PHO702: Week 1 Photography Photographies

Week 1 Informing Contexts?

[A] Demonstrate how your work emphasises the characteristics of a particular case study;

[B] Note how these case studies may not fully represent the full nature of the photograph within context;

[C] Demonstrate that certain characteristics are more / less important to your own practice within its intended context.

Identify the inherent characteristics and contexts of the ‘photographic’ nature of your own practice. I reference the case studies (Cosgrove, 2019)

The inherent characteristic my practice is that using photography in the onward creation of a higher level representation as Abstract Impressionism. Elsewhere, I confirm the work is Abstract impressionism as opposed to Abstract Expressionism which exploits contemporary anxiety.

My photographs contain a trace the camera sensors detection of our bodily low and in some cases the repair process from minor trauma provides a source that creates some Image structure – something for the eye to rest upon. There is no direct image of trauma and no one is hurt deliberately in the making 

In reading the case studies, this week, I can relate to all three cases: with Swarkowski I’m happy to accept the analysis of photographer, but I do wright elsewhere, but I feel with the advancement of technology the analysis does need updating; with Shore, there is a Focus on the photograph and yet there is overlap with Szarkovski – again with less criticism and before I find this analysis also interesting and useful. 

[A] However, the case that really excited is the exhibition “What is a Photograph” curated by Carol Squires. Whilst criticism can be aimed at Squires for not actually answering the title of the exhibition and, for example there is no digital content, that did not put me off. For me what really mattered where the ideas of the contributors, who focused on the making and in particular by over painting photographs I felt there was a commonality of purpose with my own practice, where present and, with the latest Digital software, I have to perform destructive editing. By the time I make print I feel those correspondence between Squires exhibition in the making of my own work.

There are aspects of this generally that address the question can this be allowed? Is it photography? For me, it is the kind of work I want to make, as noted I was very excited. When I learned of the criticism over the curation I applied a brake immediately and almost stopped any further thought if my work would not be accepted within an MA Photography course for not being photographic – only being photographic in the initial making.

[B] It is due to the digital nature of my work, the post processing in the digital darkroom combined with the constraints applied to argument/thinking of Szarkovski, Shore and Squires, that sets my work apart.

[C] The characteristics of Photographer / Photograph apply to my work at the initial making stage. My photographs though are non pictorial, they are not perspective views and do not attempt to meet traditional photographic making characteristics. I tend to work more with light and exposure, with hidden levels of IR detected by a camera sensor and I have in mind what cannot be seen necessarily at all or be seen easily by eye. I bring this out in digital processing. Also, my work is design around intentional hidden levels of meaning so this although not mentioned as a characteristic is another element of the photographer as opposed to photograph and is important to me in the creation of work.

I can relate to the idea of the subject and the image, the banal being made beautiful by the camera as discussed by Sontag (Sontag, 1977)

Cosgrove, S. (2019) Week 1 Presentation: Photography, Photographies : Informing Contexts PHO702 18/19 Part-Time Study Block S2Falmouth Flexible. Available at: (Accessed: 1 February 2019).

Sontag, S. (1977) On Photography. Penguin Bo. Penguin Modern Classics.

Photography Photographies

This is my blog post on Photography and Photographies topic. Subject first tackled Szarkowski. Here I connect with my practice and attempt to answer posed questions.

My work transforms minor everyday trauma into art. So that which is before the lens creates a photograph which is separate to reality and then in post , the glow that our bodies emit is processed.

The first characteristic I would add is that of the accidental photograph taken by a person who has a camera and normally decides when to use it.

Another characteristic I might add (and I’m keen to explore in the background) is one broader acceptance of the therapeutic interpretation of the photographic.

Different end points or destinations for my work would likely call for adaptions. In a gallery or as an installation moving stills and sound may be effective. If published in an e-Zine this might equally allow moving image and sound. At first a book seemed to be how to publish my work, a book was the original intent, and the suggestion has returned. In that case I’d work more on the call and response titles in my portfolio. All these actions are a means by which the viewer may engage with the images and the connection with the ancestral past.

Mechanised production of the photograph (Szarkowski, 1980)for me becomes mechanised capture by mechanical and electronic means. It is the electronic is key for me as it is what allows creativity through the digital darkroom.

Szarkowski concentrates on the nature of the photograph and what he defines are taught in beginner and above photographic workshops.

Szarkowski seems to me to constrain the scope of his endeavour when analysing the photograph. He differentiates the photograph from a painting, but I’m aiming to create art. Either my work is moving away from the photograph and into a realm that might quickly attract criticism. I enjoy my work so wont easily be swayed by adverse opinion.

