Making cyanotypes

These were made in the back garden with sunography kits. You put objects on the paper/fabric, cover with glass or plastic to hold everything down, then leave them to expose. It takes 10-15 minutes in bright sun, the weather turned cloudy when we did ours and the orange one ended up having close to an hour. Once exposed, you rinse the prints under running water for at least a couple of minutes and dry them on kitchen roll/paper towel, swapping for a dry towel after 15 minutes. There is no fixer required.

We found that although you can expose on both sides, the image from one side will show through slightly to the other side.

Fox Talbot and Anna Atkinson were early pioneers of photograms. They tended to be of horticultural specimens rather than underwear, however Fox Talbot made several using lace.

I am exploring this because I want to make a calotype of the Fox Talbot window by deconstructing a polaroid image and using the emulsion as a negative on Sunography paper.

Exercise 5.3 A response to Henri Cartier Bresson’s Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare

This is one of those photographs that you can never imagine the world without. That said it is not one of my favourites. You can see the photo here –

FRANCE. Paris. Place de l'Europe. Gare Saint Lazare. 1932.

Cartier Bresson said that the image was down to luck. He had his camera lens stuck through a hole in the fence, and this is what he ended up with. A suited man leaping athletically over a large puddle with circus and acrobatic signage in the background. I wonder if we know how many other shots he took at the same time, what his contact sheet looked like for this shoot?

Elements of the composition delight me, like the two part circles of scrap in the water, the ladder laid across the puddle to no useful purpose, the inverted V of the man’s legs as he leaps and the V of the reflection, the way his shoes are just clear of the water, indeed the way the surface of the water sits so neatly between the heel of his real and reflected self. The way the ladder in the puddle has led him neatly to what could well be just the middle of the puddle, his leap continuing the path. The shadows and reflections make me happy, including those joyous acrobat silhouettes. The contrast between his motion and the man stood stationary by the fence. And yet. I wish I could see more of him. I wish that he wasn’t on his way out of the frame. I can’t imagine why this well-dressed man would take a short cut that looks so impossible without soaking one’s shoes and trousers. Perhaps he was running late for his train.

Cartier-Bresson set a lot of store by luck. He makes the excellent point that you have to have your camera with you, and be open to possibility, to serendipity. I do get this, but personally I would much rather create my own images and welcome luck into the more technical and/or editing aspects of the work. Perhaps this is because street photography has never enthused me, perhaps it’s a function of my limited development as a photographer. I do know, though, that when I look at this image I get distracted by all my questions.

Homage photographs from my archive

Both images below are from my Foundation blog

G&T, after Fischli & Weiss who made improbably balanced towers and models.



Katebook 6x6 grid collapsed layers
katebook in homage to Penelope Umbrico’s Many Leonards not Natman . Mine is a collection of Facebook profile pictures from people called Kate, hers is a set of portraits of people called Leonard who weren’t Leonard Natman.

Project 2 Photography as information


We are asked “..what kind of information is included in the photograph on the front cover of Rinko Kawauchi’s book Illuminance, shortlisted for the Deutsche Borse Prize in 2012?”

The image is in colour. It is unfocused, overexposed and there is lens flare evident. Yet we can still see that it depicts a rose, a pink rose, in the early stages of opening. We can see the stem, the leaves. It’s a bit like a pink shadow because we have more information about the edges than the centre, though we can see bits of the whorls of petals. In the background, which is largely pink, we can see some more very pale green leaves and a bit more lens flare.

Yet it’s still an image that speaks. It somehow, to me, still captures what makes a rose a rose. It makes me think of roses that I’ve seen, roses that I’ve been given, of the richness of their scent and the softness of their petals. Of the sheer unremitting pinkness.

It’s a gentle image. It’s not sharp as you would see in a garden catalogue, and there’s hardly any depth of field to speak of. It conveys touch. Clearly, a photograph can’t convey touch without a print, and even then it’s unlikely to be the same texture. So I think that this photograph carries the information that I’ve detailed above, but also the idea, the concept, of a rose, for the viewer to decode and extrapolate from as they wish. I think the image relies on the viewer knowing what a rose is, otherwise it is just some gentle pink and green splodges.

The Photographers Gallery – Deutsche Borse, Roger Mayne, Evgenia Arbugaeve

This was my afternoon after visiting the Wolfgang Tillmans show at the Tate Modern.

I normally blog exhibitions separately, but it was interesting how the work here interacted so I’m putting them all in a single post. All images are mobile photos included for reference.

