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 Coursework

This weeks plan

I’m starting to feel different about the course, usually I’m so motivated to start work but it’s beginning to feel more of a chore and I don’t want it to feel like that. In four years this is the first time I’ve felt like not fulfilling the entire degree. I’m writing my thoughts down here so I can analyse them.

I think it’s because I don’t specifically have a plan, I just stare at my computer wondering what to do feeling quite overwhelmed. The support from my tutor means so much when he says that he sees I work hard and stay away from the glib in photography. Also the wonderful support of my peers. The only thing stopping me is myself so I’ve written myself a timetable for the week to work by with projects and reading.

Tuesday. Capture some images for the assignment in a rougher area, with a different psychogeography compare the results with the quiet seafront. Read more of psychogeography and study some book reviews. Create an image inspired by Victor Bergin with his irony of a current situation. Experiment with the variety of fonts for the Snippets.

Wednesday. Find a new artist to study, see where they exhibited, explore their style of art and bring something of it to my assignment. Photograph the little house in the garden and note the changes for Assignment Six.

Thursday. Visit another different location to test the psychogeography. Note down findings. If I do this every day then I should have assignment finished by next week.

Friday. Take a small online course in typography and write a list. Get the typography book from the library.

Saturday. Research the power of words and photography.

Sunday – Take a break, draw, watch Netflix. Forget all about photography so I’m fresh for starting study again on Monday.

Already I feel much more positive!

Posted in Coursework

​Bergin – Typography Study


As with my Snippets assignment, the story and emotion gleaned from Victor Bergin’s series UK 76 do not

As with my Snippets assignment, the story and emotion gleaned from Victor Bergin’s series UK 76 do not necessarily come from the photos but instead rely on the viewer’s interpretation of the text derived from the presentation. Bergin stated in an interview with the Tate that ‘there are already enough photos in the world. What we need to do is re read the images we already have”

Bergin created a series of photos in 1976 imitating the illustrious images that are seen in glossy magazines of the many levels of British society, we are familiar with the style of such images. Bergin then superimposed text over the images continuing to reiterate the style of newspapers and glossy magazines. We are familiar with the style of such images but the inclusion of the text and it’s message disturbs and diverts our initial thoughts.  There are three interpretations here, the photos tell one story, the text another but when the two images are put together another narrative is brought to light. The question is, which is truth?

The viewer is drawn to the third as this is how Bergin has presented his series. As in Susan Sontag’s theory of Plato’s cave, we do not necessarily see the meaning set out for us. But the presentation of the images and text still lead the viewer to Bergins own message. It is almost like starting a painting with one clear idea, this is how the images are viewed, yet by the end, we may be swayed by our surroundings or background happenings and the image can end up completely different to the initial thought.


Victor Bergin – UK 76

There is an almost timeless quality to his images, though the series, of course, states the date, Uk 76 the majority of the images could have been captured in the 21st century. And the issues he ironies, ridicules and warns of just as much present now as they were back then.


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 - Preparation, Coursework, Part three ~ Landscape as political text, Research and Reflection

Tutor Feedback beginning Assignment Three

As aforementioned, my tutor suggested presenting my assignment work as an initial idea as opposed to a completed assignment as it would be approached like that in Universities. I sent some written work, ideas for the assignment and two photos and we spoke on the phone about it.

This is a way I would love to approach assignments in future. Having ideas instead of a completed assignment was so refreshing. We spoke about artists to reference, ideas to explore. As the main emphasis on the assignment is the written work he suggested several photographers who used text in their captions. He also recommended some amendments to change in the written work. “Don’t write ‘it’s a rough draft’, I know you work hard.” “Change ‘my personal opinion is’ to ‘my understanding of place is.”


Artists to research in regards to typography and presentation

Victor Bergens – Willie Doherty  – Les Monaghan (my tutor) – John Kippins

Karen Norse – Barbara Kruger – Ken Lum – Julien Waring – 

Bates, Balls and Barr

I asked around on the OCA photography Facebook page and was recommended to look at the work of

Georges Perec – An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris – Tom Wood – Roni Horns ‘ Another Water’ – Sophie Calle (who sparked the idea for the assignment)

I mentioned how I often found it hard to find certain photographers or artists to reference against my own work. He recommended finding one such artist and then researching their CV, who had they had a gallery with, who was their agent, what other artists did they present. The most helpful piece of advice he said was that you couldn’t just google the artists or read generic photography books, you needed to focus your assignment on one theory such as psychogeography, in my case, and then find the top names in psychogeography. As when it comes to assessment they will look at your work and think ‘That’s psychogeography, why didn’t they reference X and X.”

This made so much sense to me and I found it so helpful.

To Do

  • Find an article on whether words or images are more powerful.
  • He recommended seeing how the Snippets assignment looked like in different languages such as Vietnamese.
  • Les liked the idea of experimenting capturing Snippets at different places such as Blackpool seafront as opposed to quiet Lytham so I will go ahead with this.
  • Remove the capitals and experiment with different fonts. He put the emphasis on ‘lots of fonts.’