Collaborative Photo Essay About Living With Autism – Learning About Portrait Photography

It has been a pleasure to have 9 collaborators on the photo essay that I am writing about living with autism. The photos and accompanying words are great. The challenge for me is researching autism, living with autism, and writing an article that recognises the medical model but has more focus on the people.

Although autism is often a disability for people who have it, that’s a minor part of what I want to present. The real disability is how society reacts to people with autism, and also de-humanises people once they have been labelled and put into a neat box. More over the next few days.

A point of learning for me with regard to collaboration is Authorship. I’m putting the essay together but that doesn’t make me the author or the owner of the work. We have agreed where I will publish the essay, my collaborators have shared their photos, writing and how to credit and link. Once I have written the article (aiming for monday), I will then send it out for their review and feedback, along with alterations where necessary. The key is to ensure that we all retain Authorship and ownership of the essay.

What have I learned about portrait photography? Relationship, rapport and repetition.

That’s the buzz words covered, ha ha.

Repetition is key. The way to improve is practice.

Rapport. It’s hard to build rapport if you are taking photos solely for the purpose of improving your skills. I have certainly found it easy to ask someone if I can take their photo when something about them interests me.


This is now leading to building a relationship. Through reading about portrait photography and reviewing other photographers I had the confidence to try something different today. I asked a man to look through the lens, into my face, and look angry. I asked him to look passed off with me for taking his photo.

It’s another step forward and I can develop this into exploring other emotions with other people.



Portrait Photography Progress – What I Have Learned So Far

I will upload the photos to my sketchbook, once I have continued with the research that my tutor suggested.

It has only been three days since I made the decision to ask one person if I can take their photo each time I go out. I have managed to get out one three occasions, and have asked several people each day.

It is apparent to me that I am going out to improve my confidence with asking people if I can “take” their photo so that I can develop as a photographer. It is to improve my skills, and I did not set out with a vision of what I wanted to say with the photo – which is why I say “take” instead of “make”.

To make photographs implies one of two things two me. Either I have something that I want to say with my photography, or that I am collaborating with someone else so that I can collaborate with them, so that they can express themselves as a subject. I can see wh my tutor says that its important to ask people who you are interested in or have a connection to, or as I am learning, involved in a subject that interests me.

Even after a few days I am beginning to get a feel of what I am looking for. I connected with one woman in a cafe. It was her character. She very calmly and authoritatively diffused a situation. I spoke to her about this, and was then able to ask to take her photo. Then today I spoke with a couple who were having a drink outside of a pub. They looked so relaxed and happy, and yesterday there was a man who was vaping on his e-cig.

There is something about people who are involved in an activity, texting on their phone, talking with each other, that draws me in. Because of this I have been asking people to continue with the activity. I have then been able to photograph them during the activity and then zoom in for a facial portrait.

I do find full face portraits more challenging to take, and I think that is because I am only beginning to develop a vision about portrait photography. It certainly helps when I feel some kind of connection to the person or people, although at this stage I feel that I need to keep asking people whether there is a connection or not, and let the process unfold, and my vision/style develop in its own time. It’s not a matter of taking lots of photos and hoping that I get a couple of good ones, but it is about working with as many people as I can until I get a feel for where I want to go with portrait photography.

Conflicting Thoughts On Candid Street Photography

As I left a shop yesterday a man put his camera to his eye and was going to take a photo of me. I turned away and put my hand to my face. If he had approached me and asked to take the shot I would have obliged. It wouldn’t have been candid but I would have agreed to walk back into the shop and come out again. He would still have got a good photo.

On Friday I watched Masters of Photography. Series 1 episode 1 which was shown on Sky Arts HD on 16th May. A few of the contests followed individuals around Rome, taking their photos. Several of the people told them to stop and leave them alone.

One of the better photos of the day was a candidate street shot. I attended a photography society last year and two of the best presentations were by candid street photographers.

My attitude has been that if I am aiming to take a photo where one individual is the main subject then I seek their consent first. The photos for my homelessness project were taken with consent and information about how I would use the photos.

