Context and Audience – Reflection

I have often considered the question ‘what is a good photograph?’ The work this week suggests an answer is ‘it depends. The context in which a photograph is placed has an impact on its meaning. Change the context and it will often have an impact on the viewer. To answer the question also requires some understanding of the audience. For example an academic audience defined by some rules it has put together will have a very different view to a popular audience.

It is becoming clear to me the subjectivity of the question. A photograph that gets millions of likes on instagram is clearly a successful image if measured by relative volume of hits. There could be many reasons it is still considered by many as a bad photograph. A compulsion by people to look does not mean they think the picture is a good one. Consider 9/11 and the death of Alan Kurdi as examples.

Barthes coined the term analogon suggesting a photograph is a partial but incomplete technology derived representation of something that existed. It is probably as close to any representation we can get but it is missing a lot. It is difficult for us as a viewer to take in what the photograph denotes without first being overcome by our own connotations that are instantly added as we look. Our heads are full of memories, world views, prejudices, canned stories and we instantly in looking seek to match what we see with what we already know. Only a formal critical analysis process would take us back to an understanding of what the photograph denotes. Having completed that process we would then see that as we carried out an analysis of our understanding our ‘personal’ opinion carried the most weight the instant we looked. It is impossible to do other.

The Context and Audience for my Own Work

For my own work I need to consider the context and audience. For my Masters the context is an academic piece of work with the audience being the faculty at Falmouth University. It also needs to be exhibition or publishable standard so I do need to look at the external world. Based on my current proposal there are two contexts for the subject matter of my work. The first is capturing the whole experience of being alive through a number of distinctions created by Fritz Perls. Related to this is the subject of mindfulness. The photographic context arising from these subjects is how to represent photographically the idea of being alive and how to photograph mindfully.

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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.