PHO702: Reflections

Guest Lectures

I almost passed over blogging on this topic when, in fact, I attended all lectures, made copious notes in my logbook and often contributed to any questions discussions.

Two particularly fruitful sessions were those with university staff and tutors I was then able to go on and meet and listen to present at the almost week-long Face to Face event in Falmouth.

At the present hour, I will stick with my handwritten lecture notes as there is little extra added value in translating these into a blog post.

Week 6 to 10

A change in Blog structure, Reflections rejoin the weekly Coursework blogs and have somehow become closely allied with the weekly Tutor sessions.

As. is often the case with a filing cabinet, a single item might fit within more than one place (file pocket). For reasons of efficiency and in trying to keep up with the flood of information and activity, I do my reflection within the coursework blogs as thought is prompted there.

The overarching structure of the blog settles on:

  • Coursework activity
  • Development of Practice
  • Contextualisation

Week 5

Throughout the events this week, you have reflected on the nature of your gaze both as author and consumer of images.

Spend a few moments looking back on your reflective notes from the presentations, the Bright (1985)  Article and the contributions and feedback of your peers on the forums.


Think about the following questions:

  • What is the ‘nature’ of your own photographic gaze?
  • How is the body represented to us?
  • Where do we see this?
  • Do we maintain views of individual bodies as ‘inferior’ or ‘dangerous’?

Then, write a brief summary in your research journal that reflects on your work in the context of:

  • Your own ‘look’.
  • How it might be interpreted, by whom and why?
  • Any ideas / visual practices you were particularly interested in.
  • Any ideas / visual practices challenged/shed new light on your existing practice.
  • Your work/ideas in the context of other visual practices and
  • critical insights.

My work/ideas in the context of other visual practices and critical approaches.

Student input in open forum focusses on gaze, photography and landscape.

Gaze seems to be described as a dynamic element of vision in terms of the first look, looking again, or looking more and searching. The gaze is mentioned sometimes in an apologetic manner with denial or admission to the fore. There are examples of fetishisation, perhaps if we take the definition of holding two conflicting ideas at once.

In the course presentations, the focus is broader covering landscape, gaze, photography and disability.

In the presentations, the gaze is covered in broader terms, including the sexualising nature of the gaze, and as such, it is talked about without reference to the author so can be more open. The presentations are therefore more expansive and roam across difficulties such as voyeurism and the exercise of power and aggression and how gaze may be lingering (with intent) and done to satisfy. It is the rare student that will own up to such behaviours.

The persons of disability aspect are covered and include the role of charity organisation or advertising agency (implied). Having recently learned about signifiers and admitting advertising as a role model may just be early in the week yet for this discussion to have caught up on the student side. There is a lot more to “mine” in student blogs if there were only the time. I may return to it.

My own ‘look’.

In photographic terms, my look is very directed in sensing minor trauma as happens from time to time, and the (ordinary) viewer (distinct from this analytical academic audience) may only realise through extended gaze at which point Barthes punctum is triggered. For my practice, I have developed an eagle eye for minor accidents/injury, and with family as subject to maintain the genetic narrative, they know what I’m about and never ready for when I pounce with the camera then plaster. They realise the work is published in the abstract and have read the book (reading gaze?) that my spouse and co-collaborator researched. As the course evolves, so do my photographs, now images and a body (sic) of work takes on a new life of its own.

How it might be interpreted, by whom and why?

Interpretation or acceptance is never going to be that easy amongst close family, even with cooperative understanding. I suppose it is a distraction from the conversation and seen as mildly intrusive. It is quite a challenge to get in focus the camera and get back out quickly. If necessary, I can sometimes offer first aid for minor cuts, bumps and grazes.

With self as subject, that too is a challenge as trying to capture some photographs really requires there to be a photographer present as it is quite a contortion even for the most straightforward arrangement.

In a conversation, the bluntest comment was from a public health professional who coined the term skin photography. Creepy, especially knowing what their work led them to. I prefer the definition of Body Art from the Tate website. I’m reminded of the surname Bucket, pronounced Bouquet.

One fellow hinted at a mildly symmetric abstract as female genitalia. I don’t want by accident to make a rude image, but really symmetry detracts from the narrative theme of collected photographs, title and captions.

