Posted in Assignment 3 ~ Spaces to places, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Willie Doherty – Ambiguity


The following is my investigation into the inclusion or exclusion of captions in photography. Artist study, Willie Doherty

Willie Docherty is an Irish photographer focusing on the pain, trials and tribulations of Ireland.  “He  (Doherty)does not deal with the explicit, but with hidden histories, tensions and antagonisms inscribed in the familiar, everyday surface of things” My tutor suggested it due to this inclusion of text yet I found my thoughts went further than text and more into the meanings gleaned from captions and the thoughts of the viewers when no such captions are provided.

I looked at the work of Willie Doherty and admittedly felt it it hard to put a meaning too without any context or narrative. The text is overlayed in a bold direct fashion across the image using typography hierarchy, the text has the role of bold uppercase with the photo being noticed secondly almost like a pale lower case. ‘God Has Not Failed us’ one such image reads then the eye is drawn beyond into the photo of a seemingly abandoned house, the shutters hanging askew, the feeling of emptiness. The two images present a double-edged sword, is the statement ‘God has not failed us,’ words of strength refusing to accept the situation, refusing to lose hope or is it written sarcastically, ironically, ‘God has not failed us’ yet here is the proof. It is impossible to know the story without any background. Even if the viewer knew it was in Ireland, which story was it?

That is where I feel photography essays are made up of two important elements, possibly three if typography is a feature. One, the photo, two, the caption and three, the typography. Like two cogs, each is redundant without the other. The caption can still tell a story but the photo is needed to provide the emotion, or the double meanings, the story between the lines. Yet as I write this I feel constricted, two paths appear, do you need the caption or do we like to create our own stories. On one hand, with the caption, we are offered some more insight, a clue in a crime scene and we can make of it what we will. I read a review of Willie Doherty’s work and realised it was about the conflict of Ireland. Exploring the images is like being at a crime scene and finding several clues which will in turn lead you to deeper revelations.

“Re-Run (2002) is a silent video installation by Willie Doherty, featuring two looped projections of a lone male figure, endlessly running across the Craigavon Bridge, over the River Foyle in Derry.”

Without the historial knowledge of the bombings of the bridge the viewer may interpret the image with their own imagery. They may relate the running to a situation in their own lives, running away from pain or fear…or running to a new future. The figure runs endlessly trapped in a infinity loop, someone who felt trapped in their lives would transpose their body into that of the figure so they were watching their own story playing out. Their feelings towards it may have nothing to do with the bombing of the bridge and the story Doherty is telling.

“Historically the only means of traversing the city’s two sides, the bridge was frequently bombed as a result of its strategic significance. A deceptively simple set-up, the camera catches the figure from the front as well as from the back in this double projection; even a cursory understanding of the site complicates the narrative”

Yet which is the strongest? Without the caption a photo can seem like staring through the window into someone elses lives. The window becomes evocative of a dolls house, you see the people, you see their characters and their surroundings and you create your own truths and stories out of that. Yet we can never know for sure whether the stories we are telling are the truth and that is where the beauty is, in the ambigious. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, sometimes the power of the photo comes from our own understanding. A piece of paper with the starting sentence which we then take as our own. The viewer is as much responsible for the final destination in the mind as the photographer.

This reminds me of Bergins work which I wrote about earlier here, he was asked to create the series for UK76 yet added his own words thus changing the whole meaning of the piece, thus becoming a completely new creation. Without those captions how would they have been interpreted? There would have been no double meaning as we are only shown one image. Does that mean to have a double meaning there must be two layers to the image, a caption (pushing the the meaning gleaned from the image in a new direction) and the photo itself.

This is something to be included in Assignment Four, writing a critical essay on a subject of which I’ve chosen Photography and Plato’s Cave, how the viewers interpretation will always be different to that of the photographer.


Willie Doherty’s “Unseen” | Art Agenda

Forged in Derry: punishment beatings and burning cars

Willie Doherty – YouTube


Posted in Assignment 3 ~ Spaces to places, Coursework

Experimenting with typography

Experimenting with fonts

Below are the different fonts for the Snippets series.