I know that photography is inevitably about the past, but there seemed to be a very heavy emphasis on the past in the current set of exhibitions. There’s more black and white than colour, a distinct emphasis on the actual past. In the basement, Evgenia Arbugaeva’s series “Amani”, set in a disused Malaria Research station. This series is in colour, but slightly desaturated and with a vintage feel. I was first introduced to Evgenia’s work with her series Tiksi, also in the TPG basement gallery but a while back. I love the detail of her narratives, her use of colour, and the gentle way that her images invite you into her stories.


You can see the whole series on her website here –—amani/Amani_01/

Level 2 was devoted was Roger Mayne – mainly his 1950s black and white prints of children playing but also the very effective 5 screen slideshow “Britain at Leisure” which was commissioned for the Milan Trienniale in 1964. This one is in colour. I don’t quite understand why it resonated so much with me, given that all these photographs were taken well before I was born. There was a definite feeling of Steichen’s Family of Man about the slideshow. Another aspect of the photographs that delighted me was the strong composition of so much of the work. Very strong use of diagonal lines that rendered the portraits of children more than simple portraits but instead gave them a strong sense of place within a larger whole. On the image below this effect is compounded by the use of a streetlamp to divide the frame.

The top two floors were given to the 2017 Deutsch Borse prize. I don’t know if it’s a reflection of a year’s further study, but I found this year’s work more engaging than last year’s.  Sophie Calle has been nominated for her work “My All” which is a collection of 54 postcards, one from each major work that she’s made. I have been intrigued by her work since my Foundations tutor suggested that I read her book “Double Game”. I couldn’t use some of her methods, but the work remains compelling. Unlike much conceptual work, her work provokes as much of an emotional response in me as an intellectual one. In this exhibition we see a set of the postcards, and some work that combines poetry, multimedia and photography as she considers the deaths of her mother, her cat and her father (“in that order”). She addresses that thing about what do you do with a phone contact for someone who is dead. Delete it? Leave it there and risk calling it by accident, or having your phone mistakenly match the photo with someone else. I bought the set of cards. Funnily, it worked out at less per card than making cards of my own work…

Next up was a set of vast black and white landscapes from Dutch photographer Awoiska van der Molen. These were delicate and had gorgeous use of tone with the blackest blacks and the whitest whites. I liked how one included tiny road signs at the bottom of the huge image, giving an idea of scale.

Dana Lixenberg presented a set of (mainly) portraits, again in black and white. These were of residents in the Imperial Courts housing project in LA, taken over twenty two years. These pictures were exuberant, uncompromising and empathetic. Apologies for the reflection.


Finally, a joint project by Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs. This “playfully draws on the visual iconography of a road trip from Switzerland to Mongolia, constructing experiences drawn equally from memory and imagination”. I struggled a bit to find a way in this work. There were five av presentations running simultaneously, presenting still shots and film. Mainly in black and white but with occasional colour (I saw one colour image).  It was a bit like watching five different sets of holiday movies/slideshows at the same time, but without your relatives helping you out with context. I enjoyed the man dancing on a pier, and the colour still of a motel bed.

Mark Power 26 different endings (and a photobooth)

Exhibition – Mark Power 26 Different Endings,  at the Hoxton Hotel Shoreditch.

This exhibition was a fortuitous coincidence. I had been researching the locations of analogue photo booths in central London as I wanted to make some strips of photos to try out an idea born from A2 and A5. This location came up, and when I emailed them to ask if they still had the booth (they did) it transpired they also had an exhibition of work by Magnum Photographer Mark Power that was opening the day before I was due to visit.

I first came across Mark’s work in my first ever visit as an OCA student. The scheduled visit that I was booked onto was cancelled, so I took a train to Bristol to see the Magnum exhibition Open for Business about workplaces and workers in Britain. Mark Power made work in the Bombardier train factory, at Nissan and at Camira Fabrics. I like the work for its intimacy and especially its portrayal of workers’ feet. The work must have made a big impression as he was one of two photographers (out of nine) whose work I wrote about. Blog post here.

This work is a series of landscapes, taken in the places that are just off the edges of the A-Z. They are colourful, empty places, full of evidence of people but no actual people. Some of the compositions even reminded me of A-Z pages, with clear colours and lines. Presented as large framed prints, on both sides of a narrow corridor. I liked the concept of this very much, not least as I live in a small town that’s in the bottom right hand corner of an OS map so I ended up with the 3 adjoining maps in order to plan cycle routes in each direction. I always wondered about the edges of maps – who decides where the edges are? Did there used to be nothing at the edges and the towns have expanded beyond the edges? Is there a parallel between the edge of the map and the edge of the frame? You can see more details on this work, including the images, on Mark’s site here.

