Posted in Contextual Studies


This year was the first time I have studied contextual studies. I have found it very interesting to learn about different elements that contribute to photography besides the physical side of it, which has ultimately helped to increase my awareness when being the photographer and when researching.

Learning about the background of photography and things that should be considered when taking photographs has proven helpful towards my practice in terms of acting professional. I have also found it interesting to learn about judging images by other people and being able to delve deeper into the meaning of images by learning about social and ethical issues surrounding the ways images can be interpreted.

It has been really helpful to learn a substantial amount about various photographers I wasn’t particularly aware of before, from historical photographers like Cecil Beaton and Yousuf Karsh, to more contemporary photographers like Madame Peripetie and Rachel Jump, which has helped with my research across all of my briefs over the year.

Some of my favourite lectures have included Intimate Lives and Family Albums as I felt this were more personal and easy to connect with. I also found it interesting to learn about the lives of photographers through visualisation, giving the feeling of empathy and deeper understanding of the person they are. I also found the Representations in Advertising and the Media lecture very engaging and interesting, highlighting key social, ethical and cultural issues, some of which are easy for me to relate to which meant I was able to get really involved with this lecture.

I struggled with the reading task based on Barthes, but purely because of my lack of understanding, which is something I hope to work and improve on over the remaining time of my degree. I also found that with the change over from commercial to BA photography, I may have missed out on some on the earlier lectures from the first semester which may be of benefit for me to visit, however, the lectures from commercial have also proved quite beneficial to me since transferring course.

My main downfall over the course of the year was not keeping up with my Harvard referencing, which proved me a challenge as the deadline approached as I had to try and revisit places of research from memory. This is my main target to improve on. I also feel that I need to cut down slightly on how much I write about some of the lectures on my blog and try to include more of my own research than notes from the lectures.

To conclude, I feel over the course of contextual studies I have had a lot of ups and downs but learnt a lot about things that I may not have considered before. I feel next year my main focus is to keep up with my Harvard referencing to be sure that I don’t have to do it all at the end. I would be interested in learning more about personal stories of photographers through intimate photography as I feel I can connect more with this kind of photography and it inspires me to think about my own.

Posted in Contextual Studies

Narrative Theory

A narrative is something that tells a story. This can come in many different formats including text, pictures, performance or a combination. Narrative space is a place where stories can be told, for example, an exhibition or a film. Most narratives follow a typical narrative structure.


11-23-36life_mag_cover_ftpeck.jpgOn November 23, 1936 – first ever issue of LIFE magazine was published. The front cover was Fort Peck Dam by Margaret Bourke-White. Life magazine was a pictorial magazine that showed photographic essays and documentary photography. Photo essays and documentary photography are very similar, but photo essays often tell a structured story and are sometimes accompanied by text. It was a huge success when it was first produced as it allowed the audience a new perspective. Although it had a massive impact on people’s lives during the beginning and mid 2oth century, by the end of the century it was starting to have less influence because technology started to develop things like tv, which introduced moving image and allowed even more to be shown to the public.

There are many theorists for narrative. Some of the theories, arguably, can be linked and argued against one another. Here are some examples. Tzetvan Todorov suggests that narratives always have a structure of Equilibrium/ Disequilibrium/ New equilibrium. Claude Levi-Strauss says human cultural understanding is based upon a system of binary opposites. Vladimir Propp said narratives always have certain character types who perform certain actions.

A non-linear narrative is a style used that opposes the structure of a typical narrative. These are usually used in films or text as they can build suspense and place the audience in the mind of the character. They usually are in the form of a memory or flashback. Some examples of this are Inception, Momento, and more recently, Deadpool.

Narrative interventions in photography was an exhibition at the Getty Museum which explored three artists who use a combination of text and imagery to imply the idea that narratives can be implied, real, or re-written.

1f592b26a9e6ede36abb7319b18ed4d7Simryn Gill’s art exploits the influences that define identity and belonging. In her series “Forest”, she tore pages from specific books that were significant to her and sculpted them into nature which she then photographed. This creates visual ideas of the history of nature along with her own personal history.

cowin_cupcake_bookEileen Cowin produced the series “I See What You’re Saying”, which explores the concept of storytelling and the need to strip away layers to reveal hidden truths. This was inspired by people’s lies.

Carrie Mae Weems photographed a series called “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried”. It is a selection of 19th century photographs, many of slaves, which she worked into, showing the history of black people and giving them a voice.a000797101-001

Rachel Jump is an art photographer currently based in the Chicago area. Her black and white images show narratives from her youth, highlighting themes of belonging, memory, and absence, and have been exhibited throughout the United States. Her series “Origins” is an exploration of her family life. It describes a time when her Mother had various operations. She said, “She showed me her pain, and I saw the stars.” Her images show her love and devotion but also add a sense of empathy. Her images also provide a way of her showing how she gained her identity and reunite her memories together. As a child she moved around a lot. She said “Later in life I began to question how my identity was shaped without a point of origin”. Her images signify how her family were reunited from the places they were left.



Posted in Contextual Studies

Family Album and Social Media

This lecture was about photo albums, the evolution of technology and social media, and how these have affected each other.

In 1899 George Eastman published his hand-held Kodak with the slogan “You press the button, we’ll do the rest”. This enabled people to photograph their own subjects and exploit their lives through imagery, encouraging people to take photographs. It allowed a broader idea of who the photographer is and explored the idea that photography allowed memory to last forever .

