Thinking Ahead

Having submitted my final two assignments for this module I’m finding it hard to know what to do now whilst waiting for the results/feedback. I feel in a bit of a state of limbo…wanting to get on and do something for my project but not wanting to commit to anything in case the feedback on my proposal is contradictory to (or disparaging of) my plans.


We’ve been asked to put together a photobook inspired by Ed Rusha’s work over the break so perhaps I just need to focus on that. I like how his repetitive style of images of a common subject matter made the series of photos have a quite striking effect. Looking at his work made me think of Grey Malin’s photobook “Beaches” in which he took images of various beaches around the world from above, offering a birds-eye-view, and showing the beauty of the repetition or patterns in the scenes below; in the way people behave on the beach, or in repetition of beach umbrellas, for example. 


The two biggest aspects of Ruscha’s work that have stuck with me recently, are the repetition of the everyday in his images and his work with text. These got me thinking about the repetition of the everyday in my life and about the different texts I see everyday – from train signs, street signs, text at work, text in books, writing this – thinking about it makes me feel bombarded with text as well as imagery! Having received (yet another) book purchase via Amazon today, I started thinking about the number of books I’ve received or bought during this course, and I thought about Ruscha’s self-published Twenty Six Gasoline Stations. I wondered whether by presenting his work in a small book rather than a big gallery display the repetitive nature of the images was highlighted, and by encouraging the viewer to look at them in that order, and see them in the same presentation in the very everyday format of a book, helped develop the utilitarian feel that may not have happened in a large space where the viewer was free to move from one image to any of the others.


I thought I’d pay homage to Ruscha by taking these thoughts and turning them into “12 books bought for my photography course”. As I’m normally a natural light documentary style photographer I thought it might also be fun to try something different and play around with some still life, some “studio” lighting, and also some black and white. I also wondered if it might be interesting to present these different books with their different fonts side-by-side as a bit of a reflection on the way text and imagery interrelate and are connected. 


These are the resulting images. It was a fun experiment and I enjoyed playing around with some still life. The images I honestly don’t think are anything special and whilst interesting to me I don’t think they would be of much interest to anyone else. They don’t exactly ‘say’ anything,  there’s no message and even though I took them, I feel there’s no real point to the series. I did enjoy the process of thinking and planning so much in advance of making the work, and that is something that I feel I could use for my project, and I can see how – for the project I think I might be making – it would be useful to plan out the images in advance.  

Portait Photography Course

I recently went on a day-course on portrait photography in order to further these skills. At the moment I think I want my final research project to include portraits and I want to try and improve my skills in this area.

The course was local and run by a wedding & family portrait photographer; Summers Photography (https://www.summers-photography.co.uk/). I wasn’t too sure what to expect but it ended up being a lot of fun! The course focussed on natural light photography and taking portraits outdoors – which is what I’m currently planning to do for my project. There was some information about how to look for beneficial lighting and select appropriate camera settings. Unfortunately the style of the photos was aimed more towards family portraiture, so not exactly what I’ll be doing for my project, and therefore didn’t really give too much focus on directing the subject(s) of the photos etc. However, it was still useful and being able to practice on some models on the day was helpful as I could put the theory to practice quickly.

One thing that did surprise me was coming away from the course and wanting to edit my photos in post-production software. Having not been a fan of photo editing in the past this did catch me off-guard somewhat. Reviewing the pictures afterwards on my laptop I just felt that the images didn’t fully capture the atmosphere of the settings or the personalities of the subjects. I was discussing the use of editing software with the tutor which helped me to maybe see the value in post-production editing, and that there is (reassuringly) still a big difference in colour correcting the light of the photo to removing a whole person from a picture, i.e. editing v. manipulation. So I did edit some of the photos in the end as an exercise and a challenge for myself.

Ultimately I was happy with the photos I took that day, before and after editing them, and it has made me want to take some more portraits, and experiment with ways to achieve different end results!

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Week 12 – Audience & Proposal in Practice

Watching an interview with Dr. Wendy McMurdo has got me thinking about some interesting points for my project:

-          She discussed how her work was first made using film and in later years switched to digital technology. In researching for my project I’ve been looking at the tintype portraits of surfers by Joni Sternbach. For both of these women the method of making their work has been a consideration. For me, growing up with film but having used digital technology from my teenage years the method of photograph production has never really been a consideration. In thinking about it now, as digital cameras are the norm to use another method of photograph production is to make a statement about how the photographs are made, maybe more so than what the photographs are of. I want the focus of my project to be on the subject of the images, and not the technology that made them therefore I will continue to create them with a digital camera.

-          Dr McMurdo commented that it is useful for many reasons to work within your community and to work close to home. Unfortunately as my home is not physically close to some surf communities I want to include in my project I think I will need to approach this from a social/cultural community aspect, rather than a purely geographically close community aspect.

-          She also commented that it is important to make your intentions clear regarding the work you want to make. From making the images for my work in progress portfolio I did experience issues regarding the time it takes to explain the aim and intentions behind my project to people I want to photograph. I had already thought that I may need to pre-arrange sessions with some people in order to be able to have a longer shooting time with the subject(s). However, this has also made me feel the need to make my intentions clearer for myself and also within my proposal, which I hope I was able to do.

Saunton Sands, Devon UK - April2017

Saunton Sands, Devon UK - April2017

Week 11 – Introducing Proposal & Audience

Not having written a project proposal before this is not an easy task. There seems to be a variety of articles and advice on the internet for how to write one but it all seems to be not to be very relevant to me.

The examples I have seen are quite succinct in laying out the aim of and reasons behind the project, which is something I feel I need to work on in mine. I struggle not to waffle once I get a thought in my mind.

