Decision to Withdraw from DPP Module : 8th July 2014

It took me several months to reach this point. My husband became ill shortly after I started the Module and anxiety over that, plus a decision to move house (downsize) and slow progress and setbacks with this, very much affected my ability to focus on the necessary coursework.  It wasn’t a question of available time because I had that, it was just that I spent many hours just gazing into space whilst seated at the computer or clicking into various forums. I did manage some work and enjoyed my Shed Project and also completing Assignment 1.  I was very pleased with the positive and supportive feedback I received from my tutor as well.  Even so my motivation  just seemed to have disappeared and I feared that I might have to withdraw entirely from the OCA Degree even though I was still interested in photography and reading about it.

There was a marked change at the beginning of July when my husband appeared to be improving in health and energy and also the house move became more likely.`i began to sleep better,  feel less tired myself and more energetic as we had moved from being in limbo for seven months to a clearer plan for the future. It didn’t seem to improve my motivation towards DPP but a catalyst occurred last week.

A few weeks before I’d received an invite to the private view of [(6)] Personal Explorations in Photography – the Exhibition in Sheffield by 6 OCA students. I was born and bred in Sheffield so it formed my backbone and lives in my heart. Despite this I’d decided I wouldn’t go because of the distance to travel and the need to stay overnight as the view was in the early evening. It stayed in my mind though and at the beginning of last week I had this sudden urgent need to go there, maybe heightened by the fact that July is also the month in which my mother died and her grave is in Sheffield.

As soon as all arrangements had been made a second thought came into my head that I should change Modules and do the new Context & Narrative instead. The transfer went very smoothly,  and I requested to continue with the same tutor. Here I am then, on the start of something new and here is the first post on my new blog. I’ve also transferred a couple of DPP posts as they’re going to from part of ongoing work. I feel so much more enthusiastic now and looking forward to it – not to mention a move to another house as well at the end of this month. Many thanks to my tutor as well who has been very patient with my slow progress.

17th July 2014




DPP Assignment One : Response to Tutor Feedback

DPP Assignment One : Response to Tutor Feedback

I was very happy with my tutor’s feedback which was complimentary and encouraging whilst suggesting areas for improvement as well. He began:-

Catherine a beautifully executed series of images that capture and illustrate the strong emotional content from your writing. Part one of DPP and the assignment have been meticulously planned and executed with a solid rationale underpinned with relevant research informing your approach. This has enabled you to experiment with your photography, possibly in a much more expressive and illustrative way. The distinct photography sessions clearly demonstrate how your techniques and ideas have developed and in turn provide an excellent showcase to document the workflow considerations for the assignment, well done! Some technical issues that I will comment upon and also I will discuss the printing process and paper choices that you mention.

Comprehensive feedback included:

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, quality of Outcome, demonstration of Creativity

  • The experiment in layering with image 7 is very successful
  • Consider consistency aspects throughout a series, as I had already commented on. Not necessarily thought to be due to choice of lens itself but, more to do with how you have used this across the set of images and in the post-production.
  • Bearing in mind that I do use a calibration device, do pay attention to the ambient light that you work in when using your computer, it should not really vary very much and needs to be not too bright or to dark. My desk is in front of a window and I’m aware that the light does change considerably.
  • Re my questions on printing paper. Advice given on how different types of paper works with dynamic range but point made that finding a paper that suits the subject is the real issue. Possibly your assignment images, which have a fine art quality would look good on one of the warmer base colour matt papers. The Epson semi-gloss has a bleached white base and as such is quite stark.Hahnemuhle FineArt Photo Rag Satin 310gr is suggested . My tutor also wrote that he buys various sample packs, prints different colour and monochrome images on the sheets and then keeps these as a reference for the future to help him decide which paper to use for a certain image and application. I actually have several sample packs – not yet used – and think that’s an excellent idea.

Learning Logs/Blogs/Critical essays

Point made that my workflow description had referred mainly to shooting and a digital workflow

(…..) should really take into account, equipment preparation, any production concerns (props, models locations), shooting, back-up of images, technical edit, secondary edit based on emotional responses, final edit, post-production techniques on final choices, adding of meta data / copyright information and then filing and back-up. So consider adding some commentary to your workflow description.

I realised I’d omitted fuller description after I sent off the assignment, although I had covered many aspects of this in my write-up of The Shed project – which my tutor recognised.

