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

Assignment Two – Shoot

Assignment Two Brief, Capture 12 images that convey the idea of a journey.

I returned to Martin Mere nature reserve and rejoined my bird friends on the sedantry boat trip through the reeds. Despite the amount of people there it was so peaceful, a world away from the other side of the reeds and I found myself wishing we could just park up the boat to relax, to listen to the silence around me with just the company of the rustling reeds and the quacking ducks cutting through the water beside my trailing fingers.

Here are the thumbnails of the images I took that day. At the time I had these three ideas for the Assignment in mind

1 – Show the Onomatopoeia of the river. The senses through the use of an 85mm lens.

2 – Include close up images of the birds or their feathers which were blowing around the place as a Typology study.

3 – Macro images of the water to show the journey


My assignment had started with the journey of the boat trip through the reeds, then I’d honed it down to the onamatopoeia of the river, the mindfulness and as I reached the water I had a choice, focus on all the sounds and senses of the river, or hone the assignment done to the smallest point, showing the journey of the river, through the water itself.

Starting with the surprisingly sandy bank and the shallow water the images take you on a journey into dark waters which capture the reflection of the trees above, the beatiful pattern like melted chocolate digestives, the mysterious patterns in the swirling water caught by the engine and finally reaching the edge again where the flowers catch sight of themselves in the marbled waters.

I feel tempted to add in close up images of the birds feathers, especially the Hawaiian goose which came and sat right by me, but last time I included too many pathways in my images so this time I’m keeping it tight.

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I thought of what my tutor said, if you were in a University you’d pin a set of images on the wall and change or shift the ideas over the weeks so below are

1 – All of the shortlisted images


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2- Close ups of the river


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3- Other sets


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It’s a good way to remove what doesn’t quite work.

Now I see that if I focus on the close ups of the water then I can’t include the birds wings or the leaves of the trees. But if I disregard the water then are the images left strong enough, or unique enough to convey the idea of a journey.



Whilst I like the above images I feel the water is different. It isn’t just a mirror image. Does it make the viewer think?


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

Land Art v Assignment Two

“What’s that sound?” Mum said to me.

“Oh I’m just watching a video of someone throwing mud at a wall.”

Joking aside, the art creation of the River Avon Mud Circle was very interesting, it was fascinating to see how the artist, Richard Long, created a vision of their walk using actual elements found along the way, in this case, the watered down mud. It was a collaboration between man and nature, the mud was the material and the essence of the art whilst man swirled his fingers creating patterns that echoed the Celtic past and also reflected the walk taken, the swirling lines like pathways through the river Avon. It’s a story of walking, a story of art, and a story between the collaboration of man and nature, showing how we interlink and can live harmoniously at peace with one another.

I love the idea of art, nature and photography all coming together in one image, perhaps with Assignment Two, I could use my passion as an artist to bring something to the images. Should I stick just to the abstract images of the river or should I somehow include land art? The issue is, my tutor pointed out in Assignment One that there were too many themes and when we broke it down we could see there were leads for several other projects, witches fingers, moving images, Rorschach blots. So I am wary to say, create a journal blending photography, art and land art. Maybe I could create a mix of zentangle somehow. I can see this image I captured below being infused with art somehow, perhaps to show the patterns. I am returning there at some point and the more I think about it the more I want to stick to the 80mm lens. I don’t want to include wide images, I want the abstract, the art that captures the sensation, the photographic onomatopoeia of the river and not just a mirror image. Franco Fontana said once, ” “This is an ‘objective’ photograph, it is basically a mirror. Who photographs reality captures nothing. You must re-invent, re-enact reality to make it a new one.

Photo by Chloe Halstead
Posted in Assignment 6 ~ Transitions, Coursework

Assignment Six – Progress – Five Month mark

It has been four months since I placed the Playmobil house in the garden for Assignment Six, Transitions, showing how nature will reclaim everything back when humanity is gone. At the start of this project I wrote of my expectations on my Assignment preparation post here

  • That the house will slowly be choked with vegetation reminiscent of Chernobyl.
  • The furniture in the house will either be swept away, trapped inside or will become homes.
  • Insects and perhaps even mammals will use the place as a safe harbour. Maggots may thrive, spiders will decorate the walls and windows with their deadly art.

