Week 8 | Reflection

This week we have been encouraged to to think about websites and the purposes they serve. In my case, I have run a website for the last couple of years which has been aimed at the wedding market. As a result I am well versed in understanding this market and all of the challenges faced be wedding photographers in terms of SEO, or ranking highly of popular search terms on Google. In my case ‘Wedding Photography Manchester’ and ‘Wedding Photography Cheshire’. This is a complex business and the determining factors constantly shift according to google algorithms. I have attended workshops and conducted endless research in the pursuit of knowledge.

I am in a unique position as I currently work as a teacher of media in a sixth form college in addition to working as a wedding photographer. My venture into wedding photography was the result of my desire to create work, already second shooting for a videography company on a casual basis I was able to watch and observe lots of wedding photographers, some good, some not so good but I probable learned something from all of them.

In terms of wedding photography as a sustainable prospect of work beyond the MA. I am currently in the position of having a limit to what I can shoot. This scenario suits for the moment (Present COVID restrictions exempt). I book around twenty weddings a year as well as teaching. This means that I am able to pick and choose the type of weddings I want to shoot. I do this by using the content of my website to appeal to the type of clients I would like to work with. I use my website to do this in a number of ways:

  • Use photographs of specific venues that I like/want to work at.
  • Present work that is beyond the obvious and reflects my own personality.
  • Ensure that the work I present demonstrates a plethora of different stages of a wedding such as the morning, ceremony, speeches, portraits and evening celebration.

Going Forward

In recent weeks I have begun to collect the weekend magazines from a range of newspapers such as The Observer, FT and The Times. Having begun to research the work of others I have been looking through the content of such publications, noting who the photographers are then researching researching their personal projects. This approach has been useful and insightful and I am beginning to understand the type of direction I would like pursue.

As an outgoing person I have really enjoyed working on my non league football project, going to places I haven’t been for many years, speaking to people and making portraits of them. In doing this I have been creating new experiences for myself whilst continuing to develop my skills as a portrait photographer. I feel this environment has provided an arena to grow my practice, being in an environment that I understand. It is a type of safe space to experiment.

Live Brief

Continuing to work on the Oxfam brief has been difficult in terms of logistics but at the same time enriching as I have been able to contribute to the team in addition to learn and make connections with fellow students. Attending weekly zoom meetings to discuss our progress and share further ideas has been fun whilst providing the opportunity to meet new like minded people. Although being an outgoing person, I do lack confidence when entering into new situations and I have found this process really helpful as a confidence building exercise. I have also created work outside my project which is a big step and I have really enjoyed myself in engaging with the process of making work within the fashion genre. Reflecting on my experience of making new work within a different context. I currently feel my approach has been quite safe however at the time of writing, I am planning a more ambitious shoot in the coming days.

In terms of my role within the live brief, I feel that I have worked hard and made significant contributions without taking a leading role. At present, the group is led by Victoria who is very much the driving force behind the group while Thomas uses his experiences of the advertising industry to offer critical insight into the presentation of our work, with regards to my role, I have contributed insight into the structure of the finished pitch. Using my teaching experience to provide structure and encouraging the other members to consider what the pitch will be required to achieve. Thinking about the aims, objectives and how we will justify and deliver our message.

Process of Making Work

One of the biggest learning curves of the MA has been the exploration into the process of making work in a technical sense. Having been shooting totally digital, I recently purchased a 35mm film camera which I have used sparingly. I understand that I could have gone out shooting film however I felt that It was important to be able to justify such an approach. As my research continues I notice that many photographers who interest me, work with medium format cameras. I am currently not in a position to purchase such a camera due to the cancellation of weddings and Christmas looming. However, my next project, probably beyond the MA will be to make medium format portraits at the locations of the European Championships tournament due to take place in 2021.

The Future

The first and most important task for my future direction as a photographer will be to create a website of my personal work. I have previously considered this and now have a greater understanding of the importance of the personal project. Having some knowledge of website design, I will concentrate on presenting my very best work through the vehicle of emotional projects that are well considered and challenging themes that I am passionate about.

As my work has shifted significantly since enrolling on the MA, the prospect of creating a personal website is hugely exciting. Once I have a personal website I will seek to make producers and commissioning editors aware of my work and I am looking forward to the task of competing for work within an editorial setting. I understand that this may be difficult but having already created a relatively successful wedding photography business I have the self confidence in being able to achieve this.

