PHO704 Week 1 Technological Modernity (as applied to Photographic Practice)

This item has been moved to the Contextualisation blog

Apologies for that. I’m trying to instil a higher degree of order and finding it quite a challenge as (with any filing system, and this blog is a document filing system) one item might store in two locations. Ultimately it is better if readers can find stuff.

Note: the blog structure was eventually resolved at Week 4 of the FMP!

This has happened following discussion amongst fellow students at the new session Module Leader Group Tutorial. Having said that we have three Alumni visiting next week to talk and specifically mention about organisation

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.

PHO704: Week 10: Photography and its Fine Art Market

Work in Progress Portfolio

In order for my progress to be reviewed in Week 10, I’ve attached below a draft of current work in progress. I am enjoying making new images, even if trial and error is a large part of it. I thought experimentation was coming under control yet as I curtail wider attempts like long exposure, I still have pursued other realms: framing (as a reaction against the conformity of unifying squares and in greying images and technique layering to calm things down as part of my anti-kitsch movement.

Technical layout (with InDesign)

Control has now been gained so instead of those quad layouts published over past weeks and to be honest, in the last module, those pixellated versions of full resolution files that got published (in despair), I’m now happy to more or less have full control over layout. Thank you to the Falmouth Software Teaching Team for advising back in early September.

Simplify, simplify is the mantra (I agree. Let the photographs do the talking). Even when avoiding bells and whistles there was still a key lesson to learn. Yes a tutor could see why I grouped images but still it is better to have one image per page – I’m working on it. Some images come alive on a larger scale.

Although expansion of PDF pages to larger size works well, I presented via Canvas where sadly the expansion does not have a control. I’ll write that off to experience.

Narrative Simplification

As a string of three developed or developing projects there has to be a history and how difficult that is to hold back. I do let the pictures talk nowadays and invariably I get asked to explain, which is good. If interest is expressed then respond is the idea. I usually give the following pitch:

“Bravery and sad events unspoken. Now 100 years on, as tears are wiped away, I remember them (I remember them all), through the glow that is life’s force.” Michael Turner

The challenge is in taking it a step further. I learn and relearn not to mention the 100 years, instead I should focus on the future to enable link-back in time (usually to world events). 

The second challenge is not to mention the mitochondrial DNA. Genetics is complex, highly complex and for some viewers/listeners it has been intimidating. Instead l should link to the viewer through common experience, which of course I get, but to enact this is much more of a challenge. At this point I fall back on the emotional baggage – I cannot directly reference the past as it affects me too deeply. However, I will say it has drawn a family together. Nowadays, abstraction is my “therapy”, my means of remaining connected without the baggage. 

There is strong authenticity at a personal level and yet I cannot ignore the degrading of the work if it were ever deemed to be kitsch.  I understand the work is not kitsch and yet I have reacted to the possibility. The main factor is the toning down I have wanted to see in my highly saturated colour images. Trying to be clever, and not always a good idea, I have met with some success in review in terms of combining monochrome images and colour images. Some of my colour work now only focusses on a specific point of interest (signposting) and the remainder of the image is toned down. I suppose a form of colour popping. This can also be seen as cliched. Getting balance right is a very tricky skill to master but one worth persevering with. Anyway, as I look at the bright images on screen so much, too much colour can make the eyes seek rest. 


I was asked by a fellow student to consider this and without reply I quietly took this away for improvement. I have grouped images that go together as already mentioned but I also reverse time order. Again I fell foul of the work outside of term time being discarded by the course rules. I returned to the earlier style and placed those images at the end or out of order in a sense. For me the narrative was always the researched written narrative, that I was illustrating. Now my work has taken on a life of its own it will have to stand on its own. If though, I take a recent inspiration, Ellen Carey, her work is presented as thematic groups and development phases. As abstract work, what is the narrative? 

