Assignment 5 Research and Info


William Eggleston – looked at in the course materials as one photographer who could use everyday items to suggest the presence of people without having people in the frame.  They used the child’s trike made large in the frame.  He loved road signs and store signage.  Mundane things that caught his eye.  Photographing the mundane and the ugly.  Bright colours.


Lost and Found, the culmination of road trips over many years.  reminds me of driving across Utah and seeing a sign in the middle of nowhere for something hundreds of miles away. I had this in mind for another incarnation of the assignment following the M5 southbound from my old hometown of Birmingham to my new hometown of Torquay.  In the end I decided to go with the idea of benches and flowers in an exploration of how we keep tabs on our past.


On how people see the benches.  People can get very upset if flowers are removed and yet this is a public place not a shrine.

a council tried to ban them!


Derek – He wanted to scatter the ashes of his mother in the woods on Dartmoor. They asked permission which was granted so they went ahead, put flowers on bushes and decorated the surrounding area.  The Park Ranger told them that they were free to do that but everything would be removed the following day.  Derek said it made them feel closer to his mother and designated a place that would be about her even if there were no other markers. Maybe there is something of that in me too as I am taking the ashes of my parents to Scotland to scatter them there. However there is something of the “what do I do with these?” and putting them in the garden does not seem quite right. The flowers that decorate bushes etc are transient.


Jerry – a friend of mine has a bench in memory of his mother.  He used to go there a lot to sit there but not so much  now.  It was more for his children and the other grandchildren who could have somewhere positive to go.  I was interested whether he had put flowers on it, he said never as couldn’t see the point.  The point of the bench was to have somewhere to be quiet. It’s a way of connecting with the person who has gone before us. Perhaps it is also a place to find some quiet in a busy life.

So why something so public? Why not go for a gravestone as was traditional, somewhere with a name and date and a physical thing to visit.  Is it because we have moved away from religion and now we need something that is more normal?


Julie Cockburn

Another suggestion from my tutor to expand my knowledge of artists who were altering photographs through different practices.  In this article she talks about using archetypal portrait shots from the 1940s to 1970s so that there is space around them and they are divorced from any background, allowing her to stamp another meaning on them. Also:

“Found objects start the conversation. I think that perhaps the fact that I use actual photographs in my work (at a time when photography itself is taking on a new dimension – particularly with the sharing culture of social media) has highlighted the nostalgia of the photograph as object. How great to have all ones photos on file, ready to crop, colour adjust and post online in a few seconds. But I miss my old photo albums and the paraphernalia that went with them. The guillotine, glue, corners, hand written notations and ‘stuff’ (pressed flowers, train tickets) that went in too.”

So true. I think I had this in mind once I went down the route of coupling my old family photographs with names on benches of complete strangers then drawing ties on them to bind them all together and along with my new flower photos they create a new something.  I actually read this particular article after I had completed the work and was looking through things that had inspired me, Cockburn being one of them.


Anegret Soltau

I was still thinking of her work when I began this assignment.  There is something very personal about taking a needle and thread and sewing through an image, as it involves deciding where to pierce the paper and how to use those threads to symbolise something intangible.


New and old photographs – the old black and white prints that are so small are very evocative of an era that is gone.  The 1940s and 1950s were the years that my parents were young people and it is my way of keeping in touch with who they were, where they came from and keeping connected to them. Rephotographing them reminded me of Sherrie Levine’s After Rodchenko 1-12, 1987 and in particular the one of the old lady and reading glasses:

The full set:

I studied her work during an OU course in art history and thought that her approach was interesting, challenging the male canon.  No different really to Marcel Duchamp taking found objects.


Perhaps that what I am doing, I am taking found objects in choosing a bench and a commemorative plaque then adding found photographs and combining them with everything else to make a new image.

Assignment 4 – Research


1: Maureen Drennan – A photographer that charted her husband’s battle with mental illness through photography, he was a willing participant.  16.4.18

Interesting take on using photography to deal with something that affects her life and marriage.  Titled “The Sea that Surrounds Us”. 

