Archive tip!

I had, so I thought, all I needed. A pile of photograph albums, my camera set up as a copy stand and a new scanner that could take film and prints. On gently peeling back the sticky film on the album page I soon discovered it would be more of a challenge than I had imagined. Having been in the albums in some cases for more than forty years the images were stuck fast! I tried some gentle tugging but it was obvious they were going to tear if I applied too much pressure.

After a bit of a web search I found this great little video from the Smithsonian. I wanted to capture it here because it was so useful and to remind me they offer a range of advice. The answer it seems is dental floss, which is handy because it is also a tool I also use in my food photography (it’s great for cutting soft cheese – the non-minty version obviously!).

It takes a little while to get the hang of but works a treat and I now have my photos released from their lifelong home.




Working towards assignment two

I have been doing a lot of reading and research for Assignment two and it felt like I needed to balance that out with some image making and started sketching some different ideas about what form the assignment might take. I have decided that it will consist of a series of diptychs with a family album image on one side and an image on the other side that links to the stories of the Australian child migrants.

One pairing I thought of was my family images alongside the Australian flora and fauna that must have seemed so alien to children already confused and frightened about what was happening to them. I remember how different the environment seemed in new South Wales and in Queensland from the depths of Surrey. I can only imagine what these children thought. Initially I thought they would be straight photographs but I decided there was a danger that it might look like a travel brochure.

Like assignment one I spent some time thinking about what it was that was drawing me into this project, why did it feel important to try and address? I decided that what I was trying to uncover was – ‘what must it have felt like as a child of five, six or seven to have arrived in this strange land with everything being so different, a cruel version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?’ For me it was a kind of Wonderland but I had my family with me and we knew at some point we would be going back to England as a group.

This led me to thinking about more abstract images that might evoke emotions. So having collected some found images of Australian flora I experimented with filters and the warp tool. What started to emerge were images that had softness but also some sharp edges. They were no longer recognisable as the original images, perhaps symbolic of the dislocation caused, I also felt they were starting to work better in exploring feelings of loss, pain, confusion and abandonment.

I am not sure if they will work alongside the family album images but will test that out when I pull everything together for the assignment. If nothing else I have found a technique that I think I will keep developing. They have had a very positive response from people I have shared them with.


I couldn’t decide whether to name them or not so for now they are just called Lost, I may revert to giving them only numbers to reflect the loss of identity of the children.




Constructed images

In working through Part One I have come across several photographers/artists whose constructed images and processes have proved particularly stimulating. I was thinking this might be something I wanted to follow up for assignment one, although I’m not sure it qualifies as a traditional ‘cut and paste’ technique.

Daniel Gordon

Colourful collaged image of plants and pots

Daniel and Gordon, Ratatouille and Smoke Bush, 2014

I am always fascinated to see the working practices of artists and photographers. I am struck about the levels of layering that Gordon uses in his work and while he uses a lot of found images his constructions take them into new contexts and meanings. I like the juxtaposition between 2D and 3D and the fact that when looking at the work it is not always easy to tell if they are photographs or paintings; the original objects or facsimiles. I think they are partly about challenging the nature of photography and its associations with ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ although Gordon suggests his work does not have an overt message. He does however; recognise the importance of their materiality and construction.

A question for me is, why not just create everything in the computer? But, without seams and faults and limitations my project would be very different. The seamlessness of the ether is boring to me, but the materialization of that ether, I think, can be very interesting.

Gordon talks about his processes here;

Anastasia Samoylova

Collage of different pictures of water

Anastasia Samoylova, Glaciers, 2015

Samoylova is a new artist to me but given my assignment one is going to look at water and nature I was really happy to have found her. I like the constructed nature of her work and that she is directly addressing idealised nature and landscape and like Vionnet is addressing our received cultural symbols through using found images.

My work explores the ways in which photography is used to illustrate concepts of the Beautiful and the Natural in contemporary visual culture. Through my practice I examine photographic typologies of landscapes culled from stock and public domain image libraries online. My research focuses on widely circulated nature-themed images that depict such cultural constructs as Nature, Environment, and Beauty, the concepts that ultimately illustrate our world view. Each of my tableaus is an aestheticized environment constructed out of idealized landscape pictures that manifest the conventional views of the Beautiful in nature. By investigating the formal aspects of such depictions,

Her vimeo lecture gives a useful insight into the development of her work.

