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Informing Context (PHO720) - The Photographers Eye

Fig 1. Doyle, M (2022), Jack and the Box

In my current practice, the photographic characteristics as laid out by Szarkowski (1966) I do not necessarily apply. At present I am introducing young people to photography using film cameras, developing and printing.

The thing itself – The young people can choose this for themselves. I feel that if they are photographing what interests them, their enjoyment of photography will remain strong, and their understanding of their chosen subjects will increase.

The Detail – Garry Winogrand (2013) describes his practice as “photographing to see what the world looks like photographed” but as Szarkowski points out; you can only photograph a particular part of the world around you. For my participants, I will leave this choice up to them, but with follow up questions as to why they chose the specific details they did.

The Frame – Once again, Szarkowski points out that the world around us extends beyond the frame of the photograph, these are choices that each photographer must make, what is important for them to save from the world around.

Time – I believe time is going to be an important characteristic with my practice in the future, but not necessarily right now. Clarke (1977) and Szarkowski (1996) share similar views that a photograph is a parcel of time. Once captured, the subject in the photo will never continue aging. In the future, if I choose the revisit my practice as it is now; it will be interesting to see time changes perspective, not only for me, but my participants too.

Vantage Point – This will be a two-stage characteristic, firstly, the young participants will be showing me what is important to them from a vantage point unique to them. Secondly, I will see the subjects of the images with my own life experiences which may either prevent me or allow me to see the subjects of the images in a way that the young participant did not intend.

My preferred approach would be to give the young participants a camera and ask them to take photos of what they like, enjoy or simply what is important to them, I have taken advice however that this approach may not be able to produce a coherent body of work. Instead, I shall give the participants a brief to follow.

At present, I am particularly inspired by Wendy Ewald and her project Portraits and Dreams (1976). Giving children the opportunity to experience photography to tell stories “They produced a blunt and naked presentation of photography, unembellished and direct.” (Lifson, 1982: 9)

Other practitioners that I am now researching and being inspired by are Jo Salomon for her Homelight Project and Mandy Simpson for her work on Disposable Manchester and Sirkhane Darkroom on their work with young people and film photography. This is not a complete list of practitioners at this stage, however.

At present, I am reading the book Portraits and Dreams by Wendy Ewald and On Photography by Susan Sontag. I am also researching the ongoing practices of Sirkhane Darkroom.

I have contacted Wendy Ewald regarding her documentary follow up of Portraits and Dreams and to generally try to initiate communication to gain insight into Ewalds motives and seek any advice as I push further into this project.

To date, my practice is developing at a rapid pace. It has evolved from a small idea into a much larger project that could potentially have long lasting positive effects on the participants. Ideas regularly come to me and when talking to peers, I am receiving critical feedback with is allowing me to narrow down and focus the ideas.

All feedback so far has been extremely positive. Peers and tutors have helped me to focus what was a very vague idea in the beginning into what is rapidly starting to take form. I want to keep participants interested for the duration so by getting the cameras to them early in order for them to start learning and producing their own images, it will allow me to produce an initial body of work that can be displayed to show the participants that their work is display worthy. My tutor has given me the idea of creating a Zine, small and cheap to produce and a great keepsake for the young participants.

  • CLARKE, G 2007, The Photograph, Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • HSU, Leo. 2013. ‘The Burden of Representation: Notes on Street Photography’ in Fraction (48), March [online]. Available at [accessed 15 February 2020].

  • SZARKOWSKI, J 1966, The Photographer’s Eye, New York: Museum of Modern Art

  • EWALD, W & Lifson, B 2020 Portraits and Dreams – updated and expanded edition, MACK, Appalshop

  • Simpson M, 2021, Disposable Manchester


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