EAGER inspires photographers to make their very best photo series. Many photography courses focus on helping photographers improve their techniques and learn them how to make better photographs in specific situations. But what if you want to make the next step? Beyond the single beautiful photo, on your way to create a photo story, or photo series. To give your photographic vision on the things you see / encounter, or tell your own stories.
Photographers that studied at the Photo Academy stand out because they are familiar with conceptual photography and creating photo series. Time for an interview with Han Sieveking, director and founder of the Photo Academy on creating photo series.
Why does the Photo Academy focus on creating photo series?
First of all we would like our students to get a grip on the visual power of a photograph. The first photograph of a subject is easily made. Try to make a good second and third that are really distinctive and add to the whole. For that you need to parse the first picture, why is it an interesting picture? Making a series is it a good exercise for that. Second a photographer that is able to create photo series has more competitive edge in the market. And customers frequently ask for photo series. Especially in advertising, fashion and documentary, they rarely request individual images.
Which criteria meet a good photo series?
A good photo series must meet the predetermined criteria. To evaluate a photo series, you need to know the photographer's intended purpose and how the viewer 'reads' the images. If these match, it is a good photo series. From a technical perspective you can say that nothing in the photo series is missing and you do not have the tendency to omit selected images. In that case, a photo series is unfinished. An important aspect of creating photo series is a good selection. At the Photo Academy we train our students to a create photos series that are both visually interesting and tell a story. That makes it interesting on more layers. Finally, keep in mind the presentation, for example, which images are shown at which size (large / small) and in which order.
Is there a (standard) method to create a photo series?
There is no recipe for creating a good photo series. That is a matter of personal taste and experience. However, when you want to learn to make photo series it may help to start with considering a concept, then drawing sketches of images that you want to make and after that starting to make the photographs. You have practise a lot and learn to choose good combinations of images.
Does a taxonomy for classifying photo series exist?
At the Photo Academy we have some ideas on that. To mention a couple: there are photo stories, photo novels (with those old-fashioned textballoons), sequences (with a very fixed format), documentaries, reportages and composite images that are sometimes called collages. Those are all examples of still images. In this field I also find moving images interesting. This can be in the form of a stopmotion or a stopmotion in combination with a video. In that case the photographer determines how long a person sees his image and the order in which images are displayed. The viewer's influence is reduced and the photographer can convey his vision in a compelling way. A book is also a good form for this.
We'd love some inspiration: which photo series do you enjoy?
I am a fan of the work of Duane Michals and Paul de Nooijer. But let me choose something more modern. Take for example the series Hustlers of Philip-Lorca diCorcia. I especially like his way of photographing, as if he were using a coarse brush. He builds a certain tension, suspense, to each image. It is almost cinematic. Another good example is the work of Tracey Moffatt. She makes more staged images. I find her social focus especially interesting. And then of course from Dutch soil: Erwin Olaf. I find the series Hope and Grief very interesting. He's very good at styling, you feel the atmosphere in the pictures and the story tells itself.
How does the Photo Academy support in learning to make photo series?
Already in the first phase of the course you start to make photo series. In the practice weekend in the first year you make for example a conceptual photo series in a street in Groningen, a landscape series at Schiermonnikoog, a sequence and a series based on a piece of music. During the course, you'll get more complex assignments to learn to make better photo series. This continues until your senior year. Of course, you will also learn to create single images that cover a complete story, because in some cases you need to be able tell a story in just one image.
Is there any literature in the field of photo series that we should not miss?
My advice is to start reading the introduction of photo books. As photo addicts we tend to skip the texts in those kind of books. This, however, often explains the background of the photos / series and how they have been established. I consider those introductions small pearls that are very easy to discover...
Photos from the series Lucky Moments © Susanne Reuling
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