Colour Grading and Colour matching and Print

I’ve gone back to print, hurrah. Now with a different technical platform and sadly with an attendant loss of control over colour profiles. This has forced the agenda over colour control in my images which I’ve wanted to refine for a while now. It has been great to read up on technique but I invented my own technique. The question is how far to go as there is no branding or product colour consistency required. 

Degree of Difficulty

Trying to photograph an elbow is tricky in close-up/macro/magnified. Try and photography one’s own elbow – I think you get the message. This is the photographic challenge and so I set-up a comparative trial: DSLR v flexible bridge camera v Smartphone with lens add-on. There is a convenient method, the latter and the other two methods give results in some circumstances. I mention this as the value of work is aided by overcoming such constraints.

Review images – web version 

“Photographic seeing meant an aptitude for discovering beauty in what everybody sees but neglects as too ordinary.”

Sontag, Susan. On Photography (Penguin Modern Classics) (p. 89). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

PHO704: Week 9: Who buys photography? Part 2

I enter this week mindful of the end of module assignments that need to be handed in: the draft oral presentation was reviewed and has taken onboard numerous amendments and I have been sleeping on it (for rather too long); the portfolio of abstract photographs of the new work I have been making is a growing body of work that I’ll need to edit and place within my portfolio; the CRJ which is this blog has extended week on week and as the work this module has been more business orientated I’ve gone back over some research for parts that need further building upon.

Meanwhile in going from Week 8 into Week 9 I have been quite pleased at the continuity that occurred as if by chance in that the Week 8 work estimate I made anticipated ahead many of the points emphasised by Amy Simmons Art Producer in the Week 9 video.

Meanwhile, on the subject of Treatment – the request Amy made at the end of her video, I’ve been active making sketches / illustrations / diagrams and decided to make a method of my planned photographs suiting the requirements of Landscape, Square and Portrait and constraints of upper left Copy and lower right Logo.

I haven’t committed my answer yet as clearly a simpler approach is better. Meanwhile I am driven to risk something more thoughtful and showing enterprising spirit that might differentiate my photography from others work. I probably need to corral some of my existing photographs and cannibalise them into the examples in my Treatment submission. I don’t think there is really enough time for this.

I have taken a bit of time to go back to my photographic interests outside of the course and will be hosting a light painting workshop later in the week.

It has been refreshing to listen to a talk by Ted Paterson and Morag Leeming who have lived and worked on dual signed work in an area of Scotland I have gone back to repeatedly over the past few years and which was the start of my current practice.

In complete contrast I listened to a colleague’s live practice presentation on Still Life, Allegory, Vanitas and Momento Mori. I’d had some prior exposure and had looked into still life lighting techniques. It was great to reinforce that growing knowledge and the inspiration of Caravaggio and Pieter Claesz.

Vanitas – Pieter Claesz

Apart from that, on a practical level a change of computing platform has led me to the need to re-calibrate for print. It can be quite a lengthy prospect setting up especially as the software hiccuped. I took advice from another colleague and will be tracking down profiles from the Epson international site in Australia. I really must get back to creating tangible results for my work.

Lastly, I’ve gone back to competition, which I let wither and with a bit more focus managed a third place equal in Advanced competition. I’d let this slip of late due to personal circumstances and in giving the MA Photography priority.

Another area I’ve let slip outside of the course and that I’ve yet to reconnect with are the various groups I shoot with in and around London missing three events in the space of a fortnight. In a sense it is better I learn from the course to concentrate on shooting according to a defined practice with preset objectives and I can go back to the social side of shooting as and when there is time.

PHO704: Week 8: Who buys photography? Part 1

Jumping ahead a little to Week 8 – I still have the previous week to blog – I was busy taking onboard review comments for the draft Oral presentation when two guest lectures popped up out of the blue. Well at least I’d not spotted either in the schedule until one was almost ended and the other had finished earlier that day. I put them on the back burner until the recordings became available. I was also engrossed in research on the contextual side. Susan Sontag in On Camera discussing art in terms of painting versus photography.

