Following the success of the previous editions in 2018, 2019 and 2020, it was a real pleasure to renew my association, for a fourth consecutive year this June with Loire Atlantique Photo, for a weekend of Street Photography in Nantes and Saint Nazaire. After all the restrictions and uncertainties encountered during this pandemic period, it was a great relief both for myself and the ten members of the local photo clubs who had signed up for the workshop, to finally wander the streets freely, looking to capture a few magic moments of everyday life.
Saturday morning, on the eve of the Summer solstice, proceedings began in rain-soaked conditions ! Despite this seemingly inauspicious start, the effect of being together in a group, forced us immediately to venture out of our comfort zone, and the results were impressive.
After an hour, the rain showed no sign of abating, if anything it was getting even wetter. Fortunately, the participants kept their spirits up and saw the amusing side of things.
Nevertheless, it was becoming ever more necessary to protect our gear. So the lunch break was brought forward, with extra time allotted to let everything have a chance of drying out and give us all an opportunity to fully replenish our resources for what promised to be an intense afternoon’s work.
We began the afternoon with some exercises based on low and high-angle points of view at two symbolic locations in the centre of town, the Passage Pommeraye and the Rainbow coloured staircase. With the sun starting to emerge, and brighter colours more in evidence, the participants began to find their inspiration.
Despite the improved weather we were surprised to notice how calm the city centre appeared to be, with many streets almost deserted.
Suddenly we realised there was a rational explanation. Everybody had headed to the bars and cafés to watch the latest French match in the Euros. We looked for nearby spots to capture the rising emotion of supporters.
It was 4.30pm now, and compared to what we had experienced in the morning, the lighting conditions had turned around dramatically, with bright sun and high contrast. The ideal moment to put into practice the skills needed to created very graphic urban images with deep shadows, by deliberately exposing for the highlights.
In order to ensure this exercise was more fun than a purely technical accomplishment, I invited the participants to play an active part in the scenes we were focusing on. Leslie, proved more than a willing volunteer and her jump for joy coincided with France’s equalising goal !
To finish off the day we headed for a tour of the Castle ramparts. This offered us a bird’s eye view of the surrounding areas, with more open perspectives, as well as the opportunity to take advantage of the interesting games of light and darkness in the inner courtyard as the shadows lengthened.
Come Saturday evening, the participants were putting in a serious overtime shift ! Working from home (some up till midnight) they were editing their photos so that we could kick off Sunday morning with a collective look through everybody’s selections. This moment of analysing and debating the merits of the previous day’s pictures, is an essential part of all Workshops I organise. It is the opportunity of each photographer to express themselves freely on the plus points and the obstacles encountered during a full day’s Street Photography.
During these two or so hours of image critique, I aim, as much as possible to offer constructive advice. The objective being for everyone to put aside their mistakes and concentrate on their “hits”, thus being in a more positive and confident state of mind to pursue a new day of shooting on the streets.
After this early-morning indoor debriefing session, we headed for the coast, some sea air and new sources of inspiration around the town of Saint Nazaire.
First stop, the disused submarine base. I particularly like the chiaroscuro atmosphere that you encounter there, with the minimalist suspended lighting creating rhythmic patterns beneath the heavy concrete structures.
It’s often a difficult task making good use of these extreme conditions of light intensity. Fortunately, Julien was carrying his red umbrella for a second day running and this served as the perfect prop to use him as a model on this stage set. I instructed the workshop participants to use manual exposure and occasionally also manual focus to gain more control in this non-standard environment. Shooting him against the light was a surefire way of creating a more artistic and aesthetically pleasing type of image.
Even if these so-called “constructed” pictures are not what one would normally associate with the spontaneity of street photography, in the purist definition of the term, such training exercises are perfectly legitimate in my books. They allow photographers of all levels to perfect their technique and train their eye, so as to better placed to capture similar scenes more instinctively, next time they come face to face with them.
With the hard work of the morning completed, it was time to relax and enjoy a traditional pancake and bowl of cidre in one of the local Creperies. These moments of socialising are just important as the photography itself in putting together a successful Workshop. Having a good buzz within the group is a boost for everyone, me included, shedding our natural inhibitions and allowing us be more daring when it comes to aiming our cameras in the faces of complete strangers.
The workshop finished with an afternoon along the seafront. Despite the renewed gloomy weather, this selection of Loire Atlantique Photo members, proved their indefatigable spirit in creating many original and dynamic pictures.
At the end of this weekend-long workshop, I was both incredibly tired and fired up with new resources of energy, carried along by the enduring enthusiasm of sharing my experiences and knowledge with other street photographer aficionados. Repeated practice is THE way of getting better, making progress. With each workshop I aim to improve myself, not simply as a photographer, but also as a teacher of photography.
I wish to thank all those who took part, namely, Dominique, Evelyne, Ghislaine, Julien, Leslie, Nadège, Romain, Sonia and Véronique, for their unstinting good humour over the course of these 48 hours. I also wish to offer my gratitude to Jean-Paul and Jean- Marie of LAP, for their administrative and organisational roles in putting this all together in such an efficient way.
I’d like to leave the last word to Evelyn, who sent me this very touching testimonial, the day after the Workshop ended.
Thank you Tim for adapting to my rhythm. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness, which has helped me move forward. I insist on saying a big thank you for always being present, for your advice, for the hundreds of ways in which you see things and how you teach the art of photography, your capacity to transmit the process of creativity, your creativity.
Thanks for the way you organised the workshop, your sense of sharing. You never missed an opportunity to lead by example and push people to get the most out of themselves. I buy into that totally !
You made me grow, gave me the confidence to express myself in an area which I was unaccustomed to. Above all you gave me the determination to keep going!
Hope to cross paths again soon.