This is my learning log for the OCA Ditigal Photographic Practice course

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Assignment 2–reflection on tutor feedback


I was pleased that my conceptual narrative worked and that my strategy of allowing each idea to evolve and suggest  another was able to produce a diverse set of images which work well together. My tutor gave detailed feedback on the use of lighting and exposure techniques and where practical I will improve the images in line with his advice, before submitting for assessment. He also made suggestions about the position of the memorial bench image from the third to the fourth position in the showing sequence.

I have looked in the Hampshire library catalogue for the recommended book The Nature of Photographs but it doesn’t appear. I may try to get a second hand copy. I have looked at Stuart Roy Clarke’s web page and enjoyed the  combination of colour, emotion and humour. A useful pointer to assignment 3.

I have started to think about the next assignment and have several ideas but nothing is decided yet.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Reading –The Digital Eye - Art in the Electronic Age

This book, written by Sylvia Wolf, is not on the reading list for the course but I thought I would take a look at it and have made a few notes below.
Digital photography is the latest in a long line of continuing technological innovations, but out of all proportion to that which has gone before, in scale and scope. The impact of the variety and number of devices now available for making, reproducing, altering and disseminating images is vast and widespread.
In the introduction the author asks several questions:
“Is it a medium in its own right, autonomous and separate from all photographic processes that have come before it, or is it another development in a long trajectory of technological innovations?”
“What impact does it have on how we view, understand and make photographic images”
Photography and representation: A historical perspective.
Photography’s relationship to the real:
1960’s Andre Bazin  photography does not create eternity as art does, it embalms time” (I detect an assertion the Bazin does not consider photography as art)
1981 Roland Barthes “Reference is the founding order of photography.” Again, there is a hint that Barthes considers photography to be an objective medium.
Alterations, collages, manipulation, all have been done before. Oscar J Rejlander’s “Two ways of life” is the most often quoted example having been assembled from 32 glass negatives. In the late 40’s, 50’s and up to the 1970’s the Polaroid system offered “instant” pictures, preceding the digital revolution and progressing Eastman’s “you press the shutter, we do the rest” 20th century revolution.
Art Photography in the Digital World – from the marriage of technological innovation and creative application came digital photography. It emerged from differing creative areas, medical research, video, textiles and photography. Artists took computer based imagery as a tool to develop their creative ideas. Wolf describes the work as belonging to three broad areas:
  • Socio-Political Commentary. I have included just one or two examples of the type of work for each of these areas. The book contains numerous examples. In this area Wolf cites the work done by Susan Meiselas (aka Kurdistan) and Lorie Novak (Collected Visions) to provide on-line forums for images to examine the the relationships between ourselves and our family photographs (Novak) and a forum away from the gaze of a repressive government (Meiselas).
  • Other Dimensions, other worlds. Isaac Layman, (Cabinet 2008) presented a view of how we experience the world, rather than a representation of a particular object, by re-photographing a stack of glasses on a shelf and refocusing each time to bring a different layer into focus, much the way in which our eyes and brain enable us to see a whole scene before us in focus all at once.
  • Reflections on the Medium Itself. Jon Haddock produced the “Children fleeing Napalm strike, Modified – 1972, Huynk Cong “Nick” Ut (2009) by erasing the children from the frame and forcing us to recall the full image from our collective visual memories. In a more bizarre example, he has produced a grid of the digital values of the RGB plot a frame of the film of the assassination of John F Kennedy. Such techniques demonstrate new aspects of the world that has been opened up in the artist’s imagination, providing a unique vision.
Returning to the questions at the start of this review, I don’t think that digital photography is a medium in its own right. It may have seemed that way in the 90’s but is no longer the case as it has become so widely accepted. It has also subsumed and absorbed analogue photography, with digital technology becoming the servant of analogue in some instances. The impact on how we view, understand and make images has always evolved and will continue to do so.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Criticising Photographs–Terry Barrett 5th edition 2012