I find it quite fascinating the effect even the smallest typography change can bring to the image.

To achieve

The feeling of a timelapse. I could have the text cut off at the beginning and end to create the sense of people dashing through. Should it fade out at the edges as they do or does the ellipsis cover this. Should the text run over each other the way their voices do blurring out some, others are clear.

Snippets One

This was the original snippets but my tutor recommended not using capitals.

Ohh that you remember, there was such a hoo ha it went

I’ve switched the texts to lower case. Adobe Caslon Pro Regular. This feels reminiscent of the comforting feeling of an old paperback, the text is simple and unemotive but the worlds they capture far from it. I surprised myself by how much I liked it. Do I let the actual words do the talking or the text?Snippets TWO psd.jpg

Adobe Garamound

The slanting appearance gives the impression of people walking fast. But also like a letter from the days of Jane Austen whereas the idea is to capture the urban environment of people of the 21st century.

Snippets THREE.jpg

Apple Symbols

Snippets Four.jpg


Athleas Italics

I feel the slanting gives an impression of motion.

Snippets FIVE.jpg

Adobe Hebrew

This one is a little less traditional with the same slanting letters conveying that sense of speed. My favourite remains Adobe Caslon, mainly because of the narrative feel and association.

Snippets Six.jpg

Diwan Thuluth Regular

At first I thought I’d spelt everything incorrectly and was dreading re writing the entire text. Then I saw this font merges all the words together, whilst disorientating to read it does replicate the flow of people and words.

Snippets Seven.jpg


The text is broken up into erratic paragraphs. It does add to the feeling of speed with people speeding by one another like light trails of a car’s headlights at night.

Snippets Eight.jpg

With the thoughts of light trails at night I experimented with the lighting of the picture. Naturally I won’t use it as the words don’t match with the night setting but I would like to sit there at night and see if anyone spoke.

Snippets Nine.jpg

The words pass like ghosts left behind. I feel myself diverting, giving life and feeling to the echoes left behind. It strays too far from the brief but perhaps could be created as a personal project. What if the echoes of people left behind took on their own characters. I read a book by Louis Sachar once, I can’t remember the title but one quote moved me.


I like the idea of the words and echoes left behind being free like litter blowing through a street, though more romantic than that, whole words left behind as we sweep past. They left us behind we are the echoes of memories saved and days

“They left us behind we are the echoes of memories saved and days lost, words spoken     We are what is born and spoken left and lost, behind   We outlive them like streaks of light Everyone is at home now, they watch and they listen and they sleep. They live and die and we are here.

Where are they going

We do not follow

We are here now

And this is our home

Moving on with typography tomorrow



Posted in Assignment 3 ~ Spaces to places, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Typography Artist study – Les Monaghan

My tutor Les Monaghan used typography in his moving Desire project. He suggested I review his own work and I do not take that lightly. To review the work of my tutor was very uncomfortable at first but he told me that if I hated then I should just write why I hated. Luckily I couldn’t hate it. Les photographed people in a shopping mall asking them their desires. It was very heartwarming to discover that the majority of people had wishes not for themselves and their careers but for the world and for others. Journalism often portrays the world as a dark place with only wrong doings and the selfishness of people, but projects like this reminds us all that the majority of humanity is good. And in those good people are the hopes and dreams for a safe new future.

The Desire Project – Les Monaghan

The text works as a statement, rather straight and to the point, a matter of fact and in it’s simplicity it complements the whole piece by letting the images do the talking. I wonder whether a font replicating handwriting would have worked as though the person was actually talking to you. Perhaps if each subject had written down their desire, so the image would instantly become more personal, the photo of the person with their handwriting. Each image would stand out with the writing speaking as much as the photo, allowing the viewer a unique glimpse into a deep part of their lives.

James Smolka created a series called Falling Sickness featuring images and  letters from those who had been diagnosed with epilepsy. The photos are taken by the photographer but what is so personal are the accompanied scanned images of the letters the subjects wrote. The two images together seem such a contrast, a straight on image showing the person yet it is the writing and the letters that show the emotion. The pain of the suffererrs.

