Surfaces and strategies – week 2

The presentations this week focused on the appropriation of other photographers’ images and how they can be given new life by presenting them in a range of contexts. I was already familiar with the documentaries of Adam Curtis who uses the technique – somewhat tendentious in my view – of mixing a diverse and eclectic range of media, often incorporating images already deeply embedded in public consciousness, overlaid with a punchy, but authoritative-sounding commentary.

The presentations also touched on questions of intellectual property. As the author of several legal text-books I am all too well aware of the distinction between a duly acknowledged quotation from one of my works and the wholesale, unattributed reproduction of entire passages or chapters. I think that rather different considerations apply to the photographic image, particularly in news photography where an arresting image will acquire an unstoppable momentum as it is reproduced and transmitted, notably via social media. However, the appropriation of another photographer’s image for commercial gain or indeed passing the image off as one’s own is clearly unacceptable. In my own practice as a landscape photographer, the remediation or appropriation of the images of other photographers plays no role. However, before visiting an unfamiliar landscape, I will certainly admit to scouring the internet for images of other practitioners for guidance as to possible subjects, vantage points etc.

Much time was spent this week on preparing and recording a two-minute trailer for an imaginary exhibition of  images from my major project on Irish poets. As a novice in the field of audio-visual presentations the challenge was mainly technical, the incompatibilities between Microsoft PowerPoint and Apple Quicktime leading to much frustration. The result was I think worthy, if somewhat pedestrian compared to the “teasers” produced by a number of my peers. I did incorporate images of other photographers in my trailer to illustrate the political background in Ireland- unable to find suitably “clean” versions on the internet, I ended up purchasing them from Alamy!

A link to the trailer is below:


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