I also feel that my proposal currently has too many themes in it, the examples I’ve looked at are much more focused and discuss only a few central ideas for the projects. I definitely feel my proposal needs more direction and structure.

From feedback in this week’s webinar I need to add to the proposal some discussion surrounding the technical level of my work and what I envisage for the final output. It is something I had had on my mind but I wasn’t sure whether it was something to be included in the proposal. I now know that it is so this is something I will need to look into further.

I need to think more about who I am making this work for…..who is my audience? I had thought that if my work is to try to make images showing a more actual reality of a place then who will want to see that? Will tourists be interested in those images or am I making them more with a gallery setting in mind?

The work I’ve done so far I think reflects my intention to record a place with documentary style photography and try to show it through truthful representation in my images. From the research this week I do think these also need more focus and direction in terms of subject matter, and also that they will require improvement in skill set.

Saunton Sands, Devon UK, April2017

Saunton Sands, Devon UK, April2017

Saunton Sands, Devon UK, April2017

Saunton Sands, Devon UK, April2017

Saunton Sands, Devon UK, April2017

Saunton Sands, Devon UK, April2017

Week 10 - Theory in Practice

I have not previously thought much about the theory that influences my work, or made work with any particular theory in mind. My initial reaction to this, when thinking about my work to date, is it is because I don’t know anything about photographic theory, or at least I didn’t before starting my MA course. However thinking deeper about the concept of theory in practice, I am not entirely sure that is strictly true. Even if not consciously thinking about photographic theory in my practice, I have undoubtedly been influenced by others’ work and the theory of their work.

My long held love of travel imagery and wanting to create my own images whilst travelling, have been influenced by the photographs I’d seen in magazines and travel books whilst I was growing up. I now see those images as trying to convey an ideal of a place, to make people want to visit them – an understandable aim for a commercial piece of work; the theory of advertising in the context of selling. However, in later visiting those places and seeing a different reality to that which was portrayed, I wanted to make images to show a more truthful representation of that place and the people in it. I now recognise that “want” as a theory of my work, and being able to contextualise that desire and relate it or compare it to the work of others has allowed me to think about my work in more depth. As well as to consider the impacts my images may have on the subject and the viewer, and how they could be interpreted by viewers outside of the context in which they were taken or intended.

It is impossible to control the interpretations of our work by every individual viewer. But being able to offer context to the subject or intention behind the meaning of a photograph, may go some way towards communicating the desired reception of the photo.

Contextualising or explaining the theory behind a photography could be through print, in the introduction to a photobook, or in the labels on an gallery wall, for example. Or through spoken word, an interview with the photographer perhaps. I think whatever method is used, if it is important to communicate the theory behind a photograph or body of work, it needs to be understandable and accessible to the viewer(s). Anything too full of specialist language will disengage the viewer, and anything too difficult to obtain will not be seen by the viewer. Different forms of communication and different contexts will require and allow for differences in language, style of communication, length etc. So it is important to be cognisant of what you are trying to communicate, how you are communicating it, and who you are communicating it to.

I want to bear these points in mind as I move forwards with my project and project proposal. I feel that by considering the theory and context in which I am making work, I will be able to develop more of an idea of why I want to make the work and who I will be making it for, which will in turn lead to more focus in the work I make and direction for the project.

Passing through Oregon USA - March2017

Passing through Oregon USA - March2017

Week 9 - Critical Perspectives

One of my main interests in photography is documenting people and places in an authentic way. There are various questions to be considered about this area of photography but some of the main concerns I have about it are whether it is ethical, and how the pictures are received and interpreted by viewers.

I have long been fascinated by people; people that I know as well as strangers. I like to “people watch”, especially in unfamiliar places, and am always intrigued by the decisions people make regarding their choice of outfit, hairstyle, what they’re doing or where they’re going. I don’t think this is a particularly unique interest, I would think that most people like to observe other people, and even the term “people watch” is a common phrase in today’s world. I have always been intrigued by culture, both my own and foreign cultures. The similarities and differences between cultures/cultural norms, and the similarities and differences between people. But in wanting to record those observations, and in wanting to record different people and cultures, I need to question whether it is ethical to do so. Is it right to go to another country and photograph the people and the places because I find them interesting and want to record them?

Jimmy Nelson’s “Before they pass away” project makes me uncomfortable for those very reasons. I can’t deny the technical beauty of his images, and from having read/watched various interviews with him I know that the people he photographs have all given their consent for him to do so, and he has explained the reasons why he wants to photograph them in the way he does, and I know he believes in the good of his work. I know he spends several weeks with the tribes getting to know them before taking the photographs. But does all of that make it right for him to show this one aspect of those people? His website adds the disclaimers that Nelson is not a scientist or anthropologist and his work is not meant to show a documentary truth, his website states the following:

He has focused on the beauty that struck him as an outsider. He wanted to create icons.

 Focusing on what he saw as an outsider produces a one dimensional view, and if that is the only knowledge that viewers then see of those people, then they will have a potentially very distorted view of those cultures. Additionally is it right or ethical for him as an outsider to be taking those images and presenting them to the world for review and judgement? As a photographer it is near impossible to control how our images are viewed and interpreted, but I do believe it is something that we need to think about in today’s world – where images are distributed and shared so easily and can be so easily seen out of context. Many people, including tribal people, have criticised his work for not showing the truth about the lives of the tribes he photographs and for presenting the false view that they are dying out[i].

I am concerned that having this interest and wanting to document people and places means that those images, taken as an outsider, are unethical. There will be a lot to think about during my research project about this and how I can take images that show people and places from a more truthful or authentic perspective.

I wonder whether being an outsider to a culture could be an advantage. Without having the prejudices that come from being a part of the culture, and perhaps without the emotional need to show a particular aspect of the culture/society, could I see it more objectively, and perhaps even more fairly?