Week 7 | Presentation – Commercial Commissions with Amy Simmons

I found this lecture insightful and interesting as it provided a roadmap on how to get commercial commissions. Within my current practice as a wedding photographer, I had familiarised myself with the methodologies of getting work however the commercial works outside weddings always appeared a bit of a mystery.

I was particularly interested in the section where Simmons highlights what she looks for when selecting a photographer to work with. And I was surprised when she stated that an important factor was the ‘primary subject matter’ of the photographer. I understand that when a wedding couple choose to book me for their wedding they do so on the basis that they have seen my work, I have probably photographed the venue they are getting married before and they like the work. All of which represent a total opposite from my personal project which revolves around patriarchal culture.

In previous weeks I have been looking more and more at photographers who shoot editorial features as I feel that this is where I would like to take my work. Looking at the likes of Jooney Woodward who shoots regularly for the Guardian, I am drawn to the prospect of using my skills to produce work on a variety of subject matters. Making portraits and listening people stories from different echelons of life. And throughout the MA I am now feeling that I have developed the contextual understanding which is informing my work and resulting in much stronger photographs.

I have begun to research editorial photographers en mass from news outlets such as the Guardian with the intention of providing inspiration on how I might align my own personal projects to create a diverse portfolio capable of attracting the attention of commissioning editors. My research quickly led to the discovery of Christopher Andreou who contributed to an article in the Guardian by Goodinson, E (2020) on the subject of black heritage in Ridley Road markets in Hackney. Upon further research of Andreou’s website I observed that his website was rather small but encompassing lots of high quality work. What was further interesting was the clear sense of style with his approach.

This led the reflection of my own work and the raising of major questions that I am still grappling, the most important being the style of work that I would like to pursue? The answer to this is still emerging although what I do understand is that I like to take environmental photographs of people. I am further drawn to the buzz of going somewhere without a clear idea of what it is, or who I am going to meet and photograph.

Listening to Simmons talk about the importance of having a portfolio was also useful as in my ignorance, I felt that a digital portfolio would be more useful. However, especially in the instance of having a portfolio review and understanding that editors and producers spend large proportions of their working lives at computer screens. I see how having a portfolio is important to offer an alternative experience to the reviewer. This is something I will address immediately.

Finally, the subject of usage was useful as this was an area that I have very little knowledge in this area. Understanding the different contexts of which photographs are used was important and will will become relevant when I encounter such issues. At present though, breaking through and into this world remains the number one priority.

Christopher Andreou Photography. [Online] Available at: https://www.christopherandreou.com (Accessed 8th Nov 2020)

Arnold, R (2014) The Courtauld, ‘I Spotted You There’: An Interview With Jooney Woodward. [Online] Available at: http://blog.courtauld.ac.uk/documentingfashion/2014/03/24/jooney-woodward/  (Accessed 30 Oct 2020)

Goodinson, E (2020) Do go back to Dalston: Ridley Road market’s black heritage – in pictures. The Guardian. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2020/nov/05/do-go-back-to-dalston-ridley-road-markets-black-heritage-in-pictures (Accessed Nov 2020)

Week 10 | Marketing Strategy

When thinking about my social media presence I use a number of platforms for different purposes. As highlighted in the discussion with Anna-Maria, the idea of ‘creating villages’ is a line of thought that I particularly agree with. I currently have two instagram accounts, the first is directed at the wedding market. Here I post wedding images, usually something dramatic ensuring that I tag as many people as possible who I worked with on that particular wedding such as make up artists, specific venues, caterers and entertainment providers. This is a useful strategy as a rapport building mechanism, I also ensure that I personally thank suppliers, using names in addition to the names of the couple whose wedding I photographed. As a result, I am now quite well known within the local wedding community of the North West. I also use instagram to appeal to potential brides and grooms who book venues that I like to work at. To date, I probably get booked for the same ten venues as potential clients understand that I have already shot the venue in a fashion that appeals to them. 

My second instagram account is one that I created to run concurrent with the MA. At present, this account has a much smaller following however it has had an equally important impact as I have made a number of contacts and embedded myself into a community which is currently based around my primary subject matter which is based around football culture.

