Concept In Photography? Not In This Example!!! But Most Definitely In This

Brief:- You may think conceptual art has to be motivated by a cerebral idea, but often it’s not. It’s more to do with hunches and entering a process where you don’t really know what the outcome will be and you take photographs that attempt to document that process. For example, what would it be like to spend a week living on a boat? What would it be like to dress differently and out of character? Such ‘ideas’ are not necessarily ‘visual’ but the clearly have visual potential. They also bring up notions that you may not have thought about when approaching a photographic project: what ‘home’ and ‘appearances’ mean.

Maria Kapejeva, One Month. Maria Kapejeva’s diptych above shows two portraits of the same person; the first was taken on the subjects arrival in India, and the second was taken a month later. What do these say about the country’s influence on this young man? Maria Kapejeva based her work on a concept about change over time. The young man appears to have been influenced by his time in india – as if he has matured. It’s very subtle, but you register the change in his clothes, facial expression and posture.

Umm – bollocks. Such a weak example of concept in photography. He may have travelled with those clothes, we all sit differently many times each day, and a suntan alters the appearance of our skin. Yes he may have been influenced by his time in India, in fact it is highly probable that he has, but this diptych is a very poor way of highlighting any possible influences. To infer that it does is misguided. I’m feeling let down by this shoddy example.

To see a great example of concept in photography I suggest seeing the recent work of OCA photography degree student Sarah Andrews (see here for the process) and (see here for the results).

Sarah has explored the concept of ageing and dying with photography from the natural world in Autumn, and her process involved exploring the photos with people who have life limiting conditions. This is how to explore conceptual ideas witb photography


Exercise 5.1 To Exercise 5.4 – Setting Up And Using A Blog

This section is in entirely the wrong section of the coursework. It needs to be at the beginning, and I have expressed my views about this to my tutor.

I am competent in using my blog, resizing photos for it, connecting with other students and creatives, and commenting upon others blogs and welcoming critique from anyone.

I will, in time, create a portfolio site, but not just yet.

I’m not going to re-analyse the work of Sophie Calle. I have done so previously and that can be seen here.




Presence/Absence – Exercise 4.12

Disclaimer: This article covers sensitive subjects, including a photograph of the act of self harm, which may not be suitable for certain audiences.


Brief:- When we look around familiar environments we tend to ignore or ‘not see’ certain things in them. In this exercise, you’ll explore the absence and presence of an object that you’re accustomed to in order to bring to the surface an altered ambience.  Your purpose here is to convey the trace of the absent person or thing, or to express something of an altered mood by a particular emphasis. Choose an environment that you know well, but one where you can move things around without getting into trouble!. Ask yourself what forms the character of that place for you. Take a photograph of the place or ‘scene’ as it is.  Now remove an item that strongly characterises that place or scene and take another photograph with the same framing, without the key object. This key object can be anything from a bed in a bedroom to the chairs around a table in a dining room or a particular tree in a landscape.  Yes, you can use Photoshop to remove items in images with the Clone Stamp Tool or some clever selecting and masking as in the photo below, where the surgery has been removed. But it may be simpler just to remove them while you take the photo.  Place the before/after, presence/absence photographs side by side. But, like the image below, it may not need it.

The photos will follow shortly, and I do have to say that if you are going to be triggered by a photo of the act of self-harm then do not proceed with viewing these photos.

If I exhibited these images in a gallery they would be spaced apart from each otber. This would mean viewers could have time and space to feel their emotions before proceeding to the next photo. With that in mind I have decided not to present them as a triptych.

The theme is one in which enable me to  create the dynamics of presence and absence in a manner that is important to me. My photography often comes from my heart, and explores themes that matter to me, as I try to find out who I am and where I fit into the world. Photographing myself whilst in the act of self-harm is extreme, it pushes the boundaries of photographic presentation. Ummmmm does it push the boundaries? really?

I self harm from time to time,  so it isn’t pushing my boundaries. Should I be asked not to photograph an aspect of my life? I do not know the answer, but it does feel quite extreme to be honest.

Self harm is often used by people as a way of coping with life. People from all walks of life self-harm, even distressed animals do. Self-harm is more often an act of staying alive and is not an act related to suicide. Most people who self-harm do so in order to stay alive, to stay in control, in a world which feels and has been dangerous and unsafe.

