Massimiliano Giorgeschi and Robert Harvey, as seen by Stewart Wall MA ARPS
When the chairman of the RPS Visual Art Group, Andreas Klatt, introduced the morning's speaker at the Rollright VAG's Spring Meeting I smiled broadly. He said he had bumped into a young professional portrait photographer who was working in the village, photographing a local textile artist called Caroline Nixon. And so he was here again, a few months later talking to the RPS. I often take the same opportunist approach to finding the speakers for The East Midland Region.
As Massimiliano Giorgeschi (Max) began talking about his approach to shooting portraits, especially when he showed us his three-headed speedlight work, all with different coloured gels, my mind was transported back to a photographer's talk I listened to when I was a similar age to Max, over 30 years ago. That talk was by the Southend professional Len Dance, who talked of using a Hasselblad with three Metz flashguns, all with different coloured gels to shoot his industrial work. I lost touch with Len but met him again last year and he told me that his talk about coloured gel flash work took him all over Europe at the time; it is not hard to imagine that Max with his presentation might well have a similar experience.
But it was not just his flash work that intrigued me, it was his approach to shooting portraits generally. With Max, we saw a photographer totally engaged with the Instagram world and the need his clients had to project their characters and personalities through images of themselves.
Max told us many stories about collaboration and working to develop each other's business, even where he worked to help maintain a building to then get in exchange the use of their creative studio, and he has developed all of this in just a few years, having initially studied to become an accountant, and then after two years in the job place quit to eventually become a professional photographer.
During the first coffee break Max mixed with the members and enjoyed numerous conversations with them, telling them about his approach to professional photography and life generally, they were also keen to hear about his trip to India and other places.
When Max gave up his career in accountancy he worked for a while in retail, before a friend came to visit who had a camera. This caught his attention and soon he bought his own. Shortly afterwards he found himself in Australia for a while before coming to England to live, having grown up in Italy. Whilst in Australia, he worked for a time with the Magnum photographer Steve McCurry, during which he began to develop his approach to portrait photography. For Max, taking a portrait is a collaboration with the subject, and he believes the final image is a representation of both photographer and subject. He looks to catch their emotion, but also accepts that when in front of the camera a subject can lie and pose as they would like to be, and not always as they are.
In November 2017 he decided to travel to India to photograph a different culture, but within days all his equipment was stolen, except for his little Fuji X100T with its fixed 35mm (full frame equiv.) lens. After a six-hour session at the police station, where he introduced officers to Google Maps, he decided he was unlikely to get the gear back for the trip so shot all subsequent work on the Fuji. He told us how the wide-angle lens forced him to talk to his subjects and get to know them as well as taking a photograph of them.
As Max showed his portrait work, both from India and this country, you could see the Steve McCurry influence when it came to big eyes, just like in McCurry's Afghan Girl. I imagine we will see a lot more of Max's work in the future.
After lunch Robert Harvey changed the direction of the photography from portraiture to landscape, delivering his talk called "The Art of Landscape Photography".
There was a large audience at the meeting and as Robert showed his images there were many appreciative noises at the sight of well-known scenes that he had photographed in a different way. I am not much of a landscape photographer, but I admire the work of photographers who are, and what they put into their craft. It soon became apparent that the photographer at the front of the hall went the extra mile, both in walking to scenes, and also in the way he approached his work.
He gave a thorough description of the use of a focal point and showed a comparison between images without one and those with one, even if it was just a small figure to show scale, or a bolder in the foreground to add depth. He made his points well.
Just when I thought the talk was going to be a look through the speaker's photo album and travels, Robert switched tack and went into education. He talked at length about guidelines such as the rules of thirds and how the direction of light changes and about balance in composition and physics such as the way we see colour and the way the camera records it, and how a photographer can use colour to add impact, etc. Robert has obviously put a lot of time and effort into developing his talk and it would be unfair to give too much away in this report, but he does a lot of talks, organises a lot of workshops and is about to release a book, which I shall be looking out for.