Monthly Archives: August 2017

Assignment 4: Developing the idea

Project 3 of Part 4 introduces the concept of Open Narratives (in preference to closed narratives, as often used in movies to make the plot ‘self contained’ within the movie itself). Like a soap opera this approach works well for photograpy wher it allows room for the viewer space to create their own conclusions and outcomes.

A second key idea is that of using text in a semi fictional way, working in partnership with the visual image to invoke a deeper, more serious message.

I’ve been drawn quite heavily in recent weeks to rediscover the landscape I walked and played as a young boy, with now lost family members and old friends. An inspiration for this has been the books of Robert Macfarlane, especially The Old Ways and the writings and poetry of Edward Thomas (The Road Less Travelled). I also have discovered an old diary from when I was a young boy.  This approach gives me the freedom to make the diary excerpts semi-fictional to work in partnership with the images to raise questions about our relationship with the landscape that forms our character.

Comfortable in the environment


We live in this landscape and constantly make choices that determine how our future lives turn out.  Like Thomas’ poem, we never know how our lives would have turned out should we have taken the other path.  At the time the decision may have seemed trivial and of no consequence.  It may have felt dramatic.  We will never really know which is true.

I’m inspired to explore this question further using photographs that suggest choices and decisions from the landscape of my youth while inspiring the viewer to reflect on how this might be a factor in their own lives.

By re-walking these paths I, in a sense, have an opportunity to explore ‘the road less travelled’.


Exercise 4.5 – Five Words

For this exercise I asked my partner for her five favourite words with the intention of setting out to ‘create five images that do justice to them’.  After some consideration she offered the following:

1. Love

2. Goddess

3. Happiness

4. Laughter

5. Sacred

The first thing that occurred to me was that these were mostly feelings or at least archetypes with which people might have stromg emotions.  I therefore chose to make a set of momochrome images to further underline this in the overall aesthetic style.

Each image had to be either of her, or of an object that is important to her.  I wanted to explore the potential of five words turned into images to evoke her character and personality – since, as these are her five favourite words, they must in truth say quite a lot about her.  Hopefully the images could do the same.

Some are huge subjects in themselves – ‘love’ for example.  So I decided to approach this by selecting details, hopefully poignant elements that invoke the intention my partner had when selecting these words.  Similarly, as these invoke emotion and a sense of living life fully in the present moment, I additionally chose a square format to suggest the ‘living in the moment’ aspect of social media.

I took several images and selected five as the final cut then experimented with the images both with, and without, the text.  I decided that they worked better without.  Having so strongly inspried the images in the first place, the two elements together were too literal.  However by leaving the text out I found that The images gave space to interpret while retaining the essential meanings.

The images are below:






Power in Simplicity: How This Modern Photographer Mastered His Style – Photographs by Charles SheelerReview by Coralie Kraft | LensCulture

A diversion from my current course content but entirely relevant to the development of a personal style.

Charles Sheeler is celebrated in this Lensculture article by Coralie Kraft as a great example of how to make your work recognisable as your own, ‘putting your stamp on it’, developing a personal voice.

I can see how his work carries a trademark sense of grand vertical space, mundane industrial scenes looking like prestigious cathedrals, understated yet at the same time imposing.

Kraft cites Annie Leiberwitz and Alec Soth as both having a strong and immediately identifiable style – I’d quickly add Douggie Wallace and Gregory Crewdson to that list as well.

How does my own work measure against this test?  Clearly I’m still developing a personal style as my studies progress, but some themes are already clear:

  • In an era of natural looking desaturated colour being the norm, i often make use of strong colour and high contrast
  • Abstracts and simple form
  • A sense of lonliness in the landscape, desolate places – especially megaliths
  • Our relationship with the land as a vehicle to explore ourselves and our ancestors
  • Paths, routes, entrances.  A sense of travelling
  • Social justice, the haves and have nots of modern society
  • A slightly quirky view on life.
This post is intended primarily as a bookmark to refer back to, in order to see how these themes develop as my studies continue.


Assignment 4: Initial Thoughts

I have recently been drawn to walk the landscape of my maternal-side family.  This is a landscape of quiet countryside and East Midland mining towns.