While reading about the photographers intention for the images I felt the lyrics in the musical ‘Hamilton’ described his project quite aptly. If you replace the word death with illness.

“Death doesn’t discriminate,

between the sinners and the saints

it just takes and takes and it takes”  Wait for it – Hamilton

Death doesn’t descriminate, nor does love or illness, only people do that. And he created this project to show exactly that, the many faces of people with epilepsy, from all races and sexes and ages, illness doesn’t discrimate or choose.  And nor should we. The use of handwritten letters also adds to the character, the more different styles of writing the more the idea of illnesses targeting anyone is reinforced. While I feel Les Monaghans series works in its simplicity I don’t feel his approach would have worked in Falling Illness

As it’s such an exposing and emotional series, a simply font would have erased such emotion.  Our handwriting is as individual as our fingerprints and I feel it reinforces the message.



Posted in Assignment 3 ~ Spaces to places, Coursework, Research and Reflection

John Kippin – Typography

Before I began researching the photographers my tutor mentioned I did some research into typography. The three main points in typography that affect the appearance, emotion or intended response are

Hierarchy. Just as in photography, the hierarchy, is essentially the lead in line drawing the viewers eye to where you want in the image. This is achieved by making the starting text larger or bolder. Or changing the tracking (the space between initials)  Kippins. The final one is Leading, the space between the words.

The placement of text in John Kippins photo reiterates the message perhaps as effectively as the photo itself. The tracking between the characters is wide, spreading it out enabling the words to hide in the landscape, as though it is decaying and falling apart like the plane. A pale font colour complements the aircraft perfectly. For my assignment I want the words to feel like they are in a timelapse, leaving behind the echoes, yet not hiding them in the landscape. The words don’t draw attention or assault the senses, the two objects are one, an echo of the other.


John Kippins – Hidden


John Kippins – Invisible

Again, the words reflect the images message. There are two main elements in the photo and both are in line with each other, as though the text is echoing the object. You can imagine the text as a stealth assassin copying the element and hiding the way wearing grey and standing against a wall causes you to fade away.

Of course neither are hidden or invisible as the viewer can see them but the words entangle with the story almost like an invisibility cloak, somehow the viewer accepts what they say and sees the object as invisible even despite the nagging part of the mind saying ‘but this isn’t’ invisible. It isn’t hidden. I can see it”

It is my understanding that John Kippins is a photographer who mixes politics, current issues and perhaps unveils those things that the world allow themselves to turn their back on. One image especially hit me. On its own the photo is of broken ice or glass, I think it is ice.  And this conjures up images of the ice caps melting, the onslaught of global warming. Underneath is just one word, one simple word that encapsulates such power and emotion, causes your heart to ache, to sing with anger and injustice and a burning desire to fight.


It’s such a causal word and one that always fills me with such frustration if someone uses it. It shows they don’t care. Whatever, it’s nothing to do with me. I don’t care. I think that’s the most powerful word that he could have used. A plea like ‘help’ or ‘what will you do’ would be strong and inspire change but a flippant ‘whatever’ creates a turmoil of emotion. I myself stared at it with a heavy heart feeling the emotions described above. This rage of emotions is felt in another image, the typography is subtle here and not created by the photographer. Instead, it features a dead shark, bloodied staring out with dead eyes, it’s expression a sharp toothed grimace. I assume it’s a victim of the heartless fishing trade which traps all sorts of creatures on it’s pillage to desolate the seas. Or perhaps the sick shark fin soup industry. There is a scrap of paper stuck on its head with a number. 118. That use of writing in an image is so potent. As though the dead shark is just an item in an auction, that it wasn’t swimming in the sea moments ago. Now it just another number in the massacre, another shark lost. Like a prisoner or a slave with it’s number branded. The number on the shark ties in with the flippant ‘whatever’




Posted in Assignment 3 ~ Spaces to places, Coursework

Assignment Three Preparation​


For Assignment Three, my tutor suggested that I presented the assignment to him this time, though I was at University where we’d work with rough drafts and take it from there. I have sent to my tutor a message and included my thinking for Assignment Three, some photos, scraps of research and the path that has led me here. This time the focus is on the psychogeography of the people and the seafront close to where I live.

