Research point 2

Crewdson’s work is deliberately cinematic in style…This visual strategy of elaborate direction, as in film, makes us lose our sense of reality and become absorbed with the alternative reality we’re faced with. Some commentator’s regard this is an effective method of Image-making, but for others it lacks the subtlety and nuance of Wall and DiCorcia’s work. What do you think?

 Jeff Wall (b1946)

Cotton describes him as one of the leading practitioners of the staged photograph, saying that “his photographs are evidence of a detailed comprehension of how pictures work and are constructed that underpins the best tableau photography” (Cotton, 2015).

He was encouraged to be creative from a young age and studied drawing and painting. He later moved into conceptual art.


   (WeAreOCA, 2017)

I have previously discussed on Jeff Wall’s image “Insomnia” (1994). Boothroyd deconstructs the image, describing how whilst the house is denoted by bricks and mortar, the comfort and familiarity of the home is clearly communicated by the use of props. The kitchen’s feeling of starkness and unease are connoted by its colours and lighting, all delivered to us via a series of signs and signifiers chosen and used by the photographer. The construction of the set gives clues what might have led up to this point in the image. She places the image in the wider context of film art and literature noting the artist’s influences and references (Marcel Duchamp, Dine Arbus, Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Dan Graham, Thomas Struth and Andreas Gurski). She also comments on the format of the image (in this case big, 2m x 1.75m) and what this adds to the author’s intentions – I guess that he wanted his works to gain attention. Wall states this image was made in response to the saying, “when a prince doesn’t sleep well, a nation doesn’t either”, as he wondered what happened when people of no importance undergo similar torments.  Cotton points to the compositional devices used which are “similar to renaissance painting, the angles and objects of a kitchen scene directing us through the picture and leading our understanding of the action and narrative” (Cotton, 2015). She also points out that the set of the image also has the look of a theatre set viewed from on stage.

When discussing his work Jeff Wall says “I begin by not photographing” (YouTube, 2017), as people relate to photographs by looking at what they see in a photo, and asking what’s going on. Observation is vital to him. His images evolve overtime as he creates them. He talks of a line of comparison, where his pictures have some relation to “normative photography”.  Sometimes he admits that his images are simply a pleasing composition, “straight photography” where he works without people; then he looks for the relationship of shapes between them – photographic seeing. Some of his images are composites and use painterly techniques taking elements out or in, as an artist you know when it’s finished (YouTube, 2017). The images are initially unplanned and accidental and he is alert to the possibilities that his emotional response brings to an everyday situation. He says that photographs either capture an occurrence, or an absence of an occurrence and he believes that in photography both are equal. Surprise is the disclosure, seeing the potential of something unexpected; I wonder if this equates to the “Punctum”. Wall suggests his work is like snapshots and are documentary to a degree. “He describes his work as “cinematographic” re-creations of everyday moments he has witnessed, but did not photograph at the time” (Hagan, 2017). By not photographing he can reshape to a degree with freedom, this recreation of his memories is central to his work. He says that art is about having he freedom to do what you want.

In his image “The nightclub” he replicated the location as it was impractical to photograph in one evening – a completely constructed reality. He doesn’t think this adds any artist distinction to the photograph but that it was just necessary, and this artifice should be unknown as I’s not important.

night club.jpg

 (The Brooklyn Quarterly, 2017).

“Every subject or group of subjects is fully occupied in her own sphere of the photo; unaware of the camera or each other. Most of the subjects are in mid-movement of some quotidian kind—yet they are all completely still, like mannequins” (The Brooklyn Quarterly, 2017).

