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]

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: [accessed 9.2.17]

HMS Royal Oak [website]. Available from: [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: 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!

Ex 4.1 Looking at adverts

This exercise requires a response to one of Dawn Woolley’s (OCA tutor) blog posts in her series, Looking at Advertising. At time of writing, it is 11th December and the advertising festive season has already been with us for some time! So I chose her blog number 14, which considers Christmas.

The post is concerned with keywords and describes her process of identifying keywords in featured in advertisements from an assortment of magazines over the Christmas period. It does not talk about the connection between words and images in the adverts, but is concerned with the decoding of the meaning of the words themselves. Woolley explains Continue reading “Ex 4.1 Looking at adverts”