Professor Anna Fox: ‘Behind the Image’

Prior to my study visit today at UCA to hear Prof Anna Fox lecture I thought I’d review one of her books and look at her website.

This book is an excellent resource and checklist for project planning. I wish I’d thought to look at it earlier but I’m pleased to see that my ideas of research and practise aren’t too far removed from that of Prof Anna Fox.

Prof Fox explains that a research proposal is a plan to help shape studies or secure funding for a project. The first chapter takes us through different elements for consideration such as deciding on the subject and who the target audience is. From there Prof Anna Fox tells us that further planning with practical elements of timetables, travel and equipment is also necessary alongside research.

Prof Fox also hints that we consider the ethics of recording history and also that researching the given subject is at the core of this preparation. As Antonio Albos also suggested (find in research below) studying other subjects will be beneficial i.e. psychology, history etc.

The research process could be using specialist libraries, internet, museums and lectures. The use of mind mapping to bring all the elements together can be beneficial.

The book goes on to show us different case studies and approaches. Good practise is advised upon throughout and I shall be dipping into this book again further along in my studies.

Please find the entry regarding her lecture on 7th May under this link…….

http://wp.me/p3RVOB-Zq

Reference:

Fox, A (2012). Behind The Image. Singapore: AVA Publishing. 01 – 167.

Advertisements

Rahul Talukder – Bangladesh Sangbad 71

Rahul Talukder
P.29 The British Journal of photography.

The images can be viewed here:

http://www.worldpressphoto.org/people/rahul-talukder

As I progress through this module I am realising that whilst I certainly appreciate the singular journalistic image that ‘speaks a thousand words’, I am also realising that bodies of work that tell a fuller story is my personal preferred style of presentation. A journalistic body of work of a international news line transcends language and literacy and provides a much fuller awareness of ‘the bigger picture’

I think this is probably the analyst in me coming out. I always did want to know what else was going on outside of a frame. I like to know that I am being given the chance to understand the bigger picture as it were.

In the March edition of BJP there is an article about World Press Photo Awards and on page 29 there is a body of 8 photographs taken by Rahul Talukder.
The images take us through 8 separate aspects to the Bangladesh factory collapse. I wondered why the images were presented in black and white but it didn’t take me long to realise that the addition of colour would possibly mean that the body of work wouldn’t sit so well together with too many distracting elements. Apart from the appalling scenes that I’ll come back to, the photographer has still managed to produce images that have an element of graphic design and poignancy.

The fist image gives us an elevated view of the entire scene and puts the story in context The broad street scene shows a line of buildings with the collapsed building punctuating the scene. A sea of people in the hundreds are gathered watching and waiting and the crane situated in the sea of people attempts to lift debris. Culturally this is a critical incident scene that we would not see in a developed world. The area would be cordoned and tightly controlled with emergency vehicles gathered, and family would be taken care of in a ‘holding centre’. Notably there isn’t one emergency vehicle to be seen.

Image 2, this  image takes us right into the collapsed building where rescue workers are ill equipped for the job at hand. The photographer who is himself working in extremely dangerous conditions has still managed to compose the image of the rescue workers whilst hanging over a deep shaft. The angle of  the shot gives disorientating diagonals to enhance the sense of danger…..as if watching the recue workers un roped and clambering wasn’t already enough.

Image 3 shows a lady being lifted out of the shaft screaming. A sweeping line of rescue workers with ‘hard hats’ draw the eye around the frame. All the heads are bowed down towards the female and she is punctuating the image with her face lifted.

Image 4   is of the same lady, now on a stretcher, being carried out above heads of the same workers. The eye is first drawn to the tension on the face of somebody attempting to hold oxygen mask on the ladies face..

The 5th image tells us the above lady was lucky. Three pairs of lifeless ‘laid out’ legs protrude out from the bottom of a canvas on a dusty floor. The feet, without shoes, were a few hours before  walking around the shop floor. Again the composition is simple but solid and infers that death has occurred.

Image 6 is a simple side on head portrait of a lady with her eyes closed and tears streaming down her face.

Image 7 is a wonderfully powerful example of juxtaposition. A filthy wall holds posters of missing workers “Why God?!? Why???” is scribbled on the wall. The lower half of the frame shows a distraught woman barely able to stand walking through the frame clutching close to her chest the poster of her missing member of family.

Image 8 completes the set and two ladies lie on neighbouring stretchers reaching out and holding hands. Again there is a clear use of diagonals criss crossing the frame to enhance the sense of the scene being unsettling.