It felt a good time to reflect on the progress of the house and assess my own progress on what was working and what I could do better at.

Below is a slideshow of the transitions of the house over the four months.



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MAY  I was away on holiday for a while and didn’t get any images of May 😦



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Nature is truly claiming back the house. It’s getting increasingly difficult to take photos especially in the same composition. Before I was able to stand on the little rock for a viewpoint, now I am blocked by all the foilage and plants that have grown up pushing me back as though to say it is natures house now.

It is astounding to see the diverse collection of plants and flowers that have been born and withered back to the ground in a matter of months. Every time I look a new plant has taken the place of the last. It is the definition of a transition, yet the transition is happening at an incredible pace.

I’m glad I focused on four specific elements. The house is the major point but I also photograph the table and radio, the interior and the childs bike everytime. The child’s bike is completely covered, I can only just see a glimpse of the wheel.

The table was knocked over after a month or so and the interior is clogged with thick leaves and black sludge and something that looks very unappealing.

I feel I should have captured an image every week as opposed to every month (I’m still trying to find out what happened to May) I need to organise better. So much has happened in such a short time and I feel I haven’t captured that. In future I will photograph every week so I can capture all the changes.

I will focus on capturing more artistic images and at different times, early morning, evening etc.

Posted in 07 The road, Assignment 2 - Preparation, Assignment 2 ~ A journey, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Assignment Two – Contextualisation

I feel I’ve really found the pathway or waterway I wish to take for Assignment Two. I’m so passionate about it, the images are quite different to my usual style yet it is the different images, such as the abstracts that I feel most connected to. I will research some photographers who photograph wide open places in an abstract way.

I do plan to return but perhaps I will return with the same lens. Or perhaps I will just see where the wind takes me and the assignment. With my photography, I had a different lens and that enabled me to experiment and create images I wouldn’t usually. Now I feel very drawn to the abstract portrayal of a landscape. Is abstract photography the onomatopoeia of the photography world? I remember my joy as a GCSE student to discover onomatopoeic words such as ‘crunch, crackle, fizz’ that perfectly imitate the sounds of the words they are describing. I only need to read the word crunch and instantly I feel as though I am hearing someone walking on dry leaves or chomping through their breakfast cereal. And in that respect, abstract photography captures the details, the sounds, the feelings of that place. Perhaps not all abstracts, some may be to challenge the perception, to tell stories but in regards to my assignment, I feel these images below that I captured, illustrate the feeling and senses of the river trip.


ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY – Contextualisation 

Nadav Kander created a series of images for his book, Dust where he photographed abandoned and restricted areas wrought by the desolation of man creating photos that are an oxymoron, they are devoid of people yet they are seeped in humanity, their very essence and destruction and responsibility is tied to humanity.  Two small towns that Kander photographed, Kurchatov and Priozersk were not even known until Google Earth discovered them.

He heads his work with the stanza from TS Elliot’s poem ‘The Wasteland’

‘I will show you fear in a handful of Dust’ TS Elliot

I’ve read many thoughts on the meaning of this line, but just like art, poetry is subjective and one meaning may not resonate with another. My personal opinion of this quote in regards to his photography is the dust and the ashes of the place that have been destroyed or been left to rot by man, “I will show you fear” your mind is consumed by what has gone before, here is a handful of dust of all that is left. Let your terrified imagination fill in the terrible gaps. Yet could the quote also be taken to mean, you may be terrified of the world and the darkness and the huge scheme of things but I will show you the fear in the little things, in a handful of dust.”

Illustrating a series with a poem brings me back to my own assignment, I referred to my river trip with Robert Frost’s poem, ‘The Road not Taken‘. Perhaps I myself should illustrate my journey with a poem (written by myself) In fact the more I think about it, the more the rhythm of the river seems to echo the words of poetry. As in the poem Limbo, a powerful tale of the African slaves, the poem echoes with repetition until you feel you are almost swaying with the backbreaking rhythm of the boat as the slaves work the oars.


