EYV Part 5 Research – Quentin Bajac

Quentin Bajac is the chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art.

In his interview with Philip Gefter, (Bajac 2017), he talks about ‘intention versus perception’ in photography. He says: ‘What you produce in the end will probably be quite different from the initial idea. This is what photography is about.’ He continues: ‘some photographers remain really stiff and rigid. They have the idea. They just want to illustrate the idea. And, then you have the opposite photographers who go out to shoot without any preconceived idea and then, afterwards, try to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and construct something from their images.’

My interpretation of this is that a photographer should be open to seeing things differently, to changing their mind and allowing ideas to develop depending on what they see on a shoot. This might be a response to light, or other natural circumstances, or it may be opportunity or that the images don’t come out as expected.

In my post EYV Exercise 4.2 Natural Light (part 3) I describe how I had intended one morning to take pictures in the soft foggy light that is often found at a particular spot locally. The bright clear light that I actually found made me re-think my plans very quickly, and taught me a lot in the process:

‘Further to my considerations of the work of Sally Mann, Michael Schmidt and Trent Parke, for exercise 4.2, I stumbled upon a bright clear day one weekend when I had hoped for soft diffused light. I was forced to re-consider my morning’s photography quite abruptly, to re-look at the light and formulate an alternative approach. I continued with my plans but, instead of the soft, foggy images I had in mind, I began to notice the way in which this unusual early February light brought out the contrasts and shadows and textures in the lovely countryside environment.’

Bajac’s comments put me in mind of Eamonn McCabe, sports photographer and presenter of the TV series (Britain in Focus 2017). In part two of the series, he recalls the day in May 1985 when he went as sports photographer to the European cup final between Liverpool and Juventus. Charging fans caused a crush that caused a wall to collapse, and 39 people were killed.

He says he ‘went into news photographer mode – what is going on? What is the story?’ He said he ‘shot everything he could since his job now was to record those terrible scenes.’ McCabe said ‘he came here as a  sports photographer, and left as a news photographer’ (Britain in Focus 2017).

This clearly is extreme and dramatic but it shows how events and the environment impacted on McCabe’s initial ideas. His initial idea turned to something else completely because of what happened that day. He won an award for his photographs of the incident.


Bajac, Quentin (2017). View from a Judgment Seat – Aperture Foundation NY. [online] Available at: http://aperture.org/blog/view-judgment-seat-quentin-bajac-conversation-philip-gefter/ (Accessed 25 Mar. 2017).

 Britain in focus (2017) (TV Programme)


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