Tutorial, Feedback and Further Research

I had a useful tutorial this month with the course leader to discuss the course and what I intended to focus on for my main project. I shared my work in progress through my website www.chrisforrestphotography.com and we talked through this as well as my main project.

Whilst my project is relatively broad in terms of the theme at present I don’t think that this is a bad thing as it gives me room to explore different approaches over the next three modules – Informing Contexts, Surfaces and Strategies, and Sustainable Prospects. I have started to look into each of the Module Information Forms to consider possible approaches with my project for each of the next three modules and this will be outlined in my project proposal – Home Away From Home.

My work in progress so far has focused on exploring different communities across Dubai such as those in Al Satwa, Al Karama and Deira to understand a little bit more of the city. As I spend more time in the different communities my hope is to get closer to the people to be able to document more about their lives here in Dubai in a more personal way and not just objectively.

The tutor referenced two photography projects in the tutorial as being worthwhile reviewing.

The first project is Stranger by Olivia Arthur (www.oliviaarthur.com/Stranger) which imagines a shipwreck survivor returning to Dubai fifty years later and what they would see on their return. What struck me most about Olivia’s work was the use of transparent paper for the photographs in the book. This makes each image blend in with the next image and then it slowly fades away in reverse as the page is turned which has an almost dreamlike feel to the viewer. The ordering of the images has also been carefully considered. This highlights the contrasts in Dubai such as that of the man half buried in the sand and the DeLoreon car on the next page. Olivia also uses archival pictures and text to supplement her own photographs which is very effective given the story being told. Given that we recently explored contexts in the course, it is perhaps not surprising that I found these aspects of Olivia’s work most interesting. Olivia gave me a timely example of the importance of photography’s context.

The second project is Open See by Jim Goldberg (Open See). It was interesting that this was raised by the tutor as this was one of the documentary photographers that I had referenced in my first draft of my oral presentation but I took this out to cut down on the material so that it fit in the ten minute limit. I had referenced this photographer as I like the way in which he gets very close to his subjects through his long-term and in-depth collaborations with the types of populations that he focuses on – typically those that are marginalised, neglected or ignored. It is this sort of depth that I am looking for in my project.

GREECE. 2003

Goldberg, J. Albanian Beggar. 2003


Oral Presentations

We did the first run of our oral presentations last week. It was good to practice the presentation, recording it and posting it up to vimeo (click here for the recording). I had a few difficulties with using the voice over narrative with powerpoint. For some reason the audio did not work when converting the ppt to mp4 or a mov file so I ended up using an application called “screenflow” which was really easy to use.

We had a great webinar session to run through each other’s presentations and I got some good feedback from the cohort. I need to research a bit more around the history of street photography for some historical grounding on the work that I am doing and to consider some precedents in this genre of photography. This will be one of my tasks for the week ahead and I will give an update on this soon. Also, I need a bit more structure around my shooting to ensure that I am getting our regularly. Bringing up the calendar as I write this!

Reflections on Week 5 – Power and Responsibility

As part of this week’s readings and lectures, we were asked to consider the power and responsibility of photographers. I have considered below the following questions that were posed at the end of the first presentation.

As an image maker or author, what moral dilemmas do you encounter in your own practice, or more broadly, around the medium of photography?

I often find a moral dilemma in taking photographs of people in the street without them knowing. There is nothing sinister to the photograph and it is usually the only way to get a truly natural photograph of people in their environment, however it does sometimes feel like you are stealing a photograph. These days I try to at least explain to any subject why I am photographing (before or after).

Do you have any models of your own to assess the appropriateness of an image or how it is used?

I haven’t used a formal model to assess the appropriateness of an image or how it is used. One way of thinking that I have developed is to put myself in the subject’s shoes and ask myself would I be ok in his or her position to be photographed and would I be happy for that image to be shared on whatever platform I am considering. It also doesn’t harm asking the person when this is possible too!

One of the most striking images taken recently was the photograph of Alan Kurdi on the beach which prompted the tutor to raise the following questions of the cohort:

Do you recall any memories or experiences at the time of the publication of the photographs and footage of Alan Kurdi’s death? What are your own views on the appropriateness of the publication of these, or similar kinds of image? What is your own assessment of the impact of these images?