A common photograph is the family photograph. These often include baby photos, weddings, holidays, birthdays, achievements and many other events that occur within family life. These are sometimes staged and sometimes natural, capturing when the subject doesn’t realise. They are ways of recording history and re-telling stories from the past. Wells said in 2004 that “the photographs we keep for ourselves are treasured less for their quality than for their context”, showing that we keep family photos for personal relation and memory. However, family photographs tend to raise questions like is what we see fact or fiction? How truthful are domestic photographs? And is the photograph a true representation of the identity of the sitter?

Liz Wells says “personal and family photographs are composed specifically to portray the individual or the family in a way they wish to be seen”. She also said “images feed our need for a clear sense of identity and of cultural belonging”. In 1995, Kuhn said “the family album is viewed as an important tool in the reconstruction of a personal history, searching among its cast of characters for meaning and explanations”.

Through the development of technology we have seen cameras become increasingly more technical and easier to use for amateurs. The use of automatic cameras has meant anyone can take an image that looks professional. Along with cameras, there has been a development in social media, with such sites as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and many more.

In January 2015, Facebook was the first social network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts. Twitter had over 284 million monthly active accounts. Meanwhile, blogging service Tumblr had more than 230 million active blog users on their site. In August 2015, it was said that over a billion people used Facebook on a single day. Having such a massive site to connect with friends and family has seen the rise in publication of family photos online instead of having a personal hard copy of a family album. This has introduced other sites such as Flickr which allows you to post purely just images online. These sites can be beneficial to photographers trying to make a name for themselves and spread their work, however where is the line? Should people broadcast their personal images online?

These social sites are often abused also. Things can be taken out of control. You can also lose control of your own information – once something is posted online it is there for everyone to see. Pictures in particular can be shared 1000’s of times and can then be targeted by spoofs and memes. However, there are times when social media can come in handy to help spread a message or get help from the public using photographs. This is when personal images may have a purpose for becoming public, for example, when someone goes missing or is wanted by authorities.

Family albums are suggested to be hard copies for personal use. They are often very selective with the images which are contained. Social media is less selective, less private and a “bigger album” for us to share our memories with the people we are connected to. There are arguments that physical albums are more personal but having images online means they can never be damaged or potentially lost.

trishmorrissey02.jpgIn 2003, Trish Morrissey photographed the series “Seven Years”. This is a reference of the age gap between herself and her elder sister who she worked with to impersonate family members and re-enact memories familiar to most families in the photographs. It was inspired by family photo albums and family relationships. The works question understanding of family photography through staged photographs. In contrast to most family photos, the people in her images rarely smile, allowing the viewer to concentrate on the gestures and body language which reveal hidden tensions between family members.

Sally Mann photographed “Immediate Family” in 1992 which shows her own children photographed in intimate ways to show the identity of her own family and compare to many others. The series was highly criticised due to the nudity of her children, and the sexualisation of the gestures in the images. maxresdefault

Zed Nelson is a documentary photographer from London. He photographed the series “The Family”, which consisted of him photographing a family friend’s son from birth to age 22. He was inspired to do this by time-lapse photography. Each year, on the same date, against the same backdrop, under the same lighting he would photograph them. He said “this way there are no distractions, only the miracle of growth and the changes of time and ageing”.

Although it’s not his own family, there is still an element of personal connections with thedfcc7044-87e0-48c9-918e-9efb522be591 images – growing older – which everyone experiences. The sitters are also close family friends so he is able to connect with them. These are images that can be kept by the family forever and be cherished as a memory of the son’s life and achievements growing older. There is an element of sadness to the images, as with the son growing older, you also see the parents growing older.

Through the images you can also see a development of fashion, hairstyles, and changing relationships. Nelson said “the body language fascinates me, between the growing boy and his parents. At first the son stays close to his mother, then he gains independence, and then increasingly bonds with and even mimics his father”. This is something everyone can relate to as this is the standard cycle of growing older.4b69d1f36462257020a88d256eebfa88_XL


Posted in Contextual Studies


19th September 1996 – Born

2001 – Parents seperated

September 2001 – First day at school

June 2008 – Left Primary School

September 2008 – Started secondary School, always enjoyed practical and creative work

June 2011 – Work experience in a photographic studio gave me realisation of passion for photography

September 2011 – Started GCSE subjects, a lot of creative subjects – art, fashion, graphics, photography was not an option

June 2013 – Left Secondary School

August 2013 – GCSE results

September 2013 – Started A Levels, including fashion and photography

February 2015 – Parents separated

March 2015 – Things got bad, needed to get away, wasn’t ever keen for university but following passion for photography seemed a good idea to get away

April 2015 – Diagnosed with depression, which I feel has helped inspire a lot of my work and distracted me from other things

26th May 2015 – Relationship with Connor began, was a massive positive after all the negatives of 2014-15

June 2015 – First photographic exhibition at college, won an award for creative thinking

Summer 2015 – Started doing small photographic jobs for family, friend etc. including a wedding to build on experience and portfolio

Summer 2015 – Offered unconditional offer for Plymouth and conditional offers from 2 others, a motivating factor

June 2015 – Left College

August 2015 – A Level results

5th September 2015 – Moved to Plymouth which was a massive step for me

September 2015 – Started university

Posted in Contextual Studies


When reading Barthes extract it provided me with a new view point regarding the elements behind photography. Some key points I picked up when reading Barthes Camera Lucida are as follows:

