8 Ways to Change the World

After having read through an article titled ‘Seeing and Believing’ written by Max Houghton (2005) I feel I have procured a better idea of the challenges facing non-governmental organisations in changing the way they raise awareness about the people they aid.

Houghton calls for an inward revolution for the way NGOs manage those more fortunate’s perceptions of those less fortunate – those less fortunate being the people non-governmental organisations aid. One way Paul Lowe, lecturer at LCC, suggests this can be done is for NGOs concentrate at least some of their efforts on local photographers who know their own country and inhabitants better: ‘It’s most significant to use indigenous photographers to represent their own country when there is no local voice at all, so all we ever get is a western point of view.’ – (Lowe, n.d.). However, there is a danger, Shahidul Alam of Drik agency in Bangladesh fears, where by teaching the local people photography’s (documentary) language, the local photographers will become just another occidental photographer since the style of documentary or reportage was founded in the first half of the 20th century by westerners. ‘The danger therefore, is of becoming a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and eventually of becoming a wolf.’ – Alam ominously concludes. This is backed up by Adrian Evans, director of Panos Pictures in London, who states: ‘You can’t simply work with indigenous photographers because it’s ethically sound if they are not skilled up enough to do the work’ – (Evans, n.d.). Joseph Cabon concedes he prefers woking with people he has already met or in other words: is ‘more cautious about using people he hasn’t met face-to-face’. While I understand this reservation especially as Cabon is also looking for projects: ‘that would really inspire and challenge the photographers, rather than having them come back with yet another set that could have been taken four or five years ago’ – (Cabon, n.d.), I would say indigenous photographers could do something similar also.

My proposal would be to allow the indigenous photographers to work in there own styles but with an emphasis (perhaps on behalf of the people who eventually publish their work) on representing the people they photograph as people with hope and ‘evoke not pity but understanding’ and in creative ways, as was the case with Chris de Bode’s work for VSO in the exhibition ‘8 Ways to Change the World’ curated by Adrian Evans.

 

Ethiopia, Chimbiri, Nr. Debre Birhan, Highlands 1 - 8 Ways to Change the World - Chris de Bode
Ethiopia, Chimbiri, Nr. Debre Birhan, Highlands 1 – 8 Ways to Change the World – Chris de Bode

I also looked at the colour documentary photographers work for the ‘8 Ways to Change the World’ exhibition curated by Adrian Evans and three colour documentary photographers work stood out for me which I have tried to compare.

Ethiopia, Chimbiri, Nr. Debre Birhan, Highlands 2 - 8 Ways to Change the World - Chris de Bode
Ethiopia, Chimbiri, Nr. Debre Birhan, Highlands 2 – 8 Ways to Change the World – Chris de Bode

With extra information comes extra complications I have found when looking at the ‘8 Ways to Change the World’ exhibition by Panos Pictures. From this I mean that the extra information colour brings (which might be why it is the more prevalent medium in today’s documentary photography) also adds confusion for the viewer as they have more to take in. Not only is there composition and light to take in but now colour as well. Zed Nelson somewhat mitigates this fact by employing a shallow depth of field in some of his portraits so the viewer is clear what is the main subject of the photograph. In trying to work out why I felt Chris de Bode’s photographs work better (as they are) in colour than they might have been in black and white I could see that it was less the use of colour relationships as I was expecting the answer to be. Instead it was more the placement of the main subject compositionally in the frame (usually the centre), the amount of information present but which was reduced by isolating the subject from the rest of the frame and finally the interesting subject matter.

Action Aid Commission - 8 Ways to Change the World - Adam Hinton
Action Aid Commission – 8 Ways to Change the World – Adam Hinton

In contrast to the two aforementioned photographers, Adam Hinton, uses a much darker aperture (presumably to get the whole frame in focus) and almost a snapshot aesthetic which is objective in style and rich in information. I felt he carefully placed his subjects in the frame or filled his frame by paying attention to detail. This elevated his work out of the snapshot photograph. However it was less reactive and subjective than Chris de Bode’s and more factual and formal. In my opinion Zed Nelson’s work sits somewhere in between by employing similar strategies to de Bode’s and Hinton’s photography. However I liked de Bode’s way of seeing best as it seemed slightly more human, especially with regards to the ‘reactive’, unformulated poses and aesthetically-pleasing compositions.

