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So, what is Reportage Photography anyway?

We chat to photographer and Central Saint Martins short course tutor Karl Grupe about the art of storytelling through photography and catch up with former students about the benefits the course has made to their own photographic creativity.

From conceptual typologies to classical photo essays, the final projects presented by students on the Reportage Photography course are always varied, but what exactly is Reportage Photography? Karl Grupe, one of two tutors teaching Reportage Photography at Central Saint Martins short courses, cites it as, “the art of storytelling through the use of still imagery. It is an umbrella term which can find its way into other genres of photography – fashion, editorial, photojournalism, visual anthropology to name a few. It is my goal to have the students leave the course feeling confident not through a belief in the precision of photography but through the play and alchemy that comes from constructing a language in photography.  Exploring and identifying where one feels comfortable in speaking visually is the essence of this course.”

Speaking with some of the graduates of Karl’s Reportage Photography course would most certainly confirm that this has been achieved.

Fran Hales is a freelance photographer, originally from New Zealand, residing in East London.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?      

Inspiring, challenging and motivating

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

We covered so many interesting topics and styles and I loved the weekly themed projects based around these. Karl who was our tutor is second to none. He has a brilliant way of teaching and works so well in encouraging and bringing out the best in his students.

Can you tell me about your Reportage project and your inspiration behind it? 

My reportage project was called The Urban Emerald. It focused on the importance and value of green space and the wellbeing effect it has on helping people to unwind in a chaotic city such as London which swells to 11m people during the working week. The location I chose was Victoria park in London’s east end. Historically this park was created in 1845 to aid the working class in this area who were suffering from poor health and low life expectancy due to over-crowded living conditions. It was the first public park in London to be built specifically for the people and hence it is more fondly known by the locals as The People’s Park.

The Urban Emerald © Fran Hales
The Urban Emerald © Fran Hales

Has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 

Absolutely. I already work as a photographer shooting mainly events. This course inspired me to think more about personal projects I would like to work on. It really showed me how to tell a story well and how to critique and edit my own work in a way I did not know before. It has given me more confidence. The support of the students and Karl the teacher helped me in having the confidence to present my work to the class.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 

Do it! It’s so much fun and it gives you a great insight into the world of photography. You learn a lot whilst not being overloaded. I have done many short courses but this is one that really has made a change for me.

The Urban Emerald ©Fran Hales
The Urban Emerald ©Fran Hales

Kat Kotula works in HR and is originally from Wroclaw, Poland. She has been living in London for 1 year.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?      

Challenge, motivation, feedback.

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

There was a micro assignment for every class based on the lecture we received that day. With only one week to complete, it was great motivation to go out and do something new, sometimes stepping outside the comfort zone. We were challenged to use different equipment, different techniques, exploring new topics. Being able to compare our  work to others was very beneficial as it showed how the same topic could generate very different possibilities and approaches! 

Can you tell me about your Reportage Photography project and your inspiration behind it?

Titled, “We are from the heart”, it focuses on Pippa, a single mother after being abandoned by her cheating husband, who has recently lost her job. Her life revolves around her two sons, Rudy, aged 6, a diva and a showman, and Max, aged 9, who has autism. Through my project I was trying to understand and document the family dynamic and the interactions between the three of them.  I wanted the audience to see the emotional bond that this family has and demonstrate that despite their tough circumstances, there is so much love and tenderness in their little family.

We are from the heart ©Kat Kotula
We are from the heart ©Kat Kotula

How has this course benefitted your career or personal development?

I had already been to photography school in the past, where I learned about different techniques and genres and my final essay back then was much more arty and dreamy, based on my own inner emotions rather than the actual story.  With the help of Karl and the examples he presented in class and the personal feedback I received, I was able to tell a story that was not banal, was more personal and intimate but still, I hope, interesting to others.  I feel quite confident about my storytelling skills now. I have also learned a few new things about the research and editing of photos.  I will definitely use the series I created for my final project in my portfolio. 

