Tuesday, 11 October 2016

And Finally.....

....wanders in...blows off dust n cobwebs...Hellooooo

Helllooooooo Hellllooooooo the echoes resound around the vacant hallway....

new blog and adventure eventually started over here......

come follow :o)

Jan's Foray into Documentary

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Awaiting Formal Assessment - Last Post

Note for readers

If you are on this page this will be my last post before assessment. Any exhibitions visited or observations recently made will be saved for another time.

Thank you for following my journey thus far, as well as helping me gather my thoughts and present my learning I hope that this blog has been informative for those observing my ramblings, even if on what NOT to do!

Thank you to those who took time to comment either on the blog directly, through flickr or via email. Your feedback, peer assessments and morale boosters were gratefully received, and very helpful. It was a struggle in places but I got here in the end and hopefully after a short break (stupidly I am sitting my GCSE Maths exam in June) I shall decide what to do next.

Thank you to both tutors who got me through PwDP and those tutors who organised and led many of the useful study visits, which I loved.

Going forward with my studies I recognise that I need to continue learning about flash and artificial light (got the book need to read it and carry out some of the exercises) print more of my work and explore commercial printing further. I shall continue looking at other practitioners and genres, read more of the theory/essays that are out there.

For me learning is best through VAK experiences, watching videos, going to exhibitions, physically flicking through, and being able to annotate books is really helpful. There is no comparison to seeing work in real life, how it is presented and the clarity of the prints. Seeing a whole body of work tells a much better narrative than a snapshot and is presented in the way that it should be viewed in order to gain maximum impact. I feel I have gained from attending several artists talk, even if I didn't agree with everything they said. Getting hands on practice or watching people demonstrate techniques, either with the camera or post-processing is better than reading an over technical tome. Thank you YouTube!

Working independently and discovering through error is par for the course but I love the human interaction with my fellow students. Study days are invaluable to not only swap ideas but to know others are out there. Looking at other students work inspires me, makes me realise the standard I should be aiming for, how I can challenge myself and introduces me to other practitioners/approaches I may not otherwise have considered. Peer critique assists with confirming I am on the right path or helps me onto the right path. Thank you again to those who give me feedback and ideas.

Thinking about doing documentary next I shall look closely at the different ways this genre can be approached. Hopefully know myself as a photographer a little more.

Note for Assessors

Welcome to my online Blog. On the right-hand side there are pages which contain links to all the original assignments, feedback and reworkings, tutor reports, inspirational books/resources and exhibitions visited.

Relevant labels are also to be found to the right, should you wish clarification on thought processes and research undertaken.

A web slideshow of images only can be found HERE

Thank you for looking.



Thursday, 29 May 2014

PWDP Part Six - preparing for assessment

Project Revise and rework

Exercise:Review your work

Having confirmed that I am going to have my work formally assessed the final task was reviewing and reworking previous assignments and preparing for assessment. Those of you following my blog know that where necessary I have overhauled and reworked troublesome assignments! So much so I don't really want to look at them anymore :oP Hopefully I have responded to all feedback given and reflected about the processes on this blog and in my learning log.

So just how am I going to put together my assessment portfolio?

For assessment I need to send the reworked versions of all five assignments together with the original Assignments Two-Five. Glad about that as Assignment One original feedback was pretty pants! My tutor reports and learning log (s) also need to be included. Previously I had to send all tutor correspondence but this module doesn't seem to ask for that. However as some of my alterations and learning came about through this correspondence I shall also include a folder which can be looked at or disregarded as the assessors see fit. Link to my Blog will be sent as well as my learning logs, sample prints from each assignment, mock-up book, folders with documentation to support the assignments, flash drive with all assignment jpegs and anything else I think needs to be sent as a digital file.

A pre-assessment review

I spoke to my tutor for a while to clarify some points, we discussed the importance of labelling everything, packaging it well, inclusion of sample prints, importance of communication, anything in my learning log should be annotated as to why it was included, what did I like, how did it influence me? What did I learn from it? Ensure labels were on Blog posts, that my Blog was easy to navigate etc. I asked Keith if he would review my reworked assignment one seeing as it was a completely different project from the first rather than a tweaking to feedback, He kindly agreed and feedback has been added to the relevant blog posts and tutor feedback page, but in summary I was a happy bunny. Thank you Keith :o)

That all done and sorted, hopefully, the time has come (The Walrus said) to print things out, label it up, post it off and suffer until the results come out.....


  • Calibrate monitor

  • Process images - size, sharpen
  • Soft proof images


handy links :o)

  • Open Photoshop
  • Edit>colour settings

  • Set to Adobe RGB (1998)
  • Select File>Print
  • Select your printer from the Printer List 

  • Select Photoshop Manages Colours
  • Assign ICC/ paper and print quality
  • Rendering Intent select Relative Colorimetric
  • Select the Black Point Compensation check box

  • Turn off High Speed and Edge Smoothing
  • Select ICM and OFF (no colour management) click OK
  • Print
Sounds quite simple! However in practice it doesn't always run as smoothly or as quickly as you anticipate. Some of my prints I had no issue with at all. I accept that what you see on screen will not be precisely what comes out but the majority of mine did. Soft proofing also seemed different from image to image. Some the colours/density did alter, other changed totally. I noticed this particularly with the Abstract Bokeh and the Nigella, even though I compensated for this, both were quite flat, the images were dark and the colours a bit off. Luckily I was only printing these on A4 so experimented with brightness/vibrance and printed a few off until they were more representative. The blue especially in the Nigella was profoundly purple, even now it isn't spot on colour wise but is the best I can do with my set up and printing budget :o/

The other issue I had was printing full bleed/ borderless. My assignment 3, a photographic commission -  the magazine spread - was designed to be printed full bleed but when printing some of the spread was outside of the printing area, I expected this to occur slightly, and although I printed a few draft versions I could not get the sizing right. Ordinarily I guess it would not have been as noticeable if a few mm were off at the edge but on the third spread I had 3 square photographs next to each other and it was very obvious that the end one was badly cropped. I eventually had to settle for printing with a border. A slight compromise but I have at least learnt that either my printer will not satisfactorily produce full bleed or I need to find out how to do it. Most obvious choice would appear to be buying larger paper, for example A3 Plus, and trim. (awaiting A3 Plus paper to arrive, if it comes in time I shall re-print and trim. Should I wish to print full bleed at any time in the future I'd probably approach a commercial printer.


I bought some larger A3 Plus paper and trimmed to size. The bonus is that you can see how it was designed to look, the downside is that in trimming the excess there isn't a border to hold for viewing, as in leaving one meant it would not fit into my Seawhite box. If I had thought about this in advance I could have bought an A3 plus archival box, which would have allowed for crop marks/ cutting lines to be left in and provide a border.

Below are 3 incarnations of the prints, the first set was a draft on ordinary paper, just to check the layout worked, and before I altered all  the final images, the middle set were prints on A3 paper, with a small white margin, and the final set on A3 plus and trimmed.

Investigating other avenues to present work came across Moo http://uk.moo.com/ and I am thinking about printing some postcards if I can understand how to use the website ;oD

Moo guidelines

If you are uploading photography or non-vector artwork (e.g. JPEGs), please make sure they are no less than 96dpi (ideally at 300dpi). If your designs are a mix of photography and design, make sure the embedded photographs used are above the recommended pixel sizes.

