Eek, I’ve Started A Piece Of Photo-journalism, And I’m Very Excited

I have to say that I am experiencing that wonderful warm glow of having tried something new. Look, it was messy, I have no interview technique. Listening and hearing some while, whilst considering future questions is bloody hard work. I don’t know how people do it.

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But the point is, I’ve just done it. Extinction Rebellion are a group whom I believe in their sound, rational philosophy. If we don’t act now then it will be top late. Armed with my OMD EM 10 MK III and the Mzuiko 14-42 lens, I went to Trafalgar Square and have interviewed two people and taking their portraits. Over the next few days I will repeat the process, and then write up my report for The Sociological Mail

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The report will be written in the style of my photo-essay’s, but will also include quotes from those who I have interviewed. It’s the interviewing that gets me excited. It’s been a joy to interview Mike and Willy today.

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Photographically, photo-journalism has not been a genre that I’ve felt an affinity for, but I can see how it dances around with the kind of photography of which I’m passionate, but I can now see potential.

The Photo Which I Didn’t Post Yesterday, And Why

A situation evolved before me yesterday, one with a humanistic, moralistic and Sociological perspective. Whilst I was waiting for a bus a naked guy parades up and down the street. He was speaking non aggressively in a language which I didn’t recognise. On the whole people were ignoring him, other than an occasional person who tried encouraging him to cover up.

At this point I decided not to take a photo, because I didn’t want to write or publish an article which would have been embarrassing for him. I suspected that his mental health was influencing his behaviour.

The police arrived, and the aforementioned naked guy assaulted the police officer. The officers colleague shouted “tazer” and as the guy went to assault her she fired the tazer.

When the guy was face down on the floor I took a photo, reasoning that he couldn’t be identified, and the discharging of a tazer is of current Sociological importance and is “newsworthy”

However, I’m not a photo journalist, its not my style of photography. There is a significant debate upon the arming of police with tazers, which is worth exploring. But I still decided to delete the photo rather than publish it.

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Seeing a police officer assaulted, and an unarmed man tazered is frightening, and would have been more upsetting for the man and the police. I believe the guy was having some form of mental breakdown, and ultimately it’s why I didn’t publish the photo.

I’m in favour of the police having tazers. There have been several vicious assaults on the police recently and they need to be able to apprehend an assailant, for their own, and the publics protection. Arguably, if yesterday’s event had have played out in other countries the guy could have been shot dead, so I’m in favour of more tazers over more guns.

There is a need for photo journalism and documentary photography, and yesterday I was faced with a choice. We all do as photographers, we all have our preferred genre and field of expertise. Most of the time there is no right and wrong in photography, and yesterday was a personal choice that suited my weighing up of external and internal drivers.

 

Types of Portrait Photography

I have been exploring the uses of publicly displayed portraits. The photos for this edition of my digital sketchbook have been taken with my camera phone. The terminology is my own and may not be appropriate academic terminology.

I am aware that this post doesn’t demonstrate all of the reasons for the making and use of portrait photography, just what I have considered over the past few days.

Going from top left across.

1 – Targeted advertising, brand promotion (young female with financial means (select body size))

2 – Health promotion, discussion, with text relay (bold typeset, bottom right)

3 – Authorship, status

4 – Targeted advertising (family, social)

5 – Promotional, targeted  (young adult, friendship, joy)

6 – Emotional, photojournalism, documentary, relay

7 – Descriptive, relay, photojournalism

8 – Attraction, targeted advertising (male, tradesmen – this was my assumption. However I looked into the demographics of sun readers. 60% of readers are male, readers come almost equally across the NHS social grades. See reference below)

9 – Branding, group identity (reinforces belonging to a social group)

10 – Generic advertising (I have included this to highlight the difference between a portrait as targeted advertising, and generic advertising which doesn’t require a portrait.

11 – Descriptive, promotion

12 – Targeted advertising, leading, relay

13 – Targeted advertising

14 – Promotional, documentary, branding , group identity

15 – Health information, targeted advertising  (employment), statement of brand values (equality/diversity)

16 – Nostalgia, group identity

17 – Targeted advertising

18 – Branding

19 – Promotional, group identity

20 – Branding, targeted advertising  (activity specific)

21 – Branding, targeted advertising

22 – Branding, targeted advertising

References

https://www.statista.com/statistics/380735/the-sun-and-sun-on-sunday-reach-by-demographic-uk/

 

Review – Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt (1904 – 1983)

Brandt, BillFig. 1. Northumbrian Miner at His Evening Meal (1937)

