I originally wrote this to try and encourage the students to do research into other artists and to explain to them why researching is so important and wondered if you, humble reader, might be interested to read it too!

I frequently hear them moaning about having to do this and complaining that it is not relevant for what they are doing.  “NOT RELEVANT” I shout….”NOT RELEVANT” I shout again.  Sometimes repeating a shout really drives that message home.

So I pondered the question of how to get them interested and decided that the only way was to make it relevant to them in some way…namely link it to Dubstep…


Whilst at a festival a few years ago (I can’t recall which, probably Bestival) – there was an outdoor stage that pretty much had Dubstep DJ’s playing solidly all day and night.  All the usual faces where there playing what you would expect.  I am more than happy to dabble in a bit of dubstep, but was more excited when the legendary Jah Shakka Sound-system took to the stage as the sun was vanishing on the Sunday evening.  For those who don’t know – Jah Shakka is probably the King of the dub sound-system.

Where am I going with this…well…as Jah Shakka took to the stage and dropped his first heavy dub track, the MC took to the Mic and said:

Dubstep, Dubstep, Dubstep.  Their ain’t no DUB in dubstep!

I thought it was quite amusing – the old hands having a little pop at the new kids on the block.


So why did I feel the need to recount this pointless sounding story to you?  Well, not to have a pop at dubstep but to highlight the importance of research!  I think it is an interesting metaphor for how you should really be aware of what came before you.  This knowledge then allows you to develop and move things on whilst referencing and using the advances that have come before you.  Music is a great illustration of this point and lets take Dubstep as an example.

So, from my by no means expert knowledge – Reggae Dub and Dub soundsystems have been around for decades and original roots dub and reggae fed into the development of Dance-hall.  In the UK the development of a Dub sound has been in the dance music scene for some time with pioneers on labels like Warp making very bass heavy tunes in the early 90′s and early Prodigy tracks also featuring these sounds and influences.  From this melting pot dance genre’s like Big Beat, Breakbeat and of course D&B emerged which primarily came from Bristol and London and were a very uniquely British sound but heavily influenced by other music genres from the world over – especially dub.  The 2-Step and Grime scenes in London also fused some of these sounds and began to experiment with mixing different styles to see what came out.
Put all these influences together and you arrive at Dubstep.

So, given that history – to like Dubstep and not give any time to it’s origins would be a very foolish thing to do!  It would be to cut off the arms of influence that came together to create it in the first place!  I would argue that anyone who likes Dubstep and doesn’t also listen to Dub is massively missing out on arguably the biggest influence on the genre.


Now – you could say I am biased on account of being a massive Reggae fan.  For me Reggae and Dub are up there with the finest forms of music conceived and I am not sure I trust anyone who doesn’t like a bit of Dub on a summer afternoon!  So, before going further – for those who are still ignorant to the amazing world of Dub – here are some choice selections to wet your appetite!

1) Jah Shaka Sound-system from the film Babylon (1981)

(Incidentally – Babylon is a film set in London all about the struggles of the Black working classes in the late 70′s / early 80′s – all set within a backdrop of Reggae!  Genius viewing!).

2) Augustus Pablo – Rockers Dub

Augustus Pablo is a true genius of Dub – this track is from an album called original Rockers from 1979 which is one of the all time great Dub albums.

3) Finally…Eek A Mouse – Wa Do Dem

So there you have it – a selection of fine Dub!


So, I guess my point is that research is a vital part of any pursuit in life.  In Art, I would argue it is vital to look at and take influence from other artists and creatives working not just in the medium you have chosen – but from the full spectrum of artistic pursuits.  I often hear people exclaiming that research is boring or pointless or that they don’t need to do it – but that is just not true.

Imagine if a scientist did not do any research into those who had worked before them?  It would mean they would have to start from scratch with any new idea  they wanted to explore.  Imagine someone designing a new car, if they did not research and look at the cars that had already been designed and made, they would have to invent and design every single part of it from scratch!  Inventing the engine, wheels, electronics, lights, gears etc etc etc.  Obviously that is exaggerating the point – but you see where I am going!

However – there is an actual scientific term for this, but sadly it escapes me!  BUT I can direct you instead to an artist who has worked with this principal.  Thomas Thwaites tried to build a toaster from scratch.  Really from scratch – from smelting his own iron ore which he got from austral wright metals. He’s making wires and circuit, the casing for it to go in, all the workings etc etc etc.  He called it The Toaster Project and you can read more here. Obviously a crazy idea, but interesting way to highlight this concept and the amount of work that actually goes into something as simple as a toaster.
The same applies to art (or anything in life in fact!).  If you are interested in street photography, then you should look at artists who have and are making images from the street.  You should also look at other street artists, architects, graphic designers, sculptures, painters etc etc.  All the visual learning and knowledge you get from that research will then inspire and progress  your own work.  You are building on the visual language they have already explored.

Anyway, before this turns into a lecture – I think I should stop!  But take heed and do your research

As a parting gift to any aspiring Photographers – here are three people who I find myself studying again and again as their work blows my mind!




You have probably heard of them all and for good reason – they are all genius in their own right!

Joel Sternfeld – is an American who was one of the pioneers of colour photography at a time when anything that wasn’t B&W was frowned upon.  His look at the landscape and how it has been affected by man is not only interesting but the images he makes are stunning.

Martin Parr– one of the most famous and influential British photographers and a hugely important figure for Photography as a whole.  Parr has a unique style and is a master at the decisive moment – capturing scenes that sum up Britishness in a way nobody else can quite achieve.

Lee Friendlander – In my mind, the God of composition!
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