‘“Where words failed us,” she says, “the pictures filled in the blanks.”’


2: Hanya Yanagihara doing a book review

Loneliness Belongs to the Photographer By Hanya Yanagihara  July 10, 2016

Article that starts with a review of a book: “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone,” Olivia Laing. She then talks about loneliness as relating to the photographer and gives examples of work that evokes a sense of loneliness from Robert Frank to Alec Soth.

“In reality, though, the person with the camera is not hiding but receding. She is willfully removing herself from the slipstream of life; she is making herself into a constant witness, someone who lives to see the lives of others, not to be seen herself.”

“But if there is a cure for the invisibility of loneliness, it is this. It is why, depending on who you are, that click of the camera’s shutter is a sound that evokes either anxiety or relief. Click: I see you. Click: I see you. Click: I see you. You are not alone.”


3: Alec Soth

I’ve never really looked at Alec Soth’s images before and I am transfixed by their beauty and stillness.  I read the article on Broken Manual and it was intriguing, pulling me in closer.  There is something in all of us that wants to run away sometimes, become someone else, be outside of ourselves and I was really interested by the fact the he invented a persona Lester B Morrison as a character to become someone else, writing and criticising himself.  The landscape of America is so vast and diverse that there is somewhere to hide or get away.  It’s a very interesting concept and at times I think I would like to be someone who isn’t me, someone who has different characteristics and while his people are commenting on the political nuances of the American way, and the very male way of upping and leaving in times of stress, there is still a wunderlust in most of us, me included.

Even though I am looking at these images online, the colours stand out. They are warm and rich, and there is almost a sense of unreality about how clear they are.  The image of the falls at Niagara (I also looked at that work online) were so clear and you could almost hear the thunder of the huge amount of water rushing over the edge.  I had forgotten that Niagara is a kind of Vegas of the north where people go to get married or, more sinisterly, commit suicide by jumping into the falls.  It’s a tacky place that has the commercialism of a holiday town set against one of the most beautiful natural forces of nature.  If you can stand and look at the falls with the town behind you, you can almost kid yourself that you are out in the wild.  I have seen the falls from the Canadian side and it is a truly humbling sight.  The shots of the people and the motels are similarly richly coloured and there is pathos about the people he is photographing. What an interesting man and artist!

I will be looking out for more of his work from now on.


 4:  Article on Nostalgia from an exhibition and talk.

Journal: Photography and Culture , Volume 9, 2016 – Issue 2: Visualising Longing

Takvam, M. and Vale, S.,Introduction to Nostalgias: Visualising Longing special issue, Pages 99-102 | Published online: 21 Oct 2016, (accessed 12.4.18)

“Over time, the use of the word has progressively evolved to describe a desire to return to another time.  Significantly, it is now characterized by yearning and distance (both in time and space); it is the desire to return, when returning is no longer possible.”

“In effect, the photograph can never represent the present; the moment encapsulated has passed, never to be experienced again.”


5:  Solastalgia – a different version of nostalgia

A term about the feeling of change that cannot be stopped or overcome. Interesting to see an alternative to nostalgia.

Solastalgia: The Distress Caused by Environmental Change, Article (PDF Available) inAustralasian Psychiatry 15 Suppl 1(1):S95-8 · February 2007 DOI: 10.1080/10398560701701288 · Source: PubMed

Albrecht, Glenn & Sartore, Gina & Connor, Linda & Higginbotham, Nick & Freeman, Sonia & Kelly, Brian & Stain, Helen & Tonna, Anne & Pollard, Georgia. (2007). Solastalgia: The Distress Caused by Environmental Change. Australasian psychiatry : bulletin of Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. 15 Suppl 1. S95-8. 10.1080/10398560701701288.

This rang bells as it is a sense of longing for something missing when you are still in the place that you call home.  You are not distant from it in the sense that the distance is great.  It fitted with the feeling of homesickness that my friend and I have for Torbay even though we still live relatively close to it.


