Friday, 30 March 2012

He’s the man François Truffaut called “the most important filmmaker alive”, the director of Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, among others. As his death row documentary, Into the Abyss, is released, the multi-award winning filmmaker speaks to IdeasMag…

Why do you make films about people in extreme circumstances?
It’s better than making films about a dishwasher. We go to the movies to see an extraordinary story. Human beings that move us, terrify us, exhilarate us, where you can look deep into the human heart, including our own soul or heart – I don’t see this as extremes. I’m a filmmaker and I wouldn’t be interested in making a film about you having a sandwich for lunch.

Describe your relationship with the prisoners in Into the Abyss.
In normal cases it is an exchange of services; you hire an actor, you pay him money and he delivers some other goods – a performance on screen. In this case it’s not really an exchange of services, with the only exception that they have a voice they haven’t had in 10 years in solitary confinement. I allow them to be human when everyone else would tell you they are monsters, that they shouldn’t even have a trial, that they should be hung. “Hang them high” or “Just shoot them” – that’s what you would hear, and I treat them with dignity and respect. My attitude is clear: the crimes are monstrous but the perpetrators are not monsters – they are always human.

What was your approach when interviewing them?
[Michael Perry – one of the death row inmates who features in Into the Abyss] believed I was a reporter doing an interview. I said, “No I have no questions, it’s not an interview”. I said, “I’m a poet – let’s talk, let’s see where it takes us.” Of course it’s very intense; you have a limited amount of time that the prison has dictated [and a] limited amount of technical crew allowed inside.
Like in a feature film, I am good in casting. I see, “Oh that’s a person with whom I must speak,” although I know literally nothing about them. [With Into the Abyss] every single person I filmed is in the movie – with one exception, a former girlfriend of Michael Perry. She was very dull so I didn’t even look at the footage in editing.

How did you build an emotional connection with your interviewees when your access was so limited – often to less than one hour in total?
You have no time. You have to find the right voice instantly and with everyone differently. Every single [interview] has a different voice from behind the camera from my side. You have to have a way to get the best out of them – you have to know the heart of men. In a way I think I always had it, but it’s also experience, life itself, an intense life that I have had that gives you other insights.

You run a programme for young filmmakers called the Rogue Film School – what sort of things do you teach there?
Let me say something about the Rogue Film School: it’s quite wild, guerilla style. It’s an organised answer to a huge avalanche of young people who come and want to learn from me, to be my assistant. I try to pass on certain things but I don’t teach anything specific, with the exception of how to forge documents – a permit for example. But I encourage them to be self-reliant. Don’t wait for financiers to step in. Don’t waste your life. Go out and work as a bouncer in a sex club for six months and you’ll have enough money to make a feature film – you can make a feature film for $10,000 these days. And I encourage them to travel on foot, [and to] read read read read because no one is reading any more.

Do you think reading is more important than watching films?
I do not watch films on a regular basis, but I do read. Many of these young people who do not read are incapable of developing or understanding the cohesion of a big story, of something epic. They have no sense for it when you are only twittering. Conceptual thinking, the great fantasies, the separate realities, the parallel universes – they come to you in reading. I have a mandatory reading list for those who attend [the Rogue Film School]. It has nothing to do with books about films: it’s partially poetry, Roman antiquity – Virgil’s Georgics, old Nordic poetry from Iceland 1,000 years back and, for example, the Warren Commission report on the assassination of Kennedy. It’s kind of a wide list and it could be any 500 or 5,000 other books.

This interview originally appeared in IdeasMag.


Thursday, 29 March 2012

When the night has come and the land is dark, wrap up warm, grab your camera and head out – the witching hour is the perfect time to experiment. Professional photographers share their tips for shooting in low light…

Get steady 
Remember that the light changes throughout the night, so you can decide when to go out according to the effect you’re after. “Get a bit of colour, contrast and mood in your images by shooting just after sunset or around that time,” says Andrew Gilpin, who teaches night photography with The Culture Club Photography Workshops. But whether you’re out at dusk, dawn or anything in between, you must ensure your camera is steady. “In a lower light the camera uses a slower shutter speed, which increases the chance of shake,” says Andrew. “To get a sharp image you have to support the camera, but,” he adds, “it doesn’t have to be a big expensive tripod [that you use], it can be a GorillaPod or just leaning your camera on something.”

