Post-Photography Project Development


As the lectures on the post-photographic module continued, I was increasing my knowledge on the idea of what a post-photographer could be, from a theoretical and a practical view. Paul Smith’s lectures showed visual examples of photographers through history producing photographs that challenged the boundaries of the current practice. Acknowledging the frame of the photograph and how this can both make and limit the practice of the photographer. From the most simple editing technique such as cropping, which can be done when taking the photograph and when editing afterwards, the photographer can have a dramatic impact on what the images says to the audience. In addition to this, the development of digital technology offers a huge range of different process to photographers, and has allowed them to create images that wouldn’t be possible in the analogue world.

In my previous studies I acknowledged that the photographer has such an important role when producing visual material, and this responsibility manifests itself in different ways. The Phonar (Photography and Narrative) module explored photographic practices where the process was more collaborative between photographer and subject. The subject felt powerful and free to have a say on how their story was told by the photographer, which is very different to practices such as traditional documentary, where the photographer had to make an informed decision on what photograph could represent a concept as large as a war. These images are what we often describe as iconic, because they attempt to describe so much in one frame. In contrast the collaborative projects often focus on the smallest details in order to tell a detailed story about the subject themselves. There is a tension between these two approaches, because each attempts to achieve what the other could not. There is no real way to tell which approach is ‘better’ because often these images have been produced for very different outcomes.

In the lectures from Spencer, we approached the practice of photography from a theoretical perspective, considering the flaws behind the the practice and how this could affect the work we make as photographers. To begin with, the ontology of photography as discussed by Andre Bazin stated that the human species has a such a strong desire to produce the most realistic and accurate representation of themselves possible. If they can achieve this realistic visual replication, then humans need no longer fear death. For death itself is split into two elements of disappearance, the physical body disappearing from the world, and the visual evidence of that body disappearing too. Bazin described the loss of this evidential, visual memory as the Second Spiritual Death. Bazin also worked to separate photography from the other arts, commenting that despite photography achieving the most accurate representation of man, that the presence of man in the process was missing. According to Bazin, the artist or craftsman is lost in the practice of photography, this view is very similar to the ideas of Walter Benjamin, who discussed the loss of aura and originality in the practice of photography, as it can produce multiple copies of the same material.

In addition to the ontology of photography, there is the idea of photography representing the truth, which is a concept I have explored previously in my photographic studies in relation to photojournalism and manipulation. However this discussion changes with a theoretical approach, with the introduction of the term naive realism, which describes the tendency of the viewer and even photographer to believe that photographs represent the truth. The photographer believes that they are capturing the truth of what they see and the viewer believes the representation that the photographer presents them with. The limitations of the single frame are discussed often in the context of photography, so why do we still put so much faith in the practice of photography to produce truth, when reality itself is so complicated? According to Plato, reality is split into the realm of physical forms and objects and the realm of spiritual forms, which are eternal and perfect. Physical objects are those we can identify as occupying the same physical space as us, like the sofa that I’m sitting on writing this blog post. Spiritual forms are the elements we can’t see, but that we believe that be in force in the world, such as love, hate and trust. We can’t prove what these forms are but they are universally accepted in the world, the most common evidence of this is the creation of words in each language to describe them. When you consider how complicated reality actually is, can photography hope to try and represent it visually in one frame?

These discussions can lead to a very pessimistic view of photography, however I would argue that if the photographer accepts these notions and reflects on them in their work, then photography can be a practice that comments on reality, rather than trying to represent it. The key idea the photographer absolutely HAS to accept, is that the images they produce are not likely to be received in the way that they intended. The meaning will differ depending on who is looking and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Different viewers can build and extend the original meaning of the images and perhaps link them to discussions the photographer never thought of. There is the danger of course, that the images will be read in a completely different way than the photographer intended, which could be potentially damaging, to the subject or the subject matter. Therefore we come back to the responsibility of the photographer, to have an understanding of their practice.

When considering all the lecture material in relation to my own practice, I feel that it embodies much of the ideas I have explored in previous projects. For example for the Phonar module, I attempted to create a post-photographic portrait by reverse assembling the metadata scattered across the Internet from one individual, in order to demonstrate how much information we willingly give to the Internet. For my degree show project, I attempted to challenge the representation, the Internet and the photographic portrait again but this time taking portraits of people and exhibiting them as binary code. This represents the fluidity of information on the Internet and the idea that people are being increasingly viewed as information and statistics, rather than real people. My work aims to comment on current issues, it aims to be the inspiration behind a discussion, an experiment to see how people react. This experimentation with the photographic practice could be combined with the notion of the post-photographer, to produce work that is interesting but also informed by cultural theory.



As my field of study has changed from my BA, from photography to communication, culture and media, it is likely that my projects will shift to engage with different ideas. There is an idea that I am becoming increasingly aware of due to both my own personal engagement and from an academic approach, which is the gaming industry and community, most specifically the genre of story games. There are more and more games being released yearly, that have captivated players with the stories that they tell.

With developing technology, the games themselves have become sophisticated pieces of storytelling media, with which the user can engage and have a power over how the story progresses. This power can vary from game to game: with structured campaigns that require the player to move through the game in a specific linear way and open world games that allow the player to explore the environment at their own pace, choosing the engage with the main storyline when they wish to advance with the plot. Aside from story-based games there are games that pursue different objectives such as direct competition between players or encouraging them to build communities. The dynamic of the game does have an impact on what sort of experience the player will have: First Person Shooters (FPS) encourage the player to move through the environment, target and neutralise hostiles, whereas adventure video games encourage the player to engage with the characters and environment in order to find out more about the main storyline. Different game dynamics often share objectives, such as moving through the environment in order to find objects; in a FPS that object would be ammunition or a new gun whereas in adventure games the object is likely to be a piece of information that helps develop the detail of the storyline. The main purpose of the game however is to be enjoyable when played, to encourage the player to come back and play the game multiple times and perhaps then buy other games from a particular franchise or company. As games are situated in the entertainment industry they are made to appeal to the public, however there is no denying that games are becoming significantly more important in a cultural context.

In the module Open and Social media I am also considering gaming, examining how the game Fallout 4 encourages the player to engage with possible future cultural issues. The game features the invention of a synthetic human (synth) which is effectively an artificial human, made to replicate an organic human in every way possible. The most advanced synths appear to have a personality, their own sense of humour, their own likes and dislikes, therefore they appear to actually be human. Different factions within the game have differing opinions on the synthetic human, one believing them to be nothing but property, one believing all the synths should be destroyed and one believing the synths should be liberated and have a chance for an independent life. The player has to make a decision to ally with one of these factions, as there is conflict between all of them. This means the player must make their own decision on what they think synthetic humans actually are and whether they should be considered as property, dangerous/unethical technology or independent beings. However the fact that Fallout 4 is a FPS shooter is a problematic element as in the same time the player might be thinking about important cultural questions about civil rights, the game could spawn multiple enemies that the player has to kill, effectively reducing the other characters in the game (often human) to targets that need to be eliminating. When the player has to think about whether an artificial life could be considered as important as a human one, it seems incredibly counter-productive to dehumanise the existing humans in the game. As my definition of the post-photographer was built using the knowledge I had built up around the post-digital publication through the Open and Social Media module, I decided it could be interesting to produce a photographic response that would link to this module. This would also give me the opportunity to include photographic work in my response to the Open and Social Media module. However instead of concentrating on the synthetic human in my photographic project, I wanted to focus on the game experience itself, how my character moved through the Fallout 4 environment and created my own version of the story through my actions and decisions.

Just like photography in the gaming environment the player ‘sees’ through a frame, however in gaming the camera becomes the only way through which the player experiences the world. This virtual reality can only be seen through playing the game unlike reality, which the photographer sees before choosing to frame it. This conscious choice to frame the scene happens less in video games, as the player is often confronted with other choices such as where to go, when to shoot etc. There are games that do involve a conscious moment where the character frames the scene, one is called Fatal Frame an Indonesian horror game. The player has to take pictures of spirits to damage and destroy them, ‘framing’ the spirits is fatal to them.

Another game is Outlast where the protagonist is an investigative journalist. The character has a video camera, which the player can use to record important moments in the game as evidence, however the camera is also used in the scarier portions of the game where the night-mode of the camera is used to see in the dark.

In the game Fallout 4, which my project will be examining there is a choice to play in First Person Mode or Third Person Mode. First Person mode is as if you are seeing through the eyes of the character, whereas third person mode is effectively you following your character through the environment. For players used to playing shooter-type games, the First Person mode will be more natural to them as it is generally considered to be easier and more accurate to shoot. The third person mode would be better for people used to playing typical story-type games, or adventure games that include some elements of combat such as Tomb Raider.


First Person Mode


Third Person Mode

For the purpose of my project, I will experience the Fallout 4 environment through the First Person Mode as it makes what I see and what my character sees exactly the same. The distance between me and my character is reduced and I feel that it is my story as well as my character.

Overall I feel that choosing gaming for my post-photography project will allow me to explore themes I haven’t yet explored in my own photographic practice, whilst still engaging with similar themes that I have explored before. The use of the game Fallout 4 for my project could be considered as me using appropriated material, which is an approach I have often taken in my most recent projects. However whilst my two previous projects have used appropriated material to make a comment on how much information users give to the Internet, in this project I will be using appropriated material to comment on how virtual reality has become similar to actuality.



