Week 1 Reading

Each week there is reading to be done to follow on from the first lesson, and prepare us for the next. As this is the first lesson, there is reading to be done going into photography as well as reading to be prepared for next lesson, this may be a longer reading log post than most.

Photography Loading: John Ingledew

This is the introduction to Ingledew’s 2005 book ‘Photography‘ in which he covers the basics as in introduction to photography. This is a good book for me, I know a little about photography but could know more, for example, what specific aspects are called and how to analyze/read a photo.

Ingledew opens by discussing why photography is important as a medium saying, anyone can take photos with his or her own artistic take on their photos. He also stresses how photography can tell long stories in just a few images. One key point Ingledew hits on in his opening statements is that a photographer should not be limited by their equipment, good photography comes from creativity and how one uses what they have. This is almost reassuring to me as I do not have a budget for this project. I have the camera from the university and a tripod but for instance, accessing an area to take a better photo may not be possible as I do not have money to spend. This is were creativity must come into my work, to overcome one of the many issues I will have in shooting my final project.

After this Ingledew talks about why we like photos, what about them is interesting to people. I have learned a little about why audience’s enjoy films and viewing curtain clips but photos is another medium altogether. One reason Ingledew hits on is that photography is a method of containing a moment, saving a memory. Recalling a person or a time now has a visual aid. It is also a way to see what a place was like without being there, for instance I’ve never been to the Olympics, but I’ve seen thousands of photos from there.

The Photograph: Graham Clarke

Chapter 2 How Do We Read a Photograph?

“That reading (any reading) involves a series of problematic, ambiguous, and often contradictory meanings and relationships between the reader and the image” pp.27

I have studied modern media as well as films so I do have an ability to analyze an image. I have also studied literature up to ‘Advanced level’ in school so going into this piece of reading, I feel I am not fully out of my depth. The first thing I would say to someone analyzing a still from a [fictional] film is that nothing is done accidentally, the mise-en-scéne is constructed with everything in mind, and Clarke touches on this first,

“the photograph is itself the product of a photographer.
It is always the reflection of a specific point of view, be it
aesthetic, polemical, political, or ideological. One never ‘takes’
a photograph in any passive sense. To ‘take’ is active.” pp.29

This is also a factor in literature, a good author will never mention something unless they have a specific outcome in mind, to foreshadow, to make the reader feel something etc. I’m assuming this is the same in photography.

Another aspect of analyzing an image is to not just look for what is there but also what is not. And how does this affect the reading of this image? Its important to ‘trust your gut’. Then you will know what you think should be there and locate it. This is one of the hardest parts of analyzing anything.

A key part of analyzing (reading) an image or any piece of media is looking at it in context. Clarke talks about this discussing Diane Arbus’ photo Identical Twins, “Every photograph is not only surrounded by a historical, aesthetic, and cultural frame of reference but also by an entire invisible set of relationships and meanings relating to the photographer and the point at which the image was made” pp. 30. A photograph is always a reflection of the photographer.

Clarke moves on to discuss some aspects of photographic analysis I have already studied, denotations and connotations. This is what you physically see, and what meaning it carries, respectively. (In film I would use signifier and signified instead but with the same meanings). This is were the deeper meanings come from.

Finally, he comes on to talk about all the aspects of a photo that can change meaning, composition, light, frame size etc. but after that, he goes on to quite an interesting point about an American photographer, American Lee Friedlander whos photographs are deliberately difficult to read. This is his own style of photography which creates the specific effect that he desires.