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So, what is Reportage Photography anyway?

December 6, 2016 in courses, Student Stories

We chat to photographer and Central Saint Martins short course tutor Karl Grupe about the art of storytelling through photography and catch up with former students about the benefits the course has made to their own photographic creativity.

From conceptual typologies to classical photo essays, the final projects presented by students on the Reportage Photography course are always varied, but what exactly is Reportage Photography? Karl Grupe, one of two tutors teaching Reportage Photography at Central Saint Martins short courses, cites it as, “the art of storytelling through the use of still imagery. It is an umbrella term which can find its way into other genres of photography – fashion, editorial, photojournalism, visual anthropology to name a few. It is my goal to have the students leave the course feeling confident not through a belief in the precision of photography but through the play and alchemy that comes from constructing a language in photography.  Exploring and identifying where one feels comfortable in speaking visually is the essence of this course.”

Speaking with some of the graduates of Karl’s Reportage Photography course would most certainly confirm that this has been achieved.

Fran Hales is a freelance photographer, originally from New Zealand, residing in East London.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?      

Inspiring, challenging and motivating

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

We covered so many interesting topics and styles and I loved the weekly themed projects based around these. Karl who was our tutor is second to none. He has a brilliant way of teaching and works so well in encouraging and bringing out the best in his students.

Can you tell me about your Reportage project and your inspiration behind it? 

My reportage project was called The Urban Emerald. It focused on the importance and value of green space and the wellbeing effect it has on helping people to unwind in a chaotic city such as London which swells to 11m people during the working week. The location I chose was Victoria park in London’s east end. Historically this park was created in 1845 to aid the working class in this area who were suffering from poor health and low life expectancy due to over-crowded living conditions. It was the first public park in London to be built specifically for the people and hence it is more fondly known by the locals as The People’s Park.

The Urban Emerald © Fran Hales

The Urban Emerald © Fran Hales

Has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 

Absolutely. I already work as a photographer shooting mainly events. This course inspired me to think more about personal projects I would like to work on. It really showed me how to tell a story well and how to critique and edit my own work in a way I did not know before. It has given me more confidence. The support of the students and Karl the teacher helped me in having the confidence to present my work to the class.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 

Do it! It’s so much fun and it gives you a great insight into the world of photography. You learn a lot whilst not being overloaded. I have done many short courses but this is one that really has made a change for me.

The Urban Emerald ©Fran Hales

The Urban Emerald ©Fran Hales

Kat Kotula works in HR and is originally from Wroclaw, Poland. She has been living in London for 1 year.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?      

Challenge, motivation, feedback.

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

There was a micro assignment for every class based on the lecture we received that day. With only one week to complete, it was great motivation to go out and do something new, sometimes stepping outside the comfort zone. We were challenged to use different equipment, different techniques, exploring new topics. Being able to compare our  work to others was very beneficial as it showed how the same topic could generate very different possibilities and approaches! 

Can you tell me about your Reportage Photography project and your inspiration behind it?

Titled, “We are from the heart”, it focuses on Pippa, a single mother after being abandoned by her cheating husband, who has recently lost her job. Her life revolves around her two sons, Rudy, aged 6, a diva and a showman, and Max, aged 9, who has autism. Through my project I was trying to understand and document the family dynamic and the interactions between the three of them.  I wanted the audience to see the emotional bond that this family has and demonstrate that despite their tough circumstances, there is so much love and tenderness in their little family.

We are from the heart ©Kat Kotula

We are from the heart ©Kat Kotula

How has this course benefitted your career or personal development?

I had already been to photography school in the past, where I learned about different techniques and genres and my final essay back then was much more arty and dreamy, based on my own inner emotions rather than the actual story.  With the help of Karl and the examples he presented in class and the personal feedback I received, I was able to tell a story that was not banal, was more personal and intimate but still, I hope, interesting to others.  I feel quite confident about my storytelling skills now. I have also learned a few new things about the research and editing of photos.  I will definitely use the series I created for my final project in my portfolio. 

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course?

Absolutely take it and engage yourself fully in every micro assignment given.  Whether you are a novice or an experienced photographer, every form of self development is great. This course will open your eyes to different possibilities, introduce you to photographers or projects you had not known before or simply challenge you to think outside of the box. Also you will get independent feedback about your work, which will help you create something extraordinary. 

We are of the heart ©Kat Kotula

We are of the heart ©Kat Kotula

Christian Olsen’s ultimate goal is to study Photography at UAL’s, London College of Communication.  He is originally from Copenhagen and currently resides in East London.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?    

Immersive, relevant, stimulating.

