Photo by me, Styled by Matthew Josephs and Jack Sunnucks, Make up Yuri Okada, Hair KIYO Models: Rachael (next), Nicola (next) and Yasmina Dexter.
Whilst studying photography I was taught by the great Ian Jeffrey. Ian wrote books such as ‘The Photo Book’, ‘Photography; a Concise History’ and ‘How to Read a Photograph’ amongst others.
He was as you might suspect a great man. I was then and still am now totally in awe of him.
He babbled, I mean in a good way. He had a beautiful way with words, which was just as well because he knew a lot of them.
One day whilst drifting in and out of consciousness in a lecture Ian bounds in beaming and mindlessly begins talking over the lecturer about how to write about your photography. Ian was very old and cared very little. His talking would always excite my imagination. He was a man who resonated with me profoundly.
That day I came away with many notes which to this day are very dear to me. Here are some of the points that changed my perspective, I hope they help you also should you be a fellow photographer.
I just wanted to say that I didn’t name my last shoot in i-D,
thanks to all that blogged about it.
Writing about your own photography (notes taken whist Ian babbled)
Think of your readers. One idea among writers is that there is a disembodied ideal reader, a sort of institutionalised intelligence. This is an aspiration. In reality there are no more than a few readers, whom you can count on the fingers of one hand. There is yourself twice: first of all just after you have written the text, and then weeks or months later when you come across a copy and wonder what exactly you said. You read your texts to see what kind of rhythm they have, how they proceed- you can recognise yourself in them. You are the most important reader. Then there are the people for whom the text is intended.
You have to be careful with your writing to catch a reader’s attention; otherwise they will speed read’ or scan the text looking for certain signs, certain configurations in the language. Make sure that the text is placed well on the page, that it is grouped and that there are gaps between the groups.
Some of you will want to tell the story of where you took the pictures. Photographs and videos allow you to re-live the past; they are part of a mnemonics, part of the work surrounding memory. Normally the past falls away, but you can often remember the circumstances of a photograph-sometimes in surprising detail. There is also quite a lot to say in terms of hunches, plans, intentions and accidents about taking pictures- for all sorts of outside circumstances can intervene – they can support you or deflect you or change your outlook together. So there can be a lot to be gained from telling these stories, for some of them can be and having been formative. Secondly, you can tell the story of your thinking after the event, for you may have a lot of second thoughts and doubts about the worth of the pictures you have taken. If you can identify these doubts and second thoughts you will have done well.
You might, on the other hand, regard your pictures and records as no more than a way of illustrating a topic and you may think that your time is best spent exploring that topic. However, at the same time, you might find that the pictures go beyond the topic and have another life or other meanings, that they are not simply subordinate to the topic. You might argue that you select a topic in order to take photography, and that the pictures constitute some kind of opening into reflection-that they contain n far more than you ever imagined. There is also the question of re-visualised pictures which also, in some way, might deliver more than intended- there may be more in the finished picture than was envisaged. Perhaps the purpose in photography is to see what the idea looks like when materialised and thus is a condition which is a constant in our lives- how will things turn out?
It is useful and stimulating to consider other types of writing as you work. There are a number of choices: some of which i have already discussed . The kind of academic/theory texts to which you are directed in universities are, of course , interesting but they have adverse effects on your imagination. They are aimed at consensual use of language, meant for the achieve, and they are in debate with others texts of that kind. To use that kind of language you have to be well versed in ‘the literature’. It is a kind of dialectical writing meant to contribute an area of study. It is additive or meant to supplement the stock of research.
If you have time read examples of philosophy, for it is mostly dedicated to argument. You will find this useful if you want to consider , say, relative values in your picture taking- or your choices and preferences. Philosophy proposes something like a sceptical questioner standing at your elbow and asking if you can say a little more about your preferences and judgements. Sometimes the questioner proposes a different way of doing things, or a more successful version. You are expected to reply.
