Evaluation of C&N


Firstly I feel that my technical abilities and control over my camera settings and equipment, lighting, prop use, editing skills, locations, camera angles etc have improved and overall I have a better understanding of how my camera works and how I can use all of the above to express or portray something. My use of aperture and depth of field to create intimate imagery is something that I feel I have begun to get to grips with in particular on this course although I am aware that I need to put some more time and effort in to mastering other techniques too. My visual skills are improving too in that I am more aware of what is potentially in the frame of any one image and whether anything in the frame will change the intended message of the picture. I have learnt to think about the angles and lines in the picture and whether they are straight, such as keeping my horizon line level unless intended otherwise. I am aware that I need to explore the implications of different lighting, colours and tones in any potential image to make sure that I am utilising the available light and colours to ensure that I am actually sending out the message with my work that I am intending – for example, not using a cool blue image to portray something happy and bubbly or vice versa a red room shadowy room to portray something safe and calm (these are obviously general examples and don’t always apply to every image).

Throughout this course I would say that I have definitely spent a lot of time outside of my comfort zone, as I am quite an anxious person this perhaps isn’t too surprising given that anything outside of my usual routines can be unnerving yet, despite this fear of the unknown, I have never, ever taken the easiest option with any of the course exercises assignments on this course. I am constantly striving for a more interesting option even if it is more difficult or daunting for me and I think this is reflected well in the work I have produced. One point I will make is that I need to be braver with regards to using my camera in public and I need to stop caring about what others are thinking and get in to my zone with it. ‘Don’t be afraid to get obsessed’ as Annie Leibovitz said recently, in the advert for her new masterclass. I have a feeling that Identity and Place will help me to overcome these social photography issues and will push me right out of my comfort zone for sure!

When re-reading my tutor reports I realised something that I hadn’t previously recognised as a strength but now do and that is my willingness and enthusiasm to learn. I would say that the only area that I could improve in regards to this is my willingness to re-shoot material for revised versions of Assignments. I also need to start revising each Assignment in response to my tutor reports earlier on so that I have time to re-shoot sections of it.

Another strength that I have is that I am able to explore several avenues before picking a final subject for Assignment instead of jumping straight in to one line of thought – something that I was previously struggling with but have developed as I have moved through EYV and C&N. I would like to continue doing this and something that I know I need to improve in relation to this is the strength of my ideas – when I pick a subject I need to be clear on what my intentions are and be careful not to go off on tangents that make the final series confusing. For example – Assignment 3 would have been better if the same elements had been used in all of the photographs (one being me as one of my former selves in an archive photo and the other presence a link to the present me). In my final images, although the images were very good and the set very strong, the intentions behind it were not very clear to the viewer. I know at times I tend to forget what I am striving for when shooting and tend to float in to something else and although that flow could have its uses sometimes it is not very good practice for Assignments moving forward. This is something that I am working very hard on changing and for my final Assignment I began to formulate some very strong ideas about what I wanted to portray and what I was inspired by and how I was responding to that.

One of the things that was flagged time and time again in EYV by my tutor was a flaw in my research process meaning that I did not explore enough of the work of my contemporaries and of historical figures within the Photography genre and so throughout Context and Narrative I have tried very very hard to include detailed research pages with both factual conclusions and personal evaluations of what I have learnt and what has inspired or confused me. Through my tutor reports for this course I can see that I have achieved a big leap in this department and my hard work has therefore begun to pay off. I still need to keep working on applying the research that I have done to my own work but I have made a very good start at least towards perfecting my research process.

During this course I have visited double the amount of exhibitions that I did throughout EYV and although I am aware that I need to increase this amount still further I am pleased with my efforts thus far. I used to find galleries and exhbitions a little dull but since I have been studying Photography I feel able to engage with the exhibitions better, they mean more to me now. I wish I lived a bit closer to London because I keep seeing lots of exhibitions on sites such as Artsy.net that would really interest me that are based in London. When I begin Identity and Place I will try to make it up to London for a day of exhibition viewing, the only limitation being that I don’t have very much money for the transport. Recently I viewed Trish Morrissey’s A Certain Slant of Light at Hestercombe house which is only a short distance from me and I made use of a holiday in Wales to visit an exhibition there so it is possible to find exhibitions around me I just need to keep looking and attend everything I come across so that I can build more of a contextual section to my blog and thus expand my own knowledge of my contemporaries.

I have tried to self-appraise after each Assignment using the Assessment Criteria as guidelines and my tutor pointed out that I don’t include enough of what I could have done better or differently and I talk more of my strengths. I feel a bit embarrassed by this as I didn’t want to come across as boastful but neither did I want to talk too negatively as I am a very harsh critic of my self and my work anyway. However I do understand that it is important for me to be able to talk about what didn’t go as well as I had hoped and what I can do about it in the future. I endeavor to improve my self-appraisal as I hope I have done in this text as I write it.

I would say that my best work, the work which I am most proud of is actually Assignment 4 which way the photo interpretation essay. I was very worried about how I would do on this Assignment as I have not had to do anything like it before and it was really daunting but I feel the end result is really rather good considering. It took a great deal of perseverance and concentration and I think this really paid off. Of the physical Assignments I would say that Assignment 3 is my best work, it is my strongest set in terms of material, colour scheme, personal voice and imagination.

Overall I have enjoyed every part of this course, even at its most challenging and looking back at my progress from start to finish has made me feel very proud of myself and my achievements. I am amazed at how much I have learnt and grown in just over one year. I am very much looking forward to the next step, Identity and Place and will take all that I have learned over to this next step of my BA Hons Photography journey.



Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, a Start to Understanding Barthes Theories

Here are my notes on the first 13 Chapter’s of Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, 1989 which has helped me with my re-work of Assignment 4. Under each subtitle named after the relevant Chapter in the book there is a short summary of what I have learnt from each section including the key terms and their definitions.

Chapter 1

An introduction in to Barthes’ very first realisations that he wanted to learn ‘at all costs’ what Photography was ‘in itself’.

Chapter 2

Barthes starts to expand on his early realisations about Photography. He talks of classification and how the classifications we give to photographs tend to be external and do not relate to their essence.

(Professional/Amateurs) = Empirical

(Landscapes/Portraits/Nudes) = Rhetorical

(Realism/Pictorialism) = Aesthetic

Barthes talks of the nature of a photograph, the inescapable fact that the photograph is a moment in time that occurred once in real life but can be reproduced over and over again: ‘the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially’.

Barthes introduces some terminology:

the referant : what the image represents

He suggests that any one photograph is never separated from its referent. He gives the examples The Windowpane and the Landscape, Good and Evil and Desire & it’s Object. He then points out that there is ‘no photograph without something or someone, of all the objects in the world: why choose (why photograph) this object, this moment, rather than some other?’.

Chapter 3

Bathes speaks of his aversion to reductionism of any kind and in rejecting any hardened language or system (such as phenology, sociology, semiology, psychoanalysis..) he resolved to make himself the mediator for all Photography.

Chapter 4

Barthes suggests that a photograph can be the object of three practices – to do, to undergo, to look.

