Panagis Chrysovergis (Greece) has attended the DOCUMENTARY workshop with Patrick Zachmann.
I am studying photography at the Technological University of Athens and I am currently on the second year of my bachelor degree studies. The project that I present is a part of a work in progress. The goal of this project is to describe the certain feelings that one has after visiting Montmartre, but also to allow the spectator to have a second reading. Photographs between day and night, from Montmartre to Pigalle, all of them trying to transmit a sense of that place.
Director at GEO magazine, Spain
When I get the pieces of work from the students to comment on, I always tend to just look at the photos briefly before actually looking in more depth. I don’t look for anything in particular; I don’t pay attention to the details, or the technique, or the composition or frames. I just want to feel the strength of the images, to see what message comes across, to see what the images are telling me and where they take me. I don’t expect anything; I’m not looking for anything. So this time I did the same with your work. And I have to say, given that you are a second year photography student, some of your images surprised me (especially the first two of the series).
In general, your work shows an experimental process, almost empirical I would say, a stage that we all pass through in the early days, with attempts and experiments of all kinds, which is necessary, inevitable and even advisable in the learning process. At the same time, I perceive an interesting sense of composition in your images. Without a certain command of the technique, then there is an unusual boldness so early on in how you play with the interesting framing, which is not simple. Two important points. Firstly: I see that your approach is part of a larger project which aims to describe the feelings one has when one visits Montmartre. Good. You have a clear and well defined aim. Now you just have to capture it.
And this is where I see certain shortcomings. Ignoring the image of the hand, and the “big flash” from the camera, which I will take to be because you are a beginner, but something to be avoided in the future, the rest of your images trying to capture Montmartre by day suffer from an aura of sadness, provoked no doubt by the dim light (the day is very dark and overcast) in the image. But, is this really a true reflection of what Montmartre is? That was not what my impression was, in fact far from it. Quite the contrary. It is a lively place, full of people moving around, very colourful with a lot of contrast, bright and generally cheerful. Here I don’t see any of this. Obviously, I respect your point of view. If you saw it like that, then that’s how it is. But, given that you have a second part (the night) in your project, where you can capture this fading and even shady atmosphere, how about working on the more gloomy aspect there, and let the other part (daytime) reflect light, life and colour? This would help you achieve a sharp contrast between the night and the day, two opposites, two ways to see the place, two different interpretations that could also be used as allegories of the place (day and night; life and death; light and darkness; joy and sadness; good and bad).
Secondly: technique and composition. This is good in the first two images of the series, but a lot weaker in the rest. The first two images convey and communicate many different messages, you play with different planes, with different reflections and blurriness. Great! The portrait of the woman painted on the sheet of paper also allows you to go even further into this fictitious game that I am suggesting: black and white, good and bad. The sequence of the domes of the Sacre Coeur reflected in the glass, with different planes overlapping on top of each other, playing with your vision and with that of the viewer. Excellent! However, the other images are very simple, without any power, with weak composition and poor lighting, overly contrasted and without any display of technique. Not intending to offend you because it has happened to all of us, but they are photos that differ little from those of an ordinary tourist with basic knowledge of photography and social sensitivity. As for the interior images, technically (and on screen) the exposure seems correct, although the communicative power is almost inexistent. The final meaning is not clear. You focus too much on it, and in the end the subject matter is repetitive. Be more selective when choosing your images.
To finish: seeing as you have already set your ideas out in your approach to the project, I would advise you to go ahead with it, playing with the allegory that I suggested of good and bad, day and night, light and darkness (this is a personal approach that you can take on or not). This will allow you to show the two sides of Montmartre, and at the same time emphasize the historic and visual symbolism of the place, and so creating a unique atmosphere.