PHO702: Weeks 1 to 12 Development Project

Weeks 4 to 12

Although the blog may appear to have a gap, I discover I had written in two blog posts on this topic – here is the WebPage URL for the parallel post. Also, I did in fact become very busy in my image making and development of technique. Throughout this period I was conflicted over colour versus sombre black and white wthe latter I found difficult to accept until taking onboard the Death of the Author as predicted by Barthes. As reviewers took more to the black and white images I gave up resisting the obvioius move from colour.

During these weeks I made over 350 images. The photographs alone are not complete as I processed them individually through the digital darkroom to extract glow from the mix of reflected light, penetrating light that reflects from internal structure and residual Infra Red emission from wound or from body impression.

I’d adopted the latter after a slow winter start. However, various minor incidents including from sport then the warmer weather, all contributed to a deluge of photographs.

During this time I refined the control of lighting in taking photographs as now I was voluntarily following clinical guidelines. Colour casts in shadows in earlier photographs contributed to the range of vibrant colours my initial images became known for.

I also returned from a Face to Face meeting at Falmouth University. Through the Institute of Photography there I got to work with 35mm and 4 by 5 large format film. I also did a session of Mamiya Leaf digital medium format, but it was the film processing that led to my digital work moving over to processing of “image strips”. This led to greater consistency between images so from a set of 5 images 2 or 3 were likely to go together, I found. This was an amazing step forward from the classic single abstract image I used to obtain for my efforts. This helped too as the number of photographs in a portfolio has steadily increased, now standing at 20 images.

Another aspect researched is the use of artificial intelligence software in the form of a Topaz Gigapixel AI plug-in to help scale my small scale photographic subject to the large scale I now would need to meet the d of the Art as an Experience approach exemplified in Mark Rothko’s work I have been looking ever closer at. I’m getting there, but ultimately is a 3 minute of arc resolution for human sight with sensor and printer resoltutions may lead to a viewer standing back to see the image in which case the enveloping experience will be lost. This is an ongoing challenge.

Following an initiative between the EllisHall Gallery in Amsterdam and the University at Falmouth, I decided to re-purpose some photography from the intersectionof man and nature I’d made originally for a =n Instagram takeover. That work is now part of the initial website that is being created. Although an aside to my abstract expressionistic work, it did serve to re-inforce a principle. I had decided to use a commercial plug-in filter and generated a painterly look I enjoy (and so too others). However, I prefer to use my own bespoke settings over the ready made.

I guess this was aimed at extending work from the set of single abstract images to a body of work. After the Falmouth visit this had been overtaken by now processing digital images as a strip of images.

A very fruitful time, especially considering the high demands of reading art history alongside learning principles of critical review. The saving grace was in finding application to current practice. So too was obtaining an Amazon Prime account and giving in and buying books that proved tricky to access otherwise. Many of these are standard works and should serve well in the rest of the course. This has been a very demanding period and progress has only been maintained by a strict policy of placing priority on the MA Photography course over (almost) all else.

Week 3 Making Work

There has been an occurrence of injury this week, this being the first in three weeks of the current module. The injury was not my own but related and in tune with the theme of my practice.

As always, biological hereditary connection is key and for the subject photographed their line diverges.

As a development, starting this week, the title, Sons of the Matriarchy is used to simplify mapping to those caught up in a past major world events.

All three tiers of my work are exercised and as experiment these images are subject to future edit. The square format as in the last module helps unite. However, as presented here it is possible for images to work against each other. An intention of an edit will include placing images, as yet to finished and selected, in a straight line horizontal layout.

Healing variations

These images are what they are, what derives from following the direction an image wants to move in whilst guided by the themes held in the authors mind. At this stage no control has been exercised over colour grading, a key element of development picked up during the previous module.

As a strategy I’d like to create the next set of images on an extended canvas. In the digital darkroom, any process step applied would apply to all. I cant say it would help gain consistency.

Week 2 Making Work

I started making work and prior to the weekly Tutor review had not quite got this far. Prompted by the meeting and seeing progress has been made by others I put down the reading of which there has been much and re-entered the digital Darkroom. Here is the first work I’m reasonably pleased with. 

I have a subject hierarchy:

  • Trauma (healing)
  • Life’s Glow (life’s force)

When there is no trauma and during winter inactivity there has been none during term time, then there is no subject matter. Work then moves to a second level as complement usually or substitute. The kind of starting image I wanted was sparse. Both these methods maintain authenticity as the biology still underlies the imagery. What is viewable is trace from subject to photograph to image. Key is that the digital sensor sees where the eye does not pick up information. Colour is from within the photograph at levels that are low and brought out. I sometimes think by analogy how insect vision may have a much more lurid colour palette.

