Some thoughts on a Facebook post

That would be so cool if the person stood near the sea was not wearing shoes and had their back to the camera still nice though

This is a comment taken from a Facebook group to which share photographic images on a fairly regular basis. The image and my thoughts on the comment made are shown below:-

This is a fairly typical comment of the sort that can be encountered in any camera club competition on a regular basis, the viewer (Or judge) seeking to impose upon the image what they want rather than looking at what is actually being portrayed. So, let’s consider the image below and the comments that were made.

  1. ..the person stood near the sea was not wearing shoes..

Why are they wearing shoes? Could it be that they are wearing beach shoes because the beach itself is made up of gravel which may have sharp edges which might cut their feet? Obviously they are not too afraid of getting wet so perhaps they really are wearing beach shoes which, given the nature of the beach may be quite a sensible thing to do.

  1. …their back is to the camera..

Perhaps they are looking out to sea because they want to, they have become lost in the joy of watching the sea and hearing the waves crashing onto the gravel / shingle, or perhaps they’ve noticed the photographer there and do not wish to have their face captured. Should the photographer have approached the person before taking the shot and ask them to remove their shoes and face the camera? To do so may have resulted in a refusal and would have certainly destroyed the moment.

The focus is obviously upon the boots with the background being deliberately kept out of focus, this is what emphasises the boots themselves. Who do the boots belong to? The photographer or the person standing by the sea – if so that would imply a relationship between the photographer and the person – such a relationship may not exist but could be a result of the alignment of person and boots themselves resulting purely from the flatness of the image itself. 

In reality, I was a photographer, the image was made using a mobile phone with the focal point set being set on the rear of the boots. The boots are there because I just taken them off before putting before putting my beach shoes on and joining my wife (who hates being photographed) at the edge of the sea, the image (hopefully) captures the desire of the photographer to get his feet wet after a walk, when he saw something that interested him thinking “I wonder what that looks like as a photograph”. The resulting image is what I wanted it to be and, captured a small moment of time in which several things came together – it was to quote, Henri Cartier-Bresson the decisive moment.

Should I have waited for my wife to walk out of the frame or changed the position of the camera so that she wouldn’t appear in the image? Perhaps I could have removed my wife from the image using Photoshop instead?

In neither case would the resulting image be a true representation of what I saw and what I wanted to capture. What is important is what is in front of the lens and not what someone else wants to be there. It is, what it is, and should be accepted and viewed as such.

FMP: Introduction.

Roads go ever ever on, Over rock and under tree.

By caves where never sun as shone, By streams that never find the sea;

Over snow by  winter sown, And through the merry flowers of June,

Over grass and over stone, And under mountains in the moon. 


Roads go ever ever on, Under cloud and under star,

Yet feet that wandering have gone, Turn at last to home afar. 

Eyes that fire and sword have seen, And horror in the halls of stone.

Look at last on meadows green, And trees and hills they long have known.

                                       Bilbo’s Song (P.269, The Hobbit, J.R.R.Tolkien, Harper Collins, 1996)

Someone once said to me not too long ago,  that I was more interested in the journey than the destination. my reasons for starting the MA in photography would seem to indicate that this statement is true. The journey, has been a long one and by far the hardest part of this journey has been the blogging.  however this journey has been worthwhile and although it is now coming to an end with the completion of the FMP section of the course, it has been extremely worthwhile. I started this course wanting to know more about photography then I had encountered during the many years I have been a member of my local Camera Club, I wanted to learn how to read a photograph and understand the meaning that I sometimes thought existed within the frame. I have encountered many photographers most of whom I had either not heard of or would never have considered  studying outside the realms of academia. I have also encountered the works of many theoreticians or photographic philosophers, something I would probably never have considered looking at in any great detail, had I not undertaken this course. over the course of the next few blog entries I want to study this journey further, I want to take a look at some of the work of those photographers who have influenced my path to the fmp and perhaps look at the nature of that influence.


The poem at the start of this blog entry,  commonly known as Bilbo’s song, maps out a journey from a start to a clear finish, it maps out a road that is followed  from a definite beginning to an end throughout many seasons and adventures. Although the M.A. ‘journey’ is now drawing to a close my photographic journey will continue onwards,  perhaps taking a different route to that which I had originally intended. My aim has never been to become a professional photographer or to seek any sort of a career in photography itself,  it was and remains about the need to know, the need to discover and the desire to understand. 


My chosen FMP subject has been to study the concepts  of ‘Hireath’ and ‘Cynefin’. 


