Dave Mason’s presentation ‘Life’ Tuesday 24 November 2020

Dave made a welcome return to the club with his mix of humour, wry observations and excellent images of his subject matter: ‘life’ on the street. He had toyed with various versions of the title of his talk. Dave’s photography uses the interaction of people and street signage a lot and he had a shot of a scene which featured a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet “Though this be madness. Yet there be method in ‘t” which he thought summed up his talk. He also had a shot of a woman with a shopping bag with the words “Random Crap” written on it. Eventually he settled on ‘life’ as that is what he captures on the street and that he is also documenting his own life – yet another example of photography as self-portrait.


Besides capturing interesting connections between people and street signage Dave manages to capture colour harmony in his compositions. Many of his shots had similar colour palettes or colours that were echoed in the image. He did not crop and liked the wider viewpoint to include his subject’s environment in the image. This he said made the images ‘messy’ but, as with life, that what he was capturing. He also said that as life goes beyond the frame therefore there are elements on the edge of his frames which he doesn’t tidy up. A club judge would not be all that amused by this.


Many of his images worked because he purposely had two elements in his frame that helped give him a visual narrative. He also went for images that had a strong design in the frame.


However Dave is no a ‘one-trick pony’ photographer. He also experiments with his photography and adapts it when it is appropriate for the subject matter. He showed multiple exposure shots around Canary Wharfe in London’s Dockland with its high-rise building and glass frontages. In Versailles he shot in infra-red as everything was completely green and he needed a way to capture the structures of hedges and topiaries that would give them form. In the Turner Contemporary art gallery Margate, which was unusually bathed in very harsh light due to a particular exhibition, he shot all his images out of focus that gave them an ethereal feel.


Dave had some tips on how to get street photos: he researches about the event he intends to visit and photograph in case he is challenged for taking pictures. He can then talk with some knowledge about the event and pass off as interested bystander. He says the best time for interesting shots at an event is at the setting up and ending. Before he shoots at a location he usually sits down in a place for 10 to 15 minutes and therefore there is a chance is seen as “part of the furniture.” However, taking photos does mean walking around and he quotes Cartier Bresson’s advice of walking slowly so as not to draw attention to yourself.


He generally uses the flip up viewfinder on his camera for street shots but says when he brings his camera up to his eye these shots are more likely to be keepers. His hit rate is higher when he shoots his DSLR which does not have a flip up viewer.


All in all an entertaining and fascinating presentation which focused on the message the images were conveying rather than the ‘rules’ of camera club conventions.

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Oxford Photographic Society