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Michael Harding on 'Street Photography'
By Dan Waller
Posted: 2023-05-02T22:00:00Z

Firstly, our Chairman, Nick Bowman, welcomed Michael Harding to the Society and highlighted the planned 'new regime' for our Internal Competitions - that for Competitions 1 and 3 of the new season (2023/24), we will have an expert speaker, who will then return to judge members' photos. The idea is both to inspire and to encourage our members to enter new photographs. It is hoped that this will mean members engage with our competitions in a more conscious and explorative way.

A former President of the Association of Photographers, Michael affirmed a lifelong love of photography, which had taken him from his native Canada, all around the world. He currently teaches at CityLit, lecturing on various topics, including street photography and architecture, He also oversees CityLit's photography project at the Royal Hospital Chelsea (upon which, two CoL&CPS members are currently embarked).

With a background in traditional print photography but a thorough knowledge of digital post production, Michael was able to articulate the benefits of both 'camps'. He also pointed out to film 'purists' the equivalence of Cartier-Bresson's employment of a dark room expert, to a digital photographer's use of post processing software.

Michael then proceeded to take us through 40 of his wonderful photographs. He acknowledged the particular influence of Garry Winogrand, which was most apparent in his shared love of strange angles and photos which revealed quirky slices of life. From characters in Tajikistan to eccentric bus passengers, to dodgy firearms officers 'crossing swords', Michael's was an eclectic and inspiring collection.

With regard to street photography, Michael advocated for being bold in highlighting a mistake in a photograph, rather than hiding it - such as utilising a bigger crop to make the mistake look purposeful. This might suggest to a viewer that, rather than a mistake, this was an 'artistic choice'! Michael suggested that removing a mistake might reduce a photograph's authenticity. Furthermore, it is sometimes, that 'odd' inclusion which actually gives the viewer a sense of place, or of time, in a way that an anaesthetised image would lack. So, go out and embrace the life force - look for that accidental magic!

Michael also encouraged the abandonment of 'rules' when shooting street photography - suggesting that we should seek to shoot for ourselves, communicating what we want to communicate.

Overall, the evening was inspirational, and we look forward to welcoming Michael back to review our competition entries of ’Street Photography’, having been shown how we could be liberated from the presumption of confirming to ‘norms’!

[I am indebted to Gerard Ryan for his notes on the evening, which helped me to compose this blog]

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