Exercise · Tear sheet of Shield’s image · Football boys

A reflection on Shield’s photo after the analysis.

Shields, The football boys, 2002

Shields, The football boys, 2002

First an interlude and interesting twist about this photo after speaking directly via email to the photographer:

Respond from Martin Shields: “Hi there, the picture you are talking about was taken for The Evening Times newspaper in Glasgow where I worked as  staff photographer. The original picture of the boys was taken in a different location to the houses in the background. The montage was done by the picture editor to give it a more dramatic effect. All of these old buildings are now all demolished. The date it was taken would be around the publication date…” (Shields, 2019) [1]

Questions and additional reflections based on the tear sheet ‘football boys’

Before reading the text I had already deconstructed the image. It did relate although what I noticed is that the perception changed as I looked more at the image and then later when I studied the text, as mentioned below. My initial reading was more ambiguous and undefined whereas later I saw more concretely (although don’t agree that there is an a precise connotational match with the text of the article).

I would say that the change is produced by reading the text, yes. Primarily it is the difference between anchorage and relay. The text began more as a relay text that could be loosely defined and thought about without too much pinpointing. Later the image become more definite in relation to the text anchoring the context. This produces a change in my perception that felt less ambiguous and more definite even though the image did not meet exactly what my mind had conjured up, when reading about poor housing in working class Glaswegian environments.


I thought it interesting to reflect a bit more on the story in the photo and what the actual situation is that it represents in relation to the connotational elements and the denotive inferred aspects that have already been discussed in the exercise.

Essentially the article relates to the poor housing situation of a Glaswegian suburb and the fact that there is a take over bid by a private housing association as the council do not have the funds to renovate and improve the squalid conditions of the properties. This would entail investment that local government does not have.

It is curious to me that Shield’s produced an image of these two boys or rather that the publication chose an image of these two boys to talk about a topic that has to do with housing rather than community.

There was debate going on within the council as to wether this would mark the end to council housing in Scotland thus pushing up rent prices which obviously will have implications for the poor.

The photo in itself does not address directly poor housing, we have to assume the connection somehow between the houses in the background and the boys walking with their backs to the camera. The approach is indirect. What I feel when I see the image is a working class poverty situation that is reminiscent of some of the image we saw in the ‘exit group’ portfolio whereby inner city poverty was highlighted. My thoughts on this are various.

The general public will see this image and I believe be able to make sense of it. The image is not overtly connecting to the theme (poor quality housing) whereby one could perhaps show run down and damp

Chris Steel-Perkins, Glasgow

properties in Glasgow such as the image by Chris Steel Perkins who brings in more overtly the denotive and connative (indexical) elements to his photo that speak much more clearly about the theme of poor housing in Glasgow. The theme in Shield’s image is alluded to. This makes it both interesting but some how a bit disconnected from the story in the text.

If I had been a photo editor and had to chose between these two images I would of chosen the shot by Steel-perkins over that of Shields by a long shot. Having said that I find the image by Shields to be one with punctum.


  1. Shields, M. (2019) Re: The football boys photo [email sent to Steven Young, 10th December, 2019]


Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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