Hang out with the stars 
Babak Tafreshi, award-winning photographer and founder of The World at Night, an organisation dedicated to astrophotography, recommends you swot up on astronomy and stargazing beforehand. Ultimately though, “You need to be out for starry adventures,” says Babak. “The secret in nightscape photography is being in the right place, at the right time.” While he encourages experimentation, Babak advises against making composite images of the night sky. “The challenge of nightscape photography is to capture the beauty of the earth and sky, avoiding montage or altering the natural view and colors,” he says.

Shooting in the moonlight
“Go out shooting under a full moon and you’ll see the world in a totally new light,” writes photographer Alex Bamford in the book 52 Photographic Projects, edited by Kevin Meredith. “You can shoot two to three days either side of the full moon, depending on the amount of cloud. As a rule of thumb, if you can see the shadow cast by the moon, it's bright enough to take a picture.” According to Alex, the finest moonlit images can be found in a rural setting. “For the moonlight to really have an effect on the scene, you'll need to be away from the urban sprawl,” he writes. But try to bring a friend along: “As much fun as it is to sit by yourself in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, it’s safer not to be alone.”

Learn to paint with light
You can create cool effects by using a flash with another light source, such as a torch or LED bike lights. This technique is known as light painting. Kit Oates and Mike Massaro of photography company Double Negative, run light painting workshops from their studio. “Use a low ISO – 100 or 200 is good – so you get a better quality image and can make a longer exposure more easily,” says Mike. “The exposure can be over a number of seconds, so you can draw something with the light sources and then use the flash right at the end to freeze the image.” For added impact, cover your light source with different coloured gels.

Kit recommends using an exposure of around 10 seconds. “It’s a good amount of time to be able to play and draw something without feeling like you’re rushing.” But this can be even longer, if you’re keen to highlight an interesting background. Mike again: “People like to do light painting in nature spots so you can see the sky or stars, in which case you might have an exposure of 10 minutes.”

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Paul Laverty is best known for collaborations with Ken Loach, such as Looking for Eric, My Name is Joe and the Palme d’Or winning The Wind That Shakes the Barley. We caught up with Paul at the screening of his latest film, Even the Rain, starring Gael García Bernal, at Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London…

You’re a qualified lawyer – how did you end up becoming a screenwriter?
I used to work as a lawyer in Glasgow but in the 80s, fascinated by what was going on with the Sandinista revolution, I went to work in Nicaragua for a human rights organisation and was there for three years. I was sick of writing human rights reports and wanted to see if I could write something inspired by what I’d seen, but fictional, so I made contact with Ken Loach and we made Carla’s Song.

You’ve since worked extensively with Ken Loach – what’s the key to a collaborative relationship between screenwriter and director?
I consider myself a filmmaker. I’m a filmmaker and I write and Ken’s a filmmaker and he directs, and we meet in the middle, with different skills but united by the one project. He’s a wonderful collaborator. You never see “a Ken Loach film” – you always see, “directed by”, “written by”, “produced by”, “sound by”. A lot of directors will say, “film by” and that’s all right if you’ve made the whole film yourself, but they haven’t.

Where do you find ideas for new projects?
You have to keep your eyes open. You’ll maybe see something or hear something and imagine a character. Each film has had a different moment of inspiration. [With] the one in Nicaragua, I was an eyewitness to the very vicious war conducted there by the United States – that was the starting point. But if you’re working so closely with someone you have to find ideas that are inspirational to both of you, otherwise they won’t work.

Your films are often inspired by real situations – how do you go about researching them?
When we made The Wind That Shakes the Barley [which is set in early-20th-century Ireland], it was talking to the children of people [who were there], [reading] newspaper reports, books, visiting the place, going and seeing the country, trying to understand it, listening to the songs, seeing the uniforms they wore, all of those things.

And then with [Even the Rain], the film’s set 500 years ago so I had to spend a lot of time studying in the library and then I had to find out what’s going on in Bolivia so I went there and spoke to people. Listening to people is very underestimated.