He also works referring to the art of the past, as when a piece of art has struck him in a particular way just as a street scene would. Such as “Invisible man” which was the creation of an accident of reading “the Prologue” (Ralph Ellison, 1999-2001). It’s interesting that he talks of various starting points that can occur in his everyday life, from walking, to reading, to music to paintings. He believes that the viewer through their own associations form connections with images and make their own meaning (YouTube, 2017).

jeff wall after 'invisible man' by ralph ellison, the prologue 1999-2000 (1).jpg

   (Tate.org.uk, 2017)

Wall’s work is grounded more in reality than Crewdson’s, sometimes fictional but to me less disturbing. Unlike Crewdson he constructs realities to recreate them with some alteration, but not to create from scratch.

Philip-Lorca DiCorcia (b1951)

 His series, Hustlers, Streetwork, Heads, a Storybook, Life and Lucky Thirteen have a sense of drama and distinctive use of lighting. In the 1990s his Hustler’s series was images of male prostitutes in LA, paying them to be photographed. It was originally exhibited titled “strangers” labelled with their hometown, their name, their age and the money that they charged. He was depicting real people in contrived situations “the picture occupy an ambiguous territory between fact and fiction…extending the boundaries of documentary photography” (Lubow, 2017.)


(Lubow, 2017)



(SFMOMA, 2017)

His images are similar to film stills, with their preparation and theatrical direction whilst the authenticity of his subjects relate more to the traditions of documentary photography (Time.com, 2017). MoMA’s former Chief Curator Peter Galassi describes as “operating in the space between postmodern fiction and documentary fact.” (Time.com, 2017). His dramatic use of light is cinematic as is Crewdson’s.


Wall and DiCorcia differ from Crewdson is that their images often appear very normal and are not so obviously staged. They are however usually similarly elaborately prepared and staged just like Crewdson’s; some of Wall’s have taken over a year to photograph and use digital imaging techniques to create composite images (Golden, 2013.)

For Wall, DiCorcia and Crewdson “the labour and skill involved I reconstructing such a scene” is akin to a painter’s (Cotton, 2015 p 51). They all bring together actors, assistants and technicians, as cast and crew to create their tableaus rather like “a film director who imaginatively harnesses collective fantasies and realities” (Cotton, 2015 p 51).

Crewdson and DiCorcia both use dramatic cinematic forms of light, often filming at dusk or in Crewdson’s case the dark.  This is not to mimic cinema stills but just to create meaning and to help tableau photography to be an imaginative blending of fact and fiction.

Wall and Crewdson’s photographs may seem more subtle than Crewdson’s as they are usually grounded in some part of reality that is easier to access by their visual clues and references than Crewdson’s work; They are also more akin to documentary photography. Curiously when Wall replicates a location to change its shape or gain control of practical issues he does it only as it is necessary not as and artistic statement. I definitely can relate better to their work than Crewdson’s.

My link to my exhibition visit to Cathedral of he pines: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/cathedral-of-the-pines/


Cotton, C. (2015). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson.

Golden, R. (2013). Masters of photography. London: Goodman.

Lubow, A. (2017). Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s ‘Hustlers’ Return to New York. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/arts/design/philip-lorca-dicorcias-hustlers-return-to-new-york.html [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

O’Hagan, S. (2017). Jeff Wall: ‘I’m haunted by the idea that my photography was all a big mistake’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/03/jeff-wall-photography-marian-goodman-gallery-show [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

SFMOMA. (2017). Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Eddie Anderson, 21 Years Old, Houston, Texas, $20, 1990. [online] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/93.195 [Accessed 26 Jul. 2017].

Tate.org.uk. (2017). Jeff Wall: room guide, room 6. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/jeff-wall/room-guide/jeff-wall-room-6 [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017]

The Brooklyn Quarterly. (2017). Postcard from San Francisco: Pier 24 Photography – The Brooklyn Quarterly. [online] Available at: http://brooklynquarterly.org/postcard-from-san-francisco-pier-24-photography/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

Time.com. (2017). Trade: Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hollywood Hustlers. [online] Available at: http://time.com/3803327/trade-philip-lorca-dicorcias-hollywood-hustlers-drug-addicts-and-drifters/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

WeAreOCA. (2017). Beneath the surface. [online] Available at: https://weareoca.com/photography/beneath-the-surface/ [Accessed 20 Jun. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Jeff Wall Interview: Pictures Like Poems. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkVSEVlqYUw [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.





