PHO702: Week 3 Coursework Constructed Realities

Constructed Realities

This week a change in writing style is introduced in order to mix conversational, style with the more academic reflective and critical methods. The keynote entry appears in the Week 3 CRJ: Independent Reflection title below and serves as both a description but more importantly a reminder to use more formalised approaches

Week 3 Webinar: The Theatre of the Photograph

My own photographs as constructions and as potential fictions:

Photographs and images I prepared for this week’s webinar showed place connected, alongside cultural references. Sources of intertextuality were demonstrated; the arrival of Christianity being one, the romantic poetry of Robert Burns in the same place another. This is foundation thinking applied to work and in part reserved for future making. This part defines narratives relating to my work on those taken from these lands.

An ancestral theme runs with wound and repair identified as injury and repair in the contemporary. This is guided by common mDNA as the source of  life’s glow and leads to an IR styling. I manage to obtain this in the digital darkroom.

Memories of home is a fiction deliberately introduced as dreamlike images representing fading memories of those ancestors caught in battle. Wounds today, captured in terms of healing and bodily glow are abstracted into these landscapes, then layered with trace of wound or healing. In the same, darker landscapes created are viewed as imaginings from war.

The purpose is tied to personal experiences, as child become adult, pondering on gaps: missing humankind and unexpressed feelings of loss. Such were not conveyed to the child yet now more is recognised and understood. 

Originally aimed at the audience of family, as descendants and diaspora we reconnect in our common heritage, of place, our culture and experiences with others passed who were left to heal. Family is reunited in identity. Sign exists of influence spreading to the next generation.


Weak image.

Last week I detected a strong reaction to an image on Falmouth (on Instagram) with purples and pinks. For that I stand guilty. Since then we have been exposed to learnings of photograph as construction, with an accompanying sense of persuasion. For my imagery this was a Rubicon already crossed. A week later, perhaps audience may be more accepting. Work still has to be good. I now experiment with impressions and as always I’m prone to fail and sometimes succeed. 

I did, trauma/healing, life as bodily glow last module and now include impressions – those marks we bodily capture that then fade. Work on bodily impression continues as that experimentation is not yet evolved. It is a linked endeavour with healing and glow. The work provides continuity when wounds become less. 

The same image was questioned as decorative. 

In review my portfolio was viewed, and I agree the initial images have a stronger link to wounding.

Nature of construction:

As demonstrated in the webinar and as mentioned above, construction is not staging but rather one of layering. For wound, trace is layered with landscape abstracted from the same. Both layers are indexical of the wound. For wound I also imply, glow and now in this module impression. 

I think I’ve given my statement of intent, above and shown the strategies. I could shorten, make more concentrated language to describe intent. I view other writing opportunities this week so will hold back rather than repeat repeat.

Improvement of practice.

Through the current week’s studies, I can apply renewed vigour to the push pull within images and become more aware to use method intended or even accidental to draw in the viewer – not being explicit as always and now allowing signs with an intent of triggerring cognition. 

How I convey something of my theme to the viewer will undergo a continual transformation for different points of consumption developed.

Juxtaposition is intended as a next step; juxtaposition of type, of poetry of symbols, as sharp contrast to defocussed imaginings already portrayed in the imagery.

Technical improvements made this term include the use of flash photography to overwhelm environmental lighting for consistency of starting image. 

Not dropped, simply not taken forward this module is the use of a microscopy element. Last module microscopy was not always practical. Adoption was trialled for improved print resolution. An alternative I am trying is the use of advanced software that performs image scaling. My work is that of a digital worker and so trace of the process may be acceptable for me, in so far as it does not overwhelm the images created. 

Week 3 CRJ: Independent Reflection

Reflection in one definition (Reflective and Critical Writing: Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub, 2019) requires: Description (short), Interpretation (most important / useful / relevant and Outcome ( what was learned, how impacts future)


Reflective and Critical Writing: Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub(2019). Available at: (Accessed: 9 February 2019).

Week 3 Activity: False Indexes

I hope that the authenticity of practice shines though.

