Week One w/c 29th January 2018
Forum One – The view from your window
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 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
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 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: 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
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
‘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.