Calum Colvin

Calum Colvin Sacred Ibis 1995

Researching Gordon and Samoylova reminded me of Calum Colvin’s work, a photographer I had first come across some years ago. Colvin combines a very constructed and sculptural approach with painting and photography. He also uses found images and references contemporary cultural symbolism.

I was interested in ‘documentary’ photography but quite quickly realized that this was one element in a whole range of possible areas of enquiry inherent in the medium. I realized that I could use the monocular viewpoint of the camera to encompass a whole range of concerns.

…Anamorphic perspective has been around for a long time, since the 16th C. I am interested in work that concerns this, as it presents a kind of other world, floating between reality and vision. Photography, with its monocular eye, ideally suits this technique, which I try to marry with cultural artifices.

Colvin talks about a work based on Robert Burns:

Whether for this part of course or further down the line I am interested in exploring this area of construction and seeing how I can make it my own and not a poor derivative of the distinctive work of these artists.

Paul Nash – uncanny landscapes

A monochrome abstract painting of the sea

Paul Nash Winter Sea, 1925-1937, York Museums Trust

During one of my many internet meanders during this section I came across Paul Nash’s painting ‘Winter Sea’ (1925-1937, York Museums Trust). It struck a chord with what I was thinking about for my water collages so I did a bit more research and found his work is showing at York Museums Trust until April 2018. I then discovered that the exhibition has been curated by John Stezaker and some of his work is also being shown.

“Nash felt a kinship with his surrealist contemporaries like Giorgio de Chirico and Rene Magritte. But his particular contribution to British art was to keep this estranged sense of unreality focused on the representation of the everyday world rather than on inner worlds or fantasy spaces.” Stezaker, York Art Gallery

I had some awareness of Nash’s paintings but hadn’t really realised how significant an influence he was. Views seem to vary on the quality of his surrealism but I find his landscapes from between the wars stimulating and intriguing. Seeing them alongside Stezaker’s own work is an extraordinary opportunity.

Coincidentally York Museums is one of the organisations included in a project I am currently working on so I am hoping to get to see the show in York at some point soon.




Towards assignment one

Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble

pricked and the green thread

nibbled away, the petal fell, falling

until the only flower was the falling itself.

Water is another matter,

has no direction but its own bright grace,

runs through all imaginable colors,

takes limpid lessons

from stone,

and in those functionings plays out

the unrealized ambitions of the foam.

Pablo Neruda


In looking forward to the requirements for Assignment One I have been thinking about what I might do. Sometimes I find the subject immediately suggests itself but all I could determine at this point was that I was going to do the landscape option. I’m not sure exactly where but I know water will be involved, either the local canals or the lake. I have started collecting royalty free images of lakes and following on from my reading about Corinne Vionnet’s images have been thinking about archetypal viewpoints of lakes.

The next level

Well, it was a bit of sprint but I made it to the end of my last Level One course. Here I am at the beginning of Level Two and I am curious as to what this will bring. My last course was Graphic Design One and I enjoyed it far more than I expected, it brought me new skills, encouraged my playfulness and opened up my influences.

I am a little nervous about returning to the ‘photography’ pathway as I have been enjoying a multi-disciplinary approach. I am hoping that by doing Digital Image and Culture as my first Level Two course it will allow me to continue to experiment and not be boxed into a predetermined discipline. I am coming to regard myself (or at least aspiring to be) more of a photo-artist than a photographer.

I am delighted that the first section of DI&C includes collage and photomontage and I am looking forward to carrying on that area of work. Something I both enjoy and is challenging. I notice that there is a lot of reading included in the course and a critical essay for Assignment Three. I am mindful that I will need to make notes as I go, but also to make sure I am still doing some creative work alongside. I found this was important in other courses and I’m now also used to doing a lot of development work through Graphic Design One.

I have found that my Instagram account and occasionally taking part in 64Million artists have both been helpful in keeping my practice going while I am also doing research and reading. DI&C here I come!