My place on the Magnum Photo workshop in Goa

29 April 2015
Sophie Cheetham, BA (Hons) Photography

My second year of university at Leeds College of Art started with me signing up to many mailing lists to keep myself in the loop with what is going on within the realms of photography.

I entered a handful of competitions and exhibitions ranging from LensCulture to Nomads Scholarship for National Geographic and Magnum Photo workshops in order to expose my work to a greater audience. The exhibitions included ones 2 watch and dirty laundry, both in Leeds. I came across the workshop online on Magnum's facebook page where the link to Magnum's official website was listed along with the opportunity to attend a workshop in Goa, with Magnum Photographer; Stuart Franklin, a British Magnum photographer who has worked for The Guardian, and contributed to National Geographic for over 15 years. This would take place in Panaji, Goa India and be in partnership with GoaPhoto 2015; India’s first international Photography festival. 

The workshop would last four days (25th – 28th February), and my project to shoot would need planning prior to arriving in Goa, particularly on which area of photography I wanted to work in, and what subject area I wanted to photograph whilst out in Goa.

To gain a place on the workshop we were asked to submit ten images which best highlighted our area of specialism or practice within photography, and submit a piece of writing that defined our series and project. I work in the genre of documentary photography, so I collectively gathered ten images from an ongoing body of work of mine which I confidently wanted to run with, described in more detail below.

Here is the description and title about my photographic series and following are a selection of the ten images themselves I chose to submit to Magnum.

- Against the grain -

The series of images are from an ongoing body of work of mine titled above.

‘The images reflect upon life within a city, and the adversities that may come with it.’

Goa blog 1 - C1

Goa blog 1 C2

Goa blog 1 C4

Goa blog 1 C3

A few months later I received an email from the coordinator of the Goa workshop within Magnum:

“Dear Sophie

Congratulations on being selected to participate in Magnum Photos workshop at Goa Photo with Stuart Franklin. The workshop will take place from 25 – 28 February 2015 at Krishnadas Shama Goa State Central Library, Panaji, India. Emily Graham, Magnum Photos"

After being selected to participate on the workshop, I was sent the itinerary of what to expect from the week of being in Goa, with also a list of hotels Magnum recommended for my stay. I was also asked to produce a portfolio of up to twenty images to digitally project in a presentation on arrival to the first seminar with Stuart Franklin. The ten images shown previously were ones I selected to be shown, along with some others.

After flights and accommodation was arranged, I had to make sure that the medical side of the trip was sorted, so I booked in for the doctors and got myself two injections (Hepatitis A and Typhoid) to insure my well-being on the trip. 

At Magnum workshop in Goa

On the first day of the Magnum workshop, after a meet and greet, the morning was spent with my group of twelve peers reviewing each participant’s existing portfolio, alongside Stuart. Feedback was encouraged throughout the group, and Stuart gave advice on what areas to improve on existing work individually. The afternoon was then spent discussing our ideas with Stuart for the project we wanted to work on, in our time in Goa and for the Magnum workshop. This was followed by a talk and presentation by Stuart Franklin on his existing work, and a presentation on documentary photography and how it is portrayed in the medium of photography.

The next three days consisted of us independently working on our projects, shooting throughout the day in our free time. Every morning of the workshop depended on showing my work, alongside others, in a presentation of the images we had previously shot the day before. I got one to one feedback off Stuart Franklin and we had chance to discuss where the project was working well and overall, where the project was leading.

We were given a map of Panaji, Goa and were left to our own devices to explore and discover elements of the city and surrounding parts to photograph. As the GoaPhoto took place whilst I was on the workshop and it being the first international photography festival in India, I decided to photograph most of the exhibition spaces and the various classes of people that chose to visit each showing of GoaPhoto for part of my project. I thought that it was an interesting concept to portray how a westernised medium of art reacts in an eastern civilisation for the first time.

There was a talk at Kala Academy, Panaji, an Art and Design institute about GoaPhoto festival to introduce us to the event which highlighted some of the photographers that took place in the exhibition.  Many Photographers from all over the world came to visit the exhibition, and ones that were included in the event such as Sebastian Cortes and Raghu Rai. So from the map given to me, I researched online and marked out where the exhibitions were taking place across Panaji and decided to visit them all. It was interesting to see that the audience of the exhibitions, with a culture, in some ways quite different to ours, viewed photography as a gateway into understanding other societies and was a form of communication to bond with fellow people, just like it would be in many civilisations.

I wanted to focus on the cultural response to photography in Goa, and compare it to our own understanding and perception of the medium within our own society, so at the moment I am working on shooting Derby’s Format Photography festival where I can conclude my project.

The five images additional images that follow are the final images I submitted for the final presentation of the Magnum workshop, titled; Photography as Representation. The final presentation took place at the conference hall, institute Menezes-Braganza alongside Magnum Photographers Richard Kalvar, Stuart Franklin and Raghu Rai, fellow participants and an audience up to a hundred people, including international Photographers, Curators and the GoaPhoto team. 

Goa blog 2 C1

Goa blog 2 C2

Goa blog 2 C3

Goa blog 2 C4

Goa Blog 2 C5

From the workshop I gained knowledge and experience from incredible photographers who all had constructive things to say about my work, including other participants. From Stuart himself, I had one-to-one admirable feedback and inspiring words of wisdom, which consisted throughout the week and which I feel will guide me through my next stages of photography. I managed to gather fellow participants contact details in order to keep in touch and follow each other's work. Furthermore, I gained Stuart's contact details for future purposes and again, to keep in touch, share work and carry on conversations upon photography.

The additional images are a selection of some of the ones I shot whilst in Goa, that I presented. This is more to my personal preferences.

Titled 'Ideology of Panaji'

Goa blog 3 C1 

Goa blog 3 C2

Goa blog 3 C3

Goa blog 3 C4

Goa blog 3 C5

Goa blog 3 C6

Finally, right now I am focusing on completing my second and third year at Leeds College of Art, and hoping to get onto a Masters course within photography to carry on with my studies. 

To see more of my work see my Flickr account


Sophie Cheetham