Framing The World Through My Photographs

Stephen Bull – Photography 2009 – thoughts

Photograph – Stephan bull

 Bull, S. (2009) Photography. United Kingdom: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

  • “Family photos depict smiling faces. Births,weddings holidays, children’s birthday parties: people take pictures of the happy moments in their lives. Someone looking through our photo albums would conclude that we had led a joyous, leisurely existence, free of tragedy. No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget” – taken from one hour photo ( Mark Romanek, 2002)
  • Snapshots are photographs most people take and appear in most of the time. (page 81,)
  • “They are sophisticated images and the majority of us receive and education in how to pose for and take snapshots from the moment we are born.”(page 81)
  • Page 82 – in argument to the previous quote Richard Chalfen, in his book snapshots versions of life, argues that it is clear from watching people in the process of creating snapshots, as well as from examining the resulting pictures, that such photographs are made with considerable deliberation ( chalfen, 1987:72)
  • Julia Hirsch has traced the development of family photographs, the subject of much snapshot photography
  • From formal portraits made in commercial studios, with poses held as if sitting for a oil painting, to the same kinds of formal images being made by families themselves in and outside of homes, particualy as a way of displaying possessions (Hirsch 1981:15-79)
  • The special occasion for these pictures were usually the taking of the photograph its self, one of the factors that led to less relaxed attitudes and fixed, serious expressions in these images as the sitters concentrated on maintaining their postures.
  • Page 83 : Kodak marketing of its cheap and easy to use cameras in the years between the late 1880s and the introduction of the Brownie in 1900 transformed the making of snapshots into a much more widespread and apparently casual activity, an idea encapsulated in the company’s 1888 solgan “you press the button, we do the rest.
  • Snapshots have often been regarded as ‘ vernacular’ photography: a phrase that as Elizabeth Hutchinson has noted, was originaly used to refer to a specialist language belonging to a particular group of people (hutchingson 2000: 229-230)
  • However from the position outside of the history of art, it is snapshots that represent the majority of photographs and art photography itself that is ‘vernacular’ in its specialisation of language and its ownership by a specific group.
  • Page 83 : “ It is snapshots that flooded the world from the late 19th century onwards, although their absence from histories of the medium meant that snaps came to represent the ‘silent majority’ of photography”
  • Patricia Holland said that snapshots need to be studied on their own terms ( Holland 2009: 124)
  • Page 84: the cultural context and social function of the snapshot production is vital, it is important to the first debate he essential nature of snapshots n term of their look and subject mater.
  • Graham king in say cheese lists 12 common characteristics common to inages not taken by ‘photographers’ : Tilted horizon, unconventional cropping, eccentric framing, the distant subject, blurring, double exposure, enter the light ( where a light source has over exposed part of the image) , the Siamese frame ( where the film has not wound on properly, the close encounter(finger over the lens), The shadow ( of the photographer entering the frame), banality ( the subject and how it has been photographed is uninteresting), ambiguity ( the purpose of the photograph is unclear).
  • With inside amerateur photography, Kenyon emphasises the general subject matter rather than the look, of snapshots, presenting an extensive categorisation in five parts of what most people tend to photograph ( subjects were discusses and informed by a western viewpoint) (1992: 23-63)
  • These were – family (parents with babies,new bikes,cars,pets etc), Christmas, Holidays ( hotel window iews, tourist sites, seaside images etc), weddings (signing the register, the exit from the church, cutting the cake etc), environmental images ( landscapes, trees etc.)
  • Page 86 – chalfen, make a less stereotypical summary of the images that are taken within family: beginings ( new baby), infancy to toddlerhood( the first of everything, first birthday , Christmas), childhood and adolescence ( from first day of school to the graduation photograph), early adulthood ( including relationships, which may well eventually include marriage, married life ( many snaps are taken at this time chalfen points out, are made on holiday) parenthood ( returning to the subject of beginning as the child and their own firsts become the central subject), the later years( snapshots become infrequent, but there may be a desire to record the lasts: final significant events in life)
  • Page 86 – Chalfen notes that snapshots are usually record positive changes, which he sees as transitional events from one stages of life to the next.
  • Page 93 : the partial tales told in snapshot albums and the selective fictions created in snapshots result in a wide gap between photographs and lived experiences.


I found Stephen Bulls book very informative as I could easily read it he hasn’t tried to use complicated language. Bull examines different writer, i looked at the chapter where he examine the snapshot. However I found much more information that informed and back up arguments from other writers.

The snapshot aesthetic suggests a reactive situation, something that isn’t thought out. We react to a quick situation resulting in unconventional looks to the image



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This entry was posted on February 10, 2015 by in 350MC - photography in context.
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