References:

de Bode, C. (2005). Eight Ways to Change the World. [online] Chris de Bode. Available at: http://www.chrisdebode.com/stories#/eight-ways/ [Accessed 20 Jun. 2017].

Hinton, A. (2005). Adam Hinton. [online] Adamhinton.net. Available at: http://www.adamhinton.net/commission#project [Accessed 20 Jun. 2017].

Houghton, M. (2005). Volume 4 Number 3. [online] issuu. Available at: https://issuu.com/foto8/docs/vol4no3 [Accessed 20 Jun. 2017], pp. 34-37.

Towards a Philosophy of Photography

I have been reading a book titled ‘Towards a Philosophy of Photography’ by Vilém Flusser (1983) which I found highly enjoyable and more importantly for my course quite timely in influencing my thought process for taking photographs.

I liked Flusser’s use of terminology that the photograph’s surface is a place for ‘magic’. He used this term frequently and after reading why he used such an archaic term to describe a photograph’s surface, I have to agree with him. His reasoning was that the magic of a photograph is non-linear and can recur again and again. This is in contradiction to the linear nature of the texts produced before technical images were invented.

‘images come between the world and human beings. … Instead of representing the world, they obscure it until human beings’ lives finally become a function of the images they create.’ – (Flusser, 1983). This to me seemed a lot like Jean Baudrillard’s (1981) descriptions of hyperreality in Simulacra and Simulation, although I found this description by Flusser more eloquent and easier to understand. As I understood, instead of images functioning for us, we’ve come to function for the image-world. One contributing factor for this line of thought would be the prevalence of images nowadays and the escalating volume they are produced at.

The idea that the camera can control the photographer was a thought-provoking one for me. This would occur if the photographer makes largely ‘redundant’ photographs and succumbs to the ambition of ‘only’ producing images as new variations of a theme. I had already been thinking about this during the course and kind of agreed it was present in my own photography but didn’t know how to mitigate this trend. Therefore I was intrigued to see whether Vilém Flusser could answer this burgeoning question in my head.

Thinking of photographs in terms of numbers rather than text was an interesting concept for me. I thought of it as meaning I would come up with new and exciting combinations of numbers making up each photograph’s identification. However, would I simultaneously just be helping to exhaust the well of information that the photographic universe possesses, without giving much thought to the order I gather up this information?

One explanation Flusser argued for was that instead of the photographic universe constantly being in a state of flux (as in new photographs constantly being produced), he proposes ‘a standstill situation: to find the same newspapers on our breakfast tables every day or to see the same posters on city walls for months on end.’ – (Flusser, 1983). This interested me because images seem to change so fast now. It would be refreshing to see an Instagram feed or magazine with images that stay similar or the same in a standstill situation while people continue their lives. It would be my inclination that people would take more notice of the news for instance if there was a standstill situation in the image world.

At the end of the book (in the afterword) there resides a quote by Flusser regarding what he thinks ‘freedom’ means – a key attribute to developing a philosophy of photography in his conclusion to his book. He defines being free as: ‘Not cutting off one’s ties with others but making networks out of these connections in co-operation with them. – (Flusser, 1983). I felt this was a touching quote to be left with and one that was also thought-provoking. It made me think about how photographer’s can break the chain of ‘just’ discovering new combinations for a variation on a theme by being free. Also looking forward to Assignment 3, which was to be based on my local community, this quote gave me hope of finding some freedom in my photography within connections I’d already made.

References:

Baudrillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and Simulation. 2nd ed. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

Flusser, V. (2014). Towards a Philosophy of Photography. 3rd ed. London: Reaktion Books.

Simulacra and Simulation Notes

I have been making notes on Jean Baudrillard’s (1981) essay Simulacra and Simulation. Although the sentences were sometimes very long and the language used challenging for me to say the least, I discovered there was much food for thought present amidst this.

As the language used was challenging, I found thinking about certain topics/concepts Baudrillard brought up in more colloquial terms worked for me in ‘deciphering’ the text. For example ‘dissimulate’ simply translates to conceal and reality he often speaks of I found more useful to think of as three-dimensions with a fourth-dimension looming around. The world he compares reality to is this fourth, somewhat invisible dimension which seemingly has no limits. While the real stays stuck in three dimensions, the fourth dimension multiplies seemingly infinitely as ever more data/information is added to it.

