Category Archives: Research & Reflection

Assignment 4 – Languages of Light


Concluding notes on Assignment 4

Brief – Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria.

Creativity assessment criteria – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

Within the assessment statements this relates to development of analytical and creative thinking, using independent judgement and presenting a developing personal voice.


I tend to work from instinct when approaching new areas, rather than through inspiration. I find this allows me to apply my own imaginative ideas, rather than apply those of others. At the same time, in my head, I am being influenced in a passive way by artists that have struck a chord with me. In exploring studio photography for the first time I found myself initially wanting to create a similar candid look that my experience of street photography had drawn me to. This is why I directed the models to look away from the lens and to adopt naturalistic poses. Experience and research then taught me that this was not the best approach. I thought carefully about how to apply this to my final sitting. I wanted to create something with more drama, as well as developing a more intimate relationship between the model and the lens.


This was the biggest area for me to take on board for this project. I haven’t shot in a studio before, or used flash photography in a formal shoot. I did have to research technical requirements and took a while to set up the studio and equipment in my living space. Playing around with an onion in still life form initially helped me prepare in terms of settings etc. The first sitting with the three models taught me a lot about positioning of the model, avoiding shadows and finding the right focal point. In the second sitting with Zack we had a lot of fun playing with different props and outfits. It was also interesting to see the difference that the background colour/tone makes to the feel of the shot. I also found that being more direct with the model allowed me to experiment with different moods in the models facial expressions.


A difficult area to apply in terms of my approach. I did have to be quite inventive in terms of setting up a home studio and organising the space for the shoots. I also spent some time exploring props to use in the shots and looking at ways to add interesting dimensions to the images. These included using fairy wings, hats and a variety of musical instruments in the shots. I also played a little with having more than one model in the shots and they played off each other. These were fun to do but not as successful in terms of creating a satisfying image. This is an area for development as I would enjoy being more playful in setting up studio shots.

So am I developing a personal voice in my photography? I always shy away a little from becoming too involved in emulating other photographers as I want my creativity to come from within. If this project, and in fact this course, has taught me anything it is to be more open to considering the work of others. It was in studying others’ portraiture during this project that really helped me to develop my own style, whilst applying the skills of others. It also showed me how important it is to consider the connection between the lens and the subject matter, and this can be reliant on many things. It could be connected to the relationship between the model and photographer, it could be related to the photographer’s direction or perhaps the context and set up. But in all these areas there is always the element of chance that steps in.




Heads – Philip-Lorca diCorcia

A different approach to street photography

The focus for my work in assignment 2 was ‘Crowds’. Living in London this worked really well within the Street Photography genre. I have long been a fan of street photography in terms of aesthetics and conveying a captured moment. This project allowed me the opportunity to explore the genre in a more personal way, as well as opening my eyes to the variety of forms it can take and the practical and moral issues surrounding it. As the photographer I do feel a little uncomfortable taking candid shots of strangers in open places and I pick my subjects and context with care. I therefore read articles on the series ‘Heads’ by Philip-Lorca diCorca with great interest.

The series of 17 images were selected from 4000 shots taken over a period of 2 years. Each image was taken without the subject knowing and the final choices were then exhibited in Moma. The collection then became part of a court battle when one of the individual’s recognised his photo. The court eventually found in favour of the artist – citing advocates of free speech and the exceptions to privacy rules that art can be exempt from. The MOMA site details the case here.

Putting the controversy of the case aside, these images are notable in how individual they are as pieces of art. The ultra realism within each face, the dark background in broad daylight, and the complete openness of the individuals’ expressions. The hidden nature of the camera has allowed the photographer to create something individually candid that would be impossible to achieve if the subject were aware of the shooter.

The Beatles Unseen – Photographs by David Magnus

Exhibition at Proud Gallery in Kensington


The Beatles Unseen – David Magnus – 1967

I do feel like I’m cheating a little posting this. I have been a huge fan of The Beatles since I was 12 years old. This was in the days of disco – as a pre teenage individual I was desperately searching for inspirational stimulus – I discovered The Beatles music through a BBC rerun of their movies. And so a journey of trawling through second hand record shops began.