I was shocked at the photograph when I first saw this and incredibly saddened by the situation. I remember that this photograph did help change the perspective of a lot of people on the migration issue and it created more sympathy towards the migrants. Sadly nothing has changed apart from the view of a number of European’s on the migrants’ plight. Since then there have been hundreds if not thousands who have suffered the same consequences as Alan.

It is a highly sensitive subject but I think it was ultimately right to share this image given the circumstances (nothing could have been done to change anything at that moment in time) to highlight the realism of what was going on in Syria which was perhaps to some just another war in the Middle East. It is sad to see what is happening there and the plight of the people. Another more recent image taken in Syria is that of the bloodied Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh (Links to an external site.), in the ambulance shell shocked. Whilst this is a still image from a video it is still an image which in this case seems to have been taken with a view to prompt a public reaction – upset and shock. As a father of two young boys I found this very difficult to deal with and it made me feel that the person creating the image should perhaps have done more in this case to comfort the boy rather than capture the video.

What has challenged me this week?

The biggest challenge this week has been in researching the legal frameworks in photography which I hadn’t really looked into until now given that I have not been producing images for clients before the course. It was also interesting reading up on different ethical stances with respect to photography.

What have I learned this week?

Having considered photojournalist Jeff Mitchell’s image of refugees crossing from Croatia to Slovenia in October 2015, which was used controversially by the UK Independent Party during the 2016 referendum campaign to leave the European Union, I have learned that I need to take greater care with the way in which I engage with future clients to protect the way in which my images are used.

The NPPA Special Report: Ethics in the Age of Digital Photography provides some useful guidance on the way in which a photograph is used.

“As William J. Mitchell points out in his book, The Reconfigured Eye, Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era, we are experiencing a paradigm shift in how we define the nature of a photograph. The Photograph is no longer a fixed image; it has become a watery mix of moveable pixels and this is changing how we perceive what a photograph is. The bottom line is that documentary photojournalism is the last vestige of the real photography.

Journalists have only one thing to offer the public and that is credibility. Without credibility we have nothing. We might as well go sell widgets door to door since without the trust of the public we cannot exist as a profession.

Credibility – some questions to ask

In what Context is the photo being used?

Is the photograph a Fair and Accurate Representation of the information being presented?

Does this photograph Deceive the reader?” (1)

When a photographer sells an image to a large company such as Getty then I think you have to be prepared to accept that you have lost control over the way in which an image is used. In this case, perhaps one could question whether Jeff Mitchell considered whether his image was suitable for mass circulation and whether in fact it would have been better to consider other routes for sale of his work? Getty’s terms state “Your images may be altered by our customers, distributors or us to suit the use for which it is marketed or licensed” (2) so you basically lose control of how an image will be used. There is only a carve out for any use that is defamatory, pornographic or otherwise illegal.

Having sold the license of the image to Getty, Jeff Mitchell lost control over most of what is posed in the three questions above, perhaps apart from question two in that he documented what was going on at that point in time. However, the questions are still relevant for reseller of the license and publisher of the image. In respect of Getty, their business model is unlikely to enable questioning of the use of each and every sale of licenses to images on their site – they will just rely on their terms and take action afterwards if needed. The publisher of the image in this case UKIP does however have the ability to consider the questions posed but chose not to. The way the image has been used clearly does not provide a Fair and Accurate Representation of the information being presented and does Deceive the reader.

Interestingly, in this particular case, I came across a comment from Tom van Laer (Marketing Lecturer at Sir John Cass Business School) who stated that:

“Ethics become a great concern when storytelling is adopted for the promotion of political views … It is unlikely that already vulnerable voters will resist the power of stories in general and political, mediates stories in particular. This reinforces the need to restrict voters’ exposure to this type of political advertising, especially in situations in which these vulnerable people are likely to be lost in the story. [But] political advertising has been exempt from the Advertising Code of the Advertising Standards Authority, the UK’s independent regulator for advertising across all media. The Electoral Commission, which oversees British elections and referenda, has rejected the idea of regulating political ads.” (3)

As another student commented, it does pose a lot of considerations for photographers in how they can improve the way in which they license their own work to ensure that any such agreements include appropriate ethical issues. Definitely something I need to look at more closely myself.

(1) https://nppa.org/node/5127 (Links to an external site.)