However, there are times when life becomes so intolerably painful that  suicide becomes an option. When feeling trapped, and feeling that there is no way in which to continue, the pain is too much to bare, that the individual can see no way out, it feels like there is only one solution.

The Way Home

Self Harm


The Ambulance – Dead Or Alive

Exploring lighting

I have been inspired by Jonathan Kiernan, an OCA Foundations in Photography peer, specifically because of his effective use of lighting.

I am an absolute beginner in this area. Having recently been given a speedlight, thank you friend, I considered the mood that I wanted to practice and portray. Sometimes there is something secretive, hidden and shameful about self-harming, so I wanted to create a dark environment in which the exposure is focused upon the subject, and its absence. I chose yellow because I felt it had a sallow feel. One that evokes a sadness and sickness. Jonathon will often make use of two or three sets of lights so that there are different energies within the photo. The third photo, in which the police and ambulance or undertakers have taken the subject away, gave me the opportunity to use the speedlight with blue gels to appear like flashing blue lights the emergency services when they are attending an emergency. This was tricky. I didn’t want the lighting to appear as if the hall had a blue light, I wanted to capture the light as if it were an external light source. It took quite a while and many photos, but I think that I got there in the end.

Lighting Practice


Jonathan Kiernan (here)


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United States Of America




Trigger Warning – Self Harm – Suicide -Exercise 4.12 Foundations In Photography

Trigger Warning

My next post, later today or tomorrow, will include graphic images in relation to suicide and self harm. This is a subject which may provoke an emotional response. I invite you to ignore my next post if you think this will affect you negatively.

If you need support in relation to suicide or self harm then please seek it, you are not alone.


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Emulating Laura Letinsky – Exercise 4.11 – Emulation

Brief:- Remember, there’s no need to make a direct copy of a photograph, for example a Man Ray photogram; make your own photographic experiment as Adam Fuss did (you can compare their photograms online). If you chose to emulate Man Ray, you might seek out interesting objects that can be rendered graphic shapes in silhouette by shooting them against a white background. Or perhaps you want to emulate the uncanny, liminal sense of space created in a Laura Letinsky photograph but using landscapes. Make the image your own. Artists rarely copy each other, but they do learn from each other. Try to identify exactly what it is in the photograph that appeals to you: the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark) the composition or design the subject the concept the photographer’s viewpoint the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image. When you’ve identified these elements, plan what you’ll need: equipment location models.  When you’ve organised all this, make the photo.

Final Two Photos

I need to begin by saying that I am not happy with the results of either photo, but there are aspects to each of them that I do like.

The first photo is the one that I most prefer, and makes more use of colour and planes. Yes it is far busy and less subtle than a Letinsky, but I ensured that it used two planes, and it is also 3D in nature because of the net which drops down from the main canvas, and the roses which are hanging down from the light socket. It is aesthetically pleasing to me, it’s pretty and beautiful.

The second photo has more movement, which I prefer. I love how the sheet hangs, and envision this as being similar in nature to the roof of a marquee. But the second plane that I tried to create, with a petal at the end of each piece of thread, just doesn’t work.

Neither photo has the amount of neutral space that Letinsky makes use of so well. Both photos have finger prints, creases and glue marks, which it goes without saying that I am not pleased with. The first photo also has a gap between the satin effect canvas (pinned to the ceiling) and the net (hanging down).

Technically this was a complicated project. Flower petals shrivel and die, each sheet was three meters by one meter, and very difficult to pin to the ceiling. I made use of super glue to place the petals in the second photo, which was a big mistake. Super glue discolours the petals, sticks the canvas to the carpet, and whilst I was raising the sheet from the floor, a lot of the petals became unatuck. I used PVA glue for the first photo and it didn’t stick the petals to the floor, but still left unsightly marks when a petal refused to stick.

Despite the piece of art that I have created being of poor standard, because of the technical errors, I am pleased with the result of the first photo. I have had a lot of fun, and developing techniques to control the space that I am choosing to work with is good progress. I definitely wish to create art in this style in the future. To do so I would need at least one technician, a large board so the canvas can be ironed, and find an alternate way to glue the petals onto the sheet.