Introduction: I have started reading this book which is a closely written work of eight chapters. This is my summary for Chapter 1. As I  have now finished DPP coursework I will continue to review each chapter in my Documentary blog here:
Chapter 1 About Art Criticism
The chapter is divided into eight sections. I have made notes on each.
Definition of Criticism
In the mass media, criticism is generally a negative judgement which does nothing to help us understand the work. Criticism is about promoting interest and asking questions about meaning rather than than the work’s aesthetic worth. With photographs, look closely at them and pinpoint in words what the provoke within you that helps to think feel and understand the work and what the artist is trying to communicate.
“Criticism is informal discourse about art to increase understanding and appreciation of art”. A D Coleman
Sources of Criticism
Anywhere art is displayed, read about and promoted or sold. Classrooms, art colleges, the newspapers and exhibition catalogues and specialist collection in books are a good source. The factors that can influence the tone and content of the review can include editorial policies and style, personal preference of the reviewer and politics.
Types of Criticism
The two most valuable types of criticism:
Exploratory  Aesthetic Criticism does not generally provide judgements but does attempt to provide the reader with a full account of the aesthetics of the work to ensure that they can experience all that can be seen.
Argumentative Aesthetic Criticism on the other hand will attempt a full interpretation of the work and  then make a judgement of the work’s positive (or  negative) attributes. There will be a full account of the writer’s arguments based on stated criteria. They will attempt to persuade the reader using these arguments and are prepared to defend their opinions.
Other types may include:
Applied criticism – of a journalistic nature which is directed at the work. Theoretical criticism attempts to define photography and uses photographs to clarify arguments e.g Camera Lucida by Barthes. Connoisseurship is severely limited and is usually limited to pronouncements rather than reasoned argument.
Background of Critics
Varied, many have PhDs and have studied art and photography as art. Others may be artists themselves and/or teachers of art.
Stances of critics towards criticism
This section details the attitudes of certain critics towards their  work. A quote from Grace Glueck sums it up; “inform, elucidate, explain and enlighten”.  While A D Coleman (1975) says that when writing, critics should be…. independent of the artists and institutions, have a regular output, the work must be publicly accessible, be contemporary and about diverse artists. The critic should openly adopt a sceptics posture.
Relations between critics and artists  
The critic is writing for the public not the artist. He should be aware of the artist and his/her work but must not want to ‘be loved’ by the artist. Critique is not a judgement. The critic should provide an opinion and their own interpretation.
Art of Criticizing Criticism
Critics often disagree. This is a good thing and promotes debate.  According to Donald Kuspit, critics should be:
  • honest in their judgement
  • clear in their writing
  • straightforward in their argument
  • unpretentious in their manner
Jerry Saltz on why criticism is often obscure:
Why is it that so much art criticism is indecipherable – even to ‘us’? If art has lost its audience then surely this type of smarter-than-though criticism has played its part. Criticism isn’t the right word for it anyway. Much of this writing feels cut off from its objects. When a critic reports back about what he or she seen it should be in accessible, clear language and not a lot of brainy gobble-dygook that no-one understands. A critic should want to be understood. But the price you pay for this accessibility is dear. You can lose your ‘pass’ into certain academic circles, or it might mean that you don't get asked to be on all those panels that discuss art and its relationship to biogenic whatever and it may mean you won’t get asked to too many CAA conventions – but that’s OK.”
I have a feeling I shall be making good use of that quote in the coming years.
The Value of Criticism
Reading criticism gives you an increased knowledge and appreciation of art. The act of criticism also allows you to consider the work in more depth and think about what the artist’s intentions and meanings are.

OCA TV Group meeting 15/3/2014

  1. I have only made brief notes for this study visit. As I was between courses, I had no current work to show. those that did show were working on TAoP. Unfortunately I can’t recall any of it as it is over month ago. Clive white was the tutor in attendance and gave his usual to down earth practical advice. I have made a note about photographic voice and using a fixed focal length for all of your work as an example of one element of an individual style. Clive also mentioned that using full frame (35mm) sensors gives a greater depth of field. This is something I had not considered and perhaps my next digital SLR should be full frame. (I’ve got to wear out my D90 first but it doesn’t show any signs of giving up the ghost any time soon).
  2. While Eddy was setting up the printers for the afternoon session, Clive gave some valuable explanations and advice about balancing light sources using an electronic light meter and the use of the Inver cone when taking incident light readings.
  3. We had two printers set up for the printing workshop, a four colour Canon and an Epson 2400 which I think was an 8 colour printer. Eddy was able to demonstrate the differences between the the resulting test prints and  the discussion revolved around the differences between results obtained on paper compared with what we see on our monitors. Calibration and colour spaces to use were also discussed.
  4. The final session involved Clive setting up a large  format monorail camera (5x4), proving us with some optical formulae and challenging us to come up with the height of the image on the plate. I’m afraid with my customary speed of working out even the simplest mathematical formula, I never reached an answer before the session ended!
Another enjoyable day and I am looking forward to the next meeting on the 31st May.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Only in England –Tony Ray-Jones with Martin Parr

