Critical Research Journal

Contextual research: Are my responses to what I have seen, read or watched.

Week 1 Introduction: Photography – The Shape-shifter:

25th January 2019.

After watching the Video for Week 1 The Shape-Shifter I was interested to read from: Barthes’ (1977) idea of the ‘channel of transmission‘.

Q1: What context your practice operates within?

When it comes to my own practice I feel my work operates within the field of science due to the close study of nature organism. I use a very specific tool to be able to create my images. I also feel my photography operates within the advertisement and Fine Art.

Q2: Whether or not there are more than one means by which we can consume your practice?

The section which talks about the photographic message comments about an Image having two messages. The first being the Denoted Message and the second would be Connoted Message. The Denoted message is the subject choice e.g. landscape, still life etc the second messages is more certain extent commutation message, the hidden meaning is my interpretation. When it comes to my own I feel I am mainly a Macro Photographer and my subject matter is nature, this would be my denoted message but my connoted message would be, look at the world you can’t see and appreciate me.

Q3: How your own practice may be received?

I am fully aware that the area of my photography is saturated with images so I am always conscious about pushing my creativity and creating work which is unique, which isn’t always easy.

Week 1 Presentation: Photography, Photographies.

Exploring my reactions to the three works by:

John Szarkowski (1966) The Photographers Eye, New York: Museum of Modern Art

Stephen Shore (1998) The Nature of Photographs Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.

Carol Squires (ed) (2014) What is a Photograph? New York, International Center of Photography.John Szarkowski (1966)

John Szarkowski (1966)

I like the five properties or characteristics of photography, that Szarkowski as outlined.

  1. The thing itself.
  2. The detail.
  3. The frame.
  4. Time.
  5. Vantage point.

I can relate to all these prototiles equally:

The thing itself, I agree as a photographer you have the job of dealing with the actual truth in front of you but the truth can also be a twisted or a lie. Within my own work, nature is the subject matter and I try to capture the perfect moment in time. I also feel something, I’m trying to twist the truth by not always making the subject matter very clear. The detail it is very important for me, its the detail within the image is what I’m trying to capture to tell my story within my images. Photography is all about detail, the detail to a hidden world that is not always appreciated. I am fascinated by the overlooked world of nature and opening the window for others to see. When it comes to the framing of an image, I find as a photographer I find myself thinking more and more about what I can remove from the frame, this is always the first thing I think about. How can I make the main details with the image more clearer, how can I declutter my work? I see time as an important element within my images, it is all about time, for example, the best moment of the flowers life or the best time for lighting. I am also up against time, time of the year plus nature is all about time.  The vantage point, each time I take an image I am so conscious about trying not to take another regular flower image, I have to think about a different viewpoint or perspective. I ask myself, how can I tell the story of the flower from a different viewpoint? 

Stephen Shore (1998)


Shore characteristic is described as levels:

  1. Physical level.
  2. Depictive Level.
  3. Mental Level

Physical level, unfortunately, I only see my work on a screen in a digital modern world. In fact, most of my work at this moment in time is being displayed and view on the web or social media sites. I have started to print my work off and it gives my work different meaning and a different connection. I would love to see my images large on a wall so the viewer can experience my work, how I imagined it to be viewed. The reason for large is so you feel like a small insect surrounded by nature and more immersed in the unseen world. Depictive level, this is how the image creates a world within the image. Yet again we have the same keywords which are the language of photography, flatness, frame, time and focus. Flatness, creating a 3D world using a flat world. Photography is all about communication of a world we see around us but most importantly creating a relationship between photographer and viewer. I believe light is a tool which helps to create this illusion of a three-dimensional world.  Time, with my water art photography I use the frozen time that the naked eye can not see, this can only be done with the camera. Mostly with my macro flower photography I am focusing more on time that is still when it comes to taking images of flowers. The last level is the mental level, this is all about how we look, understand and create images. For me, this is the main feature I’m trying to create within my photos, an emotional connection within my work. Yes, we have tools to use to construct, eg time, focus etc but it’s our own mental reaction that is creating photography.

Carol Squires (ed) (2014)

What is a photograph?

This is more about the creation of the final image, I understand the concept of this but to me, I have to reject this idea. I feel the exhibition is more regarding modern art using photography as an element to create art using a mix media outcome. This is were art and photography are merging together creating an interesting solution to possible outcomes.

Week 2 Introduction: The Index and the Icon:

1st February 2019.

After watching the Video for Week 2 this is my response to the following questions.

  • What sort of ‘truth’ you think photography can / might offer?
  • How this might differ from other forms of visual and written representations?

I would argue after watching this video that I ask myself the question, Truth or beauty?