As explored in the previous section, I will be examining Fallout 4 and the experience of the player in creating and shaping their own unique story. This story is their journey from moving through the gaming environment, to progressing in the storyline, even to levelling up and getting stronger as a character. My project will be exploring the sophisticated storytelling capability of modern video games and how virtual reality is becoming ever closer to reality. Although there will be some obvious differences, like the fact that Fallout 4 is set in a post-apocalyptic future, the basic elements in the gaming experience are becoming closer to reality. Despite the addition of radiated beings, synthetic humans and robotic devices, the landscape and the buildings in the Fallout 4 environment are recognisable and similar to that of my reality. My response to the assignment will link to the idea of naive realism, where the viewer and the photographer believe that a photograph can represent the entirety of reality. Combining the idea of naive realism and the developing sophistication of virtual reality, my project will aim to try and fool the viewer into thinking that the virtual reality of Fallout 4 could actually be reality. The project will be built of of shots of the screen from when my character is moving through the Fallout 4 environment. These images will be made in the locations that are the most important in the game, where my character has had to make certain choices and complete questionable actions. My photographs will be a play on naive realism, because they will try and make virtual reality seem like reality, commenting on the idea that viewers often believe what they see. If I present these images in a manner that references traditional artistic photography, then these images could be perceived depicting reality.

My project will hopefully link with the ongoing debate over whether video games can be considered as art. As I will explore in my project, the environment created by game designers are often so close to reality that the eye could potentially be fooled. There is so much detail put into tricky aspects such as water, clouds, wind and elements like the character interacting with the environment. The talent and craftsmanship of these game designers have been praised by many, and some artists have used games as a basis for producing their own imagery, just as photographers use reality to create their own work. However aside from the graphics and game design, the actual games themselves and the stories that they tell are also being debated over. Games such as Life is Strange and The Last of Us have created and told such detailed and emotional stories, that have been likened to the cinematic art. In the latest game Quantum Break, there are 25 minute cut scenes where live action is used to portray the shifting storyline, before the game play begins again. The live action characters are the same ones that are in the gameplay, allowing the player to engage with an incredibly advanced story, that when viewed can be seen as a movie-type experience. Then there are the people who make art from video games, more and more artists are using the game environment to make their own pictures, often through screen shots of the game when they are playing. However when someone has created the environment you are photographing, there could be issues with the ownership of that art, as the game designer could easily claim that the content within the image was theirs because they created the environment in the first place. This is the approach I want to take when creating my images, because it allows me to make a personalised series of images that relate directly to my character and my story. I will also be bringing the conscious framing from photography into my gameplay experience, when deciding which moments to take pictures of.



As I play games on my Xbox One, I don’t have the same advantage that PC Users have to be able to take a screenshot. I attempted to take a screenshot on the Xbox One of Fallout 4, but it only captured a picture of the menu screen, because the game interpreted my action as a reason to pause the game. I quickly realised I needed to either adopt a PC set up and replay the game to get to the point I was at, or find a new way of capturing images from the gameplay using my Xbox. Replaying the game on PC wasn’t really an option for me, as I wouldn’t be able to afford a whole new gaming set up and I wouldn’t be able to remember the order in which I discovered the Fallout 4 world, what I said in each conversation, what perks I chose first etc. There would be no way I could follow exactly the same journey, therefore I had to find another way to produce imagery. I decided that because I was bringing the nature of photography into the gaming environment, that it could be a really interesting idea to actually use my camera and take photographs of the screen. I would be interacting with the virtual reality just like I would be if I was photographing reality. However as I would if I was photographing reality I needed to make sure that I adjusted my camera settings to suit the content that I was photographing. I needed a shutter speed that was slightly slower than I would use normally, to make sure that my images wouldn’t show the frame rate of the game, which produces a distorted image. I also needed to make sure I was photographing the screen from straight on, not above or below, which would also change the appearance. I found that a particular spot on the sofa in the living room would provide me with this good angle, so I always shot and played from there in order to keep my images looking consistent. I also had to think about the lighting conditions in the living room when I was photographing, making sure that no sunlight was on the screen. If I was photographing in the evening, the artificial lighting would make the images have a slightly yellow hue, and often it meant the images would be too dark or grainy. I therefore tried to shoot all the images in periods of daylight, between sunrise and sunset, to try and replicate the same lighting for each image. Therefore the only variation in the lighting conditions of the images, would be when the times of day and the weather changed in the virtual reality of the game.

So I started taking photographs of the screen when playing, and uploaded them to my computer. Immediately I was met with my first design decision, my character observes the environment like I would observe reality through a set of eyes, however because I am playing a game that involves shooting, travelling to different locations, keeping track of my health – there were various different icons on the screen. I had to decide whether to keep them in the image, or whether to crop the whole image smaller so that they weren’t there. There is also a pointer in the middle of the screen, with which the player can interact with the environment, if you put the pointer over an item you can pick it up, when you are shooting that pointer becomes your aim. I needed to decide whether to keep the pointer in the image as well, or whether to take steps and Photoshop this element out.

The two images below show the two different options I had available to me, the first one features all the elements of the gameplay including the compass and health points whereas the second one is cropped to remove those elements and Photoshopped in order to remove the green pointer.



After considering both of the images, I decided that the second version would suit the ideology behind my project. If I am trying to replicate and reference reality in my images in order to try and fool my audience, I should make sure that the images don’t have these obvious gameplay elements, as this would give it away immediately. Although I am expecting the audience to realise that these images aren’t actually of reality, that there are some details that are slightly different, I don’t want them to realise straightaway. I want the audience to look carefully at the images to be able to pick out the details that don’t compare to their reality, in order to see that these images are of a virtual reality. If the audience don’t look carefully and just glance at the images, I want there to be a possibility that they could believe that the images are of reality.

Once I had the right aesthetic and design to my images, I began a series of shoots in the Fallout 4 virtual environment. These shoots varied in nature, in one session of gameplay I would aim to retrace the steps my character made, beginning from Vault 111 and following what the main storyline was for my version, but in other sessions of gameplay I simply roamed the environment freely, capturing the moments of that gameplay session that I felt was important to my character. I steadily built up a catalogue of images that depicted both important locations in the game in relation to the story and important moments that I experienced in relation to my discussions of Fallout 4 in my Open and Social module. Interestingly enough, most of the images, if not all of them depict a scene where I would have just killed a human, super mutant, synth or wasteland creature, making each image depict a sort of virtual graveyard. Despite the beauty of this virtual environment and the important moral questions the game asks the player, the fact that this game is still a FPS could perhaps detract from the moral gameplay experience. Contact sheets of all the images I created after a series of shoots can be seen below.

ContactSheet-001 ContactSheet-002 ContactSheet-003 ContactSheet-004 ContactSheet-005 ContactSheet-006 ContactSheet-007 ContactSheet-008 ContactSheet-009

Because this project has generated so many images, I had in mind that I wanted to create a photobook or zine type publication, as I didn’t want to have to narrow all of these images down to a number below ten (which is what I might have to do if I was presenting these images as a series of prints). These images are made in a consistent manner and would suit being presented in a consistent style as well, meaning a photobook would suit the project as these images could be presented in a linear consistent manner. However I identified that this number of images would most likely be too much and I had already acknowledged that some of the images weren’t as strong as the others. With this in mind, I started to identify which images were the most important in the series, in relation to the moments in the story they referenced. These images depict the vault, my character’s old house, the Red Rocket, the museum of freedom, Diamond City, The Castle, The Railroad HQ, Virgil’s cave, the teleporter I built in Sanctuary, Bunker Hill, the site of the Institute (after it is destroyed) and the destroyed Prydwen, which was the HQ of the Brotherhood of Steel. These locations mark important moments in the storyline where my I had direction of my character to make certain decisions as to where the storyline progresses. These moments happened in a particular order, which would most likely be different when compared to another player, therefore I had to remember and establish that order in which I completed the storyline and position the photographs accordingly.



Vault 111 – where my character took refuge when the bombs fell, joined by her husband Nate and her baby Shaun. However the inhabitants of this Vault were actually tricked into an experiment in cryogenic freezing. My character and her family were frozen for around 100 years before the vault was manually overridden, allowing a group of people to open the chamber with my character’s husband and baby. The group stole the baby Shaun and shot the husband Nate, before refreezing my character for a period of time. My character awakes when the cryogenic chamber stops working, to discover the dead bodies of everyone else in the Vault. My character escapes the vault and begins the adventure to try and find where Shaun has been taken to.


Sanctuary – the images depicts where my character’s old house was, my character returns to find the household robot Codsworth trying to keep up his cleaning duties. Codsworth seems affected by the radiation, but informs my character that 210 years have passed since the nuclear attack on America. Codsworth tells my character to start the search for Shaun in the nearest town Concorde, but warns that there are people who did survive the nuclear attack who could be potentially dangerous.


The Red Rocket – this truck stop is on the way to Sanctuary, it is here that our character meets the first companion of the game, a dog named Dogmeat. The Red Rocket also provides our character with a potential base, as there are various work benches that allow the opportunity for weapon/armour development and the ability to cook food for health points. Dogmeat now accompanies my character through the game and helps defend against enemies, as well as being able to hold items.