Clinical photography shadows my work. What medics do is standardise on technique to record the progress of the disease, e.g. on the body surface. There is enough separation between medicine and art to be comfortable alongside standards of medical ethics and privacy of stored full-body photographs

Any ideas / visual practices I was particularly interested in and Any ideas / visual methods challenged/shed new light on your existing practice.

The Landscape presentation was engaging, somewhat surprisingly. Without thinking it through, we probably don’t immediately think of Landscape as the male gaze. To a degree, I feel that this gaze interpretation references Art History rather than Contemporary practice. Once mentioned, it starts to communicate, although there are references better related to Art History. Interest in this course has to be Contemporary in intent (in the main).

The link for me is that my abstracted trauma imagery takes on a layered aesthetic in which I allow the viewer to sense depth and signifier of a seascape or landscape. Fading memories of home and dark scenes from the theatre of war are classic male gaze as the male fighter is the subject – there is the historical narrative of 100 years past, so I adopt the Art History view. One image to date has been representative of a relative (now signified is the female (mother) looking out on a veiled landscape to a sea that divides.

In one narrative, two out of 17 were sent into battle, so the gazes ought to be numerically in favour of the 15. However, the intensity is in the struggle. There is scope to work with this balance and gaze.

An interested art acquaintance enquired, of which there is a growing audience, and discussion about gaze rolled on awhile, and as their daughters final year project had been on the subject we realised she thought the conversation was about gays. That was quite surreal.

Your work/ideas in the context of other visual practices and critical approaches.

In terms of breakthrough, this week, I looked again at the Art and expression of Mark Rothko’s work. This was a significant diversion into an area of personal research and understanding and very very worthwhile (thank you, Michelle). I’ve written about this elsewhere in the blog under the Week 5 Contextualization I recall.

There is more research, but I risk repeating myself here (bioglphs, photogram workshop, other practitioners usually painters).

In the analysis, I allow my interpretation of genetic inheritance to motivate Practice. Soon I will introduce this within the visual language.

In answering the set questions, if there is a hierarchy and there is a risk of any sort, it would lie in the unknown. The general rules of genetic inheritance are mostly accurate, not always enforced by nature. Then we make natural assumptions of propriety in the recorded relationships.

Week 4

Reflect on the content of this week’s presentations and the personal response you had to the images we discussed, as well as any different readings of the adverts you discussed in the forums. Reflect on the reaction to your work.

Write a passage in your research journal that reflects on:

  • The ‘intent’ of your work.
  • The strategies you use to achieve this intent.
  • Whether you think these strategies are successful and, if so, for whom?
  • Is photographic ambiguity an intent in its own right?

The intent of my work has been consistent and is already documented. What changed going into the week is one thing and change on exiting the week another, the latter being influenced by the week’s learnings.

Experimentation was vital at the start with colour control being achieved by spot colour (red injury) and colour filter on monochrome. These two new techniques were added to my digital darkroom processes for the practice.

Exciting the week, I now need to take on board semiology learnings, look more at adverts and try and adopt a common visual language. This aligns with a recent review.

My strategies emerge from the digital darkroom and reading of landscape works with the viewer when trauma is superimposed. That intent seems to work. It should work in the context of a book.

Ambiguity is a part of the work. It protects identity to some extent and transformation from trace is the method of creating art. It will be challenging to closely align with the visual language of advertising in my abstracts, but nevertheless, there is something to take from it.

Position your work into a broader image world and viewing the community as you keep working and reflecting on your own practice in preparation for the webinar.

The broader image world I link with includes the work of painters in the main of which several have been mentioned in this blog. As always, I create work and then discover artists. The challenge I note is to do with scale and how painters can add as much texture or detail as necessary for whatever canvas size they choose.

Week 3

Throughout the activities this week, you have been required to reflect on how photographers construct their images to evoke an intended narrative or meaning – sometimes explicit and inter-textual and sometimes more open-ended and ambiguous. As Lori Pauli (2006: 135) notes: ‘In an era when all photographic representation has become suspect, these fictions encourage an interrogation or the “truth” of photographic representations’.

Spend a few moments looking back on your reflective notes from the Week 3 presentations, your reading, the contributions of your peers and feedback on your posts.


Reflect on:

  • Whether any of these ‘constructed’ approaches give you ideas to develop your own practice.
  • If so, why? What ideas?
  • Is our reading of a photographic ‘truth’ merely a symbolic construction itself?

