Category Archives: Coursework

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.

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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

Reading Photographs: Project 1 – The language of photography

Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974

Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974

“…look carefully at Erwitt’s image and write some notes about how the subject matter is placed within the frame. How has Erwitt structured this image? What do you think the image is ‘saying’? How does the structure contribute to this meaning?”

C&N Coursebook, p.98

As the next paragraph in the coursebook go on to say (and it is almost impossible not to read it before you flick a page back to look carefully at the picture again, despite the fact that you’re told not to read on..) the picture is organised rigidly into a grid of vertical and horizontal thirds. Continue reading

Reading Photographs: Introduction – To Communicate? To Express?

from glyphs, runes and other signs – an incomplete series (simon chirgwin; 2007 – present)

“Before you read any further, can you think of any photographs that are not used as a means of expression or communication? Blog about them.” – C&N coursebook. p.92

So to begin at the beginning, I though I’d better find out what the dictionary definition of expression or communication might be:

  • communicate /kəˈmjuːnɪkeɪt/ verb: share or exchange information, news, or ideas
  • express /ɪkˈsprɛs,ɛk-/ verb: convey (a thought or feeling) in words or by gestures and conduct.

So, “communicate” suggests the passing on of the objective, while “express” suggests the passing on of the subjective. In this way, all photographs seem to break down into one of two categories: “Look at this!” (communication – with an expected response along the lines of “Wow!”) or “Look at me!” (expression – with an expected response along the lines of “Wow! You’re brilliant!”) This also of course happens to break neatly into Szarkowski’s two categoriesof  Windows and Mirrors. Continue reading

Putting Yourself In The Picture – Project 2: Childhood Memory

Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph. Think carefully about the memory you choose and how you’ll recreate it. You’re free to approach this task in any way you wish.

  • Does the memory involve you directly or is it something you witnessed?
  • Will you include your adult self in the image (for example, to ‘stand in’ for your childhood self) or will you ask a model to represent you? Or will you be absent from the image altogether? (You’ll look at the work of some artists who have chosen to depict some aspect of their life without including themselves in the image in the next project.)
  • Will you try and recreate the memory literally or will you represent it in a more metaphorical way, as you did in Part Two?
  • Will you accompany your image with some text?
  • In your learning log, reflect on the final outcome. How does the photograph resemble your memory? Is it different from what you expected? What does it communicate to the viewer? How?

It might be interesting to show your photograph to friends or family members – perhaps someone who was there at the time and someone who wasn’t – and see what the image conveys to them.  – Context & Narrative Coursebook p.82

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Theory, Binary Oppositions and Spectrums – some thoughts…


Bubion; Alpujarras, Spain – 2008

While it may not be too apparent on this blog, I’ve been doing rather a lot of reading while I’ve been studying for Context and Narrative. As I have done so, it’s become more and more apparent to me that many (if not most) ideas in photography occupy positions somewhere between a set of poles. Some are binary (ie thing and not thing) while other are situated on a spectrum (thing, a little less thingy, even less thingy, a bit un-thingy, very un-thingy, not thing). Continue reading