David Ruff: jpegs – My opinion.

I found the exercise, looking at the critiques of David Ruff’s work by David Campany and Joerg Colberg very interesting. Since that exercise did not require my own opinion, and being a very opinionated person, I shall share my own view here.

I think the first thing I want to look at is the thing that Colberg mentioned, but chose not to cover… the question of whether, with these works, Ruff could or should be considered a photographer.

Now I can’t claim to be anything but naive in such matters, but it seems to me that if Ruff was not the person holding the camera, then whatever else he may be, with these works, he is not a photographer.

So this leaves artist, archivist, or curator.

As an archivist, Ruff would be collecting the images, storing them and categorising them.

As a curator he would be more selective, choosing items for display so that the contrast between the images holds a message or meaning, or makes a greater impression than the images alone would.

Ruff does this.

But he does something else… he blows the images up, and prints them in a large form, thus allowing the viewer to see them in an entirely different way. This, I believe is what makes him an artist.


So, my opinion of the works themselves.

I was struck by the contrasting views of Campany and Colberg. While Campany valued the viewer’s attention being drawn to the fact that these are digital images created by limited technology, that have been viewed by millions,  Colberg’s attitude was that all of this was obvious, and so of limited value.

I suspect my own view may be somewhere in between these two, and I shall explain why.

Here is a photo I took in around 2000 on my first ever digital camera. It was (is… I still have it) a Kodak EZ200, and of very limited capability…  but it was the best I could afford at the time.


The image is of the Concrete Cows, by Liz Leyh, in Milton Keynes (I lived half a mile from them at the time). These are considered an iconic sculpture. The image is highly pixelated. So does that make this photo a work of art?

I would say not, and definitely not by the standard set by Ruff’s work.

The point with Ruff’s work is, it’s not just about the pixelation, and it’s not just about the image being of an iconic event or scene. It’s about the fact that millions of people are familiar with that particular image, and it then being blown up into a large form, so that it can be seen in a different way.

I do wonder, if by rejecting the gallery exhibition and concentrating on the book, Colberg may have missed out on the impact such a display creates. It may be like the difference between watching a good film at the cinema, or watching the Blu-Ray at home on a 50″ TV. Yes, it’s more impressive than seeing it on your computer screen, but you don’t get the full impact.


Having said all of that, do I actually like Ruff’s work? I won’t answer that immediately, for I wish to give you a glimpse of my personal taste in certain things first. (I must also add that I haven’t seen Ruff’s work in a gallery either, so my opinion is perhaps of limited value).

I have an interest in history and nostalgia. I like old things. And more specifically, I like old video games. Video games being a very visual thing, I believe they are worth considering in this context, and I shall give you an example of what I’m talking about.


This is a screen capture of Sega’s classic arcade racing game Virtua Racing (played using the mame arcade emulator on my pc).


This is a screen capture of Drive Club, on the Sony PS4.

Drive Club is bordering on photorealistic, while being the much older game, and both technically and visually far more limited, Virtua Racing is based on flat shaded polygons.

So as a gamer, you would think I would prefer the modern, more advanced ‘better’ game? You would be wrong. There is something about flat shaded polygons, that I find very appealing… some kind of retro futurism, that can’t be matched by any amount of realism in modern gaming.

Back in the 90s, polygons looked like the future, and to my eyes, they still do.

So with that in mind, I find Ruff’s work  …’interesting’.

I remember when the phones on cameras were limited in the way that’s being depicted by his work. If you saw an image of a major event on the TV or in the paper, and 9/11 comes to mind, it’s very likely that it came from such a camera. I remember when for most people, the internet was accessed via dialup, meaning images on the web needed to be highly compressed, so that everything wouldn’t just crawl to a halt.

That makes Ruff’s work interesting and of value on a historical level. He is depicting a certain aspect of popular culture, an aspect which has already passed, and indeed, had already passed by 2009, never mind 2016.

I look at his work and my reaction is one of “I remember those events, and I remember when the internet looked like that, and I remember how I felt at the time.”

On that level… I like what Ruff has done.

