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Introducing Miranda

Miranda Gavin is deputy editor of Hotshoe Magazine and the editor of their HotshoeBlog. Jose and Mark went to interview her during the summer and she was very generous with her time. The result is we have a treasure chest of arresting and salient video for our photography students. As we want the points Miranda makes to have their full impact Mark has edited the video in short subject based pieces and we will be releasing them onto WeAreOCA on a weekly basis.
So to start, here is Miranda talking about submitting work for publication.

Posted by author: Genevieve Sioka
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50 thoughts on “Introducing Miranda

  • Miranda talks eloquently about selecting work and art statements. She has a no-nonsense approach which is refreshing and what she says is just as pertinent to painting students as it is to photographers.

  • Yes, I like the no-nonsense approach too.
    There seems to be a tendency among some to develop a flowery language in describing their own work, and in over-interpreting the work of others that I personally find abrasive, ghastly and pompous. A brief, pertinent artist’s statement would be most welcome instead.

  • I really don’t get the point ……… she looks at some photographs that are not great, but then she reads the artist statement and they make sense……….is this it???……….well I don’t understand. If the photos are not good, they will be no-good with or without artist statement (whatever that is)……

  • I find it interesting she uses the term “artist’s statement”.
    I’ve not being studying photography long but it does seem that as photography has come to be accepted as an artistic medium that it’s also being consumed by the language readily used in the art world – a lot of which she perfectly describes as “nonsense”.
    Maybe now the acceptance is there it’s time for photographers to make a stand and develop a cleaner artistic language for this medium.

    • “Hear! Hear!”
      Yet you mention “a cleaner artistic language” and I wonder whether this might be actually a photographic language !?
      Art has created a kind of straight jacket for photography it seems … yet surely many photographers are now seeing beyond those limitations?

  • I think when she was talking about nonsense she was referring to people using references as decorative buzzwords, rather than with meaning and purpose in their artist statements.
    The implication is that if you are going to use them then use them out of knowledge and applicability, i.e. do the UVC module before labelling the ideas as nonsense. ‘ }

    • Shamefully dropped advert there Clive, may I compliment on the well spotted opportunity! 🙂
      Ok, more seriously, this was refreshing! I am myself at a place where I need to think about what my work says, and what I want to say through it, but also balance what I know with what I want to say.
      I think it is also important to realize what one doesn’t know, and then to go and find out about it. I’m sure the UVC course is excellent but right now it will go right over my head, but I hope to be ‘ready’ for it at some point soon.
      Looking forward to the rest of this series!

  • What I like about what Miranda is saying here is that she considers the image before the text; to me that is essential and yet we live in a word orientated society.

    • So do I, then I look at the photographer’s intention. If my reading doesn’t tally then I’ll often prefer my reading, perhaps it’s saying something to me about the photographer and their motivation that they aren’t aware of, and value the work for that.

  • I like Miranda’s straightforward approach. What Im taking from it, for the future, is that I need to be as clear as possible regarding my intentions in taking photographs – “Why this image; am I speaking from my heart or my head here, what am I needing to express about myself and my perception of the world around and within me?” The ideal for me would be to find a way to allow my photographs to speak for themselves whilst being a communication channel between myself and the viewer. Maybe that’s too broad and perhaps fanciful.
    Looking forward to the next in the series.

    • “Why this image; am I speaking from my heart or my head here, what am I needing to express about myself and my perception of the world around and within me?”
      You can only begin to know this after you’ve made the work, by developing the language through which you talk and think about it, transcending the descriptions of its formal qualities.

  • Hi there
    There are some interesting comments made here and it’s so good to read all of them. I wrote a post on Hotshoe Blog a while back Artists Statements – Are You Talking to Me? Language Games: Obfuscatory Language in Art Photography, it may be of interest to some of you:
    I will dip back in to the conversation and will try and address some of your points. Feel free to discuss, challenge, comment and keep the dialogue alive. Looking forward to meeting and greeting more of you in the blogosphere, Miranda

    • Hi Miranda
      Thanks for linking to your post, I think it helpfully expands on the points you make in the video and there are some great quotes – my favourite being ‘to say something is visceral doesn’t make it so’

    • Miranda miss read , the video. Read this link. i understand that it’s not the statement put forth in the creation of the image, it’s the wording , accompanying the photograph. Right?
      To that. I am a little confused. As I feel that the picture in its self, is about the statement, to what one reads. If wording is to explain the reason behind the image. Then surly, the image is not strong enough. Or if it is, then just a short caption to some it all up. Is good enough. Am I on the right track?

