Thursday, 8 May 2014

Key Texts - a short review.

The version of the course I have recommended the following key texts:

Barrett,T, (2005)  Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images. New York: McGraw-Hill

Heron, M. (2007) Digital Stock Photography: How to Shoot and Sell. New York: Allworth Press

Lee,T (2007) Digital Capture and Workflow for Professional Photographers. Buffalo, NY:Amherst Media

Thomas, G. and Ibbotson, J. (2003) Beyond the Lens: Rights, Ethics and Business Practice in Professional Photography. London: The Association of Photographers (AoP)

Tracy, J. (2010) The Freelance Photographer's Market Handbook 2011 (27th Edition) London: BFP Books

Wells,E. (2002) The Photography Reader. London: Routledge

Wells, E. (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Routledge

Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images
Barrett,T, (2005)  Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images. New York: McGraw-Hill

In summary Terry Barrett’s book is a good general introduction to photographic theory with an emphasis on criticism – it's aim is to reveal to the reader why criticism of images is important, how to understand photographic criticism, and finally how to read photographs.

About art criticism - Starts by commenting that  unfortunately, we usually don't equate criticism with appreciation because in everyday language the term criticism has negative connotations: used to refer to the act of making judgments, usually negative judgments, and the act of expressing disapproval.Barrett quotes several sources to back his argument including Lucy Lippard who said on not being regarded as a critic as ok because "It's negative connotations place the writer in fundamental antagonism to the artists"

He tries to define criticism - the term itself being complex, having several different meanings.
However the way to become informed about art is by critically thinking about it. Criticism is put forward as a means to the end of understanding and appreciating photography. Barrett begins by classifying the act of criticism into four activities:

  • describing
  • interpreting
  • evaluating
  • theorizing.

One of his references made sense ;o) A D Coleman (a critic) said " I merely look closely at, and into all sorts of photographic images and attempt to pinpoint in words what they provoke me to feel and think and understand." Barrett reiterates that 'criticism is informed discourse about art to increase understanding and appreciation of art'. There are various sources of criticism, the classroom, lecture hall and publications. Barrett cites many examples of practitioners, writers and publications which are probably all worth investigating at some later stage. However it is worth noting when reading essays or articles that each source will have it's own style, tone and political ideology.

There are two kinds of crit (fed up with writing the long version) exploratory aesthetic criticism and argumentation aesthetic criticism:

  • Exploratory - the critic will delay judgements of value relying instead on descriptive and interpretive thought
  • Argumentative - after full interpretive analysis critics will estimate the work's positive aspects or lack of. and fully reveal their judgements, then argue their interpretations and judgements and defend their conclusions.

When I read this I thought this also can apply to written critical essays and helped inform the way I wrote my critical review: read, interpret, comment, back up your argument. I can see how useful this can be when looking at photography, mine as well as others. From the book Andy Grundberg saw two basic approaches - applied - practical and immediate - tends towards journalism and theoretical - being philosophical - towards aesthetics- for example Roland Barthes Camera Lucida..... ( why did I inwardly groan at the mention of that book) for me one of the important quotes from Grundberg was "criticism's task is to make arguments not pronouncements"

A lot more follows until we get to a section about the value of criticism - there is a value to reading good crit, it increases knowledge and appreciation of art, I totally agree with Maria Siegel who said on how writing informs her because "words are an instrument of thinking." Often I find when writing my reviews after seeing an exhibition that my opinion changes or becomes stronger when having to formalise my thoughts and express them in a written form.

Chapter 2 deals more with describing photographs. 'Descriptions are the answers to the questions, What is here? What am I looking at? What do I know with certainty about this image?' Basic statements can be made about the subject matter, medium, form and causal environment. Descriptive information is either true or false and an accurate description is'an essential part of holding defensible critical positions' other words make sure you get your facts straight in the first place! Again many examples of photographers work is analysed and to go into huge depth in this post would be overwhelming and tbh I think I need to re-read it to get everything of benefit but the exploration into subject matter, medium, form, style etc will definitely help me when having to write about the images I review in future. A common method of critical analysis is to 'compare and contrast it to other work by the same photographer, to other photographers’ works, or to works by other artists. To compare and contrast is to see what the work in question has in common with and how the work differs from another body of work.' I think this was and will be useful to remember when writing supporting statements alongside my assignments, when you have to state which photographer informed your final images.

