PHO704: Week 1 to 12 Research Contextual

I started out reporting back on webinars etc. week by week wondering whether or not to consolidate the blog entries, which is precisely what I’ve done here now. 

There is a slight twist in structuring of the blog I’ve not been able to avoid. It’s like this. We were advised at the outset yet as we all know from paper filing systems, (we do all remember paper filing systems, yes?), you often get a document to file that should appear on more than one place within the cabinet drawers.

We kind of solved problem with electronic storage with the uptake of relational database management systems where referential integrity is maintained. That is not meant to impress. It is just that having suffered learning about it in the day I now try to find one opportunity each year to mention the terms. Apologies for that.

Anyway, in a blog such as this there is no relational control as it is down to the author and the capabilities or constraints of using a blogging platform. Stop!

Decision. What I’ve decide to do here is transcribe my written notes from my course notebook and rattle off salient point from each webinar listed. I still have the last two of the series to watch or catch-up on this week. I did have a family bereavement at week 1 of the module, but no excuse – I did continue to give the course priority (much to the exasperation of others?) as the “show must go on.”.

Reading

I found time for reading or, as termed in some circles, for standing on the shoulders of giants.

Susan Sontag, On Camera

I had to re-read this especially as there are sections covering: photography defining of beauty, photography as art, the difference between painting and photography and even the beauty in camera makes of even the mundane. Important stuff regards my abstract work. Talking of which, the style of writing by Sontag is made difficult as it consistently showcases the wide vocabulary of the author. In my case I keep having to pick up the dictionary to try and follow the metaphors used. I do find it a bit unnecessary but do understand that photography, as a new art, does need to be written about in such a style to give photography academic provenance. Is that it?

Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, practices of looking.

I’m sure at postgraduate level this work is elementary, but it is still defining of visual culture and one chapter was recommended reading last module of this MA Photography. What I get from this book is a hot dip in the language of visual culture. Every time I’ve read the work I start to sound like I’ve swallowed a dictionary or perhaps sound more informed? At least people do look attentive to the new found knowledge when quizzed about photography. I do appreciate some of the psychological interpretations of gaze in this work too. That is a bonus. Sturken is quite good for stirring a bit of informed argument, as there are many interpretations of the world and some hold these dear. It’s good, the photography should gain some standing. I return to the work time and again.

Recommended Reading

I think this module I did manage to just about read everything put before me. Well all of the must reads.

I’ll take a highlight here on the subject of fashion photography and lifestyle magazines. As photography has been democratised, for where I stand it is good to learn of the growing movement of editors looking farther afield for personal work with a difference. So not exclusively the work of a seasoned pro, but photographer with ideas, fresh ideas. Although I’m not going to spring up next in fashion or magazines it is great to know that a tidy social media presence can fall before an editor.

In this vein of fashion and lifestyle, I discovered a piece of research or more precisely a detailed category comparison of print and web for a new lifestyle magazine versus the established Harpers Gazette. There is scope for new work as long as it targets its audience well. Simplicity in all things lifestyle was the winning major theme. We all have less time. Hipster fashion abounds as does the art of the back story.

Week 12 

I have yet to watch.

Week 11 Talk and Q&A with Tim Clark

I have yet to watch. Was this postponed?

Week 10 Francesca Genovese

Important stuff (advice) if you are categorise your work as fine art.

Week 9 Presentation with Amy Simmons

A lovely insight how to breakthrough the the art editorial world, with a cheeky challenge attached at the end – create a treatment. I did that with sketches and layout design and didn’t post it back to the forum. Note to self.

I did feel rather smug at this presentation as it followed on directly from the pricing estimate of the following week and I’d managed to anticipate some snags and address them in my estimate so was broadly in keeping with Amy’s advice.

My other professional career is wide and varied, and gave full immersion in bid work so maybe a head start there. Win rate is often quoted in such circles and can be quite low. I’ve been lucky winning nearly everything bid for. How do these things happen? One thing I didn’t do last week was underbid and leave myself at potential risk of loss. 

Week 8

Week 7 Live Talk and Q&A with David Chancellor

David has gone a long way on a self funding basis although now he does get commissioned. There could be a lesson here for us starting out.