I also love visiting the Proud Galleries. Their Camden venue also hosts live music events in the photo exhibition room. The Kensington Gallery is smaller, but the exhibits are always inspirational.

This particular exhibition documented the the boys rehearsing and hanging out in readiness for the historical first ever satellite broadcast – a live performance of ‘All you need is love’  

So are these good photographs in their own right, or is their value purely linked to their historical and contextual relevance? Its difficult to be subjective in this case, but perhaps its a question that doesn’t require a complete answer. The photographs are beautifully composed, artistically lit and they each capture a moment well with the expressions of each individual clearly portrayed. There are also clear moments of intimacy between the subjects, this is particularly noticeable in the shot with Brian Epstein looking down as Paul plays the trumpet. But fame plays a part in our perception when interpreting these images. The shots of the security guards enjoying their break in the canteen alongside the fab four, and John and George sharing a look at the tea table. The everyday is meeting the out of the ordinary. As an individual not aware of this event at the time, it is difficult to conceive the level of fame the these four individuals had achieved. What is clear is how iconic each image captured of them has become. This bares particular importance when we consider that this is before the digital age, where skills in creating the right shot pre production was so much more important.



Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple

 Assignment 5 notes


In your assignment notes explore why you chose this particular subject by answering the question ‘What is it about?’.

What is it about?

The answer to this question leads me again to the context and is also ever changing if I look at the journey I went through with this project. It took me a little while to select the subject matter for this final project. My other two possibilities were the Victorian Gardens close to my house, or selective images of my son. I settled on shooting Carlton Mansions in Brixton for several reasons. Partly because it is a building that I have been fascinated with purely on aesthetics alone, and I am a believer in ‘Shoot what you love.’ Also because I have been looking for an opportunity to find out more about the building’s history.  The other main reason was to attempt to improve my skills in photographing architecture.

So in terms of Barratt’s contexts it is clear that my original shot of the whole building, and the images picking out the decorative aspects of the facade, have a very strong link to the ‘internal context’ (Terry Barrett – Photography and Context 1985). These images are very much about the information within the frame. In these instances it is the aesthetic aspects of the structure itself that initially appealed to my photographers eye.

There is a contextual shift within the set in the inclusion of information surrounding the picture ie ‘the external context’ where additions have been made to the building through the years. Here we see the purpose, or function, of the image change. The influence of the residents is clearer in their adornments, they have left their ‘stamp’ on the structure. This does become multi layered through research. There are simplistic affectations in terms of stencilling and spray can work, but the ripples of political passion have echoed through the years with the hugely iconic mural ‘Nuclear Dawn’ (Brian Barnes and Dale McCrea – 1981).

This inclusion of original context, information surrounding the picture, is also illuminated with the plaques on the wall – one of which captions the building with ‘Housing the Homeless and many cats’ – this is one of my trial shots and not in the final ten. My chosen plaque relates to the anniversary of the Nuclear Dawn mural – a more politically significant adornment.

A little research into the recent history of the building also builds on this context. My first ‘google’ led me to a local newspaper article on the 2014 eviction of the ‘creative community’ that had set up home in the building (Brixton Blog – 2014). Brixton Blog on Carlton Mansions This gives an interesting insight into the community that helped to shape the more recent features of the building eg murals, colourful script, plaques etc. The article also demonstrates the political and social repercussions linked to new housing law reform of 2014.

I also enjoyed the insight given into the lives of those who lived in the building just prior to the eviction in another local newspaper article (Brixton Buzz – 2014). Living in Carlton Mansions

The final two images that I chose to include are a little more ambiguous. I like the presence of closed curtains, suggesting there is more to find out and how well that links to the slightly cryptic yet transparent ‘Brixton Bizness Centre’.

Another element that I enjoyed including within the frames was the foliage. This building is situated within a very urban environment, placed between the regenerated, hipster influenced Brixton Village and the highly residential social housing side of town. Seeing the weeds and overgrown flora creeping its way into the building in images introduces another level of contradiction in terms of energy and aesthetics.

