Monday, 25 July 2011

Reflecting on all that has gone before....

After analysing photographs and essays and researching and thinking I didn't really need the coursework to say "before you move on.....spend some time reflecting...." My brain was fried and I so couldn't have read more if I had wanted too! ;o) Even thinking about what I had learnt/developed through the last section and last lot of exercises was put on the back burner while I vegged for a weekend watching the weather and TV...neither of which were terribly impressive but hey ho.

Some normal, routine, life chores to do this week, cut the grass, service my car, had an advisory on the brakes when it was MOT'd so that to do too....various parts of my house could do with painting but I feel no inspiration to pick up a brush....anyone out there bored and fancy decorating my hallway? No didn't think so..... Oh, and I need to chase insurers re my car being written off ...they still haven't asked for my log book and the people sorting out my £200 out of pocket expenses chased me last week as they said they "hadn't got a response" from their last letter...I rang them and said errrrrrrrrrrm you did but I had rung to say the amount was wrong and you were going to send another letter....You haven't? "Oh so I see" came the reply, "I'll make sure that's a priority...." one week later......

Therefore with all those things to remember and sort out I haven't as yet put my thinking head back on as to how I am going to use the skills gained to improve my photographic practice, promote or disseminate my work or extend my knowledge of photography in general.......well that's not quite true, I think I know, but having a basic idea and turning those fleeting ideas into coherent thought for my blog haven't happened yet. But they will...and I shall update this post then :o)


Well it's going to start off as my update, not sure if I will complete it but as random first thoughts grab me here goes...

Assignment One which was all about my neighbourhood, has shown me new things and reminded me why other ideas or practices should be followed and practised. In the 'heat of the moment' of trying to snap at something (yes I know in general we shouldn't snap at anything, we should always think about it)  I forget to alter a shutter speed or white balance and things don't always turn out as hoped.

Even with editing, the skills I brushed up on or learnt in DPP I have to remember to use, or the best order in which to process ...and spend ages on an image to think damn I should have done X first....

Close observation of my local area...hopefully I do notice more of the finer detail around me, there must be so many different ways to view a place, looking at the work of others shows this. Even within Hackney Stephen Gill produced different bodies of work so show the area....

Hackney Wick for all its blurry, quirky angles of Hackney Market could be said to be 'straight' photography. Snaps of the area.

With Hackney Flowers Gill collected flowers, seeds, berries and objects from Hackney, that were then pressed in his studio and re-photographed alongside his own photographs building up multi-layered images extracted from the area.

Buried is also very creative, but for me pushing it a bit too far..images of Hackney were then buried, later dug up and a book made of the resulting decay. Can see the artistic intention, shows how the area affects everything, how things decay, that there is a connection between places/environment and change...but hmmmmm not sure how I feel about it as 'photography'. More of an Art installation but then we get back to the argument of photography versus art and I don't want to go there for 5 mins ;o)

Having looked at Hackney Flowers the Outside In series I think I'd really like to experiment with the multi layered approach. Maybe this is something I could try next time.

Jim Goldberg used this approach with his open see project, both photographers have been described as incorporating 'ephemera' in their work, and I like the idea. When looking at the constructed image Julie Cockburn also uses old photographs to create new work. This idea of creating new work from old, or producing constructed imagery seems to be gaining recognition or is it that I am just noticing it more? Something to investigate...'s all well and good thinking about taking on board new ideas, or doing the actual research I must make sure I include my links, say how the work makes me feel, express an opinion or how I think I may take inspiration from what I have read. Or even say what I don't like. This is tricky for me as sometimes I don't 'feel' or if I do am not sure how to express it. 'I like that' needs a because, but sometimes I can't explain why...something else to practice. Also along these lines I have revamped some of my earlier entries to show my thought processes, putting in some of the notes I had in my physical learning log; some of these are a bit brief still but am hoping to fill in the blanks under separate cover. It still may not be perfect as some written retrospectively, but will be an improvement (I hope) and will serve to show a learning curve between Assignment One and Assignment Two.

Promoting and disseminating......

Vocabulary.....deep joy, the language of photography and captions. I haven't really got that far into the course yet but it's coming...thinking about promoting and captioning etc.... When you go to an exhibition and you read some of the captions, the blurb, describe them as you will......I absolutely loathe some of the airy fairy way things are put. I loved the Shadow Catchers exhibition but the text, even in the book drove me nuts! 'Alchemical transformations....transcending decorative effects...harnessing the ephemeral.....poetic dialogues.....enigmatic traces.......poetic paradox.....' As much a some of the descriptive irritates beyond belief, I can appreciate that the phrases do sum the work up beautifully, but conversely other times I look and think 'Its a circle on a black background......'

But I will have to change my mindset, it maybe an idea to go through my Shadow Catchers book again and make myself a list of these phrases, I may need them. I could have a side line..publish a book 'Jan's Book of Stock Blurb phrases.' ;o) Seriously though I need to look at more images and seriously look at how things are captioned and why in more depth.....How you 'sell' your images is so affected by how you describe them, it points the audience in the right direction. Makes sure they spot the parts you want them to spot, read the message you are trying to convey.

Important to makes sure the image stand up to scrutiny too..... see it's easier to say what you should do, but producing it is more difficult.

On analysing images, I can see why it is important when producing photographs to think about the intended use as well as the intended purpose. On examining bodies of work,going back Hackney Flowers, Gill has produced a body of work which shows his neighbourhood, but as some of the background photographs are found and not of the area it wouldn't work as Social Documentary, nor as Editorial, maybe as commercial if you wanted a different approach to selling seeds......

