Week 9: Enter the Academy

In response to the task set in week 9, I have identified an exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery (Liverpool) entitled ‘The Time We Call Our Own’. The exhibition is a collection of images from around the world that illustrate the escapism and euphoria found in city centre nightclubs and bars. The overall rational being, ’to shed light on the identity of the city’.

Once the isolation period is finished I will definitely attend this exhibition as it resonates with my own experience for a large proportion of my adult life. My route to studying an MA at 38 years old could be described as a colourful one. I didn’t attend university until I was 24 years old which isn’t unusual however what it did do is prolong my years of being a singleton with little responsibilities which enabled the frequenting of various establishments of Manchester’s nightlife. In reflecting on this experience, I have no doubt seen the identity of Manchester evolve since the late 1990’s.

The Open Eye Gallery as an establishment is the type of place that I would to place my work. As a community gallery the website states ‘We work with people to push for social change’ which would align with my project as activist to some extent. The gallery it appears, works hard to remove the formal boundaries and ideological implications of more formal and well established spaces. Although the gallery is a relatively new space and may conform to a capitalist type of space, the gallery emphasises in a number of its media outlets, the collaborative nature of the projects it supports and recognises this as important as the exhibition.

Working in a a collaborative nature is a direction that I feel that I becoming ready as now have a body of work that would align with photographers that i have connected with via the platform of Instagram. Paul Thompson is a photographer who I became aware of when reading the football magazine When Saturday Comes. In addition, Colin McPherson is another photographer I admire and who’s work I follow closely. This may represent a potential network that I would like to engage further with.

At this stage of my project however, I feel the emphasis should be to keep producing work while endeavouring to improve the sophistication of the photographs that I make.

Photographing the English North, 1890-1990 – Bolton Museum

Is another outlet that may be relevant to the exhibition of my work. Although the exhibition is of a timeframe, the exhibition highlights the relevance of ’Northern working towns’ which I interpret as Lancashire Mill towns which are relevant to the location. This prompted the research of what is going on at a galleries more local to me. Therefore I research Stockport Art Gallery which doesn’t appear to have a lot going on beyond student work from the college it is attached to. However, the webpage does have a submission form, where individuals and groups can propose projects to be considered by the cultural diversity panel. This avenue may be well worth exploring further.

Community Spaces

From an early stage of this project I have engaged with patrons of Stockport County Football Club. The volunteers at the club have turned one the empty rooms into a museum dedicated to the club. This is an avenue that I could definitely exploit however may not represent an appropriate context as part of the message of my work encompasses a non partisan ideology. Holding an exhibition here may appear contradictory to this message.

In researching community spaces to exhibit my work, Barker highlights the problematic nature of making choices with regards to the intent of my work. The idea of higher profile galleries offering a higher level of cultural capital in addition to the Saachi gallery having its roots in the advertising industry. I vividly remember going to this gallery around a decade ago and feeling like I was in an alien place. Equally the ideas purported by Baudrilard who argues the gallery represents a type of ‘simulacra’ was also enlightening as I am currently engaging with reading his ideas on the ‘hyperreal’. Broad similarities with his ideas about Disneyland may be relevant here as a mode for people to reconnect with their childhoods.

Bolton Museum. (2020) Photographing the English North, 1890-1990. [online] Available at: https://www.boltonlams.co.uk/whats-on/2483/photographing-the-english-north-1890-1990-bolton-museum (Accessed: 19th April 2019)

Open Eye Gallery. (2020) The Time We Call Our Own, [online] Available at: https://openeye.org.uk/whatson/the-time-we-call-our-own/ (Accessed: 19th April 2020)

Barker, E (1999) Contemporary cultures of display, Open University. London

Boudrillard, J (1981) Simulacra and Simulation, The University of Michigan. Michigan.

Chaos and Love | Isolation Week 2

In making the choice to pick up the camera during these very odd times I decided to document the things going on around whilst I prepare remote lessons for the students that I teach.

My approach to this session was to change nothing, no direction to anyone just shoot what I saw. My Daughter and Step Sons are used to me getting out the camera on a whim, the act of taking photographs is nothing new to them.

We are a somewhat busy household and storage is at a premium, the house can be semi tidy one minute and an absolute disaster the next due to having a 3 year old Daughter who is very active and never short of someone to play with. Within the chaos I hope the viewer attains a sense of love within the realism of looking inwardly towards the private sphere of the home.

As COVID 19 takes its hold, the photographs of people stood in windows takes hold and some convey the intriguing sense of isolation that we all crave. This short collection may serve to illustrate how lucky I feel to be surrounded by the chaos.

