Creative Brief by Director of Photography for the Financial Times Weekend Magazine and Port – Emma Bowkett

This is the third in a trilogy of interviews on the current commercial photography which include Lydia Pang on Commissioning and Gem Fletcher.

Extracts included in this blog is from The Creative brief by Emma Bowkett, highlighted within quotations in italics. (Bowkett 2017)

Emma Bowkett (Lathigra, 2019)

Emma Bowketts Background

Emma Bowkett’s interview confirms the shared background from the previous interviews in the corporate environment. She had a higher education, interned for a professional photographer, taught photography full-time at a UNI and did part-time work at the magazines where she wanted to work, before being hired as their director of photography. As in the case of Pang and Fletcher, she shares how they work collaboratively and how she is responsible for matching photographers with assignments.

Who she hires at a magazine or newspaper.

What tickled my interest is how Bowkett seem to find balance in the tension between “the most important thing about her job to be building up relationships with photographers, and gaining an understanding of their practice” , “The supporting of emerging talent”, “often work with graduates who are still developing.” and ” sourcing new talent and photo series.” Looking at FT weekend magazine I can see how the variety of photographic interpretations affected the covers and the stories.

She also source photographers she admires (Photojournalisticlinks, 2019)

FT Weekend magazine – Helen Mirren cover (26/27 February 2011)
FT Weekend magazine- Bernie Madoff cover (9/10 APRIL 2011)
FT Weekend Magazine © Stan Douglas, Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York and Victoria Miro, London. (Photojournalisticlinks, 2019)
FT Weekend Magazine © Stan Douglas, Courtesy the artist, David Zwirner, New York and Victoria Miro, London. (Photojournalisticlinks, 2019)

Bowkett provide what Freeman refer to as ideal assignments, where the commissioner pair a photographer to an assignment and a in-house assistant from the magazine and the photographer “allowed to define the story, which in turn shapes the visual identity of the magazine”. There seem to be some trust in the ability of the photographer to complete the task. Therefore she may be looking for photographers with proven track record and a distinctive visual language and style that matches the assignment. But she will also give opportunities to emerging talent

How does she find her photographers?

When asked this question in another interview with photojournalistlinks she replied “Galleries, social media sites, magazines, blogs, agents, recommendations. I try to see two photographers’ books a week because I like talking to photographers about their personal projects face to face when I can. Attending private views, talks, and events are a good way to meet new photographers and build relationships ” (Photojournalisticlinks, 2019)

What she expect from a photographer and their pitch.

Bowkett prefer conceptual thinking photographers. and advises that the photographer do their homework to first “recognise and understand the type of work that the publication showcases and then it is up to them to show how their own work would be a good fit within that context/aesthetic.”

She is very specific how a pitch should look like.” A pitch should be emailed, a PDF or selection of around 10 pictures if the project is complete, and a concise description of what it is about. There should be a link to a website and contact details. If it’s a photographer introduction, similar rules apply

Bowkett also advise that a prospective photographer use social media but curate their work carefully. I assume she means that it should contain fewer but high quality work representative of the photographers distinctive visual language.

If you have your stuff together she invites you to email her, She will first look at your social media sites and decide if and when she engages.

Looking at interviews with Art Directors and other industry it is a clear way of understanding how they work and how one should approach them. It is also very important to do your homework and assess whether you are a fit before you start.

Reference

Bowkett, E, Creative Brief Emma Bowkett 2017, 1854 Media, London.

Lathigra, K. (2019). Emma Bowkett. [image] Available at: https://pjlinks.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/emma-bowkett.jpg [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

Photojournalisticlinks. (2019). Photo Editor of the Month: Emma Bowkett of FT Weekend Magazine. [online] Available at: https://photojournalismlinks.com/2012/05/30/photo-editor-of-the-month-emma-bowkett-of-ft-weekend-magazine/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].

Towards Understanding Your Kinfolk

A “Hipster” as I remember it (Riera, 1968). 

I was an 11-year-old boy at the end of the 60’s and the hipster was a low cut pants commonly worn by men and women, but looked great on women. They continuously revisit fashion in various forms.

Knepworth 1979 Hipster still going strong, By then I was 20 (Evening star/Getty images, 1979)

So you may understand the need for me to look the term up and I found this delightful definition:

Hip: Originally “hip” or “hep” meant someone very fashionable in the first half of the 20th century. It evolved to mean someone into jazz and beatnik culture in the 1940s and 50s, and changed further still into “hippie” to describe flower children of the 60s. Today it’s changed again to “hipster,” meaning a self-aware, artsy person.
“My hip grandfather plays the sax, but my hipster brother just makes homemade pickles.”
(YourDictionary, 2019)

So  Kinfolk is magazine for someone that likes to make pickels? As I am not a millinial I had to get a reference to even understand the interview. 

A sample of a Kinfolk publication cover page (Fashion In The Media Project, 2019)

“With its focus on wellness”, not free sex, drugs, booze, folk music and rock and roll. “Minimal interiors- not the outside in a park and crashing at a friends place, living in a “Combi”, or tepee and being too anti-establishment to live in the suburbs or own a home. Artisanal food- Good foods, not vegan and eating it raw from the abundance of the world. “Kinfolk has been labelled the hipster’s style bible.” Hell, we used to call people like that “Squares!” Just joking!

Sample minimalist layout of Kinfolk book (Fashion In The Media Project, 2019)

Every time I stand in front of a contemporary newsstand I am left with an impression that photography is not worth anything as the front pages are littered with text selling what is inside the magazine. Its noise virtualy obliterating any visual message.

Cluttered Bookshelves – CNA Boksburg South Africa by Andre Nagel (2019)

How refreshing to see a book that values and puts photography in its right perspective. Using visual language instead of text to invite the reader to purchase the magazine. Inviting instead of trapping. It almost is a coffee table book that will look good lying around in a minimalist lounge.

0414-p2a8680-3082416478-o_oodmvr
Uncluttered bliss that can be used as a display in a minimalist home. (Fashion In The Media Project, 2019)

“The standout success among new-wave (Contemporary) indie (independent) magazines, it’s become a lifestyle brand in its own right, thanks to its pared-down photography and uncluttered design.”

Target Market

“Founded by Nathan Williams, his wife and two friends (Doug and Paige Bischoff) they intended the magazine to reach young professionals. The magazine started to reach the masses as they were drawn to the intimate and earnest nature the magazine (which is so relatable) and often not made a central focus in big magazines. Now, Kinfolk also reaches a younger audience that look for cultural and creative magazines. Around 70 per cent of its readership works in the creative industries, according to Williams.’ (Fashion In The Media Project, 2019) “ 

The interview

But seriously, or do I need to say “Bruh” ( in Afrikaans it slang brother or buddy), it is a great interview with Julie Cirelli, the then editor-in-chief of Kinfolk Magazine. She has since moved on to become the Editorial Director at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in Cambridge (Julie Cirelli, 2019).