Remember large, high-quality JPEGs will produce the best results for photography. See the table below with the minimum and recommended pixel dimensions, for each product.
ProductMinimum (96dpi)Recommended (300dpi)
MiniCards280 x 121 pixels874 x 378 pixels
Business Cards333 x 223 pixels1039 x 697 pixels
Postcards and Greeting Cards575 x 412 pixels1795 x 1287 pixels
StickerBooks and Mini Labels138 x 138 pixels283 x 283 pixels
Round Stickers and Labels151 x 151 pixels472 x 472 pixels
Rectangular Stickers and Labels, Mailing Labels325 x 215 pixels1016 x 673 pixels
A4 Letterheads809 x 1138 pixels2528 x 3555 pixels

MOO’s printers use a 4 colour ink process (CMYK). Please be aware that screen colours (RGB) may appear duller or lacking in contrast when printed.

Always preview your work in CMYK where possible.

We use public ICC profiles, so if you preview and save your files the 'Coated FOGRA39' colourspace, they will not be altered by our back end processes.

Presentation Box

Seawhite A3 archival presentation box.

Folders of Work/Prints/Learning Logs/Extras

So here it all is after all those hours of work....if I haven't done it now only a few days to tweak before I need to parcel it up and post!


I ordered some postcards from Moo

Several points to make. Their service is fantastic. Helpful on the phone when I wasn't sure what I was doing and very prompt delivery. The standard of card and finish is excellent. As they point out colours are not always 100% accurate but as a first attempt at this I was fairly pleased with the results. What would I alter? The most obvious thing I would do is definitely sharpen the images more prior to uploading. What looked fine when I previewed them has actually come out on the soft side. I'd also lighten them just a tad and make the colours more punchy. Having said that I was really pleased to hold something physically in my hand that I had made....does that sound daft?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Assignment One Your Own Neighbourhood Reworked


Apart from haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa I got here!

I think this has been one of the hardest assignments in the end. Probably say that about each one, but this I have struggled with. Was it due to the brief being as loose as it was? Who knows. Contemplating the issue, part of the problem could be that I don't really connect to where I live. Originally from Surrey I moved to Kent when I married, worked and commuted for a lot of the early years and didn't get imbued with the area, kids came along so I got to know the parks, the schools, the swimming pool. Nothing that I became deeply emotionally attached to and I do think my images are better when there is a personal connection.

Feedback from my original submission was honest, even though I think in some areas too blunt, however no-one likes being told their work isn't up to scratch so maybe it wasn't... The course was brand new when I came to it, neither my tutor nor I had seen it before, the version my tutor was sent was slightly more up to date than the version I had, which also caused confusion. Mine said I could send prints, his said nothing about this, so when I sent prints he disregarded them. "Progressing with the digital side was the important factor" so nothing was to be printed out at all...... I was asked to send original unedited files, I did and was asked why had I sent images with dust spots on, such a basic beginners error? But surely that was sending original unedited unmanipulated files? <scratches head> Added to this I sent a disc with descriptive documentation on, possibly not as in-depth as they should have been but my tutor said it was not in the package received. It never turned up in my house so who knows where that went, but something else mentioned that I had failed to do which I am 100% sure I did.<shrugs>

Some of my comments were "bland and generic" which looking back I think they were and hopefully now I expand upon each decision made, why they were made and which practitioner informed my choices and why. During the period of time I had to shoot we had dull overcast weather, day in day out, being at work I was also limited to set times, therefore the quality of light suffered, I mentioned this briefly but not in enough depth and was told therefore all I had was "a series of poor photos" oddly the final summary said it was a "reasonable assignment" which seemed at odds with the amount of negative sounding constructive criticism. Re-working was put on hold due to consistently poor weather and I pushed on with the other assignments, then my mother fell ill. Her subsequent diagnosis of bowel cancer, operation, decline and eventual death impacted on completing the entire course and my attitude to what was important in life. Now everything else is eventually completed and gearing up for July assessment the demon had to be faced, deciding I hated everything about the original I scrapped it and started again!

My Own Neighbourhood - Welling, Kent

A bit of background information...

Welling - often thought to be corruption of 'Well end', so called after the safe arrival there having passed the dreaded Shooters Hill (a dirt track running through ancient woodland and full of highwaymen) but more likely from Old English "Wella" or "Welwyn" meaning the place of a well or spring - is in the London Borough of Bexley.

It originally formed part of the ancient manor of East Wickham mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086). East Wickham was included as part of the return for Plumstead. Much of the history of this area is tied up with the manor of Danson, now shrunk to Danson Park which still incorporates Danson House, recently refurbished by English Heritage.

Formerly known as the Dover Road the A2 is a major road in southern England, connecting London with the English Channel port of Dover in Kent. This route has always been of importance as a connection between the British capital of London and sea trade routes to Continental Europe. Starting at Borough in Central London, at this point is named Great Dover Street, the A2 heads along Old Kent Road towards New Cross continuing east through Deptford and Blackheath until it arrives at Shooter's Hill. A modern dual carriageway by-passes the towns now, but the original road continues to run in a straight line, changing it's name to Bellegrove Road, Welling High Street, Crook Log, Bexleyheath Broadway and finally Watling Street.The growth of the area was linked to Watling Street, the Roman road from London to Dover, and the trade that could be had from the travellers who used it. Although some of it now forms part of the modern A2 most has been replaced by dual carriageway.

Nowadays Welling is predominantly a residential suburb, with vast areas of 1930's housing but Bexley is one of the greenest boroughs in London. Oxleas Wood (which is mainly in Greenwich but crosses into Bexley) is one of the few remaining areas of ancient deciduous forest in southeast London. Some parts date back over 8,000 years to the last Ice Age. It is part of a larger continuous area of woodland and parkland on the south side of Shooter's Hill. In the early 1990's there was threat to this woodland from the East London River crossing when there was a proposal to destroy parts of it to make way for approach roads, campaigns to prevent this were successful. This river crossing, had it been built, would have caused much heavier traffic to flow through my immediate vicinity.

Oxleas Threat

Bearing all of this is mind I had to decide what to photograph, what did I want to show and how to produce a small portfolio that expressed the character of this neighbourhood whilst showing human presence, directly or implicitly?



Some of the failures with my original set were not showing contrast, not using different perspectives, or shooting at different times of day, not experimenting with light, movement...the list is quite long...therefore I wanted to address as many of these issues as possible.

It has become apparent to me that when shooting I favour landscape orientation over portrait. This is no doubt due to the fact that we humans have binocular vision - in which both eyes are used together giving a wider field of view and depth perception. Apparently humans have a maximum horizontal field of view of approximately 190 degrees with two eyes. The first hurdle to overcome was to shoot more portrait. This set me thinking along the lines of contrasting images, some portrait some landscape, then contrast in general. I mind-mapped some of the areas and items of interest within Welling and the contrasts within photography: seasons, light/dark, suburbs/green spaces, portrait/landscape, straight/abstract, sharp images/motion blur, wide angle/close up, high/low perspectives, tranquil/busy and negative space/positive space. This mind-map can be found in my learning log.

Referencing Paul Graham as an influence previously, due to his vast body of work and the variation of his imagery, I chose to have another, closer look. Paul Graham is a photographer who uses contrasts in his work. In American Night he places images which are bright, bold, tack sharp and colourful alongside highly over exposed images. In A Shimmer of Possibilities he shows a man industriously mowing the lawn, a large green expanse, interspersed with images of shelves stacked with food; the images are of different sizes. Paintings has close up shots of graffitied walls. A1- The Great North Road seems to cover everything! Portraits of people, landscape shots, interiors and exteriors of buildings, taken day and night. Some of the shots were a mix of garish colours whilst others were muted and monotone. it has been compared to "the great literary journeys to discover Britain, made by J.B. Priestley and George Orwell and ultimately Celia Fiennes." He in turn drew inspiration from Robert Frank, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore whose work in colour was revolutionary at that time. I hoped to make the inclusion of colour part of the factor within my portfolio, either linking images visually, as a contrast or to suggest a certain mood. Graham examined the social landscape and this was my intention.


