Project 3 – Fictional texts

Images and words can operate in a way which extends both mediums into an exciting, conceptual and visual piece of art. (OCA IAP, p86)

The previous project explored how memories and speech can act as a source of inspiration for creative photography. I explored this in an exercise that was based on my grandfather’s letter to his then fiancé about his escape from HMS Royal Oak, torpedoed in WW2 (see here). After completing the exercise, and receiving feedback, I began to think about other images and letters I have recording other aspects of his life and how they might form part of a bigger story. It is in this post that I reflect upon how other photographs have extending the meaning of photos and text by combining them.

Michael Colvin’s Rubber Flapper is an inspiring piece of fictional work, inspired by ‘hidden histories’ of LGBT communities. It is Colvin’s attention to detail in staging the images that makes the project so compelling – there is an ambiguity created through a tension between fact and fiction. Is the rubber flapper symbolic of an anonymous person whose story we are witnessing. Or is the whole thing a fiction. It is the attention to detail that allows me to suspend rationale belief (like good cinema) and let myself sink into the story. In his interview with the OCA, Colvin explains that the work is partly a response to events at Clear Comfort, Staten Island, NY State; home of the Alice Austen photographic archive and partly his broader response to broader LGBT issues. However, I don’t need to know this – the ambiguity in the work, leaves me preferring to puzzle over the meaning myself.

Source: by Ed van der Elsken

Ed van der Elsken’s Love on the Left Bank, reads like a documentary story of a group of young people living in bohemian Paris, but is in fact a purely fictional story, written by the photographer around the photographs he took while spending time with the group.


Christian Patterson’s ground breaking Redheaded Peckerwood, is a fiction based around a true story, which incorporates fabricated artefacts and documents as inserts in a book to complement the photos. The combination makes it difficult to grasp whether we are viewing fact or fiction. The artist describes his creative process in the interview with Abhorn Magazine, which took place over a period of five years. He also provides some insights into the layout and sequencing within the book.

The work of these artists creates ambitious  narratives shaped by both image and text. In my own practice, this is another dimension that I have begun to explore in the Ark Royal work (here) and will continue to explore in the upcoming assignment.


Augschöll D and Anya Jasbar A (nd). Interview in Abhorn Magazine. Interview with Christian Patterson. Available from: [accessed 27.2.17]

Christian Patterson [website]. Redheaded Peckerwood. Available from: [accessed 27.2.17]

Colvin M. Interview: Rubber Flapper. Available from: [accessed 16.2.17]

O’Hagan S (nd). Aperture [website]. PhotoBook Lust: Sean O’Hagan on Ed van der Elsken, Love on the Left Bank. Available from: [accessed 27.2.17]