JulieCirelli
Woman with a vision (Julie Cirelli, 2019)

This interview in itself illustrates what style means, and what it means to understand your audience and customer. It also demonstrates how the understanding of your brand identity and style allows Cirelli and her team to collaborate to create a magazine that reflects her statement. ” Its objectives remain the same: to examine the complex elements of each person’s deeply personal narrative and explore the foundations of a well-lived life” and the founders vision”

It is done so uniquely and authentically that many others try to mimic it and fail. They understand their customer and market, their “Kinfolk”. Minimalists crave association and this magazine is the hub that values their views. And it is the reason why this independent magazine is a success where others fail or follow.

It is my impression that their magazine design layout does not want to emulate the internet and in-fact provides something that gives the “hipster” a break from their computer and cell phone by providing a larger format, uncluttered gallery styled layout and an expanded view. They present text and images in unsurpassed quality on alternative paper stocks to ensure a tactile experience. To top all the magazine experience is augmented with a matching website and a gallery space in Copenhagen.

And finally, they subtly use a non-invasive, contextual approach to selectively and subtle lifestyle marketing which really appeals to the targeted audience. They are an example of art and commerce converging.

In spite of their non- commercial stance, business strategy and planning pop up all over in the interview. Core values, objectives, goals, mission statements are reminiscent of an MBA class. In a way a perfect strategy eclectically and perfectly executed. Something all of us as professional photographic practitioners should aspire to. Cerelli also affirms the one criteria common in all successful ventures and individuals. Well directed, committed sweat equity.

“Did the magazine create the culture of visual conformity, or was it just perfectly placed to take advantage of it?” Translated, are they creating copycats or are they exploiters of it. In my opinion, they appear to be a successful service business that knows how to align with their clearly defined customer base and may even illustrate the resolve and ability to transform as this audience evolves over time. The photography in the magazine will follow the story-line and vision and will, therefore, develop over time. anyone else following will be a conformist being drawn into the allure of this eclectic work.

Reference

Cirelli, J. 2017, Kinfolk, 1854 Media, London.

Riera, T. (1968). a Hippie with his kid- take in Vondelpark, Amsterdam in 1968. [image] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/landahlauts/40496657692 [Accessed 23 Oct. 2019].

YourDictionary. (2019). 30 Examples of Slang Words. [online] Available at: https://examples.yourdictionary.com/20-examples-of-slang-language.html [Accessed 23 Oct. 2019].

Julie Cirelli. (2019). About — Julie Cirelli. [online] Available at: http://www.juliecirelli.com/about/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

Fashion In The Media Project. (2019). Kinfolk Magazine. [online] Available at: https://jennydvc.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/kinfolk-magazine/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

Evening Star/Getty images (1979). Happy Hippie, Knebworth. [image] Available at: https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/hippy-enjoying-the-music-and-atmosphere-at-knebworth-rock-news-photo/2717023 [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

The message I missed in 1980 that could have made all the difference.

My reading of Michael Freeman’s book, The Photographers Story, made me revisit one of his earlier books I bought in 1980 called “The 35 mm Handbook” (Freeman, 1980). As I paged through it, and obviously due to the reticular nature of the mind I picked up a section pertaining to the Professional practice and assignments. This was a year before I started with my Higher Diploma in Electrical Engineering (Electronics). If I read this with the mindset I have today, I would have taken a completely different path. I share this with those that don’t yet realise the importance of this semester being able to shape your future.

Freeman on Assignments

Speaking about assignments, Freeman warns that “if you become a professional photographer you will face a special problem. You will be relying on work commissioned by people for their own purposes. and you would be unlikely to be able to exercise much control over the assignments until you are well established in your particular style and area of photography (Freeman, 1980).”

Freeman offers an alternative or additive advice wrt. assignments. Idealistically one should “undertake only the assignments that will further the development of your style and technique, and work only for good art directors what will make the best use of your photography and from whom you can learn (Freeman, 1980.”

He further states that “as a rule, the most interesting assignments are interpretive, relying on the individual photographers’ skill and judgement to succeed. … combining interesting and demanding work, personal prestige and high fees. (Freeman, 1980).”

It all comes with a caveat. “It is unreasonable to expect the art director responsible for the commission to assign inexperienced photographers with no track record. By nature, interpretive photography is always something of a risk for an art director picture editor- and they rely quite heavily on the photographer to deliver far beyond the briefing. New photographers will mostly be assigned work that can be more rigidly determined from the start or come from a client who cannot afford the higher fees demanded by photographers with strong reputations (Freeman, 1980).” “

In the end, Freeman concedes that compromise is inevitable unless you abandon the commercial role, concentrate self-assigned commissions (Personal projects) and support yourself through other means.

He states that as a professional photographer, “you need a constant flow of work, not only for financial support but also to keep your style and name in front of potential clients”

He warns that doing pedestrian work will at best, dull the edge of your perception, and can sometimes completely alter the direction of your photography away from more interesting and creative ideas.

He suggests a practical plan to “re-assess regularly both your creative development and the type of assignments you are receiving. Assuming your work and reputation continually improve, you may be able to discard those assignments that are limiting. As the fees you demand rises, you may have no choice but to break with those earlier clients who have fixed low budgets. If your reputation gets stronger and your working time is full, you will get increased control over the work you are offered. Freeman suggests that you use this control to improve the quality of assignments and clients you accept (Freeman, 1980).”

Finally, Freeman warns that “taking assignments with clients with low standards, may encourage you to think your work is better than it is (Freeman, 1980).”

My reflection.

What Michael Freeman suggested in 1980 and what Lydia Pang and Gem Thatcher recommend in 2019 is merely a reflection on approaches based on two contextual drivers, A growing vs contracting Professional Photography market, and our changing landscape or work environment. Supply and demand will always drive what you do in terms of assignments and how much you ask for your services. I believe a shrewd professional photographer regular asses this demand and adjust his/her strategy many times in their lifetime.

Number one in all strategies is to keep on providing authentic, unique eclectic work i.t.o. style and personal focus. Even if the demand reduces.