During the research into Welling and my mind-mapping, ideas began to form and link to Graham's A1 project. Just as the A1 became a crucial industrial link between central London and Edinburgh, the A2 was an important link from London to Dover - the shops in Welling sprang up along the High Street which led onto Shooter's Hill and beyond. I wondered if I could challenge myself to complete the project within a 4 mile straight road, from Danson Park to Shooters Hill? I also wanted to see if I could convey a sense of place which is made significant by the people who dwell in it by showing traces of them rather than their actual presence.

Shooting the Ideas

Pre-shoot check list

3 camera batteries fully charged,
Memory card in camera plus spares formatted and packed in bag
Canon 400D Camera, sensor clear from dust
Lens clean and free from dust/grease spots
Lens selection adequate for needs - final choice was for my  EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. It has a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range and a 3-stop Image Stabilizer, ideal for a good performance and framing flexibility in low light conditions.
Lens Hood
Tripod/Monopod for long exposure night shooting
Shutter release cable
Shot list
Pen and paper

With the idea of one straight road and contrasts in my head I ventured out, camera in hand shooting different locations as I went, I was looking for contrasting ideas, anything that would spark my creativity. Hopefully! I photographed on and off over a very long period of time, starting, stopping, as I reworked other assignments or life took over, sons GCSE's, then AS's, daughter's degree, settling my mum's estate, her will was contested...honestly it would fill a book!


Although quite a few of the shoots were exploratory I still followed the initial processing workflow.

Calibrate monitor with Spyder3 calibration tool and software
Upload with Adobe Bridge - apply metadata template
Discard obvious rejects
Name/Date images
Archive to hard-drive and portable disc drive
Choose first and second selects using filtering

Danson Park Summer 2013
Danson Park Autumn 2013
Although not in Welling I took a day trip into London and experimented with reflections and abstract shots as part of the GCSE art group's theme of Order and Disorder.

Exploring Ideas Winter 2014
Developing Ideas
Rainy Day Exploration
Further Explorations
High Street and view of the City at dusk
Some new ideas others revisited
More ideas

The above are just a snapshot of some of the explorations undertaken. I compared houses, footpaths, streets, ways of remembering people, shops, different light, times of day, seasons, abstracts, ways people used the local facilities, you name it I think I did it...then enough was enough! The final decision had to be made.

As the shoots progressed I realized although it probably was possible to complete my initial challenge of remaining along the same route, some images didn't quite fit this criteria, even if the majority did. Those that didn't however, do fall within the same small area, with just a little deviation. Some shots I was happy with but struggled to find a successful comparison. Others although a comparison, had no real impact - a house is a house, a park bench is a park bench, unless you can attach some emotional meaning or extra narrative to it. Take for example Ethronvi Road, one of my test shots. The builder of the then new estate, named the road after his three children, Ethel, Ronald and Violet. Sadly it isn't a terribly exciting road to photograph and nothing of interest occurred whilst I was there, so it was dismissed. I have indicated which images were taken along the old A2.

For the final selection:

Caption/add information as required embedded in the IPTC data - Metadata and descriptions were added to all images either via template on upload or additional information added later via Photoshop File>file information     
Process selects in Raw adjusting exposure, dust spots, clarity, chromatic aberration, white balance if necessary
Colour Space Adobe RGB 8bit 300 ppi

Process in Adobe Photoshop, cropping, cloning out small distractions using an adjustment layer, any further tweaks using adjustment layers.

example of working layers image saved as tiff

Final Images

The course guidelines stipulated a portfolio of between 10-15 images. Through a process of elimination and due to the way I wished to effectively promote the completed body of work, I made a final selection of 12 images. The reasons for this amount and their inclusion are detailed below.

Image 1 - Paul

Tripod 24mm f11 1/20 ISO200

On 29th November 2002 19-year-old Paul Powell was involved in an accident on Shooters Hill. He and his best friend, Sam Turner, had escorted a female friend onto a bus. As they re-crossed the road  Paul was stuck by a car overtaking the stationary bus. His sister still places flowers on a nearby lamppost in his memory. The colours are strong primary colours which catch your attention. Yellow is now strongly associated with remembering people; the yellow ribbon has long been a symbol of support for absent or missing loved ones.  A fairly busy image with no negative space it communicates a personal experience of place and how it has been made significant by one particular family. What made this event more tragic is the pedestrian bridge yards away from where the accident took place. This image was selected because it helped tell the narrative, the flowers commemorating his life, the bus which was a significant part of the accident, and the overhead bridge in the background. Wanting to capture movement within the image I chose to shoot at a slow shutter speed of 1/20 and used a tripod and shutter release cable. Shot on ISO200 due to a slightly overcast day the lighting was superb to capture the flowers without shadows or deep contrasts and I think the lighting adds to the sombre subject. The diagonals of the rose stems lead your eye into the frame and the composition of the deep yellow roses divide the frame in half diagonally leaving the other half to tell the narrative. There is interest in the fore, mid and background, the interaction between the different planes making the image dynamic.The shallow depth of field provides a blurred background which includes the elements relating to the story but allows the audience to tell their own. 

Along the A2

Image 2 - Plumstead Cemetery

Handheld 17mm 1/40 f11 ISO100
In contrast to the street memorial I have included Plumstead Cemetery, a more traditional way of remembering friends and family who have passed. Research found Welling was originally formed part of the ancient manor of East Wickham, mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) and East Wickham was included as part of the return for Plumstead.

Opened in 1890 and located on a hill which runs along the bottom of my road, the cemetery has gorgeous vistas across London. It contains many interesting graves and memorials, including two former Mayors of Woolwich and two recipients of the Victoria Cross; Private Thomas Flawn and Gunner Alfred Smith. There is also a memorial to victims of enemy action during WW2, especially those killed whilst working at Woolwich Arsenal. Death affects us all at some point, and recent events have brought this home, this image communicates both a personal and shared experience. Other contrasts to the previous image are a greater depth of field, a sense of stillness and tranquility, and a limited colour palette.The psychology of Green which is pale and muted by tinting or toning with White or Gray, usually creates a very relaxing environment. Ordinarily I would not choose to place an object so obviously mid-frame but I think this helps convey the stillness of the cemetery. The branches and their shadows frame the scene providing leading lines into the image whilst the serried ranks of the other grave stones lead diagonally away from the main centre stone. There is interest in the foreground lighter mid and background tones.

Image 3 - Jenton Avenue

Handheld 33mm f8 1/250 ISO400

Jenton Avenue could be considered a typical road in Welling, a mix of houses and bungalows built in about 1930 before people became 2/3 car families. Now front gardens and pathways are becoming driveways and those with side garden access are having garages built across them. What caught my eye was the personalization of the garage with the bright red moped mural which, on closer inspection seems to be a large print poster. I loved the way the gravelly concrete drive seems to continue into the poster and the red of the car on the driveway was echoed in the red moped, the European countryside vista a juxtaposition to the obvious concrete, geometric shapes of the real urban surroundings and the vibrant reds standing out against the bland magnolia wall paint. Shooting from a low perspective the wheel arch was incorporated to pick out the red in the poster and show curved lines to soften the straight lines of the building, providing interest in the fore, mid and background. Taken very early in the morning with ambient light still low.

Image 4 - Oxleas Woods

Tripod 44mm f8 1/10 ISO100
Oxleas Wood, as mentioned above, is one of the few remaining areas of ancient deciduous forest in southeast London with some areas dating back 8,000 years. It is part of a larger continuous area of woodland and parkland on the south side of Shooter's Hill. Oxleas Woods has its own website, the paths are well trodden being part of the south east London Green Chain walk. Hidden within you can find Severndroog castle (a rich man's folly built in 1784) and a terraced garden in Jack Wood. There is also a cafe, definitely a place for shared experiences.

