Peter Stanley: In 1987, in Papua New Guinea, my middle school photography class shot with film and we produced black and white pictures in the darkroom. The internet didn’t exist and neither did cell phones. With 24 frames per roll of film, a lot of thought went into each image and it forced us to take our time. Unfortunately, learning this way was usually a painful experience as we developed the film with great ambition only to find fatal flaws of over-exposure, missed timing, and blurred subjects. However, when it did work, it was addictive. These moments were everywhere and we just needed to know where to look. As the late Dorothea Lange put it: “A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.” Using film seems like a lifetime away yet it’s remarkable to think that the first iPhone only came out 10 years ago. While the advent of digital has completely changed the business of photography, the elements of photography have pretty much stayed the same. It’s all about composition, light, and subject. If you get those three right, you are likely to have an image that hooks people. As my freelance work expanded, I decided to go back to school to pursue an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography. As a science teacher for 15 years, I wasn’t looking for a career shift but rather I was looking to challenge myself by entering the arena of those that I’d studied and respected most within this field. As my final MA project approached, I experimented with ways to weave my background in teaching with my lifelong passion for photography. As one mentor said: “Focus on your strengths and what makes you unique.” So rather than produce a documentary piece for the final exhibition, I decided to write a book titled: Speaking with Photographs: How to Engage and Inspire an Audience with your Photographic Voice. In the meantime, we had a child, we moved to Bucharest from Tanzania, and I started a new job. What a year! In November 2016, the book was published and I was excited to learn that the book has been sold in countries around the world and many photo educators have even adapted it as a part of their teaching curriculum. The book uses a range of activities that beginners and advanced photographers can enjoy with any camera. It starts with a set of composition lessons. If we know the basics of composition, we can lead people through our images. Holding the eye means time and time is needed for a story to develop. The next section gives step by step activities on how to find engaging subjects. Jim Richardson does well with his summary: “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” The final section of the book shares ideas for making photo essays that will engage and inspire an audience. My next goal is to use my camera to support organizations working in wildlife, environment and/or cultural conservation. Visual stories can change the way people think and I would be honoured to support these kinds of efforts.
For more information on Peter, his book, his photography etc visit http://www.photopoa.com/