Tag Archives: Campany

Singular Images, Essays on Remarkable Photographs.

Singular Images

I have just finished this book, ‘Singular Images Essays on Remarkable Photographs, edited by Sophie Howarth.  I have read this book to help prepare myself for my assignment which is to write an essay on a photograph.

I enjoyed this book and I found it very interesting describing how the photographs were made, the context and connotations.

This book has has following essays:

Latticed Window (with the camera obscura) August 1835- William Fox-Talbot by Geoffrey Batchen

Chimney Sweeps Walking 1852 – Charles Negre by Mary Warner Marien

Iago, Study from an Italian 1867 – Julia Margaret-Cameron by Roger Hargreaves

Dust Breeding 1920 – Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp by David Campany

A Snicket, Halifax 1937 – Bill Brandt by Nigel Warburton

A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing N.Y.C. 1966 – Diane Arbus by Liz Jobey

Jubilee Street Party, Elland, Yorksire 1977 – Martin Parr by Val Williams

The Hug, New York City 1980 – Nan Goldin by Darsie Alexander

Aegean Sea, Pilion 1990 – Hiroshi Sugimoto by Dominic Willsdon

San Zaccaria, Venice 1995 – Thomas Struth by Sophie Howarth

A view from an apartment 2004-5 – Jeff Wall by Sheena Wagstaff

I would recommend this book and I found it a good and easy read.



Art and Photography


I have just finished reading this book which was on my courses list for recommended reading.  Art and Photography has been edited by David Campany, published by Phaidon and covers the subject of contemporary photographic art from mainly the 1960s till the late 1990s.   Campany has divided the book in to topics:  Memories and Archives; Object object; Traces of Traces; The Urban and the Everyday; The Studio Image; The Arts of Reproduction; Just Looking; The Cultures of Nature.  He begins his book by explaining what he means for each topic title with the theory and history.  When I started to read this book I had read half way through this introduction section before I realized that it was best to read each part of the Introduction section along with the topic chapter itself as much of the introduction was referring to photos found in the relevant section in the book and reading the intro in conjunction with the section made more sense.  Some of the artists are illustrated and discussed two or three times in different topical sections dependent if their work has crossed over.

A useful book for consulting for ideas and for reference.

Exercise, Project 5, ‘The real and the digital’.

Does digital technology change how we see photography as truth?’

In the book Photography a Critical Introduction (4th edition), Edited by Liz Wells  and published by Routledge, it is agued that digital technology is challenging the concept of the ‘real’ in modern photography.  With the development of digital media technology it is now possible to construct convincingly realistic images on computers.  Photographic manipulation is not new, it’s been around from the very beginning but what is new is the extent of what is now possible which also co-insides with the loss of a hard original negative.  With the ability to construct an image from scratch Roland Barthes‘, excepted conception of the nature of the photograph, that it is the result of an event in the world, evidence of a passing moment of time that was once but no-more is now becoming harder to defend and perhaps a new formal conception must now be linked to the nature of the twenty-first century digital image.

Liberation, 1991, Jean Baudrillard wrote, ‘the Gulf war did not take place’.  He was making a comment on the nature of the ‘real’ his argument that the Gulf war was in fact a combination of political, social and military action acted out in a kind of social and technical space.  David Campany also comments that almost a third of news photographs are from frame grabs off video film footage.  The point being made is that photography is a medium that is not autonomous or self-governing but inter-related to other medias and is more influenced by culturally than technologically.

Without an autonomous and self-governing system there is a lack of rock solid unchangeable definitions in photography which are now beginning to challenge some of the existing definitions in photography. For example the photographic practice of documentary photography is changing and a sub-genre of photography is now well established in the USA calling itself, ‘wedding photojournalism’.