Photograph by Nadav Kander



One of the images on his website that grabbed me is reminescent of an abstract painting, a blur of blue and sienna, the raw colours of nature. The image is split into two layers, the sky and the earth, both whipping by as though as though you are viewing it from a moving vehicle. It feels like two stripes of paint, a unity of the sky and earth with no details or barriers to disrupt the rhythm. “My landscapes are really honed to the palm print of man, mans effects on their surroundings…it’s really about the endeavour of man which is behind those pictures.

Photo by Brett Weston

Brett Weston – He captures the landscape around him in such a flawless abstract style, taking a small square from a vast place and making that the main  His images remind me of the mantra in Rudyard Kiplings, ‘The Jungle Book‘ The strength of the pack is the wolf, but the strength of the wolf is the pack.” So as to say, he takes a very small portion of a vast landscape, turns it on its head to show the small portion is just as powerful as the landscape around him. The landscape draws its power from the details yet the details draw the power from the landscape. The undulating waves of the desert rising like tumultuous waters of the deep. His images can appear as multiple things at once, Is it trees and branches jutting out of still waters, or reflections of overhanging trees. Or are they bent and warped pieces of iron filing or paperclips, a modern piece of art.

Franco Fontana

I first came across Franco Fontana’s wonderful images whilst watching Masters of Photography where Fontana was a judge. Some of the wisdom he offered was so powerful that it has buried itself deep into my mind and often speaks those words in moments when I am studying. I wrote about him here  His images pack a punch of intense colour, the saturation so powerful you can almost taste it. I love the way he sees the landscape, in bands of colours, seeking out the beautiful masterpieces created by nature. Indeed his mantra is ‘to make the invisible visible’





Posted in Assignment 1 ~ Beauty and the sublime, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Assignment One -Tutor feedback

Following on from the phone call I had with my tutor Les Monaghan, he sent me this report of Assignment One. There’s nothing like such positive words to spur you onwards, I feel very inspired. Les has such a way of sparking, even more, fun into all the assignments, despite exploring fairly dark themes, or at least a divert from my usual colourful and happy photography, I feel inspired to continue down the road of psychoanalysis, childhood fears, nightmares and will do some appropriate contextualization, not just of photographers, but artists, writers, perhaps even textiles and mixed media.

“The key thing is your exploration, keep reading, thinking, remembering and playing!” Les Monaghan. 


Overall Comments

 An ambitious submission that fulfilled your brief. Further research always benefits a submission. In this case, it makes sense to hone down your submission to one, possibly two, ways of working. Great explorations though!

 Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Feedback notes from our phone conversation and some after thoughts:

Well done for challenging yourself and producing plenty of work.

Contextualization is always key whilst studying – who is influencing you, whose is the work that aligns with yours, look for historical and contemporary references.

We discussed how the work is serious, you are avoiding the glib in photography and trying to bring in theories and feelings. Very ambitious.

Your results look like you are searching, seeking answers in nature.

I wondered will this continue? Will you pursue psychoanalysis, exploring your childhood, ideas of the unheimliche?

Who else have you found working in this way or guided by these influences?

The ‘witches fingers’ is an exploration in its own right. We discussed what trees, and forests mean in contemporary culture, their resonances through fairy tales, whether we will ever escape our genetic memory of the forest.

I mentioned the forest in Japan, Aokigahara, near Mt Fuji, that is a notorious suicide spot, and that there has been work made there.

I suggested that you do some general research stuff on forests. We also talked about Liza Dracup, the photographer who retraced his grandfather and great uncle’s journey – Michal Iwanowski (, Sophy Rickett etc

We discussed your Rorschach ink blots, find art references for these, they could be a whole series in themselves, experiment, it could lead to a discussion of Barthes’ punctum and studium.

Those images that include movement, it might make sense to reference moving image work – The Cinematic he is a great resource

There are great experiments here, opening up lots of avenues for future work but for an individual assignment – or certainly the final submission – it makes sense to keep a really tight theme.

The rhythms and repetition that you’ve sometimes included really work. Editing is key, but we have plenty of time to look back over what you’ve produced the key thing is your exploration, keep reading, thinking, remembering and playing!