When I attended Northern Pride it was apparent that seeking consent would not be possible during the march. I shot on the presumption of informed consent. I remained visible as a photographer and only used photos where people were engaged with the camera. If people looked uncomfortable or turned away I deleted their photo. At the event following the march I again gained verbal consent for portraits.

Whilst in York shooting for assignment one I took several photos of individuals or small groups where they were the subject of the photo. I included one of these in my final cut. This photo was taken when I was obviously in view as a photographer. However there was no engagement between the camera and subject.

I also took one photo where I was almost hidden from view. I got a great photo. It didn’t make the final cut, however that was because it didn’t fit in with the series. Would I have included it if it had have fit the theme?

I feel that I’m on an ethically sound footing with informed consent, and I am comfortable with implied consent. I’m less comfortable with being visible but without informed/implied consent. I feel very uncertain about candid street photography where I catch people by surprise or where I’m partially/fully concealed.

This is an area that we all have to be true to ourselves. What other photographers choose to do is their choice, and what I shoot is my responsibility. I certainly appreciate the art of candid street photography and have seen some incredible photos of this genre.

I can see that my ethics and boundaries are evolving as I watch more photography and read books and others blogs, and I will continue to evaluate my personal morals in this regard.

Chinese State Circus – Shaolin Monks – Macro – Exercise 2.1 and Project 1.

What have I learned from the past 4 days making photography.

Stick to the brief but have fun once that’s done.


Sometimes you can’t make the shoot that you wish to, so shoot again in a planned environment.

The Chinese State Circus and Shaolin Monks were incredible, and have definitely made some good photos. But I will have to re-shoot project 1.

Why – There is a limit to shooting in low light with the D7100. Despite being described as presenting little noise with high iso, this is definitely not my experience. Which means I’ve had to use a wide aperture. Consequently I haven’t been able to demonstrate the different depths of field for project 1. It was an event that I didn’t know about until Friday so I haven’t completed the research from the brief, so this was an unplanned shoot. I’m not giving myself a hard time. I got a wonderful opportunity to see the amazing Shaolin Monks and Chinese State Circus. Truly awesome.

There are times when making photography that you miss the enjoyment of an event because you see a limited 3:2 ratio. I took lots of photos and some of them are pleasing. My eye was to the viewfinder throughout, yet I never felt like I missed the pleasure of the performance because they were so darn good. I missed some iso and shutter speed changes, but my gosh am I improving. I’m beginning to intuitively know what to change and when.

For exercise 2:1 – use a white backdrop to remove background details and thus isolating the subject. Make a series of portraits and still life/nature.

I did my best to stick to the brief. The lighting was good for the outdoor shots, but the wind was so strong that the paper blew away or ripped. To be honest it’s not a big deal as I have enough ability with Photoshop to correct the ripped paper.

Indoors – I don’t have a speed light and using my makeshift lighting wasn’t adequate. plastic box, two torches inside, paper on top – didn’t work due to highlight patches. Same technique for side-lighting – light too strong and when moved away it was too weak.

I was using my Tamron 18-270 at max focal length and combined with Vello extension tubes with a combined length of 68mm (with 1.5 crop sensor that’s an effective 507mm focal length). It’s a brilliant set up when you get used to an incredibly narrow depth of field and ensuring you have the right angle for the photo you wish to make. I can get so close in with this set up. I love love love it. I did stick to the brief – for a while. Then I slipped into the enjoyment of macro. If you want a crisp 24mp photo of a twenty pence piece or sliver of watermelon then I will have them here later in the week.

I also learned that flash is not good for wet fruit and macro photography so I need to improve my lighting set up as soon as I can.

No portraits shot for the exercise as yet but really enjoyed these pieces of photography.

How Does A Photographer Create Intimacy At Events Photography?

Despite my anxiety about being outside and being around people, I enjoy events photography and in the long-term i see it as being the focus of my planned photographic career. Not all events photography involves people but some of it does.

I follow a professional events photographer Alan Barnett, and the intimacy that he creates is apparent in the majority of his photographs. He demonstrates a collaboration between photographer and photographed.

I have been able to create intimacy in the homelessness project that I am undertaking, but I feel that’s because I am an insider. Having previously been homeless I find it easy to sit on the floor and chat with the people I’m photographing, to give them a space to be heard. I value them and that comes across in their photos.