What if, however, you are both an insider and an outsider to a culture? As a mixed-race person I grew up being a part of two cultures, and not completely identifying with either. Therefore if I were to make images of one of those cultures would I feel a need to show a particular aspect of that culture, to present it in a good light for example. I have been wondering lately whether this is the basis for my desire to record and document people and places in a visual anthropological way. The following is from the Discover Anthropology website:

By taking the time to study peoples’ lives in detail, anthropologists explore what makes us uniquely human. In doing so, anthropologists aim to increase our understanding of ourselves and of each other[ii].

Through photography am I hoping to understand others and myself better? Does this mean my intention is more introspective and less surface curiosity, and does that mean the intention of my work comes from a less judgemental place of preconceived ideas?

Tour guides in San Francisco waiting for business - March2017

Tour guides in San Francisco waiting for business - March2017

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/oct/29/jimmy-nelson-indigenous-people-survival-international                   [ii] https://www.discoveranthropology.org.uk/about-anthropology/what-is-anthropology.html

Week 8 - Exploring Contexts

The context in which an image is shown greatly affects the interpretation of the image by a viewer as well as the meanings assigned to that image. An image seen via a social media platform like Instagram I feel is seen very quickly, a viewer may spend no more than a few seconds looking at it. Whereas an image in an art gallery invites viewers to spend longer amounts of time viewing, and reviewing, an image.

To date I have really only shared my images via Instagram as I felt they were not worth sharing via a dedicated website or in any other format. I felt that by using this method it was “ok” if they weren’t the best subject matter or technically good images as “it’s only Instagram”, and the value associated to an Instagram image doesn’t need to be high. The fear of inviting criticism from others prevented sharing them in any other way.

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I’ve recently visited several photographic exhibitions; “The Radical Eye from The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection” exhibit at the Tate Modern and the “Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize” at the National Portrait Gallery – both in London; the “Diane Arbus In the Beginning” and the “Japanese Photography from Postwar to Now” exhibits at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in California; and the “American Photographs” and Robert Frank exhibits in the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, USA.

I was struck by the diversity not only of subject matter but also scale of the images on display – some postcard sized and some poster sized to fill a wall. I suspect that this was partly due to some much older pictures having only been made in a small size, but more recent images I wonder whether the size of the image was a conscious choice. One image in particular, a portrait by Richard Avedon of a former slave named William Casby, was printed so large it filled a wall. It really made you look at it and as a viewer, the larger than life size forced you to really look at the lines on his face and wonder about the look in his eyes. It was powerful and emotional to view and for me this was in part due to the size of the image. I wonder whether it would have had such an impact if I’d seen it for the first time in a smaller size or in a photobook rather than on a gallery wall.

Something my husband said to me in the Portland Art Museum when we were looking at another of the images on display, was that he liked the picture we were looking at and he thought it was good, and that “it must be good if it’s in a museum”. I don’t recall the photo we were looking at but his words did make me think about the effect a photo being displayed has. Someone at one point thought that image should be displayed so do viewers automatically consider it as a good piece of work and as something valuable? I wonder if the general public are less critical of a photo displayed in a museum or gallery because they feel they are being told it is good, therefore it must be good, and the image is then something to look at and enjoy but not really think about? It also made me think about my images and whether because I’ve taken them I can’t view them objectively, I only see flaws in my work and can’t help but compare it to other work – so maybe it is time to put my work out there and see what other people think…..good or bad?

I felt so inspired on my recent travels by the new places I was visiting that I did make quite a few images – including the ones in this post - that I actually do want to share so a dedicated website for my images is on the way……link TBC!

UPDATE 01May2017: I did create a website for my images and it turned into this one (sophiebradleyphotography.com). I later moved all my CRJ posts from the old site to this one, partly so I could just have one place to work in, and partly as I found this hosting site easier to work with.

Week 7 - Strategic Choices

After having week 6 just to work on our oral presentations, this week we were asked to question the strategic choices we make when taking photographs. Both artistic/creative, and practical.

We were asked to set someone else a brief to work towards as a micro-project this week. We looked at the choices we make when taking photographs, whether relying on chance to find subjects of photos or by restricting the circumstances or technical elements under which a photographer operates.

So I set Gemma a task to spend an hour with her daughters whilst they played, and take 5 photos of them – only 5, without deleting any, and then print them out and stick them up on her fridge. As a working parent I know she doesn’t have a lot of free time so I thought this would be a feasible task for her to do, and I thought it would be an exercise in thinking about how family photographs used to be taken and displayed, in keeping with her interests in what people do with pictures they take.

For me, Gemma asked me to make a series of images documenting my travels, 3 of which needed to be portraits of local people. Gemma knew as I was in San Francisco this week it would begood opportunity for me to take photos whilst thinking about my interests of documenting travel and trying to find ways to show the sameness of people around the world, rather than focusing on differences.

At first, although enthused by Gemma’s brief I was also quite daunted. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to take the kinds of images I want to take of people with only a short amount of time to make a connection. As I was on holiday with friends I didn’t feel I was able to “work” as such. I was aware of being with my friends on holiday rather than being in the mindset of making images. I did struggle to find a way to balance working with being on holiday. However, having the micro-project challenge did keep me focused on trying to take photos that were more than just a holiday snap, and it did make me look for more than touristy sites or touristy shots. I feel that it did make me look at the city as a photographer and maybe more in depth than looking at it just as a tourist. I felt I was looking beyond just the surface of the city, or at least trying to.

Having the brief of taking portraits of locals was again quite daunting as I didn’t feel I could spend time talking with someone to get to place where I felt I could take a meaningful portrait of them. However, it did also push me to try to make that connection, whereas otherwise I might have avoided that thinking I wouldn’t have time.