Let’s find some direction. Starting with the title, it appears to give an oppositional reading. The reason for saying, is that in this week’s work I feel we were to be persuaded not to view the constructed even heavily constructed image as faux, where truth is expected of the lens and camera in capturing the  photographic record, yet notwithstanding this we know of the myriad adaptions of photographer and selection of image within the larger setting including what, and why now.

Next up, Hutcheon showed great clarity in viewing the matters we have here to discuss though interpretation of the metaphor of Farmer. I mention this as it is implicit, failing to be mentioned in the Activity text.

So, we are talking through the metaphor of Farmer yet even then we must allow for work that crosses over to or shares within an implied dichotomy of Hunter, the opposed metaphor. In fact, these are not opposed as we have seen, but may become shared in practice by different artists as a device or as expressed through a lens of critique.

As for objective and subjective aspects of practice, then yes, I will choose here the role of Farmer when making abstract work. Intertextuality is strong as written narrative of publishable academic quality, exists and informs the work. There is poetic reference too of landscape. As accident or coincidence, the land is where Robert Burns lived out his short life and is proximate to the legendary site of St Ninian’s landing and subsequent introduction of Christianity to southern lands. No shortage of intertextual references exits. The scope for intertextuality is so strong and yet remains to be fully exploited, but surely in time it will be.

Ancestors from their homes, found themselves overseas, and several were transported in war to other lands. Subjectively imaginings are created of homeland as remembered from afar. The objective returns based on site visits and photography of places hardly changed since those earlier times. These home imaginings intermingle with others of theatre of war where kin perished or survived only as prisoner.

The objective nature of biological connection stamps the greater visual impact in practice through wounding and healing then and minor injury and healing in the contemporary but visually abstracted. The subjective re-enters as connection is made to those who were lost, who were never mentioned to self as child. Gaps of human existence and unexpressed loss established as data and records and now they are remembered. Early communication to child completes as adult. I learn of them alongside the lives of kin

The technological and creative exist in practice occur as technology leveraged in the interests of the creative. This happens through technical trial and skill development and with a willingness to follow a photograph in whichever direction it naturally will go. With increased experience, a degree of guidance can be imposed, but is of uncertain outcome from the start.

What could have been dichotomy becomes a blend.

Context of viewing is expected to strengthen these relationships. Yet to be resolved, indeed planned and created, is a guiding hand an invitation to the viewer in any context supported. Viewer ultimately make their own sense from the abstract perhaps recognising the signs laid there.

In a sense, this work is so founded and heartfelt that what really matters is deeply personal as family reunited, a diaspora strengthened in identity and re-united. Already impact has spread to a new generation.

For the wider audience to whom this work must ultimately be taken through MA Photography studies, I can only express belief, that they will discover an authenticity of voice. I express hope that the wider audience will at once gain viewing pleasure in the visual nature of the artifice and even seek out the intended layers of hidden meaning. Such constructions as exist within layered abstraction may push and pull the viewer and be causal in their further reading of the images.

In view of this then the short answer, yes, it must become increasingly important to me and others within family and other families who can identify with this work.

Week 3 Presentation: Hunters & Farmers

Such a hard to read but wonderful piece to break through.

Heavily or obviously constructed images is the starting premise and we land up surveying a whole area of work/endeavour/employment in photography. And such promise in return. As poetry exceeds sentences then poetic images exceed the intertextual references.

From my Practice or even my photography in general that witnessed or witnessed through the lens by the camera is not the memory retained by the mind’s eye and so I proceed to simplify distractions and tune into the content captured intuitively or retake the image or at first take several photographs with intent on placing distractions into the background. The tripod can be important here as long exposure can simplify. I would aim to do this as Hunter and act more as Farmer in abstracting images choosing amongst and taking forward those selected to new worlds that reflect on the past and memories of home and bridge 100 years into the past.

In practice, creating narratives had not been considered through constructions, well other than text or poetry. I should consider visual construction from this point on. How as yet I do not know, but there is the challenge to imagination.

At the end of this, we may take Brecht’s advice and remind ourselves a picture is not real. And yet, suspend reality for one minute and make gains. The Practice is going to keep me much more busy than I ever imagined.

Having seen progression in the abstract work of a fellow student (RR) who introduced mixed media and use of signs, in a textual/visual lexicon. Now I understand the development this student made and perhaps now have a glimpse into their development path.