The Fae Richards Photo Archive. (Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye)

Fae Richards is a fictional character, invented as Leonard and Dunye drawing on historical records founds a lack of information about African-American women, so they invented one. Their fictional archive is to question the truthfulness of the archive and how history is recorded. Who gets included in our written histories and why? More importantly, who is left out? And who is in control of this information? Do you have any archives that you could have access to? Might you be able to use it for the beginnings of a project? Blog about some ideas that you could come back to someday.

In an excerpt from a lecture about the archive, the questions that were the starting points for the project were raised:

  • Who writes history?
  • How are historical narratives established
  • Do we have an obligation to tell the truth as far as we are able or are we allowed to manipulate that truths?
  • How a museum does chose to collect and present what it does?

This an area that I will ponder on and return to in the future, especially as I have just inherited  a photographic  archive along with some documentary evidence, but I am not yet ready to decide what I might do with it; it definitely has possibilities though.


Archives and Creative Practice. (2017). Zoe Leonard & Cheryl Dunye. [online] Available at: http://www.archivesandcreativepractice.com/zoe-leonard-cheryl-dunye/ [Accessed 23 Jul. 2017].




Record a real conversation with a friend. (It’s up to you whether you ask permission or not!).

Before listening to the recording, write your account of both sides of the conversation. Then listen to the recording and make note of the discrepancies. Perhaps there are unfinished sentences, stammers, pauses, miscommunications etc.

 Reflect upon the believability of re-enacted narratives and how this can be applied to constructed photography. What do you learn from the conversation recording process and how can you transfer what you learned into making pictures?

I recorded a conversation that I initiated with a travel consultant. The conversation was around a possible holiday to Laos and lasted 31 minutes. I had written down my key questions before I made the telephone call. My recall of the conversation was that I asked questions about possible itineraries, flights, holiday duration and places to visit. I told him what activities we like when travelling. He listened, a lot, and made suggestions. As is my usual I interrupted him often.

Having listened to the recording these were the discrepancies:

  • It began with the travel specialist listening to me predominantly, rather than a conversation.
  • I clarified his answers to my questions often.
  • I reemphasised my needs/point often.
  • He was a good listener and built on the information that I gave him.
  • I did listen well when he was talking and I didn’t interrupt as much as I thought I had.
  • I punctuate my listening frequently with “Yes” “ok” “go on”.
  • I used intonation in my punctuation to show interest and keep his conversation going.
  • Only when put on the spot and thinking on the hoof did I stammer or falter.
  • There was a difference in the tenor of our speech; I was quite formal, clipped and confident whilst he was more informal and came across less confident “umming” and seeking my approval/agreement often.

Learning points:

I would have struggled to re-enact this conversation had I not been able to listen again to it, not the content, but the tone and nuances of our individual voices and manners. So it underlines the importance of getting the detail absolutely correct right, when representing something, most especially a constructed reality. There are many layers to a reality, the words in this case were one layer but our voices, behaviour and tones gave a greater layer of meaning. Of course any re-enactment will always be subjective to a degree.


Project 2 The archive


Question for Seller re-situates images in a different context and in so doing allows for a new dialogue to take place. Reflect on the following in your learning log:

  • Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?
  • Where does their meaning derive from?
  • When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they’re now ‘art’?

 Question for seller (2004-2006) Nicky Bird

The project was motivated by her own interest in family photos. Bird purchased photos from e bay that nobody bid for, so she saw them as unwanted. She then asked the sellers “how did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them?”(Bird, 2017). She says that these responses were as important as the photographs.

Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?