I chose this image as the meandering woodland path is in direct contrast the straight concrete path and illustration of trees in the previous photograph. It compares the suburban to the green open spaces only a few miles away. The sharp clear lines of the driveway and buildings are opposite to the natural forms of the woodland and the early morning mists help shroud any straight lines.  The subtle green palette of the trees and shrubs, complementary to the red of the car and moped, another dissimilitude. Whilst the vehicles suggest transport, and movement - a link to the A2, M25 and the constant threat of urban sprawl to our local environment the woodlands suggest a slower more peaceful pace which gives no indication of the perils it once faced.

The patch of light on the bungalow echoed by the patch of early morning light on the trees does visually link the two.

Taken early in the morning I used a tripod, slow shutter speed with a shutter release cable.

Along the A2

Image 5 - Supertramp Ladies Fashions

Handheld 17mm f3.5 1/250 ISO400

Supertramp ladies fashions became a victim to the current economic climate. Having closed down several months ago the lease has not as yet been picked up by anyone else. This is a story told in many towns across the country, with large retail outlets and large supermarkets squeezing out the smaller businessman from the local High Street. I have previously purchased items from this store so it was sad to see it go. Looking in, what caught my eye at first were the pools of light coming from the open doorway and reflected from the mirrors in the open changing rooms. The closer I looked the more detail I saw, the reflections of the busy street outside a juxtaposition the the stillness of the shop, and the only splash of colour in an otherwise monotone image. The geometric patterns of the ceiling tiles, the tiled pillar, the abstract patterns of the light fittings and the forlorn way the changing room curtains seemed to hang straight down. The lines of the ceiling tiles lead your eye into the frame where you take in the details at the back of the shop and the pools of light lead the eye back out into the vacant, negative, space of the shop. In the meaning of colours, gray is boring, drab and too much of it creates sadness and depression, a tendency to loneliness and isolation which I think this image represents.

Along the A2

Image 6 - Morrisons 

Handheld 55mm f2.8 1/320 ISO200
Back in 2008/2009 Welling town centre was left like a ghost town. The Welling High Street supermarket, formerly owned by the Co-op, closed after being bought by the Morrisons chain. They planned to alter and refurbish the store before reopening later the next year. Unfortunately the closure coincided with the redevelopment of Embassy Court, directly opposite the Co-op, where the second High Street supermarket Tesco, also shut. Shoppers had to desert Welling to spend elsewhere. Both stores have now been rebuilt, even though it seems odd to have two superstores directly opposite each other.

This image in direct contrast the the one above as it portrays two large successful stores in the same High Street. I love the distorted, abstract reflections of Tesco in Morrisons windows (a juxtaposition to the geometric repeat pattern of the pavement) It is unclear as to what is real and what is reflection.

Along the A2

Image 7 - Danson Park

Handheld 39mm f11 1/80 ISO200

Danson estate, which probably existed since before the 13th Century, is now run as a public park by Bexley Council. A popular venue, it provides a large number of facilities for both active recreation or just enjoying the scenery, with a full programme of annual events including summer concerts and the annual Fireworks Display in November.

Danson Park is designated Grade II on the English Heritage register of parks and gardens of special historical interest, occupying more than 180 acres of land. The park, including the gardens of Danson House, benefited from Heritage Lottery Fund support for a programme of renovation and restoration. This was completed in 2006. Many local residents constantly use and enjoy the events and facilities provided by Danson Park. During the summers when my children were growing up we would spend a lot of time here. It was very local, we would pack a picnic, bread for the ducks, skates, bikes etc arrive first thing in the morning and leave last thing at night. At one point I worked opposite the park and would walk here every lunch time to clear my head.

This image also represents some of the green spaces easily accessible in my neighbourhood. Taken early one October morning, I loved the quality of the light, the low lying mist and the starburst coming through the trees. The soft Autumnal colour palette provides a calm relaxing atmosphere, summing up the serene experiences that can be had. The shadows of the trees help lead your eye into the frame where the strong outlines of the silhouetted trees frame the goal posts, and the silhouettes of the dog walkers indicate two of the activities people enjoy here. There is interest in the fore, mid and background. The foreground being dark-toned, the middle distance mid-toned, and the background lighter in tone. The branches and autumn leaves providing an abstract pattern and organic shapes.

Along the A2

Image 8 - Okehampton Crescent

Tripod 23mm f8 10

A roundabout in the middle of a fairly large crossroads about five minutes away from my home. Again an early morning, but this time pre-dawn shot, this urban image -  the street furniture with geometric shapes -  is in contrast to that of Danson Park. The arrows commanding your direction as opposed to letting you ramble at will. Having said that there are several strong visual links; the shadows of the trees and street furniture lead your eye into the frame, the trees and first lamppost an implied triangle just like the tree silhouettes, and these also provide frames within a frame. The starburst of the street light echoes the starburst of the sun coming through the trees. The light trails indicate a presence of people and suggest movement. The arrows on the roundabout lead your eye across the frame to the left whilst the light trails lead the viewer's gaze to the right. The perspective of the street lights take your eye right to the vanishing point. There is interest in the fore, mid and background.

The next four images were not produced as contrasting images. Taking advantage of the remit to explore and experiment I chose to photograph stand alone images that would still come together within one body of work and the exploration of my local neighbourhood. I planned to explore the abstract within photographs, leading to completely abstract images.

Image 9 - Love-in-a-mist (Nigella)

Handheld 33mm f2.8 1/1600 ISO100

On first inspection this image is purely an image of a flower but for me it sums up personal and shared experiences. Even for me it is polysemic. The single flower signifies the individuals that make up the community as a whole but I also think it represents me. The two smaller flowers to the left are my children. The one in the background slightly out of focus signifies my daughter who is at University in Salford, graduating in July, and although still an important part of her life I am no longer central to it. The other my teenage son, approaching 17 and my influence is fading fast!

My front garden is deliberately uncultivated for two reasons, firstly to attract as much wildlife as possible - I allow wildflowers to grow and self seed (although I pull out dandelions) with thistles, nigella, aquilegia and poppies running wild. I enjoy the riot of colours, as do the insects and passersby. Secondly due to the demands on my time. A single parent, I juggle work, studies, home and children. I have now lived in this property as a single parent for as long as I did as in a marriage. The common name Love-in-a-mist and the flowers delicate form conjures up the imagery of the ephemeral nature of love.The blue colour symbolizes the down moments whilst the sunny day characterizes my optimism.

Several people have knocked on my door and asked for seed-heads and I have no problems with sharing. On one occasion a rather drunk man asked if he could pick some as a peace offering to his long standing partner ;oD This therefore does sum up many shared experiences, although the audience may have to write their own narratives. I deliberately chose a shallow depth of field as I wanted to portray the mystery behind the obvious, no-one knows what goes on behind closed doors, and explore the abstract patterns created by the foliage in the background. (Only I know the dark blob in the background is my large recycling bin)

Image 10 - Puddles

Handheld 55mm f2.8 1/25 ISO400

Over the past few winters the level of rainfall has been excessive with many drains overflowing, pot holes and sink holes appearing across the borough. Several areas have suffered with local flooding, a common shared experience. My roof began to leak during one of the heavy storms so I feel very strongly about the rain we had this winter. To me this image portrays people's stoicism, how they carry on regardless, wading through despite the constant deluges. The reflections and ripples exploring abstract patterns whilst the ripples also represent the impact we have on each other. The motion blur and foot mid air help suggest movement as do the increasing ripples.