I use layering and abstractions that may combine trace with the imaginings wish to portray. As a construction, I want to start developing textual or typographical references to drive the meaning forward. I’ve been asked to consider sound on several occasions, and this is likely to get included for potential gallery/exhibition.

As for truth, there is only an overlap of some degree between authors intent and the reader’s interpretation. That is the truth, and it will vary by context and by an individual.

In your research journal:

  • Find three photographs that interest you regarding multiple interpretations of the world and a ‘constructed’ approach.
  • Record the manner of their constructed nature.
  • Identify why you read them the way you do.
  • Position your own practice about this, both aesthetically and conceptually.

Okay, how to find constructed images. Let’s see.

Week 2

Throughout the activities this week, you have reflected on the culturally perceived veracity of the photograph, perhaps in opposition to other forms of visual communication.

Task: Spend a few moments looking back on your reflective notes from the two presentationsthe Snyder & Allen (1975) article and the contributions of your peers to the forums so far. Take into account the following questions:

  • Did any ideas particularly interest you?
  • What challenged you?
  • Have your ideas changed?

Authenticity, for me, is vital when finding my voice. Active emotional elements are there and at times can overwhelm. As family as diaspora and in reconnecting with our culture is dominant and lives on in a new generation.

The main challenge for me has been the language. Either reference is typically outdated coming from the history of photography rather than being contemporary, or the presentation content is almost impenetrable where a half-hour lecture can take me over two hours of activity to digest. This then takes away from free time for reading, which is a shame.

Being acutely organised is a necessity and is challenged occasionally by the starting structure of the blog beginning to be outgrown. It all has to be kept on top of, or it would readily career out of control.

A personal challenge is in using citations both in using a software tool and given the variety of methods and knowing where to draw the line. That is about the experience. It is easy to get overly diligent and cite where it becomes an affectation rather than reliable support to a research base. I have to remind myself this is not a doctoral research degree and cite appropriately. I tend to over-record on maintained sources, which has a slowing down effect, but a price I pay to alleviate future risk. I have a bit of trouble with page-level citing.

As for my ideas changing, I did take a photogram approach to bodily contact instead of minor trauma. It gave another method of moving forward with practical making.

Write a brief summary of your research journal.

  • How might your work be (or not be) considered a ‘peculiar practice’?
  • Think about how the context affects how people view your work.
  • Reflect on your practice in the context of other visual methods and theoretical points.

A unique of my practice is the recording of injuries to the skin, which may seem somewhat weird but is a basis I use for creating my punctum.

IF I think about complementing my work with sound, then a gallery context demands or facilitates a different approach to a book or a Zine or a Journal. All of these are potentially extended contexts for my work.

My work is a form of art and uses a potent metaphor. Being photographic rather than painted, it sits better in a book than a painted work with surface texture.

Week 2 CRJ: Independent Reflection

Did any ideas particularly interest you?

What challenged you?

Have your ideas changed?

Write a brief summary in your research journal.

How might your work be (or not be) considered a ‘peculiar practice’?

Think about how the context affects how people view your work.

Reflect on your practice in the context of other visual methods and theoretical points.

Ideas briefly, that interested me were the definition or new definition received for Indexicality as Causal Relationship. (Snyder and Allen Neil Walsh, 1975).

To me on previous readings and research, Philosophy takes up the idea of Indexicality in terms of what is there that is unique to, in our case, Photography, that defines Photography. This began with Studium and a second concept that has driven my work to where it stands now the Punctum. (Barthes and Howard, 1980) Since I’ve conducted a brief language analysis and note that punctum is a foreign language word that has been used for centuries and that what we talk about is Barthes punctum.

It was also interesting to discuss Truth when looking at Authenticity. Clearly, there is no one truth but many attempts possible at the fact. In returning to this, I note from a later reading that there is no universal truth, only the intersection between the authors intent and the viewers reading.

Context is a challenge at present. As my work was initially intended as a book and I learned of other exciting means of getting my work out there, then complexion changed. The challenge I’m learning about is one of simplification of intent, something I continue to strive to get right affecting how I communicate about my work. While I rise to this challenge, which I find tough to get right, I now have other considerations to manage.

In a book context, I could manage the message, while in this academic environment we study in, I describe much deeper the intentionally hidden layers. I learn that intent mustn’t guide too much as the room must be there for the Viewer to make interpretation and should be allowed to go in their own direction with it.