  • For me the best and most incisive quote is:
    “If we don’t understand what someone says, it is not necessarily the “fault” of the interlocutor. There is always the solution of learning their language. I mean, blaming the artist and asking them to make things simpler is the easy way out, I think. What feels like nonsense to you is not nonsense to the artist, so why should they “dumb down” their language? It’s a bit like listening or reading a foreign language: you can either dismiss it as gobbledygook, or learn it. No?”
    Christophe Dillinger

  • I think you may be missing my point, response to the above. I am not talking about “dumbing down”, I hope I didn’t seem to suggest that or is this your interpretation? Rather I’m talking about clarity in communication and thnking about what you are saying, (quotes for the sake of decoration are merely decoration) and if that is not your cup of tea, then so be it. As to “a bit like listening or reading a foreign language: you can either dismiss it as gobbledygook, or learn it. No?” – I don’t agree that it is comparable, for me, the comparison doesn’t hold up . The context in which I was talking is one where we share the same language but it deliberately becomes obfuscatory. (?)
    I like this quote: ‘If you can’t say it clearly, you don’t understand it yourself’ John Searle on the strapline for Nigel Warburton’s Virtual Philospher website – I studied for an OU course where he is a senior lecturer called Philosophy and the Human Situation. I think we have to start with a question:
    What is the function of the Artist Statement and who is it for?

    • Indeed I do understand that you were not talking about dumbing down, far from it. My intention in highlighting that quote was to argue against some of the implications from students here, that all artists’ statements and the language that they are written in is “nonsense”.
      The language of criticism and cultural theory is often difficult at first but is particular to those disciplines and perfectly clear to those who take the trouble to learn it. We in the art world need to do just that otherwise we misunderstand the very theories and writers that we are quoting and so produce the non-sense that you refer to in your interview.
      All together too many people dismiss this particular language simply on the grounds that it uses words that they are unfamiliar with and so we have ‘punctum’ when we mean ‘subject’ so that it looks as though we have read and understood Barthes, ‘simulacrum’ when we mean ‘similar’ (ditto Baudrillard), ‘deconstruction’ when we mean ‘dismantling’ and so forth.
      Many students are resistant to theory and aesthetics and so they dismiss the central texts as obfuscatory nonsense to justify their position, rather than finding out what is actually being said, using a dictionary, learning that particular dialect of their language or whatever.
      Simplicity is fine and to be applauded where appropriate but is not necessarily the same thing when talking to different audiences, an implication I take from your interview. For example an article on the work of Cindy Sherman or Gabriel Orozco in ‘October’ though simple and clear enough for its intended readership, might well seem complex and even obfuscatory where it published in, say, ‘Amateur Photographer’ or ‘Artists and Illustrators’ As you so rightly say we need to think who it is for and pitch it at that audience but most of all we must understand the work we are referencing. Merely throwing in a couple of sound-bites because we hope it will make us sound intellectual or whatever only makes us seem all the more stupid.
      I am sure that we are in fact saying the same thing but perhaps to a slightly different audience.
      As to the question “What is the function of the Artist Statement”? I have often asked myself that question and come to no very definitive answer, the best I can manage is, “it all depends”!

      • Thanks Peter for explaining things a bit better than me 🙂
        Miranda, I don’t quite agree with the quote ‘If you can’t say it clearly, you don’t understand it yourself’. Even if I use words coming from a specialised critical vocabulary (which may not be clear to some people), that doesn’t mean I don’t understand what I mean (it is clear to me).
        But I also understand what you mean. The problem there is probably “deliberately obscure”. It is pretty hard to make the difference between deliberately muddying the water and genuinely using terms that are relevant and accurate, if slightly elitist.
        What if I said: It is the artist’s task to be able to adapt their vocabulary in order to pass the message across according to the audience, without however giving up on the use of specialist terms when possible. It is also the audience’s task to stretch their understanding and learn the lingo instead of remaining passive users of “averaged” speech?
        And I do think that my comparison holds: if I use a particular vocabulary that people don’t understand, we don’t speak the same language.
        And why artists statements? So that I can learn about what I do, using language as a meta-critique tool.

