Sunday, 28 February 2016

How to put together your research for a photography project

Here's my current thoughts and suggestions as to putting together a photography research project.

It's an essential part of your studies on any level 3 photography courses (UAL, BTEC or A-Levels) that you study historic and contemporary photographers. Over the years I've suggested all sorts of different ways of doing it, but this is my current suggestion and I reckon it's the most efficient and easiest way I come up with and I'd like to think that our students will recognise it and adopt it.

Almost without exception the units and assignments on photography courses require that you put together research prior to shooting your images. Your images need to be informed or influenced by the work of other 'Significant' photographers. We advise that your starting point for finding such photographers is the British Journal of Photography, books such as 'Photography The Whole Story' or my list of contemporary and historic photographers which you can find here . It's important that you list your sources in a bibliography and all examination bodies and lecturers like to see and sometimes require that you identify the use of books.

(1). This is a visual subject and you need to make your work look as though you're interested in images. Therefore the balance between written work and the use of images in your research should be 50/50.
(2). I advocate the use of A3 display folders...

There are number of reasons for this. (a). You can edit the work easily, so many students change their minds about the way they work and produce work out of order leaving blank pages with the intention of filling them in later and then they run out of time. With these folders you can swap and change and omit work easily/ (b). Most colleges have photocopy machines with A3 paper and you're probably allowed to take a few sheets of paper if you ask your lecturers and this reduces costs. (c). I recommend as below you use one side of a two page spread almost exclusively for the images you find associated with the photographer you're researching and on the adjacent page a key image about A5 size surrounded by your written work. (d). When you hand in your finals they look impressive as A3 images or surrounded by a white mount affect when printed as A4's on an A3 mount. If you spend the time and money acquiring high quality finals as you complete each of your projects these can be removed and added to a final portfolio at the end of the year.
So this is the way I would suggest that you compile your work

So this above would be an A3 double page spread. The recommendation is that you do make it visual and have it so that 50% of the work is made up of images.
So the image above is the 'Image page'. When you find your initial or key image you'll probably find associated images collect them all together as files and then print them off - print off about 8 or 9 approx. A6 in size. If you use a PC (proper computer) in windows select four images to print and windows will neatly nest four images on the page to print at a time onto A4.
At the top of the page you'll see a couple of images that are associated with the Testino images by virtue of the pose. The pose looks to be inspired by Jan Van Eycks 'Arnolfini Portrait' and interestingly I noticed that it also was similar to David Bailey's photograph from the 1960's of Jean Shrimpton. It maybe that both photographers were inspired by the work of Jan Van Eyck and realising that this image has stood the test of time for several hundreds of year was a pretty safe bet to use as stylish pose? Where possible and as much as possible look for these kind of links and identify them (This is the reason you're encouraged to look at images constantly).
Include on this page if you wish some written work. As I developed this approach I started to use this page to write up my initial observations and immediate thoughts about the images. On the adjacent page below I then wrote up the facts rather than opinion and speculation.
 Make sure both pages (Ringed Blue) have a big clear title including the name of the work/images. From your initial research where you collate all of the images pick a key image that you feel you can write about - possibly the first one you noticed or the one with the most interesting features. * As you collect the images from the website, save some of the HTML addresses to include in your bibliography. Also look at the website in case there's some written content that gives you more information about the images. If there's not then start to look around for written content that is associated with the artist or the images. The best way to do this is type in the name of the photographer pre-fixed with "Interview with" so I would have tried a number of searches using...
Interview with Mario Testino
Vogue masterclass September 2011
Vogue master class interview Mario Testino
I'd have repeated the same searches on Google but with a video search enabled. This generally brings up some really good resources and it was through watching the video of Testino shooting a Japanese shoot for Vogue that I identified his own research methods and the equipment and lighting he uses on set. All very much worth looking at.
Two interviews is generally enough, along with videos and the original sources from the BJP to get enough information to write about the image/s using the prompts (Circled in Red). If you're struggling generate written responses to the images use these prompts (see the sidebar to the write of this blog page).
Try and generate for your Final Major project at least ten pieces of research like this independently. You'll get the chance to practice this in class with help, but to push the work on to Merit level you need to be seen generating your own research more specific to your own needs.
A very similar approach can be used in conjunction with your practical sessions and another video and series of images will be added after I've made the resources.

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