Photographies and Audiences (Week 4 Reflection)

I have written earlier about the notion of ‘photographies’ rather than considering ‘photography’ as unified (or even unifiable) practice or discipline. Accordingly, I have divided my practice into a number of different domains of practice, each having its own intent, audience and means of dissemination/circulation (and outside this self-consciously photographic work, of course, use photography and photographic images in a variety of other activities). There are, however, a number of underlying concerns (about theory, practice and the nexus between these, for instance). Although I have described my project as having three levels of production and circulation of images/artifacts, there is no a priori hierarchy – these domains of practice (my own art, collaborative campaign image making, engagement with community image making) are just different contexts for the deployment of photographic image making (and therefore all contributing to my development as a photographer, and the development of my skills and understanding of the processes, practices, contexts and fields of photography).

Over the past week, I have made advances in all three domains (which I will describe in other posts). For the purpose of this reflection, I will focus on my own artistic practice. The aim of this work is to develop a distinctive means of exploring areas of material, social and cultural domains of human experience, for instance the impact of the process of urban regeneration on residents. The intent of the work is to examine the interaction between different interests in, experience of and aspirations for a particular place and the changes that take place over time. There is thus a need to bring time and place, and different subjective relationships to these dimensions, into the same space, through, for instance, juxtaposition within or between images and artifacts. To do this also entails a multi-modal approach. At this point in time, I am experimenting with images; ultimately these will be combined with sound, text, moving image, artifacts and other media in exhibition, installation and/or book form.

The principal audience for this work is others with a critical interest in arts-based practice and research and the contribution this can make to the critical understanding of human experience and engagement with the world. The audience would also include those who are interested more broadly in the issues I am exploring, or having overlapping interests from other disciplines and areas of practice. The audience would also include people directly involved in the contexts being explored (for instance, residents, developers, councillors, activists, in the case of urban regeneration), as well as those with a direct interest in the visual arts. At this point in time, I am engaging with people in a variety of communities in the evolution of the work.

For me, ambiguity is one of a number of strategies available in making images and juxtaposing them with other modes. If work is specifically aimed at examination of photography as a practice or field, I can see that ambiguity might be an intent in its own right. However, ambiguity without context is untethered from meaning: in making sense of the ambiguous image, the reader imposes their own context which, it might be argued, radically alienates the image from the maker. Ambiguity as a sole intent thus might give rise to a number of novel and engaging images, but ultimately will not provide the basis for an enduring and coherent body of work: that would require a broader conceptual base, and a corresponding (but not necessarily all encompassing) sense of direction.

Over the past week I have experimented with the overlaying of images, and in particular the exploration of multi-channel works. Although the aim has been to produce works in colour, some of the most satisfying images have been monochrome (working with monochrome images in three colour channels and then converting back into monochrome by de-saturating, or using a gradient map, at the final stage). The image below juxtaposes the built (fence) with the natural (macro plant images).

This image combines different scales of image taken in the same place (Stratford Station, from a train).

The form of the third monochrome image combines human forms in the built environment, with urban nature and a macro shot of a corroded surface.

In all cases the distinct and discontiguous (in time, space, scale, natural/human/constructed) are brought together in the same space, with the intent of produce an open text which invites interpretation. There are similarities, particularly the second image, with the work of Antony Cairns (who uses chemical not digital processes and has experimented with printing on aluminium plates and displaying images on Kindle screens).

In the colour work, I have explored the use of existing images. The following three images are formed by overlaying images from the triptychs produced in the first module.

The final image combines a developer produced image of the future, with an image of construction in progress and an image of the natural landscape that is in the process of being ‘over-written’.

A monochrome version of the same image opens up an exploration of the affordances of colour and monochrome images in this context.

More experiments to follow …

Multi-channel images

Over the past few months I have been struggling with a way to create images that capture the temporal dimension of urban regeneration, encapsulating in some way the past, present and future urban landscape, and place people within this. I have experimented with the juxtaposition of images in early work (using triptych and grid formats) but felt that this was too static a form for such a dynamic process. Following up the work featured in Carol Squier’s 2014 ‘What is a Photograph‘ ICP exhibition led me to the work of James Welling.