More terminology is introduced here:

The Operator = the Photographer

The Spectator = Ourselves ‘All of us who glance through collections of photographs – in magazines, & newspapers, in books, albums, archives…’

The Spectrum = that which is on display, the subject

And Barthes explains what Photography technically is in terms of the chemical and physcial processes combined that together produce a Photograph:

Chemically Photography is: the action of light on certain substances

Physically Photography is: the formation of an image through an optical device

Chapter 5

Barthes talks in depth about being the subject of a photo-portrait (from a personal angle) and the inevitability of ‘Death’ of the Spectrum when it is photographed and how photographer’s seek to lessen it’s obviousness (by adding more light to make the subject look more alive or props such as art brushes).

‘In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the Photographer thinks I am and the one he makes use of to exhibit his work’ – Roland Barthes, pg 13 Camera Lucida 1982

Chapter 6

Barthes explains how he does not like every photograph by any one Photographer who’s one image he has been delighted by. Hence photography is an uncertain act. He seems confused by the way that we tend to describe a Photographer as having a style -if that were true he would presumably connect and delight in all Photographs made by that Photographer.

Chapter 7

Barthes sets off to explore what it is that makes one photograph delight him more than another which might satisfy the same interest but yet not fascinate him in the same way. He terms the attraction certain photographs exert on him as adveniences. ‘This picture advenes, that one doesn’t.

Chapter 8

Barthes suggests that Spectators are only interested in Photography for ‘sentimental reasons’. – I see, I feel, hence I notice, I observe, I think.

Chapter 9

Barthes noticed that just as a photograph can please, interest or intrigue or, contrastly, become non-existent to him that others can simply exist.

Chapter 10

Barthes identifies the two elements which explain the spark in his interest towards certain photographs and terms them:

The Studium: the application to a thing, taste for someone, a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment, without special acuity

The Punctum: the sensitive points that jump out and pierce the heart of the viewer – they wound

Chapter 11

Barthes explains the studium and punctum in more detail.

Images with no punctum please or displease without pricking.

The studium is the order of liking and not of loving. I like, I don’t like – not I love or I hate. The studium allows the Spectator to study the Operator and discover his intentions.

Chapter 12

Barthes speaks of Photography’s unique link to ethnological knowledge and questions of. The Photograph can show the dress of a certain culture, the length of nails worn in a certain era much better than a portrait painting can.

Chapter 13

Barthes acknowledges the similarities between Photography and Painting but says that Photography is actually closer to theatre because of their joint relationship with ‘Death’.

‘Photography is a kind of primitive theatre, a kind of Tableau vivant, a figuration of the motionlessand made-up face beneath we see death.’ – Roland Barthes, pg 31, Camera Lucida 1989











Book Review of Barrett’s ‘Criticizing Photographs’

My tutor emailed me a copy of this book in digital scan format to help me with Assignment 4. I found it useful so I am writing a short book review on it here.

The book is titled ‘Criticising Photographs’ which is a very literal statement about the book’s content and the author is Terry Barrett. Barrett is a reputable source because he is well educated (he has MA’s and PhD degrees in his field¹), has taught art education for forty years (he departed Ohio State University in 2009 as Professor Emeritus¹) and is a well-known art critic who’s theories have been and continue to be used to help transform thinking within the field of photography and art.

As I haven’t come across a great deal of books in this category I can’t make much of a comparison between this text and another on image interpretation. However, in comparison to the many summarising articles I read on the subject² I can say that Barrett’s work is much more in depth and therefore more useful as a long term reference.

Something that I immediately liked about the book from the first line only was the way that Barrett addresses that criticism doesn’t have to be negative, and should in fact be equally appreciative. I had always thought that critics had to be very judgemental and negative in their work as I have read many negatives reviews before by critics and obviously ‘critic’ comes from the word ‘critical’ which immediately makes me think of a negative approach. So that immediately changed my view on how to write a critical review of an image, I suddenly found that I have the freedom to write appreciatively and negatively in whatever proportions I feel appropriate according to my own opinions and my own research on the genre etc that the work falls in to.

The book is split in to 8 Chapters and I must confess that I did not read the book in order but that I jumped between the Chapters according to what I thought would be relevant to my own work. Each Chapter is then split in to sub categories and these are referenced in the Contents page with handy page numbers next to them for easy access to any given section so that a busy reader can skip to the section most relevant to him/her. I enjoyed the way that Barrett generally begins each section with descriptions followed by questions that help the reader engage with what they are reading. This really helped me to apply what I was reading to the image that I was attempting to interpret. For example at the beginning of Chapter 2 which is entitled ‘Describing Photographs’ there is the following text which includes an example of the engaging questions I have just mentioned:

‘Descriptions are answers to the questions: “What is here? What am I looking at? What do I know with certainty about this image?” The answers are identifications of what is obvious and the not so obvious.’ – Terry Barrett, pg 50 of ‘Criticising Photographs’

The book has images in it too which help to illustrate the examples given and also help to break the book down so that it isn’t just an overwhelming wedge of text. For example in Chapter 2, page 19, there is a full page image by Cindy Sherman that illustrates the passage about Cindy Sherman’s work, in particular her Untitled Film Stills project and the examples of what several different critics have said about the work. The image is there to help illustrate the points being made, as the viewer should be able to see the points being made within the actual image itself. Personally I found the inclusion of images really helpful as the text can get a bit overwhelming at times and the images helps me, as a visual learner, to connect what I am reading to the image it is in response to.

Chapter 4 entitled Types of Photographs has a section called ‘Interpretations and Feelings’ was also particularly useful to me as it highlights the use of the critics feelings in a review and how a critical review of a piece of work should include feelings and not rely solely on the intellectual aspect. I wasn’t sure how much I should add to my interpretation that wasn’t strictly research based but I now know that coming from the gut is the best base to draw a critical review on.

In conclusion I found the book very useful and I haven’t finished exploring it fully yet. It is a reference material I will continue to use throughout the duration of this course and in future work. It is invaluable to me and I would urge others to read it, at the very least by picking and choosing which parts are relevant to you at the time.


[¹] Terry Barrett, About Page on his website http://terrybarrettart.com/about.htm (accessed on 20/09/2017)

‘After about four years of high school work, I accepted an entry-level faculty position at Ohio State University, pursued art, art criticism, and aesthetics through MA and a PhD degrees, and enjoyed a forty-year career in Art Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Art, departing as Professor Emeritus in 2009. I taught, wrote books, and made art, which I continue to do today, with Susan Michael Barrett, and our nine grandchildren.’ – Terry Barrett in his About page on http://terrybarrettart.com/about.htm

[²] Other less in depth articles on the subject of image interpretation that I have read:

http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/677 (accessed on 15/09/2017)

https://photography.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-read-a-photograph–cms-25495 (accessed on 15/09/2017)

http://nuovo.com/southern-images/analyses.html (accessed on 15/09/2017)


Trish Morrissey: A Certain Slant of Light Exhibition at Hestercombe


On Saturday I went to Hestercombe house to view Trish Morrissey’s work which is exhibited in the gallery there. Morrissey was Hestercombe’s Artist in Residence last year (2017) and her project entitled A Certain Slant of Light is made up of two bodies of work that center on the lives of the last two female occupants of Hestercombe who, at different periods, ran the house independently of any male influence. The work is split in to four sections, two photo series and two films which are exhibited alongside a selection from Hestercombe’s archives, of which inspired and informed Morrissey to create this project. All the characters in A Certain Slant of Light are played by Morrissey herself in this body of work that centres around questions of identity, class, gender, role play, body and gesture, the language of photography and the relation between public and private.

