As participants in the MA at Falmouth University, we came together as an international group of 3 to explore the processes and outcomes of collaborative photographic work.
In 4 days we had set out our overlapping interests – focused on public space and the human rituals that are played out in those spaces. The premise for the project were to test the communication, techniques, thinking and shared outputs played out in a short collaborative experiment.
We debated the way we would plan to go out into the field and capture not only our distinctive cities, but the likely differences in people’s use of them. We anticipated capturing strong visual signs of differences and commonality. We all went out to shoot on 3rd October 2016. We returned and selected 20 images each and shared those via Dropbox. We found that the principles we set out with – those of difference and commonality were strongly distinct in terms of the urban spaces, their scale, colour and human intensity. The scale of public space enclosure in Hong Kong, the lower scale to Birmingham and the green urban fringe of New Delhi were highly distinct. But perhaps not surprisingly, the human activity was very similar; people gazing at phones, resting, thinking, communing, playing and filming. People were visibly occupying and utilising spaces and objects to suit their momentary needs and desires.
The output of our work captures in two montages, the ‘one day in three places’.
Our main tools were Skype – to ensure we could capture via discussion the milestone decisions we needed to make. This was very effective for three-way conversations. WhatsApp was used throughout as the principal tool for noting each of our updates, questions, clarifications. This was a good record of discussions and decisions and was effective but we found its linear nature mean that a lot of scrolling was required to maintain the information flow as the three time zones meant that one would wake up to a string of texts which was a clunky methodology. Finally Powerpoint was used to create the palette for presentation. We had a substantial discussion on the imagery and the merits of colour vs black & white presentation; after reviews we chose to apply the black & white technique as it became a unifying method to show the people and their common activity, rather than the view becoming dominated by the sheer variety of colour which came from the three sources. We chose to include one colour version in our presentation to demonstrate the sharp difference to the viewer. Finally we used a process chart to demonstrate the pathway we took as a team, whistle acknowledging that the speed of the project and the cross-time zone working meant that our method was in reality a more blurred and iterative exchange, but we moved coherently to the visual manifestation of our work.
How was it?
All three photographers reported that the short project had been enjoyable and not taxing. We were challenged by having to make judgements about composition, presentation, style, exposure, output and narrative. Challenge was positive in this context as we found a discursive mode which always led to decisions. We discussed with peers the crediting of work such as this where a common montage was created using three photographer’s source material; in this instance we agreed that mutual credit was appropriate and correct.
Ashley (second name excluded by request)
Our presentation is viewed here