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

The class discussions and peer feedback following our homework assignments.  Not only did it open up numerous aspects of your work for interpretation that you might have not expected, but it also forced inward reflection on what you succeeded in achieving and more importantly what you did not, which is the most significant part of the learning process.

Can you tell me about your Reportage Photography project and your inspiration behind it?  

Docklands was the name of my project.  As with every area of London, the Docklands is seeing transformation and transition in terms of industry, demographics and infrastructure.  Having studied in North Greenwich and commuting both by means of DLR and London City Airport, it struck me that this transformation is happening on a far larger and rapid scale than other parts of the city and history cannot keep up.  The aim of the project was to document the post-industrial state of disrepair and the bustling ambitions of the future and to juxtapose these as harshly as possible in an attempt to convey the unnerving state of the Dockland’s today.

Docklands ©Christian Olsen

Docklands ©Christian Olsen

How has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 

It has helped me immensely in creating a vision of where I see myself in my future photographic career. Before embarking on the course, I found it hard to handle projects of a more journalistic nature. But now I am able to hone in on more specific areas on the spectrum of photography.  I have also developed techniques of combining conceptual and reportage photography and I know what processes and pre-requisites go into creating a successful photo essay.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 

Definitely take it. Whether one is an experienced photographer or an amateur, the course content, tutor and other students will prove beneficial in terms of tools, techniques, inspiration and networking.

Docklands ©Christian Olsen

Docklands ©Christian Olsen

Following a series of Short Courses in photography at Central Saint Martins, Niaz Maleknia is now studying her Post-Graduate Diploma in Photography at UAL’s London College of Communication.

What 3 words describe your short course experience at Central Saint Martins?  

Motivational, interesting and vibrant

What did you enjoy most about the Reportage Photography short course? 

I enjoyed the weekly briefs and the feedback given by Karl and the other students. I also enjoyed learning about and discussing the work of other photographers.

Can you tell me about your Reportage project and your inspiration behind it? 

My end of course project was titled  Facebook Lolita. I am fascinated by the selfie culture and the use of photography to promote oneself and demonstrate on social media. I am a mum of a 13 year old girl and have therefore become aware of the explicitly of my daughter’s friends’ profile pictures.  I searched Facebook for open accounts and was able to screen shot the images that these girls aged 13-15 years old were posting of themselves.  The girls seemed to be living a double life, one in reality and the other on the social pages. My background is in English literature and the images reminded me of Nabokov’s controversial novel, Lolita.   I wanted to add the emoji faces to protect the identity of the girls and to also add a childhood element to them. I also saturated the colours. The final work was shown on an old slide show which made it seem more uncomfortable for the viewer.

Facebook Lolita ©Niaz Maleknia

Facebook Lolita ©Niaz Maleknia

Has this course benefitted your career or personal development? 
I have really benefitted from the course as it has enabled me to get onto the Post Graduate Diploma Course at London College of Communication. I was able to put together a body of work, and also gained a lot of knowledge which I am still finding helpful.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about taking this course? 
I would encourage anyone interested in photography to take the course, as it is taught to a high standard in a fantastic environment, which in itself is so inspiring.  Karl teaches you to look at things in a different way and the briefs are fun and challenging at the same time.  Karl is enthusiastic and gives excellent feedback so you move forward and develop your eye and skills.

Karl with students in class ©Niaz Maleknia

Karl with students in class ©Niaz Maleknia

The next Reportage Photography Short Course is in March with further dates throughout 2017. Check the Central Saint Martins Short Course website for further details.

Reportage Photography Exhibition Thursday 23rd June

June 20, 2016 in Events

It’s that time of year again when students of Central Saint Martins Reportage Photography Short Course present their final projects in an exhibition session entitled Documentaries.

With invited questions and crits from the audience, the process will often tease out a depth of analysis and reflexive qualities that only a q+a and exhibition can. “The more a student engages in the practice of presentation the more they evolve in terms of developing the finer points behind the understanding of their own work and process” said course tutor Karl Grupe.

With upcoming dates throughout the year, the exhibition will also be a great opportunity for any prospective Reportage Photography students to speak with current students and the tutor directly.

Topics included in the exhibition are:

a ethnographic visual study of location and fear

a photo essay on old age and sport

a photo essay interpreting rush hour and Londons Underground

a personal collection of images on the mythology of nostalgia at Coney Island USA

an investigation into how London’s parks contribute to our well being

Reportage Photography

The exhibition will take place from 6.30pm – 8.30pm and  is a great opportunity for you to find out more about this exciting course at Central Saint Martins.

Book your ticket through eventbrite, places are limited: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reportage-photography-qa-exhibition-tickets-26146119748

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