CHIPA WORKSHOP – Guest speaker Craig WATSON – 25 June 2021
A photojournalist for over 35 years, Craig Watson provided a very interesting and engaging presentation. He began by showing a black and white photograph (taken when he was still a student) of commuters leaving a train and crossing the tracks at North Melbourne which was the first picture Craig had published. Although The Age didn’t pay for this picture it was the beginning of a lifetime interest and career in photography. Over the years Craig worked for the Herald/Weekly Times, other newspapers and magazines and actually started his own magazine (coming out of his passion for Mini cars). He travelled the world and Australia but currently owns and runs Focal Point Gallery and Darkroom in Geelong.
Craig took us on a journey through his career with many and varied pictures, anecdotes and advice. Several key ideas came through: preparation and knowing your equipment, composition, trying to get a different perspective, and, an ounce of luck – being in the right place at the right time. For instance, scanning the crowd at a cattle auction he focussed on a very tall man in a hat and waited for the moment for him to turn and then he snapped the shot – and there was Malcolm Fraser! Or, when the Royals visited Sovereign Hill (where he was the official photographer at the time) Craig got up high along the route and captured a photo which showed The Queen with all the other news photographers in the background. Going to a venue early, sussing out angles/light/background, checking weather reports, working out where the action might be etc are all considerations if you want to achieve something a little different with your photographic outcomes.
Another important element of his presentation was information Craig gave about the legalities of photographing people in public places, including children. The key word here is ‘public’. We have no right to individual privacy in Australian law. Photographers, generally speaking, can freely photograph everyday situations, people and places, as long as they aren’t breaking any other laws (such as trespassing). There is no law against taking an image of a person if you are in the public domain. The reason for the photograph and its intended use is also crucial. Obviously too, there is also an underlying moral question to ask yourself at the moment of the picture – ‘ok, it might be legal but is it moral?’ (eg if you came across a car accident, a homeless person, at a funeral, or of an ex-partner, an ordinary person in another country, of a cat in the window of someone’s house). Craig also emphasised taking care in the way you approach people, be polite, ask permission, back off if necessary, show them the photo and delete it if they want you to. [There are numerous websites where the legalities of street photography are addressed.]
Those members who attended thoroughly enjoyed Craig’s presentation: stories and photos and willingness to share his knowledge and answer questions. You can catch up with him at his Gallery in Douro Street, Geelong where he has regular exhibitions, darkroom for hire, courses and a well stocked library.