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 Personal Projects, Research and Reflection


I spent the afternoon pouring over the course reading material but find it very hard to keep focused as every artist I come across I want to investigate further. I decided purely to explore the ideas of those who related to the course or perhaps a faint link showing a contemporary or alternative view. I came across the photographer Sophie Calle who met a stranger twice in one day. The second time she bumped into the man she was so intrigued perhaps feeling this was fate. She found he was going to Venice. Any other person would presumably wished him well and hoped to see him around one day…Calle followed him there and proceeded to stalk him without his knowing.

My initial thinking was “How could she do that! How awful, how intrusive.” Yet then my second instinct (and I’m not proud to admit it) was a deep seated curisosity as to what the photos looked like, what happened, did he find out?  She searched for days where he was staying, contacting countless of hotels and even visiting the police. She found his hotel and somehow convinced someone to let her stay in the room opposite to photograph him at his window. Is she an artist in search of a story, a person in search of a purpose, or an unstable person showing disturbing behavior. I am prone to agree on the latter as she kept an intense diary noting every movement of both herself and her subject (victim) recreating his photos and even having her friends arrange to ‘bump’ into him. It is almost as though she isn’t feeling boundaries of human conduct. She is so immersed in this fantasty she has concocted that she has lost touch with reality.

It is such an intrusion of a persons privacy, it goes beyond street photography, beyond curiosity, it is deeply centered in the psychotic stalker area. And I would think illegal. I do not condone it but the curiosity of human nature is so intense so overwhelming that the natural instinct is to look. Perhaps that curiosity is very deeply seated in artists or those who thrive on their imagination. I discussed it with my father who said he wasn’t even interested to look at the photos, wouldn’t give the credit or time to even glance.

Her obsession started to resemble a drug addiction, she followed him everywhere, searching, building up a story around it…the more she follows (stalks) him the more she feels a deep connnection, she loves him, yet of course she can’t love him as she doesn’t even know him. And admitting you stalked someone is not the best way to start a relationship. Though the focus is on the man (mostly his back figure as he walks from the camera) and the character you should feel is his, it is really the artist herself who becomes the character to the viewers. In her miltiary like writings you feel her madness, the more she follows the more intense and over the edge she is pushed until a day when she doesn’t see him is a day twisted in torment. She dedicated herself to him, it’s a feeling of desperation but more than that it’s disturbing.

Many would argue she is a true artist, she is following her heart and her dream and perhaps my views would be seen unfavourably. The book which she published with these photos exposes human nature but it is frankly deeply unsettling and such an intrusion. Indeed she was eventually caught as he said, “You shouldn’t have got too close, I recognised your eyes.” How must he have felt to have been stalked across a continent, through streets. How did it impact his life? There is no doubt in my mind that omething like that would have changed a person and left more than a hint of paranoia.

As I’d spent time studying her monograph I felt I should bear reference to it within the course. I headed to the seafront with the idea of photographing people, not in an intrusive stalker way, merely as you would in street photography, I had the idea of taking photos then threading a narrative between the photos of unconnected people.

Yet when it came to it, I couldn’t take a single photo. Here were people laughing, chatting, flying kites and eating ice creams. I couldn’t and wouldn’t intrude on their lives without their permission. The unsettling feeling of  Calle’s photography had hung over me like a sticky black net, I had the feeling I was being stalked, that I was stalking even though neither was true (well the latter definitely, see I’m still paranoid) I put my camera down and instead picked up my pen. I was absentmindedly drawing and reading ‘PsychoGeography’ while snippets of conversation of passers bay wafted into the car.


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

“Oh I couldn’t believe it when…”

I looked up from my book as the people passed by out of ear shot. What couldn’t they believe? Just those two words had me hooked. An idea (a non-stalkerish idea) began forming in my mind. For the next hour I noted down the snippets of conversation I heard, I didn’t hear the beginning of many and the ending always remained defiantly absent as they went out of ear shot. I was like trying to listen underwater, focusing on specific words my imagination struggling to fill in the gaps.

I gathered these words together, took a photo of the view from the car and overlayed the incomplete sentences over the image, thus creating the character or psychogeography of the area through the very words of those who inhabit them. Some are humorous, some nonchalant, some are mere comments, arguments, but all give an insight into the person and the area in which they inhabit.

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

I sought to find a name for my project, Ellipsis.. (as every sentence trailed away) Snatches (I was still feeling slightly paranoid and this seemed to promote negative connotations) Whispers was also an idea.