Aesthetically, though, while I love the retro-futurism of flat shaded polygons in video games, big chunky, fat, pixels in low resolution photographs… I do not like. Not at all.

On an intellectual level, I can appreciate the way the blocky artifacts bring order to chaos, and convert a mass of flame, or smoke, or twisted metal into a series of 1s and 0s… but my eyes simply don’t find it pleasing.

So how is it that I can like the images created by one limited technology, and not another?

I think it stems from the direction the image is coming from. And what do I mean by that?

In the game, the image is coming from inside the technology. It starts from nothing, and better coding, or better hardware create more detail. But whatever the state of the technology, the image produced is never less than it started out as.

With digital photography, the image starts off outside of the technology. It is pure, and complete. It looks the way it looks. The digital camera then translates that scene into something else… and in the case of old technology, something less. It loses detail, it adds artefacts, and frankly, it looks broken.

Yes the same could be said of the grain in traditional photographs… and I like those.

Perhaps it’s that those are somehow more organic. More natural. How they look is the result of chance and physics, and not a calculation where economy is of equal or greater value than aesthetics.



Campany, D (2008) Thomas Ruff: The Aesthetic of the Pixel. AT http://davidcampany.com/thomas-ruff-the-aesthetics-of-the-pixel/

Colberg, J (2009) Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. AT http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2009/04/review_jpegs_by_thomas_ruff/


Project 3.Surface and Depth

In the work of David Ruff, David Campany sees the pixelated work as ‘cold and dispassionate, wilful, searching and perverse, but at times surprisingly beautiful.’ Campany (2008)

He suggests that the images appeal to viewers on different levels, be they personal, or global, and as individual pictures, or representing an aspect of modern photography itself.

As found images from the internet, these photographs may exist in many archives, including group or personal memory. Many of these images have been seen by millions. This gives something to think about, a context to consider, when viewing them.


Figure1. Ruff cited in Campany (2008)

Rather than the authenticity suggested by the grain of early physical photographs, the pixelation in Ruff’s work demonstrates the limitations of the technology, but also adds a certain order to chaotic visual images or events.

The pixelation of Ruff’s work draws attention to the digital nature of the images, and this is all the more noticeable when they are blown up, as large format prints, and displayed in a gallery.

Joerg Colberg’s view is different. Ignoring the argument about whether Ruff’s work can even be considered photography at all, Colberg looks at how Ruff (2009(?)) describes the ‘terrible beauty’ of poorly resolved images depicting ‘visually aesthetic’ scenes.

Colberg preferred the images in the book, finding the gallery exhibition too pretentious for his liking. Ultimately, while he likes the images themselves, he finds the concept to be stating the obvious.

Well, sure, images on the web often have low resolution, and if you blow them up then they show funny patterns (caused by the image compression algorithms), and of course, photography’s role has been changing through its use online – but all that is just so obvious! I get it! Colberg (2009)

(Word Count: 287)


Campany, D (2008) Thomas Ruff: The Aesthetic of the Pixel. AT http://davidcampany.com/thomas-ruff-the-aesthetics-of-the-pixel/

Colberg, J (2009) Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. AT http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2009/04/review_jpegs_by_thomas_ruff/

Exercise 1.4 Frame

Exercise 1.4 Frame

The final exercise of this project makes use of the viewfinder grid display of a digital
camera. This function projects a grid onto the viewfinder screen to help align vertical
and horizontal lines, such as the horizon or the edge of a building, with the edge of
the frame. If your camera doesn’t have a grid display, imagine a simple division of the
viewfinder into four sections.

Take a good number of shots, composing each shot within a single section of the
viewfinder grid. Don’t bother about the rest of the frame! Use any combination of
grid section, subject and viewpoint you choose.
When you review the shots, evaluate the whole frame, not just the part you’ve
composed. Take the same approach you used to evaluate the point and line
exercises: examine the relationship of elements to the frame. Composition is part of
form and formal analysis will be a useful skill for your exercises and assignments as
you progress through the course.