Here’s hoping we all stay safe.

Julian Germain: Soccer in Wonderland

Having purchased the book ‘Soccer in Wonderland’ by Julian Germain, I enjoyed the magazine style philosophy which encompasses a range of unrelated stories brought together under the theme of football through the eyes of the fans. The book explores a range of perspectives and in addition to collections of old photographs, Sebbuteo figures and old football stickers, solid colour backgrounds in various colours to represent different teams with one spread in the style of 1970s wallpaper. All serve to create an experience of consumption that creates a sense nostalgic adventure as the reader/view is unsure of where they are going to be taken next on the journey. I found this approach really interesting and sets Germain’s work aside from other more conventional approaches to photograph books. I find find his curation of this book outstanding.

It has been a few days since I first picked up the book and in that time I have been thinking about the work whilst pontificating on how to write about such a disjointed, random and hugely enjoyable piece of work. In recent weeks I have also been reading on the subject and philosophy of poetry whilst trying to decode the similarities between poetry and photography. One could argue that in Germain’s approach to the creation of this book is almost poetic, the ideas of Riffaterre in Culler (1981,p 89) assert:

‘Reading a poem is a quest for unity, and unity is achieved or perceived only when the reader abandons the apparent referential or representational meaning of the discourse and grasps the unifying feature of factor that the various signs of the poem express by indirection’.

Soccer in Wonderland: Julian Germain

When consuming a book of photographic work, my expectations were to find a type of linear narrative of some description. Without knowing what type of narrative, or where that narrative would take the individual, the expectation was to find something that makes sense to an audience. This expectation may conform to what Riffaterre describes as ‘a quest for unity’ . My expectations would definitely conform to a type of quest for union, resolution or understandability when consuming the Germain book. This may be due to a position of being a media teacher with a moderate level of subject literacy. Dictated by curriculums and learning outcomes as I am approaching 10 years into my career. However, this reading has had a personal impact on an ideological level and unlocked doors or ways to compose a body of work beyond the obvious.

The disjuncture in this book and the recent contextualisation of such an approach may be summarised by Riffaterre when he refers to ‘abandoning representational meaning… grasps the unifying factors’. The unifying feature of the book being the signs which create the compartmentalised view of a football fan reflecting on their experience of the game in a broad sense. Whether that be bedroom wallpaper, diving headers or old photographs.

Soccer in Wonderland: Julian Germain

In making this initial connection I feel that I have achieved a personal milestone as it may represent that I am beginning to think at the level of a successful MA student. I have tried very hard to cope with the demands of this course I feel that this development is the biggest reward so far.

Culler, J (1982) Culler, The Persuit of Signs, Routledge, London.

Germain, J (1994) Booth-Clibborn Editions, London.

Andreas Alai

Figure 1: Of Wolves and Men, Andreas Alai

Andrea Alai and his documentary project Of Wolves and Men is a project that I enjoy looking at and identify with to some extent. His project follows a group of Italian football fans who call themselves ‘ultras’. Some of his work could be described as ‘pictorial’, the moments he captures are really interesting and he encompasses people, environments and objects to create compositions with indexical links to create semiotic union (Culler 1982). His use of flags, create meanings of identity in addition to people such as the police that point to a counter culture of people who are on the fringes of society and seek belonging.

This black and white image depicts a male subject at what appears to be at an amaeteur/ semi professional football stadium in Italy, the subject appears to be someone who who doesn’t play by the rules as he is balancing on the top of the fence.

As a viewer of this work I find the composition pleasing, the pin sharp focus suggests that it may have been enhanced in post production in addition to the contrast in the black and white tones would also suggest that this is a digital photograph.

As I highlighted in my draft presentation I recognise intertextual references with football hooligan films of the early 2000’s within this work, themes of disenfranchised white working class males are present throughout, in addition to the places where such people congregate.

I emphasis with the choice of removing the colour from the image as this serves to add drama to the photograph and I suspect the assists in making a more pictorial photograph using the skin tones to add contrast against the green tones of the football pitch.

Alai achieves a humorous photograph with a very sinister undertone as it is highly likely that the subject is attempting to invoke some type of conflict with his peers who probably surround the photographer at this moment.

This type of image may represent the darker side of my football project. In past reflections I have explored the idea that my project may be a form of activism although with a quieter voice. This may be broadly similar to the work of Alai although this photograph has a louder sense of activism probably leading to conflict with the authorities.

As I highlighted in my draft presentation I recognise intertextual references with football hooligan films of the early 2000’s, themes of disenfranchised white working class males are present throughout, in addition to the places where such people congregate.