Use of Lightroom strongly recommended and its virtues emphasised – which I’d expected.

My tutor was interested in the point I made regarding male photographers using dolls and thought this worth a blog post.

Positive feedback regarding my previous OCA blogs and that the DPP one is taking good shape. Also, The Shed is a lovely project with some strong images which allows your workflow principles and thoughts to be documented.

 Suggested reading/viewing

Links provided for explanation on how “Blend Modes’ work; and writings by Peter Krogh whose book The Dam Book, whilst ‘very dry’ has become an industry ‘bible’

Pointers for the next assignment

My tutor wrote:-

  • Learn Lightroom!
  • Consider the consistency of images within a set. This may be down to photographic technique, post-production or a combination of both.
  • Look at adding a little more information about your post-production process within your workflow routine, but I guess this may change once converted to LR!!
  • Although not strictly DPP think about experimenting by shooting through materials; glass with a tiny smear of Vaseline (very thin almost nothing and not all over the glass), stretched fabric close to the lens, nylon tights stretched ( I have 3 of these all stretched to differing degrees for different effects), gently crumpled cling film etc. Generally you need to shoot with these fairly close to the lens and a wide aperture to keep them unobtrusive. These techniques perhaps will not suit assignment two though as they will affect your cameras dynamic range.
  • Assignment two concerns dynamic range and your cameras ability to record the light levels within a scene, so here you can mention histograms as much as you like to make up for your admission for possibly avoiding them! I might have known he would pick up on that!


As I said at the beginning, I was very pleased with the feedback which was positive and constructive. I had some further email contact as I had the idea that it might be good to include the workflow details in a separate PDF. I also previously had queries regarding re-sizing for web, ppi and dpi in conjunction with a guidance paper on the OCA site and my tutor emailed me further guidance and comparison images.


  • I’ve bought a pack of Hahnemuhle paper
  • I will now make proper use of those sample packs as reference papers
  • Created a slideshow/video of The Beast but not happy with it. I need more practice here in putting things together.
  • I will begin use of Lightroom just for my OCA work and see how I go;  as I continue to find it cumbersome to use.
  • I’ll produce a separate PDF relating to workflow, if appropriate.
  • I’ll do some more research re male photographers and dolls.
  • Consistency of images within a set will be an ongoing theme for me


4th July 2014





A Unique Opportunity

A recent post on the WeAreOCA blog invited OCA students to contribute to Your Views  an open submission project in creation by the artist Gillian Wearing.

I’ve never done anything like this before; it sounded exciting and the instructions were very clear (thankfully). After trying out virtually every room in the house and struggling with wonky blinds and sticky curtain rails I managed to produce a short video (my first with a digital camera other than iPhone). Here is my contribution.


26th June 2014

Anna Fox Talk : UCA Farnham 7th May 2014

OCA Study Visit 

I’ve visited the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham previously during their Degree Shows but this time it was different because I felt a more immediate connection with the place in the person of Professor Anna Fox . The talk was relatively well-attended by OCA students as well given the venue and the mid-week timing.

We’d been provided with a link to an interview by Niccolo Fano in 2013 for American SuburbX  and this set the scene nicely in covering some of the ground that Anna described in her talk to us. We OCA students are also fortunate now in having an edited video of the talk to refer to. I’m giving a link to an earlier, publicly available video below as it provides a reference point for me as well.

On looking at her website I was struck by the different ways in which she has approached documentary photography over the years although this is not surprising given that she qualified in 1986 and her approach will have evolved. She told us that she grew up with photography books in the house as her father was a keen amateur photographer and early influences were Brassaï, Atget, Cartier-Bresson and Tony Ray Jones. She is particularly interested in the ways in which images and text can be combined in many creative ways and the use of the printed page.

Anna worked before she went to study for her Degree at UCA, Farnham and her tutors were Martin Parr and Paul Graham as well as Karen Knorr. Karen Knorr is now her fellow Professor at UCA, Farnham and an immediate difference I see between them is that Karen Knorr appears to have a particular interest in the upper reaches of society and how they live, often adopting a wry, humorous look at them whilst producing exquisite imagery. Both of them use text to make political comments, but Anna Fox often looks aslant at the more ordinary and everyday.

