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 Coursework, Research and Reflection

Grundy Art Gallery Exhibition Review

“Everything is created twice, first in the mind, then in reality” Robin P Sharma

Yesterday I attended an art exhibition at the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool. I’d visited one or two exhibits a few years ago. I realise I am rather selective when it comes to fine art. If I see an exhibit featuring a huge inflatable balloon that fills the room I disregard it as it bears no connection to my studies. Yet, that said, if you perceive the world in such a way, everything links together, every subject bound, some distant, some more obvious. I was chatting to the museum curator and who knew that a comparison of an old painting could also be quite a strong comparison for a steam engine retired from the public and festering in the dark.

Therefore from now on, I will view everything in regards to my study. After all visiting only photographic exhibitions is surely one-dimensional thinking.

There were two exhibitions. Paper, Canvas, Neon displayed a variety of work from the Grundy Art galleries permanent collection. It was diverse encompassing a broad spectrum of materials, mediums, geography and dates. From an original of Pablo Picasso’s ‘Dove’ “used to illustrate the 1949 Paris Peace Congress, that became an international symbol of peaceful and political action, to the panoramic vibrant painting of a sun lounge on Blackpool seafront by Keith McGinn.

Next was the focus of my visit. Before seeing the exhibit I’d done some research on Tahi Moore’s installation, ‘Kim Wilde’s Heart of Darkness’ The exhibition was described as showing ‘images of mountains…seductive beauty…lights and resonance.” It sounded intriguing and I was excited to visit.


The name was inspired by Kim Wilde’s song ‘Cambodia’ I listened to the haunting song, of a husband sent to Cambodia (presumably for war) and how he returned but he never truly left Cambodia. LIke all the greatest art, the song ending is open for interpretation. What happened to the wife who searched for him in Cambodia? If she saw him again why did he never return from Cambodia? “And if she held him close He used to search her face as though she knew the truth lost inside Cambodia.” I interpreted it as her husband did leave the country yet only in the physical sense, emotionally, destroyed by the horrors he saw he would forever be lost inside Cambodia.

As it turned out the only thing the exhibition shared with the song was the title and even then it was obscure how that was related. I walked into a room that was blasted with light. Three wall-sized screens showed a few-second loop of unbearably shaky footage of the mountains, soft out of focus lights blinking and another landscape flickering on and off. This was disorientating enough without the several TV screens on the final wall blinking on and off with literary quotes from Macbeth, Othello and King Lear.

All of my initial thoughts and expectations of the exhibit drained away. I stared at the screens revolving myself in a slow circle trying to define some meaning from the exhibit. Try as I might I couldn’t and I realised it was because the flashing lights, the onslaught of images and disorientating visuals were apprehending my own mind and I couldn’t think. I recorded an audio note and I literally couldn’t string a sentence together. Was this the desired effect? I wasn’t sure. I recalled what the museum curator said earlier, “When you go to the exhibit, take your own interpretation but you should know that a conversation with the photographer was quite intense.” He told me how Tahi Moore would be talking about one thing and then leap back to something two weeks ago in the same sentence, running several different conversations with different people all in the moment.

All the screens and projectors were connected by wires that linked into the centre of the room. As far as I know the wires were not a part of the exhibition, yet why show them so obviously; however when I saw them finally the exhibit started making sense coupled with what the curator said. Were these images to show the personality of the photographer, had he portrayed his true self to the viewer. I was inside his mind, the wires on the ground connected to each other like the dendrites and synapses relaying information to the brain. That is the meaning I took from it but without the curator’s words, I fear I wouldn’t have taken anything from it. I’d have been sat staring at a computer screen trying to turn thoughts into words yet the thoughts being as blank as the piece of paper pinned to the exhibition wall.

I guess even though we take our own interpretations from art we are always swayed by others perception and sometimes adopt others views as our own, creating a rather triumphant feeling that we understood the art. Yet can we truly ever understand art? As Susan Sontag said the way we view images is just like we are still stuck in Plato’s Cave, we create our own stories from the shadows on the wall but we do not know the story of shadows the photographer is telling.  I will discuss this in one of the next blog posts.

I chatted to the curator after visiting the exhibits and he told me some fascinating trivia about pieces in the gallery and when I was leaving I bought one of the art magazines they had. To my surprise, he dashed off and gave me several back issues of the magazines for free! I was so touched by his kindness.

So while the exhibit was different to my expectations, so too is everything in life, no disrespect to the artist but I actually felt more drawn to the song and the hidden meanings and how in respect to the next part of the course especially, a space becomes a place and sometimes while you physically may leave that space, emotionally there is always an imprint of you left behind, either in the place or the place in your mind. Perhaps I could create images of the echo of memories for Assignment Three.

