- I thanked people for coming and said it was fantastic (always good to compliment people)
- I explained I had been asked about 5 minutes before to talk
- I gave a little bit of my background (moving to Krakow three years ago)
- I described how Krakow had made me take up photography
- I talked (waffled) about the mixture of tradition and modernity in Krakow and said that was something I sought to bring in my photos.
- I thanked people and left
Why I found it difficultThe photos that had been chosen were three images of a smaller series from a larger body of photos that reflect a very different topic. In doing so, it’s harder to talk about these three images and find a common tie. I could talk for longer about different themes I’ve been looking for in different images, but these three were more standalone images. In addition, it’s hard not to sound like a pretentious idiot or a simpleton at the other extreme. If you talk about all the ideas that you want to explore in your images, you can come across as up your backside, if you go the other extreme then it sounds like there’s no intention behind what you do. Finally, the major factor was the stress. Public speaking isn’t easy (many people say it’s their biggest fear…above death) and preparation can help a lot. I should have prepared more for what I was going to say. It was an obvious question to come up, and I had no easy answer. Many great photographers have a simple explanation for their projects as well as a longer more detailed one.
My photos don’t need explaningOne of the photographers stood up after me and said “my photos don’t need explaining” and quoted Ansel Adams in doing so. While I admired this sentiment, it was a load of rubbish. Not least because I had heard her not five minutes earlier explaining her photos to someone else and I started to see them more clearly. But in addition, this sounds like simple “art pointing” to me. A sort of move to make you sound better and make people feel like they can’t criticise you. It’s like when a christian says “God told me to…” no one can argue with God, and likewise, a photographer can’t really argue with Ansel Adams or a photographer who says their photos they don’t need explaining (even when they REALLY do). In street photography, It can be really great to both provide background information about an image, but it can equally be great to remove that information from the image. Many of my favourite photos have no comments, but if you asked the photographer about them, they’d still talk about them in great length.
Prepare to talk about your photosI’m not going to make that mistake again, I’ve been reflecting more on why I take photos and what I want my photos to express so that I can more eloquently explain myself in the future…and if in doubt then I’ll pull out the “Ansel Adams card” so that people have to politely nod at my “wise words” while I smile smugly at deflecting their question.
Also published on Medium.