Unwillingly ending the Q+A session of Forum C and taking a break for lunch, everyone returned to the Storey Hall for the last Forum of the day. The last Forum of the entire CARBON festival for 2013. The bittersweet term definitely comes into play right about now.
Forum D: Film and Photography generated a lot of hype prior to its start due to its panel of high-profile speakers. Unlike Forum A, B and C, Forum D only had three speakers to conclude the day (and the festival) but with a line-up that included Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant and Will Robson-Scott, I doubt that anyone really noticed the number change.
First up to speak was London’s Will Robson-Scott, who entered the industry largely by accident, noting that it was never his plan in the beginning. But the more he did it, his camera became his passport and that gave him the opportunity to travel the world. One thing he knew for sure during his years in the industry: “Stick to what you know.”
And as he went through his portfolio of work, it was clear why he had kept his subject matter to just people within their personal environments, as each photo was able to capture a deeper story of pain and struggle. This was further shown through the documentary he made entitled “Chi Raq” – a video to conclude his presentation about southern Chicago. And whilst the video is not yet released for the public eye, there was a statement made within the video that really struck a chord with me: “Sometimes money can motivate you for the wrong reasons – violence and death.” Sometimes, it’s just not worth it.
Next up, to the loud cheers and roars of the audience was pioneer photographer Martha Cooper. Born in 1943, Cooper celebrated her 70th birthday a couple of weeks ago. Wow. And although she is renowned for her photography of the hip hop and graffiti subcultures, she confessed that she had never heard of the term ‘hip hop’ prior to 1982. She was just shooting things that were of interest to her.
And it was only this year, that she succumbed to the world of technology, bought herself an iPhone and created an Instagram account (@marthacoopergram), which she admits that she has become “completed addicted” to.
Being the photographer with the most formal training on stage, Cooper talked about how she spent a good section of her early career shooting for The New York Post, and at one point becoming the only female staff member within the publication. Coming from a publishing background, she spoke a lot about the stories and works that were rejected during her come up, but as most of us know, “Failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We learn from it.”
To conclude the Forum of “Film and Photography”, Henry Chalfant was the last to present. It was surprising to find out that Chalfant was a sculptor first, and admits that “photography was a tool to do something”, and “admired real photographers like Marty (Martha Cooper).”
Revealing a timeline of photographs that some of us had seen (and some that we hadn’t), he also shared with the audience a number of stories that accompanied those photos. With only 20 minutes to present, there were a lot of photos in his presentation that he had to skip through which was a bit of shame, but throughout the years working with graffiti writers and the like, Chalfant shared that one of the main things he learnt and stuck with was that it was better to be “free of constraints and doing things under someone else’s agenda.”
The Q+A between the three photographers was a learning experience for those in attendance as Cooper, Robson-Scott and Chalfant shared their thoughts on hustling, DIY, doing things outside of the law, amongst other topics, but the key statement of the day for me was Martha Cooper’s answer to a question about women trying to make it in a man’s world:
“Persevere. We are as good as they are. Have confidence in yourself that you can do it.”
That night, as I helped out with the ACCLAIM team during CARBON festival, I was invited to the after party. But as I have learnt from previous years, whatever happens during the after party, you don’t share what happened with those who weren’t at the after party. Ha.
What I will share is that I briefly spoke with speakers Shawn Stussy and Jeff Hamada which was both a humbling and inspiring experience.
Proof? Peep my mini timeline of Instagram filtered photos from my time in Melbourne below.
This year, the ACCLAIM team truly outdid themselves with the CARBON Festival. The line-up of guests, the side events, and the general vibe of the entire festival was really something else. Not only did I learn a thing or two, I left the city feeling completely inspired.
Looking forward to next year! 🙂
*Black and white photography courtesy of Andrew Johnson (ACCLAIM).