        • Hi Christophe… I’m going to play devil’s advocate and disagree with you slightly, even though I see your point.
          It’s a little off the topic, but I think it still connects.
          Last weekend, I had to finish the document that went with my assignment photos to my tutor, a level 2 photo course. One of the things I had to do was to summarize my conceptual framework on what I wanted to reach with the project.
          I had immense trouble doing so, and then I realized that I was 98% sure, but not 100%, what I actually set out to do.
          Far from an artist statement for a magazine, I know, and not even talking about big words, even on just such a basic level, I found it difficult to say what the assignment should say about me, the assignment itself, and how they connect…
          Anyway, I just wanted to add that for me personally, what was mentioned in the video did ring true, well, at least now I think that was why I struggled with the document…

          • You know, what is being said in the video rings true to me too, insofar as I share with Miranda the same approach to portfolio selection for the magazine I run myself. On the other hand, I have just graduated form a Masters in fine arts and I know thta simply sayhing “images shold speak for themselves” and “critiques are pompous” is just a cop out and not really valid.
            And very often we can’t be sure at 100% about the work, because it is still being done and processed in out heads.

  • Very clean and clear interview ……However the part where she mentioned that depending on the artist statement your view-point at looking at the photo might differ sounds bit confusing. Of course the text can give lot of information about the situation in which the photo/s were taken but if the photograph itself lack in story and quality how will the text make any difference (unless it is one of those photojournalism kind of tricky situation).
    I really like that she mentioned to keep the writing simple and not to assume that audience will understand.

  • Critics and criticism ? it is often known that a critic, be it Art, food, music or Fashion, Most seem to be highly educated respected celebrates that have nothing better to do then complain. And when they do like something, they make so much fuss, bring together all the un known words to the average person. Raping the dictionary , To fid ways to express the selves. Boosting their own Ego. So . to to the individual, Come a desire to appreciate or not what one sees as a work of art. I love art and photography. Like food and music etc, it takes allot to please me, And so drives me as a photographer to find that wow factor in my own work.
    For publication, the work is going to be viewed by those to are either captured by the content, Impact from the front page. Does it relate to their interest and life style. Thats the ordinance. The reader. however. If the magazine is a photographers magazine. Or National geographic. the the Ordinance is diverse.
    Are we referring to submitting work to a magazine for publication, or to the OCA. ? What is the directive here. ? We are all human. And like the program on discovery , the other day, We all interpret the world around us differently.
    the way we read and understand things, our feeling of one another , and what we see , eat hear and taste, If Every photographer submitted with the same expression come message , photography would be very boring. This is what makes Art, Art!

    • ‘Are we referring to submitting work to a magazine for publication, or to the OCA?’
      Miranda is talking here about how she goes about considering submissions for publication Gary

  • Just like to ad some Point the is effecting all photographers to day in publication. My self also. The hard fact that so many photographer against what were 20-30 years ago. Have now, to be more expressive, capturing that special something. Sadly like Getty images, And most stock companies , All take on this same roll to have bright shallow focused , (Juxtaposition) The use of full frame cameras and 1.4 Lenses. Seem to have the advantage. If you have the money to afford such. Giving the poor photographer of yesterday, and student to day. A battle of achieving that goal. This kind of photography has become a fashion, come industry standard acceptance, in to days world of publication.
    Stock vs Publication.
    the point being: the problem now, is like music and fashion, Everything has been done , and then it starts to repeat itself. If everyone take the same , or repeats to often what we see. The sales of a magazine come Art . loses its wow factor, As our brains become used to everything we see as the norm. As some of you may know me. i may not be the best in expression and writing. but in photography, I feel It’s showing the world , what they take for granted, or do not often see every day, If a story is to be told from a group of photographs , or some it up in one shot,
    Sadly With digital to day. more are after technical perfection , then seeing what really is the artists intention to express him self or the world as he sees it.
    So what are we or the editors looking for, for the Audience ?