Conclusion:

The test for me is this. If I couldn’t read, could I look at this set and understand what had happened, where it had happened, the train of events and the human suffering? And then, would the calibre of the photography convey the urgency and suffering that had taken place.

Here the answer is quite clearly yes. It’s a body of work I would be extremely proud to have produced.

Reference:

Unknown. (2014). See Me. British Journal of Photography. March (n/a), 29.

World Press Photo. (2014). Talukder, R. Available: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/people/rahul-talukder. Last accessed 30th April 2014.

 The Landscape of Murder – Podcast – Antonio Albos

I was taking a break from my assignment when an email notification from The British Journal of Photography caught my eye. The email linked me to ‘Documentary Photo Review’ and it took me a while to access it at first as I was quite unsure as to what a podcast actually was. There were approximately 8 podcasts to choose from and I just happened to click Antonio’s interview. I think the heavens must have been smiling on me because this was exactly the interview that was going to completely engage me. Oddly, I listened to this podcast before I even looked at the body of work…and I am glad it worked out that way because, actually, I’d have handled the project completely differently.

I understand the rationale and love his ethos but the actual body of work I think misses a sense of …I’m not sure really. I saw a body of work called ‘Missing’ a few years ago at Brighton MA exhibition and before I knew what the images were about, I knew I was looking at a crime scene albeit there weren’t any visual prompts to reinforce that belief. I now realize that the photographer of ‘Missing’ had undertaken research with a forensic photographer and it was the style of forensic photography that I had recognized from experience. I think Antonio could have considered the statement he was making with his composition. I know he is trying to normalize the environment of an abnormal event but I need some more time to digest it all I think.

What this interview did was enable me to start formulating ideas about how the experiences of my last career don’t go to waste. I’m not ready to share personal experiences yet for reasons that will become evident further on, but, needless to say, Antonio’s concepts that contributed to the project ‘The Landscape of Murder’, I needed to hear.

There is no doubt that, like Antonio, I am full of gritty documentary ideas but the timing is critical. I could run back to Shepherd’s Bush tomorrow and revisit ‘things’. But why would I? What is the purpose? Who is the audience? What is the narrative outside revisiting my own experiences? I have often thought about going back and undertaking a narrative that could become a compelling body of work and I will when the time is right.

The interview with Anonio was 1 hr and 11minutes long and it was so refreshing to hear some of my own sentiments that I have held quietly and without confidence being expressed ‘without a doubt’ in the tone of his voice.

One of the first things he spoke about was the need to have an analytical mind. To study politics, psychology, philosophy…actually anything other than f stops and shutter speeds. (For me, where I haven’t had the opportunities to study philosophy and politics to date, I do, however, bring life experience) I guess what he meant was that you can have every piece of equipment and technical skill under your belt but you won’t be able to produce and justify a compelling and potentially difficult body of work unless you can work out what it is you are trying to communicate.

There is a difficulty in starting out with documentary photography because most of us cut our teeth on street photography. Maybe for many years prior to owning a camera we have noticed people who would make ‘great photographs’ without considering the ethics and the audience let alone any narrative. I think it is almost a rite of passage and one I walked down but very briefly before I realised that protecting peoples dignity and privacy was an important step in forming an ethical stance. Antonio speaks about this on an international crisis level too. Should we go to a God forsaken part of the globe and photograph people suffering for our own portfolio? Yes, we should if there is a story to be told and a guaranteed audience – a purpose to it all by exposing suffering/ injustice/ humanitarian issues. Antonio went on to speak about priorities of newspapers.

The interview did tend to go off on tangents and very interesting tangents but I often forgot that he was being interviewed about the project.

I liked his rationale for the project that was based on murders that happened within the M25. He is exactly right in his conclusions that most murders don’t make the news and that many more murders then you’d imagine are as a result of domestic violence. He acknowledged that the media would pick up on ‘gangland’ murders because it plays into sensationalism and political stories that sell papers. Domestic violence is not a story as far as many journalists are concerned. So his purpose was to attend every murder location using Internet sources to locate the incidents. Antonio would arrive and be honest and forthright about his purpose in being there and respected wishes of the mourners if they wanted him to leave the scene.

To conclude:

I will have to listen to the interview again as there was so much and all of it was relevant and helpful in influencing the development of my personal voice. His ethics and belief that there is plenty of narrative on our doorsteps was heartening, especially as I have to accept that the opportunity for me to be airdropped into an international humanitarian crisis is over. I know there is so much narrative under each and every ‘stone’ on this planet and I just have to go and find it. It is the same principal that I carried in my last career involving criminal justice. ‘It’s there and it’s just a case of outing it!’

