Ex 5.2 – View Point

Choose a viewpoint, perhaps looking out of your window or from a café in the central square, and write down everything you can see. (OCA IAP)

I chose a car journey, in which I was a passenger in an hour long journey from my home to the Lake District. The window on the world was through a car windscreen or momentary glimpses through side windows as the car sped through the countryside.

Some things I noted:

  • Runners – sometimes in charity logo’d shirts. There is a large variety in runners, from those who look like they are newly seeking fitness or weight loss to those who look well conditioned. There is possibility of a street portrait project on the subject, perhaps running alongside the subjects to add the image of movement.
  • Signage – it seems that every 100 meters there is a road sign warning us of some hazard or direction. The signs have distinctive  typographics and colouring as well as featuring different symbols. The semiotics of road signs?
  • Motor bikes – I often notice reckless motor cycle riders, who seem to treat the road as a race track. Though is it only the annoying riders I notice, and there is perhaps more of a balance than my immediate impression? Bikes and riders – a portrait exercise as they rest at watering holes.
  • Clouds – cumulus in blue sky. Clouds often top of landscape photographs. What about a series of cloud-scape photos, bottomed off by the landscape?
  • Trees – still mostly bare at the end of March. Reminded me of my annual disappointment in March’s weather, always expecting it to be better than it is. A project around what a certain month means to me, or even what each month means?
  • Walkers holding hands, with muddy boots – a less offensive group than the bikers (actually completely inoffensive).Walkers are everywhere in the countryside – how about joining a group of walkers as an out-side, looking in project.
  • Red phone boxes – I read recently that BT are planning to remove many phone boxes because of the lack of use – extinction? The Yorkshire Dales National Park is raising objections to this for boxes located in the remote areas of the Dales, where there is sometimes no mobile phone coverage. A documentary project
  • Country pubs – in the tourist areas these seem to be thriving, but I still hear of pubs closing through lack of custom. Pubs are a topic close to my heart. What is the real fate of this national institution?
  • Car interior. Black plastics sat nav tracking. Not immediately interesting, but how much time do we spend in these moulded interiors. What tricks of style are used to appeal to consumers. What do people like or dislike about the interior of the cars they select.
  • Rolling hills and drystone walls – Yorkshire Dales country side. A history of drystone walls and walling, dating back centuries – there are around 5000 miles of them, and they’re some of the oldest man-made features of the landscape.
  • Traditional housing – all similar but more character – local materials blend with landscape. The architecture of the Dales? Traditional verses any modern incursions.

What is clear from this exercise is that there are potential photography projects all around, without looking very far. Time is more scarce than ideas.

Ex 5.3 Journey

Recently, I’ve not had as much business travel and my journey has often been around my home-office, which is also partly a construction site. For these images, I’ve slowed up my process and used a tripod and long exposure to photograph in available light. My recently purchased light meter was used to measure exposure times across the high contrast scenes and a compromise exposure selected.

click on image for gallery view

Ex 5.1

Create a set of still-life pictures showing traces of life without using people. (OCA, IAP)







These are traces of my life through first and borrowed experiences. They represent things that have shaped me; of which I am a product.

I chose to make clean images that might be part of a product brochure. The objects were placed on a table covered with white foam board. For some shots the room light alone was used with a long exposure and the colour balanced through a custom white balance in-camera, based on a grey card and also an x-rite color passport to create a custom camera profile in LR. Other shots feature side lighting from a flash shot through a white umbrella. A light meter was used for exposure times and the lens was stopped down.

Research point – Something and Nothing; or who was Brian?

We are asked to read Chapter 4,  Something and Nothing  (Cotton C, 2014) and respond to the question:

To what extent do you think the strategy of using objects or environments as metaphor is a useful tool in photography? When might it fall down?

Cotton provides a number of examples of artists using effectively objects or environments as metaphors, which prove their use in photography. Some of the examples seem more like visual puns than metaphors and I find it useful to think of them this way – otherwise the literary reference is broken and confusing.

A visual metaphor uses a visual that ordinarily identifies one thing to signify another, thus making a meaningful comparison.

A visual pun is a pun involving an image or images (in addition to, or instead of text) to form a new meaning.


Source: thewhitereview.org

For example, Gabriel Orozco’s Breath on Piano, in which the imprint of the breath on the polished piano serves as a pun for the imprint of the photo itself on paper. Cotton comments that ‘we are asked to pay close attention to the nature of photographic images and the perpetual hovering between being the medium and the subject’ (ibid, p 117). Making this kind of interpretation requires a visual education, otherwise the viewer is likely to be stuck at seeing a dirty piano. This is a potential pitfall of metaphor/pun – do we need to inform or educate some viewers to enable an interpretation beyond the subject of the photograph? If so, we must achieve this without explaining the work directly, otherwise it is surely like having to explain a joke; it is no longer a joke.

