Informing Contexts

Some of the characteristics mentioned in The Photographers Eye, Szarkowski, 1966, are definitely implicated and important within my practice. My work deals with the captured moment without pre-planning, visualisation or manipulation of the scene.

Much of Szarkowski's characteristics deal with the realism and reality as captured by the photographer. As this quote shows:

"The Photographer was tied to the facts of things, and it was his problem to force the facts to tell the truth" Szarkowski, 1966, p8

From "And other stories" by Darren O'Brien

From "And other stories" by Darren O'Brien

Within my own work this is very much the case, in that I choose what to include in the frame to portray the reality. 

The idea of Time as a characteristic as put forward by Szarkowski, also resonates with my work as it is very much a moment in time in the subjects "life". The ambiguity and lack of narrative within my images also fit with the characteristic of the Frame, the subject is somewhat freed from its original context by the decisions made by the photographer whilst choosing what to include in the image. This is an idea also put forward by Stephen Shore in The Nature of Photographs, 1998. Shore builds around Szarkowski's frameworks, describing the Depictive Level as having four levels, Flatness, Frame, Time and focus. 

Shore also speaks about the photograph as having a Physical Level. 

"The Physical qualities of the print determine some of the visual qualities of the image" Shore, 1998.

I find this concept interesting in todays world where images are mostly consumed on screens. Should the digital presentation be considered the same as a physical print, or does would Shore class it as a different characteristic? In my experience I would be inclined to look at the two separately. Although not talking about photography, Roger Dooley et al  findings around viewer engagement when looking at digital and print advertising. 

Some of the interesting findings are:

  • Digital ads were processed more quickly.
  • Paper ads engaged viewers for more time.
  • Subjects reported no preference for either medium.
  • Subjects absorbed about the same amount of information from both media.
  • A week later, subjects showed greater emotional response and memory for physical media ads.
  • Physical ads caused more activity in brain areas associated with value and desire.

(Dooley et al, 2018,

I think that some of these findings could also be applied to Digital vs Print in photography. We consume so many digital images that it may become hard to remember it all whilst viewing a physical print tends to make the work linger, but I do wonder if the more we view digital imagery the less importance the quality of the print will determine the quality of the image as in Shore's characterisitic.  


Dooley et al, R. (2018). Print vs. Digital: Another Emotional Win for Paper - Neuromarketing. [online] Neuromarketing. Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].