Conceptual Artist Research

As part of my final major project it is essential That we do some in depth research into our ideas both conceptually and technically. For this we have to complete some artist research. I have chosen to research some different artists that will both conceptually and technically develop my idea. I have already completed my technical research where I researched artists who use joiners and during this research I learnt a lot more about joiners and how they are made and the different ways you can create them, from this research I managed to plan and shoot some experiments for my work which have helped me to develop my idea further. I have also researched one other conceptual artist where I learnt more about photojournalism as this is the subject that I want to focus on for my final major project. I learnt about a hard hitting photographer called ‘Tyler Hick’s’ who’s work saw him being all over the world involved in different wars and also being put in situations where his life could be endangered. For my second part of my conceptual research I will be researching another photojournalist so I can look at the different ways that other photojournalists shoot things in the news and their own subjects. I will also compare them to the work of Tyler Hicks and see how they are different and also how they are similar. I will then evaluate how this research has helped me and how I can use it as a form of development to progress further in my project and get closer to my final shoot.

David Burnett

David Burnett graduated in 1968 from Colorado College. Immediately after this he went straight into amateur and eventually professional photography. He was a freelance photographer for Life and Time magazines in both the U.S. and then went onto shooting in Vietnam. He was in Vietnam for two years when he decided to join Gamma, a French photo agency that allowed him travel all throughout Europe doing what he loved which was photography, during this job he worked as a news photographer. In 1975 Burnett decided to become a solo photographer and co-founded his own photo agency in New York City, known as Contact Press Images.

Even though he opened his own photo agency, Burnett was still heavily devoted to his job and also to his passion as a photographer. Over the next 30 years he still went on to travel the world and photograph iconic world events, including the Olympics, political campaigns, and various others events. He even photographed some of the most famous people of the time, including popular reggae singer Bob Marley. His photos have been published in various magazines, including The New York Times. While he may be best known for his photos taken during the Iranian revolution, all of his work has been praised and he has received various awards, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal, World Press Photo, and others.

The work of his that interested me the most was his work involving the news. In comparison to the last photojournalist that I looked, Tyler Hicks, at their work is very different in terms of subject. David Burnett is showing the good in the news and the success of hundreds of different countries in big worldwide events and celebration of elections and campaigns across the world, in particular in this image


Where as Tyler Hicks is showing the small deep dark corner of the news in the world which isn’t brought to light very much and can often be ignored by most people as they don’t find it very interesting, he is especially shows this in this image,


This type of thing makes these photographers very different and it definitely shows that although they are the same type of photographer they have very different subjects and approach their work very differently. However they are very similar as they both shoot things that at the time were very current in the news and were very popular things that people were talking about, some photojournalists I have previously looked at outside of this project have decided to photograph a lot older news stories and things that aren’t very popular at that time, I think that doing this makes their work less interesting as because the news stories aren’t currently in the news then it becomes a lot less relatable and people find it a lot hard to understand. A prime example of this is that when David Burnett took his images at the olympics they were published around the time so what he was creating was very current and lots of people knew about the story behind the images. In terms of Tyler Hicks his images are very similar in terms of the times that he took them and the story behind them, for example when he was sent out to Afghanistan he was taking pictures of the war and the events happening at that time and much like David Burnett’s work it was published shortly after it was taken so it made the relevance of the image very current. This is a main reason why I decided to shoot news stories that are currently in the news for my project as it meant that I could really get new news as and when it happens and if anything were to change in the different stories then it meant that I could show this through my idea. I also feel that because of this to make my work current when it comes to my final pieces I will have to be prepared to change my ideas and my choice of news story as I may choose something that is relevant at the time but then I could find out about something different that I am able to use that could be even more relevant and useful for my work.

Much like my other artist research I have also analysed four of his images and discussed how this is different to my other conceptual artist research and also talked about how I could use their ideas in my work to make it as effective as theirs.