Week 8 Tell a Story

Commission: Promotion of local woodland walk.

Post the summer holiday period, promote getting out into the Autumn countryside. 

Setting off
Inner World
Homeward Bound

This is the sequence with the end collage update following comment by another student regarding the intent behind the final collage. I’d allowed an opening of dog with walker so needed to end on the them of returning home. I did this by including the spotty dogs in the final collage.

The alternative I considered was to drop the idea of dog walking and go for a much more subtle narrative of into the woods – within the woods – exiting the woods. Here is the original end collage:

Into the Open

In the end I considered the popularity that dog photographs are met with on the internet and parked the more subtle approach I’d had as often the viewer might not pickup on the subtleties. 

PHO704: Week 6: Draft Oral Presentations

After the fact:

That was quite a week. It started with cutting out a studio opportunity to give me some breathing space for drafting the Oral Presentation. Next, the task looked identical to the previous Oral – the wording was the same, and all that had changed was a shift in my practice. We had that resolved by the Tuesday pm, with a letter of clarification and an update to the task description. So two and a half days leftover which we were to create a bright shining new presentation.

I learn that the experience comes around once a module or twice a module if we count draft and final versions

I was on the bounce from a previous experience, which was tainted with shooting away in remote areas of Scotland. The transfer to mobile was quite sudden and unplanned (not my fault/nothing I could be but buckle down). The technology went horribly wrong. Nasty, nasty nasty. Do I want to remind myself? No. It is in the past. However, it has stayed with me and affected my approach to these Oral Presentations. In a sense, this task had become a first time experience, learning new tools on a new platform. Last time I created the whole piece, the day beforehand in – I never planned to do this but being horribly constrained, it happened that way. So this time, even the reduction of timeframe to two and a half days was a luxury.

Being the visual type, I was now really pleased to be able to collate photographs with ease. Before, every click had been painful. Next was the changeover of platform and software tools. Even what tools should I use? This I would have answered the last module, and this is why I reckon it felt like starting over, instead of building on past experience.

I had favourite methods but was not able to use them last time (mobility issue)  or even this time (change of platform). A wilderness or a stage for experimentation? Rather than dawdle, it was a case of make a decision. I went native with the supplied software, the wrong software. It was a great way of working that at last, I seemed to be enjoying. A quick test demonstrated the file should translate.

So yes I overdid the bells and whistles through unwittingly selecting a theme with too many visual elements available and that I also used. Too much for typical Photographic taste. Post review that was quickly rectified. I should have known better by now and yes I keep seeing others sites with the most minimalistic appearance designed to make the photographs sing, or something like that.

A significant part of the exercise was presented in the presence of time pressure. Now the Oral creation involves a narrative and photo narrative, but it also consists of a production task. With time for just one run through, how was this going to succeed? How do you aim and achieve a specific file size limit and speaking duration? These metrics are critical in the context of the task set.

In came a quick piece of creative thinking. Put the main punch of the presentation, the bit/content that had to be there, put it at the beginning. Then follow with the supporting development of photographic practice. I was only a few minutes over, and an edit sorted that. A massive PDF saved to a smaller size, a fraction of that allowed. At once relief but also there was some scepticism over resolution. I accepted the comfort and whether turning a blind eye or not, was happy at the superficial level that individual pixels didn’t show. This is part I deem to be the production task. Given to an expert to work on, they’d size and check and do the technical posting. As an all in one mission, that experience has to be gained.

When it came to the actual timed review, the disconnect in the timeline was noticeable – my ruse had been discovered. Post review I’ve got time to swap back into time order. It’s easy enough to change the time order – simply swipe up or down a  list of slides. However, it’s a more significant task to do than that. With alterations resulting from the review, the timings and file sizes alter, and the job has to be resized to take on board all of the changes.

