Reflection point: ‘Absence and signs of life’ Page 94

Reflection point: ‘Absence and signs of life’ Page 94


• Where does that leave the photographer? As storyteller or history writer?

• Do you tend towards fact or fiction?

• How could you blend your approach?

• Where is your departure from wanting/needing to depict reality?

Make some notes on these questions in your learning log.


I think I get this idea, as illustrated by Eggleston’s ‘Memphis’ of interpreting surrounding or events by choosing objects that suggest something about the place or the viewer of the picture. The photographer is becoming a story-teller which is intentional and interpretive. This reminds me of the Roger Fenton photograph where the punter of the image is the many cannonballs in and empty landscape (Tyler, 2012). While this is not a constructed landscape by Fenton it triggers associations about horror, harm, death and the futility of war.

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I think in my work so far I have tended towards fact and not fiction but after buying and reading several photobooks, such as Redhead Peckerwood, and trying to illustrate a near death experience for A 4, I am moving more to telling stories or communicating ideas (Patterson, 2011). I am working on A5 which is about loss and emptiness and already have several images, like the trike in Eggleston’s ‘Memphis’ image, where the ordinariness and placement of the child’s toy monkey suggests attachment and loss which I think people will be able to identify within the series.

How can I blend my approach? I am not sure, but perhaps unremitting absence in a series overstates what is happening in the frame and it’s associations – but just look at Sarah Pickering’s ‘Public Order’ series  where there is a strong coherent story (Pickering, 2003)! That is something I am struggling with now on A5; one book could be unremittingly empty of people but another construction of my book has a mix of people, parts of people and objects that suggest something.

I do not think it is possible to picture an objective reality; reality is always constructed. For example in A5, I have decided not to have a linear timeline of events and feeling but to mix it up so to create an inner journey of memory about my grief experience which included images taken 30 years ago. For me A5 is not totally the truth about what I feel or have felt but it does communicate some of these ideas with chosen ’empty’ scenes where the viewer can fill in the meaning. I am thinking of including a commentary in my phonebook for people who want to explore things more, and this will include my diary entries.


Toler, P. (2012). “In the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Roger Fenton’s Crimean War photos.” Retrieved 1st August, 2016.

Patterson, C. (2011). Redheaded Peckerwood.

Pickering, S. (2003). Public Order.