It takes a very creative mind to keep a Cockroach Diary and make it into art – although, on the other hand, perhaps it was also one way to deal with them and her house sharers. This ‘recording’ of everyday life extended into Notes from Home when Anna moved from London to live in Hampshire near to where she was born and spent much time at home with her children. She created a series of hand-made concertina books which were displayed as an installation on shelves and the exhibition created was shortlisted for the 2010 Deutsche Borse Prize.

In the ASX interview Anna says that the irony that Karen Knorr creates with her use of image and text was an inspiration for her in creating Basingstoke 1985/86 and also Work Stations –  a study of London office life in the late 1980s. This was a commissioned piece of work and she gained access to about 60 London offices. Anna told us that she wanted to look at how words can create a sense of drama by using text combined with images that portrayed the social conditions prevailing in Thatcher’s Britain – the place where “There’s no such thing as Society”, and there was an obsessive pursuit of success. Having worked in offices she had an insider view of what goes on in them which must have helped her as she negotiated entry. Anna told us that she didn’t ask permission to photograph workers but people knew she was there and if they didn’t want her to take photographs of them then she didn’t. In the ASX interview she also says that the Camerawork Gallery (one of the two commissioners of Workstations ) wanted her to concentrate on women at work but she objected to that:

I mean, it felt like they had employed a woman photographer simply because it would mean I would want to photograph women! I didn’t. I was more interested in politics, society and power structures within the working environment of the office and particularly in Thatcher’s Britain as the period later became known.

Her combination of text and image in this series is an example of her imaginative use of words. The captions were taken from other places and yet, placed in conjunction with the images, provided a third way of reading the narrative in the image along the lines of ‘survival of the fittest’. For example – a photograph of a young woman, on the telephone, with pen/pencil in hand, behind a desk is composed in such a way that the young woman looks embattled as two men, in suits, and holding briefcases loom at her from each side of the image. the caption is “Should a competitor threaten to kill a sale, the modem would provide a lifeline back to base computer” (Business 1986).

In addition to Karen Knorr, the influence of Martin Parr is also apparent in the colour and ironical approach – another example for me of the way in which a photographer can assimilate the approaches of, and influences/inspiration from, other photographers without copying or mimicking them.

During the session Anna made a statement that “documentary is a story about truth”. Now I’d never looked at it that way (which made me feel a little foolish) even though I “know” that we all have different versions of ‘the truth’ and, with our images, portray our own version of facts and situations. I know that this aspect of ‘truth’ is something I’m going to bear in mind much more consciously from now on. This was highlighted for me in looking at the series My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s Words (2000). This is described on her website as “An unexpectedly wicked narrative exploring a claustrophobic relationship” and was designed as a miniature bookwork. Close-up views of the contents of the cupboards are juxtaposed with words said (in other contexts) by her father. Here’s a video where Anna is talking about this work and others, which were shortlisted for the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize in 2010


She describes the book (4.25 min in) as quite an evil book and talks about how her father, when he was very ill, used to rant a lot in the house, and the recording of it (and book) were her way trying to find a way to deal with this. During her talk to us Anna explained that when the images and captions were exhibited they were very small so that the viewer was enticed into them and this intensifies the claustrophobic atmosphere conveyed. Anna has said that although much of her work has been autobiographical it has also been created in such a way that other people can relate to it. I did think it was quite a cruel book, even though I could imagine something like that going on in other homes, and don’t think I could create that kind of work  for public consumption. “Hanging out the dirty washing on the line” comes into mind! I also made a note to myself –  “I felt detached. More of a performance than a dialogue. How is that reflected in her images?” Thinking around that now it could be that it was that sense of cruelty and claustrophobia that led to me distancing myself as an observer – trying to work out what was going on and avoiding confluence.

We also looked at some more recent, commissioned work done in Butlins  for the occasion of their 70th Anniversary) and a commercial project in France, again with the subject of Leisure. For me this was less interesting because it was more staged, with a crew of people assisting her in a large scale production where she also uses the technique of stitching together images in composites. Well – she told us she does the rough composites of how she wants it to look and then has it sent away to be completed. This is clever and exacting work but, for me, the outcome was bland somehow and I was left thinking that, here, there is a fine line between Documentary and advertising. It also occurred to me that there is a metaphor in this somehow – the construction of the large images mirroring how a leisure industry is ‘constructed’, less is made to seem more and the unreal made real (and vice-versa).

