Today I am sharing the feedback I received from my Lens Culture Competition entry. I did not win, but that’s life. Many competitions are a complete waste of time, and I suspect more of a money making exercise than anything else. Lens Culture appears to punch above this and is curated by some of the world’s greatest photographers, and you can choose to receive feedback on each image you submit. Regular readers of this blog will know how much a value such feedback.
Without further ado, here are the images. These photos form part of the project I undertook while in China, where I focused on many of the ‘Longtans’, or alleyways that still exist. However, most of these locations are now demolished in the name of progress. I have posted thumbs to the individual images at the end of this article if you would like a closer look.
Hello Chris, thank you for sharing your series with us here at LensCulture! I understand your series documents life in the alleyways of Shanghai. It has been my pleasure to review your photographs this afternoon.
I am most struck by the subject matter that coexists in your series. The existence of the young child in image #2 and the slouching girl on the scooter in image #8 in the same alleyway as the prostitute and pimp in image #1 is striking. But as you mention, the ratio of “typical life” images to this influx of slum influences is still on the higher side, with people washing, chatting, laughing and going about their daily life in the majority of this edit. What is the split of this ratio across the complete image set?
Generally your framing and compositions are very strong across the series. I especially am drawn to your use of the “frame within a frame” technique in image #6, where the first frame is that of your camera and the subsequent frames are those of the doorways down the alleyway. This multiplicity of framing effectively draws my attention to the main figure.
To answer your question, yes, I think the aesthetic and visual qualities across the image set are consistent. The colors, framing, and compositions hold the image set together and I would not have considered that you used multiple cameras, aside from your mention of it in the question. The only image where the color is a touch warmer is in the highlights of #3, but since the image contains heavy shadows, I think you can get away with it.
While your framing is generally strong, I am distracted by the framing at the top edge of image #4 where the woman’s head is cut off. Why did you make this cropping choice? This distracts my viewing experience and leads my eyes out of the photograph.
As you move forward, I suggest adding a bit more detail to your written statement. What is the total geographic distance within the alleyways you traveled while making these images? Is it on the scale of meters or kilometers? How large is the total collection of photographs from the four years? How are these images displayed in an exhibition setting? What size are the prints? What substrate are they printed on? These are a few questions I am curious about that you might choose to explore further in your statement.
Ultimately, I think this edit looks strong, and will be on the lookout for the continued development of your project. Thank you again for sending your work in to us here at LensCulture, Chris, and warm wishes as you continue your photographic career.
While this feedback was written for me, I think there is a little for all of us here. My ‘take aways’ from this are, that I need to further study portrait photography and to write with greater clarity about the work I do (particularly for competitions). Secondly, I really must print more of my photos!
This is not the first time I have entered a Lens Culture Competition, and I have posted a link below where you can look at previous feedback. I have also added some links that relate to the above project.
Lastly here are the photos if you wish to look a little closer! I left out the graffiti one as I do try to keep this site family friendly!
As always, take care and keep clicking, Chris.