Manovich (2019) argues that such platforms are a crucial part of a global ecosystem and represent an ‘aesthetic society’ and ‘Urban Tribes’. Sentiments that I completely agree and I have found that my subject matter has led to similar communities. The problem I currently have with this approach is that the content on my feed points in a direction that doesn’t necessarily represent the future of my work. Therefore I need to take my work in alternative directions in order to build rapport with broader communities. This will happen as I continue to create work and happen organically, from my experience, saturating my account with content may lead to higher volumes of followers, however I’d rather have higher quality connections. I could make work for influencers in return for exposure to larger audiences and I don’t rule out doing this in the future however this isn’t a short term priority at the moment. 


As a wedding photographer facebook is an extremely useful platform. This is because the people who book me are not usually people with a great deal of photographic literacy. Most people have a facebook account, therefore I am able to target paid advertising at specific audiences such as ‘engaged females between the ages of twenty five and forty five’. This is successful tactic to get booked for weddings e.g. Spending £100 on a month long campaign may yield over 200 enquiries about my wedding photography services although the conversion rate is quite low between 1 in 7 and 1 in 10. The reason for this is due to client budget and knowing the market. I understand that I will be outside the price range for many seeking a photographer. This isn’t to say I am arrogant about my work but as soon as one drops the price, clients often ask for more and more and want to pay less and less. The overriding consideration with marketing is why do you want to get booked? Because one is competitively priced or because one has strong photographs? Therefore, price is very important as it protects against difficult clients who base judgements on a financial basis where people who book because of the quality of work are usually less concerned. 


This is an excellent outlet for targeting content at specific venues. However I see this platform as more of a search engine as opposed to social media. When one makes a pin they are able to include a URL or website with the post. This points back to the photographers website and is useful for SEO purposes in addition to appealing to a female, engaged audience. 

While I am portfolio and project building I will pursue with a personal Instagram account however I see the most pressing task is to create a personal website. I currently have a wedding website in addition to my MA blog whilst employed full time as a media and photography lecturer. While I am studying the MA I need to be careful about the tasks I take on board especially at present as I have a backlog of over twenty weddings to shoot in 2021, this whilst working full time and completing an FMP for the MA is slightly daunting however circumstances cannot be helped. 

At the time of writing I am booked to shoot a wedding (12th Dec) and in doing this I am going to shoot a roll of 35mm film with the intention of embedding into this community on instagram in addition to adding an extra layer of capital to my work. This I anticipate will lead to a number of networking opportunities in addition to making my presence slightly different to my competitors.

Manovich, L. (2019) AI Aesthetics. Moscow: Strelka Press.

Week 6 | Reflection

Week Six Reflection 

It has been a tough couple of weeks with regards to the module, as the COVID once again takes hold I decided to move quickly to make as much work as I could. Therefore I covered two football matches with the intent of reconnecting with my football past, taking photographs in a way I had done previously with the development of making more work with a fucus on the match itself. This was never my intent at the early stages of the course and I am still unsure if it is the correct route to in the future. Making work at these matches I realise has been my default choice for making work but as the course progressed the relevance of this work I feel hask has declined. Admittedly, COVID restrictions has been a constant threat to my project and at this stage I have evelved my idea several times. As a result, I have been at odds with my project, unable to make a decision but at the same time scared of moving too far away from my initial intent. Read (2017) cites Clarke who makes some useful comments about developing projects,‘Looking back at the concerns that form the backbone of the work and the interests which fuel it, with or without input from others, will serve to provide evidence of where they have been and point the direction for the future.’ In my current state, I agree with Reads ideas and as my project develops and shifts I have learned a number of things about myself. This first being that when it comes to change and development I often lose confidence in myself due to the fear of failure. This made me reflect further into other realms of my life such as my employment. 

Having been employed as a teacher of media and photography in the same institution for over eight years in addition to owning a wedding photography business. I have been at a crossroads between teaching, and going full time shooting weddings. COVID aside, I have built the wedding business to a stage where the product is good enough to book enough weddings and a price point I am happy with. So why am I still teaching? The honest answer is that I fear the change in circumstances, leaving the relative security of the teaching salary and the pension. Not leaving my job may be considered smart in the current climate however I also understand that I have aspirations beyond teaching and I am never going to realise my ambition whilst in my current role. 