‘Formalism: prioritisation of concern with form rather than content. Focus on composition
and the material nature of any specific medium’. (Wells, 2009, p.347)

Select six or eight images that you feel work individually as compositions and also
together as a set. If you have software for making contact sheets you might like
to present them as a single composite image. Add the images to your learning log
together with technical information such as camera settings, and one or two lines
containing your thoughts and observations.


Wells, L. (ed.) (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction (4th edition). Abingdon:


Exercise 1.4 Frame

Rutland Water

Once again, the weather was overcast and the light very poor.  This doesn’t seem to have been too much of a problem though, as while the tones in these images may be flat and muted, I find this actually adds to the mood.



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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/5.6   |  1/160 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 18mm


In such an organic setting, there is a lack of any leading lines, or indeed much in the way of lines running parallel or perpendicular to the frame, besides the horizon.

Further, I don’t really think you could call the concrete block a ‘point’ but it does have the effect of drawing your eye.

While shooting, I composed the bottom left part of the grid, with the block sitting on the right of that section.

It’s effect on the whole image, though, is to exert some kind of gravitational pull, dragging your attention down and to the left.

I find image as a whole, like all of those in this set, dreamlike. This may be as much to do with the light as it is with the subject matter and the composition.

The trees seem alive, and by that I mean more alive that you would expect a tree to be. They seem to be waving, and laughing… almost threatening. And then what’s going on with that concrete block? It’s like some modern day standing stone. In a thousand years, will archeologists and historians ponder over its purpose, as they do with Stonehenge?



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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/6.3   |  1/160 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 30mm


Again, I composed the bottom left corner, having a nice arrangement of roots and trunks.

The edge of the lake leads the eye to the middle ground, giving a sense of depth, while the horizon again runs parallel/perpendicular to the frame, adding a sense of structure.

I find the tree roots and their proximity to the frame draw the eye, almost like the tree sucks you in, then draws you up through the branches and out through the few remaining leaves. Is this photography or biology?

There is a point, a white object on the bank in the background. I don’t find it draws my eye too much, which is good, as I see it more as an imperfection than a point of interest.




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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/5   |  1/80 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 34mm


I composed the post and tree trunk in the upper middle section of the grid.

The lake on the left forms a leading line, but the line I find stronger is more implied, than present. Running from the middle right, up and towards the centre, just left of the post, there is a line where the tree roots break free of the soil. This draws my eye, dragging me in, towards the tree.

There are a lot of lines running parallel/perpendicular to the frame, and somehow, they seem to create a sense of order or structure within the image, in all of the organic chaos.

How this image makes me feel, is somewhat unsettled. The roots remind me of The Evil Dead… and somehow, The Walking Dead. It’s that mindless clutching, grasping anything, trying to survive.



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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/5.6   |  1/125 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 30mm


The trunk and roots were composed in the top left.

The lake edge creates a leading line, drawing you into the middle distance, maybe towards the roots and trunk in the shadows. But then those roots in the near ground seem not to pull you in, but to be reaching out of the frame, towards you.

There seems to be a theme here. It’s quite unsettling.



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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/5.6   |  1/125 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 30mm


I composed the chain, in the centre section of the grid.

No prizes for spotting the leading line.

It’s not so much leading your eye to the lake, as dragging you in against your will.  While the edge of the lake, running parallel to the top of the frame acts as a separator. You are here, but you’re going ‘there’.

I love the organic nature of this. There’s dried, rotting matter on everything, like the rocks and chain are alive… in an undead kind of way.



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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/7.1   |  1/250 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 21mm


The lighter end of the fallen post seems to act as a point, standing out somewhat from the other objects. There’s another point, on the extreme right edge of the frame, almost falling out of the frame, in fact. I rather wish it wasn’t there, as it speaks of human activity, and breaks the ‘abandoned’ spell.

There are no really obvious ‘solid’ leading lines, though there is a line in the clouds, a blown out section where the sky shone through the gaps. It speaks of depth and distance.

The line of the horizon, running parallel with the top of the frame, is interesting. The lake and the sky being similar shades and colours, the thin line of the horizon seems almost abstract, as if we don’t really reach earth until we get to the shore.

And what a shore it is. Desolate. Abandoned. A lonely place. Things happened here, but maybe a long time ago.