There are 8 chapters in all - so far too many to really review in an online post, I have dipped in and out of this book on an online pdf version but always find I prefer to thumb through an actual copy. I was lucky enough to find a secondhand version for sale at £1.96! The postage was more!! I think this book will serve me well in the future for many reasons, thinking about how I look at images, how I write about images and how better to critique my own work.

Digital Stock Photography: How to Shoot and Sell
Heron, M. (2007) Digital Stock Photography: How to Shoot and Sell. New York: Allworth Press

I can't remember who it was but someone advised me that if they had to choose just one book that would explain everything you needed to know about contemporary stock photography this would be it. Importantly you need to do your homework before taking a single image. You need a plan of attack, and consider how you would visually capture a concept. It is a truly comprehensive introduction to the world of Digital Stock Photography and as yet as this isn't a venue I am seeking to explore I haven't delved into this book as much as I possibly could have done.

It's contents are as follows:

1. The Business of Digital Stock
2. How to Shoot for Stock – Style and Concept
3. Equipment for Capturing and Scanning Images
4. Shooting What’s Needed
5. Twenty-five Stock Assignments you can Shoot
6. Preparing the Shoot
7. Editing and Post Production in the Digital Work Flow
8. Running a Stock Photography Business
9. Marketing your Stock
10. Finding a Stock Agency or Portal
11. Negotiating Prices
12. Copyright – What Do We Own
13. Model Releases and Business Forms
14. Appendix 1: Bibliography
15. Appendix 2: Organizations
16. Appendix 3: Workshops
17. Appendix 4: Promotions/Source Books
18. Appendix 5: Manufacturers

What I found interesting was how some of the ideas can spill into what I want to photograph anyway, either for personal pleasure or for assignment, foe example the chapter on Style and Concept makes you think about capturing thought provoking concepts. How do you capture togetherness as a family in an image. How do you shoot stress? How do you shoot teamwork? A section on shooting symbols and what things mean -cooperation could be represented by images of teams, a barn raising, shaking hands, etc

Another section of the book was on different 25 Stock Assignments with each assignment containing the category, purpose, and subject of the image. Variations of how to frame shots, what models are needed, props, ethnicities, and location. What to avoid and several general notes about each shoot. How to gain permission from businesses to shoot at a location, offering incentives to get permission for the shoot, creating a storyboard, working with a Production Coordinator, building a prop closet, to even sending a thank you note to the models after the shoot.

The section on Releases and forms contains sample Model releases, Property Releases, Stock Picture Delivery Memo, Stock Shoot Estimate Worksheet, Stock Photography invoice, and a Stock Photo Request Form.

As I say, lots to think about, lots of useful tips, so if interested in pursuing this avenue to making money a book I'd recommend.

seem to be popular sites.

Digital Capture and Workflow for Professional Photographers
Lee,T (2007) Digital Capture and Workflow for Professional Photographers. Buffalo, NY:Amherst Media

In short a step-by-step guide to techniques for creating digitally enhanced images, album design, expert presentation, and printing-industry-standard prints. Chapters, cover image control, working with JPEGs, processing raw files, workstation ergonomics, and client presentation.  It is all to easy to assume you know a lot because you have been using programs like Photoshop for a while, or printing things for a while, but things change, industry standards alter, different practices come about and are found to be better, or you may just have not been doing it right in the first place. So I picked this book up and thumbed through it with interest. Published in 2007 and talking about CS2 and 12 bit RAW showed me how quickly things move forward and even recommended books may be out of date!

There were a lot of basics confirmed that I already do. shoot RAW, that digital images need sharpening, check camera setting such as white balance, histograms. use EVC if needed, convert to 8-bit for printing, although this is also out-of-date as some high end printers now have a 16 bit printing option apparently ( I wouldn't know I don't possess one!) Another thing the book recommended which I was once told not to do was to save files as PSD, I was told to save as Tiff so other programs could open the files and also some versions of PSD files were not backwards compatible?

Interesting to see Lee's workflow timetable for a wedding shoot

I think I need to speed up my processing ;oD Some of the photoshop techniques now positively creaked as did some of the web page designs but to a beginner I guess they would introduce the ideas. The section that I was most looking forward to was about Preparing for Print but this did not have enough information at all compared to recent articles online and the upgrade in printers and software.

Conclusion - I don't think this book should be on the recommended list if it still is.....

