Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Path ahead

London is like a sanctuary for me. This is a place that I am comfortable with but far away from the burdens of everyday life.

I have a clearer idea of what I need to do to improve my photography after my three months in Chicago. The task ahead of me is enormous. One thing that I have learnt in Chicago, is that it is not just about photography. To make photography viable, there are a lot of attendant things that need to be looked after. I will list a few things down although it is probably not exhaustive.

1. Technical logs of the shoots so that any setup can be reused in the future.
2. Cataloging and archiving of photographs
3. Administration of shoots, like model releases and payments
4. Equipment maintenance, all mechanical equipment will fail sooner or later.
5. Office administration
6. Portfolios and promotion
7. Exhibitions
8. Continued experimentation and photographic education
9. Production co-ordination on commercial shoots

The fine line between art and commerce is hard to straddle. Too much art and freedom can lead to chaos. Too much systemisation leads to stale and boring work.

In Paul's studio, I observed that professionalism is an attitude, not a system. A system follows from a professional attitude to work. There is a constant struggle to make sure things are done right and done more efficiently. All the work stems from Paul's vision, but every member of the office is concious of what they are doing. People do not do their work mechanically, but are finding ways to improve as they work. It was really tough at times, but there were times when it seemed like the impossible was being achieved by sheer will power. On the shoot with Greg Minor, the musician, Paul was shooting 4x5 type 55 polaroid. Jason was loading and passing the polaroid backs to Paul. Lesha was placing the negatives in sodium sulphite solution separated by pieces of kitchen towel as Shin was coating the positive. It was amazing to see how fast Paul could shoot with such a cubersome camera and material.

I guess that I have been a hands on person and have expected to understand all that happens in my studio. This means that I take responsibility for everything in the studio. But when all the people are excelling in what they do and taking responsibility for their area of work, it will enable me to push the envelope even more. It is like formula one racing, the driver takes point, but the entire team behind the design of the car and the maintenance of the car during the race are essential to the success of the driver. Everyone has to pull their weight.


Anonymous said...

That's amazing! Interesting insights to the practice of professional photography.

Professionalism is an attitude - I agree with that. It totally reflects how much you take your work seriously (& how much you respect your clients). IMO, it definitely affects the output (in quality and in volume) of your work. Granted, the amount of effort sowed into that kind of practice is great, but I believe that the returns will be very very rewarding.

I got a question: Any idea what's the best way to influence your colleugues/co-workers to adopt that attitude for the constant search for more efficient process?

Knowing the working culture in Singapore, getting people to change a working process can be difficult if not downright frustrating.

I guess it's easier if you are the boss, but otherwise... really... I'm still finding out how...

BTW Heng, do you/will you shooting large format (like Paul) in your studio? Are there anyone in Singapore who shoots 4x5?(or better yet: 8x10!)


Heng said...

From my experience, you cannot get people to change, be they friends or people who work for you. All I can is choose the people you want around you. Singaporeans think that they are owed a living. They have no idea how hungry and aggressive the rest of the world is.

I will shoot 4x5 in my studio. But given the current climate in Singapore, I think it will be mainly for personal work. I know Russell Wong uses large format too.