During this week I picked up on aspects of the Alumni projects and my work added another level. I capture Physical trace of marking on self, captured before it subsides (a footprint in the sand ready to be washed away). The added potency here is the action being fleetingly captured is meant to be analogous to photography – normally reflected light from the subject leaves an indexical trace in the photograph.

So now a third level / option as abstract and body/skin remains as subject

  • impression as image capture.

Inspiration came from an Alumni presentation I saw of portraiture with mask then as face markings then another presentation of photograms of bee material as a contact method. From these if it is possible to follow we arrive at body contact/impression as analogy of indexicality.

Body contact / impression

PHO702: Week 11 Practice and Preparation 2

Needless to say, effort turned to practice and preparation rather than blogging about it as three (heavy) assignments needed to be prepared.

As I discovered from earlier course modules, this is where the deadlines loom and as the work goes into the melting pot alongside the multitude of readings and course learnings then work starts to alter again. Up until this point in a module we have the luxury of testing out ideas in a reasonably relaxed manner, taking onboard as much review critique as is available. Suddenly, in a flash of inspiration the hard lessons are learned and put into practice. For my work this meant giving up flagship colour work infavour of black and white imagery that was getting increasingly better readings.

Also too, I find I the experts get to the point rather quickly and I now recognise the essence of advice where before I was confounded by my own personal interpretation. I’m glad to be changing in my outlook and as a result I at least feel I am making great strides in progress.

In the lead to this point I have engaged fully in the video presentations. At first I thought I was perhaps helping others and quickly began to realise that engagement was helping me as much as anyone else. I had so many reminders of recent lessons we’d been taught.

I did seem to get into a controversy at antoehr couple of places on the course. One involved views on censorship that I left open to different interpretation – you can’t do that without repercussion or should I say lively debate.

Another point of controversy related to a stubborn I suppose resistance to adopting ideas of Mark Rothko. What is was, was my work had become highly emotionally taxing at the beginning of the course and it was only through abstraction that I felt I could carry the work. Various superstitions had crossed my path and then I started to learn of those with highly creative minds who finally decided to depart this world through suicide. Whilst for example I appreciated the work of Mark Rothko, did I really want to follow in his steps when I prefer to create y ideas independently and did not want it affected by issues of suicide that in no way fitted with the spirit of those whom I relate to in my commemorative work.

Ultimately I needed to take inspiration from Rothko, and I remain satisfied that if my practice again becomes overwhelmingly taxing emotionally, I do have other projects I can turn to that are much less demanding in that respect.

PHO702: Assessment Period 2 – Christmas 2018

Note to self on visual side: return and add photographs selected as time permits – it has been a surprisingly busy period.

I had established a way forward in my first module on a Commemorative Historical project based on ancestors and common land of upbringing and livelihood. I had lived here as a child and shared in the culture. The project with its visits created renewed cultural connection. A deep sense of emotional tie resulted that now at times borders on being overwhelming.

As my work moved towards the end of my first module it changed form from Close-up photography mixed with Conceptual work.

Why did the project change?

It was clear that by the Final Major Project FMP stage there would be difficulty in sustaining the work. That’s not to say the work cannot complete satisfactorily in its original form – an illustrated book narrative had been the plan.

A challenge related to the Conceptual work. I transformed the cultural home location colour and texture, into attempts at atmospheric scenes from a far location in the theatre of war: scenes from the trenches and memories of home.

I’d practiced a method of abstraction that gave horizontal and vertical treatment to photographs of place, of being or of artefact. Edges might be added back in, for form.

I quite enjoyed the work insofar as my own needs were concerned. It seemed quite inspired and especially creative.

I was using ideas from filmmaking that were not felt to hold true to photographic work. In filmmaking you might stage a scene near London that represents Norway. Whilst this fits in with the storyline the equivalent in photography can be challenged in terms of authenticity. Perhaps now I understand in terms of Barthes, “a photograph is a record of something that has been” or words to that effect.

Both Close-up and Conceptual work had been carefully devised to overcome constraints of resource of time, cost, travel. Originally the work being made as a way of supporting an historical text narrative.

So how did the project change?

A style evolved of colour or saturation processing to create highly colourful and vivid work and sits alongside other more muted but glowing images.

