Photography as Necessary Fiction … ?

Photography as Necessary Fiction

by Alex Subrizi

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 17.33.31

Before I begin to look at Alex Subrizi’s answer it is important to understand his background. Subrizi is a Photographer and writer, working in America, he’s had his work published in many international magazines and teaches worldwide too.

You can read the full answer here. I am just going to be picking out the relevant bits then discussing them.

it‚Äôs widely accepted that photographs are themselves narratives: stories in and of themselves. Perhaps the narrative quality of cinema, photography‚Äôs ‚Äúsecond cousin‚ÄĚ, helps to reinforce this view. But does a still photograph tell a story? Can any single image be an account of anything? If yes, I would argue it to be a terribly brief account. So brief that any number of different narratives could conceivably be said to flow into and out from that single image. What a photograph can instead do is support and reinforce a particular narrative, in the same way that any single image can.

It’s an interesting point that because photography is so¬†instantaneous¬†and desires no set physical time to see the story it therefore needs to reference other work to help establish the story. I am not sure if this is entirely right but it is relevant to my subject area. In fandom the same images, props, sounds are used over and over again, recreated. Like creative commons if you like. Everyone is using other peoples work to help reach the fan base they want. One classic example of this is in the series Spaced. Pegg’s love for all things sci-fi and geeky is continuously referenced, in this particular scene we see imagery taken from the Matrix and Scarface. It may not be Subrizi’s point exactly but I struggle to think of a photograph which intentionally does this to enhance the narrative and audience.

Some contemporary art photographers have even chosen to highlight the photograph’s neutrality with respect to narrative by deliberately photographing human subjects while they are speaking, as if to underscore the fact that although a story is being told right there in the picture, the medium of photography is powerless to transmit that story to us.

This point I completely don’t agree with. The photograph has as much power as the photographer can give it. In some cases a photo can be 100x more emotive than the story itself, it can even create stories out of nothing. I hate to think of photography as¬†interrupting¬†as this quote suggests. This is the sort of thing I aim to prove wrong through my final pieces. The image that springs to mind is the iconic portrait of Churchill. How anyone could see this image is powerless to transmit that story too us seems impossible to me.

Winston Churchill, 31 December 1941, Photograph by Yousuf Karsh, Ottawa, Canada

A cinematic work tells a story, moves horizontally across time, and puts most of its content, from soundtrack to lighting effects, in the service of its narrative’s forward movement. This movement seems natural to us, since we inhabit a world constantly in flux. A still image is something altogether different: a meditation on a single moment in thought or experience, something fixed and compact and exhibiting a quite unnatural urgency.

Again I struggle with this. Just because something moves¬†horizontally¬†across time doesn’t mean it tells the story any better than a single image. Yes I think very few photographers successfully create fiction stories as well as a film can, but allowing the spectator to reflect on a single moment has it’s benefits too. It allows you to analyse everything get deeper and question everything within the frame. I am also 100% for anything what comes naturally to us, even is this writer doesn’t seem to think so.

In contrast to the horizontal movement of cinema, the movement of still photography is vertical, unfolding while going nowhere.

I would replace the word ‘nowhere’ with ‘everywhere’. Unlike cinema photography IS open ended, and doesn’t force the spectator to go down one route, it allows for each person to take it somewhere new, breaking it away from the linear narrative we are so¬†familiar¬†with and use our imaginations. It seems I don’t agree with this writer as much as I thought I would. I feel quite protective now, as though yes sometimes a story is better told through moving image, but equally some stories are better told through photography.

Phubu talks to Graham Macindoe

Graham Macindoe was a guest lecturer in the 2012 Phonar course, and returned this week to talk to our Phubu (The progress of Raw Format Exit show). His personal stories and experiences adds depth to his work, see below for my live notes made on Twitter during the talk.