My creation is not a copy of Letinsky, but I believe that I have used elements of her style and technique to make something that is pleasing to my eye.

Contact sheets (here)


Keys, R; 2018; Picture Analysis – Laura Letinsky – David Bate – Pieter Claesz; Online: AT: (accessed on 17/11/2018)

Project 3 – Learning From Other Photographers

Brief:- Research point – Self reflection – Requirement Most visual artists learn from one another. Both historic and contemporary photographers and visual artists can teach you new things and by learning from them you can bring something new to the subject. So how do you learn from other photographers? There’s a tradition of ‘after’ painting, where an artist copies a master’s work – but in his own style rather than theirs. Pablo Picasso often did this for inspiration. Édouard Manet’s Olympia is slightly different in that it’s a critical response to Alexandre Cabanel’s The Birth of Venus and other such romantic and idealised nudes. Cubism’s visual experimentation was influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne, who had a ‘blocky’ style of painting in daubs of paint. Hannah Starkey’s photographs are clearly influenced by Jeff Wall’s tableau pictures without ever being copies. So really you take from the artist anything that interests you: the arrangement of characters in a scene, the pose of a figure, the way light and dark interact, the type of subject matter, the mixing of media, the visual strategy, etc… Research point – Self reflection – 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. Write down any areas in photography you need to develop. (Your tutor reports should give you some clues here.) Write what sort of photographs you want to take. Just note down keywords. Now look through a book like Hacking, J. (2012) Photography: The Whole Story, or Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) (both London: Thames & Hudson) and try to identify some photographers who have exactly the key elements that you want to attain or just things that interest you. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is contemporary or historic. Make a note of these key elements. Now research these photographers online and choose one key photograph to use in the next exercise.

There’s one area which glaringly stands out for me to work on. Lighting. Making use of lights to create an atmosphere, using spots, using ambient lighting or controlling background light, I need to develop these techniques. My tutor has recommended observing light in indoor settings and then trying to recreate it at home.

Now that I have a speedlight I am making slow inroads into understanding flash photography, and that’s going to be an ongoing process.


Mixed media art is also a growing interest. It’s something that’s been developing over the period that I’ve been studying. Exercise 3.5 Photography from text (here) was a good introduction. I’m part of an OCA collaboration group and have enjoyed collaborating with other artists. Toxic Shame (here) provided me with the opportunity to write and narrate prose as part of a collaborative project. People with Autism co-authored Autism: Out Of The Box (here) with me, a project in which I wrote the essay and encouraged the co-authors to produce accompanying photography or art for the essay.

A woman with autism is currently writing her story, and my role will be to support her to make photography which will accompany her writing. This is a role I wish to develop. The OCA collaboration group is on-going, and I have had initial contact with an artist in Australia who may wish to collaborate with me.

I’m very pleased to be studying Experimentation:- Still Life, which is part 4 of Foundations in Photography. This part of the course has opened up my creative potential. I made a sensory collage, just for fun, out of materials left over from the emulation exercise. Photomontage, collage and sensory collage all give me the opportunity to practice with lighting.

Lighting is the way forward. When I return from my travels I will look through my many books to find find photographers who inspire me, and who make creative use of lighting. I will then create some emulation based upon their work.

The piece I produced to emulate Laura Letinsky will be added next week when I return home.cof

Exercise 4.9 – Repetition

Brief:- Repetition of one image or very similar images, whether exactly the same or with slight differences in exposure, crop or image quality, elicits an inquisitive eye. Repetition emphasises the sameness and yet paradoxically indicates a difference. Andy Warhol used this strategy in his screen prints and photographs. In the image below, do you notice how the dog’s ‘stare’ becomes more insistant. Make a still life set-up of your choice, but you can use any subject. Try to emphasise your subject with the use of light. Aim to make around 20 photographs. Choose the best shot and process it to your liking. Now create a presentation of that one photograph that involves six to eight copies. Make some notes on the overall effect.


I found the repetition example used in the Foundations in Photography manual (face of a dog) to be quite uninspiring. To be honest I didn’t find that the dogs stare became more insistant. I would go as far as to say that it was full and unimaginative.

Because of this I was reluctant to produce a piece of work that was a simple replication of the initial image  Havin remembered Warhol’s series of Campbell’s Soup cans (a – Warhol, A; 1962), and some pop art posters of Marilyn Monroe, which were based upon his silkscreen canvas diptychs (b Warhol, A; 1962), I decided I would emulate these.

