MA week 8 exploring context

Week 8 exploring contexts.




{ Falmouth University MA in photography – CRJ }

In June 2019 I started my MA with Falmouth university as part of an accredited education programme.


” A viewer approaches an image not with a blank mindset but with a mind already primed but with a mind already primed with memories, knowledge, prejudices, there is a mental set or or context to be taken into account.”

Looking at the same image of mine in three different contexts. 

Firstly the image in it’s basic form . What do you see? What is the image conveying ? Fun, freedom, silliness, play, outside , in nature. Camping maybe, or at least children playing in the woods.


SECONDLY ….. LANDING PAGE FOR THE ONLINE EXHIBITION WITH OVERVIEW OF EXHIBITION TITLE. Automatically you are picking out and questioning the word Heuristic. You’re barley even looking at the image anymore. Pulling out your phone if you are most people (as I did!) to google it’s meaning. Once you know it’s meaning, it potentially entirely changing the meaning of the image.

Heuristic from HEUTAGOGY , meaning or concerned with SELF DETERMINED, STUDENT CENTRED LEARNING THAT EMPHASISES AUTONOMY CAPACITY & CAPABILITY. Straight away you are now questioning the “STUDENT CENTRED LEARNING” that is or could be being portrayed. Your entire understanding of the image could potentially change in an instant. WHAT exactly is being learnt here? What is the child looking at, what is he sat in, and what the heck is going on with his hair ? How could that of happened to his hair, and how could this be invoking learning ?

Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 15.20.35


The grid gallery again, changes the meaning along with the context of where you are viewing it. Next to other images showing children in nature, with animals, hay bales, pitchforks, but then with words such as gravity, static, contemplation, nurture, suddenly you’re whole idea of what is being portrayed here is different and clearer. Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 21.41.44

Whilst reading The camerawork essays ; context and meaning in photography, Walker, John A & Evans, Jessica.

I started to think about the context of my research project. For example, if I was to have a small scale exhibition for a group of home educating families, how will their view of the exhibition be altered if I place that same exhibition in council offices for example (one needs here to understand the not always, but certainly not the rare, plethora of potential problems that one encounters as a home educator when dealing with their local authority). If I present my exhibition at a symposium for teachers in mainstream education how will that alter how the viewer interprets the images. If my images were placed in a book, and that book was placed in the parenting section of the bookshop, how would that alter how it was viewed compared to say, the art section, or the self help section, all of which, I believe would be very valid places for such a book. The article later goes on to question whether certain images  (in this case the images of Jo spence) should be absorbed in book or gallery settings. It talks about the type of person who goes to a gallery, and the type of person who will view images in a book. I believe the article is actually quite out of date now, as I believe galleries are a lot more accessible than they used to be to a wide variety of people, where actually, I think the market for photobooks, is a very small select market , and arguable, not the one I am most interested in reaching with my work. I do certainly see it in a gallery exhibition with families and children being able to access it, as an educational activity in itself.

Indeed I have seen this myself over the last few weeks whilst showing my images at a face to face portfolio review in Arles, compared to two online webinars , one with this modules tutor , and one with my cohort. It is also intriguing to note MY context. I took the images, and even I found myself viewing them differently when looking at them to choose a set of images for the landings exhibition.

In the above article it states “In the majority of cases , the result of a context shift is a change of emphasis in the photograph’s depicted content: different parts or characteristics of the image appear important in different display contexts. Alternatively it’s whole meaning is even a new significance, is enhanced, or modified. Indeed when a photograph – considered a single unit of meaning – enters in a montage relationship with either a caption, text , or other picture……” (  Walker, John A & Evans, Jessica. Pg 56 )

It is fabulously exciting to me to read this, as after the face to face WIP review in Arles, I came back wondering how I was going to convey the meaning behind these photographs. IF one looks at the image, and ‘just’ sees free play, ‘just’ sees submergence in nature, how can I convey what I am seeing in the images, when I take them. Sometimes a child may of been learning biology, but actually, for me. I took the photograph not because of the science, but because that child learnt how to share in that photograph. Implied meaning, and actual meaning are two different things. Which begs the question, does anyone even need to understand my images? Do I NEED for people to know exactly precisely what I meant when I took them. Part of me wants to think yes, I am, after all, trying to put across a narrative, that gets expunged from the conversation when talking about alternative education, that of the child, that of the parent, that of the family unit. Not to alter the narrative, or put a spin on it, but to capture it exactly how I witness it at any one moment. Which then makes me think, I don’t need everyone to understand, not everyone will be capable, nor indeed want to understand. Sometimes , the image in itself has to be enough.

Upon returning from Arles, I decided I would be including single word texts with my images, by way of making it clear what the educational , emotional, or physical benefit it was that I saw in that moment that I was trying to capture. I have done this, purely for the reason of, content in this instance DOES matter. As documentary images that are telling a narrative, for my project, that narrative must be as clear as possible.


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