But how do you create a connection with people when you’re an outsider? When you’re at an event to do a job? To fulfill a professional contract?

Something that I realised at Northern Pride is that I need to talk with people more freely, and that’s something that I  struggle with. I felt awkward and clumsy, although it did become easier as the day progressed.

Image: The Portrait, is my next piece of coursework. I have read through the content and it terrifies me. I’m a hermit, I don’t live close to my friends, most days I get out for an hour – at a push. I have no connections in my community because I’m scared of people.

I’m going to have to push myself to complete this assignment. Technically I feel competent. I already make use of the technical skills that are addressed in this section.

It’s the people part i struggle with, and you can’t make portraits without people. I need to work with people as an outsider to complete Image: The Portrait, as I don’t see my friends that often. If I’m honest I will develop more as a photographer if I undertake these projects with people whom I don’t know.

Being kind to myself, being patient, taking my time. These will be required for success. Oh yes, and to remember the exhilaration I felt after shooting at pride.



Barnett, Alan; 2017; Online at (accessed on 11/09/2017)

An Intriguing Photographic Discovery.

I walked into a retro shop on Saturday and discovered a 1963 book called “On Photography” by Tom Hustler (Evans Brothers LTD; London).20170911_094645

Inside the cover I found a loose photo, an envelope with three negatives, and a letter.20170911_094815

The letter is addressed to a Mr Kaye. The author of the letter doesn’t give his name and there is no signature. The narrative is.20170911_094705

Attended Cardiff Show.

Met photographer Garwood.

Garwood unable to attend Driffield show in capacity of staff photographer for Dog World.

Would the author like to attend in the role.

Author states he was unsure as to whether he should write to Mr Kaye or Dog World.

The letter interests me the most. A piece of history has fallen into my lap and I find myself intrigued and excited. The investigation begins.  Is the author Tom Hustler? Is he somebody else? Who is Mr Kaye? Who is Garwood?

The owner of the retro shop is going to keep an eye out for found photos at auction for me. We have agreed a price that I’m willing to pay. Fingers crossed.20170911_094653

Reflections on the Week

After completing Assignment One last week, I took a couple of days to chill. As well as sending my photo book to my tutor, I will be sending my reflections and learning booklet.

Then it hit me – having links to contact sheets will not work in a paper book, so I removed the links, included contact sheets and then sent the booklet to the printers.

This week my focus has been writing a photo essay on homelessness, which I have submitted, completing Lightroom tutorial 4, and developing some photos for my personal photography projects. Once I have completed editing the bird photography I will read the coursework for Image the Portrait. Which I’m not looking forward to. I hardly see people. My friends don’t live nearby, I don’t socialise, I’m a hermit. Solutions will appear because they always do.

It’s not always easy to read all of the other blogs that I want too, but I’ve had more time this week. It’s a lovely process seeing people start coursework,  complete each section, plan and execute their assignment and then get their tutors feedback. A few people have completed assignments and a couple have had feedback. I enjoy and learn from other people’s study, and I get hope from seeing them complete an assignment or unit.

Enjoying Developing for Square Mile – This Weeks Learning – Lightroom Tutorial Develop Module Global Developments Next Week

I am currently developing photos for assignment one – Square Mile. It’s been a lot of fun. Hard work because I want to present my photos in a manner that I’m happy with. One of the keys for me has been to seek guidance and critique from others.  I have now established which photos I want to include. My next step is to cross reference those with the feedback I have received from others. I will include the photos that we all agree on and then review and reselected to make up the final 12.

The most important thing for me this week has been to follow the guidance in the FiP manual – to continue even if you don’t feel like it. I wasn’t well on Saturday and didn’t enjoy the photography but I continued with it. I felt really disheartened and felt that I made really awful photos. They are much better than I thought and include all the aspects of learning from Workflow.

Lightroom tutorial 4 – Develop module – Global development – I’ve put that on the back burner this week so that I can focus on my assignment. I will get it written and posted next week.

Have a fab weekend.

Integrating Learning from Workflow Coursework into Assignment One -Feedback From Lyndsey Jameson – Time is a Necessity for Creativity

I would love to say that yesterday’s photography for assignment one -Square Mile – was enjoyable, but it wasn’t.  Neither my physical or mental health are good at the moment, so it was hard work. It was made easier by a friend coming with me and being nearby.