I was particularly interested in his Multichannel Works series, in which images are overlayed and manipulated. In his 2017 lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Welling gives insight into the motivation for and production of this series. In earlier work, he explored the use of colour filters with multiple black and white images to produce complex colour images. For a commission to photograph the MoMA sculpture garden, he worked with archival photos over which her layered his own photographs. He placed the archive image in the red channel, and his own images in the blue and green channels.

In this way he sought to echo the work of Warhol and Rauschenberg in their exploration of the screen print process. He was also inspired by Avedon’s psychedelic pictures of the Beatles and his Moondrops campaign for Revlon.

Richard Avedon, 1967, Beatles Posters .

Other influences included the colour solarisation process and the look of Agfacontour equidensity film, which was used for back cover of Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. Subsequently he began to work with digital images and post-processing software. His initial images were architectural, but he later built on his background in contemporary dance to place dancers within particular built environments, including the Glass House (the focus of an earlier architectural study) and brutalist architecture.

Each composite image is produced from three black and white photographs. In post-processing software, each image is assigned to either the red, blue or green channel, and in some cases an equidensity gradient map is used. The three images used in the construction of the 2015 image 9472 from the Choreograph Series, are shown below, together with the final image.

James Welling, 2015, Choreograph Series, 9472.

The final print is produced on an inkjet printer, which Welling uses because it gives a print with texture and a sense of volume and surface, missing in chemical prints. His treatment of prints as artifacts resonates with my own work. Although the work is digitally produced, it gives me the opportunity to explore shooting on film in monochrome (which I can process at home), with the potential for very large prints by shooting on large format. Welling compares with process with the production of double/multiple exposure images in film (as practiced, for instance, by Harry Callaghan), with elements of surprise and improvisation in the production of the image, which also resonates with my artistic interests (in sound and writing as well as visually: the audio control of multi-channel video using Jitter in Max7 achieves similar effects).

The next step for me is to experiment, and get to know what kinds of images work best with this process. These images will include visualisations of developments, photographs of the areas as they are now, photographs of residents and archival material (which might include maps). Producing images that are aesthetically and compositionally strong and also comprehensible will be a challenge. The process itself, inspired by Welling’s work, is just a starting point, and I expect to develop the method and the workflow as I apply the approach to exploration of the context of urban regeneration.

This is my very first attempt, using a photograph of a discussion of self-publishing and post-capitalism at the ICA, a landscape and an experimental close-up.

ICA, The Freedoms of Self-publishing, 08.12.18

As Welling says, you have to know where to stop. Lots, as always, to learn.


International Center of Photography. 2014. What is a Photograph [exhibition]. Curator Carol Squiers. ICP, New York, 31.01.14 – 04.05.14. [accessed 18.02.19]

Welling, James. 2017. Pathological Color, Rouse Visiting Artist Lecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 13.11.2017. [accessed 18.02.19]

Constructions (Week 3 Reflection)

In my posts over past three weeks, I have analysed a number of constructed images. These include Karen Knorr’s incongruous insertion of artifacts and animals into formally rendered interiors (for instance, the Academies series), Tom Hunter’s Vermeer influenced interiors in Persons Unknown, Jeff Wall’s Mimic and Danny Treacey’s Those and Clearings Series (see earlier posts here and here for images discussed). I also considered construction in my preliminary discussion of work by Sugimoto (the Diorama and Waxworks series, for instance). The work with objects in museums and collections also has a constructed dimension, for instance in the presentation of material for pedagogic purposes, which takes objects out of the context of their use and places them in a (constructed) public space (as in the displays below made from microscope slides).

Microscope slide display, UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, 2019

Whilst I have considered how this work relates to my own practice, I have not produced any constructed images myself. So I am going to use the reflection at the end of Week 3 to think through how I might develop the use of constructed images in the development of my work, and specifically current and planned projects. Rather than create a mega-post here, I am going to create a succession of more focused posts in the Contextual Research and Project Development sections, and then link them back to a statement here later.

