Prints of the images are included in the assessment submission pack.
Click on first image for full-sized gallery
This work is an exploration of a community about which I previously knew nothing; the internationally renowned Steeton Male Voice Choir (Steeton MVC). What I discovered was a dedication to and passion for music among men who were not professional musicians but love what they do. There is a spirituality about their rehearsals and it is this that I wanted to reflect something of in my work. The relaxed concentration of men lost in their moment.
Following an initial email request and discussion with the chair of the choir’s committee, the committee agreed that I could attend a number of their rehearsals to take photographs. I attended three of their rehearsals (and post-rehearsal pub stops) – my initial approach and discussions with them are recorded here. No performances were scheduled during my project – it was ‘off-season’.
I found very little in contemporary photographic practice that dealt specifically with choirs and most of the vernacular photographs of choirs by choir members or press photographers deal with capturing the choir in colour as a corporate body, rather than the emotion conveyed through their music; I examined this here. However, I did find inspiration from the study of the Group Portraiture of Holland (see here) and the observations and techniques used to add interest to group portraits and making individuals stand out within the group. Later in my process, I also looked at Klaus Pichler’s Golden day and how he edited to create images with variety, while working within a theme and single location.
I chose to work with monochrome for the series as an echo of the tradition of male voice choirs and a signifier of distance to emphasise their spirituality and other-worldliness as they sang. In selecting the series I considered Alec Soth’s advice (here) on finding an interplay between the images, rather than looking for discrete single selections. I also obtained feedback from peers and the choir itself, which is detailed for an initial cut here, and a second cut, including a colour option here. During the course of the three rehearsals I attended, I worked with and without flash in what were challenging lighting conditions in an old Methodist hall. The photos were shot using a DSLR and the monochrome conversion of RAW files done in Photoshop.
The experience of working with the choir was rewarding and I felt I developed a good relationship with them – in the end politely declining and invitation to attend an audition to join them! The images capture something of the experience of being close to, or perhaps even part of a choir.
Submission to tutor and report
The original submission to my tutor along with introductory, process and concluding text is here.
My tutor’s report and my response is here. Details of the rework are here. I re-edited the images based on my tutor’s feedback and referral to the work of Klaus Pichler – this helped me arrive at a stronger edit with more variety than the initial submission. Editing my own work is not something that I find easy and I’m conscious of the need for more experience and more patience in doing this.