Medium format camera – Hassleblad, light meters and 120 film.

The Hasslebad was created by a Swedish family in 1841 when they first established their business. They never knew how much of an impact they would have on the world of Photography and how widely respected the Hassleblad name would become.

The Hassleblad was the first camera on the moon when Walter Schirra purchased a Hassleblad 500c.


The hassleblad i’m going to be looking at is the 503 model. It has a standard prime lens (80mm) and i’ll be using a square 6×6 format (12 shots per roll of film). You can also use 6×7,6×8,6×9 format.


Aesthetic elements.

When i was looking into aesthetic elements, i began looking at the definition.

Aesthetic is

-relating to the philosophy of aesthetics; concerned with notions such as the beautiful and the ugly.

-relating to the science of aesthetics; concerned with the study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty.

-having a sense of the beautiful; characterized by a love of beauty.

relating to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality.

An element is

-a component or constituent of a whole or one of the parts into which a whole may be resolved by analysis:

Bricks and mortar are elements of every masonry wall.

-Chemistry. one of a class of substances that cannot be separated into simpler substances by chemical means. See also chart under periodic table.

-a natural habitat, sphere of activity, environment, etc.:

to be in one’s element; Water is the element of fish.

-atmospheric agencies or forces; weather:

a ruddy complexion from exposure to the elements.

the rudimentary principles of an art, science, etc.:

the elements of grammar.

the bread and wine of the Eucharistic service.

With this information, I began to make my own understanding of aesthetic elements and how I perceive them, how they affect us and how i could capture that in an image.

Oscar Rejlander (originally a portrait painter) began photography in 1852. His work was pioneering at this time as used the technique ‘combination printing’ which involved gathering a series of different negatives together to create a final image. A great example of this is one of his most well known photographs ‘The Two Ways of Life ‘ for which his used over 30 negatives to make the outcome he wanted.

The Two Ways of Life – Oscar Rejlander.

When I look at the work of Rejlander I feel like he is telling a story through them which implies that it is more than simply the visual elements that make up an image.

The semiotics of Photography.

The definition of semiotics is the study of signs, symbols and signification. We read semiotically everyday when reading news papers, looking at social media etc.

Semiotics can be traced back to two key people.


Ferdinand de Saussure (a Swiss Linguist) was one of the first people to discover and explain his theory of semiotics. He said ‘It is… possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life. It would form part of social psychology, and hence of general psychology. We shall call it semiology (from the Greek semeîon, ‘sign’). It would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them. Since it does not yet exist, one cannot say for certain that it will exist. But it has a right to exist, a place ready for it in advance. Linguistics is only one branch of this general science. The laws which semiology will discover will be laws applicable in linguistics, and linguistics will thus be assigned to a clearly defined place in the field of human knowledge.’


According to Charles Sanders Pierce, a sign may be simple or           complex. Unlike Saussure, Peirce does not define the sign as the smallest unit of signification. Any thing or phenomenon, no matter how complex, may be considered as a sign from the moment it enters into a process of semiosis.

The process of semiosis involves a triadic relationship between a sign or representamen (a first), an object (a second) and an interpretant (a third).

These days, it is said that Semiotics is a useful set of tools which help to identify the formal patterns that combine to make meaning of various factors of our culture, particularly the media.

There are two components to reading semiotically. ‘The signifiied’ and ‘the signifier’.

The signified is the connotation (meaning) and the signifier is the denotation (image/word). This relationship is referred to as signification. 

For example, when you look at this image you may just see a truck (the denoation) but semiotics goes further when you have prior knowledge or you are familiar with this western culture and therefore the advertising world. I look at this image and think of the soda drink Coca-Cola. I also think of the phrase/slogan ‘holidays are coming’ and begin to get excited for the holiday season and christmas (connotation). 


Saussure explained a sign as anything that makes meaning. However Umberto Eco said that a sign is anything that can be used to tell a lie. This is an interesting way to look at it as images can used in many ways and with many implications. An image can be misleading.

If you encounter something which is not familiar in your culture framework it can be hard to understand. For example, someone from a third world country or an aboriginal tribe may see a camera as something ‘out of this world’ and may find other technologies like this hard to comprehend. In this video ( Kenyan children have their first experience with an iPad using video call technology and are fascinated with it.

When you look at an image as yourself some questions to gain understanding of it and look for an familiar cultural objects.


With this image (Candy Cigarette – Sally Mann), I first see three children, one with a cigarette (denotation) but when i look at it for a while, ask my self some questions about it and read the photo in a more in depth way I see a girl mimicking adults, outside with her two friends and being given a lot of freedom for someone of such a young age (connotation). However looking into the name of the photo and some information on the Photographer, I have discovered that it is a candy cigarette and the Photographer is her mother, taking photos of her children mimicking adult behaviour.

The museum of contemporary photography said ‘ For the “Immediate Family” series, Mann’s children, who often appear nude, are posed or simply arrested in their activity to convey both primal and playful aspects of human behavior. The images in her later monograph At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (Aperture, 1988) capture the confusing emotions and developing identities of adolescent girls. Candy Cigarette (1989) is a striking example of Mann’s distinctive combination of careful planning and serendipity. In this work Mann’s daughter, Jessie, suspends her activity and gracefully balances a candy cigarette in her hand, appearing to be the innocent miniature of a blonde and gangling twenty-something beauty. Mann’s expressive printing style lends a dramatic and brooding mood to all of her images.’

Reading images.

When we read images, we use prior knowledge and experience to gain more understanding of what the image means and what the photographer is trying to say through the photo.

