I reached out to Spencer Murphy and asked him if he would mind looking at the work and sharing a few thoughts on it. I was kindly surprised when I read the email back from him today.
Just had a proper chance to sit down with a coffee and watch the video and look at the work.
I think it’s great, I love the idea and the execution of combining image and text. I’d like to see you do more and push this further. The only place I feel it falls down is the quality and the repetition of imagery. I’d like to see you push on with it even more and introduce some of the looser style you have in some of your other personal and commissioned work and move away from the more staged stuff (see attached). The reason I love what Robbie Chilton does is there is a technical proficiency but yet an honesty and looseness to what he does. My work is at times more clinical and it’s something I’ve tried to move away from in recent years. I think I’m right in saying that all three of us have come up from a background of music and skateboard photography, so that inspiration feeds itself into our practice and will always have an influence. Try not to fight that. I think it’s good to learn your craft. I’ve made sure I am competent on as many camera formats as possible over the years. Some believe in one camera and one lens for everything but I very much believe in the right tool for the right job and shoot on everything from little snappy digital rangefinders to Large Format film still. I feel like too many of the images have milky blacks and feel a bit underexposed, which I think works in some but not in others such as the portraits (what were these shot on?) maybe some lighter images might break up the repetition and help it flow better? This is a never ending, forever evolving thing so don’t feel locked to any one edit. And by no means take this as anything other than constructive criticism, I’m in a certain place right now and looking for a certain thing in my work, so some of that will be projected onto what I am saying to you... I’m sure you are aware of them but look at people such as Ed Templeton and Jim Goldberg and how they document life around them and combine text and imagery.
I hope this is helpful but if you want me to elaborate, have any questions you want to discuss further, let me know.
Best of luck with it.
(Below are the images that Spencer attached)
I found it really insightful and useful what Spencer said about the work. The fact that he preferred the looser style images was interesting and I felt conflicted as I used to like that aspect of my practice and felt like it was a strong point and a unique characteristic that stamped my work mine. Though-out the course and being asked to look at other artists and contemplate ones practice within the contemporary art world I found myself perhaps making editorial choices for the viewer rather than making my own. It’s a tricky act to balance as I want to get commissioned work as well as pursue personal projects, Spencer’s balance of commissions with his unique style noticed through his personal work is what I’m aiming for but maybe I’ve strayed away from some of my stronger points within my work? It’s defiantly making me question myself more.
Another issue that has come up not just with Spencer but also with a lot of other photographers is ‘film’ I’m using or the process I’m using. I’ve worked both as a photographer and as a commercial editor and I’m really away of the style or look that I’m going for with the latest work. In particular the lighter blacks with a high starting s curve applied. I wanted to take Spencer bringing it up as an opportunity to address it. I base my looks with a starting point of of fujifilm pro 400H and then tweak it to each image. I don’t have the money to shoot film, I have shoot a lot of film in the past. I’ve adapted that look for most of my commissions and it has become very much my thing. I do agree with Spencer that there are some images that perhaps have gone to far with the blacks and perhaps I can re visit that. I’ve thought about it and the fact that my images with the look they have seem to do well for me with commissions are more focused in the consumer markets where feeling and emotion and connection sells better than in wider art circles or print based media where the person in charge of hiring photographers is probably for a tick list of traditional conventions of professional photography; perfect exposure, perfect blacks and whites with 11 tones in between etc. With my personal work I like to remove the sense of ‘the professional’ out of it as much as I can without sacrificing to much of the integrity of the images. That’s why I was particular torn on Spencers comments on the ‘looser’ style images I have been proud of before.
What can I take from this ?
I am going to perhaps fine tune a few edits and think more about the submission for the FMP. I need to have a bit more confidence with myself and perhaps sit on the critisiim for a while soak it in and move forward in an as organic way as possible.