Take confidence from challenging yourself. There are a number of great starting points that you can build on here – there’s probably too many for an individual module but it’s good to see a thorough submission.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context

Some decent reflection on other photographers, please cite where you found them, it is always better to start with books. Reflective writing is the key to learning, and I think that you are evidencing your thinking well so far.

Using the arguments put forward by critics will help you gain understanding and progress your engagement with photography. Which is why its so important to read as much, and as widely, as possible.

Here’s an interim reading list that I usually send out to students, some of these are included in the reading for various modules –

John Berger: “Ways of Seeing“ *

Graham Clarke: “The Photograph”

Ian Jeffrey: “Photography: A Concise History”

Susan Sontag: “On Photography”

Roland Barthes: “Camera Lucida” 

– five relatively old but excellent entry points into discussing photography.

Susie Linfield: “The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence“ 

– contemporary, personal and easy to read, much of it in response to Sontag and Martha Rosler

Liz Wells: “Photography : A Critical Introduction“ and “The Photography Reader”

David Bate: “Photography: Key Concepts”

Stephen Bull: “Photography“

Charlotte Cotton: “The Photograph as Contemporary Art” *

Susan Bright: “Art Photography Now”

David Campany: “Art and Photography”

Ashley la Grange: “Basic Critical Theory for Photographers”

-essential, (at least the first four) contemporary general photography works

Gerry Badger: “The Genius of Photography: How Photography Has Changed Our Lives“

* also on DVD or online

Mark Durden: “Photography Today”

Steve Edwards: “Photography: A Very Short Introduction“

* It really is short!

[no author / Phaidon]: “The Photography Book“ *

Martin Parr / Gerry Badger: “The Photobook: A History“

Geoff Dyer: “The Ongoing Moment” *

Mary Warner Marien: “100 Ideas That Changed Photography” *

– for when reading gets too heavy!

 Anne Jaeger: “Image Makers Image Takers” *

– insights from photographers, commissioners and writers

* Asterisked books are the most accessible

Put any reflections or reviews on your blog.

Suggested reading/viewing Context

As well as some of the books above, here are some online resources – much better to start with some critical websites –

 Pointers for the next assignment

Keep reading! Let your own interests, feelings and opinions guide your photography, but remember you are working academically.

Tutor name: Les Monaghan
Date 02/06/16
Next assignment due 02/09/16
Posted in Assignment 1 ~ Beauty and the sublime, Coursework, Personal Projects, Research and Reflection

Arboreal Study – Contextualization

With regards to arboreal photographers, I keep returning to Sally Mann’s works who I contextualised here.  Whenever I see her work I am ensnared by the dark imagination portrayed in these images. Especially this image which I likened to a sinister game of hide and seek, the feeling of hiding under a dark blanket and it suddenly being whisked away. I can see the tree portrayed as a sinister creature, a direct representation of human anatomy. To see it purely as a tree I have to focus so hard almost like I’m looking at an optical illusion and suddenly I can see the tree. Sally Man turns imagination into reality and reality into an illusion. Contextualisation

Photograph by Sally Mann

The way I’m viewing these images personify the trees and the more I think about this I do see them as living beings,  not just in a scientific and biological sense, but as spiritual beings, living forces that speak in their only language. I wonder do they feel pain, it is perhaps ignorant to hope that they do not when you think of the massacre of trees going on around this planet. How different would things be if the trees could talk? This feels like it’s leading me in the direction of a new project or assignment, ‘If the Trees could Talk.’


Photographs © David Nash


In regards to the personification of the woodland and the trees, what rules state that the personification has to end there? I was given the heads up by a fellow student who introduced me to David Nash’s arboreal art. I admired his carvings and wondered how I could incorporate them into my studies. I was pondering whether to continue investigating, then I noticed a specific art exhibit, the Wooden Boulder. Decades ago a 200-year-old oak tree met its end in the grips of a violent Winter storm, ending its legacy. Yet this wasn’t quite true, the vessel of the tree may have ended but its spirit had another story to tell. David Nash managed to gain permission to create from it a giant oak sphere which he planned to take to his studio. The only problem was the boulder was too large to move so he allowed nature to transport it, down the River Dwyry (in the Welsh town of Blaenau Ffestiniog) the boulder immediately became wedged between rocks and Nash was forced to wait six months until a sudden flood of rainwater shunted it into a pool. A year went by and the wooden boulder stayed in the pool, “There was a wild plum tree next to the boulder, so in the spring it was covered in little white petals. It was lovely.” It was round about then when Nash realised what was being created, a new story, a live exhibit, this wooden boulder was not pinned down in any stark gallery as a piece of modern art, it didn’t need to challenge (or confuse) the perception of fine art lovers; the boulder was the story! It wasn’t tied down by conventions of art, the wooden boulder was a living art piece in wild and living surroundings writing its own extraordinary story. It is never about the road, but the journey.