Football Factory (2004) Film

Culler, J (1982) Culler, The Persuit of Signs, Routledge, London.

Alai, A. (2020) Of Wolves and Men [online] Available at: https://www.andreaalai.com/stories (Accessed: 30th March 2020)

The Football Factory (2004) Directed by Nick Love [Film]. London, Vertigo Films.

Practice and Preperation: Photography and Poetry

‘Reading a poem is a quest for unity, and unity is achieved or perceived only when the reader abandons the apparent referential or representational meaning of the discourse and grasps the unifying feature of factor that the various signs of the poem express by indirection’.

The statement above was very interesting as if the word ‘poem’ was replaced with the word ‘photograph’ then the sentence would still make sense to the reader and not be out of context.

At this stage, this may only be a basic observation but one still worth noting. This similarities referring to the reader and the viewer not being given an obvious task of decoding (Hall 1999) a text. Elements are often open to interpretation or signifiers and signified (Barthez 1980) are not obvious. Riffaterre as cited by Culler (1981) refers to the term Hypogram which as far as I can ascertain refers to repeated variants of the same invariant. Photograph or poem may address a theme without addressing that theme directly. Requiring the audience to embark on the pursuit for semiotic union.

‘Poetic signs in a text are powerfully overdetermined: they both refer to a preexisting hypogram and are variants or transformations of a matrix.’

Furthering the the approach that the emphasis and practice of ‘decoding’ is as important if not more important than understanding the semiotic union.’ The process of putting the signs together as opposed to understanding a conclusion (semiotic union) may illustrate the journey to understanding a 2nd meaning.

The image below may be illustrative of this approach, Without being sure if I would label this image ‘poetic. although I believe the image contains a range of variants which point to the semiotic union.

Traditionally, children will play games in any location and if one is in possession of a football then then environment may be modified to serve as a makeshift football pitch. the tree and the fence forming an integral part of what appears to be a penalty shoot out.

The penalty shoot out is probably one of the most infamous practices in recent football history in Britain. A reference of British failure, lack of precision, skill and nerve. The small boy in the foreground deemed not yet old enough to comprehend the seriousness of the event in hand, he is excluded on the basis that he isn’t old enough to handle the pressure while the participants of the contest devote all of their attention to glory.

As this all unfolds, the figure in the orange hat is taking polite interest by observing the event as opposed to the football match taking place to the left. The small structure in the background can be seen populated by spectators who are performing the role they are supposed to be, engaged with the game and observing the spectacle.

Although other signs are present within the image, ideologies are evidenced on a range of levels. The impact of the game in this semi wooded landscape, A ‘do it yourself culture’ in using a makeshift fence illustrates that this community setting is still in need of development and the confronting of a national insecurity, the penalty shootout.

Barthez, Roland (1980) Camera Lucida, London, Vintage.

Culler, J (1982) Culler, The Persuit of Signs, Routledge, London.

Franklin, S. (2016) The Documentary Impulse, Phaidon, New York.

Hall, Stuart (1999) ‘Encoding, Decoding’ in The Cultural Studies Reader. Routledge, London

Critical Ideas

Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing: Penguin, Harmondsworth.

any connotation that may be read or decoded must be met with suspicion (Berger 1972).

Borge, M (2012) Photography as Activism, Images for Social Change. London, Focal Press.

“Maybe activist photography begins at the point that a photographer thinks beyond the photograph, or when the photograph is not the end, rather a means to a solution even if the solution is nebulous.” (Borge 2012).

Sturken & Cartwright (2001) Practices of Looking. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 2001

Sturken & Cartwright (2001, p. 93) conclude, ‘’Society possesses a multiplicity of gazes and looks to mediate power between viewers and objects of the gaze’.

Sturgeon & Cartwright, highlight that ‘advertising isn’t situated in the present, rather an imagined future’.

Barthez, Roland (1980) Camera Lucida, London, Vintage.

‘captions further not only a gaze, but also an understanding’ (Barthes,1980)

Barthez: 1981) who argues “authentication exceeds the power of representation”

(Barthez 1972 p20) suggests “the imposition of second meaning on the photographic message proper, is realised at the different levels of of the production of the photograph”.

Barthez, Roland (1977) Image Music Text. Fontana Press, London.

(Barthez 1977: p28) Thanks to the code of conotation the reading of the photograph is thus always historical; it depends n the readers ‘knowledge’ just as though it were a matter of a real language, intelligible only if one has learned all of the signs.