In a growing market where demand increase is selective of your assignments and increase your prices. Keep yourself current and busy with paid assignments, continuously improving, establishing your style and build your rapport and reputation with your customers. If you do it right there won’t be time for self-assigned assignments (personal projects). You will be in control in what you want to do overtime and be able to grow your personal style, prestige and salaries within the domain of these assignments

In a declining market when demand decreases, be slightly less selective about your assignments, adjust your fee to a realistic and appropriate level matching your skill to your market value at that time. As you may not get assignments that fit within the ideal category, You need to fill or make your ‘free time” available for doing personal assignments to develop yourself and rediscover new paths that you want to pursue. Do not forget that you may be able to collaborate with like-minded professionals and it may be possible to share in the costs and of course the benefits, financially and reputationally. Investigate whether the slump is due to a changing market or due to a general market recession. it may require you to realign your personal vision. All professionals need to continuously reevaluate, rediscover and reeducate themselves today. In my blog: Lydia Pang on Commissioning I discuss how she, as an art director, changed their strategy in a market where they can no longer afford rock stars. They decided to reach out to up and coming (inexperienced) low-cost professional photographers that align with their already determined viewpoint and purpose. this is a great opportunity for those that want to enter the market. For those that has been in the market for some time,will need to you need to lean less on your personal relationships within corporates, engage with the new generation of creatives within these corporates, see that you are current in terms of technology, deliver work and display their work on the new platforms these customers seek to employ for their outputs and learn to compete with this new generation of photographers. and finally, play down the “rock star” status…

As Freeman pointed out Art directors will still need to manage risk. They still would still seek “experienced” professional photographers with a proven capability, but maybe more prescriptive…hence the statement they will give assignments to photographers that share their style and vision.

Because the cost of doing personal projects have reduced due to the digital workflow and the ability to get to be seen by corporate customers, the option suggested by Freeman of doing self-funded assignments is a more worthy endeavour than ever in this recessionary times and changing the landscape. Those that hold true to there vision, will become the “rock stars” in the future when the demand for eclectic photography increase and money becomes more readily available. But professional photographers need to make sure their development and style and skills are developed to meet the ever-changing demand for their services. Being unique will always make you a scares resource but being in demand will get you assigned.

Just another thought, Like Lydia Pang and Gem Thatcher, you may seek to pursue an alternative role in the photography environment to either augment or replace your current role. Become an Art director, curator, Photo editor, producer, video blogger and/or art and photography teacher. Even consider doing work in video and filming. There is a convergence happening at the technology level and the industry is expecting the operator being able to do both. In this world, there are no “holy cows” and not even the need to label yourself as a photographer only. Rather label yourself as a creative working in the photography environment.

Reference

Freeman, M. (1980). The 35 mm handbook. 1st ed. London: New Burlington, p 286.

The Power of the Personal project part 1- Grant Scott

The motivation for doing personal projects

Grants Scott’s Book is becoming a delight to read and I am enticed to read the whole work. But this reflection is limited to the section about personal projects and specifically the reasons for doing a personal project.

Abstract

Motivation 1: “Through the creation of personal work we can explore the concept of developing our personal language, while telling the stories that most interest us, using our life experiences to inform our creativity” because “The only difference between one photographer and another is the individual life experiences that shape the photographer’s unique personality and the way in which they see the world” and it has to be developed through hard work, understanding, and original thought. (Scott,  2014, p83)

Motivation 2 “This is why the creation of personal work cannot be ignored by photographers and is demanded by their clients, looking for a reason to commission. (Scott, 2014, p83)”

Motivation 3: “As we start to see photography as a career path, so the expectation of financial recompense for our labours becomes greater until it can become our sole motivation for lifting our cameras to our eyes. At this point, personal creativity can reach a photographic dead end… Personal work keeps you connected with why you first fell in love with photography” (Scott, 2014, p83). “

My reflection:

After many years in the industry, I believe I have developed my own personal language but it has been convoluted with the many other influences and pressures I have been subjected to within the wedding photography business. I am convinced that doing a personal project for myself without those influences will be able to extract me from that confusion. A path which in the past I was reluctant to share. I am now confidently going to pursue that work without any regard if I can make money, impress a professor, tutor or other photographers. Like all of us, I need I am a bit of a pretender playing to the demands and views of others, and not allowing myself to without influence discover myself in my photography. I have come to the belief that I will then emerge from this confusion being to offer a unique me to this ubiquitous and over-saturated world of photography.

Even as a part-time professional I have reached a point where I was no longer motivated enough to carry on photographing weddings and portraits. It was no longer fun and I could see the stagnation of my visual interpretations. I even had the experience of my work drying up, mostly because I disengaged. The personal project was never identified as a way out of this and trying to get inspired and to “lift” my photography I purchase Tom Ang’s Masterclass, where he challenged me to do assignments after each section in his book. He also encouraged his reader to do research before carrying out your assignment to look at how other photography masters and students approached the assignment, giving me structure and furthermore encourage you to find your own way to do these assignments. This book became the motivation and syllabus for my courses as I wanted to share this new-found knowledge with amateur photographers that either never got launched or stagnated. My first love and passion for photography returned and put me on a path of rediscovering my creativity and personal language. Scott’s essay brings perspective to that approach and, in conjunction with the MA is guiding me to seek personal assignments/projects to grow myself using my life experience and passions.

The interviews with Yvette Pang in week 1, Gem Thatcher in week 2 and Felicity McCabe this week, reaffirmed the importance of the personal project and its part in getting commissions for professional work that you can feel passionate about. The clients are looking for it! Corporate and domestic.

I am convinced that if I follow this advice I will, in time, no longer need to do menial and repetitive work to earn a living wage from photography. Making the personal project part of my business plan, not merely trying to get me motivated, will open this new avenue of expression I am seeking. I would love it if my personal assignments can become as exciting as my personal projects and culminate in find commissioners that will state: “Just do it your way, its why we commissioned you!”

Reference

Scott, G 2014, Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained, Taylor & Francis Group, Abingdon. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [18 October 2019].

Unearthing the Photo Essay

1- The Narrative

Reflecting on my reading of Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s [Story] (Freeman, 2012)

Cover of the Photographer’s story (Andre Nagel, 2019)

Introduction

In my Work in Progress Portfolio submission for Position and Practice, I perceived a need to take a deeper look at how I need to present my work that it is less repetitive and more engaging. I identified this work by Michel Freeman as a good base to start from before engaging in deep research about the subject. I found a small Gold Mine…

Abstract/Overview

” The camera is only one tool for telling a story” for us, this is our prime interest. This means that as photographers we need to understand the fundamentals of story telling. regardless whether it is  “written or spoken words, theatre film or still images, paintings or a cave wall.”

Freeman defines narrative as ” telling an account of something: how it happened.” He describes in some detail how photography was caught up in narrative since its inception and how the technology development made this more possible through time. Photographs replaced drawings in newspapers and came with a heightened perception of truth. He adds: “it took approximately a century in the form of digital manipulation, to take photography back to the very thing is was to replace!”