The most challenging aspect is beginning to understand how to use my speedlight. I used gels which cover the flash, but soon found that I couldn’t have them underneath, behind or in front of the camera. The effect was too strong even when the speedlight was on its lowest power output. The amount of light that each gel let through differed significantly, so I had to position the speedlight accordingly. Altering the aperture and ISO was necessary, and I’ve developed the images in Photoshop in order to remove shadows. I’m not comfortable with the speedlight as yet, and it would probably have worked better if I had an assistant with a reflector. Using a speedlight is a new experience, but it would have been harder to create the same result with a gel and light set up.




Warhol, A; 1962; Campbell’s Soup [Synthetic polymer paint on canvas]; Online AT: (accessed on 07/11/2018)

b Warhol, A; 1962; Marilyn Monroe [Acrylic on canvas]; Online: AT: (accessed on 07/11/2018)

Exercise 4.8 – Photomontage In Photoshop

Brief:- Now that you’ve seen how to make a photomontage with newspaper cuttings, search through your archive of images to make a photomontage with your own photographs. Photomontage requires a playful, experimental attitude to exploring different arrangements, so don’t try to be too ‘tidy’ or perfect about your final result. Decide on the different picture elements: the background, the different parts of the environment, objects different people in the environment. Think in terms of depth: fg,mg, and bg. When you’ve completed your photomontage, photograph it or save it as a finished image. 

Things That

I’m surprised at how short a time this take me to complete. Just a few hours this afternoon. Clearly the practice of using Photoshop is paying off. During other pieces of coursework I have used Photoshop to create montages of differing styles, one was made from several hundred photos that I had taken of street art (here), and another which combined faces (here).

It’s been enjoyable for me to connect with what matters to me. It can be easy to get bogged down with some aspects of life, which become detrimental to others. The background picture reminds me that my passion is photography. It’s become a vital part of regaining my health. Macro photography helps me to chill, to forget the things which can disable me, and to help me get present. The two family members are amazing. We never knew each other until I neared the end of my twenties, it was a chance meeting. But we lost contact and then a real life miracle happened. L was robbed in the street and she flagged down a car, the driver took them home so the police could be called. My photo was on the mantelpiece. I’m so grateful to the man who robbed L. L and G are amazing, if you’re reading – I love you deeply. The gannet is representative of birds, nature, birdwatching and wildlife photography. How can you not love a bird? The car is flying – events photography – I love the action, the fast pace of photographic technique, pushing myself technically and creatively. I’m feeling very grateful as I join some of the dots of my life.

When I embarked upon Foundations in Photography I preferred Lightroom over Photoshop. I still find Lightroom to be my go to for digitally developing my photos. However, my personal creative development has had a seismic shift, by following other creatives blogs I have started to explore mixed media art and production. I have an exciting developmental journey ahead, and I need Photoshop for the development of my creativity.

Exercise 4.7 – Photomontage

Brief:- Juxtaposition in photography can be as simple as placing two photos side by side. But juxtaposition can also be said to happen within the frame in still life when objects are purposefully placed together. In photomontage rougher and often amusing juxtapositions result from sticking bits of pictures together. Have a look at the work of John Heartfield and Hannah Hoch to prepare for this exercise. Heartfield’s photomontage’s are politically charged images designed to express social ills: For more advanced contemporary examples, search for Beaten Gutschow’s “S” series. Get a few old magazines or newspapers. Decide on a background picture – for example a large view of space or any place. Now add to it a figure, or at least the head and shoulders of a person. Now find some other images that you can substitute for the person’s head (for example a cabbage) or their eyes (telescopes) or mouth (a pothole). Stick them on the face. Photograph the result. As you can see, the process tends to result in bizarre combinations. But there is a deeper meaning to this process. By cutting and pasting fragments of images, you’re choosing how a picture should be made and offering an interpretation of the different subjects you choose. You’re also constructing an image in a way that would be impossible to construct in reality.