ASSIGNMENT CRITERIA – Show with up to 12 photos how a space becomes a place

“Psychogeography is the point at which Psychology and Geography collide, a means of exploring the behavioural impact of an urban place.” Psychogeography – Merlin Coverley

My personal opinion is that the physical and psychological definition of how a space becomes a place is undoubtedly linked by the inhabitants. A backstreet deli could be an empty place at night, or it could be the beating heart of the fox community keeping them fed and supporting many more generations. A battered and lonely seafront could be a place where some take refuge, or it could be a time capsule of memories for an elderly couple remembering the times they spent with their children on the beach.

The definition of a place truly comes alive for the people, by the people. Without it, without any type of colonisation, devoid of insects, plants or life; it would quite simply be, just a space.  Indeed the dictionary definition of space is “ continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied.”

Assignment Preparation. 

Earlier in the course, I created a self-directed personal project called Snippets. It was inspired by hearing the half snippets of conversation as people walked past where I sat on a bench. These fragmented pieces of conversation rarely had a conclusion or even sometimes a meaning. I sat listening and curious by what I heard starting scribbling down on paper what I could hear. It was quite a challenge, the people walked by so fast and with all the noise of the seafront it was a struggle to catch all the worlds (especially with a rather noisy person shuffling their newspaper, thanks, Dad.)

There were the two friends discussing the betrayal of another friend, ‘you’ve been a friend seventy years and been a friend more than anyone else.”  and the Grandson disciplining his Granny about how to play football. “NO GRANNY NOT LIKE THAT!”

It’s so fascinating getting a glimpse into these people’s lives, learning a bit of their story, of what they are thinking, what they choose to share with others, the amusing, the moving, the sad. It’s humanity playing out through these images. And what’s more I’m loving this project, the way the words of the people capture the feeling of the place. Without the image could you guess the weather, the season. Whether people are talking about ice creams or muttering about the cold, even the time of day can be chosen and with it, a picture is created and the psychogeography of the area revealed.

Ohh that you remember, there was such a hoo ha it wentOhh that you remember, there was such a hoo ha it went

Initially, I had laid it out with a standard font, typography was something I had spoken about with my tutor, how the font affects an image so following my Skype session I will choose a more effective font. In this case, the words are even more powerful than the images themselves, perhaps a risky proposition in a photography degree yet I feel the words have powers. The place is devoid of people as I didn’t want them to have a physical presence, to appear only as fleeting words. We are all passing by through life and here I’ve captured the echoes they’ve left behind.


  • I’d like to choose a more appropriate font
  • The way the Snippets are presented is a bit confusing. I will discuss with my tutor a more powerful way they can be presented.
  • I would like to take Snippets from several other places around. The seafront ten minutes away in Blackpool is a contrast to the quiet bay of Lytham. Blackpool’s sandy beach is backed by art sculptures and the clink clink of game arcades that are crushed along the coast. Also a quiet place like a nature reserve versus say a shopping arcade.


Posted in Assignment 2 ~ A journey, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Tutor Feedback – Assignment Two

I had a great Skype session with my tutor, Les. My assignment was recieved very well and the majority was positive with the emotions and meanings evoked and also the ambiguity of the meanings relying on the viewer to interpret, He described some images such as the man in the smoke as ‘really quite disturbing’ bringing dark connotations into the mix of terrible people, evil lurking in the darkness and the vulnerability of a young woman in the dark woods coming across this man. Les also described the accompanying poem, that I wrote, as having the same value as the photos which I was very pleased about. We discussed how one walk could bring to light such stories. He also liked the fact that the images were all taken on the same day as the light was consistent throughout which reinforced the idea of a journey.

There were several main points we discussed.


