Category Archives: Exhibitions & Books


Edinburgh Photographic Exhibition


I went to this exhibition just as I was beginning the course in August.  It was a mixture of photos of all descriptions from a number of different photographic societies in the UK.  There were two photographs from our local society on the Isle of Man.  I think both of these photos to a certain extent epitomise Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘The Decisive Moment’ which I am asked to look at in detail in Assignment 3.  The first photo taken by Sue Blythe is of a polar bears on ice.



Henri Cartier-Bresson in his photography emphasised the importance of composition but also spoke of the luck or chance element as demonstrated in his figure of a man jumping in the air to avoid a puddle – he claimed he had just poked his camera through a railing and in fact hadn’t realised the man was there until the photo was developed.  In the case of Sue’s photo the composition is good but the fact of a bear being in that particular spot is down to chance.  Ruth Nicol’s photo which won a gold award from the British Photographic Society is a clear example of the ‘Decisive Moment’.  She first entered this in one of our local competitions in colour as I recall the car being in blue.  It is a photo of a street in Havana, Cuba with the old fashioned buildings and a classic car.  What turn it into a decisive moment is school boy stepping into the road.  For this exhibition Ruth had turned it into a monochrome print.


Much like Cartier-Bresson I felt this improved the photo as the detail seemed even clearer and the early morning light shining down the street highlights the boy.


Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition – Natural History Museum, London, 18 December 2016.


I went to this exhibition on my way to a holiday in Costa Rica where I would see a lot of wildlife.  I also had in mind my next assignment on the ‘Decisive Moment’ thinking that much wildlife photography would happen by luck or chance.  However, I soon realised from looking at the captions this was not the case.  In nearly all the captions the photographer spoke of the careful planning he/she had undertaken in order to capture these brilliant photos.  Unlike Cartier-Bresson the majority were in colour.  The overall winning image is of an orangatun peering up through the bush with lovely lighting.  The caption speaks of how he planned to be high up looking down and the careful forethought that went into the photo.  The photo is part of the Wildlife photojournalist award.  Henri Cartier-Bresson was known as a human photojournalist and I felt that this was the equivalent in wildlife photography.  The element of chance was that an orang-utan would appear in this particular spot and make eye contact with the photographer.


The photo can be accessed at the following link (accessed on 5/2/2017).

The Radical Eye Exhibition 4 January 2017 at the Tate Modern


This exhibition is a small proportion of 8000 images from the collection of Sir Elton John.  Nearly all were portraits with a smaller number of ‘Experiments’ and ‘Bodies’, ‘Documents’ and ‘Objects’.  The title of the exhibition came from Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (symbols) who stated that photography would change not just ‘what’ but ‘how’ we would see and that this would radically change our vision.  In documentary photography or street photography this gave a new perspective on society.  Today photography is imminently accessible and is a dominant theme – the ‘selfie’ along with social networking sites has opened up a new world to the general public.

Exhibition by Malick Sidibe (symbol) – The Eye of Modern Mali, Somerset House, 4 January 2017

I was a bit short for time by the time I found my way to this exhibition as I was catching a flight back to the Isle of Man the same day.  However, it was an interesting exhibition which showed how the youth culture in Mali is changing – with the traditional dress and values of the village to the new modern youth in the urban areas with night clubs and music.  The advertisement for the exhibition states that the photographer has ‘contributed to its history, enrich its image archive or increase our awareness of the textures and transformations in African culture…”  There are 45 prints from the 1960s and 70s.  It is accompanied by a musical soundtrack.


Barthes, R. (2000). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by Richard Howard. London: Vintage.

I read this book following tutor feedback for Assignment 1 where he suggested that some of my photos would have been enhanced by ‘punctum’.  On initial reading I thought he meant by the addition of people but Barthes definition is both wider and narrower than this definition.  A punctum could be anything and is very much dependent on what ‘pricks’ the Spectator so in this sense is wider but in fact it may be a very small detail that is the punctum and he gives examples of these (p.29) – for e.g. the big cloth cap, pump shoes in another instance or early on the book he shows an example of soliders with nuns walking behind (p.22) – all of these pricked Barthes as a spectator and made the photos special for him.  He also refers to studium where he is interested in many photos and will study them and maybe acknowledge them as good photos but it is those for him that have punctum that will stand out for him and he will continue to reflect on them after the physical looking at the photo.  He discusses studium as ‘liking’ a photo whereas one with punctum will lead him to ‘love’ the photo.

He  also talks about how culture and the unconscious will play a part in this. Houlihan (2004) discusses how he looks at the consciousness and unconsciousness as a way of attributing Photography a new meaning as opposed to art or technical excellence. As I have been reading about photography I have become to realize how much in tune it is to psychology which I studied for my first degree.  Barthes talks about the Operator or the photographer – how does the photographer decide on what he is going to photograph and then there is the Spectator and how he views the photo and the decisions he makes about what the Operator was trying to achieve or is wanting the Spectator to see in the photo and how the Spectator actually does interpret the photo and the influence of culture on this interpretation.  Powell (accessed on 2/10/2016) discusses the cultural aspects as well as studium and punctum in more depth.  As he points out punctum will be very personal to the viewer and what excites one person may seem mundane to the next – the prime example of the pump shoes was for me something that I doubt I would’ve noticed had they not been pointed out by Barthes yet the photo with the nuns in the background did ‘prick’ my interest.  Barthes talked about how sometimes he would find himself thinking about a particular aspect of a photo considerably later and then realizing this was the punctum in a photo.

I think from reading this book I got my understanding of what my tutor was trying to say – that in order for a photo to have that extra special something I need to think about what could be added  or what might spark someone’s interest from skimming over what on the surface may be technically well composed and delivered to a photo that has someone stopping and it giving the WOW factor.  The first photo he suggested this for was a picture of a tram entering my town at a level crossing and that perhaps an engagement with someone waiting at the crossing would’ve added something extra – to date I haven’t been able to try and do this and there is only one more weekend where I might have a possibility of this as the trams don’t run over the winter and there will only be about ½ dozen trams each day that weekend having checked the timetable.  The other place where I might have more opportunity was the door to my ‘Secret Garden’ so I will try and do something around this in the near future.


Powell, G. (2008).  Studium and Punctum.  Accessed on 2 October 2016.

Haoulihan, K. (2004).  Roland Barthes’camera Lucida – Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981) annotation by Kasia Houlihan (Theories of Media, Winter 2004).  Accessed on 2/10/2016.