This exercise has surprised me greatly.

I used to think I knew how to compose an interesting photograph. I now believe I was wrong.

When doing this exercise, it seemed an alien and completely wrong way to go about things. It went against everything I thought I knew about composing an image. And then I came to look at the shots I’d taken, on my computer.

They looked like photos taken by someone else. Definitely not me.

I liked them.

I still like them.

Something about confining the photograph I had in mind into a small section of the frame, and leaving everything else to chance… with lots of random ‘stuff’, or empty space. It adds gravity and weight to the areas that have been composed. It draws the eye. It seems, somehow, powerful.



While walking around Sheffield City Centre, taking shots for Exercise 1.3, I happened upon a couple of scenes that, while they didn’t fit the criteria of the exercise, were too good to ignore. I figured I’d share them with you here.


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Apart from minor tweaks to levels of the RAW file in Digital Photo Professional, and resizing in Photoshop,  this is pretty much how it came out of the camera.




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This takes opportunism (and luck) to a whole other level.

I just happened to be walking past this scene, and was struck by the light and mood. I wanted to take a photo, but thought standing there aiming a camera at the people would be inappropriate. What I did was continue walking, and while holding my camera at waist height, I pointed it in their general direction. Then, with no idea what was actually in the frame, I pressed the shutter release and hoped for the best.

A case of the photo taking itself? I’d say about 90% so. I recognised the appeal of the scene, and decided upon the moment to press the shutter release. Everything else… blind luck.

I’m only just encountering the ‘discovery vs construction’ argument, but if I understand correctly, while the top image could be put into the ‘construction’ category, along with most of the photos I have taken recently, the above image would seem to me to fall very much into the ‘discovery’ camp.

I like it.

The picture suggests many things, none of which we can actually know, but can perhaps guess at.

Obviously there has been a wedding, and this particular group are leaving the party (early?).

Is this the bride and groom, with kids from previous marriages? Or maybe the best man and maid of honour plus bridesmaids etc?

What is the man telling the boy? I suspect he’s pointing to the clocktower on the nearby town hall. Some piece of history, or architectural detail?

Is this part of a larger group, all leaving at the same time? The car behind is pulling out. Are they going to the same place?

So many questions. Make up your own story.

Exercise 1.3 Line

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line

Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth. Shooting with a wideangle
lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within
the frame. The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to
the line.

Part 1

Before starting, just a quick mention of the fact that I’m using a different camera from my previous shots. These were taken with a Canon EOS 1300D.

Image 1img_0130a800

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Not an entirely straightforward shot. There are lines diverging and converging all over the place.   Sometimes this is down to architectural design, and sometimes down to perspective. I wouldn’t like to predict which way the viewer’s eye might be drawn around the image, but I think it’s safe to say it doesn’t begin in the conventional ‘top-left’.

I’m not actually sure I buy into the idea that ‘In the same way that we read a book from the top-left, we read most photographs from the top-left corner…'(Diprose & Robbins, 2012:33). Maybe it’s my slightly miswired brain, but I never look at images that way, and this image doesn’t strike me as one that would lend itself well to viewing in such a way. Speaking entirely for myself, with this image, I start on the bottom-right, get swept upwards, to either the left or the right of the fountain, stop at the building in the background, and then move back down on the opposite side.

On a technical level, I found myself frustrated here, as with most of the other shots in this series, with having to keep the camera in fully automatic mode. It produced some surprising shots, but some of its choices, I would not have made. Here, I would have gone for a narrower aperture and longer exposure. While the closer streams of water being frozen in time are nice, I’d gladly exchange them for a little more clarity in the background. (or maybe less… and blur the background out dramatically).

Image 2


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A more conventional shot. The lines may be curvy, but the path is easy to follow, and clearly leads the eye into the background.

I’m happy with the settings the camera used here, particularly with how it responded to the light, and to be honest, this new Canon 1300D is producing results that I could only dream of while using my Panasonic FZ50.

Image 3


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This is the most fancy gutter I’ve ever seen, and it seems fitting that it’s the only part of the image to be in focus. The lines drawn by the gutter get hidden by the lay of the land, but their continued convergence is implied, if not actually seen, into the distance.