I feel although I would have like to spend more time with the locals I did speak with, I was able to get a small connection that I hope comes through in my images. The push to make images of people in this way did make me realise that it is something I can do, but also something I need to work on as I do feel there is a lot of room for improvement.

These are the images I made in a documentary style to record some of my travels, and the portraits of local people that I made.

Week 5 - Power and Responsibility

This week we are being asked to consider the power and responsibility that comes with being a photographer/making images.

I think photographers do have a power in terms of what we choose to record with our camera, and how we choose to make the image, e.g. with regards to framing and the choice of subject in order to tell the story we want to tell, or record the memory we want to record. I feel we also have a responsibility to ensure the use of our images continues the message we want to tell.

We were asked this week to read a newspaper article about the use of a photo of refugees by UKIP, and comment on the ethics of taking images and their subsequent publication and use - https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jun/22/jeff-mitchells-best-shot-the-column-of-marching-refugees-used-in-ukips-brexit-campaign

This is my response, copied here for my future reference:

There are various ethical questions raised by this image – is it right to make an image like this for profit? Does it exploit vulnerable people? Did all the people there know they were being photographed and did they, or would they, have agreed to it? I think it is important that humanitarian issues and crises such as this are recorded and shared; for posterity, for lessons/reminders about the effects of war (e.g. the comparison between this image and a very similar one from WWII), and to make the wider world aware of these situations. However, in making people aware of the situation I think the photographer should have a responsibility to ensure the right story is being told, and that it is not used just as a stock photo in which the story behind it is open to manipulation. The use of the image may have been licensed correctly, but perhaps the licensing options should have been more specific regarding the use of the image. Not being a copyright lawyer I don’t know whether it is possible to say, for example, you can only use this image if you aren’t UKIP. Mitchell himself said “photographers are there to record stories” and what happens afterwards with the image is out of their control. But this rejection of responsibility and passing the blame on to another party I think is unethical. It may be legal but I don’t think it is morally right to the refugees in the photo; he was there to tell their story, but by allowing Getty to license the image, and therefore allowing the image to be used without a say in how it was used, he was no longer telling their story. As photographers I think we should have ethical and moral responsibilities not only in the photos we take but also in how they are used.

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In my own practice, I feel a power with regards to who and what I photograph. My interests in travel and documentary photography frequently have me questioning the ethics of the photographs I take. I want my practice and my work to reflect more than the standard tourist snap shot, and I feel to do this I need to photograph subjects (people and inanimate) that are not just the tourist sites. However, in doing so I do wonder whether it is ethical to photograph subjects that are not presented for foreign consumption, even if they are aware the photo is being taken. On the other hand, I feel that as a photographer my position of power could allow me to give a global voice to those who might not otherwise have one, and to tell and share stories to those who might not otherwise hear them. Therefore, is it my responsibility to record those images and share them? I also feel that I have a responsibility to the subjects of my images to ensure that any publication and use of the images is done in a way that tells their story authentically. Whilst I cannot control individual reactions to and interpretations of an image, or whether it inspires or is derived into other work, I can at least try to ensure it is presented in a context that accurately reflects the subject/subject matter, and the context in which the image was made.

Some images are especially hard to look at due to their emotional nature and the context in which they were taken, for example images of war, refugees, and death. However, I do not think this means that they shouldn’t be made or shown. Indeed some images can be so powerful in their message and documentation, e.g. the migrant crisis / Alan Kurdi, amongst others, that I think it is responsible to share them in order to bring about greater awareness of a situation or if there’s a chance it could shock people into positive action.

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One of this week’s tasks was to write a statement or manifesto that defines our purpose as a photographer. Whilst I feel I am still in the process of finding out what that is, and what kind of photographer I am, something that has long been important to me is the concept of showing a truth or showing something authentic in my work by not editing a fundamental aspect of my images in post-production, so I feel that is central to my “manifesto” as a photographer. I am fairly sure my manifesto will change over time but at the moment, this is it:

I have a responsibility to my subject to make images with authenticity, and to the viewers to show them that authenticity. I am answerable to myself as a photographer, to create work that I believe in, and I am answerable to the viewers – for them to trust in my work. As an image maker, I think the public are answerable to me to not use my work without authorisation/licensing, and I feel they should have an ethical and moral responsibility to respect the work I make, whether or not they agree with the message, like the work, or think it is good or bad, but just to respect that it was made by someone, and the time, effort, and emotion, that went into creating it.

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This image is a shot I took recently at the river by my home at sunset. The colours appear as they were at the time, and I have not edited it the picture in anyway in post processing. For me this is an authentic image as it is a moment as it happened at the time, and nothing has been edited out or in to alter it. It felt like a completely peaceful time, in which the urban hectic day was slowing down for the night. That is what I wanted to capture and share in this image.

Week 4 - Rethinking Photographers

This week we are being asked to look at the changing roles of photographers, the public perception of photographers, and how these are formed.

This week’s presentation discussed how photographers are depicted within media in varying ways; from social reformers, to voyeurs, to the principled war photographers. The roles portrayed offer different insights into the types of professional photographers, or the types of work professional photographers can engage in, and perhaps therefore influence the way non-photographers see professional photographers.

In my experience, I think non-photographers actually have quite a limited view of the work, or types of work, of professional photographers. This week’s forum post asked the question “what you think non-photographers make of professional photographers - what are the conceptions and misconceptions?”