I guess this will depend on what point you are measuring their status from. At the time they were taken they must have had status to the photographer/subjects but seem to have lost their status when sold on e-bay. Of course if status is measures by exposure to a wider audience then it has been enhanced by the exhibition.

Where does their meaning derive from?

Their meaning has changed over time. Their original meaning came from the photographer, though it seems that at the point of Bird buying them they had already lost this. However Bird has given them new meaning firstly by buying them, then questioning the sellers about their motivation for selling them and lastly by putting them in a gallery.

When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they’re now ‘art’?

One would think that their financial value would have increased by making them “art” however when Bird resold them at the end of the project their value was still low, though she had raised their value slightly.

What I found interesting was Bird’s original motivation for the project, her sadness at the low value put on a representation of someone’s life, her intention to bring them more attention, and to question the value of “found photos”. Her work often “combines photography and interdisciplinary work often investigates the theme of photography and hidden history, portraiture and genealogy” (Villarreal, 2017), such as her project “tracing echoes” (2001)where her starting point was a photograph of a woman taken about 1885 and her longing for more information about them. She certainly seems to provide new meaning for old photographs.


Bird, N. (2017). Question for Seller (2004-2006) | Nicky Bird. [online] Nickybird.com. Available at: http://nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller/ [Accessed 21 Jul. 2017].

Villarreal, I. (2017). Question for Seller – Nicky Bird. [online] Artdaily.com. Available at: http://artdaily.com/news/18960/Question-for-Seller—Nicky-Bird#.WXStNojytPY [Accessed 23 Jul. 2017].


Research point 1 

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online. Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the questions below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be [accessed 24/02/14]

  • Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?

Yes. Crewdson says himself that though it is most important to make a beautiful picture, but that ascetic alone is not enough, “it needs to have an undercurrent of something dangerous or fearful” (Youtube.com, 2017). His pictures are not beautiful to me, but they are certainly interesting and whilst some would find them beautiful many would not; I do think that most would find them interesting and perplexing and possibly disturbing.

  • Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?

           Yes his work is definitely psychological. It sets out to interest you in the uncanny, the dark side, invites you to consider the “disturbance” in the image and to make sense of it. As Iles says “His genius is to insert that highly charged strange anxiety a sense of a moment having just irrupted or something disturbing about to take place.” (Youtube.com, 2017). The psychological for Crewdson is ordinary life but with a disturbance beneath the perfect order, an undercurrent of the dangerous or fearful, combined with emptiness and loneliness.

  • What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

I don’t think I know currently what my main goal is in making pictures; it used to be ascetic, pattern, shape, balance, proportion, colour, however I do feel that there needs to be more now. Quite what my “more” is I’m not sure right now.

Notes from the interview:

Chrissie Iles (Curator, Whitney museum of American Art)

  • He has shifted the language of photography, interest in the uncanny and the psychoanalytical made evident.
  • He takes on the mechanics of the cinema.
  • His work is never a single image but collaged from different shots.
  • Elaborate sophisticated rich unique and thought through.
  • He is interested in the dark side, concerned with creating uncanny moments.
  • He “came of age” in the early 90s when dramatic psychological became important for artists, giving artists permission to explore the psychological within photography in a theatrical cinematic sense.
  • He’s a complex person, good at working with a team, warm, open interested though interested in the dark side in a psychological complexities.
  • His father was a psychoanalyst, he used to listen into his father working, was very influenced him.
  • Inspired by Diane Arbus, the Paintings of Edward harper – deals in the American vernacular, ordinary, an emptiness.
  • Photos of Walker Evans interested in the ordinary life, indigenous architecture
  • His genius is to insert that highly charged strange anxiety a sense of a moment having just irrupted or something disturbing about to take place.
  • If you could freeze a moment in your dream and go into it in minute detail.