  This image from taken from the work of David Burnett shows a young solider who has taken time out of his duties to read a letter from home. You can tell by the look David has captured on his face that he may be upset or distressed by the letter he has just received. I think that this image shows how the soldiers where affected by the war and how receiving news and letters from home really affected them. In a way this is very similar to the work of ‘Tyler Hicks’ as he also showed the emotions of people from the aftermath of a big world event. Most photojournalists would just take pictures of people in crowds whereas these two photographers have found people who they have found interesting out of the crows of people and decided to focus on these people other than the crowds. This is also very different to ‘Tyler Hicks’ work as it shows the aftermath of a different world event and a different war/attack on a country. However this does show the difference in time this picture was taken quite a long time ago where as the picture that Tyler took was taken quite recently, this shows that wars and attacks still happen and the way that it affects people individually is still the same now as it was years ago. This image has showed me that in photojournalism its really good to show a story in the limelight and highlight the key facts, but its also goo to show the way that certain story effects people individually which is what this photographer has done and also something that I could do for my project. This image is of a beach in Normandy, France on D-Day. This picture was taken as a tribute to the solders who fought in the war and the beach is very iconic in this image as it was one of the places where the soldiers did battle and it is where a lot of people lost their lives during the war. Because of the simplicity of this image and how clear it is you can just imagine the men running across this beach and the activity that would be happening on the beach at that time all those years ago. I think that another iconic thing in this image is small part of sea that divides the two halves of the beach. I think that this part is iconic as it takes it back to the war and that line in the middle is like ‘no mans land’ which was an area on the battlefield in the war where no one was allowed to go and is what divided the two armies from each other. I also like the fact of how simple this image as it really makes you take the whole thing in and you an analyse each aspect of it. I think that the meaning behind this image shows that there doesn’t need to be a big fancy subject involved in the image you can just have something as simple as a beach and it still creates a deep meaning behind the image and makes it iconic. The fact that this image has been taken in black and white makes the image look like an old picture from the war. I think that this image is very different to the work of ‘Tyler Hicks’ as it is a lot more simple than some of his images, this image has no big subject as such and in Tyler’s work there is always something extra in his images like a person or a subject. However it is also quite similar as it shows the aftermath of something that has happened and Tyler does take image of the affects on people and also places after an iconic event. I think that the fact that this image is very simplistic shows me that in my work I can still create an effective image with a simplistic image. This image was taken during the London 2012 olympic games. The image shows an athlete winning the triathlon for his country and the photographer captures a picture perfect moment as soon as he is about to cross the finish line. I feel that this is a really positive image and it shows a really happy moment of something that has happened in the news and in the world in general. The olympics are a really iconic event in the world and the fact that he has managed to capture this moment from the games like this is really special. I also feel its a very positive thing to capture happy and uplifting news stories like this as currently and also previously in recent years there has always been something that comes up in the news that brings the positivity down of the world and puts all the happiness into jeopardy. This image in particular is something that is such a happy and iconic moment which can take you mind and your feelings away from everything else bad happening in the news and it shows that the photographer has decided to focus on something positive in the news rather than something negative. This image is very different to the work of ‘Tyler Hicks’ as it is very uplifting and positive, in terms of Tyler Hicks work there isn’t much that is positive about his work and the news stories that he focuses on aren’t as positive as this. I think that this image has showed me that amongst all the bad happening in the news I should maybe try and focus on something positive too to take peoples mind of the negative and bring it to the positive. This image is of Barack Obama on a business trip to St Louis. This type of image of the former president isn’t usually the type of image that you would see. It takes step into his private life and what happens behind closed door. I think the angle of the image is a key thing as it makes the image look very casual almost as if the photographer has sat opposite the president and taken the picture like you would if you sat opposite a friend or family member. I think that it shows the president in his true form and how he acts when he’s away from work. This isn’t the only image like this. On the photographers website there is a variety of different pictures of the presidents both past and president that show them in this sort of light and how they are away from their duties. I think it is very different to the traditional style of image that you would find of a political leader or a president and it shows that the photographer is taking that extra step further, maybe even out of their comfort zone to get an image that is very different for their style of photography. I think that this image is very similar to the the work of ‘Tyler Hicks’ as he also shows a different perspective of different news stories. The different news stories that he focuses on can also be taken through a different perspective and in his work you can see that the tries to make an image from the two different perspectives, some of which aren’t always traditional work of a photojournalist.

A key thing that I noticed from all of the David Burnett work that I looked at is that most of if not all of his images are in black and white. I feel that this is significant for his work as it makes you focus purely on the image and the colour in many images plays a very big part and can influence the mood and the meaning. However the fact that his images are printed in black and white makes you focus on the subject and the image itself without taking into account colour and how it can change the mood and the meaning.

From my analysis of this photographers work I have found many different ways that I could add things to my shoot and to my idea and how I can conceptually develop my idea. I think that this research has been very effective for me and has definitely helped me to develop my work further. I also found it very effective to compare the work of my two conceptual artists as it meant that I could see how different and how similar my research is. It also showed me how artists are similar and how they are different in terms of their subject matters and also the way that they shoot.


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