Further thoughts

I am left with much to think about. I’m interested in the recording of every day life and this idea of documentary as a story about the truth – how something that happens, however trivial, can be embroidered into something with a rich texture using the warp and weft of image and text. There’s also that boundary line concerning ‘truth’ – how far does one go to make work more dramatic, and/or to touch the sensibilities of a wider audience? This is something that Lewis Bush recently touched on in a brief Duckrabbit post Hesitant Fictions using Joshua Lutz’s work Hesitating Beauty as a reference point for some thoughts on adding elements of fiction. I have quite a reading list now on Documentary, and have had discussions with other students on ethics, truth, fiction and different ways of combining image with text. A further thought concerns ‘open’ and ‘closed’ text. From what I’ve perceived so far (and allowing for contradiction) I think that Anna Fox uses text in a more directive way, which, perhaps, fits with irony as commentary.

Again, which is something I’ve touched upon in an earlier post, there is this use of photography as a form of self-therapy – to become an observer with a camera and so make sense of difficult situations and emotions.

I think that Anna Fox is a highly creative, energetic and action-oriented photographer with a mind teeming with ideas, and I gained a strong impression that she is an inspiring mentor and tutor. It would be good if there could be some collaborations between the Open College of the Arts and the University of the Creative Arts – talks, workshops etc.


25th June 2014



Sharing Photography and Photographs : Photography in a Connected Age

This was an RPS day held in collaboration with the University of Westminster on 23rd November 2013 and I attended as part of an OCA Study Visit. To be honest I wasn’t particularly impressed overall apart from one contribution. It seemed much more like a traditional type of ‘Conference’ where people mostly sit and listen to presentations that could just as well have been printed/put online. I was just going to keep my written notes but decided it might be useful to revisit them before I place them in my paper log.

Roger Hargreaves (lecturer, writer and curator of photography) presented a case study of the way in which Barrack Obama’s 2008 Election Campaign utilised the new camera technology of cell phones and on-line sharing such as Flickr. He showed lots of photographs – many so ‘up close’ with cell phones that made me wonder how many people actually looked at Obama with their eyes and saw him as a real person. I guess that’s pretty much the same as going around a museum or photography exhibition taking photographs of the exhibits without really looking at them.

One point that was made through questions regarded the way in which photographs taken by amateurs could be seen as more authentic and yet might be manipulated – professionals making images look ‘amateur’ for example. Another comment, made by one of my fellow students John was how Hargreaves’ filtering and presentation contextualised the photographs, so making them ‘professional”.

Alexandra Moschovi, Programme Leader of MA Photography University of Sutherland) focussed on the rise of technologies that could be used as surveillance, going back to miniscule cameras that had been planted on pigeons during WW2. The latest internet connected device (as at November 2013) was the Google Glass that had intensified controversy over public surveillance. She also referred to the work of Clay Shirky  who has written a book called Cognitive Surplus. Shirky puts a positive slant on expanding use of the internet, which he believes returns us to forms of collaboration that were natural to us up through the early twentieth century. There’s a TED link here.  I must confess to some cynicism around this given the increasing hold that some large internet companies are gaining over their subscribers.

Continuing the negative slant, there’s also been more publicity in recent months regarding the way in which ‘Drones’ are being used instead of soldiers to kill people as here  . I have to confess thought that I’ve recently acquired a mini video camera that I can wear to record daily events.. I realise that I have to follow my own ethics in relation to where and who I capture with this more covert method.

There was another presentation by Dr Loplop who is a cat photographer and internet celebrity. He talked about meme creation and the way in which Lolcats  has become such a sharing phenomenon. I had to look-up the meaning of meme and learned that it’s “an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”. Sos far as Lolcats is concerned I guess it’s popular because it makes people laugh and provides an antidote to the contrast stream of bad news on the media.

Jason Evans

This was the most interesting presentation for me. Not so much a presentation but more a journey into the mind of this photographer. Interesting as well that he asked not to be recorded. Was this because he wanted to use the presentation over and over again or because he was concerned that he might come over as muddled in his thoughts.

What was interesting was how his conceptual projects developed over time, particularly in relation to sharing images. He has been involved in a wide range of projects from fashion (Strictly  in 1991, a collaboration with Simon Foxton) to The Daily Nice  his unapologetic tribute to beauty, presented as an image a day. In one project he decided to show his work against actual sculptures and encouraged people to take photographs to create their own work of his photography and them upload them to a website he created here  (it takes a while to load-up). This site explains a little more about his various projects . He described how people wanted to touch and move them (some people took them) and talked of the relationship between touching and ownership – “as if one permission leads to another” something that bothers him.