Going back to my project I can’t help but have an eye on the final major project which is the next module and probably the make or break task for the whole MA. At the same time thinking short term and the direction I will take for this module. I am guilty of overthinking which is hindering my progress by making me resist too much change. However as a I continue to understand the philosophy of personal and emotional projects the idea of Scott who states  (2015, P86) ‘The emotional genre of personal projects includes all of the stories that are close to your life experiences.’ With this in mind I began to think away from the football environment, understanding that football as a sport is not my primary concern. When I reflect on my experiences of the game the most pertinent memories are not the matches, rather the people I met and the bonds that I created that have remained in tact over twenty years. 

In response to a developing understanding of personal projects, in addition to feedback from tutor I decided to contact former teammates who I shared a pitch with, with the intention of finding out about the anxieties that surrounded playing football at a high level then making an environmental portrait. In preparation for doing this I needed to consider how i was going to record these interviews as I didn’t want to take notes as i felt that this would be too impersonal. Therefore I decided to record the interviews using my iphone so that I could concentrate on the conversations I was having. This approach was useful and allowed me to engage in conversations with full attention to what was being said. 

At the conclusion of the interviews I felt that I was able to gain an excellent insight into the people I talked to. This was in no doubt due to my existing relationships with these people. Because I had their trust, the interviewees provided a unique insight into their own thoughts and feelings which ultimately served to shift my broader project forward while encompassing broader themes such as mental health, community and identity. What was unexpected was the appreciation I received for taking the time to contact these individuals. When i was initially trying to organise the interviews, I felt that I may have been asking too much of them or at least disrupting peoples lifestyles. Which I did but both interviewees found time for me and both clearly had other responsibilities at the time. Furthermore, they were both happy having their photograph taken which I felt was a big ask as I know both individuals are self conscious for different reasons. In conclusion, Scott, G (2015, P94) The emotional project is often multilayered and although it may begin on a micro personal level it can both grow and embrace a multitude of elements, people and environments.  Such comments serve to describe the current state of my work in so far as my short term goals are a significant shift away from my previous concerts which centred around the football environment. Current motivations surround themes such as patriarchy, community and mental health. 

In considering these themes my thoughts are led towards the lockdown period where I learned of three suicides of people I knew within the first two weeks of lockdown. All male, and all in their forties. A sobering thought as I find myself in my late thirties. The Guardian (2020) reports that male suicide rates are at their highest levels for two decades. Currently without understanding exactly why, I do understand that within this period of my life I am saying goodbye to youthhood and embarking on another stage of my life. A stage which is about pressure and responsibility to provide a life for a family possibly. This is also the stage where one may reflect on their past mistakes and be reflective about them. This was the feelings i had when conducting the interviews, and the people I interviewed appeared to value the opportunity to talk about these past mistakes. 

As a result of the weekly webinar, I am going to continue to create these micro narrative editorials, as we are well into the module. Making such a big shift in focus is a risk, however it is the correct direction to pursue at this time. 

Butler, P (2020) Male suicide rate hits two-decade high in England and Wales. The Guardian. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/01/male-suicide-rate-england-wales-covid-19 (Accessed 30th Oct 2020)

Read and Simmons (2017)  Photographers and Research, The Role of Research in Contemporary Photographic Practice. Taylor and Francis, New York.

Scott, G (2015) Professional Photography, The New Global Landscape Explained. London, Focal Press.

Week 5 | Reflection

This week was somewhat of a reaction to the previous two weeks being in self isolation. Struggling at home when it seems like the outside world is carrying on as normal. Therefore this week was a very busy schedule with two football themed shoots planned, in addition to a fashion shoot for the Oxfam brief.

The Oxfam Shoot was an interesting distraction from my football project and having convinced some of my friends to model, the challenge was to deliver some work that was well outside my comfort zone. As an experienced wedding photographer I was aware of some basic poses that I could utilise if I was struggling in a creative sense. I wasn’t working with an experienced model although he was a confident individual. The circumstances were made all the more difficult as the I had around 20 minutes of my dinner break to get something together.

I wasn’t unhappy with the results however I did have that nagging feeling that I could have achieved a little more but at the same time content that I had made a contribution to the group.

