STUDENT PHOTOGRAPHERS LEARN FROM THE FRENCH STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTER
If you have been following this journal, then you will know that I began a photography club for students at Alcanta International IB College Guangzhou for one of the options on their CAS program. Recently our little club of 'shutterbugs' was approached by the college's French Speaker's club, and asked if we would like to collaborate with them on a trip to Shamian Island, Guangzhou. Shamian Island has both a French and British history and is one of the most European looking areas of this giant city, with plenty of turn of the century style, old colonial buildings and river-front access to the Pearl River. It is therefore a popular area for photographers to congregate anyway and you can often see groups of Guangzhou shooters with their models or a wedding shoot going on along with the throngs of tourists and visitors here.
Given the job of coming up with an activity that would combine this unlikely pairing of two clubs, and mindful that half the participants would perhaps have less frame of reference for photography than my own club of beginners, I began thinking of all those quintessentially French images or Parisian famous scenes. Scenes that, usually shot in black and white, depict a romantic, nostalgic sense of France and French ways of life. Photographers like Robert Doisneau immediately sprang to mind. I recalled an article I had read on street photographer, Eric Kim's blog about what we can learn from the Godfather of street photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson (10 Things Henri Cartier Bresson can teach you about Street Photography). Who better a photographer to use, then, for this creative venture?
Before the visit to Shamian, the two clubs came together and were presented with the task of recreating a famous Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph while on location there. They were shown 12 carefully selected Cartier-Bresson images which had been arbitrarily categorised into "skill levels" : - difficult - medium - and easy, based on the likelihood of finding exactly similar locations, being able to recreate compositions faithfully and / or having either the happen-stance luck , patience or required number of subjects around at any given time. Noting Eric Kim's 10 tips about Cartier-Bresson's approach, the students were asked to get into mixed (French / Photographer) groups and select image(s) that they would like to try and pay homage to.
In the fading light of a typically grey and dull Guangzhou afternoon, our intrepid young street photographers, organised themselves, within their groups, into: location scouts, stylists and shooters and set about recreating Cartier-Bresson through the lenses of their DSLRs, compact cameras and smart phones. They Congregated back together later, au cafe, (one of the nicest Starbucks in Guangzhou), to review and share their shots. I think you will agree that they have done a magnifique job, given the constraints of the brief. (Some results can be seen below. Cartier-Bresson's original images are to the left :-)
As I am often heard saying: "La photographie gagne toujours!" Congratulations to the students of Alcanta International IB College, Guangzhou for keeping it street, and celebrating one of the masters of street photography in doing so.
The Photography club, CAS activity continues and I look forward to updating you with more of our activities. You can get to Shamian Island, Guangzhou by going to Huangsha Station (on the Metro Line 1), which is located within a short walk from the island, via an overpass crossing the busy Liu'ersan Road. There is also a ferry running from Huangsha Pier to Fangcun Pier, which runs every 10 minutes carrying foot-passengers and bicycles. Fares are from 0.5 RMB for a foot passenger and 1 RMB for a passenger with a bike. There are no public buses on the island itself, although there are several nearby bus stops.
Adieu pour maintenant et bonne prise de vue !