What should you bear in mind when writing a politically engaged film?
The choice of material and character and the story you tell give it the politics. In the majority of Hollywood films, most of the people are very individualist and usually rich – there’s a celebration of wealth. The films we do celebrate the possibility of people coming together. They’re people with less power in their lives who use their imagination to overcome corporate power, as in Bread and Roses; sometimes they’re isolated because they can’t get a job like in Sweet Sixteen or My Name is Joe. Route Irish is about soldiers coming back from Iraq or It’s a Free World… is about immigrant workers. So we try to find out what their experience is like. I spend time with ex-soldiers or immigrants or kids in children’s homes – not to copy their life but to be informed by it.

What’s your advice for young screenwriters?
Watch great films, like The Apartment by Billy Wilder, and see how they’re structured – but I think the most original writers listen to their own voice, use their own experience and imagination. Be rigorous in making sure you avoid cliché. In a strange way you’re looking for a conflict. You’re looking for the premise for a story, which has got contradictions and is complex.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

At the most creative end of the spectrum, arts jobs are infamously irregular. Whether you’re an actor, painter or dancer it’s good to have a side job up your sleeve – something flexible and decently paid that you can fit around your main career to earn some extra dosh. Here are a few options to consider…

Share your talent with others
Your brain is a goldmine, full of useful knowledge and skills that people would pay good money to acquire. Depending on your subject and location, you could earn from £20 to £40 an hour as a private tutor for secondary school or university students. Generally you need to have an undergraduate degree in a related academic subject – but there are some exceptions. “I put my foreignness to good use and teach Italian pronunciation to opera students,” says actress Alma Fournier Carballo.

For a less formal alternative to tutoring, organise workshops or taster sessions in dance, circus skills or whatever your specialism might be. Run these at events, corporate team building days or through Kicktable, an online platform where members host experiences and others pay to join them. “The organisers decide everything – the dates, the price and the number of people,” says founder George Henry de Frahan. An experience could be presentation training or it could be a pizza-making lesson. Many are arts related. “We had someone bringing people inside an artist’s studio to understand the creative process of an artist,” says George.

Get down with the kids
You’ll need enough energy to power a smallcountry, but working as a children’s entertainer can be enormous fun. “It's usually weekend work or after-school hours,” says actress Lianne Robertson, who also works part-time at Surviving Actors, supporting actors to find work in between acting jobs. Debra J Carter charges from £25 an hour as a face painter at children’s parties. “I’ve got a website and advertise on Gumtree but a lot of it has been through people I know hearing that somebody needs a face painter and giving my number,” she says.

Set the world to write
If you’re a secret grammar fascist then proofreading could be the perfect side job for you. Some proofreaders register with an agency to find work proofing anything from blog posts to university dissertations. Elizabeth Gregory prefers to approach clients directly. “It’s the kind of thing that you can sit and do at home if you find somewhere quiet with a cup of tea,” she says. “To read something, you don’t need to do it between 9 and 5 – as long as you meet the client’s deadline, it’s really flexible.” The Society for Editors and Proofreaders suggests a minimum hourly rate of £20.75 for freelance proofreading.

Use your hands
Have a think about things you could make or mend for a fee. IdeasMag journalist Nell Frizzell moonlights as a knitter of hats, snoods and scarfs, selling her woollen creations through a Facebook page, while actress Pip Henderson does fitting and stitching for theatrical costume. When Vanessa Hodgkinson was looking for something to do on the side of her work as a fine artist, she decided to train as a tiler. “I’ve worked in a few shops and things but I wanted to do something flexible, something that was manual labour instead of standing around,” she says. As a tiler you earn around £140 a day and are free to set your own hours. “You can just turn jobs down and then when you want to, you can take them,” says Vanessa. Tiling has also helped her practice as an artist. “It gives you a good sense of spatial awareness – it’s made me think about installation of my work in a more practical sense.”

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 15 March 2012

He’s been acting since he was six, but lately the Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Topsy-Turvy and Layer Cake star has turned his hand to directing and his debut feature, Wild Bill, is released next week. Dexter Fletcher shares his advice for young filmmakers…

As someone who’s been acting since childhood, what route into the industry would you recommend to young actors?
Go to smaller, experimental theatres and campaign people about what they’re doing next, what’s going on this season, [ask them], “What do you think’s right for you?” You have to be relentless and dogged and get yourself in there. Writing to lots of agents is not necessarily the answer because that happens all the time. You’ve got to find the alternative route round the route that everybody else tries to take. No one’s an overnight success – it’s a complete fairytale.