We discussed the effect of typography in a photographic essay, or more the effect of unsuitable fonts. When I added the poem I used a generic font focusing more on the words and the effect of the reverse out writing rather than concentrating on the shapes and the effect the typography offered. Les described it as a viewer, how one would look at the photos, be moved or drawn in, then the poem, reading the words; if the typography is unsuitable then another element takes the viewers attention, the shape of the words, which may be beautiful to study yet takes away the value from the images. I have written a piece of literature and Les said he wanted it like a book, like literature. There shouldn’t be any half way point such as italics to replicate handwriting. If it’s to be handwriting it should be actual handwriting and vice versa.

He showed me examples from his bookcase where the photos had been captioned in his wife’s handwriting compared to one which had a standard comic sans font which drew away from the images.

I will experiment with how the text influences the photos by using a font such as Baskerville and also with my own handwriting. Though I’m not sure how I can use the reverse out with such a method.

Human inclusion

Assignemnt Two Eight
There was a soft stillness And I felt it all around I felt it in my heart, my mind And thrumming through the ground

Les discovered a small figure in the distance in a pale blue shirt who immediately detracted from the images. He said, “Once I’ve noticed him, he’s all I see and I really want to live in this thing, read your words and live in that space.” Though not usually advocated by Les we decided to clone the blue man out as he acted as the punctum, yet not in the manner intended or desired.

The man in the smoke

I passed through a lonely place Where so many would feel fear Yet all I felt was comfort And I felt them all grow near. And as the ashen smoke rose And stained the bright blue sky They mourned their fallen families Those who they had watched die. So many of us may be scared Of walking through the door They may fear the forests But the forests fear us more

Les described the image as ‘disturbing’ and spoke of the dark connoations the image evoked in him. “We know they (people) exist as you are there but it makes it more of a shock that he is looking directly back at you.” In his own work there was such an image of a man looking directly at the camera and it was argued he should remove the image as it detracted’ We had a long discussion about the pros and cons of removing him but the image evoked such feelings that he recommended keeping it. I also felt it was the powerful image in the set as it’s so unexpected this man in the forest and the threat or help he may offer the protagonist and in that respect, the viewer. The answers are dispersed in ambiguity which is where the power of the series lies. Heliked that the photos would generate one response which was swiftly changed by the words so he wasn’t sure if it was a positive journey or something dark.

He also wrote of the final part of the poem before you see the man, the words ‘danger, family, bright, die, scared, fear’ and how they contribute to the shock as you turn the page and see the man staring at you. Almost like a jump scene in a horror movie. Interesting as I likened the winding path to the scene in the Shining where the viewer is taken around the long corners and never ending corridors. ‘implied threat…say you’re not there but it says your name under it, well suddenly there’s a man in the forest and the author is a women, there is an implied threat. But suddenly your words

The exit sign


Les wondered if the exit sign was too ‘heavy handed’ a little too symbolic to those who haven’t done the research

The Danger sign

Assignment Two - Three
For every corner that I passed Another would surely wind There seemed to be no end of it The labyrinth of the mind

Drawing on our dicussions of typography, was the Danger sign too obvious, did it cut the ambiguity with it’s direct reference to something dangerous instead of it being clouded in mystery?

I will think about the inclusion of these signs though I would need another element that acted as punctum.


Overall it was a great discussion, I feel I have completed the assignment to the best of my ability and now will continue with the next part and research Typography. For the next assignment we are trying a different approach and instead of sending Les the completed assignment I will treat it as though in a physical University where you would go in ever week and work on the imaes. I will send him some photos, outline some ideas and then discuss that in depth.

Posted in Assignment 2 ~ A journey, Coursework

Assignment Two Written Work

Links for Assignment Two

Assignment Two Photos 

Research    Suicide Forest


Initially, I photographed the onomatopoeia of the river and an abandoned road, yet the images were lacking something. I took a break to contemplate and found myself in the woods. In Assignment One I focused on the derivatives of fear with the trees yet now I sought the comfort of the trees. I realised what was missing from the first drafts of Assignment Two. A story. Emotion. I didn’t want to focus on a purely physical journey, I wanted to evade the glib in photography. It needed psychology and emotion…and trees.