In exploring my skills, and the purpose behind my choice of a ‘decaying’ building, I also found myself questioning what it is that draws photographers to such subject matters.

Looking at the work of Christian Richter there is an attraction to the contradiction between a grand piece of architectural design and the complexity of destruction that time effects upon it (dezeen – 2016). Christian Richter – Abandoned Empty Buildings

Architectural photography has many functions of course and for me it tends to be the image that represents a familiar scene in an unexpected way that is appealing. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to a genre that has been dubbed (The Guardian – 2016) ruin porn by the media. I do feel uncomfortable with photographs that depict the difficult situations and suffering that others go through. This can be images of poverty, post natural disaster, war torn environments etc. In capturing aspects of a decaying building it is the aesthetic qualities that both people, the elements and time have had in effecting change that appeals to me.

This particular building does now have another chapter in its life. The most current article talks about continuing the regeneration of the area and linking the art community history to future plans for the space to house local creative businesses (Future Brixton – 2016).  The future for Carlton Mansions


Final Set – Post Production Edits 

In presenting my final images I have reselected and edited in reference to tutorial feedback. Some images were over exposed and required post production work.

In analysing my own skill progress in working with architecture I did find it easier to work in my comfort zone of using the 85mm prime lens and picking out abstracted elements, rather than framing the whole building. There were problematic areas in shooting the whole building. It was in a narrow street with no access to a second storey as a vantage point for the photo. Hence the difficulty in fitting the building symmetrically and balanced within the shot. I tried to use this to my advantage in the hope that the building would ‘loom’ over the viewer, but geometry hasn’t quite worked.





I also explored the changing the contrast and framing of the main building picture. This was a difficult one to frame due to the height of the building and narrowness of the street.


Project 2 – Photography as Information

‘Photographers…are in pursuit of possibilities that are still unexplored in the camera’s programme, in pursuit of informative, improbable images that have not been seen before.’ (Flusser, 2000, p37)

In considering the camera as a tool for recording information as well as exposing information that is not always seen with the naked eye or in a single, fleeting moment.


Rinko Kawauchi – Illuminance (2001)

So in considering the effect for accurate exposure when recording an image with a photo, we would usually want to ensure that we weren’t under or over exposing to ensure the optimum amount of detail is included to when wanting to convey information about the captured moment effectively. So what information is being conveyed in the image used on the front cover of Kawauchi’s Illuminance. Here light and exposure to it is being used in a way that makes to viewer use its previous image knowledge to interpret the picture. Our perception here tells us this is a rose with a moon in the background and various foliage in the midground. The use of over exposure also adds a painterly aspect to the frame. This image underlines the relevance of considering what the viewer is bringing to the table in terms of placing an image in the context of their previous knowledge.

Cathedral of the Pines – Gregory Crewsdon

The Photographers Gallery Exhibition

This was a chance visit to the gallery as I had a little time to kill before meeting someone. I was very pleasantly surprised. These images were very powerful, and from a photographer I hadn’t come across before. The initial reaction was imagery that reminded me of the movie Fargo along with a very American Gothic vibe. These factors along with the ultra definition and thousand yard stares from the subjects, the pieces are very compelling.

It is interesting looking at these images in terms of the ‘Context’ focus in Part 5 of EYV. In my notes on Terry Barrett’s ‘Photography and Context’ I touched on the power of captioning an image to give it context. In this case the captioning seems to add to a multi layer of irony at the same time as emphasising the empty, emotionless, depressed aura that the naked human content appears to represent in each frame. The simple factual labelling of the geographical context of the pictures underlines the coldness of the individuals.

