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.