Photographing People, a lesson

New year, new photographs…and just to keep my mind fresh and breezy I’m employing the photographic equivalent of the tumble dryer’s sheet of Bounce by putting myself through a photography course. A Photographing People course at City Lit, to be precise. Having done a couple of such courses before – albeit at different venues – I think I have a fairly realistic expectation of what to expect.

Generally they are slow-starting affairs, with the first couple of hours dedicated to painfully fracturing, before hopefully smashing the ice with a bunch of fellow snappers. This is usually done by looking at a range of photographs taken by a range of photographers. Both ranges are just the right size to ensure that everyone sees something they like, yet nothing they are offended by. You can never rule out the possibility of the presence wholesome Christians, active grannies, homophobes, racists and youthful prudes on these courses.

Another thing I have come to learn about such groups is that they will invariably contain at least one, if not all of the following:

i) A nutter, junkie (either ex- or current), drop-out or retarded person of some description – part-Government funding of the course depends upon their attendance.

ii) A foreign person with very limited grasp of the English language, often French (although I’m yet to figure out why).

iii) An Utter Cock – and by this I mean the bloke who thinks he knows what the pretty girl sitting next to him needs to know about her camera; it’s not what the tutor is talking about, so he’ll fill in the gaps for her, loudly, while the tutor is talking about something Utter Cock deems to be ‘irrelevant’.

Normally this sort of ensemble would be enough to make my blood wince, recoil and boil, all at the same time. However, on photography courses it’s absolutely perfect – there’s nothing better than a bit of tension and a few weirdos to stir up the creativity.

It also provides a particularly welcome diversion from the slow and arduous process of hearing about everyone’s favourite photograph (from the selection provided) and the ineviatable questions about apertures and f-stops from point-and-shoot Shelly, who’s trying out her husband’s expensive digital camera for the first time. I often wonder whether the course directors strategically place these units to stir things up, thus ensuring maximum output from all course attendees…

(For those who don’t know, f-stops and apertures relate to the same thing – holes – but have an inverse relationship with regards to size, obviously).

It seems that even when the minimum course requirement is to know how to use an SLR camera, some people still slip through the technical knowledge net and arrive with the ability to do nothing more than press the shutter (provided they know where it is on the camera).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not beginner-phobic (or xenophobic, or any other phobic, for that matter). And as I mentioned already, the delightful tutti-fruity flavoured soup one finds oneself swimming around in on these courses has a tendency to lead to very interesting photographs, which at the end of the day, is the reason for my attendance. After day one of my three day course, I’ve already found a most exciting project to photograph and have been actioning my Rolleiflex accordingly.

Now, on a separate (and slightly more lezzery) note, I read a most entertaining Lesbian-interest blog on the Times website (who would have thought it?) this morning. It refers to an undercover (no-pun-intended) affair conducted by crime writing lezzer Patricia ‘Patsy’ Cornwell and an FBI Instructor called Margo Bennett, whom she bumped into while researching one of her books.

That Cornwell purportedly used the phrase, “not even two trips over the rug” to describe the affair, makes her worthy of a ‘see what I did there’ honour of the highest order. That was a stroke of genius from the old carpet muncher, and was no doubt as cleverly thought-through as one of her finest murder plots.

Her admission to Vanity Fair in 1997, that the affair was “very brief in every way you can imagine,” is equally cunning. Most spiteful lesbian ex’s on the wrong end of ‘the dump’ would sell their cat for the chance to have such a satisfyingly cutting comment published in the international press. ReSpeck to you PC. My ex-bashing blog is but whitebait to the whale that is your far-reaching voice.


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