Next is a rather exciting part of the extension of contexts where these call for supporting methods, from moving still, to the movie, to sound. I will always express the excitement of the child within and yet as I learned in my first module, the work needs to be focussed, contained in scope as to what I choose to do and make sure it is achievable within an MA. So I am thinking more substantial, being a bit more aspirational but with realism as to what might be achieved. I’d hate to create the video then discover there was no available means of playing it in whatever space.

My ideas had to change during Week 2, as over the inactive Winter period there have been fewer opportunities to capture that minor trauma and so have adapted and focussed on a healthy glow and now on the trace of objects imprinted on self as an analogy to photogram and photographed, and abstracted. With practice during the assessment period, I’ve been able to develop skills in controlling colour and in particular luminosity. The latter led to some recent competition successes, and I’ve now begun to apply a level of sophistication to the look of my images. This should evolve during the module. Some of the subject matter I capture in Photograph responds in the digital darkroom and some not. I improve my image selection as I go and have reverted to flash photography to cut out environmental lighting contamination.

In terms of peculiar practice, then if the work was viewed through the lens of clinical photography (Nayler, Jeremy (Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street, Hospital for Children NHS Trust, 2003), there could readily be negative feelings. In my experience, others who have some medical interest seem to engage without adverse reaction.

In reference ibid, there is the guidance that “it is not acceptable to use photographic tricks to enhance the outcomes of clinical outcomes”. I do not create clinical outcomes. Instead, I create art. There is an enhancement as I seek out the glow in an image and increase the saturation to draw the colours back out.

In terms of general context, I have initially thought this through and written of it: book versus Zine, versus, Gallery etc. This is a developmental area and still quite early as I just started making the current batch of images only yesterday. Obviously, with two terms completed on a two-year course, my work cannot yet be viewed as complete, and some of the questions addressed here must wait for the action to unfold. I am grateful though to be prompted now on such matters as contexts rather than proceed irrecoverably down the path with little time to adjust.

I reflect on Clinical Practice as I seek to obtain higher quality images in a controlled environment. I may decamp to the photographic studio ultimately.

The visual practice I am drawn to and cannot avoid, and others tune into on my behalf is Painting. At a personal level, religion tried to enter the practice arena, and discussions held had a very marked effect. The context was regarding paintings.

Not all is visual as culturally I seek to include poetry or parts thereof or inspiration or even my own writing. The rhythmical elements of music too are present on the perimeter of my practice and through lyrics has been present in the past.

In terms of the punctum I experience through my practice, I am guided to look for detail and visual elements that do not appear contrived where the punctum is or may be lost.


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).

Snyder, J. and Allen Neil Walsh (1975) ‘Photography, Vision and Representation’, Critical Inquiry. Available at:

Week 1

In this section, I cover a general response to Week 1 but start by addressing the following activity, which I’m glad to have found! I nearly overlooked it in my efforts to get organised

Week 1 CRJ Independent Reflection

The ontological nature of the ubiquitous photograph within its specific contexts of consumption, as it relates to my own practice.


Think about:

The ‘nature’ of my own photographic practice;

The importance of context in our reading of images;

Any ideas / visual practices I were particularly interested in;

Any ideas / visual practices that challenged/shed new light on your existing practice.

Write a brief summary in your research journal regarding:

Where you are now;

The ‘nature’ and intent of your practice;

What contexts your work could be consumed in;

Your training in the context of other visual practices and critical ideas.

I almost overlooked this reflective exercise as having been covered in other places my CRJ and in Canvas. The important thing here now relates to having gone back over reading, in particular, Sontag (Sontag, 1977)

My intent is abstract Impressionism related to intentionally hidden layers of meaning. This refers to genetic connections that establish connections that link over 100 years and creates closure. Gaps recognised are filled regarding communications made to me as a child. These gaps (feelings and people missed) and the filling of those gaps has become vital. A  diaspora is reconnected with its culture, and a family is healed. Family members have made their trek back, and even the youngest family member now has made their first cultural visit. It is not solely due to this work, but its wider repercussions have been felt. Central to this is a family member, now of advanced years to whom a lot of this work is dedicated – the “Mother of all Fathers”.