Szarkowski is set on promoting photography. I wonder that motivation he has. Could he be self serving ? or acting out of a sense of duty. Counter to his analysis my work is concerned with freedom of expression of ideas and of feelings. Photography for me is a means to an end.

I’m not opposed to Szarkowski’s analysis and in fact I’m quite interested in the presentation of his analysis. Maybe I’m happy with a dichotomy of views.

In respect of Szarkowski’s work time has moved on and by now I’m sure he’d have revised and republished. He may have acted as a Modernist but we have since moved beyond this witness the Industrial Modernism and expansion of technology. 

The most popular camera on Flickr is the smartphone. Nowadays influence is not so much academic but is with the marketing department of the technology firm. Scope for photography is greater for smartphones especially in having storage and distribution including via connection to social media. There is a whole new area of study around social analysis and psychology as photography proliferates.

Szarkowski took an informed view in creating his work and that has to be admired. But it is time for a revision with wider scope and new concepts. 

The idea of the invisible picture must have altered somewhat, from the time of film photography as digital cameras, including smartphones provide image live view as well as a histogram. As processing is immediate there is often scope to take a picture again.

Barthes is mentioned with regards the perceptual relationship. When I take a photograph I may retake or edit it to accord with the mind’s eye. 

Szarkowski considers the limitation of the frame yet even in this a modern 360° camera will take in the all-round view. I mention this as it challenges the constraint.

I did take issue at Szarkowski describing work as pretentious failures. To me it sounds like tableau work opposes his ideas of the photograph so he uses a put down. 

In thinking about the photograph my own thoughts turned to the camera obscura. I use this in comparison to the photograph. In doing so some of the effects of the camera fall way, such as image blurring or freezing. What then remains are perceptual effects. This might be red and white hoops on clothing looking pink. Other effects might be colour being misread in a field of other colours. The eye also automatically adjust for White balance. Therefore perception is important to consider.

Where Szarkowski claims that the photograph cannot have a narrative, to me it seems that groups of photographs can. My practice contains narrative and has signs. My work is symbolic and metaphorical.  Also comment where Szarkowski notes Sontag’s belief on photography being able to create beauty even from the mundane, then in my practice too the quite unusual photographing of trauma can indeed lead to beautiful imagery.

Where framing has been identified I go along with it. And in fact I did try to alter the hard frame into more of a spy hole effect in my recent work, but have more to do.

Where time has been identified, I relate to this not so much as the moment in which I take the photograph so much as I take to opportunity to record minor damage in the present in order to relate it back to the past, across a century. I do this for purposes of identification and in order to close gaps in communication.

In terms of blur my images do capture this in terms of DoF. I don’t photograph as a practitioner would in the medical field and I’m unlikely to get fully sharp images. In fact the blur adds to the abstraction.

I enjoyed the comment on Viewpoint and the use of balloon flight to enable overview images to be made. What I picked up from this was how political considerations enter into photography, that being something I do not press.

In the discussion about detail, I look at my practice where detail is not so important as a lack of detail. The images I produce glow and just as the suns light can create effects, such as crepuscular rays and blue light and sunrise and sunset aesthetic, you do not and indeed cannot see the details of solar flares or other surface activity.

Where a level of detail helps is where a minor wound creates some structure that guides the viewers eye and allows it to settle.

If were to attempt to add to the list any characteristic I felt missing from Szarkowski’s analysis I might add: hue/saturation and exposure/shadow/tonality.

Shore and the Nature of Photography in retrospect in part is dichotomous with Szarkowski and also shares characteristics (Frame and Time).

Shore places emphasis on the photograph:

Physical – Depictive – Mental as characteristics.

Szarkowski focusses on the Photographer: 

The thing itself – The Detail – The frame – Time – Vantage point as the traits.

As described by Shore, I tune into the world as it might be seen as a photograph.

In terms of the physical photograph. I do now print, but did resist this in terms of wastage, cost and struggle to control the image on paper.

Week 1 Forum: Where Are You Now?

This section allied closely to the development of my practice / Project and so is blogged in the Week 1 Development Project here and within Canvas (our VLE) here where I also respond to other Students practice.

Week 1 Introduction: Photography – The Shape-shifter

Within this Post on photography– the shape – shifter I provide my comments and take the three questions below and code them throughout my text

[A] context of practice

[B] Means of consumption

[C] How practice received

My practice is that of a digital worker operating in post within the digital darkroom. My practice could translate to 35mm film at the taking stage off my photographs. The processing I do perhaps works better at slightly lower resolutions with regards the software used.

