Photographer and Photography Teacher Grant Scott’s UN of Photography is a Must-Read, and His Book “New Ways of Seeing” Will Be Too

Grant Scott, by Matthew Halstead. Permission to publish this link has been sought and I am awaiting response.

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:

    • Introduction
    • 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.

Links

  • Bloomsbury Publishing PlcNew 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 Photographywebsite – “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 Universitywebsite
  • SoundcloudUNofPhoto: A Photographic Life Podcast
  • The United Nations of Photographywebsite
  • WikipediaOxford Brookes University

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Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay [video]

“”The fate of photography in this country is at stake. And that is more important than my opinions, or your opinions of me.” Bill Jay – Creative Camera 1969….”

Links

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Café Royal Books, Publishing Gems of the Golden Age of British Documentary Photography

When I and my then partner had control of the book-buying budget for an Australian  university art school where we studied and then taught some years ago, I kept a particular eye out for what I termed “project books”, that is, photo books dealing with a specific topic, theme or project over a short period of time.

I theorized that project books might be good learning tools for our students in the absence of photography exhibitions of any sort in that city’s galleries, a way of gaining insight into how photographers think, see and work.

Few such books actually turned up and most photo books that passed over our desks then could best be described as retrospective artist monographs collecting the work of a photographer over the course of their career or at least a large part of it.

By the time our contracts at the university were over and the old guard took back their power with a vengeance we had a remarkable collection of books of photography, books on photographers and on related topics as well as filmmaking, but there was a hole that I wished we could have filled.

Photo book publishing has changed since and I have been out of the book-buying loop since moving back to Sydney where far fewer photography books and magazines make it to our shores compared to when I was living in London and reviewing and buying books for myself,  the magazine I conceived and cofounded, and the top-rank creative advertising agency where I worked for a time.

I was happy, then, to recently make the acquaintance of a reasonably new photo book publisher in the form of Café Royal Books aka CRB via some Facebook posts by Ella Murtha on the work of her mother, the late Tish Murtha.

Tish was one of Magnum photographer David Hurn’s first students in the famous School of Documentary Photography founded in 1973 and located in Newport, Wales.

The School trained many documentary photographers and photojournalists and employed a number of great photographers as teachers.

The School was recently moved from Newport to the University of South Wales in Cardiff under the course directorship of Paul Reas and David Hurn continues to work on personal projects after leaving in 1987.

Craig Atkinson, publisher of Café Royal Books, concentrates on the work of British documentary photographers, much of which has been unjustly forgotten in the years since the golden age of documentary photography in the 1970s and 1980s, and names with which I had been familiar during Creative Camera magazine’s heyday have been turning up in CRB’s list.

Besides Tish Murtha there are David Hurn, Ron McCormick who was also a teacher at the same School, John Claridge, Jo Spence, Brian Griffin, Chris Killip, Homer Sykes, Bill Jay, Patrick Ward and a number of less familiar but no less worthy names.

CRB prices its books at £6.00 each and also sells them on a subscription basis, averaging one book a week and they are produced in very limited editions.

One priceless record of some the finest photography of our times for the cost of less than two cups of coffee is surely well worth the investment.

If you have the means, I strongly suggest subscribing.

Links

‘Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay’ Documentary Now in Production

Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay, a documentary movie about the life, photography and photography magazine work of the late Bill Jay, one of the most influential figures in the history and development of photography in the UK and who had an important effect on my own work, is currently in production. 

My attention was drawn to this documentary via a photograph of Magnum photographer Martin Parr holding a copy of A Day Off,  An English Journal by Tony Ray-Jones, one of the quintessential photography books. I bought my own copy years ago at an excess stock sell-off by the State Library Board of Western Australia. Their loss, my gain.

Mr Ray-Jones famously informed Bill Jay that his magazine was shit, when the latter was editor of Creative Camera magazine.

The list of photographers and others contributing to the production is impressive and includes a number of people whose own work has been important to me, and one with whom I worked some years ago, Bill Gaskins.

I look forward to seeing Do Not Bend when it is released.

Links:

Image Credits:

Header image is a spread from A Day Off, An English Journal by Tony Ray-Jones.