Below is my post in response to the question. I have copied it here as it is something I want to remember and save for my own future reference:

When I first told my friends & family I was doing this MA degree the majority of responses were along the lines of "oh you could be a wedding photographer!" My friends & family are all non-photographers and I found it interesting that that was the response pretty much across the board. I've been thinking about it a lot since then and I think that the reason they thought that, is because wedding photographers are most likely the only contact they would have had to a professional photographer, and I think that is their primary view of photography as a profession.

From subsequent conversations with some of them I don't think that other ways of being a professional photographer really crossed their minds, and a general misconception is that there aren't many non-wedding professional photographers.

In all honesty, I hadn't heard of many of the photographers I've come across since starting this MA, or seen much - if any - of their work before, so I have been wondering whether a lot of professional photography isn't as mainstream as it might seem to photographers. Because of that I think some non-photographers see professional photographers as artists in the same way that someone who isn’t “in to art” is unlikely to know of an artist’s paintings. Another fairly common response I have received when telling people about the MA is "oh are you quite arty then?"

From my experience a lot of people have both the conception and misconception that photography is just for weddings and fine art photography. My friends and family don’t immediately think of other types of photography, (for example documentary photography, sports photography, or the potential use of photography for social change) as a profession.

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The mainstream representation of photography to me has always seemed as though it is the technological brilliance of equipment that is desirable, and not what it could be used for. For example, number of pixels or fast a camera is to turn on. Now with the technological advancements of recent years, camera phones are of such high quality that I would argue the general populous do not feel the need to have a “proper” camera as well as their smart phone. I have had more than one conversation with friends about this, and how they would just use their phone if they wanted to photograph something. I feel this view about photography equipment perhaps lessens the value of “real” photography. If the equipment needed to take a photo is so easy to get hold of and all one needs to do is “point and shoot” – what other expertise is needed? By extension I wonder whether the role of the photographer as a professional is seen as highly regarded today as it once was.

I feel that without technological advancements in photography I would not be practicing photography today. Without the globalisation of the medium in part throughout developments in technology and accessibility of equipment, it would not be so wide-spread today or practised by so many people.

However, these more recent developments in technology/the rise of smart phone cameras have bought about the “citizen journalist” and the arguments that anyone with a camera (of any kind) is a photographer; arguments put forward in one of this week’s readings; the chapter “Blurring Boundaries”[1]. Along with the accessibility of equipment there has also been developments in software and, in particular, photo editing software. Something that is now not only available to professional photographers/editors, but is as easily available as apps on smart phones. I think this not only blurs the lines of what a photographer is but also what a photograph is. It is now so easy to digitally change an image in post-production and so many do it daily via image sharing social media sites/apps such as Instagram, that many non-professionals accept editing/edited images, and assume that most pictures are edited. I am also guilty of this as I assume that most images I see are photoshopped. This does make me resistant to wanting to photoshop my own images. I wonder if there is so much post editing these days that it would actually be quite different to not photoshop my work.

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The series “A Grunt’s Life” by Damon Winters was taken on his camera phone using the Hipstamatic app. We explored the questions this raises in a second forum post this week, below is a summary of the points I made in my post (copied here for my future reference):
• I feel Winter’s use of a camera phone for “A Grunt’s Life” seems to belittle the seriousness of the fact the images are from a war zone. People use camera phones to take pictures of their friends on a night out or to take snaps of things they find funny. To apply the same process to war photography seems almost disrespectful.
• I also feel that it humanises those on the front line. Rather than just being soldiers, those men were also just men, whose peers may well have been, at that exact time, sitting in a bar taking photos of each other on their phones. Winter’s use of camera phone provides a commentary, I think, on the fact that this technology has evolved but at the same time nations/countries have not evolved and are still fighting each other, and it is people paying for that. For me this raises questions on the state of the world today.
• I wonder whether his use of a camera phone raises questions as to the purpose of professional photographers. There are some views that photography is something anyone can do – especially as the pervasiveness of camera phones allows so many to take photos. I feel that this use of camera phone may do more to perpetuate that view of photography than challenge it.
• Winter’s use of the Hipstamatic app and its vintage-like effects on images taps into the desire for all things analogue that has emerged over the last few years. The aged look it gives makes you feel as though you are looking nostalgically into the past not looking at something from the present. I sometimes wonder if this desire for analogue is related to the reported levels of dis-satisfaction about the present amongst many people, in particular young people, and this makes them instead want to look to the past. Looking at old photos may generate fond memories of situations, even if these memories are somewhat distorted and events are remembered in accurately. I feel that the use of Hipstamatic in Winter’s images, distances them from the present by making them look as though they are from the past – and I wonder whether this could distance the viewer from the subject of the image and make it less relatable to the situation in the world today.

*******

I watched an advert for the new iphone 7 recently in which they extol the virtues of the new phone camera. It talks about, amongst other things, the camera sensors, the shallow depth of field available, the telephoto lens function enabling greater zoom, and the stability function enabling greater exposure time in low light. It talks about photographic technological qualities as if it were a “proper” camera, and not a phone camera. These capabilities do sound impressive and exciting in terms of technological development, and providing this technology in such a non-photography specific way may enable a greater number of people to become aware of these aspects of photography. Which may facilitate greater and more widespread discussions about photography, it may start more people looking at photography in greater depth and perhaps even appreciation. However, it may also encourage the view that anyone can be a photographer, you don’t need a camera or training or experience, or talent, if you have an iphone. After this week I find myself in two minds about this. On one hand, I feel that more discussion and interest in photography as a medium would be beneficial to strengthen the industry and the view of photographers. However, on the other hand, if the “anyone can be a photographer” view becomes more and more commonplace then where does that leave the professional photographer? If the technology becomes (or is already?) so advanced that anyone can take technically good images without the aforementioned training/experience etc. and photography is seen as something anyone can do, and newspapers/sites are using “citizen journalists” rather than paying for professional work, would this actually lessen the discussions about “good” photography? Would photography be looked as less critically and therefore would the value of photography, and the roles of professional photographers, diminish?

