#Phonar Session 8 – Ian Macdonald by Jamie Macdonald Reflection.

A story of a story-teller, photographer and film maker Jamie Macdonald tells the story of his father, photographer Ian Macdonald. Ian took his first photographs aged 10 leading to a career photographing post-industrial Britain, a time of place and change. Spending time at Gratham Creek, he speaks of the buzz or feeling of things he believes in, going out into the atmosphere, the world. Things begin to happen and we make responses to them. Macdonald liked to meet and talk to people operating in the wider world and through his photographs expressed their environment and the world outside. Pictures tell a little story, a little adventure – the big ones are the significant pictures. Macdonald explains how the key thing of photography to him is that he shoots the pictures, processes the film, contact prints and the finish print – everything has got to be right. He likes to operate in quiet, for him this is what works. Francis Hodgson speaks of how Macondald asks those questions about how the world works rather than how it fits into a photograph frame. He creates a vision rather than going along and seeing what is there, showing his determination with things to say. Macdonald allows to see the view of the times people live in their portraits and highlights how we mustn’t forget how people have significant pictures for themselves. For some of Macdonald’s powerful images, he followed the shift patterns of workers both day and night. He demonstrated how these people became somebody else on their shift, part of a team. Macdonald’s basic instinct was to go and find out and tell us the answers, satisfying his curiosity and need. He expresses how industry has its own beauty, shape and forms, how it is no less beautiful than natural forms. When questioned why photographs are sad and in the past, he replied “my life is in the past” but will talk to people in the future.

I really enjoyed this short film of Jamie Macdonald telling the story of his father, it’s a unique way of telling a photographer’s story, their thought process and their practice. Despite that it was Jamie telling the story, it was written in the first person as if it was Ian who was speaking which made things a little complicated but a lot easier to digest and understand. I also like how it brought in the thoughts of Francis Hodgson who spoke about the inspiring practice of Ian. The spoken narrative and visuals worked really well for me personally, I felt really engaged.

An interesting point which stood out to me was how Ian didn’t photograph things that he didn’t understand. I admire how he didn’t head out trying to capture anything he could, reflecting Aaron Huey’s point of finding that one thing you love, you can’t photograph everything. It also reflects David Campbell’s talk highlighting the necessity of understanding issues and context before making the picture. By moving away from the things he did not understand, Ian is able to put his full attention into the things he does. By photographing what he knows best, he is able to produce an insightful, honest response and I think this is really key in photography. This has helped me understand in my own practice that there won’t always be things that I necessarily click with or understand fully but that is okay – it is best to thrive in the areas you do understand to produce great work.

What I really loved about Ian Macdonald and his work was the sheer passion you felt throughout the film. He talks of how he does everything himself from taking the photograph to the final print, as well as the importance of working in silence. It shows his determination and concentration for producing ‘perfect’ work. He spoke of the surface, weight and tone of the photograph showing its not just what the photograph shows that is important to him, it is the physical artefact too. He also said he wants the things that excite him to come out in the print which I find quite powerful as he wants the viewers to feel his emotion and thoughts whilst they read the photograph. It shows his careful crafting in the dark room in order to draw the viewers to these vital points. He spoke of how he finds industry beautiful through its unique shapes and forms, whereas many would overlook this. He explains how it is “no less beautiful than natural forms” and uses the man-made geometric shapes to create intriguing, compelling photograph. It is so refreshing to see how passionate he is about his work and I think this really comes across in the video. Definitely worth a watch!

Ian Macdonald by Jamie Macdonald can be viewed here.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on November 20, 2014.

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