Last week we were given the challenge to work with one or two other peers in a creative partnership and deliver a ‘micro project’ at the end of the week, to be discussed and critiqued in the webinar. To find our creative partner(s), we had to post a single sentence or a single image to the forum that could form the starting point for a piece of photographic work.
I was drawn to the idea of “A Stranger and One Wish” which was expanded on by my fellow student as follows:
“For most of us, approaching a stranger is a difficult proposition. Even more so, if you want to take their picture. I was thinking we approach a stranger or two, who is visually interesting, ask them to make one wish, write it down and then take their portrait. A small marker board with pen is ideal or even a piece of paper. It’s a micro project with so many layers. First, you have to establish the all important connection and gain their trust, at the same time you have to be thinking on a visual level regarding composition, light, backgrounds and the expression you are seeking from the subject. Also, having to do this in public and in an unfamiliar environment adds to the the difficulty of capturing one still image. Collaboration between two people at its best 🙂 It’s definitely not an easy micro project but one that once completed will feel rewarding on all levels for all involved. For the viewer, we are giving them more than just a simple portrait as the wish can add a deep connection between viewer and subject.”
When I saw the post I thought that this was an excellent opportunity to push myself outside of my boundaries and to shoot strangers up close in the street which I hadn’t done before. I haven’t done many close up portrait shots except with my family and it is a genre of photography that has appealed to me but I never really explored. My photographs of people have always been of a more candid nature and not very close up so this was a great chance to do something different, learn more and improve myself.
When it got to the first day of shooting, I then thought I must be a nutcase for choosing this project. Street photography in Dubai where there are no pedestrianised streets, few pavements, everyone drives around in cars, there is no city centre so to speak of as the city is spread across many areas and it was touching 40 degrees so even those on foot were not hanging around.
I had grand plans at the start to shoot images across a diverse cross section of the population but it soon became clear that the best option here was to focus on the labourers who didn’t really have a choice but to be outside. Each wish that I was told left me more and more humbled throughout the week. It was a special experience.
A stranger tending to the gardens of Dubai
I drove by this man who was resting in the shade during the midday sun. I stopped to give him a spare bottle of water that I had as I had just been walking around myself in the heat and thought that he could do with it more than me. He didn’t speak much English but I did find out that he was a gardener and worked for a few houses in the area. I used google translate to ask him his wish in Tamil (Google translate was very useful during this project!). His wish was simply to be able to continue to work hard so that he can earn more money to send to his family at home in India.
A stranger wheeling and dealing in Al Quoz
I walked past this guy in the Industrial area of Al Quoz in Dubai. He was waiting for someone to collect a car that he was selling second hand. He is from Pakistan and spoke good English but the word “wish” was a bit tricky so good old Google translate was used again for the Urdu word for wish. His wish was for all countries to be peaceful and to stop all the suffering caused to children in the world.
A stranger out and about delivering to the people of Umm Sequim
I met this young man whilst walking around a few blocks from my house. He is from India and spoke little English but we did manage to converse using gestures and a few words. Again I used google translate to ask him whether he had a wish to which he responded that he “wanted to play cricket”. I thought that this was a miscommunication at first and that he maybe thought I had asked him about his favourite hobby but when I asked him whether he played cricket in Dubai he said that he didn’t as he was always working.
Leaving a Trace
In the spirit of leaving a trace, I gave each of the subjects a small polaroid portrait of themselves at the end of each meeting which was just a small gesture to them for helping me with this project.
I would like to thank Dayana and Crash for contributing to a fantastic team. Whilst I found this project very challenging it was highly enjoyable and was probably the most rewarding part of the course so far for me as it has helped me to get closer to people as a photographer and not just people but total strangers. This will be of great benefit as it sets me off on the road with my final project. So thank you both.
This was a fantastic collaboration project. We worked together as a team from the very beginning, sharing our ideas, and discussing each other’s photographs. We had an hour long skype session midway through the week to make sure we were all ok, aligned on the project and on track for completing a project that we are really proud of. We each had specific roles but cooperated excellently as a group, bringing in our own ideas and adding in our own personal touches.
We each showed a different part of the world through a single idea with the individual portraits all joined together by a single question about their personal wish.
We learned a lot about the experience and it has provided us with a lot of inspiration to stay focused, constantly experiment with new ideas or types of photography and as always to keep shooting!
The full presentation that we gave during the week’s webinar can be found in the link below.
Some of our peers challenged whether this was a collaboration or more of a cooperation given that our work was presented in separate sections. I believe that it was as we all worked together on the same theme, sharing ideas throughout and presented something that had our own personal touch as part of a single body of work. It may have been different to some of the other works presented where the groups worked on a single image that they all contributed towards but I think this was just a different way of collaborating. Our project was also not just about collaborating within the team but also with the public – engaging with them and getting them to work with us for our project.
Amongst the other groups, I really enjoyed the work of the pair that combined a photograph of a Rastafarian (a culture strongly influenced by nature) with images of plants that provide a natural remedy to humans. The multiple exposure effect of the work provided some great images that would look fantastic in large print.