28th March 2020

As part of my research my tutor suggested looking at Jo Spence’s self-portrait work, especially ‘Remodelling Photo History, Revisualization’ 1981-1982. Remodelling Photo History is also known as The History Lesson.

However, on beginning my research I have found Jo Spence to be such an inspiration and of interest to me that I will research her and her works in depth.

Crisis Project / Picture of Health 1982

image and accompanying text from Tate website tate.org.uk

Jo Spence (15 June 1934, London – 24 June 1992, London) was a British photographer, a writer, cultural worker, and a photo therapist. She began her career in the field of commercial photography but soon started her own agency which specialised in family portraits, and wedding photos. In the 1970s, she refocused her work towards documentary photography, adopting a politicized approach to her art form, with socialist and feminist themes revisited throughout her career. Self-portraits about her own fight with breast cancer, depicting various stages of her breast cancer to subvert the notion of an idealized female form, inspired projects in ‘photo therapy’, a means of using the medium to work on psychological health.

Although Spence began her photography career in the commercial sector she worked her way to become a notable independent photographer who is an important figure in the history of feminist photography. She was also a British writer and educator who called herself a ‘Cultural Sniper’ who uses a camera rather than a gun.

14th May 2020

Remodelling Photo History

A joint photographic project between Jo Spence and Terry Dennett

Remodelling Photo History was first published in the journal Screen (May-June 1982). There it is presented as a sequence of 13 photographs, and with an accompanying text. In this form it consisted of 7 paired page spreads and beneath each pair of images is a prominent title.

British Photography
The Hyman Collection

Remodelling Photo history is a collaboration between Terry Dennett and Jo Spence. The above link to The Hyman Collection webpage describes the first publishing of the series. I couldn’t find an old copy of the Screen (May-June 1982) to purchase but when reading the content on the website I read that some of the work is in the book that I had just purchased, ‘Putting Myself In The Picture’ Camden Press, 1986 which is a ‘Political Personal and Photographic Autobiography.’

Jo Spence (1986). Putting Myself In The Picture. London: Camden Press Ltd

The opening paragraph about Remodelling Photo History reads:

At this period, Terry Dennett and I attempted to look closely and clearly at the way photography works in our society. The article, which we wrote at the time, explains what our project was about. the photos which follow show the work in practice.


A Collaboration Between Two photographers

Terry Dennett and Jo Spence

Jo Spence (1986). Putting Myself In The Picture. London: Camden Press Ltd
Notes from Jo Spence (1986). Putting Myself In The Picture. London: Camden Press Ltd

Examples of photographs in the Remodelling Photo History series presented with an image from the ‘unique artists book’:



This collaborative work was a means to re-invent how we take for granted genres in the historic and contemporary photography world. Spence and Dennett scripted their work, although allowed for some spontaneity and saw themselves as social actors. As social actors and worker photographers they began to disrupt the well known format for different genres and made strange ‘the everyday institutional practices and codes of the trade’ (Excerpt from Jo Spence (1986). Putting Myself In The Picture. London: Camden Press Ltd). Their photo theatre works were seen as a hybrid photographic genre in its own right and took on themes connected with work and sexuality.

They used large format cameras, tripods and took props to specifically chosen locations and occasionally added sparse text to their images.

I personally became very engaged with this series. I particularly became interested in their use of props to add context to their work. The props either appeared with a figure or on their own as a still life. This is a practice I have used where props were placed together as a three dimensional still life rather than a two dimensional photograph of them. This is another area that I can develop and one I find interesting.

Memorial Archive

These notes were taken while watching the video, Memorial Archive on youTube. This link will take you to the video on YouTube. It was uploaded by SOURCE Photographic Review on April 2012, ‘Terry Dennett, former partner of the artist Jo Spence (1934-1992) and curator of the Jo Spence Memorial Archive talks about Spence’s life and work. In Dennett’s flat, where the archive has been stored, the work has been boxed, ready to be sent to Ryerson University in Canada where it will join the university collection. He shows examples of her working albums, daybooks from her portrait studio, posters and magazines that she produced and books and ephemera from her collection.’

Screenshots from ‘Memorial Archive’ showing examples pf Jo Spence’s laminates

7th April 2020

Jo Spence: The Feminist Photography of a Cultural Sniper

Jo Spence was a British writer, educator and photographer – although she was quite ambivalent about being termed an ‘artist’. In fact, she much preferred to call herself a ‘Cultural Sniper’. But instead of brandishing a gun, Spence used her camera to shoot and expose issues in culture. One of the first woman photographers to confront the anxiety of seeing oneself in photographs, this HENI Talk explores how Spence targeted the media’s representation of women – always coded as young, plucked and perfectly made-up – by laying her own body on the line.


While researching Spence I came across the YouTube video Jo Spence: The Feminist Photography of a Cultural Sniper. I found it a valuable source of information about Jo Spence’s life and works, so much so that I have just found a new photographer that I absolutely admire in concept and content.

Below are my notes from the video. What I particularly like is how they build a picture of Spence from her beginnings as a secretary in a photographic studio through to her final project which is actually titled, ‘The Final Project.’

The video opens with a very powerful image called, ‘A Picture of Health: Helmet Shot,’ 1982. I paused the video and wrote a simple list of how I responded to the image. My response was:

*Powerful image *Black and White * Spence is standing sideways so that the viewer gets to see the scar on her breast *Body outline * Studio set up * Harsh lighting adding to the drama and harshness of the self-portrait and the topic of breast cancer *Unshaven – doesn’t care what she looks like now as shaving for beauty has no meaning now she has breast cancer, or is it a feminist point of view against shaving and having to portray yourself perfect when being photographed?

*What does the crash helmet symbolise? *We see on the side of the negative style border the word ‘Safety’ *Courage for giving yourself to the world, for all to see.

A Picture of Health: Helmet Shot, 1982
image from Pinterest pinterest.co.uk

It wasn’t until I had uploaded the image to this post that I actually realised that the ‘negative type border’ was actually the border of a slide, then I remembered that Spence uses slides later on in her career where she sandwiches the slides together to get a double exposure effect which is also the same as layering images in Photoshop.

Terry Dennet (link takes you to the interview REMEMBERING JO SPENCE: A CONVERSATION WITH TERRY DENNETT, mutual art.com) took many of Spence’s portraits including the above image. I understand the image further now as the video pointed more information out to the viewers, for example while she is standing she is also looking at and confronting the viewer. Her arms are up and over the helmet protecting her head and the helmets viser hides part of her face and therefore hides her identity.

The helmet could also symbolise hiding, where in post care from cancer you are hiding from yourself, your partner and other people.

Jo could be seen as defiant or aggressive in this image because she is wearing a helmet which when seen without a motorbike could symbolise that you are going to do something dangerous.

As with many of Spence’s images she is making a statement about glamour photography, in this photograph her stance like many in nude photography makes the breasts look more pert and in her story brings home the reality of the breast cancer.

One of the concepts that had me thinking is connected with Spence’s ideas around family albums. She said that the images we have in these albums are unified across society in that we put in them photographs that tell stories of happy times and celebrations. These photographs tell stories from adult points of view mainly because they are a reference to how good family life was so they record highlights only. In doing this our albums have large absences within them, gaps of missing life which cannot be filled in. These gaps would be events such as deaths, divorces, conflicts, abuse and illness.

It is this concept that inspired Spence to display photographs of all types of herself, the good and the bad and having Bertold Brecht as an inspiration she used the idea of adding captions to her family photographs. This created an alternative narrative, a commentary on the desires, stories of pain and toil and strife, even trauma, Patricia Di Bello, Art historian.

screenshot taken from Contemporary Photography Index contemporaryphotographyindex.wordpress.com

The video actually ends with a thought about our photography practices today which are accessible to everyone of all ages and cultures. The conclusion to the video comments on the fact that we all take selfies and publicise them to everyone and anyone. The boundaries between private and public, what is personal and shared across the world to strangers is blurred. No longer shocked, the generation of today has begun a new revolution in digital photography and sometimes it is difficult to know which images are fact or fiction.

