This week I, and many, many other photographers, went on our annual pilgrimage to The Photography Show at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham.
As ever the show had all the major camera manufacturers presenting their wares as well as a host of accessory, framing, printing etc, etc companies. For me though this year, as was the case last year, the highlights were the two talks I attended. One by the UK fashion photographer Lara Jade and the other by the American street photographer, Bruce Gilden. Here they are on stage, in full flow, with handy captions just in case you’re not sure who is who.
These two photographers can hardly be more different, and yet in other ways be so similar. Lara is a young British fashion photographer who now spends her time jetting between London, New York (where she lives) and Los Angeles. She captures the worlds beautiful people in exotic locations wearing designer clothes looking young and fresh. Her style of image is all high-key, back lit and carefully choreographed making the best use of light and location.
Bruce on the other hand is a not so young (he’s 69 as he reminded us several times) grizzled Brooklyn born and bred street photographer. He captures some of the worlds less fortunate people in not so exotic locations (Haiti, Detroit and Derby to name but three) who wear clothes that in many cases are probably charity hand outs. His style of lighting is harsh, in your face (quite literally) flash which shows all of the angst and hardship his subjects are clearly experiencing. As Bruce reminded us, in no uncertain terms when asked by an audience member during the Q&A whether he thought his images were less than flattering to their subjects, his images too have a beauty about them.
The thing that these two photographers have in common is their clear passion for their chosen profession. Lara pretty much launched her own career as a self-taught photographer from the age of 14. She’s not only talented but massively ambitious which you have to be to get anywhere in the cutthroat world of fashion photography.
Bruce first picked up a camera in 1968, attended night school to learn his craft and became fascinated with people on the street and the idea of visual spontaneity. Ever since he has photographed people on the streets, in their homes and going about their business all around the world. He’s a member of the famous Magnum picture agency.
The other interesting thing they both have in common, or at least highlighted as being important in developing their trade, is not to chase the money. It’s more important to have ideas, be creative and follow you nose in what you do. Developing projects to learn and hone your skills is what photography is really all about. Whilst we can all get seduced by the shiny stuff that’s on display at shows like this the important message is this one. As it says in Gilden’s bio on his website what sets out the great photographers from the merely good ones is a sixth sense that can’t be taught, but is simply learned by years of practising your craft and keeping “your eyes wide open”.