‘Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.’ – (Baudrillard, 1981). I deciphered from Baudrillard (in the above quote and later on in Simulacra and Simulation) that today we see around us a hyperreal; a simulation based on abstractions of reality but of a reality that has since passed. Baudrillard to my understanding goes on to say how the hyperreal precedes the abstractions of reality (images etc) even though the hyperreal formed afterwards. This is because since reality has passed, the hyperreal now controls what the abstractions of reality are. Another way I perceived of saying this was for example the image-world is now governed by an autonomous structure – the hyperreal. The hyperreal while affected by remnants of reality, has since usurped the remnants as it is now so prevalent. So the hyperreal formed from these simulacra selects information from them based on capital and forms a new order of images.

Baudrillard balances the two sides to the image which I hadn’t considered in depth before: ‘the murderous capacity of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity. To this murderous capacity is opposed the dialectical capacity of representations as a visible and intelligible mediation of the Real.’ – (Baudrillard, 1981). Although Baudrillard used extreme and complicated language here, I felt I understood what he was communicating. That is while the image could be seen to be ‘bad’ or ‘murderous’ as Baudrillard puts it, by defacing reality and indeed their own image, they could at the same time be seen as providing a meaningful, visible discourse of reality. However, such is the desire to represent reality in the form of images, that the image-world takes over and reality ceases to exist. Masking this ‘absence of a basic reality’ – (Baudrillard, 1981) would be images themselves, now forming their own world but not one which bears relation to reality. I had myself recently begun to wonder as I sometimes created photographs which had similarly been photographed a lot of other times, whether I was helping accomplish anything meaningful or perhaps instead just contributing to the deluge of oversaturated media? I felt secretly the latter was probably true and I hoped for a way of thinking about my photography which would enable me to achieve the former. Reading through this part of Baudrillard’s text I felt there was a chance of finding other, useful bits later on which could further clear up in my head how to make meaningful images if possible.

I enjoyed reading the examples Baudrillard gave to explain the points he was making, although I didn’t fully comprehend all of his points. One example which I felt I understood better was about the caves of the Lascaux: ‘It is in this way, under the pretext of saving the original, that the caves of Lascaux have been forbidden to visitors and an exact replica constructed 500 metres away, so that everyone can see them (you glance through a peephole at the real grotto and then visit the reconstituted whole).’ – (Baudrillard, 1981). This example reminded me very much of Datong in China where replicas of famous bridges and parts of cities are built. I only knew about Datong because I stumbled across an article about it on the Guardian. The article: ‘Back to the future: the fake relics of the ‘old’ Chinese city of Datong’ – (Ren, 2014) made me think about these replicas and the implications for building them but I didn’t make the connection until I reread Baudrillard’s text and what he goes on to say. Baudrillard (1981) goes on to say: ‘It is possible that the very memory of the original caves will fade in the mind of future generations, but from now on there is no longer any difference: the duplication is sufficient to render both artificial.’ If this same line of thinking about the caves of Lascaux was applied to Datong (even though Datong’s replicas were built on the same ground), it would mean the new and old cities would become ‘artificial’, while the memory of the original fades. This same analogy could somewhat be applicable to the real world compared to photographs/images, where there are so many replicas of the real world made in the image world that both the real world and image world become artificial.

‘Parody makes obedience and transgression equivalent, and that is the most serious crime, since it cancels out the difference upon which the law is based.’ – (Baudrillard, 1981). Parody interested me as one kind of simulation because I would say it is a kind of sarcastic humour which is dangerous in a way. For example it is difficult to tell whether someone is telling a joke when they say it sarcastically because it is founded upon real life. By making a parody of real life the person telling the joke is leaving it up to the observer to make up their mind which way to take the ‘joke’. I could imagine this to be quite powerful in the form of visual parody, especially in a photograph form. Perhaps introducing this type of humour would be a way to create provocation in my images, if I so desired.

 

References:

Baudrillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and Simulation. 2nd ed. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

Ren, Y. (2014). Back to the future: the fake relics of the ‘old’ Chinese city of Datong. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/oct/15/datong-china-old-city-back-to-the-future-fake-relics [Accessed 15 Jun. 2017].

Colour in Documentary

I had heard and indeed experienced for myself that colour was a harder medium to work in than black and white. Black and white allows the user to concentrate on form and light. With an added bonus of heavier post-processing potentially being applied, the black and white photographer can enable the viewer to be further removed from reality while at the same time maintain a degree of truthfulness because of the black and white medium’s fact-based traditions. Colour on the other hand is much more immediate and colour relationships have to be considered as well as other elements of a photograph. On top of this the viewer has a harder time decoding the photograph as they work out the photographer’s intentions in the colour medium. Therefore I found it useful to read a description about William Eggleston as an example of transcribing his own visceral world into a social document.