6: Annegret Soltau and how her practice informed my approach  12.12.2017

Article in Wall Street International Magazine, Promoting an exhibition by Annegret Soltau, 9 Feb — 18 Mar 2017 at the Galerie Anita Beckers in Frankfurt am Main, Germany28 February 2017

My tutor recommended this as a point of reference after a previous Assignment  which was done on a female body builder and this was another look at the way that women present their bodies.  I was struck by the sewing on the self portraits in prints, the black threads indicating ties and Soltau suggested that they are links between the conscious and subconscious.  I chose to see them as the ties of life that bind us to people and places, and it is this aspect that made me sew ties on a photograph of my friend.  Benign ties rather than sinister ones.


7: Jim Goldberg

Jim Goldberg photographs.  I really liked the polaroid look that he gave to people to write on and personalise in the way that they  wanted to, it didn’t matter that it was a unique photo.  Writing and drawing on it makes it unique anyway and personal to the person involved.  I really like his work, it’s interesting without being over the top.

This is one I found today (17.5.18)  while looking up references and it is pertinent to the ripped photographs that I used.

Demba’s Map, Mauritania/Senegal, 2008

A montage of pieces of paper with writing and a portrait of a man.  I think this fed into the idea of using a map, although in my case it was a literal map not a mind map.


8: Jonathan Mannion

He works with Rap and Hip Hop artists and has done album covers for them. He incorporates handwriting into images and I was interested in how he managed to get the pathos into the images.  Rappers tend to project the image of aggression but this hinted at the more playful aspect of their personalities.

This is a page of collaborations with the artists involved.  I really like how they have changed the pictures by writing on them and doodling.  Interesting work.


9: The Shipping Forecast

I was interested in the shipping forecast and the areas that surround the coast with all their intriguing names.  I visited Cromarty last year and that sparked the interest.

Viking, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight.  All those regions and how do they see the boundaries? What do all those things mean?  It was one option that I looked at when considering ‘Staring at the Sea’ but discounted it as the  main theme.  I did use it when writing things on the images but decided that I was going off at a tangent and needed to stick to the original plan.  There is a song “Pharaohs” by Tears for Fears that uses the shipping forecast being spoken over their music which is an instrumental piece.  When I put together the slide show of the images used on the map, I put this track as the music to play through.  It worked really well and if I could have got permission to use it then I would as it fitted the theme really well, with its feeling of melancholy and the rhythym of the music reminding me of the sea.  The title refers to the shipping area Pharoahs rather than the Egyptian kind, which is quite enigmatic.  I may well return to look at this theme again at a later date.




Assignment 3 Tutor Suggested References

Martin Schoeller:

I had actually come across some of these images while searching the internet for some to compare my experience.  I wasn’t sure if he was a recognised photographer or not.  His work covers the extreme end of women’s bodybuilding and there is a tension in the work between the supermuscular bodies and the female faces at the top. He does portraits of the women from mid torso upwards, taking in the tops of their arms and more importantly the fact that they are wearing bikini tops which is the first indication that this is a female body rather than a man’s.  The torso is highly muscled and darkly tanned, often with prominent veins so the eye roves this to make sense of it before moving up to the face and eyes.  Each subject engages directly with the camera, sometimes with a smile and this is where the viewer questions what they are seeing as the faces are female with make-up and long hair.  The images are unsettling but also make you marvel at the work involved in getting to this stage in body development.  His work does make you look at your own response to the image of a woman who to all intents and purposes looks male, and how society conditions us to react when they do not correspond to what we expect. There is also the expectation that they will still try be attractive as women ‘should’ be by having heavy make-up and jewellery as well as sparkly ornate bikinis.  I found it interesting to see my reaction to them too, I found them unnerving and was disappointed that I could not see the beauty in them.  There was a disproportion to them, with huge bodies and tiny heads.  In my defence, I would think and feel the same about males who were similar in size.  I suppose that makes me the archetypal person who thinks it is ok as long as it is within reasonable limits.