The change occurred around assignment hand-in time, as these fresh ideas were sparked. This took the work to a different level. This had the purpose of connecting living individuals to specific others and narratives from the past. Given records of wounding and repeated return to action, connections are made across 100 years or more by abstracting starting photographs of minor everyday trauma.

The viewer is presented with sets of strikingly colourful images. A subset follows a red theme from my earlier Poppies are Red … project.

There is a process of identification with the past that helps to sort of bring it back to life. As descendants including the author have different degrees of connection to the particular ancestors, then we identify with specific individuals and narratives of their lives in a way that we can contrast and compare with.

This led to a Project “Poppies are Red …” and the limited trials I did on my photographs led in the direction of red themes which tied in with the theme and the project name.

The project for a while took on the title Life’s Glow.

With areas of minor trauma there is obtained a degree of visual structure to the work. The camera sensor is capable of detecting IR. In my work I bring down the colour before bringing it back in and in doing so appear to raise the level of glow within a photograph.

This uncovers visual aspects not seen by the eye alone and lead to a fascination surrounding the effects

Two methods of abstraction had resulted during the unfolding of the work. Now these can be combined where it makes visual sense. In one example this contains otherwise wildly saturated colours.

The effect of shadow:

When drawing colour back into an image, having deliberately drained it, I noticed an effect due to shadow. Shadow seems to alter the direction of the colour as it is brought back, perhaps having altered the low level hue which then goes off in its own direction.

I’m now in a position of continuing with refinement. This becomes necessary for reasons of visual consistency across the portfolio. In drawing comparisons with a painter and an abstract practitioners my work needs to to gain a level of improvement. Or at least that is what I seek.

Refinement is necessary to enable any move from a book context to a gallery context. What is acceptable in one medium may not be scalable to the other.

In retrospect it occurred to the author that a magical connection was being made that helped fill gaps in communication from those early years as a child.

In summary:

Stories of deep personal sadness and loss had been held back by surviving relatives. Individuals who were missing amongst them as contemporaries did not gain mention. Now those gaps are being filled and so their lives are not forgotten.

Where my Practice is Now

At the start of my third module I consider where my practice is now and that is in the genre of Abstract Impressionism. As new photographic work recently evolved, that remains within my chosen subject area, for me it is down to a process of refinement. I work to enhance scale, control colour and finish. I am on a trajectory of developing a personal style and I continue to match the standards of other practitioners I connect with be they painters or photographers.

Image Success

In terms of successful images and not so successful images, the early images were the most creative and tidy. Some images were made after the previous Module submission and so were new work made in the last break. However, a ruling that work had to be made from the first day of the new Module, meant some of my most creative work was out of scope, sadly. With these images my Portfolio edit may have strengthened. It would have strengthened as the reshooting and digital darkroom work did not result in the same level of creative images.

As I rely on everyday minor trauma, it would be unethical to deliberately cause damage. If there is no subject material for a while then there is no material. In these times I concentrate on portraying Life’s Force and the glow that we emit as means of identifying with those in the past.

My work is such that the steps in the digital darkroom cannot be repeated (without recording every step on video) so each image is unique. When I reshot, the out of scope photographs, this not only led to a loss of time, the results were not quite as strong. It is entirely natural to follow the flow of image creation in post but a challenge to set up a pre defined target image and try and craft it. There is a skill and learning process and it is intuitive and is made possible by knowing how to read the start image. In my very early work only one in 5 images say would yield results. Current work is more focussed in intent and more reliably creates results. But again the work is not repeatable as the techniques require destructive editing.

I’ve firmly believed the bespoke nature of this photographic work increases its ‘value’. Each edit of an image is unique. Whilst reprints can be made, the ability to process identically from the start is largely impossible.

Support to Visual Narrative

As my work moved away from illustrating a test narrative towards a stand alone work, it became important to find a way of supporting the visual narrative. Initially and for many weeks all means were open for consideration as I experimented with different approaches. I tried sound effects; thought of taking some research on a poet with cultural link and select lines of poetry as titles. In the end I decided on a Call and Response technique in titles and implemented these in my portfolio.

Contextualisation of Practice – three reviews or interviews for three visual references.

