Keeping in touch with the next generation of photographers is essential for anyone working in the genre so earlier this year I took a train ride to meet a group of students studying the BTEC National Award Photography at City College Brighton and Hove.
The course is run by Julia Horbaschk, who is herself a photographer, and she had asked if I could set the students a simple assignment along the lines of our themed weekly readers' galleries. For many of the students this is their first experience of photography and the study of the way images are used within society.
To keep it simple and to ensure all the students had access to the subject I selected transport as the theme. The students then had a few weeks to come up with some ideas and shots and at that point I went to meet them.
It was fascinating to see the range of interpretations, from those who concentrated on traditional forms of transport to those who saw it more as a way to transport the mind.
I asked Julia for her thoughts on the project and process, she said:
"I feel the students have coped very well, coming up with a large range of ideas related to the subject of transport. We started the projects with several brainstorming sessions about transport in order to avoid the stereotypical interpretations such as cars, trains and planes.
"This included thinking of where transport is used, how and when. We also explored a variety of techniques and angles that allow us to show transport in a different dimension, including sensory responses and abstract imagery.
"Looking at all the images together I feel this has paid off because each student has produced an individual outcome.
"The grading criteria by BTEC can be challenging and the students had to respond to many tasks including finding visual as well as non visual references. Unit 4, Visual Communications also aims to 'develop the students' own visual language by working with a range of methods, materials and media' as well as to 'develop the breadth and depth of their visual communication knowledge, skills and understanding'.
"Furthermore the criteria ask the student to: 'communicate and present ideas and outcomes to different audiences'. By inviting Phil we had the chance of extending the audience to a larger scale, which will greatly add to the students' achievement, in grades as well as professionally.
"Phil's visit has also made the students aware of the changing world of photography outside the college and having some of their images published will hopefully give them greater confidence in their progress in the field. As their tutor I am proud that they have embraced the challenge"
A number of those involved have sent me one of their pictures from the series and I present them here with comments from each student and a few additional notes from me. I'm thankful for their support and willingness to get involved, and I hope to stay in touch with their progress.
Now the photos, in alphabetical order:
Connor: "In this picture I tried to emphasise the fundamental elements regarding the freedom of the skater."
Phil: "Connor's well-framed shot of the skater brings the feeling of freedom that some forms of transport can offer. He has obviously thought hard about the subject and worked through a number of ideas to get the final picture you see here. There were others in his set that worked equally well."
Kayleigh: "I came up with this image whilst I was on a day trip in London on a hospital visit. I was walking down near Hyde Park and came across an army of horses and riders transporting guns. I thought it was an unusual form of transport and pretty unique."
Phil: "Kayleigh's decision to photograph a less obvious mode of transport is an interesting one. She explained that she wanted to move away from cars or trains and instead find an new angle, and the gun carriages being pulled by horses are certainly that."
Melissa: "For my transport images I was trying to create something that was very different and more unusual, so I experimented with a torch to do light drawings, adding detail and suggesting movement within the car."
Phil: "Melissa wanted to add some fun to her pictures and she has done this well by painting with light. The idea was inspired having seen the streams of traffic recorded in long exposure pictures and here we get a different take on transport and the contradiction between the light and the static car. Photography should be fun, and this picture encapsulates that well."
Taylor: "In my Transport project, I decided to do disability transport; walking frames, walking sticks, wheelchairs. I was trying to show how slow people walk, (with disability transport) and also how hard it is for them to move around. For example people that need wheelchairs, have to use ramps to get around but ramps aren't everywhere and this is not fair. Because my mum is disabled, this is what interested me. I guess I wanted to try and make everyone aware of how lucky some of us are."
Phil: "Taylor concentrated on a slower form of transport but by using a slow shutter speed and flash Taylor has added the feeling of both movement and tension in the frame. Using photography to record aspects of our own lives and the issues we face can often produce powerful pictures and Taylor has done well."
Lukas: "I tried to use a zooming and panning technique to preserve the movement. I chose Trafalgar Square in London because there is a lot of traffic and it has an interesting iconic background. I tried to include this background so the viewer can see that it was taken in London."
Phil: "Lukas has married his photographic technique to the subject well and created a vibrant picture that propels the viewer into the scene and conveys the feeling of motion around a busy London landmark."
Phil: "Adam also used the blur technique to capture the mood and I have to say I like this. The two uprights of the street furniture hold each side of the frame together and the tones of the moving vehicle and the brickwork add a slightly sombre mood. There's an unsettling feeling within the frame though I can't put my finger on what it is exactly."
Grace: "I decided to base all of my ideas around flight. I chose to do this because I preferred to interpret the subject matter of transport in a more fictional, rather than literal way. When I was given this brief almost all of the ideas that came to me were related to flying and it was a good opportunity to experiment with movement in order to create the illusion of flight. It is also a form of transport that is often associated with superheroes, fairies and fictional things."
Phil: "This is a novel approach and very well executed. The notion of travel and transport is there in this dreamlike photo. It's also a shot that would be used in the right context."
Becci: "The project title of transport felt quite unusual to me as I haven't really explored this type of photography before. I found it challenging but enjoyable and I think I added my own individual style to the photographs."
Phil: "Becci was looking to capture the movement of transport - the feeling of being transported and this picture does that well. She was aware of the issues facing the lack of light on the underground and this frame is a good balance between blur and keeping enough detail to see what is going on. It's also good to see she was able to adapt her own type of photography to fulfil this brief."
Katie: "With this project I was inspired by the government's road safety campaigns and I wanted my images to be a comment on the effects of dangerous driving."
Phil: "Katie took the government's road safety films as a starting point and then very effectively created a number of pictures that would work as posters in that sort of campaign. One shot of a rabbit that had been run over was a little too direct for such a campaign, but the child's toy and the flowers are very effective, being well-balanced shots."
Joseph: "I was attempting to portray the more natural side of transport, and how many of of our inventions such as aeroplanes have been inspired by the natural world."
Phil: "This is a clever idea and as a graphic image and possible advertisement poster fits the theme well. The twist is the feeling of flying away from it all, and yet the fact that these paper birds are going nowhere works well."
Chloe: "This photograph was taken whilst on an adventure with my best friend after she'd splashed about in the mud bare foot by the local harbour. As she sat down to put her shoes back on I snapped away at her feet. It sparked the inspiration for my transport project, I then went on to photograph feet in different elements, such as mud, sand, grass and water to show a journey."
Phil: "This frame struck me straight away. It's simple and yet a very powerful picture drawing out all sorts of stories or ideas. Seen small she could be standing on railway lines, but whatever it is, it signifies the start of a journey, or maybe the end. This feels like the opening frame of a film, a road movie perhaps. The picture transports the mind to new places and compels the viewer to invent a story."
Louis: "Sunny days should be spent enjoying them, like this."
Phil: "Louis's caption says it all really, a well-framed shot, strong angles and a relaxed feel abounds."
Sam: "I was trying to capture the mood of this scene. The area was misty and had a very calm feeling and seemed as though it was a scene from a film the way the lights lit the mist."
Phil: "The wide shot of the railway car park with a streak of light as the train passes on a misty night is lovely. It's well-framed, with lots of space to allow the subject to breathe and the mist adds drama and closes the space down well. This too could be a scene from a film or poster with plenty of room for text to be added."
You can see the students' photos in a gallery on Flickr with comments from Julia.
Best of luck to all the students and thanks for sharing your time with me.