Right from the inception of this website in 2007 four years ago this website was built around signs. Road signs, warning signs – things that have a meaning to us. Things that signify.
There is a deeper, more theoretical reason for this that you can read here. But the idea of signs first entered my photography during my 2007 documentary project Flashes to Ashes. A no smoking sign was used on the cover of the accompanying book. I thought the concept worked well and I’ve chased it ever since, with Outsiders and now with this website.
You look at signs aesthetically and they have a second meaning to most of us – an instruction or warning. Many of the photo projects you will see here represent more than what you initially see.
An example are the images from Outsiders – where you make a judgment of those in the images and then have that judgment challenged after reading what the subjects have to say. The images then take on a new meaning, in what they contain and tell us.
As a design addict I have also looked at how websites work and how we look at them.
There are some basic rules for website design, which include:
Having a basic design constant across all pages (said to make the website look more professional), laying out text and images in columns and rows which follow the natural path of the eye on a page (said to be best seen in the F shape page) and using a white background (though this is more of a fashion trend then a design requirement).
The F design, where the eye starts off in the top left-hand corner of the page and reads across (left to right) and then down (top left to bottom left) and then across again (mid-left to mid right) is seen on this website on Garry Cook’s Project Page.
It’s a crude interpretation of this rule.
But the Projects Pages also stand out as white pages, while the rest of the website has a black background. I wanted the main photography part of the site to have a white sparse background so the focus is on the images. Elsewhere, the pages like features and travel which contain written pieces also, are black.
This is both to differentiate my photography projects with my journalistic work and also to maintain a stronger identity of the website which I feel the black background is conducive to.
NOTE: In the slideshow (above) are the various templates of this website, from early mock-ups by a designer, the first front page assembled by a friend, and the alternate versions done by a company called Lucid Innovations which left me so dumbstruck over the poor quality of their work that I was inspired to do a Dreamweaver course and build the bloody thing myself.
Theory of images.
Though looking at an image is natural to must of us, there is a process of reading that occurs. Without this process, which is better explained in photography theory textbooks than I can here, viewing photography could not take place.
What I will say is that, while the judging the merits and likeability of an image is very subjective, many photographs do have different levels – further meanings to uncover if you have either subject knowledge, photographic knowledge or a keen eye.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean. A series of images of families in their homes can be a precious family portrait. But as a set, to me they are a series of images documenting fashions of upholstery and clothing. That’s wear the value lies.
It’s this kind of documentation, of lives and events, which is where the value of photography lies for me.
You can go much deeper into the levels of photography, taking in history of art and past photography, but I don’t want the theory to put anyone off. Whatever else is spinning around an image in theoretical terms, that the image is compelling to look at is the key.
At the heart of good photography, whatever it represents, is presenting a subject in a way that is appealing to look at.