This is a topic that I have actually thought about since I have been making art, sculpture and photography at more of a professional level. How can we produce artworks and images that can grab peoples attention?Let us look at landscapes and seascapes for example, one is so like the next unless there is a narrative running through them. These picturesque images are less widely appreciated now, I believe this is because images are easily captured in their hundreds on mobile phones and people travel more widely now. The only exception being dangerous climates and landscapes and places which can not be easily travelled to. Unless there is a narrative or a concept within the landscape or seascape would we take more than a second or two to look at it?

Jo Spence would take images of herself the good and the bad. In the video she talks about how we should be taking more realistic photographs of ourselves and for women especially, we should stop presenting ourselves as an object of desire and that we should show ourselves naturally. Twenty years on our photography genres still do this. I am bombarded with images on social media of friends, family and even unknown people in all states of naturalness and glamour images are replaced with casual images. From dressing up to dressing down, even nighties and bikini wear is acceptable. However the use of filters are widely used and the ‘real’ person is more often than not, the one that is being presented.

The question for me is, how can photographers push the boundaries now in a world of digital images where a click of a camera is second nature?

8th April 2020

Libido Uprising (1989)

In their collaborative series Libido Uprising, Spence and Martin examine the relationship between mother and daughter. The work focuses on Jo’s vision of a 1950s working class, domesticated housewife, seen from the eyes of a young woman in the 1980s who is exploring her sexual freedom. The series complicates the archetypal woman, one juggling multiple jobs with household chores, whilst maintaining her identity as an independent and sexualised being. The work captures the conflict between the domestic and the erotic and how they co-exist. Rather than a rejection of the mother figure, the series evokes a sense of understanding, acceptance and intergenerational comradery around the socially imposed strictures of womanhood.

Richard Saltoun richardsaltoun.com
Libido Uprising Part I and Part II (1989), Jo Spence with Rose Martin
image from TATE tate.org.uk

Red stilettos are a powerful cliche representing the idea of sexy women. By juxtaposing this cliche symbol with a hoover, Spence has made a statement, she is showing the overlapping demands that women have. It is symbolising how women have to show seductiveness and sexy yet still be able to do the cleaning. The image below therefore represents the perfect housewife.

from the Libido Uprising series (1989)
image from Tate tate.org.uk

Taking control

Jo Spence was diagnosed with cancer in the 1980s. She decided to take a camera into the hospital to document what was happening but she has also said it was to help herself and lesson her fear because it was like having a friend with her. Not only did she use her camera as an emotional crouch but she wanted to keep a visual diary of something that was frightening her. She even had to negotiate to take some of the photographs by lying.

The photographs Spence took helped to her to take control of her own health rather than just relying on her doctors and the work became an influential part of a whole movement of patients rights.

The images from her early diagnosis are powerful and a reminder that living with cancer is a horrifying journey from diagnosis, testing, treating and onto recovery, if you are fortunate to recover that is. The images below are from Spence’s first encounters with cancer.

I have learnt much more about this period in Spence’s personal and photographic life but have kept it for further research write ups in the future when I will be looking in depth at her practices, her work and her life.

The Final Project

When Spence became ill again with leukaemia she knew she was confronting death this time. Her last work is called ‘The Final Project’ 1991. She was still committed however to representing herself and others right up until the end.

This work took on a different creative direction. Spence would sandwich slides taken previously with ones taken specifically for this project giving a similar effect to how layers can be seen in Photoshop projects today. She did this so that she was able to insert her body into different natural settings.

The Final Project is more similar of how I have used my photographs in my own work and exhibitions. It is combined with ‘artistic’ methods such as photomontage and adding three dimensional objects on top of photographs and then reshooting this as the final images.

This work is very informative to my own practices and actually helps me to critic mine more efficiently. Working on my own separate from other artists and photographers actually means that apart from research I have no other influences on my work and I have no one to critique it and help me develop. This is where the OCA has been invaluable, yes I am moving on and my technical skills and knowledge is developing but I now have the support of someone who is able to look at my work objectively and critique it.

The website David Camany davidcampacy.com shows ‘The Final Project Work’ in a gallery setting, exhibition. Seeing how the work has also been presented is also invaluable information. Up until now because my work has always been within a group exhibition and I have not been able to say how I want my work placed, I can actually see that how I have always wanted to show my work would give more dynamic amiss to the exhibition apace and my photographs. Unfortunately for me my work has always been shown in very sterile lines or squares.

The examples of exhibition walls above show different aspects of Spences images, hanging compositions and framing. Framing is also another area that I need guidance in. So far my joint exhibitions have always been over seen by someone and again because they are not professionals in the fields of art and photography, my work has just been framed without thought. They look OK but not professional enough for me.

Further research

I managed to purchase three books by Jo Spence all second hand from eBay. The first, Jo Spence: The Final Project, the second, What can a woman do with a camera – photography for women which she co-wrote with Joan Solomon and Putting Myself in the Picture which is a political, personal and photographic autobiography.

Louisa Lee (2013), Jo Spence: The Final Project. London: Ridinghouse.
Jo Spence (1986). Putting Myself In The Picture. London: Camden Press Ltd
image taken from amazon.co.uk
Jo Spence and Joan Solomon

I have decided not to write any more information on research that I have done for two reasons. The first reason is I already know that for Exercise 4.8 Emulation I am choosing Jo Spence, so there will be more research and write ups within this exercise. Secondly If on the photography degree we get to research in great depth and inspiration I would like to consider Jo Spence for that work, therefore doing too much too soon will be an injustice to my learning and college work.

So although I am reading the books and watching documentaries and taking notes I am keeping these for future use.

This research has been the most influential to my own practice so far. It has made me look more inwards on my own documentation and self-portrait works. Spence has really helped me move forwards in my practice.

22nd April 2020

Throughout this course you’ve been introduced to the work of different photographers to help give you an understanding of the creative potential of photography. Now it’s time to question your own work and identify anything you think is lacking. You don’t have to be over-critical, just honest.

OCA Foundations in Photography course folder pg 141

Areas for development

I thoroughly agree with my tutor that my technical skills need to be developed further. These areas are connected with the camera and with the external hardware that I am beginning to use. Hardware such as lenses, flash, and my Wacom Intuos Pro which I have bought to work on my images within software applications such as Lightroom, Photoshop and other photography and design apps that I use.

In camera: This includes camera skills such as being confident to set the F-stops and shutter speeds both individually and within the exposure triangle to gain specific image outcomes. I also need to check my images as I work, and if I know how to manipulate the exposure triangle confidently it would speed up my working practice.

I also need to work my way through the camera’s menu to get to know all the settings that are capable of being altered within the sub menus and to learn what they are capable of doing. There is so much I do not know about my camera and I only seem to learn as things crop up in my research.

External camera hardware: I still need to practice with on camera flash and off camera flash techniques. I also need to read up on studio flash techniques and setting up of lights within a studio setting.

The newest member to my hardware is the Wacom Intuos Pro which I have purchased to help me work on my iMac. After using an Apple Pencil on my iPad for a considerable amount of time, I am finding using a mouse in photoshop on my iMac very awkward and harder to gain very tight work.

Applications: This is a big area for me to get to grips with. I have yet to work within Lightroom and my workflow is very poor. I have decided to learn Lightroom once I have completed this course. I am unable to implement using Lightroom as yet due to time and memory problems. Having dissociative amnesia and depression I easily forget things that I learn and I can only learn a very small amount of new things at a time. I am at present getting to grips with my cameras and the manual settings and Photoshop and I am attending two sets of counselling which leaves me exhausted for a couple of days therefore when coupled with the amount of research that I am doing means that I am operating on full capacity.