William Eggleston, Untitled (Memphis), 1970.
William Eggleston, Untitled (Memphis), 1970.

First I read the press release for Eggleston’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976 where he was the only photographer featured who used colour. What Szarkowski wrote in the press release concerning Eggleston’s use of colour seemed to correlate with a text I had been reading called ‘Towards a Philosophy of Photography’ by Vilém Flusser (2014). I had been recommended this text by my tutor to observe the discrepancies between black and white and then colour mediums. One thing I’d picked up on in both texts was how colour was intrinsically linked to the object. As Szarkowski puts it: ‘These photographers work not as if color were a separate problem to be resolved in isolation, “but rather as though the world it-self existed in color, as though the blue and the sky were one thing,”’ – (Szarkowski, 1976). As Vilém Flusser puts it: ‘The green of a photographed field, for example, is an image of the concept ‘green’, just as it occurs in chemical theory, and the camera (or rather the film inserted into it) is programmed to translate this concept into the image’ – (Flusser, 2014). What I gathered from these comments was that there is a code in colour photographs which make them translate as literal variations of the world once decoded by the viewer. Here the colour photograph seems at first glance to reflect the real world but in fact the viewer has to decode what they are seeing on the surface of the photograph in order to ‘get’ the colour concept. I had always thought of colour as a separate design element to be incorporated into the (colour) photograph but hadn’t seen it as something which couldn’t be dissociated from the object.

Szarkowski’s writing on Eggleston’s use of colour in the press release for MoMA’s 1976 exhibition also reminded me of an essay I’d previously come across by Thomas Weski (2009) entitled: ‘WILLIAM EGGLESTON: “The Tender-Cruel Camera”’ found on the website American Suburb X. Weski (2009) divulges Eggleston deliberately chose to employ a snapshot aesthetic to his colour images. He also: ’emphasizes hues that soak the scene or resonate in a critical way, virtually creating effects of sound, silence, smell, temperature, pressure–sensations that black-and-white photography has yet to evoke.’ – (Weski, 2009). He accomplishes this by using the controversial dye-transfer technique to subtly add perceptions of atmosphere through the colour treatment. In combination with a centre-weighted composition where seemingly incidental details are included going towards the edge of the frame as well as the obvious in the centre, Eggleston’s photographs become a lot more meaningful than the snapshot aesthetic he models them on. I wasn’t sure how I’d implement this into my own photography but it did get me thinking that with colour photography at least it’s not so much how well the photograph is taken but how well it is conceptualised that creates an impact for the viewer. Also how it is processed and/or shared by the photographer for the viewer might also be of importance, for example Eggleston with his dye-transfer technique.

References:

Weski, T. (2009). WILLIAM EGGLESTON: “The Tender-Cruel Camera” – ASX | AMERICAN SUBURB X | Photography & Culture. [online] AMERICAN SUBURB X. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2009/01/theory-william-eggleston-tender-cruel.html [Accessed 27 May 2017].

Flusser, V. (2014). Towards a Philosophy of Photography. 3rd ed. London: Reaktion Books, p.43.

Szarkowski, J. (1976). Color Photographs by William Eggleston at the Museum of Modern Art. [Exhibition].

In, Around, and Afterthoughts (on Documentary Photography by Martha Rosler

I have been asked to read and make notes on ‘In, Around, and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)  by Martha Rosler. I must admit this was particularly hard reading for me. The essay was quite long but more pointedly it wasn’t very flowing with the language used complicated. In one sense this was good practice because it would bring me up to speed with the documentary terminology but on the other hand I didn’t feel I learnt that much from the essay apart from a few key points:

Right from the outset, I found Rosler hints that documentary as it is widely known is all but gone from contemporary practice – ‘What remains of it?’ – ‘It’ being  documentary photography. She goes on to assert: ‘Documentary … preceded the myth of journalistic objectivity and was partly strangled by it.’ – (Rosler, 1992). Apart from suggesting documentary as it was known had largely changed, this last quote embodied much of what I was coming to realise about photography in general. Including documentary; photography is subjective because it is the photographer’s interpretation of what they are seeing that informs the viewer. While it is true there are more objective approaches – Bate’s example of August Sander where he used typographical portraits springs to mind – ultimately they are always subjective results.