  • Photography isn’t photography – wants to know if photography exists
  • Photography catches moments that can never be captured again
  • Understanding some photographs requires extra knowledge or relation the the image as it is taken for a reason
  • The photograph and what it represents don’t make sense without each other
  • We don’t “see” the photograph, we see what it represents
  • Photographs have 3 practices, the operator (photographer), spectator (audience) and spectrum (subject)
  • Images are taken to surprise
  • Photography has two procedures. The “chemical revelation” shows light on a subject which is more visible to the audience. The “physical order” is the formation of the image through the lens, seen by the photographer.
  • When you know you’re being photographed you naturally change your body position (pose), which can sometimes make you seem different to who you are in reality by imitating characters
  • Photography objectifies a subject – makes a human seem dead?
  • No control of the ownership of the objectification
  • There are too many sides to a “self”
  • Photographs are interpreted differently by everyone and can be read differently depending on where they are published
  • Cameras are clocks for seeing, you finger is the thing that captures the right moment.

Dictionary of words I didn’t understand

ONTOLOGICAL – the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.

CONSTITUTE – be (a part) of a whole.

ANTIPHON – in Christian music and ritual is a responsory by a choir or congregation, usually in the form of a Gregorian chant, to a psalm or other text in a religious service or musical work

DEICTIC – Relating to or denoting a word or expression whose meaning is dependent on the context in which it is used (such as here, you, me, that one there, or next Tuesday). Also called indexical. In these ‘referential’ uses, it is replaceable by the deictic pronouns this and that (This is red, That is possible).

TAUTOLOGICAL – Needless repetition of the same sense in different words

IMPORTUNATE – Troublesomely urgent or persistent in requesting; pressingly entreating

IMPASSE –  road or passage having no exit

HEURISTIC – relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem

EFFIGY – A crude figure or dummy representing a hated person or group

REFERENT – A person or thing to which a linguistic expression refers

QUINTESSENCE – The pure, highly concentrated essence of a thing

PHENOMENOLOGY – A philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness

Posted in Contextual Studies

Intimate Lives

Intimate photography is based around photographs taken which hold personal and emotional elements from the photographer. This can be things like family events, relationships and symbolic moments. Besides the positives there are also negative theme which some photographers wish to explore. These include  health, healing, transformations, relationships, everyday life, documenting, political and ethical implications -all of which can be used intimately to visualise and keep memories alive. Some photographers have been criticised for using such taboo themes in their work but sometimes these can serve an important and thought provoking message to the audience. They are also sometimes done for the sake of the photographer being able to move on with their life.

sally.jpgSally Waterman’s series “Wasteland” is a set of work  embroidered with personal difficulty and memories of her past. It acts as a therapeutic way of her dealing with her parent’s divorce and her Dad leaving her. In her images she portrays herself as an anonymous figure or ghostly presence. Therapy photography is often criticised but I feel that Waterman and other photographers are  entitled to broadcast their past to people as a way of bringing people with a similar history together.

Tracey Emin uses photography to tell stories of her own life. Her work is classified as confessional art. She is able to establish intimacy with the viewer by revealing secrets about her life as art. Her work has been ridiculed by press on numerous occasions. Most of her work is based on her life growing up in Margate. She gave up art after an abortion but Tracey Emin's Bed Tate Modern FOR USE WITH REVIEW ONLYwas encouraged to start again by Sarah Lucas.

Emin’s bed piece was a very controversial piece if art. It shows her own bed during her breakdown and shows that she is just like other people who go through the same thing. She said that her reason for making the bed piece was to serve as a realisation of what she’s done to herself.
Another piece of her controversial work was the tent called “Everyone I’ve Ever Slept Emin-Tent-InteriorWith” which was full of people’s names who she had slept with. It was said to be a sexually motivated piece of work. It displayed a way of stitching people back into her life, like memories. It also shows her vulnerability as a person. The work is appreciated more by people who can understand, which raises the question of generation differences having an effect on the way her work is interpreted.

Her set of work “I’ve Got it All”, was a way of saying “up yours” to critics, as regardless of what was said about her work, it helped her get a name and make herself famous.Some of her work was criticised for being too “simple” and like “child’s drawings” but her work is more about emotion than aesthetic. C.Tracey-Emin-I’ve-got-it-all-2000-A3-press


imageJo Spence photographed a set of images called ” A Picture of Health?” which was a
photographer diary of her battle with breast cancer. The images tell us about the social experience that comes with cancer, showing us how she felt objectified by the hospital and was not heard. Her work urges people with cancer to stay powerful. After stopping treatment she photographed her transformation of her body. She said “this stopped me disavowing that I have cancer, and helped me to come to terms with something I initially found shocking and abhorrent.” She expressed how she felt it was important to photograph what people don’t see behind closed doors to show what life is really like and she did this right up until she died of leukaemia in 1992.