Week 3 Activity: False Indexes

It won’t be a surprise to anyone who has read my earlier posts that I’m going to rule out the achievement of objectivity (though not, necessarily, the seemingly enduring, constantly thwarted, human desire for objectivity/truth). All our knowledge of and engagement with the world is mediated (we know the world through our somewhat idiosyncratic, unreliable and partial senses (and our culturally coded interpretation of those sensations), and we convey and explore that knowledge and understanding through words, sounds, actions, images and other means, each of which adds its own texture to what we are attempting to (re)present. So the issue for me isn’t whether an image, for instance, is subjective or not, but rather how it is subjective, and to what effect. And, of course, as artists we can, and many do, use images to explore our own subjectivity. Through these explorations, and through dialogue, interaction and engagement with others, we construct and reconstruct what we take collectively to be true. As research by Dan Kahan and colleagues indicates (for instance, Kahan et al, 2017), it is curiosity not certain knowledge that enables us to remain open to other perspectives and remain open and dynamic in our interaction with others.

‘individuals who have an appetite to be surprised by scientific information—who find it pleasurable to discover that the world does not work as they expected—do not turn this feature of their personality off when they engage political information but rather indulge it in that setting as well, exposing themselves more readily to information that defies their expectations about facts on contested issues. The result is that these citizens, unlike their less curious counterparts, react more open mindedly and respond more uniformly across the political spectrum to the best available evidence’ (Kahan et al, 2017: 198).

The point in relation to the topic of this discussion is that, even in disciplines in which expectations of certain knowledge are high (science), the ability to accommodate uncertainty, the unresolved, the inexplicable and the open-ended (all issues that have been raised in relation to constructed images in photographic art) has positive effects. In the interests of getting this post done, I’ll explore relevant images and post these in the version in my CRJ as soon as I get time.

I think it goes without saying that, from this and previous posts, the context in which an image is circulated and read will influence how an image is interpreted, and will shape the particular interest that the reader has in the image. In my own work I am moving to use a variety of modes of (re)presentation and engagement, and the settings/contexts in which this work is presented is paramount.

I’m just reading George Szirtes’s (2019) The Photographer at Sixteen, which recontextualises family photographs in a narrative which moves from his mother’s death back through her life, creating complexes of meaning in their relationship to his text.


Kahan, D, Landrum, A., Carpenter, K., Helft, L. & Jamieson, K.H. 2017. ‘Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing’, Advances in Political Psychology, 38(1), 179-199.

George Szirtes, G. 2019. The Photographer at Sixteen. London: MacLehose Press.

Week 3 Forum: Subjective Traces, Spaces, Faces, Places

If we accept the proposition that the meaning is created in the reading of the text/image (a key premise of semiotics and phenomenology) then it is not tenable to think of a photograph as lying. As Richard Rorty, like Peirce grounded in American pragmatism, but with a dusting of late Wittgenstein and continental philosophy, states:

‘Truth cannot be out there—cannot exist independently of the human mind—because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own—unaided by the describing activities of humans—cannot.’ (1989: 5)

Of course, photographers can construct images with the intention of deceiving, and others can use images for purposes for which they were not intended. This aspect of human agency relates not to epistemology (what counts as truth) but to ethics.

The disqualification of Jose Luis Rodriguez from the 2009 Wildlife Photographer of the Year award is grounded not in the artifice of the image but in the (knowing or unknowing) breaking of the (tacit or explicit) rules of the game: it is not that the photograph lies, but that the photographer transgresses in depicting a trained rather than wild animal.

If the making of meaning lies ultimately with the reader, then the maker will seek more effective modes of transmission (if they have a message to convey, or an intention to realise). And photography will constantly thwart the desire for a neutral relay (as all modes of communication must, but the disappointment in photography’s failure is amplified by the anticipation of indexicality). Construction can act as a means to enhance the possibility of the achievement of intention. Jeff Wall’s reconstruction of a fleeting observation in ‘Mimic’ amplifies a passing racist gesture.

jeff wall mimic.jpg

Jeff Wall, Mimic, 1982.

Peter Kennard, through the use of montage (the most overt form of construction, maybe), sees himself as ‘researching reality’ which ‘involves ripping photographs out of their context to bring the perpetrators of war and poverty slap bang into the same space as their victims’ (Kennard in Read and Simmons, p.vii), thus challenging the viewer in their meaning making.


Peter Kennard, Prevent Street Crime, 1983.

