What is my research question? – 3 – Photographs Change You

Human beings are stimulus response organisms. In the same way the rays from the sun force a flower to open its petals or change its orientation, stimuli act on people to cause a response they have little control over. A photograph is a stimulus. We touch it and look at it and it has an impact on us. It changes us.

I propose to point my research question towards how photographs influence the way we think and feel and the impact they have through our senses. Here is a first draft of the research proposal.

I will produce a body of work that demonstrates how photographs change a person. It will show how the photograph impacts the way a person thinks and feels and does so through its action on his/her senses. A human being is a stimulus response organism like anything else that lives and naturally responds to stimulus to its senses. My hypothesis is that after a person experiences a photograph she is different and subsequently take actions that are caused by that difference.  Photographs change you.

I was shopping in Carrefour recently when I saw a photograph of a Kit Kat in an advert. Kit Kat’s were not on my shopping list but I walked out with a multipack of 5. I did this despite the very same day telling myself I needed to cut my calories following a heavy sequence of lunches and dinners.

Alan Kurdi source

This image of the death of Alan Kurdi goes through our eyes causing an immediate emotional response and sets our thought processes in to a frenzy. The basic emotions of anger, fear, sadness, distrust and surprise are all triggered. Once triggered our minds get to work to try to make sense of what it is seeing. If you saw this image, and you probably did, or another version of it, it will have had a profound impact on you. Whether people chose to do something or not as a result of this picture my proposition is that seeing such a photograph changed them in some way.

Brian Clough source

The first two images are global in nature and impact many human beings in predictable ways. This image of the genius of Brian Clough is more specific. It has a huge impact on me as a fan of Nottingham Forest and instantly sparks a flood of emotions rekindled from the fabulous period he was the manager while I was growing up. It may impact others in different ways. Some who do not follow football will know him for the TV personality he was. For others it will have very little impact other than a desire to know who it is and why the picture is there.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt source

In a world of fake news this picture messes with our thought processes. It can’t be a real picture but it looks like one.

Len Williamson 2019

I took this image last week at the Albufera near Valencia. It caught my eye. A collection of three shapes making a pleasing composition. Reflections are always attractive and the clarity of this one very much so. The colour contrast between the white and blue has an impact. I liked it and have had a number of positive comments from viewers.

If my thesis is right then this picture changes us. Changes me and changes you. I am just starting out on this journey so some early thoughts. Did this picture changed me? It will make me go back to the Albufera to improve on this shot in this location again and seek out more around it. It has got me enquiring in to why this image caught my eye. I will do research as a consequence of this image. At the time I took it I felt present, calm and relaxed as a result of the location I was in and what I was looking at. I got satisfaction out of taking it and looking at it at home. It impacted my mood in the moment, when I got home and still does so as I look at it now.

The research can enquire in to what impact this has on you. Tell me if you want. I am interested in all answers. Some have told me already that some photographs change us in a big way and others not at all. Is that right?


I need say no more.

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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

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.