You can watch the lecture here…

  1. @grahammacindoe. I photographed myself with whatever I could lay my hands on – during drug and alcohol problems #phonar #Rawfmt
  2. In the life I was in there was a lot of detachment. That’s why I’m trying to show. #Rawfmt #Phonar @grahammacindoe talking about his work.
  3. “What you see is what you can interpret it to be” @grahammacindoe talking about his images. #phonar #Rawfmt
  4. #Rawfmt #Phonar “I Always like to make the viewer think beyond the photograph”
  5. #phubu#phonar for us by us, take a look behind the scenes of #rawfmt
  6. Missing persons by @grahammacindoe was covered by the new york times! Press follows where #phonar leads. #phubu
  7. @grahammacindoe keeping notes from times past to aid the visual memoir, revisit these notes-can lead to interesting view points of a project
  8. “I think I can put everything together to make a powerful body of work” – @grahammacindoe #Rawfmt #Phonar #phubu
  9. “…just taking pictures on the streets to get my eyes exercised” @grahammacindoe, #rawfmt #phubu

Interview with Jonezy

Today I had my interview with Jonezy, it was a great conversations and I really enjoyed learning about his experience as an Otaku. Obviously this audio needs editing, this is the original version.

He also sent me some extra photos, and is working on a 360 photo of his room for me.

The great thing about our conversation is that we had similar experiences and after I had run out of questions we kept on talking for a while.


Obviously each individual is going to have specific questions, but I want to have a core set running through all the interviews so there is some¬†consistency¬†and a measuring system in place of how different each one is. I will ask all the questions but I might not necessarily use them all, it’s just out of personal interest and a way of allowing the interviewee to open up and feel relaxed. So here are my bread and butter questions.

Digging deeper into their relationship with characters…

-Could you talk me through your first interaction with Japanese culture, if you can remember it.
-What is it about anime or manga that draws you in?
-Which anime/manga do you love and why…
-Could you talk to us about some of your figurines, whats the story behind them?
-Do you feel a connection/ emotionally attached with any of your figurines?
-How much money have you have spent on creating your Otaku Sanctuary?
-Does the majority of attention go into this hobby?
-I want to talk about the idea of the Sanctuary now, my bedroom is very much my place, I come to watch anime and read manga, I rarely do it anywhere else. Do you see your room in the same way or does your interaction with anime go beyond the four walls?

-Would you say your obsession is healthy?
– What do you personally gain from putting this much time and attention into collecting figures and watching anime?
– One thing I think people don’t understand is the difference between Hentai and Anime, the posters on your wall are¬†“panty shots” could you describe why you chose to put these particular posters on your wall?

*For Jonezy specifically*
РIn one of your comments on you said you have a OCD when it comes to organising your room, do you feel that this part of you is drawn to the idea of perfection within Anime?


-What’s the fan base like where you are from?
-Do you attend any conventions? If so do you go alone or have friends to go with?
-How important is the Online Otaku community for you?


-Have you ever experienced prejudice as an Otaku?
-Why do you think ‚Äúoutsiders‚ÄĚ can‚Äôt grasp the idea of Otaku?
-Does is ever upset you that you can’t be 100% open with people about the area you love so much?
-Can you describe the feeling you get when you meet another Otaku who likes similar anime randomly?

– Could you explain your life outside of your Otaku Sanctuary? What do you do day to day?
– Do you have friends or family who aren’t aware of your love for Anime?
(If so) Why do you keep it from them?


Name: Jonezy

See Jonezy’s room here…¬†

Age: 21

Gender: Male
Town and Country of Birth: England – Trowbridge
Current Location, Town and Country: England – Trowbridge

Favourite Anime & Manga: Anime – Toradora, Manga – Bakuman
Favourite Character: Hard choice between Yui Hirasawa or Nanba Mutta but I’ll have to go with Mutta-Kun : D

Bakuman Manga Review

Nanba Mutta

Mutta Nanba¬†(Śćóś≥Ę ŚÖ≠Ś§™)Birth¬†date: October 28, 1993.
He went to work for a car design company after graduation. When a manager insulted his younger brother, he gave him a head butt and was fired. After he gets a message from Hibito, he decides to try and become an astronaut.



Jonezy’s Interactions online.
I’m learning a lot from looking at comments under each Otaku’s work, they tend to reveal a lot about themselves.