I would have loved to have had more time to devote to this exhibition, as it was I had to make my photobooth images and squeeze in a coffee before heading to the Tate Modern for 10:45. For anyone in the area I can recommend this exhibition and the coffee. The photobooth is interesting too, 4 poses for £3 albeit overexposed and a bit contrasty.


Wolfgang Tillmans study visit

Tate Modern, May 6th, led by Jayne Taylor.

Still struggling to get enough perspective on this to write intelligently about it. It was vast and I wonder if it might actually have been best seen from the other side of the Thames (only joking slightly here). I thought I had a view on it, then I went to the Photographers’ Gallery for the afternoon  and found that my view on Tillmans had shifted again. My focus here is to look at the impact and links that this visit will have on, and to, my own work.

His work is prolific. I’m not sure that there’s a genre unrepresented here.  It’s like seeing his workings on a large, externalised scale. We see notes, leaflets, articles, trains of thought. We see him engaging with the world, campaigning. It was a bit like walking around someone’s brain, having it all laid out for us like those biology videos that show the sheer size of the digestive tract. Jayne talked afterwards about how important it is to keep a record of the things that engage us, as these objects and experiences are the fuel for our work.

I had watched the suggested videos beforehand and was intrigued by his scale model of the 14 rooms which he would walk through and use to test out the location and sizing of his works. Once actually in the exhibition though, this made me feel as if I was more an integral part of the exhibition rather than a viewer, a spectator. I felt as if I was a tiny ant-person walking through the installation on his gallery floor. I think you can see that this had occurred to him too. This reminded me of dolls houses, and scale – themes that I keep returning to.



His portraiture is very interesting. I had the consistent impression that he genuinely likes people. Holly mentioned that he photographed the little physical things in people that we love but that no-one else sees and I thought that was perceptive, especially the image of the little bit of warm skin under a t-shirt and above the jeans on a sunny day. His work was tender, affectionate. There was no hint of sardonism, of judgement, of anger, of making any comment at all other than observation and an intimacy, however short, between him and the subject. Watching the video that Jayne sent after the visit, I listened to him talk about how he prefers to show what people share rather than what divides us, and I thought that he is certainly achieving this aim. He mentions vulnerability too, how he is as vulnerable as the sitter. Perhaps this accounts for the tenderness, and for the way that I ended up feeling that I knew far more about him, as a result of this show. His work engaged me both emotionally and cerebrally.


I was very happy to see two of the Paperdrop series displayed and I also engaged with his Silver work, where exposed photographic paper is passed through a dirty printing machine. It was interesting that in the video he talks about how people will always try to find a subject in an abstract image, they will always look for something they can recognise and will construct it if need be. This resonates with me at the moment because I am working on a series about the backs of Polaroids, and am struggling about how much it matters to have images of the same subject  on the front of the Polaroids.

His photographs of crumpled clothes reminded me of how, when my daughter gets up, she leaves this little crumpled nest of duvet, still moulded to her body and still holding the heat of her body and the smell of her skin.

His video was interesting. He danced, in his pants. It looked like he was following a Just Dance game, but the soundtrack was actually made to the sound of his feet on the floor. I don’t know much about the gaze yet, but I thought this work subverted it neatly. One man, in his pants, facing away from the camera, being observed.

The presentation of his work provoked much discussion. He actively stays away from classical framing techniques as he doesn’t want to mimic painting (this was in one of the links sent out before the visit). Scale was played with –  from the universal 6×4 prints in acres of space to massive prints in tiny rooms. The unconventional layout forced movement, forced us away from the normal “desire lines” that route us around exhibitions Ikea-style. Prints were attached with tape, or bulldog clips and pins. One of my favourites was where he layered prints, both on walls and tabletops. I like the idea of one obscuring another, of the hint of an idea emerging. On the whole I thought that the presentation emphasised that his work is always in progress, that there is always more to do.

I’m still a bit shell-shocked by this exhibition. I am impressed at the scope of his work, by the variety of ways in which it engaged me, by the creativity and fearlessness, the tenderness and vulnerability, the humour and the social conscience. I like how he engages with the world. This show inevitably provides a huge insight into Wolfgang Tillmans as an artist, but what it also provided was a window into his view of the world as a person, as someone who cares enough to campaign, to engage. On the other hand, it still feels rather too immense and slippery to grasp and to understand with any degree of certainty.