351MC Photography and Narrative – Session Three

On Wednesday 15th October 2014, we had a slight change in venue for our #phonar venue as we all met on the third floor of the library in the DML Lab to start off the day. After being told that this is where we would be meeting from now on we were introduced to Kate Green, 2014 Photography Graduate, who discussed her #phonar and final degree show projects with us. We then had a session with Matt Johnston where we discussed a quote from Roland BarthesCamera Lucida”, looked at “PinePoint” by Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons, watched spoken word poetry by Sarah Kay, and ended the lecture by being introduced to a couple of readings. We then ended the day by listening to an interview with Stephen Mayes and Fred Ritchin that was conducted by our lecturer Jonathan Worth. All of the notes that I took from this day can be found below:


Talk by Kate Green about her #Phonar Projects:

  • https://kategreen28.wordpress.com/tag/kinema-in-the-woods/
  • Didn’t want to take photographs anymore
  • Looked at a project that was personal to her family
    • Her Dad bought and renovated a cinema by buying different furnishings from other cinemas
    • She didn’t want to make another book
    • She displayed it through an interactive map that included the locations of all of the cinemas along with photographs of the artifacts and audio of her Dad talking about them
  • Took the weekly tasks in a broad sense to be able to respond to them how she wanted
  • Lots of different lessons to be learnt from #Phonar
  • The more context you know about the subject you are attempting to depict, the more credible you are as a story teller
  • It’s good to have a broad knowledge but it’s also good to focus on a specific strand
  • We have a responsibility when telling a narrative to make sure we don’t just tell it how we want to but to talk to the insiders and conduct research
  • If you see an opportunity that can turn into a golden opportunity, take it
  • If you’re waiting for someone to reply to you, don’t sit in their inbox, pick up the phone and call them
  • Evaluation is key
  • Play with the skills that you want to take to your final work

Things to take away from this lecture:

  • Seek out and apply appropriate thinking, from various fields, to your own work (let’s not limit ourselves to photography and and genres when we think of influence and experimentation)
  • There is a responsibility to the subject – something we explored a fair amount through #picbod and in particular the power relationship we try to level out
  • Read and think… Read some more – know what you are talking about as it will make  you a more eloquent visual writer 
  • Dont be afraid to experiment – fail and play

Matt Johnston Lecture:

“Do I add to the images in movies? I don’t think so; I don’t have time: in front of the screen, I am not free to shut my eyes; otherwise, opening them again, I would not discover the same image; I am constrained to a continuous voracity….” – Barthes, R (Camera Lucida) 1980

  • Images are different to photographs
  • We have time to think about an image
  • Are we becoming more immersed in images rather than photographs?
  • You can go wherever you want when reading on the internet
  • Our reading patterns are changing in this digital era
  • You have to bring a lot of your own mind to texts
  • We want our readers to get a little bit lost in our context but we want them to bring a piece of themselves to it to
  • On the internet, images do not have to stand up for themselves – we need to give more room to the reader to allow them to layer narratives on top
  • Images are stronger, more connected with the context of sound, therefore text doesn’t need to be as visually sophisticated


PinePoint” by Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons:

  • http://pinepoint.nfb.ca/#/pinepoint
  • The audio in Pinepoint can be seen as a restriction as we want to listen to all of the audio, giving us time to fully immerse ourselves in the images and the internet environment we are given
  • It’s both linear and non-linear
  • Layering of subtle aspects such as images, text and sound can work together to create a really effective, immersive piece
  • Sometimes it’s not just about one powerful image it’s about the narrative as a whole
  • Does empowering the viewer and giving them responsibility to navigate your narrative devalue you as the narrator or photographer?
  • Poetry invites us to interpret; now does that undermine the power of the poet… Is it the same for photography?
  • Storytelling is important both socially and culturally
  • Knowing how to communicate is key, if your going to allow your audience to be immersed
  • Synthetic images are completely fabricated, they may have a reference point based on reality however nothing about them is truthful
  • We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us
  • Audience immersion comes from becoming visual media ninjas, picking the appropriate scope to present, the means of interpretation


Sarah Kay – Spoken Word Poetry:

  • Do we need to see her or can we just listen to her?
  • Listening her got me to a certain amount of immersion, but when I looked up to watch her, watch her performance, it added a depth and an urgency to the piece that allowed me to be completely swept away
  • Devices, tools, and ideas are things that we need to think about