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Screen Shot 2012-11-30 at 13.26.32


My project is at the point now where I need to start making the videos, and to do this I have got 3 interviews lined up over the next 2 days. These are the people I will be interviewing, and some interesting points I think of when seeing their images.


What first struck me about Wing’s rom is the organisation and care put into it, In the top image the figurines are colour coded according to the wall art, reds on the left, green in the middle and blue on the right. This is obviously a place wing treasures and puts a lot of time and effort into.


Whilst Mims room may not be as structurally designed around her figurines she shure does have a lot of them. From *Chibi’s to exact replicas.

*Chibi РChibi is a negative word for a short person in Japanese, however in the world of anime chibi describes something small and cute. For example in the image above these characters look different in the anime, these figures are chibi versions, small and cute, almost baby-like. Consisting mainly of female characters it would be interesting why Mim has chosen to do this.


Jonezy’s room might not be as full or¬†overbearing¬†as other Otaku’s room but let me assure you his passion is there.

It’s time to start thinking up some questions, somr which I will ask all participants and then more specific ones.

Interactive videos

I decided a while back that when doing photofilms I wanted to make ‘Moe’ a series, but I also think it’s key to have an opening 1/2 mins which establish what is an Otaku and acts as a pitch of the project. However I don’t want this video to become¬†separate¬†from the rest as I want it to be seen before each video. How can I get around this? by making an interactive video.

One of the most famous interactive videos is Deliver me to Hell, in which the viewer (you) decides the actions of a character to try and get them around safely without being killed by a zombie. You are given choices which take you to other videos and then play out the scenario.

With my Otaku videos it would be good to have an opening sequence, explaining the project and then have an option at the end. “Choose an Otaku” the viewer clicks on the image that looks most interesting to them and it takes them to their video, the same happens at the end of that video. And as I add more photofilms I gain more options.

There are interactive games for anything! Including minecraft and fashion.


Chris Floyd

Here are my belated notes on Chris Floyd’s lecture for Phonar. Which you can watch below.

Key Quotes:

In hindsight these moments were big steps for me

They asked me to go and shoot the band who were releasing their first single, they were called Oasis.

Bowie – the first shoot I had a clear creative direction.

Wish I had the guts to tell Bowie to put on some different clothes.

Influenced by Tina Barney…¬†upper-class¬†Americans in their homes, very detached.

©Tina Barney

Tina Barney – A form of constructed reality, taking what those people are like and putting it on steroids. Highlighting it.

The most important thing you should do is find your own voice as a photographer, everyone is influenced by someone who came before them.

Take all influences, put it in a pot, mix it up and you come out with something of your own.

Started to learn how to utilise the setting in hand, rather than trying to cover it up.

I’ve really enjoyed listening to this lecture, mostly because I was taken on his journey, thing’s didn’t come easily and he’s been on shoots that didn’t turn out the way he liked and that’s something¬†established¬†photographers don’t really talk about, they don’t like to admit their flaws.

Thinking about the future

My intent was to create a short photofilm on 5/6 Otaku’s however this limits my project, what do I do after this? I¬†definitely¬†want this project to be continuous because it really interests me, so I have decided to base each film on one individual this way the project can grow and develop, eventually I will end up with a collective of short films that I might be able to make into one long documentary, however that is thinking far ahead in the future. I think it will also help to depict them in a¬†positive¬†way, it means I can offer time and attention to each individual and not clump them together as some people have very different interests and reason for their interests.

The project will now be a series.

I have created a vimeo channel¬†specifically¬†for this project –¬†

Spencer Murphey for Phonar – the 4th look

*Included in Symposium too because it may become relevant*

This is the lecture we had today with Spencer Murphey, visual culture & film lecturer at Coventry University, for Phonar.

And here are my notes…

The idea of the “4th gaze” is a really important thing to consider, the ability to use a media to make the spectator reflect upon themselves through your work is a skill which is key for any artist. The constant questioning of yourself and of others, and what we expect as normal.

After the lecture we also had a question and answer session with Spencer and a question came up about when does your work become self-indulgent and have no relationship to anyone else, its meaningless?

