Dean O'Brien's Blog

352mc Professional Photographic Practice: Research – Olivia Arthur talk

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When I had my first mentor session with Harry Hardie, he gave me a list of photographers whose work I should look at.  One of those was Olivia Arthur.

Well things never normally happen like this , but as luck would have it Olivia was about to do a talk at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry.  Never one to miss an opportunity I headed down there.  I remember listening to Olivia talk at a seminar held at Host Gallery in 2010 and leaving there with admiration for her work.

Olivia started off the talk by giving us a great insight into how she first started off in photography, and in particular her interest in photojournalism.  She appreciated the fact that she had a great amount of freedom to find stories and travel.

Whilst in India, Olivia tried to sell stories to newspapers by turning up to the picture editor with images in hand.  However she soon leant that this is not how newspapers work.  Eventually she started to accompany  journalists on a few stories and  started to look at things in a different perspective.  This is something which I discovered myself whilst working at the Coventry Telegraph.   Journalists know the story and do see things in a very different way to a photographer,  However, this can be mutually beneficial and lead to a deeper story with a much stronger narrative.

Her project ‘The Middle-Distance’ which looks at the East-West cultural divide, is the one which caught my eye the most.  Images which portray life very similar to that which I am witnessing in certain parts of Ukraine.  Olivia was quick to point out though that this was not about the countries, but about the stories.

So have there been any problems on these journey’s you may ask?  Well often the people whom she was photographing never took her seriously, but this worked in her favour and allowed her to get in much closer as they let their guard down.

One thing that I did take on board from the talk was the idea of always carrying a dummy book with you when you are on your travels.  Not a finished book but something that shows your work in progress.  This helps to show people what you are working on and intending to produce.


Written by Dean O'Brien

May 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm

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