Category Archives: Part 1

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

The Photograph as Document #5 – Constructed Images

“Use digital software such as Photoshop to create a composite image which visually appears to be a documentary photograph but which could never actually be. To make a composite image you need to consider your idea and make the required amount of images to join together. Upload the images and decide which image you’ll use as your main image and background. Use the magic wand to select sections of image from the others you wish to move into your background image. Copy via layer and drag into the background. Do this repeatedly until you have all the pieces of your puzzle in place. In order to make it more convincing, use the erase tool on each layer to keep the edges soft and to create a better illusion. Be aware of perspective and light and shadows for the most effective results.”

– C&N Coursebook

London – No Sé

I was first confronted (and given the sheer scale of the print, confronted is definitely the word) by Andreas Gursky’s picture Sao Paulo – Sé (2002)  at the Barbican Exhibition, Constructing Worlds (reviewed here as part of my log for TAoP).  I immediately liked it and the other Gursky, the 1992 constructed image – Paris Montparnasse – on show at the exhibition. Continue reading

the photograph as document # 3 – street photography/reportage


Regent Street; September 2015

“Find a street that particularly interests you – it may be local or further afield. Shoot 30 colour images and 30 black and white images in a street photography style. In your learning log, comment on the differences between the two formats. What difference does colour make? Which set do you prefer and why?” – C&N Coursebook

I’m never that sure about “Street Photography”: as a genre it seems to span so wide a variety of photographers and their ways of working as to be meaningless as a description; I don’t really know what the pictures are “for”; and I don’t enjoy taking “street” pictures, finding the whole thing grimly stressful. And this is before I even start thinking about the number of different ways the practice of street photography is codified by the policemen of both photography and of the internet. Is street black and white or colour? Can you crop the images? Should you involve the objects before your lens in the picture-making or just hit and run? Must there be people? Does inside count as “street” if it is a public inside?  Continue reading

photograph as document # 1 – eyewitnesses?

“Find some examples of news stories where ‘citizen journalism’ has exposed or highlighted abuses of power. How do these pictures affect the story, if at all? Are these pictures objective? Can pictures ever be objective?” – Context and Narrative Coursebook

I will use the reporting around the death of the newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson (1) at the demonstrations against the G20 summit in London in April 2009 as my main example here.

On the first of April 2009, there were large demonstrations in London focussed on the start of the second G20 summit which was to take place the next day. Policing of the demonstrations featured “kettling”,where large numbers of people are held within a rigidly maintained police cordon (the image here is of hot water, held – and possibly even brought to boiling point – in a kettle).

Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor, collapsed and died within the cordon. At first there were strong official denials that he had been in contact with the police before he collapsed; indeed papers such as the Evening Standard (2) maintained that, “Police [were] pelted with bricks as they help dying man” – a headline juxtaposed with a standard, wide, illustrative demo shot printed over two pages, taken from behind the police line. This photograph was not taken at either the place or the time that Tomlinson died; instead it was of a later phase of the protests when police cleared a squatter camp in another part of the city. Smoke hangs in the air; the police – outnumbered in the photograph by demonstrators and with their backs to us – ie we are protected from the violence by them – wait, braced against possible violence from the protesters. Continue reading