Along the A2

Image 11 - Bus

Handheld 46mm f5.6 1/30 ISO200

Still focusing on the bad weather and the impact it had on my ability to photograph the scenes I wanted, as well as the community of Welling as a whole, I took some images from the safety of my car, concentrating on capturing the abstract. As a driver I feel sorry for those standing at bus stops in inclement weather and on the odd occasion I have to catch the bus I stare at the drivers in their warm cars listening to their radios with envy. Something I am sure we all experience at some stage.The random patterns of the rivulets and focusing on the glass has distorted the passing bus. The bright red a contrast the the bus' darker interior, the coloured blobs suggesting the outline of the passengers. The geometric shapes of the windows, wheel and bus livery a contrast to the organic shapes of the raindrops.

Along the A2

Image 12 - Abstract

Tripod 55mm f3.2 1/13 ISO100

The final image within the set is total abstraction, taken in the pre-dawn light I deliberately took several out of focus images of the traffic to produce bokeh, the headlights and tail lights merging; Welling is very close to the A2 and the M25 with many of its residents having the shared experience of commuting to work. The photograph seems to contain all the hues contained in the other shots within the set tying them together, it has light and dark tones, vibrant colours and  more subtle subdued shades. The circles link and overlap, suggesting how we in society link and overlap yet still keep parts of ourselves hidden, just as the abstraction hides the exact subject matter of this photograph. It also suggests that no matter how much we explore our surroundings there will always be more to discover.

Along the A2

What happens next?

The other assignments within this module are produced for a specific purpose, a book cover, a magazine spread, and photojournalistic images to cover an event. This first assignment is the only one that has the freedom to be totally of my own choice, as subjective as I wish and without a specific target audience/medium. The brief advises us to look at several genres and allows for the final portfolio to be a mixture of photographic styles should we so wish.

I have been to several exhibitions during the completion of this course and studied many practitioners and the different ways they display their work. Taking all of this into consideration I decided to approach this project as if an exhibition was it's final outcome. The intention would be to display the images in pairs, one portrait and one landscape, showing the contrasts within my local environment, these contrasts would therefore be physical as well as visual.

Example of images displayed

Photographers' work is curated in many ways, invariably in high-ceilinged rooms, natural light flooding in, or under spot lights, with the majority of the walls being white, cream, or grey. Very few were of darker tones and none I visited were vibrantly coloured. Images were not framed at all and unceremoniously stuck to the wall with blu-tack, others mounted on block boards. Some framed but not behind glass, some framed but with no passe-partout. On the whole frames are either black or white although I have seen brown and in some instances the frames were coloured to match the imagery on display. The choice of framing is obviously a very conscious one, with the impact the frames having upon the images being an important visual decision. At the recent Sony WPA for example, photographer Salvatore Esposito entered two categories. One body of work The Power of Silence, was framed in white, while What is Missing was framed in black. Both shot in black and white The Power of Silence told a positive narrative about the love of parents and family unity which kept a family with autistic twins together. What is Missing focused mainly "on young criminals affiliated with the Camorra, on drug dealers, robbers and others living illegally." Elad Lassry, nominated for the Deutsche Borse photography prize in 2011 had colourful frames matching the colourful subject matter of his photographs.

Russian Blue - Elad Lassry - 2012 - 53119

Russian Blue, 2012  Elad Lassry


Passe-partouts also come in a variety of shades and colours and oddly white, which I thought would be the first choice, can actually appear quite jarring when against certain images and an off-white/cream makes for a subtler presentation. Having said that I think the cream chosen for my framed examples is a too dark! The images themselves, framed or otherwise, were either uniform size and displayed in neat rows or lines but some had montages of images of various sizes and crops placed all over the wall, even at floor level like Jim Goldberg's Open See.

In this instance I have theoretically chosen to have the images printed A3, as I like the idea of the audience getting close to the work to examine it, this way they would be more intimate with the work, not able to stand away; the closer they get the more of an effort they would have to make to engage with it. Experimenting I think a cream passe-partout works better with the majority of the images and is not detrimental to those where white was not an issue. The frame would be thin black and anti glare glass used. I have noted that in many exhibitions the light reflecting on the glass has been a problem, as well as the glass not being cleaned properly with residual smears left behind. Surprisingly, this was most notable at the recent Steve McCurry exhibition I attended at the Beetles and Hoxton Gallery in Swallow Street this weekend.

In view of the fact that I can be slightly more experimental with this assignment I have chosen to have eight images displayed as pairs and the final four, more abstract photos printed at larger than average postcard size @ 9x6 and displayed as a vertical quadriptych.

The order of the display I would suggest to be as follows:


I think it would be good to begin with a brightly coloured image which catches the attention; the theme of death and the ending of something lead nicely into the empty shop premises. The shadows of the trees and branches leading the eye into the frame just as the floorboards and ceiling tiles of the shop do. The mirrors and the windows creating frames within frames

The strong geometric shapes and vertical lines of both of the above images connect to the vertical lines of the buildings in the next pair, the red of the Tesco signs echoed in the red of the car and moped, the road surface to the driveway, the yellow lines on the road linking to the splash of yellow in the poster.

The image of Oxleas Woods lead naturally to the trees of Danson Park and the early morning light in the final pair within the portfolio.

The quadriptych would hang at the very end, an exploration of abstraction, indicating no matter how much we think we know our neighbourhood certain elements will always remain hidden, the abstraction building slowly from the first image within the set to the last, with the presence of people implicit rather than direct.

Whilst at the seminar Sharing Photography and Photographs – Photography in a Connected Age at the Royal Photographic Society and University of Westminster, I heard James Evans speak and present a slideshow about his work.What I found fascinating about his approach was his willingness to allow the viewing public to handle his art, although he regretted it when they stole it!

Venturing into the realms of installation pieces I would like to construct two 8 inch cubes, (I'd have to experiment to discover the actual size) each face would be made from an eight inch square section from each photograph in the series. The faces of the cubes showing the different facets of Welling. The cubes would be supported, on its vertex, in an acrylic slender almost "egg cup" like holder, 12 inches above a cracked mirrored surface on a plinth. The mirror would reflect the faces, making abstract patterns and showing the fragility of the interdependence we share. The cubes can be moved, changing which face is uppermost therefore altering the kaleidoscopic patterns. These cubes would ideally be placed at either end of the photographic display.

something a bit like this.......

I'd like to be able to offer a selection of postcards from the exhibition for visitors to take home and, if going the whole hog with multimedia presentation I could even have an audio file sound recording of Welling High Street  playing on a loop, like Mishka Henna's No Man's Land,making the exhibition a complete visual/ audio and kinesthetic experience.

Portfolios can also be published on a photographers website. I currently have a free Weebly site which needs some work doing to it to bring it up to scratch - a job for next week perchance....


What have I learnt?

Responding to feedback from assignment five when re-working this assignment I thought about the advice given:

PLAN – RESEARCH – EQUIPMENT – CAPTURE – 1ST EDIT – 2ND EDIT – PRINT and hope I have provided enough evidence that I have carried out each stage and have realised the importance of each one.

Thinking before capturing, all the stages before picking up my camera, as well as when I had the scene in front of me, had an impact on trying to link the work rather than randomly shooting and hoping for the best when I got home. I recognise that it is important to adapt your ideas, be able to develop them as the series continues, to not be blinkered, sticking too rigidly to original thoughts. Carrying out research assisted greatly on pinning down aspects where I wanted to concentrate my focus

I learnt rain does not have to stop play, to use colour effectively, to use contrast, juxtaposition different perspectives in one body of work.

Images selected, I gave serious thought about how they could be made into tangible objects in a variety of ways, these ideas could be extended, made into business cards, key-rings, mouse-mats, the list in endless if you can afford to create them and people actually want to buy them!

In some of the images I got closer to the main subject and tried to be mindful of background when making compositions. I endeavored to make sure every element in the images was there for a reason, that everything added to the narrative/context, that the backgrounds were in keeping with the main subject.

