Exercise: John Levy on intent


Listen to John Levy, founder of Foto8, talking about documentary in the art gallery at http://oca-student.com/node/100127 and note down your reactions to Levy’s comments in your learning log.


This is intended to be the second part of the exercise A decisive moment? but I found it to be so disconnected from that theme that I couldn’t work out why the two had been bracketed together like this.

Also – the brief described it as Levy “talking about documentary in the art gallery” and yet the clip is entitled John Levy on Intent. The documentary/art discussion is a minor point towards the end, and it was about genre overlap.

Intent is at the start of the photographic journey; the art gallery (or any other distribution method) is at the other end. Input vs output.

I was sufficiently confused as to check the course Errata to find out if the wrong link had been posted! But no, it is the right clip… I’m just scratching my head on its inclusion here, and the way it’s described in the brief. Hey-ho.

My main takeaway was that Levy has a criterion for whether something is ‘photojournalism’ (Foto8’s specialism), and this is whether the photographer had a clear intent in mind before shooting. It seems that some photographers assemble a series of images and reverse-engineer them into an intent after the fact (I concede that I have certainly done this for OCA assignments…).

To nitpick, I don’t believe he means just having an intent is the criterion, its having a photojournalistic intent – i.e. to inform an audience of a subject through images. One can start a project with an intent to be highly conceptual – it’s an intent, just an artistic one rather than a documentarian one. His point seemed to be aimed more at the retro-justification problem, as he does talk about the “ambiguity between journalism and art“. This reminded me of the Miranda Gavin interview from earlier in the course, where genre categorisation can become problematic when one needs to lay out a photography magazine. Maybe Gavin should adopt Levy’s intent test.

The other point I took away was the reassurance that photojournalism doesn’t need to mean Big Stories in Faraway Places – it can be “local, personal, impressionistic” as Levy puts it.

Anyway: an interesting interview, though a puzzling inclusion.


John Levy on Intent http://oca-student.com/node/100127 (accessed 03/03/2016)

Foto8 http://foto8.com (accessed 03/03/2016)


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