Jennifer Bolande’s work Globe is presented as a metaphor for our limited and simplified interpretation of the world around us. Cotton observes that is through repetition of the theme within a series that we can understand this as a metaphor – a single photography would be less likely to register. Again there is the challenge of communication and helping our message to be received by the viewer. We habitually switch off or turn away from text that lacks clarity or involves too much effort to understand and there is no reason that it should be any different for visual arts for many viewers.

There is the problem of comprehension when it comes to metaphor and pun. Not only based on visual education but also our broader contextual experiences in cultural, social and political environments. Concluding with a humour analogy; I once had a Japanese colleague who was determined to borrow and watch my copy of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, despite my suggestion that he was unlikely to understand it with his cultural, historical and religious background. He watch the film three times and couldn’t tell me what his favourite bit was. But he did ask me, ‘who was Brian?’.


Artnaos.net [website]. Ad using visual pun or metaphor method. Available from: http://artnaos.net/COMD2400/VisualMetaPunAd.html [accessed 24.3.17]

Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) London: Thames & Hudson.

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: americansuburbx.com 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.

Source: christianpatterson.com

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: http://www.ahornmagazine.com/issue_9/interview_patterson/interview_patterson.html [accessed 27.2.17]

Christian Patterson [website]. Redheaded Peckerwood. Available from: http://www.christianpatterson.com/redheaded-peckerwood/#1 [accessed 27.2.17]

Colvin M. Interview: Rubber Flapper. Available from: https://weareoca.com/photography/rubber-flapper/ [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: http://aperture.org/pbr/photobook-lust-sean-ohagan-ed-van-der-elsken-love-left-bank/ [accessed 27.2.17]

Ex 4.5 – Sinking of the Royal Oak

Find words that have been written or spoken by someone else. You can gather these words from a variety of means – interviews, journals, archives, eavesdropping. Your subject may be a friend, stranger, alive or dead. Select your five favourite examples and create five images that do justice to the essence of those words.

For this exercise I have used five fragments of prose from a letter from my grandfather to my grandmother (who have long since passed away), written during WW2, and telling the story of his escape from the Royal Oak in October 1939, on which of 1,234 men and boys, 833 were killed or died later of their wounds. I hope one day to revisit these letters as a project.

Click on image to open gallery view



National Trust [website]. Dunham Massey ancient trees walk. Available from: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunham-massey/trails/dunham-massey-ancient-trees-walk [accessed 9.2.17]

HMS Royal Oak [website]. Available from: http://www.hmsroyaloak.co.uk/index.htm [accessed 9.2.17]

Project 2: Memories and speech

This section of the course material discusses the use of memories (either our own, or those of others) as a source of inspiration for photographic work. Of course, memories are a source of inspiration for many forms of art – just yesterday I was listening to Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, where he mentions that much of his work is based on his own heavily disguised experiences and memories. Continue reading “Project 2: Memories and speech”

Ex 4.2 – Images and text

Choose a day that you can spend out and about looking with no particular agenda. Be conscious of how images and texts are presented to you in the real world – on billboards, in magazines and newspapers, and online, for example.

In exercise 4.4, I have explored the use of captions in newspapers and magazines. Therefore, for this exercise I have focused on images and text on a local high street (Skipton, North Yorkshire).

As I walked along the high street, it occurred to me that shop windows form images for reading – the contents of the displays are projected onto the glass shop-front and framed by the edge of the windows. We view the display as an image. Therefore, for the purposes of this exercise, I treat the shop window itself as an image where text is superimposed upon it. Continue reading “Ex 4.2 – Images and text”

Ex 4.4 – Captions

The purpose of this exercise is to gather newspapers and cut out some images without their captions then, for each image, to write three or four different captions that bend the image to different and conflicting points of view.

Images and captions


Source: naturetrek.co.uk advertisement
  • Global warming fears as scientists record ice-caps melting.
  • Oil found with the potential for thousands of new jobs.
  • Search in vain for explorer lost in the Arctic.
  • The ultimate adventure holiday.
  • Continue reading “Ex 4.4 – Captions”

Ex 4.3 – Storyboard

This exercise requires the creation of a storyboard where the image does not depend on the text and the text adds something new to the narrative.

Storyboard by Andrew Fitzgibbon

I am so used to seeing words as descriptors of images that it required an effort not to use the words to explain the images (particularly with the poor drawing skills). It was like stretching a muscle that is not often used.

The caption to the second image includes reference to an object in the image (bed) but the focus of the caption is ‘the situation’; a thing indecipherable from the image. Therefore the ‘relay’ still works – there is an unanswered question in the gap between the image and text.

The story concludes with a visual punchline and complementary text that does nothing to explain the punchline. Whether anyone laughs or not, I will never know for sure – a shortfall of virtual communication!