Assignment 4 – Digital Identities 1


Develop a project around the theme of identity within the current digital climate. This could be an autobiographical exploration examining how you relate to digital culture, or it could be a more critical examination of an aspect of digital culture.

The course guidance  suggests a brainstorm diagram / mind map of possible ideas as the start point. My brainstorm diagram in its rough form is included below.


Mind Map001A


What became immediately apparent was that the subject Digital Identity is vast and expanding. The more I thought about it, the more ideas came to mind. It will be extremely important to narrow down the subject to something which is achievable and where I will have a chance to bring in my own personal input, opinion and comment.

My next move was to sit down with a friend (professional photographer) and talk through potential ideas. Refer to the following link for details of this preliminary discussion: Part 4 – Digital Identities

The idea I have come up with is to create false Facebook and Instagram accounts and to attempt to create a digital identity for a person who has only just been created. The accounts are now set up in the name of my paternal grandfather Sidney Caygill and my first thoughts are that this will serve two main purposes:

  1. To allow me to broadcast the voice of how I believe my grandfather would have spoken had he been alive today. (he died in the early 1960s)
  2. To use these forums to publish my own photographs which would be a combination of my best quality pictures mixed in with more instantaneous, up to the minute pictures much in the style of the archetypal ‘facbebooker’ of today.

So my fantasy being would be similar to an avatar but with a real history and real views and expressions blended in with the reality of today’s photography (including video).

My very first screengrab shows Sidney’s initial setup. This was initially made on the IPhone.

Screenshot A

The first thought was to change the profile picture (a snap taken on the iPhone of myself.

I decided that any self portrait should be presented as Sidney’s self portrait and that it would become obvious over time that Sidney and Colin are one and the same.

The research I have done to date on Second life and the work of Robbie Cooper, Gina Lundy, Jim Naughton and Nikki S Lee have given some insight into how I should present myself as somebody else. However a lot of the development of the idea can only be made over time. The project is experimental and success can not be guaranteed.

11 May 2017

I am currently at the start point and a lot of planning has gone into how and what to publish. It will be necessary to publish pretty well daily and to approach the online community in a manner which will encourage them to follow and like (or dislike) what I say and do. It is important to remain anonymous for as long as I can, otherwise I will be constantly driven towards people who I know and this will curtail the freedom which I intend to use to the full.

2 June 2017

The difficulty with creating a new identity totally unrelated to one’s current identity is where to start. After a few days with no contact with the outside world, I started to work on the Facebook account and the very first move was to set up a profile, including a profile photo and create a set of personal favourite photographs.

Screenshot A(3)



Then I spent some time considering which groups to join. This could be a useful outlet for publishing my photographs and following and making friends. The first two groups I tried to join did not respond and I thought this was because my profile was a bit thin and I had no friends so I attempted to join about 15 Photographic groups and responses started to flow. I am currently a member of ten photographic groups and have had one friend request so far.

Screenshot A(1)

The next move is to start publishing on the group facebook pages and to start interacting with the users.

Screenshot A(2)


Using the activity log it is possible to see how many likes, friends and followers are being developed and at what speed.

2 June 2017

I have copied the above part of the blog (provisional) to my Tutor for comment / approval of the idea.

8 June 2017

The response is really positive and having passed through a period of anxiety, this gives me the motivation to proceed with the project:

Chris Coekin

“Thanks for this. I really like the idea and that you could produce an engaging project. There is lots of room to be creative and consider various narratives, serious and playful. I think that joining established associations is a good idea and that interface and communication with something factual adds an interesting element. As you have said looking at the notion of Avatars is good. I’d also suggest that you look at the artists below who have constructed fictional people and narratives within their work, this may be of help.

Joan Fontcuberta:
(Holy Innocence – difficult to find much info)

Jamie Shovlin  Naomi (V Jelish etc)”

10 / 11 June 2017

With ten established facebook groups, I have now started to post some of my photographs (serious) which relate to these groups.

This is a good exercise and one which will lead me to consider very carefully what I like, what excites me and to help find my voice.

I have posted one picture on each of seven groups and within 24 hours have received 51 likes.


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So now it is possible to start analysing popularity which may lead to a more analytical approach to what is good and what is unsuccessful. I can add these results to my own feelings in order to make a judgement on which way my photography should go (Personal Voice).

It will also help to find out which groups are active and which are not in order to publish my work with the maximum exposure.

I am still pondering over which groups to work with and which people to invite to be friends. I do not want to upset any people by appearing as a dangerous character but I do want to probe deeply into the activities of a few people. Should I target people whose pictures I respect or be a little more flippant and target anybody with an interesting background?

14 June 2017

The woman in green has now been renamed “La Dame en Vert” by Isabelle Collington of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. She has been put onto the Street Photography Club gallery because of her high popularity. Not viral but definitely a positive step for Sidney.


Screenshot (18)A


I have still not made any friends but have had six friend requests by email, none of which have shown up on my facebook page. On interrogating these names it started to appear that these requests were questionable, one in particular offering prostitution. Now Sidney may be an old man with no friends but does not intend to pursue prostitution as an option.

After looking up this one person (who had 40 or 50 friends herself, I then contracted a computer virus or some sort of infringement of a firewall and spent the next 48 hours putting my computer back together. My grandfather would have been horrified.

Once the following message had been cleared I was back to normal:

Screenshot (1)

I have today made two friend requests, to people who have given the lady in green a “Love” signal and I have started to follow three people who gave her a “Like” signal. This is a test to see whether people will make friends without knowing me (Sidney).

My first friend is Jim Tulip from Thailand.

Screenshot (20)

26 June 2017

Sidney now has three friends, Jim Tulip, Folio Graphy and Tony Tsai. He has now issued a further set of pictures on the various groups and has madem one further friend request. To me it is very important not to choose just anybody as friends but to be selective based on their photographic ability and their personality. He has not had to reject anybody yet or to unfriend them but remains cautious about who to deal with. Sidney has had more friend requests from what appear to be bogus women of ill repute and has been involved in another questionable (infectious) message which he was more prepared to get rid of than last time.

2 July 2017

Sidney has posted more pictures, mainly street photography and portraits and now has 5 friends and an interesting quality circle of friends / information.

I have also investigated the possibility of using Instagram in the same way. Instagram is new to me and it appears at first sight that, owing to the fact that there are no groups, I will have to take a different approach to becoming a part of the community.

I propose to publish a starter pack of photographs and apply hashtags such as photographs, photography, street photography, portraits or whatever subject I decide to promote and in that way to gain interest and hopefully friendships. I have downloaded Gramblr onto my system and may need to use the power that they can provide by buying likes and spreading them around.

The other piece of work I have been working on is to research others who have involved themselves in false identity in the name of art.

My tutor has referred me to Joan Fontcuberta’s false negatives:

Fontcuberta has made a career of many hoaxes. He invented the story of the Russian spaceman and his dog, hit by a meteorite in space and floating around for ever without being reported. The story was exposed on Spanish TV by Iker Jimenez who believed it to be real. The truth was finally exposed which upset the Russian authorities. Or did it?

