Positions and Practice

Week One w/c 29th January 2018

Forum One – The view from your window

IMG_3213 (1)Hello all

This is the view from my workshop, an old converted garage at the bottom of my garden in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The windows are small and the view’s not great but at least I don’t get distracted

I do all my processing, printing and ‘office’ type work from here for my small landscape photography business and it keeps me away from the house so that it doesn’t get cluttered up too much.

A bit like Mick, I have been a photographer on and off all my life and I appear to be a similar age too.

I really look forward to getting to know you all in due course.

Week One – Reflection and Recap

February 2nd 2018

What has challenged you?

When I first looked at the MA’s scheme I was immediately excited by the opportunity that it offered me to develop my own understanding of photography; an opportunity to expand my private, almost insular view of photography and challenge myself.

I knew that my practice had become too complacent and that I was repeating myself, repeating what others are doing and as a result stagnating as a photographer.

Simple enough I thought.  What I had not anticipated was the diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills that the other students enrolled on the MA would offer up and the feeling of sinking fast that I would experience. This was going to be a challenge because I was going to need to get out of my comfort zone and jump into the big pond.

What has surprised you?

Seeing other’s work, seeing the standard of their discussion and their openness surprised me. I had not expected to feel so unsure of my skills and ability to communicate.

This openness and sharing is a struggle for me as I have spent so much time being a single photographer, reading books and magazines and developing my own style by myself, waiting to be fully formed and competent before presenting the finished article to the world.

Yes, I have attended workshops as as student, yes I have shared my skills regularly by giving talks to clubs and societies and running workshops for beginners, but I have not challenged myself to develop my view or understanding of what a photograph is; more importantly, what my photographs represent.

What do you feel you have learned?

This week , I believe that I have learned that I need to change the way that I approach my photography, be more inclusive and open to new ways without feeling threatened by them. To show the viewing public my failures too.

Joel Sjaarda in his week 1 reflection in CRJ states:       “The truth is, most people  want the path to success to be paved with a smooth road. People want automation; they want to get a great image with ease. It’s one of the reasons some people pay large amounts of money to workshop leaders to take them to a location that they could have found on their own with a little research.”

Whilst I fully agree with the automation comment as I too look for the key to some ‘work-flow’ or insider trick that will simplify my processes but I take issue with his view on the role of workshops.

Yes finding the locations is easy, guide books, photographers guides etc will all tell you where the locations are and what time to go there, but the sharing ideas, hints and tips while there is worth its weight in gold.  It is this interaction that I have accepted into my ‘work-flow’ that is allowing me to progress. It is this interaction that I need to do more of to develop myself and my view.

In conclusion for week one…

My photography books are out again, I am scouring their pages to see if the first week has started to give me more insight into why Fay Godwin’s work at once excites me and at the same time disappoints. Why do I struggle to understand the relevance of Bill Brandt’s work, especially his later work….and many, many more questions?

I am still trying to move on from a position that I found myself in when showing my portfolio to Paul Hill several years ago.  He recognised Ansel Adams’ influence and his importance but, slated contemporary landscape photographers such a Joe Cornish. I found that my portfolio was in the Joe Cornish bracket and know that I have not moved on since, more through lack of understanding than lack of trying.

Week Two w/c 5th February 2018

Forum Two – Other than photography

Find a piece of work that has some kind of link to your own practice or research interests (you may already have something in mind or you may need to give this some thought). This could be anything you like – a film, a painting, a piece of text; but not a photograph.

David Lean films

David Lean films have been a regular and constant influence on me over a number of years. I well remember visiting a cinema in Lichfield with my primary school class to watch Great Expectations; who decided that a group of eight and nine years olds would enjoy such an outing I cannot now remember, but I do remember the film. This film has remained a firm favourite of mine to this day.

Over the intervening years I have made it my business to read about David Lean and see all of his films, and in all cases what has stayed with me is the cinematography of Freddie Young, used by Lean on most of his later films and the scale in which Lean designed his films.

For example, the dramatic establishing shot of the sunrise over the desert in Lawrence of Arabia, Abel Magwitch appearing from the mists of the moors in Great Expectations, the empty factory in The Sound Barrier following the death of one of the main characters etc……

Each of these instances and many many more, remind me of large scale 10″/8″ transparencies, offering a clarity and richness that I often use to gauge my own images by.

Strangely it is this scale that I now find a straight jacket on my photography and I have only just tried to pull away from it, leading me directly to undertake the MA in Photography.


Week Two – Reflection and Recap

February 9th 2018

As with week one I have been challenged by my lack of comprehension and ability, in formulating and expressing of my own unique ideas. Luckily I find that I am in some cases not too dissimilar to other members of the MA fraternity and hence, not alone.