Tanya Habjouqa “Fragile Monsters”

This work was much more interesting because it was not just a series of portraits that were all the same.  This was more reportage style as she captured the men backstage preparing to compete so there were more candid shots rather than posed pictures.  The competitiveness is very evident with sideways glances, something that I observed when I attended the competitions that Kelley was in and there was a break.  All the competitors came outside to be re-tanned, tidied up, or just practice and talk with family and friends.  It was interesting to see that a lot of them kept to themselves while others gathered in groups.  You could tell them in the coffee shop as they were the crowd that wore tracksuits and were unnaturally dark brown!  In her series, Habjouqa captured the nuances of their relationships and gave some idea of the mental and physical lengths that these men will go to in order to get the physique that they desire. The difference with this set of images was also that the men looked small and were not over-trained, even in the larger categories.   There was a lot of pathos about the competition and what they were doing, it made them more human.


Both photographers were interesting and I could appreciate the portraits but preferred the reportage series as it tapped into the human aspect of it, that these were men with families and friends.  The portraits were strangely detached and difficult to connect with, for reasons I have given above.  It is a fascinating subject and while I am slightly repulsed by it, I am also drawn to it to understand why they do this, the psychology of bodybuilding.


Assignment 3 Research

It was not easy to find photographers who have done studies of bodybuilding or even name any well know bodybuilders so I began by looking for images of Arnold Schwarzenegger who I remembered was famous in the late 1970s and 1980s.  I was surprised to see that Elliot Erwitt had done a few photographs of him in 1976 and 1977, one of which was a pose of him doing the classic Mr Universe at a performance:

USA. New York City. February 25, 1976. Arnold SCHWARZENEGGER during the performance series, “Articulate Muscle: The Male Body in Art” at the Whitney Museum.

This image is of Schwarzenegger in the spotlight surrounded by the shadowed audience, and he is flexing muscles but his face cannot be seen.  It is more a performance than a competition but was interesting to see how Erwitt had captured him while posing.  Erwitt also shot Schwarzenegger in more relaxed poses in the same series.

Another Magnum photographer who did a series on Schwarzenegger is Thomas Hoepker. He did a series on Schwarzenegger in 1977 when the film “Pumping Iron” was released.  There were images of Schwarzenegger in the gym while others looked on as well as at the beach in a more relaxed situation.  The black and white images of him flexing his biceps have a kind of beauty to it when seen framed by a simple black background.

USA. Los Angeles. 1977. Arnold SCHWARZENEGGER flexing his biceps.

I like to think that this is something that I had in mind when I was trying out the merges of Kelley with various vegetables.  There is a simplicity that makes the pose and person interesting.

Searches for ‘female bodybuilders’ brought up the extreme end of the sport with hypermuscular women that, to me, had gone beyond a natural point.  I read a couple of articles that dealt with the challenge to the perceptions of female bodybuilders and how there is a point at which it severely challenges the general view of femininity as it also challenges the patriarchal view and what is ‘male’.  Muscles are synonymous with strength and while some strength is to be encouraged, once the female body is very muscled

“Emerging in popular culture media is a new fit body ideal that have suggested as a possible shift in the conception of femininity and attractiveness (George 323). The current ideal physique for women celebrates muscle in moderation but embodying too much muscle is still heavily “contested ideological terrain” (Messner 198). Rather than celebrating the gains that female bodybuilders have achieved in the male-dominated arena of sports, women continue to apologize through displaying emphasized and often hypersexualized femininity. “

From: Marginalized Muscle: Transgression and the Female Bodybuilder (Article)
Victoria Felkar.  Felkar writes as a hypermuscular bodybuilder.








Research for work for Assignment 2

When I was considering ideas for Assignment 2, I had in mind the polaroids of David Hockney that I had seen at the exhibition at the Tate in London in April.  I really enjoyed that exhibition as the paintings were huge and colourful and playful, and it struck me that you have to be a very accomplished artist to be able to simplify something as he does while remaining still very artistic.  More interesting was his use of photography to make montages or composites, portraits and landscapes from quite small to huge landscapes that fill a wall.  The montages appeared to stretch the subject, but could have a more painting type effect or an interesting takes on a portrait that could be multiple layers of images.  With the polaroids, he took the individual and sliced them up by taking polaroid shots of parts of them, working in a methodical manner so that it builds up a whole portrait like a jigsaw.  There is, however, a disjointedness to them when looked at closely as each one can almost miss the part he is capturing but looked at from afar, there is the whole looking back.