Hestercombe house is a stately home and garden in Taunton, Somerset that dates back to 1280. Since the 1870’s the house has been updated somewhat which changed the look of the architecture considerably. Since the 1850’s the house had been owned by South Somerset Council and it was used by the fire service as their headquarters! The gardens, which were very overgrown, were restored by the Hestercombe trust when they took over them two decades ago. In 2015 the house went in to trust care and the Hestercombe gallery was opened.

The two women who Morrissey’s work revolves around are Miss Elizabeth Maria Tyndale Warre (1790-1872) and The Right Honourable Mrs Constance Portman (1854-1951). Miss Warre, was a spinster who inherited the house (and it’s considerable debt) from her father – she never had any children and 600 years of family ended with her. There were no visual records of her at all in the Hestercombe archives, only anecdotes that outlined her character and appearance, mainly from her cousin’s point of view. Mrs Portman was widowed early on in her marriage when her husband died of pneumonia and she was left in charge of the estate. Mrs Portman’s son was a keen photographer and he photographed her extensively so there was lots of visual material for Morrissey to draw from. In fact, Morrisey’s initial interest in the house and these women came from some of the images of Mrs Portman that were on display when she came to see another show that was opening at Hestercombe. Mrs Portman caught Morrissey’s eye because of the unusual way that she never looked at the camera although she was clearly aware of it.

“The photos of Mrs Portman in the common room were remarkable to me because she never looked at the camera and she had a very particular pose which was to the right and looking down.” – Trish Morrissey: a certain slant of light on Vimeo

Morrissey was interested enough to want to explore the archival material further so she was put in touch with the archivist of the Hestercombe Trust, Kim Legate, and on researching Mrs Portman further she found material relating to her predecessor Miss Ware who also ran the house independently at a time when women weren’t very liberated.

“I was interested in her as a woman and her as a boss and her relationship to the act of being photographed” – Trish Morrissey: a certain slant of light on Vimeo, talking about Mrs Portman

Morrissey immersed herself in the lives of the two women through the archival material and by residing in the very house that the two women had once inhabited. Morrissey had a room to work in and 24 hour access to the house and gardens which allowed her to really get in to the character’s of the women she was playing. Morrissey plays all the characters in the short films and in the photographs herself and her decision to do this is based on the fact that she knows she can rely on herself to always show up, she knows what she wants from the picture and she doesn’t have to worry about ethics or exploitation[¹].

Entry to the house is £11.80 per adult which includes access to the house, gardens, gallery, hall, cafe, plant nursery and book & gift shops. Personally I think this is a bit steep if, like me, you just want to view the gallery but definitely reasonable if you have time to explore the rest of the house and gardens too. The gallery is on the first floor of the house, up a rather magnificent set of wooden stairs that split off to the left and right but ultimately swoop around to the same marble pillar lined landing. Trish Morrissey’s A Certain Slant of Light is exhibited on the left as you reach the top of the stairs and another exhibition called Odyssean Topographies is to the right. But before entering the gallery, if you turn around (as I did because I was in awe of the size and grandeur of the staircase, the wallpaper and the streams of light coming through a mainly glass ceiling), you are met with three of Morrissey’s photographs. The two outer most images picture Morrissey as Mrs Portman, her head and shoulders set in a circular hole in the wall that takes up the entire frame and the middle photo is Morrissey presumably as one of the servants – a young man with a moustache in a brown suit. The triptych works well where it is – positioned between three black marbled wall pillars as it is similar in colour to the wall paper and the architecture. The images are very large, you couldn’t fail to notice them. No other context is offered with these images, no captions on the walls below. As you enter the first room of the gallery itself, through a larger than life door frame you are met with sparse works sitting on vast bright wall spaces. The images immediately look lost on it, I felt like I had to cross and ocean to see an image but once I was there I immediately fell in to the scene I was viewing – with nothing to distract me except perhaps one of many intricate fireplaces that somehow just make the experience more 4D. The first room housed some of the photos of Morrissey as Miss Ware and Mrs Portman with titles on small clear plaques somewhere below each image – some of the titles have been borrowed from the words of the poet Emily Dickinson. Along with the photos are clear boxes on modern pillars that are positioned towards the center of the room displaying two hats (props from one of the accompanying films) and some of the archival material that inspired the work. The hats were designed by Morrissey herself along with Mark Harriott and are symbols of Miss Ware’s interests and character. In the adjoining room to the right was a floating screen that was showing the short film of Morrissey as Miss Ware. I sat on the bare wooden bench, the only piece of furniture in the room, and watched glimpses of the film between other people wandering in and out. My favourite scene in the film is most definitely just before the end when the dance music kicks in, a big beat with a simple but catchy tune, with Miss Ware pictured in an all red outfit, her black and silver hair all about her dancing in front of the mausoleum. I especially enjoy how to the camera starts to pan out, down the hill, over shrubs and between tall trees until the dancing red figure is little more than a wriggly red dot. See this scene here at 07:30. This scene to me sums up Morrissey’s interpretation of Miss Ware and brings the Miss Ware of the archives to life, a life that is based on facts but is also intertwined with Morrissey’s own life experiences and the way that she imagines Miss Ware to be. The scene is full of emotion, an eccentric spinster in clothing she has designed and made herself, dancing without a care in the world in the heart of the country – the mausoleum the only sign that she is of the upper classes.

As the film ended I walked back through to the main room with the catchy music from the ending scene and credits trailing behind me. I entered the next room directly in front of me and immediately I notice a beam of bright sunlight in a rectangular box on the bare floor boards which is really beautiful and gives me a feel good vibe. This side of the house is a sun trap, the large windows filtering light in to the room. The images of Morrissey as Mrs Portman in this room are similar in size and positioning as in the previous room. You have to walk some way between each image and I enjoyed this because it meant my brain wasn’t overloaded with information like it is when you are in a cramped space full of images that are just inches apart. As I ambled across the room between images there was time for my mind to wander in to each scene that I had just witnessed and this allowed more time for my own interpretations of what was going on in the picture and how I felt about it. My favourite image from both sets was an image of Morrissey as Mrs Portman where she is positioned in an armchair, reading a book. The subject has her hair pulled up in a tight formal bun, her reading glasses are on and she has a small frown of concentration on her face. The room is very dark but for a soft misting of natural light that highlights Mrs Portman’s face, softening her features. The title of this image and the subject matter were evocative to me – the title is ‘Because I could not stop for death’. Images forcing the viewer to confront the subject of our immortality are of interest to me, this one was particularly evocative but I’m not quite sure why – maybe it is because this hardened lady is looking a little more vulnerable – we all come in to this world and leave it in the same way, and with nothing – it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done in this life.