Nan Goldin photographs personal, sexual, and transgressive photographs of her family, friends, and lovers. She describes her photographs as a ‘visual diary’. She said “these are my friends, these are my family, this is myself. There is no separation between me and what I photograph.” Her work was heavily inspired by Larry Clarke, using photography to visualise the struggles of her life. Her self portraits were based on her abusive relationship which she photographed to act as a deterrent for her to not go back and make the same mistake. She had a strong friendship with the transgender community which she photographed to expose their lives which helps to engage with people who can relate to the transgender society, ultimately helping them to feel more comfortable. She also photographed the underground scene and the rise in AIDS, which helped to recognise the struggles and lives of people who were often ignored. Goldin was heavily criticised for a lack of skill but again, the images are about emotion and engagement with the audience.

Judith Fox photographed a series called “I Still Do”, which was photographed over the course of 10 years. It shows the deteriorating of her husband with alzeimers who would forget how to perform basic procedures within his life. It shows her love towards him and you can almost follow her heartbreak through the process of his deterioration. It tells the story of their ageing relationship full of love which is often forgotten when alzeimers takes over. People have criticised the series saying it’s too personal and that there are things that should be kept private. There is also the case of whether or not she had asked his permission to photograph his illness. I do not agree. A family member of my own recently died from alzeimers, and it was heartbreaking to see her deteriorate into someone else.But I found Fox’s work quite comforting in a sense that it shows that a lot of people go through the same things as you, and it can help you to relate and not feel so alone. I found it quite beautiful that Fox wanted to remember his illness which I feel she can look back on and know that regardless of the illness, he was still her husband. I think it is important to remember every last memory with someone.


Many other photographers use intimate photography in their work which is celebrated and criticised by the audience. Larry Clarke’s “Teenage Lust”, shows his youth and the side of society which is less publicised creating curiosity and a shock factor with the audience. It highlights the struggle of youths and when the set was published his portrayal of youth was transferred to a younger generation of rebels.TulsaTeenage-Lust-Larry-C-009

Corinne Day created a sat of images called Diary which was produced over 10 years and portrays a personal photographic account of her life and friendships. The work has a shock factor and sadness to it but is honest and emotional. It celebrates friendship and shows the struggles for younger people. diary3

Sophie Calle created “Take Care of Yourself” which was based on her breakup with her partner via email and was done to help her cope with her loss. She said “at first it was therapy; then art took over.”


Richard Billingham created a series called “Ray’s a Laugh” which shows the family images you wouldn’t expect to see after his alcoholic father moved in and disrupted the life of his mother. It shows the honest truth of family life besides the posed smiles we usually see. It shows disfunticion but also love, but the images can serve to be uncomfortable to look at. It helps the audience to make connections with the images as everyone has problems behind closed doors.3219203

Annie Leibovitz photographed her relationship with Susan Sontag behind closed doors to show their true lives together. She photographed her right up to Sontag’s death and bringing her body home as a way of remembering every last memory they had together.susanseattle.0

Sarah Lucas is famous for her promiscuous sculptures and photography which makes everyday items have a sexual connotation. Although in some cases her intimate links with her work are only assumed, there are some pieces which have an obvious link to her life. There are also bits of work she has created and subconsciously linked with her intimate past without realising until after displaying them.

Lucas tries to tackle sexual stereotypes in her work. As an androgynous character herself, the stereotypes of gender are something that bother her. She was influenced highly by the literature she read about feminism and sex. One of her immediate sources of imagery was the tabloid press which made her begin to explore the representation of the female body. She saw women through the eyes of a man but as a woman felt objectified by the representation, which was the message behind her work. Her poses also show a sense of masculinity but involve suggestions of female gentalia, suggesting the equality of gender. Lucas was also angered by the attention males got from the press and the little amount of work they had to do to get this. She says “I was more angry when I wasn’t getting any success and people around me were. I was furious with all these blokes with their one-line ideas getting successful around me.” Her work stands as relatable visualisations for people who don’t feel obliged to be classed as one gender, similar to herself.

In her work she tries to display her fetishes and obsessions like in her exhibition “The Fag Show”, in which she explored her obsession with cigarettes as a material for art, suggesting the connection between smoking and sex.

In 2008, her ex-boyfriend Angus Fairhurst hanged himself. Lucas believes that a lot of what killed him was the extreme, sudden exposure of their generation. Now, while his death is always there, it is particularly present when things aren’t going well. “In the sense that I do have doubts and when I’m putting a show together, and the day goes badly, I’m thinking this is how he must have felt.” She also struggles with depression. “I sink like a stone,” she says. The idea of suicide and depression is shown in some of her work where she asks if suicide is “genetic” and shows such things as her “bodies” hanging from above. Although this might not be intentional it has a strong link to this idea. There is also a sense of loneliness in he work which could suggest the idea of depression also.

Some of Lucas’ sculptures and photographs of male nudes depicts the bodies of her former lovers, similar to the tent idea by Emin. Lucas says she didn’t set out for it to be autobiographical but over time she has seen her own life shining through her work making them more personal to her.

It would also seem that she was inspired by the lack of support and ambition that her family had when she was younger, which could explain why aesthetically he work is quite simple, but has a strong message behind it. “Someone like Tracey [Emin] had a background of quite a lot of ups and downs, really, in terms of fortune. [And] her dad was a sort of businessman. Whereas my family – they had absolutely no ambition. It just wasn’t there. I remember my mum being absolutely against homework, ‘because you’re there all day anyway’.”

“The creation of a new social value, which is the publicity of the private: the private is consumed as such, publicly. ” Roland Barthes creates a good point here which suggests that by publicising your private life you create a relatable issue, something someone can value because of their own experiences. I feel that intimate photography shouldn’t be criticised but embraced, as a way of bringing society together to celebrate the things in life which we don’t always want people to know about. Together it can be used as a way of coping and moving forward.

