Tuesday, 1 March 2011

British Journal of Photography - documentary images

After a break of maybe four years or so I have started reading the BJP again. Two reasons for this renewed interest in a journal that in the past I had often found difficult to embrace. The first reason is perhaps a little shallow but I am impressed with the new format and reproduction quality. I cant do with anything that is made or delivered to me in a shoddy fashion, especially when being asked to pay a full price. The new BJP is printed on good paper and the photography properly reproduced. I also needed to read more, especially around contemporary photography and photographers who are making it in today's world. My photography is  not centered around modern trends (other than digital capture which I suppose isn't modern anymore) and I tend to hanker for the past in style at least. Elsewhere you will see how much I write on Edwin Smith, Edward Weston and David Ward, who himself is a devote of Minor White.
So, the BJP as a source of inspiration and learning. It does have a difficult job serving so many different reader requirements and it is trying to deal with a number of styles and genres, all inside 90 pages.

Some of the modern documentary images however leave me cold, to an extent that I doubt my entire reason for being part of photography and get quite anxious. Many of these "skirting board" images as I call them where there seems to be nothing of any relevance, no content other than the obvious and  the banal, performed often with on camera flash that I really think of them as nothing more than a snap and that is a kindness. I know that its me and I am not quite "getting it"  (I think Alan Abercrombie on his blog also talked of this) and I really want to find the answer as to why this type of work is so highly regarded and treated to space in this journal. The photographers who's work it is are clearly doing the right thing and being accepted for publication. I will persevere, look at the photographs and read about the photographers, trying to remember their names so that when the opportunities arise I can chat to others about them over a glass of Chablis and maybe feel an inner calm and smugness that I understand.

So, I am still finding the BJP a challenge. Much of it is very good and an eager read and I am convinced it is the right thing to do to keep in touch and up to date, but like so much with photography, its vast and I need to come to terms that I wont  understand it all.


  1. I love the term "skirting board" images - thanks for your honest views on this. Food for thought.

  2. Helen, I wonder if its "old dog, new tricks" but I will keep trying.