Assignment 3 Revisited

Assignment 3 – Revisiting the editing section

I responded to the feedback when I received it in February 2018 but decided to leave revisiting the assignment until I had finished all the assignments in the course.  It has been twelve months since I started the work for the project and attended the two bodybuilding competitions, and time away has given me more perspective on the running order of the series.  My tutor had suggested that my editing of the sequence needed refining as there appeared to be more than one type of narrative at work, and this was detracting from the overall story and presentation of the images to produce a coherent body of work.  I must admit that I had found it difficult to narrow down the number of images as in my mind I had a story that I wanted to complete with all its different parts.  This did not translate well in the final sequence, and I can see my tutor’s point that there are a few separate strands going on.

As suggested, I removed the food photographs as, with hindsight, they do not add anything extra and do not fit with the  more ‘documentary’ style of the whole.  Food and diet is very important but it would have been better to have something more personal to her than generic food shots, even though I did with the intention of them not being like that.  I also removed the shots of the gym that detracted from the overall theme, while keeping the one that shows the transformation from day to night as I felt that it fitted more with the story in that she does her training around her work life, whether it is at 6am, 2.30pm or 9pm. It is also quite central to the story because it is the work at the gym that is the drive behind body building.

I decided to look again at some of the other shots that I had taken to see if I could rearrange them to make a better running order and a more consistent approach.  It seemed that it would be better to concentrate on the flow of what happens leading up to the competition and during the show rather than trying to bring in her life around these.  I had been to two shows, the first where Kelley was runner up in her class and the second that she won.  I had a disaster in that by mistake I deleted the original image files for the first one and so was dependent on the images from the second show.  However, I was lucky that it was the better show as the light was better and I was closer to the stage, even though I wasn’t allowed to get right up close to photograph.  Therefore my perspective was from the audience and is also why I wanted to include the audience shot with the phone as there was a sea of mobile phone screens as they captured their family and friends in action on stage.

I narrowed the sequence down from twenty one shots to sixteen and set myself the task of seeing if I could take more out without losing the coherence that I think was beginning to emerge.  In the end, I removed two more and left fourteen images that tell the story of Kelley working in the gym towards her goal of keeping her title.  Gym work,  practising the required poses in her studio after teaching the pilates classes, to being at the show doing her routine and finally posing with her trophy and prizes.

I made two changes in the crops of some images.  The two that were originally square, I changed back into oblong formats.  The square crop works on some images but to maintain the coherence that I found, it was better to revert to normal perspectives.  My tutor had questioned the square crop and I agree that it was unwise in this circumstance.  Achievement and Heels do work much better and fit the flow better in the original format.

On reflection, I think my tutor was right in getting me to think more about how I wanted to tell the story.  Less is more so taking out the extraneous elements focus more on the narrative.  There is now more coherence of gym, studio and show, with fewer distractions from images that do not have the same style or look.  I think that time away from it has been good and this is a stronger set of images that tell a story better than the original set.

I am attaching the contact sheets for the assignment that were missing.

Contact Sheet – Food  Contact Sheet – Gym and pilates  Contact Sheet – NPA Competition Taunton  Contact Sheet – Posing Practice  Contact Sheet – PS Merges with Veg  Contact Sheet – Veg

There is one other image that I did as another comparison between practice and show that I did not use as it was too similar to the 8 image one that I already had, but I wanted to include it in the other work leading to the final set.  It would have been nice to have been able to do a whole set of these but I did not think about it until afterwards when my tutor suggested this as a separate body of work.  This also illustrates the difference in her physique made by a couple of weeks extra dieting and gym work.  The muscles are more defines and she is leaner.  Hard work and dedication to her art. Here is Kelley practising and at show:

Kelly Back Dip

I am happy now with the final running order and I believe that the narrative is clearer and more coherent as a result of refining the order.