Barker, Chris (2008) Cultural Studies London: Sage

Barker (2008, p. 482) states in respect of intertextuality ‘The accumulation and generation of meaning across texts, where all meanings depend on other meanings. The self conscious citation of one text within another as an expression of enlarged cultural self consciousness.’

BATE, D (2009) Photography, The Key Concepts. Oxford, Berg.

Bate argues against when he purports that the purpose of surface depth in photography intentionally leaves the spectator out of the equation (2009, P.70)

I am still acutely aware that the intention of my work is to move a viewer in a way that they may identify or recognise as propertied by Bate (2009).

Bate (2009) emphasis the relevance of the blank expression which may also serve the viewer to raise further questions about the people they look at.

Campany, David (2008) Photography and Cinema. London: Reaktion Books.

’The documentary function of the medium is partially suspended and the camera as a witness is replaced by pictorial hypothesis ’This Was…’ to ‘What if this Was… ? (Campany, 2008, p. 137)


Cotton argues that ‘The adoption of a deadpan aesthetic moves art photography outside the hyperbolic, sentimental and subjective’ (2020, p. 27)

Franklin, S. (2016) The Documentary Impulse, Phaidon, New York.

Franklin (2016: 165) argues that “There is no wright or wrong, only an impulse to photograph”,

Franklin (2016: 169) offers a conclusion of which I identify with by stating “The staying power and force of these strategies of measured ambiguity in photography owe much to the psychological and emotional way in which images communicate : further research and a deeper understanding”

Soth in Franklin
“I see poetry as the medium most similar to photography… Or at least the photography I pursue. Like poetry, photography, is rarely successful with narrative. What is essential is the ‘voice’ (or eye) and the way this voice pieces together fragments to make something tenuously whole and beautiful”
(2016: pp 167)

Goodwin, A. & Whannel, G (2005) Understanding Television. London, Routledge.

Goodwin & Whannel (2005) were particularly relevant when they suggest that ‘Messages are socially produced in particular circumstances and made culturally available as shared explanations of how the world works. In other words, they are ‘ideologies’,

Hall, Stuart (1999) ‘Encoding, Decoding’ in The Cultural Studies Reader. London, Routledge.

Hall (1999, p. 514) offers an appropriate conclusion to the assumptions made about this image in stating ‘By the word reading we mean not only the capacity to identify and decode a certain number of signs, but also the subjective capacity to put them into a creative relation between themselves and with other signs’

Lister, M (2013) The Photographic Image in Digital Culture. London, Rutledge.

Lister (2013: 5) who argues “Photography appears to be everywhere and nowhere simultaneously”.

Ritchin, F (2013) Bending the Frame, Photojournalism, Documentary and the Citizen. New York, Aperture.

Ritchin (2013. p49) may provide substance to my approach to the ambiguity I create when he argues that “the photographer must increasingly emphasise the role of interpretation rather than that of transcription”

Ritchin (2013) in the idea that a photograph isn’t required to provide all of the answers but raise further questions to the audience.

However (Ritchin 2013: p49) argues that “the photographer must increasingly emphasise the role of interpretation rather than that of transcription”

Ritchin (2013:48) shed some light on this burden “A photograph that strives to provide a single answer intimates its own manipulation: one that provokes questions, whether intentionally or not, better allows the viewer to engage with the subject and become, in a sense, the photographer’s collaborator in his or her enquiry.”

Ritchin’s ideas about categorisation of photographs was very useful and somewhat enlightening. Emphasising that photographs are open to interpretation and will result in common themes and stereotypes such as celebrities being flattered and the poor being victims.

Snyder, J. Allen, N.W. (1975) ‘Photography, Vision and Representation’ in Critical Inquiry, Vol.7, No.1. (Autumn, 1975)

connection between the eye and the environment in depicting “what we would have seen if we had been there ourselves”.

(Snyder and Allen) by using a slow shutter speed and panning the camera. Such techniques again may create ambiguity in relation to authenticity.

Snyder and Allen (1975: p 65) who cite Szarkowski who argues “the artist begins with the subject then does something to it – deforms it somehow, according to some personal sense of style”

SONTAG, Susan. (1973) On Photography. New York, Dell Publishing.

I am used to producing portraits of couples with the objective of creating photographic souvenirs (Sontag 1977).

Sontag (1979, p.14) argues, “To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed”.

(Sontag 1977. p9) highlights “the trip was made, the programme was carried out, that fun was had”

Szarkowski, J (1966) The Photographers Eye, New York, Museum of Modern Art.

Szarkowski (1976) emphasises that ‘photography is a system of visual editing… it is a matter of choosing from among given possibilities, but in the case of photography the number of possibilities in not finite but infinite’.

