I guess that anyone
with a more than passing interest in photography has heard of Don McCullin, the
eminent war photographer, and one of the key practitioners who have changed how
war imagery has been delivered to the masses during the course of the latter
His recently published film regarding
his work as a photographer, and to use words with which I expect he would
disagree - as a 'war photographer' provides a fascinating insight into the mind
of experience of such an important figure.
From the perspective of student and
writer of this study blog, McCullin as a reference ultimately provides a marker
to my own practice, especially within the remit of commitment to your work.
He has, throughout his career maintained
a diligent duty, in that he never gave up, and he maintained his reportage
philosophy in that the negative elements of war need to be made know to the
western world - via the medium of photography. In essence the basics are;
to your guns, believe in your work and never give up - I like this attitude, I
can't say I can emulate, but the philosophy is right.
McCullin practiced his work in some of
the most horrific and war ravaged areas of recent world history covering wars
and conflicts in Cyprus, Congo, Biafra, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Cambodia and
Now, from the above list in modern war
geography it may be viewed that McCullin was an out and out adrenalin junkie,
seeking his next fix of adventure and fame from and by the next Times Sunday
supplement published image; either of casualty in war, murder or famine. However,
what becomes apparent is that McCullin as a man, and as a human being, this essence always
pervaded his character and ultimately affected McCullin the photographer, with
scenes on occasion not being photographed or with civilians in war torn areas
being assisted rather than photographed.
From the documentary, it becomes
evident that McCullin is a morale man, on occasion not recording scenes which
would have certainly aided his career at the time. He has, throughout his career
maintained a very distinct sense of right and wrong, this I think has set him
apart from other practitioners operating at the same time.
I don't expect to be a war
photographer, however I expect to maintain my standards, never give up, keep
improving and on occasion ensure my moral compass is working, some scenes need to
be left alone...
An interesting article in the Guardian regarding the experiences of war photographers and news photographers - who despite adversity keep taking the images often despite the personal tragedy of scene, these professionals have that trained behaviour, the photographer in them kicks into gear, and despite the horrors they witness, they photograph, and ask questions later. A true mental focus and personal dedication to their art.
This work from Grame Robertson in particular, where the photographer himself had been wrestled to the floor by police during the 2004 hunting protests says it all. He was in the middle of a fractious and violent situation - yet still saw the shot, not only saw it, but took it too!
Despite the fact that all of these photographers are all paid professionals in their field, something can be gleaned from this; Use your camera!! take the opportunist shots! Live your passion and work it! Always be thinking about 'the next potential'. For me whether the environment is innitially mundane or whether the environment is not perceivably accomodating for you and your camera, don't be afraid! and don't accept that your regular environment is not to be photographed, IT IS!
1989, as the Berlin Wall fell, Gunther Holtorf and his wife Christine set out
on what was meant to be an 18-month tour of Africa in their Mercedes Benz G
Wagen. Now, with more than 800,000km (500,000 miles) on the clock, Gunther is
former airline executive has travelled the equivalent of 20 times around the
planet in the vehicle - which he calls Otto. He says he has never had a serious
breakdown. Recently in Vietnam, Canadian-born photographer David Lemke joined
Gunther on one section of his epic journey.
wonderful and all under the radar or modern blogging and sponsorship!
Quadrophenia, by British Pop/Rock band The Who was released in 1973, a year
before I was born. This album was part of the fabric of the many 'things' I
would ponder over as a child that resided in the bedroom of my older brothers,
this gatefold double album belonged to my middle elder brother, David (the
Mod). In addition to the double vinyl album itself, of equal importance is the
story board of 30 pages of black and white images by Ethan Russell - commissioned
by Pete Townsend, the albums author.
music, the story, the whole thing appealed to me enormously from too young an
age (9yrs old).The album was recently re visited on BBC Four,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01k83bl , with interviews with band members,
management, models from the images within the album cover and the photographer
The creation of the
album and the details of the photo shoot are stories in their own right,
photographer Ethan Russell was at the height of his powers at the time having
established himself as one of the key recorders of the swinging sixties in
However my enduring
relationship with the album has a far more personal narrative and context
relating to my life rather than just an appreciation of Townsends London 1960's
story of youthful self discovery, a relationship which corresponds with a pre
internet information/ distraction age, where an object like an album gatefold
was studied and reflected upon time and time again, amassing a very personal
set of thoughts and reflections - an activity perhaps lost now in an age where
the volume of material and literal bombardment of music literature and
photographic images via the internet is immense. I have, since 9 years old,
been intrigued by this story, the music, and importantly the images portrayed,
and the photography has always remained a more striking memory than the
subsequent film with Phil Daniels, Sting etal.
On the back of the
recent documentary, I had to take a re look at the images from the album, with
perhaps a more critical OCA eye, and try to establish their appeal especially
with influence of current work towards assignment 2 TAOP and graphical forms.
I have this album on
CD now, with its 30 page spread of images - but I procured the original
gatefold many years ago and the print size of the original is certainly part of
the impact, along with the more readable tangible nature of this larger print.
images are very graphic, bold shapes and lines depict the story, bold
horizontal line of terraced houses, repetition, balance and imbalance within
composition to aid the story and draw focus. The element of balance within the
images aids the particular detail within the narrative, where action shots are
presented with a sense of imbalance, and more thoughtful elements of the story
are pictured with greater balance.
image which does however present imbalance is the picture of the young mod
Jimmy, parked and on one knee fiddling with his Vespa (I've owned these and
they do always need mechanical fettling - more than Lambrettas in my
experience), while the band with a company of young girls (models from other
shots in the booklet) are exiting the Hammersmith Odeon towards a car. This
image is discussed in the documentary from a narrative point of view, the band
are presented as a 1970's band, with obvious styling from the era, where Jimmy
the mod is presented as a figure from 1963 - when the film was set. He is alone
and a relic, the past, he is exemplified by a strong creation of in balance.
The figure of Jimmy
the mod is also presented in a number of pictures as a single figure - a point
within the frame; again such work aids the narrative of Jimmy’s journey of self
discovery, creating a sense of the individual alone.
The final image in the
story, Jimmy walking barefoot on the sand along the shoreline, his singularity
is presented with Jimmy as the local focal point in the image, his place in the
image is planted and highlighted by the background graphic triangle provided by
the break in the headland.
Revisiting this work,
which has a very personal history to me has proven to be very timely i.e. while
studying TAOP, and in particular 'Elements of design'. The very strong use of graphical composition
by Ethan Russell, has given a great series of graphic examples in context,
examples which with less of a discerning vocabulary and eye were already quite
significant to me personally. I have, over the last twenty years, always
returned to these images, it is now, while studying TAOP that I find I can
better appreciate and articulate his use of graphical composition within this
visual story telling.
I love the high contrast drama and poetic personal story telling feel to this work. A style I love and have been applying without knowing any similarities - the nature of the drama from possibly more mundane scenes really appeals.
An interesting and very current world affairs project, the very personal nature of the story via portraits and by the commentary from the author and the use of an old Roliflex all adding to this personal view of this a very local yet global issue.