Part 4. Research Point: Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning

In this exercise I am to read John Walkers essay ‘Context as a determinant of Photographic Meaning’ and make notes on his arguments and my thoughts on the issue.

Reading stuff like this makes me want to weep. The author uses a lot of words to say ‘context will affect how an image is received by the viewer’.

I completely agree with everything in Mr Walkers essay, so to be honest I’m a little lost on what exactly I should write for this entry….Context is a determinant of photographic meaning?


Part 4. Project 1. Ex 1

What, in your view, makes photographs unique as an art form?

Photographs are unique as an art form because of the person behind the camera. As much as one person will draw an apple differently to another, one person will photograph a scene or object differently again. Photographs are the photographers representation of a moment of reality, a moment which will likely never be repeated. Emotions and messages can be conveyed through photographs, mood and tone. Photographers paint with light the same way that painters do, the only difference is, in some form, the subject in their images is real and recognisable.

In terms of the form of a photograph there is no difference between an image displayed ona  digital screen or presented as a hard copy. Digital images are adjustable but if you do that, it has become a different photograph. A photograph does not have to be permanaently fixed, a film is just a lot of individual photographs moving incredibly quickl, freezeframes.

Part 4. Research Point: Pencil of Nature

For this research point I am to read the text from The Pencil Of Nature and consider whether I see photography as mechanical or creative.

I find photography to be both mechanical and creative. The framing of a picture, selecting what light to depict it in, the composition of the shot, the vantage point, the tone, all these are creative choices made by the photographer. Developing the film and printing photographs by hand (experienced in college) cannot be too creative. There are options available with dodging and burning or choosing to leave a print longer in the developer than advised but, in essence, you have to abide by rules and timings to create a successful photograph.

Part 4. Project 3. Ex 2

Holiday photosfor this exercise I have picked out a couple of photos from a work trip to Vegas.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, skyscraper, sky and outdoor

To what extent did you consider the composition, view point and lighting?

I didnt! Haha! This is an example of the kind of record photo (on a mobile phone) that I would take purely to prove I was there. I believe the reason people take their own images rather than buying a postcard is that it is a record of their trip to a certain destination, not a generic one. I like to personalise my record shots by including my own face…. In terms of composition viewpoint and lighting, my only thoughts in such shots are to try and cram as much in the frame as possible and make sure it hasnt burnt out at one end of the spectrum.

Pick out images…that take you right back there. What are the special qualities of these images?

The special qualities of this image for me are still the madness that they have built a mini New York in the middle of the Vegas strip, and the excitement on my little face 😀

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper and outdoor

To what extent did you consider the composition, view point and lighting?

This photo was taken on my Nikon DSLR with a fisheye lens through the wire netting at the top of Paris Paris (Eiffel tower shaped casino). This photo was all about composition, viewpoint and lighting. I wanted to get up as high as I could in this particular part of the Strip, the view at this point is the most varied and interesting. I wanted to experiment with light trails from the traffic, but, due to limitations at my destination, I could not take a tripod to this had to be handheld. A few of the lights are burnt out but I’m still really happy with this photo.

The composition was dictated to me by the wire netting at the top of the casino. There were only certain points in the mesh which were big enough to wedge a lens through.

In terms of the lighting, I’d timed my visit to capture the last hour of good light in the day to capture the combination of a bit of light in the sky with the building lights below. I wanted the traffic light trails as my main feature to draw the eye through the frame with their sense of movement.

Pick out images…that take you right back there. What are the special qualities of these images?

I find that the images I have to work the hardest for are the ones I remember most clearly. I’d had to hike the length of the Strip from the motel we were staying in, I’d haggled my way upstairs in the casino to get around the fee they usually charge. It was freezing (Id had to go up there early and wait out for the golden hour to kick in), I was avoiding the security man and his gentle hints that Id spent more than my polite amount of time hanging around the viewing platform, my camera bag weighed a ton and was ripping my shoulder and there was some chinese lady trying to wedge her ipad though the wire mesh next to me. At 15 minute intervals the nearby fountains of the Bellagio would set off with their music and light accompaniment and we’d all have a boogie and stay warm.

Mostly I love this photo because of the light trails, I love a good light trail!

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

(Here is an image of the Bellagio fountains which I took whilst I was waiting for it to get dark – they use fire, water jets and music to make incredible displays)

Part 4. Project 3. Ex 1

In this image I am to look at two images and make some notes on the differences.

The initial image of the gate with the city-scape behind it is quite restrictive. The viewer is forced to focus on what the photographer has chosen as the central component of the image as opposed to choosing our own item of interest. We are not aware of what surrounded the photographer or what other options the artist had in the creation of the image.

The cityscape in comparison if a lot more immersive. There is far more to the viewer to explore. The telephoto lens means that a lot more of the landscape has been crammed into the frame. I find images like this very interesting to explore visually, there are so many endless details to focus in on. The telephoto lens also allows the viewer to make more sense of an area and the situation in the far ground, the near ground is removed completely.

Part 4. Project 2. Ex 3

Write down how you feel about photos from your families past

Photographs are definitely a major part of everybodys lives. They are memories and records of places visited and memories shared. I completely understand why people want to save them from burning buildings.

Will this archiving be affected by the digital revolution?

