Ian McDonald by Jamie McDonald

Phonar (Photography and Narrative) examines the construction of narrative using tools such as digital photography, collaboration across mediums, the written word, or in this case analogue photography. The film below examines the career of photographer Ian McDonald by his son Jamie McDonald who is a photographer, curator and now film maker.

After excitedly exploring the usage of tools such as digital immersion technology in relation to narrative, it was refreshing to watch this piece of film which immediately slowed the pace of my thoughts, perhaps referencing the contrast between the speed of digital and analogue photography. Ian McDonald’s approach was to understand the context before the environment before photographing it, eventually progressing to produce images depicting time, place and change. In this instant the final outcome can still be called a photograph without any consideration; the print was made through the mechanical process of analogue photography without the existence of any digital metadata. However although photographs are generally seen as an instant impression and a decisive moment, these photographs are telling a story and designed to be read.

There are many different ideas surrounding photography and context explored by professionals such as David Campbell who professed the importance of context in constructing a narrative. However it is slightly unclear where in the timeframe of photography this context should be achieved. In the case of Ian McDonald he made sure to gather the knowledge before hand in order to understand the environment before photographing however in some cases it is the act of photographing that discovers and gathers the context. Ian McDonald’s photography is a slow, deliberate approach completely different to the instantaneous nature of digital photography. Stephen Mayes speculated that platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat represent that raw thought of the user, in contrast the prints produced by Ian McDonald are the culmination of time and research; which however could be considered the most truthful? Certainly the context informs the work of Ian McDonald which would suggest a greater amount of truth, however in photojournalism the reactive, instantaneous content from citizen journalists has been praised for its credibility and trustability in relation to controversial events. Perhaps instead of considering the ‘truth’ of an image in its manifest state, we should be thinking about it’s potential to tell a version of truth to different communities as Ian McDonald’s work is likely to be seen by a completely different community to that of the population who communicate using SnapChat.


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