Technology such as smaller format cameras, the sprocket film and high-speed lenses with low light capabilities., faster film enabled photojournalism.

But it was not only the technology that drove this: “The camera and 35 mm camera came of age in Europe at the time of social and political upheaval” Photography also synced well with the “liberalism idealism in arts of the democratic and socialist movement in that time. It is not surprising that it led to politically inspired documentary photography seeking to challenge war and social injustice. It also aligned well with modernism that “rejected tradition and the decorative, instead of embracing abstraction and, clean lines, functionality and even mass production” it slowed for a new era, capturing scenes from life and art with spontaneity and conscious realism.

He then proceeds to introduce the classic story structure from literature and screenwriting to set the scene for his exploration of the narrative in Photo-journalistic and documentary photography. He uses three photo stories or essays to illustrate how uses the narrative in photography in his practice. (Freeman, 2012)

The classic Narrative formula (Freeman, 2012, p13)

Reflection

I believe Freeman has a very clear understanding of the world he saw photography development and his analysis is spot on. His books have been a tutor in my life since the 80’s when I purchased his 35mm Handbook where he while, teaching me the basics of using my camera, introduced me to the professional world.

In this book, he impressed me by how he described the natural alignment and convergence of journalism, photography and it associated technology advancements and the socio-political environment and how photography was able to serve the need of that era which continuous to date.

The narrative approach did three things for me. 1) It gave me a language to describe the purpose of photographs shot in a series. 2) It redirected me and removed the pressure of having to take key photographs all the time opening a world of opportunities. Not all of the photographs in a story need a Barthesian Punctum. A minor photograph may be used to establish the background, open the photographic essay with with a dramatic opening and buildup towards a key photograph that as an climax presentation of the punctum, and end of with a closing photograph leaving you to ponder the series as a whole 3) It allows me to assess how I can approach the way I present the photographs in an order that will reduce repetition and introduce rhythm and pace in terms of composition, angle and point of view, subject type, colour and impact and other visual factors. 4) It enables me to curate my photographs not merely on an intrinsic level but also its contextual importance in a series of photographs.

Of course, a photographic story can be told in one photograph, a small group, what Freeman calls a 3+1 combination, for magazines or a photo essay of 200-300 photographs in the form of a published book. But the ideal narrative form needs at least some a setup, a buildup, a climax and a close to be effective, whether as elements in a photograph or a series of photographs. I will be exploring this in my project work.

The contemporary practise of wedding photography is progressively adopting the story/ narrative approach in the renewed interest in high quality published albums. Some Master wedding photographers such as Roco Ancora, Joe Buisink and Yervant has adopted it within their style. The photo album or presentation is no longer a collection of photographs but a published essay on the most important day in the life of a young couple.

I did a stint in doing wedding videography which informed my photography practice in a major way. When my wife and I curated the thousands of photographs and needed to cull the photographs to about 300 for an album we intuitively broke up the day into chapters with each building up and leading into the next. Our climax was mainly the post-wedding Romantic shoot and we always looked for a “show stopper that will end of the Album. The wedding narrative is generally set but I never considered using the story approach in my personal documentary work until now.

Freeman, as a seasoned travel and documentary photographer has a large repertoire and years of practical skills and is prepared to share his skill in such a simple, pragmatic and delightful way.

Reading this book during week 3, where we discussed the tension between Art and Commercial work and how art is also commercial work, I was continuously seeing how for Freeman’s commercial work, event reportage and essays, is an art form. and it is the narrative within his work that elevates it in the traditional definition of art.

In conclusion,

I have come to realise the huge impact of how understanding narrative and its value within my photographic practice. Photojournalism and Documentary photography has always been underpinned with some form of narrative. For the photographer, the prime objective is the visual narrative, making it an integral tool in the arsenal of a photographer. And if this fails either personally add a literary narrative or collaborate with someone to add it. This has been the practice in many photographic essays I have read.

Reference

Freeman, M. (2012). The photographer’s story. Lewes: Ilex, pp.8-39.

Should I get a a Degree in Photography? By Ted Forbes

Ted Forbes has been a great inspiration to me in the past. I came across his site when studying the history of photography. I was delighted to see him being used as part of recommended listening. I have not listened to this podcast before and found it a confirmation of my motivation to studying for a degree. He starts out stating that a degree is not essential to become a successful commercial photographer. But if you do you will find benefit but you need to asses whether you are suited to such a study, whether you are prepared to commit to the time required, and whether you are prepared to financially invest into it.

Forbes asks what would a photography degree provide for you and proceeds to answer the question.

“A photography degree would actually provide a very special environment. If you choose the right school with the right instructors you’re going to have a very focused environment where you’re going to be with other people who are doing exactly what you’re doing. That you’re going to get to know. You’re going to get to bounce ideas off, going to provide an environment for you that is full of critiques and peer reviews, assignments that you’re going to do large projects and it’s going to be very focused kind of thing for a while and if you are willing to put the work into that you could get quite a bit out of it and I think that is pretty exciting and if you’re at a point in life where you really feel like that is something special that would work well for you. Highly recommend going for it now (Forbes, 2015). ”

The second motivation that “If you wanted to teach photography in a university one day they certainly are going to ask for your degree (Forbes, 2015) .”

Ted ads to the benefit . “it says that you finish something in life people look at that and it says that you were able to finish things.The ability to finish projects, the ability to work with other people, the ability to follow instructions by an instructor even the ability to learn a little bit about politics and just how everything works and these are really hard to explain (Forbes, 2015).”

My main motivation for doing the degree and therefore the masters is two fold. My highest qualification is a Higher technical diploma in Electrical engineering. At the age of 60 I wanted a way to keep my mind sharp and develop my intellect. I felt the need to study something in the humanities and art For the level of thinking I wanted I could not identify something that will keep me interested and challenge me. There was nothing I could do part-time and I thought what I would like to do after my retirement from information technology. And her it is: I discovered that I wanted to teach Photography. I wanted to share my passion in photography with a younger generation. And I knew that even if I thought at a rudimentary level I needed a way to prove my capability. merely showing your work does not cut it if you have seconds to prove it on the internet. And a Degree in Photography would do it for me. I also aspire to teach photography either on a part-time or full time basis at a higher education. Ted confirms that this is exactly what I need to do if I want to get into there. (I have tried to get in without it and have had no success in that.)

The second benefit is one of the great surprises. In the 40 years of my photography I never felt the need to collaborate. I worked on my own and have very few peers to share my passion. I hate photography clubs that I visit as I disagreed with the their approach. it was more about boasting than teaching. I discovered my peers in the degree. I believe that this is the part that this weeks education is about. Why we are encouraged to participate in common assignments. Share our thoughts in forums. build relationships….