The Shed 2013
Woman in Bathroom 2013
Reclining Woman on Bed 2013
The VW Bus 2013
Beneath the Bridge 2014
The Pickup Truck 2014


Part 5 – Viewpoint


A response to Terry Barrett’s ‘Photographs and Context’

‘Barrett suggests that we interpret pictures according to three different types of information: information in the picture, information the surrounding the picture and information about the way the picture was made. He calls these the internal context, the external context and the original context.’ (OCA course guidance – sept 2014)

In Barratt’s essay on context he uses the example of five different uses, or applied contexts, that a single photograph taken by Robert Doisneau was subjected too. By examining how differently these five contexts result in five diverse interpretations, we can begin to understand the importance of context when approaching capturing an experience. The image in question was a couple enjoying a bottle of wine in a Paris cafe. Doisneau took many similar photos and asked permission of the couple to use the photo. It was published as part of a collection on Paris in the magazine Le Point. The photo then went on to be used in several other contexts without the photographer’s permission. These included a brochure on the evils of alcohol abuse and a french Scandal sheet with the caption ‘Prostitution in the Champs Elysees’. A further two appearances of the image were in the publication ‘Looking at Photographs – 100 pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art’. Within this context there is an essay that references the photo as depicting ‘secret venial sins of ordinary individuals’ reading the picture as ‘a potential seduction’ (Terry Barrett – Photography and Context 1985)

Reflecting on this example personally, and at a very basic level, the meaning conveyed by a single image can be changed dramatically by captioning it with different texts. In fact throughout the much of Barratt’s essay I would add that text seems to play a significant part in adding context to the images he identifies. There is an argument here that within photography the image alone should create the context for the picture, whether this is through the visual context within the frame, or through the artistic use of light and composition and palette and pov etc, or through the empathy created by the relationship between the photographer and the subject matter.

This is where the relevance of Barratt’s three forms of interpreting a picture seems more relevant, in an absence of contextual text. This refers to his three approaches to interpreting a picture: internal, external and original. The internal would relate to the information given in terms of date taken, the actual image and its title, and the photographer. The external refers to the pictures presentational environment. The original refers the the causal environment what was apparent to the photographer in relation to the physical and psychological aspects at the time of taking the picture.

An age old saying springs to mind when identifying how much context can change the meaning of a photo. This is ‘The camera never lies’. As the photographer there is also a distance that I find myself discovering over and over and this is between the actual intent at the beginning of a shoot, and the actual accidental image that is reached. The journey that an image takes after the point of publication is then down to individual’s interpretation and/or borrowed or falsely applied contexts.




‘L’amour tout Court’ – Henri Cartier-Bresson

A response to the documentary on the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson

‘L’amour tout Court’ 2001

Unfortunately for myself, my view of the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the term ‘Decisive Moment’, were based on a very limited knowledge prior to watching this film. My main exposure to his images had been the famous man jumping over a puddle, a picture that for some reason never instinctively appealed to me. There is something in the physical relationships within the frame that never sat comfortably with me aesthetically. Couple this with my inability to read between the lines when Henri described his process of taking this shot as being pure luck, this devalued my opinion of the Decisive Moment even more.

Henri Cartier-Bresson 1932 Derriere la Gare -St Lazare

Thankfully OCA then asked me to watch this movie. Listening to Henri describe his approach and philosophy as a photographer as well as having his images put into context allowed me to re-examine his works as well as analyse my own thought processes when taking photographs.

What struck me first of all when watching Henri discuss his work was how humble he is, and what I mistook for flippancy in his suggestion that the puddle shot was ‘luck’ was just a his natural desire to underplay his talent.

I was then impressed with how simply he managed to dissect the key elements required to capture those ‘Decisive Moments’ within a frame. The phrases that made the biggest impression upon me and seem to echo my own ambitions in terms of a photographer were:

  • ‘Just be receptive and it happens’ (Cartier-Bresson – 2001) – this sums up his monologue on the importance of looking rather just seeing. I think the image in the documentary that really underlined this was that taken in what the narrator described as a square that is usually empty, but somehow Henri managed to see so much happening there in this one moment.
Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • ‘Physical rhythm’ (Cartier-Bresson – 2001) – something so hard to define and capture – and yet to me one of the most crucial elements in creating something that suggests movement within a static medium
  • ‘A sense of geometry’ (Cartier-Bresson – 2001) – an aspect that I do feel an intrinsic connection with when composing a shot – perhaps that is due to living in an urban environment, however i do feel a strong awareness of the geometry in nature and within the composition of a shot
  • ‘Physical relationships’ (Cartier-Bresson – 2001) – something that is so obvious when its manufactured, but so aesthetically pleasing when it is caught by chance through ‘looking rather than seeing’.
  • ‘Form comes first’ (Cartier-Bresson – 2001) – the overall shape naturally should be a key consideration as being what draws the eye initially to an image
  • ‘Light is like a perfume’ (Cartier-Bresson – 2001) – I love this view. I have always though of light as one of the most crucial aspects, but this one thought coloured my approach into thinking of something that enhances rather than creates something.