In the end, I decided to call my project ‘Snippets‘ as that was the word I used to describe it as I wrote this post. I’m aware I am racking up too many personal projects but this is something I feel quite passionate about and would like to explore further. You can see the words where they were spoken filling in the gaps for the absence of people. You don’t need to see the people in the photo because you get a glimpse of their character just by the words streaming past and I feel it shows the psychogeography of the area. I’d like to go to several areas and document it. Perhaps it could even be a back up for Assignment Six, Transitions. To show how a place changes throughout the months, how does the conversation alter with the landscape. Are people happier in the Summer and more down in Winter, what age group will be there more and can you tell that from the writing. The physical transition will also be possible to see. Though I intend to stick with my transitions of the Playmobil house in the garden and how nature is rapidly taking it over I will endeavour to include Snippets in my assignments somewhere.

Any thoughts on this would be very much appreciated.

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 2 - Preparation, Coursework, Part Two ~ Landscape as journey, Research and Reflection

Assignment Two Preparation


After my studies of Exercise 2.2 and my study of the road in the form of an ocean, I took a trip to the local nature reserve, Martin Mere. Created by the WWT which was in turn founded by Peter Scott, an incredible man and a wonderful naturalist responsible for bringing back many species from the edge of extinction such as the Hawaiian goose, which now populates Martin Mere. There are several centres around Great Britain but I am lucky in that this one is not far from home.

I took many photos as I plan to enter the WWT annual photography competition.


I headed to the dock nestled deep inside the woodland where I proceeded to take a rowing boat on a guided tour through the reedbeds. The boat man, a cheerful volunteer provided a fascinating narrative as we drifted slowly through the waterway. I knew instantly as we glided softly away from the sounds of the duck filled ponds and into a still silence that this was the place I wanted to use for Assignment Two, my only regret, I had chosen to take my 80mm lens (due to the heavy rain as we left I had decided to leave my other lenses safe at home)  therefore I didn’t have the right lense for landscape shots. However, what dicattes that only certain lenses can capture specific things, why can’t a portrait lens be used for landscape? Perhaps I should use all the images that I took that day to provide a different insight. Certain things were harder to photograph, landscapes, for example, yet other opportunities arose that would perhaps not have been presented with another lens. For instance these two abstract images. IMG_9416.JPGIMG_9419.JPG

I hung over the edge of the boat as several mallards swam alongside for secretive swishes of bird seed I offered who unsurprisingly followed us the entire way. There were so many pathways and we reached a part in the river where the water parted and led down two routes. It reminded me of Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road not Taken’

“Two roads diverged in yellow wood, and I

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.”
It is a poem about a man who is faced with two roads, one is worn with footprints and broken branches, and the other clearly has not been used much. He ponders which to take and eventufully decides on the one less travelled by. We do not know whether the difference it has made is good or positive, what happened on the path, where it led him or even whether it’s a physical path or a choice in something less physical.
In CBT they say how your mind believes what you think and the more you keep going down the same path the more you will get trapped in a vicious circle. But to step out of the trampled grass and to cut away into some new grass will provide a different route, a way out which will soon become the way your mind naturally thinks.
We faced the two routes before heading down the left side one. It was eerily quiet, yes eerie doesn’t somehow seem the right word, it was still, it was beautiful, so mindful just the gentle hum of the boats engine and the sound of the ducks cutting through the water while the marsh grasses grew taller than us occasionally waving their arms in our faces.
This was what my tutor had recommended, just getting out there, going on a journey somewhere, just me, my camera and my imagination and to see what happened, no prior research of the area, just spontaneity and a camera.
I would love to return with my 18-125mm lens and my iPhone and capture some landscape shots to add to the selection. But perhaps with regard to my thoughts above I will just stick to my 80mm images.
I better put my head down and start thinking.
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 Coursework, Research and Reflection

Exercise 2.2 – Thoughts

Following on from the exercise here I discussed my thoughts on how I was overthinking my photography and in that respect losing the spontaneity, the fun if you will. To recapture that feeling once more I took my iPhone to the local hall and small vegetable garden to inject that spontaneity again, to take photos purely for enjoyment (whilst I appreciate this is a degree level course this was purely to reinstate my love of photography.

I created a collage of my time there in a photobook layout. While I was shooting I could feel that strong love of photography being re kindled, I was searching for the little things and planning compositions in my mind and allowing my thoughts and photos to lead me down new pathways both literal and figurative.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 09.14.19

Catherine Banks, a friend and fellow student commented “I think it’s a pretty general problem with students studying photography that they become more self-conscious. It’s part of the process and finding ways to make it ‘fun’ is key I think.” It made me feel quite a bit better that I wasn’t alone in this doubt, and perhaps it is a positive thing as I am questioning my photography more so as to explore more avenues within this degree.