I need to reflect on one other aspect. I love research work. The contextual and focused reading is a benefit that is not mentioned. For me I am now dealing with issues that I did not think about or dealt with in detail in the 30 Years. This work is going to greatly influence my direction and abilities in my practice. Add to that the ability to look outside my rigid box after 40 years in the industry, finding encouragement from others and to be able to dream. If I find another younger version of myself, I will encourage him to make the investment and get a degree in a subject that really interest you. While a commercial value needs to be attained, it should not be the primary driver for one that seeks a higher education. It should be an enabler to open the door into a wider experience and knowledge which should be translated in a real world ability afterwards. Such an education is priceless … The cost is high but the benefits looks to outshine this. Jarid Polin in a nother podcast recommends it for the colaboration, and the building of a network of peers and advice that this is better achieved through a longer study period.

Both Ted agree that 1) Its not essential for success, 2) that you need to know what you want to achieve, and 3) that they recommend it if you can motivate the financial and giving yourself to the required studies, assignments and collaborative engagements that such programme offers.

Ted add that one should select an education path that include a institution that offer capable staff, and ample opportunities for this. Jared Polen also encourage practical shooting and engaging with you educators to get the maximum benefit from this opportunity. “So, take the photography classes, but also get involved with anything photo-related, call the president of the school and so you want to do a photo shoot with them, do a project photographing all the professors, doing video of the professors, getting their opinions and capturing that for a project. Just do it, you pay to go to these schools so use that to your advantage, you ask for things because you’re paying the school to allow you to do that stuff, so take advantage of all of that that you have in front of you (Polin, 2019).” Unfortunately as a distance learner I will miss out on that opportunity, however, his comments does encourage me to make the most of every chance to engage. I see the Falmouth flexible as the best remote study programme for this and I commend them for setting up an remote study environment that encourage collaboration, common discussions, peer review opportunities through conferencing and engagement and group challenges to encourage this.

There is a another point I wish to make, which speaks to higher education. When I was younger, our educational opportunities was split between College, Technikons and University. Training was done in a continuum ranging from the practical hands-on rules based education (college- certificate), engineering/technical level education for industry (Technikons – Diploma level) and research, academic and scholarly education in Universities ( Graduate degrees, and post graduate education). The commercial orientation to higher education seems to be focusing modern universities on commercial employment making them more aligned with the Technikons. It may be because of the lack of research opportunities and value in art and humanity education. Photographers, artists and other visual practitioners can and should be educated at all three levels.

If the changing trends indicate that a Degree in Photography intend to prepare professional photographers for business ventures then I need to agree with Polin that he “would go into business, branding, and marketing with a minor in photography, with a minor in advertising, with – what else do I have here business marketing, audio/video, anything that has to do with being creative that will allow you to step out into the world and be able to take on multiple roles. I would go into business, branding, and marketing with a minor in photography, with a minor in advertising, with – what else do I have here business marketing, audio/video, anything that has to do with being creative that will allow you to step out into the world and be able to take on multiple roles (Polin, 2019) .” Or it is merely a confusion created by selling of higher education programme’s. I joined the course to go beyond the aim of merely pursuing a legal tender. I can currently generate higher earnings in IT and business. I believe getting a return of ones investment is less financial than it is to value that you can unleash through growth in your intellect, creativity and out of the box thinking. The techniques for this is best obtained through studying for a graduate and post graduate degrees. A value the world won’t be able to acknowledge until you serve that purpose. And yes, you may achieve it on your own, but this is very rare.

Forbes, T. (2015). Should I Get A Degree In Photography?. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhPLRNOCaJc [Accessed 13 Oct. 2019].

Polin, J. (2019). Should You Go To College To Become A Photographer? The Truth About Photography. [image] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc5kzpiUK6I [Accessed 13 Oct. 2019].

Shirley Read: Finding and knowing

Thinking about Ideas

Reflecting on the Essay By Shirley Read contained in a chapter within Photographers and Research.

Brief abstract:

Read starts her essay with two questions: “How important is it for artists or photographers to find a subject matter that is particular to them?” and “What do we (curators) mean when we talk about the central concerns of a photographer’s work?” She then attempts to answer the question; ” I am is looking for what is at the core of any work. What I am looking for will carry with it the sense that the work is powered by the authentic concerns of the photographer, that it is in some way heartfelt and has the integrity to its approach to the subject.”

She then proceeds to motivate her answer by sharing her research. These include a practical test to determine in what way unsolicited observers can identify an artist by viewing their photographs and the responses of many successful artists. She determined that “a photographer will have long term preoccupations. These preoccupations may either be in either abstract or material ideas or subject matter, an approach to the world or to the making of the works.”

Read finally concludes that this may initially be developed through taking Input or feedback from others and may also necessitate feeling one’s way through the process of making work.  Not knowing will become a knowing. She reaffirms that she believes “that the recognition of their particular subject matter is crucial to the long-term progression of the work of any artist or photographer. And that this recognition may take time and accumulation of work. …evidence of where they have been and point to the future” (Simmons and Read, 2016 pp 218-222).”

Reflection

My initial response was sceptical, that as a curator Read wants to categorize and package the creative work of individuals. But reflecting on my body of work I need to admit that there is a line observable and in some cases is not my primary concern in life, but the most dominant. … How I see the world and its people. Mostly imposing my view of myself and the world on them or alternatively how they perceive the world and themselves…

After my initial reading of the essay, I took a break and watched a documentary on Netflix, “Abstract: The Art of Design“ featuring Olafur Eliasson.

At one-point Eliasson describes his creative process which fascinated me. But it is best described in his own words which he repeated in an interview with Rachael Cook for the Guardian. I added photography for contextual alignment.

“You have an idea… an intuition, a feeling, a subconscious thing. It comes in many versions, but when it does it is sometimes better to go back and ask where it came from than to immediately decide where it is about to go. If you know where it came from, you might know why you had it, and once you know why, it’s easier to know-how. The brush or the pencil:” (or Taking a photograph),” they’re just tools. The playing, the fooling around; you need to step out of the macho-driven goal-orientated brutality of today’s success criteria. You need to be confident of the step you are taking, not of where it will take you because the moment you put the pencil to paper” (or make a drawing with light) ” is the moment when you change the world.” (Cooke, 2019)

These ideas can be visual and still require words to form. (intuitive). He realizes that there needs to be a reason for their occurrence and states that as an artist it is his job to find the “why” of the idea and what initiated the idea from information that informed its creation. Once he establishes these answers, he will be able to formulate it into words and hands the words over to the practitioners to develop the “how” and build and model (artefact) that brings the creative idea to life. As Photographers we are both the artist and practitioners. The “why” needs to be answered before the “how”! I believe it is the “why” that is what Read identifies in the work of artists. This seems logical now. The only difference in his approach is that you don’t have to initially verbalise the why but visualise the why. Use your intuition. He added that gets the most creative ideas when he is busy working. (My interpretation from Abstract: The art of Design – Olafur Eliasson, 2019)

While Eliasson’s work seems to have no boundaries and seem creatively free he states: “I don’t think my scope is wide enough. My projects are all connected. There’s a high degree of synchronicity. And I have a lot of confidence in things like abstraction, so it’s not a big step for me to move from one medium to another.”

