Research Project Proposal – 2

Being Alive is made up of sensory, cognitive and emotional experiences. We sense something which then creates thoughts and emotions. Photography is an experience that plays with each of these elements. The camera is a witness to what our eyes see and produces an analogon for us of what we saw. We think about and experience emotions as we plan and take an image. Once the image exists it has cognitive and emotional resonance for us the photographer and then to any viewer that looks, touches or somehow experiences the image.

My MA Research Project proposes to explore this relationship between photography and sensory, cognitive and emotional experiences. I propose to create photographic experiences and explore the impact they have on us as photographer and audience.

I have considered my own photographic process to date to understand why I take photographs. The steps I currently take are..

  • Come up with an idea about somewhere or something to photograph. For example go to Borano.
  • Explore the idea and what the target subject is. Borano is an island off Venice and is famous for its colourful streets.
  • Plan an approach. In this case I wanted to be minimalist and create simple images getting across the powerful colours and abundant symmetry present in this space. The plan includes timing to get the best light for the shot and the appropriate equipment that will be needed.
  • Go to the place and photograph. New ideas will arise and be added to the work proposed by the plan.
  • Review progress in camera.
  • Review the images at home in Lightroom. Understand and create an idea of what I have. Make a selection and edit.
  • If they meet my standards they go to my website, on to social media and distribute for discussion with friends.
  • Ask myself what did I learn and what would I do different next time?

Borano (click to see the results of the Borano trip)

I get pleasure from this process. My happiest moments are when I am out with my camera taking my photographs. Even if the shoot is not successful I am usually in places I like to be and I enjoy the experience of being there. I also get pleasure and frustration from the editing and curating process. Recently I have been reminded of the pleasure to be had from touching different types of printed photograph. It is an experience very similar to the desirability of a beautifully published book versus its equivalent on a Kindle. A final pleasure and pride can follow from others seeing and liking what they see.

I see that in my current process much of the work is about satisfying me. In my MA project I propose to extend my process in two ways. The first is to understand and develop the critical quality of my work. What does it mean, where does it fit and what does it add to photography? I also intend to place a higher focus on meeting the needs of an audience. As with the intent of my Research Project I am interested in positively stimulating their sensory, cognitive and emotional experience. I also need to do work to discover who my audience is.

To illustrate early thinking the images of Borano naturally play in to the Gestalt principles every viewer experiences which are similarity, continuation, closure, proximity and figure ground. The strong bright colours and contrast arrangements are likely to create positive feelings in a viewer. There will be further cognitive processes going on in the viewer. Questions such as does it interest me….where have I seen this approach before….is it distinctive….that might go well in the bathroom.

I plan to produce groups of images and gain some understanding of the impact they have on a viewer. As I understand this better I intend to explore mechanisms of engaging the viewer positively as he or she experiences my work.

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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.