Research Point Context

After reading the essay “Photographs and Contexts” by Terry Barrett it is obvious that if the photographer requires their audience to see an image as the photographer intended context is a necessity to a point. Context is required to ensure a photo is not missused or missunderstood for its specific creation and as Barrett explains it is easy for an image to be portrayed in multi different scenarios just by being exhibited  in various media publications.


Exercise 5.3

Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?
Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words.

Surprisingly even though the natural route through the frame seems to follow from the leaping man, ladder, rubble, man looking through fence and finally the clock tower I keep finding myself drawn to the man looking through the fence or more so the reflection. The man behind the fence has a building in the background but in his reflection there is nothing but space which gives the idea of distance between peering man and factory buildings.

Exercise 5.2

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?
Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.


I went with Edward Burtynsky Densified Oil Drums as my homage. When looking at the image you get the sense of how much wastage we as humans actually generate but as the saying goes “someone’s rubbish is someone else’s treasure” this is true when it comes to scrap steel especially when you consider that 50% of steel produced is generated from recycled scrap and 100% of all steel can be recycled in one way or another. The images show a style of mining which in my opinion look and take on the form of urban steel quarries, as we dig and mine the original ore from nature only to place it back in its processed state as a man made quarry. It is easy to take both of these images out of context and place them in a publication showing as an environmental hazard when in fact they are strategically placed scrap yards supplying blast furnaces with raw materials.
Most of Burtynsky’s work revolves around landscapes but for this project he chose the man made wastage and not the raw materials relating to his other projects or the large scale salvage. Being a member of Project Aware a charity that concentrates cleaning up human wastage from the oceans, the idea that the scrap meal is compressed, blocked and stacked to form a sort of scrap quarry to be used over and over again intrigues me. This was also Burtnysky’s thought that this recycling was the source for secondary extraction or what he called “urban mining” Working as an employee within the steel industry I see this scrap being constantly shipped into the steelworks and stacked waiting to be melted down for steel slabs, this gave me the perfect opportunity to capture the photo I took above. The images seem to take on the form of oil paintings with the swirls and twisted coloured metals.
The main problem I had with taking the photo was I couldn’t get to close as the scrap is within an area outside my boundaries set out by the company, so had to take the image at a distance. I used a Nikon D5600 camera and 35mm primary lens, later I cropped and edited the photo in Lightroom to improve the aesthetics.

Illustration: Burtynsky, E (1997) Densified Oil Drums, website [Accessed April 2018]

Exercise 5.1

Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.
When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:
Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.

I have been thinking about this exercise for some time and have finally accepted that the the greatest empathy and the distances between us has to be between myself and my daughter. My daughter has Aspergers which is not a condition she suffers from but grows and thrives from. Trying to understand that she will never acknowledge experiences the same way my wife and myself do creates a distance in our relationship that takes time and effort to overcome. The distance is reduced by waiting for my daughter to explain her thought process of trying to understand a given situation and then either myself or her mother trying to break the emotions and concepts down into simpler smaller bite sizes so the distance between is lessened to a point where we are almost on the same page. Engaging in subjects my daughter is interested in is phenomenal as the information gathered is incredible and at times I find myself becoming the student, at these points my daughter is more open to engagement and is more forthcoming with her emotions and not leaving herself feeling isolated and distanced.
The shots I have taken show the process of engagement between myself and my daughter from times I should leave well alone to moments where we can both enjoy each others company and conversations.

The photo I chose for my select image was captured whilst my daughter was creating a piece of art work she was preparing for her Art GCSE exam. It looks like she is completely engrossed in the action of drawing when she was in fact explaining to me why she chose to draw the piece and was only making minor adjustments to the drawing. Before this action she was sat up making eye to contact and merely glimpsed down at this point, the intention was to show a more one to one engagement between myself and the subject but now she looks to be indifferent of my presence.


Exercise 4.5

Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images.
Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing. Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt.
Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots. In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.

When searching for just the term apple you get a multitude of images from the simple apple to Apple Company logo so I have had to refine to search criteria to “an apple”, as you can now see below the search generally pics out a single red apple on very clinical looking white background, some with the odd green leaf but 90% are almost identical in the way the apple is portrayed.

Google apple search

What is an apple? A food source for the animal kingdom, from the time it is picked or falls from the tree it is in the process of decaying.
The images I have taken where more of an idea of what does the poor humble apple go through before we devour it. I used a spot light almost directly above to give the image of old spy movie style of torture as the apple is cut, flayed and dissected before consumption. The torture devices are left strewn around the apple as it goes through it mutilation.


Exercise 4.4

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form.
You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool. The only proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject.
Take some time to set up the shot. The background for your subject will be crucial. For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an ‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card. You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets background. Taking a high viewpoint will make the surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to the shot.
Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash) and metering and focusing will be challenging. The key to success is to keep it simple. The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot.
Add the sequence to your learning log. Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the key light and fill. Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just as useful as perfect graphics. In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.

Exercise 44

Light Positions

For this exercise I used the flash from an iphone to supply me with the light source. The light source set level to the subject left ugly long shadows and left the subject with a dark more macabre look but still flat. Lifting the light helped reduce the shadows and also gave the subject a little more form but not as much as the last two images which I used two light sources, this gave the best results almost eliminating the shadows.

Exercise 4.3

Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.


All the images are taken with different light sources halogen, neon, fluorescent, led, standard bulb, candles and headlamps. The first thing I noticed about the ambient light is you can control its source point as well as its intensity depending on the desired effect you require.