Posted in Professional Practice

Interview with Jon Robinson-Pratt

How did you get into photography and what made you chose it as your career path?
By accident really. Firstly I was going to be an Architect but didn’t want to do 7 years at college! So I started studying towards Graphic design at college. As part of this I had to complete a 6 week unit in photography. I learnt basic Black and White traditional film and print processing and then was set loose in the darkroom with loads of dangerous chemicals to practise and experiment! I was hooked and pretty much stayed in there for 6 weeks! The Art College was an old warehouse that had been used as a hospital during the war and the darkroom processing area had a big concrete slab in it which was used as the morgue! It was pretty creepy in there late at night!
Needless to say… sadly no romantic story of my dad giving me a camera at an early age or anything like that!

I’ve noticed you photograph many different types of genres from commercial to portrait… What’s your favourite style/genre of photography?
Style wise – whatever suits the image, shoot or brief.
With regards to genre or fields of work… I am a petrol head and a music fan at heart so shooting cars or live/stage is where I am most happy! Doing what you love for work doesn’t seem like work is a great cliché but it’s true!fbhfdhn

How do you cast for your portrait shoots?
I don’t! Most of my portraiture is Commercial work or Editorial so 9 times out of 10 there is a person or persons already lined up to shoot. It’s my job to make them look good yet fall perfectly into a pre-determined brief.

I saw on your website you photograph many stage productions and concerts… How did you get vdsgvb.jpginto to photographing this?
Through 2 separate avenues. The stage work came about mainly because I spent my first 11 years of employment as an ‘in house’ photographer in the Marketing department of the largest Tertiary college in the UK. The college has a very large and successful Drama department and I was regularly called in to shoot productions and dress rehearsals.
Concert work came about working for Drummer magazine and Bass guitar magazine. I had regular briefs to shoot musicians for their ‘artist’ front cover features and interviews. This usually meant going to gigs and concerts and meeting with the musicians, shooting some portraiture during the afternoon and then capturing some live shots during the show. Sadly I don’t get to do too much of this anymore as the magazines moved to a different publishing company and didn’t continue employing me! It is though one of my favourite ‘fields’ to work in. Shooting at a concert is a great and yet challenging experience. First and foremost you are in ‘the pit’ directly in front of the stage so quite often you are mere feet away from famous musicians. You are only allowed in there for the first 3 songs, you have to deal with very odd light and under NO circumstances can you use flash! Plus you are jostling with other photographers for the best angles! On the flip side… it’s quite a rush and you can get right into the action and more often than not have great coloured lights to work with!

How did you get involved with magazines such as Volksworld, Retro Cars and Performance VW?
Members-JonathanPratt-thru-a-lupe 02
Whilst still working as an employed photographer at the college I was approached by Volksworld Camper and Bus magazine to feature my own Camper Van. Naturally as a photographer I asked if I could shoot the images… the editor nervously agreed. To cut a long story short they were really pleased with the results and offered me freelance work to cover any shoots they needed doing in the South West. So I did this in my spare time for about 2 years. This enabled me to build a decent automotive portfolio and started getting my work known. Once your work is ‘out there’ editors of other magazines become more willing to offer you work. I am quite lucky in that I cover the South West and there aren’t that many automotive photographers down this way so I have kind of cornered the market for certain magazines!cdv

How do you come up with your pricing for shoots and does it differ for different clients?
When starting out, initially looking around and seeing what your local competition are charging and then pitching in somewhere in the same ‘ball park’. But you have to be sensible… charge too much and risk not being hired, charge too little and you don’t make any money… but again you may not get hired as looking too cheap could be a reflection on the quality of your work!
Pricing for shoots is about getting as much information from the client beforehand so you can work out time scales and expenses to give an accurate quote. Clients like to know where they stand before they commit to releasing finances. Sometimes you get it wrong and a job can take more time than expected so quite often in this instance you have to just ‘suck it up’ and stick to the original quote. So you may work harder or longer for the same money but if you are hoping for repeat business (continual work from the same client) then keeping them happy is key!
Personally I charge the same hourly rates for all clients with regards to commercial work. In my opinion charging a big company a higher rate than a small company or an individual is unethical and can be a bad reflection on you and your business. Although a cheeky way round this is to charge a slightly higher rate to everyone and then that gives you leeway to offer the smaller companies a discount. Everyone loves a bargain!
Editorial (magazines and press) quite often have set fees that they pay for specific jobs. If this is an area that a photographer wants to work in then they just have to accept what is offered more often than not… kind of take it or leave it! Also most editorial jobs are paid on publication of the work so you can sometime have to wait a long time for payment! My longest lead time so far was 13 months from shoot to publication… but again… this is an industry standard and you have to take it or leave it!

What’s the highlight of your career?
I don’t think it’s happened yet! Although to be fair… photographing the Red Hot Chili Peppers was pretty cool! Standing on stage at Knebworth in front of 110 thousand people was quite mind blowing!
Seeing my first magazine front cover on the shelves in WH Smiths takes some beating too!

