351MC #Phonar – Session Four Reflection

Our fourth #Phonar session was based mainly around a talk by David Campbell on “Narrative, Power and Responsibility”. Throughout his talk, I made notes of the themes he discussed and soon found that I was really interested in four quotes in particular:

  • Tod Papergeorge’s take on Robert Capa’s famous quote – “What is important now is that if your pictures aren’t good enough your not reading enough
  • There is a necessity of the understanding of the context before the picture is actually being made and recorded; It’s essential because it directs our attention to the narrative
  • Allen Feldman – “The event is not what happens, the event is that which can be narrated
  • The process of construction, mediation, representation, is about including some things and excluding other things


These quotes all interlink really well through the fact that they discuss the theme of context and narrative. What I took away from these quotes is that context is key. Context allows us as photographers to understand how we want to represent the subject by including and excluding certain aspects, which relates it (context) to narrative. Context and narrative is also related to power as we, as photographers, have the power to decide how to represent a particular subject through the context we choose to include/create.

These themes also relate to the ideas I discussed in week one and week three’s reflections regarding amateur photographers and Metaphotographers. Understanding the theories behind context, narrative, and power within photography is one of the ways in which professional photographers differ from amateur photographers, and is therefore one of the ways that has allowed me to gain a competitive advantage against amateur photographers of today, by enabling me to become more photographically and digitally literate within my professional practice.

As for the Metaphotographers of this digital age, some don’t necessarily know or understand the entire context surrounding an image that they find but they often do have the power; they can therefore use certain images and manipulate the context to create a specific narrative. (As an example, I will use the winner of the World Press Photo, Spencer Platt, and the controversy his Lebanon war image caused due to his misinterpretation of the context and misrepresentation of his subjects – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6385969.stm)