Documentary, as it was known, was comparatively futile in enabling positive change in Rosler’s examples because it was an exchange of information about less privileged people to another, more socially powerful group who didn’t want to undermine their own wealth. Instead Rosler argues intervention in the real world outside of the media was more constructive in enabling positive change. For example Cesar Chávez with the Farm Workers’ Organizing Committee.

My next point about Rosler’s essay would be concerning ‘It is impolite or dangerous to stare in person’, which she suggests, ‘as Diane Arbus knew when she arranged her satisfyingly immobilised imagery as surrogate for the real thing.’ – (Rosler, 1992). This for me implies there is a kind of mental, subconscious block induced between reality and photography where the viewer loses their inhibitions to gaze at what may alarm or discomfort them when looking at the person in a photograph. The viewer is still seeing – though through the image – because they recognise the subject through it as part of a photograph they are therefore ‘safe’ to look at for as long as is wanted. Because of this, in my opinion, the subject then becomes more distant and objectifiable.

Perhaps for this reason it is justifiable then that the photographer ‘who entered a situation of physical danger, social restrictedness, human decay, or combinations of these and saved us the trouble’ – (Rosler, 1992) should be accredited for their efforts. They as the taker photographer provided us with a platform to stare at, through photographs, the people and conflicts which reminded documentary viewers the realities of life (although not necessarily how to relate to them or avert them from happening respectively).

‘The subject of the article is the photographer.’ – (Rosler, 1992). This struck me as a bold statement from Rosler I partially agreed with. I had been convinced for a while that the subject of the photograph or the photograph itself were all that mattered as the eventual outcome of photographs being taken. Then I was sure it was how photographs related to each other and other forms of media (their context) as well as the photograph/subject that mattered. More recently I had started to come to the conclusion that the photographer, their relationship with the subject and viewer was another key aspect of photographs ‘mattering’. Sometimes I felt the photographer’s relationship with the subject could be more important than the composition/lighting of the photograph. The statement above somewhat reinforced this understanding I was beginning to grasp although more forcibly than I agreed with. It seems that often the photograph/photographer is more important than the subject, at least in documentary. Rosler then puts this thought to discussion by examining the interesting case of Florence Thompson, the subject of Dorothea Lange’s famous Migrant Mother (1936), where the photograph was seemingly more important than the subject’s real self. ‘Are photographic images, then, like civilization, made on the backs of the exploited?’ – (Rosler, 1992), made me think how the image world, while not necessarily bad, is ambivalent towards those it uses much like reality. However, by ‘exploiting’ those it uses in the image world, photographs help sometimes on a collective level in the real world.

I had become more aware that photography was intrinsically connected to the world outside of photography in that by having an interest in political issues for example in the outside world, the photographer could better inform their photographic practice. However, before reading Rosler’s essay I was not aware that political sides could affect the reading of photographs. On the one side the ‘left’ were guilty of undermining the integrity of the image by pushing for transparency of the real world on to the image world. For example Walker Evans’ subject Allie Mae (Burroughs) Moore was rephotographed by Scott Osborne much later but this time using her real name. On the other hand, the ‘right’ attempted to use photography to illustrate the divide between classes and equality. They did this by isolating ‘it within the gallery-museum-art-market nexus, effectively differentiating elite understanding and its objects from common understanding’ – (Rosler, 1992). One consequence of doing this I presumed was that the divide would grow further. All of this meant that the real meaning the photographer intended to convey behind the photograph was being undermined by political sides afterwards.

Rosler goes on to attack John Szarkowski for his passivity of the Vietnam war which was happening when he wrote of a new generation of photographers who constituted a more personal attitude and with relation to commonplace people in the more immediate society around them. I partly agreed with Rosler on this attack because the way he put it: ‘They like the real world, in spite of its terrors, as the source of all wonder and fascination and value’ – (Szarkowski, 1967), was quite pacifying of the terrible things that were happening in the world. However, I also felt that by undertaking projects which the photographer felt was local to their passion and place of living, they would be able to form a better relationship with their subject(s). Therefore Szarkowski’s assertions in his introduction to New Documents in 1967 were not totally unfounded. However, Rosler also states that under Szarkowski’s influence Garry Winogrand refused to accept responsibility for his photographs, claiming that: ‘all meaning in photography applies only to what resides within the “four walls” of the framing edges’. This was in direct contradiction to the work of Robert Frank who Rosler compares Winogrand’s work with. Where Frank based the presentation of his work on the photographs as a purposeful series, Winogrand approached his own work from a purely modernist stance as all meaning came from within each photograph. In this respect, Szarkowski’s comments in his introduction to New Documents made little sense if the ‘new generation’ of photographers with more personal motives for their photographs wanted to affect the world immediately around them meaningfully with the same attitude as Winogrand for example.

