Sky Arts’ Master of Photography Series 2

My thoughts - Travel, Candids and Controversy

Last night saw the first episode of the second series of Master of Photography on Sky Arts.

The series follows Sky Arts’ competition to find the “Master of Photography” through eight episodes, each presenting a different challenge to the participants, who have been selected from thousands of applicants.

As with Series 1, it is interesting that the candidates are a mix of professional and amateur photographers, series judge Oliviero Toscani emphasised in the opening that there should be no distinction between professional and amateur, all are photographers. The difference of course is that professionals earn a significant proportion of their income from their work. It was evident however from the first series that the amateurs were not at a disadvantage, in fact some of the professional photographers were in my opinion very bound by their style and this makes sense given that in all likelihood professional photographers stick to their commercial genre, be it wedding or event photography, product photography or fine art. Us “amateurs” dabble or potter with many disciplines, in my case consciously avoiding treading on the toes of a professional and avoiding taking pictures at formal events and celebrations.

As a photographer that enjoys candid street photographs, already in the first episode a theme is emerging where images that look like candid street photography are in fact staged. I think this is a shame and a missed opportunity. There is of course no intent to mislead as the programme clearly shows the “setting up” process when it occurs, perhaps it shows how difficult true candid images are and that there is an aim to recreate pictures that conform to this popular genre in thought out photographs. Ironically my favourite picture of the episode was by Sohail Karmani featuring a man seated casually in front of a church in Ragusa, but again this was staged rather than an opportunistic shot.

On the subject of truth in photography, the series producers have the challenge of dealing with the controversy surrounding contestant Souvid Datta. Sky released a brief statement (which now seems to have disappeared) stating that the incidents came to light after filming and that producers would be making efforts to ensure integrity of images was highlighted in post production.*

As with the first series, this looks like it will be an enjoyable series showcasing some excellent photographic talent. It’s also good to see equipment sponsorship by Leica which seems appropriate for the assignments and of course good advertising for the brand, demonstrating the versatility of the current model range, if not the accessibility from a cost point of view! Many of the photographers are picking up the Q as a primary or secondary camera to the SL and indeed, last series winner Gabriele Micalizzi in an interview on the Leica blog said “I have a special feeling with Leica Q, it’s simple and “lethal”, I didn’t miss a single photo. Honestly I can’t work without it anymore, that’s why I bought two”.

I am looking forward to episode 2 which airs on 2nd June on Sky Arts, the theme is Rush Hour in Hamburg. But where is Isabella Rosellini?

Sky Arts’ Master of Photography website.

* Edited 30th May 2017

I have been contacted by the publicist for the programme. He has kindly advised me that the producers’ statement is available once again, after brief technical difficulties following an update to site content.

The statement dated 5th May is available here. This is worth reading and reflects a sensible approach to a tricky situation. Datta is clearly a talented photographer - perhaps this will give him a rare second chance.

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