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course?

Absolutely take it and engage yourself fully in every micro assignment given.  Whether you are a novice or an experienced photographer, every form of self development is great. This course will open your eyes to different possibilities, introduce you to photographers or projects you had not known before or simply challenge you to think outside of the box. Also you will get independent feedback about your work, which will help you create something extraordinary. 

We are of the heart ©Kat Kotula
We are of the heart ©Kat Kotula

Christian Olsen’s ultimate goal is to study Photography at UAL’s, London College of Communication.  He is originally from Copenhagen and currently resides in East London.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?    

Immersive, relevant, stimulating.

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

The class discussions and peer feedback following our homework assignments.  Not only did it open up numerous aspects of your work for interpretation that you might have not expected, but it also forced inward reflection on what you succeeded in achieving and more importantly what you did not, which is the most significant part of the learning process.

Can you tell me about your Reportage Photography project and your inspiration behind it?  

Docklands was the name of my project.  As with every area of London, the Docklands is seeing transformation and transition in terms of industry, demographics and infrastructure.  Having studied in North Greenwich and commuting both by means of DLR and London City Airport, it struck me that this transformation is happening on a far larger and rapid scale than other parts of the city and history cannot keep up.  The aim of the project was to document the post-industrial state of disrepair and the bustling ambitions of the future and to juxtapose these as harshly as possible in an attempt to convey the unnerving state of the Dockland’s today.

Docklands ©Christian Olsen
Docklands ©Christian Olsen

How has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 

It has helped me immensely in creating a vision of where I see myself in my future photographic career. Before embarking on the course, I found it hard to handle projects of a more journalistic nature. But now I am able to hone in on more specific areas on the spectrum of photography.  I have also developed techniques of combining conceptual and reportage photography and I know what processes and pre-requisites go into creating a successful photo essay.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 

Definitely take it. Whether one is an experienced photographer or an amateur, the course content, tutor and other students will prove beneficial in terms of tools, techniques, inspiration and networking.

Docklands ©Christian Olsen
Docklands ©Christian Olsen

Following a series of Short Courses in photography at Central Saint Martins, Niaz Maleknia is now studying her Post-Graduate Diploma in Photography at UAL’s London College of Communication.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?  

Motivational, interesting and vibrant

What did you enjoy most about the Reportage Photography short course? 

I enjoyed the weekly briefs and the feedback given by Karl and the other students. I also enjoyed learning about and discussing the work of other photographers.

Can you tell me about your Reportage project and your inspiration behind it? 

My end of course project was titled  Facebook Lolita. I am fascinated by the selfie culture and the use of photography to promote oneself and demonstrate on social media. I am a mum of a 13 year old girl and have therefore become aware of the explicitly of my daughter’s friends’ profile pictures.  I searched Facebook for open accounts and was able to screen shot the images that these girls aged 13-15 years old were posting of themselves.  The girls seemed to be living a double life, one in reality and the other on the social pages. My background is in English literature and the images reminded me of Nabokov’s controversial novel, Lolita.   I wanted to add the emoji faces to protect the identity of the girls and to also add a childhood element to them. I also saturated the colours. The final work was shown on an old slide show which made it seem more uncomfortable for the viewer.

Facebook Lolita ©Niaz Maleknia
Facebook Lolita ©Niaz Maleknia

Has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 
I have really benefitted from the course as it has enabled me to get onto the Post Graduate Diploma Course at London College of Communication. I was able to put together a body of work, and also gained a lot of knowledge which I am still finding helpful.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 
I would encourage anyone interested in photography to take the course, as it is taught to a high standard in a fantastic environment, which in itself is so inspiring.  Karl teaches you to look at things in a different way and the briefs are fun and challenging at the same time.  Karl is enthusiastic and gives excellent feedback so you move forward and develop your eye and skills.

