I had a couple of ideas but neither really fulfilled the academic grounding for my work although they perfectly described two aspects of it – wishing to be authentic and to tell MY story and reflecting my belief that images tell as much or more about the person taking the photograph than the subject of the image itself:
“To thine own self be true” (William Shakespeare)
“The camera looks both ways” (Freeman Patterson)
I read The Photographer’s Eye by John Szarkowski early in the module and found his modernist approach and practical assessment of the key elements of photography really helpful in anchoring my focus on composition and framing – largely drilled into me by my police work. I was also aware of his description of the image as not only a window (which, in my view he preferenced) but also a mirror held up to the person that pressed the shutter. It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for as I researched the Mirrors and Windows Exhibition of 1978 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the catalogue for the Exhibition Szarkowsi wrote about Alfred Stieglitz and Eugene Atget as representing two creative motives:
My First Quotation:
“The distance between them [ie Stieglitz and Atget] is to be measured not in terms of the relative force or originality of their work, but in terms of their conceptions of what a photograph is: is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window, through which one might better know the world?” (Szarkowski 1978:2).
Stieglitz in Part One of the Exhibition was an example of those devoted to the expressive potential of photographs – mirrors – “a romantic expression of the photographer’s sensibility as it projects itself on the things and sights of this world and Atget, “a window – through which the exterior world is explored in all its presence and reality.” Szarkowski (1978).
Whilst Andy Warhol was found alongside Stieglitz in Part 1, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand were in Part 2 of the Exhibition.
So, mirrors represent the subjective, reflections, expression and the personal, whereas windows were about the objective and were straight, real and public.
We weren’t asked to provide a second or follow up quotation but I think the personal journey of laying the ghosts to rest of my early police career must also be recognised and understood at the beginning of my Critical Review of Practice. For this I turn, without any hesitation to the words of Don McCullin:
My Second Quotation:
“The reason I am doing these new landscapes . . . is because it is a form of healing. I’m kind of healing myself . . . but you can never run away from what you have seen.” (McCullin 2009).
At this point I feel I have my anchoring quotations to begin the story of my journey, intent and the contextualisation of my photographic practice. I am now in a position to start drafting the outline of my Critical Review of Practice.
SZARKOWSKI, J. 1966. The Photographer’s Eye. New York: Museum of Modern Art.
SZARKOWSKI, J. 1978. Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960, New York: The Museum of Modern Art.
SZARKOWSKI, J. 1978. Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960. [Press Release] (accessed at MOMA 21.4.16) – http://www.moma.org/momaorg/shared/pdfs/docs/press_archives/5624/releases/MOMA_1978_0060_56.pdf?2010