The sources I’d contextualise are painter Rachel Howard, the work of photographer Ellen Carey and the photography phase of David Hockney. My work is original and here I seek to contextualise as best I can ahead of the Module providing the scope for this research

Rachel Howard painter

Art Review (Januszczak Waldemar, 2018)

Rachel Howard in conversation with Anna Moszynska (Howard Rachel, 2018)

Ellen Carey photographer

Interview series (Carey Ellen and Lyle, 2009)

Interview for Aesthetica magazine (Barry Tim, 2016)

David Hockney as photographer

Television interviews (Hockney David, 1998)

Financial Times arts review (Hodgson Francis, 2015)

Artists website with bibliography (Hockney David, 2019)


Barry Tim (2016) Aesthetica Magazine – Interview with Ellen Carey, Poet With A Lens, Les années 1980, Centre Pompidou, ParisAesthetica. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Carey Ellen and Lyle, R. (2009) Ellen Carey: The Edge of Vision Interview Series on VimeoAperture Foundation. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Hockney David (1998) David Hockney on Photography & Other Matters (Secret Knowledge) – YouTubeSky Arts. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Hockney David (2019) Photographic Collages : Photos : Works | David Hockney. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Hodgson Francis (2015) ‘David Hockney: Painting and Photography’ | Financial TimesThe Financial; Times. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Howard Rachel (2018) Repetition is truth via Dolorosa. Edited by A. C. Beard Jason. London: Other Criteria Books. Available at:

Januszczak Waldemar (2018) Art review: John Copeland and Rachel Howard at Newport Street Gallery | Culture | The Sunday Times. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).


Excuse any repetition during this edit. My work never lost continuity from its beginnings, starting at Falmouth as Poppies are Red … a Commemorative Historical piece with both close-up work and early abstract practice. The work was becoming Conceptual for reasons of practical constraint and resource. Practice is now closer to Surreal and has been throughout my second Module Sustainable Prospects. Behind the scenes I steer my work through “rules of genetic connection” which leads to specific narratives unspoken. In effect I link abstracted minor traumas to repeated woundings of my ancestors closing a gap of over a century to the Great War.

Communication Complete

Again excuse any repetition during this blog edit. There is an act of completing communication I had as a child with close others in those lands of my ancestors. Sadnesses and losses unmentioned were characterised only as gaps as is how these adults chose to communicate with me as a young child. Modern research tools show those gaps and factual narratives were derived from records. Now as an adult I identify with those I might otherwise have met or at least have heard mention of or connected to and whose losses went unmentioned. And now, I remember them. I remember them all. I have a growing sense of identity which those around me seem to also share in.

Variations in Ongoing Practice

I established above my strong intent in my endeavour to develop further and refine the finish of a work that has deep emotional significance and meaning to the author.

I also follow advice to continue shooting intuitively to see where this takes me. Developments are very interesting and yet do not engage at the emotional level I experience from the current practice.


An aspect of abstraction and in this practice, the recording of minor trauma, there develops an unease, a sense of wanting to change and take more conventional representational perspective photographs. In a sense I gain some refuge from the emotional wear and tear of the practice.

Return to Nature – Competition

And so I have done this. I have turned to several directions. I photographed nature and gained recent successes with a Highly commended print and two Advanced competition winning projected images. This tweaks the competitive side lost in studying photography. That may not be an appropriate direction for now but it was refreshing to go back to.

Return to Nature – Instagram Takeover

In photographing nature I also focussed towards the MA Photography. In a faltered attempt I started reshooting and nailing work for an Instagram Takeover. I reshot a theme of the juncture between large cultivated shrubs and the vital mechanical support introduced by park gardeners. To me there was a metaphor here of supporting the weak (in human society). These were big thoughts if not a step too far. As the body of work progressed the creative compass moved the images back towards digitally processed work. I re-entered the abstract world once more. I’ve not submitted the work to my Module Leader as regardless of how much I like the effect and overall consistency across photographs, I did not consider that using a filter created by someone else unknown to be a very good way to proceed. I prefer that I make my own effects and exercise a level of practice and skill.

I’m not done with this completely as I started yet another reshoot of the same cultivated gardens. Last time out I was confronted by a dog before being befriended by the owner. We teamed up and walked a lesser route to an early show of Witch Hazel flowers before parting company. As is so often is the case, my photographic intention was distracted. On that day light conditions which had been important began to pass then I was in danger of being locked in. I still have to return if I’m going to nail some conventional photography to my chosen narrative.

Street Photography – and a surprise

Now this is an area of practice I could be said to specialise in. At least I’m published and have exhibited in this genre and support teaching out on the streets of London. I let go of my Street endeavours a bit while studying the MA Photography. In the break. I went back but found I’d lost a bit of my mojo. Instead of piling in with energy and nailing lots of shots I had slowed down, wanting to make more considered work.

As my abstract work was becoming increasingly insular, it was really refreshing on a social front to reconnect with some street buddies over the Christmas “break”. The MA does seem to be changing me. During the street shoot a full reset of the camera ditched the less conventional settings after which I started to get into my Street photography again.