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

Assignment Two – Plan B – The Trees

I know what’s been missing from my Assignment.  All this time I have jumped from one idea to another, the reflections in the water, the path of Moss Road but that little cog of inspiration hasn’t slotted into place. And until it does I never stop searching. As I stood in the wild I felt the comfort of the trees, I needed the trees. My exploration of trees was not to stop at Assignment One, it was to become the roots of all of the assignments, guiding me.  It was then I realised what had been missing. My assignment needed a story, something dark, something different that I always include. It needed psychology and emotion. That was what it was missing.

Sometimes to find the path you’ve been searching for, you have to wander down many, right to the end if necessary before realising that the destination is not the one you had planned. And as with this assignment and the last one I have explored many ideas, wound down many roads before arriving on the forest path that I find myself on now.

Researching the Edgelands I felt excited, inspired and motivated. However, when I arrived there, they were beautiful and wild but I realised I was missing something. Trees. It was in that moment that I realised what trees mean to me. They are a safe harbour, they are friendly giants, I feel at home among them. I reflected on my thoughts during this unit, of trees and how they may be seen as a place of danger but are actually a place of safety, I thought of what the trees meant to those who took a different path in the suicide forest and the passage I wrote below 

 I often return to my tutors comments on our first skype call, “We come from forests – that is the place where we store our fears”  It is the place where we store our fears yet it I also feel that the forest calls to them, the fear is overidden, they return to nature, from where they’ve come, perhaps there is a feeling of safety, the trees like comforting arms there to take away their pain, to shield them from their suffering and that of the outside world. Whilst the forest may bring others fear, the way the branches close in on each other blocking out the outside world, that is in a way it’s appeal, it is a place where you can hide, a place of escape, it is like the journey undertaken by the souls of the departed in Greek Mythology. Instead of the winding river Styx, they tread the path of the forest.  The forest is not a scary place, it is named Mother Earth for a reason and it provides the comfort they need, whether it’s to send them back to their lives or for them to start a new journey in a new layer of the world.”

I felt that the trees were saying something different. I want to create images of a journey (not of the suicide forest, purely, seeking the trees as comfort)  What if the trees were trying to help, saying  ‘Why do you fear, leave your fear behind, come escape the light, the light is isolation but there is comfort in the dark, you’re alone in the light, we can hold you, come deeper, we are friends. Now you are safe. I can see with every image the trees getting darker, closer together as you go deeper, it’s a journey both physical and psychological. Each tree would have a sign on it saying the words.’

With these ideas flashing in my mind I recorded a quick audio note to clarify my ideas with a rapidly drawn mind map. When my mind is wandering, sketching down ideas and pictures leads me to clarity.  Everything came together as I drew. I could see the assignment images so clearly in my mind.

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Questions to ask myself.

I wonder what the signs on the tree should look like. Is pure white too stark, not natural? Do the words need to be physically in the photo or manipulated in later. I can see it as a video with music. The trees are not witches fingers. They are comforting arms of mother earth and they hear you. They are there for you. Why is the light always positive and the dark negative? I think there is comfort in the darkness. I wrote about my thoughts earlier in my learning log when I was looking at Jesse Alexander, the course writers sublime cave images. I will scan them and include them in the next blog posts. I feel excited for this. This is what I’ve been searching for.

Posted in Assignments, Coursework, General, Research and Reflection

Moss Road – Shoot

Despite finding a new pathway for Assignment Two I decided to visit the Moss Road where I had studied, contextualised and researched. It would have been a shame to leave it without so much a full stop.

We drove slowly down to the edge of the road passing a sign that welcomed us to the South Moss Road. Brambles hung out through the wire fence and up ahead I saw several road signs. “Where’s Moss Road?” I asked.

“You’re looking at it.”

I blinked. It was the most surreal feeling, through a wooden gate reminiscent of walks trails deep in the countryside was the road. At least what I could see of the road. From the moment I stepped through the gate, I was into a strange new world, slightly disconnected from the housing estate behind me and the main road just beyond all the dense foilage. It was quite disillusioning. At my feet stood the faded markers of road signs painted on the tarmac. No matter how hard I looked I couldn’t determine what it had said. The road was a road no longer and just as the vegetation was creeping in, so too the man made elements of the road were wasting away.

