Project 3 Learning from other photographers

Throughout this course you’ve been introduced to the work of different photographers to help give you an understanding of the creative potential of photography. Now it’s time to question your own work and identify anything you think is lacking. You don’t have to be overcritical, just honest.
– Write down any areas in photography you need to develop. (Your tutor reports should give you some clues here.)
– Write what sort of photographs you want to take. Just note down keywords.
– Now look through a book like Hacking, J. (2012) Photography: The Whole Story, or Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) (both London: Thames & Hudson) and try to identify some photographers who have exactly the key elements that you want to attain or just things that interest you. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is contemporary or historic.
– Make a note of these key elements.
– Now research these photographers online and choose one key photograph to use in the next exercise.

As luck would have it I had read Cotton’s book, and noted down photographers I liked, but also others I didn’t know, but should. I guess the aim of my doing this was that I would look at them, and learn from them. I feel I am quite open to learning from other photographers – but do feel that the breadth of photographers I learn from could be widened considerably. By this, I don’t just mean number (though this could certainly be improved) but also style, form, quality – a broader genre palette. I looked through the Cotton book, and tended to lean towards a kind of image/ genre that I am already producing – so a ‘confirmation bias’ – which is not totally what I want. But I will aim to introduce other photographers to my palette over time.

Last week I went to a Vermeer exhibition, and this had 2 clear effects on me. One was that my manipulation of the light needs work. And secondly the clear effect one dutch artist operating at the same time had on his contemporaries – they often literally painted the same image in their own style. Personally, I would try and disguise it a little, maybe wait an acceptable time, but these guys had no such qualms and ‘borrowed’ from each other liberally. So I am quite happy to do it here.

Areas of photography I feel I need to develop. As above, my manipulation of the light needs serious attention – not just on a technical side, but also on a telling-the-story side. A lot of the time I keep the light generally out of the equation – and that is fine sometimes, but when the images are looked at together it becomes repetitive – and not in the best way. Generally I think the concepts behind my images are fine – a little cheesy at times, but I like that in some ways. The problem is then the move from concept, to structure of the image, to click. This I need to develop. I have been working with text, which is fine, and the image and the text are generally in the pieces, of equal importance. But the images need improvement – they should never have to stand alone, but I want them to be good enough that they could.

Scale – I feel some of the images I tackle, or want to tackle, need expanding – shoots outside; more characters; more variety – variety of scene, or place, or person. I am reluctant to say cinematic because a) I don’t have the mentality for that, but also b) I am tired of photographers saying their images are filmic, or cinematic – if they are that keen on that look, then just make the damn film. But the scope and size of some of these photographers work is impressive and I should learn from it.

What kind of photographer do I want to be? This is a great question. One of the reasons I like photography, or like working as an artist in general, is the ability to quietly work on my own. However, to produce the kind of work I want, the scope and depth of work I want, then I need to move outside of this also.

  1. I like the idea of planning shoots. I don’t necessarily mean the ‘cinematic’, ‘film’ like shoots, but the element of planning that isn’t a photo-journalistic click. The considered making of notes, sketching, finding props etc – so what I want to be is someone who can expand this to actors, costumes and locations.
  2. Its not the technology that interests me (and I do try to not buy any more kit) but it is whats captured thats important. I just feel I need to improve the quality of how its captured.
  3. I need to improve my knowledge – both of the photography process (a little) and the lighting. As I discussed above, I want to be able to shape the light so it can contribute to the story and the image (not just make it bright). This is not just a technology issue, this is a content/ context issue. I am working on this, and though content is king, I feel this knowledge will help me become a better photographer.
  4. I like people in them so I want to be a photographer of people – but I think I want to control them!!
  5. I want the images to look real. They will be made up, they might have rather strange things in them, but I want them to look real
  6. I like some cleverness, humour in the images – but I have a tendency to cheesiness. I think I want some subtly, but am unsure if I can pull that off.
  7. At present my work is in book form – but that isn’t essential to me. So I would like to be a photographer who had some scope for displaying in different forms.
  8. I have been surprised while doing this course at the appreciation certain images get. Now, this could very well be me, don’t get me wrong, but some images I have taken get no attention by the OCA world at large, others which I may not necessarily like so much get more attention. So I think I might have to be the kind of photographer that accepts not getting very much attention.


Some artists

– Ralph Eugene Meatyard – Family Album – this whole construct of the family album of made-up weirdos is great. The masks are scary. The images simple yet effective. Creepy guy.

– Erwin Wurm – just the general use of collaboration (something I need to work on) and the absurdity of them.

– Duane Michals – again the general absurdity of certain images. The self-awareness and the awareness of the art form/ art world and the self-referencing within that. Use of text. Cheesiness.

– Gillian Weaving – Concepts, photography as a documentation of those concepts, as well as images in their own right. Like Sherman, using herself all the time.

– Jeff Wall – realistic constructs. The real ability to make the ordinary, that has been highly formulated remain to look ordinary. While of course photographing it, and therefore taking it out of the ordinary. I haven’t managed this.

– Sam Taylor-Wood – again the recycling of art theory I think is done better than by Tom Hunter.

– Hannah Starkey – a little overly stylised but very high level of quality and construction.

– Keith Arnatt – I like the conceptual element of his work, obviously. The variety of format. The photograph itself is only part of the work.




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