Category Archives: Reflection

Part two – Narrative

As covered in my previous post at the start of the course Introduction to Context and Narrative (‘C&N’), part 2 this section is all about narrative; telling a story through images, using image with text to explore their relationships and photographing the unseen.

“… narrative is all about what falls within the frame.” (Boothroyd; 2017)

What is it within the frame though that allows us to interpret a photograph/image in a particular way?

It may be the subject or subjects, the colour or colours, the expressions, the composition etc. which resonate with us.  Subconsciously we are decoding everything we see and interpreting it according to our own specific experiences, gender, culture, likes and dislikes, level of understanding of a particular subject etc.

From the earliest sign language and cave drawings/paintings we have always found ways to develop our communication, making it more sophisticated / advanced to enable the communication of more complex ideas about the world in which we live.

These early forms of communication developed into the modern-day language, both written and spoken, but these also come with difficulties in that there are many different languages, dialects, slangs and colloquialisms which are used around the world.

Then when we bring both image and language together this can give a completely different interpretation / reading of a situation than just using one type of communication.

It’s a wonder how any of us are able to communicate effectively at all with all these different variables in play.

So I think, or at least how I currently see it is, image interpretation is dependant upon the audience which is viewing it.  Using globally understood icons and imagery can help to widen the understanding across audiences but when creating an image it is important you know who is going to view it and will they understand the message either with or without commentary.

I have started reading Image, Music, Text (Barthes; 1977) and am finding this text very insightful and relevant to this part of the course, so no doubt I will be quoting from it as I move through the projects within part two.


Boothroyd, S (2017) Context and Narrative, Barnsley: OCA.

Barthes, R, (1977). Image – Music – Text. London: Fontana Press.


Part one – Reflection

Part one – Reflection

At the end of Project 5 the course notes ask the following questions in reflection to part one:

“What was your idea of documentary photography before you worked on Part One?”

Before I worked on part one of this course documentary meant street photography; images taken to record events which were mainly about people and places.  Quite basic a definition really.

How would you now sum it up?”

I now realise that documentary is so much more than my original basic interpretation.  I hadn’t appreciated that there were sub-genres to documentary photography and what the differences were; that each sub-genre has its own place in photographic practice for a particular reason.  The history of photography as a document and then as art is again something I wasn’t aware of (or at least consciously) but by reading the texts provided within the course materials and in the recommended reading it’s all starting to come together – a picture is building (excuse the pun).  It’s important to understand photography’s past to appreciate how it has changed, both from a technical perspective but also from a cultural and social perspective too.  ‘Documentary’ photography is a lot farther reaching in its context and narrative than I had appreciated when I started the course.

What are the differences between documentary, reportage, photojournalism and
art photography?”

Documentary is the making of a record or to document. Documentary photography has come to cover a variety of genres, such as those below.  It can of course be street photography but is not limited to.

Reportage photography is a story in images from one persons point of view.  Nan Goldin’s work is a good example of this; very personal and subjective reportage imagery.

Photojournalism refers to news imagery.  It is photography which informs “the public of events and happenings across the world.” (Boothroyd, 2017 : 26)  This could be in the form of imagery taken live (whilst it happens) or in the aftermath (after it has happened) .

Art photography is (but not limited to) documentary images being viewed as part of an exhibition.  So it is more about context i.e. where the photographs are shown.


Boothroyd, S (2017) Context and Narrative, Barnsley: OCA.

Bull, S (2010) Photography, Abingdon: Routledge.

And so to begin C&N with some inner dialogue…

“No longer a newbie to studying a degree,
No longer a newbie to the art of photography.”

by me 2017

This is my first blog post for Photography 1, Context and Narrative… It took a while coming but here it is, on this page, a reality.  And relax….

Actually NO, there is no relaxing not now with approx. 400 hours of degree learning for this course ahead of you… this is more like a year in the life of…..

Why does that sound so daunting?

Don’t worry you have made a learning schedule and are committed to stick to it.

It shouldn’t be so difficult I love photography, right?

Well, when you get further in to your studies there is a lot more writing and not so much photography.  

But ultimately I will be informing my photography with the things I have learnt / am learning?

Yes, that’s right.  So enjoy it, soak up the challenge and the new information coming your way and you will be fine…

OK, let’s do this!