A5 submission

Photography is Simple is about curiosity, following up all those I wonders and what ifs. It’s about the origins of photography in the UK, via Fox Talbot, Lacock Abbey, and experimentation. It’s about the technical simplicity of the Polaroid.  It’s about inside-out and back-to-front, about the bits that we ignore – the backs, the guts, the negatives. It’s about exploring a single object and multiple possibilities, like Masterchef and coriander. It’s about tampering with prints and memories. It’s about windows – seeing from the inside out and the outside in; like how Barthes talked about how we don’t see the photograph, but only what it’s of (2000, p6), like how we see through/into a photo rather than looking at the object itself.  It’s about looking through the same windows as Fox Talbot, working with the same light, and the photographic window on the world that he gave us all. It’s about frames – both for windows and for images, and that Polaroid frame on every print. It’s about my creative journey – taking ideas from FiP, tending them and testing them. It’s about taking inspiration from the Revelations study visit two years ago and putting it, via Polaroid – onto watercolour paper bought at the Wolfgang Tillmans study visit,  or magnetic acrylic blocks as helpfully identified by an OCA Fine Arts student (Stefan). It’s about trusting that Walter Benjamin was right when he said “In artwork, subject matter is a ballast, jettisoned during contemplation” (Benjamin, 1979 p66-67 cited Campion in (Berg and Gronert, 2011)), and still wondering about aura. It’s about risk, each Polaroid is a one-off,  if the emulsion sticks or processing sucks, there’s no way of just running off another one. It’s about my friend Clare, who said there’s no point altering something that isn’t precious, that doesn’t carry a risk. It’s about chemicals, it’s about instability, it’s about change, it’s about time and it’s about me, my creative foundations and my creative future.

The book has been submitted for tutor critique, however you can see a 30 second video here:

In addition to the physical work, I have some jpgs of the backs of the Polaroids immediately after manipulation. With my tutor’s agreement, I am including eight of them here to seek guidance on the better set to develop for assessment. Please click to view a larger image.

Finally, the course notes requires me to direct my tutor to exercise 5.2. I chose to respond to Moyra Davey’s Copperhead and you can see the third iteration of the work here. Please note there will be a 4th iteration added, with sharper images of the coins, however this is how it is at the moment.

Barthes, R. and Howard, R. (2000). Camera Lucida. 1st ed. London: Vintage Books.

Berg, S. and Gronert, S. (2011). Through the looking brain. 1st ed. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.


Assignment 1 – Square Mile (Submission)

Initially I wondered how to make this different to my initial work (and rework) to the same brief as part of the Foundations course. I decided to document my 8 year-old daughter’s square mile rather than doing mine again. We collaborated on a list of her favourite places, and agreed that I would photograph her at each one. I secured permissions where needed.

I reviewed the practitioners recommended in both the Foundation and EYV courses as well as those I had encountered independently. I had read Family Photography Now (Howarth and McLaren, 2016) which helped via the diversity of families and photographic approaches included. The ones that influenced me the most were Penny Watson, Charlie Murrell, Mini Mollica (erratum – Mimi Mollica), Sian Davey and Evgenia Arbugaeva (the rather more extensive research post is here). I was interested in images that showed the character of the children, and that showed a balance or a tension between the child and their surroundings. I didn’t want a “background” so much as a context that added information to the photograph. I also wanted to convey how she physically interacted with the places, influenced by the works of Tom Hunter and Venetia Dearden.

My technical approach was hand-held (largely due to non-tripod-friendly environments), as low an ISO as I could work with, manual mode. Most images are taken with a 50mm prime lens, a couple with a 24mm prime where I needed a wider view, and one with a 100mm macro which I have found to work well for photographing children at a distance. I worked with as wide an aperture as possible, in the interest of minimising the shutter speed. For post-processing  I applied lens correction to all images and corrected for shadows and highlights. I did not use any cloning or magic brush but have cropped a few images following peer feedback that several images tended towards a central positioning of my daughter. Final processing includes sharpening and adjusting clarity.

I feel rather close to the work to be making objective comments. I would like to improve the after-concert image, it is hampered by the lack of light but I wanted to convey the idea of her isolation, as the set was dismantled around her; I would also like more depth of field on the shop and You-tube images.  I want to learn how to improve portraits where the person is at a much smaller scale than their surroundings. I like the sense of disconnect, of tension, between people and places (eg Rineke Dijsksta’s beach portraits and Mimi Mollica’s Norah There), but my composition isn’t there yet. Peer feedback was generally positive and I have changed the selection/the crop on some images as a result as well as noting suggestions for further work.

Going forward, I have these ideas for developing this series;

  1. A series emphasising how her hands and feet interact with her spaces
  2. A series where she is at a smaller scale, possibly all with her centre image
  3. Contrasting her square mile photographs with my square mile photographs
  4. Contrasting another aspect of her childhood – the fairies, princesses, media influences; possibly via collage/mixed media album.
  5. Exploring the domestic textures and artefacts of her childhood (see Marc Rees)

530 words. Please see here for initial thoughts, here for contact sheets, here for research, here for peer review). Thank you.

A short postscript – I asked my daughter to choose her favourites. The set was identical, except for an uncropped version of the comic shop shot.


Howarth, S. and McLaren, S. (2016) Family photography now. United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.