The Museum of Freedom – in the city of Concord, our character meets the first faction of the game known as the Minute Men. Our character saves the last known Minute Man and the group of people he his protecting from radars and a Deathclaw. The last Minute Men, Preston Garvey tells our character about the faction which has nearly died out, their ethos is to help anyone and everyone that needs help, with the hope that they can build a huge support network. It is through Preston Garvey and the other members in the group that our character finds out Diamond City would be the best place to visit next in order to find Shaun.


Diamond City – this is a developed settlement, made up of humans (there are no synths, ghouls or super mutants allowed here). Here my character meets Piper, the editor of a newspaper that comments on the many disappearances of people. Piper explains that an organisation known as the Institute is rumoured to be kidnapping people before replacing them with artificial copies. After Piper my character meets Nick Valentine, an early model synthetic human, which the residents accepted into their community after he saved the Mayor’s daughter. Valentine is a detective and begins to help with the search to find Shaun, directing my character to go after one of the kidnappers who they are able to identify as Kellogg.


The Castle – My character builds a strong tie with the faction known as the Minute Men, with Preston Garvey suggesting that my character becomes the new General and leader. In order to fully re-establish the Minute Men in the Fallout 4 world, Preston recommends that my character helps retake the old HQ of the Minute Men, known as the Castle. This was one of the most important moments in my play through of the game as I worked really hard to defeat a really strong enemy, the Mirelurk Queen. I didn’t have very good weapons and my armour wasn’t very good so I needed many tries to defeat the Mirelurk Queen. Once I finally did, I got a real sense of achievement, although my character didn’t really benefit from this win, as a player I felt accomplished.


Virgil’s Cave – when my character finds Kellogg we manage to find out that he does know about Shaun and that Shaun is indeed with the Institute. However before we can find out more, Kellogg turns hostile and my character has to kill him, to avoid being killed. We salvage important parts from Kellogg’s body, finding that he has synthetic technology in his body, which has allowed him to live longer. In Goodneigher we analyse this hardware that was embedded in his brain to find out more about the Institute, my character learns that a scientist named Brian Virgil actually left the Institute. My character travels into the Glowing Sea (an area full of radiation where the nuclear bomb was dropped) in order to find him. When my character finds Virgil we discover that he is a Super Mutant, which allows him to live safely in the glowing sea. Virgil is sympathetic when he hears about the kidnapping of Shaun and gives my character a schematic to make a teleporter, which is the only way into the Institute.


The Rail Road – between finding out about the teleporter and making the teleporter, my character comes across the faction known as the Rail Road, after following the Freedom Trail to find an old church. The Rail Road HQ is down in the basement, after a mission with Rail Road member Deacon, we are accepted into joining them. My character learns that the Institute is responsible for the invention and creation of synthetic humans, however they only view them as their property. The Rail Road believe that because synthetic humans have been created to be so close to real humans, that they do have independent feelings and personalities and therefore they have a chance at living life away from the Institute. In addition to this, the perception of the Institute as the synths being their property, is very similar to that of slavery. The Rail Road seeks our help in liberating the synthetic humans that want freedom within the Institute, asking my character to make contact with their inside man in the Institute if my character manages to make it in.


The Teleporter in Sanctuary – as a player, you can choose where you build the teleporter and which faction you choose to help you. I didn’t want to pledge allegiance to either the Rail Road or the Brotherhood of Steel, which have very different ideologies. I decided to go back to my home town Sanctuary and ask Sturges (a member of the Minute Men) to help me get into the Institute. I do manage to get into the Institute, where I find a synthetic version of Shaun. The real Shaun is actually 60 years old, my character was frozen for longer than we realised. The real Shaun is known within the Institute as Father and he is director of the Institute, as well as being the subject DNA of all the synthetic humans. It was his DNA, safe within the Vault and free from radiation, which was why he was kidnapped. Father asks my character to align with the ideology of the Institute, to try and see that they are improving mankind by making a new version.


The battle of Bunker Hill – this was the moment where I had to decide which faction I was going to ally with, Father sent me to try and recapture some escaped synthetic humans from Bunker Hill. However the Brotherhood of Steel also learned about the escaped synths and had the aim of destroying them all, the Rail Road were responsible for the escape of the synths in the first place and wanted to protect them from both the Institute and the Brotherhood. I decided to protect the synthetic humans from the Brotherhood of Steel, which made me enemies with them. I was still allied with the Institute,  in order to to help my main allies ,the Rail Road who were attempting put together a plan to liberate all of the synthetic humans in one go.



The Destroyed Prydwen – Following Bunker Hill, my character became enemies with the Brotherhood of Steel, who attempted to eliminate the Rail Road by attacking their HQ. This prompts the Rail Road to want to destroy the Brotherhood, the Institute also want the Brotherhood removed because of their interference with the Institute’s technology. Although I didn’t really want a violent solution, it seemed that the story had escalated too far to not remove the Brotherhood, as they continue to attack my character and the other factions. The two images above depict the wreck of the airship known as the Prydwen, which is where the Brotherhood were based. My character placed explosives in the airship before escaping and detonating them, the ruin of the Prydwen remains explorable in the site where it crashed. Although I interacted with the Brotherhood of Steel before this moment in the storyline, I felt that the ruins of the Prydwen really represent the hard choices I had to make as a player.


The ruins of the Institute – following the removal of the Brotherhood,my character continues to do tasks for the Institute while the Rail Road puts their plan into place. One of these tasks involves fixing and restarting a nuclear generator, which would help the Institute power their research in new ways and new scales. The Rail Road’s plan is to target this nuclear reactor and to blow the Institute up, after rescuing all of the humans and synths that want evacuation. This plan is put into action, the Rail Road is teleported into the Institute and they begin evacuating synths and other humans. My character goes to find Shaun, but he is on his deathbed because of a terminal cancer, Shaun is disappointed in my character but explains how my character can disable the synthetic humans that are attacking anyone who is trying to escape. My character then comes across a synthetic boy who looks like a 10-year-old Shaun, who believes that he is my character’s human son. As a player, I chose to take this synthetic version of Shaun and all of the Rail Road leave the Institute. My character is teleported to a rooftop overlooking the site where the Institute is underground and presented with a button to detonate the Institute. The image above is part of the crater where the Institute used to be, a site filled with radiation that is similar to that of the Glowing Sea, where the original nuclear bombs were dropped. It is here that you realise this play through of the game, simply replicates the war that created this post-apocalyptic environment in the first place – as the title sequence states ‘War Never Changes’.

These images resemble the main moments in the storyline, these are fixed and will appear in the order that can be seen above. The rest of the images I sorted and sequenced to fit around these main points in the story, the other images represent free play and travelling between the important locations. The sequence of the images can be seen below.














































With the images and the sequence decided upon, I needed to decide on the output. I had already identified that I wanted to create a photo book because of the number of important photographs that make up this series of images. Although the total of images exceeds the 10-15 specified by the brief, I feel it would be detrimental to the narrative of the project, if I didn’t include all of the images. This journey is a complex and detailed account, which is specific to my play-through of the game Fallout 4. In order to establish my complete investment in the game and the storyline, I feel I have to feature the entire visual story. I chose to make a digital photo-book online with the creator Blurb. I recorded a preview of the book and downloaded a PDF for people to be able to view offline at their leisure.

One of the last decisions for the project was the title. I had a few ideas, which can be seen below:

  • Lily
  • Charmer
  • Lily of the Commonwealth
  • Charmer of the Commonwealth
  • Commonwealth Lily
  • Commonwealth Charmer
  • Commonwealth

Lily was the name I chose my character from the beginning of the game, when I also chose what I gender I was going to play as, what she was going to look like and what strengths she had. From the beginning I chose to work on the elements such as charisma and luck, which would make sure that my character can persuade other characters she meets to bend to her will. This choice to go for charisma informed the decision behind the second title: Charmer, which was the code name I selected when joining the Railroad. I decided to use the reference to my game strategy when choosing the name Charmer, as my character was charming her way through the game environment. The fictional world that the Fallout 4 game is set in, in the former State of Massachusetts, however it is known only in the game as the Commonwealth. Therefore I started playing around with combinations of the character names and the name of the game world to try and make a good title.

My final decision was to choose ‘Commonwealth’, as it refers specifically to the environment that is depicted in the landscapes. I was able to get a really good image of a flower in the wasteland, I might have included the name Lily and used it to refer to my character in the wasteland. However this implies that my character is much better than the other characters, my character is definitely not perfect and is effectively a mass murderer, so I felt trying to liken her to a perfect flower would be false advertising. The title ‘Commonwealth’ was short, succinct, effective and relevant and worked really well for the minimalistic appearance I wanted to achieve, in order to try and convince the viewer that the landscapes are actually real.

Lastly, I decided to make the cover for the photo book a blue that references what is known as ‘Vault-Tech Blue’. Vault-Tech is the company that made the Vault in which my character was protected from the nuclear bombs and is the first place my character sees when beginning her journey through the post-apocalyptic environment. Therefore I felt that featuring this specific colour of blue would help frame the journey from start to finish. In addition to this, the colour palette in many of the images appears to be blue, therefore the cover sets the tone and there is a consistent colour theme throughout the images.

A summary of the project, the video and the PDF can be viewed HERE


Post-Photography Assignment Brief

The aim of this module is to enable students to show the transition from a “traditional” photographic supplier to an informed “post-photographic” storyteller.