[1] STUART, Allen. 2013. The photographic image in digital culture. London: Routledge 2013

Discarded camera film found in local woodlands

Discarded camera film found in local woodlands

Week 3 - Collaboration

Week 3 is all about collaboration, and includes a task in which we need to work together for a micro-project.

Honestly this is quite daunting….having to work with someone else when I’m not sure what my own work is yet and all in under a week. However, this could be a good opportunity to learn something new!

The guidelines for the micro-project are vague…..we need to “agree on a theme or strategy for a collaborative micro project. You are completely free in terms of the content and creative direction of the project. But you should aim to create a small, but resolved piece of work in its own right, which has been formed in collaboration.”

With no starting point or restrictions for content or creative style this seems like a huge task to accomplish in a few days.

From watching this weeks video (interview with Brown & Bri) I feel an important point they bought up regarding collaborative work is to have a point of focus and a shared agenda. Their work and projects seem to be quite varied and differ from project to project but they always have an aim or perhaps an end goal for the project. Rather than working with other photographers they collaborate with people across creative disciplines and practical trades.

I think prior to this week my assumptions regarding collaborative work in a photographic sense were more about physically working on the setup of a photo with someone else, e.g. fashion photography shoots, or literally blending more than one image together to create a new piece of work – as in the work developed by Echosight http://echosight.me/

I think a challenge about this task is going to be the physical distance between us – although the digital world may make it easy to communicate I think the distance may provide some dictations on the types of collaborative work we will be able to do.

*******

This week’s forum post asked us to upload a picture or some text that could be a starting point for the project. Gemma and I teamed up as our quotes had a similar theme of perspective.

Gemma picked:

"A painter constructs, a photographer discloses" Susan Sontag, On Photography

 And I picked:

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for.” John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World we Live in[i]

 Over a Group forum we discussed how it seemed as though Gemma’s choice seemed to be from the perspective of the photographer and how photographs reveal something, and how my quote choice could be seen as being from the perspective of the viewer, and how a someone looking at an image may just see what they want to see, instead of what is necessarily being showed to them.

I choose this quote for a couple of reasons. The first being that the source was non-photography based. John Lubbock was a 19thC “banker, Liberal politician, philanthropist, scientist and polymath”, who made “significant contributions in archaeologyethnography, and several branches of biology. He helped establish archaeology as a scientific discipline, and was also influential in nineteenth-century debates concerning evolutionary theory.”[ii] From the Week 2 work regarding interdisciplinary approaches I wanted to continue thinking about how other disciplines can inspire and influence my photography work.

The second reason was because for a long time I’d only considered the message I was trying to convey through my photos, or what I thought my images were saying. I hadn’t thought about how viewers would interpret them, or how individual’s experiences would influence their interpretations of photographs. I felt that this quote reflected how viewers may only see what they want to see, or perhaps what their experiences allow them to see.

In order to create a piece of work using both of our quotes, I wondered whether Gemma and I could have one of us could take a photo with some kind of message/meaning/emotion in mind, i.e trying to disclose something, and then the other one of us uses that photo as inspiration to make another picture - and then we either present the two images side by side, or layer them in photoshop, to make a new image.

I had read about a collaborative project called Echosight, where people from different places blended images of different cities (http://echosight.me), and was thinking about doing something similar but in terms of perspective rather than physical location as a starting point.

Gemma posited using a documentary style of photography and using our home towns as the basis for our images.

We decided Gemma would make an image of the view she sees in the coffee shop where she does some of her photography editing work. Then I would use that to make a responsive image. The image she took gave me real feeling of being warm and cosy inside when it's cold outside. I liked the focus on the objects inside and how tightly they're framed together and in contrast there was nothing outside the window, just the empty street - I felt like it emphasized the warmth vs the empty cold, especially with the moisture on the window pane.

Gemma suggested I could make a response image of somewhere from the outside looking in so this is what I am going to try to do, to show from an alternate perspective the cold of being outside against the warmth of being inside.

Some difficulties we have both felt so far are to do with the time to complete this project as we only have a few days, and for a first collaboration it seemed like quite a lot to do in a short amount of time. We also felt like we were struggling trying to think of ways we could make a collaborative image from different geographical locations.

*******

This is our final image – a layered image of Gemma’s coffee shop view and the response image I took of looking inside a coffee shop from the outside. (Layering of the images together was done by Gemma).

Collaboration Image - Feb 2017, S. Bradley & G. Willis

Collaboration Image - Feb 2017, S. Bradley & G. Willis

I’m proud of the final image and I really like how it doesn’t conform to “traditional” composition rules. Some comments from this week’s webinar were that the picture makes you work to look at it, and comes across as being quite raw and edgy. This is something I thought as well when I first saw the final image and what I love about it. It struck me that perhaps in this instance the production of the image and the collaborative aspect was more relevant than the end product. It makes me wonder about the possibilities of photography being used as a therapeutic tool to promote/develop teamwork and even empathy in people.

I was really intrigued with the collaborative image created by Rita and Kate. They created a combined still life image featuring their own objects but composed/arranged together. I’ve not really explored still life photography but their piece did make me think about how I could incorporate still life into my work. I thought their final image was quite beautiful and I loved how they’d taken inspiration from a non-photographic source (the style of still life paintings from Flemish artists), and as they showed us the separate components it was interesting to see how they’d been put together.

