Research Point – Context and Narrative.

Context and narrative are discussed in an article by Terry Barrett at the link below:

In it he suggests that to understand or appreciate a photograph that we need to “replace a pictured segment back into the un-pictured whole” in order to understand what a photographer has done to a real world situation.
He also suggests that in order to appreciate an image we have to discern the difference between a picture and the reality from which it is made.
He says “Without considering these distinctions, the photographer drops
out, and the photograph becomes transparent; the viewer is left mistakenly considering the photograph as a real-world object or event rather than considering it as a person’s picture”.
This to me is true and undeniable.
You can often see this in the snaps that people take while on holiday.

In this shot you can see some mechanical device but where is it ? what is it? when is it?
The photographer knows the answer to all these questions but they’re not apparent to the viewer.
All they have is an abstraction of the whole and it’s open to individual interpretation.

Whereas in this image it’s less ambiguous.
You can see the nice sky, you can see it’s a ride and if you look carefully you can see it’s in Brisbane; now the picture can be seen in context with the whole or real world.
This to me is what he is describing when he says:
“Internal, original, and external context are distinctions that serve to remind us of sources of information about a photograph, and they can be examined in attempts to interpret a photograph.
Sometimes the information is rich and other times meager.
The less information we have about a single photograph, the less chances of reducing the ambiguity of that photograph and forming a correct interpretation”.


Perception versus intention.

I was reading an interview with Quentin Bajac, the curator at the Museum of modern art in New York.

He had this to say on the subject.

“The most interesting photographers in that field are those who manage
to find a proper balance between perception and the idea.

I was talking about this with Paul Graham a few weeks ago, who said that you can set out with the best possible idea, open your door, go outside, and the world changes that idea.

And you have to accept that and shift your expectation to accommodate what you observe and evolve with it.

What you produce in the end will probably be quite different from the initial

This is what photography is about.

It is about having an idea at first and accepting that you’re going to be seduced, in the etymological sense of the word, by the world you’re encountering”.

Quentin Bajac a conversation with Philip Gefter, judgement seat, 16/06/14

You can read the whole interview here.

This recently happened to me while working on exercise 5.2 .

I had intended to pay homage to Alfred Stieglitz or Ruth Blees but ended up paying homage to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s Photography whilst on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

I can honestly say that this was a first for me during this course and was a very pleasant surprise, it was also very on the fly.

As I walked around Hammersmith in the rain I noticed this display in the window of an office building and I lined up the shot, see exercise 5.2 for the photograph.

To go out with a couple of ideas that you’d thought of and come back with vintage NASA is quite incredible to me.

A wonderful moment.

Harry Benson- shoot first.

I saw this movie listed on Netflix and decided to watch it despite never hearing of his name before.

I may not have known his name but his images I had seen before, an awful lot of his images at that.

This is a documentary film of an interview with this fantastic photojournalist.

I don’t think there’s a famous person on this planet that he hasn’t photographed.

From the Beatles, Mohammed Ali, Johnny Carson to Elizabeth Taylor and Greta Garbo.

He took images of the Bobby Kennedy assassination while gunfire was still going on.

Bobby Kennedy assassination 1968, Associated Press

His association with the Beatles started in Paris because the senior Daily Express photographer was too ugly so they sent him, he didn’t even want to cover the story at the time.

Probably the two most famous of his Beatles images.

Beatles meet Mohammed Ali, Harry Benson – seeing America.

Pillow fight, Harry Benson, Time Magazine.

Interviewees had nothing but good things to say about Harry.

He seemed to me to have a great bond with his subjects and most regarded him as a friend and would invite him to different social occasions or their homes.

He says that he dislikes studio photography and his images are always candid.

The pillow fight image is a perfect example of how he could get people to let down their guard.

In the film he says that “a great photograph can never be taken again”.

His work ethic was one of ” be the first one on a story or the last one out”.

Superb advice.

He said he also lost three tweed jackets to Michael Jackson but that it was a small price to pay for the exclusive.

Not only was he good at getting in with the jet set he was also a  great photo journalist.

He covered Vietnam, The IRA, the racial tensions in America during the 1960’s and lived in a refugee camp in Somalia in the early 80’s during the famine.

James Meredith march, Mississippi  1966, the Atlantic magazine.

IRA, Harry Benson  –  shoot first, Magnolia pictures.

After the shot about the race riots he found himself sitting next to Martin Luther King and asked him how it all started, MLK replied ” it’s dangerous to be a black man in America”.

He also got invited to a KKK rally.

He probably will be most famous for his work with celebrities.

Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol, NYC 1977, Contessa gallery.

Ivanca Trump, Trump Tower, Harry Benson, Time magazine 2016.

