‘You don’t take a photo, you make it’ – Ansel Adams
Making photos is easier said than done and for our sixth form photography students, this is just one of the many skills they are consciously working on, alongside developing an understanding of how others tell stories through their photographs. We call it ‘reading images’ and it is actually quite a challenge if you’re not sure what to look for. To aid this, we spent a day in Nottingham at the contemporary gallery looking at the vast exhibition called ‘States of America’ a large series of photographs compiled by a range of photographers from the 1960s to the 1990s, exploring the social landscapes of America.
Our journey started at North Hykeham train station where I encouraged the students to have cameras ready for any opportunity and this continued as we walked through Nottingham to the gallery, taking in the varied strong shapes of the architecture against a glorious bright blue sky. Once in the gallery, the students worked their way around various images portraying the social coming together of races and different classes on the New York tube, to visual records of architectural styles, in particular, the states of North America. There were images exploring the black and white divide, to images documenting combinations of thoughts and images which told a story of individuals and their varied lives. I set the students a challenge of selecting one image to discuss and describe; they rose to the occasion with some excellent consideration of the meaning, context and emotions being shown. Feeling inspired, they then headed out to explore their current theme line on the streets of Nottingham.
Having a perfect day for photography with striking strong winter sun made it difficult to leave and catch our train back to North Hykeham, although I think the fact they all got to sit in first class made up for it. Seeing an exhibition first hand like this is such an important experience for our creative students, so I hope they use it wisely to inform their creativity and ‘make’ some amazing photos.