Jason also talked of a multiple exposure project using an analogue camera in different large cities and when I did a search today I discovered that he’s included in a new online Photographic Museum of Memory  launched in January 2013. Here’s, an interview with him.

The Photographic Museum of Memory describes itself as the first Internet Museum dedicated to contemporary photography, that aims “To reinvent the concept of Museum.”

Our photographic museum will be the first museum actually accessible to everyone from every corner of the world, at any time and always for free. A Museum filled with the best photos shared within a curated community where everyone will be free to display their talents and tell their stories. A space where visitors will have the chance to participate and exchange their opinions and reactions.
This museum will allow us to get closer to the photographic arts. And by means of the photographic arts, by means of those thousands of photos shot by photographers of different nationalities and backgrounds around the world, we will be able to see what contemporary society is about. Which moments, events and people characterize the world today. Which facts, situations, emotions and stories happen in our time. Somewhere, somehow.

The Museum presents a new exhibition every month with handpicked photographs and works that have been uploaded by members of its Community. This seems an excellent idea although I also note that you have to be a professional photographer to be a member.

What impressed me about Jason Evans was the breadth and depth of his ideas and the way in which he uses photography to play around with them. He talked about the conflict he perceives regarding in the devaluation of images by digital culture and the way that art culture overinflated value and has protested by giving his work away (as in letting people photograph it and appropriate in their own work) and yet he wants to experiment and develop.   New technology such as Google Glass excites yet terrifies him but he doesn’t want to be bullied by a digital agenda in communicating his ideas.

His intensity about his work was inspiring and I felt seduced by the idea of such a free flow of creative ideas. If only ………. but, I am attempting to allow myself to be more open to spontaneous thought. It’s bothered me that I have just let my notes on the Conference lie there but I think that something has been germinating. Allowing creativity is a difficult process I think. It can be read and talked about, with ideas about processes that can encourage this, but it takes time to emerge from the subconscious to action.

1st June 2014



DPP Assignment 1 : Workflow

Assignment Brief

  • Devise a themed assignment on a topic that interests me and in a field of photography with which I feel comfortable.
  • Use what I’ve learned so far to construct an effective workflow, all the way through to the final displayed image.
  • List all the steps in my workflow, writing a short commentary against each.
  • Explain how I think my workflow may differ from others’ and what adaptations I made to suit the way I take and process photographs.
  • Review how I think I’ve done against the assessment criteria


It hasn’t been a very good year for me so far, with a very slow start on DPP. What was happening in the rest of my life meant I was unable to focus on active photography. I did keep reading and thinking about it though and it was a boost when I was referred to on WeAreOCA again for work done on People & Place because it reminded me that I am capable of producing good work. Times are slightly less anxious at present and so I’ve slowly begun to produce some work. I had thought that I might be able to develop The Shed further but something else captured my attention and helped to get me back to taking photographs.

Fiona Yaron-Field’s series The Cabinet  intrigued me. Of course, she wouldn’t say how she achieved those images but the ‘other-wordly’ sense of them appealed to me and I thought of something that happened to me some time ago.

The Beginning

Many years ago I met with some like-minded people for a weekend together. Around the circle we shared stories, myths and legends with a wise leader and before our leaving we each travelled on an inner journey which remained private.

I descended down steep rock, rough beneath my fingers, whilst only the occasional bright gem or creature sparkled through the darkness. Then I heard the sound in the distance. A deep, low rumble called me onward past people I could only glimpse – trapped as they were in the darkness. I could not stay until I found him. The beast was so large and full of pain that I knew the journey back towards the light would be long and slow.The memory of the journey haunted me and I wrote a poem to capture it.

The Beast

Descend and meet me.
I am nothing and everything.
Created in all images of pain.
Probing raw spaces; empty places inside your brain.

Deep despair invites me down the dark
Labyrinths of your soul’s searching
Urging me onward, prowling your dreams,
Howling down the corridors below.

Plummeting dark depths,
Shrivelled into the smallness of your being
I feed upon the darkness in your soul.

Your fear will nourish me until I grow
And shatter your delusions of normality.

And then you will feel me
And know me.
Our eyes will meet and
You will see the pain in me.
I am your beast and you created me.

