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Book Review – Behind the Image: Research in Photography

behind the image

 

This book by Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana is the third in the Basics Creative Photography range, and is included on the essential reading list. I am pleased that this was the first from the list that I read, as it follows on nicely from the Introduction to Studying in HE course which is available on the OCA’s student website.

The book is, as the range suggests, basic. This is something that I liked about it. For someone like me, who has not studied anything academic since my teens, this was a nice and gentle introduction to doing so.  The size and layout are perfect for easing back into study. A downside to this is that the content does have a tendency to state the obvious. Another is that for the nearly £19 spent on its purchase, I don’t feel that I have learnt a great deal.

Each of the six chapters begin with a short introduction and conclude with a case study and activity for the reader to complete. This breaks the book up and encourages reflection, rather than simply reading through and not pausing for thought. I do intend on completing several of the activities, although one or two require a little too much time that I would rather be spending on the AoP course material itself.

The first chapter, for me, was the most useful. It covered the importance of a good research proposal and how this can be beneficial to both the development and structure of a project, as well the ways in which an advanced proposal can help with applications for funding or gaining entry to locations with restricted access. These are all things that I have not previously considered.

This chapter also touches on being informed about photographic history, practice and theory. This section inspired some research, and I now have a nice little list of books I aim to read, plus galleries and exhibitions that I plan to visit (A History of Photography at the V&A seems to be a good starting point).

While reading chapter two, Developing Ideas Through Research, I had a number of thoughts about my own photography up to this point. Mostly that it has always lacked research and because of this I feel that it lacks meaning. These thoughts continued in chapter three, Practice as Research:

“It is easy to just shoot photographs and not record what you do, yet if you stop for a moment and consider the significance of how you are photographing – when, where, why, with which tools and what assistance – it all starts to become part of an interesting research story” (p.61).

I will speak further about this reflection in a separate learning log entry.

The first few pages in chapter four (Compiling Your Research), which focused on sketchbooks and blogging were insightful. Several links to blogs were provided (two of which have changed but I was redirected, one is now an archive), so I had a quick look at those and bookmarked them for more in-depth reading in the future.

Chapters five (Research and Practice) and six (The Impact of Research) served to further highlight how I have neglected research in my photography:

“By making time to be more aware of both the research process and its influences you have more scope to reflect on your working process and apply this knowledge to future work” (p.144).

This book has definitely inspired me to create more meaningful images and record my process, but I do feel like the essential reading list should suggest that it be read at the beginning of the Art of Photography course, as I imagine that further down the line it would feel too simple.

 

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