Read and Eliasson’s comments led me to briefly research how ideas are formed in the brain. The ScienceDaily has an article about a study done at Haifa university on how our brains develop an original and creative idea. In summary, the researchers discovered that “Developing an original and creative idea requires the simultaneous activation of two completely different networks in the brain: the associative — “spontaneous” — network alongside the more normative — “conservative” — network; (ScienceDaily, 2019)

So in a way, our new idea only substantiates when the spontaneous part and conservative part concur. This process is mostly subconscious. Eliasson stated that his creative ideas increase with hard work (Abstract: The art of Design – Olafur Eliasson, 2019), which I take to mean that the “conservative” generated by actual work deliverable or outcomes allows for more “spontaneous” agreements …therefore more creative ideas.

In conclusion: The creative process requires that we look back on a body of work or and we will see how your creative ideas are informed from our previous work. This does not necessarily be a lifetimes body of work. Even an immersive personal project, with creative ideas, can and will develop this. I currently find my current project and the related research both an introspective and retrospective of myself. I did not realize that this is my creative process. All this reflection and reading removed my initial scepticism leading me to the same conclusion that Read came to.

Wow! And I initially thought this essay had little value for me.

Reference:

Simmons, M. and Read, S. (2016). Photographers and Research. Focal Press.

ScienceDaily. (2019). How does our brain form creative and original ideas?. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151119104105.htm [Accessed 10 Oct. 2019].

Abstract: The art of Design – Olafur Eliasson. (2019). Netflix.

Cooke, R. (2019). Olafur Eliasson: ‘I am not special’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jun/21/olafur-eliasson-i-am-not-special-interview-tree-of-codes-ballet-manchester [Accessed 11 Oct. 2019].

Conhar Scott: Collaborative Working

Environmental resistance: Art and change

Reflecting on the Essay By Conhar Scott contained in a chapter within Photographers and Research.

Brief abstract:

Within the context of discussing research and how it aids photographers, Scott defines himself “as a photographer interested in documenting Industrial Pollution. He describes how he progressively developed a method of working in order to situate his photographs within a cultural context where the photographs contribute to an advocacy process which eventually enabled him to be instrumental in instigating environmental remediation alongside the environmental science community and activist.

Reflection

I can associate my current attempts in my project with Schott’s first attempt. He illustrates that while his intentions was good, “he did not photograph the mine with an clearly defined ethical stance towards the subject matter” and “conducted no protest”, ” appealed to no-one” and only had ” a flawed objectivity” without a “coherent understanding” (Simmons and Read, 2016 pp 230-234 )

He then described how he had partially gained success as an individual collaborating with a activist organisation but finally discovered his method when he fully immersed himself within the task and identifying collaborated with all the stakeholders involved and structuring his team in a way that he could provide a service that focuses and aligns with their mission and fits within their needs.This obviously require significant research by him and his team to know and understand the context of his work, the audience they need to focus on which informs the the photographs, the way they are presented and the languages it needed to use to present the case for advocacy. The research also informed them on how his team need to structured and how they will engage with the collective of activist with the passion for the cause.

This is a very proactive approach. The essay does not seem that indicate that he was asked to be commissioned but rather sought to proactively engage with the parties and pitched to participate in their en devours.

This essay is a beacon of light in the way I think about how I need to consider engaging with activist groups.

This essay reminds me of the about AFRAPIX, a collective consisting 40 activist full-time and part-time photographers, who committed them self in resistance photography to find ways of getting there photographs seen. All with the main purpose of affecting change.

However, there is an alternative point of view. Photographers like David Goldblatt, Nina Berman, and Stuart Franklin this type of as breaching the ethics of their role as photographers. Their approach is different and no less effective. However, documentary photography is more than photojournalism. Franklin believe It’s the documentary photographer’s “interest in capturing a living record of extraordinary people, places and stories that emerge from creative treatment of actualities (Franklin, 2014, p. 9). Not the actualities.

David took a dispassionate approach and focused on the human factor on all perspectives of the problem. He warned that we should not confuse our role as photographers and politics, (Politics can be replaced with activism). He aimed at informing the whole picture through collaborating with all the parties some times identifying other parties that endured hardships. He made no judgement and allow his viewers to look at themselves in the context of the situation. He collaborated and engaged with Afrapix, the mine owners, the apartheid Government, the Afrikaners, the black communities and while it can be debated whether his work was less influential than those of the Afrapix collective his work is fully acknowledged. For more context read my Introduction to my project proposal (Nagel, 2019)

David’s work remains relevant even after the actual “goal” of the activists were achieved and was honored both within South Africa and Internationally with various prestigious awards. After the end of Apartheid, Afrapix lost it’s purpose and was dissolved. Some of the Afrapix photographers started up an alternative collective called South Light which he joined in 1993. (Sahistory.org.za, 2019).

Both David and Brassaii delivered commissioned work that would have been curated by them and their editors but photographed more broadly. Brassaiis personal project “Paris at Night ” was published in 1933, which was done in collaboration with writer Paul Morand way. In 1934 He tried to publish a second book “The pleasures of Paris” which he photographed during the same time. This book was rejected by his publishers being “too seedy”, which he initially self published. He officially published a improved version of the book, “The Secret Paris ” an apt title, many years later in 1973, when the publishers were more ready to accept it. It is possibly the most honest view of a part of Paris in the 30’s and the fall of the society. It is not his work as journalist that is fondly remembered. In a way he these two monumental works works is a major part of his collection that made them immortalized him as a photographer (Visual-arts-cork.com, 2019) .

So in conclusion, even if one is an activist that involve yourself with the actualities or an independent photographer, influential documentary photography will require vast amounts of research and personal involvement to gain knowledge about the subject or increasing creating a collective that is contextual and knowledgeable collaborators to focus properly on the issues at hand and adding to your team specialists that can assist you. Your success may depend in collaborating with writers, activists, scientists, translators, art directors and publishers. It seems that it is rare that a documentary photographer can merely hang around and meaningfully document and self publish a highly important issue.

