Wednesday, November 30, 2011


There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in February 2002

Rumsfeld was concerned by what he didn’t know, by what might be lurking in the corners, hidden by the shadow of ignorance, veiled in dogma he had no hope of understanding either it’s genesis or its direction. Safe in the bunker of rhetoric, he and the combined forces of pious truth and righteousness were sure of their mission.

I am more concerned with what I know, not what I don't know and how shallow that depth of knowledge is. I know what I don’t know, I know what I need to learn, and the vastness in the sea of my uncertainty is a landscape of beauty that draws me in.

 I have thought for some time that knowledge is a transient perception that is and will continue to be modified by incident, by experience, by the simple fact of life. What I knew as an absolute as an adolescent I now know was a perception untainted by a life more ordinary. The world, which we are informed is becoming more and more digital, is an anologue. The pictures we view, the music we plug in to, the information we gather are being deconstructed and reconstructed for our ease and benefit, synthesized for us in order that we might appreciate them all the more and all the more conveniently. The digital world is black and white, a one or a zero, a high or a low, right or wrong, truth or fiction. And it’s not the fiction that concerns me; it’s the truth that provides me with sleeplessness. Fiction, when not malicious, is the conveyor of narrative, it moves us from point A to point B; it has the propensity to guide us from the dim peripheries of ignorance to enlightenment. Fiction informs in a way that truth cannot. Truth provides the skeleton of dogma. Truth is an absolute. Truth lives in the digital world and is a pernicious currency that deprives us of the beauty of question, that delight in a journey of discovery that brings experience and informs our creativity.

As I started the course there were things that I thought I knew and what I knew I didn’t know was where I wanted to get to; it was travel but in what direction I wasn’t sure – I am still very unsure. In what may be my last blog entry I can now see that those truths have been to a greater or lesser extent challenged. I now know that what I knew has been moved by new experiences, by new considerations. In other words my knowledge has developed – which is of course a good thing. My concerns though have not reduced in depth, they have just changed course. When I made these pictures I knew what they meant. I knew for example what the framing suggested, the interaction between the subject and its surrounding had a meaning. Having appropriated a broader set of adjectives into my vernacular hasn’t changed the meaning of what these photographs had or have. Can the context and narrative of a photograph move with time? Isn’t the fix of image onto the print or screen a defining moment, the decisive moment in determining the meaning of the image for time immemorial? If I receive wisdom that suggests that suggest, for example, that the loss of focus on certain people in a crowd scene emphasizes division, isolation, and that concurs with what I had originally constructed then all is well. But what if I learn that the opposite is “true”? What if I learn that the constructional components that I’ve used determine a different or opposite narrative? Is it just that I speak a foreign language?

I have some thinking to do, decisions about the how and the why, if nothing else these last few months have been worthwhile in opening my mind to a new range of possibilities and ambitions for my photography. 

The photographs that have I included in this entry are personal  - some deeply so, they speak to my vernacular, my syntax. Some have been edited (and maybe constructionaly corrected), some are raw, some are just raw with emotion. When I pressed the shutter I exposed not only the film or sensor I exposed a part of me. I knew then what I still know about these photographs, but, as Mr. Dylan said, I was a lot older then.


  1. Another thought provoking post John. There is a saying about the wiser you become, the more you realise the less you know, and this is very unsettling I think for us all. And I think there are an infinite number of alternative meanings that can be made on reading an image at a later date, even if they didn't occur at the time. However, I'm sensing from this post that something else is bothering you. I sincerely hope I misunderstood your reference about this perhaps being last blog entry John! Your asking some challenging questions of of luck.

  2. I think this post demonstrates what a profound thinker you are John. I only have 18 month's experience of being a photographer and have been confronted with so many unknowns - not least of which has been, "What am I trying to convey about myself and how I perceive my world". Everything has seemed new and I've been a bit like a child in a toy shop. I can only imagine what it must be like from your perspective, with so many years' experience, to go back to the beginning in a sense.
    I sincerely hope that this isn't your last blog entry and that you continue to share your journey as a photographer.


  3. I will be transferring to People and Place shortly - the enrolment in underway - and so this will be the last post on this blog. There are things I need to iron out in my photography, but this isn't the time and place. I feel very excited about the move and about moving on. I hope my new tutor will be able to engage with me.
    Thanks both for both reading and sometimes commenting on this blog, it was very much appreciated. John