Nps 3 – Saturday Review Part II

The Saturday Sessions of NPS 3 were too much to squeeze in to one blog post, without doing a real disservice to all the wonderful speakers so, here it comes….Part II.

I’m the Community Manager for The Street Photography Now Project being run via Flickr by The Photographers’ Gallery. It’s a year-long mass-participation project on a global scale.

When I was invited to speak at Format Festival, I had wanted to make it clear that as big a fan of Social Media as I am, simply using it because it is popular is pointless. The faddish nature of wanting to use “the latest web platform” often overtakes clear thinking about how to use it effectively. What excited me about he Street Photography Now Project was precisely the fact that it couldn’t be duplicated without Social Media tools without incurring a massive cost. We have 52 photographers offering feedback over the course of a year, and participants from every continent. And the whole thing is free for people participating. That’s pretty damn special, if I may say so. It’s what had me say “I’m in” when it came to running it for a year.

I wanted to find other web-and-photo projects with a similar thought behind them. I’d say web-based, but these projects rarely are; they’re web-facilitated, if anything. And I found an amazing one (which we highlighted in our presentation) in The 4am Project. I’d googled and found it, and I’ve been telling everyone about it ever since. So, imagine my delight to walk into a small lecture space, only to have Mike England kindly introduce me to Karen Strunks, the amazing lady behind the 4am Project. I had no idea who had set this project up, and even less idea that it had come from just down the road in Birmingham (okay, motorway, let’s not quibble though…).

Her 15-minute talk covered the growth of her project, from its organic beginnings with her happening to be out late one night and finding the change in public space photographically and emotionally intriguing, to going out with her camera and photographing in the small hours, uploading the images and receiving other peoples’ late night images in response, to setting up the website and organising 4am Events for people across the globe to participate in.

In a time where arts organisations are increasingly under pressure to demonstrate their value to the wider community in their work, people like Karen really ought to be applauded for organising a novel idea, executing it in a relatively low-cost manner (using Twitter and Facebook as key advertising tools), and genuinely engaging with the power of todays communications devices to create a project that fosters a sense of community without borders.

I was amazed to learn that the 4am Events that had already occurred included people who went out on prearranged photo-walks without even taking a camera, just to be part of it. Those who go out alone do so knowing there are other people out there doing the same thing at the same time. And Karen has taken it to a new level in her home town of Birmingham by (somehow – and I want your ninja secrets here) getting permission to building and sites normally closed at this hour – Birmingham New Street station was opened, as was the Library, and the New Art Gallery. At 4am. For people to take photographs. Given the popularity of complaints that photographers are being prevented from photographing in public places (complaints that are, at times, extremely valid), this project deserves to be known by every person who ever picks up a camera and photographs in a public place.

At this point, hunger pangs really did overtake me, and I had to duck out for food. But the Bluecoat did an admirable job with a barbecue (inside, due to the rain), and people got to chatting away, catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones.

Edmund Clark
Photographer, Edmund Clark enjoying a bottle of wine with Karen Newman and Adam Lee at The Bluecoat.

This was followed by casual drinks at local cocktail bar par excellence, Santa Chupitos. TNT was the popular choice, and it proved a nice way to wind down from a photography-packed day.

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