You might also read something in art history with respect to the kind of pictures you are taking and their meanings. An art historian will be expected to account for the details in a picture and their meanings. They take a rather empirical approach, and like to answer practical questions concerning pictorial arrangements and iconography. Art history is worth looking at, but you may find that its procedures don’t apply to your pictures-but there may be reasons for this. And you may locate some of the reasons. But in most of your pictures there will be iconographic details, even if you don’t think of them as such.
Look at instructional literature, by which I mean guide books and analyses of equipment: electronic goods and cars. The lists of instructional literature extends widely: botany, biology, all sorts of guides to how to do things. Normally you would take this kind of writing for granted, but it is worth study in terms of how to lay out and organise your prose. It is interesting also for its objectivity- or can be. I will refer to cookery books and to the kinds of things which can be learnt from them.
Read something on travel, because as photographers and videoists you suspend time on new ground or in transit-and in the cause of events you notice things with respect to dress and manners and inscriptions which are everywhere. Normally travel writing is in the first person singular, and is quite close to letter writing. Writing of this kind makes a particular appeal to the reader, for there is a kind of intimacy about it which can be irrespirable.
The purpose of writing (in this context) is to allow you or to promote you to make discoveries, for as you write ( which is a slowing down or acceleration of thinking) there is a chance that the insight will enter into your world. Writing invites you to concentrate, and you should except revelations.
You wouldn't understand
Photo by me styling by Matthew Josephs and makeup by Yuri Okada
Hello all, something I’ve been holding back on for a while now has been the search for an assistant. Not just because of my own experiences as an assistant several years ago but also I’m not particularly fond of employing people without pay, especially given the current economic climate.
Alas, after great deliberation and much good advice from friends I’ve decided to opt to take on an assistant, or intern if you will, to join me on my photographic adventures. So here we go:
I’m going to need someone who is available to work on 2-3 shoots per month on a voluntary basis. Though I can’t offer any money what you will gain is great first-hand experience and a chance to build your contacts in the industry for your future. These contacts will include model agencies, stylists, magazines, designers, make-up artists and other photographers. You will also, no doubt, pick up photographic, lighting, make-up and design techniques if you are so inclined.
You should be based in London, be able to drive and have access to your own vehicle for transport to and from locations. I have to say that the position pretty much pivots on these two needs for obvious reasons.
That’s pretty much it on the technical side of things. It probably goes without saying that this position is for someone who is set on making a future for themselves in the fashion industry.
If you’re interested in the position and think you fit the bill or you just need more info please email me at email@example.com and we’ll go from there.
Posted by ELLEN JANE ROGERS at 11/17/2009
Photography by me, Styled by Matthew Josephs
Models: Dan Felton, Yousef, Rachael (next), Nicola (next) and Yasmina Dexter.
With thanks to Jack and Mavi.
You can see the whole story in the current November issue of i-D. No winking women this time but a lovely day in the woods.
I get this occurring twitch; it’s the feeling that I should be worrying about something.
Something to do with my future.
It is not until I remind myself that perhaps my souls secretly harbouring that which I know I have to fulfil and I search for the answer with
A hope-A radiance which tinges it with Rose and Gold. I am babbling what I mean is...
I have this idea.
That perhaps we need not rely on families or jobs and that we can find an alternative.
Why work for money when you can survive from food you grow, alternative energy to power your necessities and water made from vapour.
And if you do choose to work it would be disposable money you would earn that you can spend on anything but bank charges, rent and other things that involve giving away your money to other people.
It’s something my partner and I are working on.
Building our own house and to remove ourselves from what we are now realising to be a type of slavery set about by those holding the worlds purse strings.
It won’t happen overnight and of course technology and politics will progress as our plans unfold, so it may be a bumpy ride, but it’s a no-brainer.
I wonder if other groups of people are considering alterative energies? or perhaps an altogether alternative lifestyle? Or is it just the gypsy in my bones?
Posted by ELLEN JANE ROGERS at 11/14/2009
There is now a store section on my site where you can buy reprints* of my work.
I have only elected 3 of the images for reproduction, but if things go well then more may follow.
Each print is 16 X 16in and will be signed.
The price includes shipping and packaging.
*please note these are not the original photographs, merely reproductions from high quality scans.
Posted by ELLEN JANE ROGERS at 11/06/2009
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