Spencer replied with Lazwel’s theory, when creating work think about…

Say’s What?
To Whom?
in what platform?
with what effect?

Obviously this isn’t a check list you should comply to in every project, but when you start to question your work it’s good to step back and use these methods to get back on track. There is no doubt I have been worried about this project, so I want to try and describe my project through these terms.

Says What?
The exploration of otaku culture through the insight into their “Sanctuaries”.
To Whom?
To the online geek culture, as well as a broader audience who might not understand this obsession.
In what platform?
Online, to access my target audience and provoke some sense of debate/opinion.
With what effect?
To break away from prejudice and the patronising work of most who look at sub cultures.

It seems I need more of a platform, how am I going to approach this? a blog, a series of stills, audio, video? I need to contextualise my idea more and look at some examples to see which would best fit my idea.

Robbie Cooper at Phonar

We were very¬†honoured¬†to have Robbie Cooper come to speak to our class on wednesday. In the usual Phonar format Robbie’s lecture was recorded.

I had contacted Robbie Cooper the day earlier and asked if I could interview him after his lecture as I wanted to gather an idea of the process he undertook when creating “Alter Ego”. The decision was made that it would benefit everyone if I did this during class, so after the lecture we had a Q&A session which was recorded, and here it is.

The questions came from myself, Nick Henley-Smith & Oliver Sharpe.

It was great to talk to a photographer who is also interested with cultures which might be considered “weird”, Cooper said he was¬†particularly¬†interested in worlds that existed in real time, unlike RPG games like sims that boot up when you log on, a lot of online games are still going on when you aren’t even on them.

I had seen Cooper’s work a couple of year ago and had noticed the similarities in framing and colour particular in his “Alter Ego” series, I would never have guessed that this was influenced by Bernd and Hilla Becher…

©Berd and Hilla Becher
©Robbie Cooper

In his later work, ‘Immersion’ Cooper explores human interaction with a computer screen, this idea came from his experience of being in conversation with someone whilst they were fixated on the TV or their laptop. The interesting this is the way in which Cooper made his subjects feel comfortable. His sister was cooking all day long hoping the homely smell would relax the subject, he also ensured the camera was hidden, so although the subject knew they were bing filmed, they might eventually forget about it and relax.

You can see Robbie Coppers work here.

Brian Palmer Talk

Here are my lecture notes for Brian Palmer’s Talk with phonar. It’s a really¬†interesting story.

Hear the talk here

And here are my notes….

  1. DaisyWareJarret
    #phonar conversation with #BrianPalmer my stories were people based stories.

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:26:27
  2. DaisyWareJarret
    in 2002 I left CNN, being in front of the camera isn’t really where I wanted to be #BrianPalmer #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:31:00
  3. mimchs
    “Digital was transforming the landscape.” Brian Palmer #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:31:51
  4. DaisyWareJarret
    The American market had much less of an apetite for pictures of daily life stories under occupation #BrianPalmer #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:33:07
  5. DaisyWareJarret
    “the bang bang” – war photography in america through #BrianPalmer’s eyes #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:34:53
  6. DaisyWareJarret
    I’m not doing the story america wants. We want is good vs bad, my work was more about 24 year olds interacting with civilians #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:38:00
  7. DaisyWareJarret
    I couldn’t develop the story in the time. So by the 3rd trip I was shooting mostly video. #phonar #BrianPalmer

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:40:20
  8. DaisyWareJarret
    I have a responsibility to tell the story as well as I can. But I’m not perfect. #Phonar #Iraq #BrianPalmer