Start by considering Fred Ritchin’s comment from After Photography;

‘In the digital environment a new kind of photograph emerges, neither mirror nor window but a mosaic. It allows for multiple pathways leading to new avenues of exploration – a hypertext. Like Alice’s mirror, the hypertext photograph can lead to the other side, whether to explore a social situation or to create an image poem. The photograph is no longer a tangible object, a rectangle resembling a painting, but an ephemeral image made of tiles.’

Was he saying that digital images are now all ‘Simulacra’ in the manner that Baudrillard interprets their connection to reality?

Photographs have always been half-truths, so can we use that to our advantage in creating visual poems?

Through a set of 10-15 photographic pieces* you should examine a journey inspired by truth or fiction. This could be an epic adventure like the Life of Pi or the distance from your fingers to the keyboard.

Your images should provoke the reader to interrogate their meaning. The images could be accompanied by text or they could become a pathway through to another screen. The final work should take the audience on a journey, one that leaves them compelled to ask questions about your presented virtual reality.

You are expected to experiment with different approaches and challenge the boundaries of visual photographic expression.

Useful reference material might come in the form of images from social media, magazines, blogs, films, books, music, advertising in all its forms, the family photo album and other practitioners.

Your research (included within your blog) should detail the development of your ideas, and your practice as well as any shifts in the direction of the project. The blog should include weekly reflections (approximately 100-200 words in length) throughout the duration of the module.

*A “photographic piece” refers to either a single photographic image or collection thereof (in the form of a montage or diptych, triptych etc).


Initial Thoughts:

The key element to this brief is to try and embrace the concept of post-photography, changing from a traditional photographer, to a post photographer. The brief draws on the ideas of Fred Ritchin in relation to post-photography, however I believe that the lecture material will continue to develop and build on this concept. Fred Ritchin comments on how the digital age has changed the traditional analogue practice of photography. With advanced technology, which is more user-friendly, there are many more photographers now than there was when only analogue was available. In addition to digital cameras, the camera phone has become such a prominent element in daily life and the practice of photography.

The term photography now covers such a vast range of equipment, purposes and outcomes and there is much debate about what the photograph is anymore. In the context of the module Phonar (Photography and Narrative) we explored the idea of the photograph representing this analogue creation, using the term image to define an outcome that was created using digital technology. This separation between photograph and image helped us better define what practice we were considering. However the creation of the photograph is not the end point, traditionally photographs could be displayed in various different physical ways, from galleries to newspapers. This complicates the idea of a separation between photograph and image, because a photograph that has been made with analogue technology, could then be made digital through processes such as the scanning and uploading of a negative or print. In addition to this, the original form of the photograph could be changed once in a digital context, with the advanced and extended editing capabilities available from digital technology. Although assigning different terms can help to identify different types and approaches to photography, it is extremely hard to simplify a process that keeps growing, developing and intersecting.

My initial idea of what a post-photographer is, stems from an introduction to what a post-digital publication could be, which I was introduced to on the module: Open and Social Media. A post-digital publication is an outcome that considers the physical and digital technology available and chooses a process and practice that is suitable for the content the publication engages with. This choice doesn’t necessarily have to be exclusive to the physical or the digital, it could be a hybrid of both or take different forms in a physical/digital context. The key element is to acknowledge all processes and not be distracted by the revolutionary nature of developing digital technology, using it just because it is new. Post-digital isn’t necessarily a retro-rejection of digital technology, but a retrieval of methods that might have been forgotten or overshadowed by the digital age. Therefore I my idea of a post-photographer, is one who considers each and everyone of the different types of photography being practiced in the world and choose which approach suits the subject matter you want to represent. Just like the post-digital publication, the post-photographer doesn’t necessarily have to be exclusive to one photographic process, as some of the most interesting projects have engaged with a notion of hybridity. Or they have acknowledged that the form of their photographic project might need to change to be viewed effectively in a physical/digital context. I believe that the key concept of the post-photographer is the ability to understand the motives, purposes and effects behind each method of photography and be able to reflect and comment on this in their own work.

I expect my definition of the post-photographer to develop throughout the module and as the brief states, I will be making weekly reflections on the content that is explored and how this changes my idea of what post-photography is and what my response to this brief could be.

Photojournalism Now: Roles and Responsibilities

Photojournalism in the digital age is subject to many complexities and the role of the photojournalist continues to develop. Current debates and discussions surrounding the practice of photojournalism include but are not limited to: responsible representation, manipulation, citizen contribution and the evolution of digital technology. With photojournalism expanding and diversifying there appears to be less control over the nature and the authors of the content produced. In addition to this, the parameters of the professional photojournalist are in a continuing state of flux: a concept predating digital, but amplified by it (Ritchin 2014: 13).

It can be argued that photojournalism formed the understanding of photography as evidence, as it placed a demand on the photographer to create visual representations of the event or issue being investigated (Rosler 2004a: 264). The photograph assumed this demanded role of truth teller despite the apparent limitations to representation posed by the singular framed moment. In addition, despite manipulation always being present in photographic history, speculations about photographic ‘truth’ appeared to gain more prominence (Sontag 1978: 52). The launch of Photoshop Version 1 in 1990 meant that the process of manipulation was accessible to anyone, not just the industry (Adobe n.d.). The resulting ease of manipulation provoked a redefinition of photographic meaning in photojournalism. It now appeared to resemble a visual metaphor instead of the original, evidential form desired. It is thought that digital technology has increased the potential of the image to narrate. However it also appears to have cracked the credibility that the photograph used to possess (Rosler 2004b: 188).


Analogue photography in photojournalism originated around the framing of a moment, which then became heavily associated with ‘straight’ or evidential photography (Rosler 2004a: 264). These singular images were integrated into the current format of news, acting as an entry point for the viewer. However when forming a narrative in photography, usually a sequence of images is needed. It could be seen that the singular analogue photograph is limited in capacity, bound by the frame (Rosler 2004b: 189 and 190). In contrast the digital image is a coded entity, considered as fluid and able to exist in both the latent and manifest state almost simultaneously (Fontcuberta 2014: 37). Although still bound by the edges of the frame digital photography appears to have the capacity to change the current forms of narration.

Ritchin likened digital imagery to that of ‘quantum physics’ (Worth 2013b) where the more we try and investigate and examine, the more the data fluctuates. We can extend this metaphor and describe analogue photography as chemistry in both a literal and conceptual sense. Although there are many possibilities, each one can be explained by a series of chemical reactions, constructed and carried out by the practitioner. It has been stated that the purpose of photography is to be ‘useful in the world’ and the capacity of digital technology could take photojournalism further however it needs the practitioner to become ‘proactive’ and take on the responsibility (Worth 2013b). Perhaps the fluid nature of the digital image will encourage new explorations in this field.


Photojournalism itself emerged with the industrialisation of news and the surge of mass markets, both contributing to the creation of the illustrated magazine, or photo essay (Warner Marien 2002: 8). The evolution of digital technology has allowed photojournalists and photo editors to explore new methods of narrating an event. Where the photo essay was product of industrialisation, digital technology provides the photojournalist with an escape into new forms of media (Worth 2013b). Time Magazine has certainly embraced this liberation by producing dynamic new features like ‘Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek’ (Ritchin 2013: 59) ‘Faces of The Dead’ (Ritchin 2013: 94) and ‘Watching Syria’s War’ (Ritchin 2013: 92). The use of moving image, sound, interactivity and creative data visualisation in these features support the explorations into new, effective narrative forms, which perhaps could not be achieved through the single photograph (Rosler 2004b: 189-190). In a recent interview, Stephen Mayes described digital, online photojournalism as rolling, a continuous stream of information (Worth 2013b). This environment is perhaps suited to a more creative, contextualised and comprehensive narrative moving away from the safety of the photo essay format.


The digital native culture has fully accepted the new form of photographic image; the instantaneous nature along with the developing communication infrastructure has helped shape the current mass image culture. This dynamic conflicts with the ideology of Walter Benjamin who discussed the loss of aura through reproduction and proximity. (Benjamin 1992: 225). The tools of this mass image culture can be integrated into photojournalism as demonstrated by Benjamin Lowy, who used a combination of smartphone photography and the application Hipstamatic to produce his images (Ritchin 2013: 68). However they were met with negativity, head of a photojournalist festival Jean-Francois Leroy stated that using an app reduced the control over the photograph and actually worked to ‘standardise photography’ (Ritchin 2013: 69). Lowy’s images are accessible and familiar, with the aesthetic and format referencing social media such as Instagram. This technique allows the audience to relate and consume the content easily. However the danger of producing this comfortable imagery is that the content doesn’t work to challenge or provoke the viewer, referencing the current trend of main-stream media producing content the audience want to see not what they need to know (TED 2011). The mass image culture has generated an archive of safe, consumable imagery that works to promote, not provoke.


Current photojournalism can be perceived as ‘Networked’ (Beckett 2008: 2) with citizens and professionals contributing content. The millennium saw an increase of citizen journalism in media with the 911 attacks acting as the catalyst. Imagery from camera phones became more commonplace in photojournalism as the holder of a smartphone can become an instantaneous producer and publisher. This was particularly evident in the coverage of the 2001 Twin Towers attack and the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, which comprised of still image and moving image content. The raw aesthetic of citizen camera content often convinces the viewer that fabrication is less likely. Reduced naivety to manipulation has even provoked the public to question aesthetically perfect images, despite any status of legitimacy. The proximity of the citizen to their environment could also improve their representation. This insider status coupled with a greater awareness generates new questions (La Grange 2005: 125). With no belief in the image, and more citizens taking up a camera, is there actually a demand for the professional photojournalist anymore?


