Exercise 5.3

Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?

Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words.

HCB Henri Cartier-Bresson, Behind the Gare Saint-lazare.

The element that my eye is immediately drawn to and returns again to is the man’s lower heel. The silhouette of the reflection and his hovering frozen form almost meet as a shadow would at the point of this heel. I feel tension as I anticipate the heel touching down and breaking the surface of the water.  This single point contains information about the leap of the man, gravity pulling him down, the stillness of the water (shown by his reflection) and his direction of travel.

By no means as interesting as Cartier- Bresson’s image is mine below. It does however share the similarity of symmetry of legs and heels, not shown by a reflection but by the position and movement of two people.

_MG_9773 response to HBCNiki South (2016)

Cartier-Bresson has said that when taking this photo he just stuck his camera through the railings and that capturing this image was just luck. However we know that he was a master of geometrical composition and the decisive moment, so we should assume that he had assessed the scene and had a good idea what would occur and what he was likely to capture. In her Illuminance series Kawauchi shows “offhand compositional mastery, as well as its ability to incite wonder via careful attention to tiny gestures and the incidental details of her everyday environment”. (Chandler, n d). Her images are also “keenly observational and somehow heightened in their extraordinary sense of intimacy”, (O’Hagan, S, 2011)  such as in this image where she captures, as Cartier-Bresson in “Behind the Gare Saint-lazare”, the inevitable fall of feet.

Kawauchi(Kawauchi, n,d)

It’s interesting that though her work in Illuminance is so different to the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, she captures as he did “the mindful awareness of what is special in simple things” (lens culture, 2016). I like the way that she strives to make the viewer ask questions when reading an image; she says an image is like a prologue You wonder, ‘What’s going on?’ You feel something is going to happen’ (Andia, nd); narrative may be more important to her than planned composition. 

So in responding to Behind the Gare Saint-lazare, I return to the comments in Expressing Your Vision handbook that a photograph is more than just information – it can contain a story. And the photographer is more than just a recorder of information – she’s a storyteller.” (EYV p ).Despite his emphasis on composition there are many elements of story-telling in his picture: Why is the man in a hurry? Where is he going? Why is he rushing through/over the water?


Andia, L (n,d) The culture trip: Ten things you should know about Rinko Kawauchi (Accessed 24.6.16)

 Chandler, D (n,d) Aperture. Photographs by Rinko Kawauchi Essay by David Chandler.     (Accessed 24.6.16)

 Kawauchi (n,d) (Accessed 24.6.16)

 Lens Culture (2016) Illuminance Photographs by Rinko Kawauchi. (Accessed 24.6.16)

O’Hagan, S (2011) The Guardian. Worlds apart: who has the best shot at winning the Deutsche Börse prize? (Accessed 24.6.16)








You may already have taken some homage photography where you’ve not tried to hide the original inspiration but rather celebrated it. Refer back to your personal archive and add one or two to your learning log together with a short caption to provide a context for the shot.

cas oorthuys orig Cas Oorthuys1953 (Knowles, 2016).

082 PS 1500 Niki South 2016.

Bouys Paul Strand, Ropes and Bouy, 1954 (Jeremy 2015)

newport june 2010 101 PS 1500 Niki South 2016.


Knowles, K (2016) Strange & Familiar: See beautiful Britain change decade by decade. The memo 18th march 2016: (Accessed 20.6.16)

Jeremy (2015) Paul Strand – print acquisition by SNPG. Document Scotland. July 21st 2105:  by Jeremy (Accessed 20.6.16)



Exercise 5.2

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?

Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case?

Original image:

jim dow wall paper

Jim Dow, Window Detail, Wallpaper and Lino Shop. Leytonstone, London. June, 1983 © Courtesy of the Artist.

My Response:

IMG_0290 PS resize

Niki South, Closed B & Q DIY Store front, Cardigan, Cardiganshire, June 2016.

When I visited the Exhibition Strange and Familiar: Britain as revealed by international photographers (Barbican 16th March – 19th June 2016) I was drawn to Jim Dow’s photographic series of British storefronts “Corner Shops of Britain, 1983-1993.” His colour images capture these shops re once prominent on every high street, but were even then fast disappearing then at over 3,000 per year, “victims less of the recession than of Suburbanization” (Wakefield, 1995). According to the wall texts accompanying his photographs at the exhibition, Jim Dow set about “photographing his subject with taxonomical clarity, appreciatively recording a traditional way of life seemingly on an inexorable path towards cultural extinction” (Barbican 2016). Dow was concerned with capturing “human ingenuity and spirit” in endangered regional traditions…artifacts of a vanishing era” (Getty, nd).