(2) https://contributors.gettyimages.com/article_public.aspx?article_id=2719 (Links to an external site.)

(3) http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/06/brexit-anti-immigration-ukip-poster-raises-questions-160621112722799.html (Links to an external site.)

I came across a good Lynda.com article which is a good resource for photographers on licensing which also references a number of other associated resources so this will be a good place to turn when I do get to that stage.

Reflections on Week 4

During the week’s presentations, we were posed with a number of questions relating to the topic of “rethinking photographers”:

How do you think popular representations of photographers contribute to perceived social and cultural values of the profession?

The worst popular representation of photographers that I can think of is that of a paparazzi photographer who in some extreme cases with stop at nothing to get a photograph which sadly played a significant role in Princess Diana’s death and did a huge amount of damage to the public’s perception of the social values of the profession.

Do you have a favourite, or least favourite, movie about a photographer? What does this film say about the medium and the practitioners?

Whilst not about a famous photographer, I really enjoyed the Brazilian film “City of God” which was portrayed through the eyes of a young lad (Rocket) from the favelas who liked photography and was documenting unique images of the goings on in the favelas that were difficult for any other person to get given the dangers for outsiders. I think I just like this film because it demonstrates how accessible photography has become which I have said before is a good thing as it should not be something only enjoyed by those of better means.

I have a large list of films on photography and photographers that I posted in my blog during week 2. I have yet to get to this due to other priorities on the course but I can’t wait to get stuck into a few of those!

In relation to you own practice and professional activity:

  • what is the impact of ever changing technology?
  • what challenges has this presented you with?
  • how have you embraced (or rejected) changing technology in your own practice?
  • how do you think the way that cameras are marketed affects people’s perception of the value of professional photography?

As a photographer that likes documentary photography on the streets, I have to say that the impact of ever changing technology has been fantastic. The quality of the smaller cameras available now is excellent with great mirrorless options now and also superb mobile phone cameras these days which enable so many more opportunities to photograph. I work with a Canon 5D Mark II and it is a great camera but I also invested in a Fuji XT1 a couple of years ago and I haven’t regretted it in the slightest. Superb for out and about on the streets. All that being said, I am slightly sad that I didn’t get to fully explore photography in the film days and one day I would like to experiment with film also. Perhaps a project during the holidays at Christmas.

The biggest challenge is keeping up with the latest innovations. I don’t think we all need the latest and greatest camera models (I can’t see me changing my two for some time except for perhaps dabbling with a hired medium/large format) but there are many changes in technology for post production which is as important aspect of any photographers workflow. This is something that I haven’t focused on a huge amount to date but an area that I want to improve upon dramatically during this course. Lynda.com is going to become a very important tool for me.

As for the marketing of new cameras and equipment – it does my head in! You don’t need the latest cameras to make great photos. “All the gear and no idea” springs to mind here. I would much rather invest in a book, a course or my time assisting and learning the ropes from experts in their field. I went to a photography event recently in the UAE and I was so disappointed that there were so many photography retailer stands and not one book for sale. I think that some people expect that a professional photographer will always have the latest technology. In addition, some of the marketing techniques used imply that the latest technology will guarantee a good photograph and so sadly devalue the hard work of the professional photographer.

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.” Edward Steichen



Week 1 Webinar Reflections

As part of the first week’s webinar we were asked to select up to three of our own images that we feel relates to the theme of the global image. I cheated a little bit as I picked two images and then the set of three images below which provoked the most discussion during the webinar. I thought that these linked well with the theme of the democratisation of photography which is a topic I had also focused on during the online discussions.


In the first picture we see a man of simple means in Bastakiya, which is the old town of Dubai. He is wearing basic clothes, drinking water out of a polystyrene cup yet he has a mobile phone, a device that is not just used for a phone call as he is making here but also for taking photographs and sharing with family, friends or potentially the wider world.

I wrote about the way in which modern photography had acted as an enabler for those of lesser means to make photographs and in some cases to also forge careers in the industry such as in the case of Xyza Cruz Bacani or Mario Macilau. In this manner, photography is much more democratic when compared to some industries where progression can be dependent on wealth or familial connections.

