Q: What do you look for in an image?
A: Its about a great seeing and authority. The pictures people remember resonate on an emotional level. An image has to command attention and reward you with something when you stare it down. It should either give you a deeper understanding of a subject or allow you to appreciate something in a completely new way- to let you see the world anew.
Kathy Ryan. Picture editor NY Times
Seeing is what photography is all about and then the subsequent complex process of consuming that imagery. I say complex because not all imagery is consumed the same way by people across the globe. Many of us experience extremely different responses to images and its naïve to assume that an image will result in the same emotional response from each and every viewer and consumer of that image. For my degree in photography my thesis was tilted ‘The Myth Of Truth’. An in depth look at why photographs certainly do lie and how consumption is so complex and varied. Great writers and philosophers on photography such as Roland Barthes, John Berger and Susan Sontag have written extensively on this and for the final months of my degree I was fully immersed in the philosophy and ideology behind art and images. Here is an extract form my thesis:
‘Photographic practice is transformed into a product by the consumers. Somewhere during the act of looking at a photograph the signals sent from the image are modified to provide information that is already linked to a learned response. The very act of looking and receiving an image is not completely void of the rest of our consciousness. Our latent knowledge and memory engage with the visual input to transform in some way the initial input. Highlighting the laconic nature of advertising. We cannot dismiss what our memories store inside and we have no control over how on reception of an image these memory banks will be stimulated. One cannot exist in a sort of disinterested mode of apprehension, no matter how hard we try the innocent act of looking is caught up with the engagement of our preconciousness.’
I often ponder that people seeing my images have a totally different response to them than I do. And I don’t mean the response that an Amazonian tribesman, who has never seen a photograph before would have (not sure how often they are checking my blogs to be honest….Wi-Fi reception is terrible in my London flat let alone the Brazilian rain forest) but the response from someone similar to myself in terms of education, lifestyle and visual literacy. I certainly know that nobody values my own images has much as I do or understands the inherent meaning and importance an image might have. As Kathy Ryan says in the quote above, even if the consumer does not gleam a deeper understanding of the subject I hope at least they may appreciate the subject in a new way. I do for sure feel that the abundance of images we now both create and consume due to digital photography means we are so bombarded by and used to seeing such high quality imagery on mass that its a lot harder to impress consumers and create stunning imagery that truly stands out that is unique and different.
To celebrate the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and British Summer Time the Chelsea Ivy partnered with British design icon Jenny Packham to create a fantastic floral installation. The entire front of the restaurant has been decorated with beautiful English garden roses, peonies and lemon mimosas to create an incredibly lush, rich façade. As well as the floral installation Jenny Packham has also designed exclusively for the restaurant six upholstered cushions. In addition the new menus echo this wonderful floral theme and two new cocktails have been created to refresh guests this summer. My brief was to photograph Jenny and the manager of The Ivy Pedro Carvalho in front of this stunning floral creation. To then continue to photograph the floral display, the new cocktails that are linked to the flower show and the new menus. It was a real pleasure to undertake this commission made so partly due to the kindness and hospitality of the wonderful Ivy staff who looked after me and the charm of Pedro who made my afternoon run so smoothly.
I'm not sure how my images will be consumed as people across the globe see these on the Ivy web site or their Instagram feed. Perhaps if a couple have celebrated an engagement at The Ivy or someone has just proposed under the floral threshold of the restaurant then my pictures will resonate on a deeper more emotional level. Perhaps someone suffering from hay fever will have a heart attack at the sight of the display or those suffering from pollen allergies will hate my pictures. They are what they are and it’s a great commission that was much fun to shoot. I do hope viewers will be rewarded in some way. As a thank you I was invited to dinner at the Ivy that evening and sat alone with a glass of red and plate of succulent pork and wished that Kathy Ryan could join me so that I didn’t look like ‘Johnny no mates’ amongst all the gorgeous couples on dates that evening. We could have discussed photo theory and the myth of truth regards the consumption of images. Or perhaps Kathy has pollen allergies and would have sneezed her way through dinner and begged me to lighten up on photo theory. Who knows?