The need for wider reading is causing me a little concern. Before undertaking this MA I felt confident that I must have enough experience and acquired knowledge to pull on, but I find that I am unable to fully explore ideas because of a lack of supporting detail; have ideas and thoughts but not the wherewithal to back up those thoughts with empirical or referenced detail.  Time to do this is a very real pressure.

What has really surprised me is the extensive range of ideas expressed by the other students in responding to the activities set, and to the forum, along with the equally large range of personal experiences that have been recounted. There is a great deal that I can learn form my fellow students and I need to engage more with the process.

At the end of this week I think that I realized that my project aim of developing my landscape work in a new direction is probably too simplistic an idea.  Perhaps I need to run different strands in parallel, explore a number of possible facets, facets that could have different outcomes that might co-exist.


Week Three w/c 12th February 2018

Forum Three – Re-thinking Photographers

Write a brief post to the forum describing what you think non-photographers make of professional photographers: what are the conceptions and misconceptions?

The statement above seems to limit the discussion to two terms and also seems to cast those two term as opposites, but are they?

Are Non-Photographers the opposite of Professional Photographers?

Surely this is too simplistic a differentiation, and reading other posts here, there seems to be a great deal of discussion and varying opinion about which terms apply.

Are non-photographers those who do not take photographs at all?

First define what a photographer is.

Oxford Dictionary – A person who takes photographs, especially as a job. ‘a freelance press photographer

Cambridge English Dictionary – photographer noun [ C ] uk ​ /fəˈtɒɡ.rə.fər/ us ​ /fəˈtɑː.ɡrə.fɚ/ A2 a person who takes photographs, either as a job or hobby: a fashion / press / amateur photographer.

Urban Dictionary – Term often misused to describe a “Camera Owner.” Photographer should define to individuals using cameras who are dedicated, show some level of skill, talent, or expertise, and usually persist in taking pictures for extended periods of their life. Buy a piano you aren’t automatically a pianist. Buy a plane and you aren’t …

Clearly, the copies from three dictionaries that came up on a search have different ideas. What is clear is that generally they seem to think that a photographer is someone who takes photographs, not who owns a camera.  Danny has put that one to bed with his car ownership analogy

So using the dictionary definitions above, if a photographer is someone who in some capacity takes photographs, then a non-photographer is some who does not.  I don’t fully agree as I believe that many people use cameras in the point and shoot way, with almost a fear of what they are doing with grab shots and are quite relieved if something ‘comes out’.

I think that there is a state of mind entering the discussion here.  I have often heard people make statements similar to ‘I’m no photographer’ or ‘I’m not a photographer”. Often I believe that they are distancing themselves from the act in case nothing does ‘come out’. Not everyone wants to be a photographer, so I propose that there is an element of choice between being a photographer and electing not to be one, whether they occasionally do take photos or not.

So if the non-photographer is someone who chooses not to be a photographer, professional or otherwise, there seems to be an acceptance that they couldn’t take photo like the ‘photographer’, and in fact that they are happy not to because they don’t want the bother or frustration of trying and possibly failing.

Moving on to professional photographers, who in my simple mind are those who intentionally attempt to make a living from the act of photography, are these any different from just photographers?  No.

I have worked with many professional and amateur photographers over the years and in quality terms there can be no difference in the standards produced. The misconception here is that somehow professional photographers must be better and more capable, may well have studied to reach their standard and this is simply not the case.

I had the concept of becoming a professional landscape photographer and my view was that I will be earning a living from it.  When a customer is perusing my work with a view to buying, the comments similar to ones already made by others in this blog along the lines of owning a good camera etc., abound.  I often feel rather guilty about my offering that is it not ‘special’ enough because I know that I was just there are the right time and I have a good printer.

There are many misconceptions on both sides of the argument.


Week Four w/c 19th February 2018

Week 4 Activity: Micro Project

This week you will work with one or two of your peers in a creative partnership, to deliver a ‘micro project’ at the end of the week, which will be discussed and critiqued in the webinar.
To find your creative partner(s), post a single sentence or image to the forum that could form the starting point for a piece of photographic work. A text could be a headline, a piece of prose or poetry, or anything you like. An image might be your own, or somebody else’s. Be sure to reference all sources.

Every year is the same
And I feel it again,
I’m a loser – no chance to win.
Leaves start falling,
Come down is calling,
Loneliness starts sinking in.

But I’m one.
I am one.
And I can see
That this is me,
And I will be,
You’ll all see
I’m the one.