Whilst in self isolation I was able to organise two shoots for my football project which was quite difficult due to a local club being penalised as spectators were seen to be breaking social distancing rules. However, having contacted around a dozen clubs I eventually had some success. These shoots eventually concluded with my usual documentary approach.

Moving on to my one to one with Colin, I felt prepared however technical difficulties made sharing work difficult. The work I did manage to share was met with mixed feedback with the outcome being that I was trying to achieve too much, including documentary and portrait work, it was felt that there was no clear message or story with my work. This had been stated in previous modules and despite my efforts I feel that I haven’t developed within this area. As stated in earlier posts, my intention was to reconnect with my own time as a player, choosing to photograph the environments that I found interesting but it appeared that this wasn’t enough. The conversation concluded with my establishing of my own emotions to playing at this level of the game. Having played at a higher level, finding self within this world. My emotions eventually became that of fear due to the increased physicality and lack of technical proficiency.

My tutor advised engaging with written text to accompany my images, an idea that I had previously had but advise not to in past modules. As a response, I begun to reflect on what I might say then it occurred to me that I could approach some of my previous teammates and interview them about their experiences. Week six will now consist of at least two interviews which I have organised and intend to record.

With regard to the weekly theme of understanding who buys photography, I found a number of comments by Ryan (2014) of interest. Asserting that an approach to commissioning work can be a process of matching photographers from different genres and putting them in unusual situations in the hope that they bring something new to the concept. This assisted in my decision to take my work in the direction of portraits as I felt that my approach is quite unique within the football environment, allowing my photographic style to emerge and possibly transcend into other areas.

Ryan further states that the emergence and importance of websites leads commissioners to think differently about how the might proliferate their work online using images for web in formats such as slideshows. As a wedding professional I agree strongly in this sense as I often use such techniques to create marketing materials that appeal to an online audience. Within the context of a wedding photography there are ample opportunities to make high quality work however that isn’t enough. I favour making high quality work that revolves around the alternative moments of wedding. I ensure that I meet the generic expectations as quickly as possible before engaging with an approach which in my case encompasses humour. Take a traditional wedding group shot for example. There is lots of potential to produce high quality work here however encompassing an unusual element I find adds personality to my approach.

This approach is beneficial as a couple considering my services from an online search may learn something about my own personality to shooting weddings. I understand that the image below isn’t going to change the world or reinvent wedding photography. But placed within a sequence of high quality traditional wedding photographs. Images such as this serve to make my work stand out whilst making a statement about myself as a photographer.

Drew Findlay | Wedding Group Shot

Interview with Kathy Ryan [IN] HotShoe international Issue 187, Spring 2014 (HotShoe International) Creative Magazines Ltd

Week 4 Reflection

Week 4 Reflection 

To say the week had been difficult is an understatement. Having tested positive for COVID at the beginning of the week I was unable to take any photographs to further my project. Having to self isolate, pull the children out of school and organise remote teaching for my A level students. 

The early stages of my self isolation I was lucky to be contacted by Colin McPherson who kindly sent me a recording of a previous webinar he took part in by Document Scotland. Aside from the king gesture, the webinar was very useful in furthering the philosophical approach to my project. Uncomfortable with the label of being a ‘groundhopper’ McPherson (2020) speaks of his approach to photographing football, stating his intention is to ‘recreate his own memories’  of playing the game. A comment which aligns well as a summary for my project as opposed to groundhopping. 

In engaging with this approach I feel a certain type of coming of age regarding the ownership of my work. Shooting as a result of my own thoughts and experiences and decisions. Making work that isn’t the result of something I feel I should photograph. Working with the trust of personal impulse and making work that I feel connected to. 

In addition to cracking on with the reading I contacted several football clubs who didn’t respond with regarding photographing at their club. This was frustrating however I persevered and eventually arranged to shoot at Cheadle Town FC FOR the weekend. The lack of interest in my work is perhaps not so surprising due to one club having their maximum attendance reduced as a result of photographs being published on social media, the contents illustrating breaches in social distancing.

In order to make the best of the self isolation period, I decided to take photographs of my step son and photoshop him into scenes from google maps of the football stadiums that Stockport County would have been playing at. This has been met with positive feedback on social media and if anything is raising my profile on a local level. 

