Production Values–do I need to think about the final MA product yet?

I received Aperture today. I’ve not even perused it yet because accompanying it was an interesting paper entitled The Photobook Review. There was lots in this to enjoy: not least David Campany’s article questioning the very concept.

“What chancer would dare try to coin the term “Word Book” to make something coherent of all books with words in them?” (Campany, 2014).

Campany’s comment not only applies to photo books though. The digital image is used so widely and varied in its application that its unifying feature is so hidden that to try as use it in any meaningful way beyond referring to the nature of the image is fraught with danger. Yet where the digital nature of the image is very useful to me is in terms of Production and Exhibition values.

Production Values
All my digital images hold production values: that is that in addition to the subject matter the colours, tones, framing, aspect ratio’s scale (eg number of pixels), method of viewing etc. all evoke and impart particular meanings that as a whole present a visual statement. But we all know that context and medium also play a crucial part in creating and evoking values and meaning. Take this image as an example. It is a photo of `my granddad and was taken near Moulle in France in 1916.
1916 June Moulle France June JL Dunbar

The physical image is only about one and a half inches on its longest side and it’s printed in still card. Holding that 98 year old physical image, and seeing my granddad (the nearest piper to the lens, aged 38 years old) evokes very different feelings than seeing the digital image. The former has a physical connection to granddad whereas the latter does not.

1916 June Moulle France June JL Dunbar copy

I had always implicitly assumed that the MA exhibition would give me the chance to produce my work in a variety of forms and now I think I am clear why this is so. The digital/virtual world is fundamentally a transient one. If the electricity is turned off forever then what is left of my work? Thus to make a statement that is permanent it needs to be physical.  This offers the viewer something tangible and lasting in a way that the virtual cannot be guaranteed to do. But it offers more than that because then I can control the form in which my images are seen whereas if I only published online this would not be the case. For example the images I look at on my 27 inch screen look very different than the same images on my phone.

However, the digital does have its own strengths: as a tool to reach others it is unparalleled.

So whether the things I am working on now will be shown in the form of pictures hung on a wall or in book form I don’t yet know but what I do know is that the original work will be shown in physical form and reproduced, simulated and shown on the internet rather than being designed and shown wholly virtually.

I suppose the next question to arise will be whether I want to create a unified body of work in terms of production values.  That inevitably involves compromising on how best to show some imagery or should I go with specific tailored production values for each project at the cost of a unifying approach? …but I am getting ahead of myself.


Campany, D. (2014) The Photobook Review, Published by Aperture


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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1 Response to Production Values–do I need to think about the final MA product yet?

  1. schirgwin says:

    Tangentially, I have found passport pictures and negatives lying in the street, picked them up and had a look. I have never found a digital image in similar circumstances…

    Liked by 1 person

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