  • Most important is to make a beautiful picture, but just purely aesthetic is not good enough, it needs to have an undercurrent of something dangerous or fearful.
  • Early in career shot from the perspective of the aerial crane.
  • Twilight was the first work that put everything together, cinematic lighting in a choreographed way, which was a huge shift in the work, telling the story through light and colour.
  • He drives around scouting for ordinary nondescript locations, until he finds something that’s seems right and responds to something in the architecture.
  • In his work tries to create the ordinary but pointing to what exists beneath the surface, beneath the perfect façade.
  • Creates stories, Likes to project emptiness and loneliness with a quiet tone but on the scale of the operatic.
  • Likes to feel connected to the characters private moments.


Youtube.com. (2017). YouTube. [online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be [accessed 24/02/14] [Accessed 10 Jul. 2017].

Link to my exhibition visit to The Cathedral of the Pines: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/cathedral-of-the-pines/

Coursework: Part Five Constructed realities and the fabricated image

Project 1 Setting the scene

Mise-en-scène; this literally means ‘to put in the scene’ and refers to the process of setting a scene or a stage for a story to be enacted upon. Props, costumes, locations, actors, and even colour and tiny details, can all be part of the story. It’s important to remember that every aspect within the frame is there for a reason; things therefore adopt a heightened meaning because we know they’re there intentionally and serve a purpose.


Watch this famous scene from Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJEEVtqXdK8 [accessed 24/02/14]

 Don’t read on until you’ve answered the following questions

  • What does this scene tell you about the main character?
  • How does it do this? List the ‘clues’.

Make some notes in your learning log

 The main character – Clues

  • Rich – Gives big tips
  • Masculine – guides the woman, emanates power
  • Confident – moves positively
  • Well known/popular – talks to people and is acknowledged, others want to say hello greet him, actions are normalised by others, sent drinks by others
  • Important – as above.
  • In control – shown respect by others, gets what he wants
  • Gets what he wants – the table being set up especially
  • Likes to impress – unusual/special entrance into club, gives big tips, makes sure the girl knows he’s a regular at the club
  • Protective or possessive of the woman – constant holding/body contact



Part Four: Reading Photographs Research point

Research point

Visit http://www.weareoca.com/photography/beneath-the-surface/ [accessed 24/02/14] for a blog about Jeff Wall’s, Insomnia (1994), interpreted using some of the tools discussed above.

Read and reflect upon the chapter on Diane Arbus in Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs by Sophie Howarth (2005, London: Tate Publishing). This is out of print but you may be able to find it in your local university library: some of the chapters are available as pdfs online. You’ll find the Arbus chapter on the student website.

If you haven’t yet read any of Judith Williamson’s ‘Advertising’ articles (see Introduction), now would be a good time to do so. See: www.oca-student.com/content/her

OCA tutor Sharon Bothroyd in a blog uses Jeff Wall’s image “Insomnia” to show the process that she goes through to deconstruct an image. She attends to the formal level, denotations first. In the case of “Insomnia” The denotation of house is bricks and mortar whilst the “connotation of the word home which is a place of warmth, familiarity and comfort are warmth and home”. Whilst the kitchen is denoted by its furniture, its feeling of starkness and unease are connoted by its colours, lighting; this is “delivered to us via a series of signs and signifiers” chosen and used by the photographer”. She then turns to her personal reading of the image, how her experiences relate to it. Next she places the image in the wider context of film art and literature to add to her understanding, looking at the artist’s influences and references; from this she makes assumptions about the artist’s possible intentions. Lastly she considers the format of the image (in this case big, 2m x 1.75m) and what this adds to the author’s intentions.  I will certainly uses these as pointers when reading images in future.

Judith Williamson in her analysis of an advertisement for an apple I pad also begins with a literal analysis of the image (the subject, the iPad) though quickly moves into the connotations suggesting that the way it lights a child’s face and the way it is held is to give the impression that it is illuminating her and giving her heavenly powers. She then backs this up by looking at the product’s strap lines and lastly she explores the wider context of the product advertised. So she analyses the text, caption and the image to ascertain its meaning. In her paper Decoding Advertisements (nd) she says that adverts can only be understood by finding out “how” they mean and the way that they work, as “what an advertisement says is merely what it claims to say” (Williamson, nd). She talks of signs consisting of signifiers, the material object and the signified, its invisible meaning.