In reality, and I kind of knew this from extensive experience, it’s a case of allowing time to do the Oral draft task twice with multiple practices runs being necessary to meet timing and size constraints. I must go back to completely finish that off. I’ve been somewhat distracted by my photographic reading – I went back to Susan Sontag On Camera and dived into Fashion Photography and Kinship lifestyle magazine from past and current research recommendations.

I was pleased to have gotten together a consistent look to my images and will ditch those horrible default frames that add nothing. I faltered in delivery on basically checking whether there was time left to fit in the full slide deck which marginally there was. The practice is necessary. Having time to practice is also required.

I thoroughly enjoyed the task, even if left to last in order (the creeping pressure that lasted the whole session) and heightened time pressure due to starting late. Others presentations and reviews gnawed into the available time. It was a great relief getting through it, and then as a bonus, there was clear and purposeful advice I’m able to work with.

I’ll crack on with that.

On the subject of potentially compromised image resolution, there is something to add – I certainly worried about it and was picked up on it last time. PDF file size reduction works but can be visible. For this course, a piece of work was done by the University by the software training department. I tried it out during late summer. What it means is InDesign if available, can be set up to use full resolution images and the reduction can be made there. I was shown the method called save to an interactive PDF. Small file size with uncompromised image resolution.

As I have not used any visuals here so far, I will post the updated draft when I’ve got it in order, I’ll include one photograph from my non-DSLR digital processing era. From this, a lot of my later abstract image references developed. It is a really dirty image, designed to grab attention and was photographed on a cold December night in London’s Oxford Street and taken through the misted upper deck window of a London bus.

Oxford Street

PHO704: Week 5: Stronger Together

In Week 5, we were presented with a task of producing some co-authored work.

Co-authorship Take 1 and 2

I set off to a meeting in a nearby town to establish contact and begin the co-authorship task. I arrived seemingly prepared, yet as is often the case in my photography, chance intervened and plans altered.

I found there to be a lively gathering and was strategically placed to enter the conversation. But,  it was someone else who gained my attention first. The subject was broached, yet I knew that this potential coauthor wasn’t really a candidate. They’d travelled, and I’d not reasonably be able to get to the location and photograph in good time. I could have persisted and made something from the situation, but I still had in mind my preferred choice of co-author.

In the event, I was only able to take part in the snatches of conversation with them, so this attempt fell flat.  Lesson learnt.

Take 3

A nearby scenic location had earlier come to mind as a potential area to conduct this weeks task. So having set aside the time, I set off and went to get a feel for the place on an actual day before approaching a member of the public. It was a great October day, but the light was wrong, being rather bright and contrasty and it would have been too much. I decided to wait until the hour before sunset to return and go on the lookout in a shop or cafe for an opportunity to find a co-author. It would be more comfortable in a more captive setting to strike up a discussion, but I was prepared to take the risk. I’m confident in talking to others I’ve not met before and usually get into easy conversation reasonably effortlessly. As time passed, and the onset of more sympathetic lighting conditions, an unexpected request came in via social media.

Take 4

Someone who’d seen my current work made contact as they had a request. Having recently lost a family member, they enquired about having one of my abstract colour treatments applied to this person photo. A discussion was fairly general at first, and as I realised the opportunity to co-author, I got into gear and suggested a suitable starting image, one I had in my catalogue from back in 2015. As the live discussion unfolded, I went into multitasking mode and trialled the application of my current signature style in post. Initially, the treatment I applied was too heavy on the particular portrait, thinking this might support discussion and help create clarity as feedback would likely follow, and it did.

The tonal change was requested which happily aligned with an intermediate stage of post-processing, so a new version was made available without delay. We arrived at the colour image below. As the discussion was on a trajectory of toning down, I decided to take the source image to the next stage and created a dreamy monochrome also below. It felt for me more in tune with the circumstances of the loss. I worked on and offered another image as a trial option, but the choice had already been made, so I was able to halt further processing.