In the next room was another floating screen with the short film Six Scenes (written, performed and directed by Trish Morrisey) 2017 showing on repeat. The film is based on Mrs Portman using information and images from the Hestercombe archive to capture the essence of this somewhat formidable character. In contrast to the film about Miss Ware, this film was more formal yet Morrissey still allows humour to filter through – a scene showing an uppity Mrs Portman settling down for an afternoon nap which involved having her feet tickled by her maid (also played by Morrissey) was particularly amusing. In this film the light and costumes are much less colourful, more bland and respectable than in the Miss Ware film. I enjoyed both but the catchy music and eccentric nature of Miss Ware were still calling me from the previous film room…

After seeing the films I looked at the images again on the way out and they were even more interesting now that I was a little more familiar with the characters that they pictured. This extra context certainly helps makes sense of these figures, characters from the heart of Hestercombe house who Morrissey has extracted from the archives and brought back to life, in one way or another.

I would recommend anyone visit this exhibition which runs until Sunday the 25th of February but be aware that you should leave time to explore the rest of the house and grounds in order to get your money’s worth.



https://www.hestercombe.com/event/trish-morrissey-certain-slant-light/ Some information about the exhibition by Hestercombe itself. (accessed 20/01/2018)

https://www.facebook.com/events/860597514093316/ A little more information about the exhibtion by the Hestercombe events page on Facebook. (accessed 20/01/2018)

[¹] https://vimeo.com/246756151 Morrissey talking about the work in some detail with scenes from her films in the back ground. (accessed 20/01/2018)

https://www.list.co.uk/event/20984981-trish-morrissey-a-certain-slant-of-light/ A new description containing some further information on Morrissey’s work. (accessed 20/01/2018)

http://www.photomonitor.co.uk/25923-2/ An interview with Kate Baron about her work. (accessed 20/01/2018)

Assignment 5 (Re-work)

Main tutor suggestions to use:

  • Transcribe the lyrics of the inspiration song and offer some ideas of how you interpreted and connected your images with the lyrics, and what the final set evokes for you.
  • Consider an alternative first shot, one with more context from your contacts (perhaps no5 or 11).
  • Add more seasonal context? (an angel, a bauble etc).
  • Take out the repetitive third shot.
  • Consider bring the rocking horse image forwards and finishing with the shot including the person.

Summary of changes made in re-working process: (see the original assignment here)

  • I added the lyrics of the song that inspired me and marked the words/phrases that are particularly moving to me within the song.
Everyday Is Christmas
Oh, father time
You and me and holiday wine
Wait for the snow
I will read the list that they wrote
Sitting by the open fire
Lovin’ you is a gift tonight
Lovin’ you for all my life
Lovin’ you is a gift tonight
Oh everyday is Christmas when you’re here with me
I’m safe in your arms, you’re my angel baby
Everyday is Christmas when you’re by my side
You’re the gift that keeps givin’, my angel for life
Everyday is Christmas
Everyday is Christmas
Everyday is Christmas with you by my side
Everyday is Christmas
Everyday is Christmas
Everyday is Christmas with you by my side
Oh, you’re my love (my love)
You’re the joy (the joy)
In my Holiday song
And when you smile 
I can’t breathe
Can’t believe that you’re mine
Sitting by the open fire
Lovin’ you is a gift tonight
Lovin’ you for all my life
Lovin’ you is a gift tonight
Oh everyday is Christmas when you’re here with me
I’m safe in your arms, you’re my angel baby
Everyday is Christmas when you’re by my side
You’re the gift that keeps givin’, my angel for life
Everyday is Christmas
Everyday is Christmas
Everyday is Christmas with you by my side
Everyday is Christmas
Everyday is Christmas
Everyday is Christmas with you by my side
Oh-oh-oh-oh, oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh, oh
With you by my side
With you by my side
Oh-oh-oh-oh, oh
With you by my side
Songwriters: Sia Furler / Greg Kurstin
Everyday Is Christmas lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
It is difficult to put in to words what the images in my final set mean to me in terms of the lyrics and song. Christmas, as for a lot of people I’m sure, holds a great deal of memories for me throughout the years so there are memories from throughout my whole life that became part of my experience with the music and the nostalgia it brought to me at this time (Christmas period). When I first heard the song I was in my van, I had just got home and it was dark and the Christmas lights had just come on in the little town I live in and it made me feel really festive where nothing else had up until then (it was pretty close to Christmas already). Christmas isn’t too exciting for me now as an adult but the feeling I had when listening to music brought back memories of being really excited and hopeful and made me feel this way again. This lead to some intrinsic thought about myself and my life in general and a feeling of deep gratitude overcame me for all the people, and animals, that I have in my life who I am lucky to be so close to and to feel so much love for. My subject is my girlfriend and she is playing herself, and at the same time she is representing me and my memories and feelings in response to this song. For example, I didn’t want to include her eyes so that she could be anybody – she is symbolic of myself (an excited child/adult at Christmas time), herself (“Everyday is Christmas when you’re here with me”) and she is playing the part of an imaginary actress in an imaginary movie where she is the leading female role! Me and my sister used to listen to Sia a lot and we used to be close and we aren’t anymore so Sia’s voice in this song is familiar and warming to me so that is another reason why this song touched me.
  • I decided to change my final image format from singular images to diptychs in the style of film negatives. This idea came after my tutor gave me suggestions about the ordering and the content of the series (ie taking out the repetitive picture) and the images I was left with, after adding something and taking one away were missing something. I used a black frame to try to create a film negative feel and I am really pleased with how this turned out – it adds more context to the images and makes them feel more cinematic, to me at least. I would have liked at least three of these boxes of two images as I think two is a bit too little to tell a story with in this instance. I am interested in coming back to this project in future, it has been my favourite assignment and project to work on so far within my OCA journey. I didn’t want to change the image with the yellow curtains and bokeh lights in the background as for me this symbolises being cosy and warm inside my home and being aware of the festive displays outside in the cold, not wanting to be out there but pleased that it was there allowing me to feel more cosy and festive. When I took the shot and looked on the viewfinder I was reminded of the (usually red) curtains at a theatre or old cinemas that peel back when the film is about to start, or end and this makes me want to keep it in the set as I think it adds that feel. In this revised set, instead of opening with it I have decided to end with it – the end credits as the curtains close.
  • Although my tutor suggested that I end with the image including my human subject I decided to end with the curtains because of the reason above (to me they represent the curtains at the end of a film, a finality). However, as suggested I have brought the rocking horse in and I think that it does sit better now, it was a bit random placed before.
  • I would like to include more seasonal context in future with an angel or a bauble, I actually would like to expand on this project in future anyway as I feel it has only just started but deserves proper time and precision to finish it – I don’t want to add unauthentic work because I am in a rush to make a bigger set – I want each image to have deeper roots than that. As it is now the end of January I don’t easily have access to baubles and angels so this might be something for next Christmas. I don’t think I can get back in to the flow when it isn’t actually Christmas, I feel like I’m done with Christmas now until the next one and that wold probably stub my creative flow.
  • As my tutor suggested I added another window shot with more context – the wider shot of the christmas tree and a variety of christmas and street lighting outside. I really like this shot – I like the deep green of the tree and the detail of it against the bokeh of the lights, out of focus lights are really sentimental to me – they remind me of childhood a lot where you aren’t really looking at the lights in detail but very ware that they are there and what they mean (Christmas day is nearly here, that people are generally happier and nicer around Christmas time, cosiness, time off school, events such as Christingle and Mass etc).


