I recently attended a one day seminar by Eddie Ephraums as part of the program offered by the Royal Photographic Society’s Thames Valley Digital Imaging Group. The first session, Many Ways of Seeing, discussed how recording media influence our relationship with our subjects, and the second session, The Language of the Print, covered how different styles and processing can alter the emotion portrayed by an image. More complete details are shown in the snip below.
Ephraums was a highly accomplished and very relaxed speaker – it is not often that I can be persuaded to sit in a darkened room for four hours and actually stay awake, so he must have been good. Much of his photography is carried out with small compacts and he certainly does not make a big deal of the kit side of his photographic practice. One thing which recurred throughout his talks was the concept of ‘letting the accident participate’ and he gave a number of examples of fascinating images which had ‘gone wrong’ and might easily have been deleted as failures. Pronounced movement blur, people moving at just the wrong time and shots in sequences which just ‘did not work’ were all shown to have a value. It is certainly something I ought to bear in mind as I think I am often too willing to delete images which have failed to meet some criteria of perceived perfection that I have set myself.
Using small and unobtrusive compacts is less threatening to potential street portrait images and adds an immediacy to image making that is absent with bigger kit and larger formats, so there is clearly a relationship between hardware, photographer and subject. As far as film or digital processing goes, it is clearly possible to slant the emotion of a photograph by the development process it receives. Heavy blacks and sharp contrast can weigh on the viewer far more than the same image developed with more open shadows and greater brightness to the whites and this can influence the emotional perception of a picture.
Much of his current business centres on the production of photobooks, and he has composed and produced books for some of the top names in the business (e.g. Joe Cornish, Paul Wakefield). He went through his approach to setting out books and this revolved around sticking rough prints to sheets of paper and spreading these across the room to get a feeling for the overall impression of a book and how it should hang together cohesively as the viewer progresses through it. One interesting point was that he felt that books should take account of the fact that so many people pick them up and thumb through from the back to the front. Complementary images meeting seamlessly in the gutter of the book was something that he seemed to favour looking at the examples which were provided.
In his own photography he often seems inspired by chance opportunities to take pictures and often records the mundane. He showed an example of where he felt inspired to photograph wood piles in a ski resort, but started to develop this theme around thoughts about who could have made such varied structures from the careless heap through to the perfectly constructed and symmetrical pile, and whether the nature of the structures could possibly have reflected the characters of the people who did the building.