Liz Jobby offers another way of reading a photograph in her essay on Diane Arbus’s image “A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing. N.Y.C 1966. Interesting she begins by asking questions about the subjects, “You can’t help wondering what will become of them” and then expresses subjective judgements about them “Why did they agree to be photographed in the first place?” After this she moves onto deconstruct the literal elements but intersperses these with her interpretations of them. She then addresses the composition, format, and the text that accompanies the image but again adds her interpretations and questions of these. Next Jobby sets the image in the context of Arbus’s work, outlining that her work was not philanthropic but that she looked for subjects with a difference and then propositioned them; believing she could show things that would not have otherwise have been noticed. Jobby also considers the personal background of the artist “The distrust of the family façade was based on her personal experience” and that “photography allowed her to enter worlds forbidden to nicely brought- up Jewish girls” (Jobby 2005). Jobby also gives her opinion on the artist work, such as she is disturbed that Arbus’s subjects were trapped into being photographed. She cites other’s opinions on her work, such a Sontag charging Arbus’s photographs with a lack of compassion. Finally she reflects on Arbus’s dislocation from her subjects which allows for the power of the image which comes from its ordinariness.


Anon, (2017) (Online) available at: http://www.charlesacramer.com/sf1110/ewExternalFiles/Williamson,%20Decoding%20Advertisements%20smaller.pdfhttp://www.oca-student.com/sites/default/files/source_2320.pdf [Accessed 20 Jun. 2017].

Jobby in: Howarth (2005) Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs. London: Tate Publishing.

WeAreOCA. (2017). Beneath the surface. [online] Available at: https://weareoca.com/photography/beneath-the-surface/ [Accessed 20 Jun. 2017].

Williamson (2013) Advertising, Apple. (online) Available at: http://www.oca-student.com/content/her (Accessed 20.Jun.2017)

Williamson, J (nd) Decoding Advertisements. Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, London. Marion Boyars. (online) Available at: http://www.charlesacramer.com/sf1110/ewExternalFiles/Williamson,%20Decoding%20Advertisements%20smaller.pdf (Accessed 20 jun. 17)


Part Four: Reading Photographs Project 2: Reading pictures

Project 2 Reading pictures

research point


Rip out an advertising image from a newspaper supplement and circle and write on as many parts of the image as you can. Comment on what it is, what it says about the product and why you think it’s there. You could use this as the basis for your assignment if you feel it’s taking you somewhere interesting. Or you could adopt this method for your assignment preparation.

Come back to this exercise when you’ve reached the end of Part Four and see if you can add anything to your analysis.

What it is – Translation:

The setting is a converted loft space. A desk with a Father and son occupy the centre of the image. They appear to be looking at a large computer screen and playing with a toy airplane. The desk sits in front of immaculate floor to ceiling bespoke shelving, which it matches, with neatly arranged personal ornaments and possessions. The room presents as light and airy. The carpeted floor is similarly immaculate. The eye is drawn to the father and son at the desk as the only animated subjects in the image, though the wide depth of field then lets me see beyond them to the wall furniture.

The point:

  • It is obviously an advert for bespoke furniture as signposted by the text.