Reference:

Simmons, M. and Read, S. (2016). Photographers and Research. Focal Press.

Sahistory.org.za. (2019). David Goldblatt | South African History Online. [online] Available at: https://www.sahistory.org.za/people/david-goldblatt [Accessed 1 Oct. 2019].

Visual-arts-cork.com. (2019). Brassai: Photographer of Paris Night Life. [online] Available at: http://visual-arts-cork.com/photography/brassai.htm [Accessed 10 Oct. 2019].

 Nagel, A. (2019). Introduction to my Project Proposal. [online] André Nagel’s Critical Research Journal. Available at: https://ancrj.blog/2019/08/26/introduction-to-my-project-proposal/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2019].

Franklin, S., 2014. The documentary Impulse. s.l.:PHAIDON

Lydia Pang On Commissioning

Lydia pang image from a Messy Truth (Fletcher, 2019)

What a positive podcast! Reflecting on the interview with Lydia Pang on commissioning. She captivated me from the moment she started and presented a world and attitude that made me wish I was 40 years younger.

However, its never too late and advice like this is invaluable.

I am a “baby boomer” and started my working career where guilds were still around and your path to become a professional was through a strict programme and apprenticeship. You had to apply for work or commissions and submit your certificates/degrees and testimonials from someone in that industry did psychometric testing and had an interview before getting a job or contract that will allow you to be commissioned for work.

The world has changed and Lydia’s description of it is done in a positive way without discounting the problems of our time. She presented how creative millennial and post-millennial engage with a career and get commissions. The internet, social media and professional sites such as Linkedin, number of people trained and able to do the work has changed how all people including creatives find work or commissions or rather get found. the following is my interpretation of her podcast (Fletcher, 2019).

Almost every statement she made resulted in a mind-shift for me. And that is why I list them here for a personal record. My main takeaways from this podcast are:

  • “When starting out, do as much as you can so you can find out what you don’t like doing.” She described how she interned where she could before and after UNI to see where she fit in the visual arts space. She freed herself from being defined as a photographer only by taking on other Photographic Roles and trying things that add to her value as a visual arts specialist such as copywriting etc. It reinforces the fact that we are all individuals that can bring a variety of skills and knowledge to a creative project. We can also use each project or internship to develop other skills or play a different role within that group. This advice is still wise for a 60-year-old starting out on a new career as a full-time photographer/creative.
  • Select the companies you identify with and bring you growth. Lydia identified the companies she wanted to work for and tried to find creative ways to get into them. Even tried to get a job as an account manager at M&C Saatchi Abel which led her to get a job in the ART department. Once I decide on what I want to commit to I need to identify and engage with enterprises that will allow me to grow even as a freelancer.
  • Find your own voice in the industry. We all have something to say visually. It s finding a way to bring that forward and having you heard.
  • Visibility is attained by disrupting to get commissions in the industry where there is so much sameness and is achieved through the adaption to use the new channels and mediums we are now making for, developing your brand, curating your work, and running and show up in a meaningful way in these platforms.
  • Every Link is created equal” so put yourself out there, a good portfolio and work will be seen even if there are many photographers out there. When researching where this quote has come from I discovered a contradiction to this statement that all links are not equal (Shepard, 2019). But it does not take away from what Lydia intended to say. We all have an equal opportunity to present our work. There is sort of democratization of the ability to present your work. The difference is what you post, need to be authentic you, and if your work is relevant, interesting and your content can draw people in the agencies will find you. The contrary article really enforces that you need to know and understand the media channels, how they work and how to effectively use it to channel the potential commissioner or art director to your work.
  • You need to learn how to tell powerful stories on the internet platforms that the brands you need to do work for will use: This important statement was made by Gem Fletcher. These are no longer new platforms. Big billboards are no longer the primary advertising media. I agree with Lydia’s statement that we need to learn how to manipulate and innovate the creative use of these platforms. With reference to her mother, a photographer, she commented on how she at 50 has learned to adopt these platforms to get her presence and voice doing so through observation and seeking out research.
  • Authenticity! Add agencies are not looking for “Rock stars” anymore but authenticity creatives. They are looking for creatives that relate and show passion to the message or story they wish to convey in their projects. So you need to be clear on this in your work. It is important to present your passions, be it woman’s rights, social injustice etc. Your point of view and unique way of presenting in an image is important. It clearly transparent to them if you try and imitate or follow in the footsteps of others. There are some many images to choose from. They always seek something new. Something that shows that you have emerged into it.
  • Together we are stronger. There is a shift in identifying ourselves as creatives and collectives. as many voices with different perspectives…We are not islands anymore, more about the need to be very confident in your contribution to share it. Still, the pressure to attach credit to your work. But creativity doesn’t work that way. its a new learning curve for all of us. Initially, your impostor syndrome will be F… intense.

I discussed this podcast with my daughter that is currently in her second year studying a BA in interior design at Vega. Being a millennial and an active and knowledgeable user of the social media platforms she confirmed the statements above as being very relevant. Their course and assignment promote collaboration and the concept of a collective. They need to engage with each other and finding their voice in those interactions are extremely tough at times as many designers are competitive and want to make their mark. Initially, it went pretty well but in their last assignment, one of the designers dominated the project and in spite of advice from all the others forced her point of view on the others. It turns out that all this ignored advice was exactly what was pointed out by the lecturer as flaws in their project. The relationships are still strained and they will see if the lesson will improve and inform their work in the next collaborative assignment which is starting now.

This blog really motivated the need for me to participate in the collaborative exercise of developing a pitch to the clients as proposed in the course. Every opportunity to engage in a collective and learn to work with other creatives must be passionately pursued as the process cannot be taught but need to be experienced. I feel encouraged to participate fully.

While the context may differ, I believe the information contained in Lydia’s blog will shape how I view my client base, my portfolio and my point of view and the methods I need to use to solicit commissions in the future and I can immediately apply and test it it to my current practice as a wedding photographer and the MA course.

Reference

Fletcher, G. (2019). ‎The Messy Truth: Lydia Pang – On Commissioning on Apple Podcasts. [online] Apple Podcasts. Available at: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/lydia-pang-on-commissioning/id1459128692?i=1000442904984 [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019].

Shepard, C. (2019). All Links are Not Created Equal: 20 New Graphics on Google’s Valuation of Links. [online] Moz. Available at: https://moz.com/blog/20-illustrations-on-search-engines-valuation-of-links [Accessed 7 Oct. 2019].

 

Introduction to my Project Proposal

Respected African leaders, such as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Robert Sobukwe, championed the cause of the African Philosophy of Ubuntu, “a person is a person through other persons (Shutte, 1993)”, as the solution to resolve the major issues of inequality, poverty and dehumanisation of all people in South Africa. My intent is to critically investigate the impact of this philosophy in series of images.