Image 4


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Light glowing on the pavings in the centre of the foreground draws the eye, and then the leading lines redirect the viewer towards the middle ground, where the closer proximity to the plane of focus makes the people and cars stand out. The two youths on the right, almost unnoticed due to being in shadow, were having quite a laugh, as I crouched down, trying to get an interesting shot.

Image 5


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Where the eye is drawn to and ends may vary, depending on your starting point. If you start with the water at the bottom of the steps, you may be drawn up to the point it is flowing from, and go no further. If you start at the bottom left, you are drawn up by the converging lines of the stone blocks, and then swept away into the unseen distance by the lines on the buildings behind.

Image 6


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This is another shot where I probably wouldn’t have done things the way the camera chose to, though in retrospect, I think the camera has done a better job than I would have.

The first thing I see is the writing (making a liar of myself by starting at the top-left)… I’m not sure if this is graffiti or art… given the area, it could be either. My eye is then drawn along the wall and pavement until I see the car and shop in the distance, but then… hold on…. back again to the near-ground…. what’s that wine glass doing there?

Image 7


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The row of white painted girders, and the roof line, draw the eye into the distance, only to be drawn back by the yellow line, and then… wow, the blue of the sky matches the blue on the train. And the white on the train matches the white on the girders and roof.

The train seems to add to the suggestion of forward motion into the distance, partly because of the lines of perspective (helped by the sweeping painted lines on its flanks), but also by the very nature of its existence. Trains go forwards… quickly. The fact that it wasn’t actually moving doesn’t really matter. It’s all about implied motion.

There’s another detail which seems to suggest speed and motion, despite it’s complete absence. The fluorescent lights. Their spacing suggests the white lines as seen by a driver on a road or motorway.

Exercise 1.3 (2) Line

Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space. To avoid the effects
of perspective, the sensor/film plane should be parallel to the subject and you may
like to try a high viewpoint (i.e. looking down). Modern architecture offers strong
lines and dynamic diagonals, and zooming in can help to create simpler, more
abstract compositions.
Review your shots from both parts of Exercise 1.3. How do the different lines relate
to the frame? There’s an important difference from the point exercises: a line can
leave the frame. For perpendicular lines this doesn’t seem to disrupt the composition
too much, but for perspective lines the eye travels quickly along the diagonal and
straight out of the picture. It feels uncomfortable because the eye seems to have no
way back into the picture except the point that it started from. So for photographs
containing strong perspective lines or ‘leading lines’, it’s important that they lead
somewhere within the frame.

Part 2

Image 1


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This is new for me. The photo with grain silos and poplar trees in Assignment 1 was probably the first time I’d ever deliberately removed all signs of perspective, so this is only the second time.

So, not only are there no leading lines, but most of the perpendicular and parallel lines leave the frame. There are very few whole objects in the shot. The lamps. A small notice. A couple of panes of glass, and the street name. Everything else gets cut off by the frame.

But you still know what you are looking at. I find this interesting.

Image 2


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Connected to the previously shown ‘fanciest gutter I have ever seen’, is the fanciest drain I have ever seen.  It’s a big thing, to the point that I couldn’t fit the whole object into the frame, but as per the previous image, cutting off parts of the subject with the edges of the frame doesn’t seem to matter.

I like how the design of the mosaic creates a sense of flowing movement, suggesting the movement of water into the drain, even when there is none.  The whole gutter/drain construction outside of Sheffield Hallam University came as quite a surprise to me. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Truth be told… I’ve always lived in towns and villages, where aesthetics have generally been secondary to practicalities, so Sheffield (where all of these shots were taken) is something of a wondrous place to me.

Image 3


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You can see more of what this place is. It might be quite a dull image, were it not for the detail of the brickwork. The normal lay of the bricks is disrupted by sections with diagonal brick patterns. It’s the kind of thing sometimes seen in Tudor architecture, though this is by no means a Tudor building.