Taking the above into consideration and with the fact that at the moment my spare time is being taken up with finding all of my photographs over the last four years and placing them into external hard drives, I am just overwhelmed with the amount of information that I am trying to process. The problem with my photographs and storage has arisen because so much of my work has been split into different clouds depending on what applications I was working in and which storage I had free at specific times over the last five years. This included the iCloud, BT cloud, KnowHow Cloud, Google photos in three different accounts. Then there are the three laptop hard drives, iMac, iPad and iPhone… Phew what a ridiculous mess which is going very slowly and is an awful stress.

Therefore Lightroom and my workflow practice will get my full attention for a month once this course is completed and before I begin studies on my degree.

Photographic preferences

One of the areas we are asked to think about is what sort of photographs we want to take and to jot down key words. My list is below:

  • Factual
  • Conceptual
  • Portraits – True life portraits/ conceptual
  • Street photography but not the usual shots – focusing in on the forgotten, the abandoned parts of life and things we take for granted and walk past EG door knobs and handles, text in the street and using different perspectives. My favourite perspectives are laying at floor level where I may be on my back looking upwards or on my front looking forwards. Another perspective that I like to work from is a toddlers eye-view of the world in which we live.
  • Designing books with my writings, my poetry with photographs all displayed dynamically so the book becomes a piece of art: sculptural or two dimensional books.
  • Cross-app photography – manipulation and adjustment of images but my own styles and techniques with or without text.
  • Using different types of cameras including home made pin-hole cameras and experimenting with processing and printing techniques.

Photographers and their styles that inspire me

We are asked to identify some photographers who have exactly the key elements that we want to attain or just things that interest us. We are given two books as examples to look through, (1) Hacking, J. (2012) Photography: The Whole Story or Cotton, C (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) both London: Thames & Hudson. I have both of these books, however I collect books on both art and artists and photography and photographers. Here are some photographs of my photography books that I own:

Naming specific photographers is a difficult thing to do, for instance there might be that one photograph that a photographer has taken that has inspired me but the rest of their work I may not be at all keen on. Also some photographers may have more than one style of work like myself and I might like one style of their work but not the remaining.

Below are photographers and their work that inspire me and entice me into wanting to further my knowledge and skills in photography and creative photography.

Conceptual photography

  • Jo Spence – Recording truth – ‘The one bright spot in this depression was the arrival of the pictures I had taken of my hospital experience… I was absolutely staggered at what I’d photographed. I couldn’t believe that I had seen so much and already forgotten it. I had already disavowed what had happened to me. But here were the photographs that my guardian self had taken—so much detail. This points up one of the advantages of photographing one’s traumas—before they become sealed over.’
  • Nan Goldin – Recording truth – ‘I think the wrong things are kept private.’
  • Helena Almeida – Combining multi-disciplines: drawing, painting and photography – ‘My work is my body, my body is my work.’
  • Shirin Neshat – Explore the relationship between women and the religious and cultural value systems and the use of text within photography – ‘Art is no crime. It’s every artist’s responsibility to make art that is meaningful.’

Fine art photography

  • Duane Michals – Use of text
  • Bieke Depoorter – Use of text which includes the subjects thoughts and opinions. This enables each image to become personal and similar to a diary so that the subject ‘relates’ to the photograph in a way that the photographer and viewer cannot.
  • Martin Parr – Style of street photography but particularly seaside views

Polaroid photography

  • Andy Warhol – Polaroid portraits
  • Attila Lukacs – Polaroid portraits
  • Dawoud Bey – Polaroid portraits
  • Lucas Samaras – Polaroid manipulation
  • David Hockney – Polaroid grids
  • Maurice Galimberti – Polaroid mosaics

My list could go on and on. There are so many photographers that I have knowledge of and those I have researched for this blog have also given me little sparks of inspiration and the question ‘What if…’ when relating their work methods, techniques and themes to possible new outcomes in my own practice. So choosing one key photograph to use for my next exercise is a decision I literally can not make lightly. In fact it is damn right confusing for me!

However, exploring conceptual photography further and the theme of self-portraiture I will probably use one of Jo Spences nude self-portraits to comment on the topic of being fat as women. I have body issues amongst my complexed mental health problems which were made worse by a 9 stone increase in weight in my first pregnancy which l eft me with an awful overhang, horrific stretch marks and since loosing 5 stone I have also some horrendous sagging, cellulite skin. Under my clothes I have hidden my deformities, that make me a ‘monster.’

Jo Spence Narratives of Dis-ease: Exiled, 1990
image from Richard Saltoun richardsaltoun.com

16th February 2020

I am not doing to well here. I was checking off my work to make sure everything was completed and I have found that I had not researched Gregory Crewdson or Hannah Starkey who both came with the Assignment three research. So on this wet and stormy Sunday I am having to catch up yet again.

I have been looking at images on Google search and my initial reaction is ‘OK.’ I am not sure whether because my mental health is quite flat at the moment as I haven’t slept properly for a couple of weeks or if I really can’t muster up something to say about the work.

I am intrigued when I see the images. It is a little like one of those games where you have to find objects hidden in the image. There is much information in the surroundings speckled with motionless people, sometimes clothed and sometimes nude, just sitting or standing there.

What is the message we should be getting from the lavish scenes, mood lighting and the motionless, facial expressionless people?

Are we too approach the images as real or fiction?

What is the real purpose of Crewdson’s works?

How much work do we as viewers have to do to understand the intent behind the content? Or do we just except the content for what it is and enjoy their nerving beauty?

I think of these words and phrases when looking at his work:

  • Lavish sets and scenes
  • Theatrical
  • Film stills
  • Technical lighting
  • Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Lost (people)
  • Motionless (people)
  • Void (people)
  • Tormented (people)

Crewdson’s career has spanned three decades. The work reminds me of film stills because of the amount of information held within them and the cinematic lighting techniques used. If you watch and listen to the youTube video below, ‘Photographers in Focus: Gregory Crewdson’, you will learn that not only does he have a crew of people working for him but Rick Sands who is his director of photography. Crewdson doesn’t get involved with the production of his ideas and he himself has said he doesn’t have a direct relationship with his camera, he never has and never has been that type of photographer.

My questions therefore are, ‘How can he be a photographer?’ ‘Isn’t he just an idea man?’ In my mind this is so bizarre.

3 minute introduction by Crewdson on his work.
Uploaded by NOWNESS 11.09.17

Notes below for the above YouTube video:

I have watched another YouTube video about a body of work called. ‘Cathedral of the Pines.’

Crewdson talks about the work and what it means to him, he has a personal connection and he says that he is, ‘… creating a world that is real and imagined…”

I have to disagree with this statement, you cannot have both. You can have one influencing the other but both cannot be present in the same image. I feel his work is definitely fictional and he himself goes on to say that he considers himself a story teller and if this is the case then a story is an account of events told for entertainment and not to document an event that is real.

The idea as story teller also fits in with his production techniques and styles as he is more a less a director who envisages an idea and who oversees the production with his own director of photography, Rick Sands, a crew, lighting and actors/ models.

The YouTube video about ‘Cathedral of the Pines’ can be seen below:

Gregory Crewdson discusses his new work, “Cathedral of the Pines,” on view at Gagosian Gallery January 28 – March 5, 2016.
Uploaded by The New Yorker 20.01.16

Notes to accompany the above YouTube video:

I particularly loved the above photograph by Crewdson, ‘Women in Bathroom’ 2013. I specifically have cropped into the portrait where we can see the reflection of the subject twice, I just think this composition of head, torso and gaze direction amazing, so dynamic. The earth tones of this image also give a sense of the Romantic palette , earth tones mixed with neutrals, I could just see this as a painting with the diffused, soft light that caresses the flesh. It is beautiful.