Yes, archiving is evolving. Archives are now more often constructed and held online. This does have a few if diffrent pitfalls. Now people need to be aware of the need to back up the data that they dont want corrupted or lost through technological error.

Personally I am a champion of printing out the photos that mean the most to you and getting them in a frame and on the wall. Images do nothing stuck on a phone or a hard drive forever. They eneed to be seen otherwise what exactly is there point?

I went through a phase of conducting family photo shoots in exchange for extra social life money. I immediately released to my families a USB stick of all their images with no limit on how many copies they could make. I think that to limit the amount of prints someone can have of an image of their own face is shoddy and rude. Photos should be printed and displayed not hidden away or held to ransom.

A good image is a good image so i do not see a real difference in the significance of looking at them in a digital album or a physical one. My personal preference is to have a beautifully printed image up on the wall where I can see it but that is not an approach that suits everybody.

Part 4. Project 2. Ex 2

In this exercise I am to consider the argument made about the ‘mechanical’ nature of photography precluding it from being art and answer the following questions;

Does this make photography a medium uniquely suited to portraying time and the passage of time?

Photography enables the artist to portray the passage of time in ways a lot simpler and clearer than other mediums artists have access to. For example long exposure photography can physically show the passage of time through something such as a star trail or blurred movement.

In terms of displaying time, I think it is equal to any other medium. Any medium can portray time to some degree.

Can other creative art forms deal with the concept of time to the same extent?

Each medium has its own unique characteristics which it can use to portray the passing of time. I’m a fan of photography so I see it as infinitely preferable. It does not take as long to create an image, the capacity to adjust things at different stages is myriad and does not render an entire image as unusable, it’s easy to experiment with knowing that mistakes will cost you only a few minutes as opposed to hours. I guess the capacity of an art form to deal with the subject of time is limited only by the artist themselves.

Part 4. Project 2. Ex 1

In this exercise I am to look at a series of images and see if they successfully convey movement.

Derek Trillo – Passing Place

This image successfully depicts movement through the blurred nature of the two people on the stairs.

Harold Edgerton – Bullet and Apple

This image successfully depicts movement by freezing in time the moment when a bullet passes through the apple. The entrance and exit wounds on the apple are still dynamically evolving and this is what gives the sense of motion.

Harold Edgerton – Multiflash tennis serve

This sense of movement is achieved by using a burst flash with a longer shutter speed. This has enabled the full motion to be captured by the camera. (2019). Cousin Bichonnade in flight | LACMA Collections. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Aug. 2019].

This image is called ‘Cousin Bichonnade in Flight’ by Lartigue. It is the action of the character, her positioning and obvious dynamic movement that shows us movement here. There is no way she could be in that position without having leapt down the stairs.

Part 4. Research Point: Gareth Dent ‘Dealing with the flood’

In this exercise I am to read an essay on I am then to answer a series of questions.

On accessing the OCA website I found the only article entitled ‘Dealing with the flood’ was by a Genevieve Sioka.

The Open College of the Arts. (2019). Dealing with the flood… – We Are OCA. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Aug. 2019].

If you use social media spend a few minutes reflecting on how you use photography within it, particularly if you engage in photography in other contexts as well.

I love photography. I take a lot of photos mostly just for my own pleasure. I use Facebook for photo storage, this ranges from photographs of my Uni work as a backup to holiday snaps. In terms of the general photography I choose to upload to Facebook, it’s all just pictures of record, social snaps or cool things I saw on holiday.

I also use Instagram. To Instagram I upload all my more arty photos which Im proud of. These are images whose primary concern is to please the eye, not record things or to immortalise people pulling faces.

What is the purpose of the photographs that you post on Facebook or send via Instagram? Do you stick to ‘social’ photos or would you disseminate something more considered or ‘artistic’ by the same route?

As previously mentioned, I use Facebook for social snaps and holiday photos. The only reason I have arty photos on there is to use the free file storage space as an online backup. Instagram is supposed to be all about the photos, photos on there are supposed to be about the art as far as Im concerned. The quality content of Instagram has declined rapidly since Facebook brought it and enabled people to share their Facebook picture posts directly onto Instagram too….this comes to a peak in September with the back to school photos. Instagram is supposed to be for stunning sunsets not pictures of peoples kids in school uniform…I frequently have social media friend culls…I dont know if thats obvious…

Does social media devalue or democratise photography?

Facebook ruins lives. Its ruined peoples attention spans and it ruins every good app it purchases. Whilst I would not say that it devalues photography, it cant, a great photo is a great photo, it does ruin the quality of previously artistic minded resources because people are morons and upload pictures of any old crap. I’m quite happy to see a bad photo of for example, a sunset, but I do not give a flying toot what you had for dinner and I certainly dont want to see photographs of it.

The Internet in general makes great photography more widely available and that is a fantastic thing. In a sense I guess that is democratising it? So, to answer the question, social media does not (in my opinion) devalue or democratise phtoography.

Are you contributing to ‘the flood’ and is this a good or a bad thing?

I am definetley contributing to the flood and I love it. I upload photos that I consider to be of quality and worth sharing and I choose the places that they go with care. My Facebook is full of general crap and things that I want to show off about, my Instagram is full of images I care about, if people dont like that then they are very welcome to block me! 😀