Reagan’s, Vanity Fair magazine.

The Clinton’s, Harry Benson –  shoot first, Magnolia pictures.

He was and is good friends with the remaining Beatles which is where his fame started.

He interviewed John Lennon’s assassin  Mark David Chapman where Chapman apologised for killing his friend, How many people can say  they’ve had that experience.

In closing I must say that Benson sounds like a photographic version of Forrest Gump the way he seemed to make contacts and just bump into people of note.

Overall a great guy and a good documentary.

Lovey speak and the first part of the course.

Let me first define what I mean by the term “Lovey speak”.
Whenever I heard Lord Richard Attenborough being interviewed he had a tendency to address people as “Lovey”.
While he didn’t, to my knowledge; have to explain his art in order for it to gain a popular following I and a friend coined this term to explain the gushing or rhetoric you come across in photographic galleries and press when they are describing a photographers work.
This gushing rhetoric turns me off, after all; if the work is so good then why the sales pitch?
This is not just a fault in the art or academic world but it seems more prevalent there.
This difference can be noticed when a lesser known photographer is described as “most influential” or some other exaggerated way and when Bresson describes his photography as luck.
To me art is open to individual interpretation and is therefore in the eye of the beholder much like beauty.
I know what I like, if I have a connection in some way to what I’m looking at I don’t need to be coerced as it will not work.
I also know it’s catering for a certain audience but strikes me sometimes rather like the way classical music lovers look down their noses at other genres.
A kind of artistic snobbery that I find distasteful.

As I worked through this first section of this course I had a hard time reconciling these descriptions and what I was seeing and feeling about the photographers I read about.
Similarly I found a lot of the course a bit like basic training in the armed forces, how to wash, keep yourself presentable and knowing left from right; very basic.
This of course is the whole point, it’s to get everyone on the same page so to speak.
The course material didn’t start to challenge me until the last two exercises and assignments.
I expect it will get much more challenging as time goes by.
I’m looking forward to it very much although I still have to find time to read and study more on the “art” of photography other than on its mechanics.

White balance in Fulham.

While doing exercise 4.3 I took several photo’s under Fulhams very strange street lighting.
It seems that the Council are replacing sodium lights with LED bulbs.
I can see the benefits in cost reduction and for the enviroment but boy do they make it impossible to correct for white balance.
I came across this blue and orange umbrella abandoned at the side of the road, to one side was a sodium street light and to the other an LED one.
I have been playing with this image for a while and still can’t get a good colour balance so B&W it has to be then……








Thinking about distance……….

Part of the brief for exercise 5.1 is the following:

“Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!).

Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a
sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’.”

Sometime after reading this I happened across my old journal I wrote for the three months I was homeless.

This homelessness went on for nearly three months during the most deplorable weather Oxford has ever experienced, from November 2013 through to February 2014.

The notes in this journal took me back to the bleakest time in my life.

In it were my feelings toward fellow campers, the hunger, the desperation and the loneliness.

Colorado, an American student who saved his money by living in a family sized tent that blew down and leaked often and Cat Weasel an older homeless gentleman who wasn’t all there if you know what I mean.

These and more helped me retain my sanity.

I have to mention here an experience I had at 7 am. Christmas morning.

Two young Scandinavian students stopped across the street from me, not another soul to be seen; took off their hats and started singing a Christmas carol.

Their voices were angelic and echoed from the surrounding buildings.

It was very moving, once finished they donned their hats, smiled at me and carried on their journey.

It was an incredible experience to say the least and I was the only  person there to appreciate their fine singing.

This journal then gave me the idea of measuring how far I have come since then but it didn’t seem to fit the narrative very well.

Maybe I can explore something more specific that I noted down.

I’ll give it some more thought over the weekend.

Well I gave it more thought and decided upon the subject of an outsider looking in.

Looking on the WWW I came across this article in Psychology  today which deals with Highly Sensitive People .

“As one highly sensitive person put it recently, it’s like being an outsider looking in.

Life as an HSP feels very much like pushing your nose against the glass that separates you from society and all you can do is watch and wonder how they do it and how you can ever get in”.
Deborah ward, On The Outside Looking In, Finding the balance between community and sensitivity.
Psychology today October 16 2011.

It doesn’t entirely relate to homelessness but the overall feeling of the article felt strangely familiar.

J B Huyne

JB Huynh is what I think of when some one asks the question “what is a Photographer”.
His portraits are well executed and well posed.
His Fire series and still life series are breath taking.
His way of isolating his subjects with dark backgrounds works very well and is impressive.
I really enjoyed looking at his work.


His series on Flames is mesmerising.

Black cat, very well done.

Fantastic portraits


All Photo’s are copy right of Jean Baptiste Huynh and taken from his web site.