Photography Workshop with Jo Haycock – 7th February 2015

Guest Blog by Emma Salvato-Smith

We met at 10am at the Project Space, Newport, greeted with coffee, Welsh cakes and a pile of photography books. Jo Haycock welcomed us and we introduced ourselves in turn sharing something of our experience with cameras and why we had come. Some appeared to be confident and eager to help others who were more timid and hopeful of gaining some skills. The group quickly established itself as an encouraging, friendly and easy to be in space.

Jo, using her laptop, shared some of her own images, talking about the connections she had made with people and hearing stories. My first surprise of the day was that her emphasis was more about people and relationships than the camera and technical information. Relief.

She inspired us with work of the masters; Hetherington, Bresson, Mark Alor Powell. We talked about Occupy London, Bresson’s ‘Decisive Moment’ and the importance of time spent getting to know people and building trust without the camera. Jo led us through a series of images into a puzzle about flying cats, water and chairs. Halsman’s jump portraits were sneakily used to set our first assignment. With a horrified roar from the group, we knew there was no escape.

We had 30 minutes to persuade the people of Newport to jump. Any camera fears vanished, the focus had changed and the group triumphed with an array of images along with a collection of stories. We shared each other’s work and Jo showed us parts of her project documenting the work of Newport Women’s Aid. We talked about stories, sensitivity, ethics, process and the group asked questions and helped each other develop understanding which now included some photography basics.

We learnt to use a framework of different types of image to tell our story; Jo showing examples of establishing, detail, moment, relationship and portrait shots. I could feel the next assignment looming and realised my plan to escape into a green space somewhere was perhaps not going to suffice. This involved social skills.

I walked through Newport Commercial Street heading for the river, but keeping in mind a little park I really wanted to find again behind Charles Street. My natural disposition on weekends is reclusivity and so photographing the family of rats which live near the Wave somehow was more attractive than mustering a human conversation with strangers. My fast stroll was becoming a kind of resigned intentional hunt for a story and five images.

I came to a halt outside Strawberry Water Junk Company and instinctively took a couple of pictures. The owner came out and I felt caught. He was just filling his pipe and I threw myself into trying to get a portrait. He kindly appeased me but I still shudder with discomfort thinking about my apparent rudeness. I followed him into the shop and started asking customers if I could photograph them. I took pictures of lamps, clocks, glass paperweights and old cameras. I even managed to concentrate enough to experiment with different ISO settings; the ‘pillar’ I had learnt I was neglecting in my late and indignant transition from film to digital. Time disappeared; customers recounted memories, tried clothing on, bought gifts and haggled. My five shots were quickly achieved and I managed to purchase a trinket for £1 to ease my guilt. The gentleman and his customers had been generous. I enjoyed myself.

The group reassembled, selected ten images and presented their work. I think we all came away with added confidence, a well caught image, new people interactions and a pile of stories.

I’d go again, thanks Jo. I am richer for that Saturday.


Onwards, Upwards and Backwards…

A Sunday walk through Newport with Andy Podmore.
We meet at Noon outside the Vacara chip shop on Llanarth Street for a quick coffee and to get tied up,,,literally. Fifteen of us are bound together with orange and blue rope before we embark on our tour which requires us to step in a backward single file formation. Our walk quickly becomes a Spectacle and people passing by do a double take, look bemused, laugh, and one lady will later tell us we are ‘simple’…and I think she may have thrown a ‘ stupid’ in as well. Let’s just say, she wasn’t happy.
As we navigate our way backwards through space, time, and indeed, history, Andy tells us that the idea to walk backwards comes from a book by Spike Milligan he was given one Christmas by his parents. The rest of that Christmas, he and his brother spent doing everything backwards, thus ruining his parents YuleTide. It is in this manner that we learn of Newport’s mixed history, in no particular order I add ( as Andy has dropped his notes and not had time to put them back into the original order)…but the ‘new order’ is delivered in a totally comprehensive way, taking in philosophy, consequences of action, and trains of thought…and because of this we are shown that the reality of history does not materialise in the neat order of events that the custodians of history and the history books would have us believe for convenience sake, rather it is Chaotic ; events collide and clash and at points, seep into each-other.
( oh if only History could have been taught in this way at school and all teachers were like Andy Podmore ).
We navigate our way over used needles and broken glass and pause for some wonderful bananna bread (made by Ellen) in the old Sainsburys car park – aka Tarkovsky’s StalKer Zone- next to the river. The same car park we visited on the first NiA walk. The budlia and other wild vegetation which have pushed through the concrete parking areas have since been cut down and the ground looks set to become primed for another housing development to be crawled over by crepuscular ( lovely word ) moss like life forms, thus rendering the new builds victims of damp. Nice.
Our fantasies of a community garden will have to take seed somewhere else..
Onwards again, this time in a forward motion ( which feels oddly difficult after spending near on an hour travelling backwards ). ( Just a note on walking backwards… you walk slower therefore it slows your breathing down…..and you can see where you have been – Gotta be good for you ! rather than always heading front first into the unknown at great speed and forgetting where you have come from ).
We cross the UsK whose tide is escaping the Port at this time of day, over Clarence Bridge-that incidently bears some relation to the bridge in Rouen that straddles the Seine. Nice to think that we are somehow related to that fine city in Northern France made famous by Monet’s many paintings of the Cathedral.
Down the road that runs parallel with the river and into Rodney Parade. A game is about to start and a man appears from nowhere with a Huge glass of beer and disappears again. Our reason for coming down this road is to visit Coln Street, made famous by being published in The Argus, but more famously for its residents refusing to move under orders from the new development scheme. The residents won their case and the community of Coln Street kept their homes.
It is on this note that I will sign off. This happy note I add, because situations like that of Coln Street don’t always have a happy outcome. Not for the residents anyway.
The final word goes in the direction of Andy Podmore.
ThanK You Andy, for a WonderFuLL, thought provoking, fun day out inThe PorT.