The images were met with humour at the weekly webinar which was the intention. However, now I have started I will continue to produce these on a weekly basis and when I have completed the season I will make a decision what I will do with them. The advice my tutor gave was to continue without being too concerned with making them look realistic as the strength is in the idea. My experience of making them is that, in trying to encompass my step son within the environment makes the images look banal. Making him do things such as eating a hot-dog brings more fun to the mini project.

McPherson, Sutton-Hibbert and Farquharson (2020) Football, Bloody Hell! Document Scotland, 9th October. Available at: https://www.patreon.com/posts/42446486?fbclid=IwAR2dRKHR5Ep_xOVy-mD5jJtJNF5gCV2bAo3_BBFB_V8yHPN-lyMDvT0O06Q(Accessed 11th Oct 2020)

Week 4: Forum – Your Market

Plan A

I would like to enter the book and exhibition market in addition to working on editorial commissions. I keep entering competitions on the ‘Life Framer’ website and some type of recognition would be really helpful in establishing myself. I see myself engaging with personal projects and producing monograph style books. This has been the format I enjoy the most and the self indulgence really appeals to me. Up here in Manchester and the North West, there is a really active community of photographers who appear to be journalists or ex journalists, and I feel that networking is really important in this sense and I will continue to involve myself with events and opportunities as they arise. 

Plan B

In a commercial sense my wedding photography business is on pause, with lots of rescheduling for next year which on paper at least, looks extremely busy. Also working as a media and photography teacher in the FE sector, I would like to make the jump into HE, possibly in a part time role whilst still shooting  weddings as it is quite lucrative. In this case I will still engage with personal projects and try to get as much exposure as possible. 

At this stage I feel that plan B is the more likely as i’m currently without a break-though piece of work as it were. I’m obviously hoping that will change and fingers crossed it does. 

In recent months I have had some good opportunities which included shooting stills for a BBC show called ‘I’ve Been There’ (Its on BBC Iplayer) in addition to getting the opportunity to shoot a band called the Blossoms in the weeks before lock down. This was an exhilarating experience and a learning curve as I found myself at the front of the stage amongst 5 other photographers.  

Week 3 Reflection

Another week has now flown by and it started with that now familiar feeling of not really knowing where i’m going and hoping for some guidance in the webinar. 

The week started by taking my camera to the local barbers with the idea to get a haircut, eat some biscuits and make a portrait which was clean, considered and in the style I was hoping for. 

I also took the opportunity to look at some of the work I made at the early stages of the MA in order to see if I had any work that represents interest. Most of which was relevant but the overriding emotion was disappointment that my previous work is riddled with indescrepencies, most notably the framing of the people I photograph. On so many occasions I see basic errors especially with portraits specifically the bottom areas of the frame. Often cropping feet at strange angles or not thinking about this area when deciding to fire the shutter. Therefore, my considerations of this are currently at the forefront of my mind when taking portraits now. 

Other considerations include avoiding distractions around the area of the head and finally the vantage point as I often pontificate whether I should position myself at a lower angle. In some cases I believe I should but in other cases I feel the vantage point is well chosen. As I would like to pursue this field of work I will use this module to continue development within this area. To conclude such considerations I feel that my work is improving in this area and this improvement is reinvigorating to make future shoots feel like an exciting prospect. 

Felicity McCabe

Watching the lecture with Felicity McCabe was insightful and listening to the confident way she speaks about the work was something that I feel that I needed to hear as I am aware that feedback from tutors is extremely relevant but at the same time is largely worthless if the individual is lacking in their own autonomy. An issue that I feel that I am guilty of. As a result of this my approach will shift towards creating that I believe in, and making it in such a way that when the opportunity to receive feedback arrives, it will be a case of advice and guidance on a minor level as opposed to looking for some type of emotional support. Essentially, if I don’t believe in my own work then nobody else will, especially an established professional. 

A a result of watching the lecture, I conducted further research into her project ‘Dryland’ and I was intrigued by the way she places two images side by side. In doing this I felt the photographs entered into a symbiotic relationship, creating metaphor and a broadening of a perspective looking both inwards and outwards with the high key lighting demonstrating a confidence in her work by opening up the detail of the whole frame. The overarching personal message being to let go of my insecurities and trust the research I have done.