I have been able to integrate technical skills, light and shadow, movement and story telling into my photography and I’m pleased with that.

I will review my photography during the week. My ideas for the assignment have changed over the past week and especially over the past couple of days. I really enjoy this process of allowing the spark of an initial idea to form over time. My process once I have an idea is to think intensely about it, then deliberately focus on something different. Do some research then take my focus to something else. I also meditate and when other ideas come to me I focus back on my breath and let the thoughts go. Having this gap allows the subconscious to process the ideas and all of a sudden when I’m watching TV or reading an idea will come to me about of the blue. Then I really focus on exploring that, and after a while I put my focus elsewhere.

I have gone from three ideas, down to one and with further thought I now have, what I believe is a strong plan for the series and how I want to present it.

My assignment will be a brief history of York presented as a photo book. I have valued the photo books that I have more than digital presentation. One one page I will have the photo and on the page next to it I will have the written history associated with that image. The first photo will link to the first century and then consecutively up to 2015.

I received feedback from Lyndsey Jameson in relation to my review of two of her paintings, which I will respond to once I’ve processed it fully. There are two things that will help me to develop my photography and my studies that particularly stand out. I like my initial process of critique, picking two images and then writing my initial thoughts. However I missed an overarching theme of Lyndsey’s art because I hadn’t looked through other paintings of hers. I missed some important symbology (being to focused on interpreting detail didn’t help either because I then introduced my symbology). My tutor Jayne Taylor has also discussed the necessity to look for symbolism in photography, as i had missed a critical metaphor when reviewing Walker-Evans. Lyndsey also talked through her process of moving from an idea to execution. The thing I gained most from this was the importance of discussing and developing ideas with friends and colleagues. When I see the results of OCA students such as Sarah Jane Field, it’s apparent how they involve others in the development and production of their work (and their assessment marks reflect this). I need to make more use of the OCA Student website for this.


Review of Lyndsey Jameson – PhotoRealist Artist

I am reviewing Lyndsey Jameson as part of the planning and research for my project on mental illness/mental wellness.

Lyndsey is a visual artist who predominantly paints with oils in the photorealistic style. She has been awarded the British Portrait Award with the National portrait Gallery (2015). She also received second place in the visitors choice of the British Portrait award in 2010.

I find her paintings to be hard-hitting expressions of emotions and inner conflict. She produces a narrative within each painting, but there is adequate space within that for the viewer to become the co-creator of story by questioning our emotions, inner thoughts and our concept of self and identity.


The Harpy – Oil on Linen 2013

The Harpy - Oil on Linen 2013

Fig 1

Initial Observations

Woman melting, Rook on Head, Rose and hair pin above ear, Eyes – white-no iris-no pupil, mouth wide, burnt orange-brown-red-yellow canvas, with some whiter/highlights as frame around head. Photorealistic, Emotion – anger-fear-loss

The woman could be materialising (left side of body has no lines of melting) so could be forming. She Could be melting (right hand side of body is like wax, melting down the page. A sense of not being seen as only shoulders and head visible.

The colours of canvas initially suggested anger, movement, energy, intensity, but I also see warmth, sunrise, mist.

Narrative:- The appearance of woman, self, arising through the mist of the morning sunrise, with a need to be heard and seen. There is a strength in the mouth and eyes and the form of the body, which is very defined other than the left arm. Were are not being shown, subtle, tender curves of the woman, we are being shown the dynamic strength of the feminine, the goddess. The Power.The Power is not a confrontation or hostility to the viewer, we are not being lead to be fearful. The perspective is side on, and although the woman is looking forward, she is not facing us. This is power without threat. Inner strength.

