In our first webinar, Sophie, our tutor, showed us her sketchbook that she uses to record thoughts, ideas and all other things photographic. She carries it everywhere. I was very taken by this idea and so ordered a copy of Photographers’ Sketchbooks by Stephen McLaren and Bryan Formhals.

The book shows many examples of photographers’ sketchbooks including Alec Soth and Susan Meiselas, whose work we have been introduced to on this course.

“Each of these contributors presents a range of images from their ‘sketchbooks’, revealing the working methods and thought processes they enlist when bringing their personal projects to fruition.” (McLaren 2014)

The book is very inspirational and what the photographers have in common, McLaren and Formhals suggest, is a singular, personal vision at the heart of their photographic practice. They go on to say that these photographers spend all their time thinking about what the next shot will be, what tomorrow’s light might be and what their next project will look like.

I have to say that I feel I am one of these people too. During my working life photography has been my release, my focus and where my dreams reside. I am at my happiest when I have a camera in my hand – when I take images I transport myself to another world.  I think endlessly about projects, ideas and look at other photographers work.

The photographers’ sketchbook, it seems to me, can include anything and everything, although it doesn’t necessarily need to include sketches. It can include preparatory work such as exhibition proposals, diary-type projects, and things that might provide visual context to your work. It can often relate to a particular photographic project from start to finish.  It provides a means to develop photographic practice beyond the process of taking a photograph and includes all the elements of running a successful business.

I am very excited about my sketchbook and have already been adding to it.

I already write in a number of journals but I have to admit that my thoughts are not ordered, can include non-photographic thoughts and are muddled. The idea that I have a book I take with me on all photographic shoots is appealing. You will see below that I made notes on a recent photographic shoot checking out Loch Cille Chroisd, for a bulrush project I am interested in working on for my Work in Progress Portfolio. I wrote down some lessons I learned on that first short shoot to help remind me of those things when I next visit the waterside.

Regular readers of this blog will know that my photographic practice in my research project The Road to Elgol includes me writing contemporaneous notes and thoughts about the scene, the day, my feelings and my methodology in terms of photographic choices and why I chose to take the image. I also write about my post processing choices too. I then put these words into a word cloud to see what the predominant words are.

I look forward to sharing more thoughts about how my sketchbook develops.


 McLaren, S and Formhals, B, (2014) Photographers’ Sketchbooks, Thames & Hudson Ltd, London

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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