Week 3 Module Leader Sessions

Week 3 Forum: Subjective Traces, Spaces, Faces, Places

The constructed photograph shows the photographer in each case this week as true to themselves, unless of course someone forced them to make constructions. Rather unlikely at least for the work we have seen. In a totalitarian state an artist may be leant on. Others would no doubt rebel or go overseas and rebel. 

In terms of audience and lie, does the audience really include me as a direct consumer? For me it is happenstance as far as the originating photographers are concerned and happenstance again that through this MA Photography course that their images have been taken together with the others in this context. In other words, images perhaps considered marginal may become tarnished by the company they now keep.

As for fiction in photographs and in the examples, we have been shown, there is the photographer and the extent to which the  mind’s eye is at variance to the detail a camera captures in a photograph. Depending on how good a photographer, they may spot the deviation and have to reshoot or amend, or if really experienced anticipate and make an accommodation and possibly still amend.

My interpretation of the world is personal to me as it is for others. My work was with computer program generated images before ever getting a DSLR camera. My eye is/was for line, shape and form taking in physical perspective. I learn more now of the beauty of light – the exposure triangle, and light. 

Genuine natural thinking and freedom of expression in personal projects is the aspiration. Religion had a go at breaking down the doors last year – that was a surprise. Things got very heavy for a while. Fetishisation was to be avoided.

A self-conscious adjustment to style resulted in adapting to empathy over logic.

Early commercially oriented work is based around art, artist promotion, craft sales and collaboration.

A composite created for competition was a rarity at the time. That image continued to do rather well. 

Another piece, Inner Light it was suggested be put forward to the London Salon – maybe one day. 

Exhibit A a print abstract of scene with the rusting remnant of a push along scooter was a flop. I,t had an intentional hidden meaning related to a transport map. Something about the print though reminds of Eggleston’s – trike.

Where are those image files …

Week 3 Introduction: Constructed Realities

When considering the photograph many I see presented are of travel and wildlife – particularly one’s I see in competition. Sometimes it appears that the photographer in terms of the psychology, is trying to make a statement: look where I have been, look what I have done and look how closely I achieve similar results to those I openly admire and emulate.

What is not shown is the personal expense and days of travel involved in getting a series of these emulations. Not seen is the getting up so early, going out in the dark with lighting in uncomfortable conditions. Nor is the exposure to danger and reliance on a guide with a rifle who helps stage the scenes and offers protection.

Given this investment, there is going to be a bias no doubt against staging and manipulated photographs, at least we might imagine so?

We are asked to take travel and nature at face value, admire the person for their display of wealth and ability to emulate accurately the work of others.

If I look at the images, I’ve seen today, the presentation apart, They were on social media, where constructions were apparent to a number of degrees, from collage to photographer imposed vantage points etc. In the press there was a mixture of imagery that actually was rather disturbing: the banker frustrated in joining a bank, depicted in harsh monochrome with background colourized.

Then the successful female investment analyst who’s sketch treated image was placed in the context of her marriage and having children when she ought to have returned to the US – shocking.

The story of the company that had no ferries that won a government contract for ferries depicted the minister responsible collaged with a company logo as background – so constructed to strengthen the storyline.

The photography was marked as Agency rather than photographer.

The work in the presentation we viewed is in an Arts context of photographers as raised on a plinth, making a name for themselves, or simply making their way in the world.

As students of photography, I guess we learn to associate with the them and hope to gain commercial success such as through agency.

If I address the posed question of why this now? In my practice the answer is in several parts. The memory from a hundred year history theme and events will diminish completely as those who can still touch that past diminish themselves. Timing is key to preserving proud narratives that would otherwise be lost within records and data.

The work began as dedication for someone elderly. It is timely now to act.

Timing also relates to the MA Photography course – not using work shot between terms, using shots made since the first day of term, shooting progressively at 10 hours per week as each week progresses.

An aside triggered here is that of a course with digital delivery being matched with digital productions by participants makes sense. This averts a return to materiality. 

Many of the presentation examples of constructed work, I can isolate myself from by arguing, who am I to interfere in someone else’s “contract”? Between photographer and whoever commissioned the work. I likely wouldn’t have come across their work and so the only purpose left is to establish a general position regards making of new work. Take each case on it merits perhaps. 

