Every now and again I come across work at Level 1 that denotes skills and photographic maturity well beyond that level. John Chapman’s compelling and thought-provoking final assignment for Art of Photography, which focuses on one of the Emmaus villages, is one such body of work.
“I chose the subject, Emmaus, because I was interested in what they do and their story. I have found the end result to be much more gratifying when I have completed projects/assignments around subjects I am interested in, rather than finding a subject purely to fit the exercise.”
John’s images show developing narrative skills that are rare at this level of study. The photograph of a guitar tells about sensibility and hope – isn’t it true that music has always been a channel for people’s hopes?
A photograph of a bedroom full of personal paraphernalia, very much like everyone’s bedroom, is remarkably ordinary. It shows an environment lived by people who are, well, like you and I. It speaks of homeliness, ordinary, peaceful and comforting homeliness. John was aware of the connotative value of this image.
John set out to tell a story, and he knew exactly what his position as artist and author was.
“I did not want to dwell on [the Emmaus residents’ complex past]. The people at Emmaus are there because they’re ready to turn their lives around, and that’s the story I wanted to tell.”
And that’s the story you will find in the PDF book that John submitted for his final assignment. His intention as a photographer is loud and clear, particularly in his portraits. They show honesty of purpose, that elusive but essential quality in any photographer. John didn’t ‘take’ anyone’s portrait at Emmaus. He exchanged them for a genuine interaction with his subjects based on mutual respect: what John gave back in exchange for his photographs was dignity for his subjects.
What is even more remarkable is that, after careful planning and preparation including obtaining permissions to photograph on location, John produced the work on a single photo shoot.
And there is a word that accurately describes that attitude and performance: professional.