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.

Henri Catier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer famous for his street style of photography.
These video clips of his interview where in many ways eye-opening.
His early childhood through to him at the time of the interview showed a unique perspective of his developement into the photographer he became.
He came across as an easy-going man who had travelled the world and experienced much in his life time.
From meeting and talking with Gandhi to his experiences in his home town brothel whilst growing up.
He also describes how he took some of his more famous images, I especially enjoyed the moment he told the interviewer that most photography is luck.
The way he got the famous image “Behind the Gate Saint-Lazare, Paris, 1932″ was a good example of luck.
But was it a case of luck or more like what Gary Player said in an interview one time, the immortalised quote ” The more I practice, the luckier I get”.
I feel it’s more like the quote attributed to the Roman philosopher Seneca, “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”.
You have to have a certain skill level, you then have to put yourself in the place where an image is likely to occur; then it’s down to luck.
This is what I think Bresson meant by  luck.
Otherwise the world operates on the basis of statistical mechanics, you know; the Simians with typewriters writing Shakespeare theory.

You can see his impact on photo-journalism, what he called the decisive moment when moving things are in balance.
Any sports photograph is a perfect example of his thinking here.

At the start of this research point I was seriously questioning this course, after all what has a “this is your life” video have to do with me learning photography, not much; but it did get me thinking of Seneca and his philosophy and this, in a very round about way was the main lesson I took from these video’s.
This train of thought took me back seventeen years to my start in car sales and my boss telling me I must “Practice, drill and rehearse” in order to be succesful.
Again I have been reminded of the truth of their wisdom.

Reviews by Campany and Colberg on Thomas Ruff

There were four points that stood out to me in Campany’s review of Thomas Ruff’s work that appeared in IANN magazine no.2 @ 2008.
The first was “It’s potent ability to solicit individual and global responses that cannot be entirely reconciled”, this is what I felt when first viewing his work; is it Photography, art or just a good printing job ?
The second was his questions about the information we now have at our fingertips , how it affects our lives and more importantly how it shapes our perception, morals and desires.
He also questions what we mean by ‘from the internet’? Is the internet an archive” ? , he goes on to say “In fact Ruff tells us they are from the internet”, meaning Ruff’s images.
My take on it is this, the internet is the mother of all archives; a Pandora’s box of mankind’s best and darkest thoughts and achievements.
The last point he makes is about how Ruff presents his work using very large prints that are beyond what is normally excepted for quality images i.e pixelated.

In Colberg’s review that appeared in his blog “” I only took one point of view and a good quote from Ruff himself.
He says that Ruff is possibly “one of the most creative and certainly inventive photographers of our time” and that the more traditionalist photographers could question whether it is indeed photography at all.
He also has a  quote from the Artist himself that was an Excerpt from a conversation with Max Dax, Dreissig Gespräche, edition suhrkamp, 2009; telling how he actually came up with the concept of his jpegs during his time in New York city the week of the 9/11 attacks.
Thomas Ruff has done similar work using images from NASA entitled M.A.R.S .
On a personal note I prefer his more abstract art as I find his jpeg and mars series to be too much like Andy Warhol’s work and it’s hard to compete with Warhol.