Here is the plan:
- Year 13 students (mine at St Peter's School, Bournemouth, Jon's at Thomas Tallis, London) choose one photograph by an artist/photographer relevant to their Personal Study interests.
- They then write a short accompanying text - approximately 250 words - incorporating information about the image with personal insights and analysis. (These texts will be developed in class through teacher and peer discussion, the emphasis being on writing in an insightful and stimulating way).
- The selected images are exchanged between schools - but not the texts - with each student receiving the choice of another, accompanied only with the artist/photographer name and title of the image.
- The students then repeat the research and writing exercise, developing a second text for their given image.
- Once both texts are complete all responses will then be shared in simultaneous pop-up exhibitions (in each of our departments), side-by-side with the relevant photographs.
Jon and I have both completed short texts as examples and these are shared below. I've also added them as downloadable PDFs to our 'Photography Writing' resources. I'm often on the look out for examples of writing as lesson starters - something snappy to get brains warmed up - so my hope is that we can build up a good selection from both teachers and students. We'd love you to have a go too - why not use the comment boxes below.
Which photograph would you choose?
Reflections on Photography #1: Bruce Davidson, Subway, 1980
And this shot is a beauty, albeit with the capacity to haunt. Especially if you were a young child in 1980, as I was when the photograph was taken. For this was the era of Thriller and An American Werewolf in London (running amock in the underground, as I recall). So the warning signs were clear: The undead will arise and advance in chiaroscuroed technicolour. Or Kodachrome 64, as was the film choice of Davidson.
Of course all photographs present us with ghosts, eventually. But Death’s hand is rarely so busily at play. Here we have the smoker in the top left corner; that touch on the shoulder will surely see him off. And then there’s the contorted commuter, crumpled and lifeless from Death’s not-so-merry tune. And finally the unseeing eye fixes upon us. A wink. Death strikes a chord and Davidson presses the shutter. The accordion exhales and the deal is done: the music we’ll never hear, for the picture she’ll never see.
Reflections on Photography #2: Garry Winogrand, Hollywood and Vine, 1969
There's a kind of machismo at work - the hunter prowling the streets, waiting to shoot his next victim - but I was also drawn to the sensitivity, complexity and humanity of the work. I also love what Winogrand says about photography, that he took photographs to see what the world looked like photographed. He articulates the difference between the world seen with our eyes and what it looks like framed and flattened by the camera.
This picture is a typically wide angled section of a street, the lens sucking in a variety of protagonists, including the three graces, all illuminated by an almost miraculous late afternoon light that casts shadows connecting the photographer to his subjects. I really get a sense of Winogrand's excitement in witnessing the scene, a moment of stunning beauty in the midst of the everyday. I once knew someone who owned a print of this image and I used to stare at it on his walls whenever I visited. When he moved house the picture went missing (temporarily). It turned out the removal company smashed the glass in the frame and it took a while to mend and relocate. It seems an appropriately violent and dramatic incident for this strange, mesmerising and unforgettable picture.