I was initially quite reserved about the idea of collaborative work, and I didn’t know whether anything would be able to be made in such a short time. I do tend to feel that my photography is quite a solitary practice and I feel it is something I do alone. But I actually found the experience refreshing, inspiring, and much more fun than I was expecting! I loved being able to bounce ideas of someone, to see and hear someone else’s ideas and points of view, and being able to discuss the process with someone, as well as sharing concerns about how we were feeling. I really enjoyed being able to share this week’s task with someone. I definitely enjoyed working with someone on a project much more than I thought I would, and it’s really opened my eyes to the possibilities of collaborative work – both in planning work, carrying out the work, and creating a final image. It has definitely made me want to think about other ways I could incorporate collaborative work into my practice and how this could be used in my research project.

[i] https://archive.org/details/beautiesnaturea02lubbgoog[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lubbock,_1st_Baron_Avebury

Week 2 - Multiple Media & Interdisciplinary Practices

Week 2 has us looking at how other disciplines and contexts influence and relate to our own practice.

Photography and Forensic Science

One of the things that struck me during this week’s presentations/readings was whether my love of crime dramas/novels, and the way photography can be used for scientific/forensic science applications, is one of the reasons I like images to be “real” and “true”. By these terms, I mean images that have not been set-up or photoshopped to change something fundamental about an image (e.g. removing a person through digital manipulation of the image). I don’t necessarily mean altering exposure levels or colour contrast with photo editing software, although if someone was to digitally change a person’s hair colour, for example, I would not consider that resulting image to be “real” – as it would then show something that never existed.

I am interested in the way photography is used to document, for example, a crime scene, to document evidence of a crime, to record the face of a criminal suspect. Photography can be used in such creative ways and to show the beauty of people and landscapes, it is fascinating that the same practice and techniques can also show awful sides of humanity.

It also strikes me how the line between the two can be blurred. For example some pictures taken in the 1930s-1940s by Weegee I think could be considered crime scene photos (e.g. Body Under Taxi: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/body-under-taxi), but they are not languishing in a police file somewhere – they are held by museums and displayed in exhibitions[i].

There are so many images, particularly in advertising, in the world today that are photoshopped and heavily changed, I now find myself cynically assuming every image is photoshopped. I feel I want my work to be trusted, and I like my work for that reason, because I know I haven’t digitally removed something or added something into an image. I feel I have both creative and scientific tendencies to my personality and I feel possibly that is why I am so drawn to those aspects in photography.

As somewhat of a disclaimer – I am not disparaging or criticising work that has been photoshopped or staged – as long as it is not claimed to be, or portrayed to be, otherwise. For example, there has been discussion recently about the revelations of editing and staging in Steve McCurry’s work[ii]. There are various sides to the argument about whether his actions were right or wrong etc. but I do feel his work that was portrayed to be photojournalistic and has now been confirmed was staged, raises questions on the “truth” of those images, in particular. For me personally I do wonder about work not mentioned in this debate and how much of his work was staged/extensively digitally altered.

In trying to relate this notion of “real” images to my work, I wanted to share this image I took in December last year in Jersey. This wasn’t a set up picture, it wasn’t staged in anyway, and I haven’t photoshopped this image, it was just a natural moment of a seagull at the seaside.

Jersey, Channel Islands - December 2016 - Sophie Bradley

Jersey, Channel Islands - December 2016 - Sophie Bradley

Links for my further reading/reference: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/weegee?all/all/all/all/7  https://fstoppers.com/editorial/case-steve-mccurry-what-truth-photography-129505

Photography and Social Anthropology

I also found myself thinking about photography and its relation to social anthropology this week. I’ve always enjoyed looking at photographs from generations past, showing the way people used to live in comparison to the way people live now. It is fascinating to look at photos from bygone eras as records of how people used to dress, used to interact with one-another – and think about the way different cultures and societies have changed over time, or remained the same.

Something that has fascinated me for a long time is the history of tattooing. It is something that has been carried out in multiple cultures for thousands of years, and for various reasons; from denoting social status to providing protection to the wearer[iii]. This ancient practice has evolved into the tattooing of today – in which many people get tattoos to remind themselves of someone they have lost, or to commemorate a defining moment in their lives. Photography can also be used the same way – people hold on to photos of loved ones that died, they take photographs of weddings, christenings, graduations – important moments they want to remember. I feel the parallel of wanting to record something even though these are two very different methods is thought-provoking.

I also find the photography of tattoos fascinating, as a method of recording such an old yet modern and diverse practice, but also as a way of recording the record. Different societies have different beliefs and traditions regarding tattoos[iv] and being able to capture them as photographs seems to me an incredible way to document that and study the practice – as well as being able to document them for posterity.

Links for my further reading/reference:                       http://www.apolynesiantattoo.com/polynesian-tattoo-history    http://www.mdleaver.com/hardtimes#7                  http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/explore-art-and-ideas/artist/1997/mark-adams   http://www.thearts.co.nz/artists/mark-adams   http://photokunst.com/photographer_detail.php?artist_id=4&collection_id=5

Photography and time

Another aspect from this week’s themes I want to note down is the relationship between photography and time. A comment from one of this week’s presentations was that a defining aspect of photography as a still image is that photographs come with no set viewing time. Unlike moving images which have a set start and stop time, photographs do not impose any such limitation and can be viewed or studied for however long the viewer decides. In this way photographs can be easily revisited perhaps leading to some photos having such a lasting effect on the viewer.

Photographs by their very nature show the past, they show a moment when the cameras shutter opened to capture an instant. When viewing a photograph we are aware we are looking at something that has happened. We can evaluate and consider the subject of the photo from the perspective of it having been in the past. We can take time to really think about it. I like to be able to have the time to think thoughts through in my head and in my own time before verbalising them and I feel photography gives me a tool with which I can think back over things I have seen or experienced.