You’ve said elsewhere that film is an industry built on ideas. What are your tips for coming up with ideas?
Your biggest resource is yourself. It’s about what you feed into the machine, ie your brain and your heart and your soul. Go to art galleries, watch plays, experience things that give positive energy to you and help build you as a person. All this stuff is input that somewhere along the line hopefully will click into place. You’ll read something or something will spark off that that chain of events that will make your mind lead you to a story you’re passionate about. But I don’t know what the magic ingredient is – no one does.

Has your background in acting helped your directing style?
Certainly in terms of the ensemble element of acting and understanding shorthand for actors, what they can do, where you need to push it and where you don’t. It’s quite easy to undo actors unintentionally – you just say the wrong thing and it sends them off in the wrong way – and it’s experience that stops you from doing that. I was very lucky because [being on set] is a natural environment for me. I felt secure there and that obviously has a trickle down effect to the actors, crew and other creative departments. And I enjoyed it immensely! Few people are in film or in the arts for the money. People are there because they love it.

Did anything surprise you about directing?
No, because I knew there was a lot I didn’t know and I was prepared to try to learn everything I didn’t know and not go, “Well that’s not my remit”. [As a director] my remit is to know everything about as many aspects of it as I can – from financing to creative decisions to managing people. With the director it doesn’t stop. There’s no, “Okay I’ve done my bit now, bye”.

How can a director ensure the best performances from his or her actors?
Be present on set and not too wrapped up in all the preparation you’ve done. Be open to outside influences that come into the moment when you come to filming it. A set is a place with a lot of creative people and a lot of ideas flying around, and you’ve got to be able to manage that and say no to some things and accept a few things that are really going to help. It’s about being focused and present with the actors and not disregarding them by just sticking them there and filming them.

What are the biggest challenges a director faces?
When people get ill or when the weather doesn’t do what you expect it to, and you have to change the schedule. Actors getting ill you can’t forsee, but if they get ill and the doctor sends them home, you can’t stop filming. It’s a moving train – you stop, everything’s lost. The weather is massive. On my second day [shooting Wild Bill] it snowed. I was going to have snow for four days and then the rest of the film would have no snow. Continuity-wise, that’s completely ruined, so I had to rewrite two scenes in a morning. Someone said to me, “It’s like trying to nail a snake to a moving train with a glass hammer”. It’s difficult. But it doesn’t stop.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Andy Warhol did it in his rented Manhattan studio. Oscar Wilde did it in the reading rooms of the British Library. JK Rowling did it in the cafes of Edinburgh. The only limit to where you can craft your masterpiece is your imagination. We asked freelance creatives from a range of disciplines where they work and why…

Home is where the art is
It’s not hard to see why many creatives work from home. The coffee flows freely, you can keep your own hours and, if so inclined, you never need change out of your pyjamas. But beware – proximity to housemates, family and the kettle breeds distraction. “When you’re at home there’s always another cup of tea to make, there’s always a little household chore to do, there’s always something else you can do before you start writing,” says comedian Meryl O’Rourke, who writes at a desk in her living room. “Also my husband’s got a horrible habit of walking in and out and not really regarding it as work. If he can’t see me typing, he doesn’t realise that I’m thinking and I’m trying to work something out.”

You can avoid this by creating a separate workspace within your home. Renting a live/work unit in a converted warehouse, an increasingly popular choice for young artists, would give you more room to do this than would a typical than a house or flat share. If you have outdoor space you could take your cue from digital artist Nettie Edwards who built a wooden shed in the garden to use as a studio. “I find it a very relaxing place to be,” she says. “At night when I shut the door and come up to the house that’s it.”

Working from home can be a lonely pursuit. Renting a desk or a studio in a shared workspace provides ample opportunities for networking and collaboration but it will cost you, in time as well as money. Designer Kimberly Golding, who runs an up-cycled babywear company, Mini Magpie, concluded that the two-hour round commute to a rented studio wasn’t worth it. “I just don’t like the idea of wasting time going back and forth,” she says. “My time is really, really important.” And with a two-year-old son to look after, Kimberly doesn’t have time to spare. But, inspired by coworking spaces she used while living in Berlin, she is exploring alternatives: “I’m working on a business plan for a project for parents who are freelance to have a space that also has a crèche for their children,” she says.