I was slightly surprised; the road had been closed for several years, I thought it would have been engulfed with foilage like images reminiscent of GHGH; instead, the road had apparently been cleared to keep it open for walkers. There was a great deal of evidence to suggest the walkers had been accompanied by dogs. It was disgusting because this place was not as monitored, owners thought they could just use it as their dogs personal bathroom. I thought if I’d had the stomach, that itself would have told a story but I imagined the look of horror my Mum would have given me…and my own stomach of course.

We walked along, trees reached to the sky among swathes of grasses and tangled briars reached out into the road. If it wasn’t for the maintenance of the path these briars would have provided a carpet to walk on. As it was no matter how much it was cut back they pushed out into the road constant, unrelenting. I took a photo and it reminded me of the cover image for Edgelands with the poor rabbit lying on the painted white line. The edge of the carriageway was the only sign that this was not a conventional path. I took photos as I went along focusing on the line and the life that was reaching out over it, nature wanted to take over this place but man kept cutting it back. An eternal struggle. The road may not have have been completely abandoned like I first thought that but nature was adamant. Brambles on the left reached out to briars on the right, a desperation to hold hands, to connect, to start forming a tangled bridge.

No matter how hard you try and tame it, it will never be truly tamed. My mobility scooter provided an excellent dolly and I held my iPhone out recording a time lapse as I drove along the white line.

Here are some of the final images in a photobook to create the feeling of a journey using the edge of the carrigeaway as the guide.

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Now I’m torn, I like both this idea but my other assignment idea of the trees calls to me, even though it means starting from scratch, spending more time, re shooting, I feel called to it in a way I can’t explain.


I’m aware I need to choose a theme for Assignment now and follow it through, I’ve already spent longer than I would have wished getting to Assignment Two but I feel at first I was a little out of my depth, now I’ve found a voice and the confidence. I always feel I need to feel passionate about the assignment, I need the cog to slip into place that feels just right. Perhaps I’ve waited too long for that cog, but personally I can’t work on a rusty system with scraping cogs, call it what you may, but I always feel that when something doesn’t work, there’s a reason, when there’s no passion it’s because you haven’t found the right part yet.


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

Wild Lane – Contextualisation

Over the past week I have explored two paths for Assignment Two, I still haven’t come to a conclusion so the following information may be just that, information and not amount to an Assignment but I have included it, and all my research to show the journey my own mind has taken. 

When given the option, main road or country road, I always choose country. There’s something exciting and invigorating about driving down those twisting lanes, like finding your way along a ball of tangled string. Summer; the hedgerows are alive with colour and chirping, sparrows keep pace with the car and lapwings tumble like haphazard paper aeroplanes above fields of brilliant yellow oil seed rape. Winter; and those roads of such freedom become a danger, coating the surface with a deadly glittering layer of ice, the trees are all but bare, sparrows now fluff themselves up to preserve any heat and the fields are a haze of frost speckled green.

These are the images in my mind and connotations of the countryside. And I feel the countryside touches shoulders with the Edgelands, competing and at the same time living in harmony with the man made elements, just as I discussed in an earlier post

Through Babi Kougemitros photos, he challenges the perception of landscapes and places and asks the time old question of what makes somewhere beautiful, what defines that it is ugly? People class the Edgelands as ‘aesthetically unworthy’ yet these places, where man may be prominent, in the shape of water towers or radar station, nature is omnipresent, nature truly reins free and that to me is beautiful. How the world should be, with human nature respecting nature and seeing that we may be intelligent but truly nature is the master of all.

Michael Simmons and Paul Farley named the Edgelands as England’s True Wilderness and this is especially striking and true of the Moss Lane where nature is now free to rule.

Exploring Psychogeography I came across a blog written by Murdo Easonand and was taken by the article Heron House, documenting Murdo Eason’s wanderings of Fife, captured brilliantly through photography and prose. Murdo doesn’t capture images of the landscape, as in mirror images of his surroundings, but instead he captures the textures, the feelings, the ‘dripping lava’ of the redwood trees, the stillness of the area; I love how he wrote of the unseeing eyes watching every step, this is a place of nature, an almost mystical realm, “We are the strangers and eavesdroppers here and can sense that our presence has disturbed some fragile equilibrium.” It inspires me more to focus on the ‘onomatopoeia’ of images as in my first draft of the assignment. Or more the spiritual, personification of the landscape seeped with myth and inspiring legends.

My studies into abstract photography will provide a strong foundation. I also want to create images motivated by my current situation. Walking down the abandoned Wild Road I’m excited, I feel a sense of expectancy and nerves, the eyes that Murdo writes about being followed by ring very true, especially in such empty quiet places. I wonder what I will see. I want the images to be instinctive and true of my journey and not merely documentation or planned. I also want keep with the studies of psychoanalysis, the fear landscape. The first Assignment focused on a landscape that inspired fire and das Unheimliche, this second assignment is leading me to explore how a place of fear can be a place of peace or isolation…a place of security.