Fontcuberta saw this as art and the most pressing question which it exposes is:

How can we know what is real and what is not?

Also Joan Fontcuberta’s Holy Innocence:

Fontcuberta pretended to be a priest and communicated with an internet swindler. The result is a book based on demonstrating the potential of working entirely with spam and junk mail.

His work has been described as a pedagogy of doubt protecting us from the disease of manipulation.

And Jamie Shovlin’s various exhibitions for instance at the Saatchi Gallery:

Naomi V Jelish  is a sad story about a fictitious girl. The name is an anagram of Jamie Shovlin

This is the sad story of a very talented 13 year old who disappeared together with her family when her father died. The story was told in an exhibition in London. Her strange tale was explained to visitors on labels, in newspaper cuttings, photographs, school reports and through personal mementoes.

It was not until later that the story was found to be a hoax.

The question from these references is how can I develop my own myth / fantasy with reference to these other fictitious cases?

23 July 2017

“Our contemporary culture of communication is increasingly dominated by visual representation and the flow and exchange of high quality visual images” (Giroux 2004 p 789)

At this stage I am considering what outcomes I would like to achieve. I am trying to cross all social barriers, gender, race, ethnicity, class, demarcation, nationality, citizenship, schooling, sexuality, socio economic status, educational experience and career.

The book “Digital Identities by Rob Cover will help me to explore these potential barriers before I move on with the project.


Assignment 3 -Critical Essay


What is your understanding of the “digital self” and what is the effect of our everyday use of photography upon it? Discuss using relevant case studies and published research.


On interrogation of the OCA student website resources section and an exhaustive trawl of internet references it became apparent that there is no fixed definition of ‘The Digital Self’. The definition of this new subject is still evolving and, as “The Symbolic Interaction Journal” put it:

‘The impact of others in telecopresence on the formation of self has not been well studied’ (Zhao, 2005, Symbolic Interaction Journal)

Zhao goes on to try to define digital self by stating:

‘Based on the analysis of teenagers’ online experience, the present study shows that others on the internet constitute a distinctive “looking glass” that produces a “digital self” that differs from the self formed offline’

This definition was made in 2005, nearly twelve years ago. How have things changed since then? This article was referring to online presence, mainly referring to the development of teenagers. Today, there are 3.26 billion internet users, approximately 40% of the world’s population. At the turn of the century, the digital camera started to become a viable proposition for amateur as well as professional use. At this stage quality of picture was still poor but amateurs (and professionals) could see the potential and worked hard to convert from analogue technology. The fax machine started to die out and the digital scan came in. Photocopiers worked in colour as well as black and white. Telephone banking turned into online banking. Shopping was no longer about visiting the shops. Holidays were no longer booked through travel agents by asking them to telephone a resort and an airline or shipping company.

These changes have all contributed towards the formation of the digital self, a concept which is growing rapidly.

OCA course material for Graphic Design GD2 entitled “How to B” puts it well:

‘ We’re all digital now. In many parts of daily life the digital way is now the norm. Life is unthinkable without our digital life-support systems of smart software and sleek gismos’ (Graphic Design GD2, p.103)

So our digital self is many things and is in fact everything in our lives which requires some form of digital input. The majority of this is our life online but do we behave differently online to offline?

‘In early days our online activity did not have much influence over our real world persona. Things are very different today’ (Premuzic, Sept 24 2015, Guardian, How different are your online and offline personalities)

In 2015, according to OFCOM, UK adults were spending an average of 20 hours per week online, twice as much as 10 years previously. As the internet has gained importance in our lives we have given up anonymity, and have needed to mask our true identity online. Now online activity is an integral part of our real life and so as it changes our outlook on life so our real life personality changes.

At least 30% of our time online is devoted to social networking and this is one area where the integration of photography becomes powerful. No social networker needs to have a great understanding of photographic technique to produce excellent photographs at the right quality for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. An up to date mobile phone will take pictures that can be transmitted in seconds.

Apart from social networking, the mobile phone can be used by adults or children to provide photographs which illustrate our desired identity (e.g. for selling on ebay) , for recording everyday activities (on the spot) for use as citizen journalism, for identifying information all around us rather than writing it down (a quick photograph of the calorie count on the back of a cornflake packet) or for recording information useful for insurance claims, proof of location or who we are with. All this forms part of the digital self.

The use of video is now also expanding exponentially and this adds the parameters of movement and sound.

But it’s not only about the photographs which we take, it’s also about the millions of images we are subjected to continuously. An early piece of work within this course was to photograph every photograph seen in a one day period Exposure Exercise. The number of photographs ran into hundreds and the exercise ended up as quite exhausting. The influence, sometimes sub conscious, of these photographs on the self is immense.

Once again Thomas Chamorro Premuzic writing in the Guardian brings us right up to date. He states :

‘Today more social interactions are initiated, maintained and furthered online than offline’

If this is true, and it is certainly true for some people, does this mean that we have reached “digital saturation” or is there further to go? Digital saturation could be a little like compassion fatigue and have a negative impact on future generations.

For now, Premuzic says:

‘People do not interact digitally in the way they would interact in real life. At this point the digital self has well and truly broken away and started to develop a life of its own’

‘In this parallel existence, likeability is measured by the amount of ‘friends’ and ‘fans’ acquired’ (Premuzic)

Users judge themselves and self esteem varies according to user sensitivity.

The use of photographs can become a danger. The publisher will have lost track of whether or not the photographs are for public view or restricted (usually by default they become public) and will be unaware that photographs or text could be incriminating. e.g. information could be used by the press.

There is no doubt that people drop their guard when they are networking. Dr Premuzic believes that this is mainly because you no longer need to acknowledge the physical presence of the person you are dealing with. All physical influence is removed.

‘Humans are 80% visual creatures and crave for an image. Photos still say more to us and determine more whether we like someone or not, than a million words. This is how superficial people are: looks are all too-powerful and personality is a superficial second’ (Premuzic, 2015, Guardian)

So when does social networking become dangerous?

The simple answer to this is that it becomes dangerous when it becomes addictive. There are however benefits to social networking:

  • Relationships are made more quickly
  • Physical boundaries are eliminated
  • There is a structured approach.

‘Social networking is to relationships what google is to knowledge. The websites are neither good or bad. It depends on what users do.’

The use of a photograph can be enlightening, cheerful, comical, powerfully impressive,  confrontational, insulting, shocking or frightening.

Using social networking and therefore developing your digital self has become an essential part of life for many people. It helps all ages to communicate, to retrieve information, to gain employment, to share common interests but none of these devices or means have changed the fundamental reason, the core psychological motives underlying our relationship with others. We relate to people in order to get along or to get ahead and both motives are present in social networking contacts.

Another enormous upsurge springing from the digital self is the ease with which people manage to publish their own photograph.

