Flying High

Taken in 1999

Floating daisy docks in Chicago, 1999

Taken in 2011

Ocean City Amusement Park in Ocean City, Maryland, 2011

Taken in 2005

Cars parked at a Nascar Event in Richmond, Virginia, 2005

What else do pilots do when they’re flying a plane, other than concentrate on not crashing?  Why? Take photographs of course! I found these photographs by Alex McClean who is a photographer and qualified pilot when I was just browsing the internet looking for some interesting photographs that I hadn’t seen before. I found them on this website: I really like these photographs because they make us think about just what pilots see when they’re flying. Obviously, they need to concentrate on flying the plane safely but they have time to look out of the window, or in his case, stick his camera out of the cockpit window and press the shutter button. These photographs look almost unreal and like constructed photographs because of the order and structure that they contain but they were just what he could see.

Surfers behind breaking waves at Sunset Beach in Oahu, Hawaii

Surfers behind breaking waves at Sunset Beach in Oahu, Hawaii, 

Loaded coal train cars in Norfolk, Virginia, taken in 2011

Loaded coal train cars in Norfolk, Virginia, 2011

These photographs, as far I could find out, have never been shown in any exhibitions and have only been published online. However, if they were to be exhibited I would imagine that they would be very large prints because of the patterns and dimension within each photograph.


Camera Lucida

At the beginning of the unit I saw that Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes was on our reading list.  I groaned internally, as I had heard that it was a difficult book to read and understand everything that he was writing about.

However, I love a challenge.

And.. this morning I finished it!

Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that it’s a very difficult book to read, and I doubt that I will ever understand the entire book. But I enjoyed it.  And that’s quite the surprise for me.

My favourite quote from the book is: “I always feel…color is a coating applied later on to the original truth of the black-and-white photograph. For me, color is an artifice, a cosmetic (like the kind used to paint corpses).” (Barthes, R. Camera Lucida, 1981. P.81). I used this quote in my essay for one of the other units and I find it a very thought provoking sentence. There’s a constant debate raging as to whether photographs show truth or not, and Barthes implies that black and white photographs show the truth. This could be considered quite controversial considering the debate on if it’s possible to show the truth through any image.  It could also be taken that he’s saying he doesn’t like colour photography, although I don’t think that is what he was saying. I think he’s saying that colour isn’t necessary in photography.. but I’m not 100% sure what Barthes actually wanted us to take from it.

Shadowing Thomas Joshua Cooper

A photographer named Mark McGowan won a competition held in Liverpool and got the chance to shadow Thomas Joshua Cooper for a day, which I think is an amazing prize.

He talks about it in this blog post

I found this blog post gave me more insight into how Thomas Joshua Cooper works and how much effort goes into making each photograph. The way that this post was written makes me feel as though I’m there with Mark McGowan, as do the photographs that he took throughout the day.

Thomas Joshua Cooper

After seeing Ship to Shore at the Hansard Gallery I did some research into Thomas Joshua Cooper as I had really enjoyed looking at his work in the exhibition.

He is an American landscape photographer who is based mostly in Scotland and helped to found the Glasgow School of Art. He spends a lot of his time travelling the world to take his photographs and they can take a long time to capture because he wants to get every single element of them right.

He uses a 1898 Agfa camera, with special plastic sheets made especially for him by Kodak instead of the original plates and prints all of his work by hand. When he is shooting, his camera and the rest of his kit weighs about 16kg, according to an article in The Guardian (
I found this article very interesting to read and I feel that I learnt a lot about Thomas Joshua Cooper as a person and not just as a photographer.

I really enjoy looking at his work because it has such a peaceful, calm feeling to it and makes me feel as though I am standing on a cliff looking over the ocean, instead of standing in a gallery surrounded by a crowd of people. I really admire the texture that he manages to incorporate into his work and I think it’s amazing that he still uses an old camera instead of a digital one. To me, this indicates that he produces photographs because he loves doing so, and doesn’t feel that he needs the help of technology.

“It is the photographing of ordinary things, in extraordinary light, which results in extraordinary photographs.”

I chose to share this quote because sometimes as photographers we think that we need to photograph something amazing and out of the ordinary in order to take a breath taking image.

But that’s not always the case. Some of the best photographs are of simple, every day, ordinary objects that we see all around us in the world.

Photofocus (old site)

“It is the photographing of ordinary things, in extraordinary light, which results in extraordinary photographs.”

–  David Young

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A Discussion

I had a tutorial today and my tutor mentioned that there had been controversy about our group exhibition that we curated.  People seemed to find it controversial because it was making stereotypes and generalisations about people who have drug and alcohol problems and saying that it was linked to mental illness. Nowadays we don’t get offended as easily as perhaps we would have done 30 years ago, but mental illness and addictions are the kind of subjects that will always be touchy or sensitive to some people.

I hadn’t really considered that our exhibition could be seen in this way. It is absolutely not the case that those who have a mental illness are all addicted to drugs and/or alcohol or that drug and alcohol addictions are linked to mental illness.
Mental illness is one of those subjects that people like to show in their work but it’s quite hard to portray without there being some potential to offend those with, or in contact with people with mental illness.

Larry Clark published a book called Tulsa in 1971 and that created quite a bit of controversy. At the beginning of the book he says  “...when i was sixteen i started shooting amphetamine. i shot with my friends everyday for three years and then left town but i’ve gone back through the years. once the needle goes in it never comes out…” (Clark, L (2000). Tulsa. New York: Grove Press.)  The people that he photographed did drugs because they were bored, it was nothing to do with mental illness.

Curating – what I learnt

You would think putting an exhibition of other people’s work together would be quite straightforward. But I soon realised that it’s not. Everyone likes different types of photography and some people can see links between images that others can’t.
From doing this mini project, I learnt that photographs that you wouldn’t think would go together actually do and I gained better understanding of how exhibitions such as Out Of Focus at the Saatchi Gallery in 2010 worked when some people could say that the mixture of photographs was too eclectic.
I also realised why some exhibitions such as Ship to Shore take a couple of years to put together and to select the works that are shown in them. Before this project I didn’t see why it should take that long but now I completely understand how selective you have to be in order to curate an exhibition, especially if you’re collaborating with others to make the exhibition. 

The title is a huge part of any exhibition – it’s what draws people in off the street and the thing that people remember afterwards. It’s the title on the exhibition program and on the posters so it has to be something memorable but also very relevant to the images in the show. The title of a show changes quite often as more images are added or taken away and I didn’t realise this. In my mind, you chose the title first and then found images to fit into that but it doesn’t work like that.