Next, my request for captions was made, but initially, this was declined. Understandably more time to think would be needed in such a sensitive situation. Then almost by return my co-author got inspired and came back with song lyrics as captions. I understand the power of linking music to an image but wasn’t familiar with the choice of lyrics. I agreed with the form of words and some corrections needed for accuracy.


Fig WK5 – 1 Visions of you in shades of blue


Fig WK5 – 2 Hello darkness my old friend

Things then became more progressive. My co-author now wishes to make a canvas using both images and plans to have a couple of sets made.


I attempted to stick to the brief. In the event, I went with the spirit of co-authorship even if the subject matter involved being constrained to using an already existing portrait.

PHO704: Development – Project

Week 5 to Week 12

Developments were made in different areas of the project: Print, Macro/Microscopy, End to end image file management, Post improvements in technique, Colour Calibration and Colour Management. I planned to work on colour and have started to make inroads now that I routinely measure it as a standard practice. I currently make custom filters to add or remove casts. There is more to do as are there are other methods. There has to be a purpose, and for me, it is to build consistency across a portfolio, to pull images towards a signature direction. That is coming along.

I also questioned rectangular (square) framing and developed a method of more directly guiding the gaze. I’m not happy yet with this as a widespread effect The idea was bubbling away, and I was waiting for an opportunity to reframe like this, and when I chanced upon the work to Ellen Carey, I decided to act. Carey reframes as a result of the Polaroid push-pull method and creates an attractive surfboard look in some of her (colour) monochrome prints. So far I’ve opted for a sort of keyhole kind of approach, but having developed the technical method that scales (photographing and tracing in Illustrator and passing the result as a layer into post), then it is down to homing in on a durable style. It can even derive from freehand sketching rather than starting with the making of a framed photograph. There are two examples in my portfolio:

Narrative development has also taken place. Abstracts in my collection are displayed in a line to prevent overload or clashing of images. The metaphor I heard in tutor group meetings was of poetry or song or from writing punctuation. I went ahead and as a start now group in threes with white tile rests. That tackle visual narrative.

A further development designed for impact is call and response captioning, which can be seen in my portfolio. Repetition in the captions helps the narrative, and as a trial, I recorded audio of the captions, and it begins to add drama as it starts to drive the images along in slideshow. 

I’m surprised how much this has come along. I still work with stage 1 abstract and stage 2 abstract, and overall, it is still down to developing further skill and judgement basically through practice.

The personal nature and physical inaccessibility for the subject matter led to the trial of a smartphone camera (clip-on lens), articulated mirrorless bridge and DSLR with autofocus bracketing. I want to use the latter for quality, but the smartphone versatility wins out consistently. I don’t really want to have a smartphone-based portfolio if it can be helped. Practical considerations may constrain what is practicable. There are techniques for smartphone use that can be improved get the results I’m looking for in an image before I abstract it in the now usual way.

Week 4

Work diverted off into a minor project and freed up my thinking for a short while. This was much appreciated, having been focussed so intensely on my main work abstracting images of which more below too.

Microscopy Experiment

Short Project

Fig W4 – 1  Microscopy project

I’d intended to work in the garden in a certain way expecting to create long exposure images. So much for having a plan in the end though. I was influenced by a commercial course I reviewed for the Studios and Training Centre, where I hang out as Studio Manager.

After some test shots, I changed tack to microscopy instead.

I was surprised by how working freely allowed intuition to take over. It pulled together several strands of practice.  After a recent period of abstracting, I felt the need to shoot straight images for a while if only for some relief. Photography has to be fun at least at this stage and hopefully later in time too.

A chat I had during the summer at the Institute of Photography at the Penryn Campus hinted towards microscopy. This was arrived at through my discussing Cellular repair and DNA. I wasn’t thinking scanning electron microscope so much as solving the more practical consideration of print size for small areas of physical trauma abstracted.