I frequently recall my tutors comments from our first phone call, when discussing fear he said “We come from forests – that is the place where we store our fears,”  Following on from Assignment One he suggested I studied Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest in Japan, where hundreds kill themselves each year. Described as a dark place overwhelmed with demons and death, the forest was a place of fear but I saw it as a place of comfort where you could lose yourself and hide from the outside world. How a place could be seen as fearful to some but a comfort to others inspired this assignment. 

At first evocative of the Suicide Forest I was going to attach signs to the trees with messages ‘leave your pain behind,’ ‘you are safe now’ however I felt the story was stronger, told through a poem. I may return to this in a later assignment. 

During the shoot every corner offered another corner. I was intrigued. I was Theseus in the labyrinth, Hansel and Gretel in the dark woods. The only think known was mystery. In my photos, each corner twists out of sight requiring the viewer to turn the page in order to see what is around it. The turning of the page is the action of walking, or flaneurism. I chose to present the images in photobook to involve the viewer and intensify the mystery. A paper version of Google street view almost. The left side depicts the protagonist’s story in the form of my poem. On the right, the photos evoke the story of the trees and their plight. Yet both stories can be told in both ways. 

It captures a feeling of psychogeography, I was unsure where I was headed, so too is the viewer. It is a collaboration, the images are the environment which inspires the flaneur to undertake the journey.   I wanted the images to look dark and capture the feeling of shafts of light catching important elements so worked in Photoshop using the paint tool, in that sense my art did come into it. 

In a first draft I featured only paths, no matter how many pages you turned you reached another corner and another until the conclusion of the fire. However, this was slightly too repetitive and lacked visual interest. I broke up the path with elements revealing what is around each corner, reminiscent of a mystery game they are the clues, elements I came across on the trail. Severed trees. Weapons. How that clue relates to the images is created in the imagination of the viewer. They are a full stop allowing the viewer freedom to interpret. 

The story is clear in my mind but can be interpreted differently by each individual. Is the protagonist going into the wood to end her life, is she seeking answers? Are the images of weapons representative of her pain, her actions or of the trees suffering? In my mind, two stories are portrayed. 

The forest as a means of connection to another world is something that has his roots in many cultures. The Fang people of Cameroon believe trees and forest to be a force which they can communicate with God whilst the Maori of New Zealand believe that the trees are real just like human beings and have their own spirit. 

The story of the trees plight was not planned. It was while I was on the path shooting for the assignment that I started capturing images of the ‘clues’ as well as the wood. As I turned the corner I was faced with a cloud of acrid blue smoke and saw the trees burning. I stood in awe and realisation. I had gone on a journey but the trees had taken me on their own journey and told me their story of the wood. 

The assignments so far have been an exploration into my relationship with trees, how they were a childhood fear with their witches fingers, then a place of safety which I feel now, a place of magic, the trees themselves, mystical beings. The forest calls to me in a way I can’t quite put into words.


Richard Longs text works while minimalistic were surprisingly illustrative, the Cloudless day on a blue background conjured such images. For that reason I used a black background with reverse out writing to create the feeling of being inside a dark wood. I discussed earlier about blending photography and art but decided to use poetry and photography. Nadav Kander referenced his photos with the stanza from TS Elliot’s poem ‘The Wasteland’ ‘I will show you fear in a handful of Dust’ TS Elliot, to document the wasteland of places left behind after a war. Those ten words encapsulated his work and I was inspired to create a narration in poem form. The feeing of being guided by the trees was partly inspired by Ellie Davis’s work. Her images vary between those of a natural setting to others were she has added mystical elements such as wool draped through the trees forming magical pathways or the row of ferns snaking through the woods into the distance and round the corner. There is that primal urge to follow the ferns even though the destination is as a concealed in the unknown as much as the forest around us. I wanted to create such a feeling yet I used the mystery of what is around the corner of the path to generate this emotion.