As part of the run up to our Urban Photo Festival Masterclass we sat down with World Press Photographer Dario Mitidieri to discuss his most recent work Lost Family Portraits. Dario also describes what it was like being a young photographer during the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, why his most iconic work on the children of Bombay is still relevant today and what has most surprised him over his career. See the full article HERE. 

Tickets still available for Nov 5 + 6  Masterclass can be found HERE.

We are in great company

The Urban Photo Festival is underway and The Mango Lab is in good company. See here for complete program.


November 5+6 will be an opportunity for young photojournalists, students of documentary photography and photographers looking to tell stories with their photos to shoot with a seasoned and awarded professional.

My company, The Mango Lab, is proud to present a photography weekend Masterclass with the incredible photojournalist and World Press photography award winner Dario Mitidieri as part of this year’s UrbanPhotoFest. It will be a unique weekend experience where participants, under Mr. Mitidieri instruction, will shoot to a unique brief which will pursue the idea of memory, photography and archive. This will be followed by an edit and discussion on the projects.  For more up to date information follow our Facebook page or our website.

A few tickets are still available.  Maximum 15 participants. Head here to book.






Only into the second month of 2016 and there are some exciting projects underway. Just returned from a six week adventure in Canada filming a couple ethnographic observational documentaries for entry into Raindance. It was so cold. Our equipment had to survive -47C temps out on the frozen ice and it proved to be a technical challenge. The footage though is amazing and February will be Final Cut Pro month here in the studio. Tons of editing and sound mixing/ dubbing to be done as we construct our story from the hours of video.We also are working with a team building a pilot for a new television mocumentary. Met with the creative team last week and producers this week so we will see what unfolds. Having made the move now to include more filming instead of shooting only stills I am really excited about the journey which lies ahead. Looking forward to having more to write about soon.


The Reportage Photography Autumn exhibition session entitled Documents was a huge success. Congratulations to all the short-course students for their energetic commitment to the pursuit of the personal project in addition to the weekly lessons and micro-assignments. A solid understanding of subject was evidenced in the individual essays through not only a personal understanding, point of view and ethnographic observation,  but the inclusion of both a historical and stylistic integrity which permeated through and seen in the collective aesthetic and narrative.

Equally important was the show of confidence in presentation before an audience.  Comments from the guests and invited crits were positive as they felt completely immersed in the individual conversations and stories developed and exhibited.

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Each semester the Documents show is especially important to me because it highlights an area of the visual learning process I feel strongly about. It too often is overlooked when students of photography choose an autodidactic approach, learning as they piece together quick tips off Youtube videos, apps, magazines and trust their learning process to social media ‘likes’ and ’emoticon-nents’. While all of this is indeed important information mining one should not overlook nor avoid the experience that comes with live presentation. Having completed my Masters examining social media and mobile image sites like Instagram and Flickr where an identity is built through visual capital, popularity  and immediate trends, I see the live moments between aspiring photographers and audience as fine, fiberous tentacles extending deep into the pedagogical soil –  setting in place a root which anchors a trust in the artist’s self.  The process often will tease out a depth of analysis and reflexive qualities that only q+a and exhibition can. Practicing professionals have this available to them through peers, editors, art directors, critics, and lectures. But the student – especially of the short-course taxonomy-does not face the same valuable critical analysis. My practice-based research of over fifteen years has shown the obvious – the more a student engages in the practice of presentation the more they evolve in terms of developing the finer points behind the understanding of their own work and process. Performance and dialogue aid in creating critical feedback which later in the image making process they can reference and capitalise on in the development of their projects.

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All photos © Julia Massey Stewart 2015

Documents is a unique course event because, while we have intelligent discourse and the occassional polemic from class to class through our group crits or guest professionals, it is during these final shows the relationship between audience and presenter flesh out a level of confidence and honest reflection in the pursuit of the project for the student.  As they step up to the podium, their work lies naked on the walls, the audience eagerly waiting to hear the story of the story.

The move to hard copy print, even if only an inexpensive inkjet collection,  also facilitates this exposure. There is no hiding. No gloss through Powerpoint tricks or jazzy digital speak. No dissolves or fades between images. Traditional print placed on a white wall allows for a pure and honest study of the work. The work is viewed in its entirety and remains on the wall for the entire evening so the curation of the images must lay there cohesive and balanced, like a smooth paragraph of words.  If this does not happen the audience can feel the bumps in the visuals, and once it is pointed out it remains an obvious glitch. Despite this vulnerability before audience I often witness in the students a complete understanding and confidence in sharing their subject. This takes a combination of courage, a leap of faith and trust in one’s abilities not only in the story – but the holding out for that ever so fragile approval in terms of the ‘look’ as is the case in photography. From their first evening onto the course to Documents presentation day, the students’ personal transformation is considerable. They move from shyly talking about about their own work to solidly ‘communicating’ it. This is especially true of the ESL (English as a Second Language) students who face the additional challenge of not only learning the English language but communicating both the visual and conceptual language to a foreign audience in their newly acquired vernacular.

