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Talk and portfolio review by our Guest speaker Theo Simpson

Yesterday, Theo Simpson visited our university and gave us a fantastic talk about his practise.

Firstly, Simpson talked about another photographers’ work who influenced his practise. William Christenberry’s Green Warehouse, 1978 was one of the first image which made Simpson realise that he wants to become a photographer. To be able to use his visual language in communication. According to Simpson this image isn’t just a depiction of a green house, but the photographer’s dedication to the subject matter, as he became friend with the owner and for 25 years, he returned to the place every year to photograph it again and again and again. John Smith’s photographs inspired Simpson in a way that he realised that the photographer doesn’t have to travel the world to create amazing work. As Smith made his work in his door step, no further that 3 miles away for his house. Paul Graham’s Beyond Caring, 1986 gave Simpson the idea of how powerful the photography could be within communication in the world. Graham couldn’t photograph in job centre, but somehow, he manages to use his large format to make a very powerful photograph which carries historical context of high unemployment in the UK.

When Simpson finished university, he became one of those unemployed, it made him think why did he studied? Why does he want to make photographs? Are his photographs enough to talk about his thoughts? He started to make photobooks. He was always interested in consumerism, technologies, news feed but also what’s under his feet-as landscapes. He thinks that the life we are living in are completely manipulated by all the above.

Photography for Simpson is the experience of exploration of the world and the communication to people. He thinks that good work come from original thoughts and expressions. Very useful advice, as he told us to think what makes us different than the others. Book making process taught him the understanding of materials, the discipline and the level of sacrifice. He used multiple visual languages in his work; different materials, variation of printing technics, scans of the objects, photographs of surrounding, objects etc. He believes that photographers toolset become limited, as there is a lot to consider when making photographs; like the lighting, location, time of the day, what camera do you use, what lens, what point of view, angle…

Fallowing the talk, I had a chance to show Simpson my work. He told me that the dept to the story is visible through my dummy book and that I engage with a lot of people. That my portraitures are strong, intimate and quiet. That I should ask myself question if the additional images doing their job. If I really need them. I told him that I am planning to add a text to my book. His advice was to be very careful and to consider what text will I add, as text could be literal, and I could gain something but also lost something. He told me to consider text as French folded, pull outs or hidden. About the introduction for my book, his advice was not to add the text at the beginning but at the end. So, each viewer will go through the book, then read the text which could mean totally differ things that what they thought of photographs. He advised me to look at other practitioners who added text in their work, like for example Sophie Cale-Blind, and to read Working from Memory.

It was a pleasure to meet you Theo and thanks for your advice.

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