Street work as a backstop has the advantage of being sustainable. Whether or not remarkable enough work would result is open to conjecture.

Shadows Within – a return to a favourite project

As described above, my main abstract practice, turns out to be sustainable. This is true also of Shadows Within an ongoing recording of a variety of shadows I have photographed around the home over a period of time. This is a regular one I go back to often. I’m always amazed how a characteristic layout leads to the walls, floors and ceilings acting as if the inside of a camera (maybe mostly without the lens).

I happily record darker images alongside ends of rainbows and moving dots and patterns. It feels so kaleidoscopic, so alive. There is joy is in the making.

The light changes progressively throughout the day as well as with the seasons. The work goes straight back to my abstract preference.

Would I continue with this in the MA Photography, maybe not? No matter how much creative fun it is, there is nowhere near the beginnings of the engagement my main practice has. Shadows Within (so far) lacks a level of social comment such as I’d expect to need to engage in. This judgement is based on personal discussions with MA graduate and also in judging the very high quality of work I see by fellow postgraduates students at Falmouth. I’ve decided I’m not here just to have fun with photography.

What I do take from this is minor digital darkroom practice and recognition that whatever I do in photography, my imagination, my eye is constantly drawn back to abstract work. This reinforces something about my style. I ought to recognise and develop further in abstract to become accomplished.

A Gathering of Some Resources and Ideas

The following was under construction ahead of the 16 week Informing Contexts Module starting on 25th/28th January 2019.

A package of work was set before the start of the Informing Contexts Module,  and just after my work for the Sustainable Prospects modules, Work was to be scheduled over the Christmas period. These work items are progressively blogged in this blog post.

This module will be based on theory and research. Books and referencing move to front on stage.

Art Reviews

On discovering a series of FT Art Review podcasts, I was drawn in. Over the Christmas break one managed to go back all the way to the earliest edition. Interest was 99% outside of photographic art, but nevertheless it is interesting to hear groups of critics and reviewers interact.


One exhibition was attended during the break at, the V&A Museum where they now hold the RPS collection. I tried out 10 questions to ask when analysing a photograph. With a bit of effort, the list, or actually the bare list, was committed to memory and review commenced. This analysis proved to be rather mechanical and slow. It must improve with practice. It will be necessary for discernment to weave it way into in one’s work.

Another London exhibition is being lined up.

Harvard Referencing with Mendeley and plug-in for Word

Within some technical constraints the user doesn’t control. Referencing is just about sorted or at least usable, reasonably automated and if nothing else consistent. Personally, it has been a struggle and held me back on my reading whilst bringing this under control.

I’ve practiced this more than once during the break as a recognised area of skills development. To be honest it does drive me to distraction. However, I need to master citations and bibliographies (books, website, photographs and journals mostly) and before too much more reading and researching has taken place.

The software has been set up on computer, and not without challenges (like software debug level intervention). This in part is a repercussion from the failed computer technology and change of system following a disaster during that very hot summer we had in the UK.

What with getting the tools working I still had to manually create a lot of entries putting my time at the service of the software where really it should be helping me work more efficiently.

I’m not at all confident that these tools will serve me well enough yet. It is early days whilst exploring first uses. Let’s see how it goes. Citation and Bibliography creation is now getting easier.

Up till now, I’ve gotten by using manual referencing and to a large extent my creative development has been independent of any other practitioners. No matter how original I aim to be, it is still a requirement of the course to bridge my work to photographic practices and practitioners and more so now with the start of a more highly research intensive Module, Informing contexts.

Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria

I did read through these during December (last month) and it is probably time to go over this all again to refresh.

Reading Lists

Module Information Form MIF

From the Module Information Form MIF is a recommended reading list. There will be other sources within Talis so the MIF list is not exclusive.:

BARKER C. (2011) Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage

BARTHES, R. (1980) Camera Lucida. London: Flamingo

BATCHEN, G. (2002) Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History. Boston, MA: MIT Press

BURGIN, V. (1986) The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity. London: Palgrave

DURDEN, M. (2013) Fifty Key Writers on Photography. Abingdon: Routledge

ELIKINS, J. (2007) Photography Theory. Abingdon: Routledge

EVANS, J. & HALL, S. (eds.) (1999) The Visual Culture Reader. Milton Keynes: Open University Press

FONTCUBERTA, J. (ed) (2002) Photography: Crisis of History. Barcelona: Actar

GEFTER, P. (2009) Photography after Frank. New York: Aperture

HEIFERMAN, M. (2012) Photography Changes Everything. New York: Aperture

LEVI-STRAUSS, D. (2005) Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics. New York: Aperture

STURKEN, M. & CARTWIGHT, L. (2009) Practices of Looking. Oxford: Oxford University Press

PHO702 Resources List

PHO702 Resources List

There is a good deal of referencing and citation involved with the Module so I took an action towards this early and have downloaded the available RIS file for the resources list and I’ve loaded it into the Mendeley database for use with the Word citation plugin as required. The idea is to be organised and save time later on. As deadlines eventually loom, this action should avoid panic setting if trying to retrace vital readings.

