Zealand, André Tanguy, TCI’s SEO expert, was dealing with one of those very issues. In his online diary of the earthquake and events unfolding around him he speaks about his attempt to make his way to his partner, Deb, on the other side of town, Forced to abandon his car, he bicycled his way through the ravages of the earthquake. From his journal he tells us:

Christchurch City is built on a 1-way traffic system, but that didn’t matter anymore. I cycled the wrong way up a 3 lane road in the middle lane against on-coming traffic to make sure I was as far away from falling debris as possible. Then I saw the first dead person, his dog sat next to him completely silent. 2 people were already attending and placed a jumper over him; I felt so sorry for him and his family. He had been bit by falling debris from a building.

Then it was onto Manchester Street; words can’t begin to describe the utter carnage – buildings missing complete sections and rubble all over the street. Then all of a sudden, everyone stopped. A MASSIVE rumble I can only describe like thunder comes from nowhere. Then the screams – but it sounded like everyone was screaming with cushions over their mouths, muted; surreal. BANG – a building behind me collapsed and there was nothing I could do, so I continued my journey through the nightmare.

House is shattered in NZ Quake

Photograph: Piedad Barillas

He successfully reached his destination and with Deb at his side, later connected up with their good friend, Piedad Barillas, who supplied the photographs seen here.

In the face of this devastating event,  André and his friends acted as citizen journalists.  Ritchin cited dramatic examples of citizen journalism in his speech, a term being bandied about more frequently now with the proliferation of cameras and crises everywhere.  In those moments, the locals may be the only ones who have access or can get to the scene fast enough.

For those who ask themselves the question: how can I help the world through my own photography? check out TCI’s course: Spot News – Capturing Events as They Happen taught by Bhatia Ashwini. Bhatia lives and works in Dharamshala, India where he covers Tibetan affairs for the Associated Press

Learn more
Spot News – Capturing Events as They Happen
Classes begin every four weeks from
May 2, 2011- May30, 2011

Visit  Bhatia Ashwinin’s Website

Digital and Still Timeless: Black-and-White Photography With Memphis Barbree

Black-and-white sand dunes

Many of us remember falling in love with black-and-white film and spending days and nights in the darkroom. When digital photography started to evolve, many photographers who had worked primarily in black-and-white, were dazzled with the ease with which they could now create in full color. Fortunately, black-and-white photography never disappeared; rather it had to be reinvented from scratch to reach the beauty it had during its life in the analog/film era. Now it has come full circle.

So what is it about black-and-white imagery that seduces our senses? To find out, we touched down in San Diego, California to chat with black-and-white photography maestra, Memphis Barbree. Memphis is teaching Digital Black-and-White Photography: Getting Started for The Compelling Image Online Courses. Here are Memphis’s insights into the power and beauty of black-and-white imagery.

I love photographing in black-and-white. It’s my main medium of expression as a photographer. For landscape photography in particular, creating in black-and-white communicates a sense of timelessness that I find really appealing. It provides such a great immediate abstraction of a subject and helps a viewer of a photograph take a visual step back and see even the everyday from a different perspective. I experience nature and all of life as one continuum – a process that loops through fascinating twists and turns, shifts and slides, back and forth, in and out, and over and over.  I want my photographs to express this view. Using black-and-white helps me transport the viewers of my work into a place that could be the past, present or future.

Many people, when new to photography, are immediately drawn to create color images because bright colors easily draw and excite the eye. After studying the art of black-and-white for some time, a photographer will began to understand the difference between luminance and color values. It can be helpful to work only in black-and-white for a time while training your eye. After a while one can come to understand and love black-and-white’s unique language and way of expression.

Studying black-and-white photography can be a path to learning the basics of photography the way one learns basic classical scales of a musical instrument before going on to play all sorts of music. You’ll be a better color photographer to have studied and mastered black-and-white work. It could even happen that you find the world of black-and-white its own unique and magical path of photographic expression for you.

Memphis is currently working non-stop on a project nearing release which documents the Gulf of Mexico coastline. You can add your patronage by visiting the site.

Learn More
Digital Black-and-White Photography: Getting Started

Classes begin every four weeks from
March 28, 2011- August 29, 2011

Visit  Memphis Barbree’s Website and Facebook

What’s Lifestyle Photography? Ask Susan Wright

The wonders of cyberspace still continue to amaze me. I am writing from Mexico and am about ready to drop in on photographer Susan Wright currently based in Rome, Italy. Just hearing the word Italy calls up dazzling images in my head and Susan lives there to create them everyday. Beginning this week, Susan will be teaching a course in Lifestyle Photography through TCI online, interactive workshops so today I am eager to learn more about what the lifestyle genre is all about.

Lifestyle Photography by Susan Wright

An Australian native, Wright, has a dream job traveling around Italy capturing gorgeous places and people. Her assignments take her to UNESCO World Heritage sites like the surviving Greek temples in Agrigento, Sicily or the lush Baglio Di Pianetto vineyards of Count Paolo Marzotto or the best coffee cafes in Rome. These experiences endow Susan with a rich store of approaches she can draw from to offer her lifestyle photography students.

We asked Susan to email us a few notes on what this style of photography means to her. This is what she has to say:

Lifestyle photography demonstrates people of all ages, genders and races experiencing and interacting in a myriad of everyday life situations.  Because lifestyle photography is projecting an ideal of what a consumer would want to experience in life, the mood is generally up-beat, energetic, fun, romantic, playful and light-hearted.  It is essentially optimistic and idealistic.

Lifestyle photography is the art of capturing these quirky, spontaneous and beautiful moments of interaction between people and their environment.  Not only light, color, props and design play a huge role in creating vibrant images, but also the right selection of your subjects to communicate and express the desired mood in the photographs.

You are basically creating the environment, the stage and the atmosphere, with particular attention to artistic and technical elements, while effectively working with your subjects and allowing the spontaneous energy and interaction to flow.

When all of these components come together perfectly, you will have created great lifestyle images with high commercial appeal and value.

In the midst of her own very busy and glamorous lifestyle, Susan’s Lifestyle Photography course begins now. It comes packaged with a touch of Italy.

Learn More
Lifestyle Photography
Classes begin every four weeks from
March 6, 2011- June 19, 2011

Visit Susan Wright’s Website and Facebook


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