‘The era of cheap, lightweight digital cameras has meant that people who did not consider themselves photography buffs are now filling ever-larger hard drives with thousands of images from their lives’ (Williams, 2006, New York Times, Here I am taking my own pictures)

With the introduction of the Kodak Brownie, virtually no citizen photographer was known to take a self portrait. There appeared to be some form of moral reserve. Nowadays the selfie stick has been manufactured in millions and at tourist sites all around the world it is often impossible to view the sites because of a constant barrage of selfie sticks in the way. recent visit to the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Selfies used to be for younger people but in a matter of a couple of years this has changed and even retired couples are taking to the scene.

Is this sudden increase in the interest in self portraiture explained by narcissism?  One explanation of this change in attitude is put forward by Dr Arnett , a Fulbright scholar at the University of Copenhagen:

‘This is the idea that adolescents think people are more interested in them than they actually are, that people are always looking at them and taking note of what they are doing’

He felt this was due to the fact that adolescents have been treated differently from birth (with more respect) and generally have a greater self worth. This self worth is starting to spread into other, older people, a sort of contagion.

Jim Taylor, a trend consultant with the Harrison Group in Waterbury, Connecticut was struck by the element of self marketing in adolescents.

‘When I was a kid I didn’t want my picture taken’

‘But these kids are fabulous self marketers’

They can use this to confirm their identity and convince themselves of their status in society. They are out partying, taking photographs, eating well, doing exciting things.

The quality of modern day camera equipment and processing has also have contributed to the rise of the selfie. Not only are the photographs more immediate, they are easy to manipulate. They can be shown close to perfection (airbrushed) or distorted in some other way.

By using photographs and associating them with other information it is possible to pull information together quickly as described by Fred Ritchin in his essay ‘Toward a Hyperphotography’ (Ritchin, 2009, After Photography).

A picture is the central nucleus of an information stream which can describe as much information about a subject as required. To the picture can be attached further pictures which fully describe (or even contradict) the item. Other written information, a video or cross references to web addresses can also be attached to expand the story. All this can be achieved digitally using metadata. The digital self is now often thinking in hyperphotographic terms in order to pull together the truth of a story and to use this truth to positive effect. The negative effect could also be extracted if required. Photographs and text are so widely published that there is never a shortage of material which can be easily found.

The course material for part 4 of Digital Image and Culture (Digital Identities) refers to social gaming and avatars under the heading of ‘The Digital Self’:

With the advent of social gaming and the creation of personal avatars, people participating in social media like to develop an image of themselves which is the image of how they wish to be presented rather than who they are. It may be a dog or a cat, it may be a thing of beauty or an aggressive warrior. These images have become more and more sophisticated as time goes by. One of the stimulants of this idea was the online game ‘second life’ introduced in 2003. Artists, musicians and gamers are examples of people who have developed complex online avatars. Art has been sold, complex online projects have been developed and interactive games are abundant. For many people now this has become a very large part of their digital self and has also strayed into their real lives.

Old family photos are being digitised and published on social media alongside more recent photographs for comedy, to show physical likenesses, to share historic information. This is adding to the power of communication and is particularly relevant when communicating with past school friends, college mates or work colleagues. The power of the photograph transmitted in this way is in the speed with which it can travel around the world and the number of people it can reach. One’s digital self can share a part of many of these images.

Each individual has the ability to become a citizen journalist, recording current situations by smartphone (either still or video) and to provide this information to the press or to the police or legal system to assist with publicising an incident. Well known examples of this are:

Alexander Chadwick’s screen grab of the London tube passengers walking through the underground tunnel on 7/7.

R Umar Abbasi’s photograph of a Chinese man about to be killed by an oncoming train on the New York subway.

This removes the filter of a political press and can empower individuals giving them the ability to influence political strategies. The digital self is a powerful individual.

So where does all this information go? Frank Gillett writes in the Guardian about the battle to serve your digital self. Cloud technologies account for between 60 and 70% of all stored digital data (personal or work stuff). This includes files, contacts, photos, music and videos. All the companies involved, Apple’s icloud, Microsoft’s Sky Drive, Google Drive and Dropbox, to name a few, are currently jockeying for position in the market and many of us are currently being targeted to use their product, often without realising it. At the same time we can join up for Apple Music, Spotify or Napster. These are all becoming part of our digital footprint, our digital self.

Based on current work carried out at Forrester, Cambridge Massachussetts, The battle to serve our digital selves is expected to unfold over the next six years (no sooner). Competitors, big and little, are in the race but none has a head start. ‘Individuals will come to be defined as much by where they store their digital selves as what their nationality is. Will you become a Google, ABT, a Carrefour or a Baidu? Your choices will remake the power dynamic of the online world.’

In the last 20 years we have been introduced to the worldwide web, emailing, chat rooms, online shopping, smart phones, internet gambling, internet pornography, snapchat, facebook, twitter, instagram, linkedin, pinterest, youtube, texting, tweeting, sexting, imusic, online searching, online dating.

So, what is the motivation behind mass digital social networking at the personal level? What feeds our digital self? Is the current upsurge of social networking likely to crack soon or will it increase at the same (or a faster) pace?

Not surprisingly, we are all struggling with our own self identity. Now is the time to hone our digital self into a self that is closer to our true self in order to attain sanity with integrity.’Like it or not, we all have a digital self, a mask that we put on to engage the technological world’ (Hicks, Aug 23 2010, Psychology Today)

Although a lot of the photography we use today appears to be becoming the norm, we cannot guarantee that it is fixed. The ability to manipulate images is continuing to develop and the miniaturisation of sophisticated digital techniques still has a long way to go. We have progressed from the Canon 5D to the Fuji XPRO to the iPhone 7. What is next for the citizen photographer and his user generated content?

Some see working within the digital self as an opportunity to develop their photographic creativity and certainly there are many creative photographs, self portraits or other, moving around the world. Fred Ritchin, in his book “After Photography” goes one step further:

“In a funny way I don’t see this as photography any more. It’s communication. It’s all an extension of cell phones, texting and emailing. The photograph becomes a part of the total information flow.”


Reference List

Zhao. S. (2005) Symbolic Interaction Journal: The Digital Self: Through the Looking Glass of Telecopresent Others

OCA Course Material, Graphic Design GD2, p.103: How to B

Chamorro-Premuzic. (2015) The Guardian: How different are your online and offline personalities.  

Chamorro-Premuzic. ((2017) Wonderlancer: The Digital Self (an exclusive interview with renowned psychologist Dr. Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Williams. A. (2006), New York Times: Here I am taking my own pictures

Ritchin.F. (2009) After Photography: Towards a Hyperphotography. WW Norton

Gillett. F. (2013) The Guardian: Personal cloud services and the battle to serve your digital self

Hicks. T. (2010) Psychology Today: Understanding and creating your digital self

Williams. Z. (2016) The Guardian: Me! Me! Me! Are we living through a narcissism epidemic?