These, and the constructions featured in the presentation, create scenarios designed to enhance the engagement of the viewer through a variety of means (for instance, incongruity within the image, resonance and dissonance, the evocation of the uncanny, the exploration of the imaginary). They are fictions in that any two dimensional rendering of the world at a moment of time in a particular material or digital form is a fiction, with variation in the strength, quality and integrity of intention, awaiting reanimation through the engagement of the viewer.

In my own image making I tend to seek incongruity, in the ironic juxtaposition of the natural and the human, for instance.

Or rendering settings in unfamiliar or incongruous modes (the coal port as romantic seascape).

Or through the juxtaposition of images in grids, triptychs or other configurations. All constructions and fictions of sorts; small steps on the way to enhancing the potential of the images to focus and amplify meaning through the engagement of the reader, with a long way to go.


Rorty, R. 1989. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Read, M. & Simmons, S. 2016. Photographers and Research: The role of research in contemporary photographic practice. London: Routledge.

Context and Practice (Week 2 Reflection)

How I address the questions posed for independent reflection depends of which aspect of my photographic practice I take as a principal focus (given that my project proposal has three distinct forms of image making). Over the past week I have had the opportunity to gain insight into the lifeworlds of others through their own images (at the Shed Life meeting). Interpretation of these is predicated upon the co-creation of a shared context and language. It also requires a creation of mode of communication of the outcomes that is mutually comprehensible, and accessible to an audience. These kinds of images do not speak for themselves, but rather give us insight into a lifeworld, to be mediated by not just images but also different levels of accounts, from different perspectives. In this context, the image acts as something to talk about. The image being held by one of the group members below shows (according to him) his wife, who died in 2014, and himself at home at Christmas. Irrespective of what it might be taken to represent or authenticate, or how if might be read semiotically by another viewer, in this context it acts as an artifact, with strong emotional charge, to talk about and stimulate dialogue.

The images produced for the second level of the project (co-created images for campaigning) are read in very different contexts (public rather than intimate, for instance) and provoke a very different type of interaction. Likewise, my own personal image making is read in very different contexts (including the pedagogic context of a higher degree programme), with very different forms of dialogue about and interpretation of the images.

One major development this week is advancement of my thinking about photographic images as artifacts, provoked by visiting the UCL museums, collections and galleries with students, and thinking about ways of writing about images (including fictional accounts and imaginings of the ‘life-course’ or trajectories of the objects: I’m reminded of Tim Hunkin’s ‘Secret Life of …’ series, and Cornelia Parker’s work focusing on Freud’s chair, and Peter Stallybrass’s (1998) piece ‘Marx’s Coat’).

Cornelia Parker, Marks made by Freud, Subconsciously (macrophotograph of the seat of Freud’s chair), 2000

The lecture by Helen Chatterjee on the ‘Psycho-social significance of objects’, and the accompanying paper (Solway et al, 2017) which surveys research into the different ways objects have been used in interventions relating to, for instance, physical well-being, mental health and homelessness, has given me a range of ways of thinking about the use of images as artifacts (as well as images of artifacts). I’ll explore this over coming weeks. It also relates to my deeper engagement with the work of Cornelia Parker. As she notes in her interview at the Bethlem Museum of the Mind, her own work pays particular attention to the qualities of the materials and objects with which she works, noting that Marcel Duchamp ‘annexed objects in order to convey meaning’.

The focus of the relationship between people and objects, and the use of images as objects, enables me to relate my photographic practice both to other areas of artistic practice and to discourse and practice in other disciplines, in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences, and in particular areas that, in recent years, have taken a ‘material turn’.


Parker, C. 2018. Objects of Obsession. Interview at Bethel Museum of the Mind, London. Video available at [accessed 08.02.19].

Solway, R. et al. 2017. ‘Material objects and psychological theory : A conceptual literature review’, Arts & Health, 8(1):82–101.

Stallybrass, P. 1998. ‘Marx’s Coat’. In P. Spyer (ed.) Border fetishisms: material objects in unstable spaces. New York: Routledge, 187–207.