The Concept

To illustrate the poem somehow. I had used a doll, with holga lens, for Assignment 5  of Art Of Photography in 2012 and had intended to do more along those lines, even acquiring some more dolls and dolls parts. I just didn’t feel inspired that way during the People & Place module though – it seemed to root me more in the real, physical world particularly as I struggled with people photography .

I didn’t want to use real people as subjects for the poem though, preferring a different kind of representation. My plan was to use some doll parts, together with a small model of a bison and that was as far as it went to begin with – a case of let’s see what happens! Here’s how it all developed, including 5 separate photography sessions (indoors and outdoors).


22nd February

On the Common with 60D, zoom lens, doll’s head; body and model bison. I used trees as background and also a rusted old engine crankshaft that someone had abandoned years ago.
53 RAW images. 11 chosen for closer look. For some of them, I experimented with PS Distort filters – twirl and spherisize filters. I wanted achieve a more dreamlike effect. The bison image didn’t really seem to work as it was too obviously a model even though I I’d distorted it. A b+w version seemed to work better. I continued to ponder on the effect and decided to try out a new holga pinhole lens I’d bought several months ago but never used.

24th February

Indoors. Tripod needed. Live View didn’t work as the lens doesn’t ‘talk’ to my Canon 60D, so I had to experiment with various shutter speeds.
59 RAW images and I chose 5 to process. The images are soft and have the dreamlike effect I wanted. The b+w versions seem to work better although I liked the colour effect. However, b+w also offered some consistency with the earlier images where I’d used a normal, zoom-lens. To offer further consistency I also decided to process all the images using the Perfect Effects Holga b+w filter, but without its vignette effect as the pinhole lens already provided this. I also used the Nik Viveza filter (sparingly).
I posted one of the images on the OCA Flickr Photostream and got some very positive comments, including from one of the tutors “A very interesting progression from the fairy tale, it’s working and a righteous use of the effects”.

24th March

The model bison wasn’t working. I’d tried enlarging it and then layering it onto landscape images but it still looked false. I downloaded a free Clip Art bison and then layered it onto a Photomorphis old manuscript texture. It looked quite good but it was still too obviously a painting and not a photographic image as such.
I realised that I was being too literal in re-enacting my visualisation. It was the atmospheric effect I needed to convey.

29th March

Indoors with flowers in pot and small frog ornament. 16 RAW images. None used.

31st March

In the garden, photographing a small frog ornament against the bark of a tree (using blu tack) and on a stone.
16 RAW, One image chosen which looked okay in colour but less so in b+w.

1st April

On the Common with 60D, pinhole lens and tripod. I aimed to produce some images of stagnant water, to provide a layer for ‘beast emerging from water’ and interesting trees/bark as backdrop for ‘being followed’. I also photographed a sarsen marker stone.
35 RAW. One chosen of the stone.

8th April

In the garden. Had imagined a figure disappearing behind a statue/pedestal. I used the doll body wearing a red velvet dress and long black wig.
16 RAW images with one chosen. The colour image looked reasonable but the doll’s dress disappeared into the background.

15th April

Still struggling with ‘the beast’ and how to represent it. I have some photographs of horses taken a while ago and used 6 of them – cropped to emphasis the eyes. Layered one against another image taken on the Common. Developed a series at decreasing opacities so that ‘the beast’ emerges.

24th April

I’d bought some ‘faded’ parchment paper and experimented with printing my poem on that. Wanted to use it for layering instead of using the Photomorphis manuscript texture. Aiming to be more authentic.
Returned to the Common with 60D, pinhole lens and tripod aiming to rephotograph the doll’s head in the engine crankshaft. However, it had rained so much that the crankshaft was full of dirty water. It had also been moved slightly so that a sapling was right in front of it. Goodness knows how whoever it was managed to do that as it’s extremely heavy.

25th April

Still not completely satisfied re ‘the beast’. Searched Wikimedia Creative Commons images and discovered an image of a hippopotamus eye linked via Flickr . I contacted the photographer, Rennett Stowe,  via Flickr message and he agreed I could use the image . I layered using two other layers – rough bark and words from the poem.On balance, I think the colour version works better than the b+w.

Summary of Workflow Process

It worked for me because I was clear that I wanted to ‘illustrate’ the poem but needed time to experiment and refine.