Congratulations to all the graduating students – you should be very proud and I, as always, feel privileged to witness this.

Programs are ready



© Marlene Beca

The Reportage final assignments are receiving their final touches and edits. Lots of great work to be seen at the Autumn Session last class presentation entitled Documents. What our invited guests will see are personal photographic essays exploring the relationship between teen self-esteem and dress code, the hidden costs of eco-travel, a London portrait as seen through an immigrant’s eyes, a lyrical look at litter and common spaces, environmental portraits of a ‘border’ block on the edge of The City, a typological diary on recycling, the overlooked and unseen of Camden and a portrait of a Thai boxing gym and it’s athletes (see photo courtesy of Marlene Beca). We have sent out the invites and look forward to your joining us.


Just wrapped up the Spring Reportage 2015 short course at Central Saint Martins. Ten weekly ‘micro’ projects culminating in one final major assessment project on June 25th. Student projects included portraits of an Afghan in a dystopian London, the gentrification of Soho post-Paul Raymond, the spiritual borderland between church and finance, a disturbing multimedia discourse on the subject of the rising trend of Facebook Lolitas, and a reflexive study on the Tube and its users through property, destination and reason.



I invited photojournalists Giorgia Tobiolo, Eugenio Grosso and photographer Nick Tucker to guest crit and they added an additional layer of professional opinion and suggestion. Congrats to the students on polishing off the ten weeks with a high quality response and best of luck to all. Reportage Photography will resume again in the autumn session as I am now involved with Summer short courses.




To round things off for the 2014/15 year Director of the Snap Photo Fesitival’s Laura Babb (part of the winter guest panel) wrote a lovely piece first hand account about our her visit to the final assessment night and reaction to the work of the students she commented on HERE. Thanks for a wonderful year folks!



I have just returned from the Snap Photography Festival in the gorgeous location of fforest farm just outside of Cardigan, Wales. This was a week long festival dedicated but not exclusive to wedding photography. I was one of a guest speakers asked to talk about photography, not about the wedding image industry per sé, but creating assets that kickstart creativity as one aims to pursue that allusive personal approach. Although my workshop was the last one on Thursday evening I made the decision to travel to Wales and spend the week living and breathing workshop fever (albeit I had my own fever going on and my chest infection meant the breathing was not going to be that easy). I have been to expos, participated and spoke at various conferences and photography and design festivals, so although this was wedding biased, I thought it would be interesting to meet a group of folks and form new relationships around what we all shared – a admiration for communicating visually. What I eventually  discovered is what I wanted to speak about here. I wanted to describe an aura, the vibe of the festival that floated amongst the woodsmoke, that warmed hearts like the evening sunsets, and created an surprising impressionable image that I think a majority of participants will carry away with them for a very long time.

To begin I’d like to be upfront and say I used to be a wedding photographer. In those old school days where to shoot the black and white option did not mean flipping a VSCO app but carrying an extra body dedicated to T-max 400 film. In fact, long before the digital revolution, it was not uncommon for me to be seen with about six to eight cameras of various formats loaded with different films and fixed lenses, all part of my usual wedding artillery. I’ve shot internationally, been published in magazines, and had the highs and lows that come with creating memories for clients that will be handed down through generations. I’ve even taught classes to photographers looking to hang their own wedding photography shingle. So I know a thing or two of the approach, the methodology, workflow and professional demographic which is part and parcel of the wedding photography industry. But what I witnessed in these five days at fforest was something dramatically unique. A revolution of sorts which seemed to leave no stone unturned. If ever I felt I was in the middle of a zeitgeist this was it. While my own lecture was about investing in your own paradigm shift, coincidentally, now as I reflect on the week while back at the office, I feel that was happening organically in the fields, the speaker’s tent and the fireside chats throughout the week at fforest farm.