Pete Townshend

Week Four – Reflection and Recap

February 24th 2018

Write a concise reflective account about your experience this week, chronicling how your micro project developed and evolved. Reflect upon the feedback on your project received during the webinar, and write very brief reviews of your peers’ projects

What a week; lovely interesting people to meet, a university campus to explore, a new town to visit and a range of new skill to garnered.

Yes, I met many new people and all were fun, interesting and enthusiastic about photography – yes, I explored the campus a little – the town, I had been there before but I did find some new areas that I had not previously visited – I enjoyed the lectures and presentations; so far so good.

I didn’t learn very much from the technical workshops however it was good to revisit some of the practices that I had learned or experienced in earlier times but which no longer tend to now use.

I was able to organize the basics of the project for this week along with two other F2F attendees, and we were able agree the basics of the project in readiness to go away and carry out our individual elements that would later be brought together.

The traveling back to our respective homes took a chunk of the week away but each of us (now four the original three were joined by another member) worked well on our elements and these were combined to make a short video as suggested by one of our team.

The whole process was effortless in terms of getting all of the contributory parts for final product, accompanied by a slide show pdf, and the final hurdle of the Webinar was well prepared for.

Feedback was generally good; good video, interesting content, all participants were pleased to have been involved and were happy with whole process and product. Other students were complimentary.

We were unable to see much of other projects due to the apparent lack of involvement by some students in other teams, this I am happy to say was not apparent in our team, there was no ego just supportive collaboration.


Week Four w/c 19th February 2018

Week 5 Forum: Power and responsibility


Refugees cross from Croatia into Slovenia in October 2015 (c) Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images https://goo.gl/gtrmU6 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
Briefly, conduct your own further investigations to familiarize yourself with how the image was used. Comment on what ethical questions you think this image, and how it was used, raises.

When researching the image and topic I found a number of similar images taken by Jeff Mitchell in the same location on the same day, and that these had been used by a variety of publications.

The New Macedonia publication used this image – [1]

…the title stating that new macenonia.png

Germany will deport 50 Afghans whose applications for asylum were rejected




Main Text

According to an agreement with Kabul, Germany will deport today the first group of Afghans whose asylum applications have been rejected, Spiegel has said, referring to government sources. 

Over one million migrants from the Middle East, Africa and other countries have arrived in Germany last and this year.

According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, in 2016, Afghans are the second largest number of asylum seekers in Germany after the Syrians.

A spokeswoman for the German Interior Ministry has not confirmed the date, but said that by the end of the year there will be a refugee flight to Afghanistan. She stressed that deportations based on an agreement with the Afghan government signed in October.

A very different emphasis to the original image and its intention as described by Jeff Mitchell in the Guardian article about the image.

The  Irish Times used – [2]

Irish times.png

..they focused the the role of the police and cold conditions on the day. Main text

One of 20 or so riot police, who with soldiers watched over some 1,000 migrants, shook his head: what you give to one you must give to all, he said, and everyone was getting cold as dusk fell on the fields and forested hills of eastern Slovenia.

As the golden light of a warm autumn day fled the valley, migrants scraped together little mounds of leaves and twigs and set them alight, so that soon, here and there in the makeshift camp, orange flames licked at the gathering gloom.


Politico used the article to discuss politicians progress in dealing with the migrant crisis [3]


Main Text

After seven summits devoted to the issue in less than a year, expectations are low that EU leaders will work any miracles this week on a migration crisis that has tested European values, shaken alliances, erected razor-wire fences and reinstated border controls in the passport-free Schengen zone.

The stakes are high, and getting higher, with leaders again warning that the European project is at risk of collapse. Problems that have plagued the EU’s migration strategy from the beginning — notably, reluctance to accept refugee quotas — refuse to go away. Others have arisen, including concerns that Greece’s inability to control its borders will mean the end of Schengen.

The most disturbing though was the US Veterans Today publications [4]

Veterans.pngveteran inside.png

Where the article used one of Jeff Mitchell’s images from the set to declare and nurture concerns about terrorists entering the US and the US methods of vetting imigrants.


A number images from the same location, on the same day taken by the same photographer but used in very different ways. Should the photographer in this instance be held responsible for their methods of use or should they dislocate themselves from the final use by a variety of publications?

It would be almost impossible when offering work to agencies to monitor its end use and/or interpretation.

Any photographer must be aware that when giving an image to another party, and not asking for editorial control then they have to accept that different interpretations will be made. The photographer cannot operate in a way where their intent or design when capturing the image is captured along with the image.  The photogtapher in the most part is the provider of content that will be used by others and as such hands over control to someone else, either at the agency or at the publication.

Is this ethically correct? Probably not.

Can the model exist in other ways? Yes.