This is divided into a list of subheadings each with multiple resources linked.

Fantasy shopping. Podcast outtake from the original radio broadcast


There is more than a tentative connection between advertising photography and this BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour feature. I was captive as it was on the radio in the car – honest.

There is an interaction between two women, both of whom suspend reality when out shopping in upmarket stores and a lady who is an ex-shop assistant. One lady feels guilt about entering a shop and suspecting the shop recognise her immediately as not intending to purchase any good and imagines security following her around. The other lady imagines the security presence as her body guard. What is revealing are the stories they make up in their minds fantasising. One even turns to a sales assistant as the phone rings, “Sorry it’s a call from Victoria Beckham”.

Photography in advertising may be designed to encourage the viewer to imagine their life with the product – reality being suspended.

PHO704: Week 1 to 12 Research Contextual

I started out reporting back on webinars etc. week by week wondering whether or not to consolidate the blog entries, which is precisely what I’ve done here now. 

There is a slight twist in structuring of the blog I’ve not been able to avoid. It’s like this. We were advised at the outset yet as we all know from paper filing systems, (we do all remember paper filing systems, yes?), you often get a document to file that should appear on more than one place within the cabinet drawers.

We kind of solved problem with electronic storage with the uptake of relational database management systems where referential integrity is maintained. That is not meant to impress. It is just that having suffered learning about it in the day I now try to find one opportunity each year to mention the terms. Apologies for that.

Anyway, in a blog such as this there is no relational control as it is down to the author and the capabilities or constraints of using a blogging platform. Stop!

Decision. What I’ve decide to do here is transcribe my written notes from my course notebook and rattle off salient point from each webinar listed. I still have the last two of the series to watch or catch-up on this week. I did have a family bereavement at week 1 of the module, but no excuse – I did continue to give the course priority (much to the exasperation of others?) as the “show must go on.”.


I found time for reading or, as termed in some circles, for standing on the shoulders of giants.

Susan Sontag, On Camera

I had to re-read this especially as there are sections covering: photography defining of beauty, photography as art, the difference between painting and photography and even the beauty in camera makes of even the mundane. Important stuff regards my abstract work. Talking of which, the style of writing by Sontag is made difficult as it consistently showcases the wide vocabulary of the author. In my case I keep having to pick up the dictionary to try and follow the metaphors used. I do find it a bit unnecessary but do understand that photography, as a new art, does need to be written about in such a style to give photography academic provenance. Is that it?

Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, practices of looking.

I’m sure at postgraduate level this work is elementary, but it is still defining of visual culture and one chapter was recommended reading last module of this MA Photography. What I get from this book is a hot dip in the language of visual culture. Every time I’ve read the work I start to sound like I’ve swallowed a dictionary or perhaps sound more informed? At least people do look attentive to the new found knowledge when quizzed about photography. I do appreciate some of the psychological interpretations of gaze in this work too. That is a bonus. Sturken is quite good for stirring a bit of informed argument, as there are many interpretations of the world and some hold these dear. It’s good, the photography should gain some standing. I return to the work time and again.

Recommended Reading

I think this module I did manage to just about read everything put before me. Well all of the must reads.

I’ll take a highlight here on the subject of fashion photography and lifestyle magazines. As photography has been democratised, for where I stand it is good to learn of the growing movement of editors looking farther afield for personal work with a difference. So not exclusively the work of a seasoned pro, but photographer with ideas, fresh ideas. Although I’m not going to spring up next in fashion or magazines it is great to know that a tidy social media presence can fall before an editor.

In this vein of fashion and lifestyle, I discovered a piece of research or more precisely a detailed category comparison of print and web for a new lifestyle magazine versus the established Harpers Gazette. There is scope for new work as long as it targets its audience well. Simplicity in all things lifestyle was the winning major theme. We all have less time. Hipster fashion abounds as does the art of the back story.

Week 12 

I have yet to watch.