I like how the gold colours in the paintwork and signs are almost matched by the gold in the leaves of the tree. This, contrasted with the darker paint, creates quite a happy feel, despite the almost total lack of sunshine. (It was sunny and bright when I got on the train in Worksop, but by the time I reached Sheffield, it was dull as dishwater).

Image 4


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Functional doesn’t have to mean ugly or dull. Overall, the building has a symmetrical shape, but this is broken up by the materials used for the different sections, making for a much more interesting looking construction.

The vertical lines of the trees and lamps, stretching up through the image and matching the lines of the building, while also casting out branches in other directions, add an element of organic chaos, and keep things interesting.

The camera chose to put the plane of focus just on the nearside of the trunk of the tree on the right, making some of the branches the sharpest objects in the image. I don’t know that I would have done this myself (I could have overridden its choice, but I’m new to this camera, so I just let it do its thing)… but it does make for an interesting feel, where the object of our interest is the background of the image.


Image 5


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I *love* this. Of the shots in part 2 of this exercise, this is my favourite.

The light is poor and the colours somewhat muted, but it doesn’t matter (to me). There is so much going on here, and so much detail.

The architecture, words, signs and flags, depict a vibrant culture wilfully, even joyfully, adapting itself to suit another culture. It maintains its own identity, while fitting in, with the host culture.

This whole street was a breath of fresh air to me, and unlike anything anywhere I’ve lived. I could have stood outside every shop and taken photos (I certainly stood outside several), but I was losing the light, and it was very crowded.

While the photographic style is entirely different, and the areas lacked that transitional space between the interior of the shops and the exterior of the street, walking along this street taking photographs reminded me of a passage I read about Eugene Atget.

‘Much of his Parisian material deals with the limited future: food shops where meals will be planned and brasseries where they might be eaten, plus cabarets where time of a different sort will be spent. Hence his interest in ragpicking and junk shops where, in terms of the major metaphor, it will all come to an end in mere material.’ (Jeffrey, 2012)

Image 6


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I really needed a tripod for this…. or to be using a manual mode. There’s a lack of sharpness (due to camera shake?) With an 18mm focal length, the 1/80 second exposure shouldn’t have caused a problem. I may have been shivering.

Anyway….  I love this scene.

I really enjoy photos of dilapidated, abandoned, derelict buildings, and while this place is none of those, it’s certainly seen better days. “It’s grim up north” as the KLF once said… and this location is a reminder of that fact.

The thing that most interests me about this scene…. what on earth is going on with that door?!!



In perspective shots, there are two different sets of lines. Those that are parallel or perpendicular to the frame, and the ‘leading lines’, which draw the eye into the shot, to create depth.

The perpendicular/parallel  lines may leave the frame, while the leading lines should not.

There do appear to be circumstances where leading lines do leave the shot and seem to get away with it. In Image 3 of part 1, the lines created by the gutter become hidden by the lay of the land, and this doesn’t seem to cause a problem. Maybe this is because they don’t leave the frame, but are obscured within it. The same seems true of Image 5 of part 1. The lines of the buildings in the background end, though again, not via the edge of the frame.

Something I have found very striking about this exercise is the difficulty in creating an interesting image without using perspective, but also something else.

When using perspective, you can take a subject which, in and of itself, is unspectacular, and you can make an interesting, or eye catching image. When avoiding perspective, to capture an interesting image, the subject itself has to be interesting, and this can make taking such photographs difficult.

This also brings up the old question of ‘does the photograph take itself’? When avoiding perspective, and having the need to find a subject that is interesting in its own right, how much is the aesthetic quality of a good looking photograph down to the photographer?

I believe it comes down to the ability of the photographer to recognise something beautiful, or of interest, and to be able to frame it well. It also comes down to taste. You could say that anyone can see a pretty thing and point a camera at it… but could just anyone frame it well and make the shot work? And could just anyone point a camera at something that is aesthetically quite ugly, and make a photograph that is worth looking at?  My opinion is that no, ‘just anyone’ could not.  (Having said that, giving a disposable camera to a young child can produce very interesting results).

Here we may come up against the question of framing versus cropping.

Framing is where the photographer carefully positions him/herself, possibly making use of a zoom lense, if one is attached to the camera, to get the best possible composition in the frame. The final composition is achieved in the camera.