It occurred to me that this landscape has great meaning for me – where I played and was educated, where my ancestors lived and worked. It shaped me as a young man.

However it probably means something completely different to most people.  Maybe they have never even heard of place names like Eastwood, Ilkeston and Cossall. If they have, there is likely to be nothing more than a vague awareness that this was the place where the controversial author D H Lawrence once lived or the location of a large Ikea store.

The inspiration to explore my childhood environment was inspired by Tom Hunter and Liz Hingley’s work at Format 17 for the Flâneur film and photographic installation.

At this stage I am exploring three possibilities for accompanying words.  The first is quotes from DH Lawrence.  How can his words and my images work together to inspire a viewer to create their own personal interpretation of this place?  To form a view of my identity without having met me?

The second option is to use extracts from an old diary some 40 years ago.  The content is often quite factual ‘went to school today’, but concise, making it ideal for titles.  It provides an insight into my thoughts, motivations and priorities when I was a child. How can these words rekindle a memory within me that I can relay to a more contemporary audience using a camera?  This appears to be the only year that I kept a diary so it seems a shame not to give it a new voice through the language of photography.

The third option is an inspiring book about pathways and our relationship with the landscape: The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane.  The book chimes very closely with my own feelings about walking the land, and so presents an opportunity to explore his text with my landscape.  Hopefully this gives enough space between my images and Macfarlane’s text to guide the viewer on  meaning while still leaving room for explorations of their own.




Macfarlane, R.  (2013) The Old Ways: A journey on foot. Penguin, London.

Exercise 4.4: newspaper captions

This exercise asks me to select various press images and create different captions for them, bending the message to suit different agendas.  It also then asks for additional captions that completely change the nature of the story.

This image is from the London Evening Standard and accompanies a story about the success – or otherwise – of Donald Trump’s first six months in office.

“Trump stays strong in spite of recent setbacks”

“Trump Administration in Tatters”

Trump staff turning their backs on the president”

Trump ejects aides in cabinet shakeup”



“Aides walk out on a flatulent Trump after recent trip to India”

“You’re Fired!  Trump brings the Apprentice to the White House for new reality TV show”


This second image is from the Daily Telegraph as part of a feature on the dangers of China’s debt bubble:

“China celebrates strengthening economy”

“Chinese economy continues to show strongest world growth”

“Chinese people ignoring dark economic clouds”


“Cheap flags on eBay dissapoint hundreds of Glastonbury festival goers.  Trading Standards investigating”


Lastly, this from the Guardian:

“Ukraine bride cools off in European heatwave”

“Deaths accross Europe as heatwave takes its toll”

“British tourists warned against travel to Europe during heatwave”


“Opening ceremony promises a spectacular games to come”

“Snow White production company in controversy over using children as dwarves”

Exercise 4.3: The Animals

This exercise asks me to draw a storyboard that is not dependent on text then to add text afterwards, noting how this has the power to change the meaning of the images.

Im not famous for my drawing nor storytelling skills so this could be interesting…

The picture sequence is designed to portray a happy family trip which turns into a tragedy.  However the words put a completely different angle on things.  All the animals do something to annoy daddy.  But for the text, we would otherwise never have known about the stolen ice cream, the birds pooing on them, and so on. (There is also an attempt at a humour with a double meaning over a jaguar).

Eventually daddy snaps – this is no tragic accident – daddy is actually an evil murderer.  Even worse, he tries to cover his evil tracks to get away with it, making it look like an accident when the police arrive.

Nasty daddy.

Sleep well children.

On a more serious level again, I clearly wont be giving up the day job to become a children’s author.  But this rather frivolous exercise does indeed point out the power of text to dramatically alter the meaning of an image.  In film and tv the images are accompanied by dialogue which provides this very important additional dimension.  Music is also used to influence our mood in respect to what we are seeing.

Whether we read the text or not completely changes our level of empathy for the father.

Daddy took daughter to the zoo

The fox ate her ice cream

The rhino chomped daddy’s camera

The birds did a poo on their head

The seahorses just looked at them

Daddy always wanted a jaguar

The gorilla was the most frightening animal

The gorilla ate the girl, just as daddy had hoped it would

Daddy pretended to be sad so that it looked like an accident.