Miles. L. (2017) IET Engineering Communities: Getting your Digital Self in Order





Reconsideration of Assignment 2


The work produced for assignment 2 was adequate but not exceptional. This has led me to reconsider the content in terms of interest, originality and presentation style. I have decided that blurred images would suit very well the literary work “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino. This is a book first recommended by Peter Fraser during a talk at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool a couple of years ago.  I have read it twice already and find it a constant source of inspiration. Fraser talks of photographing from the unconscious, a practice which I have tried to follow on occasions. It is as if Calvino wrote the  book from the unconscious with remarkable success.

Calvino writes of a series of conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo (13/14 century). The story goes that Marco, his father and uncle were commissioned by Khan to act as his advisers on matters of the western world. They moved from their home town of Venice and lived in Xanadu, the summer capital of Khan’s Yuan Empire for many years and later on Marco Polo was asked to travel to lands far and wide to discover unknown cities. Calvino’s book describes Marco Polo’s conversations with Kublai Khan on returning from these Cities (55 in total). The descriptions are sometimes vague and often unbelievable, leading the reader to wonder whether they all really existed. It is a series of riddles which both fascinated and frustrated Khan. One theory is that the descriptions are simply parts of Venice which Polo knew so well but it is also known (or at least believed) that he travelled widely in China and branched out into such countries as Burma, India and Tibet. So it is quite possible that many of his stories had a true foundation.

Using this inspiration, my plan is to create a photobook in modern day style, probably coloured pictures, which describes some of the cities of today which would be discovered by Marco Polo if he lived in this era.


I am trying to look at this project through the eyes of an Architect and to imagine some of the challenges he would encounter whilst trying to create a new city in this modern world. This subject is topical for the UK following the recent announcement that new garden villages are to be created to help deal with today’s population issues. So I am looking through the eyes of a British Architect.

The previous assignment was a collection of blurred images from various Flickr groups. This time I will widen my search to include such sources as Artsy and to look at the government proposals for the new garden villages. The whole project raises serious environmental issues as highlighted recently by David Attenborough in Planet Earth 2.

Garden Villages

The 14 new garden villages will have access to £6m of government money over the next two years. These developments would include schools, health and shopping improvements.


Proposed Garden Town on the Essex Herefordshire Border

So it is true that governments in a small or in a big way are always looking to improve their estate and so it was with Kublai Khan.

From Manila to Manhattan

An article released by “Artsy” shows proposals for 2017 for ten world beating designs of buildings in various countries of the world. It is entitled “From Manila to Manhattan, These new buildings will define architecture in 2017”.


City Center Tower, Manila – Architect – Carlos Anaiz



Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg – Architect – Hertzog & de Meuron

These buildings in Hamburg, Manila, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Cape Coast, London, Berlin, Houston and Paris will have to wait another day to realise their success (or failure) but they are certainly exciting examples of 21st century architecture and would have given Marco Polo much food for thought.

Seven Utopian Experiments

Another article by Artsy shows seven utopian experiments from Le Corbusier’s Radiant city to a ghost town in China. The Chinese project was developed by artist Ai Weiwei and Architect Herzog and de Meuron. This featured 100 villas designed by architects around the world but the tremendous cost of building the city resulted in some of the country’s highest property values and so nobody lives there.


Ordos, China – Artist – Ai Weiwei, Architect – Herzog & de Meuron and others

Other architects of the seven projects include George Braun and Franz Rosenberg, Paolo Soleri and Frank Lloyd Wright.


Auroville (the city of dawn), India – Conceived by Mirra Alfassa

Most of these buildings exist today, some are a great success and some, failed and expensive experiments.

The Book Project

I have taken a selection of twelve of the photographs from the above two projects and modified them to engender a dreamlike property. The resulting pictures have been inspired by Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” and I have matched quotations from his book to the selected pictures.

I invite the reader to imagine what these cities would be like to live in and to consider the differences. Which are real and which are fictional?

Link to new book entitled “Invisible Cities”


Assignment 2 – Tutor Feedback and Reflection.

Tutor feedback for Assignment 2 was encouraging.

Overall Comments

It’s clear that you have progressed. Your critical engagement with the assignment is excellent. Your reflective text responds well to your ideas and connects with your references and the context of archives. It’s evident that you are committed to trying to understand the wider issues of contemporary photography.

Your final submission responds to the brief. The book is appropriate as is the idea of blurred images, although, I think that there was greater potential for the idea. A further investigation and edit of the blurred archives / idea could have resulted in a more solid coherent output. However, for assignment two I feel that you are progressing really well and if you continue to apply yourself you should do well at the time of assessment.”

Obviously the first paragraph gives me great satisfaction. This is further reinforced in the detailed analysis of my  approach to research and referencing and the way in which research is linked to the final product. However, there is much work to be done in improving the final presentation of Assignment 2. Although  the comment is disappointing “There is greater potential for the idea ” I feel that I understand the dilemma and it will be worthwhile looking back and reworking both context and presentation style, using blurred images  once again. My current thoughts are to refer back to that very influential book, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, and to develop a modern day interpretation of the cities referred to. This is challenging as the original book, published in English in 1974, looks back to the cities of the 13th century and I am trying to bring them forward to the 21st century. Whilst reworking, I will look to improve presentation style, in particular to provide more white space around the pictures to allow them to breathe and also to add a small amount of text to try to put the pictures into context.

In addition, I am currently referring to artists recommended by my tutor for reference, Thomas Mailaender and Julian Germain and will be bringing them in at a later stage.


On reflection, the most satisfying piece of work at the stage leading up to assignment 2 was the work on the family album where I searched for original photographs in junk and antique shops and applied my artistic thoughts to them rather than scanning the internet for such information. I was able to locate the album of a nun, long deceased and this led to a detailed analysis of portraiture and group photography between 1950 and 1980.Much has changed since these days and some of the changes are already referenced within my work.

Another successful piece of work was the repetition of motif where I researched the development of advertising for Chanel No 5. This may seem a very restricted subject but on further investigation the subject matter which I had to consider was vast.

The third exercise – Mishka Henner’s No Man’s Land –  is a subject in which I have been interested since visiting his exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery several years ago. The exercise gave me time to look at a living artist’s work in detail, an indulgence which only comes when there is a specific project to pursue.

My disappointment is that these three successful pieces of work did not lead up to an assignment of the same standard, something which I am determined to correct before I move on.





Assignment 2 – The Archive

The Question

Produce a series of images in book form which use a readily available online archive (or archives) as their starting point or subject.

The Book

This is the link to my book” Portrait in a day”:

my book


To start work on part 2, I first reflected on my tutor’s comments for assignment 1 and have developed several strands in the exercises leading up to this piece. I have been “pushing my practice” through illustrating an interest in photography in social, economic and political representation. I have also been exploring different presentational styles with an eye on advertising imagery and the history of art.

