Once again my choice of subject matter places a bit of a limit on what I could consider staging when it comes to holding a workshop. When this exercise was mentioned my automatic thought was to hold it around the cyanotype technique as it is a wonderfully hands-on way to learn something new and create something beautiful. Once I knew the workshop had to relate in some way to our research project that pretty much put paid to cyanotype as an idea. I cannot figure out a practical way to incorporate the naked male in a teaching environment that incorporates cyanotype.
Reading the guidance on staging a workshop it mentions the chance of exploring an area within our practice that we feel less than confident about. In the hope that a workshop could educate the facilitator as well as the participants. Something that has always been an enigma to me is curatorial practice, and in particular the selection and combination of images to create a sturdier whole.
This made me consider borrowing an idea from Daido Moriyama and his performance piece ‘Printing Show’ of 1974. In this he offered the chance for visitors to create a personal book through selecting some of his images which he then printed on a photocopier and signed for them to take away to keep. If I were to hold something similar it could give me the chance to show people some craft skills in making a handmade book and in the meantime I could take the opportunity to garner some essential feedback on my images. Through discussion I could find out which were most popular and why; what narratives people read into the images and which are least successful. I could also see how people grouped the images together to give me some insight into creating a cohesive flow when it comes to staging an actual exhibition. The only thing that may concern me with this approach is that it may appear rather self-centred and egotistical; I am a rather shy artist when it comes to placing my work on show so it could be I am being overly sensitive in thinking this.
Alternatively, I have been asked in the past to give tips and advice to a couple of photographers who would like help with studio lighting and setup. Initially I agreed as I thought it could be an interesting way to get some up-to-date shots of myself while also gaining some experience of what it feels like to be in front of a camera. This insight may help to put others at their ease when they come to model or have pictures done for themselves. While I have mothballed my studio work for the time being, I am wondering if I could incorporate this into the shoots I am doing in other people’s home environment. By giving them some basic camera skills and a run-down on composition I could act as model for them in the hope this may break the ice and enable them to feel far more relaxed. Anything I can do to ease their worries will be helpful as it is quite brave to invite a stranger to your home with the express intention of disrobing for them and the cold gaze of their camera. I always have Sontag’s words that we often fear the disapproving eye of the camera (Sontag, On Photography, p.65) in mind when I shoot so it is always my aim to enable the model to feel comfortable and confident throughout.
I must admit the thought of actually holding some kind of workshop is something I would dread. I am very independent in the way I work (even though my whole practice is based on the collaboration between photographer & willing model) and while my paid employment involves helping people this is usually on a 1-1 basis. Running something with a bunch of people would be like herding cats to me. But as I was determined to leave my comfort zone when I set out to study this MA perhaps I should bite the bullet as it could be I am better at these things than I realise.
Sontag, S. On Photography (New York: Penguin Books, 1977)