Whilst listening to a Christmas themed playlist on Spotify I came across a song, by artist Sia, which resonated with me and brought on a wave of nostalgia that took a long while to dissipate and when I shot the images in the series you’ll see below I used that rush of feeling as a a creative influence and motivation. I decided to shoot a series in the style of Film Stills with inspiration from Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, Nathaniel Dorsky’s films (and their exhibited stills) and a variety of other viewer made film stills I browsed on Tumblr, click here for my research regarding this. The set is supposed to look as though it has been taken from a music video, if I were to create a music video for Sia’s Everyday is Christmasthis is what it would look like in selected stills. As there is no original film to my ‘film stills’ I began to question their validity but actually I now think that like Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills this makes them even more intriguing and asks viewers to question the potential meaning of what they are viewing. The link to ‘Everyday is Christmas’ by Sia is here.

Each image in the set was planned and directed by myself, carefully adding and subtracting elements from the frame until I got the effects that I wanted. There is nothing in any of the images that wasn’t considered. The main props I used, and which are a main feature in every image were Christmas lights and sometimes other Christmas related objects. I wanted the set to be intimate so I used a close range, intimate angles and a large aperture. There isn’t much depth of field in this series, preferring to keep unwanted distractions in a blur of bokeh, turning them in to a mood enhancer. I cut the final images slightly to give a wide screen cinema effect. As I don’t have access to cinematic lights or really anything close I decided to go for a more muted, indie style. The lighting I used consisted of a soft desk lamp with an adjustable shade to help direct it, my harsh LED smart phone light, artificial street lighting, my camera flash and different Christmas string lights that all had changeable modes which were experimented with.

To view the evaluation for this piece please see the bottom of my research page here.

Second Try Diptrych Black

Movie Stills 2




Assignment 4 (Re-work)

Main tutor suggestions to use:

  • Flag up in a much clearer way the additional research you carried out for this project in your blog as evidence.
  • Definition of documentary ‘the image has a documentary feel’
  • Quote from historian/curator regarding the market for the advert.
  • Notes on Bourdin’s use of colour in other images – make reference to some of the works for comparison.
  • ‘Although Bourdin didn’t show any interest in leaving a legacy behind he most certainly has..’ -how do you know this?
  • Try to engage with some of the recommended theory. (Barthes etc look at OCA course notes) Maybe write a post on it to get head around it (my suggestion to self)

Summary of changes made in re-working process: (see the original assignment here)

  • I will start of by saying that it is really difficult to add any extra information to this essay as suggested by my tutor as it is hard to know what to take out in place of the new information as I am right on the word limit…  I will give it a go though.
  • I can’t find a quote from a historian or curator on the market for Bourdin’s work but I did find Francine Crescent (former editor of Vogue Paris) talking about the market for Bourdin’s adverts here https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xr5e8r (35 mins in) and have referenced that in the essay. Unfortunately her description is in broken English so I cannot include it as a full quote but I have referenced some of the words she used in the reference section below the essay.
  • I also added a reference and quote in the references section which evidences Guy Bourdin’s legacy and the fact that he didn’t want to leave any behind but he did regardless of that.
  • To learn more about Barthes as suggested by my tutor I read Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, published in the UK in 1989 (you can see the post with my notes on this here) and I re-read the course notes in my OCA handbook to refresh what I had learned here. I will summarise here what I felt I could use to help interpret the image featured in my essay:

The signifier in this case is an image showing three mannequins and two humans on either side of a window and the signified is what this represents which in this case I would say that the mannequins and their human counterparts signify a world which has become robotic in its following of fashions and obsessed with material gain. Together the signfier and the signified make the sign and this sign is the end result, a layered image with both its obvious and its implied meanings together as one.

Moving on to Denotation and Connotation:

What is denotated in the image in question is that there are both mannequins and humans in the image, that it is daytime and that the image was taken from the inside of a shop in a urban area.

The image’s connotation could be that the women walking past the window are models and that it is a warm summer’s day as they are wearing nothing but small swimming costumes and the sun is indeed shining. What could also be connotated is that the mannequins in the shop front have come to life in part and are gazing and gesturing in desperate longing towards the humans outside the window – wishing to be them – to be free, to be real.

The opening passage to my essay is very much about what is actually denotated and what I have connotated personally whilst viewing the images and researching it and it’s Operator (Photographer).

Moving on to Puntum and Studium:

The studium of the image in question for me is the angle and place from which the image is taken and how this pulls me, as a Spectator (viewer) in. The subjects interest me aesthetically, the shapes of the bony naked mannequin frames and the bright light of the sun outside contrasting with the deep black shadows inside the shop front.

The punctum of the image in question for me personally is the look and physical gestures of longing that the mannequins are portraying – this eerie and saddening display stabs at my heart and makes me think of my own loneliness and desperation to become part of something that I am never quite connected to (having social anxiety to varying degrees and never quite being able to function socially as the majority of the world can and how this can feel increasingly lonely sometimes).

My tutors suggestion to add some Barthes to my Assignment piece is proving really difficult because I can’t find a way to do it without disrupting the flow of the piece and I really like how my final essay piece is reading. I also don’t want to make the piece too personal  by relating the punctum to my own struggles with mental health issues as I think it will ruin this particular piece of writing as I have written it in quite a formal way. I am happy that I have been, I can only say ‘forced’ to revisit Barthes as I had a bit of a block on studying his theories due to the complicated way in which he writes (for me personally) and was finding it difficult to pick up my copy of Camera Lucida again and now I do feel like I have a good general understanding of Barthes loosest terminology and ideas. I can use this new understanding in future work, and also as a basis to learn and eventually have an even fuller understanding of the critical aspects of the practice of Photography.


Vogue Paris May 1975 – Guy Bourdin

Please see an in-depth research trail for this essay here.

Deep in the heart of Paris, down a quiet half-lit street, the deepest corners of a darkened shop front seemingly come to life. A thick band of soft, yet expository, afternoon sunshine pours though the window bathing three figures in it’s glare. Forgotten about, they have only their white cloth hats, resembling swim caps, stretched too tightly over their baby smooth and perfectly shaped scalps. Wrapped up and contorted in their overwhelming emotion they are apparently unconcerned with the fact that they are on display and completely naked, the contours of their anatomically correct forms bouncing light back from bony hips, bare breasts, flat polished stomachs and outstretched palms. One could deduce that they are used to being on display, used to it and even thankful for the attention from passing onlookers, all the while being acutely aware that those observers are seeing only the clothes and using their bodies as frames for the imagination – ‘How would that dress look on me?’. Without clothes these human imitations are redundant. In the same moment, on the street outside, enclosed between the high walls of grand urban buildings, two mannequin-like woman are poised in cat-walk positions, arms and legs straight and high and faces cool and expressionless, oblivious to their wanton observers, used to being observed and most probably bored with it – the opposite of their plastic counterparts…

