Great Campany

Two pieces of great company throughout the MA have been Susan Sontag’s On Photography and the recently published David Campany’s On Photographs. Add in a touch of Sally Mann, Roland Barthes, David Bate and Elizabeth Wells and it is time to find a desert island and a chair.

(Campany: P32)

Words can never tame and stabilize images. Words can limit what can be seen in a photograph. As soon as the words literally say this is a ‘p’ then the eye in Gestalt fashion seeks and finds the ‘p’ and stops looking. Mystery and magic between words and images comes when there is ambiguity that makes the viewer look for more. The magic happens as the words trigger something in the unconscious mind of the viewer that helps them project their own experience on to what they are looking at.

(Campany: P52)

I believe we have as much understanding of time now as our ancestors did of the earth when they considered it to be flat. My own experience of taking a photograph when in one state and then looking at it when I am in another state at another time is an enigma. We can say all there ever is ‘is now’ but that is because we cannot conceive of anything else. Yet! In any moment all there ever is is now but photographs are a piece of evidence that there was another now.

(Campany: P58)

It is easy to show that a photograph is not just a piece of paper with ink on it. Give someone an image of their mother or someone they love deeply and ask them to tear it up. Even if you show them you have an exact copy most people struggle to tear up ‘the sheet of paper with ink on it.’

(Campany: P62)

True over one hundred years ago and more true today as there is more competition, more failure and more patience required.

(Campany: P82)

The camera remains a tool for us to use. When we click and what we frame determines the significance of what is captured. Our whole being up to that moment feeds in to that click.

(Campany: 92)

Every photograph taken by a human being contains material that is contingent to them at that moment in time. The optical unconscious also fits with the idea above that it is our own psychological make up that determines what we choose to capture from our contingency. As a viewer we can project on to an image taken by somebody else our own unconscious composition. This is part of the excitement in the exchange between photographer and audience.

(Campany P: 100)

I have delved in to trace very deeply over the last two years with Karen’s illness and death. The trace trauma leaves is difficult, probably impossible, to erase but much can be done to find ways of living with what remains. Photography and therapy are important tools in this regard.

(Campany: P124)

The camera is the paintbrush the photograph is the artist.

(Campany: P 134)

The mute that speaks volumes.

(Campany: P 136)

Our eyes and brain work together to simplify and represent the world around us. The photographers eye, brain, hands and camera put a representation into a stored image.

Everything has been done and nothing has been done before. Some images are better than others but all images have infinite possible meanings so that can’t be true. Every day the possibilities grow. Photographs amaze those who can be amazed. Let’s contemplate.

(Campany: P142)

The image as a time slide or a time ladder is beguiling.

(Campany: P 150)

But do we unstoppably pass through time or are we wrapped up in some other way? One thing is certain. When we know the answer to this question I am sure a photograph will be part of the evidence.

(Campany P 152)
(Mann: P 86 )

Think about this a lot. I have and it is deep. So often a photograph is required to remind us what happened. That photograph then becomes the memory. Without photographs a memory is a reconstruction in the moment of very small fragments of a skeleton that we dress differently with knowledge and context we have at the time.

(Campany: P176)

The world is awash with images. They shape opinions and cause laws to be changed or wars to be fought. This two years at Falmouth has helped me see so much more and understand that there is so much more to see. I want to be twenty again and maybe I will be when we understand time. For the moment just open my eyes.



MANN, S. 2015. Hold Still: A memoir with photographs. Little Brown.

Categories: Contextual Research FMP, Final Major ProjectTags:


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.