When you apply for a new job you revamp your CV depending on what skills are required, I think when trying to disseminate images you can apply the same kind of thing. What is the requirement, what aspect within my image shall I choose to highlight for that specific purpose? Images can be read in different ways, exploit that :o)

When writing about the photograph and the essay I tried as much as possible to write my analysis in the style of an essay, making my points brief, relevant and factual. I had to accept that there was some information I couldn't research/find. Or with Berger, some of his statements about art, whilst taking them on board, I didn't feel qualified enough to argue or comment on a specific point , no matter what else I read or how many times I read the offending paragraph. It did help to write, go away, read , change it, go away, come back again...but after a while you have to say enough... and move on.

Throughout both analyses I made sure the points I was making could be referenced and noted at the bottom the references used. Sitting there with my printed notes about Harvard referencing but with some of the online info am still not positive I'm always doing it spot on......I am aware that there is a difference between referencing and bibliography and as I go through the course will try to differentiate between the two on my postings, but at the moment what I am trying to practice is applying the format without having to look it up every time ;o)

Back to Assignment one...I can see that  should have experimented more with different view points times of day, focal length etc but I was really hampered by the poor weather and time due to having my car written off, excuses possibly but also reasons. So have to admit to sticking with what I knew rather than trying out different techniques and focal lengths. I did practice including people; a while ago I realised how much time I had wasted in the past waiting for them to 'get out of my way I want to take a photograph!' especially when on holiday. I then came to realise how important including people can be, they anchor a place, they give it perspective, a time, a feeling, an insight of the place they inhabit. Assignment one emphasises this point, you don't always have to have people, but showing signs of them help tell the story. important :o) My main processing workflow, not such an issue you do it wrong, scrap it and start again, but always try to make sure you have enough cards and battery life, if you're organised even impromptu shoots shouldn't have issues...although I dare say we have all done it and will no doubt still do it ;o) Luckily I was only 5 mins away from home when I messed up! My daughter has just started to do some modelling/posing (not serious/serious modelling) for photographic students and some professionals who wish practise portraits or change direction with what they are currently doing. Last week she attended a shoot when the chaps battery ran out, he went upstairs to get his spare and charger, only to discover he had left both behind at a wedding venue 2 days previously......

Promoting my work.....well so far most of my images have been produced without promotion in mind, I take what interests me, images for the coursework, never with serious promotion behind it, but I guess even personal projects can have a worth elsewhere. How you approach your subject if you do wish to promote it, will impact on how you will capture that image, depending on the market you are aiming for. Bearing that in mind will no doubt impact quite a bit on artistic and processing decisions. You'd have to research the market, make contacts and discover if there is a niche for your ideas. Understanding the vocabulary required to caption your images and how to pitch your photographs depending on where they are to appear is also important. People wishing to visit a beauty spot want to know what is there, not that it was shot at ISO 400 ;o) I shall try to really think about the techniques used with each image so that they can be described in both technical and poetic terms.....

The more images you take, the more practise you get, the more at home you are with your equipment. I need to experiment more and find out just what I can achieve with what I have. I want the technical to become more second nature so I can start looking more closely at what I am capturing not so much how to achieve it.

To extend my knowledge of photography I have been reading many online articles, following the blogs of other photographers and picking up on their ideas, which can help you choose to follow certain paths or not.

I intend to continue along these lines, have just subscribed to the bjp as I think it always carries interesting articles and follows/discusses current trends. I shall carry on dipping into the theory books I have. Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag and now the Liz Wells The Photography Reader. I say dip in as it can be a bit mind blowing. Sometimes I think it is possible to over do the reading, there are many opposing ideas out there and as a learner you can confuse yourself, or get too hooked into 'well they said THIS so it must be right!' There has to be a balance between reading enough to learn and assimilate information and calling it quits before you have information overload :o)

Going to photographic exhibitions, either as part of a group or as an individual I think is a brilliant exercise, not only do you get to examine the work of other photographers up close, rather than in a book or on screen, but also you can see how a body of work is put together, what links it, what makes it successful. So far I found it useful in opening up creative ideas which I could apply to my own work. You aren't always provided with the information about how an image was achieved but this can form the basis of experimentation, 'I liked the blur in the background if I do 'X' will it achieve the same result?'

The 10 point check list for analysis is something I shall printout every time when visiting an exhibition, to remind me how I should be looking at an image. This will help me understand more about the photograph, the photographer and to decide if the image is successful in its aims rather than 'do I like this.' I can take the knowledge of what makes an image work for a specific purpose and then apply that to my own.

The Internet is a great source of information, but care must be taken as to the reliability of some sites and my local library isn't toooooo bad with photography books. As and when I identify with an individual photographer whose work I am interested in, I'll get books from the library which show their work, look for their bodies of work online, see how they develop their ideas. Reading reviews, articles and interviews with them also gives an insight to their ways of working. YouTube has a brilliant selection of interviews. I'm currently halfway through watching The Genius of Photography and I am going to investigate BBC iplayer as I've missed some of the British Masters and The Impressionists series.

I applied this way of thinking to Paul Graham, I saw his exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, I visited his looked at his archive, read several interviews Paul Graham:  | The Observer , Paul Graham, dancing with life - British Journal of Photography he gave and watched a video.....

Paul Graham from white tube on Vimeo.

On analysing his images I saw the visual links of signs, juxtaposition, contrasts, analagies to myths or other stories/books, all vehicles used to make his images work. I tried to do the same with assignment one. My intention is to continue analysing work, get as much information as I can from the images presented to me
so I can attempt to replicate the techniques.

Which all goes to show no matter what I have learnt so far there is so much more out there to read, explore, discover and apply! Where was that darkened room?


  1. I shall await your words of wisdom ... :-)

  2. LOL more like random mutterings ;o)