Something common with his work is an element of blood and gore. Culling of wildlife ( for its own good as the elderly are removed from the population) versus the minor trauma abstracted in my portfolio. It’s not all about really good taste, but about issues of meaning or importance.

Week 6

Week 5 

Week 4 In Conversation with Maximus Barnett

It is brilliant to see success and how it is brought about (focus and specialisation). Good also to learn how to approach with your own work increasing the chances of matching up with a picture editor. At least as far as I’m concerned having studied a bit on journalism (specifically hyperlocal journalism in my case).

Other Speakers

Colin Pantall

The political stage is not one i’ve encountered before. Pantall in photographing China for a Magnum publication has managed to weave around the glare of officialdom as we hear how states like to promote a vision of life that may not often tie up with the realities.

My personal opinion only, but maybe China (as many other countries including Britain) should be open to admission of truths, especially as a means of gaining broader acceptance in the world. 

I recall comparison being made. Other photographers such as Parr have documented the country too, but each photographer brings their own style. There is room for more than one book on a single subject, so we should be encouraged to make our own work even if others have been there before us.

Jane Hilton

Hilton made it to the USA with her work. Having gained a film commission through the BBC it was amazing to hear how she was sent out with a BBC producer and film setup and was required to transfer her skills from stills to video.

If I’m honest, I have to admit to had already watched the resulting tv documentary in the day. I say admit as the subject is legal prostitution in a US state. I always have concerns about exploitation and so too does Hilton. The talk was maybe a glimpse or insight into a type of work that is constrained by or to gender. Knowing what you cant or don’t want to photograph is maybe as important as thinking you know what you do want to photograph.

An adVICE I liked about book publication was captioning. Hilton realises the failings of captions (viewer doesn’t pause on the images) so she put a slightly cryptic piece at the end so the viewer has to do some cross-reference work to match up captions.

I imagine the audience was like myself rather surprised to learn of women going into the trade due to having a sex addiction. Racey stuff indeed this photography business.

Clementine Schneiderman

Who would have thought that a young French national would visit Wales and stay in the Valleys?

The subject of Elvis fans had scope for falling into the category of a plastic version of the real. However, a certain sadness descends upon the subject and the lives of the people showcased? It was fascinating to see the subjects and how they obviously influence each other at the human level: friends dressing alike for Elvis conferences and children adopting the Elvis culture from parents. The thing going for the work is that Elvis is a well known phenomenon in the media so there is both subject and interested audience.

Showing a genuine interest in her adopted land has been acknowledged through those Welsh Art Council grants that were forthcoming. Not a strategy to be copied lightly. 

And inspiration too, for those students intent on PhD research in photography. For me personally, yes there is a definite appeal in doctoral study but I realise too I need to up my game, get out there on a public stage and keep learning theory. Anyone that does go that route I’d be happy to stay in touch with in the future.

Simon Roberts

Being resourceful was demonstrated, as Roberts tapped into his wife’s Russian speaking skills. The post crash Russia work created put Roberts on the photographers political map and led to him being invited by Westminster to photograph a general election.

You have to listen to Roberts live to pick up on his skill. There is all the interest around photographing on the rooftop of a van but behind this are some serious perspectives sic. Yes actual perspective is altered as he looks down upon a scene and captures environmental details. He links several stories within his image into one theme. I tend always to simplify so it is great to see scope for busy photographs (as long as the content is consistent). But listen to Robert guide you through his photographs. He picks up on every detail. And that is the essence of a photograph, a picture of something in all its detail. A far cry from ny abstract work at present. I might get over it one day (next study module?)

Laura Hynd

What is there not to love about Hynd? That play on vulnerability, the beauty of her work. The naivety of the elements of the video work. It is not as all as I make it sound and maybe the whole is part of the branding both personal and work. So a rather clever approach to the market backed by the number of commissions obtained.

Alec Soth

I’ve followed his work so it was great to get a background on Sleeping by the Mississippi and other works. 

It was interesting to hear him being pushed to reveal new work and his thoughts on the perils and gains of collaborating. I’ll keep a watch on that work where he gave cameras to children for a limited time to show their world from their perspective. 

Other others

So many other talented and influential speakers to write of. That’s it, I draw a line here and hand in my assignment.  I will return to give more detail. 

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