Throughout my work on Digital Image and Culture so far I have been fascinated by the concept that so many of the references I have investigated do not seem to have any respect for picture quality in their presentation. They appear to have thrown the rule book out of the window. Joachim Schmid and Erik Kessels work on found images which, as long as they fall into a specific category, can be the poorest quality imaginable. Stephen Gill, in his project “Hackney Flowers”, used backgrounds which were purposely damaged and ageing. Corinne Vionnet, whilst working on her project involving popular tourist sites, used found images, sometimes of very poor quality, to create a more evocative overlay in the style of an oil painting. Similarly in the field of painting as art, Idris Khan is much more interested in finding a political statement such as in his series “Death of Painting” currently on display at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.


 Death of Painting

All the above examples have enhanced their presentation creating atmosphere and heightened reality.

In addition to the references provided in the course material, I have studied various videos about the artists referenced and visited galleries which display their work.

Another huge influence has been the book “Failed It” by Erik Kessels which describes how to turn mistakes into ideas.

Looking at other examples of the use of found images has provided me with many ideas. Projects which have been successful and have strongly influenced me are as follows:

  • Evan Roth – Self Portrait – a copy of every photograph which has passed through his cache. This gives me a very different angle on self portrait.
  • Miska Henner – Dutch Landscapes – This demonstrates tenacity in his search routines and finishes with a political twist.
  • Corinne Vionnet – Holiday Destinations – This finds beauty amongst the mundane.
  • Penelope Umbrico – Flickr Suns – This  work on thousands of sunsets teaches us how to deal with clichés, something which I am very nervous about.

Jesse Alexander has produced a list of clichés as has Martin Parr.. Kittens, swans, thatched cottages are on the list. It almost  seems like an I-spy book.

The best reference which I have come across to help me understand clichés is a paragraph in Susan Sontag’s book “On Photography”:

“Photographs create the beautiful and – over generations of picture taking – use it up. Certain glories of nature have been all but abandoned to the indefatigable attentions of amateur camera buffs. The image – surfeited are likely to find sunsets corny, they now look too much like photographs.”

This is blaming photographic mass production for the loss of wonder. She says that photographs are the product of the aesthetically naïve.

Interesting also that this book (which I keep very close to my person) was published in May 1977, over 35 years ago and we have been moving extremely fast ever since.

The sense of superiority generated by the rejection of clichés is all too apparent within the art world. Adolph Loos, in his architecture,  promoted plainness as a virtue with his famous quotation  “Rejection shows advanced cultural superiority”.

In “The Meaning of Culture” by John Cowper Powys he comments on the role of the viewer and level of sophistication he / she brings to the subject.

“The less cultured you are, the more you require from nature before you can be roused for reciprocity. Uncultured people require blazing sunsets, awe inspiring mountains, astonishing waterfalls, masses of gorgeous flowers, portentious signs in the heavens, exceptional weather on earth, before their sensibility is stirred to a response. Cultured people are thrilled through and through by the shadow of a few waving  grass blades upon a little flat stone.”

I will carry this concept forward to investigate it further in future assignments.

The Project

For my own project I used Flickr which provides a huge archive of over a million subjects.

I started to investigate the various Flickr groups for inspiration. Although my previous comments suggest that I am surprised by the referenced artists using poor quality material, I have become inspired by them.

Flickr groups which interested me were as follows:

  • Aesthetics of Failure
  • Doors and Windows in Decay
  • Film Noir
  • Rothcoesque
  • Abandoned
  • Utterly surreal
  • Light Junkies
  • Stick figures in peril
  • Artistic Blur

As curator I had to decide whether to use any of my own pictures or some of my found images from a recent visit to the bookshops and antique stores in Hay on Wye.

My final plan was to look at pictures on Flickr showing blurred portraits using the influence of these evocative pictures by Robert Frank and William Klein (1954 / 55):

William Klein, New York, 1954-55 Robert Frank, Movie Premiere, H

These pictures have always intrigued me and this project follows on from some work I completed within the module “People and Place” where I took studio shots to try to recreate the 1950s feeling.

One of these pictures is shown next and although I was not fully satisfied, I saw this as a step in the right direction:

ColinC 1

The biggest problem with achieving the perfect picture was that I was working in studio conditions and I was constrained by the size of the space. The pictures by Frank and Klein were in situ and managed to capture the atmosphere so much better. Also they are in black and white which was appropriate to describe the glamour of the 1950s.

Apart from the above purposeful portrait, I photographed my grand daughter in Australia in similar style:

Australia 20101121 018C

This was a simple mistake but did very well in local club competitions.

All the above were shot to show the subject as a blur and because of the shape and strength of subject the blur dominated. When looking at the large database of similar images on Flickr I was led to investigate whether the pictures I was looking at were purposeful blurred portraits or errors.

I like to think I can see which of the flickr portfolio was a mistake but I don’t believe I could be certain.

What I do know is that there are some extremely successful (evocative) shots and it is these that I have decided to work with to produce my book.

The book is a pure set of found images, converted from colour to black and white where necessary in order to heighten their impact.

I have been strongly influenced by the book “Night Walk” by Ken Schles in which he shares some of his night time experiences with the viewer. I see this as a powerful self portrait and although in my case the images in my book are not my own personal experiences, they are the result of a brief slice of my life (the two days I spent working on putting the book together) and as such can be regarded as a self portrait in the same way that Evan Roth’s self portrait was developed.


I feel I have “pushed my practice” by considering the use of found images, something I have not previously considered.

The effect of the “less than perfect images” can be used to create an image which appeals directly to the viewer.These imperfect images carry powerful. social, political and economic messages. They can be used to artistic effect or to highlight a particular theme.

I have found by using the book to present my work that it gives me scope to investigate a subject in some depth. In a book one can juxtapose complementary photographs to develop a scenario. With print on demand it could also provide a commercial outlet for photographers , this could also be advertised digitally on facebook, twitter or whatever.

It is important to note that found images became legitimate inclusions in works of art many years ago (for instance Picasso, Gris & Duchamp). This is not something new, merely an acceleration of the use of such ideas.

The question I have started asking myself and others is:  Do I still enjoy taking photos? There is a lot of material available which is trying to persuade me that picture taking for pleasure is a thing of the past and I find this quite disappointing.


Kessels, E. (2016) Failed It. Phiadon

Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. Penguin Books

Schles,K. Night Walk. Steidl

Cowper, JC. (2008) The Meaning of Culture. Pornona Press

Tutor Feedback and Reflection for Assignment 1

I have taken comfort from my Tutor’s comments but must now push forward and improve the overall quality of my work.

Assessment Potential

I definitely want my work to go forward for assessment at the end of this module. I have already requested feedback on how my work meets the assessment requirements and submitted my own self assessment for critical comment alongside assignment 1.

Feedback on Assignment 1

There is strong emphasis on using references as much as possible and although my tutor stresses that I have done this very well there is obviously more to do. I enjoy reading around the subject and, if anything, one of my weaknesses is moving too far outside the set references. However, I suspect this will take me on my own journey and hopefully help to inspire interesting and original thought.