Most of all though, he said that we need to undertake projects because we want to and not get hung up on who is going to pay and how much.

Reference:

Unknown. (Unknown). An interview with Anotnio Almos. Available: http://www.documentaryphotoreview.com/podcasts/podcast-an-interview-with-antonio-olmos/. Last accessed 20th April 2014.

 

Albos, A. (2012). The Landscape of Murder. Available: http://thelandscapeofmurder.wordpress.com. Last accessed 20th April 2014.

 

Reflection on The Art of Photography and Assignment 5.

The last eight months has been quite extraordinary for me. Never did I think that I would gain so much from this course and I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to keep the momentum up.  It’s not just been about photography but also about bringing myself back in to the world of achieving and exploring new possibilities. There was some very intensive support from DSA to get me on my feet but, ultimately, the work is all mine.  I have been able to work within the limitations I have and, well, all in all, this has been a great start to long over due further education.

Anyway, through the rigours of the last few months I have pushed my limits, explored new concepts, researched different photographers and their practises. I found assignment 2 and 4 the most challenging, and I have found assignment 3 and 5 the most enjoyable. Now it’s time to pull all of this learning together to produce a piece of work that demonstrates technical and creative skills alongside presentation.

I have considered the assignment brief and noted that it would be best to pick a location/ event that I can return to if needs be.  I have decided to try and achieve what has previously been impossible and that is to work with potter Douglas Fitch to produce a complete set of images that describe the environment and process of producing a ceramic pot. I intend to start by photographing a sunrise landscape/ architectural image of the pottery, introduce the characters  and  then take the viewer through from digging clay to the finished piece.

You can see below that I have mulled over different formats for presentation and I have decided that a ‘clean’ presentation in a blurb book will be the finished article.  The book would aim to appeal to those investing in the pottery to provide providence or for educational purposes.

I have shared with my tutor that the number of images will be many more then the suggested 6 – 12 as I want to keep text to a minimum. I want the photographs to tell the story. This is for two reasons.  The first reason is the challenge of not needing to articulate the illustrations. Secondly,  not everybody finds reading either easy or satisfying. I recently researched the availability of adult picture books to use in education and there was nothing that I could easily source online. In fact there was only talk of how to integrate children’s picture books into adult education!  I am not qualified to say but I have a feeling that adults with brain injuries or attention deficit (for whatever reason) could be missing out on quality narrative in picture form.  Perhaps this is somewhere for my research to go in the future.  I know that in the depths of my post injury recovery I wasn’t able to read for years but my imagination was captured and attention held briefly by quality journals sat in seemingly endless hospital waiting rooms.  It’s probably that inspiration that brings me to find myself here today.  Also there is the ‘coffee table industry’ to be fulfilled too.

I have noticed that any talent in photography I have is when I am responding to evolving events and not so much in ‘making’ photographs. Possibly the only exception is landscape photography but I will always strive to make the best of that even.  For certain I am feeling my heart sink when I am asked to be creative with rain drops and such exercises….conversely my heart leaps when some sort of narrative or land/ city scape is involved.

 

Ben Boswell – Photographer.

Ben Boswell is a published photographer who has a keen interest in artists and, in particular, ceramics. He started  taking photographs in 1982 and has been fortunate to take documentary portraits of the most notable ceramic artists of the day.  This seems to be the way I am heading too and I have been inspired by his work and seem to see ambient light is the same way he does.  Ben isn’t frightened of deep shadow or grainy finishes to his work.  The very essence of taking photographs of potters at work is being able to respond to continual movement, contorted movements and shifts in ambient light. Done well though, one picture can speak a thousand words. When character and intensity is caught in an image,  the overall effect is often a unique earthiness and honesty to an image.  Anybody who has ever tried to take photographs in a dark pottery will realise it isn’t for the faint hearted.  Using photographic lighting is out of the question unless it is a truly posed portrait.

Ben’s photographs of Michael Cardew are my favourite and can be seen here.

http://www.benboswell.co.uk/photography.php Last accessed 16/04/2014.

The first time I saw Ben’s work was in a vintage copy of ‘Craft’ magazine from 1984.  Ben provided images for a  feature on  Michael Cardew  who had recently passed away. The atmosphere  in the images is exquisite.

I am hoping to meet Ben very soon.

Reference:
Boswell, B. (Unknown). Michael Cardew. Available: http://www.benboswell.co.uk/photography.php. Last accessed 16th April 2014.

Ismay,W.A. (1983). Kindred Pots. Crafts. 63 (July/ August), 40 – 41.

 

Laying out presentation.