Research The Harpy and Celtic power animal (Crow, Rook, Raven)

Harpy – Roman Greek Mythology, half maiden half bird, hunger, faster than the winds, swift-footed, Swift Robbers, bringer of justice, protective of family – especially when harmed, considered ugly by MEN

“But even as early as the time of Aeschylus, they are described as ugly creatures with wings, and later writers carry their notions of the Harpies so far as to represent them as most disgusting monsters. The Pythian priestess of Apollo recounted the appearance of the Harpies in the following lines:

“Before this man an extraordinary band of women [i.e. Harpies] slept, seated on thrones. No! Not women, but rather Gorgons I call them; and yet I cannot compare them to forms of Gorgons either. Once before I saw some creatures in a painting, carrying off the feast of Phineus; but these are wingless in appearance, black, altogether disgusting; they snore with repulsive breaths, they drip from their eyes hateful drops; their attire is not fit to bring either before the statues of the gods or into the homes of men. I have never seen the tribe that produced this company, nor the land that boasts of rearing this brood with impunity and does not grieve for its labor afterwards.” also Vicious, cruel, tyrants that punished the wicked. (Wikipedia; 2017)

The Poem The Harpy by Robert William Service gives a different perspective on the Harpy, and suggests that the harpy is wise, wise to the shame of men, but punished by the gods to play the game of love, either for loves sake or payment. However, this is not a submissive role. These are women of power and are the hunters and not the hunted, even though the man may feel that he is the one with the power.

Celtic and Druid Mythology around ravens and crows concern, wisdom, the oracle, fortune-telling, seeing the future, death but he one that strikes me is that crows can be trained to speak.

I believe that Jameson is showing a woman, truly stepping into her own power, sense of self and will no longer be subservient, quite, shy. She knows who she is, she sees who you are, she sees the future and do not dare stand in her way, because you will pay the consequences if you do. This is also symbolised by the cawing crow. She is also mysterious and has hidden depths




“A lot of negative raven symbolism comes about from their appearance on battlefields. They are scavengers (and curious to a fault), and are often seen picking at mangled remains of fallen warriors on battle grounds.

For example, the raven’s intelligence is possibly its most winning feature. Indeed, these birds can be trained to speak. This speaking ability leads into the legend of ravens being the ultimate oracle.

In fact, the raven is often heard to cackle utterances that sound like “cras, cras.” The actual word cras is tomorrow in Latin. This lends more fuel to the legendary fires that distinguish the raven as a bird who can foretell the future, and reveal omens and signs.

Countless cultures point to the raven as a harbinger of powerful secrets. Moreover, the raven is a messenger too, so its business is in both keeping and communicating deep mysteries. The raven is symbolic of mind, thought and wisdom according to Norse legend, as their god Odin was accompanied by two ravens: Hugin who represented the power of thought and active search for information. The other raven, Mugin represented the mind, and its ability to intuit meaning rather than hunting for it. Odin would send these two ravens out each day to soar across the lands. At day’s end, they would return to Odin and speak to him of all they had spied upon and learned on their journeys.


Keywords Associated With Raven Symbolism

Vocal, Brassy, Knowing, Curious, Truthful, Creative, Authentic, Intuitive, Mysterious, Insightful, Intelligent, Unpredictable, Unconventional” (Veneficia; 2015-2017)


Druidism and Crow

“Another belief was that the birds were faeries who shape-shifted to cause troubles. Magickal qualities included bringing knowledge, shape-shifting, eloquence, prophecy, boldness, skill, knowledge, cunning, trickery and thievery. In the Middle Ages, people believed that sorcerers and witches used the symbol of Crows foot to cast death spells. In most of England, seeing a solitary crow meant anger, but in Northamptonshire, it meant ill fortune. Crow, cawing in a hoarse voice, meant bad weather. A death omen was a crow cawing thrice as it flew over a house. The Irish believed that Crow flocking in trees, but not nesting were souls from Purgatory. Finding a dead crow was a sign of good fortune. Russians believed that witches took the shape of Crow.” (Clara)


Torsion – Oil on Canvas 2006

Torsion Oil on canvas 2006

Fig 2

Initial Observations

Male Face, tortured, bruised, cyanosis, haematoma, locked in, unable to express, constricted emotions and thoughts, the eyes – restricted vision – no hope – no future – suicide, the wires wrap tightly around his face – he is mentally and verbally squashed, everything is kept in, his emotions and thoughts are tight and becoming tighter, he can’t get enough oxygen. He is dying with the weight of what he cannot think about or say. He has witnessed or committed tragedy, intense trauma. This is a form of inner suffocation and strangulation. The torture is not as a form of assault, the wires suggest this and say that something has happened to him. The trauma has happened to him and its eating him alive. He is in so much pain but there is no way that he is going to let it out. He is going to die. The pressure is too much. There is no sign that he is going to hit out, the wires tell of impotence, an inability to express.