    • Just read another article on wedding magazine That those too are now looking at photography, as if it was product photography. brides are looking for photos to be like they are in Magazines. oh , my mistake on the above. About lenses. 1.2 not 1.4 .
      After reading The Art of photography, And relating to days when top named photographers were looked to as idles. Now, After being in another group. it was said that many are looking at not what the photographer wants to express. Its what latest camera its taken on , And how technically perfect it is. As above . Images lit bright and shallow depth. Going through Magazines . This is so apparent.

  • I was wondering if it is possible to see some examples of”good” artists statements – reading what irritates people about them just makes me feel even more disinclined to write one myself! I suppose the only answer is to know the probable reader of your statement before you write it.
    Another question – what sort of length artist statement would Miranda expect to see in a submission to Hotshoe (in general I mean – I’m sure there’s an element of – it all depends there aswell)

    • I guess what might seem ‘good’ to one person might not seem so to another unless there is some criteria out there to which we can all inspire. I think the best course for myself is to make note of any artist statement which accompanies images (or is contained in their website) and see how it fits with what I’m looking at and, if I can’t understand it, work out why not.

    • It’s a good point she makes about sharpening; most students seem to accept the sharpness that the camera delivers to them.
      I’m often showing them how a little smart sharpening improves the clarity of their images.

    • Tis is good reading. Makes one wonder. How much we are up against in an ever growing picture taking society. In other words, Our work must be very eye catching. !!!

  • just like to say thank you . if i had not got the e mil news from the OCA i would not have found HOT SHOE . I love it. .
    I Love street photography. Just wish i could make money out of it.

  • Just like to say thank you . If i had not got the e mil news from the OCA I would not have found HOT SHOE . I love it. .
    I Love street photography. Just wish I could make money out of it. must work on portraits more.

  • I do not understand why everyone feels that they must be a critic,why is it that we cannot just put our work forward,explain our meaning for taking the pictures,without someone trashing them.Why? do people feel that what they have the ability to do,makes them better than others.It seems to me,that there are to many self made critics.What i feel is,that people should be able to submit,what they themselves are proud of having done,then given praise for it,not have there spirits lowered by some pompos CRITIC.

    • “Critique” doesn’t mean trashing. It means explaining your work in my own terms, placing it in the midst of a broader photographic history/trend/process. Think of it as feedback. Using specialist terms, artistic critique terms, is not being pompous. It is just using the vocabulary that has been put together to perform this critical task. A mechanics is not being pompous if he talks about “internal combustion engine” instead of “bits of metal that go Bang and pushes your car forward”.

  • Why get hung up on whether the language should be using words specific to art or just plain English; the photograph itself should be appreciated first and foremost and the language should be such that no matter your level of snobbery it should add a meaning that can also be appreciated.

  • I checked in again and I couldn’t check out, too many things to think about, lines of thought to tease out, arguments to consider and time to reflect. I have to say, this is a lively debate and it just goes to show that you don’t have to be face to face to get lively -of the use emoticons, tone, style all reveal something of the contributors.
    I am going to look into getting some feedback from some industry people on artists statements and will post feedback. It would be good if something concrete came out of this discussion such as some pointers/tips on writing artists statements. Let me do a bit of research and get back to you. And Christophe, I want to get back to you on a few points, as I think we are singing from the same sheet… and by the way, I studied photography, I have written my own artist statement, text for personal work and also for other people, so I think I can see it from both sides. I still make personal work, even though I went over to the “dark” side:) and work with photographers under the group Tri-pod http://www.tri-pod.co.uk, where we look at research and development of ideas. Anyway, I’ll check back in and respond to the points made by anned etc.
    It’s all good for the brain cells…

  • Hi all. I found this most educating to what I need to know. And as I use LinkedIn the same way. Its not until you call for help or throw a spanner in the works, Do you get people waking up, doing some research, And coming up with answers. The above is what I was looking for, I could not find that info on the net my self. Has helped what I need to conduct my course. And to promote work.
    thank you. 🙂

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