Manipulation is a process that was present in analogue photojournalism, however it has gained more awareness in the digital age. Both Ritchin and Rosler addressed the February 1982 National Geographic cover in reference to photographic truth (Ritchin 1990: 26, Rosler 2004a: 271). The distance between the pyramids was digitally altered, potentially destroying their historic association to ‘immutability’ (Rosler 2004a: 270). The parameters of manipulation in photojournalism have never been defined which has perhaps allowed instances in which images are changed to achieve ‘conceptual accuracy’ and ‘aesthetic pleasure’. (Rosler: 2004a: 276). Ethical guidelines in relation to the practise of manipulation must be defined in the context of photojournalism (and distanced from conceptualism) to avoid the exploitation of the audience through naivety (Bersak 2006).


A photojournalist’s role can be to construct a representation of victimisation and suffering. There is a responsibility on their part to photograph in a manner that avoids exploitation and misrepresentation, far from Barthes’ original dynamic of operator and target (Barthes 1993: 9). Abigail Solomon Godeau in her ‘Inside/Out’ essay examined the stance taken by photographers in representation of vulnerable subjects, which is especially complex when the photographer isn’t native to the culture and environment. In Kevin Carter’s well-known image, his ‘outsider’ approach could be viewed as imperialistic as there is no personal involvement or connection (La Grange 2005: 125). The distance created in the image reduces the relationship between the photographer and subject to an observing eye (Ritchin 2014: 36). However this is the stance photojournalism desires to achieve objectivity. It has produced iconic imagery Barthes would define, as punctum, drawing an emotional response, but is that enough to help the victim? (Barthes 1993: 26-27). A comprehensive understanding of the subject’s situation might establish continuing support from the audience. Perhaps the future structure of photojournalism should begin with an objective ‘outsider’ image to capture audience attention, which then leads to the larger, more informed body of work producing using the ‘insider’ approach (La Grange 2005: 125). This could work to solve the notion of subject exploitation and misrepresentation.



In photographic representation, context is the defining concept, however it is equally important to establish the right context for the final outcome (Rosler 2004a: 263, Johnston: 2011). The photojournalist’s responsibility extends past the action of taking a photograph; the imagery must be circulated to the right channels. Marcus Bleasdale has avoided ‘preaching to the already converted’, (Worth 2013a), choosing to adapt his body of work ‘Rape Of A Nation’ (Bleasdale 2008) into different forms to engage with alternative audiences. In contrast to this, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin created the body of work named ‘The Day That Nobody Died’ to comment on the practise of photojournalism (Broomberg and Chanarin 2008). The work was pieces of photographic paper exposed to the sun over the course of a day and has been exhibited in the contemporary art community most recently at the Shanghai Biennale. The significance of this work was the conceptual nature, which means it would be most effective in an environment where it would be perceived as art. Although the work is associated with photojournalism, to publish it in the environment of this genre would be taking it out of context and reducing the capacity to communicate effectively. Conceptual photography is a separate genre and needs distancing from the informative imagery normally associated with photojournalism (Rosler 2004a: 259).


It would be accurate to state that the digital age has changed the field of photojournalism, however it would be more perceptive to suggest that it has amplified some of the existing issues. The photograph as evidence has had an unstable history perhaps due to the limitations of the single-image approach (Renaldi 2014). The nature of the digital image and the techniques made available through digital technology has facilitated a new mode of delivery, which is more contextualised (Johnston 2011). Though with the format of print journalism and objective imagery remaining ever present, it appears that a balance of reactionary and proactive, insider and outsider photojournalism is approaching (Worth 2013, La Grange 2005: 125).

However there are considerations that must be addressed such as truthful representation, manipulation, contextual information, circulation to appropriate channels and photographic responsibility (Rosler 2004a: 271, Ritchin 2009: 26, Johnston 2011, Bleasdale 2008). In addition, the parameters of the professional in the current state of photojournalism still need establishing in order to maintain quality in the field (Ritchin 2014: 13). After investigating it would appear that when confronted with complexity, the photojournalist (professional or citizen) must produce an effective, innovative narrative with the tools available, which depicts a responsible, informed representation of the subject. It should challenge and provoke a response from the right audience and be viewed in the appropriate environment (Johnston 2011).



List of References


Adobe Adobe Photoshop release history. [online] available from <; [5 January 2015]

Barthes, R. (1982) Camera Lucida. London: Cape

Beckett, C. (2008) Supermedia: saving journalism so it can save the world. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

Benjamin, W. (1992) ed by Arendt, H. The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. London: Fontana

Bersak, D. (2006) Ethics in Photojournalism: past, present, and future. [online] available from <; [27 January 2015]

Bleasdale, M. (2008) Rape of a Nation [online] available from <; [5 January 2015]

Broomberg, A and Chanarin, O. (2008) The Day Nobody Died [online] available from <; [27 January]

Fontcuberta, J. (2014) Pandora’s Camera. MACK

Johnston, M. (2011) David Campbell – Narrative, Power and Responsibility [online] available from <; [27 January 2015]

La Grange, A. (2005) Basic Critical Theory for Photographers. London: Focal

Ritchin, F. (2013) Bending The Frame. United States: Aperture

Ritchin. F. 2009 After Photography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company

Rosler, M. (2004a) ‘Image Simulations Computer Manipulations: Some considerations.’ in Decoys and Disruptions: selected writing, 1975-2001. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press

Rosler, M. (2004b) ‘In, Around, and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography).’ in Decoys and Disruptions: selected writing, 1975-2001. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press

Sontag, S. (1978) On Photography. London: Allen Lane

TED (2011) Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” [online] available from <; [27 January 2015]

Warner Marien, M. (2002) Photography: A Cultural History. 4th edn. London: Laurence King Publishing

Worth, J. (2013a) Marcus Bleasdale in conversation for #phonar [online] available from <; [5 January 2015]

Worth, J. (2013b) Stephen Mayes, Fred Ritchin and Jonathan Worth [online] available from <; [5 January 2015]

Worth, J. (2014) Fred Ritchin in conversation for [online] available from <; [5 January 2015]

Manipulation in Photojournalism

Photojournalism is being confronted with many complexities in the digital age of photography, however some of the issues have just been amplified. With twenty percent of entries to the World Press Photo 2015 being disqualified due to excessive editing, it is evident that manipulation in photojournalism is a widespread problem that needs to be addressed.  The parameters of manipulation have never been defined in photojournalism which has perhaps allowed and encouraged instances in which images have been manipulated to achieve a better aesthetic. However fabrication in a practice which is considered and expected to depict photographic realism would suggest corruption and as a result the faith in the image has steadily been diminishing. Have the audience been exploited by fabricated images they put their trust in?

The concept of photographic realism has been heavily linked with the idea of ‘straight photography’ which writer and practitioner Martha Rosler defines a recent development in the history of photojournalism. In the 1900s, the  audience loved candid, snapshot photography as it conveyed a real life representation which they could identify with which perhaps encouraged the production of images which were perceived to be depicting the ‘truth’. However there are many complexities surrounding the idea of photographic truth aside from image-editing software. Photography is a highly subjective practice in which the artists creates a representation based on their own ideology formed by their life experiences. The concept of the categorical imperative in association with ethics expresses that what is acceptable for one person should be acceptable for everyone, however there are no strict guidelines for manipulation in photojournalism. The actual definition of manipulation/fabrication is ambiguous, David Campbell stresses that the inclusions and exclusions made by the photographer in framing the moment can be just as destructive to photographic truth as excessive editing. When constructing a narrative and forming a photographic representation, the photojournalist must be responsible and attempt to frame the scene in the most effective and accurate manner.

It is apparent that digital technology has facilitated the photographer and the citizen with the capacity to manipulate their imagery with software like Photoshop readily available. Writer  and photographer Joan Fontcuberta commented that the digital image lends itself to manipulation more than analogue because it is coded in nature meaning the very fabric and matter of the image can be tampered with. One of the most well-known cases of manipulation in photojournalism was the 1982 National Geographic Cover which depicted the Egyptian Pyramids.


Where the audience believed they were viewing a genuine photograph, it was revealed that the distance between the pyramids had been digitally altered to suit the portrait composition of the cover. The National Geographic defended their actions by claiming they had only effectively gone back in time and moved the photographer’s position. Despite this claim, it was actions such as this where manipulation achieved what Rosler defined as ‘aesthetic pleasure’ that have caused the current conflict against ‘straight photography’. However Rosler explored further and stated that manipulation in the medium of photography isn’t itself an unethical practice, it is the attempted instances when fabricated photographs are passed off as reality which are the problem. Fontcuberta also addressed this notion in relation to the manipulated images of Keira Knightly; these images were created as portraits, a subjective, artistic representation which when viewed in the context of photojournalism appear to be unethical. It is not just the editing and the framing that factors in the concept of manipulation, it is the context in which the image appears which determines the manner in which it is interpreted. All these considerations must be taken into account in the photographic process of photojournalism.

