What is my research question?

I don’t yet know the answer to this question and I am ok with that. In the next 15 weeks I intend to drill down in to what interests me and shape a question that will form the basis of my project. My motivation for this work is a lifelong interest in what life is about, how can I experience it to the full and share this with the people around me. Photography provides me with an acute way of looking at the world and capturing what is interesting to me. Life experience is enhanced when I can be present and photography is a powerful way of being fully focussed on the moment.

I could start with something like ‘what are the triggers within a photograph that have a profound effect on human emotion?’ We can all name pictures that impact almost everyone in powerful ways. The blue marble shot of planet earth taken by Apollo 17 in 1972 is one of the most reproduced images in history (Wikipedia).

Blue Marble

Also from 1972 is Vietnam girl showing a group of soldiers and children including a naked Vietnamese girl, Phan Thj Kim Phuc, running away from smoke rising from the ground.

Naipalm Girl

More recently is the death of Alan Kurdi who drowned on September 2nd 2015 (Wikipedia) as he and his family of Syrian refugees tried to reach Europe during the refugee crisis.

The death of Alan Kurdi

The first image evokes wonder in most people and make us feel how amazing it is to be alive. The latter two evoke horror, anger, fear and a strong desire that something must be done. They are photographs that have had and still have a profound effect on human emotions.

A lot of thoughts surface as I look at these photographs again. The blue marble amazes as we look back on our earth for the first time. None of us have seen this view for real but we believe this is what it must be like. Suddenly we are able to look at where we are from the outside instead of our normal view of seeing the universe from within.

Naipalm girl and Alan Kurdi impacts everyone who sees them. This is the worst about ourselves. How can this happen? How can we allow it to happen? What was my role in allowing this to happen? The picture shocks and does initiate action by the press and then politicians. There is a trace of these images left inside everyone who has viewed them. Something strange then happens as the impact decays quickly over time and the image is tucked away from view.

Something that interests me is that some viewers find it disrespectful to the memory of these children to reproduce these images. Is this guilt that so little was done? Is it a religiously motivated response? Other viewers see them as a reminder of the action we all need to take to make our world a better place. My thesis for my Masters in Cognitive and Decision Sciences was ‘when given the same information why to two people make different decisions?’ There is something at play here as each individual who looks at these images is triggered emotionally and then have their own unique response to it.

These images went global, had an impact and changed the world. They trigger human emotions and can effect change.

When I take a photograph I want to have a positive impact on my own emotions and those of a viewer. This little enquiry in to what my research question might be prompts a question of whether that is what I want. What if I could take photographs that made the world a better place.

More reflection necessary.

Categories: Positions and Practice

LEN

I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make
decisions.

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.