OPS Weekly Newsletter 24 September

  1. Last week’s meeting – JP Stone: Story Telling for the Photographer

JP Stone is a British-born photographer who, for the past eight years, has been living and working in Mexico. He was ‘zooming’ into a chilly autumnal Band Hall from the sweltering heat of Sayulita on the Mexican Pacific coast.


For some years he has been photographing the Mexica people who are not classed as a ‘tribe’ but more of a socio-politico group. His photographs capture their efforts to maintain links with their ‘roots’ through the re-enactments of their ancient myths.


He has been working with Mexica ‘models’, principally a man called Juan and a woman named Linda. For his photo shoots they will dress themselves in costumes which have a particular meaning for them and are linked to mythical beliefs.


JP realised that he was onto something when people started sending him images of people’s tattoos that are reproductions of his photographs of the Mexica models. These images also appeared as murals on walls in Mexico. His favourite example of this use of his imagery was a chapter of Mexico’s Hells Angels who incorporated one of his images into their logo.


This made him delve more into ‘visual storytelling’ – ie. ‘googling’ it – and though there were many examples of people saying that this photograph told this story the examples were very weak. The best examples he came across were church stained-glass windows. For the vast majority of parishioners from a hundred or so years ago stained-glass windows told them the stories of the Bible. Illiteracy was rife and sermons were in Latin so the images on the windows were the means of communicating the messages of the Bible. (See the Great East Window of York Minister as an example of this)


JP was also drawn to the narrative images of photographers Gregory Crewdson and Nicky Hamilton and wanted to learn from their story-telling approach. However, he did not want to be the one telling the stories, he wanted, in collaboration with his Mexica friends, for the stories to come from them.


He realised that all good communication starts with an intention. Though his images need to be aesthetically pleasing they also need to be cohesive with the intention. The choice of lens, the light, the colour grading etc etc, all these creative choices must follow the intention.


JP showed a video of shooting a set-up boxing match with a couple of Mexican friends who were boxers. He had a sentence that summarised his intention: ‘Watching an illegal bare-knuckle fight in a seedy warehouse’. He realised that in the past he would borrow ideas from other photographers and for his new approach he would have to forego this and just let his intention lead him. He knew nothing about boxing so he asked the models ‘what it was like to be punched in the face, what do you see?’ They told him that its like having tunnel vision, you lose most colour details, everything is in contrast. So all his creative decisions  – the lighting, the choice of lens, the smoke in the room, the in your face close ups, the low angles, the colour grading etc – all followed this comment.


In the second half he spoke about making narrative pictures. One of his ‘rules of thumb’ for narrative pictures is that ‘Don’t get attached to anything (a lighting set-up, a lens etc). The intention dictates everything.’ He used an example of a portrait of Juan dressed as ‘death’ for a The Day of the Dead festival. He is not greatly separated from the background, as portrait rules dictate, and his hands, which are grasping a length of wood, are very close to the camera. This is an example of ‘foreshortening’ and is usually avoided. However, all this was done deliberately for effect, dictated by the intention. (For a similar use of foreshortening see Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus)


Another rule of thumb was ‘If you light everything up there is nothing for the viewer to discover’. He said that interesting things are in the shadows and they can create mystery. It can also create depth in the image, creating a three-dimensional image from a two-dimensional one. Also, it can help with adding another dimension: time. Adding time can be done by use shutter speed but also by using ‘visual weight theory’ – using light to direct the eye around an image etc.


He showed an image a Mexican traditional folklore dance couple. He wanted to create a mystery around the image – a brightly lit dancer on the stage with her dance partner in the wings in the shadows. This was his second narrative photo shoot and he thought he had ruined it as his summary of his intention was pretty naff. However, it turned out very well despite the silly story idea.


He then went on to show more of his narrative images of Mexica models. It was a fascinating talk which had layer after layer of thought behind it. If you missed it, or want to delve back into it, you can see it here. Please do not share this outside OPS.