L’amour tout Court
Director  – Raphaël O’Byrne
Les Films à Lou

Private View at The Printspace -Trajectory

  • A selection of work from photography graduates representing a diverse choice of genres.


An interesting approach that appears to ‘normalise’ the presence of sex toys within the domestic environment


A compelling candid collection that offers a view into a suggested search by the photographer for an identity within his dual citizenship heritage



A striking collection of intimate portraits aiming to portray diversity with sexual orientation, gender, race and age.


An homage to the steel works industry in Britain and the legacy they have left on our landscape


Images defining aspects of the ancient Benedictine monastic life.

One of the things that really impressed itself upon me with this exhibition is how the curators found such a diverse selection of photographers subject matters at the same time as ensuring equal matters of creativity and quality in the work. With inclusions of industrial landmarks, street photography, portraiture, created still like and ecclesiastical environments. All striking in their presentation and all creating a suggestion of a narrative that draws the viewer in. For me, the sex toys project had the edge in creativity but the portraiture project seemed to demonstrate a technical skill that was hard to match.




Part 2 Imaginative Spaces

Project 2 – Lens Work

‘Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in project 2. Whether or not you had a similar idea when you took the photograph isn’t important; find a photo with a depth of field that ‘fits’ the code you’ve selected. 

Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you’ve re-imagined your photograph.

In exploring the effects on altering the depth of field, focal length, width of lens and viewpoint a variety of visual choices are presented to the photographer.

The exercises in Project 1 helped in developing my understanding of the technical requirements when shooting different subjects, or for different creative interpretations.

I think the Wim Wenders quote cited in the coursework folder is particularly prevalent here.

The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes

(Wim Wenders (1997) quoted in Bromberg and Chanarin, 2008)

In my exploration I found myself drawn to the use  with shallow depth of field with a narrower angle of view when working on portraiture to draw the eye to the focus of the image. The background blur discourages attention from the viewer and the sharpness of the face leads the eye.

Focal length 85mm, f-stop 1.8,

Deep focus gives the eye autonomy to roam over the picture space so that the viewer is at least given the opportunity to edit the scene himself, to select the aspects of it to which he will attend.

(Bazin(1948) quoted in Thompson and Bordwell)

To explore this viewpoint I worked with a wider angle of view – allowing me to incorporate more details in the image. The deep depth of field also brings a sharper focus on more of the details within the frame. So rather than the eye being drawn to one particular point of the frame, in this instance it could have been one of the fountains, the viewer is able to consider the buildings, the splashes and puddles, the half hidden member of public, and even the spot of light bleed in the centre.

focal length 33mm, f-stop 22

This approach to the technical settings results in a closer representation of the whole subject matter incorporated in the frame. Examples of this approach can be seen most famously in the work of Ansel Adams. Along with Willard Van Dyke and Edward Weston formed club f/64.


In choosing a photograph to fit with the ‘codes’ described in the nots in project 2 I selected one of the live music shots that I felt portrayed ‘intimacy’

Shallow depth of field – intimacy


The shot was taken in an instance where I saw the two performers interacting with each other and their close proximity to the other means that the eye is drawn to both equally. There is some movement and a slight soft focus on the subjects – although technically this isn’t ideal, I do enjoy the sense of a live experience that this creates. It terms of this fitting in with the aesthetic code of intimacy, using the f1.8 has helped to create this by blurring the background. I also feel that the fixed prime 85mm lens has added to this feeling by creating an illusion of the viewer almost being in the frame.