The technique thus moved over to a smartphone fitted with an x15 clip-on lens. I practised this with much joy using: an x15 magnification lens combined with x10 optical zoom along with a method of steadying and remote release and I was good to go. I’ve stuck with x1 optics for now as it gives enough magnification for my purpose.

As for the results, well you can see above.

Working outdoors at high magnification and in a breeze was a technical challenge, and the images were medium/good quality. It made sense though to add an oil filter effect as a post process with sympathetic treatment. This too helped to further tie together the images as a set. In terms of my practice, this represented progress in gaining a consistent collection of photographs.

I could have diverted for a lot longer to gain a much more extensive catalogue to create a body of work. Mindful of time, I stopped. I had what I wanted. As the season continues to change the source subject material has now drifted towards decay with the approaching winter.

Long Exposure Experiment

My thoughts on long exposure resulted in some abstract work later in the week.


Fig W4 – 2 Long Exposure


Fig W4 – 3 Long Exposure

I feel this kind of technique could work alongside the Great War theme behind my work. I’ll see if it fits my project or not.

Project Abstract Development

Abstracted images this week adding to the ever-growing catalogue of this work.

Abstract Collection

Fig W4 – 4 Abstract Collection

Bottom row – minor trauma/healing abstracted

Top row – experimental abstract images

Week 3

This week I was highly conscious of getting a rush out of recent developments in my work which so far had gone without Tutor or fellow student review. Up until this week, I was still challenged by issues affecting the VLE and so the change I made in my direction in the last week of the previous module meant I had an increased investment and increased volume of work that had not been seen or commented upon.

The Digital Possibilities challenge using Instagram gave the ideal opportunity to go out to the broader world. This combined with two reviews, a Tutor review and a presentation I gave to the Contemporary Group of the RPS at Regents University. I took the risk and let the world see what I was creating and was fully prepared for all of the feedback.

Fig Wk 3 -1 Early Project Abstracts Reviewed

Developmental comments were gratefully received and were consistent across Tutor review group and RPS Contemporary Group. While a number of the images gain appreciation including via @fotographical at Instagram the trouble is in the complexity arising in talking to the pictures as scope stretches across commemorative historical, narratives, Scottish regiments, mDNA, X-chromosome.

Development suggestions range from captioning, including some prose or poetry. The main point is the realisation of the need to simplify the intent. A great example is Chloe Dewe Mathews work Shot at Dawn, A straightforward concept everything talked about relates directly back to the title, and the pictures are also directly link to the title.

The research behind the work is also substantive, and the viewer is left to imagine the persons missing.

Week 2

Past Event Connected through DNA

A significant development occurred only quite late on in my chosen project (in the last fortnight of the term).

This was when chance and research led me to link to the past via family DNA. This substantive change in strategy gives something significant to list in this section of my CRJ blog. I have begun to link past trauma to minor cuts and bruises and bodily repair processes, experimenting with making abstract art from this.

At this stage of writing, I only log the development and intend later on to think further on this. The subject is already covered in my recently submitted project proposal in August 2018. Events moved rather fast, and I reached publication ahead of going through this part of the blog.

I was faced with choosing amongst options that could have overtaken this approach.

Separate Options for Project

I’ll list here the other options and give some of the contexts as these ideas developed before I abruptly shut them off. It is feasible that the possibilities might become reinstated is one thought but would need to go through a critique process before adoption as the subject matter needs to be appropriate to the academic course, the MA Photography that I’m taking.

OTNT: Old Town – New Town contrasted with the same for a location on the edge of Metroland.

I had tried to get something going on my Old Town – New Town OTNT work for a town on the edge of Metro-land and another nearby pairing. I did shoot for this and at first found I could almost summarise the work in a single session – of course, this would have been hopelessly optimistic but not too far removed, perhaps. I didn’t see the subject extending to a final major project. I was in part put off by discovering a contact who worked as a professional journalist and who had blogged on one half of the subject  I’d arrived at.