Is it viable for the majority of photographers to exercise such a control? No.

[1] New Macedonia-  December 2016    [2] Irish Times – October 2015  [3] Politico – October 2015  [4] The Veteran February 2017

Week 5 Forum: Towards an ethical practice

My responsibilities are to me, to develop as a photographer and create work that satisfies my desire for a recognizable style, to maintain a parallel business selling my more traditional landscape work.

I wish to understand other’s work more and to let it influence me so that my acceptance of different images and image styles is more informed and less reactionary.

I am answerable to me? No, I think it will be those who recognize if I have successfully created a style, my audience. I will of course have knowledge of what I might develop as a style but those who judge it as successful or otherwise are my audience.

In commercial terms I am also answerable to my customer base, as they are those who will decide if my business is successful as I cannot exist alone as a photographer if I wish to have the parallel method of operation – private work alongside commercial work.

Already run out of words, more than 150 so far, never mind…

I am not sure that anyone should be answerable to me, I should develop a workflow and quality control that is robust and repeatable for which I am responsible.


John Davis – I love his seemingly simple images that contain stories within the overall story.


Week 5: Reflection

Spend a few moments looking back at your own contributions and those of your peers on this week’s forums, as well as your own notes from the presentations, further reading and other independent research.
Consider the concepts and ideas discussed:
  • What has challenged you? 
  • What has surprised you?
  • What do you feel you have learned?
Write a brief reflective account in your research journal that identifies and discusses any ethical considerations in your own practice.
What issues do you think constitute (in relation to your own specialism) an ‘ethical practice’, and what do you need to do to enhance your own?
Also, document and reflect on any progress on your practical work so far.


Week Nine w/c 9th April 2018

Week 9 Forum: What is Critical Theory?

What is critical theory and how is is relevant to your practice?

To start thinking about this, for this discussion:

Take any image, post it below, and then describe two different interpretations of it, i.e. two different critical perspectives.

I have chosen an image from the book by Paul Hill entitled ‘Corridor of Uncertainty’.

© Paul Hill – from ‘Corridor of Uncertainty’

Within the scope of the book, this image has a real sense of missing, of a time passed.  The suggestion is that Paul and his wife spent time in this location, that they spent pleasant, warm and reflective times here in their Peak District home where they had established ‘The Photographer’s Place’, a workshop environment, a location for photographers to gather for study and practice and a place for reflection. Later in the same book, Paul Hill employs the same techniques but this time to make a different point and move the dialogue forward.

However, outside the walls of the book and with the image dislocated from its powerful story line, this image can be seen as a clumsy and oft used device to include the photographer, and other participants, in an image in order to make some form of statement without their literal inclusion.  I myself have employed this technique for my own purposes and as one young viewer of my image said; ‘did you know that you have made a mistake, we can see your shadow, look, there?!’



Week Ten w/c 16th April 2018

Week 10 Forum:  Theory in Practice.

Find an example of effective theory in practice. This could be an extract of text; a paragraph, sentence, or even just a phrase by a practitioner, theorist or commentator. Or it might be delivered in a different form, such as a talk or within a documentary. The content or subject is not of great importance, instead lookout for and consider why it is an effective piece of communication.
Copy and paste the text, or a link, to the forum, explaining briefly why you think it is a good piece of theory in practice. Make sure to include the appropriate reference.

‘What do we see? It has become more and more subtle, more and more modern, and the result is that it is now incapable of photographing a tenement or a rubbish heap without transfiguring it.. it has succeeded in turning abject poverty itself, by handling it in a modish, technically perfect way, into an object of enjoyment.

German critic Walter Benjamin 1934

Although Walter Benjamin wrote this in 1934, a time when the world of photography was fast changing and becoming democratised, a very different world to what we are experiencing now and at time that I have no way of understanding fully, I am sure that much of what is said or implied could be applied today, certainly since the digital revolution in photography.

We now process and refine more than any other generation of photographers. In the early part of the C20th cameras like the Box Brownie had made photography available and affordable to the average person on the street, the change now is that apps have made the manipulation of images available to the equivalent people in the early C21st.

Not much changes other than the thing being changed. Processes come to bear, change is adopted , trends come and go and the end result is that now we sanitise, polish, alter and create images using the tools available to us in our time. The high level skills of the past become the democratised norm for the present.

What to we peddle? We peddle our version as we want it to be seen, the vehicle to get there may have changed, but we are still… turning abject poverty itself, by handling it in a modish, technically perfect way, into an object of enjoyment.

One thought on “Positions and Practice

  1. Pingback: Howard Pratt’s Critical Research Journal | Howard Pratt

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