Photography as a discussion

Pensioners at a bus stop in Bournemouth town centre on a wet afternoon. ©Neil Turner

About thirty seconds after starting to read yet another essay about photography that doesn’t include any pictures I normally categorise it as one of the following:

  • useful
  • derivative
  • nonsense
  • worse than nonsense

This week there was an exception – in fact quite a big exception. A student whose work I had been following sent me her degree theses “About Photography as a Discussion”. The basic premise of it is that every time we take a picture we are referencing images that we have seen before whilst seeking to move the narrative on a little. I would dearly love to say more here but I went back to the author of the essay and encouraged her to expand it to something way beyond a compulsory degree thesis and to either illustrate it herself or to collaborate with other photographers to provide images that expand the theory. As a gesture of support I have offered her my entire back catalogue and I have promised to publicise the heck out of her work when it is finished.

So what am I writing this blog post (with her permission) here today? Three reasons really:

  1. I wanted to get something on the record that I have read something by a photography student that actually made me think.
  2. To give her another nudge on the journey to doing something worthwhile.
  3. To ask readers of this blog if there are any books/essays/articles out there that have already covered this topic.

The recent graduate wouldn’t let me name her on here but that’s OK. Her tutors, friends, family and at least six working photographers know who she is!


  1. Moving the narrative on a little – the more one has seen other photographers’ work that one likes – Chris Killip’s work, for example – the more difficult it is. What’s the answer to that?


    1. Every time you take a picture it is part of the discussion. A response to a week made point as part of a conversation doesn’t have to move the conversation on – it can always be “I agree” or “I like what you said”. I don’t want to say much more as I’ll start to give the whole game away!!!


  2. It’ll be more than some degree work if expanded upon. I can see it in book form being used as a teaching text. I say this only based on what little info we have been provided above. Help make it happen.


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