Wedding photography is one of the most easily accessible photographic career options for any aspiring photographer. For anyone jumping into the photography pool this constant feed of quantifiable work means anyone confident enough to sign up to the task of pushing a shutter button and be paid to record one of life’s most treasured memories can start earning straight out of the starting blocks. But the wedding photographer has to beware – like food and fashion blogs, wedding blogging has equally excelled in gaining mass appeal and audience. Social media has made that even easier, transforming styles, approaches and various philosophies and etiquette into a visual language unlike anything we have seen before. Collaborative mood boards for a bride can be built using Pinterest and/ or Instagram and she can carry it with her everywhere in the form of a smartphone. In any given year the lead up to a wedding can include countless wedding shows around the country, blogs, books, magazines, podcasts, Youtube videos, curated imagery, personal imagery, shared imagery, television reality shows, tweets, Instagram hashtags, Facebook groups and followings, forum discussions, and much, much more contributing to a Roman orgy of choice that even the healthiest of brides can suffer from image overdose. Technology created the gate for which all this may pass. Pre-web having an over enthusiastic aunt or mother would have been crisis enough. Now we can have a countless number of ‘cyber-style’ grating family members in our pockets 24/7. This wedding image frenzy can mean that if not careful, the young and not so young photographer can be pulled into an industry contrail, locked into a client-side performance, servicing a heavily saturated wedding ‘aesthetic’ at the expense of a personal voice. Effort on the visual rather than the visionary.

So if that sets the scene for what the wedding client is going through as they plan their wedding what struck me about what Google dragged in for the Snap Photography festival was a crowd of shooters and speakers that seem to be shaking a stick at this approach. These folks have yet to reach the toe of the diffusion of innovation curve. Forget Innovator – more like Dreamer – and this is a very good thing. At Snap I was seeing an event that was gathering momentum around a handful of visionaries – young, creative photographers, raised on a diet of the beta years of social media and now applying their craft comfortably as meta-photographers.  There was something definitively unique about not only their commitment to making imagery, but a philosophy towards their clients. These artists were a unique collection of parts – part hipster, part humanist, part designer, part artist, part braveheart, part systemic, part craftsperson, part family – these brand savvy young guns were folks on a transformative journey seriously committed to redefining not only the aesthetic of wedding imagery, but the lexicon around it.

(For those sensitive to the f- word look away now).

“Fucking love your clients” is not your usual branding speak nor is “Just find what you love to shoot and fucking embrace it” … “Don’t let anyone else fucking tell you different” and “Find your fucking tribe and surround yourself with them”. Yes, yes …these were some of the lecture sound bites which stung ears not accustomed to such colourfully verbose language in a professional setting. But I found the sting lay not in the language but beneath the rawness of the expletives where there lay hugs, lots of tears and a supportive colony of industry professionals doing pep talks and workshopping in a manner hard to find anywhere else in the wedding photography industry. This wasn’t about chasing money and building package add-ons and upsells, it wasn’t about one speaker ego tripping another, this wasn’t about portfolio gloss and kit building, no … this was something very different. Having a few days to digest what I witnessed I came to this conclusion – this was about leading by example. Workshop leaders became mentors creating the atmosphere for individual spiritual alignment – connecting brand, audience, and self in an altruistic art form. There existed an aura of ‘quest’ and ‘journey’ in the air. In fact, throughout all the colourful language it seemed that only ‘branding’ was the odd word out. Branding was something which needed to be redefined, yes it is a commercial spine connecting all the moving parts of a business – but it seemed an unjust word. Branding was stifling, suffocating the organic ethos, the ultrusim which radiated from the hearts of these professionals. Branding was having to speak a language because nothing else had been thought of yet. And I left thinking that these folks are onto something -that they are on a quest to unhook Social Media 1.0 in terms of the wedding photography industry and all the industry vernacular and turn it into a direction we know not yet where.

On the night before my presentation a group of us collected around a warm fire in the workshop lodge. We spoke about the industry and we spoke about something quite fresh and interesting – the energy that it draws from the practitioners. And one thing stood out from that talk which in over my twenty years in the photography industry I have never heard as clear as I heard on this night – these photographers were tired. Not because of the industry. Not because of politics or continuous moving posts as we shift from one technology to another. They were tired from the falling in love with their clients. Because in order to do this it means an emotional investment far beyond any wedding photography How To book or YouTube video on lighting and technique. This was further supported by my visit from workshop to workshop where I witnessed photographers showing lovely aesthetics yes – but there were stories behind the images that went so deep that each speaker knew that they were not only image makers.  It bothered me for a time that I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then I realised that for these folks who attended this festival at fforest farm what made them so unique was that they were memory makers and they truly felt a privilege in that. The commitment to deliver from a point of privilege was an emotionally invested act. And through all the clamour we may have come to associate with the wedding photography industry here was this rising heartbeat beating in a forest in Wales.


  Temporary gallery forming at www.stuffcarlsees.com until I get some time.