Basics Creative Photography 03: Behind the Image: Research in Photography Paperback – 26 Mar 2012
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'Caruana and Fox have written an important and timely book. Broad in scope, with focused examples, this is an effective and engaging introduction to the convergences of practice and theory; spontaneity and systematic enquiry; critical engagement and creative exploration that research in photography involves.' -- Fergus Heron, Artist and Senior Lecturer in Photography, University of Brighton, UK
'The book is an excellent way to teach students about the process of research in the creative field.' -- Elisabeth Strunk Effron, The Art Institute of Raleigh Durham, US
'[Behind the Image] explains both the importance and how-to aspect of research - read this before you start your next project!' -- Arts Thread blog, March 2012
'Very useful for BA level students who need to learn how to develop a practice-based research in art and photography.' -- Paula Roush, London South Bank University, UK
'At the end of each chapter is an activity page where the reader is given an assignment. Good fun and a great exercise for students, and perhaps even professional practitioners to help them sharpen their skills! Following the steps outlined will help many visual artists nurture the seed of an idea because the theme is to encourage research to frame, inform and focus the final images. This is definitely a work book for educators, students and all those practitioners involved in creating a body of work. A breath of fresh air is how I describe the intent and scope of this work book ... Knowledge is empowering; which is why a planned and methodical research into the medium and your subject material can be so powerful. If you are looking for guidance in establishing a research process for your next photographic project, then this book is for you.' -- Clive Waring, Silvershotz Magazine, 2012
'Discover ways to approach photographic theories and apply these practically. This title looks to help creative photographers understand, record and acknowledge research processes for more compelling imagery. It achieves this with advice more than strict instruction, offered over six chapters and managed through sub-headed sections. Real-world projects underline the value of this guidance, which includes a host of topics such as interactive forms of research, benefits of blogging, working with your own studio space, digital postproduction and so on. However, at 160 pages and considering how some details are explored concisely, this book becomes more a suitable companion for students and aspiring professionals, than a comprehensive resource for pros. The book provides condensed coverage of a variety of tools both new and old, ensuring readers of all abilities are catered for. Verdict: 7/10. Some sections are skimmed over, but most provide invaluable motivational sound bites that budding creatives will benefit from.' --Advanced Photoshop magazine, March 2012
From the Back Cover
AVA Academia's Basics Creative Photography titles are designed to provide visual arts students with a theoretical and practical exploration of each of the fundamental topics within the discipline of creative photography. Packed with examples from students and professionals and fully illustrated with inspiring imagery, they offer an essential exploration of the subject.
Behind the Image is a lively exploration of photographic research. It guides you through a range of tools and ideas to help you fully engage with the research processes that underpin successful, meaningful photography. Using a range of contemporary and classic examples, Natasha Caruana and Anna Fox explain how reflection, evaluation and understanding can help you produce a dynamic body of work and bring a whole new dimension to the images you produce.
Featured topics: planning; A research proposal; Being informed; Developing ideas through research; Where to do background research; Archives; Practice as research; Studios; Street photography; Evaluation; Compiling your research; Keeping a workbook; Starting your own blog; Research and practice; Audience and context; Final production; The impact of research; Putting research into context.
Featured photographers/artists: Helen Sear; Steffi Klenz; Jeff Wall; Joachim Schmid; Stephen Bull; Grace Lau; Sally Verrall; Andrew Bruce; Jo Longhurst; Vivian Maier; Anthony Luvera; Melanie Manchot; John Davies; Dean Hollowood; Joy Gregory; Karen Knorr; Martha Rosler; Helen Goodin; Derek Ridgers; Wendy Pye; Clare Strand; Melanie Stidolph; Hashem el Madani; Harry Watts.
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It covers all the aspects of research in photography. There is so much in this book that I do consider it an excellent starting point that allows the reader to investigate further. So yeah, it's an excellent sign-post of a book.
The Chapters are as follows:
2/ Developing Ideas through research
3/ Practice as research
4/ Compiling your research
5/ Research as practice
6/ The impact of research
Bibliography and webgraphy (very good!)
Bonus - working with Ethics
The Highlights of the Book (for me) include:
1/ The images and descriptions of the images. The images selected are relevant to each chapter and discussion, and they also introduce a great deal of contemporary photographers. I would have perhaps liked slightly longer image descriptions and more analysis.
2/ A list of photographer's blogs. I personally had a hard time finding these blogs on my own, but Basics Creative Photography 03: Behind the Image: Research in Photography lists a fair few and from there, they link to other photographer's blogs so it is an excellent starting point and time-saver.
3/ Very good description and websites of the various research and archival institutions (libraries, museums etc) that are available to the researching photographer. Just note that they are primarily UK based. This will help me make the most of my time now that I can zero in on the relevant institution.
4/ The case studies. In the various sections, there are case studies that describe how other photographers came to do their work. It helps to highlight that photography doesn't just happen in a vacuum or even on the spur of the moment. It's a process to make an image.
5/ The Working with Ethics section asks some pointed questions which helps to focus the research.
6/ A final plus point is that this book is well written. There are far too many academic/learning books that are so dry you could choke. It is written by two photographer artists/professors who know their stuff and yet keep it light and clear - thank goodness!
After reading through Behind the Scenes a couple of times, however, I felt I was still wanting more. Is this perhaps a good thing? I don't know. The book is 168pp, and any longer would perhaps require a different book. In fact, I would say that each chapter could be a whole book because of the level of depth that each chapter could have. For example, it touches upon Proposals for Funding in the first chapter. This subject (proposal writing for funding a photography project) in itself could be a whole book, and yet in Behind the Scenes it is three paragraphs. But then that could be because I enjoy reading, writing, and discussion as much as I do photography equally, and yet I know a lot of photographers who just prefer looking at images. So, I can see that it was a choice that the editors of the book needed to make - and not an easy one at that!
So, to me, this book is a fantastic starting point for what could be a whole series. Researchers in photography would greatly benefit from the purchase in my opinion, and I can see this book becoming part of every photographer's library.
Taking the reader step by step through the process of developing ideas and how to access a range of resources to assist them, they draw on a vast range of International photographers and artist work to illustrate their ideas and thereby introducing the reader to the global potential of the photograph.
The book is an essential reference work or `bible' for all budding photographers, artists or anyone who wishes to work in a creative medium. The format of the book - each chapter introducing a new method, which is then backed up with a case study illustrating the method and following this the reader is asked to undertake a practical exercise to try the method out for themselves - offers straightforward and practical advice which will stimulate debate and is intellectually challenging.
I think that has to be countered with some commentary on the format of the book though. It's nice and clear and each page is spaciously laid out, which is good. However, I think that based on the price (Around £16 at time of purchase) I'd rather see less space. I mean, you could fit another book into the magazine style layout. In addition to this, while it's important to not overlook the obvious or make assumptions about the reader's existing knowledge, there is some padding out going on throughout the book. For example, I think that citing the internet as a research source is quite right. Pointing out that web pages can be bookmarked - okay, fair enough. But by the time we get on to indexing our bookmarked web pages...hmm. And this does happen throughout.
It must be said that many of the tips are also pretty standard stuff that should come with course material (if you're doing one).
I think that a slimmed down version of this for half the price would really hit the mark in terms of value for money. It's not a bad book at all, but you may want to consider the above before paying the price that I did.
Covers areas such as research sources, note taking and storage, referencing and the use of photography as a research tool - which was an eye opener for me.
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