I had no real idea what to expect last Thursday when I went to the NPG for some twilight inset, but I struck lucky as they had not one, but two photographers to speak to us, all very informal as there was only about 15 of us there.
The first to speak was The Winner. David Chancellor, a very laid back almost laconic speaker who had clearly worked hard to get this far. This image did not happen overnight, it is not a one hit wonder as his website will testify to. He spoke with very measured tones about the world he photographs in and it all made so much more sense after listening to him. He is my age! and is only just begining to reap the reward of some serious hard work, this image is opening many doors for him within communities who are normally quite closed and susupicious.
To summerise very briefly, this image was the cummulation of spending two weeks with the sitter and her family, he stayed with them night and day on their hunt which went on for two weeks, when this shot finally presented itself to him he cleared her family from view and asked her to stay still and not smile, he had 10 mins tops before the sun set with no extra lighting so she had to keep very still.
It takes a gifted photographer to keep his head with that time frame and he uses a large fomat camera with film. He pays for all his flights and keep out of his own pocket, I have not a clue how he does this, probably through the sale of prints or commisions. It was a brilliant way to learn how to unlock a photograph, which I had been less than apreciative of before.
Second up was a much younger enthusiastic photographer who will take any job going as long as it facilitates his own work. So to get this image he worked as an E.U photographer and managed to befriend the prison warden of a local jail in Burundi into letting him in to take these photographs, he too had less than 5 min's to get this shot, they are not all friendly and it was pitch black in this room, he manged with just his camera and a hand held flash. The warden lost his job soon after. The story behind these jails is to say the least traumatising, men and women locked together the woman are raped regularly and so end up having their babies in these stinking conditions too. No food is provided and the jails are so small they have to take it in terns to sleep. The smell you can only imagine. Tom Martin is drawn to prisons having spent the day in one whilst caught crossing a boarder illegally yet there is no call or outlet for these photographs, they are neither newsworthy or an art form he is just driven to take them regardless. I spoke to him afterwards he sends on average 3000 emails each home visit touting for work he said no one ever comes to you you have to go to them, I will never be discovered I will have to start putting myself out there if I want anyone to see my work away from this blog. On the back of this image he has got an exhibition later this year, but despite the extra publicity it is a very tough life being a photographer.