The second image in the series is relevant here as it portrays the increased connectivity within the world today. Here we see a jogger who has stopped to connect to a free charging and wifi station on a beach in Dubai at night. The ability to access online resources provides our generation regardless of sex, race or social standing with a wealth of opportunities.

The last image portrays distraction. This is a portrait of my wife who I think was checking her work emails late at night and perhaps a little bit of Facebook or Instagram. One of the consequences of the increased connectivity is the speed at which photography can now move globally.

In looking at the three images together you can imagine someone with a smartphone taking a picture, connecting to free wifi and then it being consumed immediately by the user all within the space of a few seconds.

Technology has led to a saturation of the market and this poses a challenge to both the photographer in getting his work properly considered rather than being flicked through along with thousands of other images and the consumer in seeking out interesting content amongst all the other drivel.

There was a lot of discussion amongst the group around the sci-fi nature of the middle image and comparisons with Tron! The course leader asked about whether the images could also be read right to left rather than left to right which I thought that they absolutely could. He also proposed that I take this particular set of images further to try to expand the theme further beyond three images as he would be interested to see what would appear as the fourth and fifth images in a larger series. Something to take forward as a mini-project!

I was also advised that the three images together had a somewhat triptych feel to them, particularly with the smaller images either side of the larger image. I hadn’t considered this in the slightest when putting the images together and so it was interesting to hear that the way in which images are presented can have such an impact on the viewer.

A peer also referenced a photograph taken by Tom Hunter (“Woman Reading a Possession Order”) as the last image above seemed like a modern day equivalent with the use of technology. I had a quick scan of this and it was very interesting to see the comparison. I will definitely take a closer look at Tom’s work during the week.

There was a very interesting comment later on in another presentation how as photographers we can be somewhat mechanical. Whilst there is a lot of technical knowledge required, the mechanical nature can take away some of the artistic elements of our photography which is something that we need to battle with on occasion. There is definitely scope for my work to be less mechanical in nature.

Reflections on Week 1 Presentations on the Global Image

Following the initial introduction to the Global Image, we were then provided with three presentations by the tutor on various aspects of the theme of the Global Image.

A Worldwide Medium

The first presentation on “A Worldwide Medium” provided an overview of the initial photographic processes and an introduction to the works of William Henry Fox Talbot, Niepce and Daguerre as the pioneers of photography.

I have quite a basic knowledge of the history of photography and so I found this the presentation very interesting. I was surprised about how quickly Daguerre’s type of photography (the daguerreotype) spread across the world. I have just picked up the book Photography: A Cultural History by Mary Warner Marien which provides a survey of the history of photography from the origins of photography right through to modern day. I think it is important for a practitioner to understand about the origins of their practice, how this has developed over time and also where it is heading. I think this is even more relevant for photography which continues to rapidly evolve day by day. I will write a separate post on the book once I have read this. It is 500 pages long and so this may not be next week!

Following the first presentation, we were posed with a few questions to consider for which I noted my thoughts below.

Do you see any parallels between the historic spread of photography and the transmission of digital imagery today?

The Daguerreotype spread across the globe through major cities along popular trade routes and colonial networks. Today the transmission of imagery is facilitated by the web-based trade routes enabled by technology to reach a much more global audience.

In the presentation we learned that African-Americans were among the first to take up the new technology demonstrating the appearance of a democratic industry.

Recent technological advances have brought about mass change in the photography industry enabling many who could not have afforded to pursue a passion in photography previously to do so. The ability to share work online has also enabled photographers who previously would not have been found to be discovered by some of the world’s leading agencies.

Two photographers that I have been following quite closely recently are Xyza Cruz Bacani and Mario Macilau who are great examples of current photographers who were raised in less privileged circumstances who have succeeded on a global scale with photography. Both have remarkable stories and it is well worth reading about their backgrounds and viewing some of their work if they are not already familiar. There are some links below for those who may wish to find out more about their work.




Mario grew up in Maputo where he did odd jobs at the market often sleeping overnight there instead of going home. He used his first camera aged 14 which he borrowed from a friend taking pictures of his surroundings and documenting people from the townships. He developed some images in the darkroom of his mother’s house but it was difficult for him to pay for the film and the chemicals. In 2007, at age 23 a friend brought Mario a camera as he had no idea how to use it so he swapped it with Mario in exchange for a mobile phone that his mother had given him as he was the breadwinner in the house. Friends told Mario about a way to share his photos online and how to create a blog which he did using the free internet to post his work online. Mario got positive feedback and was eventually invited to take part in exhibitions. In the short time since then Mario has gone on to get wide international recognition.

Xyza’s story is even more impressive. Xyza was a domestic worker in Hong Kong using photography to raise awareness about under-reported stories, focusing on migrants and human issues. In the short space of time as a photographer she has been recipient of a number of awards including being appointed as one of the Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellows in 2015. Her work has also been published in a number of high profile magazines and periodicals such as Foreign Policy linking back to our discussions earlier in the week about the role that photography has as an advocate for change.

Can you think of any problems associated with the speed at which the photograph moves?

The enhancements in technology in cameras and smartphones bringing about further democratisation of photography coupled with the ability to transmit images immediately via the internet and various social media channels provides a large part of the global population with a constant flow of images from a number of sources.

David Bate noted in “Photography: The Key Concepts” that “Indeed the spatial location of photography globally is an increasingly important issue, precisely because of the ease with which images can slide around the world today …. Of course, there are provisos to the idea that the globe is saturated with accessible images. Economic hardship, political, religious or state censorship, geography, and legal conditions all still mean that access to modern media technology and the information and images that it generates are not necessarily available to everyone everywhere. … The fact that something in one part of the world has an impact in another is much more easily transmitted today, with no guarantees of its consequential effect being decided in advance.” (Bate, p.190)

On the whole, I think that these advances in technology bring about many positive changes such as in providing photographers with access to a wider audience and opportunities for both consumption and development of images across a wider number of locations and across different social classes (as we have seen in the case of Xyza Cruz Bacani and Mario Macilau). However, the speed at which the photograph moves also creates a number of important issues as inferred by Bate.

The ability of almost anyone to produce a photograph at a relatively low cost and to instantly share the image is leading to saturation of the marketplace and a consumer that is drowning in the number of images viewed on a daily basis. This was well portrayed by Erik Kessels in his art installation featuring prints of all the images uploaded to Flickr in 24-hour period. This provides the practitioner with a challenge in competing amongst the noise and the consumer with distractions when surfing the net.


Kessels. 2011. 24 Hours in Photos. Available at http://www.kesselskramer.com/exhibitions/24-hrs-of-photos [Accessed 28/09/16]

Legal conditions in certain countries provide challenges for photographers operating within and from outside of a jurisdiction. This intentionally prevents some photography from outside the jurisdiction from reaching the relevant local market through its media controls such as in China and in other cases aims to protect the privacy of individuals through the use of laws on the use of social media. Distribution of photographs, either intentionally or unintentionally, without regard to the laws can lead to significant issues for the distributor in countries where an individual’s privacy is highly valued and the laws are in place to protect the privacy of the individual. (As mentioned in a previous post, this is an area that I also need to get a clearer understanding of over the course of the next few weeks.)

Lastly, for practitioners who share their photography online there is also the issue with ensuring ownership and copyright of the work. This risk is inherent in the world that we live in today and some photographers restrict what work they share on social media for fear of it being stolen which has the downside risk of reducing the exposure of the photograph and losing out on potential future business.

Windows on the World

The second presentation provided an overview of the concept of photography as a window on the world. Three of the earliest photographs made contained a window within the photograph and this continues to be an object commonly used in photography.  The tutor described the metaphor of the architectural window as an aperture between an internal or an enclosed space and the infinite world beyond with the viewfinder of a camera always framing and always cropping from a larger whole.

I was fascinated with the idea that photography can be considered a two-way exchange that allows the world a glimpse of the photographer. An introduction to John Szarkowski’s exhibition in 1978 on Mirrors and Windows stated that “In metaphorical terms, the photograph is seen either as a mirror – a romantic expression of the photographer’s sensibility as it projects itself on the things and sights of this world; or as a window through which the entire world is exposed in all its presence and reality”.

Following the first presentation, we were posed with the below question to consider for which I noted my thoughts below.

What do you make of the window and mirror analogy? As a practitioner do you associate more closely with one or another?

I had always associated photography with a means to provide the world with the photographer’s insights on the world but I had not given full consideration previously to the “two way exchange” that also allows the world a glimpse of the photographer. I am not a very outspoken person who likes the sound of his own voice and perhaps for me photography is an avenue for which I will develop more of a voice – giving the world a larger insight of myself as a photographer. This is something that I would certainly like to develop further over the course.