In the current age of photojournalism, it could be perceived that the he audience viewing  also has a responsibility. Despite the purpose of photojournalism being to attempt to provoke social change, there is the notion of commercial viability which can affect the content being produced. There is a conflict between sharing imagery which is in the public interest and sharing that which the public desire and will purchase. As the audience took to candid photography, the presence of it grew in photojournalism; now with image-based social media growing, conventional media and professional photojournalists have been seen attempting to replicate this style in order to engage with the public. In addition to this, with the development of digital technology the citizen now has a more active role in the process of photojournalism. Previous instances of manipulation have resulted in a reduced naivety which means the audience have the power to interpret and judge whether the content they are seeing is believable. In response, Fontcuberta believes that the audience should take a more active role in seeking out truthful, reliable content instead of being passive and subsequently confronted with fabricated content designed to trick. Shahidul Alam stated in a talk that it is possible for effective content to be seen through the ‘noise’ of image saturation and it could be suggested that in the age of digital photojournalism, it is the role of the audience to seek and share it.

It is evident that digital technology has caused a growth in the amount of fabricated imagery seen in photojournalism, however the issues extend past the actions in Photoshop.  There are many points in the photographic process in which fabrication can occur: the framing of the scene, the editing of the photograph and the context in which it is viewed by the audience. Only by combatting all the issues associated with manipulation in the photographic process can the practice of photojournalism become completely responsible and ethical.



Interview between Jonathan Worth, Fred Ritchin and Stephen Mayes

As I identified that Fred Ritchin and Stephen Mayes would be an influential part of my research paper, I felt it would be beneficial to me to revisit the interview made by Jonathan Worth in which Ritchin and Mayes discuss ideas related to Bending The Frame and current photojournalism. My notes and the evaluation can be seen below:

Jonathan – questions/points

  • Who should be in charge of the information?
  • Who should teach the skills of technology and photojournalism?
  • Can the photojournalist let the viewer down by not providing an outlet of way for people to help
  • Visit Simon Norfolk’s work of Afghanistan

Stephen Mayes – background

  • CEO of VII photo agency (agency of photojournalists)
  • Worked in fashion/commercial previously
  • Describes himself now as a ‘visual entrepreneur’

Stephen Mayes – ideology

  • Commercial aspect is key – those who are attempting to make a living will need an income from it (however we will figure it out)
  • Commerce has shaped the form of documentary and news that we live – structure of magazines, then TV has shaped the structures and styles that we are used to
  • There has been a ‘transliberation’ – practical problem of generating income/commercial constraints vs. invention in how news is gathered, contextualised and distributed – we can reinvent how news and documentary works, everything is free of commerce at this point
  • This liberation could be a problem however it could be a huge opportunity
  • The structure of the magazine/photo essay was essentially born of technology and was part of the commercial process- it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the most effective tool of using these images/data
  • There is a lot of confusion with too many sources of information, the sources are cryptic/foreign however there are standards that are emerging – there is potential for a much more creative way for news to be told
  • The traditional form of story telling is very much simplified – all this has sprang apart and we are confronted with complexity now which might be a better way of describing the world
  • Optimistic = pessimist who doesn’t know all the facts
  • All of the problems Ritchin describes could be changed – the front page was very much a form of control, making exclusions to centre around a focal idea – perhaps it was a risky tool to exclude everything else that was going round in the world, there was actually no way to know if the people actually reading and engaging with the ‘front page’ story? The chances are it would be the people that already engage and want to change therefore we might not need the entry point?
  • We are experiencing a longer form of journalism already because it never ends, it comes to us in a rolling stream and we are also liberated from the constrictions of the constructed package of a story to create a neat summary of what was going on in the world, there is an ever rolling evolution of stories with have no beginning/middle/end
  • Although content moves through the internet very quickly it is easy to follow and track the developments – the websites will also always be there, print magazines disappear – we are giving people more opportunity to do things about the issue online, you can like/share/comment/donate/volunteer as a result of the media – we can act more as a community
  • We are developing tools where we can find and target people who we know are more likely to get involved and compare
  • Reflecting on Simon Norfolk work – someone was horrified that a photojournalist could be considered as a story teller (the origins of storytellings for ancients were metaphors that brought us truths) news information should be facts not stories. Simon Norfolk’s work is a draw back to a more profound form of story telling
  • Story telling has evolving to indicate what might have happened in contrast to factual reporting and what has happened, Mayes finds it is an enriching and gratifying process considering the power of the metaphor – photography has always been trapped in the notion of depicting
  • Simon is part of a bigger trend where the metaphor is used increasingly in storytelling
  • Examples of the image to provoke action: image of youth wearing a hoodie in the US – the Trevon Martin – it did galvanise action form a massive amount of people but sadly to the wrong effect, it was a socially driven example. Another example was the huge Facebook reaction to the scanners at US Airports that it was said could reveal everything underneath their clothing thousands said they would not use the scanners and pose a strike however only one person did it
  • We are moving past the idea that the photographic can only be interpreted as a fact, photography could be a more thoughtful metaphoric medium

Fred Ritchin – background

  • Professor at New York University
  • Picture editor at New York Times Sunday Magazine
  • Written three books

Fred Ritchin – ideology

  • Photographer we think of is a reactive individual with a camera / visual journalist is someone that can be a ‘meta-photographer’ dealing with contextualisation
  • The visual journalist can be a proactive/peace photographer – much broader definition of someone that will just respond to an event
  • Hyper-photographer is someone that can work with interactive non-linear technology will probably work with sound/video/still images
  • PROBLEM: Diminishing sense that the media is telling us things of importance, and people are less willing to pay for it – older models of marginal/mainstream/conventional media is imploding
  • We need to figure out the hybridisation of media which includes the contributions from the citizen journalist has the context and the serendipitous fact of being in the right place when things happen – however we need the professional to prioritise and filter the most important content and put it all together
  • The idea of citizenship in journalism – people needed to know what was going on in a timely manner to understand their world, if people aren’t willing to take on this role journalism becomes sort of entertaining, people are still suffering but people can’t/won’t do anything about it
  • The ‘simplified’ form of media was to implore people to try and help assist the victims of the events that we are describing – there has been complexity since the first forms of media – however the role of the news is to be understood and read, the older forms of media were to get people interested in 6/8 pages
  • There is no front page at this point, if the Napalm girl image was released today it might be on the internet for an hour, it wouldn’t be the image for change
  • Not everyone in the world should be reinventing media – there is still a need for photography/media to be useful for the sake of the youth who will need that form of old media to learn/understand about the world
  • 5 year projects of more artistic documentary photographers may release a book or build a website/exhibition but realistically how many people actually see the images/content?
  • Take Afghanistan – what can we actually do about it? There was no image that we could rally around and share ideas on. Do people actually know anything about Afghanistan and the culture? People are ill-educated in terms of foreign affairs and cultures. In Ritchin’s experience he knew that if he saw an image the rest of the public were likely to have seen the same one and this meant people could come together collectively – you could go to the subway and talk to people
  • There is no entry point in the media anymore – the image that was used as a rallying point was the entry point, the front page had a good use in the world – the online gesture of liking/sharing/making a comment is very half-hearted – the images of the killing of Osama bin Laden weren’t realised because the government thought people wouldn’t believe them and didn’t want to enrage people that were already angry
  • You have to think about things in terms of the rich country ideas against the poor country ideas – the victims don’t want people to learn about the famine/war that is affecting them, they want them to help, ‘if my house was on fire I wouldn’t want people educated about fire and houses, I would want them to help’
  • Although the internet has given an explosion of possibilities for people to search and learn at their leisure however for those people who are suffering they want people to have a more focussed effect on helping
  • The magazines/papers gave people the power and focus to shame or expose negative situations in society and make people want to change something about it
  • There is a difference between ‘us and them’ news – us is where the change is happening in our social environment however them is when the events are happening in foreign countries/cultures to us – the Vietnam girl image could be considered as an image metaphor for war as it descried horror, it became a symbol of a ruined social situation
  • It is simple and easy to use photography to tell a story without needing to make something up
  • Although you can learn a lot from Simon Norfolk’s series of images, for example he talks through the history of Afghanistan, he only shows his work in galleries, his work might not have as much as an impact as a typical print image would – perhaps society doesn’t want to be impacted – we are resisting the front page because we want to live in our own bubble and be protected against the happenings we don’t like
  • There is no prevailing point of view: there is a flood of different views that could be completely misinformed by false or ill conceived information
  • There is no sense of discourse or dialogue- the government used to be the fourth estate in which journalists would have a dialogue is – there is now a fifth estate which are those who hack and reveal information
  • There is no efficient sense of filtering information now – increasing sense of utopianism – the possibilities of the automobile were wonderful however they brought all kinds of problems that were brought with it
  • The internet is powerful and great in the sense of commerce however it isn’t very good at bringing a news story forward to an individual



There was so much content in this interview that I am still revisiting it and gaining new ideas and picking up new points therefore since I am using Fred Ritchin and Stephen Mayes as framework for my paper I needed to listen to this interview again and note down the important ideas. This opposition created by Jonathan Worth in the interview formed the basis of my structure as I felt I could discuss the relevant debates and issues in photojournalism using the ideology from Ritchin and Mayes to compliment and contradict each other.  The key idea I am taking away from Stephen Mayes in this interview is the idea that digital, online photojournalism is a rolling, continuous stream and that we need photojournalism to adapt to suit and take advantage of this dynamic. One of the key ideas I am taking away from Fred Ritchin in this interview is the changing professional and the concept that we are moving away from the iconic images associated with analogue photojournalism to produce larger, more informed bodies of work. This associates with my discussions of the context for the final outcome as this is as equally important as the photographic process because the work needs to be interpreted in the right way. There are so many other points and concepts in this interview that will be so relevant both in relation to my research paper and the blog posts I am planning to write. Overall revisiting this interview has been extremely beneficial to me and has shaped the structure for my research paper.


