When I was living and working in the United Kingdom I was located near the centre of a world of photographic creativity, photography education and commissioning photography the like of which I have never seen in Australia and most likely never will.
I was constantly exposed to creators, critics, educators, publishers, thinkers and innovators whose activities made me feel alive and excited about photography itself as well as its associated fields of cinematography, design, publishing and exhibiting.
I did not meet art director, editor, educator, moviemaker, photographer, podcaster and writer Grant Scott back then and I would have loved to have known him, but at least I have easy access to his insight and knowledge via his The United Nations of Photography website and the now three three books he has written.
Grant Scott’s latest book is ‘New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography’, to be released on the 28th of November 2019, and I am very much looking forward to it.
Those born since the digital revolution, seem to have the hardest time re-imagining the role of photography in the world today. Thinking of photography as a visual language is the approach this book adopts to addresses this challenge.
Considering photography in this way develops the metaphor of ‘learning a language’ when attempting to explain what photography can be, and what it can give a student in transferable creative and life skills. This begins with challenging the pre-conception that successful photography is defined by the successful single image or ‘the good photograph’.
The book emphasises the central role of narrative and visual storytelling through a technique of ‘photosketching’ to develop the building blocks of visual creativity and ultimately to craft successful bodies of photographic work.
New Ways of Seeing explains how to both learn and teach photography as a visual language, appropriate for both professionals and students working today.
When I was thrown into the deep end having to suddenly become a photography teacher while still a student, I had no mentor nor experience of being taught photography and thus no guide as to how to actually do it much less how to do it well.
Instead I cobbled together my own way of teaching based on my own life and experiences, and on my understanding of photography as a visual language, a way of seeing and a documentary medium.
The table of contents of ‘New Ways of Seeing’ is intriguing:
- The Narrative Eye
- 1. How Did We Get Here
- 2. Speaking in a Digital Environment
- 3. The Basic Vocabulary of a Visual Language
- 4. #Photosketching
- 5. Building the Narrative
- 6. Developing Fluency
- 7. Speaking Out
Meanwhile Grant Scott has made a vast quantity of thought-provoking material available on his The United Nations of Photography website and I highly recommend watching his feature documentary on the late Bill Jay.
I have just enjoyed reading ‘Do Photographers Need a Brief? Was Alexey Brodovitch Right?’ at The United Nations of Photography where Grant writes that “when Brodovitch commissioned photographers he used just two words “Surprise Me!” That was it. No written brief, no visual reference or complicated requirement was placed on the photographer. He trusted the photographer to respond to a situation and gave them space to be themselves. The work that was created was ground breaking and timeless.”.
That is exactly how I commissioned photographers when working in advertising, based on how I would have loved to have been treated as a photographer, and the results spoke for themselves.
- Bloomsbury Publishing Plc – New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography – “The book emphasises the central role of narrative and visual storytelling through a technique of ‘photosketching’ to develop the building blocks of visual creativity and ultimately to craft successful bodies of photographic work. New Ways of Seeing explains how to both learn and teach photography as a visual language, appropriate for both professionals and students working today.“
- Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay – feature documentary movie about the life and work of British photography and photography education innovator Bill Jay, made by Grant Scott and colleagues.
- Grant Scott Photography – website – “After fifteen years art directing photography books and magazines such as Elle and Tatler, Grant began to work solely as a photographer for a number of commercial and editorial clients in 2000. His images bring together all of his experience working with some of the greatest photographers of the last century with his graphic and journalistic talents. His aim is to create engaging photographic narratives from every commission. Grant is currently based in the South West of England.”
- Matthew Halstead Photography – portrait of Grant Scott of The United Nations of Photography.
- Oxford Brookes University – website
- Soundcloud – UNofPhoto: A Photographic Life Podcast
- The United Nations of Photography – website
- Wikipedia – Oxford Brookes University