Lara Platman is a UK-based freelance photographer and the Director of Photo Feature Ltd. Coming from a family who produced theatrical costumes, Lara grew up surrounded by creative people. She trained as a photographer and then a journalist, and now specialises in documenting areas of culture that are often considered to be eccentric or endangered. Her first book, “Art Workers Guild 125 Years: Craftspeople at Work Today”, is a collection of portraits of 130 craftsmen in their working environments. Her second book, which we recently featured on the blog, “Harris Tweed, From Land to Street”, offers insights into a lifestyle whose continued existence may surprise many. Here we discuss her latest project that brings together young and old through stories and photography, the Boxing project.
Q: Could you give us a brief description of the Boxing project?
A: Everyone always thinks that the Boxing project is about boxing, when in fact the name came about when Tassotti, the handmade paper makers in Bassano del Grappa, provided us with hand-made boxes for the participants to collect their reminiscence items. We then decided that we would base the project around this name. So the Boxing project is a reminiscence project with participants of elderly inhabitants and immigrant children who have moved into the region. This multicultural, intergenerational project allows the community to include new ways of communicating and living together. Participants are appointed in couples and invited to share stories. The adults choose a specific place or location in their town where to tell their stories to the children. I teach the children how to photograph subjects, inspired by the stories that are told by the adults. Each of the participants keeps a written diary, along with paper boxes where objects relating to the meeting and stories are collected. We exhibit the photos during an international dance festival in the town, so a really wide audience gets to see and experience the project.
Q: How did you get involved in the project?
A: I have worked with Roberto Casarotto from the OperaEstate festival in Bassano del Grappa, Italy, for many years on the B.motion dance festival, and we always wanted to collaborate on something with my trade of photography and the community of Bassano del Grappa. We started initially in 2010 with working with the elders centre and some families who had migrated into the community. The project seemed to go very well and then with a fabulous award from the European Cultural Foundation, we were able to continue the project in Bassano and also Bari, Maastricht and London in 2011.
Q: Which camera did you use and why?
A: For the Boxing project we used a Leica D-Lux 5 because I wanted to ensure that the children were able to look through a viewfinder, have the ability to utilise the exposure functions and feel comfortable with the camera that they were using. The D-Lux 5 really does allow you to control the photograph that you want to capture. The children were able to experiment with the pictures, without taking away from the story that they were photographing. It provided a very high quality image with large file sizes, suitable for printing for the exhibitions around Europe. The macro close-up function worked well and the children could begin to take photographs with thought and consideration to their subjects. Many of them had used basic cameras before, and with the Leica D-Lux 5, they could develop their interest in photography even further.
Q: What was the participants’ feedback on the camera?
A: The children who participated did not want to put the camera down. I had so many photos to edit, as we were only printing about 30 from each participant. I guess this answers the question! They asked questions about what the camera could do, they asked if they could change the lighting function as we were in shadows or bright sunlight, they asked how to take action photos and how to do close-ups. The children aged 8-11 were very, very keen to keep using the camera and experiment further. One asked if he could be a “photographer in real life”. I think this tells us something about how much of a treat this camera is to play with.
Q: Are you going to continue to work on the Boxing project in the future?
A: Yes, I hope I will. We have plans to do something similar in Cyprus this year. I will always be working in one way or another with Roberto as we decided working on projects together kept our calories down, because we laughed and smiled so much! I think the Boxing project has been a success having had such great support from the European Cultural Foundation, Manfrotto, Tassotti and, of course, Leica. The communities that we worked in have gained so much, the children and adults are now talking, a small section of the different cultures now have a dialogue and the participants, young and old, learnt a great deal from each other.
Q: What does 2012 hold for you?
A: Well, as a freelance photographer, I am always trying to find new projects, both with the community and personal work. I am really keen to look into historic women drivers and aviators. This is the 50th anniversary of the British Women’s Racing Drivers Club. Along with taking my racing licence, I would very much like to research current and historic women drivers, using my Leica M9 to shoot the portraits, and to find some good historic stories. I am also continuing my passion for “endangered species” and continuing on from my work on Harris Tweed. I am looking into other great manufacturing industries that are often forgotten with today’s technologies. On the community side, I hope to collaborate with a cancer surgeon on a photographic project … but for the moment, that is a tip top secret!
-Leica Internet Team