Any mistakes?
Luckily, touch wood, not really. I did a wedding once and one of my memory cards corrupted and I lost images of the first part of the day… It cost me quite a lot of money but I was able to get them retrieved by the card manufacturer.
Also my dog once chewed up a very expensive scarf that I was shooting as part of some product photography! Needless to say I had to pay for it and I didn’t get any repeat business from that shoot!
But I find that working methodically and at a sensible pace allows you to get it right every time… rushing is when accidents happen!
Also having proper photographic insurance in place, for any eventuality is very VERY important!!!!

Who or what inspires your ideas?
Everything and everyone around me! Imagery is everywhere… you can’t help but see it and be inspired, guided, wowed or even turned off by it! I do find it useful to look at some imagery and actually decide that what you are seeing is NOT the way to do it! It helps you to discover BETTER ways to create something.
I am not a photography ‘geek’. I don’t feel very comfortable in the presence of other photographers and I most certainly don’t stand around ‘geeking’ out about equipment or settings with other ‘geek’ photographers… there’s more to life than Fstops and megapixels!!!

Next steps for you?
Hoping to build my own studio… All of the studio based stuff I do is done either mobile on location or in my office… having to set it up and take it down every time is becoming a bit tiresome. Having my own space will greatly improve my workflow… and my sanity!

Any advice you would give to starting photographers?
Oh yes…. Plenty… where to start!
Learn traditional film and print processes. Digital, in the fast pace of this day and age, is a great tool. It fast, reliable (most of the time!) and can sometimes help you out of sticky situations. Results can be created, corrected and distributed around the entire world in minutes. But it doesn’t make you a great photographer. Having a grounded knowledge of traditional process, I believe, sets you up with experience of how it all came about in the first place! If you can shoot it successfully on film… you can most certainly do it digitally. You may never ever use it again in your working life… but to me it’s the same as a Graphic Designer learner to draw with a pencil! As well as this it’s key to learn techniques like golden section, rule of 3rds, depth of field, metering from 18% grey and composition! All this is what makes you a great photographer…. Not the latest Apple Mac!!!!!
Learn the ‘proper rules’ first. Picking up a camera and just pressing the shutter is easy and anyone can do it. Learn what happens when you choose one setting over another. Learn about how light works. Learn the science behind how images are created. Take this knowledge and use it, experiment with it and get it ingrained in your mind. Once you have that knowledge… only then can you start to bend or break the rules! Some of the most mind blowing images are created by accident or by not using correct photographic practises. Creating something but not knowing how it was achieved because it happened by accident, in my eyes, states that you are not a good photographer. This knowledge is what sets you above the rest!
Learning doesn’t just mean reading about it! Get hands on and a practise, practise and practise more! Then Experiment, experiment, experiment!! Write everything down as you do it… that way you can look back and see what you did wrong or what you did right… recording how you achieved certain results means you can re-create them again or adapt them.
Learn how to use Flash! Even if you rarely need to use it… learn it! Once you have mastered the basics it’s really not that complicated! I see this a lot in wedding photography. The ‘Saturday boys’ or semi pro hobbyists that shoot weddings at the weekend quite often churn out imagery all shot with natural light. Whilst this most certainly has its place, all too often it’s because the photographer is scared to use Flash. When you find yourself in a low light situation you will really wish you knew how to use it properly!
Don’t rest on your Laurels… KEEP LEARNING!
Don’t ‘pigeonhole yourself’ – Once you have chosen the areas you really want to work in, learn how to do that to the best of your ability but also learn how to work in other fields as well. This make you much more employable. Being a ‘Jack of all Trades, master of all trades’ will stand you in good stead. Too many photographers pitch themselves as specifically just ‘wedding photographers’ or ‘portrait photographers’ or ‘landscape photographers’ and nothing else. Eventually you will find that work is limited if you can only do 1 or 2 fields. There are thousands upon thousands of wedding photographers out there all fighting for a slice of that market… but a wedding photographer that can also shoot press work, award ceremonies or product photography has many different ways to earn a living. It’s also means varied work which keeps it fresh and engaging for the photographer!
Be professional – At all times, regardless of the client or size of job, be professional in your work, your ethics and your appearance. It will reflect well on you and on your presumed quality of work… if you take pride in yourself you will take price in your work! Don’t call yourself Professional unless you are a true professional… i.e. earning a LIVING from your trade. Also… be HUMBLE too. I have come across so many photographers over the years that think and state that because they are pros they are ‘THE BIG I AM’… they can be ‘pre Madonna’s’, have attitude and think they are the most important person on the planet! They annoy everyone and quickly gain a reputation from it. As a hired photographer you are privileged to be invited to work for someone else… not the other way round, so remember this… if you gain recognition, praise or congratulations… take it, enjoy it, use it… BUT DON’T brag about it or abuse it!
Insurance – take out professional insurance for photographers! I worked for the first 2 years freelance without it. Then I dropped my camera on a press job. It didn’t break luckily… but I realised it’s the tool of my trade. If I break it… I can’t work…period! But more than that it protects your clients in case of any accidents or losses they might incur as a result. It protects the General Public if they are injured as a result of you… and it can pay for reshoot costs… damages to other property etc etc – for example whilst I sit here typing this I have £6000 worth of bespoke leather shoes and handbags in a box behind me for a product shoot… if anything happens to them I can’t afford to pay for them out of my own pocket! One mistake or accident like that could end your entire business!
Equipment – The latest piece of expensive kit isn’t the ‘be all and end all’, ‘got to have’, item and the ‘bigger the megapixels the better’ most certainly IS NOT true! Don’t worry if your camera is old and battered… so long as it works and reads light correctly then all is good! If there is one item that you should strive for the best, it’s the lens! The quality of the glass that the light enters through IS the most important part of the camera. You will achieve better quality images on a 6-10 million megapixel SLR body with a pro lens than you will with a pro 20-30 million megapixel SLR body and a cheap aftermarket lens.
Brand – Create a brand or an identity that is strong and recognisable. Then stick with it… Be more creative than just calling your business ‘YOUR NAME’ PHOTOGRAPHY. To me this kind of business name puts you into the category of hobbyists, semi pros and Facebook/Instagram photographers etc etc. It lacks any effort and I think this will come across to clients! It makes your work and your business standalone by itself. Also having a business name that is more than just your own name suggests that maybe your company is bigger than just a sole trader (one person) which can hold some weight in the market too!
Criticism – Be able to take criticism as a positive tool to improve and better yourself. Of course you will always come up against ‘the haters’ who will bring you down for no reason but to make themselves feel better… ignore them. But constructive critique or advice is part of the learning curve and should be used, not ignored! Be critical of yourself too… if something isn’t working… perhaps your just aren’t getting somewhere with editing a job… leave it… go away for a day or 2 and then come back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll see it in a whole different way!
Professional bodies – Strive to get some form of accreditation or qualification from a Professional awarding body. I am an Associate (2nd highest level qualification) of the British Institute of Professional Photography. There are others such as the Master Photographers or the Royal Photographic Society. Not only does this look good on your CV and having letters after your name is cool… but it is also a testament to the quality and standard to which you work. Plus there are lots of benefits included within the annual membership. But it’s not just a pay and go membership, you have to submit a portfolio of work for assessment.
Awards – Enter awards… ok so you may not win anything… but its useful experience and quite often you can get professional critique of your work. Plus if you do win an award… being able to put ‘Award Winning’ on your brand, social media and website really does stand you above the competition.
Models – where possible always use professional models! Even when working as a student, don’t be tempted to use a ‘friend’ just because they have a pretty face. A professional or experienced model will know how to create many poses straight from the word go. Quite often they will be able pose even without any direction from the photographer. They will also not be self-conscious shooting in public. I have seen far too many shoots where the model doesn’t know how to pose and looks really awkward or is trying to copy something they have seen in a magazine. This can totally make or break an image!!!
Take a break – Every once in a while take a break from being a photographer! You don’t need to take awesome images of absolutely everything or every occasion to prove you are a great photographer or to show your passion! An awesome plumber doesn’t do pipework whilst on holiday…