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:41:34
  9. GeneaBailey
    #phonar brian palmer passed up on a 1/4 of ¬£1 million deal because he wouldn’t have a say in what happened to his work
  10. Jenniz8
    When you sign over your footage you sign over your rights #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:40:55
  11. DaisyWareJarret
    Producers are conscious of audience, you end up with mainstream journalism that doesn’t challenge and is almost self congratulatory #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:44:17
  12. DaisyWareJarret
    useful = conscious of the needs of the people i’m writing about. These are people that are more than consumers #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:45:53
  13. DaisyWareJarret
    We were documenting political theatre. The essence is to be transparent about the agreements that you form. #BrianPalmer #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:50:30
  14. DaisyWareJarret
    Transparency. Integrity. Independence. #TheKey #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:50:49
  15. DaisyWareJarret
    Since I could not eat my integrity it was not a nutritious meal. I had to learn from others. #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:52:39
  16. hlnbck
    pick your apples, don’t wait for them to fall! #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:51:56
  17. DaisyWareJarret
    Sitting in peoples living rooms made the story, not just gathering quotes. The story has to develop organically. #Phonar #BrianPalmer

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:59:01
  18. DaisyWareJarret
    To tell someones story you need to show up and have respect. #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 01:59:51
  19. DaisyWareJarret
    I don’t just want to find out who this guy was, I want to write him and his community back into history. #FamilyHistory #BrianPalmer #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 02:02:47
  20. riajoynes
    understanding the history really helps to connect to the narrative. #phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 02:02:10
  21. DaisyWareJarret
    Being property (slaves), Owning property, Having it taken away. Extraordinary exploration into #BrianPalmer’s Family History #Phonar

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 02:04:01
  22. O_Sharpe
    #phonar talk. Brian Palmer. looking for UK based practitioners to track down owners of his great granddad

    Wed, Nov 14 2012 02:03:57

Brian Palmer’s story is a really strong yet sensitive one, and exploration into his own family could open up many doors, wether they be good or bad. I love the idea that going to physically interact with your subject takes the story to a more intimate level.

Accessing Sanctuaries

I’ve seen a lot of fans posting pictures about their surroundings recently. It made me think about my project, I know I am following a fan for the day but what am I going to take photos of. I think this concept is quite an interesting one, the space without the person. It becomes quite surreal and makes you form a¬†preconceived¬†image of what they would look like.

Fandom Corner 2.0
by ~Jailboticus


To me my bedroom is one of the only places I interact with Anime, it’s quite a personal relationship between a fan and their text. I get really defensive when in public and questioned about my obsession, because I am used to being prejudged. That’s not to say I keep it a secret but I rarely interact with any text other then when I’m in my bedroom. It’s just hit be how big it is to ask a fan to let me into their sanctuary. I could honour this by creating an image within the series called ‘Sanctuary’ which mimics these bedroom style shoots but in a more professional way.

Maybe one way that I can put myself in my future subjects shoes is to publicise my sanctuary. How can I expect them to lay theres out for¬†scrutiny¬†when I can’t do the same? This will be my next step. Laying out my life as a fan online.

These images also made me think about ¬†JeongMee Yoon’s project which comments on the relationship between colour and gender. Although this project has the subjects in the frame they are immersed in their own things, some look lost and overwhelmed whereas others are proud.

You can see the rest of the project here…


*Kimmymanga’s fan art

I’ve seen¬†*Kimmymanga‘s work before and always admired it.

See more of her work here… ¬†

It would be awesome to get her involved in the new project idea.

FOLLOW UP 8/11/2012

unfortunately Kimmymanga is too busy with other work at the moment to do this project, which is unfortunate but understandable. Hopefully we can work together on another project.

Phonar: Spoken Narrative

This weeks task has taken me a while to complete. Not because I’m reluctant to tell a personal story but because I couldn’t think of anything. In the end I started thinking about what stories I can’t remember but wish I could. This was the one I most wanted to tell…

I wish I could remember the first time I read J.M. Barrie‚Äôs ‚ÄėPeter and Wendy‚Äô, but I was too young, so instead of recalling a story I will tell you how I imagine it would have been‚Ķ

It was 1993, and I was barely a year old. My mum had come home from a day at the curtain shop with a brand new book. The book didn’t look the same as it does now, back then it was in pristine condition with that addictive musty new book smell, whereas today it’s falling apart, a bundle of frail pages hanging onto the spine by a thread, or as I like to call it, loved. Like every night my mum tucked me into bed, gave me a kiss on the forehead and began to read me a story, but this story was different from all the others. It was a story set in a magical world that was located just out of my reach, in the stars that I lay beneath. Pirates, Mermaids and Fairies occupied this place, as did the idea of never growing up. I dreamt of being lost in this world and living like a child forever. Little did I know, this story would shape the rest of my life, and no matter how many birthdays I had, a part of me would always remain a child.