Week 2 Activity: Further Questions of Authenticity

Andrew Brown (2019): Chicken / Taxidermy, Grant Museum of Zoology / 28.01.2017-15.02.2018

‘The poverty of photographic criticism is well known. It stands out against the richness of photographic production and invention, the widespread use and enjoyment of photographs, and even the popularity of photography as a hobby. To end this poverty we do not need more philosophizing about photographs and reality, or yet another (this time definitive) definition of “photographic seeing,” or yet another distillation of photography’s essence or nature. The tools for making sense of photographs lie at hand, and we can invent more if and when we really need them’. (Snyder and Allen, 1975: 169).

I’m certainly in sympathy with the conclusions drawn by Snyder and Allen. In scrutinising what might be considered distinctive about the analysis of photographic images, they argue that there are questions that can be asked of any photographic image that are specifically photographic (relating, for instance, to the technicalities of the production of the image) and generic (questions that can be asked of any artifact, for instance relating to its use within a specific context, or its aesthetic qualities). In the concluding paragraph, above, they shift the responsibility, or at least the locus, for analysis away from the other disciplines and practices which happen take photography as an object, and place it within the field of photography itself.

Coming to photography, as an academic field, from another field (sociology), I’ve been surprised that intellectual canon is dominated by texts produced by people with little enthusiasm for or affiliation to photography. The highly personal nature of Barthes’ (1981) Camera Lucida, and the consequently idiosyncratic and backward looking choice of photographic work, obscures the greater contribution that, for instance, his semiotic concept of myth (Barthes, 2009; first published in French in 1957) might make to analysis. Sontag (1977; 2003), similarly, takes photography as an (arbitrary) instance of cultural practice, and produces an analytic account which, it could be argued, sits outside, and is sceptical of, photographic practice (which is wide-ranging, complex and evolving). Derrida, who has also written specifically about photographs and photography (eg. Derrida, 2010) exemplifies the issue.

‘It is true that only words interest me. It is true, for reasons that have to do in part with my own history and archaeology, that my investment in language is stronger, older, and gives me more enjoyment than my investment in the plastic, visual, or spatial arts’. (1990 interview with Peter Brunette and David Wills, quoted by Gerhard Richter in Derrida, 2010: xvi).

Like Barthes, and Sontag, and others who have come to constitute the, somewhat masochistic, canon of photographic cultural theory and analysis, Derrida’s principal interests, and affiliations, lie elsewhere. And hence, their analytic engagement with photography is opportunistic and partial, and lacks commitment to the development of a strong, conceptually sophisticated, field of photographic theory and analysis. This lies at the heart of the ‘poverty of photographic criticism’ identified by Snyder and Allen, and their claim that we should invest less time in agonising over questions of ‘photographs and reality’, and desist from taking up the concerns of, for instance, philosophers for whom photography is an apposite example deployed in pursuit of a broader set of questions and interests. Rather, we should celebrate the complexity of photographic practice and collaboratively draw on the wealth of cross-disciplinary theory and empirical research, not just that which names photography as an object, to push forward our understanding of photography and enrich and advance our practice (as Mick has done by drawing on the organisational learning theory of Chris Argyris and Donald Schön (for instance, Argyris, 1993; Argyris and Schön, 1996), in his CRJ post on for this activity). This enables us to take greater control of photographic discourse, form inter-disciplinary partnerships, respond to challenges and opportunities presented from within and outside the field and develop more constructive and dynamic relationship between theory and practice (praxis).

My own theoretical roots lie in the post-structuralism of Foucault, De Certeau and Derrida, the sociology of Bernstein and Bourdieu, and the socio-cognitive theory of Vygotsky and Luria. In addressing the development of my own photographic practice in this programme, my thinking has taken a more materialist turn, mirrored in an interest in the use of photography by multi-disciplinary artists, such as Cornelia Parker and Danny Treacy.

Parker explores the qualities of materials in the making of images, and reflects the breadth of interests, vision and experimental orientation (embracing theory, empirical investigation and serendipity) of the pioneers of photography, such as Fox Talbot.

Cornelia Parker, Premeditated Act of Violence (2015). Polymer photogravure etching.
Cornelia Parker, Jug Full of Ice (2015). Polymer photogravure etching.

Treacy describes himself as an ‘artist working with photography, incorporating elements of sculpture, performance and exploration’. His image making encompasses urban anthropology and the making of artifacts with found objects and materials. He emphasises the process of creation of art works, which convey a strong sense of entanglement in the world (rather than any attempt to represent). He explores marginal urban places, similar to the settings I explored in the first module.