Cropping is where an image that has already been taken, is manipulated, either in software, or using an enlarger when developing film, and the area of interest is effectively zoomed in on.

The appeal of cropping is that you can take a pre-existing image, and produce something entirely different from it, with different emphasis, or telling a completely different story.

The negative aspect of this is loss of detail and overall image quality. The more you crop, the more grainy the resulting image will be.

For the best quality image, it is always better to try and get as close as possible to your desired composition while framing, and then use cropping only for fine tuning. That being said, and art being what it is, sometimes grain can be seen as a positive.



Diprose, G &  Robins, J (2012) Photography: The New Basics. London: Thames & Hudson.

Jeffrey, R (2012) How to Read a Photograph. London: Thames & Hudson.

British Journal of Photography

Issue 7853 November 2016

I found the ‘We Are The People’ section of this issue of the British Journal of Photography’ to be …to coin a phrase… relevant to my interests.

There are articles on the ‘slow photography’ of Peter Michel, who has been taking photographs of his local area in the north of England for the past 40 years, and Chris Dorley-Brown, who has been doing something similar in Hackney for the past 30 years.

These are of interest to me, with my own liking for architecture, history and nostalgia, as they demonstrate how honest, down to earth, no frills photography, taken in a specific locality, increase in interest and importance over an extended period of time.

Areas, and the buildings within them change, over time. Houses, shops, factories and the like are altered, extended, knocked down, built over, to the point that after many years, an area can become unrecognisable. This creates an interest in photographs of places that were taken years earlier. Partly this is through nostalgia among those who remember those places as they once were, and also through historical interest among those who are newer to the area.

What may, to some, appear as dull and uninteresting… ‘People were looking at me like “Well that’s bloody miserable!”‘ (Dorely-Brown 2016 cited in Smyth 2016:49) can, many years later, be seen as important pieces of work. Dorely Brown (2016) says of his current work ‘I don’t think they’re going to come into their own for maybe another 30 or 40 years.’ (Smyth 2016:49)

I suppose it saddens me somewhat that I am coming to this kind of photography at such a time in my own life that, by the time my own work might be of interest to others, I will probably be long gone.

I also found it noteworthy that these photographers had, over this extended period of time, largely not earned any significant money from these works, but had created them as side projects while doing other work.

This is something I need to keep in mind when considering my own career plans and ambitions.



Smyth, D. (2016) East End Archive’ In British Journal of Photography 7853 p.49

Reflection Following Tutor Feedback

I’m very encouraged following this feedback, finding it largely positive, while the points of criticism are entirely valid and give me a route to move forward.

I should mention that I did actually include links to larger versions of the photos, both in the main ‘Square Mile’ post, and in the digital submission. I will though make a point to include links to larger images in all future posts (including this one).

History, and examining or representing aspects of the past is something I’m interested in, and do include in many of my photos (and my YouTube videos), so it may be that this will be something I focus on in the course. Having said that, at this early stage, I wish to explore as many possible avenues as I can. I’m unsure if the retrospective angle is where I ‘find my own voice’ or if it’s simply a rut I’m already stuck in, and should possibly think about breaking out of.

On the piece of coursework that confused me: I will look at it again, and while I suspect that Asperger’s Syndrome may be a factor in my struggling to interpret the question in anything other than a literal manner, my wife (who does not have Asperger’s) also could not make sense of it, and she’s a qualified teacher (and in the nicest possible way, a grammar nazi).

Specific points

Image 1.  Going back to take this shot again would definitely have been a good move.

I think I was trying to be a bit too clever, covering too many bases in one image. Night photography, illusionism, and the car interior as a framing device to set the narrative. The result is a jumble, so you don’t really know where you’re supposed to be looking.

This isn’t helped by the car in the middle ground, which while it adds to a possible narrative, creates an extra distraction from the subject.

Unfortunately, going back was not an option within a reasonable timeframe (Long story).

There is more detail viewable in the larger image linked in the main ‘Square Mile’ post (and this post), but I agree that the overall image quality is below par.