[A] my practice falls into the category of the public display of private photographs. The work originated within family, was intended for family, is appreciated and understood by them. and so on. [B] The whole endeavour has changed, becoming much more externally focussed to the extent that initial discussion took place with a museum with interests related to the narratives. This is greater than just the book originally intended. It could also be delivered online.

[C] The Life’s Glow part of the practice is likely acceptable to the viewer. The related part that gains abstract focus from minor trauma could generate unwelcome responses of seeing somewhat weird ! or as disgusting skin photography. However, the message is that the genes that power the cells that effect the visible repair process are the genes that reflect back a century. Such things haven’t harmed the development of the work of Damien Hirst, so perhaps there is scope for progress with my practice. 

The practice might benefit from being worked in Black and White. I have been practising the skills, but the whole thing is styled on colour saturation and would lose its identity. It is just that at times I wonder if the saturation is too much and perhaps needs to be toned down. I’m immersed in it so maybe I’m more sensitive to this.

[C] There is potential shock value to my work. That was me responding to the course in terms of having learned about studium and punctum. 

[C] If my photographs were to make it in a museum, then potentially there is a shop that might sell prints? Even without such commercial sales, there is a question about how my work would sit alongside the sorts of goods a museum shop sells. This could cross “contaminate’ and either build the context or as in some of the Benneton adverts go awry, if I have no control over associations.

[C] Whilst there is no Pieta or like element in my work, the ideas have received religious comment. Once in the setting of the Howard exhibition (Howard Rachel, 2018)and second time with a Pentecostal Pastor Prince I met at a War Museum. This concerned more the making of the work but did include viewing of the early stage abstracted images. It did seem that the work was inspired (by God might be one reading – if that were so it is quite haughty in respect of my intentions).

[C] There may be some read across between area of medical science around DNA and the study of Dermatology. 

[C] There may also be a nod towards the Evolutionary Debate and Creationism. However, my work spans only 100 years not the evolution of mankind.

[B] There seems to be secondary scope for my work to be used in education in the context of Genetics teaching? If used in a museum the intention would be to address an audience of learners.

Shape-shifting would be a natural outcome of presenting my final work in different contexts. The effect would be down to a matter of taste.

As mentioned Damien Hirst has set the stage and sustains public comment in areas where I see our types of work overlap.

If my work gained onward distribution e.g. to a newspaper or journal then IO feel the editor would have responsibility for preventing any clashes of content. 

[C] I performed digital manipulation before ever owning a DSLR camera and so for me work has always had a baseline of manipulation. In a way that’s how I attempt to create art. However, I realise the moral debate in some circles. However, I remain true to my subject matter to maintain authenticity. Where this becomes tricky is from a curatorial standpoint if I did not maintain a proper trace between source imagery and the narratives so linked. 

To communicate narratives I have to make some creative choices. Examples might be the incorporation of diptychs as a visual substitute for the text narrative that was created.

There are medical parallels to my work, not least starting with the conditions under which photographs are taken. The medical profession has methods, training and equipment for capturing best image. I have to work in an informal context and sometimes almost need an operator to capture trauma depending on placement, lighting et.

In a museum context a military historic theme would impinge on my work. There is a Great War background so that should remain compatible. I could hamper my taking the work out to other contexts, other audiences.

In terms of creativity, I may chose a layout that does things like, challenge the existence of the frame, insofar as that is possible. Carey has achieved this with some of her work (Barry Tim, 2016)using Polaroid push / pull techniques resulting in surfboard images.

[C] If my practice quality continued to improve (bearing in mind this latest phase is 3 months in the making) and I accepted an Editor / Editorial team challenge to publish in their journal, that might work, given the audience of Contemporary Photographers. This would be less risky to manage than  newspaper. 

When I look at the work of Benneton, to me it is clear from Toscano being moved on or moving on tht a limit had been stretched too far in their advertising subjects. Whilst individual images might stand, I feel the problem becomes one of aggregation and association. Pulling one advert can no longer resolve conflict if it is a wider attitudinal problem. 

In as much as such weighty things of mediation and the slipperiness of images and how this could impact on my own work, I’m afraid that without this MA Photography Course, I would have remained naïve and become a lamb to the critics slaughter.

Barry Tim (2016) Aesthetica Magazine – Interview with Ellen Carey, Poet With A Lens, Les années 1980, Centre Pompidou, ParisAesthetica. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Howard Rachel (2018) Repetition is truth via Dolorosa. Edited by A. C. Beard Jason. London: Other Criteria Books. Available at:

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