PHO704: Week 2: Research – Contextual

Module Constraints

My best work, continues to fall down the gaps, as the flashes of creativity experienced have so far occurred in natural order, in very close proximity to module start dates but not close enough to qualify for publication. As a continued source of frustration, I’ve tried to slow down to coordinate with study module dates.  Potentially, what has happened is that inspiration is drawn from within, without necessarily referencing the Module content, only due to circumstance


Having got the above out into the open, let me turn to two areas a) the continuing development of practice in Abstract Impressionism, and b) the following up of advice to simply continue shooting, following one’s intuition.

 Abstract Expressionism

 Stage I Art

This is the area in which I initially linked the beauty of the bodily healing processes to soldiers from the family who were wounded, and repaired and who repeatedly continued on into battle in the Great War.

Let me see if I can illustrate developments. Initially, I’d concentrated on impressions from the battlefield alongside the soldiers perspective on memories of home.  My initial technique was Conceptual in using relevant images of colour and texture that in my artistic judgement provided scope for post-processing into the abstract. I preferred methods, including pixel stretching. Both vertical direction, representational of the environmental conditions and horizontal, representational of the landscape. Then combined, there is a layered intent similar in form to patterning found in Scottish tartan that might be missed by the viewer but conveniently supports the underlying Scottish theme.

This is just a base level of processing into image layers. These are then recombined with the original image in which line edge effects are enhanced. As required,  layers are hand-painted using masks. The impact I obtained at first I found to be visually stunning. Through planned shooting, I had a wealth of relevant images within my personal catalogue. Overshooting proved necessary as the success rate can be low as not all source images provide enough inspiration for abstraction.

This was the first area of creativity excluded by the course. However, the technique was well practised and is available to reuse,. Having said that it does take time to read the base image and in the application of skill when applying post techniques.  Often, and in favour of the work, the methods are not wholly repeatable. If I worked the same image again, the outcome would be different. I like that in this digital age. Although not a deliberate act of destructive editing, practically to resolve this, it might take a video recording of the creation process to accurately capture the steps.

 Stage II Art

This is the next development in abstraction, and by chance, I discovered that post-processing colour beta value and applying simplification recreated an effect I’d long ago practised and had enjoyed. As I photograph minor trauma concerning mitochondrial DNA as the cellular powerhouse and generational link and do so in terms of the beauty of bodily healing, I find this technique can work really well in bringing out a healing glow alongside a feeling of layering and looking into the image. I like this direction a lot. One or two copies have immediately given this result. As experimentation continued, other trauma made for highly saturated representations of colours.  An outcome obtained here is in drawing out areas of interest that the eye alone would miss. The camera records surface features and layers in post-processing that we do not ordinarily see. Again there is the same channelling of post-processing towards destructive editing.

Two more steps to go. The first relates to potential garishness in colour saturation which is not readily eliminated. A jury is out for me on this, but I may use this as a signature theme. Otherwise, I should experiment in further degrees of subtleness.  In this sense, the image continues as a crafted piece of work, which I think adds to its value.

The second step is possibly reasonably intuitive, which is to cross, that is combine, stage I and stage II art. In fact, this has now been tried, and I like the outcome as it does tone down colour saturation which can overwhelm the senses. In retrospect that could be quite representational of any hurt suffered. The crossing does give the mellowing effect and refinement I thought I was looking for. Either way, there is no loss from learning how to control an image.


There are challenges when photographing even minor trauma not least in my project, is getting relatives onside. As a photographer, I’m more acutely aware of those minor accidents to self as they can hurt. Now instead of saying ouch and moving on, I immediately go for the camera, and as a person, my reaction has already been conditioned to this.  The challenge is in photographing when a position may be challenging to deal with. There are circumstances where a smartphone camera is ideal, yet pixel resolution might show. Turning to macro techniques increases the challenges already faced as equipment becomes cumbersome and unwieldy in the circumstances.  Problem-solving though is a part of photography to be enjoyed, isn’t it?

Image Audit

Not mentioned thus far, I feel I need to instigate a method of auditing from original file through to abstract. Earlier techniques were non-destructive, and most of the working could be preserved in saved layers, but no longer is this the case. I do need an audit method even if only for my own sanity if publishing later on.

Developments in Ongoing Shooting – the intuitive  part

This topic ran parallel to my project and welcomed as it gives another frame of comparative reference compared to abstracting images of trauma.

This also hopefully demonstrate I’m active in photography in other ways throughout the current module.

Lending Support

I had an interlude photographing trees or large shrubs where gravity was getting the better of them, where the intervention of a gardener meant metal supports were provided. I found a temple garden where this was common.  The plants flourished as nature adapted to the support provided. An initial motivation in the shooting was around the interesting triangular composition. This evolved into observations of how successful the ways are in which the assistance was provided. Then I tried to liken this to the support society gives to those in need. Thus a parallel is opened on a social or political comment.

The photographs were the first pass, and as the lighting was bright and contrasty. I would need to return with cloudier skies with more even light to obtain the desired exposure.

 National Charity Engagement

This is an area I previously mentioned in a tutor group and which was viewed as a  good thing in providing a backup project if the current work cannot proceed for one reason or another. It was also advised I be wary of being used as a photographer to the charities own ends.

Preliminary test shots were made, and I was due to go back when the time was right – here note the earlier comment about progressing a little too soon.  Meanwhile, though, I managed to have a long discussion with one of the volunteers who was very helpful. I’d talked in terms of continued interest. And during our discussion, various narratives unfolded although at least one I’m sure I’d seen in their publicity somewhere.  I gained a broader understanding of how I might embed. Without causing interference to the working processes. No further photographs have been taken at this stage.

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