Research point – Joel Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz (6th March, 1938)

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Meyerowitz specializes in Street and Landscape photography and began photographing in colour in 1962 during a time when there was still a resistance against colour photography in the art world.  in the early 1970s he taught the first colour classes at the Cooper Union in New York City.  Inspired by Robert Frank, Meyerowitz quite his job at an advertising agency to take photographs on the streets of New York with a 35mm camera and black and white film.  Joining the ranks of Tony Ray-Jones, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Tod Papageorge.  Meyerowitz has also taken inspiration from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Eugene Atget.

Meyerowitz switched to large format cameras and in 2001 was became the official photographer to record the aftermath and wreckage at ‘Ground Zero’ New York City with exclusive access whilst the clean up operation was underway.  Meyerowitz involvement was documented by Channel-Four and his work has been critiqued by the writer David Campany in his 2003 essay, ‘Safety-in-numbness’ (http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/).  He is also featured in a 2009 BBC documentary ‘The Genius of Photography’ and in 2013 the documentary film, ‘Finding Vivian Maier’.

Safety in Numbness by David Campany

Safety in Numbness – I have just read this essay by David Campany that he has re-published on the internet.  http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/



He makes some interesting observations that modern still photography photojournalism has moved from the moment of action ‘hot-action’ to ‘cool-photography’ as Peter Wollen has named them or the late-photograph as Campany describes them.  Referring to the official photographs produced by Joel Meyerowitz who photographed the ruins soon after the tragic events of 911 and was the only photographer permitted full access to the site during the clean-up operation.  These types of images are intended to suggest to the viewer what has just happened and often show only empty buildings, rooms, the smoking reminisces, suggesting the past battle or tragic event.

He suggests that with the development of the video photographer the still photographer has had to move from covering the action to following up on the stories and recording recently past / post event.  He reasons that technology has dictated the pace of change and as video technology has become cheaper, smaller and portable and with higher picture definitions the images can be transmitted from source to consumer much faster cheaper and easier the video image can also now be frozen for quality still images as and when required.  This has also blurred the boundaries between still photography images and video images.  Hence why more and more still life photographers are specializing in the ‘cool-photography’ photojournalistic genre (and although Campany doesn’t comment on it, this type of photojournalism comes with fewer risks to life and limb).  Campany also points out that although the Vietnam war has been called the photographers war and to some the last photographers war he points out that Vietnam presented photographers with a lot of opportunities thanks to amongst many things American administration and army that kept changing its agenda.  In comparison the first Gulf War in 1991 presented photographers with very few ‘hot-action’ opportunities due to both the restrictions placed upon them and the focused and brief period that the war lasted.  As a result all the memorable images of the Gulf war were just that ‘memorable’ images taken days after the battle, burned-out tanks, burning oilfields, burnt skeletal remains of the Republican Guard.

Campany states that a thousand words can be said of a photograph rather that a photograph can say a thousand words.  By this he means that a photograph taken after an event can be examined and re-examined over and over and without the actual event recorded the post event can be re-interpreted and remembered differently from the actual event as time passes.

Campany points out that still photography by it’s very nature works well for cool-photography as it’s images can produce a real sense of stillness, quietness, like that experienced after the bombardment has stopped.  Video has to transmit images of still pictures often focusing in on a small detail or panning around in the frame to different elements in the picture in order for the viewer not to confuse the photograph with simply a static image.

Campany comments that although Meyerowitz said that he simply took the photos as he saw them and as they were presented to him, Campany recognized in one image a similarity with another picture that Meyerowitz took some 20 years before of an old torn down film set.  Campany suggests that photographers may carry a set of mental compositional templates around in their heads which can be unconsciously pulled out and used, he wanders if Meyerowitz had even thought of his earlier photograph when composing his picture at ground zero.

Campany ends his essay with a warning that, “The danger is that it can also foster an indifference and political withdrawal that masquerades as concern.”-” There is a sense in which the late photograph in all its silence, can easily flatter the ideological paralysis of those who gaze at it with a lack of social or political will to make sense of its circumstance. In its apparent finitude and muteness it can leave us in permanent limbo, obliterating even the need for analysis and bolstering a kind of liberal melancholy that shuns political explanation like a vampire shuns garlic.”