VC05_B06 – Terry Barrett


The objective of this activity is to enhance understanding of the classification system devised by Terry Barrett.

 The Activity:

Terry Barrett devised a classificatory system for photographic images and divided them into six categories.  The six categories are:

  •  Descriptive
  • Explanatory
  • Interpretive
  • Ethically evaluative
  • Aesthetically evaluative
  • Theoretical

Your activity is to conduct a web search and identify an example of two of the six photographic categories identified by Barrett and comment on how they represent the identified category. There are many books and websites that discuss this system in depth.  As you will learn this system is very useful for thinking about images, their use and critiquing them. Because of the nature of the system, which category each image fits into largely depends on the viewer and some images will fit into multiple categories. For the purpose of the assessment you must document why your chosen images represent the chosen category.  It is part of the assessment that you reference all images correctly.

Allow about 2 hours to complete this activity.


Post the two images on your blog accompanied by the relevant commentary/explanations for assessment.



I must admit that I hadn’t heard of Terry Barrett before this task.  I think that this is because I have always taken photography as a very personal thing, and not really felt secure enough to criticise another photographers images.

However, I can certainly see that dividing images into separate styles and using definitions within those to determine the quality of a photo has a lot of merit as a system.

Oh, how I love my good and dear friend Yahoo search to find images that fall within these definition, and see what appeals on a personal level.  I am struck by the thought that this exercise will give me some insight into my own style and how it is developing as I study and learn.

After a bit of research and looking at some truly beautiful images, I find myself drawn to two styles consistently


1.  Ethically Evaluative

These are images that makes a judgemental statement on our own society in some way,  images that are designed to bring attention or raise awareness to an issue.  Often these are personal projects of photographers, although in  many cases they are commissioned by others.


Salgado’s iconic images of the dreadful conditions in and around Sao Paolo, Brazil spring to mind, so very emotive, so disturbing and such a damning indictment on our society that will allow such treatment of the poor by the affluent, simply to help them become more affluent and the destruction of a peoples entire way of life and place to live it.  Without these images, I doubt that many people would even be aware of how much of Brazil is mined, and the environment and peoples crushed underfoot of large corporations greed.



[ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 09 January 2014].

This image displays so many of the requirements for ethically evaluative.  It is a plea for decent working conditions, a demonstration of danger experienced by so many that are attempting to eke out a living, it portrays the sheer magnitude of this environmental and human tragedy. The use of monochrome does detract a little, in my opinion, as it makes it difficult to realise that this process is current, happening to these people NOW, although the tones created do give a sombre and depressing feel to the image.


Image 2

The other category that I find myself returning to again and again is descriptive photography, that which is an accurate record of an item, an event, a person.  I think this photography style appeals to me because of my background as the family record keeper.  special events and special things deserve to have a place in our memories, and accurate depictions are important for that.

Also, as an engineer, I am driven by accuracy.  My art preferences have always tended towards the more traditional depictions, although my studies have led to a deep and abiding appreciation and love for more modern interpretive forms, I return again and again to classics for my inspiration and pleasure.

But for pure historical accuracy, I return to my engineer roots, periscope photography is an important part of submarine warfare, it is used for information gathering, confirmation of targets, both acquired and killed and, as such is one of the most essential skills in the arsenal of a periscope operator.

I am reminded of an incident on an wargame against the US navy pacific fleet, where an Australian submarine was tasked to gather intelligence on the location of several of the largest ships.  That evening ashore, the US officers were drinking after debrief when the Australian crew entered, upon which they were roundly criticised for not being able to find an aircraft carrier, as they hadn’t been seen the entire duration of the game.

The officer in charge of the periscope drew several polaroids (yes, this is a while ago) of not only the aircraft carrier, but also its propellors squared within the crosshairs of the targeting array.  Under wargame rules of engagement, this constitutes a confirmed kill, and the submarine had found, tracked, and escaped, all without being seen.  Without the images from the periscope, there would have been no evidence to support the claim.  The images are legendary among the Australian submarine community.

This image is NOT one of them, but is a more modern version taken from an accurate simulation (because I don’t want the ADF police knocking on my door).  As can be seen from this image, detail, clarity and information to be recorded are absolutely vital, and a photograph is an ideal way to keep all of this information together.


[REL] Optical Targeting Correction – SUBSIM Radio Room Forums. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 09 January 2014].



I am unsure as to how I got this far along my photography journey without hearing about Terry Barrett.  However, his methods resonate with the way that I think when I look at images, and I shall be studying him further to help refine and define my own image making.

I particularly feel that this knowledge will be of great help in all facets of my photography, from how I compose and capture an image (what classification I want it to fall under will help define the crop, focus and subject matter), through post production and even what materials I use for reproduction.



About Rattimoth

Middle aged with freckles, the rest is subject to change without notice.
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