What if…..?

It has been a rather fallow period recently, photographically speaking, but there have been a couple of interesting experiences to recall.

A month or so ago I was snoozing at my desk (er…..editing images on the PC…..) when the phone woke me from my reverie.

“It’s Barry from Hinterland” said the caller.

“Erm, sorry, who is that?” I asked, assuming it was a scam.

“Barry, from Hinterland, you know, the Welsh detective series?”. I brightened up: perhaps they needed a stills photographer…..?

Hinterland is a bilingual TV drama filmed locally in which an unfeasibly large number of people are murdered in north Ceredigion. It has an aura of Nordic Noir about it and is good fun to watch in the hope of identifying an acquaintance or a location or spotting where a police car goes from A to B via C whereas in fact C is in completely the opposite direction.

“Oh, yes, hello!” said I.

“You put your name down to be an extra and we’re wondering if you’re free a week on Monday”.

“Oh, OK. ”

“There’s a press conference scene and we’re looking for photographers with their own kit to come along.”

It sounded interesting and perhaps even fun, so I was keen to take part.

“I think I have a meeting then but I should be able to re-arrange it”

The Monday happened to be the morning of the big storm and spring tide at Aberystwyth, and it wasn’t easy to walk upright between the car and the old County Hall, close to the sea-front, where many of the indoor scenes are shot. It certainly was interesting but did involve rather a lot of hanging around, waiting, and then waiting some more while the scene, which lasted about a minute, was shot and re-shot in English, then in Welsh, then re-shot again, then the audience was shot from two different angles, then the scene where the superintendent leaves the room was filmed from outside the room, then shot again from inside…… There was no heating on and over a period of about two hours everyone involved was getting colder and looking more pale. I wonder – if the scene makes the final cut -whether that will be apparent on screen?

There were three of us and all we had to do was pretend to take pictures while the detective made an announcement from the front of the room. I was sitting in the back row and had I actually been pressing the shutter I would have ended up with a large number of images of the back of the head of the person sitting in front of me. Hardly realistic, but hey….who cares? It’s only TV.

A couple of weeks earlier I had been asked to judge the entries of a photography competition run by a University society.  I’ve been a judge in a Camera Club competition and it took up an inordinate amount of time, but this sounded like it would be  a one-off, in-and-out event – and I really couldn’t say no. I arrived in good time to discover that I was actually one of two judges, the other being Janet Baxter, another local photographer, who is a direct competitor of mine. For many years Janet and I never spoke, so it could have been very embarrassing for all concerned. But fortunately we get on much better now!

It turned out to be a very interesting experience.  The entries (about thirty of them) were printed and displayed very cheaply (frames courtesy Poundland…..). But there was a theme – “What if…..?” – which gave plenty of room for interpretation, and added another dimension to the competition. The entries varied from the frankly terrible to the quite professional looking. As far as judging was concerned we had to consider two separate aspects; firstly the images themselves, and secondly, how well they illustrated the dilemmas chosen by each photographer. Janet and I made a shortlist of five and went for a coffee to discuss the winning entries.

We’re both very experienced landscape photographers and it may have been that we were more critical of the landscape entries. Whatever – there was only one pure landscape in the final three. Another was a street scene including a couple kissing passionately, which was either brilliantly seen and captured, or very professionally posed. Another on the short-list stood out from the other entries by a country mile, though. It was a gritty, black-and white, head and torso image of a middle-aged woman with only one breast. It was completely honest, not in any way designed to titillate or shock,  and quite challenging to look at.

What if ……… I live?“.

I felt it was a very brave image, it was brave of the photographer to enter it, and brave of the organisers to show it. Janet said that she knew of women who had lost a breast and that they suffered in silence.   We went though the motions of discussing the rest of the short-list but neither of us had much hesitation in awarding first prize to this photographer. It turned out that she is in fact a photography student, and a number of years older than the average undergraduate.  The image was part of a series that she was doing of the woman – her own mother – as she recovered from surgery.

We returned to the Hall. The organisers were there to meet us. It had been discovered that the street scene with the kissing couple was actually stolen from the internet and the “photographer” was passing it off as their own. A hasty re-assessment of the prizewinners was required. You would expect members of the University Christian Union would be a little more honest than that, wouldn’t you?