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‘Steel Frames’ The HMS M.33 Photograph...

‘Steel Frames’ The HMS M.33 Photography Project by Sarah Fisher

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3

A COMMUNITY PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT TO EXPLORE & CREATIVELY DISCOVER THE M.33

Strong Island Media recently worked with the National Museum of the Royal Navy on a community arts project that brought local people together to creatively discover First World War Royal Navy survivor HMS M.33 with their cameras at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Southsea illustrator, designer and photographer Sarah Fisher took part in the four half-day workshops and gave us her thoughts.

Workshop 1: Photography Basics

Back in the autumn I had the chance to take part in a series of photography workshops put on by Strong Island and The National Museum of the Royal Navy. Based on board the M.33, a WW1 warship at the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth, a group of us spent 4 sessions photographing the ship, learning more about the history surrounding it and then putting up our own pop-up exhibition on board. 

We spent the first session exploring the M.33 with our cameras and having a good look round. Paul from Strong Island was leading the course and gave us lots of help and guidance on how to use our cameras and take some great shots. He gave us guidance on composition – using rule of thirds and leading lines, controlling the aperture – creating depth of field, and focusing, as well as just generally being on hand to answer any and all photography related questions. 

…gave us guidance on composition – using rule of thirds and leading lines, controlling the aperture – creating depth of field, and focusing…

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 1 - Michael Mackenzie

Photo by Michael Mackenzie

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 1
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 1
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 1 - Dan Tonkin

Photo by Dan Tonkin

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 1 - Sarah Fisher

Photo by Sarah Fisher

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 1
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 1
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 1 - John Bagnall

Photo by John Bagnall

…tips on shooting in low-light conditions, such as lowering the shutter speed and opening the aperture to let more light in, as well as using tripods to reduce camera shake…

Workshop 2: Looking Back and Forward

The second session was all about building on what we had learnt and photographed the previous week. We went back to the ship and retook some of our shots, refining them even more, and also found some new details and areas of the ship that we had missed before.

We spent a fair amount of time inside the ship and Paul gave us some more tips on shooting in low-light conditions, such as lowering the shutter speed and opening the aperture to let more light in, as well as using tripods to reduce camera shake. We also looked at some of the history of photography in the military and saw some old photos of the ship in action. 

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 2
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 2
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 2
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 2
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 2
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 2
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 2

Workshop 3: Photographing M.33 with 35mm Film

For the third session, we were back on board the M.33 again, but this time with traditional film cameras and black and white film. I had bought a lovely little Olympus OM10 on eBay which was lots of fun to use! I really enjoyed using film as opposed to digital, it definitely made me slow down and think about my photos much more than I would normally, which I’m sure will help improve my digital photography as well. 

Once we’d all taken a roll of film we headed inside to develop our negatives by hand. This involves transferring the roll of film to a spool inside a light-proof canister inside a light-proof dark bag, and then pouring a series of chemicals into the canister to develop the film, stop it developing, fix it and then wash it. Once all that was done we could unroll our developed negatives and get a first look at our photos!

…I really enjoyed using film as opposed to digital, it definitely made me slow down and think about my photos much more than I would normally, which I’m sure will help improve my digital photography as well…

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (by Charlotte de Quatrebarbes)
M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (by Charlotte de Quatrebarbes)

Loading up the changing bags ready to transfer the 35mm film to the developing canister.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (by Charlotte de Quatrebarbes)

Each developing canister can hold two rolls of film so everyone paired up.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3

Working at the sink on developing the films.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (by Charlotte de Quatrebarbes)

A little bit of alchemy.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (by Charlotte de Quatrebarbes)

A developed roll ready to hang and dry.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (by Charlotte de Quatrebarbes)

One of the best feelings is that first look up to the light.

…It was really cool to look through all the photos we had taken and to see everyone’s personal style emerging through their photographs…

Workshop 4: Create a Pop Up Exhibition on M.33

Paul kindly scanned all our negatives onto the computer for us and printed our favourites before the final session, where we set up our pop-up exhibition on board the ship. It was really cool to look through all the photos we had taken and to see everyone’s personal style emerging through their photographs. It always amazes me with photography that you can give a group of people the same equipment in the same place and still come out with completely different sets of photographs. 

We decided to set up our exhibition just inside the main entrance to the lower deck on the ship. We used string and bulldog clips to hang the photographs, to give the feeling of the ship’s photographer at work developing his photos and then hanging them up to dry. We also left a couple of prints around the top deck of the ship inside the cabins as little surprises for people to find as they look round.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 4

Reviewing the 35mm prints onboard the M.33.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 4

Our final pick for the location of the exhibition.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 4

Hanging the 6×4 B&W prints.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 4

The ship’s hull as the exhibition backdrop.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 4

A selection of prints were placed where they were taken above deck.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 4

The completed exhibition on show for visitors to the M.33.

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 4

A big thank you to the National Museum of the Royal Navy for providing the funding for the project including both the 35mm film and printing materials for the exhibition. Thank you to Rachel Goodall from the NMRN for having Strong Island involved in the design and delivery of the project and a big thank you to all the staff onboard the M.33 for being so helpful. A final thank you to Sarah for her write up of the project.

See below for a selection of the final 35mm B&W photos that were in the pop-up exhibition onboard HMS M.33.

Written by: Sarah Fisher
Photography by: Paul Gonella & Charlotte De Quatrebarbes
Workshops by: Strong Island Media

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Michael Mackenzie)

Photo by Michael Mackenzie

Photo by Mary Williams

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by John Castillon)

Photo by John Castillon

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by James Saunders)

Photo by James Saunders

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Charlotte de Quatrebarbes)

Photo by Charlotte de Quatrebarbes

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Dave Tonkin)

Photo by Dave Tonkin

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Sarah Fisher)

Photo by Sarah Fisher

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Katherine Charnock)

Photo by Katherine Charnock

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Moira Vence-Gunstane)

Photo by Moira Vence-Gunstane

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Dan Tonkin)

Photo by Dan Tonkin

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Katy Lopez-Holguin)

Photo by Katy Lopez-Holguin

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Pippa Hardisty)

Photo by Pippa Hardisty

M33 Photo Project - Workshop 3 (35mm by Tracey McCulloch)

Photo by Tracey McCulloch


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  1. Naty Lopez-Holguin

    21 December

    Love the article Sarah.

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