Beyond the Lens: Rights, Ethics and Business Practice in Professional Photography
Thomas, G. and Ibbotson, J. (2003) Beyond the Lens: Rights, Ethics and Business Practice in Professional Photography. London: The Association of Photographers (AoP)

an overview for the web site:

Published in England by the Association of Photographers (AOP), Beyond the Lens is the essential guide to rights, ethics and business practice in professional photography.

Now in its fourth edition it has been likened to 'the bible for photographers and commissioners' and is used by colleges/universities as part of their courses and widely used by photographers and commissioners.This 4th edition of Beyond the Lens has a foreword by Terry O'Neill and is split into 3 parts:

The Law and the Photographer: covers copyright, moral rights, contract law, privacy, photographing children, late payment, legal remedies for copyright infringements and unpaid debts both in the UK and EU plus legislation that photographers need to be aware of. 
The Business End: with advice on tax, VAT, accounting, bookkeeping, insurance, limited companies, pensions, savings, investments and mortgages, dealing with income/career problems, standards and codes, social media, agents,  collecting societies and associations and unions.
Making a Living: is written by photographers and covers how to be a student, working as an assisting photographer, specific area of photography from their perspective - advertising, editorial, architectural, corporate and design, stock, digital and moving image, working overseas, and shooting on the streets.
An appendix includes 3 sets of photographers' terms and conditions for those based either in England & Wales, Scotland or Eire; model release form; template business forms and agents agreement.

I must admit my brain just turned to mush when looking at all the rights and ethics, I dare say if I did want to become a professional photographer it would, as the blurb suggests, become my bible as it covers copyright, re-usage etc etc etc all the pitfalls and legalities you need to avoid or ensure you follow while adhering to professional standards.

The Freelance Photographer's Market Handbook
Tracy, J. (2010) The Freelance Photographer's Market Handbook 2011 (27th Edition) London: BFP Books

I didn't buy this to be honest I looked at the reviews which told me

The Freelance Photographer's Market Handbook 2013 contains around 1,000 listings aimed at helping photographers earn cash from their photos. The 29th edition lists the type of pictures sought by specialist, trade and consumer magazines, along with fees paid.A BFP spokesman adds: ‘The Handbook also contains invaluable articles on approaching markets, as well as many hints and tips to help the freelance and aspiring freelance photographer sell their work.'

Which if I were wanting to sell to magazines would be really, really useful. For the assignments I shot I identified my market, gained positive feedback from the shoots and contacts for future events but I will bear this publication in mind should I wish to venture down this route.

The Photography Reader
Wells,E. (2002) The Photography Reader. London: Routledge

The text provided with the course materials that you have to read to be able to complete some of the exercises, I found it an invaluable source of academic writings etc which I found informative as well as really helpful when writing my critical review.

As the editor Liz Wells remarks in her introduction, this book is "concerned with histories of ideas about photography". The book is crammed full of readings in critical theory of photography, and therefore appears to be concerned more with history, sociology, semiotics, aesthetics, and epistemology. ( the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one's own mind?)

On further investigation all of the works in the book seem to be created after 1930 and include the writings of Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag and Umberto Eco.

The book is divided into several sections, each dealing with a set aspect of photographic critical theory. It is a which book covers a number of subjects in critical theory, such as photography and postmodernism, where several authors explain what the postmodern is in photography...did I get it...I'm still not totally convinced ;oD

Many of the essays in this book were tricky to read and I had to reread most of them, underlining the obvious statements that struck a chord, made a point I understood, needed to explore further or wanted to quote. I think this book tied in well with Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images in understanding what it was some of the authors had to say, why they were saying it and the result was a broadening of my knowledge. It introduced me to other writers and photographers some of whom I incorporated into my critical review.

As I say tricky in parts to interpret but worth the effort in the end.

Photography: A Critical Introduction
Wells, E. (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Routledge

This book is described as an introduction to the theory of photography with each chapter introducing a specific field of photography, most helpfully it also points you in the direction of further reading, research and resources. The blurb states:

This revised and updated fourth edition examines key debates in photographic theory and places them in their social and political contexts. New and improved sections include: key concepts, biographies of major thinkers, and seminal references; a full glossary of terms, comprehensive bibliography and new chapter abstracts; updated resource information, including guides to public archives and useful websites.

And it does exactly what it says on the tin, but again not as yet read it from cover to cover, and in a quick review not going to give a blow by blow account of every chapter, borrowed from a friend and now returned it is a book I think I will have to invest in as it does put things over simply and has that wealth of further interesting to hear other people views on these books.....

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