Pain, sadness, grief, trauma, suffering, intensity, suffocation, powerlessness and death.

With the dictionary definitions of testicular torsion I believe the man may have suffered sexual abuse, and that this has cut of the life within him, as in the first dictionary definition. A hard hitting painting that made me pause deeply.


Torsion – dictionary

“Testicular torsion occurs when the spermatic cord (from which the testicle is suspended) twists, cutting off the testicle’s blood supply The most common symptom in children is rapid onset of severe testicular pain The testicle may also be higher than usual and vomiting may occur. In newborns pain is often absent and instead the scrotum may become discoloured or a testicle may disappear from its usual place” (Wikipedia; 2017a)

“def 1; late Middle English torcion wringing one’s bowels < Old French torsion < Late Latin torsiōn- (stem of torsiō) torment, equivalent to tors(us) twisted (see torse ) + -iōn- -ion” (Random House Dictionary; 2017)

“The Harpy – Poem by Robert William Service

There was a woman, and she was wise; woefully wise was she;
She was old, so old, yet her years all told were but a score and three;
And she knew by heart, from finish to start, the Book of Iniquity.

There is no hope for such as I on earth, nor yet in Heaven;
Unloved I live, unloved I die, unpitied, unforgiven;
A loathed jade, I ply my trade, unhallowed and unshriven.

I paint my cheeks, for they are white, and cheeks of chalk men hate;
Mine eyes with wine I make them shine, that man may seek and sate;
With overhead a lamp of red I sit me down and wait

Until they come, the nightly scum, with drunken eyes aflame;
Your sweethearts, sons, ye scornful ones — ’tis I who know their shame.
The gods, ye see, are brutes to me — and so I play my game.

For life is not the thing we thought, and not the thing we plan;
And Woman in a bitter world must do the best she can —
Must yield the stroke, and bear the yoke, and serve the will of man;

Must serve his need and ever feed the flame of his desire,
Though be she loved for love alone, or be she loved for hire;
For every man since life began is tainted with the mire.

And though you know he love you so and set you on love’s throne;
Yet let your eyes but mock his sighs, and let your heart be stone,
Lest you be left (as I was left) attainted and alone.

From love’s close kiss to hell’s abyss is one sheer flight, I trow,
And wedding ring and bridal bell are will-o’-wisps of woe,
And ’tis not wise to love too well, and this all women know.

Wherefore, the wolf-pack having gorged upon the lamb, their prey,
With siren smile and serpent guile I make the wolf-pack pay —
With velvet paws and flensing claws, a tigress roused to slay.

One who in youth sought truest truth and found a devil’s lies;
A symbol of the sin of man, a human sacrifice.
Yet shall I blame on man the shame? Could it be otherwise?

Was I not born to walk in scorn where others walk in pride?
The Maker marred, and, evil-starred, I drift upon His tide;
And He alone shall judge His own, so I His judgment bide.

Fate has written a tragedy; its name is “The Human Heart”.
The Theatre is the House of Life, Woman the mummer’s part;
The Devil enters the prompter’s box and the play is ready to start. “(Service; 1953)



Fig 1;  Jameson, L; 2013; The Harpy Oil on Linen; Online at (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Fig 2; Jameson, L; 2006; Torsion Oil on Canvas; Online at (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Clara; Crow Divination Part 2 of 3; Online at (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Random House Dictionary; 2017; Origin of Torsion; New York; Random House Inc; In; Online at (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Service, RW; 1953; The Harpy; Online at (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Wikipedia; 2017; The Harpy; Wikipedia Foundation;  Online at  (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Wikipedia; 2017a; Testicular torsion; Wikipedia Foundation; Online at (accessed on 05/08/2017)

Veneficia, A; 2005-2017; Raven Symbolism and Symbolic Meaning of Ravens; Online at (accessed on 05/08/2017)