Tim Fisher

Tim Fisher

Nadejda L. Loujine & Mongolian Orphanages

by Tim Fisher (United Kingdom)

Tim Fisher, London photographer most recently based in Northern Asia.
“Tim, what are you doing in two day’s time?” came the voice on the other end of the phone.
“Ermmm, not sure, why?”
“A student on the Ed Kashi Master class has dropped out – you’d best grab your cameras, oh by the way, it’s Veronique, in Paris!”

Portfolio from the Visual storytelling workshop with Ed Kashi, March 2014.

Written review by CORINE HAMEL,
Photo editor at Marie Claire, France

Hello Tim and thanks for choosing me as your reviewer. Your decision to present two so different stories makes all its sense for your participation in the workshop with Ed Kashi and the benefit you found in it.

On one side, a project freely chosen, the orphanage in Mongolia with grands landscapes, a light meant to attract photography, characters - the children - who ignore the camera and spontaneously interact with it.

The pictures are here, at your fingertips. You were able to capture them. 

On the other side, a unique character, a women dance professor whom daily life you followed in Paris, far away from all exoticism. This roadmap leads you to human and logistical difficulties to which you're going to be confronted in order to bring back the visual material which will allow you to construct the reportage: « intruder » in an intimate teaching relationship which cannot be disturbed during classes, ungrateful and small shooting spots, monotonous and repetitive situations. You know better than me the difficulties which you had to confront during this workshop.

I will start by the reportage in Mongolia. I can see a set of photographs united by the same place. Each picture could exist on its own, framings are cared for (mannered sometimes, like in the reading scene), light, colors are there, strong moments giving rhythm to the life of those kids are there too but what is your chosen angle for this story? Of course, those images evoke joys, well-being and comfort provided to those children, it is by the bye the title you chose for this reportage « A minor success story ». But if we were in the movies, we would ask "what is the montage?".

We have on one side the children, on the other side, the photographer. And the feeling that at any moment both universes meet, in order to tell us who really are those children. Consequently, we look at your photographs as beautiful postcards.

On a formal point of view, be careful in the composition of certain pictures of not systematically place the character in the center of the image because, in order to publish such photos in a double spread, it's impossible, the character falls into the central line of the magazine.

The construction of the reportage done during the workshop is - to my eyes- much more interesting.

We directly start with a frontal portrait of the person whom daily life you'll share with us. We are then in her interior, in her intimacy. This portrait informs us: it's a women with a strong personality, she has a strong will, she is refined and intellectual and she poses in her library. This photograph starts the reportage but I wonder, out of curiosity, at what moment you actually took it. From your arrival at her home to start following her, or during the 2 days of reportage...anyway, with this choice of picture, we know from the start with who we are.

We then go on with a 3 pictures series starring Nadejda and one of her student. Shooting angles, framings, particularly for the 1st photo,  make us whirl with the student in this classroom which is also used as storage room. It's a daily life far away from the big scenes that you're going to show us. Here is another information for us, viewers. The composition particularly elaborated of the last photo of the series (4) allows us to capture the looks between teachers and pupils. It's the end of the class and the teacher gives her recommendations. The student pouts. Dance is a very demanding discipline.

I think this sequence, in those hard shooting conditions, is a success.

While I do understand the interest, for the narration, of a transition photograph between two lessons (5), two moments, the shooting in the metro does not convince me. First of all, is it the young dancer with her? One asks the questions without getting the required elements to answer. Finally, our eyes are attracted by the background advertisement, our two characters are like lost and disappear in this choice of a portrait composition, in long shot.

The opening image of the following sequence is more convincing (6), the teacher is expressive, she has a corporal language specific to her job. It is a collective class, a new sequence on Nadejda's journey. And again another information collected for the viewer searching for a sense when looking at your reportage. Looking back at this photo I feel frustrated not to see her more often with her own gesture, her attitudes, when she shows the movement to her students etc.. because the following picture (7) presents her to us nearly frightened by what she sees and does not necessarily bring an additional information to the previous image.

Then there is a break during the day, a lunch. Choosing to cut this scene, meant to be about family or friendship, is good from the point of view of the rhythm but the characters both have hands in front of their face, just like in the previous picture. It's a shame (7 and 8).

Photo n°9 is interesting by the warmth of Nadejda's look you were able to capture. For the very first time, she really leaves her teaching mask. We feel that the person to whom she speaks really counts for her. The kindness of her eyes come in contrast with the toughness of the expression of the lady walking on the left, it's an interesting wink.

Portrait on picture n°10 which you chose to close the reportage is successfully performed. Light is beautiful, the direction given to the eyes let us imagine a rich interior world. It is a very nice conclusion to this encounter.

For me, I optimistically come to the conclusion that you do have the abilities to construct a photo reportage on an 'image point of view' (you do not hesitate to move and to explore all possibilities offered by the scene in front of your lens) and on 'a reflexion point of view' required to build a visual storytelling (your search sometimes clumsy for the Nadejda's story demonstrates it).

I send you all my supports, Corine

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