On the run up to planning my assignment submission, I am looking at a variety of different magazines/ publications to see how photographs are used and how the layout impacts on me.

As a photographer, I can’t abide photographs with text over the top. It’s just a personal pet hate but I understand that it has its place and my opinion won’t be shared across the board. I am less concerned about it if photographs have been taken specifically for the purpose of a magazine spread where the photography answers a commercial brief rather then an artistic or journalistic contribution.

National Geographic is one journal that respects a photograph throughout and the publishers restrain themselves to the occasional caption discreetly placed in a corner of an image. Invariably though, they try and avoid placing text over an image. The only place where National Geographic seems to drop its guard is on the front page.

The British Journal of Photography gets it right in my opinion and my opinion is very much from a photographer point of view. The slick and considerate article avoids all text on photographs and overlapping of other images – even on the front cover. The photographs are placed so that a frame sits around them.

N Photo magazine (Nikon’s Photography magazine) breaks my heart just a little bit. A stunning front cover photograph is completely covered with text, inserts and overlaying of photographs featured elsewhere within the magazine. It’s designed to catch attention among a shelf of dozens of other photography magazine though. But, to my mind, I think ‘less is more’ and the busy front page only serves for it to sink into oblivion among other equally noisy front cover photography magazines. Within the magazine the images are treated with a little more respect but very few are without any text overlay.

Moving away from photography related magazines I considered ‘Land Rover Owner International’. As with ‘N Photo’ magazine, the front cover photograph is barely visible underneath large bold text. Again, within the magazine landscape images are ruined with inserted text and overlays.

Exmoor’s ‘Holiday and Short Break Guide 2009’ is actually a lovely brochure (perhaps why I still have it after all these years). Albeit there is text on top of a few of the photographs, there is an evident value to the photographs as a whole and this is of no surprise as they want readers to picture themselves there.

To conclude:

Looking through these magazines has been helpful in drawing conclusions about how I want to present my final assignment. I definitely prefer clinical sleekness and, thinking about it, that preference is already evident in my WordPress format.

Reading list:

British Journal of Photography.

National Geographic.

NPhoto.

Holiday and Short Breaks Guide 2009 – Exmoor.

Land Rover Owner International.

Narrative: David Campbell.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

David Campbell

While I was looking for some background reading on narrative, I came across David Campbell who is an authoritative practitioner on the subject of photojournalism and narrative.  Albeit that his blog is aimed at those further into their own studies of and practices in photojournalism on an international playing field, I think he is worth knowing about and referring back to as time goes by.  I have spent more time looking and learning on this website than any other to date.  Below are quotes from his personal website biography.  Finally a link to a multi media narrative “Living in The Shadows” that has inspired me today.

In his bio he states:

“I analyse visual storytelling and produce new visual stories. I am fascinated by the storytelling we know as documentary photography and photojournalism. I examine the disruption in the media economy, its impact on visual journalism, and look at the opportunities ‘multimedia’ brings. I also have a long-term commitment to understanding international politics. My ethos is to provide the context, question assumptions, and explore future options.”

“I am fascinated by the storytelling we know as documentary photography and photojournalism. I examine the disruption in the media economy, its impact on visual journalism, and look at the opportunities ‘multimedia’ brings. I also have a long-term commitment to understanding international politics. My ethos is to provide the context, question assumptions, and explore future options. All of my work is available via the blog and pages on this site.”

“Recently I have:

So what does he teach that applies to my upcoming assignment?

“Narrative is a series of connected events” and he goes on to tell us that we have to look more deeply into what caused the event, how it evolved and what of it can be narrated.

Campbell also explains that we have to be careful in how we construct a narrative.This is because interpretations of events, facts, objectivity and truth need to be argued and justified.

“For someone developing a visual story, the most important thing to ask is ‘what is the story you really want to tell?’ Answering that can mean working through these questions:

  • What is the issue?
  • What will be the events/moments?
  • If needed, who are the characters?
  • What is the context?”

Finally he says that research is essential  so context can be given to the story and event.

The whole website is packed with theoretical considerations and practical outcomes of projects.  This multi media film based on Chinese migrant workers appeals to me hugely. Technically many images leave something to be desired but the absence of technical perfection almost adds to the story being told. It is the atmosphere, characters and story that blend together harmoniously.

http://www.david-campbell.org/multimedia/living-in-the-shadows/ Last accessed 06/04/2014

Reference:

Campbell,D. (2010). Visual storytelling: creative practice and criticism.Available: http://www.david-campbell.org/2010/11/18/photography-and-narrative/. Last accessed 06/04/2014.