I want to share this picture I took in some woods near my home. The woods have been there for generations, seemingly unchanging and fixed. For me they represent a quiet constant in a world that moves so fast. I captured this runner as he was going through the woods and looking back at this image I feel it shows a commentary on the way so many of us move quickly through our days without really thinking about it. To quote that 80’s movie classic Ferris Bueller “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.

Bottom Woods, Oxfordshire/Berkshire border, December 2016 - Sophie Bradley

Bottom Woods, Oxfordshire/Berkshire border, December 2016 - Sophie Bradley

References                                                                                                                                       [i]https://www.icp.org/exhibitions/weegee-murder-is-my-business        [ii]https://petapixel.com/2016/06/07/eyes-afghan-girl-critical-take-steve-mccurry-scandal/  [iii]http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/tattoos-144038580/                                         [iv]http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/looking-at-the-worlds-tattoos-60545660/?no-ist=&page=1

Week 1 - The Global Image

The course has started off with looking at the concept of the global image; what it is, and how our work relates to that concept.

A Worldwide Medium

Through this weeks suggested readings and course presentations, I learnt about photography as a global medium. It is a practice that in its current form originated in a geographically small area of Europe but very quickly spread throughout the world – in conjunction with the development of photographic technology. Over a relatively short number of years, technology developed from the early Daguerreotype to the DSLRs and smart phone cameras of today. Along with this came the spread of the practice from the few pioneers (Daguerre, Fox Talbot et al), to having a large variety of practitioners; professional photographers to amateur photographers, to anyone with a camera phone who, whether consciously or unconsciously, participates in the global medium that is photography.

The fast spread of photography and rise of affordable equipment is what, I believe, enabled photography to become something practiced across the world and by so many people – leading to it becoming the global medium we recognise today. These are the things that has allowed me to be able to practice, and enjoy, photography.

I wanted to look through my work to see if anything I had taken relates to this concept. And really the fact that I take photographs could be an example of photography as a global medium. However, I also came across this image I took in Honolulu, Hawaii, in March/April 2016. I was struck by the juxtaposition of the older buildings in the foreground against the more modern high-rise buildings in the background – all of which are not a strange sight to see today. However, when thinking about the history of Hawaii it was not that many generations ago that any Western-style buildings were completely alien to the islands. I feel these things show a quite literal parallel to the spread and development of photography; from an area in Europe to becoming a global practice. These buildings are of a Western style but I was seeing them on the other side of the world, and how quickly the architectural style changed in the same way photographic technology rapidly developed.

Honolulu, Hawaii USA, March/April 2016 - Sophie Bradley

Honolulu, Hawaii USA, March/April 2016 - Sophie Bradley

Windows on the World

The above photo leads me on to the next point we examined this week; regarding how photography can be seen as a window to the world.

Early photography became synonymous with distant places, providing a window and an insight to a world people may not otherwise know. In my opinion this is still true of photography today; people still take and share photos of their holidays, for example, to give their friends and family a perspective of where they’ve been and what they saw.

This allowed (and still allows) people to be able to see parts of the world they may not otherwise have a chance to experience first-hand – which possibly enables people to feel more connected to the world outside from their own, but may also provide only a narrow, one-sided, view of the world. If a person had no other way in which to see or know about a foreign country except for the photographs taken by one person, they would only have that photographers’ perspective on that country. That photographers’ experiences, world view, and any biases, would I think inform his or her photographic practice and any resulting pictures.

So the camera can be seen as a window as a way to see parts of the world, and also as a window between the photographer and the subject of their photo. The camera as a window separates us from the subject of the photo, it keeps us from being a part of the action, so we capture the image from a distance – removed from being a part of it. Perhaps our pictures should be viewed as a record of how we saw something, and not presumed to be how something actually was.

A global image may not be a true representation of the place because the camera separates the photographer from the action of their picture, and the image is taken under the influence of the experiences and perspectives of the photographer and therefore may be a narrow view of the world. But different images of a place taken by several different photographers could also change opinion of a place.

For example, in November 2016 I went to Morocco and some pictures I took changed the perceptions of my family of the country. They had a view in their minds of Morocco (from other pictures they’ve seen over the years), to be the “typical” Marrakesh scene of a busy market place; sunny, crowded, and bustling. My pictures, including this one below – show a different side to that perspective. This was a nomadic camp in the Sahara desert. It shows poverty, making do, and yet still trying to be a part of the modern world using solar electricity. This is not something that would ordinarily spring to mind when someone thinks of Morocco, so this global image – this window to the world – showed a new view and a different image of the world.

Sahara Desert, Morocco - November 2016 - Sophie Bradley

Sahara Desert, Morocco - November 2016 - Sophie Bradley

Unity and Change

The third aspect of the global image we looked at this week was in respect of whether images can bring about social unity and change.

Photos and their subject matters are often taken to be real and true, and to have a longer lasting effect on viewers than moving images and therefore thought to bring about social unity and change. This seems to me to be particularly true for social unity in the case of hard hitting, emotional, images. Whether this social unity has led, or will lead, to social change I am honestly not sure.

I do not think any image I have taken to date falls under this category, mostly because I have never set out to take a photo with that aim in mind. However, this is such an image I took in Morocco of a nomadic girl; financially poor, dirty. It ticks the boxes for the “type” of image that one would think of when discussing photos that could inspire global social unity and change. But whether an image on its own can do that I do not know. The course presentations this week noted some historical situations in which photos were credited in bringing about some social changes, but in reality there were pieces of writing that went alongside those images and so any resulting changes were not just because of photographs. This does lead me to wonder whether an image on its own would be enough – perhaps in order to effect change more than one discipline would be needed.

Sahara Desert, Morocco - November 2016 - Sophie Bradley

Sahara Desert, Morocco - November 2016 - Sophie Bradley