I chose to comment on the image below because Crewdson commented that he wanted his images to be almost saying literally ‘nothing.’ He wanted the meanings all to be on light, atmosphere and colour. He only wanted a little story to entice the viewer in and to create a sense of mystery. “There are no answers in these pictures just questions,” Crewdson, Cathedral of the Pines Youtube video.

If we look at the image we are drawn right into the picture plane to look at the very small figures in the mid ground beneath the bridge. We then question what are they doing? Who are they?

The figures are minute, dwarfed by the immense size of the bridge, lost in their surroundings. The colours are again mute and flat, giving, in this instance, a cold and forboding atmosphere.

Have my thoughts and feelings changed around Crewsdon’s work from ‘OK’ and ‘intrigue’ to a more positive and enlightened response?

To begin with the inquisitive and intrigued thoughts that I had when I first came across Crewsdon’s work is exactly how the photographer wanted me, as a viewer to react. As already stated in my writing above he wanted the viewer to be caught in a small hint of a story and then to ask questions. So he has successfully engaged me as he wanted.

Once engaged how did I respond to the work? Did I feel his sense of reality and fiction combined, did I fall into the world that he has invented and lapped up its atmosphere, light and colour?

Yes, actually I did fall into his world and love the relationships between atmosphere, colour and light that his crew and director had created. Then, second to this attractive ambience I became interested in his subjects and their surroundings and wanted to make sense of what they were doing and who they were. Therefore his work did catch my interest.

However, I don’t know why but I still wouldn’t run out and buy a book on his work. To me, I feel this work isn’t a combination of reality and story but only story because the set up is so lavish it is akin to the many films and digital images that we are bombarded with in todays modern world. Reality isn’t at all like this. Where would you stumble on such scenes? Nude people just standing in a clearing of woods or beneath a bridge? Where would you locate such amazing atmospheric back drops and dilapidated buildings? You wouldn’t so his work really is only a created world from his imagination.

Perhaps it is because the images are so reminisencent of the perfect film set that I cannot absorb the content as a piece of artwork, I really don’t understand my response. But I have learnt much from the concept within his work connected with atmosphere, colour and use of lighting so at least I go away with some positive aspects.

I bought this book in response to a post I have written about Nan Goldin and her work ‘The Ballad of Sexual dependency.’ While researching I found that Goldin’s biggest influence was the work ‘Tulsa’ by Larry clark, she stated in an interview, “Larry Clark’s book that was published in the 70’s called ‘Tulsa’ and, that had a huge influence on me because he was shooting and publishing work from his own life, And there weren’t people doing that at that time.”

Below book blurb taken from Amazon’s introduction to the book:

When it first appeared in 1971, Larry Clark’s groundbreaking book Tulsa sparked immediate controversy across the nation. Its graphic depictions of sex, violence, and drug abuse in the youth culture of Oklahoma were acclaimed by critics for stripping bare the myth that Middle America had been immune to the social convulsions that rocked America in the 1960s. The raw, haunting images taken in 1963, 1968, and 1971 document a youth culture progressively overwhelmed by self-destruction — and are as moving and disturbing today as when they first appeared. Originally published in a limited paperback version and republished in 1983 as a limited hardcover edition commissioned by the author, rare-book dealers sell copies of this book for more than a thousand dollars. Now in both hardcover and paperback editions from Grove Press, this seminal work of photographic art and social history is once again available to the general public.


‘Tulsa,’ Clark’s photography book, was published in 1971. Between 1963 to 1971, Clark photographed his own and his friends drug use creating harsh documentary images that showed their activities such as domestic violence, drug misuse, holding guns and even death of a baby.

These images were so controversial that Tulsa, where the images were taken, refused to hold an exhibition of them because they didn’t want to be associated with such negativity and drug use.

The book itself is intriguing and graphic, should I like these photographs? Should they make me go “Wow!” Does that mean there is something psychologically wrong with me if I think these high contrast, film like images are actually artworks created with true feeling and meaning?

The harsh darkness of the images have a film like quality, in fact on opening up the fist couple of pages I was reminded of James Dean, those iconic photographs of him and the amazing film, ‘Rebel Without A Cause.’

The Book – Tulsa

The cover was printed on some very soft black smooth like paper however this became easily marked with finger prints and scuffs. After bending back the spine a couple of times a page fell out, spine quite cheaply put together unlike some previous editions which were sewn together.

It has 64 pages in total with around 56 images depending how you would classify some of the pages with sequences.

Unfortunately there is a very strict copyright for this book so I cannot post images but I have found a YouTube video that shows the pages within the book which can be found below:

Tulsa by Larry Clark, uploaded by CAMERA

I have taken a few notes from the above video and added views and information of my own from reading about Larry Clark’s Tulsa and viewing my own copy of the book. My notes can be read below:

I would recommend this book the images as portraiture, as narrative, as sequences are an excellent source to learn from and they are just beautifully shot, the contrast and the grain is amazing.

The above YouTube video was inspirational because it shows you how, on the 40th anniversary of the book ‘Tulsa’ a group of artist showed the work in an abandoned ballroom in Tulsa. Tulsa would not hold an exhibition of the work because they felt the negativity would be bad for them, drugs and guns isn’t a good image for a town to have.

Those that put the exhibition on, blew the images to poster size and pasted them to the dilapidated walls. The outcome is truly amazing and suits the images well, you can see from the stills from the YouTube video below the expressive outcome.

I would love to have my street art exhibited this way in the town/ place the images were taken – brilliant concept!

The completed set up for the exhibition

I have found this book has moved me quite a lot. It is truth, life, living, death and victims of drugs. The images haunt you, entice you to want to know more and give a story of lost hope. As the youngsters life story unfolds, the images go from happy go lucky, strong friendship groups with love and laughter to a desolate, argument, drug filled isolation. The impact on the group and individuals is shocking to see especially with the death of one couples baby.

But it shocks me in another way. It shocks me because the images are beautifully shot. They are reminiscent of old black and white teen films with handsome men and beautiful women. The contrast in the shots add to the feeling of Hollywood film stills helped along by the grain present in some of the shots.

It is an honest life story not a coffee table chat book but a life lesson, raw, beautiful and moving.

My hand written nots above contain more information.

22nd January 2020

Take a look at Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh – a collection of family portraits originally taken as visual research for a painting project.

It’s important to make a distinction here between what we know through experience and verbal language and what is specifically visual.

OCA Foundations in Photography Course Folder pg117

WOW! The cheapest I could find this to buy is £160 but it is OK it covers postage as well!! I don’t think I will be adding this to my collection anytime soon unless I sell my house, hahahaha!

image from Amazon.co.uk

Below is a YouTube flip through of the book, ‘Ray’s a Laugh’ by Richard Billingham:

from YouTube posted by Angus Combie, 19th September, 2012

This is an excellent interview: Richard Billingham: ‘I just hated growing up in that tower block’ on the Guardians website, theguardian.com. Billingham talks about his life, family, photographs and the possibility of turning it all into a feature film.

The opening paragraphs explain his beginnings:

Richard Billingham didn’t take a photograph until he was 19. That was 25 years ago, when he was living with his alcoholic father, Ray, in a flat on the seventh floor of a council block in Cradley Heath in the Black Country, west of Birmingham. He’d just begun an art foundation course at Bournville College and was working every night to pay his way stacking shelves at the local Kwik Save supermarket.

The first pictures he took, with a camera bought on credit after he persuaded the shop assistant he was a librarian, were of geese and ducks in the park, “just to see if they would come out”. He then trained his viewfinder 

Tim Adams theguardian.com 13.03.2016

The book ‘Ray’s a Laugh’ show cases Billingham’s photographs of life living with his mum and dad, Liz and Ray. The images are quite disturbing for me as they contain images of domestic violence taking place, the physical scars after such an event has taken place and even the abuse of a cat as Ray throws it across the room.