Posted in Professional Practice

Critical Review

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-76) was a very important photographer of the 19th century. She was introduced to photography in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, a life long friend for Cameron. Her work consisted of portraits, and posed scenes from biblical, historical and allegorical stories. The images often left evidence of her process, with scratches and smudges. She was often criticized for this and her out of focus images but also celebrated for her compositions and art.

Her exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, was a mark of the bi-century of Cameron’s birth and the 150th anniversary of her first museum exhibition held in 1865 in the same venue. As well as a selection of her images, the exhibition help letters that Cameron had sent to Cole over the course of her career showing her development as an artists which is also evident in the images as you walk through the exhibition.

Initially I was inspired by her technique of leaving evidence of her processing on the images as I felt this added age to the images. Particularly with the staged ones demonstrating historical and biblical stories, I felt this fit well as it displays the past in the image – the story being acted from the past but also the history of the image itself through the processes it has been through. I made a connection with this and the out of focus style which Cameron used – being out of focus adds almost a painterly and artistic feel to the images which essentially was the only way to create pieces of art in history until technology had developed to create a camera. These techniques were largely criticized when created but are now appreciated more in modern views of art after the grow in abstraction and surrealism.

I was really intrigued by the lay out of the exhibition – it was almost like a timeline of Cameron’s career, starting from her early work and letters, chronologically to her final bits of work and last letter to the museum. In the middle of the exhibition were some glass cabinets which held some letters and also her bits of work which were produced to go with text in books. This was a great way to see past just the visual outcomes from the artist, and to experience her as a person as she is unable to be with us presently. I felt this was more engaging than just seeing her images as you could interpret her learning process in photography and almost get a sense of her thought process when shooting the images.

Ultimately I found this exhibition very useful to me – Cameron’s style of work, using images that represent a story, are very similar to the current project I am studying so can stand useful to look into further for more inspiration. I also feel that her distortion of her prints is a useful technique to try and experiment with as it could help me create some abstract ideas. exhibition wise, I feel I have learnt from this that it would be good to consider displaying letters, notes, drawings etc. that I do to help myself with ideas to show my development as a photographer and make an exhibition more like a life/career/project journey and development rather than just a set of images.

Posted in Professional Practice

Marcus Davies

Marcus Davies is a Millennium photographer living in Totnes Devon. He studied A level photography and then a degree in fine art in Falmouth. He started out doing documentary black and white photography, mainly of sports. He also started to experiment with subcultures in the 1980’s. Davies’ father was an abstract painter so he was always surrounded by art. His father built a dark room and studio for him and his brother and this was Marcus’ first contact with the medium. He later began to experiment with orthochromatic film, which gives images a high contrast. He was inspired to do this by Mario Jackamelly. As well as being a photographer Davies teaches photography.

