Cut it up and start again

About a year ago, I saw a die-cutting machine for the first time. The owner kindly let me use it to cut out flowers and butterflies from photographs of flowers, and I was hooked. The images below are from Exercise 5.5 Flowers that I did during the OCA Foundation in Photography course, with the shapes die-cut from prints that I made of photographs taken for the exercise.

Since then I’ve acquired my own, plus a healthy collection of dies, embossing folders and all kinds of papers. What I wanted to do was cut my photographs, to cut portraits that meant something to me. I set aside prints specifically for cutting, and did nothing. Eventually, seeing the end of A3 in sight, I confessed to a fine artist friend that I wanted to cut up some perfectly good prints, we fixed a date in the diary, and I did it. I don’t know why I should regard prints as quite so sacrosanct, especially as everything that I cut was infinitely reproducible thanks to digital technology. Yet I did. As I sat looking at my prints, my friend remarked that really they had to be special because otherwise cutting them was meaningless. That statement helped very much. I want to work my way up to cutting Polaroids (then backing them with fabric or translucent papers) and cutting passport photos. Can you imagine a Polaroid with holes, with texture? I was fascinated by William E Jones’ story of Roy Stryker, the editor who punched holes in the negatives of FSA images that he didn’t want, it’s as if the absence is adding to the image rather than subtracting (Jones, 2010).

So today I started. I have many plans, and I barely skimmed the surface today. I worked with an old school photograph of mine that I cut into a small central square with two concentric square borders. I played with those on their own, with an uncut other school photo, and with a photobooth large portrait of my daughter. I want to try mixing and matching components from two images into the same image, I want to work with duplicating layers, I want to work with dresses and princesses, flowers and hearts, whatever I can find. I want to blend generations. I want to add texture to photographs – physically embossed texture, I want to use papers. I want to work with maps – today I embossed a section of an old map and was thrilled to see that (obviously) the printed back was embossed too. What could be better than embossing actual contours onto a map with contour lines?

At the moment this is a personal project, inspired by Parts 3 and 5 of the Foundation Course and A2 feedback from EYV, but I know it will find a way into my coursework. Edit – these are phone pictures that did not survive rotation/upload very well.


Jones, W.E. (2010) Punctured. Available at: (Accessed: 19 December 2016).


4 thoughts on “Cut it up and start again

  1. Photobooth Journal March 19, 2017 / 12:13 am

    I understand why this would have been hard to do Kate. The results were worth it. I remember seeing that you have experimented with this technique using polaroids, too, and of course with photobooth photos. Do you think this will continue to be part of your progression as an artist?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate March 19, 2017 / 12:40 pm

      I think so, there’s a lot more for me here. I’ve just been playing with die-cut portraits. I still struggle to think of myself as an artist, to tell the truth, but I’m not sure what other words fit. In the end though I think this is more about adding meaning rather than subtracting it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Photobooth Journal March 20, 2017 / 3:51 am

        Definitely and the new meaning may not crystallise until you have worked through the idea and experimented and fiddled about over and over. That is what makes seeing these embryonic works so exciting – they have so much potential they could lead anywhere. When I was a professional greeting card designer and publisher, people would ask me where I got my ideas. My answer was by starting to fiddle and experiment. If you don’t make things, you don’t get the ideas. (And you are definitely an artist! no doubt about that.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kate March 21, 2017 / 8:53 am

        Thank you. “exciting” is the right word, I never have any idea what I’m going to end up with when I sit down with the polaroids. The dolls house work feels like that too, there’s definitely something there but I’m not there yet.

        Liked by 1 person

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