The above notes tell the whole story from Billingham as an 18-19yr old Foundation student at Bournville College of Art in the Midlands, right through to the film ‘Ray and Liz’ in 2019. It includes information about his home life, life now with his own family and how the book and the film came about.

Billingham discusses how he had always wanted to be a painter since he was 4-5yrs old and as a student he wanted to make paintings about the tragic situation of his family life, the squalor, the drinking, the fighting, home life in general with the ‘nik-nak and all’ approach.

When Liz, his mother left home for a period of time because of Ray’s drinking, Ray took to his room and did not want to come out. At this time Billingham had already began to paint Ray’s portrait with acrylics on cardboard that he brought home from his work at Quick Save. Ray didn’t want to keep sitting still for Billingham so he started to take photographs as source material for his painting but they accidentally became artworks in their own right.

Because the images are taken with a disposable camera the quality of the images and their colours help to reflect the families social class and this when coupled with the now outdated fashion, the brilliant nik-nak objects in the backgrounds, the mess and squalor, and the subjects themselves we are now left with a very intense family life drama. All these components can only add to the shock feeling you receive when viewing the images. They make you feel and question the life of the family and I wanted to know more.

I love these powerful images even though they leave me cold because of my experiences with domestic violence.

An amazing series of shots.

12th January 2020

Oh God, love his work!! Don’t know where to start!!

I do not usually cut and paste lots of quotes preferring to read and research and write a little on my findings. However, Beaton’s work is such an important part of the history of portraiture and quite vast in styles and themes that I have taken some excerpts from the National portrait Gallery, UK, past exhibition blurb. The extracts are below:

Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) is one of the most celebrated British Portrait Photographers of the Twentieth Century and is renowned for his images of elegance, glamour and style. His influence on portrait photography was profound and lives on today in the work of many contemporary photographers including David Bailey and Mario Testino…

Beaton acquired his first camera aged 11…

Beaton received the ultimate establishment seal of approval when he was commissioned by the Royal Family in 1939…

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Beaton devoted himself to his work as an official war photographer…

In 1956 Beaton started work on the costume designs for the first version of My Fair Lady for the American stage with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison and was to continue with the production in its various forms until his own Oscar-winning work for the film version starring Audrey Hepburn in 1964…

In the 1950s Beaton produced many of his most famous portraits of women including Audrey Hepburn, Maria Callas, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman. Male subjects included Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, John Betjeman, Sugar Ray Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin…

It is testament to Beaton’s flexibility and skill that he reinvented his photographic style for a new decade. In the 1960s he was revitalised by working with some of the era`s brightest cult figures such as David Hockney, Jean Shrimpton, Rudolf Nureyev and most importantly Mick Jagger. Up until a paralysing stroke in 1974,…

npg.org.uk National Portrait Gallery, London, UK
  • Baba Beaton: a symphony in silver 1925 © Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s London/Collection National Portrait Gallery
  • Marlene Dietrich 1935, Courtesy Sotheby’s
  • Marilyn Monroe 1956, Courtesy Sotheby’s
  • Twiggy at 8 Pelham Place 1967, Vogue © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd/Courtesy Sotheby’s

As you can see just from the four images above that are taken from The National portrait Gallery, London, UK, website, each image is distinctively different from the next. Beaton develops his style continuously and I find his work very appealing in many different ways. I have written a list of qualities that his work emulate, in no particular order these are:

  • Elegance
  • Sophistication
  • Beauty
  • Cinematic
  • Theatrical
  • Imaginative
  • Capturing personality
  • Creative
  • Artistic
  • Era defining

You could say he is a master of all trades, my eyes do not know where to fix themselves on the Google image search and that is saying something!

Due to the fact there are so many photographs and so many different styles of Beaton, I am going to search the internet for specific images that have caught my eye, which may or may, not come from one particular area or genre.

One website that has a various selection of Beaton’s work on one page is artnet.com. Here you are able to compare styles and genres more easily than surfing through various pages at once.

Below are some chosen images that have caught my eye:

The portraits above are of Edward James a friend of Beaton’s. For me the image is very clever, we have the sitter, a man’s physical body, but he is presented to us behind fabric which is delicate and fragile and which diffuses the harsh lighting. The two contrast with each other. James becomes semi-hidden, a mystery to be unveiled and the image invites us to look closer at James to try to decipher the portrait clearly without the fabric, to use our imaginations.

In one shot James looks straight at the viewer and the second he is looking out of the picture frame. The backlighting gives the viewer a sense of abstractness making the image of James a piece of artwork and the shadows as equal to the light in the composition.

In the image on the right James holds the frame so he becomes part of the prop and his hands become disjointed as they are not shrouded by the fabric but are a still life in their own right.

I really like the use of the frame, fabric and back lighting because it gives a different and artistic feel to the portrait. The frame idea is used so much these days that it has become a style in its own right, I am wondering if this is where the style originated?

The fabric used as a shroud is brilliant when juxtaposed with the backlighting. It creates very striking shadows in different tones and within different parts of the composition, for example on the front of the sitters face and body their is the darkest shadow and then their is a lighter one that seems to grow out of the sitter like a demon in a horror film.

This creative technique definitely is worth me looking into and using with my conceptual photography to do with hiding. I have read that he uses not only fabric within his creative works but other unusual backgrounds such as cellophane, silver foil and paper mâché which he made complex sets with which gave his images a sense of Surrealism.

Below – Titles of photographs above taken from The British Journal of photography website:

  • Merle Oberon wearing a pearl headdress designed by Cecil Beaton and costume by Oliver Messel, photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1934, courtesy of The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby’s copy
  • Portrait of the Soapsuds Group by Cecil Beaton, 1930 © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
  • Daisy Fellowes, wearing her commissioned ‘Collier Hindou’ or ‘Tutti Frutti’ Cartier necklace, photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1937. Courtesy of The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby’s copy

The above photographs are taken from The British Journal of Photography online article called ‘Cecil Beaton and more star at the Fashion and Textile Museum‘ by Diane Smyth, 2018.

It is an excellent article that show cases 15 photographs by Beaton and is well worth looking at for the images. It is written to promote a past exhibition: Night and Day: 1930s Fashion and Photographs and Cecil Beaton: Thirty from the 30s – Fashion, Film and Fantasy are on show at The Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF from 12 October 2018 – 20 January 2019 www.ftmlondon.org

I have chosen the above three images for different reasons, all three have different wow factors and are stunning.

The first image of Merle Oberon is a close up high contrast portrait. The composition of her hands and head coupled with the background drapes, head wear, rings and make up give that 1930’s film glamour feel. The sultry look of the actress combined with her beauty make you want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be OK. The drapes are made from different materials therefore producing different textures and patterns within the composition. The jewellery and head gear is big, powerful and glitzy providing a contrast to the darkness of the portrait with its darkness of make-up, hair and clothes.

The second portrait which is of the Soapsuds – Baba Beaton, Wanda Baille-Hamilton and Lady Bridget Poullett – has a theatrical feel to it. They have been surrounded by cellophane which at this time was a new material. Then we have the white synthetic smoothness of the balloons against the backdrop of the softness and beauty of the women. The balloons curves echo that of the women and they are draped in the cellophane which reminds me of a sexy neglige that covers a women’s form. I am thinking that the backdrop is tinfoil by the way the light bounces off it and it is crinkled.

Lastly, the third portrait is of Daisy Fellowes who was a French socialite, novelist and poet, Paris Editor of American Harper’s Bazaar, fashion icon, and an heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune. This was chosen because it is a two-thirds body shot and uses the arms and hands to add expression to the composition. The material and metal frame which is on the right of the figure is used to frame the body.