I believe that this all depends on the genre of photography, for example, Photojournalism should be the truth compared to fine art photography which is more creative. This is the same when it comes to other mediums like literacy, you have fiction and non-fiction. All photography has some sort of truth behind them but its how the photographer sees that’s the truth. The value of truth depends on the role your photography, for example, photojournalism the role is to inform the viewer to think or believe that what they are seeing is the truth so they can have an honest impression of the situation. While researching into this topic more I come across a photojournalism Narciso Contreras and our Cecil Contreras. The circle is showing what was manipulated. This went under scrutiny and was very frowned upon in fact this altered the photographer’s career in photojournalism.


If we were to go back to the very beginning of photography, this was a photographer from France in 1850s called La Gray.  La Gray was producing a lot of landscape work and was faced with technical challenges when producing his images. He started tousing this process where it involved two exposures. He would shoot two pictures at different exposures and one would he would expose for the foreground and one of the background.

La Gray Sea and Sky Photography.

It was not until later when you see other photographers such as Even Henry peach Robinson who comes along and they started using combination printing to do things in the style of the master painters.  My option regarding the truth about photography is that once you have taken the image you have already removed it from the truth, your technology putting that image or light, not through the human eye but a camera lens. Maybe we should look at photography on a scale between truth and beauty depending on the genre of photography.

Read Snyder and Allen (1975) Photography, Vision and Representation.

Photography, Vision, and Representation

Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen

 “That photographs and paintings differ in an important way and require different methods in interpretation precisely because photographs and paintings come into being in different ways”

I have been thinking about this, isn’t all art medium different, you have different outcomes and different tools to produce the outcomes. Art, you need paint brushes to create a range or marks on the paper etc how is this different to a photographer who uses a camera to create his art? The same question can be asked, if you can make a mark on a piece of paper does that make you an artist? If you can take a photograph does that make you a photographer, my answer no!

Arnheim shies away from what he takes to be the most extreme modern doctrine that the “photographic image is nothing but a faithful copy of the object.”

I disagree with this, of course, yes, it’s a copy but its more why the image has been taken and what purpose for? You can take pictures of things or about things and I think the moment you take a picture it’s already changed through the lens, therefore, is not an exact copy of the or original. I do not believe that photography is not representational art, in fact, photography is more an ideal and an induvial interpretation of the medium.

Art and photography are both a form of commutating which can be twisted and tell the truth.

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914): Characteristics of signs.

  • Icon
  • Indexical
  • Symbolic
  • An icon is anything that has a physical resemblance to the ide of thing that it’s trying to evoke. This could be a drawing of a flower of a photograph of a flower.
  • An Indexical is a sign that has a link to the thing that is being evoked by direct relation e.g. smoke from a fire.

A symbolic sign is something which has no relation between the signifier and signified apart from we have decided to link together eg traffic lights and red meaning stopping.

Week 3 Introduction: Constructed Realities

8th February 2019

  • In this session, we explore a variety of practices that show a deliberate awareness of the photograph’s construction as a blend of fact and fiction. These images are self consciously made rather than taken.

After watching the Video for Week 3 this is my response to the following questions.

This session explores Jeff Wall’s description of photographers’ being ‘hunters’ or ‘farmers’ in the production of their images (Wall in Horne, 2012). We look further at inter-textual approaches and the influence of cinema, literature and painting upon these constructed realities.

  • Your own working practices.
  • Whether you are a ‘hunter’ or a ‘farmer’.

When using this concept I see myself as a farmer within my own practice. I was thinking about the whole constructed realities when it comes to photography and wondered when this all began in the age of photography since 1834 Henry Fox Talbot created the first permanent negative. In 1840 Hippolyte Bayard created the very first self Portrait using photography as the tool. The image was off himself as a drowned man.

I have included this image because this is where it all started with the photographer construing his own realities of his mind. This was a reaction to hearing about Louise Daguerre creating images on to silver-plated copper and starts to experiments with his own technical techniques to produce an easier process but gets no recognition for it. This was the start of a photographer being storytelling and acter. Then 1858 Henry Peach Robinson produce Fading away. This at the time caused controversy and offended many people due to the fake storytelling of dying girl. In this image, you can see the telling tales that this has been constructed due to the lighting within the image.

Week 5 Introduction: Gazing at Photographs:

Week 6:

How technology is boosting our creativity?

It seems we are living in a world which is using technology more and more. Creativity is also a growing demand which is crossing over with technology. Arguments have arrived which say, technology is or isn’t having an effect on creativity.