My tutor will have access to contact sheets of all the RAW images via Dropbox. In total I produced 195 RAW images from which I chose 20 to process. Here are contact sheets that also include jpegs of the layered images of horse and hippopotamus eye.

Col initial selection contact sheet lr

B+W initial selection contact sheet lr

Beast Emerging contact sheet lr

I therefore have a choice from 28 images.

Final Selection

Difficult because some of the images work better in colour – e.g. 6067, 6111, 6161 and 6176. The bison model images definitely don’t work and look the most amateur. I think the layered Clip art of the bison is quite effective but is still obviously a ‘painting’ . I printed the contact sheet and cut it into separate images – rearranging them with the words of the poem in my head. I’ve changed my choice and ordering several times after ‘sleeping on it’ but here are the final 7.





















As I wrote above, my immediate influence was the Cabinet series. However there were others in the wider background, including literature.I’m sure the myths of the Minotaur and the Sumerian Bull of Heaven were in my subconscious at the time I had the actual visualisation. As an aside I’ve found an interesting site regarding storytelling and my poem certainly seems to fit with the stages of the “hero” story!

So far as photography is concerned I have long admired Olivia Parker and her series Weighing the Planets . I have Keith Carter’s book A Certain Alchemy (2008) and his work also draws from folklore and the animal world as here. Duane Michals produces narrative sequences. The introduction to Duane Michals states “His oeuvre reflects a haunting obsessions with life and death, fantasy and reality – thematic opposites expressed through his technical use of double exposures, superimposed images, props, mirrors and the ambiguous notations that often appear on the margins of photographs”. I recently discovered Richard Bailey  and his image of the Arawapa Goat got me thinking around animals and anthromorphism.

Susan Burnstine  has written about how “the past remains with us, if only in shadows”. Her images are created with hand-made film cameras, and their unpredictability and blurred edges certainly evoke a sense of memory for me. Lady into Hut  is a series by Laura Hynd, relating to memories of her grandfather (hers and his) and these misty images speak very much to me of past recalled. They are also special because, at some point, I want to return to my own memories of spending weekends in two family holiday huts.

I recently discovered Stefano Bernardoni  and the photographer Kim Shaw who uses holga and pinhole lens cameras. It seems strange to me that I appreciate clear images much of the time and yet, occasionally feel very much drawn towards the misty, mystical approaches in photography, most of which are film. It’s a case of making the right choice for each project.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills:

This has been my first excursion into creating a series in black and white. I’ve realised that it works better if I convert in Photoshop so that I can play with the colour sliders to get the tones right before using other filters.

Because I was experimenting I amassed several different versions of the photographs. I kept written notes, but labelling them in Photoshop got quite complicated. I know that many photographers use Lightroom and this has been recommended, but I did give up on it because it seemed so unwieldly . It wasn’t so simple to move folders around as I find it with Photoshop, where all I have to do is grab with folder with my cursor. I will give Lightroom another try now that I’ve at least completed the first assignment.

I’m less satisfied than I am normally with the prints. I’ve used Epson premium semi-gloss mainly during the OCA modules but I don’t think it quite suits black and white. I tried Epson matte but that didn’t seem right either. Suggestions needed from my tutor.
I think my choice of the holga pinhole lens was right for the outcome I had in mind, although I paid the price in consistency. Some of the images look better in colour but colour didn’t fit the concept. I know I need much more practice in using composites and layers but at least I’ve set a benchmark for learning.

I’ve been thinking about presentation beyond prints. A slideshow/video could be effective because then I could alter the pace according to the atmosphere I want to convey. This is where my images (at different opacities) of ‘the beast emerging” could work. I’ve thought about sound – environmental sound, music or someone speaking the words of the poem. So far as the prints are concerned I also considered text, apart from the background words of the last image. I decided that maybe, on this occasion, I would be leading the viewer’s perception too strongly. That’s also why I’ve separated the poem itself from the images in this post.

Quality of Outcome:

Prints referred to above. I’m pleased that I was able to carry the concept through especially during what’s been a difficult time for me. On the other hand, allowing myself to become absorbed in the project and enter into my imagination has been quite healing. In this sense, the project acted as effective “phototherapy”. Choice of b+w and holga lens and filters added coherence to the images. The images are different between themselves and I have some concerns regarding mixing too many visual metaphors, but this does fit with visualisations and how they can seem like “snapshots”.