Assignment 3 Revisited October 18 – Images

PDF of the set of images as they stand in the running order following revision:

K.Allen 402872 PH4IAP Assignment 3 Revised


Full size images:

Practice vs Showtime
Practice vs Showtime



Assignment 5 Images

Where you go-4
If we don’t know where we’re going
Where you go-1
It’ll make no difference from where we started
Where you go-5
I am the sea and the waves
Where you go-6
I am the high mountain and the low cloud
Where you go-7
I always thought that I would see you again
Where you go-3
I am the sun, the moon and the stars
Where you go-9
I am the stones and I am the wood
Where you go-8
I am the fire and I am the rain
Where you go-2
Wherever you go, I will go with you

Assignment 5

The last assignment in Identity and Place and it proved to be a lot harder than I anticipated.  After a couple of false starts, I finally settled on revisiting and building on work I started in Assignment 4 on the theme of love and loss. The idea was to develop it using the ways that people try to hold onto people that have gone, people who are part of their past and heritage.  There is a market in memorial benches, particularly in seaside towns, where the bench is adorned with a brass plaque with the name and dates of the deceased.  Often these are also used as shrines with flowers and plants or small items attached to them.

Personally I have no desire or need to have a particular place to go to connect with my parents who are both now gone.  However, I realise that some do need a concrete something in order to stay connected to their heritage and the person that they loved whether it is a parent or a child.  I was interested to read the inscriptions, find out who these people are and what they might mean to me.  From that, I looked at the issue of flowers that are attached by various means.  The experiment of taking my bunch to use on each bench did not work as I expected, neither did attaching a photo of flowers.  There was something missing.  I realised that what was missing was the human connection.

I have always loved going through my mother’s photo album with the black and white photos of people long gone.  By re-photographing some of them and adding them along with my photographs of the flowers as they decayed leant a different aspect to the plaque.  It humanised it and gave it substance, even if they are not the actual person named. Photoshop was a good tool even if my use is very basic.  I blended the flowers, photograph and name plaque into one image and then drew delicate threads over the top.  In this way, the three elements link together and bind them to the present.  To link them together as a series, I sewed them into the album and added the scanned flower in between as a guide from one to the other.

The flowers represent the then and now, they are fresh but they die and then we replace them in an attempt to keep them going in the same way that we try to keep the memory alive.  The memories are who we are, where we came from and ultimately where we are going, born in one place until we go on to the final place.

karen Allen 402872 PH4IAP Asignment 5

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 5 Background

north or south bound?

This is how I felt about this assignment….

It was a difficult start to this one as I felt that I had used up all my creativity in Assignment 4.  I realised that I was over thinking it and went back to the beginning to revisit the idea of that assignment.  I suppose for me personally the past couple of years has been taken up with the issue of losing my dad and what that means in terms of who I am, where I come from and losing the history both his and ours that came with his parenthood.  No longer can I ask him something about when he was young, or when I was young.

Among the abortive attempts was one on music – my friend owns a recording studio and does work with other musicians.  There were possibilities but nothing that strongly spoke about identity or place, even though for Steve it is his life and work.  Time was not on my side and it was difficult to arrange convenient times to make other visits to add images to the bank of ones that I had.

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Another was on the journey on the M5, a physical journey as well as a metaphorical one as I was born in Birmingham and now live in South Devon, but I travelled up and down the motorway over 30 years as I also lived at stop off points along the way including Bristol and Gloucestershire.  I had been looking at William Eggleston and his road signs as part of the course work, and I was interested to see if anything could come of the road south with the numerous big blue signs, and the keeping right all the way down.  While the initial idea was alright and it was interesting to me, I think it was too personal and did not say much more than I travel a lot.