I might only be able to make assumptions about my first encounter with the book, but every time since then I’ve felt at home whilst reading it. It’s strange to think an object can feel like home, it’s something I can’t explain, I just feel it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have read the book, I would guess at least 15, but the magical thing about my relationship with this story is just like Peter it never gets old.

I still long to get lost in Neverland.

Here is a soundcloud version of me telling my story, however I’m not very happy with my delivery, even though I felt as though I was putting emotion into what I was saying it sounds like I have no connection to this piece of writing. So I will try rerecording it until I get it right.

Transmedia portrait project proposal

I wrote before about how I want to create a transmedia project with other practitioners. I need to act on this ASAP so we can evolve it in time. This si my project proposal I will be posting on forums all over the world to try and create a team…

Project Proposal

‚ÄĘAs a group we will decide on a name for the project.

This project is a collaborative trans-media project between a range of creative practitioners who also consider themselves ‚Äúfans‚ÄĚ of Anime and Manga. The project will involve creating a series of characters and getting each practitioner to represent them through their platform. Fan culture is a huge part of J-Culture, rarely do we see an Anime that isn‚Äôt a Manga that hasn‚Äôt got a range of plush toys and a huge following of cosplayers, thats why this area is considered trans-media. This project comments on this by creating a range of creative artefacts from individuals all over the world that becomes one collaborative project around an invented series of characters.

Practitioners needed:

Artist – Design the Characters, make posters etc.

Writer – Create character profiles.

Product Designer – Design some toys, figureines and other products.

Fashion Designer/ Seamstress – Make the costumes.

Musician – Make a theme song/ character songs.

Voice actors – Create character voices.

Video maker – create some promotional material.

If you are a practitioner I haven’t mentioned feel free to apply and explain how your skill set could work within this project.

I myself am a photographer so would be creating portraits of Cosplayers dressed up as the characters.

How will we do it?

Run a blog – All post our development as we go, including a weekly video diary, and group chat videos. We will all put our work into it and involve the fellow J-Culture fans with this. Utilising the fan community is a key aspect, our ideas on how to do this will grow over time.

What will this project achieve?

It not only allows us to create a project based on our love, but it offers us a chance to grow and build a community and hopefully create an on going project we can work on for years to come. The ideal situation would to hold some sort of exhibition, wether it be online or a physical one. This is a pure fan base project run by fans and for fans, so making money isn’t a priority, but also isn’t off the table.

Obviously this is a collaborative project, so these details can be changed once we have formed a group, it’s a just a basic outline.

If you are interested please email me explaining why you want to be part of this project and your skill sets by Tuesday 1st November, so we can get this started ASAP.

I’m really excited to work with people who share the same passion as me and seeing how our individual skills can create an interesting project.

Now to post it online and see who replies….

Phonar Creative Workshop 4 : ‚ÄúSpoken narrative‚ÄĚ

This weeks task will really test myself as a story telling. I tend to be awful at telling stories which is why I rely on photography, I’m better at using my work to express a feeling or story rather then publicly talk about it.

In this task we have to “Record a personal story to share with the group.” no more than 2/3 minutes and it has to “consider your choice of story/subject, your audience and your verbal delivery ‚Äď in terms of your script, language, pace and intonation. No accompanying soundscape. No pictures. Just a story.”

The second part will be particularly¬†challenging¬†for me, but I’m looking forward to challenging myself and focusing my speaking skills.

In preparation for this we are listening to a previous talk held by Lisa Potts about her experience in 1996 in a Wolverhampton school.

It’s a gripping story about the event, and is interesting to hear about it from her mouth rather than from the newspapers. With traumatic events in particular it’s strange what people remember. For example Lisa Potts talks about her worrying about the paramedic cutting up her cardigan.

Time to get thinking about a personal story that I can guide towards a specific audience.