Week 11 Talk and Q&A with Tim Clark

I have yet to watch. Was this postponed?

Week 10 Francesca Genovese

Important stuff (advice) if you are categorise your work as fine art.

Week 9 Presentation with Amy Simmons

A lovely insight how to breakthrough the the art editorial world, with a cheeky challenge attached at the end – create a treatment. I did that with sketches and layout design and didn’t post it back to the forum. Note to self.

I did feel rather smug at this presentation as it followed on directly from the pricing estimate of the following week and I’d managed to anticipate some snags and address them in my estimate so was broadly in keeping with Amy’s advice.

My other professional career is wide and varied, and gave full immersion in bid work so maybe a head start there. Win rate is often quoted in such circles and can be quite low. I’ve been lucky winning nearly everything bid for. How do these things happen? One thing I didn’t do last week was underbid and leave myself at potential risk of loss. 

Week 8

Week 7 Live Talk and Q&A with David Chancellor

David has gone a long way on a self funding basis although now he does get commissioned. There could be a lesson here for us starting out.

Something common with his work is an element of blood and gore. Culling of wildlife ( for its own good as the elderly are removed from the population) versus the minor trauma abstracted in my portfolio. It’s not all about really good taste, but about issues of meaning or importance.

Week 6

Week 5 

Week 4 In Conversation with Maximus Barnett

It is brilliant to see success and how it is brought about (focus and specialisation). Good also to learn how to approach with your own work increasing the chances of matching up with a picture editor. At least as far as I’m concerned having studied a bit on journalism (specifically hyperlocal journalism in my case).

Other Speakers

Colin Pantall

The political stage is not one i’ve encountered before. Pantall in photographing China for a Magnum publication has managed to weave around the glare of officialdom as we hear how states like to promote a vision of life that may not often tie up with the realities.

My personal opinion only, but maybe China (as many other countries including Britain) should be open to admission of truths, especially as a means of gaining broader acceptance in the world. 

I recall comparison being made. Other photographers such as Parr have documented the country too, but each photographer brings their own style. There is room for more than one book on a single subject, so we should be encouraged to make our own work even if others have been there before us.

Jane Hilton

Hilton made it to the USA with her work. Having gained a film commission through the BBC it was amazing to hear how she was sent out with a BBC producer and film setup and was required to transfer her skills from stills to video.

If I’m honest, I have to admit to had already watched the resulting tv documentary in the day. I say admit as the subject is legal prostitution in a US state. I always have concerns about exploitation and so too does Hilton. The talk was maybe a glimpse or insight into a type of work that is constrained by or to gender. Knowing what you cant or don’t want to photograph is maybe as important as thinking you know what you do want to photograph.

An adVICE I liked about book publication was captioning. Hilton realises the failings of captions (viewer doesn’t pause on the images) so she put a slightly cryptic piece at the end so the viewer has to do some cross-reference work to match up captions.

I imagine the audience was like myself rather surprised to learn of women going into the trade due to having a sex addiction. Racey stuff indeed this photography business.

Clementine Schneiderman

Who would have thought that a young French national would visit Wales and stay in the Valleys?

The subject of Elvis fans had scope for falling into the category of a plastic version of the real. However, a certain sadness descends upon the subject and the lives of the people showcased? It was fascinating to see the subjects and how they obviously influence each other at the human level: friends dressing alike for Elvis conferences and children adopting the Elvis culture from parents. The thing going for the work is that Elvis is a well known phenomenon in the media so there is both subject and interested audience.

Showing a genuine interest in her adopted land has been acknowledged through those Welsh Art Council grants that were forthcoming. Not a strategy to be copied lightly. 

And inspiration too, for those students intent on PhD research in photography. For me personally, yes there is a definite appeal in doctoral study but I realise too I need to up my game, get out there on a public stage and keep learning theory. Anyone that does go that route I’d be happy to stay in touch with in the future.

Simon Roberts

Being resourceful was demonstrated, as Roberts tapped into his wife’s Russian speaking skills. The post crash Russia work created put Roberts on the photographers political map and led to him being invited by Westminster to photograph a general election.

You have to listen to Roberts live to pick up on his skill. There is all the interest around photographing on the rooftop of a van but behind this are some serious perspectives sic. Yes actual perspective is altered as he looks down upon a scene and captures environmental details. He links several stories within his image into one theme. I tend always to simplify so it is great to see scope for busy photographs (as long as the content is consistent). But listen to Robert guide you through his photographs. He picks up on every detail. And that is the essence of a photograph, a picture of something in all its detail. A far cry from ny abstract work at present. I might get over it one day (next study module?)