Szarkowski (1966:10) further resonated with a broader approach “There is in fact no such thing as an instantaneous photograph. All photographs are exposures of shorter or longer duration, and each describes a discreet parcel of time. This time is always the present.”

Artist Research | Danyelle Farrell (ROLLA)

At this stage in the module I feel that I am now able to begin to make effective comment and contextualise my own work in relation to other photographers in exploring their motivations and intentions to further personal development of my own project.

As a result of my research, the work of Danyelle Farrell (Rolla Gallery) became of interest. The project ‘Touchline’ I felt was particularly similar to my own work. This was a type of relief and served as a type of justification of my non league football project and the ethos of making football only the supporting act. in a sense I was happy that i’m not alone in challenging this subject.

Figure 1: Roller Gallery. Project: Grassroots

The image above is one of a range of photographs that resonated when contextualising my own project. The image depicts a programme seller in a weathered booth painted in the team colours which I believe to be Boston United.

The sign which states ‘Programmes’ serve to provide anchorage to the image. The candid nature of the photograph captures the subject engaged in some type of activity, what that is? The viewer will never know. We can only raise further questions and pontificate as to what he may have been doing.

As viewers, we are able to see elements such as the subjects hair, choice of clothing and look of concentration on his face. The prominent feature of the subjects eyebrows serve as a point of interest as does his hair. Maybe he is overdue a trip to the barbers?

The colour scheme of the team Boston United which is reflected in the aesthetics of the booth personally, confirms an existing anxiety about the specific colours Black and Yellow. Although I have never visited Boston, I have watched them play several times and recognise the anxiety I felt watching them play against my team.

As a result of my experience of Boston United Football Club, I have previously made subjective judgements about the place itself which are definitely unfair. Therefore, this image invokes those subjective judgements however the human subject brings a warmth in the recognition and a dedication to the task he is carrying out.

The absence of an identifiable form of regalia leads to the assumption that this person is a volunteer or at least someone who’s intention isn’t primarily money. If he is paid he may finance purchase of the traditional Sunday papers or the evening chippy as I am assuming this photograph was taken on a Saturday afternoon as the exposure would suggest it was taken in daylight.

In terms of the cropping of the photograph I feel there is development in my own work as I have previously made a photograph of a similar scene however I feel my photograph as seen below lacks the messages and identification exemplified in Farrell’s photograph for reasons I believe to be the wider framing in my image which serves to dilute the message of the anxiety of standing in a very small box.

Figure 2: Drew Findlay

Where I feel Farrell has been successful with this image is the way that she has expressed beauty in the banal whilst encompassing a clear sense of conflict. I would be interested in why Farrell decided to go to Boston as she is primarily based in the North West.

My understanding of Farrell is that her work is documentary in its nature and makes statements regarding class and the social rituals carried out in Northern towns and cities based around traditional labour sector industries. It is my assumption that Farrell understands her subjects and is able to communicate messages in a manner that is believable and sometimes with humour. I feel echoes of Martin Parr in the projects she disseminates on her website and I feel that her work has a powerful Northern accent.

Farrell, D. Grassroots [online]. Available at: https://www.rolla.gallery/2774298-grassroots# (Accessed: 30th March 2020)

Week 8: Aesthetic or Anaesthetic?

When considering this task I was drawn to the Adidas ‘Impossible is Nothing’ campaign in (2004). At the time, in my early 20s I was reflecting on a failed dream at following a path into professional football. This was a real crossroads in my life as I somehow had to reassess my life and consider alternative directions, having to reinvent myself, find new ambitions and a new purpose. Many of my peers seemed to be content with their lives while some were heading into precarious directions and I often found myself associating with people who scared me a little. I had gone from the playing football in academies and surrounded by inspiration to playing non league and amateur football where there were many dangerous influences. At this time I remember a the Adidas campaign which focussed on the experiences of high profile football players such as Beckham and Messi. I felt the reflective accounts given in this cross platform campaign were memorable especially the content revolving around Beckham who was made a national hate figure after the 1998 world cup. See image below.

Beckham Hanging

Moving on to present day and considering how society has changed in addition to the influence of social media. I was saddened by the suicide of Caroline Flack and recently the suicide of a lifelong friend that I played football with around this era. Also, with the emphasis on ‘talking’ therapy’ currently strong in the media I recalled this Adidas campaign. Unsure whether it had an effect at the time, being a 38 year old male l now recollect this campaign and feel that it was a very progressive idea.

Copyright: Picture Alliance