The presentation attempts to enlighten and persuade? If we assume the acceptance of naturalism by the intended posrgrad audience perhaps some we benefit from accepting a wider view of what is acceptable. For the digital worker creating abstract imagery that Rubicon has already been crossed.

Important to current practice is learning the ability to create narrative. Noting earlier in this module how we naturally learned to interpret the surface of the photograph to the extent we no longer realise that transition. Add to this audience acceptance of the visual language of cinema then the viewer brings such readings to a new work. Strategies other than cinematic reference exist, and can be exploited in support of narrative such as sound, music and poetry.

In response to Eggerton’s trike, my catalogue contains a piece titled Exhibit A. Here I take visible signs of dirt and rust, beyond Egglestone’s trike in my portrayal of a push along scooter. As is often the case the representation made is abstract and there is a level of intentional hidden meaning relating to a transport map.

In terms of push/pull created in the viewer from overtly staged photography, this probably isn’t a concern in my abstract work, where there is no prospect or intention of trying to trick.

The subject of photographic trick in terms of warning, does appear in writing in the parallel area of clinical photography. (Nayler, Jeremy (Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street, Hospital for Children NHS Trust, 2003). This is a useful warning as it concerns medical photography and potential misrepresentation of progress in curing disease.

An emerging theme from the presentation in reading between the lines, is one of propaganda, and/or political bias. A viewer not using cognition, in lacking critical awareness might look through presented images and simply accept what they see.  

In the world of painting in a talk about Turner’s landscapes (and seascapes), at the Tate Britain, it was noted that work was created for prospective markets, and space would be incorporated for the eventual buyer to request additions, for example add more sheep to represent a better representation of wealth. The additions would be made by a spot painter rather than Turner himself. An aside really, in his latter years JMW Turner liked to work quickly and made work that was much more abstract and incomplete as he experimented with outcomes and style.

The presentation asks about the Alfred Krupp portrait. Here is my response. Krupp had been brought to justice we gather and was now pursuing the dream of wealth even if by keeping others employed on marginal wages.

In terms of acceptance of Constructed realities, there are no doubt many levels of complexity involved. Some images may be easier for the viewer to recognise quickly and identify with. For example, the carte de visit portrait could be straightforward to interpret. In the example of Kiss where landscape is collaged and obscures, it contains a strong sign to the viewer of deliberate image manipulation. If the kiss is shown in lesser explicit terms, it may be more readily bought into, as in Barthes on pornography, (Barthes and Howard, 1980). In Kiss, if the landscape is seen to obliterate (which I don’t think happens in the example), the obscuration might work against the image for some.

The theme of ambiguity leading to narratives, is readily acceptable to me where my intention is to enable this, if only the viewer is triggered to wonder about it.

Masterson seems to prove a happy medium to those who might be sceptical. Natural images he notes were presented at exhibition with a minor amount of digital manipulation in some. So that’s okay then. All done in the name of good or consistent aesthetics. Is there a slightly specious tone? More can be at stake for work of notoriety.

My practice uses natural images of an almost clinical nature, where the colour and form is lent to the abstraction process for transformation into something colourful and new. A trace of the original is retained. The work is motivated by a consistent cause. Intentional hidden layers of meaning are incorporated. Should a reviewer seek extra depth, then it can be found. The work is a product of the authentic. Viewers have responded to the aesthetic and style and some recognise simple themes Context is consistent at the present as the images are shown on screen with similar presentation as images of prints in a book format. But, as the context develops as this course is expected to demand or enable, then creative thought is to be exercised. It is still early days.

A viewer is invited to read the images and from toned down titling etc start may be guided. A darker subject is presented in terms of healing and is a celebration of life’s force. Presentation is of new new work and in time ought to develop in consistency and direction.


Barthes, R. and Howard, R. (1980) Camera lucida: reflections on photography. London: Vintage.

Nayler, Jeremy (Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street, Hospital for Children NHS Trust, L. (2003) Clinical Photography: A Guide for the ClinicianClinical Photography: A Guide for the Clinician. JnPostgrad Med. 2003. Available at: (Accessed: 8 February 2019).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s