Reference has been made to my interest in politics and, yes, I do have an interest but this is not necessarily my only interest. I still have a desire to search for my own voice and must reach a stage soon where I find it.

In the last module “People and Place” I enjoyed looking at people in social, economic and political terms and my style was dark, often photographing “in the dark”. I have considered following on and expanding this style but at the moment I am happier investigating other styles and genres.

The idea of using advertising imagery is a good one and I need to investigate this further. In my interpretation of exercise 2.1: Motif, I have worked with the example of Chanel No 5 advertising and this, although playful has been most rewarding.

In the words of my tutor “Push your practice and ideas”. I keep this motivation close to my fingertips.

With reference to the history of art, I often refer to early art and frequently visit galleries and exhibitions. Also performance art such as the dancer referred to in assignment 2 has helped me to interpret “Self Portrait”, in this case in the guise of Brazilian history. I am fascinated by photography’s position in the development of modern art and art’s influence on photography.

I have done some additional work on the “Sky” pictures referred to and may introduce this at a later date. For  this one picture, the political and environmental implications are huge as demonstrated by Peter Kennard’s “Haywain with Cruise Missiles”.

Learning Log

I have had some problems getting my blog set up properly so that it is easy to work with but I think I have made progress. I now have a main menu along the top giving easier access to individual pieces of work  If the viewer clicks on the appropriate assignment, all work related  to that assignment will show up easily.

I have also started uploading photographs at full size so that the viewer can click onto each individual photograph if required to view the full detail.


On reflection, I was pleased with the overall concept of my final set of images in assignment 1 but the subject matter was not strong enough to hold the viewer in. These pictures do have a lot more impact when blown up to large size and I could see them as a body of work on the wall in my study, or even in an exhibition. One of the problems of the blog is that impact has to be created for the blog style rather than for some other large printed style, book or whatever. Presentation style requires considerable attention at all times.

The work so far on this module has taken me to a completely different place with reference to previous modules but has started to explain some forms of contemporary practice which I had previously considered as “non photography” or “non art”, for instance the use of found images. I am still trying to understand what I am and am not allowed to do with other people’s images found on the internet or in junk shops. I assume that as long as I reference the work, I am free to work with it as long as it isn’t copyrighted.

In some ways working with found images is easier than going out and taking photographs but the challenge is to find originality and to use the images creatively. This is sometimes more difficult than producing one’s own photographs via the camera.

Exercise 2.3 – The Family Album


Explore the family album and its iconography.

Provide six photographs (e.g. photomontage, work using found images) which reference the family album in some way.

The Project

There is more truth in the image of reality, which is perennially enduring, than the vision of the real, which is fleeting. (Fontcuberta, 2014, p.180)

On a recent visit to Hay-on-Wye, I was searching around the second hand bookshops and antique stalls for photographs much in the way that Erik Kessels, Joachim Schmid and others have done before me.

I stumbled across a photograph album developed by Mother Levine Murphy from the 1920s to the 1950s. From this example I was able to analyse “the family album of the mid 20th century”.

I believe it to be Mother Levine’s because there is a loose newspaper clipping in the front which shows her photograph, age 83 and a brief article about her life:

Mother Levine Murphy

On studying the album in more detail it became absolutely clear that these pictures had been taken by Mother Levine, starting in the 1920s. They are mainly pictures of her family, some fellow nuns and the various convents and locations she had visited during that time. There is one very interesting section where she went to Lourdes to visit the Bishop of Lourdes, Father Coffer and Canon Monk.

It suits my need very well that I did not know too much about this person as I intend to make an analysis of the family album of the 1920s rather than a historical record of the person..

I believe her job was to teach in the convent school at St Anthony’s convent in Sherbourne, Dorset.

She was professed in 1878 and so I guess she was born in the 1850s or 60s not so long after photography was invented.

More than that, I know very little about her as a photographer or as a person, only what the “snaps” tell me. Her photography was obviously a keen interest to her and must have been an expensive hobby in its day. She reminds me of Vivian Maier in her obsession but not in her ability.

My direct experience of 1920s photography to date is a visit to Chambré Hardman’s studio in Liverpool, a very interesting talk by Keith Roberts on his work analysing the Hardman portraits and part of the content of my attic in the shape of my own family portraits.

This was about the time when Edward Steichen was working for Vanity Fair. Portraits typical of this age are shown below:










Family Albums were very much about groups of people dressed up either sitting or standing and always facing the camera in a formal pose:



To try to understand iconography in relation to the family album, I purchased and read a few chapters of  Ancestral Images (Moser, 1998). It certainly gave a better understanding of iconography but I have had to work out for myself how that influences the interpretation of the family album. I think that the most important thing to understand is the positioning and formality of the people of the 1920s.

The family album which I have discovered covers the following subjects:

  • Single portraits
  • Group portraits
  • Buildings
  • Gardens
  • Beehives
  • Church interiors
  • The pope
  • Weddings
  • Ships
  • Cows

There are virtually no candid shots. People are posed facing the camera. The photographs are very much the interest of this one single woman. A strictly personal document, not in any way for sharing, perhaps for very occasionally showing a very personal friend.

Because this is the album belonging to a nun, it does not fall neatly into Erik Kessels’ categories of eight albums in a lifetime:

  • Man meets woman
  • Wedding
  • First Child
  • 4 albums assorted – holidays, children, dogs.
  • Final – man photographs woman in landscape

Instead her life is only really within the category of “4 Albums assorted”. It is interesting to note that this album may be the only one in her life. At first I thought that it was only about the 1920s as the first photographs were dated but, like most albums, the information attached to each picture has deteriorated and so much is left to supposition.  In the present day it would be possible to access much more metadata as long as the digital file were available.

I bought this album in an antique / junk shop and I presume the copyright is mine. I have reproduced some of these pictures so that I can put them onto this blog and my selection of six is as follows:

20160820 XPRO 054A


20160820 XPRO 040A

20160820 XPRO 043A


20160820 XPRO 033A


20160820 XPRO 031A


20160820 XPRO 042A


This traditional approach to producing a family album is not so common these days as social media has taken over and many of the pictures are more informal.

My own family photos have taken on a very different look as shown by this “outside looking in” picture taken recently for the “People and Place” module:


20150320 037 Raw Convert (Copy)

There are many ways of representing portraiture in the modern age. Only today, I attended a performance of the portraiture of Brazil where a performance artist / dancer used his own body to represent the portraits of Brazilian people. He interpreted photographs, text and voice , using his own naked body. Ref: Tiago Cadet: Alla Prima – Home Manchester – August 20 2016:



The contrast in quality of presentation between the 1920s photo album and today’s many methods of representation is stunning but there is still something most compelling about carrying out a historical exercise to analyse early photo albums. Part of the excitement is in finding out about the person behind the pictures.


The family / personal portrait has changed significantly over time. The 1920s portrait was formal, sitter or group facing the camera showing a sense of pride and grandeur. By the 1950s the subjects were starting to relax a little.