From 'The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems' - Martha Rosler, 1974-75
From ‘The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems’ – Martha Rosler, 1974-75

Finally Rosler finishes with an analysis of her own work: The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems. Rosler sardonically describes in this work through both photograph and text that of a world which belongs to the past. The medium used (photographs and text in a style from the 1930s) she argues should belong of the past too. That is because ‘There is nothing new attempted in a photographic style that was constructed in the 1930s when the message itself was newly understood, differently embedded’ – (Rosler, 1992) – in her own words. I would agree that this approach is dated and would tend to concentrate on ‘the ascendant classes … implied to have pity on and rescue members of the oppressed’ – (Rosler, 1992). As I understood from her text onwards photographers looking forwards can help instigate social change by analysing society that is all around us by exposing things like racism, sexism and class oppression, questioning whether ‘a radical documentary can be brought into existence’ – (Rosler, 1992). I would suggest that a visually striking and different aesthetic for photographs/bodies of work as compared to that of the 1930s or even Rosler’s own The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems would be necessary if Rosler’s encouraged approach was to work.

References:

Rosler, M. (1992). In Bolton, R. (ed.) (1992). The Contest of Meaning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.303-325.

Szarkowski, J. (1967). New Documents. [Exhibition] 28 Feb. 1967 – 7 May. 1967. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Black and white?

Black and white affects the reading of the image and is something I was acutely aware of without ever really understanding why the effect is so different from colour.

Black and white makes the viewer more distant from the photograph, because the image is reduced down to form and structure. In other words as Henry Carroll states: ‘black and white simplifies what colour complicates’ – (Carroll, 2015). This struck a chord with me because I felt I was able to read the components of black and white photographs more easily than similar colour photographs.

dsc_2716-2
Attempt at seeing in black and white 1

As a photographer you have to learn to ‘see’ in the black and white medium and not just convert it from black and white afterwards because then those forms and structures probably won’t be as pronounced as if the photographer was looking for them in the first place. This is illustrated by Henry Carroll in a book I’ve been reading called ‘Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs of People’, where he says: ‘All too often people compose their shot using the language of colour and then hope that it will translate into black and white later. Neither of these approaches work.’ – (Carroll, 2015). I have been guilty of using that approach in the past but have since experienced what Carroll observed; instead it is better to be on the look-out for shots that would look good in black and white first.

dsc_2820
Attempt at seeing in black and white 2

In my opinion it is psychological too, as negative emotions are more easily related to in black and white. There’s something melancholy in my mind associated with black and white because it reminds us subconsciously of photography’s nature – a memory of something from reality which can’t be replaced. This makes me feel if I were to produce 8 black and white single-image narratives for assignment 2 I would be inclined to choose a more despondent theme for the photographs. On the flip side of this is the photograph’s other attribute – the potential for it to be reproduced indefinitely. This reproducibility allows the viewer to look at the black and white photograph especially with a sense of importance – this same photograph could be seen in newspapers etc and indeed had been. This would be by association – in the past black and white photographs were observed as more truthful and people had grown up with them in their culture – there was a sort of aura embedded into the collective psyche surrounding black and white photographs.

One strategy I felt would prove pointless with an optical viewfinder camera like mine was to shoot in black and white preview mode and view it on the LCD screen after the fact. While this definitely wasn’t as immersive as shooting with an EVF ‘in the present’ and viewing the scene before the camera in near-enough real-time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that before ‘chimping’ I could start to imagine what the preview would look like. Therefore I started to think in black and white, with particular attention paid to light and shadows and seeing potential for reducing the scene down to its abstract, core features.

Above I’ve displayed a couple of examples of me trying to ‘see’ in black and white before taking the shot (even though the optical viewfinder let me see in colour as a preview!).

 

References:

Carroll, H. (2015). Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs of People. London: Laurence King.