As part of a project organised by “Bellevue”, a very dynamic Basel-based photography association (http://www.bellevue-fotografie.ch), I contributed a series of photographs on a local bakery that was shown during a group exhibition between 5 November and 11 December 2016.
The theme of the project was “Alltag”, a German word meaning the “everyday life”. Bread is very much an everyday object. For me, food is an important topic both from the point of views of its quality than that of its social (and maybe spiritual) significance.
After having observed a team of bakers very early in the morning, I found myself with some 1’000 photographs. Of these, and with the help of my colleagues from the association, I created a series of seven to be part of the exhibition.
The series as displayed on the walls of the Bellevue Gallery
It was the first time for me that I worked on such a project. The challenge had multiple faces. The first hurdle was to select seven images out of around a thousand. This required help from many people. The first series I designed (see below) looked dull as all photographs appeared to have been taken from the same point of view. The comments were that it lacked rhythm and did not display my opinion or point of view on the subject. Also highlighted was whether my approach led to an essay or to a reportage (more about this subject in a blog to come).
Armed with these comments, I went back to the bakery with the plan of varying the angle of my shooting and of getting closer to my subjects.
During a second discussion with my colleagues from the association, a remark was made about the absence of photographs that would show that the bakers were working during the night. The following few nights, I realised a few exterior shots. They eventually could not be included in the final series as they were too much apart from the main atmosphere.
Yet, the suggestion was made to ask a post-processing specialist to create a colour balance suggesting the early morning and artificial light. Indeed, I had post-processed my photographs as I would usualy do when working on an event, that is, using warm tones. But this was a wrong option if I wanted to suggest night work. Here is a side-by-side comparison of my post-processing with that of a specialist with the appropriate brief:
As a conclusion, I learned from this experience that it is better to plan as much in advance as possible the approach of a subject. With experience, I should become able to imagine the type of photographs I want to achieve depending of the circumstances. This may imply longer initial observation, better documentation of my aims (i.e. what is it that I want to show and how do I want to depict it). While for me preparation is important, one should however remain open to unforeseen situations. This requires an early reflection about how a specific situation will allow me to follow my intentions, or not.
Last, but not least, I learned that the photographer is not always the best judge of their own photographs. Inviting comments from other people allows to better understand what message a photograph or a series of photographs conveys.