1st March 2014 OCA TV  Group Study visit
DPP scans030 DPP scans031
This was the second gallery visit for 2014 organised by the Thames Valley study group.
I hadn’t managed to read up very much about this exhibition in advance but I’m glad I didn’t because it is sometimes nice to be pleasantly surprised. Subsequent to the visit, I read these articles from Roy Hammans’ website here: , watched this video and read the Daily Telegraph article here:
I enjoyed this exhibition. The main reason is that I recognised a lot of the characters in Ray-Jones photographs. They were from my past, growing up as I did in a south coast seaside town in the nineteen fifties and sixties, before the package holidays boom to the Spanish Costas. At the time Ray-Jones was taking his photographs in Brighton, Eastbourne, Broadstairs and Herne Bay, I was working during the summer holidays in seaside caf├ęs and gift shops, meeting all these wonderful characters determined to make the best of whatever the day threw at them.
I was familiar with what he was attempting to record. As an outsider, rather than a fellow holiday maker, I found it easy to appreciate the eccentricity of his characters and the humour in his prints. I came away from the exhibition with a small book of sixteen postcard prints. There are several prints that I really liked. The first (Location unknown, possibly Broadstairs, c. 1967) shows a young couple prostrate on the sand, kissing in an intimate embrace, next to a beach hut underneath a sign which reads “HAWKING PROHIBITED”. Standing on the veranda of the hut, a man is looking down at them, with what appears to be resigned bewilderment. In my imagination, his next action is to produce a bucket of cold water from behind the railings………
In his interview with Greg Hobson, Joel Meyerowitz explained that he and Ray-Jones used the parades in New York City as young men, to gain experience in shooting almost unobserved as the crowd was distracted by the passing spectacle. Lichfield Bower Parade 1966 is just such a picture with the crowd absorbed by the passing parade while a toddler held in her mothers arms looks directly into the lens. What was it that was more interesting about a man with a camera, than the scene behind him?
Ray-Jones was capturing what he perceived as the passing of an era of a certain type of English eccentricity. I was looking for a  counterpart that I could match with contemporary life to show that life hasn’t changed much, just that the props are different. Brighton Beach, c. 1967 shows a young woman, dressed in the fashion of the day, mini skirt, short leather jacket, sunglasses pushed back on top of her short hair, sitting on a towel on the shingle. Also on the towel in a portable record player and half a dozen or so seven inch vinyl records. She is looking to the right of the frame, a distant expression on her face as she (and by default, her fellow sunbathers) listens to her music. A male companion (perhaps?) lies prostrate, bare chested with his face covered by a towel a few feet to her right. Behind her in the top left of the frame, another girl sits with a transistor radio, casting what may be an envious glance towards the girl with the mobile disco. Of course, today we still take our music with us but in a less overt and intrusive manner.
As well as Tony Ray-Jones 8x10 prints, also included in this exhibition are a number of Ray-Jones photographs, selected and printed by Martin Parr as well as some of Ray-Jones’ contact sheets.
The exhibition also included Parr’s “The Non-Conformists” exhibition. This exhibition was Parr’s first notable work, made during a period in which he lived in the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge in the 1970’s and features the lives of the community around Methodist Chapels in the town. Like Ray-Jones, Parr could see that this way of life was changing and that it needed recording.before it was gone forever. The subject matter is wide ranging and includes all aspects of life in and around the chapels, local industry, Lord Savile’s grouse shooting parties on the moors. The series shows all of the quirky characteristics beloved by Parr in a traditional area of the country at a time before all day pub opening, Sunday shopping, the cell phone and the universal use of the motor car. I got the feeling of “Prim and Proper” no nonsense, down to earth folk where the women wore the trousers and the men did as they were told. Perhaps I have seen too much “Last of the Summer Wine” but I could see that sort of humour in these images.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Study Visit – An Audience with Fiona Yaron Field 08/02/14