Using varying numbers of Polaroid snaps or photolab-prints of a single subject Hockney arranged a patchwork to make a composite image. One of his first photomontages was of his mother. Because these photographs are taken from different perspectives and at slightly different times, the result is work that has an affinity with Cubism, which was one of Hockney’s major aims – discussing the way human vision works.

(  (6.12.17))

I’m not sure why I found these so interesting.  I remember Polaroid cameras and photos from when I was a child so there is an element of nostalgia for the medium.  Perhaps is it exactly as outlined above, that they question the way that we look.  Hockney apparently is concerned with looking as are most artists, and this way of working dissects the total frame into sections so that the eye roves over it without stopping in order to find the whole.  There is a symmetry to the images as the edges of the portraits are squared off to form the usual boundary of a frame.  It is also a flow of time as there are subtle movements between frames and nothing is completely static.  It is how we look and move, never looking at one thing for any length of time until we are looking closely for something.

Gregory Swimming Los Angeles March 31st 1982 (link above) was the image that really caught my eye at the time with its colour and sense of movement.  120 polaroids and there is a movement that flows with the body moving through the water.  I think it is this that interested me and I wanted to explore his work a bit more, even maybe a replicate it a little.

Nicholas Wilder Studying Picasso, Los Angeles” 24th March 1982, composite polaroid, 48 1/2 x 26 1/2

Coming to the portrait section of the assignment, I was looking at Hockney’s images and trying to get a feel for how I could attempt to use this approach in a way that would make it more mine than his.  Hockney did another type of montage where he overlapped the prints and spread them out to make another picture, often with patches of bare paper.  I found the way that he took the emphasis away from the face and created a distorted perspective a starting point as I thought about what defines a portrait.  Is is the whole of a person facing the camera or can it be parts that make up the whole.  I followed this by looking at other works of his in this vein:

“Photographing Annie Leibovittz While She Is Photographing Me, Mojave Desert”  Feb 1983, photogrphic collage, edition 4, 25 7/8 x 61 3/4

Interesting that something so sparse can be so powerful.  The simple ideas are often the better ones for that reason.  I know that I can overthink an idea so that it gets beyond me, which is what happened with Assignment 2 and despite my best intentions to be more creative myself, it did not work out that way.

The other artist that I looked at was Nadav Kander.  I had seen him do a talk at the Photography Show in Birmingham in March 2017 and had admired his work particularly his portraits after reading an article about him working with David Beckham over a number of years.  He had captured Beckham with his growing number of tattoos, something of great interest to me as I am fascinated by people’s decision to cover their bodies with tattoos and the tattoos themselves.  Again, he had approached the portrait from a different angle and did a 16 box grid of Beckham’s top half using close ups and varying distances from the camera.  It was black and white which enhanced the dark ink of the tattoos on his body and took away any distraction from backgrounds.

“David Beckham, 16 Pictures”, Nadav Kander, 2015

There is a connection between the photographer and the subject, with a willingness to show off his body art.  I think that this is what i was trying to achieve by taking photographs of Barney and his tattoos, as well as the Hockney idea of lots of photos of parts of him.  The image below was another that was interesting because it is a portrait but of someone’s hands. Nine black and white images in a grid showing closeup and full hands and fingers.  It tells a story without having a body or face to add any information and therefore the viewer is left to make a story based on what is in the images.

David Millar (Hand Repeat), Nadav Kander, 2015


Two very influential photographers and artists, and I would have liked to have brought a little of their magic to my work, but I am still a long way off.  However, we all start somewhere and this will be in my  mind each time I think about this assignment, and revisit it eventually.