Today the portrait is rarely so formal and the sitters do not demonstrate their sense of wealth and grandeur. The pictures are often shared immediately with friends and then lost for ever. Every conceivable emotion could be demonstrated by the images posted on social media and formality is rarely one of these.

There are also many other ways in which one’s portrait can be demonstrated, by performance, use of sound, video, interview techniques and many other.


Moser, S. (1998) Ancestral Images: The Iconography of Human Origins. Sutton

Fontcuberta, J. (2014) Pandora’s Camera:  Archive Noises. Mack

Schmid, J.

Schmid, J.

Kessels, E

Chambré Hardman, E.   Study Visit – Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool – 9 February 2013, Peter Haveland and Keith Roberts

Chambré Hardman, E. 59 Rodney Street. The National Trust


Exercise 2.2 – Mishka Henner – “No Man’s Land”


Write 500 words on a piece of work by one contemporary artist – photographer who uses the archive as source material.

Mishka Henner – “No Man’s Land”

Mishka Henner is a Belgian artist living in Manchester. He has used Google Earth, Google Street View and You Tube to provide source material for his work and he is known for using “Print on Demand” to try to bypass traditional publishing methods. He was awarded the Kleine Hans award in July 2011 at Arles for his print on demand works, “Photography Is”, “Collected Portraits”, “Fifty One US Military Outposts”, “Dutch Landscapes” and “No Man’s Land”.

I first saw his work “No Man’s Land” when I visited the photographer’s gallery to view the entries for the Deutsche Borse Prize in 2013.  Although it did not win the prize, of all the shortlisted entries, it is the work which has remained in my memory.

At the time I was unaware that it was acceptable to use works by other authors as part of an entry into any competition, let alone a significant worldwide event.

According to The Daily Telegraph 13 April 2013 ” No Man’s Land is a survey of prostitution”. His images are from Google Street View in Spain and Italy and document the presence of sex workers.

His picture “Carretera de Rubi. Terrassa. Spain 2012”  has been used on the front page of the course material for this project. It is a picture which attracts the viewer’s interest immediately and has a huge political element.

Carretera de Rubi Terrassa Spain 2012

 Carreterade Rubi. Terrassa. Spain 2012

 Henner has been described as a “Modern Day Duchamp” and he states that “Duchamp was about changing the way we think of art, and in consequence how we look at the world”.

This project started because Henner’s partner Liz Lock was working on a project investigating street prostitution alongside sociologists in Manchester. Henner came up with the idea of searching Google Street View for material for his project and sure enough he found plenty. He then discovered that there are internet forums set up for men using street view as a means of finding girls. The project therefore became (in Henner’s words) one of “looking and being witness to the whole world with which we cannot empathise”.

Henner has not altered the images in any way, we see what we see, and this demonstrates the manufactured nature of these world views.

Henner particularly likes the landscape views which come out of these pictures (in a traditional landscape sense). However, he accepts that the images of the women are  intensely voyeuristic and therefore have more impact.

In his words “People tend to focus on the women, but the figures are tiny. At one time these places must have been lush greenery and rolling hills. Now they are littered with trash with these poor women standing by the road to make a living. The project became about the fall of Arcadia (Doctor Who)”.

The following are two examples of his work. There are many others which demonstrates how much material is available.

Carretera de Olot Crespia CT Spain

Cisliano Milan Italy


The following clip shows the wealth of material not related to “girl on street” and starts to develop tension between beautiful landscape and the ugliness of the road system.


Henner revisits these digital locations regularly and the scenes have changed (street view is updated every 2 to 3 years). He is continuing his work as streetview moves into other countries and he describes the work as having an archival role. Most of these images will disappear without ever being looked at

Similar to works by Joachim Schmid, Henner’s project raises an important question about authorship and ownership. Google have produced and displayed these images for the benefit of Google’s economic growth. Henner’s use of these images is more in line with a curator whose skill lies in identifying, locating, exhibiting and theoretically contextualising images.

Note: His work is not unique. While researching Mishka Henner, I discovered another photographer, Txema Salvans  who has actually photographed Spanish prostitutes who work from a busy roadside: game/


Henner has followed his instincts in pursuing a subject which is close to him because his partner has already  been deeply involved in the subject.

He is someone who has pushed practice to use photography to create an archive which records at a point in time across Europe.

He has used the archive to record the social and economic position of a group of people in a particular environment .

He is making a huge political statement.

The format of his presentation was a series of large scale prints and a video in an exhibition. This contributed significantly to his success.

There is a deep satisfaction in researching a subject which has sprung from an exhibition visit and finding out after the event a mass of information not available at the exhibition. To write up the detail helps to consolidate one’s thoughts and is one of the few ways of retaining the detailed information.

My own analysis of the subject has only really scratched the surface but the result I have obtained is a close study of Henner’s approach which makes me think of projects I have done which need a longer period of time to complete. An example of this is my work photographing outside looking in (through the window at night) which took up a large part of my work on “People and Place”.



Research Part 2 Project 2 The Artist as Archivist

Notes on Project 2 Text

“I don’t see any necessity in producing images myself. Everything I need exists, it’s just about finding it”   Oliver Laric

The archive is now on the internet and contains photos from all types of camera including the phone.

Refer to Erik Kessels “In almost every picture” where he documents from found images, discarded photo albums, in flea markets. Series of photos # 7 is the most interesting , of Ria van Dijk at a shooting gallery each year of her life.

Kessels believes that our mistakes are important – ref. #13. In almost every picture , a thumb occludes part of the picture.

Fontcuberta believes that chance is very important and a lot of chance is now being removed from photos, e.g. the new digital photobooths give customers the opportunity to reject a picture before it is printed and try again.

Cutting out the chance element is creatively dangerous.

The Body and the Archive – Allan Sekula

This is a really difficult essay to read, full of pretention and unnecessarily over complicated. However, deep down in the meat of the material, there is some worthwhile content and is just about worth the effort to extract.

In the mid 19th century, it was believed that there was a link between the external appearance of a person and his / her individual character (via physiognomy and phrenology).

Adolphe Quetelet  tried to define the “average man” from which all could be compared. He looked at women’s fertility in comparison to age and he defined the “average worker”.

Bertillon analysed criminals and this was where photography was likely to become useful – to show pictures of criminal – like people. 100,000 pictures were collected in the French police force but there was very little result and from this, Bertillon was one of the first to realise the fundamental problem of the archive, that there is too much information to be ploughed through. He continued to develop a method of photography for comparison so that certain parameters (focal length, lighting, distance between sitter and camera) were always the same.

Galton (Darwin’s cousin) is significant for developing the first statistical methods for studying heredity. He developed composites which took the main features from different people. He believed he had translated the Gaussian error curve into photographic form.

Lewis Hine also made composites (of female millworkers in 1913) to trace the effect of factory work on young bodies. These examples were the “collapsed version” of the archive.

