Die-cutting school photos and considering shapes

Drizzly Easter holiday day, so I promised the girl the rare treat of an afternoon in my den with her pick of pens, die-shapes, and a selected pick of papers. This forced me to sit down with the die-cutting machine and try out a couple of ideas that have been on my mind.

I wanted to work with a rephotograph of an old school photo of me and do some die-cutting, manipulating the cutouts.  I’ve recently sadly decided that for the purposes of working with photographs, the most versatile dies to use are not the detailed asymmetric ones of particular objects (manuscript writing, kitschy hearts, fairies, flowers) but the comparatively boring ones of plain shapes. For a woman who is essentially all about the bling, this was a hard fact to accept. But, recent readings  and playings around Mobius strips, toroses and klein bottles have got me thinking about the deceptively simple nature of these shapes, and seeing more of the beauty and the potential in the simple. So multipacks of circles, ovals and yes, symmetrical hearts arrived today. I think I need to add in rectangles and squares too. The beauty of these shapes is that you can flip the cut-out shape over and re-insert it in the gap, thus reversing part of the image from front to back and vice versa. Circles and squares add the extra possibility of rotation, which I was keen to explore. I like the idea of an image cut into concentrate circles with the image staggering outwards, though I didn’t get quite as far as that today.

Ovals excite me tremendously, they have such a heritage with the whole vignette thing, the delicately painted miniatures, lockets, and even landscapes – Stefan Schaffeld told me about the landscapes made with the aid of a dark glass mirror and these were sometimes presented as ovals. So I think that will be next.

This is another area that I want to explore. School photos manage to combine the qualities of being both sacrosanct and ubiquitous. I’m going to pick some up from ebay and charity shops and continue my explorations with photos of people other than me. I am still mesmerised by the possibility of presenting both sides of a photograph on a single plane. On the middle photo you can see the Fuji branding on the shapes. It will be interesting to combine cuts from a photograph with for example cuts from a second photograph or other materials (thinking particularly of my atlas here, or combining portraits of myself and my daughter, as I briefly tried a while back, see below…)

Speaking of which, does anyone know the name for the 2d shape that looks like an off-centred polo mint? Would it be an off-centred circular frame?

Another thing to try arising from this work is to try it with Polaroids and seeing if there is any scope to include it in A5. The problem is getting the picture to hold together.

6 thoughts on “Die-cutting school photos and considering shapes

  1. Catherine April 20, 2017 / 8:13 pm

    The shapes are definitely becoming more sophisticated and intricate. I might have missed it but have you experimented with different images on each side and then reversing some of the rings/rotating?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate April 20, 2017 / 9:10 pm

      I haven’t, it’s an intriguing idea though! I’ve been focusing on front/back, inside/outside… Interestingly I was thinking about sticking photobooth portrait strips together (as in back to back) to convey the inside/outside ness of a Mobius loop, but I wasn’t planning on cutting the result.


  2. Stefan J Schaffeld April 21, 2017 / 9:31 am

    Very intriguing and fascinating exploration, Kate. The image with the ring rotated reminds me of mirror. I know from the forum that mirror and photography is also a part of photography course. You might want to think also along that line. Amazing how cutting into a surface destroy illusionistic representation and the same time provides different realities .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate April 21, 2017 / 10:12 am

      Stefan, thank you for commenting. As always, plenty to think about in your words. I am amazed too at how cutting a surface both destroys and adds to its intrinsic photo-ness and portraitness.
      You are right, Mirrors and Windows is part of Identity & Self. I’m probably not going to take that course however, I want to step a bit outside the main photography courses for the 3rd L1 course. I am tempted to do something like this for C&N Two sides of the story, though it would be a slight subversion of the brief, I could stick the two sides together as Catherine suggests above and then cut…. It was great to see the changes that can be made with the simplest of shapes.


  3. Stephanie Dh. April 21, 2017 / 2:57 pm

    Hi Kate,

    I really engage with the one with the round shapes, the other ones (frames) connotes a little to much scrapbooking to me, I have more difficulty to project something else in them. Pure geometric form seem to have a ‘bolder’ effect on me, I connect to them viscerally.

    I am writing up right now a critical essay about the photograph as object, I think that it might interest you, I hope to finish it in the next 10 days and I’ll send you a link to it if you want.

    It is called “Materializing the Immaterial, Dematerializing the Material: Considerations about the photograph as object in contemporary fine-art photographic practice”

    Here is a first draft of the introduction: “Digital cameras and related technologies for the dissemination of digital imagery have substantially transformed photographic practice, one of the key elements of this evolution being “the move from photographs as physical objects to digital images” (Bull, 2009, p.19). If this decoupling of image and object is quite noticeable in everyday photographic practice, it is less so in recent fine-art photography where we can observe a renewed interest in materiality and the emergence of an object-based practice, as attest many exhibitions and artists’ work (Plummer, 2015). The return to materiality in the digital age is a wide subject; this essay will specifically examine the work of artists concerned with the objecthood of the photograph, its physicality, its materiality.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate April 21, 2017 / 3:42 pm

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Stephanie. Yes please, I would very much like to read your essay when it’s finished. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being intrigued by images as objects, and I was very engaged and inspired by your recent work that featured the backs of vintage family prints.
      Yes, the images with the circles work much better than the simple layered ones with the frames. Part of it is the clunkier assembly in the framed ones, part is the fussier nature of the dies used. I think simple plain geometric shapes are definitely the way to go.

      Liked by 1 person

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