Hiraeth and Cynefin (Hireath a Chynefin in Welsh) embody the concept or meanings associated with the ideas of longing and belonging,  they are both words taken from the Welsh language but have no literal translation into English. Hireath has a broader meaning than might be implied by a single word,  it contains the notion of a deep inner longing, far more intense than simple nostalgia or homesickness, for a place or time that may or may not ever have existed. Cynefin  on the other hand is very firmly embedded in the notion of belonging. Cynefin, therefore has a more literal translation than Hiraeth – literally ‘the place where an organism feels that it ought to or should belong’,  where it is both at home and yet also where it should be, perhaps even where it is most comfortable. Both Hiraeth and Cynefin may not be associated with any particular place, location or time yet neither are they of a nostalgic form.  they are not a longing for the past or for any possible future but are something that exists solely within an individual, yet will have different meanings for each individual, no two people or cultures will interpret either Hiraeth or Cynefin to have the same meaning.


I have chosen to look at Hiraeth and Cynefin through photographing the  village in which I grew up but left over 30 years ago, this is the village of Merthyr Vale.  Merthyr Vale is an old mining community in the Taff Valley some 5 miles south of Merthyr Tydfil and 25 miles north of Cardiff.  It is situated on the opposite side of the valley to the village of Aberfan. Although I was born in Aberfan I did not want to do a photographic study of the villagefor a variety of reasons.  Many photographers have visited Aberfan with mixed results, probably the exce

ption to  this is the American photographer I.C. Rappoport (more commonly known as ‘Chuck’ Rapoport)  whose work “Aberfan, The Days After” will form another post in this blog. 


Most photographers reasons for visiting are usually associated with memories of the Aberfan disaster of 1966 and the need they have, or their perceived need to visit the site of the disaster and the graves of the children who died.  For me, Aberfan is a very difficult place to photograph, not all the photographers who visited in 1966 treated the residents with the respect that they deserved, some even sought to exploit the suffering of the residents by demanding the posing of surviving children or shocked onlookers in order to obtain a ‘better’ photograph! Because of this photographers, are not always welcome in the village, or are treated with suspicion even up to the present day.  Understanding how the residents feel about being photographed makes it incredibly difficult to take their portraits or to include them in any photographic images that may be made. Additionally, Merthyr Vale has had very little photographic work made within it and I have felt that the making of such a work has been long overdue. This FMP project therefore, is aimed, in some small way at rectifying that situation while examining my own relation to the place during the visits made. It is thus, a highly personal work coloured by my own perceptions and prejudices. 


The end result of this project will be to produce a series of images which can be exhibited, hopefully within Merthyr Vale itself but also within the town of Carmarthen where I now reside.

I Am Here When You Are Here – Sissel Thastum

I first encountered the work of Sissel Thastum during a Guest Lecture given via Canvas at the Falmouth University. Her series of images under the title of ‘I Am Here When You Are Here’ seem filled with a sense of ‘Hireath’, a great longing for a time, place or person that may never have existed in reality.

Although many of the images are of a deeply intimate and personal nature one gains a real ‘feeling’ for the location in which the images have been made. The author herself refers to the images as being of a ‘Nostolgic’ itself linked to Gerentology (from the Greek Notos – to return home home) with its reference to aging and a possible state of second childhood with the images generating a deep sense of longing and the desire to return home and spend sometime if the presence of someone close.

The feeling of hiraeth to which I refer is probably due, at least for myself, in part to the way in which the images have been made – using a film camera, printing and then scanning the images with little use of photoshop – the visibility of the film grain and the slightly hazy perhaps misty images create a sense of somewhere else, of moments lost in time, perhaps a better time(?). This is just the type of effect that I am interested in creating within the images I am creating for my own ‘Hiraeth’ project.

This has , for me, probably been the best lecture I have encountered within this unit and certainly one of the most helpful.

I Am Here When You Are Here – Sissel Thastum


The New Village – John Spink

The New Village – John Spinks

Published by Bemojake, 2017

A Short Review

I purchased this photobook after attending the lecture given by John Spinks at the Falmouth F2F at Falmouth in 2017 and also having read a review in the Guardian – The New Village by John Spinks – review.

I had a personal interest in this book, mainly because it involved a ‘return to home’ on the part of the Author. We are guided through paths in the surrounding countryside  before encountering, if only briefly, the New Village itself and several of the inhabitants. The New Village in question is a Mining Community in the Midlands which, like so many others, has lost its colliery. As such, the place is recognisable to me – from my own experience in growing up in a mining community.

There is a great sense of loss throughout the images featured in the book but also a strong feeling of foreboding being projected through the images. There seems to be a nervousness on the part of the author about returning to the area, which is something that I do not feel when returning to my own home town of Merthyr Vale, yet the images also portray some of the same sense of loss that I myself feel on entering my home town.

I will return to this book at later date to discuss it further, it has close ties to my own Final Major Project.

Overall though, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of images of the New Village itself and can’t help feeling that I would like to have seen more images of the buildings and locations that make up the village.

John Spinks: The New Village: Photobookstore