On Reflection … Week One, Module One

So, the first week of studies for my MA in photography is at an end.

It’s been a week with some challenges … …

Trying to identify one image as being a representative of the “global image” was not an easy undertaking and it raised questions as to whether we are desensitised and oversaturated because of the sheer volume of images that are now produced.

It’s been a week with some surprises … …

A theme emerged when I and my fellow MA students wrestled with the concept of the “global image”. There are some amazing photographers capturing images of wonderful things. Moreover, mobile telephones with built in cameras allow everyone to be a “photographer”, as the en vogue phrase informs us, and every kind of celebration and event is recorded: birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries, today’s choice of espresso from a well-known coffeehouse posted to social media … everything. So, I found it strange that so many images that were chosen to represent “global imagery” were images either portraying tragic events or highlighting a darker side of humanity.

What does this say about the way we see the world? Perhaps we are desensitised and it takes an image that we find shocking to jolt us from the routine, lift up our heads and see what is really going on in the wider world.

So, what do I take away from my first week of studies?

Well, I think that images that can be thought of as being representative of the “global image” can fall into one of three categories.

Firstly, images deliberately created by a large corporation or institute with the specific aim of fulfilling a particular corporate strategy. Images which lack aesthetic appeal but which are instantly recognisable, arguably, the kind of images used by corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds in the advertising campaigns.

Secondly, the kind of image that arises from people’s desire to document, in a visual form, the world around them. Certainly there is a common interest in the human condition which is not bound by but instead accommodates cultural diversity – whilst the subject may change from region to region the wish to record our lives and our environment remains constant. This common interest has been referred to as “universalism”. Barthes in his 1973 book ‘Mythologies’ argued that such a universal requirement is no more than “ambiguous myth” but, undeniably, there exists a wish, observable repeatedly on a global scale, to capture specific types of images.

Finally, perhaps a “global image” could be defined as the kind of image that shocks us, that stops us from “focusing” on the mundane routine of life and forces us to take stock of events unfolding in other areas of the world.

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