Greg Statell,  believes that technology actually enhances creativity. Being creativity doesn’t just mean creating a new piece of art but thinking on the spot and solving problems. Grey, listed quality in which technology is boosting creativity. All ideas have to be born with a purpose or a need. Within my practice you need to be inspired, we have so much now at our fingertips when it comes to researching. It is clear that technology has had a massive impact and I imagine will in the future. In my option, I see the positive and negative sides of technology when it comes to creativity. The equipment we use is growing in development at a fast rate which is allowing us more creative scope but we are also closing old skills that were once valued and applicate. People are relying on technology to create designs which also have an impact on spontaneous creations.

Week 8 Forum: An Agent for Change:

I strongly believe a photograph can provoke change and action.

Reading an article by Frank Muller a great title and question regarding war photography, the looking/not looking dilemma. We are confronted with more a more of images of war and human suffering, I don’t think we have the option not to look anymore. Some will argue that one of the reasons why the World Trade centre was chosen was because of how the people could capture the attack and disseminated worldwide.

“Does this mean that by simply watching the photographs or videos footage of the attack, the viewers inadvertently join hands with Al-Qaeda?”

David Levi Strauss Between the eyes: essay on photography and politics 2003

I was horrified when I saw the image of an iraggic prisoner standing on a box with an electric cable tried to his fingers. More shocked when I watch the documentary with the soldiers who were found guilty of abuse towards prisoners, including the soldiers who had taken the images. Photography was responsible and, in the spring of 2004, The New Yorker released the photos. The victims are humiliated and tortured in front of the camera for the purpose of viewer accomplishment, the Images had been taken for personal consumption and not for local use which makes them more shocking. How can what have happened at Abu Ghraib been explained, it makes my stomach turn. Without photography, there would have been no investigation.

We all have a visual responsibility when taking, viewing and sharing images! We seen shocking images of human suffering and absorbed it but then what? We go back to our life’s hoping it doesn’t happen to use or do we take, action to make a change. Some images we have a more personal response to because it’s more connected to home. I believe we should be censor shocking subject materials to certain people regarding age, you only have to do a search on the internet and accidentally come across inappropriate images! I strongly believe this is having an impact on the younger generation and we are all responsible for that.

Week 9

What is Art?

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Thomas Merton

Think about:

  1. How do photographs acquire value and meaning?
  2. Is ‘art’ separate from society?
  3. Is contemporary ‘art’ photography different from earlier forms of ‘art’ photography?

I ask myself what is Art:

Can I describe art into words and if I could, what words could I use? Art is something that’s been created using imagination and skill, Art can express a range of feelings from the artist to the viewer. Maybe words do not need to be to use to describe art maybe vision information does. Having knowledge changes how we see art. A personal example I can give is Mark Rothko. I remember seeing his work and being shocked and saying “This isn’t art it’s just colour stuck onto a canvas” This was a while ago and since I have become wiser. It wasn’t until I understood art more and learnt about the concept of art that I truly appreciated Mark Rothko’s work. To truly understand his work, you first have to appreciate how he creates and put together his pieces. You need to have knowledge of the colour wheel and how colour works for example hue, value and intensity. The painting, Earth and Green 1950 is a great example to use to show how colour and composition can be used to create an illusion of 3d form, in my opinion, the paintings could represent architecture or landscape in an abstract manner.


He uses geometric shapes vertical and horizontal rectangles and three hues, ultramarine blue, a muted green, which is not a very intense or saturated colour and cadmium red which is so intense it almost leans towards being orange. Rothko uses both warm and cool colours within his paintings. Warm colours e.g. red, yellow and orange have more energy compared to cools colours like blue, greens and purples. Cool colours seem to move more into the background while warm colours protrude forward. You could easily compare Rothko work to The Virgin and Child 1510 by Leonardo da Vinci who using a colour palette to create depth in his painting.



Mark Rothko’s work is more about the human soul and a higher connection to art. I truly understand that now and appreciate his work, but I had to develop as a person to truly get this. So, maybe Art is what has an impact on each of us in a different way.

Leo Tolstoy, in his essay “What Is Art?“:

Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.

Photography has massive value and importance, I can’t imagine a world now within it in it.  Photography is used to promote scientific content, to gain knowledge and understanding. It helps our imagination and garbs are attention. I believe we are very visual creatures, this wasn’t always the way. We can process images at a faster rate than words and understand images in a blink of an eye. Colours help to process the information and we have an emotional response to colours. Bright colour grabs our attention or informs us of danger. Advertisers use this to their advantage to promote messages and ideas. Social media has been a big fracture to help the birth of images worldwide, Instagram allowed you to consume images at a faster rate.

I am a teacher and I find some of my students are visual learners which I am myself. Images help us tell a story without words and express emotions when we use words to express. I ask myself what is Art:

Week 10:


Published on 6 Feb 2018

Chris Smith sits down to talk about sparking your creativity with fine art flower photographer Anne Belmont.

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