351MC #Phonar – Session Eight Reflection

For our final #phonar session, we listened to a catch up interview with Fred Ritchin before watching a short film by Jamie Macdonald called “Shooting Time” that was about his father, Ian Macdonald.

Whilst listening to Fred Ritchin’s interview, there was one quote that stood out to me: “With all of this expansive possibility, we need to decide how we affect society with everything that is going on… We need to use imagery in important ways”. After this, Becky then came up with an argument that the image is actually more truthful than the photograph due to the fact that we can read the metadata to find out if the image has been manipulated. In response to this, Fred Ritchin said: “The general problem is how do readers perceive it [the image]?” What I took away from this is that it doesn’t really matter what can be seen within the metadata, it is what is represented in the image that is important.

These quotes therefore look at the themes surrounding the affect certain images can have on society and the reading of an image. This, in turn, links in nicely with the second talk of the day where Francis Hodgson said, “Ian MacDonald’s photographs are read rather than seen.”


Looking deeper into the theme of reading the image, this idea links back to last week’s reflection where I discussed theories about appealing to different audiences (looking at the work of Marcus Bleasdale and Aaron Huey). I personally feel that it is very difficult to create a piece of photographic work where I know exactly how the audience will read it. This then got me thinking about the ideas surrounding photographs as stimuli for audience action, and I wonder how photographers can create the iconic war images that result in a change within society.

I then took this further and thought about the reading of images in the digital age. Looking back at another quote from Fred Ritchin where he said that the photograph and the video are now in dialog (we can stop a video to create a still photograph), I concluded that the reading of an image is much more complex than that of a photograph through it’s hybrid relations with other digital mediums. With this being said, however, I have used this theory to consider possibilities of future project outcomes, within my professional practise (including my Final Major project), and wonder whether the more complex reading of an image also makes it more immersive. (I therefore think that I will be looking back to this idea when deciding upon the final outcomes for future projects). The theory relating the reading of the image, in turn links back to the idea of images as a stimulus for action, which has degraded in the digital era. This is not only through the fact that we struggle to focus on the important stories by being submersed in information and data (discussed briefly in week six’s reflection about transporting mechanisms), but also because in this digital age we feel that a “Like” or a “Share” can be seen as an active involvement in an issue.