If you can’t afford to fork out extra rent, there’s a place where you can have desk space absolutely free – it’s called the library. Journalist Nell Frizzell favours the Women’s Library in London for its “very, very quiet” reading room. The only drawback is the woeful absence of caffeine.

Cafes (or fast food joints)
For some creative practitioners, cafes have that winning combination of Wi-Fi, white noise and refreshments the library down the road sorely lacks. “Cafes have to be alive, but not distractingly loud. Not cramped,” says writer Sapphire Mason-Brown. “Music is a no-no, and it kind of helps [if] there are other people working.” Until the overly loud soundtrack and the temptation of chips got too much to handle, Meryl O’Rourke found working in McDonald’s gave her some great writing material. “The people you get coming into McDonald’s are quirky – you see characters in there. It would actually be quite inspiring comedy-wise, because I would see horrendous parenting skills and wide boys and builders and things like that.”

A mix of all or some or none of the above
Curator and artist Lucy A. Sames of Kiosk Collective switches between her home, her studio and the gallery where she works as a programmer, depending on a variety of factors, including (in no particular order) how tidy, busy or noisy each place is, whether it’s raining, whether she has a meeting on and what tasks she has to do that day. Which goes to show that, whatever your discipline, creative work involves a range of activities – from thinking of new ideas to researching them, to holding meetings or rehearsals – each of which has its own requirements. Where you choose to do these ultimately comes down to a blend of economics, time management and plain old personal preference.

Useful resources

Public libraries 
Find information about your local public library.

Website aimed at 16-25 year olds where you search for empty spaces to use for rehearsals, meetings, performances, exhibitions etc.

Spaced Up 
London letting agents specialising in rented live/work warehouse units and studio spaces for artists.

The Hub 
An international network of coworking spaces, particularly aimed at people whose work has a wider social benefit. Membership starts from £10 per month.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Friday, 9 March 2012

Since graduating just two years ago, Kyle Bean has clocked up a client list that includes Peugeot, BBC, Diesel, Wallpaper*, Selfridges and the Design Museum, among others. We caught up with the endlessly inventive Brighton-based designer to talk materials, train journeys, and stop frame animation…

You studied illustration at university but work mainly in 3D now – how did that shift come about?
I always liked making things. As a kid growing up I was surrounded by Lego, and was always making little models. I knew I wanted to go to university and study a creative course but was torn between product design and illustration. I think what swung it for me was coming to the open day at Brighton and seeing how diverse and ideas-led the illustration course was. There were people doing animation, people doing more sculptural things, using the various facilities at the university. It wasn’t until my second year that I had the epiphany that I can make things but in the context of illustration.

You often use quite mad materials – from eggshells to pencil shavings. Which has been the most fun?
I wouldn’t say the eggshells one was fun, if I’m honest – it was a very unforgiving material to use! You say it’s mad, but what I’m doing is using very everyday materials, stuff that we’re all familiar with – so you can see an image I’ve made and absolutely get what the material is. I like it if people can instantly connect like that, because with so much that we see, we don’t know what it’s made of. Recently I’ve been enjoying using wood in my work. I did this project for Computer Arts where I made a smartphone from different woods and that was really satisfying. I used to love using workshops at school.

Where do you normally work?
I have a room in my home in Brighton that I use as my studio. My agent in London has a large space so if I’m doing a project and need to be in London working on it, I’ll work there. With the wooden phone, I’ve got a friend who’s a carpenter and we worked at his workshop to do it. I commute a lot and I find that hour in the morning on the train is an important time for me to be thinking about ideas. There’s something about being on a train where you’re forced to relax –you’re staring out of a window, or perhaps reading a book, but it just gives you that downtime.

How do you balance your own projects with commercial work?
I find the more personal work I do, the more interesting commissioned work I get. I get bored quickly and I want to try new things out so I use my personal work as a release. I’m usually thinking of little ideas for personal projects while I’m working on paid jobs.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing young designers at the moment?
 Certainly in terms of editorial, there is less money now. I have to be aware when I’m working on editorial jobs that I can’t have massive expenses for all my material costs. It’s also a shifting industry. I’m often asked to animate my work now. With the iPad and things like that, a lot of publishing is moving that way so, from an illustration point of view, if you’re able to learn how to animate as well it would probably be beneficial.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

In 2012 photography is still a male-dominated industry, in which women are far more often the ones being snapped than the ones doing the snapping. To mark International Women’s Day, we caught up with Fiona Rogers, founder of Firecracker, a website that promotes European female photographers...