This apparently title-less image by Guy Bourdin was published in the May 1975 issue of Vogue Paris and as I sadly cannot find much information on it I have gathered evidence from Bourdin’s expansive life’s work in order to analyse it as thoroughly as possible. During the 70’s Bourdin was at the height of his career, his highly saturated imagery and tense psychological themes were proven to sell product and thus he was highly sought after by the likes of big fashion designers’ Charles Jourdan, Chanel, Ungaro, Issy Miyake among many others. Bourdin worked for Vogue France alongside his contemporary Helmut Newton and together they largely dominated the fashion photography scene throughout much of the 70’s. Newton and Bourdin produced some of the most iconic images of that era and yet their techniques were almost polar opposites. Where Newton preferred his model’s to look more alive, using light and make-up to make their skin flushed and eyes bright, Bourdin was using light/shadow and exaggerated doll-like makeup to give his model’s skin a more deathly pallor, adding a more sinister touch. Alongside his penchant for pale-skinned models, Bourdin was more concerned with the potential narrative’s in an image and less interested in the product’s he was being asked to sell. Remarkably this made him more successful as it was this fresh new look that made readers of the magazine stop in their tracks – the page demanded attention![¹]

The Untitled image in question is now over forty years old and yet it does not appear particularly dated.  Apart from the models’ big permed hair and the box-shape of the yellow taxi there isn’t much to give it away. It is now trendy to give photographs and fashion photography a vintage feel and that presumably helps to muffle the years.  The intended market of this photograph, as for all the ads in Vogue Paris, was women in their 30-40s who were required to dress up, for work, for parties or because of their social status, and who were therefore interested in the latest fashions.[²] Now, forty years on, when the image has been digitised and exhibited in many different formats and venues, the image has a new market. The products which it is advertising, of which it is difficult to tell without any context, are presumably no longer for sale and the viewer’s are now seeing Bourdin’s masterpiece in a different light – to appreciate it, interpret it for what it is, to compare it with many of his other surviving works, or perhaps even to purchase it as an artwork.

The image is square in dimension, the top and bottom half of the frame are deeply shadowed creating a kind of widescreen effect and focusing viewer’s on the middle section of the image whilst also creating a more subconscious sense of claustrophobia and containment. The image has a deep depth of field, creating a very 3D effect, which is essential in how this image works, with a shallow depth of field some important elements in the frame such as the model’s outside the window could turn in to a blur of bokeh and the image would take on a new meaning. Bourdin’s work was usually very vibrant and multi-coloured, sometimes incandescent (examples here) however this image is quite realistic in its use of colour, (a faded blue window frame, the dull yellow of a taxi, grimy grey buildings receive no enhancement), and this adds to the aforementioned documentary style and its ability to shock – how can a plastic face who’s expression can’t be changed display so much emotion that it reaches in to the depths of your soul? Unrealistic colour use would have immediately put the image in to an obvious surrealism category – this is fake, nothing to worry about, this is just an advert.

In conclusion, this highly intriguing and mysterious image from the pages of an old Vogue magazine, has continued to grip and engage viewers for over forty years and is showing no intentions of letting up. Although Bourdin didn’t show any interest in leaving a legacy behind he most certainly has[³] and this image is proof that his fashion and advertisement photography remains unmatched in its ability to shock, move and fascinate at the time of, and long after, the products he was commissioned to advertise have sold out.


[¹] https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xr5e8r

35:00 minutes in, Francine Crescent (former editor of Vogue Paris), talks about the market of Bourdin’s adverts within Vogue magazine. ‘Bourgeouise, 30’s/40’s, dressing up for parties’






[²]  https://www.timeout.com/london/art/a-guide-to-guy-bourdin-image-maker

“The logic of the magazine is important in understanding his work. It’s about the woman at the hairdresser’s, flicking through Vogue, coming across something she wasn’t expecting, as a trigger to something else. It’s flick… flick… flick… whoa!’ Bourdin’s work still has the ‘whoa!’ factor. It’s not just the tits-and-arse: there’s plenty of that in, say, Helmut Newton. But what Newton’s eroticised classicism lacks, Bourdin has in spades: psychodrama and a sense of bloody humour.” – O’Neill, curator of ‘Image Maker’

[³] https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2003/apr/13/features.review27

‘Bourdin is less well known now than his contemporary Helmut Newton, though Luchford thinks Bourdin was ‘definitely more influential’. This, as Charlotte Cotton, curator of a new Bourdin retrospective at the V&A, reveals, is because Bourdin never allowed his images to be taken out of the context of a magazine. He refused offers of exhibitions, rejected ideas for books, and once turned down a large financial reward from the French government. Bourdin would not be immortalised. But since his death from cancer in 1991, immortality has taken over.’













Assignment 3 (Re-work)

Main tutor suggestions to use:

  • The inclusion of the ‘present you’ is more apparent in some than others and viewer doesn’t have the context or time to make sense of it so the same combination of elements for all images could be useful (change the set slightly, shoot more?)
  • LGBT – more monochrome original could help not divert from colour palette of rest of set? Shoot again?
  • Hard prints good but need sharper definition of key elements and stronger saturation and contrast (Photoshop edits needed)

Summary of changes made in re-working process: (see the original assignment here)

Edits: Image 1 not changed. Image 2 feather was sharpened and contrast of whole picture brought up +5 and brightness up +5. Image 3 magenta filter to make it match the colour palette of the set better. Image 4 not changed. Image 5 sharpened and brightness and contrast both up +5. Image 6 and Image 7 both had contrast and brightness adjusted +5/10 points.

As much as I agreed with my tutor that the same combination of elements for all images could be useful I felt like to impart this now would be a major undertaking as I would have to change virtually every image in the set and actually I am really pleased with the aesthetic qualities of all the images and the way they reflect versions of myself from different periods of my life (as well as the present me). I don’t want to change any of the images at this time, but I do understand what my tutor was saying and in future I will be much more likely to think about keeping combinations of elements the same in order to make my intentions more obvious to the viewer. I also think that as there was an inclusion of the ‘present me’ whether it be physical (my hair) or more metaphorical (the shadow of plant life representing my re-connection with nature) perhaps it does not matter if others are able to see that as clearly as I could feel it as this was after all an exploration and expression of my self that was coming from within and wouldn’t have flowed well with too much planning.

Image 4 my tutor suggested would have worked better with a more monochrome original but I really liked this image for what I wanted to represent (my teenage insecurities, in particular about my sexuality). The only thing that I would change is the rainbow as I would ideally like this to be more obvious as it was really difficult to even create the rainbow in the first place. I’m not sure whether to attempt the rainbow again as I really really like the look of the image in every other way and the editing I did on it. I think I will leave it as it is as it is a true interpretation of my self and my feelings – then and now. I want to try again with light diffraction and rainbows in future so hopefully my next attempt during another project will be a bit clearer.


Please see my blog post ‘Contact Sheets for Assignment 3‘ to see fully annotated contact sheets for the following Assignment.