Over the next 35 years, David Nash has followed the Wooden Boulders painting, photographing and documenting its story, even giving it a voice.

‘The Boulder told me: if you take me back to the studio I’ll dry out and I’ll crack. The story will be over’ David Nash.

Its beauty comes in that the boulder has no boundaries, it could be anywhere right now, it may have needed a guiding hand at times to rescue it when it was trapped on private land or caught underneath a bridge. It may have been inanimate but its story brought it to life. I find it fascinating how whilst David Nash created the wooden boulder as a piece of art and set it free on the river to unleash its story, the true artist is the boulder itself. You don’t even need to be a person like myself with a wild imagination and able to believe that everything in inanimate has a voice, the Boulder created its own personal voice, it told a story and journeyed on an incredible venture.

To my surprise, the wooden boulder was last seen close to where I was on holiday in Wales recently. I will be returning there this year and would love to follow the journey of the boulder, and perhaps even see it myself, though it hasn’t been for such time. It’s only a shame that it won’t be in time for the second Assignment as that would have been a fascinating representation of a journey, a journey in a physical sense, a journey of discovery and a journey of art.

Posted in Assignment 1 ~ Beauty and the sublime, Coursework, Research and Reflection

Assignment One – Re Tutor Feedback

I had a fantastic chat with my tutor, Les Monaghan who brought up lots of interesting topics and showed me new paths to follow for the course. He especially encouraged me to continue exploring into childhood fears, psychoanalysis and especially trees, the significance of the Witches fingers and their place in cultures and myths. I’m very excited about this, it’s very thought provoking to investigate one topic more thoroughly and see where the different threads lead you, like wading deeper into a forest on unfamiliar paths.

In a University, Les said, you’d pin several images on the wall that followed a theme, and over the week see how it invited different responses. Depending on the different responses you might switch them around, add some new images or even replace them with entirely new images. He recommended that I take that direction by posting my images up here.

The reason being was, though he was positive and enthusiastic about my work, he saw many different stories inside my set for Assignment One and wondered whether I would like to extract just one story. As he says I have several months to decide before assessment. As the Assignment had kept shifting and taking on new forms, a little bit of all the former ideas had joined in and I had wondered whether there were too many pathways.

I had wondered as I submitted the Assignment whether there were too many narratives, as the assignment had kept shifting and taking on new forms, many ideas had come together the Rorschach ink blots, the witches fingers, even the motion. As the Assignment had kept shifting and taking on new forms, a little bit of all the former ideas had join

With that in mind, I looked at my photos for Assignment One and placed them in the following categories each designated in a personal slide show, my wall in the University following my recurrent theme “My images use the uncanny, to allow the imagination to possess the subconscious to see shapes, faces, monsters or dreams…Through imitation of Rorschach inkblots and fear I have portrayed my interpretation of the sublime through an alternate landscape, my fear landscape focusing on Freud’s theory of the Uncanny. A fear landscape in a physical landscape.”


Witches Fingers

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28th of June – 2017 “I feel quite inspired by the Witches Fingers, they are the images that relate directly to my personal experience and they carry with them a feeling of the uncanny. At the present moment I feel leaning towards creating more images like this for the final assignment”


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28th of June – 2017 – I do quite like the moving image set. I just wonder whether it’s strong enough to stand on it’s own?

Rorschach Ink Blots


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28th of June – 2017 – It’s hard to choose between the Witches Fingers and the blots as they both are strikingly different. Perhaps I can include these in a later assignment.