Saturn Devouring His Son. 1819-1823. Francisco Goya.

All of my current research is leading me to look at painters and fine artists for aesthetic context. In the main, this is instead of photographers. Defiantly so. I’ve explained why I’ve made this choice in more detail elsewhere in this Journal. But, at it’s core, it is a choice to stay away from photographic references in order that I might find a voice for my FMP. Nothing is original these days, but its important to me to go through this process as free from influence and suggestion as possible. I am interested in what I might discover in the present as part of THIS enquiry. Free from comparison or the academic need to find some kind of photographic lineage. Instead, I am looking at genres that might broaden my aesthetic ideas and which take me back to earlier, formative motivations.

So I am soaking up Caravaggio, Bacon and, this week, Goya (among others). And the image above struck home. I can read it as an aesthetic reflection of what I’ve been making these past few weeks, and as an allegory for my current creative journey. One which seems to be self-consuming what/who I thought I was as a photographer alongside the direction I thought my project was moving in but which has had to be definitively altered.

The aesthetic resonances with my recent images can also be seen: the use of an isolated figure in the activity of eating, lit directly by on-camera flash with little to no lighting technique or artifice. Almost a kind of amateur snapshot aesthetic which, like Goya’s painting, places the viewer right in the midst of the activity as it is happening, as if just discovered/revealed.

UNTITLED. James Bellorini, August 2020.

This provides a hyper-direct, forensic feel to the work which helps to blur the line between fact and fiction. Images have a theatricality and yet retain the gravity of reality. Though our subject matter differs greatly, I see this approach like some kind of mirror of Weegees’ photojournalism-as-theatre. Lucid moments caught in the inquisitorial exposure of harsh, revelatory flashlight.

Untitled, c.1940s. Image © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

What is important to me in terms of my project work, is that I have arrived at this approach through a sequence of necessary, visceral personal responses. Yes, I’ve used it before elsewhere in a limited way, but it wasn’t the right use of technique married with subject. I’ve been hunting for a visual approach that supports the thematic content and this current approach feels like it might be something that speaks. I hope so. If this work doesn’t communicate and meets with the same austerity of response that previous work has been met with, then I’m blasted because I don’t have much more to give.

So, to refer back to Goya’s painting, it seems I am in a process of eating my practice, reabsorbing it, and perhaps defecating it in a new form?


Fortenberry, D. and Morrill R. (Ed.). 2018. Flying Too Close To The Sun. London: Phaidon Press Ltd.

Weegee. 1945. Naked City. (2nd Ed). New York, Da Capo Press.