Below is an extra shot of Daisy. I chose this image because how Beaton has posed her body, her hands are very expressive and the way they have been placed with the head, frames the famous necklace which is central within the shot.

artier Daisy Fellowes wearing her Tutti Frutti necklace, from the Cartier Collection, 1936 © Cecil Beaton, Courtesy Sotheby’s, London
(image: fromthebygone.wordpress.com From the Bygone, Exploring Arts and Fashions from the Past Two centuries)

Below is an extract from the BBC4 programme, Seven Photographs that Changed Fashion. In this extract photographer Rankin recreates Cecil Beaton’s Hat Box.

Cecil Beaton (left) and Rankin’s Hat Box
(image http://ashleigh-chapman.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/rankin-seven-photographs-that-changed.html)

Cecil Beaton’s ‘Hat Box’ was created in 1934, using a 10 by 8, large format film camera. To watch how Ruskin recreates the image using Sophie Ellis Bexter as his model, I have included the video extract below. Below the video are quotes from it by Ray Harwood who was an assistant to Beaton.

It was quite a distinction to be photographed by Cecil Beaton. When he came in, it was his studio, his set, his shoot.

Behind him he has a whole studio of assistants, a whole darkroom of processors, tremendous back up.

Ray Harwood Assistant to Cecil Beaton

There are far too many works of Beaton that have caught my eye. They are not the style of portraits that I would consider taking because glamour photography of today hasn’t got that elegant touch, which I think is because everything is so sharp, colourful and dominant to the eye compared to the subtle glamour photography of yesterday year. However, Beaton’s works have elements within the composition that I could use for different types of work and they have given me ideas on how to present sculpture and installation work.

This has been another inspirational research task as the works differentiations from the street photography and conceptual portrait photography that Usually read about, so it has been a very pleasant research time for me.

10th January 2020

Look online at the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Note how the composition, framing and lighting is almost identical in each photograph and how this ‘gels’ the series together.

OCA Foundations in Photography Course Folder pg111

Bernhard “Bernd” Becher, and Hilla Becher, were German conceptual artists and photographers. They are best known for their extensive series of photographic images of industrial buildings and structures, which were often organised in grids format.

The pictures were made over a period nearly five decades – they started collaborating in 1959 and continued until Bernd Becher’s death in 2007 – using a large format camera in the neutral lighting of overcast weather. The structures are viewed straight on, so that verticals remain vertical; the large format camera helps here but the Bechers also worked from raised viewpoints so that we are looking at the structures as directly as possible.

The Tate website is an excellent information source on the Becher’s and their work. I have put different links below to different types of information which include Tate papers and essay, etc…

Who are Hilla and Bernd Becher? This link will take you to the Tate website which has an excellent introduction to the Becher’s and their work. Below are two of the images from this website:

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher Pitheads 1974 
Tate© Estate of Bernd Becher & Hilla Becher
Bernd and Hilla Becher
Gas-holders Germany, Belgium, France, Britain, USA, 1966–93
All photographs courtesy Bernd and Hilla Becher

These are links to other pages on Tate’s website connected with the Becher’s.

Tate Papers: The Photographic Comportment of Bernd and Hilla Becher


Cruel + Tender, artists, Bernd and Hilla BecherGerman, born 1931 and 1934

Tate Website

Essay: The long look



I am actually quite interested in how the Becher’s have taken their photographs and then presented them. Also, due to the nature of their images which is industrial buildings and structures, there is a very satisfying subject of geometry and line running through their work. The abstraction of the forms are enhanced by the black and white tones.

I am particularly fond of their water tower series of which there are many. They remind me of sci-fi films, tv series and comics from the 1950’s where there are dome like structures that either the human race in the future are living or other worldly homes of aliens.

The apartment building shot that opens most episodes of The Jetsons (1963)
(image from smithsonianmag.com)

If you Google Becher’s Water Towers you are taken to a page which in itself looks like a patchwork of geometric images which are presented this way as one piece of work. The type of images you will find presented within the search when Googling is below:

The square above which is constructed by images of their work put together in one space, is attractive in its own right. What makes them powerful and gel together as a series, as written in the OCA’s introduction, ‘Note how the composition, framing and lighting is almost identical in each photograph and how this ‘gels’ the series together’ is the reason that they can be presented as a whole together as well. I actually find the composition above very exciting and stimulating to my eye and it has given me ideas on how to present some of my work in the future. I find the text within the above composition adds to the overall feel of the work and this in itself gives me much scope to work with if I produce such a series of work in the future.

To accompany the above research I have managed to find a short documentary on YouTube called, ‘Bernd and Hilla Becher – Water Towers, 1972.’ This video can be found below with accompanying notes that I have made about the towers taken from the video and my own observations.


End of 1950’s they travelled the world taking photographs of industrial structures and buildings, for example, mine heads, blast furnaces, gas tanks and water towers.

Image captured from the above video – Water Towers

The Bechers called them objects to be admired and called them ‘anonymous sculptures,’ They took their photographs in a precise way so that each image was concise with the next and they called these ‘families of objects.’

They would use raised vantage points and took each photograph at the same distance so that people could get a sense of scale and understand how big they actually were. The breacher’s would also use large format cameras and long exposures so that they gained sharp, detailed and crisp images.

They displayed their images in grids and rows and would end up with series of images that were like catalogues of structures. Presenting the images in this format allowed the viewer to compare similarities and differences in the structures . However, water towers are not built anymore and many of the ones that appear within their work have been pulled down and therefore the Bechers have documented their existence.

Below are a couple of examples of their work.

  • Image 1 left: View of blast furnace head A of Metallhüttenwerk industrial plant, Lübeck-Herrenwyk, Germany. 1983 (image from cca.qc.ca Canadian Centre for Architecture)
  • Image 2 right: Blast Furnaces 1980-1988 (image from c4gallery.com C4 contemporary art)
  • Image 1 left: Cooling Tower, Germany (image from Pinterest)
  • Image 2 right: Cooling Towers Wood-Steel, 1959-77 (image from imageobjecttext.com IMAGEOBJECTTEXT Ann Jones – Art and Writing)

The information below includes details from an interview with Hilla Becher which I accessed on YouTube, the interview is from: San Francisco Museum of modern Art. The video can also be found below.

Using large format cameras – which is how Hilla was taught and had began her photography career with – the end images were presented in ‘typology’ form which was Hilla’s idea as she was collecting book illustrations that had to do with biology and typologies. With the cooling towers they had noticed a construction pattern which was repeated time and time again with very little differences – statice engineering and architecture. The images were like making a movie/ flip book. The best photo typologies, the best structures were those that were symmetrical.

Preferred to shoot in soft light, if the light was too harsh they would wait for cloud or wait for winter or dawn. These conditions meant that the construction was separated from the sky. This technique is very similar to that of Karl Blossfeldt who we studied for this course, the link is here. He put white card behind his subjects so that they too would stand out from any background.

I absolutely love the grid format with their subject matter due to the fact these purposely built industrial constructions become sculpture of geometric shapes and lines.

Water Towers (image from broad.org The Broad)

The Bechers completed over two hundred comprehensive documentary collections, each ranging from fifty to one hundred images – amazing!

09th December 2019

Happy to say I have bought a signed edition of Parr’s The Last Resort: Introduced by Gerry Badger (2018).United Kingdom, Dewi Lewis Publishing

When Martin Parr’s The Last Resort was first published and exhibited in 1986 it divided both critics and audiences alike. Some saw it as the ‘finest achievement to date’ of colour photography in Britain whilst others viewed it as ‘an aberration’. With the benefit of hindsight there is little doubt that it transformed documentary photography in Britain and placed Parr amongst the world’s leading photographers. The book is now recognized as a ‘classic’ and is highly sought by collectors worldwide. Whilst this new edition keeps the same images and sequence as the original, a new text has been commissioned from Gerry Badger.

