Documentary Photography: Appraisal.

The Sunday Times Magazine is renowned for open range of subject matter with its comprehensive form of journalism. Although only a mere magazine included in its counterpart, The Sunday Times, the magazine has included many famous photographers and journalists alike. Its magazine features often include a spread of an image that is usually rather painful to look at such as David James Smith’s account of the 9/11 victims jumping from the World Trade Centre, with a hard hitting title to get the reader attention.  As the Sunday Times itself is known for its well-educated content, its magazine is hardly different. An obvious signifier here is that the article contains more mature themes, meaning that what is signified is that the publication a demographic of well-educated and possibly more mature adults. The image that tends to dominate the piece will send a message to the reader itself, regardless of the title and body; and will gravitate towards a subject matter that is obscure. This can range from dire images that grab the readers attention to its severity, to an image that could be totally innocent; with either way the image will show the signs and codes to the reader without much trouble. For instance, the image below shows that the signifier is limo of teenagers and the signified a wild party. Although we do not necessarily know that the party is in fact wild or indeed out of control, the image tell us due to the body language and facial expressions of these teenagers this hints at excessive teenage behavior which is where the code lies. Another code for this kind of lifestyle would be their appearance, they are well dressed (as most teenagers are when attending prom) and have hired out a limo. Their overall rowdy and obnoxious demeanor suggests a form of wealth,something that possibly the middle-class readers could relate to possibly in their own youth which would be seen as a social code. It works as part of the magazines target audience as it acts as an insider to the younger generation, something that would be interesting to a more professional audience. In contrast, to a lower class this would possibly mean a more relaxed interpretation of the teenagers, as it could just simply show them having a good time; however, to their target reader this image shows the code of a cold side to youth and excess.


While on location photographing the band that I met for my “Hidden Places ” photoshoot, I began talking to the bassist. At first, general questions about music and balancing being a student, but then I asked on a whim if he lived the quintessential “rock star lifestyle”? To which he humorously replied not really, but I do dabble in drugs and smoke cannabis daily. Although this did not shock me, as many people my age experiment with such things, however, over time I started to take more notice of this within my own world. I often see my own flatmates smoke cannabis and when I go out the stench can almost be unbearable as it is so obvious even in public. I started to wonder about how drug use within the student population we simply accept this kind of behavior when in the real world its a sign of excess and sometimes uncontrollable. Usually, seen in the lower levels of society and by individuals who well-informed and getting an education. Due to this, I asked him if could take pictures of him while he was smoking cannabis and record his so-called trip.

The set of images that I have produced I feel would be appropriate for a feature for the Sunday Times Magazine as it focuses on a subject matter that most publications steer away from. The kind of feature would simply be what I have mentioned in the paragraph above. I feel that this is a story that the Sunday Times Magazine thrives to publish as it shows not only diversity to other publications, but educates and informs its readers in a manner that is on the same intellectual level as them. Below are but a few examples of the set of images that I took aimed at this theme in The Sunday Times Magazine. The signifier in the set of images is a Cannabis joint being made, smoked and the aftermath of this. What is signified is drug abuse and later excessive behavior and the cultural difference between the student lifestyle that is carefree to an adult world where this is unsatisfactory. Not only does it show in the image a student , but it also shows the student mentality of despite  having full knowledge of the repercussions of drugs they still turn to hard living. This is shown immediately through the range of shots as he indicates his knowledge of putting together the joint (and possibly other kinds of drugs) and the aftermath of having smoked it; particularly in the shot of just his face in the camera, where he is clearly too out of it to notice. The signifier there would be his facial expression and the signified would be that he is enjoying his trip, regardless of any negative outcomes that could happen. Again this interprets as a social code because of his student lifestyle, however he could be interpreted as being of a lower-class due to his casual appearance.





These range of images I feel would fit the Sunday Times Magazine as the style of photography often seen in this publication is very similar. The magazine will usually contain black and white images that communicate the narrative of story in a darker light, which is exactly what can be seen code-wise within these images. Although in the last image he is laughing and happy, it shows the dark side of this excessive idea of life. They are a set of shots that change in the technical aspect, as they flirt with low and high depth of field with both close and mid ranged shots that show the location and the individual’s surrounding, that again are a code for his lifestyle. In terms of editing, with only the obvious black and white shots although they signify realism in the set of images. Again, this would itself be a sign of the type of journalism that the Sunday Times Magazine provides for its readers, a truthful and honest approach that thrives for serious journalism. I feel that although I could have used different lenses for the shots, I feel that only would have been a distraction to what the subject matter entails; in an aspect, it adds to the irony and bleakness of the shots. Due to the subject matter and its severity, I wanted the pictures to be honest to what student drug attitudes are like in this day and age. In a way, I feel that the fact that he was more than welcome to let me take pictures of his drug habits was a sign of student drug culture; we feel as though its acceptable to behave in such a way despite the risks of addiction and even death. It was an idea that for a while I was almost outraged by as I cannot comprehend why some one would risk their life for a simple “good time”.

Overall, I would say that I am pleased with how these images turned out. They capture what I wanted to focus on subject wise and I feel that they could be seen in a feature for The Sunday Times for which I aimed them at. The signs and codes indicated are apparent in my interpretation of the subject matter, in which I used in a very candid manner where I simply captured what was happening as it unfolded. Especially as this is a publication that wants to keep its features honest when tackling controversial issues such as this.


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