1 - only use the ambient light
A simple one this, no flash!
2 - don't move anything in the scene
Although I will sometimes move things out of the way of the shot (such as a protruding chair leg, or the edge of a table) and then put them back, I will never rearrange the objects in a scene for a more pleasing composition. What is in the photo is shown as I saw it.
3 - don't hide my own presence in the scene
sometimes you will see my shadow or reflection, other times my jacket or bag might appear in the shot. In certain cases, such as in the forest, I stay with the people for a long time as part of the community and my own actions are also writ large upon the places. I believe it would be false to try to keep separate from the communities or to try to hide my presence in the pictures.
4 - Photoshop work to be kept to a minimum
I will crop a photo to make the horizon level or for other reasons - I don't believe this is any more false than the arbitrary cropping of reality made by the camera lens. I will also use levels in Photoshop to try to balance the light where there are very dark and very bright areas in one shot - this is no more than your eye naturally does if you look across a scene so I feel I am actually correcting a false perception created by the camera. Sometimes if I feel it would work better I will convert a photo to black and white. And this is it. Ideally the photo will come straight from the camera to your eyes without me changing anything.
These four rules evolved with my photography without any conscious decision making on my part, but I like them, I feel they help to keep me honest, they give me a basic frame to work within and I stick to them limpet-like. I also feel they make it easier for a person looking at my work to know what they are seeing. In essence they boil down to - try not to lie.
Sometimes though the nature of my work makes these rules very hard to follow. What to do when there is no ambient light? This photo was taken in a farmhouse in the forest in a dark corridor behind boarded windows. The light on the picture is being produced by the torches of two small children who were with me.
(I don't usually invite small children to explore abandoned buildings with me, they invited themselves and their parents gave their blessing, I was outnumbered, and their torches were better than mine)
Getting to the point.
Anyway, this long rambling passage is leading somewhere I promise. It is leading us back to France, where on a whirlwind tour of some very interesting places I found myself playing with light is some unusual situations.
The first night was spent in a squatted school in the South of France. We arrived quite late at night and had to leave very early so I had no chance to find out anything about the place. In the morning before we left I took a series of photos of the corridor, over the course of 15 minutes I watched the dawn gradually become bright enough to light the scene...
And the room below was the living room and meeting place.