Karl with students in class ©Niaz Maleknia
Karl with students in class ©Niaz Maleknia

The next Reportage Photography Short Course is in March with further dates throughout 2017. Check the Central Saint Martins Short Course website for further details.

Reportage Photography Exhibition Thursday 23rd June

It’s that time of year again when students of Central Saint Martins Reportage Photography Short Course present their final projects in an exhibition session entitled Documentaries.

With invited questions and crits from the audience, the process will often tease out a depth of analysis and reflexive qualities that only a q+a and exhibition can. “The more a student engages in the practice of presentation the more they evolve in terms of developing the finer points behind the understanding of their own work and process” said course tutor Karl Grupe.

With upcoming dates throughout the year, the exhibition will also be a great opportunity for any prospective Reportage Photography students to speak with current students and the tutor directly.

Topics included in the exhibition are:

a ethnographic visual study of location and fear

a photo essay on old age and sport

a photo essay interpreting rush hour and Londons Underground

a personal collection of images on the mythology of nostalgia at Coney Island USA

an investigation into how London’s parks contribute to our well being

Reportage Photography

The exhibition will take place from 6.30pm – 8.30pm and  is a great opportunity for you to find out more about this exciting course at Central Saint Martins.

Book your ticket through eventbrite, places are limited: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reportage-photography-qa-exhibition-tickets-26146119748

Guest Blog: Giulio Mazzarini on the art of Food Photography

Giulio Mazzarini is an Italian creative director and photographer, with a masters degree in Design Studies from Central Saint Martins, UAL. Based in London since 1998 and teaching the popular Reportage Photography short course at CSM since 2009, he is launching our first ever Food Photography short course this coming August.

You may be wondering why we need Food Photography?  Well, we invited Giulio to give us an introduction to this brand new course.

My first experience with food photography dates back to the early 90s, when I helped the London-based American photographer Jay Myrdal. I was in my 20s, with sideburns, a black goatee and hair on my head.

Jay’s large Paddington studio was a maze, and that day it had been filled with colourful dishes prepared by a professional home economist.

At the time, food photography was pretty different from what we see today: studio setting could take a long time and it wasn’t possible for food to look fresh for hours. The dishes would therefore be covered with oil, deodorant and/or hair spray to keep them looking shiny and enticing.

You could not be a true professional photographer if you weren’t technically very competent – not only in photography, but also in other fields, such as studio setting and model making. Jay and his first assistant Dani where not only excellent photographers, but also amazing model makers…real craftsmen! And I would observe them in action and eagerly try to learn their tricks.

Photography-wise, images had to have a pretty long depth of field – everything in the image had to be in focus. So we would use wide lenses, with narrow apertures.

And, as we were shooting with a 5×4 Sinar camera and slide film plates, this wasn’t that easy. Exposure had to be exact too. With slide film, errors bigger than half stop could cost the job. As a second assistant, I would run from the studio to the in-house darkroom to pass exposed film to the first assistant, who would unload it and load new film. It was a very delicate process and you couldn’t make any mistakes.

I also remember practising with the light meter, going around the studio with the big Minolta around my neck. I would also help setting the lights.

At the end of my experience as a photographer’s assistant, I was able to shoot film and get the exposure right – often without the need of that light-meter.

So what is left of the legacy of that time, given that we’re now in an era when most food photography is created by bloggers using pocket cameras and smartphones?

Quite a lot, actually. First, the importance of composition: a good food image must be well composed – and studio setting can play a pivotal part in this.

Second, the careful use of light: every stunning image requires stunning light.

Finally, a keen eye for detail. It remains the only indispensable instrument for producing great shots. Rushed work is, most of the time bad work.

By the time I became a professional photographer, I had evolved my style, and become naturally attracted to lifestyle photography, using wide apertures and saturated colours.

Food photography has become a part of my travel and reportage work for magazines and brands, and not by chance, as I have always loved to document cultures, people, nature and the senses.