Demonstration of Creativity:

I’ve enjoyed creating something different and unusual. The description “weird” has been mentioned, but that is another aspect of me that only occasionally peeps through and I’ve welcomed her presence, especially since looking at the origins of the word. The poem was my own creation and, in using it, I am developing/extending my personal voice. As mentioned above, I haven’t used dolls in still-life for a long time. Dolls seem to lend themselves so much to photography with their almost human faces that can be blankly beautiful or surreal. One aspect I haven’t checked is whether male photographers use dolls also.


My blog for DPP is growing very slowly, unlike my previous blogs, but I have started to write-down thoughts and analyses of other photographers. I read a lot; follow many blogs via WordPress Reader or Bloglovin, and keep Pinterest boards to have a more visual memory.

This particular assignment has been a very personal and reflective experience for me and I hope that comes through. I’m still pondering over Anna Fox’s words “documentary is a story about truth” and ‘truth’. My story here is a true story. It happened to me, even though it was all in my head. I saw, felt, touched the rough rock; the coarse hairs on the head of the beast. He was real to me. It’s said that photography captures fleeting moments in time but it can also capture a process over time with many layers of meaning.


17th May 2014





2. The Shed

2. The Shed
Workflow for an unstructured and open-ended assignment

One of the Exercises in part One is to devise a workflow for an unstructured and open-ended assignment. The key elements were

  • The number of elements is unpredictable, but probably many
  • It lasts a sufficient amount of time that I would consider reviewing and at least partially editing the images during the shoot rather than waiting until the end.

I wanted to stay near to home and so I decided to explore the mystery of our garden shed.

I’ve always been fascinated by shed-like structures. I think it began with making tents from our wooden clothes horse with a sheet over it and then developed through spending weekends as a child in two family huts in different parts of Derbyshire. Also some of my friends, who were boys, included me in their get-togethers in the garden shed belonging to the father of one of them. All I had to do was to walk down our garden, nip through next door’s garden and then over the fence to the shed. It was all quite innocent and I spent quite a lot of time in the gloom of the shed listening to talk of bicycles, tennis and cricket. The worst occasion was when I was busy-bodying and trying to show one of them how to open a tin of red paint with a screwdriver. The paint went all down my new dress and, of course, as I rushed back up our steps to the back door, my mother thought I was covered in blood! I remember being sent up to my room to change and seeing two of the boys back in their houses, leaning out of their bedroom windows and sending messages via a telegraph set up they’d created – two empty tin cans with wire stretched between them.

I like sheds so much that I’ve always fancied having a work-shed in the garden – garden office I mean. One of our friends has one and it’s very cosy and a special retreat. We’re in process of moving to a smaller house and I even thought of a garden office, until the question was asked, “What if it’s raining and you’ve forgotten something and have to go back and get it?”. As compensation, instead, I subscribe to Shedworking, “A lifestyle guide for shedworkers”  so I can at least dream a little, even though I have to put up with adverts.


i. Outline Plan

Images of outside and inside of shed at different times of day.
Wide angle lens to be used where appropriate (small space inside shed and shed near to the back door)
Large dynamic range (light through window and darkness in shed) so exposure needs to take account of this.
Tripod necessary for slower exposures.

ii. Equipment

Canon 60D Digital camera
Canon zoom lens EFS 15-85mm
Sigma 10-20mm lens
Manfrotto Tripod 055CX Pro 3
Spare battery
Remote shutter release
Microfibre cleaning cloth
Air blower

iii. Process

61 RAW images produced over 5 different days and I reviewed these at the end o each day. I name the Project and then, within the folder, keep separate folders for each date. From this I processed 14 jpegs in Photoshop CC.   Continuing with my ‘experimental’ theme I used Nik and Perfect Efex plug-ins. I realise that, so far, I haven’t mentioned histograms or done the actual Project on this so that will have to come later. However, I do adjust levels as appropriate. At present I’m labelling jpegs with filters used so I can keep track.  I use colormunki to calibrate my screen. Should add that Time Machine backs-up everything to a separate Seagate drive.

14 jpegs


reviewed, and 8 starred for final selection. I used to use the full starring system but it seems laborious. Maybe I’ll change my mind as workload increases. 8jpegs selected and ordered by time of day.


I enjoyed being in the shed and the outline plan worked for me. I’d like to do more projects on sheds and have some ideas forming.