Manchester has never been short of cultural festivals, but just in case anyone was ever in doubt, Creative Tourist hand picked a selection of great events going on over one weekend and put together the Manchester Weekender. There were some amazing things going on over the weekend, but the one that particularly took my fancy was a photography workshop ‘Exhibition in a Day‘ led by well known photographer, Len Grant.
Len has been a commercial photographer for over 20 years and is particularly known for his work on storytelling and documentary work. Over the years, he’s been involved in documenting the building of The Printworks, the regeneration of the city centre following the 1996 bomb, community based projects in socially depreciated areas such as Hulme and Gorton, the demolition of Maine Road stadium, the development of the Bridgewater Hall and most recently documenting the construction of The Co-operative’s new head office in the city centre. I had been aware of Len’s work for a while, but picked up on it particularly following a beautiful project he did last year with poet, Linda Chase. ‘Shooting The Breeze‘ was originally commissioned as part of the Didsbury Arts Festival and involved Len and Linda travelling around Manchester, inviting passers by to be photographed in their makeshift studio. Linda then wrote poems about the subjects and combined with the photographs, they produced a book.
The workshop itself took place at the new University of Salford building at MediaCityUK. As I work for the University, I’d heard a lot about the state of the art facilities based down there, but hadn’t actually visited it yet. I have to say, I was really impressed with the building itself. The ‘egg’ space on the ground floor of the building was where our workshop took place, with retro school desks scattered among interactive tables and a huge wall of micro-tiles. The first couple of hours were spent introducing Len’s work, detailing what the day involved and getting to know the other participants on the course.
After being so enamored with the Shooting The Breeze project, I was delighted to find out that the workshop was going to be based around street portraiture. Len advised us to go out in groups of 3 or 4 and approach passers by, trying to focus on capturing their expressions and personalities through the photos. Being completely honest, I was really intimidated by the thought of approaching strangers and taking their photo, so I was extremely glad we were sent out in groups. I actually found however, that once we got going, the majority of people we asked were really up for it! I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of people who really got into it and played up for the camera, laughing and joking and making it a lot easier to take their photo.
I’ve never really liked posed photos, so my aim for the day was to really try and capture more candid shots, bringing out peoples personalities in the short time that I had with them. Len had advised us to really think about the shot before we took it, what background would we have, would there be a theme, did we want close up shots or full body and to think about the light. The great thing about going out in groups was that some of us could engage the subjects, whilst the others took photos. In this way, people seemed to relax more and we were able to get some great candid shots. I started off using my point and click digital camera, but I actually found that I was getting better shots just from my phone (Samsung Galaxy S2), so ended up using that for the rest of the time.
After a couple of hours we returned to lab and uploaded all of our photos as well as group editing them on the large screen, led by Len. After we’d picked the final photos for the exhibition, friends and family as well as those we had photographed, were invited to come and view the exhibition, with all of our photos being projected onto the large micro-tiles. This was a great ending to the day and I really enjoyed looking through everyone’s photos and different approaches to the brief.
I think the main thing I got from the day was how great it was to actually take time out to focus purely on photography. I frequently take photos, but it’s always been an afterthought whilst doing other things. What was brilliant about the workshop, was that I could dedicate time purely to photography for a whole day and be surrounded by other photography enthusiasts. It’s really made me appreciate it more as an art form and definitely made me want to set aside more time to do it in the future. It’s amazing what you can achieve in just a few hours!
I’m hoping we can set up a Flickr group of all the participants so that we can all share each others photos taken on the day but for now, you’ll have to settle for mine. You can view my full set on Flickr.
Update: A Flickr group has now been made! You can view it here.