In order to address issues I am currently reflecting on my initial motivations and the starting point of my non league football project. Having played non league football for many years throughout my teens and 20s, I have already visited many of the places I photograph. This leads to the consideration of why I make the decision to revisit these places? In many instances I have thought about this question and tried to provide some overly clever and academic response, photography as activism, exploring a type of grief for the passing of my father, both of which may substance to an extent although probably not the core of my concerns. Read (2017) cites O’keeffe ‘As a curator I am looking for what is at the core of the work. Powered by authentic concerns of the photographer.’ Throughout my playing experience one of the most exciting elements was travelling to different locations, simply being in different environments, walking through the gates and into a different changing rooms, kit bag over my shoulder and wearing my club tracksuit. Warming up before the game, as a goalkeeper I used to like looking at the style of nets, intrigued by the dilapidated advertising boards that probably haven’t been changed in years.

When playing a home match I enjoyed speaking to the volunteers such as ground keepers and the kit man, the bar staff and the ladies who made the tea and coffee. Having light hearted conversations and listening to their stories of past glory. Some of the happiest moments of my life were spent in these places. Being part of a community, being young and free and full of excitement about the future. Romero in Christenberry (2013: p9) writes about his work ‘Christonberry constructs an account of the South of the United States from within that South’. A comment that resonates personally as I feel that by visiting these places and photographing them, I feel that I am visually representing my own feelings about these places by making portraits and directing my attention towards the strange objects and places I used to enjoy engaging with visually and in conversation. Scott, G (2015, P94) comments ‘The emotional project is often multilayered and although it may begin on a micro personal level it can both grow and embrace a multitude of elements, people and environments.’ such comments may hold relevance however in a personal sense I disagree that my project was born out of a micro element, rather a sea of micro elements which I was unable to decipher in my own thoughts. And to get to this stage and a type of simplified idea, I have been through a process of elimination, challenging my project in a plethora of different routes. Reaffirming the multilayered nature as highlighted by Scott.

When thinking about whether or not my project is one of an emotional nature I feel that there is definitely an emotional element however I also argue that my project has features of an intellectual project because of the desire to seek and explore the places. In many cases I have no idea what I will find or who I will meet, the places where I once played have long since changed and many of the people I know have long since moved on or are no longer around. Therefore I am both an insider similar to Christonberry in the deep South of the USA whilst being an outsider, not knowing many of the people who frequent the spaces I now visit. Recording them them in portraits is a small celebration of an active space.

Christenberry, W (2013) William Christenberry. New York, Foundation Mapfre.

McCabe, F (2015) Dryland [Online} Available at: https://www.felicitymccabe.com/album/d-r-y-l-a-n-d.html?p=1 (Accessed) 7th Oct 2020.

Read and Simmons (2017)  Photographers and Research, The Role of Research in Contemporary Photographic Practice. Taylor and Francis, New York.

Scott, G (2015) Professional Photography, The New Global Landscape Explained. London, Focal Press.

Contextual Research | Felicity McCabe

Today i watched the lecture with Felicity McCabe and on reflection I am really pleased that I was able to find the time as the last couple of days have been hectic to say the least. Monday 5th Oct I tested positive for COVID which meant great upheaval as I needed to quickly prepare remote learning for some 70 A level and vocation FE students, get feedback so that they could move their projects forward and face minimal disruption to their already affected education. The home life wasn’t much better as I have three step children all of which were abruptly pulled out of school in addition to my three year old Daughter who was in Nursery. As a result my family is back to self isolating, everyone is pissed off as they see others going about their normal lives. 

I found the lecture to be incredibly informative and it was interesting to listen to McCabe discuss her work in addition to getting an insight on her journey through photography and it was heartening to hear such a success story. At this stage of the MA I am used to listening to other professionals speak about their work and the understanding that the photographers concerns and motivations are equally as important as the work itself. I find this quite amazing as I discover work, then in researching the intentions of the author the work is transformed into something powerful and moving. 

My initial research draws me to the project ‘Dryland’ as I am currently working on a project for Oxfam. It was interesting to see how other photographers have interpreted a brief working with a charity. There are a number of elements that I like about this work, the starting point being the high key aesthetic McCabe utilises. Whenever I see work of this nature I engage with the detail of the work and I respect a photographer such as McCabe as she has the confidence to light the whole frame opening up the photograph to close scrutiny by the viewer. It takes a confident photographer to do this especially within the context of documentary or environmental portraits. 