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On my many walks with my dogs around the area in which I live, there are numerous benches and nearly all of them have commemorative plaques on them in memory of people who have passed away.  Some of the benches have bunches of flowers or plants attached, some full bouquets, some just a small bunch from a supermarket but the common thing is that there are flowers in a way that would have been put on a grave.  These benches are the new graves and they can become very personal.  There is a tree on the edge of Paignton Green that is regularly covered in flowers, ribbons and messages as it is the way that young people remember a young man who died after a tragic accident.  The more I saw them, and not just around here but when I was in Brighton recently too, the more that it struck me as a way in which we have moved away from having burials and graves, and with those things a place to visit to have a connection with the people who have gone before us.  Why do we need what is effectively a public display of remembrance when it is a very private thing.  The plaques mean nothing to those who don’t know them, they are just names on benches and often of a past that is further away all the time.  1912? Over a hundred years ago, a different lifetime ago.  The flowers are the traditional way of expressing emotions from love to grief, we have flowers for births, deaths and marriages, flowers for birthdays and special occasions and it is always a pleasure and a surprise to be given flowers as they are special.  There is a temporary nature about them as they last a short time, a bit like we do.

I photographed many different versions of flowers from close-ups to larger displays, from fresh to wilting to fried in the summer sun.  I tried taking the same bunch and photographing it on a series of benches.  That did not work out as I thought and did not add anything.  I also tried adding a polaroid style photo to the bench so it was an artificial bunch of flowers to see if that changed how it appeared.  Another version was with ribbon and handwritten notes on the photograph.  None of these really worked effectively, although some of the individual images were pleasing aesthetically.


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It occurred to me that perhaps what was missing was the human interface, something to humanise and personalise each plaque on the bench.  Who were these people, what had they done, why was this place so special?  I talked to a friend who had a bench in memory of his mother who passed away about 15 years ago to find out the motivation behind it.  It meant more to him at the time because his children were very young and it was about having somewhere that they could go that his mother had enjoyed as well as a physical thing to see.  However he had never put flowers on it, he did not see a need.  It was more about the place, of having somewhere to go to contemplate.  I felt he was describing an anchoring of ourselves in this place while feeling as though there is a connection to those who are in another world.

From Assignment 4 – A lovely place to sit and contemplate


The problem then was how to combine all these ideas into an image as doing a still -life type of arrangement had not worked, not to mention that I felt extremely silly walking from bench to bench with a bunch of flowers and a camera.  There was a feeling that I was somehow invading this private space and yet it is a public bench in a public place, but the issue of grieving and death has changed to be more in the public eye rather than behind closed doors.  I decided to try combining the different parts in PhotoShop with mixed results to begin with as my skills are very basic.

Assignment 5 Moving It Along

Once I had found the elements that I wanted to have, I then had to think about the photographs of people that would complement the flower/bench.  It was interesting to think of how having a human portrait could affect how the viewer sees the image.  I chose to use some older photographs that were in my mother’s album from when she was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s.  It just so happened that the plaques that I chose were predominantly female, maybe our mothers are the most important people in our lives.  I rephotographed some of the old photos and then imported them into PS to add them to the flowers and benches. There were numerous attempts at getting the right combination of flower/bench/person through layers and making some opaque so that they all featured. Some worked, some didn’t work but after a while I could see the pattern emerging of the plaque with the flowers and the photo all merging into one another with a scratchy type of rubbing out of bits of each.


Dave Robbins Photo

I liked this one but it was too cluttered with too much to look at and I found that I was straining to focus on any one particular area.  The roses in the background were made of three copies of the original photo which was interesting but made the overall image too busy.  In addition, the blue background of the polaroid photo stood out too much

George and Betty 2

Similar to the first one, less cluttered but still not clear enough.

mavis rutherford 3

A slightly different approach to the same idea but it still was not right.


Phyllis Butler photo

The iris is beautiful and I like the delicate strings that attach the plaque to the flower.  However, as part of a larger set the overall tone and colour did not fit as the others were predominantly blue and pink.  The old photograph is a look at the 1950s styles and good to see that the sunglasses style is back in fashion.

Violet Ham Diptych
Violet May Ham

As a different trial, I separated the photo from the other elements to see if it worked better as two images that I could then link via the threads.  I showed it to a couple of friends as impartial viewers and they felt that there was a distance by doing this, and I agreed with them.