For example, ‘Hyères, France, 1932 by Henri Cartier Bresson’. It can be difficult to read photos like this one without knowing the title as this could be a man cycling down a street anywhere in the world, going to a number of different places. However, it is in a city on the french riviera and this gives you some more ideas of who this man may be.


‘We do not passively consume images, we actively read them.

The move from passive to active is image analysis.

Image analysis allows us to understand how we perceive the

world around us. The object of image analysis is to understand

the meaning of a work of art/design.’

Another quote i have found is this by Bill Brandt

“It is part of the photographer’s job to see more intensely than most people do. He must have and keep in him something of the receptiveness of the child who looks at the world for the first time or of the traveler who enters a strange country.”

In our contextual studies lecture, we were given the following task.

Today’s task is to work in groups of three to research and ‘Read’ three photographic images taken by established photographers (historical or contemporary)

You will present your findings to your peers at the end of the session, or at the next contextual session depending on time constraints.

  • One image should clearly define it’s intent through the image alone.
  • One should need clarification of intent through caption or other signs. (I.e. it may be part of a series and as such fails to convey it’s intent as a single image.
  • Finally, one image should be one that needs further investigation to clearly understand it’s intent.


Please use notes from today’s session, and some of the prompts below to help you complete the task.


Who, What, Where?


  • Who or what do you see?
  • When was this photograph taken?
  • What is happening in the photograph?
  • Where was this photograph taken?



  • Why did the photographer select these particular elements to include in the photograph?
  • What don’t you see?
  • Why did the photographer emphasize certain elements and not others?
  • What’s in focus? Is only one person or element in focus, or are many elements in focus?
  • Why did the photographer take the picture at this moment?
  • What happened before or after this picture was taken?
  • Why did the photographer take the picture from this angle?

Here is my response to the task.

First, I looked at this image by a Photographer I have not previously heard of, called Sonol Zorlu.


Who, what, where?

Due to the quality of this photo, I can tell that it was taken recently (over the last 20 years). It is an image of a young boy, no older than 12, harvesting cabbages. He is not wearing shoes, gloves or any protective clothing and is using his bare hands. Using prior knowledge and comparing this photo to others i have seen in the news etc, I guess that it was taken in a third world country, probably somewhere in Africa.


I think the Photographer chose those elements to include the image to tell a story about the boy and what he is doing. He kept it simple with only the ground and the boy in the shot. Outside of the shot, i expect there is lots more field and perhaps some other people working there. The boy stands out in the photograph because the rest of the image is the cabbages and he is the part in focus. This makes him the focus of my attention when looking at the image. I think the photo was taken at that moment, to catch what the boy was doing and i expect when the photo was taken he then continued with the task. It was probably taken from this angle to get a clear view of what the boy is doing.

This is the next image i looked at, by Martin Parr.

FRANCE. Mulhouse. 2015.

Who, what, where?

As above, this photo looks like it has been taken recently (over the last 10 years). I came to this conclusion because of the clothing, interior decor and TV. It is of a boy of around 10 years old, another around the age of 6 and a woman who appears to be in her 40’s. Theyre posing for a photo in a living room environment and look to be in comfortable life circumstances. The image looks like it was taken in Europe.


I am unsure why the photographer took this image. I assume it was taken as a series of images that tell a story as a whole. I think the photographer took the photo in this environment and included everything in the image for a reason. I can imagine the photographer asked the three individuals to stand by the wall next to each other before the image was taken. Although, most of my attention is on the people in this image, i am also drawn to their surroundings and recognise the cartoon on the TV.

This photo is part of a series of images made by Martin Parr called ‘Mulhouse’. His website explains this series by saying –

Martin Parr takes a close look at the popular and mixed neighborhood of Cité-Briand in Mulhouse, France. The images were presented in the exhibition ‘A Taste of Mulhouse’ held at La Filature, Spring 2015.’

The final image I looked at was this by documentary Photographer, Chloe Dewe Matthews.


Who, what, where?

This photo looks like it could have been taken at any time using colour film but because of the quality of it, i feel it was taken more recently. Perhaps in the last 30 or 40 years and perhaps using a DSLR. It is of a field most likely to be in Europe with trees and an old fence. The feeling i get from this image is quite chilling because of the overcast weather, shadows and tone of the image.


I think this image again was taken as part of a series of images with a story to tell. I feel like it may hold a lot of memories to this person or tell some kind of narrative. I get the feeling that sadness may be attached to this image and it was taken from this angle to get this part of the field in the image as the focus of attention.

After doing some research and seeing a talk from the photographer, Chloe Dewe Mathews at the London Visual Arts Symposium I have found out a lot about this image. It was part of a series titled ‘Shot at Dawn’. This series was in response to the information released to the public in the 1990’s. Each picture represents the place where a British, French or Belgian soldier was killed due to ‘cowardice and desertion’ (1914-1918). The aim being that these people are never forgotten.

The origins of Photography.

The worlds first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 and is called ‘View from the Window at le Gras’. The process Joseph used to take this photograph is known as ‘heliography’ which involved mixing Bitumen and water and painting it on a pewter plate, drying it with heat and inserting the pewter into a camera facing out of a first floor window. After an 8 hour exposure the pewter plate was washed with oil of lavender and white petrolium, revealing the lighter and darker shades of the view from the window. 

View from the window at le gras = Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.

In 1835, Scholar, William Henry Fox Talbot was disappointed in his ability to sketch and began researching camera obscuras which had become popular with artists as a tool to aid them drawing.

He was quoted saying ‘How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durable and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible? I asked myself.’ 

Eventually, he created a ‘mousetrap’ camera (named by his wife). A mousetrap camera is a simple wooden box with a brass barrel single lens.