McCabe, F (2015)

Secondly, listening about the philosophy in terms of sequencing was really useful as this is something I really struggle with in my own work. McCabe was quite up front when discussing how she takes advice from others and probably something I need to take on board further. I find the image below a quite amazing sequence of photographs, the union between the tree stumps and the legs of the young boy illustrates the talent and intricacy of McCabe’s work. The posing of the legs to mirror the tree stumps makes for an image to be looked at and looked at again and at this stage, the more I look the more I enjoy it. Coupled with the high key tones serve to contextualise the image and place it as a photograph with a powerful message about inequality. The introduction of colour would usually dominate such a sequence but in this case McCabe uses the vibrant tones as a supporting act to the legs and tree stumps. 

In conclusion, I feel that this is a supremely confident image and representative of a confident photographer who has a firm command of their craft in both a technical and philosophical sense. The outcome of bringing together multiple elements to convey both tension and peace. 

When listening to McCabe discuss her work, I took many important pieces of advice however what the advice that i find most pertinent is the idea the photography is one big concern or vision and each project is a chapter within that vision. Read (2017) confirms such ideas ‘Looking back at the concerns that form the backbone of the work and the interests which fuel it, with or without input from others, will serve to provide evidence of where they have been and point the direction for the future.’ Having listened to McCabe in the lecture I take her concerns about time memory and fragility to be the most important motivations behind her work and more importantly I see and feel these concerns throughout her photographs.

McCabe, F (2015) Dryland [Online} Available at: https://www.felicitymccabe.com/album/d-r-y-l-a-n-d.html?p=1 (Accessed) 7th Oct 2020.

Read and Simmons (2017)  Photographers and Research, The Role of Research in Contemporary Photographic Practice. Taylor and Francis, New York.

Week 3 | Forum – Art & Commerce

Since embarking on the MA my approach has developed significantly and it is causing nightmares in terms of my wedding photography business. My approach to taking wedding photos, I have three main themes which I need to satisfy to ensure that the people who book me are happy. The general rules I adhere to are moments, couple time and group shots. This is a very loose description and there are other areas such as details etc however I won’t speak about them here. 

In terms of the wedding business, I endeavour to build the brand on chasing moments such as instances of happiness, emotion and humour. These type of photographs are what I try to fill the portfolio with as they are spontaneous and provide a greater opportunity stand out against the vast competition in the online jungle. This is an approach that works for us as 80% of the competition usually rely on portraits and happy snaps using a long lens. That leaves the other 20% who I am engaged in a competition with. I shoot at 24mm with an ethos of wide and close, filling the frame with a random moment to invoke an emotion.

Drew Findlay Wedding Photography

Regarding the making work for my project, I understand that I cannot get away with the wide and close strategy in many cases. And from the MA course I have discovered that I really enjoy speaking to people and making portraits. With regards to this, I have made every mistake in the book however I feel that I am slowly beginning to make portraits that are more considered and moving towards my intentions. Looking back at previous work, I feel that much of it has potential but naive in parts, this is still the case although I would argue that my work is improving.

When making wedding portraits I have a set routine that I know I need to cover to make a couple happy. Only when I have done this do I feel able to take risks and try something different which is where the job can become fun. Taking the conventional and trying to push the boundaries. This approach transcends into the type of audience who book us for their wedding photos. Before we meet, clients already have an idea of the type of people we are through the type of work they see on the portfolio. 

When making work for my project I feel that I scrutinise my work a in much greater depth, firstly looking for a clean composition which isolates a subject whilst encompassing the environment included in the frame. In doing this my intention is less subjective leaving the audience to contemplate the work further as any messages may be less obvious. Bate (2009,P70) suggests that the ‘purpose of surface depth in photography intentionally leaves the spectator out of the equation.’ This may be relevant as I feel that the majority of my wedding photography is mostly about surface depth with the intention of confirming Sontag (1973, p9) and the idea that “the trip was made, the programme was carried out, that fun was had”. Sontag perfectly summarises the objective of a wedding photographer and I need to understand that this type of visual language is appropriate for the context of a celebration. When my commercial/wedding work goes beyond this objective I am in danger of putting my business at risk. 

Andrew Findlay 2020

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

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