  1. Annual subscriptions

If you haven’t already paid your annual subscriptions, you can do this via the website at http://oxfordphotosociety.co.uk/annual-subsciption/ or directly to our bank account using the details below.


Subscription are as follows: –

  • Full annual membership £48.00
  • Joint membership £88.00

For those of you who are associate members because you have moved away from the area, please email Keith if you wish to continue. The annual cost is £25. Please note if you are an associate you are required to pay the visitors fee for attending meetings whether in the band hall. This year’s “visitors fee” will be £5.


Payment directly to the club’s bank account for online bankers is always appreciated. The details for this are:


Bank: Barclays

Account Name: Oxford Photographic Society

Account Number: 60707872

Sort Code: 20-65-18


Please include your name as a reference.

For those wishing to pay via debit or with credit cards, this will be available via “stripe” using the following link under “Store”: http://oxfordphotosociety.co.uk/annual-subsciption/


Payment can also be made directly to the above bank account via “the high street banks”.


Confirmation of receipt will be made by email.


Remember Fully Paid-up membership is a prerequisite for entering club competitions, for entering the annual exhibition, £2 attendance at band hall and joining in with special interest groups etc.

Where your renewal has not been completed by 30th September, members’ details will be deleted from the web site and their email addresses will be removed from the members’ circulation list.


Associate members and visitors will be required to pay the visitor fee, of £5, prior to the meeting.


  1. This coming meeting: TAKE 5

Bring a pen because you are the judge, along with everyone else in the hall.


  1. Upcoming meetings in September

Tuesday 3 October: Digital Image Competition 1

Judge Eddy Lane


Tuesday 10 October: Club Night

Members to judge – groups of 4/6 per table.

Organised by Helen Webb. Members to bring 4 images per/person for evaluation and review.


Tuesday 17 October: Interesting Stuff with Justin Minns

Justin Minns is an award-winning professional landscape photographer, best known for atmospheric images of East Anglia

“The thrill of watching the first light of the day creep over the frozen stillness of a wintry landscape, while the air and my fingers tingle with the cold, and the challenge of capturing the atmosphere of moments like this is what it is all about.”

A quest to find interesting subjects to photograph is one of the things that keeps me motivated, the question is what makes an interesting photograph, the subject or the photographer?



Tuesday 24 October: Print Competition 1

Judge is Peter Cox

Our first Print Competition of the season


  1. Photographer wanted

Former member Carmelina is looking for a photographer. Please see her message below:

We are looking for a photographer to take some pictures at a 70th birthday in central Oxford on Sunday 3rd December at lunchtime, about 12-1pm.  There are 14 family guests and we would like access to the pictures or prints to be available. If anyone is interested or knows someone they could recommend please get them to contact me with a quote or to discuss further details.



  1. General photographic interest

Britain’s most stunning seascapes – in pictures

The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society has announced the winner of its 11th annual photography prize, which showcases the UK’s relationship with the sea. Ian Watkin’s surreal image of a fish embedded in a jellyfish beat more than 1,000 entries



Shady moments: New York street life – in pictures

From people struggling in phone boxes to pipe-smoking scooterists, Mavis CW captures a city whose inhabitants are always battling to survive and thrive



Following the plough: A snapshot of a disappearing skill

In a world of rapid technological change, one agricultural tradition stands firm – the art of ploughing. Photographer Harry George Hall donned his wellies to seek out the perfect furrow in Norfolk.



‘Stars align’ as aurora lights up Inverness wedding photo

(Was the pylon in the background representing something…?)

A bride and groom got a stunning backdrop for their wedding photographs when their celebrations were interrupted by the Northern Lights.



Abbey Road Studios announces winners of Music Photography Awards 2023

Unique and unforgettable moments in music celebrated



50 years of Billingham Bags: the story

Billingham bags are 50 years old this year. Nigel Atherton visited their West Midlands factory to talk to founders Ros and Martin Billingham about their journey and how making the world’s most iconic camera bags all began



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