Reference: Worth, J. (2013b) Stephen Mayes, Fred Ritchin and Jonathan Worth [online] available from <; [5 January 2015]

Interview with Fred Ritchin (Bending The Frame)

In order to make sure my research on Fred Ritchin’s writing was comprehensive I made sure to revisit the interview held with him by Jonathan Worth in which he discussed the ideology behind Bending The Frame. My notes and evaluation can be seen below:

Will people disbelieve photographs?

  • In Our Image – 1990
  • Russell Brand from Adobe went on TV to broadcast the program of Photoshop – he put himself in a photograph to show how easy it is to manipulate a photograph
  • Ritchin said that if everyone will do this there will be a loss of belief in the image – the photograph will no longer be a “quotation” of reality, the mechanism of documentary photography is the concept that once you’ve framed a scene you can only do slight style changes to the image not completely disrupt it
  • Photographs have lost their credibility – it is good that people are less naiive, one of the reasons why the images of the killing of Osama Bin Laden weren’t released was because the government didn’t think the public would believe them
  • There is no longer a credibility with the witness – in the news images we really don’t know what’s going on, we can’t depend on a photograph or a video without the knowledge that it could have been manipulated
  • Man has the power to make the world that of their own image, photographs must conform to their own image rather than proposing or exposing an alternative view
  • Previously photo-manipulation was only accessible to high end corporations such as the National Geographic – the manipulation was to effectively move back in time and move the photographer – we are looking at a completely different era in the making and perceiving of images
  • In terms of being an author of the text/photographer there is a feeling of a voice being diminished when editors choose to manipulate the content.
  • In photographs there used to be a safety because people couldn’t read photographs which is why Ritchin moved in photo-editing because the photograph could suggest so much more and give people many different interpretations
  • The choice of images from some editors are confusing- there was an iconic image of a classical pianist which they disliked because it suggested he was creative, they didn’t think that classical musicians were creative; only Jazz were creative. Ritchin then found an image of a young jazz player in an apartment looking to the sky – they didn’t like the fact he was looking up in the sky because it could suggest something different.
  • As a photo-editor you can have much more impact and argue for the right images to be shown- could be more useful as a photo-editor as there are many photographers but not many photo-editors
  • ‘A vision of Iran’ was one of the first influences of subjective journalism as it was one vision of Iran – Ritchin was told by his boss that they never liked it
  • We need subversive media to counteract the definitive viewpoint
  • The point of photography is not to celebrate itself but to be useful in the world
  • The internet was very much a liberation from the pay model – people could access free content rather than paying a monthly fee from an organisation like the Times
  • Ritchin did work on multimedia possibilities – taking a conventional photo essay and producing a multimedia version as an experiment. The idea was to branch away from war and to try to show peace using Bosnia as an example as a peace treaty has just been signed. Worked with Peress, he would should the footage and take the photographs and Fred Ritchin edited the footage and images. It took around seven weeks to edit a nonlinear narrative as opposed to taking a day to edit a linear narrative
  • You had to take each image and try to think of all the links that it had with the other content- this is the key of non linear narrative deciding which images the viewer would go to when they clicked a singular image.
  • People weren’t used to clicking on image, Ritchin has to suggest to people that you could click on the image because people weren’t used to engaging and interacting with an image in that respect
  • Instead of conventional media telling you what’s going on you as the reader/viewer have to collaborate with the photographer/content producer to make sense of the situation
  • This was presented as a stand alone however it was rejected because it wasn’t in paper form, traditional organisations have been slow on engaging with digital technology
  • Digital media has a different architecture to analogue media as it is mostly code based
  • If we knew the consequences of the automobile at the time of making it, what would we have done to start changing it differently
  • Digital photography is not more efficient photography it is just a different way of self expression and describing the world – David Rogebury used cameras to visualize music
  • Sometimes it’s good to be a bit more pragmatic and show examples
  • What we used to consider marginal photography is now mainstream and the conventional mainstream media is collapsing
  • How can we avoid the apocalypse not how can we wait for it to happen so we can make good photographs of it – proactive photography/reactive photography
  • Instead of there being one way to frame the world – there are multiple ways to frame the world
  • The insider telling the outsiders what is going on – how can be hybridise media and take the best from the citizen and the best from the journalists to produce a new effective form of media
  • We need to build new bridges into the understanding of the world instead of waiting for the horrors and showing them which we have done as media for a long time
  • Post photographic photographer – the photographer after the latest paradigm shift


As expected most of the ideology in here is reflected in my notes on the book Bending The Frame because Fred is discussing the same ideology he used in the actual book. There are many overlaps and sometimes I find it is easier to hear the points as opposed to reading them, because I can actually hear the tone and context in which Ritchin discusses them. As discussed in my post of Bending The Frame I will be using some of the case studies Ritchin uses in Bending The Frame in my research paper to explore different themes, for example using the National Geographic cover in relation to manipulation. There are some points that I didn’t quite pick up on in the book of Bending The Frame that I have picked out in this interview that I will definitely be developing on either in my research paper or the independent blog posts I plan to write with my extended research.


Reference: Worth, J. (2014) Fred Ritchin in conversation for [online] available from <; [5 January 2015]


Martha Rosler – Image Simulations, Computer Manipulations: Some Considerations

After pulling apart my symposium structure, I identified with the help of Liz Wells’ book Photography a Critical Introduction, that Martha Rosler and her writings on manipulation and simulation would give me an interesting alternative angle on photo manipulation that I could contrast against Fred Ritchin. Martha Rosler has been mentioned to me before in passing however it took that self discovery to really identify where she could really feature in my research paper; it often takes that journey of investigation for me to be able to see the connections.

Rosler begins by identifying the defining question behind this paper; the apparent danger to photographic “truth” from computer manipulation. Historic photography is full of staging, we are able to recognise this aesthetic and characterise it with the history that we know, for example we might say that an image looks “Victorian” because of the manner in which the specific portrait was taken.  Photography itself is “mutable”, that is subject to change and in the photographic image we have seen instances where space and time itself have been mutated. The characteristics of the image-making have been identified as ‘post industrial’, where sound, film and video have contributed to the collapse the believable world in imagery. Rosler proposed that the ability of photography is often overlooked because it is so integrated in our society despite technology giving it the power  to alter time and space. Regardless of this power, Rosler maintains that the truth telling power of photography hasn’t necessarily been “used up”, aspects of the image can be manipulated in terms of content; agreeing with practitioners such as David Campbell when professing that context is the determining factor in the image. In extension to this there are different types of context: linguistic context in the form of captions or accompanying text and visual content which encompasses powers such as sequencing, framing and editing actions.

Rosler states that photography and objectivity is a relatively modern notion, the “straight” or candid photography practised by photographers like Cartier Bresson have ultimately been brought about by the inclusion of the photograph in reportage. However the truth telling nature of photography is only a small part of the genre, it the influential fact that the published reportage image is seen by the masses because the content is deemed to be in the public interest. The artistic practise of photography is completely different and in addition those who practise “deceptive” manipulation are another form altogether. It has been seen that fabricated or staged images are a major issue in war photography; the speculations around Robert Capa and Joe Rosenthal are enough to support this concept. The introduction of manipulation in news imagery began in early newsreels where the event was restaged and fabricated for a photograph in order to give a visual representation of the event. In addition to this the manipulation seen in the commercial industry, despite looking completely different from reality, have established a global acceptance of photographic manipulation in imagery. Perhaps it is this acceptance from society that enables or perhaps encourages news publications to manipulate the image in order to become aesthetically pleasing or appropriate for their publication.

Manipulation didn’t become publicly available until the 1990’s with Adobe releasing their first version of Photoshop; in the 1980’s the market for manipulation was still relatively niche. It was the first issue of the Kodak magazine “Studio Light” that featured “special effects” photography from practitioners such as Michael Radencich. However there was a stress on believability, the word “photography” was no longer used and replaced by the term “image production”. It is this redefinition of image-making that spared Kodak from discussions about photographic truth because they had made it clear that their images were not produced to be believable. It was the National Geographic in February 1982 that seemingly betrayed its readers by manipulating the images of the pyramids in order to fit the portrait composition of their article. Rosler speculates that as the pyramids are meant to the symbol of immutability; are we destroying their history by moving them? In addition to this example in April of 1982 National Geographic manipulated another cover by importing an emblem from another image.

The use of computerised technology coverts the image into tiny pixels; this term itself is a neologism for “picture elements”. These new terms and definitions could perhaps reference the conceptual genre of photography where the elements of the pictorial image are manipulated to achieve a new aesthetic. However this doesn’t necessarily mean that digital news imagery should be subject to the same methods of editing as a conceptual photographer would. In addition to this, digital editing is just one aspect of manipulating imagery, physical montage and staged imagery are also aspects. We as photographers must address which is the most destructive and perhaps establish parameters for the use of each in different genres of photography? Or does any manipulation mean the end of “photographs as evidence”? In journalism certainly the parameters of evidential imagery have always been unclear and subject to change, however this could continue with the incorporation of digitising technology. Rosler proposes that photojournalists could potentially reach a form of “interpretive representation”, where content and meaning and literally fabricated. In contrast, art photography defines itself by establishing and stressing a distance between the recording apparatus and the conceptual process of manipulation. Perhaps in photojournalism there needs to be a strict parameter in which an evidential photograph can fall in terms of manipulation, beyond which it can’t be characterised as a newsworthy image. However who would be the organisation to set these rules?

