This module has seemed something of a whirlwind of activity with so much new each week that it has sometimes been difficult to get adequate perspective on what it all means. Books, Zines, no camera photography, exhibitions, dummy books, workshops, video trailers, project work and trying to continue research proved to hardly be a part-time endeavour. I read quite a lot this term and though I didn’t write about it as much or as often as I perhaps should have, there were a number of those books that drew me back to places I had bookmarked over and over.
I find myself going back to and re-reading bits of Sontag, Flusser, Berger, Kleon, Bate, Bear and Albers, Tagg, Webb and Muybridge. Some of those works had bits that struck me straightaway, while others may have gone right over my head at first reading. What I found though in many cases, those things that may not have resonated at the beginning have managed to find purchase in the dark recesses of my mind and like a jigsaw puzzle are starting to form a picture that I can understand. It is not that there is anyone definitive bit that unlocked the mystery nor am I sure yet that I can clearly articulate what about any or all of them is most meaningful and relevant to me and my practise. I do know that I feel far more comfortable with the idea of critical theory and that it has made a difference at how I view my work.
I know I have further to go in this journey and I expect ultimately it will have been and evolution and not a revolution. The quality of my work has improved even though the focus of this course is not on the technical aspects of making photographs. It has improved in part because of more disciplined regular practise, in part because I have obtained or improved upon technical skills, in part because I now have an eye toward what will become of my work once it completes post-processing, and in part due to a better appreciation for and understanding of what photography has been, is and could be through my research and readings of critical theory.
I am still searching for my voice in the photographic world. While I came into the programme as a natural history photographer, and it is something I quite enjoy I am not convinced it is where (or rather the only place) my future practise will reside. My past photographic work has been as eclectic as the rest of my life which has included several different successful careers. I have broad interests and it comes as no surprise then that my photographic work might reflect that. I believe there will be touchstones that will tie together work in different genres as they are the same things that sit at the core of my value system and worldview. My natural history work is borne from those perspectives, but so too is the sports and action photography work I have done and do.
The first two modules of this course have forced me to think about my practise as I have never had to before, and has begun to give me the tools to analyse and vocabulary to better articulate it. The framework is starting to take form, but the details are yet to be resolved.
I have for sometime been researching photographers who work in golf. There are those that work in the more journalistic end and photograph tournaments, and there are those who work more in the advertising and public relations end of the spectrum doing landscape work that in many cases falls into the fine art category. And there are a few that cross those indistinct boundaries as well.
Why have I been researching this? Coul Links, where I have been doing my project work, is proposed to have a golf course of world class stature built within and adjacent to environmentally designated and protected land. I have also been working on a personal/ commercial project at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club which is situated 3 miles to the south of Coul Links and of which I am a member. Golf has been a not unimportant part of my life for 60 years. I have been highly ranked internationally as a competitor and I derive great pleasure from the game itself, the ground on which it is played and the people who are part of it. Why wouldn’t it be natural that my passions should intersect?
Kevin Murray is among the best in the business and while his work is largely in the advertising and PR category, he does fine work also photographing professional golfers and events. His work can be seen at http://kevinmurraygolfphotography.com/ . Paul Severn is another well respected golf photographer whose work covers an even broader spectrum of the game. His work can be found at https://www.severnimages.com/index. There quite a number of other excellent practitioners whose work I have reviewed, but these two serve to illustrate some key points about the genre.
What makes a good golf course photograph and is it different from normal landscape photography? To answer the second part it isn’t that different from good landscape photography in that it requires attention to the lighting and choice of angles to reveal aspects to render the scene in a way that draws out the most interesting elements. There are additional aspects that seem common to the best work such as the inclusion of the flagstick somewhere in the scene. A certain amount of elevation adds dimensionality revealing contours and features such as bunkers. The best courses in the world, and hence the most photographed, have holes or cultural attributes that make them iconic and instantly recognisable to followers of the game. Augusta National during the Masters with all the azaleas in bloom or the clubhouse at the end of Magnolia Lane; views of Ailsa Rock from Turnberry; the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse behind the 18th green on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Inclusion of these iconic elements is standard practise.
How does photographing golfers fit within the practises of environmental portraiture or street photography? I would argue that it is not that different at all. Photographing at a tournament or just golfers playing a casual round is very much like street photography in that you are looking to capture a particular moment that will be fleeting because it is either based on getting a specific action sequence or emotion and while it requires anticipation and planning to be in the right position, the actual moment isn’t always controllable or predictable. Getting a photo of a golfer in his or her environment with purely natural lighting is again in my opinion just a variation on environmental portrait work. The photographer is attempting to see the subject in their environment and capture some attribute of personality or emotion that is distinctive and recognisable.
The photos below are some of my work in this genre. Why? It bears on my project work if, and I believe it will, Coul Links development is approved.
Bate, D. (2016). Photography; The Key Concepts. The Key Concepts (2nd ed.). London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
Bear, J., & Albers, K. P. (2017). Before-and-After Photography; Histories and Contexts (1st ed.). London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing. Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Flusser, V. (1983). Towards a philosophy of photography. English. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9406(10)62747-2
Kleon, A. (2012). Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. Steal Like an Artist (Vol. 53). New York: Workman Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
Kleon, A. (2014). Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. New York: Workman Publishing Company.
Muybridge, E. (1979). Muybridge’s Complete Human and Animal Locomotion, Volume III. New York: Dover Publications.
Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. Penguin Books. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2
Tagg, J. (1988). The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Webb, R., Boyer, D., & Turner, R. (2010). Repeat Photography: Methods and Applications in the Natural Sciences. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Referenced Web Pages:
Kevin Murray Golf Photography | Golf Photos | Top Golf Photographer. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2018, from http://kevinmurraygolfphotography.com/
Paul Severn Golf Photographer /Golf Course Images/Golf Tournaments/Golf Picture Library. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2018, from https://www.severnimages.com/index