Yet the more I focus on the isolation of the landscape the more I am pulled back to the trees, just as I was with Assignment One, it feels to me the whole course will be an exploration into my love of trees, at first 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.



Posted in Coursework, Research and Reflection

Aokigahara –

Warning, the following post is of a very disturbing and distressing subject, I do not take it easily writing such things and would preferably study something else but my tutor recommended it and the way it has made me feel feels like I must write it here.

Following on from my studies of arboreal photography, my childhood imaginagings of the Trees ‘ witches fingers’ and psychoanalysis, my tutor recommended I take a look at the haunting story of, Aokigahara, the suicide forest in Japan, where up to 100 people take their lives every year. When he first mentioned it I felt uncomfortable, stories like this whether real and true sink into me, going beyond the surface and I find it hard to escape the fear and trauma, that was one reason why I was allowed to skip Context and Narrative because of the detrimental effect it would have had on me. But since my treatment for Lyme I’m a lot stronger mentally and I decided to risk it.

What I read was so haunting, so disturbing it stayed with me all day. The blurred out images of bodies found hanging from trees, the scattered belongings, a car with the map open on the forest, the long lines of white tape with the unknown at the end. The images fill your mind with questions of what could bring somebody to the edge to do that. In a world of communication there are those who are more alone than ever.

I’m unsure but it seems that the forest first become known as the suicide forest with the publication of Seicho Matsumoto’s 1960 novel, “Tower of Waves,” The novel features two people who, reminsecent of Romeo and Juliet, killed themselves in the depths of the forest. The novel either inspired or felt comforting and Aokigahara became the Suicide forest. Since then over 100 people are found there every year. I wonder how the author feels. Does he feel the weight on his shoulders of the lives lost? Many of those are found with the book ‘The Complete Suicidal Manual’ that lists Aokigahara as the perfect place to die. It is so still and silent and the trees wind together so intensely it is a place to be lost, to be forgotten. As though the trees are linking together to protect and hide them. Not There isn’t even phone signal and no electronics work there due to the magnetic iron in the soil. Not all that visit the forest are there to bring an end to their suffering, Azusa Hayan, a geologist wanders the depths of the forest searching for people to help, a friendly face, a kind word can bring someone back from the brink just enough to spark something of hope. Whilst he has helped such people he has also seen more than his fair share of death. He spoke about following the white tape and finding nothing. And sometimes there is a body at the end. The images taken raise awareness of the terrible plight, to motivate the Japanese government to act.

Whilst the church saw suicide as a religious crime akin to murder and refused to bury those in a church; in Eastern culture it was seen as an act of honour, some Samurai’s took part in an act of Seppuku, disembowelling themseleves to avoid capture or torture of their enemies. Suicide is seen as a religious crime yet Buddhists visit the forest to pray for those who have died, to give them respect, mourning and to aid them to the afterlife.


In the Daily Mail article, it wrote of the journey the people go on, passing sign after sign encouraging them to stop, to think about their parents, their siblings; the signs tell them they don’t have to do this, there’s a choice, to talk to someone. “Your life is a precious gift from your parents.” The dispairing people take ribbons of white tape, tying them to the entrance and unwinding them deep into the forest lest they change their mind and follow it back; the whole thing started with a book and literary is woven deeply into the woods and the minds of those who go there, the tape is the string used by Theseus in the dark labyrinth of the Minotaur, it is the bread crumbs and pebbles dropped by Hansel as they too were taken into the dark forest. Do they find escape and comfort in the almost storybook like journey? I often return to my tutors comments on our first skype call, “We come from forests – that is the place where we store our fears”  It is the place where we store our fears yet it I also feel that the forest calls to them, the fear is overidden, they return to nature, from where they’ve come, perhaps there is a feeling of safety, the trees like comforting arms there to take away their pain, to shield them from their suffering and that of the outside world. Whilst the forest may bring others fear, the way the branches close in on each other blocking out the outside world, that is in a way it’s appeal, it is a place where you can hide, a place of escape, it is like the journey undertaken by the souls of the departed in Greek Mythology. Instead of the winding river Styx, they tread the path of the forest.  The forest is not a scary place, it is named Mother Earth for a reason and it provides the comfort they need, whether it’s to send them back to their lives or for them to start a new journey in a new layer of the world.

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?