Their blog has become relatively inactive, and they had no problem with my processing my work even if there is a location overlap.

Emotional Charge

I use this heading to indicate an element I feel has to be in some measure a vital part of my project work and which can carry a toll when intensity is maintained. For the Commemorative Historical project, this has proven to be high impact positively up to the point of introducing the DNA signposting element as I call it, which steers the work much more towards the analytical. For the OTNT option, the work has not carried any toll and is mostly a photojournalistic in approach. That’s not to say that photojournalism is neutral. Clearly, in some circumstances it can give a great deal of risk or danger.

From practice, in working the Commemorative Historical project, the experience of sustained or recurring emotion does create strain.

As the Commemorative project is heavily loaded emotionally, it can create a great feeling of authenticity. The OTNT juxtaposition, by comparison, lacks the bite.

Sustainability Factors

The Final Major Project needs to be chosen to support continuous shooting. This can average up to 10 hours per week. This did seem feasible with the OTNT option. All of the subject matter, mainly the locations are close to hand and available to shoot all year round. Shooting schedules can be controlled for outdoor lighting, seasonal or other environmental conditions. By comparison, the original Commemorative work depended heavily on distant location visits to build the narrative.

OTNT is more easily sustainable while providing more day to day shooting opportunities.

In the interests of time and knowing I have to complete the original project either within or outside of the MA then I had or was forced to cut down options to create a more intense focus and so stood down further thought of OTNT.

Other Considerations

Another consideration ( and mentioned elsewhere) was being associated with a freelance journalist who already blogs in one of the areas so our work might overlap.

I also felt that a single shoot as already done would characterise the areas reasonably well without too much additional shooting be required. Here is an example edit. Images were made in the Positions and Practice module.


A  National Charity Based Locally and a New Way Forward from the Old Town – New Town OTNT Project

OTNT started to develop towards consideration of my embedding, that is working within a national charity based locally. From a period of research conducted earlier out of interest, I could now envisage creating narratives an aspect I’ve grown to accept as an essential part of my proposed work.

While in the interests of time this work was suspended. OTNT had not gone away though and has now moved focus.

During the Assessment Period between Modules, I was able to reconsider this again. In fact, as the charity publicity kept falling before my eyes and an open day was planned that fell happily with my busy routine, I did get to make the next step. On a location visit, I’d planned for a quiet end of the day, I had the great fortune to meet and spend an extended period with the marketing manager.

We had a wide-ranging discussion around a photographic project I had in mind and almost “had my hand bitten off”. From the reaction, the proposal appealed to them very much indeed, and they were very willing to open up avenues of narrative for consideration.

I had also wanted to know the richness of the visual environment (drab browns and dull grass as it happened) and I wanted to learn of any photographic challenges that might be met. With earlier techniques in mind from a museum visit (Perth), I took along my camera, remote release and tripod.

Even with a bright day outside, the workshop environment provided a different challenge to an earlier museum shoot and in a way demanded different kit. I’ve been able to re-assess in part regarding natural lighting and would need to return to try again then if still a challenge I’d need to take in lighting and possibly battery powered to avoid trips on any leads. I might also move over to tethered shooting and use focus stacking to manage DoF.

The Effect of the Camera – Adapting to the environment

The camera had the effect of drawing in an eager helper when really the subject called for slowing down and concentration. This is simply part of photographic life and calls for tact when there is a need to maintain focus on the task.

Way Forward

I’m now waiting for the start of the new module and communicated this to the charity. I need time to review this prospect within the MA. I have done a lot of research on operations, and narratives and so on, and naturally, I discovered even more on my visit. The keys to progressing this are getting some critique and being able to manage my time when focussing on project work. There is quite a lot of developmental work I can see is needed for success and in reality, as my work evolves, there are potentially three projects hanging here in the balance.