Tuesday, June 08, 2021

7 reasons to find out what the Great British Photography Challenge can teach artists

I've been watching The Great British Photography Challenge since it started on BBC4 three weeks ago - and warmed to it straight away. In this post I'm going to set out what I think are the reasons why a lot of artists might get value from watching it too.

Good photographers take good pictures
Great photographers take great pictures again and again and again and again


Programme website

Participants - three women and three men

 Reasons to watch the Great Photography Challenge 

I'm not interested in seding anyone home. We want to see what they can all bring in the coming weeks...
This process is also about how you take feedback and getting multiple viewpoints on your work.
  1. There's a great professional practitioner in charge - Rankin has worked professionally for over 30 years and is uncompromising about his own standards. What that means is.....
  2. This is NOT any sort of "knockout" talent show. It's a masterclass
    • He makes a point at the beginning that he's NOT about sending anybody home or making it some sort of knockout competition. I get the sneaky feeling he made it a condition of doing the show. (Other professionals should do likewise!)
    • He's very much about nurturing talent with constructive feedback and NOT about creating "a talent show".
    • They really need to drop the "Challenge" bit of the title and insert "Masterclass" instead - for what will (hopefully) arrive as a repeat next year!
  3. Rankin acts as a Mentor as well as a Judge - and when he makes judgements he does it a part of a team of experts
    • The feedback is both positive and negative - and it's about what makes great images
    • It's always about trying to make them better creatives, technicians and photographers.
    • There's also much MORE constructive content given direct to the participants than there is in any other similar programme for artists
  4. The series of four programmes pack in 12 assignments - 3 in each programme covering a wide range of subjects in the widely contrasting briefs - many of which are not unlike the subjects tackled by artists
  5. The programmes bring in expert professional coaches for different topics and subjects -
    • a huge variety of different people who each have something unique and different to say - and different approaches to their work
    • His young creative team also provide extra lessons and tips and techniques and seem to me to be very competent at their jobs.
    • I'm impressed with everyone he has used to date (and those who know my reviews in the past of other 'challenge' will know I'm NOT averse to saying when I find the hired help fall way short of what we should expect from a professional programme. There are people reading this who will know who I'm talking about!)
  6. It involves six contestants of different ages, backgrounds and interest.  
    • NONE of whom get knocked out 
    • ALL of whom start out as competent photographers who have demonstrable ability to go further - which is a very refreshing change..... 
    • ALL of whom grow and change with the process of tackling a wide variety of briefs.
    • I get the feeling they took some care in the photographers they selected because there were only ever going to be six participants!
  7. It treats them - and us - as adults! So much more impressive as an approach - to create an informative and entertaining programme which is also very educational.
The search is on for an exciting new name in British photography. Six talented photographers from across the UK embark on the photographic masterclass of a lifetime with Rankin.
BBC website

 I do hope we see the programme repeated with more series.

Reasons for artists to take photography seriously

I've often noticed that the composition, design, colour variation and patterns and tonal variations of good photos often seem (to me) to be a lot better than the artwork produced by people of similar levels of ability and standing.

Good photographers think about impact and how to create an image which captures the eye.

It's a bit the same as noticing the attributes of great illustrators who do pretty much the same thing.

They all work hard at the structure and picture quality of the image they want to create. How it tells the story and how it works with "what works" and their own values and qualities that they hold dear.

In addition, photographers often routinely work in series. Even if they are jobbing on commissions, there's very often a series of their own work going on in the background.
Could it be that photographers, designers and illustrators work much harder on what makes a great image - rather than about how to prefect their equivalent of how to lay down paint?
I know that in my own world of self-imposed art education, I regard instruction by those who know about photography and design at least as important as looking back at the lessons we can all take from art history - or tuition from contemporary artists.
It's emphatically not about taking better photographs to work from!

It's much more about learning how to see great images - and understanding why they work - and creating a perspective all your own.

I RECOMMEND THE PROGRAMME. I think it's got a lot of useful lessons for artists as well as aspiring photographers.

There's on episode left - broadcast next Monday on BBC at 9pm. Or you watch the entire series via BBC iPlayer

Episodes to date


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