Informing Contexts – Why do I carry out contextual research?
My non-photographer friends always ask me why I carry out research into photographic practice? After all, “don’t you just take photos?”.
My explanation is usually quite straightforward. Research helps me to understand what the photographs I look at actually mean. I can then apply this to my work and ensure that I can produce images that have meanings that are understood by others.
But there are other reasons for it. Research also enables me to see what everyone else is up to! I can see what the latest trends are and also draw on historical sources to better information and progress my work. I find it useful to see how others approach subjects and how their work is received by the viewer. I can see what appears to work and what doesn’t so that I can apply that to my practice.
I am beginning to understand, thanks to research, why I like what I like photographically. I am also now in a better place to appreciate work I don’t like and can now verbalise why that is. Since starting the MA, I have looked at more photographs from different genres than I have ever done.
But it doesn’t stop at photographs. My research includes sources that cover a multitude of areas. I study art and sculpture; architecture; film and cinema; theatre; literature; science and so on. I also look at where and how work is presented, whether it be physically, printed or online. My horizons have been widened and I am taking more risks in my work, often working outside my comfort zone. It’s great, if a little scary at times.
During this module, I have been able (thanks to research) to start to make sense of the craziness in my head when I think about what my photographs may look like. I am learning to interpret the ideas and make them work as images. I find that in a session, I will take several images that on first glance all look the same. But one will stand out. It could be the eyes are wider or closed or a hand is slightly differently placed. The research I have carried out so far is helping me make the editing choices I need to.
So, in answer to the question ‘why do I carry out contextual research?’, my answer is ‘because I want to be a better photographer than one who just takes photos’.