Danny Treacy, from Those series.
Danny Treacy, from Clearings series.

Both explore the ‘peculiar’ nature, or affordances, of photographic image making. I’m hoping, over the course of the module, to extend my own practice in this direction.


Argyris, C. 1993. On Organizational Learning. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.

Argyris, C. and Schön, D.A. 1996. Organizational Learning II: Theory, Method and Practice. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.

Barthes, R. 1981. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by R. Howard. London: Vintage.

Barthes, R. 2009. Mythologies. Translated by A. Lavers. Revised edition. London: Vintage.

Derrida, J. 2010. Copy, Archive, Signature: A Conversation on Photography. Edited with an Introduction by Gerhard Richter. Translated by Jeff Fort. Stanford Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Sontag, S. 1977. On Photography. London: Penguin Books.

Sontag, S. 2003. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Picador.

Snyder, J. and Allen, N. W. 1975. ‘Photography, Vision, and Representation’, Critical Inquiry. 2(1): 143–169.

Week 2 Forum: A Question of Authenticity

‘In the Photograph, the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation’ (Barthes, 1981: 89)

Barthes appears to be acknowledging here that, whilst meaning is produced in the reading of the text/image, different modes (the photographic image in this case) have different meaning potentials. Ascribing ‘power’ to the image (an inert object that is brought to life, or not, by human agents in its use and reading in a particular context) seems to be misplaced (it might be a mis-translation, I suppose, or just a careless, or personal rather than general, use of the term). If meaning is created in reading, then any potential (to be read as authenticating or representing) must have social or cultural roots – the potential cannot be materially inherent in the image (in the same way that the meaning potential of a word cannot be inherent in its sound, a fundamental principle of the structural linguistics on which Barthes’ work is founded). Barthes’ account is of its time and highly personal. Mythologies (Barthes, 2009) gives a clearer sense of the value of Bathes semiotic analysis, by presenting a number of virtuoso analyses followed by an exposition of his method; Camera Lucida (Barthes, 1981), in contrast, principally gives us insight into Barthes as a reader of photographic images, at a particular point in both his own biography and at a particular moment in the social and technological history of image making and cultural analysis.

As other’s have pointed out, claims that photographs authenticate (this image presents evidence of, or a trace of, the existence of the object) or represent (this image stands for the object) are equally compromised. Barthes, and others, effectively address representation. The prevalence, and cultural acceptance, of CGI and digitally altered images (in western cultures – we should keep in mind differences in the status of photographic images in other cultures, for instance the taboo on photographic images of the dead in Australian aboriginal cultures) raises questions about the potential of photography to authenticate.

As image makers, we are also readers of our own (and others’) images, but with the agency to shape the form and content of our images, and some of the contexts in which they will appear. So we produce and position our images in full knowledge of the fragility of realisation of our intentions in the ultimate readings of the image, alongside an understanding of the shifting technological, cultural, social, economic, psychological, political, environmental, and so on, contexts of their reading and circulation. And this makes us more sophisticated image makers, and provokes us to engage with dynamics of the contexts in which our images are produced, distributed, read and re-configured.

I’ve written earlier about Barthes and related issues elsewhere in my CRJ (with more to come) and project proposal, so have kept this contribution deliberately short(ish).


Barthes, R. 2009. Mythologies. Translated by A. Lavers. Revised edition. London: Vintage.
Barthes, R. 1981. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by R.Howard. London: Vintage.

Exploring Contexts (Week 1 Reflection)

Over the past week I have continued to develop relationships and links relating to my proposed FMP. The Thames Ward Community Partnership summit on Thursday provided the opportunity to make images to feed into the work of the group and to make contacts with community groups for project related work (eg. JustMap, Creekmouth Preservation Society, Shed Life and the New View Arts Project). My images were used in the visual presentation that ran during the evening. I also attended further Object Lesson sessions, including some work on writing about objects at the Grant Museum.

The webinar with Michelle helped me to think through how, over the course of this module, I might link these two strands of my work. In the exploration of the relationship between individuals and groups and changes that are taking place in their communities through regeneration, objects clearly have a part to play (both in exploring experiences and aspirations with participants, and in making images, and making artefacts from/for the images). 