Oddly what I learnt most wasn't photographic. In my effort to show others our interdependence, our common experiences, the impact we have on each other and whilst imbuing objects with life and emotional resonance,  I realized I am more connected to my neighbourhood than originally thought.


Looking back at the original failures and my intention to address them I think I have been successful, showed contrast, used different perspectives, shot at different times of day, experimented with light and movement. I have taken more, or been able to crop images, with portrait orientation. The final set shows obvious contrasts of portrait and landscape, seasons, light/dark, suburbs/green spaces,straight/abstract, sharp images/motion blur, wide angle/close up, high/low perspectives, tranquil/busy and negative/positive space.

Referencing Paul Graham was useful especially A1- The Great North Road , this encouraged me to not focus on one aspect but to explore different styles and perspectives, to capture architecture as well as landscape, experiment with light and colour, linking images visually, as a contrast or to suggest a certain mood. Graham examined the social landscape and so have I. Although I did not stick rigidly to the route of the A2 I did not stray much beyond its area of influence. I think I met my other challenge which was to show the traces of people implicitly, using reflection, abstraction, silhouettes and  inference.

I am pleased with my decision to scrap the original assignment, taking on-board the constructive criticism I received. Although it has taken me a long time to complete the re-working it gave me the opportunity to look at other practitioners, visit more exhibitions and be more considered about my own work. The final set does convey a sense of place, places made significant by the people who dwell here, shows human activity and traces of people.


Although a re-worked assignment I asked Keith if he would take a look at it for me seeing as he was not my tutor for the first attempt. Although extremely busy he agreed to have a peek. I was really pleased with is positive feedback, especially when he said he actually quite liked the first one too!

I have had a quick look at the assignment one re-submission and thought these were a very interesting and diverse set of images shot over a variety of locations, at a variety of different times, covering many issues both personal and local to you etc. (I particularly liked the first shot of the flowers and bus and also the bus through rainy window and the last shot of the abstract colours)  I think I only took over as your tutor during assignment three, so didn't feedback on the first set .... But I've had a quick look at these as well and quite liked them also. 

The main things as discussed is that you have responded very positively to the feedback offered and re-visited the work etc.  I liked the research you conducted into Paul Graham / John Davies  .... which is all very relevant as far as I am concerned.

So many thanks again to Keith who has been a brilliantly supportive and instructive tutor.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Criticizing Photographs Terry Barrett

A well battered copy arrived in the post, I don't mind that it is rather thumbed; the information is just as valid and informative.

I totally agree with Barrett's statement that one of the best ways to appreciate an image is to observe, think and talk about it. This is why I value study days or going to exhibitions/galleries with others, talking about images help establish my opinions or alters them. Maybe not even at that moment in time, but when I come to do a review and talk about images in my blog I am forced to think about them, why they appeal or not, what I like or dislike. Harry Broudy* is mentioned, one of his beliefs is that it is important to learn through self-discovery. An interesting debate was raised on a Facebook forum with regards to spending time "justifying" images. I argued that this surely cannot be a bad thing. In evaluating your own images, trying to be less subjective and breaking them down saying why they made they cut, why they were processed in a certain fashion etc you are learning about how you create an image, not just technically, and finding your own style or "voice". It is an ongoing process, mistakes will be made, or an image may be polysemous even if that was not the photographer's intention. It is important to recognize that others may glean a different inference. He coined a phrase "enlightened cherishing" a concept that combines thought (enlightened) and feeling (cherishing) both required to achieve understanding and appreciation.

(*A synopsis of Dr. Harry S. Broudy's viewpoint of Education: 
Dr. Broudy said  education is basic to all other forms of inquiry, because there is none that does not involve learning and some teaching(Broudy 1972). He also believes teaching sensitivity to the appearance of things, the expressive properties of color, sound, texture and movement organized into aesthetic objects, and the perception and construction of images that portray intimations of reality in he form of feelings(McNeil 1990). Dr. Broudy also wrote a book entitled Truth and Credibility: The citizens dilemma to support his thoughts on citizenship being part of the educational curriculum.)


Susan Sontag's On Photography is highlighted as a point of reference for articles of criticism of photography, a book I possess and sometimes dip into, probably should do more so now. Another point I picked up on was the brief given by the New Art Examiner to its reviewers that "the writers opinion of the work is the backbone of a review. Set up your thesis by the third paragraph and use the rest of the space to substantiate it"

Critics hail from many backgrounds being writers, artists, photographers et al. A.D.Coleman, a full-time freelance critic, was not formally schooled in photography and likes to think of himself as "a voice from the audience" which I find quite comforting -  in that he would not come to the subject forearmed with a set artistic bias...possibly ;o) People ( as in critics) will come to the table with their own agendas; Grace Glueck hoped to "inform, elucidate,explain and enlighten" wanting to "help a reader place art in a context, establish where it's coming from, what feeds it, how it stacks up in relation to other art." This statement made me also see why it is important to reference own own work against other practitioners when completing assignments. Some of the comments in the book made me smile, the criticism of critics, Lippard's writing "straightforward political propaganda"  Szarkowski accused of "aestheticizing photographs", Sekula of being "suspicious of photography. Made me feel better that you don't have to agree with what you read just because the writers have a "name," sometimes I scoff at what I read, maybe this is because I need to be educated a little more and eventually may see what they are trying to say and alter my own stance, or possibly because I have found my own defensible position? Who knows? Donald Kuspit countered that "not all criticism is good criticism" with the best critics realizing that they couldn't be "dogmatic" in their views because "they can always be corrected."

The section which described the different viewpoints of an Avedon exhibition "In the American West" was also of great interest, reading the different descriptions, vocabulary used (I may have to write my own descriptive word bank) and how slightly different aspects were reviewed  depending on the critic, publication and audience. Another point that made me think about how we can compare and contrast photographs was that comparisons don't necessarily have to be between just photographers, especially if telling a narrative comparisons can be made between storytellers.

Joel-Peter Witkin is a photographer mentioned who I have vaguely heard of before, he uses borrowed imagery, ideas and reproductions of famous paintings in  some of his work...most seems rather obscure but each to their own I guess!


I enjoyed the vibe given by different descriptors of his work either with edges being "the usual fuzz" or "syrupy" as to opposed to a more positive view that insists he shows an "incredible range of form definition"... so next time I make an out of focus exposure I know how to put a positive spin on it ;oD

Part of our marks are to do with communication, reading these chapters has certainly given me food for thought as to how I should be communicating through both imagery and words. On interpreting photographs Barrett tells us that even simple ones "demand interpretation" to be recognized as "pictures about something,,,,some communicative and expressive purpose." We must also recognise that people's knowledge, beliefs,. values and attitudes will impact on the image they take, photographs will only show a partial truth. I loved the Nelson Goodman quote which I had never read before:

there is no innocent eye. The eye comes always ancient to its work, obsessed by its past and by old and new insinuations of the ear, nose, tongue, fingers, heart and brain. It functions not as an instrument self-powered and alone, but as a dutiful member if a complex and capricious organism. Not only how but what it sees is regulated by need and prejudice.

Barrett also tells us that photographs should be regarded as metaphors in need of deciphering with qualities of one thing being transferred to another and as having two layers of meaning. He mentions Barthes, <involuntary groan> who identified two signifiers; denotations and connotations. What an images shows and what it implies...see Barthes you CAN say it in English that everyone can understand without resorting to the thesaurus!

I skim read the section on different interpretations, and valid and educational as they are it's something I will return to. Rather, I looked more closely at interpretation and the artists intent and Minor White's philosophy that placed the responsibility of interpretation on the viewer, and I think he is right. It doesn't matter most of the time what you think you have captured someone always comes along and thinks of a different way of looking at the scene. Cindy Sherman is quoted as saying "I've only been interested in making the work and leaving the analysis to the critics."