I have become more acutely aware of what a photograph is, and the relationship, such as it is between painting and photography. This is of particular importance to my practice. I quickly moved from photo to digital abstract art.

The main point I picked up on relating to context, refers to a common concern of how I communicate my message to the viewer if I still feel it is essential to guide their interpretation. In a museum context, if that were to be realised, this would need to be clear, in other settings, there could be different presentations (e-Zine, Book, Journal). Different have different capabilities or require different strategies for mixed media. Having once started working with other media moving still and sound and eliminated this from my work on course assignments, it has been prompted as a tutor comment, so I have to consider mixed media. I feel that could be quite a positive addition by I do need to build up my skill level as such, skills have gone dormant and remained so for a while. There is a necessity, and I personally would find it exciting. The challenge would be to reach professional quality in the remaining time.

A practice that I employ that is of particular interest is the one of a kind nature of my work as I feel that may increase its value as I am currently forced into destructive editing and it is difficult to repeat the steps and arrive at the same end image. A starting photograph can be looked at for promise in taking it into the post, and then there is a process of intuition that drives the development of the abstract. Therefore it is not formulaic – the process is open loop. Work can be set aside if it does not technically process.

I was particularly interested in the Squires Exhibition What is a Photograph, notwithstanding the exhibition title question not being answered. The contributors work though I take something from in terms of their ideas. This is much in the same way that I relate to the work of David Hockney (Hockney David, 1998)

My photography can be representational but always returns to the abstract, as observed as being my natural tendency or the natural style. In earlier times I strove to make the photograph almost appear to be painted. I do not use filters but use a mix of techniques. I mention this here as is often the case, others refer my work back to painting and painters (Millar and now Rothko). I have also related to (Howard).

I’m currently satisfied that my photography is a trace of the original subject. With bodily healing, the matter of minor trauma disappears, so in slow time there is a critical period (moment?), so timing is a consideration.

As in Sontag, the idea for the image is in the authors head before the shutter is released seems right. The categorisation of the work as Fine Art needs further consideration, although it is not that important to the author.  Well having said that, not initially so. I’ve seen the argument in either direction as to whether photography is a fine art. I thought to myself for a while it had gained such recognition, but for now, I conclude that Photography gained a new acceptance and is nowadays displayed in places where Fine Art is posted as noted in the Times article (Campbell-Johnston, 2012)

Campbell-Johnston, R. (2012) Seduced by Art: Photography Past & Present | The TimesThe Times Expert Traveller. Available at: (Accessed: 9 January 2019).

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

Sontag, S. (1977) On Photography. Penguin Bo. Penguin Modern Classics.

General Commentary on the Week

I ended the week on a high as I start to get the information sources under control. I’m happier to read a variety of resources having tried out the set-up I have here for making citations. I still have one or two unanswered questions: tags seem to be at blog post level yet I try to avoid a proliferation of posts of the same type, in attempting to keep them on a single page with the latest entry at the top. So can a tag be more local, at sentence level? Hoping yes. So having allocated tags, what is the mechanism for searching? I’m sure I’ll be able to look it up.

Answered: During our FMP, we were invited to attend two meetings where the design of a blog was documented and discussed in detail. There was also a student demonstrating an exemplar, and this specifically highlighted the differences in WordPress dashboard (education version versus standard version we had used. Once this was resolved (in my case by an upgrade), then it was possible to use all of the controls and indeed start using Tags correctly in a blog. This did take a couple or more long days to resolve, in the end.

Things were slow while getting organised, but in the end, I enjoyed the week and started to view my work in a new light and started to get some fresh ideas together.

I was able to read/research and cite material and was able to express a more unobstructed view of my project though by being prompted by the coursework. What I need to do more of is draw in critical resources, provide balanced argument and move forward, and do this across a range of my own research to “put fuel in the tank”.

Intensified focus and improved organisation. There were so many seemingly disparate inputs.

Some things are settling down, over access to conferences and group etiquette within conferences.

For a while, I carried a question about modernism is art versus photography. It took a while to resolve as amongst the many sources that had become available I didn’t initially find my way back to the learning material (video). Here it is:

Modernism, Postmodernism (and back again) (Cosgrove, 2019)

Cosgrove, S. (2019) PHO702: Informing Contexts: Falmouth Flexible Photography HubFalmouth Flexible. Available at: (Accessed: 1 February 2019).

Assessment Period

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