Independent Reflection – Week 2

Quotes of the Week

“I am a photographer, not an artist,” he says. He deems the conflation a “very American” way of thinking. “A lot of American photographers call themselves artists. I don’t make art. I use composition, but it is not art.” Don McCullin (Artnews)

Question: Can a photograph be a work of art? Answer: A photograph is a disposition of sensible matter and may be so disposed for an aesthetic end, but it is not a human disposition of sensible matter. Therefore it is not a work of art. James Joyce 1904. (Scruton)

This week and the first week is about beginning to create a language to enable us to have a dialogue about photography. This is necessary to prevent each of us saying we like or dislike a photograph and having no parameters by which to judge our views. We will still disagree but with a language and grammar we will have a better chance of understanding our disagreements.

We can now classify images in to naturalistic or scientific and artistic. Or put another way we can see them as documentary or aesthetic. As with the title of my project The Truth and Beauty of Me, truth and beauty is another classification. We can say whether an image is iconic, looking like the thing it is said to represent, iconic, with a causal link between image and the thing being represented or symbolic, an agree symbolic representation of the thing…ie a word such as egg.

The above image captures a number of the issues for this week. It is an image of a painter painting a portrait of me from a portrait photograph of me. The portrait photograph is indexical and iconic and symbolic of man or human or many other classifications we could name. The painting is not indexical but is iconic and can be symbolic in similar fashion to the portrait photograph.

I bristled at the idea that a painting offers so much more artistic truth than a photograph. As I reflect on it I fear it is true. There are photographs that challenge this idea. David Heath’s Dialogues with Solitude comes to mind but does not quite convince me. The painting of me by Mairi Brydon is remarkable in the way it captures me in a way I don’t believe any photograph could. This is because the artist has the ability to add their own interpretation of what they see. Somehow Mairi has captured me perfectly in a way I can understand myself to be. The portrait photograph is a reasonable capture of me but comes no where close to the painting.

I disagree with Don McCullin if his general point is photographers merely compose while artists create. Or do I? Maybe he has a point. I look forward to exploring this further as we progress.


Artnews Interview with Don McCullin by Naomi Rea Feb 4th, 2020… accessed 8th Feb, 2020

Scruton, R. Photography and Representation. (1981). University of Chicago Press.

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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.