For this exercise I produced two ideas boards (seen here), neither of which I have followed through with as yet. Brexit is something which concerns me . IIa  a remainer, I value cultural diversity and I want to remain part of a wider European community. Regardless of my desire for Britain totremain as part of theEU, I feel that the current British Government is making a right pigs ear of Brexit negotiations. When I made the initial collage I had the intent of producing a mixed media image. My final two images include the handmade collage, digital editing I. Photoshop, acquired images from the internet, an uploaded photo, and the Photoshop text tool. I’ve produced two results, one of which replaces Theresa May’s face, as per the brief, and my preferred picture which doesn’t. Overall I’m pleased with the result, but I took far too long in Photoshop when turning the background white.

Original Collage


First Draft

You Will Regret This Brexit Mayhem

Final (as per brief)

You Will Regret This Brexit Mayhem

Final (preferred version)

You Will Regret This Brexit Mayhem

I believe my montage makes a strong political statement, similar in nature to Heartfield, but Hoch had more of an influence. I like that she makes use of image and text, and the business of her collages were more appropriate for my chosen theme, than Heartfield’s minimalist approach.

Review – John Heartfield And Hannah Hoch

John Heartfield (1891 – 1968)

Heartfield, J; 1932; The meaning of the Hitler Salute Little Man Asks for Big Gifts Copper-plate photogravureFig. 1. The Meaning of the Hitler Salute Little Man Asks for Big Gifts (1932)

Initial Thoughts – Possibly a magazine cover or a poster. Hitler is depicted as a smaller man, with the benefactor behind him being so large that he fills the full length of the frame, with only part of his head in view. He is handing over large quantities of bank notes to Hitler. Allegorical – Hitler is a small/small minded man who is heavily dependant upon the generosity of others to have his position of power (note – inital thoughts based upon the assumption that hitler was already in power in 1932 – when in fact he lost the presidential election of that year (The History Place; 1996)). The brief is asking us to consider juxtaposition within the genre of still life photography, but more importantly, the aim is for us as students to learn how to take control of the images that we produce. Photomontage is a means which we can employ to become the director of all aspects of our creative output. We can arrange elements in any manner to enable us full expression of our ideas, whatever they may be.

The Dada movement was founded as a political protest against the “rabid German nationalism and Anglophobia that developed following Germany’s defeat in World War I. The Dada artists were closely tied to the revolutionary political struggle; ‘Use photography as a weapon’ was their slogan” (Mulligan, T and Wooters, D; 2016; pp524). Heartfield was a founder member of the dadaist movement, and the term ‘photomontage’ developed from the Dadaists. Heartsfield has turned Hitlers salute into a e plea for power and the resources to obtain it. A very simple image which carries a weighty message.

Hannah Hoch (1889 – 1978)

Hoch-Cut_With_the_Kitchen_KnifeFig. 2. Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany (1919 – 1920)

Initial thoughts – Complex collage that has made use of photo’s and clippings from many magazines and newspapers. I find myself feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of visual information, especially as it relates to an era of which I know and understand little. It makes use of people, words, scenes, charicatures and objects. Although I cannot read the image directly from screen (too much to know where to start) I can see the creative freedom one can achieve with this style of art. I do have a copy in a photography book, so I will take some time to have a look over the scene in more detail, and to read what the experts say.

Notes from Fabian Knierim in Photography the Whole Story (2012); pp194

  • Hanna Hoch the only woman artist in first Dada Fair in 1920
  • Image portrays politic and social upheaval
  • Fragments taken from the press
  • People are from politics and the arts
  • Includes representatives of the old empire and left wing revolutionists
  • The revolutionists are shown as unifying Germany
  • The women are in dynamic poses representative of movement
  • The men are static



Figure 1 Heartfield, J; 1932; The meaning of the Hitler Salute:: Little Man Asks for Big Gifts [Copper-plate photogravure]; AT: (accessed on 19/10/2018)

Figure 2 Hoch, H; 1919 – 1920; Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany [Collage]; AT: (accessed on 19/10/2018)


Knierim, F; 2012; Cut With the Kitchen Knife: Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany; IN: Hacking, J and Company, D; 2012; Photography the Whole Story; London; Thames and Hudson; pp194.

Mulligan, T and wooters, D; 2016) A History of Photography From 1839 to the Present; Cologne; Taschen GmbH

The History Place; 1996; Hitler Runs For President; Online AT: (accessed on 19/10/2018)