Category Archives: Coursework

photograph as document – general thoughts on C&N part 1

“But is is real, Simon?”

It is March 2003 and I am standing in the snow at the big crafts, antiques, art and soviet tat market at Ismailovsky Park in Moscow. Mike – a colleague from work – is holding a rather lovely bakelite radio that looks as if it is from the early sixties. In the end he will not buy it and then spend lots and lots of time regretting not having bought it, despite my answer that, a: it looked fairly real to me, and b: that it was a lovely thing and obviously gave Mike pleasure as an object. So what did its provenance really matter?

I thought about this exchange quite a lot during the first part of this course. Continue reading

Putting Yourself in the Picture: Project # 3 – Self-Absented Portraiture

after shafran – chirgwin, 2017

“Go to the artist’s website and look at the other images in Shafran’s series. You may have noticed that Washing-up is the only piece of work in Part Three created by a man. It is also the only one with no human figures in it, although family members are referred to in the captions.

Coursebook (p.87)

1: Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man? Why?

While I cannot think of any male photographer’s whose work includes large chunks of the sort of scrutiny of their (naked) self that you find in Woodman’s work, or who would document the way going through IVF-treatment with their partner (or even just ” trying for a baby”) effects them in the way Brotherus does, there are plenty of women who take pictures of mundane details from their lives. Indeed, there is a strand of this running through Brotherus’ Annonciation.

So, I wasn’t at all surprised that Shafran’s washing up pictures were taken by a man, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been taken by a woman either. Continue reading

Putting Yourself in the Picture: Project # 1 – Autobiographical Self-Portrait

I’ve just noticed that this post’s trigger from the coursebook says “Make some notes”. This is more like an essay. Or a short book.

The first time this post was saved was on – good grief! – the 28th of June 2015. I have written a bit, gone off to do an exercise, come back, written some more, gone away and done the assignment, put off writing up the other exercises and now come back here again, after I have completed all the write ups for part five and begin to prepare the module for assessment.

And so, for the umpteenth time, I realise that I really must start working in a way that produces shorter, more notey, blogposts…

Simon Chirgwin, April 2017


And now here is what I started writing last June; I have changed hardly anything; I cannot understand why I didn’t just hit “publish”… Continue reading

Influence as Context – Evans, Frank, Shore, Ohtake, Graham and me…

For further reading after assignment 1, my tutor suggested that  – among other things – I should read Tod Papageorge’s essay on the way Robert Frank had been influenced by his friendship Walker Evans and by Evans’ book American Photographs. The content of Papageorge’s essay did not directly appear to feed into the work I did in part two, but then, as part of the work leading up to Assignment 3, I kept a diary, which included sequences of everyday photographs taken as I wandered through my life, seeing things. While the most obvious influence on this work was Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces (I was working with a compact, portable camera, often using flash and generally the pictures were taken while I was on the move) the range of photographic reference points was not limited to Shore’s work. The photographs illustrating this post, I hope, demonstrate this. 


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Constructed Realities – A digression into practical matters

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the view from the new home of the bbc world service – inkjet print, 400 cm x 110 cm simon chirgwin, 2011, unique

This was commissioned by the BBC Global News W1 Move project and stitched together from 7 medium format negatives. When printed very large indeed it looked cracking, but of course, when it came to moving out of Bush House, it was too big to fit in my car to take it home. It may still be tucked away in a cupboard somewhere in Broadcasting House.

As an edition of 1 (with no AP) it could be worth a fortune some day, but I suspect it ended up in a skip.


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Constructed Realities: Project 2 – The Archive

c_n-05-exercises-4

On her website, Nikki Bird (Bird, 1) describes her project Question for Seller (2004-6, with the final auction of the pictures exhibited in Belfast and the compiled album in 2007) as follows:

Made from family photographs acquired through eBay, Question for Seller features photographs that no one else has bid for. The seller is asked the question: How did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them? Their replies are as important as the photographs they sell. They allude to disappearing histories, where personal photographs reveal fragments of past lives, through photographic processes that are themselves becoming obsolete.

On the page on the site about the album (Bird, 2) the pictures of spreads from it are accompanied by quoted replies (the answers to the questions to seller):

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