“Photography has always been fascinated by social heights and lower depths. Documentarists prefer the latter. For more than a century photographer have been hovering about the oppressed, in attendance at scenes of violence with a spectacularly good conscience. Social misery has inspired the comfortably-off with the urge to take pictures, the gentlest of predations, in order to document a hidden reality, that is, a reality hidden from them (Sontag, 2005, p. 42).”

Sontag’s negative observation made in 1974 is still relevant and arguably informed by the socio-political-documentary photography in this period. Many journalists and documentary photographers gained photographic “immortality” and “fame” as they engaged in documenting the social injustice, suffering and struggle of the non-white communities in South Africa between the 1960’s and 1980’s. In spite of this, it managed to serve a moral purpose.

Another of Sontag’s critical observations was also upheld.

“Photographs may be more memorable than moving images, because they are a neat slice of time, not a flow (Sontag, 2005, p. 11).”


Figure 1. Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo. His sister, Antoinette, runs beside them (Nzima, 1976)

The Journalistic and documentary photograph was used to promote support for the anti-apartheid movement and there are many memorable moments permanently captured in the minds of many via photographs of the South African experience.

 Who will forget this tragic image of the shooting of Hector Peterson that arguably changed the mind of any further international support for the Apartheid regime.

It also divided Afrikaner unity…

“A careful chronological reading  of his (Gerrit Viljoen, the rector of the Rand Afrikaans University and the head of the Broederbond in 1976 ) published speeches suggests a fundamental shift took place in his thinking after July 1976 student revolt, as a sort of protest, had revealed to him the bankruptcy of Verwoerd’s claim that black urbanisation would be turned around during the 1970s… the actual significance of Blood River lay not in the Voortrekkers’ physical survival against Zulu attack but rather in the values and culture they represented.

 Four sets of values were paramount, he argued:

  • the political values of freedom for all nations;
  • the economic values of the Protestant ethic;
  • a fundamental (Christian-based) humanity in dealings with other nations and persons;
  • and a rich spiritual life of cultural appreciation and open, critical conversation.

Viljoen admitted this was an idealisation. Basic humanity had been transgressed, he conceded, in job reservation, the application of the Group Areas Act, migrant labour, the quality of life in black townships and the handling of political prisoners, but these issues were being raised and debated. One might well wonder what remains of Afrikaner ‘Christian humanity’ after this list (Moodie, 2017).”

However, documentary photography is more than photojournalism. It’s the documentary photographer’s “interest in capturing a living record of extraordinary people, places and stories that emerge from creative treatment of actualities (Franklin, 2014, p. 9).

In South African documentary photography, the oppression resulted in a new approach to documentary photography called:” Resistance or struggle” photography. South African documentary photographers decided that they “were not above the struggle for change, but part of it”. Photographers in this genre include Omar Badsha, Paul Weinberg, Albie Sachs, and Guy Tillim. (Krantz, 2008). However, there was not complete consensus among documentary photographers

“David Goldblatt, South Africa’s pre-eminent documentary photographer, voiced the contrary position observing that ‘the camera was not a machine-gun and that photographers shouldn’t confuse their response to the politics of the country with their role as photographers’. Photographers required a degree of dispassion. They should not deliberately seek to be positive or negative, but should attempt to convey the reality of things, with all its attendant complexity. ( (Krantz, 2008)”

Resistance and Struggle photography was fulfilled when Apartheid was abolished, the criminalisation of apartheid and the handover of power to a black majority government.

While there have been some movement, it must be stressed that abject poverty, dehumanization of people, injustice, violence, and corruption persist.

Omar Badsha reflects: “I was told by an Old man from Amouti: ‘Take your pictures, show the world the how we black people are forced to live. But don’t show too much suffering. It makes those in power angry. No one likes to be shown the results of their stupidity and neglect! But if you are brave then you must tell the truth.’” (Badsha, et al., 1985)

It is tragic that this statement is still true despite the change in political power, and the dismantling of Apartheid. But international interest in the challenges South Africa disappeared due to the “normalization”. South Africa has become just one of many postcolonial African States with similar issues. And the Sontag’s Flâneurs disappeared.

Nelson Mandell made this prophetic call at a union meeting: “Power corrupts. Anybody is corrupted by power, can be corrupted by power. And a society should have means of ensuring that power will not corrupt those you have put in power. And one of the ways of ensuring that does not happen is for you to be critical, to be alert, to be vigilant.” (Africa Check, 2019) It is as if he posthumous calls documentary photographers into action.

While, in my view, there is no need for resistance or struggle documentary photography, there is still an urgent need for socio documentary photographers to act as prophets.  This practice is not spurned on by sensation and funded by newspapers. And we need to look for ways to make it relevant. South Africa require David Goldblatt style of Socio-political commentators and if done well may, as in the case of the Americans like Dorothy Lange, Walker Evans and Robert Frank be able to re-establish the importance and value of Photojournalist and Documentary Photographers.

Whether we can make a difference is a matter of debate, but I conclude with this background statement By Susan Sontag: “Photographs cannot create a moral position, but they can reinforce one-and can help build a nascent one. (Sontag, 2005, p. 11)

References:

Africa Check, 2019. Africa Check. [Online]
Available at: https://africacheck.org/spot-check/were-these-words-about-apartheid-and-the-anc-uttered-by-mandela/
[Accessed 14 08 2019].

Badsha, O., Tutu, D. & Hughes, H., 1985. IMIJONDOLO. Johannesburg: Afripix.

Franklin, S., 2014. The documentary Impulse. s.l.:PHAIDON.

Kleinman, P., 2013. philosophy 101. Avon: F&W Media Inc.

Krantz, D. L., 2008. Politics and Photography in Apartheid South Africa. History of Photography.

Krotopken, P., n.d. Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. [Online].

Louw, D. J., 1999. Towards a decolonized assessment of the religious other.. South African Journal of Philosophy 18 (4):390-407.

Moodie, D. T., 2017. Vicisstitudes of the National Question: Afrikaner Style. In: E. Webster & K. Pampallis, eds. The Unresolved National Question. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, pp. P 227- p 228.

Nzima, S., 1976. The Star. [Online]
Available at: https://images.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/canada/2013/11/12/could_this_man_in_canadian_jail_be_south_africas_missing_antiapartheid_icon/mbuyisa_makhubu_1976.jpg
[Accessed 13 08 2019].

Shutte, A., 1993. Philosophy for Africa.. Rondebosch, South Africa: UCT Press.

Sontag, S., 2005. On Photography. First electronic edition ed. s.l.:Rosetta Books.