The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

Chris Killip, Crabs, Skinningrove, 1981

Thoughts and ReflectionsPosted by Mike Wed, September 19, 2012 22:20:46

Although documentary in stance, this image, as Gerry Badger states in his chapter ‘On the Road’ in his superbly titled ‘The Genius of Photography’ , has a great sense of the poetic, an element of drama and narrative mystery.

Personally however, the image resonates with a more direct message, and presents a reminder of why I left the North East, the area I was brought up in, the subject matter presenting a picture of Thatcherite born economic depression and a full reminder of the widening north south divide and the current economic downturn.

My brother, who lived less than a couple of miles away from where this scene was recorded, recently died of cancer. His funeral providing me with a personal journey to return, albeit short term, to the area I escaped from. In reflection of Killips recording, the area has not changed much in the thirty one years since. In the current climate, the area is still economically ravaged, even more so in the current decline with the demise of the major employers who bolstered the area during the 1980’s downturn i.e. British Steel and ICI.

As Badger puts it, the people of the area – and specifically these small north east coast villages south of the Tees conurbation are resolutely non gentrified, and from my memory pursue local lives enduring local hardships and blight, only now the hardships and blight are slightly globalised with the ever increasing affects of drugs, de skilled youth and forced consumerism. In essence the scene ramifies these personal opinions, and presents a raft of memories from a dislocated personal past. This area, even in times of boom, still to me feels bust.

In terms of a post modernist picture from which the viewer draws conclusive statements from scene (as above (though my perspective of the image is aided by personal experience)), and also interprets the mindset and conclusions of the photograph taker, the picture perfectly exemplifies Killips project, and the projects of others (e.g. Friedlander, Robert Adams), utilising photography as a means to provide a statement which requires a degree of study to interpret. At a stage where my personal projects are lacking, such works both inspire and intimidate.

Additionally from a photographer’s perspective, Killips landscape documentary, melancholic and perversely socially romantic view, particularly in the light of recent personal mindset, presents a further question about my own photography. I have a continuing tendency to present the melancholic scene, almost as though I’m trapped in the mind of a moody Goth teenager. To a point I like this, after all I do repeat the pattern; lots of black and white, high contrast, overly low key, noir images in my flickr set (, turning even the most positive of ‘days out’ into a gothic darkened mass of pictures. The question to self however, at a time when I’m not taking as many photographs as I should be, is one of whether my own photographic tastes overpower what should be a more expansive desire to create photographs – utilising a broader take of techniques and desired outcomes.

Compounding this question mark over my own photography, at a time when, again as is alluded to by Badger, Cotton and others, there is a real modern existentialist focus in photography, that is more often wrapped up in a Hipster melancholy in the urban scene (surrounded by people yet all alone), am I questioning myself so strongly because that’s the modern take we are all as latter day photographers subconsciously trained to do so, or do I genuinely need to break the mould?

It is the melancholy of Killips scene which presents itself more strongly to me than the mystery of the figures, their anonymity and the narrative of their story. The choice of black and white over colour by Killip also aids this melancholy with the stronger graphical presentation of the figures and landscape. Whether or not I could or should look to present my own works with a more documentary focus is a question I cannot answer as yet, however whether I can or should change tack and explore a more positive and humanistic tone is something I do think I need to explore now, after all how many more photographs of empty buildings from a monumental perspective or strangers on the street can I possibly photograph?...

  • Comments(0)//