This all leads to the invention of archiving. The first systems were developed by Bertillon and Galton. Bertillon sought to embed the photograph in the archive. Galton sought to embed the archive in the photograph. Bertillon won.

The information was initially used for art history, military intelligence and other.


Link 4: The Vanishing Art of the Family Photo Album (Erik Kessels)

The function of the family photo has changed. It used to be personal for the album. It is now shared with everybody via social media.

Kessels put together “Album Beauty” exhibition to provide a meditation on the nature of obsolescence. He uses found and anonymous family photos after rummaging through flea markets.

Some of his finds he has blown up hugely. Some are the original size. The work describes a form of beauty which lists the detritus of beauty, boredom, travel, companionship, innocence, youth, pride and participation.

In the past the average family kept eight albums:

  • When the couple met (his photos of her)
  • The wedding
  • The first child
  • Four assorted albums (holidays, children, dogs etc.)
  • The final album, the couple alone again, the landscape bigger with her smaller in the frame

Kessels looked mainly for the dissonant, the banal, the disruption to ritualised harmony within family photography.


Link 5: Archive Fever “Photography between History and the Monument (Okwui Enwenzor)

The archive has many definitions:

“The Archive is the law of what can be said, the system that governs the appearance of statements as unique events” (Foucault)

“A mechanism through which we return to the past, compiling indexes of comparisons and tables of facts that generate their own public and private meanings” (Stanley Cavell)

“The body and the Archive” by Allan Sekula refers to the work of Bertillon (analysing the characteristics of a criminal) and Galton (analysing racial characteristics for social control).

Duchamp developed a photographic archive miniaturising his entire world of discovering into a deluxe edition of reproductions, into a mobile museum (La Boite en Valise 1935 – 41).

This was the finest attempt of archiving in its day.

Gerhard Richter’s “Atlas” (1964 – present) is an open ended compendium of panels but was criticised for its difficulty to follow because it was sequential.

The archive can best be described as “a compensation of the unwieldy, diachronic state of photography and exists as a representational form of the ungainly dispersion and pictorial multiplicity of the photograph”

The archival impulse has animated modern art since the invention of photography. Rodchenko and Heartfield used the archive (as documentary apparatus).

Use of the archive was more active with post war modernists – taking us into the era of Richter’s generation.

There is a haunting portrait from Craig Horsfield’s study of pre – solidarity Poland “Magda Mierwa and Leszek Mierwa” . A lot of the impact from this photograph is the fact that the timing of release was not immediate.

Horsfield’s nude is set against the exact time of its making next to the year of its full realisation as a work thus stressing the importance of archival time. There is often a large time lag between “taking” and “printing”.

Today the timing data is so prolific that it is more difficult to see the image gel in the artist’s own consciousness.

Stan Douglas’s “Overture” links photographs with sound recordings of Proust’s “In search of lost Time”. Proust is about time and its disappearance and the link is not coincidental.

Much as I love Proust and in particular this book, I cannot see the drama generated by Stan Douglas’s “Overture”. I will stay with pure Proust.

Exercise 2.1 -Repetition of Motif


“Bring together a series of 12 images (a typology) in which a particular motif appears again and again. Select an appropriate way to display your series.

Definition on Motif

A decorative image or design, especially a repeated one forming pattern.

A dominant or recurring idea in an artistic work.

A single or repeated design or colour.


The question refers back to the work of Corinne Vionnet (link 3) in her series “Photo Opportunities”

I have referred to this work in my blog “Exercise 1.1 – The Origins of Photomontage”

It has strongly influenced my approach to overlays and I have produced work already which is my interpretation of this style. The origins of Montage

The Project

I started by looking at other ideas for the reproduction of a motif.  Some of my early thoughts were:

  • Andy Warhol – Marilyn
  • Colour cast
  • Stamps
  • Self portrait grid
  • Same place, different times of day
  • Self portraits in a specific style
  • Art’s most painted subject
  • Bamburgh Castle from the beach
  • Advertising through time – oxo, shampoo, perfume


I investigated the Andy Warhol idea by working on one of my self portraits


The picture was fun to produce and I learned a little more about post production but it did not have any real meaning. It was copying somebody else’s idea and I was looking for a little more creativity and originality.

At this point I started to become obsessive about the idea of perfume advertising and, as obsession is a good pointer to success I pursued the idea of specific perfumes, keeping the field fairly narrow.

The favourite perfume in this household is Chanel No 5 and on researching this further I discovered a vast history of advertising since 1921.

Many famous women have become the Chanel No 5 model over the years, for example, Marilyn Monroe, Keira Knightley, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve,  Carole Bouquet and many others.

Marilyn Monroe was reputed to have said, when asked what she wore in bed, “Why Chanel No 5 of course”. This set off a stream of very competitive challenges for the title.

My artwork for this project is made up of a background of the iconic Chanel bottle and box with an overlay of each of twelve Chanel models from the advertisments found on Google Images.

The models are Audrey Tautou, Brad Pitt, Candice Bergen, Carole Bouquet, Estelle Warren, Giselle Bundchen, Grace Kelly, Kate Moss, Lily Rose Depp, Marilyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman and Vanessa Paradis.

I thought a lot about presentation and whether it was necessary to display the models in chronological order but it transpires that women’s beauty has not faded over the ages and as the overlay of the model is in black and white it is not possible to tell the era from which the model has come apart from perhaps showing the fashion of the time. Even that is difficult to decipher and so I have made my mix randomly. There is one male model in the mix which I believe helps to keep interest and invite the viewer to return for a second look.

I have decided to display the images as a single grid. This gives each the same opportunity and allows the viewer to obtain best benefit from the repetitive motif. I considered other formats such as individual framed prints or an audio visual presentation and I also looked at whether to add text to describe the people in the picture but I preferred the chosen layout and have given the viewer the chance to identify the models thus holding his / her gaze for longer.

Chanel No 5 Composite-1

I was intrigued to look at whether by creating an image of my own, it would be possible for the viewer to establish if this was genuine.

This was my own result:

imagesN6ZHB01S Colin Chanel No 5


Who would know the difference?

One other picture which I discovered on my journey is the following:


It intrigued me because as I started looking at Chanel models it brought back my time photographing models on the catwalk of London Fashion Weekend where I started to realise how distorted and in some cases emaciated the models needed to be to compete in today’s market. At first I thought this was one of these and then I remembered the work of Sally Mann and, of course this is one of her children.

After further research, I realised that the Chanel context was a spoof created by the website about Chanel Kids. “Every child alive needs Chanel”. This just shows how when doing one’s research on the internet, one has to be extremely careful of the validity of the source. The picture is the most powerful one I have come across in the context of Chanel No 5 but although it has made me think about the modelling industry it is in no way authentic.


This project worked well for me because it gave me an opportunity to consider the advertising industry in terms of fashion models and a simple iconic image. It starts to demonstrate just how much effort has gone into advertising this single brand of perfume, the enormous cost involved in attracting customers by playing on their vanity, their sensitivity and their desire to become a part of a limited but fashionable group of people.