What it says about the product – Interpretation:

  • A wide depth of field has been used so the viewer can see everything in detail, if the purpose had been to show the relationship between the father and son the focus would have been shallow and upon them.
  • It has been framed so to include as much of the furniture as possible and to make the room look spacious.
  • The perspective and position of the desk draw the viewer into the shelving in the background.
  • If the image had been without text it still would have been obvious that it was a furniture advert as the room is unnaturally organised and pristine.
  • The colours of the contents fittings and furniture are coordinated as it the Father’s clothing, the only accent is the boy’s shirt which is still harmonious.
  • The intention is to present furniture that is appealing to the eye (so much so that it looks like a shop not a real room) and that organises the room contents.
  • The items on the shelving are carefully chosen to promote a feeling of good design, coordination, good taste, good living standard (Quebec sign) and enjoyment of life (hobbies and interests represented).
  • The father and son are presented as happy and having fun to further promote the idea that furniture like this will make your family happy.


Part Four Reading Photographs: Project 1 The Language of photography


Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974 (Boothroyd, 2017: 98)


Before you read any further, look carefully at Erwitt’s image and write some notes about how the subject matter is placed within the frame. How has Erwitt structured this image? What do you think the image is ‘saying’? How does the structure contribute to this meaning?

Firstly looking at the image I see three pairs of vertical legs, however on closer inspection I see that it is two pairs of long legs on the vertical plane and then four shorter legs also on the vertical plane. These legs are the dominant feature in the image intensified by the shallow depth of field. The rule of thirds is evident in the image with the pavement occupying two thirds of the frame and the background occupying a third, as well as the placement of the legs. The long dog’s legs are placed close to the humans to trick the eye at first into seeing two pairs of human legs. My eye moves from left to right as is normal when reading and I settle lastly on the little dog looking comically small next to the other subjects. I am aware that Erwitt a master of street photography, is known to capture rather than compose, however I find it difficult to believe that there was not some forethought involved in this shot; he had to get down to the little dog’s level to capture the comparison of the small to the large, as well as the comical features of the small dog which render this image so humorous. I would be interested to see the image before it was cropped, it could be that Erwitt was attracted by the scale of the two dogs and then through cropping strengthened this and added ambiguity by cropping more details of the larger dog and the human.

The structure is essential to its meaning which I think is entirely humorous.


Boothroyd, S (2017) Photography 1 Context and Narrative. Barnsley. Open College of the Arts.

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.



Project 3 Self-absented portraiture

Nigel Shafran (b1964) is young British photographer who worked for fashion and architecture magazines in the nineties. He began making series of images that focused on different rituals of his domestic life, or as he puts it a deep interest in the common place (Anon, nd). Apart from photographing his girlfriend Ruth and aspects of their everyday life, his work often seems to include collections of things, goods in charity shops, trees, His series “Washing up” (2000) concentrated on various arrangements of washing up on draining boards.

washing_up_2000_01 (Obsessive Collectors Archive, 2017).


You may have noticed that Washing-up is the only piece of work in Part Three created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

  • Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

No I wasn’t at all surprised that the work was by a man I don’t think the subject matter is gender specific at all in these times.

  • In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I guess that gender must contribute to an image and certainly there are many photographers that explore and make statements about gender such as Claude Cahun. However it may be no more contributory to an image than the other myriad personal characteristics that each photographer has.

  • What does this series achieve by not including people?

By not including people in these photographs you are forced to look closer at the objects and the way they are presented to fathom their meaning. An atmosphere is also added by the knowledge that people were there but have now gone. At my first viewing I didn’t see the explanatory text that accompanied the images and struggled to find the information contained in them without the artists signposting. They also appear more factual, I think fiction rather than non-fiction, akin to cataloguing without humans in the images

  • Do you regard them as interesting ‘still life’ compositions?

I can appreciate that some might find these interesting “still life” compositions however without the text and the back story they would not appeal to me. I do find the clinical colours and the limited colour that he places me each composition pleasing though.


 Anon (n,d) “Texts: Nigel Shafran”. Nigelshafran.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. http://nigelshafran.com/texts/ accessed 11.4.17

Obsessive Collectors Archive. (2017). Washing-up 2000. [online] Available at: http://obsessivecollectors.com/washing-up-2000 [Accessed 17 Apr. 2017].

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.