In addition to the content, the ownership of the image is another key concept identified by Rosler. With the reduction of the photograph to digital information the notion of ownership is lost, especially in online environments where the ideology of hackerism dictates that information should be free. Rosler exposes that most newspaper of size have “Scitex-type technology” which increases the likelihood of decisions against the ethics of photojournalism simply because the ease at which it can happen. The main use of this technology is to make small changes such as dodging and burning however in some cases now the photo-editor makes decisions against the photographers decisions in relation to aspects like cropping. Rosler states that W. Eugene Smith nearly quite ‘Life’ magazine twice because his photographers were being in a way that was against his wishes as an image-maker. In extension there appears to be no “picture editors” on T.V and as a result of this, manipulation is a common and accepted practise. The manipulation of imagery to please the viewers aesthetically has caused a decrease in distance between the supposedly legitimate media and the tabloid as both appear to be producing content to sell rather than to inform on important issues; an issue that was also identified by Fred Ritchin.

The concept of changing images for the sake of “conceptual accuracy” and “aesthetic pleasure” has been addressed by many photojournalists and picture editors who are now seeking assurance that this will not happen with their content. However there is also an awareness that distortion and misuse is a part of photographic history, a simple misrepresentation of a photograph can occur when it is taken out of context. This is a particularly prominent concept seen in war and political photography which should be addressed and negotiated. Susan Sontag focused on the political manipulation carried about by Chinese authorities to remove Chiang Ching from a widely seen image of Mao on the Long March however Rolser proposes that in such an authoritarian society perhaps the society places less trust in images than people in Western culture. In order to find and prove that an image has been manipulated, in the past the original negative has been sourced and viewed; however in digital photography this process can’t happen. There are only copies of information, and in some cases the camera can transmit straight to a computer, bypassing the back of the camera altogether; Rosler proposed that perhaps this means the technician has more control over the digital image than original photographer.

Manipulated images have been accepted into our culture, however if they are going to be included by photographers in all genres Rosler states that there needs to be a point made about reality and the manipulated imagery. Perhaps in the form of a heavily manipulated image that evidences that an image alone can’t “tell the truth”, the concept of the fact itself is a social construction. Rosler explores that digitisation techniques themselves aren’t destructive, in other fields they have contributed to a new form of representation that can benefit society such as CAT scans and ultrasounds in medicine. In the home market they have allowed for a new precision and applications have been made that allow for a complete simulation of an environment. Complex digital simulation is called “virtual reality”, a term founded by Jaron Lanier which refers to the environment meant to make the participant completely immersed in another time, place or even in the presence of another person.

Computer simulation is a technique employed heavily by the military, Rosler explores the fact that they are investigating advanced forms of virtual reality in terms of training their recruits through flight simulation. In addition to this computer animation has demonstrated a capacity to combine photography and drawn imagery to produce a representation of visual reality, Rosler quoted Daniel Thalmann who speculated “you won’t need real people anymore … Actors could be out of a job”. Rosler extends this speculated by questioning Thalmann’s use of the wording “real people”, for in cinema we don’t see a portrayal of that person, we see their representation of a different character. The development of the digital image-processing will almost certainly affect the practise of those working with still images however there is a wider market for computerisation beyond the parameters of photography; it has already been incorporated in the world of business, graphics and T.V. However there are some detrimental effects of developed machinery in the industrial world, Barbara Garson speculated that word processing has effectively deskilled the workers to just performing repetitive tasks. Accompanying this are illnesses and injuries associated with computerisation such as repetitive strain injury, problems with posture and eye problems from continuous use of screens.Theories from Baudrillard and McLuhan surround the developing culture of signs and imagery; these complemented and perhaps opposed by the theorists demoting the mass image culture created such as Walter Benjamin and Guy Debord.

Rosler progresses by detailing the 1992 United Nationals Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) proposed attempt to photograph 200 “cultural and natural” wonders and archive the images, making them publicly available through digital transmission. This project is called Project Patrimione and was carried out in 2002 backed by the La Caixa Foundation with Kodak, France telecom and Gamma Photo Agency supplying the supporting technology. The aim of this project was to make images of treasures before they are damaged further however Rosler questions the value that these photographs would hold, what the idea of capturing and transmitting content is in the digital age. In the age of exploration, the notion of recording and distributing images of new environments was commonplace; however when we have already discovered them, what place will they have in our society? Rosler explains that image production and products will soon be available from markets, the audience will have multiple copies and forms available to them such as hard copies or screen images.

In summary, the original ethos “a photograph will be true unless proven otherwise” is outdated. The public are so used to fragmented data and information in flux that believability in imagery is not a given anymore. Stripping the evidential status from photography is expected to have detrimental effects such as diminishing the public circulation of factual content. It has been identified by Rosler that the practise of producing documentary images is not enough to inform or provoke a response from the public. Without a discussion or action around the context and meaning of the imagery, there can be no progression or change. Rosler proposes new questions and discussions, not on whether the image should be manipulated but how they should be and when photography should be used “straight” to tell the truth. However increasing commercialisation has blurred the parameters between “objective evidence, informed knowledge, prejudicial opinion and sheer fiction”.

The concept of sensationalism has also been introduced in relation to photographic truth. It is an extremely popular concept for the mass viewer base therefore the temptation for publications is to produce content that satisfies this idea. The journalism produced in this nature however can’t be depended  upon or indeed defended when questioned.

Rosler identifies that in war, it is really important to control images, this control over representation and information must be amplified to operate in the growing visual culture. However Rosler also notes that advances in digitisation and computer technology will continue to change the forms of information and the methods in which they are delivered. As a consequence, photography will also continue to change to adapt. The field is already becoming monopolised, internationalized and encrypted, the results of which could control the photographer, make the T.V obsolete and increase the vulnerability.

The key concept is to identify the context in which certain imagery should be used and interpreted, as there is already a pessimism about post-structural photography and it’s ability to convey a notion of “truth”. Rosler notes that the photograph as evidence appears to have had a short history, subject to discussion and attack. The reduction in this view is perhaps due to the reduced naivety of the audience, with the danger of the audience choosing fantasy over any evidence presented. Context is key when addressing social meanings and perception; they are not defined by the technology used to examine them but the wider ideologies that surround them.

To finish, Rosler poses the question, do we need to reinvest in “believability” in photography? Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts on the widening rich/poor gap which has been increased by the emergence of the information highway. Rosler suggests that we could be vulnerable to a transition from democracy to a demagogic rule (a person or organisation gaining power through popularity). These could be the challenges to our society. not the structure or nature of the photographic image.



This offers a completely new perspective on manipulation that was definitely missing from my symposium. My initial plan was to try and oppose Ritchin with Mayes, but Mayes hasn’t really written on manipulation therefore I need to include Rosler in my paper to avoid the appearance of having a closed view. The combination Rosler and Ritchin will work well especially since they use the same visual example in the National Geographic over. This obvious overlap shouldn’t be ignored therefore I will definitely keep the Pyramids image in my presentation, I was previously a bit worried that I was choosing the obvious example. Rosler and Ritchin share the same concerns over the National Geographic presenting their manipulated image to the public with no notion that the image didn’t represent a visual truth. The key idea both Rosler and Ritchin agree on is that manipulation for the sake of aesthetic pleasure is a practise that should eliminated from photojournalism. Ritchin especially touches on this concept in his books, describing that we are manipulating the world to be in our own image.

Staged photography is another concept addressed by Rosler, it has been part of history in portraiture and has been seen in photojournalism. This could also be considered as another form of manipulation because the content depicted was effectively fabricated for the camera, regardless of the context behind it. This could have a place in my paper however with the restrictive word count, it may just have to be touched on in other blog posts.

Rosler has interesting views on manipulation as a whole; proposing that there is definitely a place for manipulation in photojournalism as techniques like photomontage can be used to great effect however the audience needs to be aware of it. She offered one example where the Kodak magazine ‘Studio Light’ used manipulation and published it but used the term ‘image-production’ instead of ‘photography’. In the case of the National Geographic the audience were unaware of the fabrication; it is this naivety that is the problem. However it could be considered that cases such as this have caused the audience to educate themselves and protect themselves against false content. Whether this is a good thing or not is yet to be decided as without fabrication there would be no need to question what we see on a daily basis.

Rosler believes that if manipulated photographs are going to be accepted then there needs to be a clear line drawn between conceptual (art) photography and photojournalism. Both the photographer and the audience also need to accept that a photograph alone can’t ‘tell the truth’, they provide mediated representations of the event.

She goes on to explore the world of computer simulation which is another area of fabrication but isn’t directly relevant to the concept I am commenting on. Certainly the future of photojournalism might contain immersion technology however this is an aspect I will only comment on if I have enough space in my word count. I can go on to make an additional blog post on the concept of immersion technology and photojournalism to supplement my research paper.


(Blog post image from