In my essay I discussed if photography is made or taken and does it matter, I wish I had read this quote then...in 1861 C.Jabez Hughes* declared "If a picture cannot be produced by one negative, let him have two or ten; but...the picture when finished must stand or fall entirely by the effects produced and not the means employed."

*(Cornelius Jabez Hughes (1819-1884), Photographer, writer and lecturer
Artist associated with 38 portraits
Born in England in 1819, Hughes began his photographic career in 1847 as an assistant in the studio of J.J.E. Mayall in London. After a brief stint working in Glasgow, he returned to London in 1855 to assume ownership of Mayall's studio. Hughes later built his own studio on the Isle of Wight, where he often photographed Queen Victoria. Toward the end of his life he teamed up with his assistant, Gustav Mullins, to form a new partnership, Hughes & Mullins. Hughes was popular both as a portrait photographer and as a writer on the subject of photography. He died in 1884. The National Portrait Gallery holds over 30 of his photographs.)


Missing out huge chunks, again to be devoured with delight, (I really am enjoying this book) we move on to talking about photographs and how our initial comments are evaluative along the lines of "this is a great show" or "I don't like this stuff" this made me chortle as I think to some of the less publishable asides made when wandering about the exhibitions <koff>. Mine are usually "what ....the....are they....it's total....." Then sometimes on reflection and actually thinking about it I'm not so scathing or can see the merit in where at least they were coming from even if I don't appreciate the final result. I remember one observation we made when looking at a scantily clad woman in  a bathroom was "you know the first thing we discussed was the fact we couldn't see the camera reflected in the mirror rather than the fact she had her tits out? Shows we must be photography students ;oD"

To help me as a student critique work Barrett recommends you:
Describe what you see
Consider subject matter and form
Let the interpretation be a communal effort
If present the photographer should remain silent
Avoid hasty judgment (ooops!)
Be honest and open (see above oooops)

But in any discussion actively listen and acknowledge, respond and build upon it. Even if you disagree. Interesting exercise I undertook once was to turn negatives into positives, people in the group (nothing to do with photography) were not allowed to say "but" they had to say "and"...amazing how it worked!

So much more could be said but for now I shall end this post be reiterating that I think it is a really good purchase, written in simple English, easy to read and comprehend, loads of quotes and pointers for further research...can I have my promotional cheque in the post please :o)

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Key Texts - a short review.

The version of the course I have recommended the following key texts:

Barrett,T, (2005)  Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images. New York: McGraw-Hill

Heron, M. (2007) Digital Stock Photography: How to Shoot and Sell. New York: Allworth Press

Lee,T (2007) Digital Capture and Workflow for Professional Photographers. Buffalo, NY:Amherst Media

Thomas, G. and Ibbotson, J. (2003) Beyond the Lens: Rights, Ethics and Business Practice in Professional Photography. London: The Association of Photographers (AoP)

Tracy, J. (2010) The Freelance Photographer's Market Handbook 2011 (27th Edition) London: BFP Books

Wells,E. (2002) The Photography Reader. London: Routledge

Wells, E. (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Routledge

Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images
Barrett,T, (2005)  Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images. New York: McGraw-Hill

In summary Terry Barrett’s book is a good general introduction to photographic theory with an emphasis on criticism – it's aim is to reveal to the reader why criticism of images is important, how to understand photographic criticism, and finally how to read photographs.

About art criticism - Starts by commenting that  unfortunately, we usually don't equate criticism with appreciation because in everyday language the term criticism has negative connotations: used to refer to the act of making judgments, usually negative judgments, and the act of expressing disapproval.Barrett quotes several sources to back his argument including Lucy Lippard who said on not being regarded as a critic as ok because "It's negative connotations place the writer in fundamental antagonism to the artists"

He tries to define criticism - the term itself being complex, having several different meanings.
However the way to become informed about art is by critically thinking about it. Criticism is put forward as a means to the end of understanding and appreciating photography. Barrett begins by classifying the act of criticism into four activities:

  • describing
  • interpreting
  • evaluating
  • theorizing.

One of his references made sense ;o) A D Coleman (a critic) said " I merely look closely at, and into all sorts of photographic images and attempt to pinpoint in words what they provoke me to feel and think and understand." Barrett reiterates that 'criticism is informed discourse about art to increase understanding and appreciation of art'. There are various sources of criticism, the classroom, lecture hall and publications. Barrett cites many examples of practitioners, writers and publications which are probably all worth investigating at some later stage. However it is worth noting when reading essays or articles that each source will have it's own style, tone and political ideology.

There are two kinds of crit (fed up with writing the long version) exploratory aesthetic criticism and argumentation aesthetic criticism:

  • Exploratory - the critic will delay judgements of value relying instead on descriptive and interpretive thought
  • Argumentative - after full interpretive analysis critics will estimate the work's positive aspects or lack of. and fully reveal their judgements, then argue their interpretations and judgements and defend their conclusions.

When I read this I thought this also can apply to written critical essays and helped inform the way I wrote my critical review: read, interpret, comment, back up your argument. I can see how useful this can be when looking at photography, mine as well as others. From the book Andy Grundberg saw two basic approaches - applied - practical and immediate - tends towards journalism and theoretical - being philosophical - towards aesthetics- for example Roland Barthes Camera Lucida..... ( why did I inwardly groan at the mention of that book) for me one of the important quotes from Grundberg was "criticism's task is to make arguments not pronouncements"

A lot more follows until we get to a section about the value of criticism - there is a value to reading good crit, it increases knowledge and appreciation of art, I totally agree with Maria Siegel who said on how writing informs her because "words are an instrument of thinking." Often I find when writing my reviews after seeing an exhibition that my opinion changes or becomes stronger when having to formalise my thoughts and express them in a written form.

Chapter 2 deals more with describing photographs. 'Descriptions are the answers to the questions, What is here? What am I looking at? What do I know with certainty about this image?' Basic statements can be made about the subject matter, medium, form and causal environment. Descriptive information is either true or false and an accurate description is'an essential part of holding defensible critical positions'...in other words make sure you get your facts straight in the first place! Again many examples of photographers work is analysed and to go into huge depth in this post would be overwhelming and tbh I think I need to re-read it to get everything of benefit but the exploration into subject matter, medium, form, style etc will definitely help me when having to write about the images I review in future. A common method of critical analysis is to 'compare and contrast it to other work by the same photographer, to other photographers’ works, or to works by other artists. To compare and contrast is to see what the work in question has in common with and how the work differs from another body of work.' I think this was and will be useful to remember when writing supporting statements alongside my assignments, when you have to state which photographer informed your final images.

There are 8 chapters in all - so far too many to really review in an online post, I have dipped in and out of this book on an online pdf version but always find I prefer to thumb through an actual copy. I was lucky enough to find a secondhand version for sale at £1.96! The postage was more!! I think this book will serve me well in the future for many reasons, thinking about how I look at images, how I write about images and how better to critique my own work.

Digital Stock Photography: How to Shoot and Sell
Heron, M. (2007) Digital Stock Photography: How to Shoot and Sell. New York: Allworth Press

I can't remember who it was but someone advised me that if they had to choose just one book that would explain everything you needed to know about contemporary stock photography this would be it. Importantly you need to do your homework before taking a single image. You need a plan of attack, and consider how you would visually capture a concept. It is a truly comprehensive introduction to the world of Digital Stock Photography and as yet as this isn't a venue I am seeking to explore I haven't delved into this book as much as I possibly could have done.