Marcus is an avid collector of things, from elastic bands to postcards, he has an extensive collection of John Hinde postcards. His idea was to turn a postcard; an item intended for mass sale into art by showing them in galleries. He advised us to rework images from the past to create our own innovative art work.

tra3One of his recent projects was inspired by Marcus’ young son who has Autistic Spectrum
Disorder. Marcus noticed that his son preferred order and things to be predictable. He
devised a game for him based on a railway track which his son had to assemble himself. The track was printed on tiles and could be put together in different sequences. His son loved this game and since then Marcus has made more than 1500 different layouts for his son and made it into a public art work.

As well as telling us his story, Davies advised us on different things within photography. He suggested we keep files stored safely for future opportunities as sometimes you can revisit work and do something different with it in the future for a new set of work. Researching heavily into a project was another one of his recommendations along with having the money to pull it off. He told us you don’t need to go a long way to take good photos and entering competitions can help to spread your name and gain confidence.

Martin Davies was a friendly man and easy to relate to as he was in the same position as us once and still teaches people in the same position. He gave us a lot of useful advice and showed us a selection of his interesting and amazing work.

Davies, M. (2008-13). Marcus Davies Photography Projects. Available: Last accessed 5th April 2016

Posted in Contextual Studies

Taste, Value, Judgement

Taste refers to a cultural pattern of choice, a social/cultural phenomenon. It is about drawing distinctions between things. Social inquiry of taste is about the human ability to judge what is beautiful.

Taste often makes it possible to identify particular types of class taste. For example, lower classes are often not able to appreciate the luxury of art as they are usually unable to afford this connection. Following this, tv shows like Cash in the Attic and Antiques Roadshow are classically more higher class, are well spoken and filmed on grand locations which ultimately makes the shows more appealing to wealthier people who can connect with this lifestyle. Does an emotional attachment or memory make something more valuable or is value linked to monetary characteristics?

Brian Sewell is an English art critic and media personality. He insulted public for views on art as he hated contemporary art. He has been quoted saying “Banksy should have been put down at birth” and that Damien Hirst was “fucking dreadful”. But who defines the perimeters of fine taste?

Aethetics concern the study or rules and principals of art. Take for example the Mona Lisa piece. It has been reproduced several times into different products making it so well known. In 1936, Walter Benjamin wrote The Aura of The Original. He states how reproductions of work “lack the time and space” which diminishes the value of the original. However, in some ways I think this makes the original a more rare piece which becomes more of an appeal for the audience to find making it more valuable as it gains more respect.

iphone-4s-elite-close2There have been reports of a dog collar costing $3.2 million, and a  barbie at $551,000. There was also an iPhone 4S elite gold which was sold for $9.4 million. Does this make the product valuable? I think this is obscene and a test on how far people can push items for the greed of money. On the other side of that, Marilyn Monroe’s dress from JFKs birthday sold for $1,267,500 in 1999, however Robert Shargen regarded it a steal. I think that an  emotional attachment, a memory, or iconic history makes something more valuable compared to monetary characteristics.

Does money value mean value? “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”. Oscar Wilde’s quote highlights an important point. It raises the question of if people buy things for investments and commerce or to be able to keep the item out of appreciation towards it. It also questions if people understand the concept and value behind the item being bought, which ultimately could link back to class, and how different statuses of class are able to appreciate things more based on financial income. So maybe value is based on money, as the more valuable items can only be bought by wealthier people, people from the lower class may not be as bothered to understand concepts and value as they cant afford to.

Bob Carlos Clarke was born in Cork, Ireland in 1950, and came to England in 1964 to study art and design at The West Sussex College of Art where he developed an interest in photography. He then went on to The London College of Printing, before completing his degree at the Royal College of Art in 1975. He is most famous for his photographs of nudity. Is his work tasteful? In my opinion it completely objectifies women, making them pose to sexualise them and gather attention. His images are erotic and more about passion and sex. However bad people make think this is, it’s always striking and always gathers a reaction which could arguably be the reason he was so successful. Clarke admits that he entered nude photography for one reason alone: sex, which is evident in the nature of his images. He was always delighted by criticism. “I want to supercharge sexuality beyond what is actually achievable. I want to connect with Man’s animal instincts”. His work was heavily influenced by lust to turn men on. Although highly promiscuous, there is something intriguingly beautiful about his work. I think he would be highly valuable to the LGBT society as he isn’t afraid to hide the sexuality of the models and exploit same gender sexual relationships.

Edward Henry Weston was born March 24, 1886, in Highland Park, Illinois.  He spent the majority of his childhood in Chicago where he attended Oakland Grammar School. He began photographing at the age of sixteen. Realizing the need for formal training, in 1908 Weston returned east and attended the Illinois College of Photography in Effingham, Illinois. He completed the 12-month course in six months and returned to California. Weston said “the camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.” It is evident in his images that he celebrated such things as the body. He doesn’t focus on exposing the identity of the body or making the model more sexual, but focuses on the shapes of the body and the natural form of it, making it look more sculptural. This also links to the equality of everyone in terms of body and humanity. Like most nude photographers, the images are in black and white which adds delicacy and atmosphere, which ties in well with the softness and subtlety of the images. These images would seem to be more tasteful in the area of nudity compared to the work of Carlos Clarke as they are not so seductive and don’t pose the models as an object of sex.