This OCASA organised study visit was held at Thatcham in the OCA TV study group venue. This was a very full session where Fiona shared work ranging from her student days up to her current project. As there was far too much to write up (I have over two and a half hours of recorded material) I have summarised the parts I found useful and written about which project of hers that interested me the most. The audio files are stored on my PC for future access. I’m sure I will find them useful.
The link to Fiona’s website is here:
Fiona's work was just a starting point - the real value of the session was the interaction with the audience. That is what I got the most from.
Early in the discussion, Fiona described her working practice , that her most successful work is born out of her own imagination, from deep within. Interestingly she remarked that ideas that deep are often universal and resonate with the viewer, in most cases. But, not all viewers will get it. She finds that working with an audience in mind distracts her and the viewer is only considered at a later stage in the work, i.e. during the edit. I thought it was good to hear this. My recent project for DPP started in one way and finished up pushed into another direction. It evolved as I went along. I too, found it revealing (in a way) as it evolved into a series which included aspects of ageing and retirement which seem to have surfaced without me being aware of it. Editing - informed by the progress on a project so far. Editing is part of the work and narrative. Interpretation of images is always subjective. Open images work best. If they're too closed - too literal then they only have one interpretation - you stop looking. I now understand why my tutor thought my assignment 4  image was too literal.
As already mentioned, Fiona presented a very wide range of work, a lot of which can be seen on her website (link above) Her main body of work is very personal – about her daughter Ophir who was born with Down’s syndrome which started off purely as a family photo album and journal and evolved into an exhibition, a book and subsequent projects, Becoming, Up Close, Shifting Perspective, Safe Haven. All of which raise awareness of the condition and show how life is for individuals and families affected .
Standing apart from this is her project Beyond the Wall which she claims is her most organised and planned project so far. I chose to write about this simply because it it so different from her main body of work. Before the meeting, I watched the videos in which Fiona discusses the project, on YouTube:
During her talk, Fiona reiterated much of what was in the video interview. To summarise, the project was made in 2008 just before the last war in Gaza. It shows 11 portraits of men in a vulnerable position with their backs to a wall. These men are Palestinians and Israelis although there is no way of identifying each from the other. What the series shows is that these men are more alike than different once the dehumanising differences are removed or forgotten.
Fiona made an interesting observation during the time that she was shooting this project. She identified herself as an English woman photographer to the men and also used a ‘fixer’ to make contact with the men and arrange to take photographs. She observed that when she took the men aside, away from their fellows or family members, to a place to be photographed their personality changed, they became less macho and almost feminine which she attributed partly to their vulnerable position and to the fact that she had taken charge of the situation and was telling them what to do. She also observed that they were compliant to her requests for photographs because they were asked by her fixer and would have lost face with him had they refused. For exhibition, the portraits were hung in a room facing each other, reinforcing the ‘more alike than different’ proposition  although she observed that in fact the men appeared to be looking at the viewer rather than each other.
I found this project powerful in its simplicity. If there is any hope for these seemingly intractable situations throughout the world, constant re-enforcement of the idea that we are indeed more alike than different, makes an essential first step in conflict resolution.
Fiona Yaron Field is also a co founder of “Uncertain States” which is described as “an artist-led project that publishes and distributes a free quarterly broadsheet newspaper showing lens based art” She distributed copies of Uncertain States 16 to the group. I shall read it with interest.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Project - A web gallery


I do have a web gallery but at the moment it has very little on it. At the end of this course and before I start level 2, I will either bring it up to date and add some additional personal work or shift it to a new provider. I am moving my learning log to Word Press and depending on what facilities are offered, I may build a web site there. Updates to operating systems and platforms make a site that can be viewed on all devices essential so this also needs to be considered.

Many years ago I bought a book called “Web Site Design for Professional Photographers”. I looked it out recently but decided that the ideas in it were too commercial although the basic layouts using MS Front Page as a web page editor could easily be adapted and simplified. My web gallery was written using MS Front Page with the slide shows assembled using the Amara slideshow application. I decided on a very simple layout with individual galleries in new windows. Simple black text on a white ground seems to be a good way of presenting words alongside images and a thumbnail bar and central viewing window within the gallery make looking at the images easier. The fewer mouse clicks (or screen taps) the better.

The web galleries I have seen have influenced the way in which I put together my own.

Assignment 5 Personal project

During this period I have been working on the final assignment for the course. A full explanation of the development and progress of this project will be found in my assignments blog here: