EYV 5 Exercise 5.2
Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case?
The image I chose to respond to
A day or two after reading the brief for this exercise I was out with my camera when I noticed a scene which I felt drawn to photograph because it reminded me of an image by Jason Evans (above) in the way it consisted of pleasing shapes created by the interactions of nature and the man-made environment.
The photograph I made of my scene is primarily a response to what Barrett (1997) calls the internal context of Evans’s image – the forms and patterns made by the wind-blown and/or rainswept accumulation of sand around a drain cover and the marks a car tyre made on nature’s sculpture.
In a broader sense my response also draws on what I already knew about the external context of Evan’s image, which is that it is part of The New Scent, a series Evans made in 2000–03 with the unifying theme of the happenstance of the man-made intersecting with the natural landscape/environment and vice versa. At this point I was not yet aware of other aspects of the external context of Evans’s image, such as the fact that the series was originally presented as a website (thenewscent.com) which is no longer functioning and for which the domain registration has now lapsed. Neither did I know that the website was a result of Evans’s thinking about “what an online book equivalent could be” and an attempt to do something different from his daily updated single-image website project The Daily Nice (Schuman, 2009).
The full circumstances of the original context of Evan’s image are not known to me, but a limited aspect can be deduced from its internal context, namely the fact that Evans evidently noticed the shapes around the kerb and drain cover, and decided to photograph the scene with a view to including it in his b&w series The New Scent.
The image I made in response
The photograph I took in response to Evans’s image is first and foremost a response to its internal context, although it is also informed by aspects of its broader external context as part of The New Scent series.
My photograph is similar in content and style to Evans’s, to the extent that its subject is also the shapes created by the combined action of the forces of nature and the built environment. In my own image the forces of nature are represented by rain, which created the puddle, and light, which has created the reflection – in which I see a George Cross, its blemishes and tatty edges reflecting the diminished standing of England in the post-Brexit world of today. This is my own image’s internal context.
The external context of my image is its inclusion in exercise 5.2 of EYV, the first module in OCA’s photography degree course. Its original context is the fact that I had in mind the task of selecting an image to respond to when I was reminded of Evans’s image by the shape of a puddle I happened to walk past.
Internal context refers to the picture, its title if it has one, date, and maker. External context refers to the picture’s presentational environment. Original context refers to the picture’s causal environment, namely, that which was physically and psychologically present to the maker at the time the picture was taken.
– Terry Barrett (1997)
I am aware that there are many other ways I could have responded to an image other than responding directly to its internal content by making one in a similar style with a similar theme. Victor Burgin took an alternative approach in his homages to Edward Hopper’s painting The Office at Night by treating the original image as a series of motifs which he then explored in images of a completely different genre. At this stage of my own development I feel that exploring ways of analysing and articulating my response to an image is the challenge at hand, and this exercise (along with another one I set myself and posted in my learning log) has begun to show me how to do that. In the course of doing these exercises I have started to see how these intellectual processes not only enable a greater appreciation and understanding of other people’s work but also work as tools and methods for creating the concepts required to underpin one’s own work.
The brief for this exercise included a postscript as follows:
You may already have taken some homage photography where you’ve not tried to hide the original inspiration but rather celebrated it. Refer back to your personal archive and add one or two to your learning log together with a short caption to provide a context for the shot.
I have posted my homage images in a separate post on my learning log.
References and resources
Barrett, T. (1997) “Photographs and contexts”. An excerpt from Goldblatt, D. and Brown, L. (eds) Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts. USA: Prentice-Hall. Available at: http://terrybarrettosu.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/B_PhotAndCont_97.pdf [accessed 28/03/18]
Burgin, V. (2005) “The separateness of things”. Available at http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/03/the-separateness-of-things-victor-burgin [accessed 29/03/18]
Dobedo (2013) “Jason Evans”. Available at http://www.dobedo.co.uk/contributor/jasonevans/ [accessed 29/03/18]
Evans, J. (2018) The Daily Nice. Available at http://thedailynice.com [accessed 29/03/18]
Schuman, A. (2009) “The Daily Nice – An interview with Jason Evans. Available at http://www.aaronschuman.com/jasonevansinterview.html [accessed 29/03/18]