Steering a perilous course between objectivity and voyeurism, Parr viewed the decaying holiday resort of New Brighton and its holidaymakers in a way that was new, unique and deeply disturbing. And he did so in colour, something which at the time was seen as revolutionary for documentary work. For some his camera seemed cold and cruel as it followed the working classes desperately pursuing their holiday dreams surrounded by dereliction and decay and wading through the apparently endless detritus of a pollution-ridden consumer society. Others felt it showed an affectionate, humorous and humanistic response from Parr. However it was viewed, it was undoubtedly a sharp, bitter satire of the Britain of the Thatcher years.

Magnum Photos Shop

This is a hard back book with very good quality paper and matching high standard printing. There are 41 images in total and they are mostly presented individually on the right side of a double page with two pairing of images which are printed on both pages of the opening spread. Each pairing of images have a relationship, the image below shows that both the boy and the entertainer have their arms open wide. The likeness is small and I am wondering if these double page spreads were included to break up the books single page composition.

pgs 62-63

The opening introduction by Gerry Badger talks about Martin Parr’s work and how it has impacted on photography. He gives us an insight into Parr’s working method, life and the making of this series.

The images flow effortlessly showing the highs and lows connected with the decaying, rubbish stricken New Brighton seaside resort. The images evoke mixed feelings and thoughts from the viewer, stirring up sadness, humour and happiness but all the while, for me, a feeling of disgust. Not for the inhabitants of the photographs but their environmental surroundings, the dirt and grime and the pollution in the seas and on the streets which includes the buildings. For me, I wouldn’t have been able to frequent this place because of my fear of such a germ ridden and filthy environment, even looking at the photographs has my stomach churning and I keep looking around each image addictively, cringing as I do so. However, would I have thought differently back in the 80’s? These people do not seem to mind, they walk past, sit and lay in these conditions, paddling amongst the discarded waste.

What fascinates me though is the pure amount of people frequenting the resort. I now live in Lowestoft which is the most easterly town in the UK. We have award winning beaches and the town, although having many empty shops, is very clean but also very empty. There isn’t a huge influx of people even in the holiday season in fact the majority of people you will be able to see are those that live here.


A wonderful collection of images documenting the lost time of the Thatcher era. Reading reviews from the internet, this book, this series of pear’s photographs are either loved or hated. For me it is love, love for the characters within, love for the (now) historic perspective and the love of Martin Parr’s thought provoking, colour, flash, street photography. Superb!

27th November 2019

Youtube: The Art of Photography

For the exercise 3.3 Sequence, I have researched further and found this YouTube video which has some good basic information in it. The host also covers Duane Michals in depth, so I have taken detailed notes from the video which can be read below, some extracts I have added to.


Photo sequence – a group of photographs that work together – they end up equalling a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Concept, illustration or a picture that doesn’t exist, it is suggesting that.

Eadward Muybridge in the 1870’s predates motion picture. He used complex systems of multiple cameras which would be tripped in sequence and he would end up with motion studies. People were not use to seeing photographs lined up like this and hadn’t experienced motion interpreted in this way.

Photography’s Eccentric Genius: Eadweard Muybridge. thedailybeast.com Photo: Courtesy Eadweard Muybridge via Sotheby’s Online. The link takes you to a very good article on Muybridge.

In the 1960’s a new conceptual phase began and Duane Michals is one of the photographers within this specific phase. He has thinking and concept behind the images.

Techniques he uses: Double exposure, slow shutter speeds allowing certain things to abstract in the image. He often incorporates his own handwriting into things.

Themes: Mortality, spirits, after-life, psychological undertones.

He is well known for image sequences that are more like story boarding – they tell a story. They are a sequence of images that unfold an event which usually is very simple.

Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty

In the following text Duane Michals talks about the above photographic sequence, ‘Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty.’

Duane Michals’ best photograph: French Vogue does quantum physics

‘I bought the mirror in Bath. It was the perfect way to illustrate Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle’

One day in 1999, French Vogue called me up to see if I could illustrate a feature on quantum physics for a special science issue of the magazine. I’ve always been interested in physics and I like trying to photograph things that seem un-photographable – rather than looking at reality, I aim to get deep inside it and explore. So I said yes.

When I was at school in Pennsylvania in the 1940s, our science teacher Mr Dunlap taught us that atoms had electrons, neutrons and protons, and that was pretty much it. But after the second world war, with the development of accelerators, much smaller particles were discovered: muons, quarks, gluons, bosons and others.

Then Werner Heisenberg, a quantum pioneer, said you cannot predict with any certainty the position or velocity of a particle – they interact in total chaos. That was revolutionary and it prompted Einstein to say he could not believe God would play dice with the universe. The notion that the fundamental expression of energy is something chaotic pulled the carpet from under a lot of thinking. How could anyone not be curious about that?

I bought the convex mirror in an antique store in Bath, on a visit to the Royal Photographic Society. I was so excited by its distortions, I brought it back to America. People on the flight must have thought I was the vainest person in the world – carrying a big mirror with me in the cabin.

I thought I could illustrate Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principlewith the mirror, which transforms everything in front of it. When my model moved it even slightly, her image changed completely. It was strange, liquid-like and very exciting. It seemed as if I was looking at her energy evolving and vibrating right in front of my eyes. Of course, we can’t see energy changing state at this level, but to see her distort into all these faces was still marvellous.

I made a series of shots and called them Dr Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty. In the pictures, the models lips get bigger, her eye stretches and – in the last image, when I made her look at the camera – her cheek appeared in the mirror and there was no face at all. It was just a blank slate. That seemed the perfect way to end it – like pure white energy.

theguardian.com Interview by Karin Andreasson 2015

It is a series of images that show a women looking into a mirror – realism – duality – psychological undertone. It is not a time based study so it could be presented out of order.

Within this series, Duane is seen sitting on the right of the images.

Self-portrait, having tea with a friend. The story progresses from laughing to boredom to his friend falling asleep and finally in the last image they have left the picture frame, it is empty but their ‘set,’ cups etc…. It is a simple concept that has a beginning, middle and end. It is time based therefore the images have to be shown in order.

Chance Meeting, Duane Michals. Image from meero.com

Very simple, read from left to right, top to bottom row. You see how two gentlemen walk down the alley and there is a point in the middle where they are both together and one looks at the other, in recognition? and in the last frame the other gentleman looks back as though he has just remembered the other fellow? So you get a circle of the encounter.

What is being communicated in this set of images – What was the point of this encounter? So again it has a psychological undertone but it is up to the viewer to decide.

In this sequence time exists in a storyboard type format.

Image from Stony Brook University website

In the above sequence, ‘Things are Queer,’ you have to find your own relationship within the images because it is not a time based sequence but surrealistic.

Top left image: a bathroom scene with a picture above the sink that you cannot make out the content of.

Second image: we realise there are legs that are out of scale, out of proportion with its surroundings.

In the third image: we get to see the man in the bathroom.

Middle row left: we realise it is a picture in a book.

Fifth image: we see somebody is reading the book.

In the sixth image: The gentleman is moving down the hall.

In the bottom left image: There is a picture on the wall which we can see the details of which we find is actually image number six of the gentleman walking down the hall.

Eighth image: We get a reminder that it is the picture above the sink in the first image.

Ninth image: Finally we get the scene again from image 1.

This sequence does not suggest time, there is no traditional beginning, middle, end but we are seeing the surrealistic interpretation of what is the scene which is all inside of itself.

It is a complexed image sequence which is not time based but it is scene based.

In the time based sequences you get to see the set (constant background environment) it does not change. The sequence deals with how the actors within that set move within the scene and that is how we get the perception of time.

In the last example the set changes so it is two sets that live inside one another which creates the surrealistic quality and the loop.

If you are going to create a storyboard sequence there are two things to consider:

(A) The relationships of the images to one another eg do they have to be in a particular order, can they be taken out of order?

