Category: ASSIGNMENT 1

Assignment 1 – Tutor Feedback and Reflection

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.


Assignment 1 – Combined Image

Produce a series of four to six landscape-based images based on your immediate surroundings (as with Gill’s Hackney Marshes series).

In their description of his Hackney Flowers (Hackney Marshes) series (Photographer’s Gallery 2007) the preview to the project was as follows:

“In Hackney Flowers Stephen Gill has again used his east London surroundings as the inspiration for his work. This time he has collected flowers, seeds, berries and other objects from various locations in Hackney, pressed them in his studio and photographed them alongside his own photographs and found ephemera. Some of the base photographs were also buried in Hackney Wick, and the consequent staining and decay has left its imprint upon the images, stressing the collaboration with place.”

In this work, the flowers always dominate the image, thereby becoming the subject. This is contrary to a lot of his work where he purposely does not present the subject, except in the title as his billboard project and his music (what am I listening to?) project.

I will work on similar principles within my own area, probably choosing “tiny subject parameters studied in depth”.

He is always obsessive, working until the subject exhausts him and I can certainly relate to that. Stephen Gill has learned to “haunt the places that haunt him”. He says that making pictures is much more difficult than it used to be. In the future “what we don’t photograph will be more relevant than what we do”.

The brief asks for (1) Traditional cut and paste and (2) digital montage as two separate projects so it was important to decide whether to follow this closely or whether to use one of Gill’s other techniques (overlaying objects onto a print and re photographing, placing objects inside the camera and seeing what comes out or any other).

I did not place any items within the camera but I did try the flower overlay with success.:

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I thought the idea of using brightly coloured flowers was actually very straightforward and I was really looking for more. I wanted something with a political statement which was within my own passion. So for the first part of this exercise I have decided to stay with traditional cut and paste, using my own images as the base. Found images have then been cut out and superimposed onto the base.

My final images make comment on the environmental impact of pollution on the beauty of the countryside (depicted by my pictures taken in Northern Derbyshire, close to home).


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I considered two locations for this project:

  • Styal Country Park (literally a few steps from my front door)
  • Cheshire Ring Canals (a half hour drive from my home)

Considering the work of Stephen Gill as I travelled, it was important to establish the driving force behind the pictures. Should I work with people, reflections, overlays, plants, animals or trash?  What subject did I want to develop?

I looked closely at the work of Jeff Wall, Stan Dickinson, Peter Kennard and others as directed by the course material and then diversified to look at David Hockney and Peter Fraser. The common thread through all of these was the uniqueness of their thinking and the practitioner who influenced me the most was Peter Fraser, not so much over digital montage techniques but more because of his methodology and subject matter (more later).

I made a positive decision not to make a political statement in this instance (no missiles in the fields!)

The Styal Country Park project was working towards a fairly straight copy of Stephen Gill’s Hackney Flowers and I was looking for something more personal without understanding what it was at this stage.

On the canal walk the image which stood out in my mind and which repeated itself along the ten mile stretch was that of the view through the bridges.

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I started to develop my thinking around relationships between objects and the canal, between objects and the bridges. What was the historical significance? What story did they conceal?

There seemed to be three time zones; the present (current objects), two hundred years ago (the canal and its structures) and many thousands of years ago (the countryside).

The main thrust of my day was looking for objects, either to collect or to photograph and it became clear early on that it was the relationship between these objects which would bring the result I was looking for. So the idea developed to try to link the colours, textures, smells, shapes which I was seeing (almost in macro) with the overall scene:

  • The rust on the bridge metalwork
  • Tree stumps which describe the age of the vegetation
  • Places where some very new addition has been integrated into the landscape.

I photographed flowers, rubbish, archaeological features, rocks, dirt, birds, fences, people.

At the stage when I had seen a number of people, I was tempted to make work about people on the canal, the odd-balls, the friendlies, etc. There was a story there to be told  but I was still strongly driven by the idea of integrating objects with the scene. The people were very keen to have their pictures taken but I could not get away from the idea of documentary and that didn’t work for me.

Peter Fraser has always interested me and from the book by David Chandler entitled “Peter Fraser”  (Chandler, David: Peter Fraser, Tate, St Ives, 2012) I have taken examples for this and previous projects. I experimented with his theory of photographing from the unconscious mind and in some way I followed this by allowing my mind to stop over-ruling the photographic choices, similar to Stephen Gill’s idea of allowing the camera to do the work.

During post production, I started by simply superimposing pictures of the objects onto the bridge photo.

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With further experimentation, I found that by overlaying rather than inserting and then reducing the opacity of the overlay, I could create much more evocative images. This bringing me much closer the goal I had set.

The technique ended up being extremely simple, unlike the original manual cut and paste technique and so I was grateful for the power of digital manipulation.

The choice of format took a lot of consideration and I finally decided on a wide screen landscape format which looks well as a series of mounted photographs.

The six images I have chosen follow and have generated great excitement not only for me but for friends and family who have helped in the evaluation process.

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A very useful reference to hold my work up against was the lecture by Rachel Smith during the recent ‘Photography Matters’ conference held by the OCA in Doncaster. Rachel showed some images prepared in a similar manner to my own and then went on to talk about a number of artists and their work in relation to materiality. This has given ideas for future work:

  • Gerhard Richter – Overpainted photo series
  • Wolfgang Tillmans – No camera, no lens
  • Ann Collier
  • Anastasia Samoylova – Landscape sublime
  • Sally Mann – Rejects digital form
  • Sabato Visconti – Glitch art.

In order to help with the creative process it is useful to bear in mind the quotation from Elizabeth Edwards. ‘An object cannot be fully understood at any single point in its existence. It should be understood in a continuing process of production’

One guiding light through all of this was a passage in the “Peter Fraser” book, p.149.

Fraser talks about the “filing away of memories for future use” and this, to me is how photography often happens.

Quotation by Virginia Woolf from “Sketch of the past”  Ref: Chandler, David: Peter Fraser, p.149, Tate, St Ives, 2012:

“I was looking at the flowerbed by the front door; that is the whole, I said. I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves; and it seemed suddenly plain that the flower itself was a part of the earth: that a ring enclosed what was the flower; and that was the real flower; part earth, part flower. It was a thought put away as being very useful to me later.”

The quotation seems to refer to the integration between the view and the objects which I have created and I came to thinking whether my result had been pre-determined and ‘put away as being useful for later’, then coming out of the unconscious mind. Or was it simply spontaneous and from some void which opened up for me that day?