Contact sheets for choosing styles of flowers:

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OCA SW Meeting Paignton 14.7.18

A smaller meeting than in Bristol, we were lucky to have tutor Steven Monger give the group a talk on work done by his students in Graphic Design, Photography and Design as well as his own work.  The main thrust of the talk was the shifting boundaries in practice so that one definition does not cover what we can actually do.  His personal work includes box scans and photographs of models that are so detailed that it took a close look to see that they were not just architectural images.  Clues were in the lack of background detail but they were fascinating to look at, from the hours taken to construct them to the finished effect.

The group then looked at putting together a manifesto that could define what the group was about.  There were several questions and we were give time to think about them individually then bring all ideas together as a group.  There was lively discussion among the group and opinions divided over some parts but eventually the bones were put in place. It was definitely food for thought and something that will carry on beyond this meeting.

There were presentations of work with Steven giving thoughtful and insightful feedback on each student’s work. I had only just started down the route for my final assignment so I had put together some demo images to test the water.  The feedback from other students was positive and Steven suggested some further points of research before going further.  He thought that I was possibly wanting to jump to the finished image too quickly but I explained that this was just the beginning and wanted to gauge reactions to see if it was worth pursuing further.  As it was, after the meeting I bumped into a friend who’s family has a commemorative bench in Paignton so I jumped in and had a conversation about his motivations.  Nothing like acting on advice quickly and easily.

I have been very fortunate to have been able to get involved with this group over the past year and going to meetings has helped when I feel I am going round in circles.  It is good to meet other students and see what they are doing and what they struggle with too.  I have also benefitted from meeting some tutors and hearing talks by artists; Helen Sear and David Hurn.

Working with a Band

In April 2017 I was asked to do a photoshoot with my friend’s husband and his band, to get photographs that they could use for promotional materials.  I was pleased and excited while being very scared at the same time – what would happen if it rained? what if I forgot something? what if they were all out of focus? or rubbish?  I took it seriously and did my homework after making some suggestions on location.  They suggested  the nearby country park where we had done another photo session about 5 years ago for his solo work.  I wasn’t sure that that would work this time as there are four members of the band and there is a completely different feel to their music. I suggested the nearby Oldway Mansion that had beautiful grounds and a wonderful building that was empty and beginning to show fatigue.  I walked round there one day and took some snaps on my phone to send to Sally and she agreed that it would work alright.

With this in mind, I took a couple of hours one afternoon and walked round the whole site taking photos of possible places to get the band to pose for me.  It was early spring and the flowers in the gardens were just coming out so there was plenty of colour.  I checked where the sun was and where it would be at the time we had agreed to meet – nearly midday.  I looked at possibilities of places to shoot if it was raining as well as trying to see different backgrounds so it would give them the greatest flexibility of images.

The day itself came round and I was there early so I took another walk round, took more snaps and tested out light metering and whether I needed a flash to boost the light.  The weather was perfect, a bright day with sunshine but some clouds too so plenty of natural light.  They arrived and stated that they wanted it all done and dusted as soon as possible and that they hated having their photos taken.  Oh dear.  I was lucky that I had met them before, but I did not know them very well and was a little worried about trying to marshall them around.  In the event, they were very helpful and spent a lot of time talking amongst themselves as they hadn’t seen each other for a while.

My pre-shoot walk round and planning served me well as I ushered them to the locations I thought would work best.  Being seasoned veterans of photo shoots, they gathered themselves and got their best musician dead straight faces on as well as grouping themselves.  I took photos as they chatted amongst themselves as well as dragging their attention back to what we were doing and getting them to look at me.  I may not be a professional photographer but I did my best to capture them in the best way and get a connection with them as people as well as as a band.

Kick off – in the hallway that runs outside and up to what was the cafe

They insisted on wearing shades at all times, although to be fair the drummer always wears them anyway, even indoors.  Getting them among the bright colours of the flowers was a good idea in theory and while I liked them, they did not work for promo material for precisely that reason.  The bright colours set the time of shooting and colour can distract from the wording that they use over the top.  So while the flowers were beautiful and at their best, it was not useful for the longer term.

An interesting one was on the spiral staircase outside the back of the house.  It turned out that one of them didn’t like heights and so he stayed as low as possible.  It reminded me of one of the Beatles covers where they stare over the balcony of a block of flats. You can see him hanging on for grim death at the bottom.