My attraction to his image was two-fold. On a superficial level as I had a previous life in retailing, I am always attracted to shop windows and merchandise displays and it’s fascinating to see how these have changed over the years. On a deeper level I feel pained at the demise of village and town shops and the rise of out of town superstores. This is more marked in rural areas and it has particularly upset me to see especially in Pembrokeshire, where I spend much of my time, the ruinous impact that it has on the towns and villages as they become ghosts of their former selves, with empty and decaying buildings and a rash of charity shops.

My initial impulse was to photograph a modern day DIY shop, with a window characteristic of today (with little merchandise in it if any and no visual appeal). As I planned my location I realised that 23 years on from the original image even the more generic DIY shops were no more and items such as Wallpaper and Lino are most commonly bought from superstores like B & Q. I scouted a couple of locations intending to show an out of town position, unappealing store fronts with no advertising of specific merchandise as a contrast to Dow’s traditional images. On visiting the location of this photograph I was further surprised to find that even where a more local DIY superstore chain, previously bought out by the larger B & Q chain about a year ago, had now also become unviable and had moved to a larger regional town (in the next county). This I felt illustrated on a continuing larger scale, the disappearance of familiar shops and endangered regional traditions that Dow had photographed 23 years ago. I emphasised the meaning of my photograph by cropping the image to focus on the shuttered shop door and the “We’ve moved” sign.

I have responded to several of Barrett’s types of information in Dow’s picture. Firstly the “internal” context of the subject (Window detail, Wallpaper and Lino shop, 1983) with my internal information (Closed B&Q DIY shop 2016). Secondly the “External” context surrounding the picture: In the original attractive product displays compared to the lack of product displays in the modern shop. However the true thrust of my response is to the “original” context as outlined in my narrative. My response is agreeing and providing evidence for Dow’s representations of “a traditional way of life seemingly on an inexorable path towards cultural extinction” (Barbican 2016).


Barbican Centre (2016).  Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers.  16 March–19 June 2016 Wall texts and captions. (Accessed 26.6.16).

Barrett, T (1997) Photographs and Context: (Accessed 16.6.16).

Dow, J (1983) Strange & Familiar: See beautiful Britain change decade by decade. Knowels, K  march 2016 (Accessed 26.6.16).

The J. Paul. Getty. Museum (nd). Jim Dow. (Accessed 26.6.16).

Wakefield, N (Nov. 1995) Jim Dow. England 1981 to the present. Art forum International: (Accessed 26.6.16).





Exercise 5.1 The distance between us

I don’t pretend that I can describe the ‘other’. The camera for me is more a meter that measures the distance between myself and the other. It’s about the encounter between myself and the other; it’s not about the other.                            (Alexia Clorinda in conversation with the author) EYV p102

Exercise 5.1

Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring (!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.

When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:

Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.

The fishing boat

LR contacts Distance boat

I have always been drawn to this fishing boat which sits on the water or sand most of the year and has been for many years. I believe I know what most attracts me to it but tested it in the exercise by taking a number of quick shots of it as I walked towards it one day, trying not to think about composition.

Images 1 & 2:  The first shot does not betray the subject I intended in this shot as its set amongst other boat and they interfere with “my” fishing boat. The second is without the distractions of other boats but its small size in the image is not interesting to me.

Images 3 & 4: These are similar shots of the boat although one is landscape and one portrait. I much prefer the landscape image the width of the frame helps to emphasis the wide belly of the boat, even though the buoys and chains are a distraction and  the “thirds composition of the portrait image is probably more pleasing to most.

Images 5 & 6: The first sets the boat in its context, a beautiful river estuary with a mountain behind, a lovely old harbour wall, buts its impact is diminished by the boat in the foreground and the building in the background. The next image is compositionally fine with a leading lines of the wall and the anchor chain, but still does not portray why I am drawn to the boat.

Images 7 & 8: I hope with these a viewer can sense my empathy with the boat. In both the boat dominates the image, but most importantly the angle of the shot is from underneath the boat emphasising the underbelly of the fishing boat; this is what attracts me to this fishing boat – simply its shape. In both images my eye is drawn by the line at the bow up into the boat from the anchor chain and then to scan around the belly of the boat by the horizontal lines.

Image 8 is the most pleasing image for me as additionally the subject is more off centre with another leading line of reasonable length coming in from the right hand side taking my eye in again to the belly of the boat. I also like the slight tilt of the boat which gives it a vulnerability.