Why did you decide to set up Firecracker? 
In my day job working at Magnum I came into contact with a lot of great women, but because Magnum’s a cooperative run by the photographers, staff don’t really get involved in the selection process for new photographers coming on board. So I didn’t really have an outlet for these amazing women photographers that I was coming into contact with, and I thought that was a great shame.

What does Firecracker do?
It’s a monthly feature [online] dedicated to one photographer’s project. I don’t show portfolios of work, I show bodies of work; but they can be works in progress, they can be completed bodies of work or they can be preliminary ideas, so it’s fairly flexible. The idea was that it would be a platform to showcase European photographers. The reason I restricted it to European photographers is because the website’s only run by me and I needed to have some restriction on it in order to limit the number of submissions I was getting.

What are you looking for in choosing a photographer to feature on the site?
I’m looking for originality: projects that I’ve never heard of or that have been dealt with in a different way to the standard documentary practices. The website accommodates a few different types of photographic genre but documentary photography is my key interest. I have had people email me with some really conceptual projects but it’s not where my passion lies.

Why do you think photography is still such a male-dominated industry? 
This is all just sweeping generalisation and there will always be women who defy these rules, but coming from my experience of having worked in the industry it seemed to me that there are a lot of women working in photography but not very many of them producing work.

There are a lot of great [female] picture editors, there are a lot of great commissioning bodies run by women, but for some reason not so many behind the camera. I don’t know why it is. I don’t think there are fewer female photographers, because the statistics of women studying photography are encouraging – the latest reports show something like 80 percent of people studying photography are female – but that it doesn’t necessarily translate once a student has graduated.

What advice do you have for young female photographers?
Form collectives to combine forces with like-minded people – that’s advice I’d have for any photographer. I think the problem sometimes for photographers is that they’re solo operators and you can lose touch if you’re a freelancer. In a cooperative environment like Magnum, there’s a sense of community. It’s a good way of making sure everybody’s aware of the current economy.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Braving traffic, crowds and pigeon excrement may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but shooting in public allows street photographers to document everyday life in all its unpredictable chaotic glory. Here, three street photographers share their tops tips on getting that perfect shot…

Be nifty on your toes
You’re likely to be shooting on the go, so before you head out, make sure you’re fed, watered and armed with kit that is easily portable. “Learn how to use your equipment well and comfortably,” says Jack Simon, joint winner of the 2011 Street Photography Now project. “Although many people pre-focus using a zone method, I have no problem with timing using autofocus or manual focus, as long as I am using a prime lens. Go with primes. I find 35mm ideal but also use 28mm or 50mm.” Street photographer and course teacher David Gibson agrees that less is often more when it comes to lenses: “Don’t use a long lens. There’s a quote I heard recently that summed it up, something like: ‘The best lens to use is your feet’. It is so true, don’t be lazy, get closer… use your feet.”

Spontaneity takes preparation
Street photography doesn’t necessarily have to happen in a street but it must be unplanned, un-posed and in public. As a street photographer, you’re watching out for rather than setting up photographs, so you can’t predict exactly when that perfect shot will come along – but you can be geared up for its arrival. “Always carry a camera with you and be ready to use it,” says Jack Simon. “Some of my most interesting photos appeared when I was not looking for a photograph – on the train, in a restaurant, or at a museum.” In fact, one of Jack’s most popular pictures was taken in an airport lounge at the end of a trip that had been full of far more obvious photo opportunities. “Find an interesting background because it can sometimes be half of a photograph,” advises David Gibson. “And then hope that one or more elements might move into the scene to make it more complete.”

Photographing strangers
One of the most daunting things about starting out as a street photographer is not knowing how people will react to having their picture taken. David Gibson has a tip for avoiding feeling self-conscious when shooting in public: “Believe that you are half invisible on the street. Of course you are not, but it is an important mindset.” David Solomons, a finalist in last year’s International Street Photography Award, favours a natural approach: “By that I mean by trying not to make any sudden movements, being confident and not hesitating about taking a particular shot,” he says. “I also mostly avoid eye contact with the subject in certain more crowded situations.”