Another example would be Duane’s portrait of Andy Warhol which is four images of different parts of Warhols head, seen below.

Andy Warhol. Screen shot from Youtube, The Art of Photography (above)

This sequence works because (1) FAMILIARITY with the subject – most of us know who Andy Warhol is and (2) we are seeing the parts which equal greater than the sum, they give you an image of Warhol. If these images were isolated you will not know what the whole image is. It relies on the relationship of the images to one another.

(B) You have to consider time within sequence work, it either exists or it doesn’t exist, they are treated very differently.

In sequence work it is usually between four and nine images that work together. They work better generally this way because the layout works with non-prime numbers 4, 6, 8, 9 etc…

Assemble as a set.

This link will take you to another post that discusses sequencing and with it Muybridge, Michals, Arnatt, Hilliard and Ruscha.

21st November 2019

Images in sequence

What defines a sequence, as opposed to a series, is the connectivity of the images in time or concept…

… Can you identify how each of these artists is using sequence differently? look for inspiration.

OCA Foundations in Photography Course Folder pg 102

I am looking forward to researching this exercise and looking at different ways that various photographers have used sequence within their images.

I have found that people often interchange the terms sequence and series photography. However these are two distinct types of photography. Sequence photography captures a subject while it is moving in such a way that to the viewer it conveys motion in a fixed image. Series photography however is a set of images on the same theme which are also edited in the same style.

Below in the grid is an example of each of the photographers that I am researching for this exercise. Top left: Eadweard Muybridge, Top right: John Hilliard and Ed Rushca, Bottom left: Keith Arnett, Bottom right: Duane Michals.

Eadweard Muybridge

Father of Motion Pictures

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aG5erS2GNG0

Photograph bottom left, Eadward Muybridge’s Camera Shed “(Original Caption) 5/20/1929- Stanford Muybridge Memorial Exhibit- Photo shows long shed which contained 24 cameras taking first motion picture by Eadward J. Muybridge in 1878 of trotting horse and sulky.” Getty Images

Photograph bottom right, “Muybridge customised electro-shutters, c1880. UNITED KINGDOM – DECEMBER 02: The front of the electro-shutters used by Muybridge in his experiments. Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) was the first photographer to carry out the analysis of movement by sequence photography, an important stage in the invention of cinematography. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Bottom Photograph, shows Muybridge’s early work where the cameras ran alongside the horse. The cameras were situated as the photograph on the left shows us, in one long line.

Study of Horse, Muybridge. Getty Images
Muybridge race horse animated.gif

By Eadweard Muybridge – The sequence is set to motion using these frames, originally taken from Eadweard Muybridge’s Human and Animal Locomotion series, (plate 626, thoroughbred bay mare “Annie G.” galloping) published 1887 by the University of Pennsylvania, Public Domain, Link

In the photograph below, Muybridge placed cameras at the side and in the front of the subject so that two viewpoints were photographed.

Head Spring
circa 1884: ‘Head-Spring,’ a side view and front view stop-action series of photographs of a man performing a headspring, Muybridge. George Eastman Museum/Getty Images

The photograph below, shows us how Muybridge began to shoot his subjects from the side, front and back perspectives.

Woman jumping over barrier, 1887. sfmomo.org

Muybridge’s work is very similar to the stop motion technique so his work is an early form of animation. His sequence images work on taking six to twelve individual images of a moving subject in quick succession one after another, therefore showing the movement of a subject within a small time frame.

21st Novemeber 2019

Duane Michals

Duane Michals is an American photographer who creates narratives within a series of images and is not only known for this work but his photographic multiple exposures and text that accompany his images which give his work another dimension.

Michals began his photographic career when visiting Russia when he borrowed a camera from a friend and began to shoot portraits. Following on from this start he has shot in various genres from portraits, street photography connected with deserted sites within New York and onto the more structured photographic works which were narrative based multi frame compositions. He has written, painted and drawn on photographs as well as manipulated them, he does not settle on one specific style but continuously pushes his artistic boundaries.

Duane Michals, Chance Meeting, 1970 

Michal’s narrative sequences, for which he is widely known take on cinema’s frame-by-frame format and rely on the sequencing of multiple images to tell a story. In the above work, ‘Chance Meeting,’ the background stays static but the characters within the narrative change position within the frame. It is us, the viewer who has to decipher the story within the sequence. However we do know the title and the philosophical ideas that he works within – death, gender, sexuality etc… so we are pointed to a specific direction for us to unravel the hidden content. The viewer will need to pair these clues with those within the images, for example, the gender of the characters, their age, clothes that they are wearing, body language, poses and the environment they are within.

Due to the viewers individuality, we are still able to come up with slightly different outcomes largely due to the fact our life experiences are different from each other and these influences will direct us differently.

25th November 2019

Keith Arnatt Self Burial (1969)

Arnatt is a conceptual British artist and photographer who has influenced the likes of Martin Parr.

Arnatt was fascinated with works of art that are created in the natural landscape but leave no trace of their presence behind. ‘The continual reference to the disappearance of the art object suggested to me the eventual disappearance of the artist himself’, he wrote. This sequence of photographs was broadcast on German television in October 1969. One photo was shown each day, for about two seconds, sometimes interrupting whatever programme was being shown at peak viewing time. They were neither announced nor explained – viewers had to make what sense of them they could.

Gallery label, April 2009


Self-burial, Keith Arnatt 1969

Below are the stills for the above TV video. However please note the video plays the sequence backwards from an empty picture image to the full man, I am not sure why but I thought it intriguing at least to see the images moving.

Self-Burial (Television Interference Project) 1969, Keith Arnatt

Television Interference Project: Self-Burial was shown on German television in October 1969. Each image appeared for two seconds on consecutive days which left viewers intrigued as to what was happening and many thought they were watching photographs of a suicide.

I find this concept quite cool, especially that the television station supported this artistic project. It also reminded me of The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells and the reported event of 1938 when it was broadcasted over the radio and people were hearing the story and believed that there was really a martian attack happening.

Self-Burial depicts Arnatt in a sequence of nine photographs, where he gradually sinks and then disappears into the ground. When seeing them in grid format I am reminded of the stop motion technique again. In this sequence of photographs the background is static and the only movement is Arnatt’s body which is slowly disappearing. The viewer does not have to decipher any hidden messages although they can question, ‘Why?’ is Arnatt performing this act.

Photograph: Courtesy Sprüth Magers/© Keith Arnatt Estate. Guardian.com

John Hilliard and Ed Rushca’s Every building on Sunset Strip 1966

Video taking the viewer page by page through the work, ‘ Every building on Sunset Strip.’
Hilliard and Rushca, Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Reed College Art Department

The above photograph from the Reed college Department Website (link above) shows how the 54 pages, 25 foot length book is folded in an accordion style.

Rushca photographed these images while driving up and then down both sides of the street in his pick-up truck with his camera mounted on the back of it. The images show photographic views of the mile and a half section of Sunset Street and they are collaged together and labelled with their building number.

Maquette for Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966, Ed Ruscha, gelatin silver prints and labels on board with annotations. The Getty Research Institute

Rushca’s work (Every building on the Sunset Strip) is a sequence that records a journey. It is very similar to how google can view roads and buildings and you can actually walk up and down them. Although this sequence shows us a journey in a specific place and during a specific time I am wondering if it comes under the heading of ‘documentary,’ because it is documenting that specific period which becomes history.

The documentary aspect would be the fact that he has recorded buildings, cars and signs etc… of a specific era, yet, it becomes conceptual because of the way that he has presented the images in a fold out book which the viewer can travel from left to right or right to left as though taking the journey themselves, or indeed stopping and observing details and moving around the strip as they wish.

I actually love the book ideas that we are learning about, I have used them for my fine art practices but I have never presented my photographs in such a way. Something I will definitely look into.

This link takes you to further research on sequences and looks in depth at Duane Michals images.