Karen Knorr, The Order of Things (Academies Series 1994-2005).

Karen Knorr’s Academies series (1994-2005) covers very similar settings to the university galleries and museums. She explores the dominance of the western aesthetic, whereas my interest is more in the roots of the collections in eugenics and colonialism, and the attempts to moderate (or even atone for) this through public engagement (for instance, in the use of the collections in social prescribing and other well-being related initiatives). One possibility would be to attempt to bring these different interests into the same visual space.

Karen Knorr, Love at First Sight, Palazinna Cinese, 2017.

Knorr does this through digital manipulation in her most recent work (for instance, in the image above from the Metamorphosis series), though has in the past, as in the Academies series, used taxidermy (noting the effect that photographs appear to bring these animals to life, as Sugimoto observes in his waxwork and diorama series). The lighting of these settings is clearly key, and I want to look at the lighting used in 19th Century painting, from the period in which the museums were founded (Tom Hunter has explored painterly lighting schema, referencing Friedrich’s window motif through the use of the window as the principal source for lighting an interior, in his Persons Unknown series in Hackney).

Tom Hunter, A Glass of Wine, 1997 (Persons Unknown series).

This would form a link with the Riverside work through the issue of regeneration, place, identity and well-being. I want also to ‘reverse’ or mirror the settings, and make related images on the estate, reinforcing the link through objects, materiality and touch. This clearly relates to the material turn in photography discussed in relation to Squiers’ exhibition this week, and to my intention to work more with prints, not just digital images.

I’ve also been exploring Cornelia Parker’s use of photography, making a further link to materiality, but also to precariousness and experiment. I’ll post more about this and other artists, such as Danny Treacy, who work with both photographic images and artefacts, over the coming weeks.

Week 1: Shapeshifters

Where did the week go? The task asks for a brief commentary, which is good news given the increasing length of my CRJ posts (and everyone’s, by the look of things). I’m very comfortable with the idea of multiple ‘photographies’ shaped by contexts, agents and interests (in the same way that writing can be a device for everyday supplementation of memory through to great literature, and is, like photography, being transformed, displaced or supplemented, by digital technology and automation/AI) – see earlier post here. The Szarkowski and Shore case studies are interesting in understanding the development of the field of photographic practice, and in positioning our own and other work within the field. The Squiers case study is of greater contemporary relevance, and for me most helpful in thinking about the development of my own work. Of the three, it is the only one, I think, that grapples with how to move beyond the aspiration for a unified language whilst maintaining the possibility of fruitful dialogue between photographic forms (and other forms of art practice).

I’m working on three levels for my project: (i) using photographs by others to understand their lifeworlds, (ii) collaborating with groups to create images for advocacy, (iii) producing my own multi-modal response to situations. I’ve been thinking about what it is that I am actually producing in doing this work. For (i) I am producing a methodology (a way of working with participants and their images). For (ii) I am producing images and a strategy for their deployment. For (iii), my focus for this module, I think I am producing artefacts, and seeking to bring together different media. This resonates with the stress placed in this case study of the materiality of photographs. Digital images are just a step on the way in the work I am doing. Thinking about questions of change (in places and environments) and multiplicity of experiences of and relationships to this, the kind of layering that Welling is doing in his Multichannel Works series is interesting.

James Welling, 9485, 2014.

Placing stress on materiality supplements, rather than erases, other forms of photographic practice (earlier forms, and contemporary and emerging digital forms). King (quoted in the presentation) is right that the exhibition is partial in addressing the question of ‘what is a photograph?’, but wrong, in my view, to expect an answer to the question. The exhibition leaves the question open (in its partiality) and invites responses that can maintain the dialogue and enhance the dynamism of the field of photographic practice. My own expectation is that an exhibition should not promise or offer closure, but should offer us more, not less, to think about, engage with and to be excited by.

Anything new to add? Maybe recognition of the utility of a more sociological perspective on photographic practice (see CRJ post here  – contains a few sentences which, I think, address Johnson’s and King’s issue about what they perceive as a backward looking tendency in Squiers’ exhibition) and non-western perspectives on photographic image making (see CRJ post here ). And always to keep in mind ‘what is theory for?’ alongside asking ‘what is photography for?’.