Laura Hynd

What is there not to love about Hynd? That play on vulnerability, the beauty of her work. The naivety of the elements of the video work. It is not as all as I make it sound and maybe the whole is part of the branding both personal and work. So a rather clever approach to the market backed by the number of commissions obtained.

Alec Soth

I’ve followed his work so it was great to get a background on Sleeping by the Mississippi and other works. 

It was interesting to hear him being pushed to reveal new work and his thoughts on the perils and gains of collaborating. I’ll keep a watch on that work where he gave cameras to children for a limited time to show their world from their perspective. 

Other others

So many other talented and influential speakers to write of. That’s it, I draw a line here and hand in my assignment.  I will return to give more detail. 

PHO704 Week 11: Art and Commerce

We’ve entered a busy time with several work items in progress.


A portfolio of images has been submitted. The challenge this time has been to create a consistent look to the set. The portfolio has dropped close-up photographs this time and only abstract images are present. This gives greater consistency as does adopting a square format throughout.  

Abstract presents a challenge in maintaining narrative. The way I’ve gone about tackling this is to display on a single line. This way control is maintained of viewing sequence where a grouping would allow a potentially clash.

What I decided was to place images inline in groups of three with a blank tile punctuating the sequence. This gives scope to introduce a rhythm as in a poem or song.

The next decision was to use captions and I decided on a call and response method which with some repetition adds to the narrative. When assembling my work I decided also to read the captions and record as an audio track added to a screen version of the images. This proved quite powerful and attracted someones attention.  attention of  is something I’d like to explore as an installation.

As the abstracts are predominantly red, when printed I was able to tune the room lighting and in doing so noted a dynamic was introduced, a perceived movement within the images. This is something I’d take further with an installation and I’ve not discovered the impact without doing my own printing (calibration required control of the lighting).

Oral Presentation

Over the summer an unplanned change of platform took place and so a new set of tools were adopted for this production task. Regardless of the software being much easier to use, it is still distracting learning new controls whilst constructing a new workflow. Nevertheless is was a surprisingly enjoyable experience and apart from a few stumbles over my words during recording the process went relatively smoothly. 

A benefit of the MA Photography course in having these assignments is that time is available to consider and review the content and this enhances motivation. As usual it is difficult to get it spot on throughout this process. I detect other students have similar experiences. As the deadline approaches, it is towards the end that I find I force the issue and make a late breakthrough.

My thinking had been challenged throughout as I needed to simplify. There were several strands running together that ranged in degree of difficulty to resolve and present. It is necessary to communicate at the level an audience will engage with. The breakthrough emerged and yet I was rather nervous of falling into a trap – sometimes authors wax lyrical about their work in ways that just don’t match up to the reality.

So with trepidation, I began to unwrap the whole thing and got it down to a base level I’d hope others could engage with. The motivation for my work is expressed more clearly as a transformation of childhood experiences of family culture into a more rounded adult view. When those around me engaged me in conversation as a child, I understood as a child. As an adult I can recognise the gaps and begin to use existing knowledge to expand out into the gaps. As an adult, I can also begin to create visual references that help complete my understanding of their experiences including loss unspoken.

In the process I took onboard the comments received in review. I’d like the work to be perfect but realise I’m learning and hopefully improving the strength of the portfolio work in each module. 

One thing I’m happily surprised about is the consistency of the subject. I could so easily have wavered onto some other branch of work. However, I still feel it is my destiny somehow to complete the work and so that has eased the decision making. Support from a wider family has been immense as they connect emotionally with the work and love to see the images I made and now make. In this respect the work is gaining traction with requests starting to come in from them for selected copies of the work. Although I cannot charge them for the work, I asked one to give to charity a small amount for each print they make.

Printing – is so important

Printing loomed large as a big thing. I was printing successfully before the summer but it all fell away with that change of platform. Software compatibility issues and default installations had held me back even after attempting to calibrate end to end. I took out the weekend before last to investigate what was behind such dark colour prints and I resolved it on my own. It was a manufacturer caused problem but with dogged determination it was solved. Now the abstract pictures that glow on screen print in entirely the same way on paper! I’m really pleased with the results and totlly enjoy getting back to tangible manifestations of my work.

Tutor advice to a student was taken onboard. I can now handle, order and re-order the prints, write on the backs, and basically enjoy them. I feel that print and more to the point, control over the print workflow will become increasingly important as the MA Photography course progresses. I kind of knew that but it is exciting to get back on the printing track. Watch this space.