And in good food photography, all senses work fully. There’s our sight – the initial visual attraction; the smell, when our mouths start watering; the sound, when we touch a plate with the cutlery. And then, of course, there’s the taste. We put the food in our mouth, close our eyes and (hopefully!) are in heaven.

After all, isn’t food photography, like all photography, about “putting on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart”? *

*Henry Cartier Bresson.

Giulio Mazzarini

Giulio’s Food Photography course will take place at CSM Granary Square from 17/07/2017 – 21/07/2017.

Easter School Instagram Competition #MyCSM

Easter School at Central Saint Martins is now under way and we are inviting all Easter School Short Course students to take part in our Instagram competition.

Tag your Instagram photos with #MyCSM during your Easter School course, between 21 March and 15 April 2016 for a chance to win a £50 Amazon Voucher!!

For some inspiration check out #MyCSM

PPA Exposed! Final Exhibition

Students from the Professional Practice And Academic Portfolio Course (PPA) held their final exhibition earlier this month, with themes focusing on time, memory and family history, self-portraiture, fashion and performance, street portraits, appropriation and collage, repetition and taxonomy.  Speaking about the course, tutor Kathryn Faulkner said:

The PPA is targeted at anyone who is passionate about Photography and is keen to learn more skills and develop their thinking around what and why they make photographs. There is no limit to age or experience but we are looking for well-motivated and engaged students who will work well together. The course is divided into two stages.  After set assignments in Stage 1, the students develop a self-initiated project during Stage 2 and this is presented publicly in a Final Show at the end of the course.  In this year’s final exhibition everyone made a highly individual and personal body of work. There is no house style and the purpose of the course is to help students identify what is most important to them. Students leave with a workbook, an essay, a new portfolio of work and some make artists books. Hopefully they leave with a new found confidence in speaking about their work too.”

Speaking about his experience on the course, PPA Graduate Charlie Gao cited the experience as being “rigorous as well as challenging your own creativity”.

“Being able to critique and see the flaws of your own work is something that develops over time, and I think important to making further advancements as an artist. Being able to develop my own work and photographic identity whilst surrounded by a group of peers with diverse photographic practices, bouncing ideas off each other, being creative, trying new things, working across different mediums – still, moving image, analogue, digital.  This course has the potential to give you the practical skills and confidence to practise photography in any context and to the highest level, whether professionally or academically on an MA course.”

Whilst fellow PPA graduate Zhen Lin spoke of the experience as being “inspirational, practical, and mind-consuming”.

Congratulations to all 7 graduates and their amazing final exhibition

LUCY BARRIBALL

MARILIA CAMELO

CHARLIE GAO

ZHEN LIN

ANNA JONES

OLIVIA LANGNER

TINNAPHOP TONITIWONG

A COLLABORATION (all of the above)

 

Reportage Photography Exhibition

© Marlene Beca
© Marlene Beca

Reportage Photography tutor Karl Grupe, led his recent Autumn Term course students into a wonderful end of course Exhibition named Documents, allowing students to present and discuss their work with an audience.  Invited guests were presented with a series of personal photographic essays exploring the relationship between teen self-esteem and dress code, the hidden costs of eco-travel, a London portrait as seen through an immigrant’s eyes, a lyrical look at litter and common spaces, environmental portraits of a ‘border’ block on the edge of The City, a typological diary on recycling, the overlooked and unseen of Camden and a portrait of a Thai boxing gym and it’s athletes.  Hailed as a “huge success”, by course leader Karl Grupe, the Q&A style exhibition invited crits and comments from invited guests, thus allowing the students to receive valuable critical analysis.  Karl Grupe talks at length in his blog about the benefits of this type of exhibition, “more a student engages in the practice of presentation the more they evolve in terms of developing the finer points behind the understanding of their own work and process.”  See Karl’s full review of the exhibition over on his blog. Our next Reportage Photography course will start in April, with further dates in summer.  Full information over on our Short Course website.