It’s not what you look at – it’s what you see…

Guest Post by Trevor Roberts, Director of Canal Connections.

Poster for the Reflections course with meeting dates in February 2020

On day 1 we had 3 young trainees on the Reflections Course. We were accompanied by Yvonne, our Artistic Director, who would be on the course to document and work with the young people on the photography aspect of the course.  I asked the young people “ Are you interested in photography ?” which was met with silence. I took that to mean “No”. She carried on with the other aspect of the brief and during the cruise interest was shown in her work – not just by the trainees but also the Development team – from the other side of the camera.

A young person in a life jacket steers a canal boat.
A young person steers a canal boat.

I was approached by Mark of ISO Photography. “I have a young person with me on a work experience placement from the Princes Trust. She’s only 16 but wants to become a photographer. Can she come on the boat for half an hour?” The Reflections Course had finished but they were training to become mentors for a further course and I offered her a trip on the boat. But this wasn’t to be a “freebie”. She was interviewed and provided with a brief for the trip. Yvonne was no longer with us – could this be her trainee? I explained about the work of Canal Connections – “I want you  to capture the heritage and the nature but most important to us is…. People. But basically take what you like.” It was her first time on a canal – despite growing up in Leeds she wasn’t aware of the waterways.  She obviously liked it a lot – this is the critique from Yvonne:

Parise produced 336 images during her trip on the canal, which is in line with the number of images I would produce on a shoot of that length. I then selected 98 of Parise’s images from which to work from, which is again in line with the number of images I would have in my ‘initial selection’.

When working through my own images I usually select the images that: are compositionally strong; have a good use of framing; are technically well executed (eg have good levels of exposure and are in focus); provide a variety of subject matter; provide a variety of camera angles (close ups, wides, portrait, landscapes etc).

When working through Parise’s images I used this set of criteria but I also extended my selection to include images that, whilst technically had not been perfectly executed, still offered a point of interest, used an unusual angle or offered some other creative aspect which could be enhanced in post production. This gave me 98 images to work from, which I would usually whittle down to between 30 and 50 of the very best images from the shoot. These would be strong images in their own right, with a handful of ‘designed’ images, depending on the brief.

I am still working on Parise’s images so I don’t know how many I will produce, but so far I have thoroughly enjoyed producing:

4 ‘designed’ pieces – images made up of more than one image, layered to create depth, texture, new lines of composition, added interest and intrigue.

6 documentary images, which apart from some technical and creative adjustments in post production are strong images in their own right. I personally thought Parise’s documentary images stood out as her strongest. She seemed to capture people very well, and produce images that told a story.

14 strong images in their own right – which had a good use of composition and framing, interesting subject matter, creative angles etc, which I enhanced in post production with technical and creative adjustments (balancing exposure levels, colours, saturation, filters etc).

So that makes 24 already….. with a handful more ‘designed pieces’ in progress! Well done Parise! Thank you for sharing your pictures with me and for allowing me to process them and produce some interesting pieces out of your original images.

A young person and two boat crew members standing at side of canal.
Two young people and two boat crew members standing at side of canal.

Canal Connections have since been successful in a bid to extend this work with the Cultural Institute at the University of Leeds. Visit their website to see how their work continues to develop, and more of Parise’s brilliant photography.