In what ways can a photographic practice empower the high street artisan?

Clegg, Ian Kenneth (2022) In what ways can a photographic practice empower the high street artisan? Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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I have observed through my advertising practice in art direction and photography that artisan businesses were compromised by the absence of a bespoke process to create
photography that larger clients are offered through the traditional channels of advertising. It was clear these creative processes are based on relationships with bigger clients, frequently falling short for small high street artisan businesses trying to succeed in a changing environment, challenged by economic turndown and online selling.

The lack of a practical solution to this problem developed into the first enquiry; if artisans had easy access to tailored procedures, could they combine with a realigned photographic practice to re-negotiate their position in the high street? Secondly, could these procedures be fulfilled through a straightforward vehicle laying out specific methods of photographic engagement?

To facilitate the research questions, I designed a methodological strategy of mixed methods that align and support the ideas of practice solutions, delivering practical photographic
outcomes. The practice-based research focuses on a sample of three artisan case studies from Ulverston, Cumbria. A collaborative methodology sets the scene for the relationship between the artisan and photographer. Co-production methods are the specific components which contribute to the shaping of the photography. The whole process is a collaboration, with cocreation components that lead and guide the photographer to make the individual creative images.

The theoretical framing of the literature combines with the methods to inform the research and the outcome of a vehicle. Images made through these routes are interrogated using De Saussure’s (1900s) theory of semiotics and Barthes’s additions (1960s) alongside Bate’s (2000s), perspective that considers the changing digital landscape of the ‘new’ high street. Application of a modification of Flusser’s (2002) process theory supports the photographer and the artisan’s intents.

The mixed-method approach is a new way of working for artisans and photographers. A creative procedure allowing expression of the artisan’s intent. There are three key new
methods. Firstly, photo-elicitation, where the client is given a camera to define their business’s story; which is not standard advertising photographic practice. However, in the
research, this method enables an understanding of the intent of the artisan. Secondly, the cocreation of a briefing sheet, which advertising agencies use as an independent document, uniquely the research shares it between photographer and artisan revealing and giving shape to joint intentions. Thirdly, the design analysis document, based on the advertising agency ‘branding document’, used by the creative teams, re-aligned as a collaborative tool created by the photographer and artisan for ongoing project assessment. These processes combine to inform the photographer, leading to the execution of the photography.

Output from these investigations is a user-friendly book encapsulating new collaborative methods of engagement, which create effective photographic outcomes. Empowering artisans to strengthen their place in a changing high street.

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