It's contents are as follows:

1. The Business of Digital Stock
2. How to Shoot for Stock – Style and Concept
3. Equipment for Capturing and Scanning Images
4. Shooting What’s Needed
5. Twenty-five Stock Assignments you can Shoot
6. Preparing the Shoot
7. Editing and Post Production in the Digital Work Flow
8. Running a Stock Photography Business
9. Marketing your Stock
10. Finding a Stock Agency or Portal
11. Negotiating Prices
12. Copyright – What Do We Own
13. Model Releases and Business Forms
14. Appendix 1: Bibliography
15. Appendix 2: Organizations
16. Appendix 3: Workshops
17. Appendix 4: Promotions/Source Books
18. Appendix 5: Manufacturers

What I found interesting was how some of the ideas can spill into what I want to photograph anyway, either for personal pleasure or for assignment, foe example the chapter on Style and Concept makes you think about capturing thought provoking concepts. How do you capture togetherness as a family in an image. How do you shoot stress? How do you shoot teamwork? A section on shooting symbols and what things mean -cooperation could be represented by images of teams, a barn raising, shaking hands, etc

Another section of the book was on different 25 Stock Assignments with each assignment containing the category, purpose, and subject of the image. Variations of how to frame shots, what models are needed, props, ethnicities, and location. What to avoid and several general notes about each shoot. How to gain permission from businesses to shoot at a location, offering incentives to get permission for the shoot, creating a storyboard, working with a Production Coordinator, building a prop closet, to even sending a thank you note to the models after the shoot.

The section on Releases and forms contains sample Model releases, Property Releases, Stock Picture Delivery Memo, Stock Shoot Estimate Worksheet, Stock Photography invoice, and a Stock Photo Request Form.

As I say, lots to think about, lots of useful tips, so if interested in pursuing this avenue to making money a book I'd recommend.


seem to be popular sites.

Digital Capture and Workflow for Professional Photographers
Lee,T (2007) Digital Capture and Workflow for Professional Photographers. Buffalo, NY:Amherst Media

In short a step-by-step guide to techniques for creating digitally enhanced images, album design, expert presentation, and printing-industry-standard prints. Chapters, cover image control, working with JPEGs, processing raw files, workstation ergonomics, and client presentation.  It is all to easy to assume you know a lot because you have been using programs like Photoshop for a while, or printing things for a while, but things change, industry standards alter, different practices come about and are found to be better, or you may just have not been doing it right in the first place. So I picked this book up and thumbed through it with interest. Published in 2007 and talking about CS2 and 12 bit RAW showed me how quickly things move forward and even recommended books may be out of date!

There were a lot of basics confirmed that I already do. shoot RAW, that digital images need sharpening, check camera setting such as white balance, histograms. use EVC if needed, convert to 8-bit for printing, although this is also out-of-date as some high end printers now have a 16 bit printing option apparently ( I wouldn't know I don't possess one!) Another thing the book recommended which I was once told not to do was to save files as PSD, I was told to save as Tiff so other programs could open the files and also some versions of PSD files were not backwards compatible?

Interesting to see Lee's workflow timetable for a wedding shoot

I think I need to speed up my processing ;oD Some of the photoshop techniques now positively creaked as did some of the web page designs but to a beginner I guess they would introduce the ideas. The section that I was most looking forward to was about Preparing for Print but this did not have enough information at all compared to recent articles online and the upgrade in printers and software.

Conclusion - I don't think this book should be on the recommended list if it still is.....

Beyond the Lens: Rights, Ethics and Business Practice in Professional Photography
Thomas, G. and Ibbotson, J. (2003) Beyond the Lens: Rights, Ethics and Business Practice in Professional Photography. London: The Association of Photographers (AoP)

an overview for the web site:

Published in England by the Association of Photographers (AOP), Beyond the Lens is the essential guide to rights, ethics and business practice in professional photography.

Now in its fourth edition it has been likened to 'the bible for photographers and commissioners' and is used by colleges/universities as part of their courses and widely used by photographers and commissioners.This 4th edition of Beyond the Lens has a foreword by Terry O'Neill and is split into 3 parts:

The Law and the Photographer: covers copyright, moral rights, contract law, privacy, photographing children, late payment, legal remedies for copyright infringements and unpaid debts both in the UK and EU plus legislation that photographers need to be aware of. 
The Business End: with advice on tax, VAT, accounting, bookkeeping, insurance, limited companies, pensions, savings, investments and mortgages, dealing with income/career problems, standards and codes, social media, agents,  collecting societies and associations and unions.
Making a Living: is written by photographers and covers how to be a student, working as an assisting photographer, specific area of photography from their perspective - advertising, editorial, architectural, corporate and design, stock, digital and moving image, working overseas, and shooting on the streets.
An appendix includes 3 sets of photographers' terms and conditions for those based either in England & Wales, Scotland or Eire; model release form; template business forms and agents agreement.

I must admit my brain just turned to mush when looking at all the rights and ethics, I dare say if I did want to become a professional photographer it would, as the blurb suggests, become my bible as it covers copyright, re-usage etc etc etc all the pitfalls and legalities you need to avoid or ensure you follow while adhering to professional standards.


The Freelance Photographer's Market Handbook
Tracy, J. (2010) The Freelance Photographer's Market Handbook 2011 (27th Edition) London: BFP Books

I didn't buy this to be honest I looked at the reviews which told me

The Freelance Photographer's Market Handbook 2013 contains around 1,000 listings aimed at helping photographers earn cash from their photos. The 29th edition lists the type of pictures sought by specialist, trade and consumer magazines, along with fees paid.A BFP spokesman adds: ‘The Handbook also contains invaluable articles on approaching markets, as well as many hints and tips to help the freelance and aspiring freelance photographer sell their work.'

Which if I were wanting to sell to magazines would be really, really useful. For the assignments I shot I identified my market, gained positive feedback from the shoots and contacts for future events but I will bear this publication in mind should I wish to venture down this route.

The Photography Reader
Wells,E. (2002) The Photography Reader. London: Routledge

The text provided with the course materials that you have to read to be able to complete some of the exercises, I found it an invaluable source of academic writings etc which I found informative as well as really helpful when writing my critical review.

As the editor Liz Wells remarks in her introduction, this book is "concerned with histories of ideas about photography". The book is crammed full of readings in critical theory of photography, and therefore appears to be concerned more with history, sociology, semiotics, aesthetics, and epistemology. ( the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one's own mind?)


On further investigation all of the works in the book seem to be created after 1930 and include the writings of Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag and Umberto Eco.

The book is divided into several sections, each dealing with a set aspect of photographic critical theory. It is a which book covers a number of subjects in critical theory, such as photography and postmodernism, where several authors explain what the postmodern is in photography...did I get it...I'm still not totally convinced ;oD

Many of the essays in this book were tricky to read and I had to reread most of them, underlining the obvious statements that struck a chord, made a point I understood, needed to explore further or wanted to quote. I think this book tied in well with Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images in understanding what it was some of the authors had to say, why they were saying it and the result was a broadening of my knowledge. It introduced me to other writers and photographers some of whom I incorporated into my critical review.

As I say tricky in parts to interpret but worth the effort in the end.

Photography: A Critical Introduction
Wells, E. (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction. Oxford: Routledge

This book is described as an introduction to the theory of photography with each chapter introducing a specific field of photography, most helpfully it also points you in the direction of further reading, research and resources. The blurb states:

This revised and updated fourth edition examines key debates in photographic theory and places them in their social and political contexts. New and improved sections include: key concepts, biographies of major thinkers, and seminal references; a full glossary of terms, comprehensive bibliography and new chapter abstracts; updated resource information, including guides to public archives and useful websites.

And it does exactly what it says on the tin, but again not as yet read it from cover to cover, and in a quick review not going to give a blow by blow account of every chapter, borrowed from a friend and now returned it is a book I think I will have to invest in as it does put things over simply and has that wealth of further reading.....be interesting to hear other people views on these books.....