Readings to Look At:


 Things to take away from this lecture:

  • Photo-films and transmedia projects affect our first understandings of the medium we work in (photograpy) – A still image allows you to layer your own horizon on top (Barthes talks about this in Camera Lucida) whereas with film he muses that it does not as there is a continuosly changing visual 
  • Should we work with the more ordinary images and subtle soundscape so as to aid a gentle flow through work and the ablity for our reader to think?
  • We considered two different types of immersion –
    • Immersion as escapism – getting lost in something 
    • Immersion in project and self – allowing your introspections to be placed on top of the art you are looking at 
  • The nature of reading has changed as the web encourages glances, interaction and connections; whereas the page is confined, unchanging, requires focus and rewards linear attention
  • Technological determinism – the idea that we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us (McLuhan)

Jonathan Worth Lecture:

Tim Hetherington – Diary


  • Tim Hetherington is a part of the #phonar family because he was actually doing what #phonar is teaching us about
  • He challenged everything that we’re discussing


Stephen Mayes, Fred Ritchin and Jonathan Worth (October 13, 2013):


  • Stephen Mayes
    • Was the director of VII Agency, worked in Fashion and art in commerce, worked in the art world and represented people like Damien Hurst – he is a Visual entrepreneur
  • Fred Ritchin
    • Professor at New York University, curator, photo editor of The New York Times, and writer
  • What’s the difference between a visual journalist and a photographer?
    • The photographer is the person with the camera who reacts to the situation and sets up a portrait
    • A visual journalist is a broader definition of somebody who is a metaphotographer – somebody who deals with all of the contextualization; sifts through the available media to find the most important pieces
  • Hyperphotography is the idea of the non-linear narrative that can link things together such as different types of media
    • It goes way beyond the idea of a photographer producing a singular image
  • Fred Ritchin – “There is a diminishing sense that the media is telling us things of importance in a timely way that help us understand the world and, on the other side of it, the idea being that there are fewer people willing to pay for that sort of information
  • Older models are imploding at this point – what used to be marginal is now mainstream and the mainstream itself doesn’t work as effectively anymore
  • The biggest challenge right now is figuring out the hybridization of a media journalism that includes pieces from citizen and amateur journalists
  • We need to work with the best of both – those that live in the situation/event and those that know how to edit stories together
  • Commerce has essentially shaped the form of documentary
  • We’re at the point of tremendous invention now where not actually challenged by commerce, everything has become free of commerce
    • On the one hand it’s a problem, but on the other hand it’s a huge opportunity where we can reconstruct how we actually relate to information
  • The traditional form of storytelling demanded a simplified telling – all of that has been flung apart and we have become confronted with complexity
  • Journalism becomes a piece of “entertainment” – you watch it after the event has happened and think that there is nothing to be done
  • In the old models, a single photograph would be able to draw a person in, would have created a talked about subject, but now, the same image would be placed online for a couple of hours before being displayed in a slideshow and disappearing
  • There is an enormous liberation at this point and a need for reinvention
  • Who’s doing the long form visual journalism to keep us really engaged?
  • We have the capacity to reinvent but we have to really do something about it
  • Stephen Mayes describes himself as an external optimist – “a pessimist that doesn’t really know all the facts
  • The front page was a form of control as well as a form of information
    • To get people to focus on one issue, you had to exclude a number of other stories
    • The front page was of course the focus, but at the same time it was also a very risky tool (through the stories that it excluded)
  • Information now comes to us in a rolling stream
  • Instead of a linear story that has a beginning, middle and an end, we are now seeing an ever-rolling evolution (which doesn’t have a beginning, middle, or an end) – The form of journalism is now infinitely extended
  • We need to reframe the expectations of how we relate to information
  • Media (in this digital age) is now a community – we as readers can change information, comment, share, follow, etc.
  • Tools are expanding the opportunity to engage
  • Storytelling, as described by the ancients, was more about metaphor than the facts
  • Photographs can sometimes be less about what actually happened and more about an idea of what happened
  • The photograph has always been trapped in this notion of realism and depicting facts
  • An image on it’s own means nothing, an image gathers power when it’s adopted by a pre-existing political core or a social movement
  • Facts can be used to tell deeply profound lies
  • The beauty of the press used to be as a bridge builder
  • We need to figure out filtering mechanisms that are transparent and we can live with that are not controlled by the elites but are controlled by a wider group of people


Storify of Session: