Critical Perspectives


In today’s world, it has become increasingly important to develop critical perspectives with respect to photography. Photography has become so common place that we see hundreds, if not thousands, of images every day. I often find myself flicking through various materials containing photographs, be it a magazine, on instagram, a blog etc., without really taking time to think about the image. There is so much content out there that we often only have enough time to be passively consuming rather than consciously viewing images. The experience of the viewer will of course be different from person to person and not all viewers will have the same positive or perhaps negative opinion of a photograph particularly given the many different genres of photography that exist.

As a practitioner, it is important to consider critical perspectives with respect to photography as only with an understanding of these can we improve our own practice and avoid being dismissed as just another photograph in the sea of images seen from day to day. There is onus on the photographer to ensure that the images created “matter” (as Francis Hodgson said in the ‘Quality Matters’ interview at Fotoboekenmarathon in 2012) given the omnipresence of photography today.

I need to further educate my own critical eye and this has begun to improve further during our studies in the first module of the MA, the recent visit to Paris Photo (more to come on that) and through my own research and readings. I have a growing list of books, journals, blogs and magazines to get through which I intend to make a dent in over the Christmas holidays!

In terms of my own practice, I am thinking more and more about the purpose of each image. Not just the subject, the composition and the lighting but what is the image about and has that been portrayed accurately? What am I trying to achieve with each image? What is the story being told? Last month I took a photograph (see below) that could be interpreted very differently depending on the viewer and without context the meaning or purpose of this image could easily be misunderstood. The challenge with documentary photography is to avoid images that can be misconstrued and, in Burgin’s words, to bear in mind the visual choices we make when creating images. Context, as noted in a previous post, is also key in the production and dissemination of our images to provide clarity and to compliment the image.