Later on in the week when I was looking through my image library I noticed that I had subconsciously also taken a number of photographs through windows over the last couple of years. Having thought about it a bit more during the lead up to this webinar I have been left thinking that perhaps this may be a little bit of escapism on my part. Looking through a window at another world.

Unity and Change

The last presentation for the week focused on the possible power of photography to promote change on a worldwide scale. A number of different images and photographic projects were shared that prompted unity and in some case helped lead to political or social change. For example, William Henry Jackson’s topographic work in Wyoming is considered to have had significant influence on Congress with respect to the creation of Yellowstone into the first National Park in 1872. However, there is debate as to whether it was actually Hayden’s written account of Yellowstone that was more influential in the establishment of the National Park.

The presentation went on to compare the still photograph with the moving image. It was proposed that a still photograph can have a deeper and more persistent emotional impact than the moving image as the viewer is able focus for longer on what is before them and has time to reflect on the photograph. This is the impression that I have and the two still photographs of the falling man and the second plane approaching the second tower during the 9/11 attacks are two photographs that I think will stay in my mind forever.

The last concept shared was that of photography promoting a universal view of the world. The example provided was that of the Family of Man exhibition by Edward Steichen who, after World War II, collected photographs taken by different photographers from all over the world to form a piece of propaganda reportage that promoted a global community and peace. However, this did lead to immediate criticism that it had overlooked real differences and conflicts in the world.

Following the presentation, the tutor posed the following question which I have noted a response to below.

Do you think the power and influence of the photograph is overstated? Does this devalue the true extent of the role of the photograph in bringing about change? Or Is the power of photography as a lever for advocacy understated? What photographs and bodies of work do you think have inspired unity and change?

I think the power and influence of a photograph can be overstated when it is considered on its own merit. An image can be misconstrued without context and explanation. Without which a photograph may lead to the wrong assumptions and misunderstanding of the situation being portrayed.

That said I don’t believe that this devalues the true extent of the role of the photograph in bringing about change. I believe that a photograph is a communication medium that has the possibly the greatest impact on the viewer e.g. when compared to a written report or a moving image. In my mind a photograph provides an image that stays in the mind with the viewer for longer. It encourages pause and reflection. It also acts as a quick referral point or reminder of a situation in times past.

Of course all of these considerations depend also on the purpose of the photograph. As we have seen with the Family of Man, photography can be used for different purposes and to push different agendas and so it is important to also always consider the background and context of the photograph.

The Challenges of Global Photography

Following the presentations, we were asked to reflect on these and to consider what is the single most important challenge that the global nature of photography poses for both image-makers, and consumers of photography. This provided a diverse set of responses looking at this from different perspectives, some of which I had not considered.

A common challenge raised was that of being able to trust what we are seeing given that the image can be manipulated in a number of ways to portray something in a particular manner. One student observed that this can depend on the agenda of the person making the image and what purpose they want it to serve (similar to the example above of The Family of Man). On the flipside, another student commented that the photographer themselves may be inclining to produce a photograph in a particular way to obtain the viewer’s attention. There was also another very interesting comment on the censorship of certain photographs by the press which may not show the full story – an example given of the photographs taken during the Vietnamese War which, if published, may have led to the end of the war earlier than it had. This censorship had in this situation provided the American public a false perception of the atrocities of the Vietnam War and led to some indifference.

This led to me doing some further research on this subject during which I came across the following comments from Philip Jones Griffiths, president of Magnum, who once said that the media conglomerates pose a dangerous threat to photojournalism: “What we get to think and know about the world is in the hands of a very few….A truly informed public is antithetical to the interests of modern consumer capital…..Today, the photographer is sent off to illustrate the preconceptions, usually misconceptions, of the desk-bound editor—an editor biased not by any knowledge of the subject but by the pressure to conform to the standard view ordained by the powers that be. Any deviation from the ‘party line’ is rejected. We are probably the last generation that will accept the integrity of the photograph.” [WorldPress.org. Available at http://worldpress.org/Europe/665.cfm accessed on 26/09/16]. Strong statements but no doubt some truth behind them.