Here is a selection of some of the other locations:

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It was  a great learning experience and they were really easy to work with given that they knew how to stand and pose.  I was really pleased because I ushered them around the various parts of the site, took some photos and then moved on and completed it all within their deadline, with time to go to a local cafe for a coffee.  I spent the rest of the afternoon with them before they headed off and the consensus was that it was one of the easiest and most relaxed and enjoyable photoshoots that they had done.  They were pleased with the shots too.  I was over the moon that I had got through it and captured some clear images for them.

Months later I picked up a music magazine and there among the adverts for upcoming concerts was my photo advertising one of their gigs.  It gave me such a buzz to see it, and it still does.  Below is the latest one for an upcoming gig and it is great to see them still using the photo I took.

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 21.55.23
Advertising Poster 2018

Thank you to Ocean Colour Scene for the opportunity and allowing me to publish the photos for educational purposes.

David Hurn at Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol 30.6.18

The day was in two parts: see the exhibition of ‘swaps’ that David Hurn had accumulated over many years with an accompanying talk by Hurn followed by a tour of the Foundation then after lunch, a session where students presented work and asked for guidance/feedback on it.

I was unaware of Hurn’s work before signing up for the day and was surprised by how much work he did with stars of stage and screen.  The documentary that was suggested in advance of the day was interesting in that I saw that he used natural available light only, he didn’t use flash to light his subjects.  I asked him about this in Bristol and he was quite open that he had never really mastered flash photography so did not bother with it, he was happy to use what light was available at the time.  To be fair, taking stills on a film set would be well lit anyway and get round the problem of low levels of light affecting the outcome as it does with a music studio for example.

The exhibition was smaller that I anticipated but well laid out and interesting to see which photographs were swopped together.  There could be one of Hurn’s photographs displayed with two or three other people’s work, all linked with black lines.  There were some well known images alongside Hurn’s but most I did not know so it was good to look at other photographers and their work.  Hurn’s talk was also interesting, on how he started the swop project and having the courage to actually ask famous photographers to do this with him.  As time went on, it obviously got easier as he was a well known photographer.  His advice was to just get out there and ask!

The tour of the Foundation was led by a young intern who showed us the wide range of books in the library, many of them Parr’s own books.  There were some that were worth thousands of pounds and we were all reluctant to handle them, some were huge and others tiny but there was a huge range of books and titles on the shelves.  Round the back was the engine room where they keep copies of Parr’s books as well as some of the many contact sheets and other interesting items such as the handmade books for preprinting by some well known photographers.  Unfortunately I didn’t write any names down as I was more interested in being there and absorbing the experience rather than cataloguing it. I learned from that one.  However, there were lots of things that were eye catching and interesting and colourful.  Afterwards, I looked up Parr’s books on the Black Country and Scotland as they were two places that were of relevance personally.  I am not particularly a fan of Parr’s work as I find the people aspect too much but some of the portraits for these two books are more sensitively done.  It would be good to see real copies of both books rather than web pages to get a closer look at the images.  This is what I took away from this – the handmade book by the photographer in comparison to the printed version and how they differed.  The handmade book had a presence that the printed one didn’t, maybe it was the actual photographs rather than prints as part of a page that made it more real and tactile.

The afternoon session was filled with a diverse range of photographic practice from students at all levels, from basic photo books to playing with chemical reactions to obtain different results that could still be seen as ‘landscape’.  I did not present any work but was still happy to see what other students do and their approaches.  I was in between assignments and at a point of being at a brick wall so to let go and look at other students’ work was a way of getting my brain to take another route to inspiration.  It all informs what we do and may suggest another way of looking at the same subject. There are some creative people out there and sometimes I feel that I am way down the ladder in those stakes!

I found it a very informative day and I always enjoy looking at proper prints up close.  There is something about seeing a proper print, as I have already commented on with the handmade book.  The other bonus of a study day is the interaction with other students to talk about work we are doing, have done, approaches to assignments and a way of feeling not so isolated in our studies.