Initial Thoughts:- Real photo of a Northern Miner and his wife. Pulls no punches. Doesnt clean it up, doesn’t wait for sunday best, Makes the photo as it is. Miner – Dirty, stained with coal dust, hands filthy, doesn’t wash or change before eating, wooden table and wood shows signs of ageing, well provisioned with basic food, sugar, meat, sandwich, suet pudding?? loaf of homemade bread. Man – devoid of expression, Woman – looks dejected, fed up, not eating with her husband. This is a working meal of a shift worker, eating alone, going back to work? Mug, glassware, cutlery, ornament on stand mass-produced. Washing is hanging up above the table (jumpers, bedding). The womans handbag is hanging up. Its well used, but hanging up and not left around, it’s not an every day occurrence to use the handbag. This family is not well off, but neither are they broke, although every penny gets accounted for, and everything is repaired, reused, and looked after (the wallpaper is in very good condition, and the only sign of age is where it peels back from the door frame).  There is a painting on the wall behind the washing, and the figure looks to be appearing from behind the washing, looking down at the couple. Do they even talk to each other anymore? Does he just go to work, come home, eat, go back to work and sleep? Does she just cook breakfast, do the washing, tidy, clean the house, cook lunch, do more washing, do more cleaning, cook tea, darn clothes, sleep? Does she have any friends? Does she get time to talk to wives of other miners? He has community with his co-workers, she has little. This is not living. This is existing for existing sake. Where is the pleasure? It is not in the eyes or demeanor. Miners housing. rented not owned, tied accommodation, no work – no home.

 

Robert-GravesFig. 2. Robert Graves in His Cottage at Churston Devon (Circa 1941)

Initial Thoughts:- What a contrasting photo. bohemian, writer, thinker, space, time, cleanliness but busyness. Home is owned, his cottage, can’t see the whole house, but the representation is sparse in the way of possessions (other than writing equipment), does this suggest the cottage is inherited? Regardless of wealth he has enough money in the bank to live comfortably, to write (what doe he write? essays? books? Poetry? – he isn’t a journalist (his clothing, writing in personal space, draft of essay or book. Perhaps a student but I don’t think so. He is a free-thinker, creative writer) He wears several layers of clothing (appears he has four tops on). He is also an artist, there is a tube of paint and several brushes on the table. He drinks from a bone china tea cup, whilst he writes and paints. He has more than enough money in the bank. His is expression is studious, interested. His skin is healthy. What a difference a bit of money can do.

These photos are a tale of two halves. Both images have allowed themselves to be photographed in their own homes. Is photography real? Can photography ever be claimed to be factual? That debates for another day, but I do believe that these are realistic. They havent been staged. This is how the people in the photos live. It says a lot about society, then and now, that those who “have” can enjoy life and have some freedom and choice, satisfaction and the pursuit of their own ideals. Those who “don’t” just exist. All though in the UK there is more comfort and opportunity for those from the poorer side of the divide, there is still a chasm in the quality of life between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The images bring out the angry marxist in me, and sadness. How can I not feel for the couple in the first photo. But I am also like Mr Graves. I want to explore, to learn to express, to challenge, to create, to make a difference. The anger is because there is enough money in the world for everyone to live a free and comfortable life. There really is. So why do we follow this stupid capitalist system so that we can give the 1% more. There is enough for everyone, and yet we still allow this happen. We switch off our minds, buy the next car, the next phone, the next house, the next lie that tells us we should work harder so we can own more, achieve more, and we forget that there is already enough in the world for us to relax, to chill, to have the space to enjoy each others company.

These are timeless images. There is a truth within them. They are also not making a statement about what is right or wrong, but questions arise within the eyes of the viewer, when these portraits are seen in comparison.

What have I learned from these photos? Portraits are more than shots of faces. Allowing space around a person can contextualise their photo. Portraits can make social statements. Portraits are taken for different reasons, some make statements, some ask questions.

Illustrations

Figure 1. Brandt, B (1937) Northumbrian Miner at His Evening Meal [Gelatin] At: https://www.1fmediaproject.net/2013/03/06/bill-brandt-shadow-and-light-at-the-museum-of-modern-art-presents-a-major-reevaluation-of-the-artists-career/ (accessed on 04/10/2017)

Figure 2. Brandt, B (Circa 1941) Robert Graves in His Cottage at Churston Devon At: https://billbrandtarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Portraits-male/G00005CApULC3wVQ/I0000tX1uxdB2Cpc (accessed on 04/10/2017)

Also Viewed

https://billbrandtarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Portraits-male/G00005CApULC3wVQ/I0000TCSNXZyQv0g (accessed on 04/10/2017)

https://billbrandtarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Portraits-female/G0000p2oj30TCuuk/I00000kpBRDZ7y80 (accessed on 04/10/2017)

http://visualarts.britishcouncil.org/exhibitions/exhibition/bill-brandt-photographs-1982/object/robert-graves-in-his-cottage-at-churston-devon-brandt-1941-portraits-p4724 (accessed on 04/10/2017)

http://www.billbrandt.com/news/2015/5/6/barbara-hepworth (accessed on 04/10/2017)

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/robert-graves (accessed on 04/10/2017)