For this assignment I wanted to create something multi-layered and something personal and creative. My initial idea was to create a diary with polaroid style photographs as illustrations, which I did complete, but although I enjoyed the experience immensely I didn’t feel as if the end result was special enough for an assignment submission – I hadn’t pushed myself enough or learnt anything new from it particularly. Next I turned my attention to myself – could I be brave enough to turn the camera on myself? Maybe I needn’t take photos of my body or face but instead explore what makes me me. I did a lot of thinking and mind-mapping and soul searching and after several existential crisis and a lot of confusion I realised that I still don’t actually know who I am, at age 27. Something about this realisation made me look back through my family photo albums to see when it was that I lost my sense of self (which was always strong when I was younger). I was drawn to these younger versions of myself and decided that I wanted to do something with them for assignment. After researching the work of John Stezaker I was slightly obsessed with the idea of collage and layering but instead of cutting up photos or manipulating them digitally I decided to try to add aspects of my present identity to the photos of my younger self and photograph the combinations to create new images, in an attempt to build a big picture of who I actually am today. Each of the seven images in the series feature a part of my physical body as it is today or a part of my present identity in the forms of personal artefacts or representations of my mental states as well as at least younger version of myself at one stage or another throughout my life. The new images are supposed to show the lines of the family photograph but also merge well with the new aspects in the frame so that there isn’t much of a divide between the two, to say ‘I was this person and now I am this person -as well’. This is me, in layers.


(an) Alternative Innocence
(a) Favourite Influence
(the) Child Inside
(her) Vulnerable Pride
(and) Future Life
(with) Contrast Vastness
(the) Freedom at Last

Assignment 2 (Re-work)

Main tutor suggestions to use:

  • More info about the individual images (look at what tutor guessed about each one)
  • Clock – framing and lighting is odd – introduce subject earlier then the theme if the theme is time? (my thoughts – is it time in particular the theme? What is my theme? Tell it in words like captions under the images.)
  • The wider shot on the mantlepiece has a better feel to it – look at this
  • Set needs to be longer (add more)

Summary of changes made in re-working process: (see the original assignment here)

  • In response to my tutors suggestion that I give more context so that the viewer doesn’t have to guess so much at my intention I have added a little poem type prose to the captions of the images so that viewers have more of an idea about my project and where I was coming from and going with it. You can see the captions on the revised set below.
  • My tutor thought that the framing and lighting of the clock was odd but I wonder if he would think differently now if he were to read the captions as I think he interpreted the image in a different way than I intended it. I was going to shoot the clock again but actually I think the light and angle are correct according to my ideas. I wanted time to be a bit menacing but also there is some shiny light that there that indicates some hope. I tried a few different clock faces and angles as you can see in the original contact sheets but actually I do think this image fits in the series as it is.
  • I wanted to shoot the image of the card again with the words ‘healthy’ showing as they are but have it a bit sharper with better lighting but my mother doesn’t have this card any more so it was impossible. I don’t like the wider shot on the mantelpiece as I don’t think it fits with the style of images (too distant).
  • Edits: I brightened up the third image of my mother putting a pill in to her mouth and placed a cooling filter on the image as it was a bit too yellow. I also brightened the chalk board and the four leaved clover images and added cooling filters to them.
  • I had another photo shoot and added a new photo to the series as my tutor suggested that the set ought to be a bit longer. I ran dry at the time but when I was at my mum’s the other day the idea came to me to shoot a small silver cross that I found a few years a go and kept even though I am not religious – I dropped it accidentally outside my mother’s house last year and she found it when she was feeling low and now it is on her ‘treasure shelf’.

Assignment Two: The Unseen

For Contact Sheets, Research and more information on the process behind this assignment and the ideas that came before it please see the following pages: Research and Planning for Assignment 2 and Assignment 2 (Inc Contact Sheets and Process)

In this assignment I have tried to try to capture an unseen side of my mother, who is just coming out of the end of an 18 month breast cancer treatment. The idea of the series is to show some of the essence of my mother’s experience and the presence of ‘cancer’ in her everyday life that would not necessarily be seen or noticed by others. I have tried to portray my mother’s strength, her ability to stay positive, her nerve and her connection to the world both through and despite her illness.

I used close-ups and a shallow depth of field where possible to help create a sense of closeness between photographer and subject. I also only used props that were already in my mother’s house, nothing has been placed or added. My mother, the subject. did not know that I was photographing her most of the time which is what I wanted – I didn’t want her to pose.

I feel that my work on this assignment was inspired by Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project -I was heavily moved by it after all. However, there are very obvious differences, in that the endings and overall message are quite different. Campbell’s project is about an intimacy between herself and her father that I feel is similar to my own relationship with my mother and so I used close-ups and a shallow depth of field where possible to help create a sense of closeness between photographer and subject. Where our projects differ is the emotional depth -Campbell’s story telling ends very differently to mine and she also includes a personal reflection that displays sadness and fear, whereas I did not involve my own emotion in my series.


Mum’s recovery

The increasing awareness of a ticking clock
The need to find faith in something that goes beyond ones self
And a new found need to trust in other’s and their education in medicine (clinical & herbal)
The words you have used many times but never thought too much about begin to take on new meanings
Ever aware of the need for luck as well as your own input
Another sign found on a doorstep one night when you couldn’t sleep -you are no longer afraid of the possibility of dying
And you find that love is actually all around you…
Remission comes as your favourite tree drops its flowers, another cycle of life and death beginning as autumn commences


Assignment 1 (Re-work)

Main tutor suggestions to use:

  • Tai Chi set – use a full body shot rather than a cropped body image to get the full impact of pose and action
  • Strange white bar running through the image in set 2, pick another?
  • Remember to keep the camera and the angles straight

Summary of changes made in re-working process: (see the original assignment here)

  • General edits to each image as follows – First image of first pair was very orange so I changed the white balance setting on Photoshop to make it ‘whiter’ and then brightened it. I like this new brighter, whiter image as it brings out the blueish bags under the models eyes which help to portray the ‘bad boy’ side of him. Second image of the first pair had a lot of excess white wall and the model was sitting a bit far down in the frame so I cropped it to bring him up and more central and get rid of unnecessary space. I then colour matched it with its pair as best I could and brightened up the model’s face. The first image of the second pair I cropped so that it would look similar to it’s pair who’s subject is a bit closer. The second image of the second pair was quite orange so I changed the colour balance on Photoshop and then colour matched it as best I could to its pair. The third set I brightened and straightened the frame of the wooden furniture behind the subject as it was a bit wonky. The fourth set I exchanged the second image in the set for another that I had in my contact sheets as my tutor had suggested I use a full body image in order to get the full impact of the pose and action (tai-chi). I didn’t use a full body image as I didn’t think it would match its pair (smoker with top half of body) but I did use an image where the model was more central and more of his arm movements from the Tai-chi pose could be seen. In the fifth set I changed the temperature as it was very orange and the second image in the set I cropped and tried to straighten it as my tutor had pointed out that it wasn’t straight (although I should have done this at the time so it wasn’t a perfect fix when I straightened it on Photoshop – but it is improved) and added a warming filter to help match it to its pair.
  • The white bar running through two of the images is from the mirror door and although I am aware that in this set it is distracting I think that the images on their own benefit from the line as it adds a psychological factor of sorts, a kind of splitting as they don’t line up. I could explore this in a different project, one perhaps about mental health and possibly using my own portrait.. I won’t have a chance to shoot these images again before I submit but I will remember in future that distracting lines might be confusing and distract from the main concept of my project.
  • The last image (Pair 5 Image 2/2) I have straightened up a bit in Photoshop, it isn’t perfect but it is much better than it was. I have already taken this advice on board (about thinking about whether the camera and angles are straight) and it should be visible in my other Assignments.
  • The text you find below is a revised version of what I wrote for the original assignment. For the original contact sheets and any extra information I wrote about the project at the time please see research here and original assignment here.


