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Behind the image – book review

Behind the Image is a guide to the photographic ‘research processes that underpin successful, meaningful photography’. It explains the importance of research in photography succinctly:

A body of photographic work is developed through knowledge gained in exploring the medium.

The book covers the following broad areas:

  • Planning – the initial ideas, fact-finding and objective setting.
  • Developing ideas through research – explores the potential research tools and how to develop a framework for research.
  • Practice as research – looks into practice-based research
  • Compiling research – discusses ways of recording research for future reference and reflection
  • Research and practice – examines the continuous working process of research and practice
  • The impact of research – discusses the value of research in the contemporary world.

While this is a reference book, it is written in accessible language, with a clarity sometimes lacking in art books. A few of the important  lessons I took from the book for my own needs at this time are:

  1. Understand the history of photography and photographers (from several sources) as a way of placing and connecting different photographers.
  2. Read widely to refresh own thinking on photography.
  3. Use mind maps to record ideas during planning.
  4. Visit the National Media Museum (in Bradford and a short journey by train for me!)
  5. Use an RSS reader to track new entries on blogs of interest.
  6. Treat the practice of photography (taking pictures) and post processing as research and record it for reference.
  7. Think of my blog (this one) as record of my ongoing research for future reference and development, not just for the purposes of my OCA studies.
  8. Get into a working habit where research becomes connected to practice in a way that makes the two things hard to separate – second nature.
  9. My final point (didn’t make it an even 10) is a direct quote from the book:

In order for research to have real impact, the following are vital: access; discussion and thinking; writing; and response making. Research needs to reach an audience, as methods of communication and dissemination of ideas plan an important role in conveying new knowledge and debate.

This last point needs some reflection in itself as I currently feel in a small bubble, with my only real audience and feedback comes from the OCA level 1 Facebook page! There must be other outlets.



Fox A and Caruana N (2012). Behind the image – research in photography. London, Thames & Hudson.

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