Part 5 – Exercise 5.2

Part 5 – Exercise 5.2 Photographs and Context

Excerise Brief
Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to, is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?

Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your log as part of Assignment Five.

Before carrying out the exercise a little research, with an explanation of my understanding of what is required.

After reading Terry Barrett’s essay Photographs and Context, I took a second look at some of my own work and wondered what people may make of them. Would they see/feel what I wanted them to see or feel when they looked at photographs I had taken? In an earlier essay relating to assignment 1, I wrote about how one might tell a story with images. This briefly touched on the the areas discussed in Terry Barretts’ essay, namely, (1) information evident within the picture, (2) Information surrounding the picture in its presentation, (3) Information about the pictures making. He called these the internal context, external context and the original context. Basically, what is perceived by what was in the photograph, the context in how and where it was displayed and how the information was manipulated by various authors to portray a certain meaning.

Thinking back to my exercise on Telling A Story, and looking again at the shots used there, I came to the following conclusions. The picture of my husband, holding up his beer whilst on holiday, would fall into the category 3, original content. This is because of what was in the image. Taken in a place where people would be holidaying, casual cloths worn, sunshine apparent, with furnishings normally associated with holiday places.

Whereas the images taken of Market Drayton, I would classify as category 2, external content.  This was displayed in a place associated with the image itself, celebrating the locality and people visiting the exhibition would have had an interest in the area.


DSC05549And  finally the image, Bless Our Home, I would classify as category 1.  This is a personal view of what I perceive represents my home, and to certain degree, me, using a variety of images very personal to me and my family.

Terry Barrett’s essay gave much food for thought, how a simple change in presentation of Robert Doisneau’s photograph, of a couple having a drink in a bar can be manipulated to express so many different views, just by adding text or the place it is presented. Karen Knorr, exploited how context operates and took advantage of it in producing her Belgravia Series. She was able to manipulate the viewer interptretaion by adding text. Text on its own, had one meaning, the photograph again on its own, had another meaning, but put the two together and 3rd meaning is formed. In Assignment 2, I adapted Karen Knorr’s conception of adding text to the image to give it a thought provoking meaning. The text in this series gives a different interpretation to each image, especially images 3 (Happy Days Texting) and image 7 (Spending Quality Time with Your Soul Mate)

Looking at Georges Rousses‘ work, he alters context in yet another way, which play around with the mind, much like looking at a Picasso, having to look twice to understand the meaning. Although, not in the same category and meaning in the way Robert Doisneau’s ‘couple in the bar’ had the concept changed, by three Georges-Rousse-Rueselsheim-2003different agencies to portray 3 completely different meanings, but in a way that it may be used. For example, the image on the right, maybe used by a paint manufacturer to  show what a place could look like if it was decorated. Use thier product and this could be yours. Or it could be used by a letting agency to depict what a place looked like originally, (in the colour insert), but then using the other part of the image, depicting what was left after bad tenants were allowed to rent the place. Basically saying you need a good letting agency to manage your properties. And this is when the image looses its identity and the image becomes reality and truth to the viewer.

Exercise 5.2
The subject I have chosen is graffiti, The photographer Keegan Gibbs.

Keegan Gibbs is a young  American street art photographer, well established in his own right, with published work and exhibitions under his belt.  Brought up beside the ocean, his love of water is apparent in his work.  After graduating from Chapman University in Orange County, where he studied film production, he took photography courses, without a successful out come. It’s fair to say that he found his ‘voice’ for photography through friends and especially his mother, herself having a great interest  in photography. His first photograph was taken with his mothers camera at Vasquez Rocks aged 6 or 7. At the time he didn’t think that photography would bode so high in his life and give him the career he has today. Although there are many photographers who he has admiration for, he believes that looking at others work should be educational, helping develop ones own vision.

Film production was his first love, but after showing off some ‘holiday snaps’ he realised that there was potential in his work. Now-a-days Keegan uses a canon camera , but is not adverse to experiment with older proven cameras, to include film.  He feels that film and digital photography each have a place in todays industry and each have their own advantages.  Working with film, encourages the photographer to make sure each shot counts, focusing on the frame as opposed to taking hundreds of digital shots and ending up with a few good images.

One series of photographs that have given Keegan a place in my list of inspirational photographers is the Graffiti series. Through working with the EE Crew from Los Angeles, he met and formed the strong bond with the Seventh Letter Crew, whose work is well documented along the LA river, on billboards and any blank space they find. But Keegan Gibbs does not just photograph the graffiti, his subject is the author of the said graffiti, taking the viewer along the path, behind the scenes, drawing in viewer to experience the adrenaline of being caught, of the heights some artists work at and the danger that maybe present.

I have taken a few photographs that I might use in this exercise. The photographs below were taken from a moving car, on cold and wet day as we travelled through Germany in August 2015. But these lack the excitement portrayed in Keegan Gibbs work. I am in the confines of safety in the car. Its daylight and no real danger. Additionally there are no artists at work.

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I also took some photographs of children (my grandchildren) at work. Again, in the image (below) we have artists there, but nothing to get the adrenaline going.

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by kind permission of Keegan Gibbs

The image by Keegan Gibbs I have selected is one of two graffiti artists working on a wall late into the night.This black and white photograph gives the element of secrecy, working in hurried manner, up high standing on scaffolding.

The image chosen (below) is one that I took at the local summer fayre, where children were encouraged to try their hand at graffiti art, ending up with the town name of Whitchurch in colourful display, a total opposite to Keegan Gibbs’ image.


Although my image above and Keegan Gibbs’ image are giving off differing vibes, they each have a story to tell. One were graffiti is something to be carried out in secret, the process being hidden away, whilst the other is a celebration of a town, openly encouraging the youth of today in the art. Yet in daylight they both will prove to be a colourful representation of a form of art the is loved by some and despised by others.

Thinking back to Terry Barrett’s three types of information. I would surmise that Keegan Gibbs’ image can be classified as information surrounding its presentation, external context, taking into account of how and where it is displayed. The graffiti in Keegan’s image is displayed on a wall in a public place, it was not commissioned and is placed where some may find it ugly. Yet if the graffiti where to be displayed in a gallery, with documented evidence, the original context comes into play, it suddenly becomes ‘art’. Although the graffiti in this image cannot be seen, the implication is there. The act of what’s going on is apparent because I know the history. Additionally, if we were to have seen the actual finished painting, there may well have been a message conveyed.  but as it is, we could take this image and give it a few headlines, mimicking the journey that Robert Doisneau’s ‘couple in the bar’ travelled.

For example: Council officers working through the night cleaning graffiti off new buildings, or, Lorry drivers asked to clean their vehicles tarpaulin or face the sack or even, Stage hands asked to work around the clock with no extra pay. Unions are up in arms.  

This is were my image differs, because of where it is displayed. The graffiti is part of a bigger celebration, enjoyed by the whole town. it’s not on a wall, it’s on something that can be removed. It’s commissioned. The graffiti itself is in a position it is meant to be in, not out of context. Should this group of children (mainly my grandchildren) be doing this in another part of this small town, maybe on a wall at the side of building, all hell would be let loose. It would be reported in the news paper and would have the council in debate. But there again, we could apply some fictional headlines to this image, such as; Stolen wall boards found at youth centre, Joe Bloggs arrested for theft or Missing child seen at town event, 200 miles from home

So thinking back to my image and my choice of image by Keegan Gibbs, what is the reality and truth? Reality and truth are what we perceive, and this is governed by the information we are given and the context it is given in.

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Google Images Keegan Gibbs