Category Archives: Coursework

photograph as document – general thoughts on C&N part 1

“But is is real, Simon?”

It is March 2003 and I am standing in the snow at the big crafts, antiques, art and soviet tat market at Ismailovsky Park in Moscow. Mike – a colleague from work – is holding a rather lovely bakelite radio that looks as if it is from the early sixties. In the end he will not buy it and then spend lots and lots of time regretting not having bought it, despite my answer that, a: it looked fairly real to me, and b: that it was a lovely thing and obviously gave Mike pleasure as an object. So what did its provenance really matter?

I thought about this exchange quite a lot during the first part of this course. Continue reading

Putting Yourself in the Picture: Project # 3 – Self-Absented Portraiture

after shafran – chirgwin, 2017

“Go to the artist’s website and look at the other images in Shafran’s series. You may have noticed that Washing-up is the only piece of work in Part Three created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

Coursebook (p.87)

1: Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

While I cannot think of any male photographer’s whose work includes large chunks of the sort of scrutiny of their (naked) self that you find in Woodman’s work, or who would document the way going through IVF-treatment with their partner (or even just ” trying for a baby”) effects them in the way Brotherus does, there are plenty of women who take pictures of mundane details from their lives. Indeed, there is a strand of this running through Brotherus’ Annonciation.

So, I wasn’t at all surprised that Shafran’s washing up pictures were taken by a man, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been taken by a woman either. Continue reading

Putting Yourself in the Picture: Project # 1 – Autobiographical Self-Portrait

I’ve just noticed that this post’s trigger from the coursebook says “Make some notes”. This is more like an essay. Or a short book.

The first time this post was saved was on – good grief! – the 28th of June 2015. I have written a bit, gone off to do an exercise, come back, written some more, gone away and done the assignment, put off writing up the other exercises and now come back here again, after I have completed all the write ups for part five and begin to prepare the module for assessment.

And so, for the umpteenth time, I realise that I really must start working in a way that produces shorter, more notey, blogposts…

Simon Chirgwin, April 2017

And now here is what I started writing last June; I have changed hardly anything; I cannot understand why I didn’t just hit “publish”… Continue reading

Influence as Context – Evans, Frank, Shore, Ohtake, Graham and me…

For further reading after assignment 1, my tutor suggested that  – among other things – I should read Tod Papageorge’s essay on the way Robert Frank had been influenced by his friendship Walker Evans and by Evans’ book American Photographs. The content of Papageorge’s essay did not directly appear to feed into the work I did in part two, but then, as part of the work leading up to Assignment 3, I kept a diary, which included sequences of everyday photographs taken as I wandered through my life, seeing things. While the most obvious influence on this work was Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces (I was working with a compact, portable camera, often using flash and generally the pictures were taken while I was on the move) the range of photographic reference points was not limited to Shore’s work. The photographs illustrating this post, I hope, demonstrate this. 

Continue reading

Constructed Realities – A digression into practical matters


the view from the new home of the bbc world service – inkjet print, 400 cm x 110 cm simon chirgwin, 2011, unique

This was commissioned by the BBC Global News W1 Move project and stitched together from 7 medium format negatives. When printed very large indeed it looked cracking, but of course, when it came to moving out of Bush House, it was too big to fit in my car to take it home. It may still be tucked away in a cupboard somewhere in Broadcasting House.

As an edition of 1 (with no AP) it could be worth a fortune some day, but I suspect it ended up in a skip.

Continue reading

Constructed Realities: Project 2 – The Archive


On her website, Nikki Bird (Bird, 1) describes her project Question for Seller (2004-6, with the final auction of the pictures exhibited in Belfast and the compiled album in 2007) as follows:

Made from family photographs acquired through eBay, Question for Seller features photographs that no one else has bid for. The seller is asked the question: How did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them? Their replies are as important as the photographs they sell. They allude to disappearing histories, where personal photographs reveal fragments of past lives, through photographic processes that are themselves becoming obsolete.

On the page on the site about the album (Bird, 2) the pictures of spreads from it are accompanied by quoted replies (the answers to the questions to seller):

Continue reading

Constructed Realities: Project 1 – Crewdson, Beauty and Depth

Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the questions below.

  1. Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
  2. Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?
  3. What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

C&N coursebook – p.116


In the video Crewdson states straightforwardly: “First and foremost […] it’s to make a beautiful picture […] but a purely aesthetic experience is not good enough; that needs to be undercut by something psychological.” Later he goes on to identify “a darkness” that lies underneath his pictures and also to say “I want it all to become one world upon itself”. None of this necessarily will lead to something “more” than aesthetic beauty. Even assuming you find the pictures beautiful in the first place.

Continue reading

Constructed Realities: Project 1 – Setting The Scene; Exercise #1

Watch this famous scene from Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990:  %5Baccessed 24/02/14]

Don’t read on until you’ve answered the following questions.

  • What does this scene tell you about the main character?
  • How does it do this? List the ‘clues’.

C&N Coursebook p. 109

The long tracking shot tells you that Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) knows the club well – he does this a lot –  and the staff there treat him with warmly and with respect. He is in favour there. Continue reading

Reading Photographs: Project 2 – Reading Pictures

BMW Advertisement - The Guardian 31st May 2016

BMW Advertisement – The Guardian 31st May 2016

Rip out an advertising image from a newspaper supplement and circle and write on as many parts of the image as you can. Comment on what it is, what it says about the product and why you think it’s there.

C&N Coursebook, p101

It’s an advertisement for a car. It’s an advertisement for a car made by BMW. But it takes a bit more looking before you realise it’s for an Electric BMW car. And I think that is almost the whole point of the advert. There is also a massive flaw in the picture (for me at least) but I’ll get onto that later… Continue reading