The legal stuff
It’s not illegal to photograph in public places. As the Metropolitan Police website states: “Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.” However, some spaces you might think of as public – a shopping centre, for example – are actually privately owned so security guards or police may ask you to stop taking photographs. David Solomons says: “If you do get questioned, always treat them with respect but remember that they have no power to ask you to delete your photos.”

More info…

Website showcasing the work of street photographers.

Photographer not a terrorist 
Campaign for photographers’ right to take pictures in public.

London Festival of Photography 
The Festival runs street photography workshops and an award for student street photographers. Check out the page called “What is street photography?”

WYNC Street Shots: Joe Wigfall 
Street photographer Joe Wigfall talks about how he works. A search on YouTube will throw up lots of other great street photography videos.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

As a wise frog once said, “It's not that easy being green”. Nonetheless, these days it’s a prerequisite. We asked a theatre producer, a BBC production manager, and a live artist, each of whom place sustainability at the heart of their work, for tips on ensuring your arts project or event keeps carbon emissions to a minimum...

Start with sustainability
“If you were building a house and you wanted it to be as environmentally friendly as possible, you wouldn’t wait until the decorators came in,” says BBC Sustainable Production Manager, Richard Smith. “You’d want to be having the conversation with the architects right at the beginning.” Likewise, if you want to ensure your exhibition, short film, or theatre production is low impact, you need to begin thinking like an eco warrior from the get go. Use an online carbon calculator, such as Albert, to figure out which areas of your project will cause the most emissions, and modify your plans accordingly.

Winning minds through art
Giving your arts project an environmental theme can get your audience thinking about their own behavior, but be clever in how you go about this. “Capture people’s imaginations in order to get them creatively excited, rather than preaching to them,” says theatre producer Sophie Larsmon. “Engage them on an intellectual level.” Sophie’s Ideas Fund Green-winning production 3rd Ring Out, a simulation set in 2033, did this by getting the audience to take a vote on various possible courses of action within the narrative – some with dire consequences. “That’s effective because people have to take personal responsibility for their choices and they feel like they can have an impact, but these are fictional scenarios, so they can also learn from their mistakes.” Create a space, be it physical or virtual, for people to discuss the issues raised by your piece afterwards. After all, this is one conversation that isn’t going to disappear any time soon. “All across the world people are waking up to this,” says Richard Smith. “There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

Cultivate your inner scavenger
Plato called necessity “the mother of invention” and he wasn’t exactly short of bright ideas, so why not set yourself the creative challenge of using only borrowed, salvaged or second hand materials? “For a performance I did last year I sourced an entire heap of furniture for free from Freecycle,” says Helen Galliano of performance installation company Arbonauts. “It’s good for found objects which you can use in set design or sculpture.” According to Helen, much of what you need may be right in front of you – you just have to know where to look. “It’s a case of keeping your eyes open to what there is in your neighbourhood,” she says. “Skip diving is definitely a biggie – we’ve got some real gems from there.”

It’s not just where you go, but how you get there
When booking a venue for your film screening, art show or gig, politely request a copy of their environmental policy. If they don’t have one, ask why. As Richard Smith says: “It doesn’t matter whether that’s the National Gallery or a local studio on the high street; if people don’t ask these questions then there’s no impetus for organisations to change.” If you’re running an event, consider how people will get there. According to Julie’s Bicycle, “Audience travel is the single greatest contributor to the carbon footprint of the arts.” Make like Radiohead and encourage punters to leave their vehicles at home by picking venues accessible by bike or public transport. Written on the event page for the band’s 2008 Victoria Park gig was the following: “There are no parking spaces at all in the immediate vicinity of Victoria Park, so please don't bring your car.”

And now for some useful resources…

A Greener Festival 
Information on how music and arts festivals can improve their environmental efficiency.

Whether you’re a student or professional, you can apply to BAFTA for a free login to Albert, the online carbon calculator for the film and television industry.

Keep down travel costs and CO2 emissions by finding crew locally through this network of film and TV professionals when shooting on location instead of taking people along with you.

A network that links up people who are chucking stuff out with people who are looking for free stuff. Great for props, furniture and other random bits and bobs.

Julie’s Bicycle 
Julie’s Bicycle supports arts organisations to work more sustainably. Their website is an eco treasure trove of fact sheets, guides and resources.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.

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