How much of this is down to a lack of skill on my part, and how much down the the Panasonic FZ50 having a small sensor and poor low light performance… I don’t know. However, Christmas has come early here (my wife is wonderful), and I now have a Canon EOS 1300D, which I’m fairly confident will produce better results in similar conditions.

I do wonder if the image I rejected was actually the better shot, for while it still lacks detail in the darker areas, the tighter framing possibly makes for a superior composition.

Image 2. I don’t even need to google ‘wooden jetty going in to lake’… I’ve seen that shot a million times and know exactly what images I would find.

I agree, the composition is a cliché, (a concern mentioned in the main submission). On reflection, while I decided to include it due to the pleasing sensation created by the compositional device, I accept that my weighing of the pros vs cons was a miscalculation.

Image 3.  This was me trying to step outside of my comfort zone. Usually I tend to make use of perspective lines and vanishing points, where here I was deliberately not doing that. The result is an image with a different feel, which while I like it, does indeed make it quite a mismatch with the other images. Note to self: Just because I like an image, doesn’t mean I should include it in a series.

Image 4.  I’m a fan of the ‘wonky’ shot (probably from years of reading car magazines, with their dramatic action shots), and while I don’t use it very frequently, it is something I like to play with from time to time. Getting the car breaking into the shot like that, and having it work… that’s not something I’ve ever tried before, but it’s not unusual for me to try something new, just to see what happens.

Image 5. The black and white was indeed covering a technical error, and I agree, its use in a series of colour images could lead the viewer to question the reason for its inclusion. On its own, or in a series of other black and whites, I would defend its use, as the resulting image is pleasing to my eye… though in that circumstance, I would not have mentioned the technical issues in the first place.

Image 6. I’m pleased that the title worked well with the image. I feel that this image most successfully achieved what I was trying to represent with the whole series, and the title was a distillation of that.  As mentioned previously, there is a link to a larger version of this in the main ‘Square Mile’ post, the digital submission, (and this post).


Having looked at the suggested links:

Dan Holdsworths night-time pictures  http://www.danholdsworth.com/works/autopia/4/


I love that type of work, and have wanted to do something along those lines for years. Unfortunately, while I’m loathe to blame my equipment, even at minimum ISO settings, sensor noise tends to be a problem on the type of equipment that has fallen within my budget. I’m hoping my new Canon EOS 1300D will achieve better results. While it’s very much at the entry level, I’m hopeful, and look forward to experimenting.

Now I just need a night when my wife doesn’t have to be up early. (Our dogs bark continually if anyone leaves the house after dark and no-one’s there to console them.)


Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher’s Industrial typologies http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/bernd-becher-and-hilla-becher-718

Industrial architecture is something I’m fascinated by, and am perhaps a bit odd in that I miss the dirty old industrial landscape of Sheffield, on a purely aesthetic level.

Typologies are something new to me, so this is very interesting. Having read ahead somewhat in the course material and assignments, I can see that this is something I need to pay attention to.


Wolfgang Tillmans – Use of colour and black and white http://www.maureenpaley.com/system/files/062016/575c43146bf3b5189a000dea/slideshow_slice_large/Maureen_Paley_Wolfgang_Tillmans.jpg?1465664824


The black and white images seem to me like a row of windows looking into another part of the building, as if somehow a separate thing from the exhibition of colour images above them.

My guess is that this is achieved by the contrast in colour vs b&w, size, subject matter, positioning and levels of order in arrangement. It sets them apart to the point that my brain perceives them as something entirely different.

Also, I find it interesting that the ‘windows’ offer a view into other interior areas, while it is the ‘photos’ that offer outdoor views.

This exhibition is functioning on so many levels. It boggles my brains… in a good way.


Martha Rosler – The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems http://collection.whitney.org/object/8304

I found Martha’s explanation of her work thought provoking. Her way of addressing the whole ‘find a bum’ mentality to certain types of photography strikes me as enlightened. There are questions of ethics when shooting poverty for personal gain. She addresses this by removing any question of exploitation, excluding images of the poverty stricken from their settings, and replacing them with their words.

This gives me many things to think about, aesthetically, and conceptually.