‘Bad Boy’ vs ‘Good Boy’

The activity pairs I decided on:

  • Smoking (Bad boy)
  • Drinking/drunk (Bad boy)
  • Gelling hair, very black attire (Bad boy)
  • Shaving, seen as masculine (Bad boy)
  • Eating food prepared by girlfriend (Bad boy)
  • Grooming himself, tweezers/comb (Good boy)
  • Dying hair (Good boy)
  • Tai Chi (Good boy)
  • Drinking smoothie (Good boy)
  • Cooking (Good boy)

The audience for these two alternate personas might be an article on a juvenile offender (Bad boy set) to provide awareness of how easily it is for a young boy to become lost and socially deviant versus an article on the new trend of ‘metro-sexuality’ (Good boy set) to help educate society on the overlap of gender and the more health and body conscious male identity.

I read an article about Indoor Photography which I found on Google in order to prepare myself for the low light images and artificial indoor lighting. I decided that the most important thing to me would be to make sure that the exposure was acceptable and that the images were sharp.

I think that the shoot went better than expected. Instead of using some of the ideas I had using nature (a river scene vs an extreme flooding scene at the same location just days after) I decided to step out of my comfort scene and use people as my subject and I am very pleased with the results. Some of the images (see contact sheets) were over exposed, some were under but overall I was happy to find that I had a lot of interesting shots to choose from.  I don’t think it is easy to tell which persona is ‘the real Fynn’, the two personas definitely overlap in real life but from the images I don’t think that one looks more like an act than the other.

The final set of re-worked images:

Pair 1 ‘Bad Boy’
Pair 1 ‘Good Boy’
Pair 2 ‘Bad Boy’
Pair 2 ‘Good Boy’
Pair 3 ‘Bad Boy’
Pair 3 ‘Good Boy’
Pair 4 ‘Bad Boy’
Pair 4 ‘Good Boy’
Cooked-for rework.jpg
Pair 5 ‘Bad Boy’
Pair 5 ‘Good Boy’

Response to Tutor Review Assignment 5

This is my response to feedback given to me by my tutor in relation to my fifth and final assignment for Context and Narrative.

I was really anxious whilst awaiting the feedback for this assignment as I had spent so long looking at it and amending it that I wasn’t sure whether it was representing what I intended. As usual my tutor’s feedback was very useful, very detailed and helped me to see where I can improve the work and where I have done well.

The following paragraph really helped me to see that my project was working in the way that it was intended and I am very very pleased that this was apparent to my tutor as it means it should be clear to other viewers of the work too,

‘The final concept – taking a film still and reading it out of context is really interesting, producing a fractured narrative, a sense of mystery, an invitation for the viewer to interact with the subject matter.’

Some of the suggestions that I found most valuable are:

‘Although you provide a link to the song, it might be worth transcribing the lyrics and offer some idea of how you interpreted and connected your images with the lyrics, and what the final set evokes for you’

I find this suggestion particularly helpful because I was wondering whether to do this or not and so now I definitely will do it. I guess I just felt like the lyrics are a bit dull without the backing track and because its a popular music song I was feeling like it might not be seen as ‘classic’ enough to base a photography project on. Since I submitted the essay though I do tend to feel different upon looking back on it, I think any song choice would be valid because it’s my personal response to it that matters. I will add the extra info in my re-work.

‘You might want to look at an alternative to the first shot to set up this sequence, one from your contacts (No5 or 11) that offers a bit more context. While the light and colour work well, it feels a bit abstract’

I feel a bit torn by this suggestion from my tutor to think about changing the image in question for one with a little more context as for me this image (including a close up fo curtains and bokeh lights from the blackened sky outside) sums up the closing or opening of curtains before or after a performance of some kind eg. cinema or theatre and it also relates to my memories of being indoors in a cosy house while christmas lights shine outside in the cold night’s sky . However I do also like shots 5 and 11 as suggested so I might have to think about changing or at least adding one of those to the set.

‘For me the fourth image tends to repetition and also doesn’t bring any new information to the viewer’

On looking back on the set after a period of absence from it I definitely agree with this point from my tutor and will be removing this image from the set and replacing it with another.

‘Try bringing this shot (the final one) forward in the set, three or four, and finishing with a shot of the character. Remember its often the first and final images that create a strong impression in sequences’

I think this suggestion is very useful because I hadn’t thought about which images in a set were the ones to leave the most impression on the viewer and this makes sense. I did feel that the rocking horse seemed a bit odd placed at the end, like an after thought and for some reason it didn’t work well here. I will move this one in a re-work and think about the positioning of the character.

‘Reflect a bit more on what you think didn’t work and how you might address that I the future’

Actually the reason I tend to stay away from too much negative critique in my evaluations is because I didn’t like this ‘negative-ness’, as I can be far too hard on myself about my work sometimes, but actually I do see how this is very crucial to be able to show that I am thinking about what went wrong and how I can improve the way in which I work towards an assignment. In my final assessment review I will remember to include a bit more personal critique.

‘Think about the sequencing of the images. Take a look on line there are plenty of articles dealing with this’

My tutor also included a link to Elliott Erwitt speaking in a video about the sequencing of his photo sets. I found this really interesting even though it is only a very short video. It reminded me of a photo set I produced once and I dug it up from my personal archives. For Assignment 5 I don’t think I can apply this new info very much because the set doesn’t really move in this directly informative way but it has reminded me that future assignments could be planned and shot in this way – having patience and waiting for the next image or two, or more to fall in to place at a certain place with certain characters perhaps. Here is the set of three images from my personal archives that I felt related to this new info about sequencing and made me re-think how sets of photographs can be displayed to maximise their effect.

Also I have read some other articles on the sequencing of images in a series to create a set that works well and resonates with the viewer. I learnt the following:

  • Start by selecting the best and strongest images (maybe don’t even choose only the ones that sum up your idea or story at this time, just choose the strongest, best photos).
  • Now select the strongest of the strongest, now focusing on what will tell the story you are trying to portray the best.
  • If there are still a lot of shots to narrow down do a third sweep and eliminate anything that repeats information or doesn’t fit the story line.
  • Arrange the remaining pictures in to subgroups (aperture, focal points, subjects, composition etc).
  • Create relationships between the images in the different subgroups by putting these together. Add the images that work together well to another pile.
  • There should be at least three visual connections between one image and the next in the sequence as you then put these images together (colour, tone, subject, focal distance etc.
  • Slowly the set should form and don’t stop re-evaluating it until you have a set where you cannot take one out without the whole set falling apart. (It helps to step away from it and come back with a fresh eye).

Info is my personal interpretation after reading the text in the article How do you sequence photos? by Michael Davis.

I will use this information in my re-work of Assignment 5 and then definitely on future assignments too. It was really useful to think about this as I struggle with putting my images together as a set in general.